Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Fight corruption

David Beckham hopes that the behind-the-scenes allegations of FIFA corruption will not harm England's bid for the World Cup, and I hope so too. If there is any foundation to the claims then FIFA corruption is significant. In one sense it doesn't matter whether their officials have been bribed with £1 or with £1000 (or even £6m) the principle is the same. They are corrupt. Avid readers will know that I am not a great fan of football. The game itself isn't too bad but the managament and politics of the game leave a lot to be desired. Some would say that just the way money is distributed in the game shows that it is corrupt. This goes under the name of capitalism but the additional words "ugly head" come to mind. It is worse when secrecy, bribery and corruption form part of the criticisms of football.

The main point for me was the criticism of the BBC. How can an expose of FIFA corruption be detrimental to England's cause? Well the answer is that it comes from the BBC but this is not a bad criticism. I would rather support the BBC's fight against corruption than a campaign to bring the World Cup to England.

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Monday, 29 November 2010

Creating a big society

The snow has fallen already and it has even affected Morecambe. Where I used to live in east Lancashire the snow would often fall and last for weeks. It hardly snows at all here. On the local television news this week was an article about the council giving a free bag of grit to all householders. I wrote a blog last year about the costs of not using grit. There are injuries to the person, cars crash and they can crash into buildings. I suppose the "big society" means that the council shouldn't grit the streets and individuals pay for the damage. So it is a pleasant surprise that the council should give away grit even if it is only a couple of shovels full.

Then I read why they did it. It was to stop residents taking the grit from the bins! I thought that was what it was there for. They are placed at the bottom of hills where cars could slide into gardens. If there are dangerous steps on private land then so what if the grit is used here. It still costs the NHS if people fall on there own property. It isn't easy to move grit and most of it will be used close to the bins. if they really wanted a good distribution of grit then I would guess all they had to do was allow residents to take grit from the bins. it would have been much easier to distribute.

The beauty of this initiative is that some grit will get to where it is needed and it will be individuals who put it there. Well done Hyndburn Council. You have created your own big society. Shame about the reason for the freebie.

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Sunday, 28 November 2010

At least they didn't use sabres

In 1819, four years after Waterloo, protesters in St Peter's Field, Manchester were attacked by soldiers. Around a dozen were killed and hundreds were injured. This was partly because the police had used a system called kettling. Well they didn't call it kettling then but you know what I mean. It became known as the Peterloo massacre. Soldiers on horses moved into the crowds and used sabres. Some deaths were from the sabres and some were from crush injuries.

On Wednesday there were protests across the country about tuition fees and mounted police rode into the crowd at Trafalgar Square. Protesters were forcefully moved along even though the protest was legal. Now maybe there was a sound reason for the police to disperse the crowd with horses. My view is based on reports and video footage but I don't know everything that went on. What I do know is that Scotland Yard denied that the charge took place. They did remember when footage was posted on YouTube.

This means that the police were trying to cover up an act that they did not want to make public. There is an alternative answer. In this instance the police were inept. One police vehicle was vandalised. My original thoughts were that there was an element of the crowd out to do no good. A cynic may say that any act of vandalism may have been provoked by the police.

The police are hardly in a position to explain why they were charging with horses if they deny that it happened. If they accept it happened then they can give their reasons, but somebody gave the order for the horses to charge. Somebody (the Met's commissioner) denied all knowledge. We have enough CCTV for the police to know what happened and there are enough video cameras for everyone to know what happened. At least they didn't use sabres.

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Saturday, 27 November 2010

Worse than I'm a celebrity

I was speaking with someone recently who had made national as well as local newspapers because they objected to what the water board were doing. It was pre-united utilities but post water meters. The company decided that they wanted to cut off bad payers and she decided that she was going to fight them. Good for her.

She described herself as a rebel but it's really hard to believe that anyone would put forward a proposal to cut off the water in the first place. Anyone who opposes such measures is not a rebel. The rebels are those who think it is right to stop access to clean water. We may manage without washing but what about drinking? And then there is the small matter of going to the toilet.

