Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freedom for Belarus

There is one communist left-over in Europe.

A message from the International Democrat Union:

As people in the rest of Europe and many other parts of the world enjoy some relaxing days between the Christmas holidays and the new Year festivities, the circumstances for the representatives of the opposition in Belarus is quite a different one.

Until election day in Belarus on December 19 there seemed to be some grounds for cautious optimism. Although the state controlled media made sure that coverage was heavily tilted towards the incumbent president, more freedom of expression had been allowed than any time since president Lukashenko grabbed power in 1994. Independent opinion polls before the presidential election also showed that the incumbent for the first time would have to face one of the opposition candidates in a run-off election with, since there was no way Lukashenko could score above 50% in the first round.

The December 19 election had been preceded by a thaw in the relations between the Belarusian regime and EU - not least helped by Lukashenko's increasingly strained relations with Moscow. The developments in Belarus seemed gradually to be going in the right direction.

On election day it became apparent to all that Europe’s last dictator hadn’t suddenly become a democrat. Lukashenko seems to have realized he could not win in the first round without cheating. Whereas the voting process itself seemed calm and orderly, the counting certainly was not. Reports by independent observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the counting process as “bad” or “very bad” in nearly half the polling stations they could observe. It became clear that many election precincts never really counted, but followed orders from above to deliver a predetermined result.

From then on things went from ugly to worse. As the democratic opposition gathered in the centre of Minsk to protest against another stolen election, the regime struck with brutal force. Peaceful protesters were jailed and opposition leaders thrown in KGB cells, some also attacked, brutalized and arrested even before they could join the manifestation for democracy.

To quote the Foreign Ministers of Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany (article in the International Herald Tribune, released on 23 December):

“Europe has not seen anything like this in years. The combination of vote-rigging and outright repression makes what Milosevic tried to do in Serbia in 2000 pale in comparison. What we have seen brings back memories of the introduction of martial law in Poland in 1981.”

For the full article, see this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/opinion/24iht-edbildt24.html?_r=4&scp=2&sq=carl+bildt&st=Search

Presidential candidate Uladzimir Niakliayeu was attacked viciously by regime-controlled thugs on election day, even before the democracy rally, and had to be rushed to a hospital for medical treatment. Later in the evening he was abducted from his hospital bed by the KGB and held in complete isolation for a week, unlawfully kept from contact even with his lawyer. Also his close co-worker Andrei Dzmitryeu, international secretary of the United Civil Party (an IDU associate member, along with the Belarusan Popular Front), was detained and kept in isolation for a week, and denied access to legal representation. Both remain detained, along with scores of other representatives of the democratic opposition.

Here is a list of current political detainees or under house arrest in Belarus. If determined “guilty” by the regime they are now facing absurd sentences of between 5 – 15 years of prison based on drummed up charges:

1. Uladzimir Niakliayeu - presidential candidate
2. Andrei Sannikau - presidential candidate
3. Vital Rymasheuski - presidential candidate
4. Ryhor Kastusiou - presidential candidate (house arrest)
5. Mikalai Statkevich - presidential candidate
6. Ales Mikhalevich - presidential candidate
7. Pavel Seviarynets - head of Vital Rymasheuski's election HQ
8. Aliaksandr Atroshchankau - Press-Secretary of Sannikau's election HQ
9. Dzmitry Bandarenka - coordinator of the "European Belarus" campaign
10. Iryna Khalip - journalist, Andrei Sannikau's wife
11. Natallia Radzina - journalist, editor of the charter97.org web-site
12. Anatol Liabedzka - United Citizen’s Party Chair
13. Anastasia Palazhanka - "Young Front" Vice-Chair
14. Andrei Dzmitryeu - head of Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu's election HQ
15. Aliaksandr Fiaduta - political analyst, one of the coordinators of Uladzimir Niakliayeu's election HQ
16. Aliaksandr Klaskouski - former police officer
17. Uladzimir Kobets - head of Anderj Sannikau's election HQ (detained, not arrested yet)
18. Dmitry Us, presidential candidate (house arrest)
19. Siarhei Vazniak, Uladzimir Niakliayeu's election agent
20. Aliaksandr Arastovich, Mikalai Statkevich's election agent
21. Anatol Paulau, Yaraslau Ramanchuk's election agent
22. Aleh Korban, United Citizen's party.

Three more democracy activist from "Young Front", Zmitser Dashkevich, Eduard Lobau, Dzianis Lazar, were detained ahead of the election day rally, and are facing criminal charges for "disorderly conduct". If found guilty, they may be sentenced to 3 – 10 years in prison.

The IDU calls upon member parties to support the democratic forces in Belarus, and act to the best of their abilities against the oppressive and brutal dictatorship of President Lukashenko. The support may be given in many forms; by government actions where applicable, by raising the issue in your parliament or making urgent statements on the situation in Belarus, demanding the immediate release of all political prisoners and democracy.

Further actions should be demanded by parliaments and governments immediately after the Christmas and New Year recess.

Lukashenko’s attack on basic freedoms in the heart of Europe must not pass unanswered.

Eirik Moen
Secretary General
International Democrat Union

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas

Raise a glass to a happy Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Computer Says 'No'

As reported in the CEN...

"Dozens of trains between Cambridge and King’s Cross were announced as cancelled on the website of operator First Capital Connect this morning – but in fact many were running. The confusion was caused by an inaccurate computer feed to The FCC website from Network Rail, the company that oversees the rail track infrastructure."

ID Cards to Go

A message I missed earlier...

Cambridge NO2ID


DATE: 21st December 2010

EMBARGO: Immediate


Campaigners have welcomed a new law, passed today, that formally ends plans
to issue ID cards to everyone in Britain. However, they warn that some
worrying aspects of the discredited scheme remain in place.

The Identity Documents Bill is due to receive the royal assent on Tuesday
afternoon, formally abolishing the National Identity Scheme first proposed
in 2002. The new law reverses legislation passed in 2006 that would have
forced everyone applying for a passport to give over 50 pieces of personal
information for the ID cards database, and left them open to repeated fines
of up to £1000 if officials thought the supplied details were inaccurate or

In its final years the Labour government spent almost £250,000 per day on
developing ID cards, and their abolition will avoid further planned
expenditure of over £800m. In common with many councils across the country,
both Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City council decided not
to cooperate with ID card plans.

"The law passed today has finally terminated the unloved ID Cards scheme",
said Andrew Watson, East Anglian regional coordinator of the NO2ID
campaign. "I'm delighted that the cards themselves are now history, and
even more pleased that the central database of personal details is being
securely destroyed. The database, not the cards, has always been the most
dangerous part of the scheme."

"However, I remain worried that powers to share personal data created by
the original Identity Cards Act have been retained, even after the database
itself has been destroyed. If used, these powers would allow government to
share your personal data without your knowledge or permission."

"I am also concerned that visitors from Australia, the USA and other
countries outside Europe are still being fingerprinted for an ID Card, even
if officials call it a 'Residence Permit'. Not only is this a major
obstacle to valued overseas students coming to universities in our region,
but it also leaves in place a small ID cards scheme that could easily be
extended by a future government to cover the whole population."

"NO2ID will continue campaigning against encroaching official powers for
mass surveillance and trafficking in personal information without the
individual's consent."

- ENDS - (361 words, excluding title)

For more information, please contact Andrew Watson
(andrew.watson@no2id.net, 07710 469624).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Bit Busy

The real world has intervened so blogging has been light. The curse of the 2010 traveller is on the house of Normington as we have been affected by Icelandic volcanoes, air traffic controllers and now Jack Frost.

