Saturday, 28 November 2009

College Campaign Gathers Support

I have spent the morning out in support of the Save Ashford Further Education campaign, which is demonstrating today outside the college site. The amount of tooting from the passing motorists was a clear indication of the support of local people. I was introduced to Freddie and Stephen, two of the students currently both doing IT courses at the college. Talking to them was a real insight into what the college provides for these young people. Freddie told me that he had been ill during his GCSE's and had not got the grades he was looking for. Rather than give up, he got himself onto a foundation course at the college, and having completed that he is now working to get a National Diploma, and has ambitions to go on and get a degree. Stephen told me that he had not enjoyed school, as he felt he was being forced to work on subjects he didn't enjoy. As a result he didn't get any GCSE's. He joined his friend on the foundation course, and found that he could really get stuck into something he really enjoys, and is loving his time at the college. Both of them are clear that this has given them opportunities they would otherwise have missed, and both are optimistic and ambitious for the future. To take this opportunity away from teenagers like them would be disastrous for them and the wider community. It's not just young people that are doing A levels and vocational work at the college. There is a lot of adult education going on too at the site. I had one story from a shop owner on the high street about her mum, who is 79, who attends a course there, and it is her opportunity each week to socialise. I was in the shop as I was asked by Tina, who started the campaign, to take sheets of petitions to the local shops all along the high street and surrounds. Colin Strong, our group leader on the council, and I went to florists, banks, estate agents, a sweet shop, and many many more to ask if they would put the petition out for customers. Every one we went to took leaflets or petitions. No-one said no. Everyone seemed to have a story about the college, staff and customers alike, and they were overwhelmingly positive about the impact the college has on the town. This is a vital part of the community. All of us need to do what we can to save it!
(sign the petition at )

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


So, the Iraq inquiry has barely begun, and already we are told that the Government had intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. 10 days later we went to war on the premise that we were stopping the deployment of these weapons. I did not think that we would get this sort of detail this early, but sadly I am not surprised that Tony Blair had had this sort of intel in advance of invasion. I am in no doubt there will be many serious pieces of information uncovered in this inquiry, although I am not so sure it will be as full and frank as we need it to be. What we do know is that the Labour Government sent our troops into combat under false pretences.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Save Ashford Further Education

I have signed an online petition earlier today set up to demand that Lord Mandelson honours the funding promise to Brooklands College. The petition can be found here : . The proposed closure robs Spelthorne of proper provision of education. It is clear from the petition comments alone that pupils, parents and staff are devastated. The Learning and Skills Council has a lot to answer for in this. They must look again at the funding for the college.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Bus Services

Surrey County Council have begun a consultation on the future of bus services in the County. The first place under review is the area including Spelthorne. After an initial look at the proposals, bus services in the borough will be very hard hit. The bus service is a vital lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable who have no alternative mode of transport. They rely on them to reach doctors, shops, libraries and many other essential services. To see that a service serving Ashford hospital is under threat is astonishing. Many of the other proposed cuts seem to hit Spelthorne hard. It is true that the subsidy paid by the County Council is a significant slice of the available resources. These buses are though, for many, a lifeline. Go to to find out more, and to have your say. Your local Lib Dem councillors and campaigners would like to hear from you to. Please get in touch with your views. Email me at or your local contact (see ).

Sunday, 22 November 2009

One Poll Does Not A Hung Parliament Bring

A Mori poll in the Observer today has shrunk the Tory lead to just 6%, with a poll rating of just 37%. Andrew Rawnsley and others have seized on this as signs of a hung parliament at the next election. With the huge swing the Tories need to get an overall majority, that is not without its merits. However, with many months left before the election, I remain to be convinced. For a hung parliament, we will certainly need to see a strengthening of support for the Labour government, which is certainly not evident in Spelthorne. The voters that gave them a clutch of seats in the late 90's have long deserted them, ans recent election results show them to be dead in the water. So I remain sceptical of the prospects of a hung parliament at the moment, until we have more than a single poll as evidence. What I am sure of, is that the election in Spelthorne will be a straight fight between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Labour can't win here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Channel 4 have been experimenting with 3D TV in the last week, and it is fascinating stuff. We are told that there is a viewing revolution just around the corner, both in TV and in the cinema. I know a lot of people who are scoffing at the idea, after the various failed attempts of the past. By complete chance I was talking to one of the guys that created the 3D effects for Channel 4 last night. After half and hour chatting to him about what's around the corner, I am amazed at how far this technology has come. He convinced me that in 10 years it will be common place. He also told me a snippet of info about 3D in TV for next year. It's very exciting, but I'm sworn to secrecy! (No really!)

The Queens Speech

Or, The Battles Labour Wants To Fight, as it could be called. Gordon Brown was laying some ugly bear traps for David Cameron, only it looks like he forgot to even cover them in grass and leaves, they are so obvious. Most of the legislation laid out today will be laid out again in a black suit when Parliament is dissolved, as most of these bills will end up 'dead' as it is succinctly known. There is very little actual Parliamentary time left before the General Election has to be called. So we will have just have to live with the tired Labour Governement shouting "You don't have any policies except savage cuts" at the Tories, whilst they respond with "You're tired, out of ideas and wrecked the world economy single handed". We get a bit more to actually chew on in the pre budget report shortly, but until then it's the punch and judy politics that David Cameron hates so much.......

