Lifetimes of dedication to Liberalism

It was great to see Newbury Liberal/Liberal Democrats Chris Hall and Mike James receive lifetime achievement awards today at the Liberal Democrat South Central conference at Arlington Arts Centre near Newbury. My photo below shows them receiving the awards from Lorely Burt MP, who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Danny Alexander at the Treasury. Also shown is Judith Bunting, Newbury PPC, who made a fine speech of trubute to Mike and Chris.

Mike and Chris are good friends of mine. Let’s just say one of them was a Newbury Borough Councillor before I was born. They have both been very long serving Liberals and are both great guys.


Searches for missing people is biggest reason for police helicopter hovers over Newbury

Day 28 - West Midlands Police Helicopter - Air Ops - Alpha Oscar OneI have now sorted the data provided to me by West Yorkshire Police under the Freedom of Information Act. See below.

This lists the reasons for each police helicopter hover over Newbury from 1st December 2012 to 30th November 2013.

There were 60 hovers in all. The most common reason for hovers was to search for missing people/concern for welfare search (bolded below). In all there were 20 hovers for this reason – about a third of the hovers.

I find this very interesting – and, indeed, reassuring.

Here’s the aggregated list, with the caveat that the police changed their classification system half way through the year, so there is a bit of overlap in the classifications:

11 Search- missing person
6 Suspicious circumstances incident
6 Fear for welfare search
5 Firearms incident
4 Search – Vehicle
4 Photo/Video
3 Search-suspect
3 Search CFW/injured person
3 Other
3 Burglary non-dwelling
3 Burglary dwelling
2 Search – other
2 Decamp
1 Theft
1 Pursuit vehicle
1 Ops support other
1 Observer training
1 Foot pursuit

Reasons for police helicopter hovering over Newbury 2012-2013

Day 28 - West Midlands Police Helicopter - Air Ops - Alpha Oscar OneMuch excitement. The National Police Air Service based at Benson, Oxfordshire, will be starting their tweeting on their Twitter account on February 25th. From that date, we should know the reason for each police helicopter hover over Newbury. This is very much to be welcomed. No longer will we have the sinister noise of the helicopter rattling overhead, with us thinking “What on earth is it doing?”.

By coincidence I have recently received a list of the reasons for police helicopter hovers over Newbury between November 2012 and November 2013. This was the result of a Freedom of Information request I lodged in December 2013, which was eventually fulfilled by West Yorkshire Police. Yes, it is bizarre. They look after the National Police Service and a month was wasted asking my own local force, only to be told to refer to ‘uddersfield!

Here, via the miracle that is Scribd, is the reply I got from West Yorkshire Police. It is fascinating stuff. (The data is also available on the West Yorkshire Police website here).

Update: I have done a little analysis on the figures in a later post here.

Freedom of information request – reply re: helicopters over Newbury Berkshire UK 2012-2013 Walter 127-236…

Prime Minister's Questions: Can people not use their loaf?

cropped-Houses-of-Parliament_tonemapped2.jpgLiberal Democrat Voice have initiated a debate on PMQs, based on a recent Hansard society report.

About four-fifths, or about 25 minutes, of PMQs consists of very earnest questions and equally earnest answers with no ribald antics. Question: “Will the Prime Minister agree to look at the appalling situation concerning the plight of Mrs Muggins/the threatened closure The Royal Free Muggins Hospital/the disastrous flooding in Mugginshire in my constituency?” – Answer: “The Right Honourable member is absolutely right to highlight this situation. I share her/his concern and I will look into it and get back to her/him in due course.” – is a very typical exchange.

The other 5 minutes consists of a few disingenuously planted questions and the slanging match between Her Majesty’s First Lord of the Treasury and leader of the loyal opposition. I agree with most of the proposed changes listed on LDV, particularly the one which makes the whole thing done in peak time so more people are appropriately bored to tears by the Mugginshire questions. – So they know it’s only five minutes of Punch and Judy. But is that really the way forward? Will we end up with people being bored by politics rather than appalled? The media has some responsibility here and I can’t help but think it would help to educate people generally more in the real business of parliament. But I doubt they are interested.

