Saturday, 29 May 2010

Who will be Bristol's champion in Whitehall?

In a speech delivered in Hull on Friday, David Cameron said that

"I will be assigning Ministers and senior MPs to some of our biggest cities, with responsibility to work with local communities to help drive forward economic development by making sure blockages in Whitehall are dealt with."

Bristol is, of course, one of those biggest cities, so are we destined to get our own "champion" in the corridors of power at Whitehall?

If so, who?

Well, it would almost certainly need to be a "local" MP, and it is unlikely, for obvious reasons, to be either of our two Labour MPs in Bristol. So no championing role for Dawn Primarolo or Kerry McCarthy.

In addition the use of the words "Ministers and senior MPs" will appear to rule out "newbies" like Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West), Chris Skidmore (Kingswood), Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) or, a little bit further afield; Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset).

So who does that leave?  Well, if we look at the West of England Partnership area, we get the following list;

Liam Fox (Conservative, North Somerset)
Steve Webb (Lib Dem, Thornbury and Yate)
Don Foster (Lib Dem, Bath)
John Penrose (Conservative, Weston-s-Mare)
Stephen Williams (Lib Dem, Bristol West)

Of the above John Penrose is Minister for Tourism and Heritage at the DCMS, Liam Fox is the Secretary of State for Defence, and Steve Webb is the Minister for Pensions at the DWP.  Stephen Williams and Don Foster currently have no ministerial responsibilities.

The water-cooler talk is that if the UK's major cities do get a champion, that the Lib Dems will insist that Bristol is represented by one of their own on the basis that it is already run locally by a Lib Dem-led council - in which case Stephen Williams may be the favourite.

On the other hand, an alternative viewpoint is that it is the Bristol "city-region" that will be represented, in which case three of the four councils are currently run by the Conservatives - and in this scenario, Liam Fox is said to be the favourite.

So Stephen Williams or Liam Fox?  Who would you prefer as Bristol's champion to unblock the bureaucracy at Whitehall?

Note: The boxing match picture at the top of this blogpost was taken from a Flickr article about Albert "Boy" Bessell, a pre-war Bristol boxer who was brought up in the same street as my nan.  If you want to find out more about him, click here

Friday, 28 May 2010

Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies

Eric Pickles - Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has written to provide guidance to Chief Planning Officers regarding the Regional Spatial Strategies.  Planning Authorities are no longer required to make decisions on housing supply within the framework of regional numbers and plans.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

‘Make Your Mark’ mosaic to be unveiled in Bristol by Mark Watson on Tuesday 1st June

At 1.30pm on Tuesday 1st June a giant West Country artwork, created by hundreds of people from across the region will be unveiled by Bristol comedian Mark Watson, who launched ActionAid’s Make Your Mark campaign to find 1,000 people in the area to make their mark on poverty by sponsoring 1,000 children in Africa and around the world. The unveiling is part of a 2 day event to celebrate International Children’s Day.

The artwork will be made up of around 800 self portraits by people across the West Country. Together they will make up the face of 5 year old Enid from Uganda, who like 72 million children around the world, cannot go to school because of poverty.

From 11am-5pm on Tuesday 1st & Wednesday 2nd June, Bristol’s College Green will come alive to the African beat as children and families are invited along by ActionAid, for a taste of life in different countries and cultures.

Highlights across the two days include live music from afro jazz band Hélélé, with percussion and singing workshops from lead singer Alphonse Daudet, story-telling and African dancing with members of Nomakanjani from Zambia, drumming workshops with Bristol’s Omer Makessa, former lead singer with Mankala, Moussa Kouate on a traditional 21 string kora harp, street dance by Easton’s internationally-acclaimed young dance troupe Hype, face painting, world food stalls, an ultra-violet, interactive den where children can discover the sounds & sights of the jungle and create glow-in-the-dark arts & crafts and a family art competition with fantastic prizes for the most creative images of Africa.

Find out more about the event at

Bristol Friends of the Earth objection to access road for BCFC Stadium

Submission of Bristol Friends of the Earth to North Somerset P and R D Committee Wed 26th May on the planning application for the new BCFC Football Stadium

Bristol FOE strongly urge you to reject the recommendation of your officers and refuse planning permission for the access road. The Travel Plan presented by the Club as the basis for a Transport strategy for the new stadium is a piece of fiction with figures deliberately manipulated to under-represent the number of extra cars arising from the new development and so paint a unrealistically rosy picture of the traffic and parking impacts on local streets and the local highway network .

