Thursday, December 31, 2009

Keeping you up to date via Facebook Page

For my very latest news, take a look at my Facebook page: - or the Twitter news feed on the right hand side.

Chelmsford Needs REAL change in 2010 - an MP who will protect Chelmsford from over-development and deliver a fairer, greener community.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Action not words on climate change

Today the Liberal Democrats called on Parliament to back the 10:10 campaign on climate change. Sadly, the Labour Government whipped their troops to vote down any specific action (see Hansard report) - following the lead of Conservative Essex County Council, who showed the same lack of action last week.

This campaign calls for 10% cuts in carbon dioxide emissions during 2010. The Liberal Democrat news item on the debate is here and there is a short film by Simon Hughes MP here.

By 297 votes to 226, the House of Commons this evening voted down the proposal. Here's what Sarah Teather MP had to say about it.

Here in Chelmsford, I'm backing the 10:10 campaign and supporting the Chelmsford Climate Change conference on 4th December.

I've already cut my own carbon as our new (to us) car is smaller than our old one, emitting about 12% less CO2, but there is more I (and all of us) can do. There is more about the Greener Chelmsford campaign here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Parliament MUST reform now!

I've joined 56 other Liberal Democrat candidates in writing an open letter calling on the House of Commons speaker Michael Martin to take radical action or resign. But I'm not expecting Chelmsford MP Simon Burns to take action, since he votes against a transparent Parliament, according to They Work For You.

Dear Mr Speaker,

As Parliament continues to be dragged down by the allowance system, and its rules, the role of those in public service across the country is being undermined.

We are Liberal Democrat candidates seeking to be elected to Parliament and yet we find ourselves disappointed, and frustrated, at the way in which this matter is being handled. Every day our residents are telling us loudly that this must stop and this must stop now.

Three things stand out:
• The resistance to the releasing of these documents and the attempt to exclude Parliament from the Freedom of Information requirements
• The way in which Norman Baker and Kate Hoey were treated when they sought to raise legitimate concerns
• The fact that, through you, parliament could now release the information into the public domain and cut short this parade of drip-fed news and empower MPs and citizens through a new transparent relationship.

It is vital that Parliament must become transparent and accountable now. We call on you, as Speaker of the House, to do everything within your power to force the full publication of all expenses immediately. We also call on you to accept the independent review of MPs expenses and salaries chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly.

If you are unable to do this we then ask you to consider your position. Time is running out for politicians of all parties to repair the damage to our democracy.

Yours sincerely

57 Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates
Stephen Robinson, Chelmsford
David Kendall, Brentwood and Ongar
Ann Haigh, Epping Forest
Simon Wright, Norwich South
Peter Wilcock, Saffron Walden
Ed Fordham, Hampstead and Kilburn
Sal Brinton, Watford
Andrew Simpson, Northampton North
Bridget Fox, Islington South & Finsbury
Duncan Borrowman, Old Bexley and Sidcup
Steve Goddard, Oxford East
Adrian Collett, Aldershot
Adam Carew, East Hampshire
Gareth Epps, Reading East
Sally Morgan, Central Devon
Sue Doughty, Guildford
Rebecca Hunt. Chatham & Aylesford
Sarah Carr, Hereford and South Herefordshire
Guy Voizey Canterbury and Whitstable
Jo Shaw, Holborn and St Pancras
Liz Leffman, Meon Vallley
Merlene Emerson, Hammersmith
Sandy Walkington, St Albans
Richard Burt, West Worcestershire
Caroline Pigeon, Vauxhall
Kevin Lang, Edinburgh North & Leith
Andrew Dakers, Brentford and Isleworth
Andrew Duffield,Hexham
Liz Simpson, Tonbridge and Malling
Sam Webber, Bromley and Chislehurst
Rabi Martins - Luton North
Greg Stone, Newcastle East
Theo Butt-Philip, Bridgwater and West Somerset
Dave Radcliffe, Birmingham Selly Oak
Richard Clein, Sefton Central
Mike Cox, Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Andy Stamp, Gillingham & Rainham
Stephen Lloyd, Eastbourne & Willingdon
Mark Blackburn, Westminster North
Denis Healy, Hull North
Robin Lawrence, Wolverhampton South West
Alex Feakes, Lewisham and West Penge
Andrew Falconer, Brighton Pavilion
Dave McBride, Orpington
Nigel Quinton, Hitchin & Harpenden
Alan Beddow, Warwick and Leamington
David Goodall, Southampton Itchen
Ryk Downes, Leeds Central
Chris Took, Ashford
Karen Hamilton, Birmingham Perry Barr
Qurban Hussain, Luton South
Keith Angus, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
Mike Bell, Weston-super-Mare
Dave Raval, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Fred Mackintosh, Edinburgh South
Munira Wilson, Feltham and Heston
Paul Zukowskyj, Welwyn Hatfield
Stephen Gilbert, St Austell and Newquay

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's the point of council "consultations"?

Just back from a campaign planning meeting. (Loads to do between now and election day on 4th June.) Lib Dem leader on Chelmsford council, Mike Mackrory, reported on a council meeting last night. The Conservatives who run the council have COMPLETELY ignored the hundreds of people who commented on their plans for 4000 houses on green fields. (Details here.) They press on with their plans for an urban sprawl, leading to more congestion and negative impact on local services.

The Government requires councils to consult the public four times during the production of each planning policy document. Sadly, councils are NOT required to listen to anything said in the consultation!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Talking balls

Very funny talk this evening at Round Table, from Darren Couchman – an Essex man who survived testicular cancer and wants to use humour to stop others suffering. 1 in 3 people will be affected by cancer of some kind; 1,800 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in the UK each year.