Bring on the summer...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Giving sweeties to children

Dear Sir,

Julian Huppert wrote to you last week about tuition fees and has since voted - against the considered views of senior members of his party - against raising tuition fees for university students.

I wrote to the CEN in October saying that the cost of university education should be borne by those that benefit, that universities need to be free from Government interference, and that increased fees should persuade many universities to offer shorter and cheaper courses.

Mr. Huppert did not reply.

When will he learn that politics is a more serious game than giving sweeties to children?

Yours sincerely,

James Strachan

That's What I Call Cash for Questions!

Lib Dems paid £9,000 to find audiences for Clegg’s ‘town hall’ talks
The Times, Friday, p.33

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Facts on Fees

As the latest round of tuition fee protests get under way, here's a good website.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Climate in the Balance

The Cambridge News article on a debate at Shire Hall on carbon emissions is worth a welcome in itself as coverage of local meetings, like Parliament itself, has been in decline.

However… the choice of quotes is questionable.

The final score card reads:

Opposition Groups - 6
Lib Dem – Four
Green – One
UKIP – One
Labour – Nil

Ruling Group - 1
Tory – One

So Labour said nothing and the Conservatives had only one thing worth repeating, and that was not from the person who proposed the amendment to the Lib Dem motion.

And More A14 Chaos

Crashes and breakdowns cause A14 chaos
Published: 08/12/2010 08:13 - Updated: 08/12/2010 10:05

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"The Surgery is Now Closed…"

Is the message from my local surgery as I try to confirm a vaccination time for my daughter. The message sets out helpfully the opening hours and an emergency number for out-of-hours enquiries.

All very odd as I was calling during what the website claims to be the open hours… is it really shut all Tuesday afternoon for an emergency or did someone just forget to change the message?

Again, this never happened in my former doctors’ office found in the so-called sleepy countryside.

Monday, December 6, 2010

England, home and beauty...

Well, Stansted at just after midnight will do fine for me.

Ryanair cancelled 450 flights on Saturday, and Easyjet 100, in addition to the ones halted on Friday afternoon.

For those with a sense of history the term, "intervention by the Spanish military," is not usually received with applause, however the folk at Barcelona airport were very happy to cheer news that the government was taking action. On my flight back even the crew were talking about... Ronald Reagan.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where´s the Spanish Reagan when you need him?

So, a business trip came to an end and the Spanish air traffic controllers went on strike at 5pm local time, five minutes after I got the airport. It means staying in Spain, which is no hardship, but also a weekend wasted when there were a lot of those chores to do (lots of those in the household right now). Good old Ronnie sorted out his air traffic controllers. Time those Euro wimps did theirs now...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Too many Twitters makes a T...

Twitter war has broken out again, with our new local Coleridge councillor in the thick of it. See here for the Quisling correspondence. This follows on from another rather silly tweet about current search and rescue pilots who happen to be a member of the Royal family.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The country mouse is healthier…

I moved from a sleepy, country village in Huntingdonshire to the big city of Cambridge

My old doctors’ surgery is open all day.

I am still amazed that the nearest one to me shuts for lunch and has a booking system seemingly based on the ‘fastest finger’ round from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Campaign for Real Ale...

CAMRA Message today...

"Lobby your local MPs in support of the CAMRA backed Protection of Local Services (Planning) Bill (England).

We need you to write to your MP, asking them support the CAMRA backed Protection of Local Services (Planning) Bill (England).

Every year a small number of MPs are drawn from a ballot and are able to introduce a Bill on an issue of their choosing. This year CAMRA persuaded Nigel Adams MP to take up a vitally important Bill to reform the planning system. This is a once in a generation opportunity to radically change planning law.

The Bill would give local councils the power to ensure that services (and particularly community pubs) are not demolished or changed into other uses such as a betting shop or supermarket chain store without following the proper planning process.

The best way to get MPs' support for the Bill is for their constituents (that's you!) to contact them. The more constituents ask an MP to support it, the more likely they are to do so. We need your MP to feel pressure from their constituents in order to understand how important pubs and local services are to their community, and show their support for these vital reforms."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unworthy Successor

The successor to Chris Howell on the city council has attracted Chris's wrath in this posting. Sometimes politics is tribal, but in this case the councillor has launched a foam-flecked attack on the royal wedding announcement with the, 'inbred aristos who've never done a days work in their life'.

I am sure he'll be explaining his view of helicopter rescue pilots for quite a while.

Quis Separabit and "Up the Micks!"

Why bail out Irish politicians when it's the Irish Guards that need support?

The Irish Guards Appeal

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quiz Night - Town V Gown

Fun quiz ahead on 26th November... see here for details.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Twitter Feud

A twitter feud between Kirstie Allsop and Lord Sugar.

It was ungallant of Lord S to tell Kirstie to lose some weight, but it is simply impossible for Lord S to gain in stature...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Labour and Congestion Charging… Whining and Wrong

This article is worth ‘Fisking’:

Let me give you the facts: congestion charging in Cambridge was dreamt up by the Conservatives and the Conservative-run county council.

No, the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), which tied road improvements to congestion charging, was dreamt up by the Labour government. I agree that the county councillors then took it up, led by the nose by ambitious officers, but it would not have happened without Blair or Brown.

I have always been very clear in my opposition to it.

No. You voted for its introduction. Here is the link where the vote is recorded in the County Council minutes. Seven councillors voted against proceeding with the TIF bid. You were not one of them.

If all the extra investment in public transport failed to stop congestion hitting the trigger and if the public supported it, then the Tory County Council would introduce congestion charging but not until 2017 at the earliest.

There was no mention of public support being part of the trigger mechanism to start congestion charging. This was a point that I made at the time.

The justification given by many councillors for supporting the TIF process was along the lines, ‘we had to go along with the TIF bid because we might have got some money out of it for pet projects and, speak softly, we would have tried to renege on charging at a future date.’

This is why people are wary, rightly, of politicians of all parties.

I am proud that the City Conservatives never indulged in this kind of approach to the TIF bid. We said we were against it and every candidate we fielded would have voted against it at the first opportunity. This cannot be said for the local Labour party whose representives talked tough about TIF but when it came to the vote, voted for it to go ahead.

The voters can see through efforts to twist the truth

I hope so.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jailed Voters for Julian Group

I hope this is a wind-up, but it looks like our MP really does think that people who have broken the law should play a role in selecting those who make the law.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Election Result...

Quite a leap of faith for some...

Coleridge - 4th November

George Owers, Labour, 900 (44%)
Andrew Bower, Conservative, 734 (36%)
Sarah Barnes, Lib Dem, 223 (11%)
Valerie Hopkins, Green Party, 137 (7%)
Albert Watts, UKIP, 53 (3%)

and we'll see local Labour at the polls in May...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Voting in Coleridge

Today's decision day for the Coleridge by-election. As an early-bird helper I spotted both Labour and Lib Dems on the streets trying to rouse their voters and get them to the polling stations.

When this seat came up last time it was decided by 14 votes. This time, make sure one of them is yours.

Beware this Credit Card Scam

Courtesy of the police comes notice of a credit card scame...it’s very convincing.

"This one is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want. Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. This information is worth reading. By understanding how the VISA & MasterCard Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect yourself.

The scam works like this: Person calling says, "This is (name), and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank) did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for £497.99 from a Marketing company based in London ?" When you say "No", the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from £297 to £497, just under the £500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?" You say "yes". The caller continues - "I will be starting a fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 0800 number listed on the back of your card (0800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?"

Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works the caller then says, "I need to verify you are in possession of your card." He'll ask you to "turn your card over and look for some numbers." There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, "That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?" After you say, "No," the caller then thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do", and hangs up you actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the Card number .

What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don't give it to them . Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or MasterCard directly for verification of their conversation. The real VISA will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers your 3 Digit Number, you think you're receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.

Please pass this on to all your family and friends.. By informing each other, we protect each other..."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Coleridge By-Election this Thursday

Looking at the parties....

Conservative. The City Conservative site has a summary of the Bower campaign, with its key themes.

Labour. The party holding the other seats in the ward chose a very controversial young student who lives somewhere in the centre of town. Odd. If I were picking a candidate to take on the local Tory campaigner Andy Bower it would not be a student on short course but an established resident with decent community work credentials.

Lib Dems. Their candidate is one step closer to credibility by living in the ward but, like Labour, remarkably little commitment shown earlier and - by trailing in a poor third place the last time this seat was contested - suffering a different kind a credibility gap. It could be that their outdoor poster campaign is being vandalised, like the Tory one, but we should have been festooned with orange by now. Looks like their B-team are doing this one.

UKIP. Even further down the pointless vote section than the Lib Dem. This is a local election so being UKIP is about as useful as being 'Forward to Mars'. If you doubt this then visit Ramsey where a UKIP'er is in place and whose effectiveness can be judged in inverse proportion to his press coverage.

Green. It's Cambridge, so there is always one of these. Abbey ward has a good helping of them. Polite and honourable campaigners but quite bonkers when it comes to anything to do with the economy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Vandals

We had vandals in the General Election and they're back for the by-election. I said before that most vandalism is likely to be done by yobs on the way back home. However, I think that the way it was done this time - crossing onto private property rather than reaching over a fence - requires more time, effort (and co-ordination) than your average drunk loon can muster.

The Labour signs are still up.

So who's the nasty party now?

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Two children seriously injured in A14 crash
Published: 29/10/2010 07:42 - Updated: 29/10/2010 10:18

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A14 Again...

Delays on A14 as lorry overturns
Published: 21/10/2010 13:07 - Updated: 21/10/2010 16:08

All this while the A14 upgrade was one of the casualties of the Government's spending review.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another Cambridge News Letter...

Watch the News for this letter... it is time for our MP to come up with counter-proposals rather than slogans.

Belvoir Road

15th. October 2010

Dear Sir,

Julian Huppert, who begins to sound like a perpetual student, promises to fight any rise in tuition fees.

I think that there are three advantages to the proposed changes.

Firstly, the cost of university education will be borne by those who will benefit from the education in their careers. It seems unfair that students in Cambridge should be subsidised by taxes levied on cooks, waiters and shop assistants.

Secondly, increased fees will free the University and colleges from Government funding and Government interference. They will have the right and ability to control their own futures.

Thirdly, the increase in fees will concentrate minds. When people think, they will realise that a three year residential degree is not required for many subjects. I expect to see shorter degrees, students living at home and part time courses. You don't have to drive a Rolls Royce if a Ford will get you there.

Yours sincerely,

James Strachan

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lib Dem’s Hot Air to Fund University Places?

Our local MP has declared, “I have been a campaigner on tuition fees since I was an undergraduate and I campaigned on it in the last election. I have not seen anything to change my mind.”

“Fine words butter no parsnips” say some, and if hot air could fund a university place then our MP has produced a department with his latest press release.

The daily reality of coalition government is that it is dividing the Lib Dems into their “grown-up” and “infantile” wings. One set are working with the Tories because the country was left in a mess by Labour, the others are in it with ‘Red Ed’ in denial over the economic reality of a country left broke by reckless overspending.

Our MP does not offer an alternative source of funding for higher education, only the siren song of an out-of-touch politician addicted to spending taxpayers’ money. I hope the next press release has substance for debate.


Diesel spill on A14 after crash
Published: 10/12/2010 08:57 - Updated: 10/12/2010 13:41

The westbound carriageway was closed after the incident which happened at junction 27at Fenstanton today

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mind Boggling Headline

While sorting through the e-mail in-box I found this government inspired headline:

UK Government Announces Grandfathering Support for Dedicated Biomass

If you understand this then you have been in the business for too long...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Power for Parkside

The full story is here on the newly refreshed local Tory site and also with our candidate Andy Bower. Watch the local Labour councillors go into a spin...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tory Website is Back

The Cambridge Assocation site is up... after the embarassment of the chairman's diary wishing voters a Happy Christmas in the run-up to the early May General Election, we now have slick looking site set up by a new team. Well done.

(Those with slower machines may not have the full joy yet as the site is still migrating, propagating or some other 'gating right now and will have its full set of bells and whistles over the next 24 hours...).

Fraud Alert

Not, not the return of Tony Blair to British politics but a warning to those who may have received 'reminder' letters from The British Awards Council. These tell people that they have probably won a lot of money and to ring a number at £1.50 a minute.

It is a fraud.

Don't call the phone number and if you send a 'winning' notification to their address all you get in return are piles of dodgy scratch-cards.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Blogging was light because I was away on business and I am still trying to catch up.

However, it it worth contrasting the European and North American economies with the the Turkish one. It now has a forecast growth rate for 2010 of 10%. Turkey is currently the 16th largest economy in the world and is confidently progressing towards being the 10th largest by 2010.

A14 Again...

Three-vehicle smash causes A14 delays
Published: 04/10/2010 08:26 - Updated: 04/10/2010 08:33

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A14 Again...

A14 closed after lorry sheds load
Published: 29/09/2010 13:47 - Updated: 29/09/2010 15:50

Friday, September 24, 2010

Needles for Shoplifters

The News tells us “Trouble is in Store for City Shoplifters” because of the team of store detectives hired by local businesses. This is a few days after it was reported that the local druggies are asking for smaller needle bins because the current ones - handed out for free with the support of our local constabulary and Lib Dem MP - are "too unwieldy to carry around – while they are out shoplifting."

So if we change the size of the bin, we get more shoplifters; if we don't change the size then we get dirty needles discarded in play areas.

So do we lock them up for the drug offences or for the shoplifting ones? Your choice...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bower is the Best Choice

Andrew Bower is the Coleridge by-election candidate to replace Chris Howell on November 4th.

Good luck,


More A14 Chaos

A14 van fire triggers gridlock
Published: 21/09/2010 09:37 - Updated: 21/09/2010 10:52

Monday, September 20, 2010

Have Another Meatball

The BBC reports through gritted teeth: "the first time a conservative government has won re-election in Sweden for about a century."

Well done to my friends in the Moderate Party.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More A14 Chaos...

Queues after four crashes on A14
Published: 18/09/2010 15:02 - Updated: 19/09/2010 14:29

Some things happen so often that they almost don't count as news, like crashes on the A14. However, it is also a chance to remind people that the A14 upgrade is opposed by the Cambridge Lib Dems.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Agree With Colin...

It's fun to read the comments in Liberal Conspiracy about a meeting a of the group Republic, including:

"It’s good that a professor of pharmacology is addressing the Republic conference because he may be able to identify the substance the participants have been consuming in order to convince themselves that the monarchy could be abolished."


"My personal position is that sure, there are problems with monarchy, just as there are problems with any and every constitutional order. But I’d rather have the Lucky Sperm Club deciding who gets to pin the VC on people than the best scumsucking voteseeker doing it."

