Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A fantasy tale

I went to a constituency meeting of the Liberal Democrats yesterday and I managed to put fox hunting on the agenda. As you would expect, there was a balanced reasoned discussion. Some members of the committee were strongly against hunting but most were neither strongly for or against it. However, if we had a motion to vote on I do not feel anyone would support the hunt and the anti-hunt lobby would carry the day. I have only been a member of this committee for eight years so I also asked the older members if anyone had vociferously supported fox hunting in the past. The answer was no.

Now our constituency is called Morecambe and Lunesdale and covers places like Carnforth. So if you lived in this town you would have to say that local Liberal Democrats are probably anti-hunting. If you said that Liberal Democrats are "pro hunting in my current semi rural constituency where there is a popular local hunt" then what am I to conclude?

Let's be nice and say this person has spoken to a Liberal Democrat who was pro-hunting. The nicest I can possibly be is to say that the quote is unwise. If I were not so nice I could say this person had set out purely to insult Liberal Democrats (because of the sentences that followed). A malicious gossip may be one step up on the niceness scale. More likely I could use stronger words. I could call this sentence as an example of a terminological inexactitude, but I am far too nice to use a (what's the word I am looking for?). Let's settle for fantasy.

Change the world

Monday, 16 May 2011

Notes on a "loony"

I said I would write one more blog but I have had second thoughts. I was saving the last blog for Tuesday but I'll write one now and whenever I want to. The reason for this blog is that a friend has been in touch to say that she has seen Gregg Beaman's blog and posted a comment. She didn't say what she had written but she did tell me that he had presumed it was from me or my brother and had reacted like a "loony".

My one and only dealings with Gregg were on his blog entry from the 7th May. I have looked since then but I can't say I am bothered about looking now. My life has returned to its usual niceness. There are times when you deal with insults with polite requests and all you get are more insults and laughter. The time has come to shake the dust from my sandals and move on.

Change the world

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Time for a change

I'm just going out for the day but I have glanced at Gregg Beaman's latest post. His first sentence is wrong, which is par for the course. Martin Gradwell, my brother does not live in Morecambe. I do. I only live a couple of RC parishes away from Gregg who has chosen to lie, insult, withdraw the metaphorical hand of friendship by banning me, and not answer any specific question.

This is my 788th political blog of almost entirely enjoyable writing. Maybe it is time to concentrate on my other blogs but I will write one more when I get chance.

Change the world

P.S I didn't get chance to post this blog this morning so here it is.

The Exposé continues

I had the misfortune to look at Gregg Beaman's blog a few days ago. He is not a nice person. In fact he hates niceness with a vengeance. I tried to moderate his insults of the Liberal Democrats with my comments but I'm sorry to say it hasn't worked. I am particularly sorry because we share the same faith and I find this the hardest thing to deal with.

I mentioned and quoted the comment my brother sent to him in my last post. Gregg didn’t publish that comment, but he did continue to insult my brother and me on his blog and in a string of emails to my brother. There are also a couple more comments that I sent to him which were not published but which were referred to by Gregg on his blog - not in a nice way. That’s how he works, without allowing anyone to contradict his ramblings, he quotes just enough out of context to ridicule his critics and now he has set up a poll, asking readers if he should publish my brother’s emails. That’s right, he won’t publish actual comments that are intended for publication but he will, at the discretion of his readership, publish private emails, or at least he says he will.

I gave the URL for the offensive blog in my last post although the only reason to look at it is to see how Gregg is so forthright with his insults and lies. Perhaps it's better not to look at it so I’ll give you a flavour of the post along with my censored comments.

He begins by saying “I really did enjoy seeing the Liberal Democrats get a bloody nose yesterday” and goes on with more in the same vein. There’s a name for that, Schadenfreude, meaning taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. It’s not a particularly nice thing, but that’s OK. Maybe the Liberal Democrats did deserve a drubbing, and if you think so then it’s OK to say so.