Your officers have given you poor advice in relation to the Travel Plan and in the statement that ‘to turn down the application would be disproportionate’. The traffic problems which will inevitably follow from the grant of planning permission on the basis of this flawed Plan will not stay on the Bristol side of the border and both Councils will be involved in conflict with fans and local residents, additional expense and staff time when it turns out to be unworkable. The current stadium has three entrances all in Bristol, the new one will be squarely in North Somerset.

You should turn down this planning application on the basis that the combined Traffic Assessment/Travel Plan is so fundamentally flawed that it is unreliable. Even if you support a stadium, you should ask the Club to go away and only come back with a new Plan which starts with a realistic baseline for the current number of cars so effective monitoring and enforcement can take place, contains concrete measures for travel behaviour change by its fans, evidence of current and future parking areas and costings of bus and parking arrangements. All are lacking from the current Plan. And your officers need to ensure that there are prenegotiated safeguards in the Plan which Councils can enforce in the event of failure on the part of fans and the Club to meet the Plan’s agreed conditions.

Vanishing cars

The function of a Traffic Assessment/Travel Plan is for the applicant to come up with a strategy to deal with the extra cars arising from a new development and for Council officers to assess its reliability and effectiveness to protect the highway network and adjoining residents and agree its implementation and enforcement. The role of the officers is not simply to rubberstamp. Nothing in the Club’s documents or public statements has shown a real willingness to tackle the crunch issue of how they get their fans out of their cars so that local communities are not swamped by an even bigger parking free for all than exists at the moment. Instead the main aim of the Club’s combined Travel Plan/Traffic Assessment has been to’ lose’ cars. Two independent transport consultants working with local residents have advised us how the ‘vanishing cars’ effect has been achieved by the Club’s transport consultants.

1. Organise a 2008 fans’ survey. The results show 57% are car drivers and 18% passengers. Discover that these figures give an increase in cars of a whopping 4971 extra, so ignore it and use lower figures (32% car drivers and 51% passengers plus a high passenger per car figure in 2) to show a future increase in cars of only 2769. A loss of 2022 cars.

2. Use a high figure for 1.6 passengers in each car which is also not supported by answers in the fans survey.

3. Put forward a planning application for a 30,000 seater stadium but a Travel Plan for only 23,800. Result 1,600 less cars even using the Club’s flawed method.

4. Use the 23,800 figure and 1 and 2. to conclude that the total of extra cars will be only 2,800.

5. Produce a Travel Plan which you claim reduces the extra cars by about half (1383). Do not provide any detailed figures, breakdowns or costings of how you achieve this. Fail to set any targets for increasing cycling, walking and public transport use to the new Stadium. Our calculations show that the 20 extra buses and 140 bike parking spaces in the Travel Plan (using their figure of 2.6 people in each car) can only reduce cars by 670 even if all extra 20 buses were full 80 seaters and all bike parking spaces used. What measures in the Travel Plan achieved the disappearance of the other 713 cars?

6. Stick to your claim that the Travel Plan reduces cars by 1383, this leaves just 1411 cars to use in your modelling of the impact on the road network. Use a model that deals shows only the Stadium traffic not the combined Sainsburys and the Stadium impact.

7. When the Traffic Assessment shows that even with only 1411 cars you will still have congestion and queueing at the entrance to the new Stadium, use the fallback that it is only once a fortnight for part of the year and special traffic measures will be put in place on those days.

The conclusion of our two transport professionals is that more realistic trip generation figures would render the junctions and links surrounding the proposed stadium inoperable.

BCFC’s inability to find adequate parking

It is extremely unlikely that the club will find the required extra off street parking even at the artificially low figure of 1411. The Club’s current parking policy is a ‘find your own parking space’ free for all for non season ticket holders (home and away) and a similar free for all for season ticket holders once the parking spaces arranged by the Club at sites such as Wickes and Clanage Road are full. There is certainly no information on their website to direct fans who are not in the know to prearranged sites. For example, at Wickes season ticket holders get first preference as the Club’s steward limits the cars depending on how many shoppers are using Dreams and Wickes .We were told by a fan if you don’t wear the team colours and act as if you are planning to buy a bed or some DIY equipment, you can get past the steward. If this fails, see if you can get into the Sainsburys car park as they have no attendant.