Therein lies the conundrum. The media, abetted by the pols, sex up three minutes of mindlessness out of endless hours of earnest boredom, to catch people’s attention. But it then “turns them off” politics. Hopefully a middle way between ennui and outrage can be found. Is it too much to ask that people in general use their brains a bit more, listen to some of the other debates, or at least to the rest of PMQs apart from the three shouty minutes, rather than making stupid assumptions based on a very small snapshot?

In a democracy, citizens actually do have a broad duty to use their brains, rather than just sitting there and taking what is rammed down their throats by the media.

“Controversial!” – as Ben Elton used to say.

SNP's pound debacle indicates profound problem with independence campaign

9841631403_b0ebea1646_bI must admit I was scratching my head when it was announced by the SNP that they are proposing to keep the pound if Scotland votes yes to independence.

So, an independent Scotland has its money governed by the Governor of the Bank of England. Note: “England”. And that governor is appointed by the Westminster government.

It is just bonkers. Really bonkers.

But never mind. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are very confident of their superior intelligence. All of us who were surprised by this were being stupid. It really was logical, they said. Indeed, it was the right of Scotland to have the pound.

Nicola Sturgeon (in one of those interviews where she sort of snorty/laughs down her nose at the interviewer as she responds to questions she feels are stupid and beneath her superior intelligence) actually said that the Bank of England is independent, so it would make sense for Scotland’s money to be run by it.

Was she being disingenuous? Did she expect that people would be so stupid as to believe that the Bank of England is “independent” in a scenario involving two sovereign states?

Yes, it is “independent” in that it sets interest rates independent of the British government. But it is not independent in deciding issues between two sovereign states, quite simply because the Bank of England is wholly owned by the UK Government’s Treasury Solicitor and with its Governor appointed on the recommendation of the UK Prime Minister.

And now the whole thing has unravelled and even the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury says it is a bonkers idea.

But this mess indicates a profound problem with the independence campaign. It’s one party and, basically, two politicians who are advocating independence. That is no way to found a nation state. (Indeed Sottish devolution came about as a result of a broad consensus across Scottish society in the Scottish convention.)

And no amount of condescending, smart alec claptrap by the two fishy fishes (Salmond and Sturgeon) will change that.

Flashback: When the Anglo-Saxon kingdom was reduced to the Somerset Levels

image877. King Alfred was surprised and deposed by the Vikings at his Christmas retreat. He had to withdraw to Athelney on the Somerset levels, somewhere he knew very well and where marsh and water put him reasonably beyond reach of his enemies. After a couple of months there, including some insignificant but subsequently totemic episode with cake/bread/scones/griddle cakes which involved them being over-cooked, he came back with a vengeance.

Photo: The Isle of Atheleny, some rights reserved by Hair Bear.

Lord Rennard and The Rubicon

Liberal-Democrat-badge-Some-rights-reserved-by-Paul-Walter-Newbury-UKThe BBC reports further developments.

If legal action is taken, then Lord Rennard will have crossed The Rubicon. He may very well be vindicated in the courts. In fact, I guess he will be. I remain to be convinced that the rules of the party have not been somewhat mangled.

But when you take legal action against your own party, events enter a very different sphere. We move beyond cosy committees and sandals to sober courts and wigs. There is no going back. No doubt this is weighing heavily and painfully on Lord Rennard’s mind. The party will bear some responsibility for such an escalation in so far as, arguably, the rules have been somewhat fudged and, arguably, mediation could have been organised a lot earlier.

Yes, Lord Rennard’s suspension may very well be reversed by the High Court. It will give some satisfaction to Lord Rennard if it is. (I do not begrudge him that. In fact, I would welcome it.). But things will never be the same. This whole episode will have taken a more serious turn. I will certainly still talk to Chris if I see him. But, others don’t have to.

I have defended Chris and argued for due process to be followed. I still do.

But I have read public writings on this subject by people who I greatly trust, who have been at the centre of the party for a long time. These writings have moved me.

Amended 11/2/14