Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Best For Business

Today we have set set out our plans for business. Launching ‘Enterprise in a Fair Society’, Nick Clegg set out details of the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto pledges for business. The proposals include:
Restoring a public interest test for regulatory authorities to consider when takeovers are proposed and changing the rules on which shareholders can vote on takeover proposals
Ensuring affordable access to credit for businesses by creating new mechanisms to provide equity finance to smaller businesses
Incorporating a ‘sunset’ clause into every new business regulation so that it is time limited unless renewed by Parliament. The document also sets out how the Liberal Democrats would create an education system that provides skilled workers, a stable economy that reduces the public deficit and a fair and stable tax platform on which businesses can operate.Launching the document while visiting start-up businesses in Warrington, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said: “For too long, Labour and Conservative governments have focused solely on the firms in one square mile in the City of London, while failing to support businesses across the country. “The Government has failed to force the banks to lend to viable British businesses and won’t face up to the need to break up the big banks to protect the economy. “Who would have thought that when the taxpayer stepped in to rescue the banks, we would now be funding takeovers like that of Cadbury by Kraft? “The Liberal Democrats will stand up for strong British businesses by changing the takeover rules to protect them from the short-term speculation of hedge funds and restoring a public interest test.”

Monday, 29 March 2010

Cable Clear Winner Tonight

Vince Cable had a great evening tonight in the chancellor's debate on Channel 4. He clearly won with the studio audience judging by their reaction to his arguments. Also, he won in the online vote on the channel's website, with Osborne last. I know I am biased as a Lib Dem Candidate in the General Election, but I know that we have the best man on the economy leading our economic policy. The public think so too. Several polls have put Vince up front as the best person to be chancellor after the election. I think Vince has demonstrated tonight who should be in No 11 Downing Street in June. The way to get him there is to vote Lib Dem at the election. There is a chance of change at this election. You can vote for a change for the better, not for worse.

Channel 4 Tonight - Live Election Debate

Channel 4 have the 3 would be Chancellors in a live TV debate tonight at 8pm. Having failed to get a leaders debate, the channel have set up this fascinating event for a different angle. Some angle too. Vince Cable for the Lib Dems has warmed up for tonights verbal sparring with this comment on Tory proposals on tax:

"Unless they can say how they will realise these savings, the Tory proposals aren't worth the paper that they are written on"

said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor. Commenting on George Osborne's plans to block some of next year's planned National Insurance tax rises, Vince Cable said:

"This is school boy economics. When you have a £70bn permanent hole in the Government's finances you simply can't propose cutting tax revenue unless you spell out exactly how you are going to pay for it. The Tories say they are going to pay for a cut in National Insurance through 'efficiency savings', but haven't a first clue about how these savings are going to be realised. Unless they can say how they will realise these savings, the Tory proposals aren't worth the paper that they are written on. George Osborne has taken the Government's highly dubious efficiency plans and made them even less credible. Today's announcement is all about low politics not sound economics. If George Osborne seriously wants to be Chancellor it is time he put away childish things and produced a credible plan of how he would restore the health of the nation's finances."

I get the feeling this could be quite spicy tonight....

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Talk To People

We had a great day talking to the people in Staines today. The topics bring up are so varied, from the economy to Shortwood, the environment to sleaze. When we get in front of voters and explain our policies, we get such a good response, and today was no different. Voters deserve to speak directly to their representatives, and to challenge them on important issues. There was plenty of that today, and it is really enjoyable to put our case. After two years meeting local people, I still feel I have so much more I want to say, and more importantly I know there is much more I need to hear. We will be getting to all the communities of Spelthorne again over the next few weeks.

Friday, 26 March 2010

No More Runway?

Today campaigners won a judgement in the high court about the process of agreeing the third runway at Heathrow. Lord Justice Carnwath said the public consultation process used was invalid as it was based on out-of-date figures. The decision does not rule out a third runway but calls for government policy to be reviewed. This sets the whole process back a long way, and should mean that the Government abandon the plans. Gordon Brown and his ministers still insist they will plough on. This shows just how out of touch they are with the public, and that they simply will never listen to the other side of an argument. The third runway will bring misery to people in London and the South East, and now we can be clear that the economic arguments are deeply flawed as many of us have been saying for a long time. Can BAA finally get to the task in hand of improving the airport we already have, and focus on making it a world class facility. At the moment it is not one, even with terminal five working. If jobs are to be maintained in and around the airport their must be proper investment. We deserve a better Heathrow, we don't need a bigger one.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Social Housing

I had a good chat today with a resident who is having real difficulties with the local housing association. Having had six years experience as a district councillor, I am only too aware of the problems that can come from housing associations being remote, aloof and arrogant. The mechanisms that councillors have to hold them to account are weak. I would really like to see a better system in place for elected councillors to ensure good housing is delivered in their local area. When the stock was sold by many councils in the nineties, everyone hoped that this would improve things for local people. That simply isn't what they are saying to me. They want their MP to react to this issue and intercede on their behalf. As their MP I would do just that.