Our understanding is that the Club has 1,500 off street parking spaces arranged with local businesses and a further 451 spaces at Ashton Gate, about off street approx. 2,000 spaces in total. Within the last couple of months the Club has lost the use of the sizeable Park and Fly site at South Liberty Lane which is now to be used for rail. The 200 space Imperial Tobacco site is also up for sale or rent.

Following the recent yellow lining of Brunel Way so that fans could no longer park there, anger was directed towards the City Council. These recent events highlights the insecure nature of the Club’s current parking arrangements and does not bode well for the future. Parking space can be withdrawn at the will of the owners if arrangements don’t work out or a change of use, activity or ownership occurs.

We asked the Club to explain how they would meet the requirement for 1411 new parking spaces.

They said that the new Stadium will have 1230 new car spaces if you include 250 car spaces and 130 car spaces for 24 coaches in the Park and Ride site in the total. However,at the same time they would lose 451 parking spaces in the current Stadium and 150 cars would be displaced from Ashton vale and 90 from Long Ashton by the Residents Parking Zones. So the move to the new Stadium results in a displacement of 691 spaces where fans park now so the net increase will be only 549 spaces.

We asked for evidence of additional new parking sites and were told that an ‘extension ‘at Clanage Road has been negotiated . It is not clear if this is a extension in time or space. I investigated the further 3 sites given to me by the Club – UWE at Bower Ashton has 100 spaces and the other two were working industrial units with a total of about 30 spaces. The Club is still negotiating with all of them. The Club also mentioned additional parking spaces at the other two Park and Ride sites. Reserving Park and Ride parking spaces for football fans at a peak shopping time is we believe an issue that merits full public discussion in the context of the both North Somerset and Bristol’s future transport policy before it is agreed between the Council officers and the Club. In view of the annual subsidy of Park and Ride sites from Council funds, it is vital that any parking of football coaches and fans cars pays its way and do not hinder the current operation of sites or impact economically on tourism or shopping in the Centre of Bristol.

Flaws in the Travel Plan include manipulated results, lack of detailed costings of measures particularly Park and Ride site parking , lack of targets for increasing cycling, walking and public transport use to the new Stadium, unreliable traffic modelling and complete lack of safeguards to protect local residents and the road network when higher traffic results. Combined with the lack of real evidence that the Club can maintain its existing parking level let alone find an inadequate 1411 spaces on top, means you have more than ample grounds for rejecting the planning application. Thank you

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Not So Great Reform Act 2010

I listened to Nick Clegg’s first speech as Deputy Prime Minister and found myself agreeing with much of what he said. In fact his key points - repealing of intrusive and unnecessary legislation, reforming politics to be more open and transparent, redistribution of power away from the centre – are all things that I wholeheartedly support, who wouldn't? - after all they are the stuff of Motherhood and Apple Pie.

Getting rid of ID cards, protecting the right to peaceful protest, controls on the £2 billion lobbying industry, recall of MPs, an elected second chamber, reform of party funding, revision of libel laws, and so on are also all things that can be found in my shopping list of “things I would do if I ruled the country”.

So why am I finding it so hard to get excited about this new coalition government?

The problem came when the Deputy Prime Minister referred to these proposed changes as the “biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832” which he describes as a time when “huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests” before some politicians “stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few”.

The problem is that the Great Reform Act of 1832 was not great – instead it' greatness is a myth, a scam, a swindle.

After it was passed “huge swathes of the populationstillremained helpless against vested interests” and, in fact, the Whig-led coalition government (later to become the Liberal Party) went on to introduce one of the most regressive pieces of legislation that any British government had ever introduced against those“huge swathes of the population”.  This was the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 - which declared that “no able-bodied person was to receive money or other help from the authorities except in a workhouse”, and that “conditions in workhouses were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help”. What is the point of reform if it abandons the most vulnerable?

That any coalition led by the Whigs would not totally embrace reform might be obvious to those familiar with the writings of an earlier Whig, the MP for Bristol, Edmund Burke who stated in 1780 that “popular election is a mighty evil” before later going on to say that if the franchise was extended “learning will be cast into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of the swinish multitude

And so, rather than extending the franchise to the many, the Act merely added some of the better-off to the ranks of the privileged, giving them a stake in maintaining the status quo. Before the Act, some 440,000 adult males had the vote in England, Wales and Scotland; afterwards the electorate had risen to just 720,000 men out of a total adult population of 13 million. In Bristol, where riots usually seen as in support of reform had broken out in 1831, the effect of this “emancipation” was to see its two pro-reform MPs replaced by two anti-reform MPs who campaigned hard against any further extension of the vote. If this is a progressive Liberal Democrat's idea of great democratic reform, we are in for a long hard slog to become a truly democratic modern society.

