Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Missing Link

We had visitors today who travelled up the M6 from Stoke. No problems with the traffic except (you've guessed it) through Lancaster. It doesn't matter whether it is the people of the Morecambe peninsula who drive to the M6 or whether it is friends and relations travelling to Morecambe, the usual bottleneck is Lancaster.

In the same conversation we also spoke about the industry in Morecambe. They need to send their goods out of the area and some will be sent around the nation and possibly to other nations. For them the importance of a good link road will be national or international. For visitors across the nation the link road is of national importance.

Morecambe's economy is inextricably linked to its infrastructure. So why are those who are against the road so vociferous? 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Centralism in a Pickle

Eric Pickles always provides inspiration to write a blog. Today he was on the Sunday Politics show talking with Andrew Neil and the subject was localism. The article told us how, in opposition, David Cameron wanted a shift of power from Whitehall to local people. In 2009 David told us that "when one-size-fits-all solutions are dispensed from the centre it's not surprising they so often fail local communities". Never let it be said that I can't agree with Tory politicians.

However we are then told that in the last few months Eric has tried to ban local councils from using CCTV cameras and from using spy cars to fine motorists. He has criticised councils who wanted to raise more council tax. He has told them they have to allow for the bins when building houses (what's the definition of micromanagement?) and a few other directives by Eric were mentioned along the same centralism lines. This, on its own isn't too bad. Eric is allowed to have views that give more power to Whitehall even if he is a supporter of the Localism Act 2011. It may be the case that Eric can give many more examples for which he supports decision-making at a local level.

The problem is that Eric goes on to support the anti-localism points by saying that he is helping local people from Whitehall - and this is the sort of 1984 logic that really drives me to distraction, but I'll try to stick to the point. Eric says "localism is not about giving power to local councils. It's going beyond local councils to local people". Eric feels that there are many injustices being carried out and he gives one example in which he is simply trying to raise the importance of the town centre. It seems that at present there is five-minute parking leeway before a ticket is given and he wants this to be fifteen. Eric feels that it is important for local people to be able to buy a pint of milk and only Eric knows this, not the locally elected representatives. Wait a minute. I thought parking restrictions were there for a good reason. I have been missing out on this leeway and parking legally. How foolish of me! Maybe there are also good reasons why people who aren't disabled should park in disabled parking areas and I haven't been told about this too.

Eric may be in charge of planning and building regulations nationally but he is missing the point about localism. Local planning departments may be responsible to Eric but they have to interpret his regulations and that isn't Eric's job. If Eric really believes that sending directives from Whitehall is localism then he doesn't understand what localism means.

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Was Plebgate a Stitch-up?

This morning Andrew Marr asked Damian Green, the Minister for Policing, if Andrew Mitchell had been "stitched up". Damian refused to give his opinion because the CPS investigations are still taking place. I don't mind giving mine and the answer is yes. As with most questions the answer is not quite that simple. There may have been a stitch up but you can only do this to someone who has done something wrong. You can't sting people who don't fall for the sting. One of my favourite political phases is (with tongue firmly in cheek) that if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear. Well maybe civil rights are more important than trite phrases.

I wrote about Andrew Mitchell at the time of Plebgate and I have heard nothing to change my mind on anything that I wrote then. It may well be that the CPS decide that some police officers have done something wrong but Andrew Mitchell is still not smelling of roses. Our faith in the police service is important and so is faith in politicians. The main point in Plebgate concerns how some politicians view the police but on another level, wouldn't it be nice to hear something about the importance of civil rights.

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Monday, 7 October 2013

How not to criticise

I am not Michael Gove's biggest fan. In fact I am not a fan at all and his lowness on my list of priorities is the only thing that has prevented me from writing blogs recently to explain why. I will get around to something critical in the near future, but in the meantime ...

Yesterday I saw a Facebook comment that criticised Michael and I found myself in the strange position of defending our Secretary of State for Education. A Facebook friend had shared a link about him which originated from the campaigning organisation 38 degrees. They wrote 'Dear Mr Gove, Before you make any further suggestions of how you think the education system can be 'improved', please experience what teaching actually involves. As teachers, we work extremely hard in increasingly difficult conditions. We would like you to teach a class of primary children for at least half a term in order to appreciate and respect what a challenging job we actually do.'

38 degrees presume that Michael has no experience of 'what teaching actually involves'. I find this hard to believe. Do they really want him to take months away from his post? Are they really suggesting that Michael should become a teacher when he is not qualified? Do they want him to complete a course in teacher training? Their suggestion is absurd. It doesn't matter whether Michael Gove can teach. You don't have to experience the pressure on teachers to understand it. I am definitely not a Michael Gove fan and there is plenty of ammunition that could be fired at him but this isn't it. In fact it weakens the anti-Gove case when such accusations are levelled against him.

I wrote on Facebook that I had worked with a physiotherapist who was now a union official for the teachers. She does a very good job but she hasn't been a teacher. It is worth criticising Michael Gove, but not on matters that are, at best, secondary.

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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Discussion? What discussion?

My MP, David Morris reckons that a Conservative conference is 'a chance to discuss new ideas'. At least that was the headline in my local newspaper, the Morecambe Visitor. Sorry David I watched most of the conference and saw no discussion - unless you count the two retired soldiers who heckled Philip Hammond. However even this is stretching the definition of a discussion as I don't think Philip, and for that matter most of the delegates could hear what the retired soldiers were saying. I know that they were putting the case for the Royal Fusiliers but that is only because I watched the news on television.

Maybe there was discussion of new ideas that I missed on television. Maybe the fringe meetings were where the discussion took place. I carried on reading the article and David 'addressed a fringe event on nuclear power'. Doesn't sound like a discussion to me, but maybe it wasn't just a speech. Maybe there were opposing views that were discussed. It doesn't sound like it. And even if the delegates were allowed to discuss anything they are still delegates. They are told what to say by the people who delegate. Now if they were representatives they would be allowed to think for themselves. All that they would then need would be a motion to vote on.

In this article David gives us no other reason for feeling that any discussion had taken place at the Tory conference. So where does this idea of discussion come from? As for what was seen by the television viewer, we have a Tory Party lurching to the right. If Eric Pickles speaks for the whole party then despite David Cameron telling us how important it is to be in Europe we are about to leave. We will continue to face spending cuts even when they are not necessary to balance the budget.

Whatever the subject, whoever the speaker, David Morris needs to be clear that there are no discussions and no votes at a Tory conference. This blog may have been written because of a sub-editor writing the wrong headline but at least it is clear that discussions don't take place at a Tory conference and the delegates wouldn't be able to give their opinion even if they wanted to!

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