• A day of pride and a day of prejudice

    Same Sex Marriage - Save the DateI’ve woken up today in a country better than the one I fell asleep in last night: one where any two consenting adults can marry each other, regardless of gender. This makes me immensely proud.

    I do despair though at the 20% of people who were surveyed and said they would turn down an invitation to a wedding between same-sex couples if they were invited. All couples out there, I love a wedding, so send me your invites, I’ll be there.

    Another frustration is the amount of press coverage which has labeled this as ‘gay marriage’ – it’s ‘equal marriage’, thank you very much. In other forms of acts which have set out to provide equality we don’t attach a beneficiaries attribute to them. For example, laws that brought equal employment rights to women aren’t ‘women’s opportunities rights’ they are ‘equal opportunities rights’. Let’s not play this out as gifting the LGBT community with marriage, it’s not a gift – it’s a correction: putting right a wrong.

    Perhaps one day we’ll overcome these prejudices, but for today, let’s just celebrate.



  • Farage’s voting excuses don’t stack up

    Nigel Farage’s excuses for a poor voting record in the European Parliament just don’t stack up. In the lead up to the Nick vs Nigel debates, Clegg and Farage have exchanged criticisms over their voting records. At a speech to The Centre for European Reform Nick Clegg said:

    “You would have thought that if your world view was based on the idea that it has been bad for Britain for us to be part of the EU, a party such as the UKIP would have used its berth in the European Parliament to find every possible opportunity to promote reforms that create British jobs, enhance British security and that enhance the British way of life in the EU. Yet the record shows almost precisely the reverse. UKIP leaders don’t turn up to vote most of the time.”

    When Farage responds to this he always seems to blame his poor voting record on the fact he is Leader of a UK party and having to work on the continent, such as he did on the Today Programme:

    “I’m very surprised Nick Clegg has chosen this line of attack. He attacks me and Paul Nuttall for not turning up enough to vote. Well, both our voting records are about 50% but we are leader and deputy leader of a national party in the United Kingdom.”

    On the Daily Politics he also said:

    “I live eight hours away from Strasbourg, lead a national party and have voted 55 per cent of the time in the European Parliament”

    Nick vs Nigel
    Nick vs Nigel

    Many would argue that the EU don’t pay him to be UKIP Leader, but the counter-argument is that his constituents know what they’re getting by electing him as an MEP. So let’s take the statement at face value and assume his lack of EU voting does relate to his being UKIP Leader. Examining this in more detail by looking at the year on year voting records. Farage and Nuttall both were elected to their positions in their party starting 5th November 2010. So they spent ten out of twelve months that year as ordinary MEPs – and yet their voting records for that year do not back up the point Farage makes.

    Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall’s voting records – source votewatch.eu

    Year Farage Nuttall
    2010 36.55% 44.85%
    2011 64.06% 55.87%
    2012 40.29% 41.94%
    2013 33.10% 32.33%


  • Check out #BillvRoger if you can’t wait for #NickvNigel

    Nick vs Nigel is just around the corner, but this weekend it’s all about Bill vs Roger.

    A war of words has broken out between East Midlands MEPs Bill Newton Dunn (Lib Dem) and Roger Helmer (UKIP). Helmer has been ducking Bill’s challenges to a debate between the two of them for some time now but he couldn’t avoid Bill at a recording for this week’s Sunday Politics.

    Here’s their Twitter exchange:

     

     



  • And in local news… Lib Dems respond to being beaten by Elvis

    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.

    Single party states are no good for the public. Governing parties need opposition to question them, scrutinise decisions and keep them on their toes. A lack of opposition leads to situations such as Nottingham where the Labour run council spends public money producing posters to moan about budget cuts, but decides to spend half a million pounds redesigning a square, which was only updated five years ago and needed no changes.

    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.Rotten Boroughs



  • Those whose glass houses are cleaned by illegal immigrants should not throw stones

    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.

     



  • Sochi: my experience

    Me in communist military garb
    Me in communist military garb

    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.

    For further reading I would recommend this article from opendemocracy.net Do Russians Give A Damn About Homosexuality?



  • Europe: #whyiamIN

    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:



  • Who is our would-be Chancellor of the Exchequer?

    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?



  • And in local news… Nottingham City Council uses public money to make a political statement

    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.

    20140124-081742.jpg

    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.

    20140124-080519.jpg