In fact, a long hard slog was what faced real reformers in 1832. It was to be another 35 years before any further widening of the franchise was pushed through parliament with the Liberal politician Lord John “Finality Jack” Russell being in the forefront of preventing any further reform – insisting that the 1832 Act was final and further reform unnecessary. It was not until 1928 that all adults, regardless of wealth, class or gender were given the vote, nearly 96 years after this Great Reform Act.

Nick Clegg’s reference to the events of 1832 should serve to warn us that we are in danger of being presented with another Great Reform swindle – one in which some of us are once again offered a greater stake in the status quo whilst others are effectively disenfranchised and/or find themselves facing great hardship as new legislation is bought in that will hit the poorest amongst our society disproportionately.

The new government’s proposal to raise tax allowances, for example, will do little to benefit the poorest 3 million households whilst the anticipated plan to increase VAT will hit those same households harder because a higher proportion of their tax is in the form of indirect taxes like VAT. Meanwhile the commitment to reducing the deficit by a ratio of spending cuts to taxation of 4 to 1 will mean that ring-fencing the NHS budget simply means larger cuts in areas such as social housing and public transport which again will hit poorer households hardest.

The fact is that there remains a body of political opinion on the right who believe that the working class housing estates of our towns and cities are still full of “swinish multitudes” for whom being on benefits is somehow a lifestyle choice – these are the same people who still believe that many young girls have only one ambition in life; to get themselves pregnant so that they can claim child benefit. For this body of opinion, a welfare system in which “no able-bodied person out of work was to receive money or other help from the authorities” and where conditions “were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help” seems perfectly acceptable. But the rest of Britain has moved on since the 1830s and so instead we get “The Big Society”, where those who can afford it are encouraged to help themselves, whilst those who are most in need will find it increasingly hard to find any support at all as the state turns it back on them.

Another politician with Bristol links, Henry “Orator” Hunt speaking in 1831 asked a large crowd why they were so keen to support the Great Reform bill which, he said, would give the so-called middle classes “a share in the representation, in order that they might join the higher classes to keep seven millions of the lower classes down”. Paul Foot in his book “The Vote” describes the response when Hunt asked;

Do they propose to lessen our taxes?” (“NO!” came the roared reply.)

Do they propose to keep their hands out of our pockets?” (“NO!”)

To give us cheaper bread, cheaper meat, cheaper clothing, to work us fewer hours, or give us better wages?”

To the deafening crescendo “NO, NO, NO!” Hunt asked: “Then how the devil are you interested, pray?”

Sorry Nick, although I like what you’re offering if it is at the expense of the poor and vulnerable of our country, I’m not interested. I repeat...what is the point of reform if it abandons the most vulnerable?

Monday, 17 May 2010

Yo Clegg! Can the Lib Dem leader avoid being seen as Cameron's poodle?

One of the most damaging episodes in the decline and fall of Tony Blair as Prime Minster involved an example of those microphone mishaps that appear to be par for the course for recent Labour Prime Ministers.

At the G8 Conference held in St Petersburg on 17 July 2006, US President Bush was overheard greeting the PM with "Yo Blair!". For many political commentators, the style of the greeting was seen as confirmation of the subservient role that Blair (and Britain) had played in its "special relationship" with Bush and the United States. To them it reinforced the image of the British Prime Minster being at the US President's beck and call; that he was, in effect, Mr Bush's poodle.

As his successor Gordon Brown's recent mishap perhaps shows, often what matters is whether the image resonates with the general public. The Sun's 1992 polling day picture of Neil Kinnock inside a light bulb with the caption "will the last person to leave Britain please turn off the lights" may not have been "wot won it" but it certainly wounded Labour whilst the cruel cartoons of John Major with his underpants worn over his suit did much to damage his public image, as he himself has admitted. Never has image and perception been so important in British politics as it is today.

Nick Clegg is now in the position of being the junior partner in a coalition government in which all the major strategic positions (Prime Minister, The Treasury, The Foreign Office, Home Secretary) are taken by the Conservatives. In order to obtain the positions of Deputy PM for himself, Business Minister for Vince Cable, Energy and Climate Change for Chris Huhne and 2 other cabinet positions, Clegg and the Lib Dems have had to make some major concessions, including; agreement to an additional £6 billion of additional cuts this financial year, abstention on the vote for introducing new nuclear power stations, agreeing to a cap on immigration, a referendum on AV rather than STV (the Lib Dem preference), agreeing not to oppose the "marriage tax", no mansion tax, and no opposition to the replacement of Trident.