However, he then tells us how bad it is to be nice. “What I've always detested about the Lib Dems is the way they portray themselves as the 'nice party'”, he says. OK, maybe he’s saying that they aren’t really nice, so it’s wrong for them to portray themselves as such. But he doesn't say that. He continues “we were always told off for using the word 'nice' at school, it is bland and meaningless”. It soon becomes apparent that he really is against niceness in all its forms.

He then goes on to give a couple of anti Lib-Dem anecdotes which are certainly made up, if I wasn't so nice perhaps I should have used the word lies. For instance he says Lib Dems are “pro hunting in my current semi rural constituency where there is a popular local hunt”. I am a member of the constituency party. Gregg has made up his own opinion about us.

Similarly he has a bogus story about dodgy practices by a Focus Team, which he claims to have seen with his own eyes. I have never heard about such stories and I have been active in three different constituencies but who knows, Liberal Democrats aren't perfect but there is no way of checking as it is just Gregg's anecdote.

He finishes by describing the Lib Dems as a juvenile, irresponsible unprincipled, gang.

And then there’s the comments.

I said “I too am a practising Roman Catholic and I will now have to wonder whether the person next to me at Mass is shaking my hand out of friendship or is really a hypocritic who hates me for my political views.”

Actually that needs some correction and clarification. I tend to think the best of those around me, not the worst, so I’m not really likely to worry too much about the views of those around me at Mass. And yet … if there can be one person like Gregg who is both Catholic and apparently filled with and motivated by hate, could there not be others? That is what I find disturbing. By having a “Catholic” yet hate-filled blog, Gregg creates entirely the wrong impression about our common religion.

Gregg took exception because I used the word “hate” while he had “detested”, not “hated”. He seemed to be under the impression that “detest” was a milder word than “hate”. So I commented that “If you are not happy with the word hatred then I will settle for detest”. He didn’t publish that comment but he did remark on it, saying “He's been on again Peter, downgarding from 'hatred' to 'detestation'. They do flip flop these Lib Dems.” As if detestation was something less than hatred. He was now in full “mock but don’t allow a voice” mode.

When I wrote “I'm sorry to have troubled you Gregg but it is hard for me to read your comments and associate them with a practising Roman Catholic. I don't expect publication as you have already banned me, but I would like you to give greater consideration to your blog entries.” Gregg didn’t publish that but he did respond in the blog with “He's turned to patronising now Peter. Another unpleasant trait of your typical Lib Dem. Asking me to take greater care when blogging. I suggest he just doesn't read it if he can't take criticism. They really are cry babies and mardy boys.”

And it went downhill from there. Gratuitous insults from Gregg, refusal to engage in actual discussion, and a pretence that it was others who were bringing the level of the discussion down and not Gregg.

But that really is enough.

Change the world

Friday, 13 May 2011

Exposing a "Libertarian Catholic"

I've recently mentioned a Libertarian who is quite liberal with his insults. I haven’t mentioned that his blog is called a brief encounter and his name is Gregg Beaman , but I now think I need to publish both sides of the story, unlike this Libertarian who has his expurgated version.

I told one of my brothers about the abuse I was receiving and on his own initiative he chose to write a response. You can see the comments that the Libertarian chose to publish at http://abriefencounter.blogspot.com/2011/05/so-farewell-then-liberal-democrats-and.html but don't look for my brother's reply there because you won't find it. Here it is...

So, 'nice' is bland and meaningless. Does that mean that in order to transcend blandness and meaninglessness we have to be nasty? It would seem so. Very well, I will try to oblige. But first:

Were the people who were anti-hunting in your old constituency the same people who were pro-hunting in your current one? Do they stalk you from constituency to constituency? I doubt it, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. So who, precisely, has tried to be "all things to all men"? (That was a trick question, by the way. The right answer is "Saint Paul").

More importantly, who are these Lib Dems who you yourself have personally seen checking out the council work schedule and then claiming credit for work that was going to be done anyway? My brother may be far too nice to name names, but you should have no problem whatsoever. Inquiring minds want to know. Inquiring minds NEED to know. You see, that's a pretty nasty accusation you make there (congratulations!). I'd hate to think that it was just an "urban legend", something that you got from a friend of a cousin of somebody who knows someone who works at Tory central office. Especially when you gave us such a convincing assurance that you saw it happen yourself.

