Monday, October 20, 2008

ITV Tonight Luton 'Referendum' nonsense

Earlier, I watched ITV's Tonight programme about a so-called referendum in Luton on the EU. If the incorrect information on their own website was any guide, I should not have been surprised how rubbish the programme was. There was no serious questioning of the pro or anti speakers; it was not clear whether we were watching a discussion for/against the EU or for/against the treaty of Lisbon. (See below for arguments FOR each.)

Their website opens by stating "New Labour has gone back on its promise to hold a referendum on a new European constitution". Clearly, I'm light years away from being a Labour supporter but that is nonsense. The Treaty of Lisbon is not an EU constitution. And the programme did not seem to say much about either the Treaty or the abandoned Constitution!

Luton Cllr Andy Strange writes about how it was conducted from his local perspective: ITV Tonight Luton 'Referendum' nonsense. (Eventually, the programme should appear here to watch again.)

If you want to REALLY know what the Lisbon Treaty says, read Andrew Duff's summary(pdf) or even try reading the whole thing. And possibly What has the European Union ever done for Luton.

On a related note, I was in Brussels last week hearing at first hand some of the real story behind the EU. (Pictures here.) Such as: the EU is not as massive organisation as some would have you believe. It only spends 50p per week per head of population, compared to the £260 spent by the UK Government. It employs FEWER people than Essex County Council.

If Labour had not been so spineless over the last 11 years, we could have had a proper debate about Europe. Not the fiction and myths propagated by the tabloid press (which are all taken apart on this website).

So, before finishing, what ARE some of the key arguments?

FOR the UK being a full member of the EU:-
* Cheaper goods and more jobs: free trade amongst 500 million people keeps costs down for shoppers and keeps 3 million UK citizens in work
* Protecting the environment: pollution knows no boundaries so we have to fix it with our neighbours
* Rights at work: e.g. time off for maternity leave; cannot be forced to work over 48 hours a week
* Cheaper mobile phone calls
* Compensation if your plane flight is delayed
* and not forgetting: stopping the 27 countries who are members from going to war against each other

See also What Has Europe Done

FOR the Treaty of Lisbon
It tidies up the workings of the EU to make it more efficient and effective
* More democracy: our elected representatives would, at last, have the same powers as Ministers
* In particular, the chance to reform the money wasted on the agriculture policy
* National parliaments (such as Westminster) to have a stronger role in reviewing EU laws
* The UK would have more chance of getting its way, not held back by other countries
* One spokesman on foreign affairs not two
* A chairman of the council of ministers for 2.5 years not changing every 6 months
* The President of the Commission will be elected by the elected Parliament
* and Member States can now, for the first time, leave the EU if they wish

Friday, October 17, 2008

USA election and EU link

I know that Britain's best interests are served by close co-operation with our neighbours in the EU - particularly to deal with global issues like climate change. (I'm just back from leading a fact-finding trip to Brussels for a group of Lib Dems - pictures).

But I also know that what happens in the USA election will impact on us this side of the pond. To see how the election is going I sometimes look at the website below. Looks like a Democrat President, Senate and House of Representatives is on the cards for the first time since the Bill Clinton high point!

Click for

Barack Obama and John McCain spoke this week at the Alfred E Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City. A very entertaining 30 minutes out of the campaign battle. The McCain speech is first, in two sections, then Obama also in two sections.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Getting ready for Nick Clegg in Chelmsford on Thursday

It's been hard work preparing for the visit of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to Chelmsford this Thursday. Preparations have been going on for some weeks, as ideas for places to visit have bounced back and forth. I'm taking him to Tanglewood nursery school, as a great example of the difference that quality pre-school education can make. I am deeply proud of the fantastic work they do there - having seen it first as a councillor, later as a parent and now as an ongoing supporter at their events (with my wife as a governor). It's the kind of setting in which the Lib Dems would invest as part of the pupil premium to help the schools that need it most.

Nick is very keen to meet and hear from local people in an open and unscripted question time session, and so we have a public meeting at 6.30pm - see details and map. My colleague Chris and I have written loads of letters and emails encouraging people to attend the meeting, as well as arranging media contact and everything else.

All we need now is the banking crisis to worsen and Nick has to cancel!

UPDATE: photos on Facebook.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chelmsford Tories waste £'000k on Riverside consultants

So - the realities of the property market have finally caught up with the ruling Conservatives on Chelmsford council. Their plan to build 400 flats etc. on the car park of Riverside leisure centre is set to be dropped. The Lib Dem plan (ditched when the Conservatives took over the council) would have built a new leisure centre on a more appropriate site, with a range of leisure facilities in one place.

Chelmsford's Lib Dem leader Mike Mackrory said “I warned the Conservatives that the project was fatally flawed. To demolish the centre, then rebuild and then build luxury apartment blocks was always going to be hugely costly.

“A great pity our views were not listened to, with hundreds of thousands of pounds of council tax payers money wasted on consultants’ fees.” Full story in Chelmsford Weekly News.

Local resident and leisure centre user Richard Brotherton has more questions to pose to the leader of the council on his blog.

The Agenda for the council cabinet meeting to make the decision is on the council site.