I don't think they would even propose this sort of thing on I'm a celebrity get me out of here. We need people to be active in democracy so maybe we need a few more barbaric suggestions that may motivate others to get involved.

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Friday, 26 November 2010

Controlling the Westminster children

Jokes often have a target and David Cameron has been in the news for aiming his jokes at John Bercow. I think one of the jokes is quite funny but does John Bercow agree? Is he hurt by the joke? Does it matter? Well some readers may be saying "of course it matters" and others may disagree. If a joke is funny then let's tell it. The problem is that not all jokes are funny and some are just insults.

A Lancaster city councillor has been suspended for calling a fellow councillor "a catty girl with a ponytail" and refusing to apologise. Maybe it wasn't a joke but that makes it even worse. It is an insult to use those words about a woman. It is even worse as the councillor is male with long hair.

We should obviously steer clear of insults but we should also avoid jokes that hurt. The joke about John Bercow is funny to me, but is it funny to him? The joke could still be funny without naming a target. The speaker comes across as someone who is doing his best in an impossible situation. It's a pity our politicians behave like children but at least he is doing his bit to control them.

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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Education Protests in Lancaster

There were protests across the country yesterday and I happened to be in Lancaster. You can look at my photography blog to see my comments on this photo at http://photographyfornovices.blogspot.com/ but here I will discuss the politics of the scene.

I guess that Wednesday was chosen as universities often give over this afternoon to sports or other interests. So a Wednesday protest would seem reasonable but in this case most of the protesters should have been at school. I even met a local headteacher who was keeping an eye on proceedings. He gave his pupils the option of protesting at the school gate but there weren't many takers. He also told me that if the parents knew about the protest then it would go down as unauthorised absence. If they didn't know then it was truancy.

I think it is really important that we protest on things we feel strongly about. If the children are passionate about their education that is fantastic. Unfortunately the great principle of standing up for education falls down because they had to leave school in order to protest. A cynic would say that the children don't really want to protest as their love of education did not extend to yesterday's classes and they had other opportunities to protest without disrupting their education. They just wanted a break from school. It would certainly have been cheaper if those pupils had protested within their schools and then no police presence would have been needed.

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A recipe for stagnation

Phil Ainsworth, a spokesperson for Blackburn Town Centre Partnerships was on the news last night following the decision to let the Tithebarn development to go ahead in Preston. This means that £700 million will be spent to revitalise the shopping centre in Preston and as you can imaging, neighbouring towns are not particularly happy about this including Blackburn.

Phil was disappointed but said there were a lot of positives to come out of the report for Blackburn The inspector supported Blackburn's (and Blackpool's) claim that the development will harm their own business but Eric Pickles thought it would not adversely affect the other towns.

It seems so obvious to me that Eric is wrong. A wonderful revamp of Preston is bound to adversely affect neighbouring towns. However I think his decision is correct. We can't stop upgrading our towns and cities simply because we harm neighbouring business. This is a recipe for stagnation.

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Planned Chaos for Morecambe

I know that it is only three days ago that I wrote about the traffic congestion in Morecambe but I took these photos at 1pm on Sunday and I had to write about them.

Both photos were taken from the same point on Lancaster Road, Morecambe. On the left I am looking towards our new supermarket along with new traffic lights. This traffic is stationary whereas up till now traffic has moved freely. This was not a traffic hot spot. On the right I am half a dozen cars away from the Shrimp roundabout. And this is 1pm on Sunday afternoon! If things were not bad enough before, we are heading for chaos.

I would complain to the council but I think they have planned for chaos. About ten years ago they put traffic lights up at Scale Hall (between Morecambe and Lancaster). I heard nobody ask for them and everyone complained to me. These traffic lights are a few yards away from a Pelican Crossing, you know those precious things that are only put up after years and you usually have to wait for fatal accidents. Well no pedestrians can cross at a few places all within a few yards of each other. In the meantime traffic between Morecambe and Lancaster is crawling.

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Monday, 22 November 2010

The Big Society

It's surprising where you can get your political inspiration. A couple of years ago I was painting the front of my house making it look nice not for me but for people who look at the house. I came to realise the importance of having a seafront in Morecambe that was not spoiled by bad planning. There are still people who sail past the prom even if there are only specific times of day when they can do this.