So, you say you don't hate political opponents, and anyone who suggests otherwise is being snide. You do however think that the Lib Dems (what, all of them?) are "a juvenile, irresponsible and unprincipled gang". Oh, and you think they're lying because their opinion of the effects of AV differs from yours, or maybe because some of them have the temerity to think that they might be "winning here" when you know for a fact that they're losing everywhere. And most of all you detest their "niceness".

Here's the bad news: Most people are nice. Really nice. And some of these nice people gravitate into politics. Why? Because they think it's too important to be left to the vicious scumbags. So they battle on, for decade after decade, despite the lack of reward, despite the insults and the innuendo. And these are real people, mind, not ciphers. When you belittle their "niceness" and make scurrilous accusations, it is real people that you are talking about, even if there never was a real person who committed the specific action you mention in your accusatory anecdote.

Martin Gradwell

Of course this was not published. When my brother sent Gregg an email asking whether it would ever be published, amazingly, the Libertarian fired off a reply to my brother worded as follows.

Please grow up and stop behaving like a five year old. You are now starting to sound seriously obsessed and I have no intention of corresponding any further with somebody like you, who brings a nasty personal element into a general political blog post.

The fact that you go and bring your brother into your attempt at causing a fight says it all about your juvenile outlook. What next, you'll go and get your dad to sort out my dad?

Get a life.

I wouldn't normally publish emails, but this appears to be about me even though it was sent to my brother. I would say that by writing such an accusatory email about me and then sending it to someone who is not me, Greg has already effectively published it.

I have no idea why Gregg would reply to the only comment that my brother has sent to his blog with the words "You are now starting to sound seriously obsessed and I have no intention of corresponding any further with somebody like you". Maybe he thought that I was Martin, but I can assure him that we are different people. In any case, it is fortunate that things have a way of turning up on the web, no matter how much people like Mr. Beaman try to stop them. It is unfortunate that this results in the exposure of a "Libertarian Catholic" who is easily confused between names like Michael and Martin, who seems to be blocking all dissenting opinion, whose stock response to any difficult question is insult and lies, and who can't see the irony in his accusation that Lib Dems "don't take criticism very well poor delicate flowers" when he can't take any at all.

Change the world

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Muscular Liberal Democrats

It is hard to see how David Cameron can be right in saying that Liberal Democrats do not moderate government policy, otherwise what is the purpose of coalition government? Nick Clegg said that the Liberal Democrats are "clearly influencing" government policy. He asked "do you think the reforms we are going to introduce in banking would have happened without Lib Dems in government?"and went on to ask a few more rhetorical questions. I think they were rhetorical and not answered because of his responsibilties as a member of the cabinet but rhetorical or not they were still questions and we weren't hearing about distinct differences between Liberal Democrats and Tories.

At a local level I think we should get muscular too and let the electorate know who they were voting for. In my local ward we had a candidate from one party who didn't want to stand and didn't want to win but just missed out. He looked like the most worried man at the count. Another young man from another party did well but told me he lived away - he couldn't have won too. There were at least two paper candidates that I never saw so I never spoke with them. However I have it on good authority that they did not wish to win. The good news is that I think that those who won actually wanted to win.

What this means is that our electoral system really is on its knees. In some places it is obvious and there were no elections. In some places it is disguised because of paper candidates and candidates who put out leaflets but didn't want to win.

Change the world

Why ruin a blog for the sake of the facts

I have been giving a lot of thought to yesterday's Libertarian ban. I also let one of my brothers know about my comments and the fairly aggressive replies from a fellow Roman Catholic. The main difference between me and the Libertarian, apart from the aggression, is that I don't wear my religion on my sleeve alongside my politics.

