Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Harry Redknapp: Next England Manager

There is a growing buzz for Harry Redknapp to replace Fabio Capello as England manager when the Italian ends his contract after Euro 2012.

Some are even saying Capello should be sacked and that the Spurs' manager should take over as soon as possible.

Harry has said he couldn't turn down the challenge if offered: job done.

Monday, 29 November 2010

104 Lib Dem Candidates Call On Clegg To Oppose Tuition Fee Rise - But Not Redlands' Daisy Benson

More than a 100 Lib Dem candidates at the last general election have called on Nick Clegg and their other MPs to honour their pledge to oppose increases in university tuition fees.

The petition organised by West Sussex county councillor Derek Deedman {full list here} is headed "No to higher tuition fees, yes to Liberal Democrat integrity" - but notable by her absence in the list of former candidates is Redlands' councillor Daisy Benson, who stood in Reading West at the election.

The petition says "During the General Election campaign many of our MP’s (and now government ministers) signed a pledge with the National Union of Students that they would vote against any tuition fee rises during the course of the next Parliament. The wording of this pledge clearly indicated that this would be unconditional; regardless of whether the party was in government or in opposition".

Lately, the LibDem Parliamentary line from Vince Cable and others has been one of suggesting that the pledge was only valid if the LibDems formed a government of their own. Clearly Daisy Benson seems more comfortable with that distortion of the truth than joining her colleagues in standing by their election pledge.

I can't see that the voters in Redlands - not just the students or the Students Union - will easily forgive or forget the LibDems' and Daisy Benson's betrayal.

UPDATE: The honourable 104 LibDems includes, of course, Gareth Epps who stood in Reading East last time - which makes the silence of Redlands' Daisy Benson on the matter all the more telling.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday Times Poll: 50% Disapprove Of Coalition Government

A poll in today's Sunday Times shows 50% disapproving of the coalition government for the first time.

This latest poll from You Gov has Labour and Tories level on 40%, with the Lib Dems trailing behind with an embarassing 9% - and for those who like these things, Nick Clegg has an "approval rating" (if you can call it that) of minus 22 points.

The rolling UK Poling Report, where details on these polls can be found, also has a projection of Labour being short of a Parliamentary majority by just one seat.

Party Donors Will Wreck High Speed Link

Now that the initial fanfare has died down surrounding the Coalition Government's announcement of their plans for the future of the nation's rail network, the truth is beginning to emerge out of the spin of hyped investment figures and far off improvements.

An example of how these promises are quickly unravelling is their commitment to the High Speed Link between London, Birmingham and the North.

Substantial Tory Party donors, along with Ministers, are set to derail this high profile service before it ever leaves the station.

But with public consultation on the scheme not due to commence until 2017, this will be another big headline grabbing plan which will be quietly side-lined in the years ahead.

Friday, 26 November 2010

MP's Lives: David Laws, LibDem

David Laws is the LibDem MP for Yeovil (majority 13,036).

In May 2010, just three weeks after becoming a Government Minister - where he was put in charge of imposing swingeing cuts to public spending - Laws was forced to resign over his expenses.

Mr Laws, a multi-millionaire, had claimed as much as £950 a month in parliamentary expenses for eight years to rent rooms in two London properties owned by his partner, James Lundie, a political lobbyist. In 2006, MPs were banned from “leasing accommodation from a partner”.

Now, a few months later, it is said the Cameron is keen to have him back around the Cabinet table early in the New Year.

Government Announces Massive Rail Fare Increases

The LibDem/Tory Government has announced that train ticket prices are to rise 30% by 2014, with little relief to the "cattle truck" conditions before 2019.

Beleaguered passengers will have little choice other than to pay up front, on what is already far and away the most expensive and over-crowded rail network in Europe, with the politicians' promise of improvements at the end of the decade. While the headlines claim an extra 2,100 carriages, only 650 will arrive by 2014.

Independent transport groups said Government promises of ‘jam tomorrow’ will do little to help those ‘jammed today’ on overcrowded trains.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

P**king Hell

The cosy LibDem/Tory coalition on Reading Council has come up with another way of ripping off local residents - from the New Year they will fine us for parking in our own streets.

