A couple of days ago a council by-election took place in the Nottingham ward of Clifton North. We came fifth and we were beaten by the Bus Pass Elvis Party. There were just 11 votes between Lib Dem, Tony Marshall and David Bishop of BPEP. Unbelievably this story has been picked up by many of the national papers, it’s been on local and national news, including Newsnight.
I was the Election Agent in this by-election and yesterday I was interviewed by Radio Nottingham about it. At the start of the clip you can hear some comments by David Bishop – Elvis himself.
It’s time that we moved away from the Labour super-majority here in Nottingham. It’s no use when the Labour party can do whatever they want without any effective opposition and is a great example of what the Electoral Reform Society calls the modern day rotten borough. Election turnout is dropping away as people feel it is inevitable that Labour will win.
Perhaps we chose the wrong tactics for this by-election. Under normal circumstances you would never find me hoping for a Tory win, but in this case it may have been the best thing for Nottingham if they had won.
Mark Harper, Conservative MP has resigned his post as Immigration Minister after he discovered he was employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner.
The Immigration bill is progressing and will expect landlords and letting agents to check the immigration status of potential renters, or face fines of up to £3000 per tenant. It’s now a good time to question the practicality of these proposals.
Last summer Home Secretary, Theresa May said
“The new regulations will make it more difficult for illegal migrants to find accommodation and deter those who set out to disregard the Immigration Rules.”
In October Mark Harper said
“We do not want to disadvantage legitimate landlords and tenants and have devised a system which will be effective and light-touch while making it tougher for illegal immigrants to rent property”
If someone managed to get forged documents past a Home Office Minister of State (Mark Harper), surely it will be easy enough to do the same with landlords and letting agents. Let’s face it they don’t have the expertise, or access to expertise, in immigration law – as a Home Office Minister of State does.
There has been nothing reported so far which suggests Mark Harper, who introduced those offensive ‘go home’ vans, did anything illegal. He did the relevant checks, it’s just that false papers were provided to him. So what I am questioning is the effectiveness of the Immigration Bill.
This bill will only serve to increase the admin costs of renting homes, which will ultimately be passed on to renters. It will sour race relations, with British ethnic minority renters being asked to prove their citizenship status, or with landlords becoming reluctant to rent to non-Brits. And all this without any increase in the effectiveness of preventing renting to illegal immigrants.
The second reading of the Immigration Bill in the House of Lords begins on Monday. Let’s hope this incident raises some serious questions leading to an eventual amendment to drop these ineffective proposals.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a fascination with communism and former communist countries. It’s not that I have ever favoured the far left, but it’s the subject matter and the practice of communism that has always intrigued me. I have visited a number of former communist countries, seen their historic sites and learned about their attitudes.
In 2011 I had heard about an up-and-coming city in Russia called Sochi, which was hosting the Winter Olympics, would be the home of the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix, and would be a host city of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It also the place Stalin had his summer residence – a Dacha – and held many meetings there with people such as Chairman Mao. So on a tour of the Black Sea coast with two friends, I knew it was a place we had to visit.
At the same time I visited Sochi, Prime Minister (at the time, but now President again) Putin also chose to come to town. This was a weird experience in itself. Occasionally the streets would go into lock down, with police lining the roadside, preventing anyone from walking onwards. Then up to ten minutes later the biggest motorcade I have ever seen, of limousine-style cars with blacked-out windows would race by taking Putin from one place to another. Once he’d passed by, life, business and holiday-making resumed.
Apart from Putin’s disruptions, and the tendency of a few shopkeepers to add up bills on abacuses, Sochi seemed a truly modern city.
Wherever I go, I always like to talk with the locals, particularly those who have experienced significant portions of their lives both under communism and the current regime. I found a very welcoming, open-minded people. They were fascinated by westerners – why would someone come to Sochi? It’s clear they weren’t used to seeing a lot of West Europeans. This is something they will quickly learn to overcome with what they have in store over the next few weeks and years.
People were genuinely warm and helpful, and ever-ready to offer you a shot of vodka (particular thanks to Mr Nikolai, our hotel owner). I found people who were open to understand others’ lifestyles and points of view. These are the people who deserve a great Olympic Games.
There has been much criticism of the recent changes to Russian law, making the promotion of homosexuality illegal. We should, quite rightly, bear down on the politicians who brought this about, and seek to achieve a more accepting viewpoint. Surveys have shown that the majority of Russians support these laws but Russia is such a vast country that stretches from East Europe to the Far-East, and attitudes will vary. Whilst Russia is a conservative country, Sochi is a relatively cosmopolitan city.
I hope that for all visitors and athletes taking part in the Olympics that they will not be discriminated against for any reason. I hope that for the people of Sochi their views will not be misrepresented by the political will of the Kremlin. And I hope we can all enjoy a fantastic Winter Games which is remembered solely for the quality of the sport.
The latest Lib Dem Party Political Broadcast is brilliant – #whyiamIN. It’s exactly the right message that the UK needs to hear right now.
So why am I in? Here are some of my favourite reasons to be IN:
A lifetime of peace through pan-European political co-operation.
The right to move freely around the EU and live in any EU country.
Product protection which means, for example if I buy a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie I know it has been made in Melton Mowbray, or Stilton which must be produced in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Leicestershire. It protects consumers and our local businesses.
The right to protection anywhere in the world where there is an EU member country that has a diplomatic or consular service. This just about means we are covered everywhere in the world!
The EU gives us the right to know exactly what is in the foods we buy.
Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of nationality.