My brother sent a fairly extensive reply to the string of comments. I won't share it all with you as it is around twice the length of my usual blogs, but I will repeat one paragraph which was a reference to Liberal Democrats' supposed chameleon-like policies.

Were the people who were anti-hunting in your old constituency the same people who were pro-hunting in your current one? Do they stalk you from constituency to constituency? I doubt it, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. So who, precisely, has tried to be "all things to all men"? (That was a trick question, by the way. The right answer is "Saint Paul").

So Liberal Democrats had been criticised by a religious blogger who did not understand the religious sentiment of his criticism. As for the hunting comment, he lives in Carnforth which is my constituency and as we don't have a Carnforth branch he must be referring to constituency opinion. How dare he make up our constituency opinion! It is no surprise to read that if there is a vote on the repeal of the hunting ban then it would go to a free vote. The Libertarian has no evidence for saying we, in Morecambe and Lunesdale are pro-hunting because there is none, but why ruin a good blog for the sake of the facts.

Change the world

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Libertarian Ban

I hope the irony did not pass the author by but I made four or five comments on a Libertarian blog yesterday and managed to get banned! There were insults directed towards the Liberal Democrats but I wasn't too bothered about this as I know we are not flavour of the month. My main concern was that the insults were gratuitous and, more importantly, coming from someone who shares my faith. I found this hard to reconcile and asked him to show more consideration in his writing.

It was quite amusing to see an anonymous comment asking me to name names when my aim was to protect the author of the blog. There was a lot of anger in his blog and one sentence tells us he detests the image of the Liberal Democrats as the nice party. He didn't understand that detest may be interpreted as hatred and hatred really is a destructive, non-Christian characteristic. At least he inspired me to write a new French for Novices blog which is very nice and may be found at http://www.frenchfornovices.blogspot.com/

Change the world

Monday, 9 May 2011

Thanks to the MBIs

Among all the lowlights of the last few days there were a couple of highlights. One was a great speech from the former (Liberal Democrat) leader of Lancaster Council. He reminded the Tories how he stepped in because they could not get parties to work together. The Tories gave up on Lancaster and the Chief Executive was given next to no notice. The Tory boo boys (one was female) were vociferously put down by the MBIs - thanks must go to them for that.

Another thank you goes to the MBIs as one of their councillors told me that she read this blog. My Google Analytics does not give me enough detail to know where the visitors come from but I do know I get an average of 30 or 40 visitors per day. Strange that this councillor knew about my stats. I thought the only publicly viewable statistic on my blog was the total number of views of my profile page. At least she told me she knew so now I can check my security. It's a good job I'm not shy.

I then asked another MBI member if he had read my blog and he said no but he keeps getting emails sent to him with the question "what are we going to do about this?" And his reply is "nothing". I suppose they may act when they find soemthing they can contest. From my point of view, I have nothing against most of the MBIs. It's just their leaflet writer they need to change.

Change the world

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Enough is enough

The Liberal Democrat vote fell apart and it did so because the electorate see us as collaborators not moderators. They don't mind the Tories making cuts as that's what they do but it just doesn't fit well with the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg knows this and has written "I think it is clear that we need to do more to show people in the party and beyond what we are doing in Government and, perhaps more importantly, why. Because we are achieving a great deal. The BBC estimates that we are implementing 75% of the policies of in our manifesto, compared to just 60% of the Conservative manifesto".

The trouble is that the electorate don't appreciate it. I thought that ministers had responsibility to toe the government line. So the arguments we heard in Cabinet this week just sound like Liberal Democrats are losing their discipline, but if ministers can't say what we are doing then who is telling the voters that we are moderators? Nick isn't telling us what we want to hear, he is telling us that the BBC are telling us what we want to hear. He may as well have given us the link.

If it is the rank and file who must instruct the electorate then that rank and file became a lot smaller this week. In my ward we put out a monthly leaflet which became weekly in the last three weeks before the election. On election eve I was knocking on a door with a mini-survey and I was given the advice to put out the leaflets before the postal vote. Well there was a pre-postal vote leaflet but our message obviously didn't get home.