Friday, September 17, 2010

East Chesterton... Ouch

By Election - 16 September 2010

Ian Manning (LDm) 832
Geraldine Bird (Lab) 663
Matthew Bradney (Con) 334

Peter Pope (Gre) 117
Anna Gordon (Soc) 53

Peter Burkinshaw(UKIP) 37

"The operation was a success but the patient died?"

As usual, the figures are courtesy of the Cambridge Election Results page.

FBI Over-reacts

Luke Angel, 17, sent an angry email to the White House after watching a documentary about the September 11 attacks while drunk. The FBI intercepted the email and contacted police in his home town of Silsoe, Bedfordshire. Mr Angel has now been placed on a list of people banned from entering the US.

Somehow I suspect George W Bush received emails that were much ruder than Master Angel’s.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Howell Throws in Towel

Conservative councillor Chris Howell has published his resignation blog. Chris took his council work seriously and did his best for local residents. He was easily more than a match for the other councillors in Coleridge and at times seemed to be the only opposition voice in the city. However, there is a time when one has to look beyond the narrow agenda of the Guildhall and Chris has decided it is now. I am sorry, but I wish him well and want to say a, "Thank you" for everything he has done.

Good PR, Bad Geography

PR Week is a Mecca for job adverts for the sector. This one caught my eye...

PR Jobs in North America
Found 1 Public Relations jobs

Group Account Director, Dubai
Based in Dubai this is a rare opportunity to join a very well established consultancy in a senior post

True, Dubai is in the Gulf - - but it's not the Gulf of Mexico.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blog of Hate

After the generous points about political opponents made by a local Lib Dem here is the kind of rant that makes you despair... it's from Tax Research UK's author who states without caveat about Tories and government:

They hate the fact that it supplies education and health for all.

They hate the fact that it provides a safety net in society – a safety net they want to remove.

They hate the fact that the state can provide some dignity in old age.

They hate the fact that the state could provide homes – good homes – for all who want them in our society.

They hate the fact that the state can provide the things most people seem to value so highly in our communities – safety, training, health, roads and public transport, the arts, vast ranges of entertainment and sports activity, and most of all – the freedom from fear of destitution if something goes seriously wrong with the best laid plans that all of us have.

After some further foam the rant concludes:

No wonder they’re frightened

No. Disappointed in the level of debate.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Public Sector Cuts are Needed

The government has, "radical plans to lay off huge numbers of state employees, to help revive the country's struggling economy. More than a million workers would lose their jobs - half of them by March next year. Those laid off will be encouraged to become self-employed or join new private enterprises, on which some of the current restrictions will be eased.

"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls and losses that hurt the economy. Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, co-operatives, and self-employment, absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years," the statement added.

Not the UK, but Cuba!

Monday, September 13, 2010

No, Minister

The BBC reports, “Government accused of 'abuse of power' after cancelling 2011 Queen's speech. Change to tie in with introduction of fixed-term parliaments means next Queen's speech will not take place until the spring of 2012.”

Not happy with either constitutional innovation, especially politicians ‘fixing’ their own terms. Will the House of Lords do its duty and tell the Commons to rethink such a major constitutional change?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Thoughtful Lib Dem Blog

This blog called Thoughts of a Cambridge based Lib Dem County Councillor and twentysomething has an excellent post on what party politics can be like. She is quite right. The old Voltaire quote, is, "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Our variant is that our opponents may be wrong, but they are not malign.

Oh, and the photo on her blog includes a ticket stub to the Jason Mraz event at The Junction... which my wife and I went to too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Journalistic Accuracy

Amidst the kerfuffle of the Djanogly case there are the usual journalistic howlers...

The Guardian is in its finest form with, "Derek Colley, the Conservative former leader of Huntingdon council"... That would be Derek Holley

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Top Rank Cambridge (and good for UCL too)

The World University rankings for 2010 brings news of the university in Cambridge (England)overtaking its rival university in Cambridge(Mass. USA).

2010 Rank

1. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

2. Harvard University, United States

3. Yale University, United States

4. University College London, United Kingdom

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States

Latin American Despots

The reality behind the Che Guevara T-shirt fantasy is usually a nasty, intolerant regime. Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia have all caught the sickness. This news item is about one of my former colleagues who is set to be imprisoned... for being rude about the state-run bank.

Bolivia: Evo Morales using the judiciary to silence critics

Former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga has been handed a two-year, eight-month sentence in prison for "defamation and slander" against a state-run Bolivian bank.

Mr Quiroga, formerly president also of IDU’s regional organisation in the hemisphere, the Union of Latin American Parties (UPLA), was sued by the state entity in 2009. The lawsuit against him was brought forward upon his alleging that the bank had become corrupted after being seized by the state and that it was being used to launder Venezuelan funds for leftwing political causes.

The lawyer for the Morales controlled bank has stated that they will seek an even harsher judgement. If the current jail time is ratified, Quiroga would be eligible for a "conditional suspended" sentence and may not be required to serve the time in prison. But if the judge upon the state bank’s appeal boosts the sentence to at least three years and one day, former president Quiroga, Bolivia’s leader from 2001-2002, could be required to serve the sentence in the main La Paz prison.

The ruling by the Morales loyalists in the Bolivian courts also has an impact on the former president’s civic rights. After the sentencing, Quiroga is disqualified from running for the presidency again, unless enabled to do so by the national Senate.

This clearly is a state-sponsored vendetta against a political opponent, aimed at silencing critics and limiting the opposition against the increasingly autocratic regime of Evo Morales.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FSA Regulation

Outperforming socks: My socks are long and black. Any cash stored in them on 1 January 2008 would have retained its value on 31 December 2008, and so they outperformed most fund managers in 2008, particularly equity funds, and every major equity index, although their fee basis is eminently reasonable. My socks are not currently regulated by the FSA. Go here for more.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Jamie O gets a "thumbs up"

I may detest the Jamie Oliver commercials, shopping at the supermarket he champions on its merits and not its wasted advertising budget, but was surprised by how much I enjoyed his Cambridge Italian restaurant. The draw for the Cambridge Normingtons was the promise of "CRUNCHY STUFFED ASCOLANA OLIVES". We had these olives in Venice on our honeymoon... and have wondered why the ascolana olive dish is not seen more often on these shores (or the continental United States for that matter).

The meal was delicious.

We finished the evening at the convivial St Radegund pub.

Special thanks to the baby-sitting service that made the whole evening possible.

Photo credit here

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Candidate's Debate

The Conservative Home site has a good piece here on our East Chesterton candidate with quite a debate in the comment section.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mill Road - Mid October

The sewage work in Mill Road should be completed by mid-October, we are now promised. It was supposed to be only a six week project but Anglian Water discovered a further collapse which extended it by nine weeks.

Well, as with the Guided Bus, we are used to projects over-running...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agree With Blair...

"If governments don't tackle deficits, the bill is footed by taxpayers, who fear that big deficits mean big taxes, both of which reduce confidence, investment and purchasing power...We should have taken a New Labour way out of the economic crisis: kept direct taxes competitive, had a gradual rise in VAT and other indirect taxes to close the deficit, and used the crisis to push further and faster on reform."

Other fun quotes found on ConHome.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Australia's Still Counting the Cost of AV

The results service is clicking away on the official website.

Bad News from the A14...Again

"Lorry jack-knifes on A14 - Motorists on the A14 faced delays after a lorry jack-knifed and shed its load of straw bales," reports the local News.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Putting a Sock in Heathcock

Ed's letter puts a 'rent-a-quote' in his place...