The European arrest warrant and co-operation on European-wide policing.
Here’s the video, which also features some nice shots of Nottingham:
The political parties have recently been making more of their post General Election plans for the economy. There are very different ideas on the table for taxes, benefits, regulation of business, borrowing and investment.
When the media reports on this it is clear to people that George Osborne is Chancellor, it’s clear that Ed Balls is the Shadow Chancellor, but who is the person that the Lib Dems would have occupying Number 11? When it comes to Liberal Democrats plans for the economy TV presenters sometimes find themselves quoting Vince Cable, our would-be Chancellor before the 2010 General Election. Increasingly they quote Danny Alexander, our Chief Secretary to the Treasury. So it got me thinking, is Danny Vince’s successor?
At whatever point the current coalition ceases to exist, when Vince is no-longer top dog in BIS, when Danny has left his inevitable parody of Liam Byrne’s note for the incoming Treasury Chief that “there IS money left”, who will we position as our economic spokesperson? If there is to be another “Ask the Chancellors” TV debate who would we send?
There are pros and cons for both, so I’m not sure who would be best to do this going forward? What do you think?
For a third year in a row Nottingham City Council has used public money to make a political statement about the cuts in the local government settlement – the amount councils get from Government to fund their services. It’s incredible that they can get away with this.
The first poster makes a comparison of the cuts Nottingham is experiencing with those of Windsor & Maidenhead. Nottingham is losing £127 per person and Windsor & Maidenhead is only losing £5. On the face of it it appears unfair, and this Labour-run council has deliberately chosen only one part of the story to achieve it’s political aims. Let’s instead compare how much Nottingham gets to spend per person in cash terms. Nottingham £2497, Windsor & Maidenhead £1524 so Nottingham’s settlement grant is almost £1,000 per person more than Windsor & Maidenhead, after this year’s cut. Which makes it easier to understand why Windsor & Maidenhead is getting a lower cut – they don’t receive as much to be able to cut it. Nottingham still has the 5th highest settlement out of all the unitary authorities.
Another poster says the “Government is providing less” money to council services “while generally you pay more”. Let’s look at why this is. The Labour councillors have voted every year to increase council tax instead of taking the money the Governement has offered to freeze council tax. Other councils around the country have accepted this money, and plenty have been able to do so without costing any jobs such as Lib Dem run Hinckley and Bosworth.
Let’s be clear: these posters are purely for Labour’s political purposes. Our taxes should not fund this kind of activity.
I can’t believe MEP, Chris Davies has weighed in on the Rennard issue in this way. Here is what Davies said on Westminster Hour.
“This is the equivalent of a few years ago, an Italian man pinching a woman’s bottom. How much more must this man be made to suffer through the media condemnation that comes out day after day fed by the party leadership?”
Why he felt this was an appropriate comment I don’t understand. Is he referring to a myth that bottom-pinching is allowed under Italian law? Who knows! Is it stereotyping? Possibly. Is it belittling of the experience of anyone who has received unwanted fondling? Absolutely!
With European elections coming up, will this put Chris Davies’ seat at risk? Quite probably.
Later, Chris Davies followed his earlier comments with a tweet threatening to help Rennard take legal action against the party Davies represents. Unbelievable!!!
I have pledged a sum of money towards the costs of any High Court action that Chris Rennard may take against the Lib Dems.
Something must be done to sort through this mess as soon as possible. I think Caron Lindsay’s blog from earlier this evening is well worth a read and I agree with the sentiment that we must take the bluster and emotion away from this and deal with it in a thoughtful, rational way.
For the record I am not calling on Chris Rennard to apologise and I have no view on whether the allegations made against him are true. I simply believe the process hasn’t yet reached it’s natural and logical conclusion yet.
There have been fresh announcements about limiting access to jobseekers benefits of non-English speakers – is Cameron just grandstanding in an attempt to outUKIP UKIP? One thing is for sure, this is not a policy which enables people.
The plan is to stop printing Job Centre paperwork in foreign languages and stop providing translation services for speakers of foreign languages. It is claimed that these service cost between £3.5 million to £5 million a year and that the Lib Dems are stopping the Tories implementing it.
‘The vast majority of voters will think this idea is plain common sense. It is unreasonable to expect taxpayers to spend huge sums on translators when people should be learning to read and write English.’
As is often the case, the problem with common sense is that it’s not that common. Most people would agree that the ability to speak English would enable any non-English speaker to find work in this country, and that it’s not unreasonable to expect people to learn English to an appropriate level if they are looking for work. In 2011 though, the Government slashed funding to ESOL courses (English for Speakers of Other Languages). With fewer teaching hours, limitations on these courses and English only advertising of these courses in Job Centres (if the Tories get their way), how on Earth will people get to learn English to get themselves into work?
I have concerns that this could adversely affect women too. In some families, it is the case that the husband can speak English but the wife can’t. These changes would limit the woman’s ability to find work. Perversely it might save on translation costs but not welfare costs. It would mean that the chances to get the man off benefits are reduced as there are more people to support in the household through his income and income-related benefits.
It could be reasonable to ask the English-speaking member of the family to support the non-English speakers but it’s not practical for employers to give their employees leave each week in order to do this.
These changes are purely designed to stop more Conservative voters leaping over the fence to UKIP. It is an argument they make to reduce the perceived ‘benefits tourism’. There are people who need this support, not because they have come to Britain for our welfare system, but because of their circumstances for example asylum seekers and non-English speaking spouses of UK citizens. Let’s not condemn those who want to learn English, who want to contribute to our society and economy, we must enable them.