Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Great Debates

So, three debates with the three party leaders has been agreed, with ITV, BBC and Sky hosting one each. Will this benefit democracy? I would suggest that this depends on the format, and on a presenter who is able to press home a question, regardless of where the question or subject came from. If there is an element of cross examination that will delve below the soundbites dreamed up in advance by political staffers, we could really get some interesting debate around policy and values. If however we end up with a superficial bun fight with cheap point scoring the only aim then we will be missing a great opportunity to enliven our politics.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Out and About

I spent much of today checking out various issues and discussing them with campaigners. Diane and Tony over in Staines have been consulting residents on the new CPZ proposals (controlled parking zones), and I came to see the problems for myself. I then went to Ashford to the hospital and the college, the youth centre and a school in Sunbury with Ian, and met Richard, Lawrence and Caroline in Charlton village to talk about the proposals that Surrey have put forward for the waste and recycling centre. It was a really good day keeping up to date across the constituency with a range of key issues. It is really heartening to see Lib Dems across Spelthorne working so hard to listen to local people and represent their concerns. We really do work hard and get things done. Next up I think will be Stanwell and Moor, Shepperton and Green, plus Littleton and Laleham. I know there is plenty to tackle there too!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Slow Death of ID Cards

This weekend the Chancellor suggested that ID cards are not needed. Today the Home Office insists voluntary cards will continue. A trial in Manchester has seen just 1000 people sign up. Where does this leave us? Well it leaves this pointless scheme sucking up more money whilst Labour fight behind the scenes about whether it is more embarrasing to let it limp on until after the election, or whether to cut it dead now and lose face. As soon as it became clear that this dreadful project was not going to be compulsory (hooray!), it was obvious that it would fail. Their is no appetite for ID cards in the UK, and this Governments desire to curb our civil lberties over and over had chewed another pill to big and bitter to swallow. Please can we stop wasting yet more cash on this doomed white elephant!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Regime Change

So, Tony Blair has admitted that he would have removed Saddam Hussein regardless of the situation on WMD. Given that he was told before the order was given to attack that there was no imminent threat, I am not in the bit surprised. If Blair was the former leader of an Arab or African power there would be an international clamour for his indictment as a war criminal. As he is the former British premier there is a deafening silence. His continuing presence on the world stage is damaging to Britain and our already tarnished image on the world stage.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Bingo and Boilers

I am still trying to work out what Chancellor Darling is trying to achieve with his Pre Budget Report today. It looks like a strange mish mash of proposals which don't tackle the heart of the deficit and upset the maximum number of people. Then there is the bingo tax reduction which is just bizarre! One thing is for certain, Mr Darling is avoiding the real pain that we will all have to take when measures need to be taken to cut deep into the budget black hole. Only he has put it off until after the election. He seems to be counting on voters not having a grasp of how painful this has to be, and there may be some truth in that. But the stuff unveiled today is incoherent and ill conceived. As Vince said today of the windfall tax on bankers bonuses, it is unenforceable. So, a feeble budget from a Government running on fumes. National Insurance rises? No attempt at fairness at all.....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Wave

Yesterday I joined thousands of other on The Wave - the climate change march in London. The Lib Dems had a sizeable contingent there to show our long standing and on-going commitment to tackling the changes in the earths climate that will affect all of us (and already are). Our leader Nick Clegg was there to lead us off, and others like Susan Kramer, Simon Hughes and local MEP Catherine Bearder were there too. One of the great things on a day like that is the sense of common purpose, and with groups as diverse as Christian Aid and the RSPB marching side by side, you get a real sense of how much will there is to say positive changes in our society that will help mitigate against dangerous new weather patterns, and protect our environment. Now it is up to the Governement to deliver at the Copenhagen climate summit and beyond. I fear that any future Labour and Tory Government does not have the will our the support in their own ranks to do what needs to be done. Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for our environment for 30 years and are as committed as ever. Gordon Brown has been talking tough on this issue this week. But just weeks before his party voted down Lib Dem proposals for Parliament to join the 10:10 campaign, designed for organisations to commit to a 10% reduction in carbon emmissions next year. Every major city run by a Lib Dem administration (Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool, Hull, Sheffield to name a few) has signed up to the campaign and has planned how to do it. Labour and the Tories have refused in many places, including Spelthorne. Until these dinosaurs start walking the walk, rather than just talking the talk, then they may end up going the same way as the previous dinosaurs that once roamed the earth.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Which is it David?

Since becoming leader of the opposition, David Cameron has been trying deperately to portray the Tory party as fervant eco warriors. Windmills, huskies and chauffeured bags were followed by think tank ideas being floated as possible furure policy and then quietly dropped. Now Tory MEP's have shown their true colours. Last week in the European Parliament two Tory MEPs, Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer, voted against a motion calling for the Copenhagen talks to agree an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050. The Tories then tabled amendments to prevent EU funding to help developing countries tackle climate change. ( see here for more on this: ).
Whilst it may be that Cameron is sincere in his wish to improve the environment, it is increasingly clear that the rest of his party is not.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Lib Dems on Tax

Yesterday the Lib Dems published our plans on taxation for the 2010 General Election. The introduction of a levy on £2m homes, changes to the taxes on avaition, high value pensions tax relief reduction, changes to capital gains tax and tax avoidance measures were proposed yesterday, in order to raise the basic tax free income allowance to £10,000. Most of the media coverage yesterday spent a lot of time on the 'mansion tax' to be levied on homes, although this raises just 10% of the money required to raise the allowance. The proposals would take 4 million of the least well off out of the tax system on earnings. These people at the moment pay the largest proportion of their income on tax. The wealthiest in the UK pay the smallest proportion. This is clearly very unfair. The Lib Dem plans are an attempt to introduce more fairness into the tax system, and start to even up the levels of tax people pay across society. No doubt there will be vested interests who complain long and loud about us attacking the rich. It will no doubt be the same people who are quite happy with the unfairness we have right now.