Yesterday I was clearing leaves and rubbish in the garden and I realised what David Cameron meant by the big society. I was picking up other peoples leaves and rubbish. I was putting them in the appropriate bin so that the council could make some money in recycling. The leaves could have stayed there. They could have blown down the drains and blocked them. Then we would have had flooding and the cost would have been picked up by individuals. In fact I did notice a lot of flooding in Lancaster last time we had heavy rain.

We can also save on maintenance for our footpaths. I walked along (I use the term loosely) this footpath yesterday (see photo). We can save on maintenance staff, on street cleaners, we can save money on unblocking drains and get everyone to work for the council without pay so that recycling makes money for the big society. You may have guessed that I'm not a fan.

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Sunday, 21 November 2010

Tuition Fees Petition

Yesterday I received a request by email to sign a petition for the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party to keep its word on tuition fees. I could not sign it as there has to be a clear difference between what the Liberal Democrats in government can do and what everyone else as Liberal Democrats can do.

As part of the coalition government we can't keep our word. All our policies were costed in May but we haven't implemented all our policies (especially the ones that save money). The problem isn't that we have gone back on our word, the problem is that we are not making it clear why we have gone back on our word. Ministers can't tell us that tuition fees are bad as they have ministerial responsibilities - but everyone else can.

Tuition fees are bad but what we really need is the rank and file member to say that we want tuition fees to go. We also have to maintain our identity and at the same time remain partners with the Tories. We can keep our word in the sense that abolition of fees is still our aim and this will be part of our next manifesto.

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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Morecambe goes from bad to worse

On Wednesday a new supermarket opened in Morecambe. It is within easy walking distance of my house but you wouldn't walk because you have bags to carry on the way home. So I drove - but walking would have been quicker. We have a problem with congestion between Morecambe and the motorway via Lancaster and to add to this for the last few months we have had traffic problems because they were building the supermarket. This is nothing to the problems we have now. The traffic lights to get you in and out of their car park are causing huge jams.

By coincidence it was also on Wednesday that I was driving slowly through Lancaster to get home and just as I was getting to the Greyhound Bridge to cross the Lune I heard the traffic and travel news on local radio. All the roads in Lancashire were clear - excellent - but the Greyhound Bridge was stop/start. I think you can forget this description, but how do you describe an average speed of 2 or 3mph?

I have heard confirmation on local traffic and travel many times. The road between Lancaster and Morecambe must be the worst road in Lancashire if not the country, and this week it went worse.

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Friday, 19 November 2010

Good on the election court

Phil Woolas has to wait until next week to learn as to whether his appeal has been successful. He feels that the previous High Court decision which deprived him of holding public office for three years was an attack on his free speech. Well I agree with Phil. The trouble is that free speech, when used responsively should not include lying, and if it does then it should be restricted. It is no defence to claim that free speech is being eroded when those with this freedom do not use it responsibly.

This is a pretty weak argument for his lawyers to use so they are also putting forward that the lies relate to his opponents political not personal conduct. That's alright then. So his lawyers are accepting that he lied but that's OK if you lie about political conduct. What sort of law is this? What kind of lawyer fights a defence on technicalities (probably all of them but that's not the point)? The point is that Phil Woolas is a liar. We will find out if the appeal court continues to hold this view shortly, but he is not defending the fact that he told lies. He just wants the freedom to tell lies if that is his wish.

Another defence is that the election court had misdirected itself in law, and this would "chill free speech at election time". If this restraint at election times means that we don't get lies told at election time then good on the election court.

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Creating Conflict

All too often parents support their child against the school. When I was at school I knew that my parents would agree with the teacher and that was at a time of corporal punishment. Just to put things in perspective there were no major areas of disagreement and I didn't come across many sadistic teachers, but the point stands. Teachers were able to teach because there was discipline in the classroom.

Compare that with the present and in particular with haircuts. If a headteacher has to impose the school policy and take a child out of the classroom because of a haircut then this teacher is really saying that the parent is wrong to have allowed the child an extreme haircut. Parents know about school policies - they sign home-school agreements - but go out of their way to cause conflict.