Tougher Than Thatcher

Chancellor Darling admitted tonight that the cuts Labour would make if they won the election would be tougher than those Margaret Thatcher instigated at the beginning of the eighties. Really that is not a surprise. The public finances are so deep in the red that the money from government is going to be hard to come by for several years. The surprise was that he responded at all to a link to Thatcher. Nobody wants to be associated with her failed economic model do they?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Labour and the Tories traded blows yesterday over the role of lobbying in our system of government, and about the payments some MPs take for their 'expertise'. At PMQ's today, Nick Clegg reminded Brown and Cameron about Lib Dem efforts to restrict lobbying and reform party funding. Both of the other parties blocked attempts at reform. Still they have the nerve to get upset at what has happened. You get the same rotten politics with either party. Only the Lib Dems are committed to root and branch reform of our politics.

Budget Response

Today, after rent-a-car ministers, we had the budget. With much of this already anounced in the pre budget report before Christmas, today saw a failed Government eeking out the last few spoonfuls of gruel it had to offer.
Vince Cable has responded to today's budget by saying "Today's budget wasn't honest.
The Chancellor is incapable of coming clean about where spending cuts will have to fall. Rather than being honest with people about what the Government can and cannot afford, the Chancellor would rather let others indiscriminately shave departmental budgets.
And the Budget did nothing to make Britain a fairer society.
We're campaigning for fair taxes, lifting millions of people out of income tax altogether. But today's Budget, by confirming the freeze in personal allowances, means everyone will see a real increase in their income tax bill.
Rather than forcing the nationalised banks to lend to good British businesses, Labour have chosen to create a feeble quango to arbitrate between bullying banks and their small business clients.
Today's Budget shows even more clearly that Britain needs real change."

See Vince's response on video here:

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Ivory Not For Sale

Great news yesterday. CITES, which is the convention that deals with the trade in endangered species, announced that they would not permit Zambia and Tanzania to sell their stockpiles of ivory. When these sales have gone ahead in the past, poaching has increased due to the higher interest in ivory. This is great news for international efforts to protect dwindling elephant populations. Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder, who represents us locally, had a campaign on this very issue, and her petition was part of 400,000 signatures that were submitted opposing the sale. She is delighted with the decision, and so am I!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Hand In The Till

Once again we find attention drawn to the sleazy antics of MPs. This time there are allegations of lobbying for large sums of cash levelled at three former Labour cabinet ministers. Two of them recently plotted to get rid of Gordon Brown. The third, Stephen Byers, has been filmed making overblown claims about his influence and importance. For three to five grand, he reckons he can change Government policy. What a sad end to this Parliament, where MPs who are standing down seem to be trying to milk every last drop of cash before they shuffle off into obscurity, grand plans to change the world replaced with self interest. The sooner the General Election clears out the greedy and elects some politicians with fire in their belly and a desire to shake up the status quo the better.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Anti Social

Talking to people yesterday in Halliford, one of the things that came up time and again was anti social behaviour and low level crime. By low level, I mean things like graffiti, damage to property and things like that. It is this sort of activity that really gets to people and causes untold strain and worry. The problem is, the police simply do not put the resources into it that they should. Their press releases pay lip service to dealing with the problem, but local folk say quite clearly that they feel let down. On the other side of things, young people are not all going around causing trouble, and those that are have too often been let down. Spelthorne has seen it's youth service from the County Council cut, and that has a real impact on this issue. Last week, Lib Dem conference passed a youth policy that is full of support for young people, to give them the opportunity to make a positive impact where they live rather than a negative one. If we don't have the tools to help young people, we shouldn't be surprised if they get bored and and get into bad habits. Let's give our youth something better to do, but impress on the police we expect them to act if they cause trouble.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Building Schools For The Future

This is a program Labour brought in to help local authorities keep up with capacity issues with schools, and also to improve facilities. Many areas have benefitted from this funding, which has been considerable. Surrey has just failed in its bid in the latest round of available funds. They will be able to re-apply, as areas of most need get the best chance at the cash. However, the application itself recognises the need for improving schools locally and dealing with future lack of capacity. In this context, it seems even more short sighted to consider closing Shortwood Infant School. Better organisation of the school catchment, improved transport and better promotion of schools like this one would help. It's good to hear though that the campaigners have generated so much interest in the school that they may generate a full intake in September. Amazing work!