Jan Gavin has the story for Redlands where Kirsten Bayes and the other LibDem councillors have decided which streets should be included and which streets - only three of them - will be exempted. The fact is that without kerb parking on at least one side many streets in Redlands would be impassable to all - cars, ambulances, fire engines, dust-bin lorries, the lot.

There has been no full public consultation of the matter in Redlands or anywhere else, nothing on the council's own website consultaton page - and no plans to advertise the new restrictions in any way in the affected streets before implementation!

UPDATE: The original title of this blog was "Coming To A Street Near You ...". However I have been contacted by a Redlands resident who lives in a terraced street not blessed by the LibDem exemptions, who has suggested/insisted I retitle it - which I have done.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Braga, Braga, Who The Hell Are Braga?

They are the mighty Sporting Club de Braga who won the Intertoto Cup in 2008.

Playing at the Quarry, the Minho derby against Vitória de Guimarães is, well, the derby that all Arsenalistas look forward to.

Silverware any one?

MP's Lives: Mike Hancock, LibDem

Mike Hancock is the LibDem MP for Portsmouth South (majority 5,200), seen here in the middle between Cable and Clegg.

Read here why he has recently attracted national press coverage.

UPDATE: Some more recent coverage here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Reading LibDem Councillor Found Guilty Of Bringing The Council Into Disrepute

Reading Borough Council's Assessment Sub-Committee of the Standards Committee met on 2 November 2010 and decided thus:

"Councillor (LibDem X) had breached the Members' Code of Conduct by virtue of his failure to treat others with respect and bringing the Council and his office into disrepute."


(Logo courtesy of Conservative Cllr Dave Luckett's moribund site).

Saturday, 20 November 2010

LibDems: Trouble Up North

LibDems across the country are starting to have second thoughts about the coalition government.

Having lost overall control of the council in Cyril Smith's former strong-hold of Rochdale and settled for coalition control, six LibDem councillors have now resigned. Other LibDem councillors are thought to be close to resigning.

One ex-LibDem councillor said “We don’t feel this is the party we were elected to – that is the bottom line. We didn’t like the direction the leadership were taking us. There has been a lot of dissatisfaction for many months."

Others are said to be equally dissatisfied with the local and national leadership saying "They are doing too many U-turns nationally."

Gareth Bale: Best Player In The World

Following a superb 2010, including a couple of stunning performances against the European Champions, Gareth Bale has now followed up with another game changing performance in North London.

Most serious football commentators are now describing the 21 year old and Theo Walcott's former Southampton room-mate, as currently being the best player in the world.

Long may he continue.

LibDem Quits: "6 Months of Clegg U-turns"

Nick Clegg has been dealt a blow by a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate's decision to defect to Labour in protest at his leader's acceptance of Conservative policies and abandonment of key elements of his party's programme.

Andrew Lewin, at 23 the youngest Lib Dem candidate in England at the general election last May, quit saying the party was being forced to swallow "a virtually unreformed Conservative agenda".

Full story here.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

MP's Lives: Chris Huhne, LibDem

Chris Huhne is the LibDem MP for Eastleigh (majority 3,864) and is a Minister in the Coalition Government.

He has recently attracted national press coverage for ... well, read it for yourself.

I pass on the following link without comment here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

LibDem Tory Election Pact - And Epps To Leave

I've heard from a number of different sources that the local LibDems and Tories are already so spooked about losing seats at next May's Reading Council elections they have begun to have talks about each party not standing candidates against each other in every seat.

Top of the list are Church ward, where the LibDems may step aside to help the Tories hang on, and Redlands where either no Tory candidate would stand or at least no active campaigning by them, in an effort to help shore up under-fire Deputy Leader Bayes who is already facing a strong challenge from Labour's Jan Gavin. A similar arrangement may also be agreed in Katesgrove.

While there's no suggestion that this self-serving arrangement is to be put in place all across the town, it would be remarkably arrogant of the coalition parties to deny voters in any ward the chance to vote for the party of their choice.