This week the headline in the local paper is "Banned from classes for this haircut". I can't quite see the picture but it doesn't really matter. It is about the headteacher's ability to rule the school. "It's ridiculous says boy's mum". What is ridiculous is the lack of support given to teachers. This mother should sit in on some classes and see how pupils behave and maybe then she would think twice about creating conflict.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Be careful what you wish for

At the weekend I was speaking with someone who hopes to become a teacher next year. He told me a wonderful story about the incentives that are given in schools and I will share it with you.

Raffle tickets were given to all pupils who worked well, who behaved well or were just there when a teacher thought that there was s good reason to give out a ticket. They were given out fairly regularly but one pupil only received one raffle ticket before he was permanently excluded (expelled to you and me) from the school. You guessed it - he won the raffle!

When I was at school I seem to remember that most of the incentives were negative. A prefect of discipline kept us behaving well. I respond better to praise now and I am sure that I did as a child. I would have wished for raffles to alter my behaviour, but you have to be careful what you wish for.

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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Legal Aid Cuts

I saw Kenneth Clarke on the news last night. He was announcing cuts to the legal aid service. He didn't mention the legal aid that went to the three former Labour MPs who are facing criminal charges because of their claims for expenses. I wrote about this at the time and I still can't see why the taxpayer should foot the bill. The official answer is that they may face prison so they should get the aid. I think they could afford to pay for their own lawyers.

I am in broad agreement with Mr Clarke but I decided to write this blog when I heard him say "It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for unnecessary court cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door, were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying". I thought that was the whole point of legal aid. Allow those who can't afford it to get to that courtroom door. That door will still be reached by those who can afford it.

It can be argued that lawyers fight for all the cases that reach that courtroom door on the grounds of law and they do so for people who could not otherwise afford to be there. As with most of the social sciences, there is a balance as to how much support is given. However I think the balance needs to move away from the compensationitis that plagues our country. We give legal aid for those who are excluded from school. It's time we supported our teachers in their decisions and didn't pay lawyers to put the case against them.

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Lembit's good publicity

Is all publicity good publicity? Something must attract us to a certain brand of car or any product or service for that matter. Advertisers spend a great deal of time and money to get their message over. I suspect there is something to this advertising business whether it is advertising on television or personal promotion. And that leads me to the latest series of I'm a Celebrity.

Why do contestants choose to go on this show, live in the jungle and put themselves through the bushtucker trials? In particular why would Lembit Opik do this? It is not entirely unexpected that he should do something like this given his colourful past. I met him when he was a panellist on Any Questions in Morecambe. He came across really well and was able to deal easily with all questions. I may be biased but I felt he won the arguments on the radio. I had a few words with him after the programme and this little bit of publicity would have done him no harm for any future election. I didn't expect him to lose his seat last May, so what happened? Within minutes of the result Lembit couldn't give an answer and I haven't heard one since then.

I hope this programme is good publicity for Lembit and he is elected as an MP again. Let's hope he has worked out why his vote went down last time and made the appropriate corrections.

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P.S. The programme is on while I am writing and Nigel Havers may have some advice for him.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Morecambe may die

Yesterday I wrote about a questionnaire by the Liberal Democrats from 2006. There was a question about the link road to the M6. It was a hot potato at the time because those who lived next to the prospective road were up in arms. For that matter there is still an active group protesting about the possibility of the road. In fact everyone who lives in the area bought their house in the full knowledge that a road may be built near to them. A link road was first proposed in 1949 and the subject has been re-raised at fairly regular
intervals ever since - see
As it happens the planning for the possibility of a road led to a broad expanse of land which would leave a fair distance between road and house. When compared with some of the houses and motorways in our cities Morecambe is in a very fortunate postion.

I believe the road is vital to the local economy. It is not hyperbole to say that Morecambe would die without the link. It is dying now. And this leads me to the questionnaire. It was carried out on Broadway and surrounding roads. They are not directly affected by the link road but most of Morecambe and the Heysham peninsula is not affected. There was confusion at the time mainly led by our MP who was supporting an impossible alternative. However the residents were asked if this link road was the only possibility then would they support it. Of those who expressed an opinion 96% supported the link road.