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Today I have been speaking or writing to residents about a wide range of issues, so I thought I'd mention it on here as a snapshot of the things raised by local people. I have, for example, been trying to reach a neighbourhood watch co-ordinator about CCTV and lighting in Stanwell, but we keep missing each other! I have written to a resident in Staines who asked me to outline our policy on Heathrow. I spoke to a person in Sunbury about A2 housing association. I emailed a lady about IFAW's manifesto for wild animals. That is just a sample of what has been going on today. It's great that when a General Election comes round, people take the opportunity to ask questions of their candidates and work out who is the best one for them. Today I think I gave three people an answer they were happy with, and one I know did not like what I had to say. But that is why we have elections - to let opinions be heard, and for people to exercise a right to choose who represents them. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


For the first time in ages, something was actually revealed at Prime Minister's Questions. Gordon Brown owned up to getting it wrong at the Iraq Inquiry. In fact, the central plank of his evidence was that he had raised spending on defence in real terms every year as chancellor. In fact for at least three years he didn't. Now, did he forget, did he make a mistake, or did he deliberately mislead the inquiry? Perhaps we should be generous and say he forgot. He was after all dealing with a lot of budgets. But fundamentally, Gordon has now undermined his role in the war. Looking at it from the troops point of view, they did not get the support of the man who is now Prime Minister. These are men and women who already get a raw deal, and deserve better pay and equipment. Lib Dems have pledged to raise the starting salary of an infantryman to that of a policeman starting out. It is only right and fair that those risking their lives for our country are given decent pay. But to send them to war and then reduce their funding, as Gordon did most certainly in 2004, is scandalous.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Gravy Train

The news today included revelations about pay offs for council chief executives. Average settlements for those leaving their posts in the last year have been over £250,000. This is on top of the huge salaries that they receive, in some cases over £200,000 a year. The claim is that councils need to pay top whack to get the best. Sadly, many pay top whack but still do not see improved performance. The rates of pay and the severence offered is far too high. It seems to me that as each authority offers a bigger chunk of taxpayers cash for the top job, the higher the next one needs to go to compete. This pay inflation has to stop, and councils need to get back to reality, and invest the money they get from taxpayers back into front line services where they do the most good. You need good people at the top, but that does not need to involve money like this.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Debt Reduction

Most of us know about debt, and the impact it has on us. And most of us would like to reduce our debt. The government has no choice. Whoever is in power after the election is going to have to make tough choices. We have already set out £15billion in cuts that we would start with, but crucially we would not cut this year, as we believe this will jeopardise the recovery. The Tories say they will give more detail after the budget, but have said they will cut now. Doing that risks sending the British economy into another deep recession. Listening to Vince Cable at the weekend, I am once again struck by the way he grasps the detail, but sees the bigger picture. The Tories have a shadow chancellor who seems to leave all the thinking to other people, and pops up with the soundbite. I know who I would trust with our economy.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Thanks Birmingham

We have had a great conference in Birmingham, and the folks here have looked after us really well. Lib Dems are leaving the conference with a sense of purpose, and some fire in our bellies, as we prepare for the rest of the campaign. The great thing about these events is you are reminded of the unity of purpose in our party. The other parties are riven with internal politics, and whilst I won't pretend there aren't fierce debates in our party, we work collectively and with a passion to make Britain better. That is why we leave invigourated and ready for the fight. With people like Nick and Vince leading us, we know we have an excellent team taking us forward.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Paddy And Shirley Storm The Stage

I'm sat here at the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham at lunchtime on saturday, and what a whirlwind it has been so far. I have managed to collar a few of our key campaigners and MPs for some advice on the key issues in Spelthorne. Their insight and knowledge has been invaluable, and I can come back with useful tips on how to help local people with the things that they have told me matter to them. I also went to the opening rally last night. We had some brilliant speakers, including Paddy Ashdown, who has not addressed the main conference hall since standing down as leader over a decade ago. To say he is still on form is an understatement. He articulated the great challenges facing our country, and world, with passion and insight. He spoke about the economic future, democracy, fair society and environment in a way that brought all the great issues of our age into sharp focus. Shirley Williams also spoke, and reminded us all how our party are needed more than ever as the party of social justice and fairness. Labour have failed and the Tories have always looked after their own. We have a vital role in this election, and these two venerable members of our party urged us to go out and meet the challenges that people face across the UK, and deliver a fairer, greener, more just society for all. I am, as ever, committed to doing all I can to deliver that for Spelthorne.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Conference Time