We can't rely on rank and file, even if they work really hard. We can't rely on ministers as they are collaborators whether they like it or not. There are two options. Continue on the same path and lose more and more councillors, or say enough is enough.

Change the world

Saturday, 7 May 2011

More on the Man of Mystery

The bin Laden situation is still in flux but it looks like a lot of the things we were first told are untrue. The senators who said they had seen multiple photos of the dead bin Laden now admit that they only saw one of the faked photos.

There was never any live video being watched by the President. There was a staged photo session in which the President and Secretary of State and others sat around laptops with blank screens,
http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/web/05/02/bin.laden.video/index.html (plus hundreds of other sites and newspaper front pages) is directly contradicted by

So, wouldn't it have been nice to learn what bin Laden had to say about who actually was behind 9/11? Wouldn't that have been a good reason to avoid shooting to kill an unarmed suspect?

Change the world

Friday, 6 May 2011

Man of Mystery No More

Last Sunday the Gospel reading at church was from St John. It was about St Thomas who did not believe that Jesus had come back to life. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Jesus did supply the evidence but Thomas was stuck with the title "doubting" and now a doubting Thomas is a term used for anyone who does not believe without seeing the evidence.

And then we had the death of Osama bin Laden. The only evidence that I have ever seen of him supposedly claiming responsibility was a video, supposedly found in a house in Jalalabad in late 2001, where the man said to be bin Laden had a very broad nose and to me looked more like Cassius Clay - see http://911blimp.net/vid_fakeOsamaVideo.shtml. Most "videos" that came out after that were actually voice-overs attached to a still image of a young bin Laden. The FBI wanted him, not for attacks on the WTC, but for attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/usama-bin-laden

Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI, apparently said, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Ladens Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.”Since then we haven't seen so much of him and I was particularly interested in what he looked like after almost ten years. There is no picture. Well there was but it was a fake. How did a fake photo get on the internet so quickly?

That stalwart of international justice, Libya was the first country to issue an arrest warrant. On the other hand we had George Bush telling the world that Osama was wanted dead or alive. Was it not vital that he was captured alive as he was the leader of al-Qaeda and may have had some important information for us?

I have been waiting for the doubting Thomases to come forward. There must be so many more reasons why he should have been taken alive - trial perhaps? There must be so many reasons why we should have evidence shown to the world. Why shouldn't we see photos? On the other hand what we got was the President telling us he was dead so he was dead.

I have searched quite a bit on the internet. I have heard nothing on mainstream media about the authenticity of the death. There are a few of Osama's neighbours who could not believe he was living near them, however one Morecambe blogger Robyn Durdy did question the death on Tuesday. By the time you read this there may be more questions being asked but I am surprised that the mystery man when alive has suddenly become so definite when dead.

Change the world

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Not a political conversation

I have been saying hello and getting into some non-political conversations outside polling stations this morning. I seem to remember that political discussion was not allowed in this vicinity because it may influence voters. However this doesn't stop individuals saying what they want to say and I have had a dozen people (there haven't been many going out to vote) wishing me good luck.

On the other hand, it didn't stop one person venting his frustration at his pension being affected by national government and he told me he wasn't voting for the Liberal Democrats. Generally I have been on my own or with other Liberal Democrats but at this moment there was a candidate for one of the Independent parties stood next to me. I said that I was sorry but I wasn't allowed to talk politics outside the polling station but the Independenst said "why not?" I told him jokingly that we might end up fighting (although the man with the pension was fairly aggressive).

I could have mentioned the government's financial restraints, which most people seem to understand. I could have told him that there was no money left after Labour left office. I could have mentioned that Liberal Democrats were restraining the worst excesses of a free market Tory government, but no I just said I was only there to say hello. It's a pity the Independent (who probably got his vote) didn't understand that.