Non-doms are out of Lords

I WAS bemused by Geoff Heathcock’s call for the prosecution of Tory peers living abroad (Letters,August 17). I realise Lib Dems need no excuse for self-righteousness, but my local councillor fails to realise not only that non-domiciled peers were forced out of the Lords earlier this year, but also that there is nothing illegal about the non-dom status.

If Mr Heathcock needs educating about the concept of legality, I suggest as a case study the £2.4 million accepted by the Lib Dems from Michael Brown, a convicted fraudster who lived in Spain and was not even eligible to vote. They still haven’t paid it back.

Edward Turnham
Queen Edith’s Way

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another A14 Accident

From the Cambridge News... and a reminder that the local Lib Dems oppose widening this road.

Crash on A14 triggers lengthy tailbacks

A crash on the A14 has caused long delays for motorists. Two vehicles were in collision leaving the front of Peugeot car with extensive front end damage.

The smash happened just after 9am on the westbound carriageway at Godmanchester, closing one lane and triggering 20-minute delays for motorists.
There was congestion from the crash site at junction 24, A1198 to junction 26 at St Ives and the A1096.

No-one was reported injured and the road was cleared by 10.20am

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Transparency, Taylor and Howell

Richard Taylor's blog carries an account of the recent East Area committee meeting. While much of local government can be characterised as being "as dull-as-ditchwater" this report shows how locally elected folk are trying to get things done for residents... even if the police have not yet worked out that they are accountable to the public.

"Cllr Howell has been pushing for an evidenced based approach, with speed surveys (conducted by automated black boxes on streetlights) conducted before and after action is taken by the police. Cllr Howell expressed concern that a plan agreed between city councillors, council officers and the police had not been acted upon."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two Stories?

Was I the only one who noticed how the local politicians welcomed the government’s Housing Growth Fund hand-out, having previously said that it was not enough?

When the government cut £6 million from the fund, Councillor Sian Reid, Cambridge City Council's executive councillor for growth, condemned the decision as "ludicrous", adding: "The funding the Government has taken away is sure to deprive Cambridge residents of important affordable housing and infrastructure projects." Cambridge News, 18/12/2009.

Last week…

Councillor Sian Reid, leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We are pleased to hear the Coalition Government has confirmed our capital funding allocation for this year so we can concentrate on the important task of delivering new homes, in particular affordable homes, to help meet pressing local demands...” Cambridge News, 19/08/2010.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Australia Votes AV

The Australian Federal election is underway.

There are three differences from the British General election.

The first is to note that voting in Australia is compulsory. This changes the entire nature of the election campaign from “motivate and get-out-the-vote", as it is here, to “vote for us first and put the other parties in the right order on your ballot paper”.

The second is the Alternative Vote. This means putting the parties in the right order is vital as the preferences of the easily defeated candidates are added to the remaining ones until a single candidate polls over 50 per cent of total vote. I believe voting is a civic duty, but not a compulsory one to be enforced by the full majesty of the law. Abstention can also be a powerful political statement, whether by spoiling a ballot paper or just not going to the polls. For AV, the results are not necessarily proportionate (if you are a fan of PR) and there is something grubby about elections being decided by the second, third or fourth preferences of voters who plumped for fringe parties. Why is their fourth choice vote as valid as my first preference?

One further difference is that the Australians also have a system of triennial parliaments, something the British dropped in 1715…

However, the system is still a democratic one and works for the Aussies.

Oh, and if you are reading this in Australia,vote Liberal...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cambridge Lib Dem Blog Round-Up

There are two blogs that are up and running well, the King’s Hedges Lib Dems and Cllr Amanda Taylor. Good for them.

Cllr Geoff Heathcock is also on the web but not heard of since August 9th, 2010. I am sure this is a temporary blip. The next active site, the Newnham Lib Dem councillors, are twitching… with a posting on August 3rd, 2010, but some mighty gaps in coverage before then.

The blogs of three councillors, otherwise known for their words, have collapsed completely: On May 5th, 2010 the belindabrooksgordon site stopped, on March 20th, 2010 Kilian Bourke dropped and on March 10th, 2010 it was the turn of Nichola Harrison to go quiet.

Of course some of these might come back to life, or are operating on new sites, and if so they would be welcomed back to the debate: the more information we have for the public, the better. However, people are puzzled why the local Conservative Assocation is relying on bloggers to get the Tory message out...

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Throne Was Deemed Vacant

When James II left England in the face of the Glorious Revolution, the throne was declared "vacant" as he had, "abdicated the government".

Something similar keeps happening to Lib Dem councillors in Cambridge, with their regular flow of resignations and by-elections (East Chesterton is up next).

Of course there is an honourable part to their behaviour which should be acknowledged. If I had promised people that I would serve a full term but proceeded to take leave for a third of that time, my resignation would be in the post...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Political Donations on the Net

The list of donors is up on the Electoral Commission’s website. Nice to see solidarity for the Cambridge Lib Dems from people surnamed ‘Huppert’...

Liberal Democrats, Cambridge
Dr Felicia Huppert, status: Individual, 31/03/10, £ 2,000.00

Liberal Democrats, Cambridge
Mr Herbert Huppert, status: Individual, 31/03/10, £ 2,000.00

But what an active fundraising group are those Lib Dems on the county council… so generous!

Liberal Democrats, Cambridgeshire County Co-Ordinating Committee
Cambridgeshire CC Lib Dem Council Group
£ 3,600.00

Liberal Democrats, Cambs County Co-Ordinating Committee
Cambridgeshire CC Lib Dem Group
£ 3,600.00

Liberal Democrats, Cambs County Co-Ordinating Committee
Cambridgeshire CC Lib Dem Group
£ 3,600.00

East Chesterton By-Election

The race is on for the county seat of East Chesterton following the resignation of the Lib Dem councillor. There is more on the new campaign blog, including information about the Conservative candidate.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Go Greeves, Go!

My former Research Department colleague is going to Edinburgh to make lefties roll in the aisles with laughter...

"Tom Greeves is a stand-up comedian, powerlifter, actor, writer, conservative and Americanophile. He came third in the Heavyweight division of the 2004 British Novice Armwrestling Championships. There were four contestants."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Residents’ Parking Quandry for City’s Lib Dems

What do you do when a community is divided over residents’ parking?

The Lib Dems usually try to come to a balanced response, by saying one thing in one ward and another elsewhere. However the parking crisis shows a clear division within one ward.

What will they do?

Based on previous form I think they will hit the ‘New Tax’ button.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

VFM Monarchy UK

The total cost of the monarchy, including security, travel and property, comes to about £140 million. The Crown Estate makes an annual profit for the taxpayer of £210.7 million (2010).

So, in Value For Money terms, the Queen is well ahead.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bold Explorer

Someone was out walking with dinosaurs...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beer Festival Roundup

The Great British Beer Festival was another success. Cambridgeshire ales were well represented, however the place for tasting them is the Cambridge beer festival!

There were three work-related beers to consider: Proper Job, Belt'n Braces and Entrepreneur.

The favourites this year were Hertfordshire Red Squirrel brewery's Colorado American IPA and Northern Ireland's Whitewater with its Crown and Glory.

The Colorado showed how an American-style IPA with the very strong hops can be improved. First, proper cask-conditioning means that you don't have the over-carbonation associated with US beers. Second, the ale can be sold at a temperature where the taste can emerge naturally and not with the flavour fighting it out with the iceberg coldness so loved across the pond.