As I prepare for the Lib Dem spring conference, I am reminded that as a party we make our policy democratically with voting by representatives from all over the UK. I will be looking to get involved in our localism agenda, with more work being done this weekend on how to devolve as much power as possible to local people. I will also be picking up the young persons agenda, which Linda Jack and her task group have been working really hard at. Most of all I will be sounding out senior colleagues about issues affecting Spelthorne, like the Shortwood School proposals, anti social behaviour and getting the police working in the community. Local NHS issues and environment will get a good airing, so Norman Lamb and Simon Hughes better watch out, I want to bend their ears! I hope to bring support and advice back from conference, which will be very beneficial to Spelthorne. Despite several years experience, there is always so much to learn, and I will use the opportunity this weekend in Birmingham.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Not Taking The Mick

Great news this week that Stanwell Warden Mick Raynor is staying in his role, after Spelthorne Council backed down over its plans to axe him. This is a victory for local campaigners including one neighbourhood watch co-ordinator who also works really hard for the community, and recognises the need for people like Mick to work in our communities. As I said on this blog at the weekend, Stanwell needs a more co-ordinated effort by councils, police and others to overcome the anti social behaviour and crime issues in Stanwell. I will be speaking to the local community about the things they feel they need, and what they think is the way forward.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Beyond These Shores

Nick Clegg made a key speech today about foreign policy and Britain's relations with the rest of the world. He was keen to emphasise that whilst our friendship with the US is important, we need to take back decisions on foreign policy rather than blindly following the White House as we have for the last 50 years. He is right to point out that we need to cultivate good relationships across the globe independent of the US.
"Gordon Brown does not want to remind voters of the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq." Nick told the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
"David Cameron does not want to remind voters that he is friendless in Europe. The real truth is the future of British foreign policy is as much in the balance as the future of our economy or our political system."
History is littered with our foreign policy mistakes. Many of them we seem hell bent on repeating. We created Iraq after the first world war, and went back with troops twice more recently. Afganistan has been a 200 year obsession. It is time we started making pragmatic foreign policy decisions that will bring us a better standing in the world for the future.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Todays news has had lots of coverage of dangerous dogs. The last time politicians tried to tackle this subject was the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, which banned 4 specific breeds of dog including pitbull terriers. Now, after a string of high profile attacks, they are back in the news. The 1991 act was for want of a better phrase a dogs breakfast. It failed to understand the root of the problem, which is rarely the dog itself but the owner. Obviously, if the dog is a large dog bred to hunt or fight, it is much more dangerous than a small dog. But take a big dog and give it an owner that abuses it, or trains it to attack or intimidate, and you have a deadly weapon at large. One option floated today was the Dogbo, an order to control owners. That in itself is not the answer, but at least recognises where the heart of the problem lies. Other suggestions like compulsory insurance and microchips are also being mentioned. This time round, there needs to be much better consideration of the facts available, and not a knee jerk reaction that grabs headlines, but does nothing to protect the public. Dangerous dogs need to be dealt with, but much more so dangerous owners.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Obama's Healthcare Fight

President Obama is fighting hard in the US to improve healthcare for the millions of Americans who cannot get any sort of proper treatment. He faces a huge challenge from the Republican right who are vitriolically opposing the move. One of the tricks they have used is to wheel out Tory politicians from over here to say how awful our NHS is. On Saturday the Guardian reported the Young Britons' Foundation, which described the NHS as the 'biggest waste of money in the UK' has trained Tory party parliamentary candidates. Sadly, for all David Cameron's bluster about the NHS being his top priority, many in his party clearly still believe that the NHS is undesirable, and would happily organise its demise. The NHS is not perfect - in fact it needs an overhaul. Certainly there needs to be much more local control, and money invested in treatment rather than quangos. But it is a vital part of our welfare state. Lib Dem policies would help rejuvenate the NHS. Too many Tories are stuck in the 19th century and would scrap it.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Fine Dining

Last night we had the our annual dinner in Shepperton. We were delighted to have Catherine Bearder MEP, who was elected for the first time in June, as our guest speaker. She has really hit the ground running, and is already making a fantastic contribution on behalf of people in the south east. She has alos been involved in talks trying to prevent CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) from lifting its ban on the sale of ivory stockpiles in Tanzania and Zambia. Last time this was allowed, the argument being it brings much needed funds to the countries involved, the interest in ivory rocketed and poaching increased hugely. Elephant populations are still under threat, so Catherine has a petition running here : . We had an excellent night, full of positive talk of the election ahead. It is clear that Lib Dems in Spelthorne are up for the fight, and are confident of a great result on polling day. Our thanks go to the Anchor in Shepperton who looked after us superbly.