What will weaken the LibDems position in Katesgrove would be if sitting LibDem councillor Gareth Epps chose not to restand. Having previously been a councillor in West Oxfordshire, and now viewed as being increasingly out of step with the coalition in the council and in parliament, whispers persist that he may leave town soon.

UPDATE: I love Rachel Eden's analysis of the LibDems - but I don't want them to tell me about their childhoods!

Sweet 16

Once again thanks to Adrian Windisch for doing the work on the Berkshire Blogs.

So, this blog is up to 16th position after just three months - some of you just can't stop looking can you.

As far as the list goes, Redwood (#1) & Boulton (#2) have such a national reach that they will always be in a different league. To some extent this also applies to the real gold standard of Reading blogs Richard Willis (#9) and Jane Griffiths (#10). I like them both for being consistently good and sometimes bonkers. Adrian's own site (#11) is also always worth a read.

I don't understand why I haven't yet overtaken Richard Mckenzie (#14) - I probably need to take him to one side and have a quiet word. It is pleasing, though, to see local Labour sites on the rise - I can feel John Ennis' breath on the back of my neck (#20)!

Adrian asked me why there are now more Labour blogs. That's a question I will return to soon, though it is worth noting that many existing Reading Councillor blogs are either boring, erratic or dead.

An Engagement Is Announced

Just imagine the joy of two young people who first met at university deciding to get married. Their friends and family are "absolutely delighted" and "very, very happy".

But with the over-hanging debts of university tution fees at £9,000 each for 3 years, plus hall fees at £5,300 and other living costs accrued along the way, they start their married life sharing nearly £100,000 of debt between them.

And with graduate unemployment at a record high and the banks and mortgage companies refusing loans for a new home unless you can table a 25% or 30% deposit on the average house price of £230,000, things are going to be a real struggle for these love birds.

Oh, and good luck to Prince William and Kate too.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Sun Says: Labour Lead In The Polls

Labour has maintained its lead over the Conservatives in a new opinion poll amid signs that support for the coalition's spending cuts is in decline.

The latest YouGov poll for The Sun has the following:

Labour 42% (+1%)
Conservatives 35% (+1%)
LibDems 10% (no change)

As these trends become more firmly established it's all good news for Labour's chances in Redlands and Reading next May.

Monday, 15 November 2010

MP's Lives: John Hemming, LibDem

John Hemming is the LibDem MP for Birmingham Yardley. He has recently attracted national press coverage concerning the arrangement of his finances.

I pass on the following link without comment here.

Mr Hemming has contacted me to say that he is "in discussions with the newspapers" and that the allegations are untrue. I will be happy to update this blog as appropriate.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tuition Fees: Broken Pledge Or Just A Lie?

March 2010: a secret Lib Dem team led by Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander set up to prepare for a possible coalition government decides to ditch the LibDem policy to oppose any increase in tuition fees.

April 2010: Clegg signs NUS pledge promising that LibDems - and he personally - will vote against any increase in fees and puts it at the front of the LibDem general election campaign.

November 2010: Safely in government, Deputy Prime Minister Clegg admits promising things in the general election campaign he couldn't deliver.


Saturday, 13 November 2010

Pension Fury Of Forces Families

That was the front page headline on yesterday's Times newspaper. The report went on to describe how campaigners for war widows made a bitter attack over the way their pensions and benefits are being cut, losing war widows hundreds of thousands of pounds in the course of their lives.

Vice Admiral Sir Michael Moore said "It is so easy for Mr Cameron to extol the Forces at every opportunity, and he will probably do so on Remembrance Sunday, but his words will have a hollow ring unless he addresses these issues personally".

Even more of a disgrace, Sir Michael (who is Chairman of the Forces Pension Society) reports that the Parliamentary Minister with direct responsibilities for these matters, Lynne Featherstone, "has not bothered to reply to letters" about the matter.

Shame on you Minister.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

LibDems Wave Goodbye To Post Office Banks

Before the general election the LibDems promised to introduce a Post Office Bank to help ensure the survival of so many local Post Offices.