For Crown and Glory, it was a superb pint and one bought with some trepidation as the Irish on both sides of the border do not have a reputation for real ale. Well, they do now in the north. It was a fantastic beer from Ulster.

One last worthy mention goes to the Channel Islands' Liberation Ale, pictured here. Don't be put off by the picture of a foaming pint. They use over-size glasses so customers pay for beer, not froth.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Letter to Protest A14 Upgrade Delay

This letter is provided by the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce
Thank you for supporting our letter-writing campaign to highlight the importance of the A14 upgrade to the Government. The letter below is a template which we hope you will feel able to personalise with your own views and experiences.

To help us achieve maximum impact from the campaign, we kindly ask that you also send a copy of your letter to:

Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers MP
Your local MP

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce

5 August 2010

Mike Penning MP
Under-Secretary of State for Transport
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street

Dear Under-Secretary of State

I am aware that your department has refused to meet with Cambridgeshire MPs to discuss the need for improvements to the A14 in Cambridgeshire.

As they have been unable to discuss the issue with you on my behalf, I am writing to express my concerns over the ongoing delays to this crucial and long-overdue improvement project.

As it stands, the A14 in Cambridgeshire is at full capacity and the extraordinary volume of traffic that it carries each day inevitably means extensive delays when accidents or breakdowns occur.

Residents of Cambridgeshire deserve to be able to be able to commute across the county without such uncertainty as to how long their journey will take. Businesses deserve an infrastructure that doesn’t damage their profitability every time an accident occurs.

I hope that you will reconsider you decision not to involve our MPs in the decisions surrounding the upgrading of this over-utilised and under-resourced route. For those who rely on the A14 for business or pleasure, and for the future economic success of our region, it is vital that the improvements are made a priority.

Yours sincerely

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Not So Bright Person in Cambridge

"An armed robber who raided the Cambridge Building Society branch where he held an account has been detained indefinitely by a judge".

He robbed his own branch? Doh.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Car for Sale

A larger family means it is time to say "farewell" to my lovely car.

Toyota Corolla (1999), Red, Special Editions 1.3i 16V SE Lback 5dr Auto [EFW], 95,000 miles, 1 dent in the back, new paint needed for the bonnet, Service History. MOT and Tax to January.

It is up for sale for £350 (or nearest offer)...

Gridlock Summer Brings Out The Tories

Three recent reports on various hold-ups, parking hassles and roadworks.

All feature local Conservatives, with special mentions for the excellent Cantab Millennium run by Shapour Meftah (where I bought my PC, I must admit), the ever-active Councillor Chris Howell and my friend James Strachan and his 'tea party' comrades taking on the parking tax fanatics.

Odd that the local Tory association has not yet got its own website working, but here and here and here are the links from the Cambridge News.

Keep up the momentum...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Message from David Cameron

Dear Richard,

Parliament has risen, summer is here and this coalition government is nearly at the three month mark. It's a good time to take stock of what we've done so far and where we're going. Eleven weeks in and I believe we've made a good start.

We said we'd take the tough decisions needed to rescue our economy and we've been doing that. We've scrapped Labour's jobs tax, completed an in-year spending review to save £6 billion of waste and presented an emergency Budget that will balance the books within five years.

We promised radical reform of our public services and we're delivering, with a big expansion of the academy programme in our schools and unprecedented reform of the NHS - £1 billion of bureaucracy cut, pointless targets scrapped, whole tiers of bureaucracy abolished and real power for GPs and patients.

We campaigned relentlessly on pushing power out from the centre and we're making it happen. Eric Pickles' department has been busy dismantling the architecture of top-down control, scrapping Regional Assemblies, Regional Strategies and the bureaucracy of RDAs.

We said we'd do the right thing by our troops and we've been doing that too. We have established a National Security Council, made sure we have a clear strategy on Afghanistan and doubled the Operational Allowance for our Forces.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it does show our intent to hit the ground running as a great reforming government. And just as we've started, so we'll go on - taking the tough decisions on our economy, radically re-thinking our public services, pushing power out to people and doing all we can to restore Britain's standing in the world.

But however frenetic the coming months and years will be, however busy life in government is, I will never forget how we got here - through your hard work and your tireless campaigning.

Thank you for your continuing support - and have a great summer.

David Cameron

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More than a Holding Page

Concerned readers have contacted me about the local Tory Association’s website being down and the promise that, “This website is under reconstruction and will be functional again soon."

I hope it will be too.

However, thank you for reading this blog and don’t forget in the meantime that the Cambridge Association’s Coleridge branch has both a website and a very active blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rubber Plant in 'White Elephant' Transport Row

Cambridge's MP has declared the Guided Bus to be a 'White Elephant' and once again attacked plans to upgrade the notorious A14 motorway.

In any other part of the UK, the Lib Dems would be whining for more public transport. Here, they complain that it is the wrong kind of public transport.

I agree with Councillor Roy Pegram (who supported the Lib Dem/Labour nonsense of a Cambridge Congestion charge) that in this case, “The busway will help reduce the number of cars needing to drive into the city centre, which is exactly what Mr Huppert wants.”

For those with long memories, the reason that many councillors voted for the Guided Bus was because the Labour government said that unless they did so there would be no upgrading of the A14.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cuba Needs Democracy, Not Lib Dem "solidarity"

The local Lib Dems have shown their support for the communist-front Cuba Solidarity group. Like the 'useful idiots' of Lennism they miss the basic point about the US sanctions - Cuba is a dictatorship. If the Cubans could have a free vote for political parties of their choice then the blockade would be lifted. "Simples."

My former organisation, the International Democrat Union, welcomed the latest international pressure on the Cuban regime...

Earlier this month the Castro regime, after mediation by the Catholic Church, announced that it would release 52 political prisoners and “allow them” to leave the island. This is a remarkable u-turn by the regime, since Cuba so far denied having any political prisoners at all.

The release and exile of political prisoners didn’t happen because the Castro regime decided to soften its stance. In particular since the untimely death in February of hunger striking political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Cuba has come under intense and unprecedented international scrutiny. A recent hunger strike by Guillermo Farinas – for the more humane treatment and immediate release of the most ill political prisoners – increased the pressure on the regime after he was hospitalized in critical condition.

It is of course a positive that a number of political prisoners, jailed under extreme and inhumane conditions, are no longer incarcerated. However, it seems that they were in reality only given the choice between remaining in prison or leaving Cuba. Officially the regime says that the exiled prisoners are free to return, but since the jail sentences are not lifted this not a real choice.

Farnborough 2010

A fun day was had too.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Can the Cabinet System

The governance of local government may seem an arcane subject, but the news that the central government will allow local authorities to scrap the cabinet system and reintroduce the committee-based one is good news. Local councillors get a greater say under the committee system and it forces the council leadership to argue through policies from an early stage rather than foisting them from the centre (often at the bidding of their officers).

I hope the county and city councillors will have the gumption to go back to a system of accountability.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time for a 'Tea Party' Over Residents’ Parking?

Oh, what a surprise. When a public body introduces a charge and tells you that there are ‘no plans’ to increase it or it is designed to be ‘revenue neutral’ – Run!

The taxes to be levied on the American colonies in the 1760’s were minimal but the inhabitants of British North America knew that if they allowed Whitehall to introduce them at all then it would be the thin edge of a financially heavy wedge. The Americans had a 'tea party' in Boston as part of the protest. Maybe some residents here should check their tea caddies for future use?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Councillor - Safer Without a Helmet

When local residents returned this councillor to the Guildhall, they probably did it for a reason supposedly given by soldiers for following one particular officer into battle: ‘out of curiosity’.