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Stormy Weather

The autumn storm season has just brought forth it's first big 'un of 2009. I was relieved that it didn't hit Spelthorne as hard as had been forecast. Having said that, it was incredibly ambitious of London Irish to set up their latest exhibition showcasing their redevelopment plans in a marquee, and put up on Friday night! Sadly it didn't survive, and those of us there were shown to the club bar where it was hastily put together again.
It does bring into focus the changing weather, and the huge rise in energy costs faced by residents every winter, particularly the elderly. One thing that could be done to improve the situation, would be to properly insulate all the homes in the UK. As a party, we have comprehensive proposals on this. The Liberal Democrats’ Warm Homes scheme would be a national programme involving government, local councils and the private sector to insulate every home in Britain to the highest energy efficiency standards within the next 10 years. This is vital if we are ever to bring the 4 million people who currently suffer fuel poverty out of it. It is also an important long term way of tackling the effects of climate change. These are the strategic ideas that this country needs to provide long term benefits to people. It can't come too soon.

Friday, 13 November 2009

When is a Criminal not a Criminal?

Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne has discovered that large numbers of people are disputing the findings of criminal records checks.

The figures, revealed in a Parliamentary answer, show:
15,320 people have disputed their criminal records check since the CRB was launched in 2002/03

A record number of people (2,509) were involved in a dispute with the CRB last year (2008/09)

This is more than double the number of disputes in the CRB’s first year of operation (there were 1,111 in 2002/03), though the proportion of disclosures being disputed has fallen

Disclosures can be disputed if your name is the same as a criminal, if inaccurate information is held by the police or if you are the victim of identity fraud.

For me, this gets to the heart of the problem of Governments with huge databases of information. Even in the hands of entirely benign Ministers, the information can be flawed or misused. It will also not be secure, as has been shown by the repeated losses of data in cabs, in the post, on trains and in the street. The red tape and bureaucracy that an individual has to go through to correct information about themselves can in some cases be practically impossible and take years. The latest database that the Government wants to set up is one that will have all emails, phone records and website visits of everyone in the UK. If this gets any serious press attention at all, I am sure the justification will fighting terrorism. But defending freedom by taking it away is no justification at all. Our freedoms have been systematically eroded by Labour in the name of their protection. The Tories are no friends of freedom either. Have a peek at their last Criminal Justice act in 1996, and discover that they effectively removed the right to assembly amongst many other things. Our freedoms have been hard won over 1000 years, and we let posturing Ministers out tough each other and take them away at our peril.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Expenses Prison Term

Former UKIP MEP Tom Wise has been sentenced to 2 years in jail for fiddling £39k of expenses. This after a campaign in the European elections in June this year when UKIPs leader claimed they were the party to vote for if you wanted to clean up politics! Root and branch reform is what is needed, and until we have a commitment from the other major parties, it aint gonna happen. Lib Dems will continue to push for proper reforms of the whole system of Government, not just expenses, so we can have a modern system of Government fit for 21st century Britain.

Brooklands College

News of the closure of the Ashford campus of Brooklands College was a bombshell. But weeks later, students are in many cases none the wiser as the the future of their education. Vocational courses will continue at Weybridge, but A levels will go altogether. Those doing a combination of courses seem to be particularly badly affected, as co-ordinating A or AS levels and a vocational course at 2 different colleges will be a nightmare. I will be writing to Colin Staff, the principal, this week to try and get some answers for the parents and students who are contacting us looking for help.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Staines Massive!

What a fantastic result for Staines Town. A 0-1 result at Shrewsbury is superb. I see the draw has given them a tie at home so I can get along to watch. Having been to see Hitchin, the town I was born in, play in early FA Cup rounds, I know the atmosphere at these games can be great. One year I went to a 2nd round match at Gillingham, and we found ourselves in the home supporters pub! They were really good to us, and it reminded all of us there what football should be about. Roll on round 2!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Astonishing Mr Wilshire

“Branding a whole group of people as undesirables led to Hitler’s gas chambers.” This is what David Wilshire wrote back to a constituent in response to emails that residents sent him venting their anger at his behavoir over expenses. This follows his claim that backbench MP's are working 'close to the minimum wage'. The first statement is deeply offensive, and I know first hand from a meeting with residents last night that they are offended. The second is utter nonsense. It is clear that 2o odd years in Parliament have left him so disconnected from his residents that these statements apparently seem prefectly reasonable to him. The anger in Spelthorne at what has happened is palpable, but this man does not get it. His colleagues say it is a media witch hunt. With comments like those above, they don't have to do much hunting. David Wilshire will also be entitled to a payoff when he quits at the election, which one paper claims will be over £50,000. Quite simply he does not deserve it. His judgement is fatally flawed, he STILL won't face constituents to explain himself, and just this week, letters have been arriving from his office making no mention of what has happened as if it never did. David Wilshire should go - NOW.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


My colleagues on Spelthorne Borough tabled a motion this week asking the council to sign up to the 10:10 campaign. This is a grass roots campaign to get individuals and organisations to cut their energy consumption by 10% in 2010 to help arrest the progress of climate change. True to form, the Tories dodged a vote on the night and referred it to the Executive. Lib Dems on the council are incredibly pro-active, offering ideas and solutions which the ruling Tories constantly ignore. With their record of action on the environment, including appalling overdevelopment and the big thumbs up for a third runway at Heathrow, I will be amazed if the Tories sign up. Councils are supposed to show community leadership. They think that Twinning with Mauritius is 'urgent', but tackling climate change, which some of them clearly don't believe in, is not worthy of a full council vote. Shocking.