Change the world

Knocking on doors

I was going to write about the death of Osama today, well it was a few days ago. However I will delay that blog entry for one more day because we are holding local elections today and I am a candidate. We have been delivering leaflets and knocking on doors conducting a survey. This survey did form part of the content for our leaflets but more importantly, it gave local people the opportunity to speak with their candidates. After breaking the ice many people felt they could speak with us. It wasn't all great news. This is really the first election that I remember getting abuse. Don't worry, I can take it and I'll share one encounter with you.

Two days ago I was delivering leaflets and one man came out folded it and passed it back to me. He wanted nothing to do with my leaflet. I apologised for the inconvenience and was about to go on my way when he told me that the Liberal Democrats should not have gone into coalition with the Tories. I told him we had no option. It wasn't a particularly pleasant conversation but I could end on agreement that we both wanted to say yes to AV.

I wrote a letter to him because we had reached an impasse and I wanted to explain my point of view. I received a reply yesterday evening and it turns out that he is a Labour Party member but it was a really nice reply. So it is really worth discussing politics even with opposition party members. It is also worth comparing this blog with my "priceless" entry on Sunday.

Change the world

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Say no to the no campaign

It is quite obvious that the BNP are against AV - as common sense suggests they ought to be. AV is not proportional representation. AV ensures that nobody gets elected without having the support of 50% or more of the voters in a constituency, something the BNP are extremely unlikely ever to have, so it would effectively consign them to political oblivion.

This of course doesn't stop the 'no' campaign from pretending that the BNP would benefit from AV and that they support it. http://votenotoav.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/the-bnp-and-the-alternative-vote/ is a typical evidence-free post on that theme. "I have scoured the BNP website to find any mention of the Alternative Vote", the author asserts. He didn't find it, so obviously it doesn't exist. The article also makes much of the fact that the BNP would prefer proportional representation to FPTP, which is neither here nor there given that the referendum is about AV.

Yesterday at 4.07p.m. I posted the following reply:

"I took a look at the BNP website. It was fairly easy to see they were voting no.


Last time I checked, my reply was still awaiting moderation. I wonder why?

Change the world

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

No confusion, no difference

I was confused about the difference between the two independent parties in Morecambe but with this week's leaflets I have found one difference in their claims. Independence 4 Morecambe say, and I quote, "WE GAVE YOU 2 YEARS OF FESTIVALS THE MBI PARTY TRIED TO STOP THEM". Meanwhile Morecambe Bay Independents say "Morecambe Town Council Achievements - £2500 for the kite festival, £39,500 for festivals in 2010".

So there you have it - there is no difference after all. Meanwhile the people who actually put effort into organising and staging the festivals as opposed to merely funding them don't deserve any credit, it seems.

Change the world

It's Not April The First

I happen to like the idea of independence. I think that we should all aspire to free-thinking but we have an Independent Party in Morecambe in which all its members think in the same way on every issue. It doesn't matter what the issue is. It could be the price of any commodity. Then take the choice between that and a better quality alternative but it costs more. As with almost every aspect of the social sciences, you weigh up the evidence and make your choice.

The problem I have with the Independent Party is that they all tend to vote the same way, or at least that is what their leaflet suggests. They all want a kite festival, park benches... you get the idea. The problem they have is that this unified thought does not fit with the notion that they are truly Independent. In fact they are truly tied to a party line.

And then they split.

I was uncertain about the difference between the second Independent Party with its unified policies and the first group however with two days to go before the election I have read about some differences. It isn't the first of April but the leaflet may have been written then. It seems that the second group are "INDEPENDENT people" (shades of The Life of Brian - "we're all individuals").

I love the next line. "Most of us have been working hard on the Town Council for the last 2 years in the face of fierce opposition from the MBI Political Party". I think they mean some of their candidates are not members of the Town Council but I prefer the alternative view in which some of them have not been working hard. Has the "fierce opposition" been targeted at this other party to try to stop them working hard? Please bear in mind that the members of the new party were elected to the Town Council as members of the MBI Political Party.