We still have a vociferous pressure group complaining in the newspapers. Unfortunatel we lost a really good councillor partly because of the NIMBY vote, but who knows, maybe we will get that link after all and Morecambe may not die.

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Saturday, 13 November 2010

County decisions take years

I was looking back at a survey that was carried out in 2006. It related to the speed limit on Broadway, Morecambe which stood at 40mph for as long as anyone can remember but was recently lowered to 30mph. It was an anomaly in Morecambe but it is a wide road and many drivers will feel that they are safe driving at 40mph.

There was a definite split in whether the limit should be lowered. Of those who expressed an opinion, 58% felt that the limit should be lowered. This reflected another question in the survey which was whether the resident was aware of accidents on the road. If they were not aware then they wanted to keep 40mph.

It struck me, and is still striking, that no other political group or politician, including the elected county councillor (who would have been involved in the change) has asked for opinions or even given their opinion. We let the authorities know the results, we heard nothing, and four years later there was a change. This decision was not only taken without consultation by the authorities, but it took years.

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Friday, 12 November 2010

A degree in abseiling?

There was a report last night about students who were training in the art of what looked like abseiling. One interviewee looked so happy as he told us how much he was enjoying the course while hanging upside down. It seems that there is a demand for these artists and the good news for this student, he told us with his beaming upside down smile, is that he would get a degree too.

There may be a demand for vertical dancing and it may be very entertaining too. My problem is that I don't understand how the artistic demands of a course like this leads to a degree. It may be that there is a lot of academic research into the physiological changes occuring while dancing near the ceiling, but why is it part of a course designed to produce artists?

It is often quoted that the UK produces more photographers per year than the number of professional photographers in Europe. Education is never wasted but some academic training is more useful than others. In the seventies I was amazed that we had a degree in what is normally seen as a practical skill, brewing. If we could redefine what is meant by an academic degree then we may be able to afford to give grants to those who are following such courses and others could get paid while they train for skills like plumbing.

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Thursday, 11 November 2010

A referee with married parents

On Tuesday it was really nice to hear Andy Gray talking about two decisions that the referee made during the Stoke versus Birmigham game. He said they were not easy decisions for the referee to make. Compare this with the usual comments I hear when the man in black is mistaken. They are usually along the lines of how could the referee not see the correct decision. The fans response is less polite. They question the eyesight of the referee and for some reason they tell us that his parents aren't married. In this particular case twice in the space of ten minutes the referee gave goal kicks when they should have been corners.

As far as I am concerned the referee is always right even when he is wrong. Referees are on the pitch to make the best decisions as far as they can. They are human and do make mistakes but it was refreshing to hear Andy Gray's support. Maybe this referee's parents are married.

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Labour name-calling

The actions of Harriet Harman are vile and disgusting according to someone who worked for Phil Woolas. According to the BBC website, she was described to her face by one colleague as "a disgrace". Many Labour MPs are coming forward to support Mr Woolas. I am not quite sure what this support means. If it means that he is innocent then I would suggest they look at the evidence and the judges' ruling. If they are giving a character reference for Mr Woolas then they should consider the latest evidence. If they are part of the name-calling then they really should consider their own positions.

Having the right to appeal and being innocent are two different things. I have not heard Mr Woolas say he is innocent. I have not heard him say that he has not told lies. I have not heard him mention any specific allegation and try to argue his case. It is quite possible that he will say that he cannot say anything because the legal process continues, but it does nothing for politics in general and Mr Woolas in particular to hear no specific defence. If he does win on appeal, and I doubt that he will, then it will not be because he has fought his corner as an innocent man. It would be victory on a technicality.

I thought Labour had a problem with one MP. maybe they have a problem with a few others.

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Good Old "Waterboarding"

It is good to know that British lives were saved because of "waterboarding". This is what George W Bush tells us. It's also good to know that we have the Americans as our allies.

Makes you proud to be British, but it also led me to think of some related issues. I wonder if people would want to kill the British if we didn't have American "waterboarders" as allies. I also wonder if these evil people who wish to take British lives go away because of "waterboarding". Most of all I wonder if we could use other instruments of torture and save more British lives. Thumbscrews worked well didn't they?