Most men with testicular cancer can be cured. It's most likely to occur in young and middle-aged men. But most men don't like talking about it. The attention given to male-related cancers tends to be much less than for female-related cancers.

It seemed very appropriate to have Darren along to Round Table as most of those affected by testicular cancer are in the Round Table age bracket, 16-44.

Darren toured last summer, as he puts it "talking balls all across the country". He uses humour to get people over their embarrassment of talking about it, and he has written a book about his experience.

As he recovered from his operation, the catering lady asked if he wanted tea and whether he wanted "One lump or two". Hence the book title and website: One Lump Or Two – which reports on his tour, tells you more about the disease, what to do about it.

He was interviewed about his tour on the BBC.

Round Table will be looking at how they can help his publicity efforts coming up this June and July.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Policy consultation on women's issues

The Liberal Democrats are reviewing their party policy on women's issues and it is now open for comment. You might ask whether it is still necessary to produce policy specifically aimed at women. Jo Swinson MP, the Chair of the Working Group says:

"As Liberal Democrats, we are concerned at the injustices that women face in our society. The last major review of Liberal Democrat women’s policy was in 1995. So the women’s policy working group is welcome and not before time.

The group will, though, also bear in mind questions such as whether special treatment is still needed, and should men have tailored policies too. After all, often when there is inequality for women, men are part of the solution. Focusing solely on one gender won’t work.

The group’s remit cuts across all portfolios. In some areas we already have excellent policy for women, in others there are gaps we must address. Some of the issues we will look at include:
  • Money – pay, pensions, benefits
  • Sex – sexual orientation, abuse, maternity
  • Relationships – work/life balance, carers, family
  • Health & Beauty – body image, health
  • Power – representation, fear of crime, public role models
The questions range from the big picture - Can women really ‘have it all’? Can men? What is ‘it’ anyway and is it worth the effort? - to some specifics such as: How can we best enable mature women to get back into the labour market after a long break? and What alternatives to prison might be appropriate for female offenders?

The Liberal Democrats are committed to opening up the policy process. I am proud of the fact that only in the Liberal Democrats do we have these open policy discussions. There will be a consultation session at Harrogate conference 6-8 March and a final policy paper at autumn conference.

The final decisions on Lib Dem policy are made by conference not the leader. There is a website dedicated to receiving your comments on this (and other policies) here.

At the top of the page there, you can download a copy of the policy paper or get straight into commenting on each section.

If you have any specific comments that you would like to make to me, please email me.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Immigrants not taking our jobs - part 2

I blogged in the summer about how it was rubbish that immigrants were taking "our" jobs. There has been a big row again this last week involving foreign workers. This all suits the Labour government (and the Conservatives who invented most of the deregulation) - to divert attention from their central role in creating the problems we face.

It is worth remembering that our collective national income would fall dramatically if we were out of the EU and also that twice as many British people live and work in the EU than EU citizens work here. So any ban on "foreign workers" would hit us more - and we would have 500,000 Brits coming 'home' - possibly to be unemployed.

Update: see this article in the East Anglian Daily Times: Migrant workers 'going home'

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Making the EU more accountable

Graham Watson MEP wants to make the European Parliament more accountable to the public that elects it. Graham is leader of the 100-strong Liberal and Democrat group and is the first MEP ever to publicly state that he wants to be President of the European Parliament.

It's a job a little like Speaker of the House of Commons but more involved in managing the business of Parliament. The post is filled after each election (this year that is on 4th June) - usually for 2.5 years by a socialist MEP and 2.5 years by a Conservative. Graham is trying to break the cosy consensus and become the first Brit since Conservative Lord Plumb over 20 years ago, and the first ever British Liberal to be President.

Graham has already blazed a trail for openness with his weekly diary sent out by email and more recently his video blog. Now we can sign up to follow Graham on Twitter, which I've just done, or subscribe to his Page on Facebook.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Essex CC - good at publicity and bad at looking after children

Essex County Council has been shown to be good at publicity and bad at looking after vulnerable children. In the space of a week, it stood out in two league tables. The first rated Tory-run Essex and seven other authorities as the worst councils in the country for child protection. See The Guardian. The second was for spending on council publicity - where it came ninth highest. See the BBC report.

The Liberal Democrat leader on the County Council (Chelmsford North councillor Tom Smith-Hughes) commented:
"The Conservatives have spent the past year swaggering around the county and the country consumed with a stream of ridiculous headline grabbing gimmicks.

They've bragged about their plans to recruit the runner up of the BBC's 'The Apprentice' show that came to nothing, they've hosted conferences that achieved practically nothing and they've showcased its communications department. Yet they failed to do the one thing that the public expects of them - look out for the most vulnerable members of our community, our children."

Read the full story on the Chelmsford Lib Dem website.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

American elections - not over yet!

A friend asked me last night why the US President does not take up office for 2.5 months, when a British PM takes over within about 12 hours of the election result. The historical answer seems to be down to the size of the country - it used to take weeks if not months to be clear about the result, (and they use an electoral college not direct counting of votes).

Even today some results can take a long time coming. I've just noticed that three seats in the Senate are still not declared. The website 538 has all the details, with links to a website of electoral maps including this amusing Australian one. There's also Electoral Vote.

The relevance to us of the Senate elections is that the Senate has a big role in foreign policy, including ratifying Treaties with other countries. We (that is, the rest of the world!) need their backing to do something about climate change. Let's hope Obama does make a difference on this front.