The next line is quite good too. "We know the difference between the TOWN COUNCIL and the CITY COUNCIL". Now it doesn't take much to know the difference between the two councils so this really is quite an insult but at least I know the difference between the two Independent philosophies. One likes the City council and the other doesn't. Well not quite, because the leader of this breakaway group wants to remain on the City Council so it can't be a fundamental principle that has led to an acrimonious split. Maybe there is a significant difference in beliefs but I suspect the division was just based on character. They fell out.

Change the world

Plumbing new depths with the no campaign

Our existing voting system is often referred to as "first-past-the-post", but is that a fair description? A candidate can win with just 26% of the votes cast, if there are three other candidates who each get 24 or 25 percent. Should 26% be referred to as the "finishing post"? Wouldn't "the first hurdle" be a better description? In contests where there happen to be just two candidates, the "finishing post" is, quite rightly, set at just over 50% of the votes. Why should it be any less in other cases? If we could have a voting system which ensured that any winner must have the backing of at least 50% of the voters, meaning that they can legitimately claim to represent a majority, shouldn't we go for that system?

For those who say that everyone should only have one vote, AV is actually exactly equivalent to a series of runoff elections. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes in the first count, the one with the least votes is eliminated and, effectively, the remainder participate in a seond election. Your second preference expresses how you will vote in this second election, should your first preference have been eliminated in the first one. Your third preference expresses how you will vote in the third election, and so on. It's as simple as that. There's no incomprehensible mysticism or overwhelming complication behind it, as the 'no' campaign would have you believe. It is, in fact, exactly equivalent to the procedure by which David Cameron was promoted as party leader by his fellow Conservative MPs.

"Conservative research" has now come up with the truly incredible notion that candidates who came third in 137 seats at last year’s election could have ended up becoming MPs – overtaking those who came first and second – under the ‘confusing’ AV system (see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1382554/AV-referendum-David-Cameron-struggles-calm-Lib-Dem-fury-lies.html). This despite the fact that Australia has had AV since 1918, and such an outcome has never happened there, not even once. They go on to outdo themselves with the utterly ludicrous idea that an eighth-place candidate - an independent called Richard Turner-Thomas in Torfaen in Wales -could have won under AV. Words cannot even begin to describe how silly this is, and yet it isn't even the worst of the nonsense that the 'no' campaign is coming up with. But you have the chance to say what you think of all these lies and distortions.

On Thursday..

Change the voting system.

Monday, 2 May 2011

"Make it so"

Someone said to me recently that they would support any party that could get the buses to stop near their house. It would be nice if local politicians could be helpful, but can it be done? One problem is that now, thanks to Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation, bus services are supplied by a variety of private companies. The county council has a transport policy, and it can influence these companies in various ways, such as with subsidies, but the days when the council could be like Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying “make it so” are gone. Another problem is that we might be able to do more with more county councillors, so it’s unfortunate that there are no county council elections this year.

Most bus services are commercial, operated by the private companies to make a profit. The local authority does however have the power to provide local bus services, in order to fill any significant gaps. This will normally be done by entering into a contract and paying a commercial operator to provide the service. We will bring requests to the attention of the county council, and use any means of persuasion that we can, but especially in the current economic climate we won’t always succeed. This is one of those cases where all we can promise is that we’ll do our best.

Change the world

Sunday, 1 May 2011

This is priceless

I was going to write about public transport today but you will have to wait until tomorrow. I have to tell you this story. One of our helpers was delivering leaflets in Morecambe and he happened to come across one of the Conservative candidates. He didn't know who it was but there was a conversation, and he offered the leaflet. The answer was "I'd better not take it as I am a Conservative candidate". This is priceless! He told her that she could take it to a Conservative meeting to see what they thought about it, and the Conservatives cannot vote for themselves for Morecambe Town Council as they are not standing.

When I am giving leaflets out I occasionally meet supporters of other parties who do not wish to read my leaflet. I try to persuade them, very often successfully, by saying that they cannot give their support to their particular party without knowing what the opposition are saying. Now we have candidates saying the same thing and we are aware that this particular candidate not only is unaware of opposition views but would feel in some way tainted by this knowledge.

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