What on earth could he do next?

Today, we know.

See here for the latest.

(Photo of the councillor with a bike, without a helmet and on the train...)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Try Tory Historian

Try Tory Historian... I liked this one in particular.

The Economist on banking legislation

Tory Historian was intrigued to find this quotation from the Economist of May 3, 1845 on the subject of Sir Robert Peel's Bank Charter Act:

It is because we feel strongly that the interference of Parliament, under the pretext of supplying prudence, and regulating the interests and responsibilities of commerce in any way, has always proved a serious failure, and a miserable substitution for that individual caution which it is so well calculated to supplant, that we feel bound to oppose such legislation generally. And particularly so in the present instance, because we believe that the means proposed are calculated to have an opposite tendency: to endanger more the solvency of banks, and very materially and unnecessarily to aggravate the evils arising from commercial revulsions and adverse exchanges, to which a great commercial country must ever be less or more subject.

Tory Historian cannot help wondering whether such words could appear in any media outlet today.

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Cambridge Tory

Congratulations to Nick and Lara on the birth of their baby boy !

Cambridge MP's Sweatshop Staff...

Of course, the Lib Dem International Office was not alone...

Constituency casework intern
Posted: 09 May 10

working for Julian Huppert MP (Cambridge)
salary: None, but some expenses will be paid

Not Even the Minimum Wage…

The Lib Dems' piety on pay was on parade during this year’s General Election.

However, the advertisement for an unpaid intern for the Lib Dem International Office does raise an eyebrow or two…

Assistant (Internship)
Posted: 15 July 10
Working for The International Office (Liberal Democrats)
salary: None

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Sound of Freedom

The Cambridge News has a video of a Hercules practicing its air show routine. The reactions on the blog are mixed with some condemning it as reckless while others welcome the chance to see something quite amazing.

Put me in the latter camp.

The presence of an airfield in Cambridge should not come as surprise. The airport predates most of the city’s housing and certainly people who have bought or rented homes since 1938 ought to have known that planes go in and out of an airport.

I grew up in rural Huntingdonshire – where John Major apparently re-located most of the RAF – and enjoyed watching the planes from the local bases. True, they made a noise… and it was the sound of those who serve our country. It was the sound of freedom.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back in Blighty

A rather jet-lagged family has returned home from a holiday in the USA. Not much news about the UK over there... except the Queen's visit to New York and the national pastime of guessing the date and subjects of the next royal wedding.

Something I was not expecting to write: "Many thanks to British Airways for seating us in the bulkhead seats in economy class, with the children's cots, and very helpful staff in both directions."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Local Labour

The local Labour party must think I am a swing voter because they have delivered the same leaflet to my house twice. The other possibility is that they have someone new or from outside the area and therefore could not work out if I lived in Perne road or Birdwood.

The good thing about the leaflet was that it contained geniune local content. This contrasts with the Lib Dems round here who think if they slap a "Coleridge" to their generic city-wide puff pieces that counts as local.

The bad was the layout of the leaflet. Too much close-typed stuff ready to make you cross-eyed unless you were a Labour loyalist or political geek (I'm counting myself in the latter group).

The ugly was the section accusing local Tories of badmouthing Labour councillors for not working. Andrew Bower has a very good response here. Mine is to point out the one Tory on the city council has punched well above his weight, swinging away against waste and inertia, and this has put the frightners into his fellow councillors. Good. Competition works.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Parking Controls for the City

This letter made it from post to publication in the Cambridge News in a week...

23rd. June 2010

Dear Sir,

I have recently read through County Council papers on parking contrlols in Cambridge. I had to do this because the area in which I have the pleasure to live is threatened with parking controls.

There were some proposals that I did not like.

There is a suggestion that ward councillors should set the areas for parking controls, aided by an informal subcommittee presumably selected from people who would agree with them. That doesn't feel very democratic.

There is a suggestion that controlled parking fees should be increased to make a profit for the County Council. This breaks a promise made when these controls were introduced that charges were made only to defray administrative costs.

And, finally, there is the suggestion that parking controls should be introduced in other towns in Cambridgeshire to "equalise conditions".

Readers may wish to contact their County Councillor.

Yours sincerely,

James Strachan

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Other A14 Campaign

Now that the future of A14 is up for grabs the opponents of upgrading it are preparing their ground. Here's the site for your information.

There was a letter in the Cambridge News from the organiser praising every measure for reducing congestion except building new roads. The praise for the Variable Mandatory Speed Limits (VMSL)on the M25 on his website is interesting because of what is missed out. The biggest response to tackling congestion on the M25 is a £6.2 billion PFI project which includes... roll of drums... ROAD WIDENING.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adam Smith Speaks on Saturday...

The Coleridge Conservative Branch invites supporters to a barbecue this Saturday at which the President of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Madsen Pirie, will be speaking on "The Coalition: Promises and Pitfalls."

The barbecue and garden party will be held between 4.30pm and 7.30pm at the Cherry Hinton Constitutional Club, 144 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge on Saturday 26 June. Entry is £10 (including first drink) and will go towards Conservative campaigning.

If you would like to come please let Andrew Bower know on 07876 03183.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cambridgeshire Quango Under Fire

As readers of this blog can guess, I am not a fan of the county council’s transport officers or the uncritical acceptance of the ‘growth agenda’ and the quango it spawned.

I am not alone… In his excellent blog Mark Wadsworth adds Cambridgeshire Horizons to his bonfire of the quangos and gets a pot-shot in at the county’s badly-led and dysfunctional transportation department (if only the officers had spent half the time on the boring but necessary campaign for the A14, or watching what BAM Nuttall was up to on the Guided Busway - and not chasing the fairy gold of Labour’s Transport Innovation Fund…).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Freedom is Indivisible.

I met Temba Nolutshungu when I was helping to set up the Democrat Union of Africa.

This is a forceful essay on the kind of post-apartheid state he wants South Africa to become. As he says, “Affirmative action is politically unnecessary, economically irrational and morally unjust...I truly believe that liberty is indivisible, if some of us do not have liberty, none of us have liberty.”
I hope my South African ancestor, Dorothea, would agree too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

12 Days from Posting to Publication

From today's Cambridge News...

9th. June 2010

Dear Sir,

You report today (9th. June) that a "communication chief" has been hired by Suffolk County council at a pay rate of £182,000 a year. A salary that is higher than that of the Prime Minister. What does a communication chief do that a ward letter from a local councillor cannot ?

And, on the same day, Andrew Lansley reports that NHS nurses may spend only one third of their time actually attending to patients. The rest is spent on paperwork or on working shifts in which patients are asleep.

These are both symbols of the Empire of Waste - and of inefficiency - within our public services.

We must have change, and this new Government will, step by step, bring that change.

Yours sincerely,

James Strachan

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Exit A14?

Ouch. Not good news.

Exit Regional Assemblies

Good news about the return of powers to councils from the 'regional' assemblies. Don't cry for the quango queens losing their pocket money or cowardly councillors who used the regions as bombshelters from angry voters or a means to avoid taking decisions in their own patches.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Parking Campaign

The "parent and child - recycling" sign at Sainsbury's is always worth a chuckle. The abuse of the parking spaces is not.

I had both children in the back of my car and followed the one pictured here as it made its way past the disabled spots (all taken) to the closest 'parent and child' place. A lady got out but no children followed. There wasn't even a child's car seat in the back. I asked why she did it - in case there was some kind of emergency - but got no justification. How selfish.
"Shame on you, madam."