Change the world.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Something good about football

I was watching the football match between Hibs and Hearts yesterday. With three minutes to go Hearts were winning 2-0 and the Hibs captained was sent off. There were no complaints. What caught my eye was when the injured player was trying to come back on the pitch you could see things thrown towards the player and the commentator said that the police would have to move in.

The player moved onto the pitch away from the missiles and he was called back by the physio. I don't know how dangerous the missiles were. I don't know if it was something that would cause injury, but they did travel quickly. When you have light objects thrown at you in Edinburgh it might be a sign of friendship, but my interpretation is that we have some Scottish fans who don't know how to behave.

It also makes me think how lucky we are that in England we don't have the same problems with fans that we had in the '70s. We may have overpaid players who don't show respect to referees, tickets that cost arms and legs, players who earn more than I don't know what, agents who will take more money out of the game than hundreds if not thousands of league club fans put in, players that are taught to cheat so that they can win games, players that deliberately foul and injury other players, players who think they can say what they like to referees and don't think anyone watching on TV can lip read, lots of money for some clubs and others going to the wall and commentators that think that referees are never right. We may have this list (and a lot more - this was off the top of my head) but at least in England we don't have dangerous missiles thrown at players - do we?

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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Prison voting

Should prisoners vote? This was one of the questions on Question Time and Shami Chakrabarti thought that the role of prison was purely to protect society. She must have forgotten that prisons also punish and rehabilitate. One member of the audience felt that rehabilitation should mean that prisoners may vote. The role of punishment should mean that prisoners may not.

For me there are so few people who bother voting that any method of putting voting on a pedestal should be applauded - and that means saying that voting is precious and you lose the right to vote when you become a prisoner.

Jack Straw explained that some prisoners have not lost the right to vote, but they have lost their liberty, but if the right to vote were given to all prisoners then this may have a distorting effect particularly on local elections that happen to have a prison in its ward or division. I am not quite sure how distortion may occur. Are all prisoners likely to support Labour? If they support your party then having them in one area is not such a bad thing. Jack must think that prsioners are generally not Labour supporters.

One aspect of standing for election is that you should be able to communicate with your electorate. Is this possible in prison? Would I be allowed to visit prisons on the basis that I am a candidate? On this purely practical point, surely the logistics would mean that it is not possible to knock on their doors.

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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Deter those who tell lies

Whenever I hear anyone talking about what they are going to do immediately after a press conference has finished, I always think that they have decided that the press conference is more important than the thing they really want to do. Phil Woolas announced that he would be taking his legal case further immediately after he had spoken to the press. You can also say anything you like about something that you are going to do - and then change your mind.

The judge said that Mr Woolas had made statements that he knew to be untrue. Mr Woolas' defence was not "oh no I didn't". That is what I would say if I were in his position and I were innocent. In fact the words in his defence were more general and concerned the ability of politicians to say what they wish to say.

Specifically Mr Woolas said "it is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws."

Well I'm afraid he is wrong and the error is simple. Those vital statements have to be true. What is vital is that we speak freely as long as we aren't in breach of election law. More than that, we should only be saying things that we believe to be truth regardless of any law.

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Friday, 5 November 2010

Proudhon's Property

Back in February I wrote a blog about the value of democracy and I received a comment questioning its condemnation. The anonymous author of the comment said that there was much to be said for "no government" along Proudhonian lines. I replied that Proudhon was famous for saying "la propriété, c'est le vol" but personal property is important to us.

Last week I was in the Musee d'Orsay and there is a portrait of Proudhon by Courbet and I wondered what Proudhon would think of the grandeur of his location. You don't get a painting in this museum unless it is really expensive. Perhaps Proudhon would be pleased that his portrait is not in a private collection and in that sense it does belong to the public. However it did cost me 8€ to look at it and even at this cost I hope Proudhon appreciates the irony of the cost of looking at his portrait. I don't think I will be driven to anarchy for 8€.

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Thursday, 4 November 2010

When life means life and why protest?

