Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Party gives qualified support to housing stock transfer ballot

At the special meeting of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council this morning, Liberal Democrat councillors went along with the rest of the council in accepting the cabinet's decision to comply with the Welsh Housing Quality Standard in respect of its council housing. On the recommendation to ballot tenants on the establishment of a community mutual body to take over council housing, we gave our support subject to scrutiny of the details as they were rolled out.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nadine Dorries

Lest people accuse us of a vendetta against Labour in drawing attention to their misuse of their parliamentary positions, (see posting about Keith Vaz and Bridget Prentice), we should point out that Conservatives are at it too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gordon Brown's speech

Most of the comment has been on the style of the speech. Would it reveal the private man, the warm jester, who we were assured by people close to Number 10, lurked behind the dour, vindictive, public face?

Would it be a tour de force which would put an end to the speculation in the media about his future? Well, we now have much opinion - most of it surprisingly favourable - to draw on.

Few have commented on the substance of the speech. For instance, who contrasted Brown's understanding of the word fairness, with that of Nick Clegg? What sense was there of Brown addressing the widening gap between the richest and poorest in Britain? (See an economist's analysis of negative wages here.)

Or how about his misunderstanding of the metaphor of mending the roof when the sun was shining? The point was not about spending on public services, necessary though that may have been, but about building up reserves.

Finally (for now - I'm sure we'll come back to this), one of his trumpeted initiatives seems to be flawed. I refer to the provision of broadband.

He said:
Jim Knight is announcing that we will fund over a million extra families to get online, on the way to our ambition of Britain leading the world with more of our people than any other major economy able to actively participate in our broadband and internet future.

Most of us know that the major factor limiting broadband take-up in the UK is the provision of high-capacity cable. Wales suffers more than England in this respect.

It has been estimated that it will cost almost £30bn to optically-cable every home. There is a cheaper option, of carrying the optical fibre just to the street cabinets, leaving a short length of existing metal to complete the connection. That would cost just over £5bn. BT has committed to a £1.5bn upgrade which will bring the total of homes with access to high band-width to ten million, but there is no indication that they will provide universal access from their own resources.

Look at the official briefing which followed Gordon Brown's speech, and you will see that only £300m is to be allocated to the government initiative (and what's the betting it has been pared from some other programme?). This is enough only to favour a few, unless there has been a surprising change of heart on the part of the telecomms companies.

Frank Little

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Commonwealth citizens joining British Army direct

No apologies for returning to the Gurkhas' case (see Monday posting).

The Gurkhas' legal team urgently (by end of Wednesday 24th September) need to find an example case of a soldier recruited directly to the British Army from a Commonwealth country to disprove statements being made by the Home Office.

Peter Carroll says:

“We need to find a person who joined the British Army between 1962 and 1997 who was a citizen of a Commonwealth Country and joined the Army directly from his own country - that is, they had not entered and settled in the UK before applying to join the Army.

“The reasons behind this requirement are complex. However, our legal team say that the finding of even one such instance would fundamentally improve the chance of victory in this case.”

If you can help, visit Peter’s site for details of how to get in touch.

We are grateful to Mark Pack and Liberal Democrat Voice for bringing this to our attention.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gurkha ex-soldiers' citizenship

Dave Simpson of City of Chester Liberal Democrats asks:

"Please sign this petition.

"The current situation is a joke - the Gurkhas (who are some of our best, most loyal and bravest soldiers) are being turned away from British Citizenship.

"It's a disgrace and I feel quite strongly about it, having worked with some superb Officers whilst
with P&O.

"If you too feel strongly, please add your signature to this official Number 10 petition."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More Labour MPs accused of misusing their position

Following the revelations in the Daily Mail about Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, there is news that the Labour MP for Lewisham, Bridget Prentice, may have misused part of her parliamentary allowance. The accusation concerns funds made available for constituency work, which Ms Prentice has used to promote herself to people living elsewhere.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hard facts

You can read all the press releases there are about the housing crisis, but it's not until you come up against hard facts that the message sinks in. Hard facts like work being stopped on new builds or a statistic like this: that brick production in the UK is set to drop to its lowest levels since the 1940s.

Back in the Assembly next week, Welsh Liberal Democrats have chosen as a motion for debate: "To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

Notes the current lack of affordable housing in Wales.

Calls on the Welsh Assembly Government to:

1. Develop the HomeBuy scheme into a fully funded key workers' scheme.

2. Begin a limited trial of urban housing enablers"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fair voting

Make Votes Count have started a new campaign. There is a deadline of 26th September.

Nick Clegg speech

Tremendous - his best performance yet. BBC Parliament will be repeating it this afternoon and evening.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Labour's Glenda Jackson misuse of expenses

The MP for Hampstead has been forced to repay part of her parliamentary allowance used to gather canvassing data for the Labour Party.

Peter Black's blog continues to win awards

The full winners of the Liberal Democrat gongs are here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nick Clegg's great repeal

In 2006, Nick Clegg inaugurated the Great Repeal Act campaign. He sought a: "single act to roll back a generation of illiberal legislation and illiberal regulations". He went on:
"Over the coming weeks, we will consult the public to help draw up a comprehensive list of the laws that should be repealed. Today I am launching a website where anyone can submit the details of a law they think should be scrapped – greatrepealact.com

" And then we will bring forward the most comprehensive set of proposals to pare back unnecessary laws and regulations a political party has ever produced. "

The web site is no longer active, but suggestions may still be posted as questions to the leader.

How to tackle crime

Crime hurts some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, who are least able to withstand its effects. All the political parties want to cut crime. The only question is how.

Our approach, as Liberal Democrats, is fundamentally different from that of Labour and the Conservatives. We favour what works. Criminal justice policy has been buffeted by red-top opinion for too long. It is time for hard evidence in cutting crime.

Chris Huhne is leading the debate at our federal conference in Bournemouth next week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sir Samuel Thomas Evans

There will be a short commemoration of the 90th anniversary of Sir Sam Evans' death on 13th September. It will take place at the grave-side in the churchyard of St John the Baptist church at 11 a.m. this coming Saturday.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Goldsworthy knifes the PM

Not Welsh LibDems Ali, but Julia of that ilk in a Q-and-A session in the Independent:

Do you feel sorry for Gordon Brown? NEIL CATTERMOLE, Ayr

Yes. But nobody wants their country to be run by someone they pity.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

When is local not local?

Answer: when the term is used by Nationalists. The Scottish Nationalist government is even more centrist than Labour.

Step 1 of central control: every local council in Scotland was "persuaded" not to increase council tax last April. This had an impact on education budgets across Scotland, and in places like Highland have particularly affected rural schools. This makes nonsense of their proposed Rural Schools Bill.

Step 2: introduce an extension to income tax to replace council tax (one cheer from us), but fix the rate centrally, thus denying local authorities the power to set it according to their individual needs. Call it "Local" Income Tax, in the hope of attracting naive Liberal Democrat votes.