I suppose it was a good thing that there were no vacancies in the disabled section...

Banking the Laws of Unintendend Consequences

"Bloomberg reports that Sharon Bowles, chairwoman of the EU's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that banker bonuses should be capped at 50% of their salary, and the proposals to limit bonuses will face an EU Parliament vote in July.

One banker told Here Is The City: 'It just shows how far these lawmaking types are from understanding the real causes of the financial crisis and how their ill-thought-out ideas will work in practice. I think everyone understands the need to align compensation with long term performance, but limiting bonuses to a percentage of base pay will only see salaries increase again - and in some cases they will go up substantially. This is a classic case of the Law of Unintended Consequences - bankers will receive so much of their compensation in fixed pay, that they will have no incentive to perform and no incentive to limit their risk-taking either, as their own downside will be protected'.

And Ms Bowles' reaction to complaints from bankers about the bonus restriction suggestions ? - 'If bankers and traders want to leave and go to other jurisdictions.....I say good riddance'. But Ms Bowles, they won't be shipping out - they will be forming a queue to get in to the EU zone. 'Frankly', another senior trader told us, 'I like this idea. We all know that huge bonuses are a thing of the past (at least for a while), so the thought of a base salary of a few million is really quite appealing. You have to love those daft brushes over at the EU!'. "

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good Luck England...

and hope to avoid the collapse of national self esteem following a 1 - 1 draw or, heaven forbid, the 'rebel colonies' find the back of the net more often...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Better Homes and Gardens

The government is set to allow local authorities to reverse Prescott's Garden Grabbing agenda. Good. But how will our own local authority respond, when you consider the Lib Dem's love of Stalingrad Housing?

Coleridge Branch BBQ

Saturday, 26 June 2010
16:30 - 19:30
Cherry Hinton Constitutional Club, 144 Cherry Hinton Road

Come and kick-start a fresh season of Conservative campaigning in Coleridge! All are welcome.

Barbecue served from 5 pm - £10

If wet, the party will take place inside.

Email me if you are interested: cityconservative AT aol.com

Monday, June 7, 2010

Disabled Car Parking Campaign

The Cambridge Cycle campaign recently published photos of cars ignoring cycle lanes.

My peeve is the abuse of the handicapped parking spaces by boorish motorists. While we can argue that the government's planning guidelines put too many spaces in place as a proportion of the driving population, there is not much point in having them at all unless someone makes sure that they are not abused.

For starters, here's one car that did not look like it had a blue badge up for inspection....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Ahead for the A14

Good news for the A14 campaigners. The timetable for upgrading is intact. Odd to think that the local Lib Dems oppose this... but I'm glad the government's made the right decision here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Let Them Jog?

The City Council has as a policy of not putting enough parking spaces into new developments. This is supposed to encourage car drivers to use other forms of transport like busses and cycles.

The news that Network Rail has 800 spaces for the 1000 cyclists that use the station is intriguing. Presumably it won’t put them back in their cars, but will it encourage jogging?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Czech Mate for the Left

“Rarely has the term “political earthquake” been more appropriate than for describing last weekend’s Czech parliamentary election. The two major parties, IDU-member party ODS and the Social democrats, previously scoring more than two thirds of the vote, in the election won the combined strength of just above 42%; ODS at 20.2% (53 seats) and the Socialists at 22.1% (56 seats). Both the Christian Democrats and the Greens failed to win any seats in Parliament at all.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Flotilla...

Of course it was going to end badly.

"Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like. It is the only way a man can become famous without ability."

General 'Gentleman Johnny' Burgoyne in The Devil's Disciple
GB Shaw

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good Vince...

The chair of the Student Loans Company (SLC) John Goodfellow is standing down and Ralph Seymour-Jackson, the company's chief executive, has resigned, the government has confirmed.

Only Labour would have countenenced them staying in place for as long, and disastrously, as they have done.

Business Secretary Vince Cable commented: "Last year's crisis in the Student Loans Company caused real upset for students and their families, many of whom lost confidence in the system. We must avoid a repetition of the problems. I believe a new chair and chief executive will provide the fresh leadership needed to deliver the remaining changes necessary for an improved service to customers this summer."

Agree with Vince on this one.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

118 Adds up to 1922

Today’s announcement by David Cameron that the payroll vote will not take part in the election of the officers of the parliamentary party’s backbench ‘1922’ committee is a welcome step.

Every group needs a place to gripe, and the 1922 is as good a venue as any for the parliamentary ‘lobby fodder’ to vent. At the same time, having the front benchers take part in the proceedings – but not voting - is actually helpful as it can delay the onset of ‘ministerialitis’ which is a mixture of agoraphobia, narcissism and delusion that can strike those in the vicinity of red boxes for too long.

Next, we need to see some independent-minded backbenchers in the City and County Council keep their own executives in order (both the officers and some of their more ventriloquist dummy portfolio holders).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beer is Here

The Cambridge Beer Festival is underway this week. Hurrah!

Real ale has many fine qualities. One of them is the ability to unite the Left and Right of politics. The reds like the idea of microbrews cocking-a-snook at the big corporations and beer being the drink of the masses; the blues celebrate the tradition, craftsmanship and ‘Britishness’ of real ale.

I look forward to chatting with my political opponents over a convivial pint.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Truth About Trade

Found on the web...

The truth about trade, the global division of labour and specialisation that makes us all better off, wrapped up tightly into that t-shirt that you were able to buy for cheaper than ever before. Here’s what promises to be a fascinating read about the positive role that open trade can play for the world’s poor, and everyone else
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Statistics, Damned Lies and the Renaissance

The BBC on Radio 4 carries a programme called More or Less. During the General Election it ran a fact-checking series putting the politicans' figures into context and pouncing on the misleading ones.
Of course people use statistics that are favourable to their own arguments. They’d be dumb not to. Sometimes the difference in the statistics used by the political parties is not because the underlying facts are being abused but because each party has a different conclusion to draw from them. For example it is possible to complain that wealth gap between the top 10% of the population and the bottom 10% is widening… whilst also welcoming a rise in absolute living standards for the bottom 10%.

There are other times when they simply mislead.

I received recently a letter from someone who claimed that their organisation was undergoing a “renaissance”. This is because they were doing well in a certain number of wards. This would have been impressive… had they not actually done better in more wards the year before… and the year before that too. In fact, this year’s ‘renaissance’ for them was last achieved - as a low-point - in 2005.

You could call it optimism bias, you could say somebody hasn’t checked their facts… but they should know better than to peddle dodgy stats to me. As for the "renaissance", it was not all that is was cracked up to be... Lucretia Borgia anyone?

Monday, May 17, 2010

King Log, Queen eco-Stork?

Councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith was both leader of the City Council and a rather unwilling commentator on this blog. The news that he is to stand down as the Lib Dem leader would normally tinged with some regret - as I rather liked him on those occasions we met - and be treated with some joy at the prospect of change on the council.

However, it looks like we are moving from the regime of King Log to that of the Queen eco-Stork, with Sian Reid taking Mr Nimmo-Smith's place.

Unlike Mr Nimmo Smith, I have never taken to either of the Lib Dem Reid’s of Newnham and remember a particularly petulant performance by the city councillor during a meeting on the congestion charge/TIF bid. So, if you oppose the congestion charging/poll tax on wheels, support Marshalls staying in Cambridge, want the A14 upgraded and have a scepticism that tells you that tax is not always a good thing… Cllr Reid's regime will be one to watch with wariness.