The article in the news that took my attention concerned the conviction of the woman who was jailed for life for trying to murder Labour MP Stephen Timms. She is not mentally ill but did make a list of all MPs who had voted for the war in Iraq and she is certainly a danger to all of these MPs.

There were two things that really struck me. Firstly the meaning of the words life sentence. How can it be that a life sentence actually means a minimum of 15 years? This just doesn't make sense. I can't think of any way that the words life and minimum of 15 years are compatible. I am sure that lawyers may give their explanation as to how they can distort the English language to mean what they want it to mean but in the words of "Just a Minute", it is deviation from the English language as I know it.

The second thing that struck me was the report that there were protests at the conviction. My great concern is that this woman may not be suitable for rehabilitation. Will any of these MPs be safe if she ever comes out of prison? What is the essence of the protest? If the protesters really want her release, are they asking for the death of our MPs? Have the protesters committed a crime?

I watched the BBC news and only three people were seen protesting but this was enough to be part of the report. I have glanced through news items on the internet and I have not found any great detail as to their logic, but my questions need to be asked and I hope the answers are easily found.

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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Steiner insult to the state?

I was listening to Radio Lancashire a couple of days ago and there was an article about a Steiner school in Lancaster. The woman who was talking about the school was explaining the difference between this sort of school and the usual state schools and one of the differences is that before the age of six we principally learn through play, so they don't formally teach reading until the child is six. At the age of four we are not ready to read and write.

The sentence that took my attention was along these lines: - the evidence shows that particularly with boys, if they are forced to read and write early, they actually get turned off reading and writing.

Now I don't know whether this sentence is true or not but if it is true then it is a fair old insult to state schooling. I would be interested to hear the reply in defence of the state school. Would they say yes you are right, we are wasting our time? I don't think so.

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Lancashire has no local enterprise partnership

How do you decide natural political boundaries? Well they could fall within geographical boundaries like Lancashire, but Lancashire didn't get any local enterprise partnerships when three bids from the north west were not good enough last week. One was called Pennine Lancashire - whatever that means and one was from Blackpool Wyre and Fylde and the other was from the Lancashire County Council.

There are signs that distinguish Lancashire from everywhere else because it is a place where everyone matters. I am not clear why Blackpool should be independent of the rest of Lancashire but there is obviously a case for this boundary. If that is the case then we could be looking at independence for any local area.

One spokesperson said that the economic geography of Lancashire is not very neat and it makes no sense for Lancashire to organise itself as a functionl economic area. It seems that anyone who knows the area will recognise that The answer, according to this person was that there are three areas, possibly two, that have a functioning economic area.

This all seems pretty vague to me. I sort of know the Lancashire boundaries even if you do take away places like Blackpool and Blackburn. How you then decide that the economic geography falls into two or three just sounds artificial. Maybe if all of these groups did work together we could have a local enterprise partnership.

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Who do you believe?

I came home from holiday on Sunday and I was catching up with the local news by reading the weekly local papers. The Friday paper has a headline about the Morecambe link road and it may still be going ahead (see yesterday's blog). There is significant support from businesses and from our MP. There is less support from the Green Party who will not be on friendly terms with civil engineers and a local pressure group is vociferous for its environmental and financial concerns - and there is a NIMBY factor. The leader of this pressure group tells us that he did not believe the new road would ease congestion or create jobs. A Green Councillor thinks it would be "crazy" to spend money like this just to save ten minutes on a journey. A local businessman told us his wagons could spend an hour extra on the road at the start and end of each day.

Does it take ten minutes or an hour to get through Lancaster? The answer is yes. It depends on how busy the roads are and I have documented my longest journey to the motorway which was far in excess of an hour. Will it create jobs? It is obvious to me that businesses will only thrive in Morecambe and Heysham if the infrastructure is present. Will the new road ease congestion? There is no doubt that it will be easier to get to the motorway and every vehicle that uses this route is one vehicle less through Lancaster. I hope the economy continues to grow and there is more wealth in society, in which case there may be more vehicles on the road so congestion may build up again. However, certainly in the short and medium term congestion will decrease in Lancaster.

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