Neighbourhood Watch

Yesterday morning we were out and about in Stanwell. We spent some time at the Clare Road shopping parade talking to locals and getting more signatures for my bankers petition. Interestingly, quite a few knew about their Labour councillors decision to run for MP in Swindon. They took this to mean that even he knows Labour are a busted flush in Spelthorne! I also went to visit a neighbourhood watch co-ordinator, who told me about some of the issues they have in Stanwell with crime and anti social behaviour. The message I got was of a lack of joint working with the police and local councils. The area used to be covered by the Metropolitan Police, but since it has been dealt with by Surrey, there is a feeling that they don't give Spelthorne any sort of priority. When residents in Stanwell are told they are covered at time by police not even based in the borough, and who take an hour to reach them, it is no wonder they have no faith in the kind of response they get. There are problems in Stanwell, and they will only be tackled if the area is given the backup of the police and other agencies. There is obviously enough support from local people, but they shouldn't be left to do it alone.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Ashford College Reprieve

It's great to see the banners up on Ashford College, as I did today, proclaiming it's staying open. When I was going round all the shops in the town centre asking them to take the petition to keep it open, there was not one that said no. Even places like banks were happy to get customers to sign. The whole community was up for the fight. Fortunately it now seems like a fight is not needed. Ashford campus is a vital community facility, and now can continue to deliver valued education to Spelthorne.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

No New Answers On Shortwood

There was another public meeting tonight on the future of Shortwood infant school. As with the previous meetings, the school was packed to the rafters, and this time the parents and residents were more prepared, having had time to gather more information. The questions were superb, to the point, directly relevant, challenging and well delivered. The answers from the Council representatives were not. Despite having had 3 weeks since the last meetings to gather information that had been promised, and to cover key points of residents questions, there was nothing new tonight. With the consultation running until the 19th March, there is still time for local people to get there views heard. Then the officers of the Council will make a recommendation, and the Cabinet of Surrey, made up of councillors, will make there choice. With the man in charge of the education portfolio saying today Surrey faces huge pressures on places, and will need to build more schools, it seems that the first port of call should be to use all the places currently available, and then build as necessary. Closing Shortwood must be crazy in this context. A school that is working well will surely be able to gather more pupils with the campaigners committed to bringing numbers up.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Michael Foot

It was with great sadness that I learned about the death of Michael Foot today. He was one of the first politicians I can remember in my formative years. What I found out later was much more about a man passionate in his beliefs, true to them, and tireless in his campaigning. Whilst his politics are different to mine, he was a man of powerful argument and conviction. All of us standing in this General Election can learn lessons from his example. To hear some of his speeches played back today, you wonder whether the next Parliament will have many speakers who could silence the commons, or bring the place down with laughter in the way that he could. To this 'inveterate peacemonger' (as he described himself), goodbye and thank you.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Leaders Debates

Agreement has finally been reached on the televised leaders debates that will take place during the General Election. Pundits on the box tonight have been suggesting that of the three leaders, Nick Clegg has the least to lose. Certainly it gives our message a level of exposure that it may not otherwise have got. We know from previous elections that Lib Dem policies go down well when people get to hear more about them, because as we get some airtime in elections, our poll figures increase and we experience a bounce by election day. But I would say we have most to gain from the debates, rather than having nothing to lose. As a party we are united and proud of what we stand for. We want a free, fair society, and don't believe that is what you get from Labour or the Tories. We have well thought out, fully costed policies, and the debates will let Nick promote them. So I think this is a positive move for elections in this country, and it will be fascinating to see how they pan out.

Non Dom

I'm not going to have a huge rant about Lord Ashcroft sitting in the Lords, funding the Tories and making sure he doesn't have to pay tax in the UK on his earnings abroad. The point, I think, of making such a fuss is that at the moment it is too easy to buy seats in the House of Commons by chucking huge amounts of money at a campaign in a constituency. If you are able to seriously outspend your opponent you can influence the outcome of who becomes MP. Lord Ashcroft can do that with his wealth. So can others. Ultimately we need to move away from this if we want to restore faith in politics.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Nick Clegg And Our Education Pledge

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has today set out in more detail our education pledge, and emphasised the importance of early years education in tackling inequality, in a speech to the Salvation Army. Committing the Liberal Democrats to invest an extra £2.5bn in schools, Nick Clegg said that parents and schools must work together to make sure that children get the best possible start in life. Education is at the heart of our manifesto for the election, and we believe that bringing down class sizes for early years education should be at the very top of the agenda for the next Parliament. Having seen for myself the kind of school you get with smaller class sizes at Shortwood, I know it can't come soon enough.