Although the Conservatives have made some concessions including on capital gains tax and earnings linked state pensions, and have accepted a longer term aspiration to raise the tax allowance band to £10,000, on the whole the coalition has been mostly one of Lib Dem give and Tory take. Nevertheless, the coalition agreement was given overwhelming backing at the recent one-day Lib Dem conference with only a few dissenting voices. Having watched Cameron and Clegg take their vows, most of the Lib Dem party is still enjoying the honeymoon.

There are, however, three real tests of the Liberal Democrat support for the coalition just around the corner.

The first of these is George Osborne's announcement of how the £6 billion immediate reduction of the deficit will be implemented, probably on Monday 24th. In their respective manifestos, the Tories said they would cut £4 of spending for every £1 raised in tax, compared to the Lib Dems who wanted £2.50 of cuts for every £1 of tax. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, although both parties had identified some £11-12bn of public spending cuts they still had much higher levels of unspecified spending cuts still to identify.

In the case of the Lib Dems this amounted to another £35 billion but the Tories greater emphasis on cuts versus tax raising meant that they were looking for half as much as this again, with over £52 billion of public spending cuts needed to be found, or another £18 billion compared to the Lib Dems - so there will be close examination of the measures announced and the clues they might give to later targets for spending cuts.

Second test will be the delayed Thirsk and Malton election on May 27th . A relatively safe Conservative seat, this will be the first real chance to see what Liberal Democratic voters really think of the coalition government.

A major drop in the Lib Dem vote may well cause second thoughts in many Lib Dem ranks, especially if there is a major swing to Labour. The Greens have seen party membership jump by 10% with many of those new members being discontented Lib-Dems, whilst Labour say that they have had 13,000 new members since polling day, also including many Lib Dems. Losing members is bad enough but nothing worries politicians more than the prospect of losing votes, and the Lib Dems are no exception to this rule - a bad day in Thirsk could spell trouble for Nick Clegg.

The third test will be on June 22nd when George Osborne announces his emergency budget. Many Lib Dems are holding up the Tory commitment to increasing income tax allowances to £10,000 (from £6,475 for working age individuals) as a prime example of the concessions they have wrung from their coalition partners. Although there will not be an immediate rise to this level, many Lib Dems are expecting at least an increase of a £1,000 (which will cost some £5 billion per annum or most of the £6 billion immediate deficit reduction).

However, some commentators have speculated that the rise may only be a few hundred to around £7,000. Anything less than an increase to £7,475 for working age individuals may spark more dissent amongst the Lib Dem faithful especially if the budget aims to deliver the extra £18 billion of as yet unspecified Tory cuts referred to above. If even more additional Tory cuts are given priority over Lib Dem tax breaks, some may start to raise doubts about the level of "poodling" being done for the Conservatives.

For many Lib Dem supporters, the alliance between Clegg and Cameron may start to bring back memories of an earlier one - that between the two Davids; Steele and Owen. It may also be difficult for them to avoid remembering the images from the TV programme Spitting Image which portrayed the Liberal leader David Steele as being abject, worshiping and completely compliant to his alliance partner - in effect, Spitting Image portrayed Steele as Owen's poodle.

If Clegg fails to adequately demonstrate that the Conservatives are also making key concessions in the coalition government he may find that his fellow Liberal Democrats will start to associate his relationship with Cameron with that of the Spitting Image portrayal of the two Davids. The real disaster for the Liberal Democrats however may well be if the rest of the country start to associate Clegg with the image of Blair as Bush’s poodle.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

‘Make Your Mark’ – Submit Your Self-Portrait

Join thousands of others throughout the West Country who are helping to fight child poverty

ActionAid are urging people in the South West to send in self portraits for a major public artwork before it’s too late. The deadline to ‘Make Your Mark’, and send a self portrait on a specially created template is Monday 17th May.

Unveiled on Bristol’s College Green on 1st June, a sea of West Country faces will make up this giant mosaic of the face of 5-year-old Enid from Uganda.

Enid hopes to make her mark on her village by becoming a teacher. But first she needs to go to school. Making Your Mark and submitting a self portrait will help to raise awareness of the 72 million children around the world, like Enid, who do not attend school because of poverty.