Quote: Lynne Featherstone, LibDem MP (4 May): "We’re going to break up the banks ... our post office bank will support local people and local comunities to lend to viable businesses so that we can have a flourishing local economy again."

But, of course, that was the before the election.

Now, settling back in the comfort of their ministerial cars, this is just the latest of the LibDem pledges to be dumped. Instead, they intend to hand more business to the (unbroken) banks. Another victory for the "grown up" politics of the coalition.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Daisy's Dilemma: Back Bayes And Sacrifice Epps?

There will be some tough fights for council seats all across Reading East come next May.

No doubt the Greens will do their best to consolidate in Park ward, while the Tories will try to hang on to Church ward. But the biggest fights will almost certainly be had in Redlands and Katesgrove.

Facing a huge backlash from the voters, the LibDems have a real dilemma: do they concentrate their efforts in trying to save their leader Kirsten Bayes in Redlands, only to leave LibDem stalwart Gareth Epps exposed and vulnerable in Katesgrove?

They clearly do not have the resources to fight the two wards effectively, so they run the real risk of losing both seats. And as recent by-elections show, the LibDem tactic of bussing people in from outside the area doesn't necessarily work.

But what will Daisy do? Back Bayes (and so hope to save her own seat further down the line) or help an increasingly isolated Epps? In less than six months one or both will face the end of their current council careers.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Tuition Fees

What's a LibDem pledge worth? About £9,000 a year.

You Can't Trust The LibDems On Civil Liberties

What's the point of the coalition if the Tories just do what they want to do anyway?

Home Secretary Theresa May looks set to maintain the use of control orders, which are used to deal with terror suspects who cannot be deported or tried and put suspects under strict supervision such as curfews and bans on who they can meet.

But such a move cuts across a strong pre-election commitment by Nick Clegg to scrap them. Chris Huhne, Lib Dem Energy Secretary, said keeping control orders would undermine key British values. But Huhne, who has previously described control orders as "Kafkaesque", said "We voted against control orders repeatedly and I think that all of us in government frankly want to preserve the rule of law. It's an absolute key part of out tradition."

So will the LibDems use their position in the coalition to get them scrapped? Remember this is the same Clegg who pledged to vote against any increase in tuition fees and the same Huhne who used to preach against nuclear energy.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Labour Defeats Tory - LibDems Cheer!

Labour won another council by-election last night, taking a seat off the Tories. In itself, that's not so remarkable these days.

But what was remarkable was the reaction of the local LibDem MP. Following last night's Coleridge by-election in Cambridge, the Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert tweeted: "Cambridge is officially Tory-free. Very satisfying!"

Huppert, who featured in the picture with Clegg signing the NUS pledge (see blog below), says that he will honour his promise to vote against the planned increase in tuition fees.

Sadly Redlands LibDem councillors are all Clegg loyalists and are positively enjoying working with the Tories in Reading.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

This Won't Go Away

It's like something you've stepped in. In the town or country. And brought back to your home or car. Bleach it or scrub it - it won't go away.

The LibDems made pledging to vote against any increase in student tution fees one of thier big things. They sold it not just as an individual policy but as a core principle. They now say that once in power they discovered things were worse than they thought, and so they are doing the "grown up" thing - but this isn't true. (More on this later.)

And what we are finding on the streets of Redlands is that so many people who voted LibDem last time won't do so again. Not just moving across to Labour, but are angry and offering to help!

The removal of the local LibDem's leading collaborator Kirsten Bayes is now on. This is no big secret - all of Reading's party political activists know this is the big prize next May. The movement is underway.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Labour Moves Ahead Of Tories In Another Poll

While Richard Willis is still unpacking his sunbrero and donkey, I feel obliged to report the latest polling information.

The Independent has the following:

Labour 37% (+3%)
Conservatives 35% (-5%)
LibDems 16% (+2%)
Others 12% (no change)

They comment that "Nick Clegg's party has lost the support of more than a third of the people who backed it in May. According to ComRes, only 60 per cent of those who voted Lib Dem then would do so if another general election were held now, while 27 per cent of them say they would vote Labour."

I think it's all to play for in Redlands and Reading.