West Country celebrities have already made their mark by submitting self portraits, including Bristolian comedy writer and actor Stephen Merchant; comedian Mark Watson and none-other-than Darth Vader himself (Bristol actor David Prowse).

Leading anti-poverty charity ActionAid is holding the event to help find a thousand new child sponsors in Bristol and the West Country, so they can support children like Enid and their communities. ActionAid works with communities to create an environment in which children can thrive. Regular donations from sponsors help communities turn that support into whatever’s needed most – whether it’s a new school building, trained teachers, healthcare services, clean water supplies or help to build sustainable livelihoods.

Mark Watson:
“As a comedian I spend my life talking about myself, so I thought drawing myself would make a nice change.”

Bristol writer and actor, Stephen Merchant:
“I sponsor a child in India. My donation each month helps to support her and her entire community - it’s such a rewarding relationship.”

Liz Waldy, Head of Supporter Marketing at ActionAid:
“Sponsoring a child is a unique way of getting help direct to the people who need it most. ActionAid works with the world’s poorest people, helping them access many of the things we take for granted like education, healthcare and clean water.”

More info & self portrait templates available here

Follow ActionAid on Twitter: @actionaiduk / Like ActionAid on Facebook / Watch the videos on YouTube

Friday, 14 May 2010

A More Honest Leaflet for Bristol West?

Above is a possibly more honest version of the standard "X can't win here" leaflet so beloved of the Liberal Democrat Party. In case you missed the subtle change;

If you read Stephen's "three things to remember", he says:

"Only Stephen Williams or Gordon Brown's Labour candidate can win here.  The Conservatives are third and have no councillors in Bristol West."

Obviously Stephen and the rest of the Lib Dems felt so sorry for the Conservatives and their lack of representation in Bristol West that they decided that they would represent the Conservative point of view themselves - even if it was at the expense of Liberal Democrat policy commitments.

So Stephen and his fellow Lib Dem MPs will absent themselves on any vote to introduce new nuclear power stations, along with his yellow colleagues.  Effectively this removes the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs from the vote leaving the Conservatives with a majority over the remaining parliament - so when it comes to making decisions about new nuclear power stations the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs have effectively decided to give the Tories the majority government they didn't earn at the ballot box from the electorate of 45 million.

I am sure all those local Liberal Democrat politicians and activists who turned up for the recent anti-nuclear demonstration in Bristol will find some way to justify that position, after all this is the age of pragmatic politics, so the important thing is that the Lib Dems can still say that they didn't vote for that new power station at Hinckley Point/Oldbury on Severn in their election leaflets. Meanwhile Chris Huhne, the newly installed energy and climate change minister will hope that nobody remembers that he told the Associate Parliamentary Renewable And Sustainable Energy Group;

Our message is clear, No to nuclear, as it is not a short cut, but a dead end

Likewise, I am sure the local Liberal Democrats will say that the cuts to public services between now and the next local elections are not their fault either despite them supporting the agreement to go along with Tory plans to slash another £6 billion from the deficit in 2010/11, largely by increased cuts to public services. This is despite Nick Clegg making it clear at the Lib Dems conference in March that he would not support plans, backed by the Conservatives, for early cuts to public spending; 

"I think, we think, that merrily slashing now is an act of economic masochism"

But that was before polling day and the offer of John Prescott's old job. Likewise, it was before polling day that Nick was telling us that a cap on immigration would not stem the number of immigrants as 80% of immigration was from the EU which had freedom of movement.  But now he is Deputy Prime Minister of a government that will introduce a cap on non-EU immigration.  As for the EU, well the Liberal Democrats have now agreed to toe the Conservative Euro-sceptic line by agreeing to a referendum on any further adoption of leglisation that involves further powers going to Europe (how that is defined is apparently unclear).

Returning to Stephen Williams, surely it would be churlish to remind him that he said that "the government's recent promise that it will hold a referendum on the alternative vote system some time in the next parliament is simply not good enough", now that the new Liberal-Conservative government says it will hold a referendum on the alternative vote system some time in the next parliament.

Stephen was also complaining that Labour had previously reneged on their 1997 promise to introduce proportional representation because, as Stephen also points out, the Alternative Vote system offered by Labour is not proportional representation.  He is absolutely right of course, it is disgraceful the way in which political parties renege on promises made during the election campaign - it is indeed"simply not good enough"

The question is - will we, the electorate, ever learn?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Make Bristol Even Better.....

Bristol Green Party Election Broadcast.

(Warning to fellow politicos: This broadcast contains policy statements rather than negative campaigning!)