Saturday, 30 April 2011


According to Tory Transport spokesman at the County Council, quoted in this week's Oxford Times, it is perfectly easy to drive a large lorry through the narrow roads of Wytham to get to Wolvercote when restrictions are placed on access to Wolvercote from Oxford for planned bridge repairs.

The Councillor justifies this remark by noting that he used to drive lorries and has been through Wytham. I wonder if that is any time in the last 30 years, when the use of vehicles on our crowded roads has increased dramatically, when people are far more aware of the need to restrict large vehicles from small villages with tight bends in their centres and where road safety improvements have delivered huge reductions on deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

It is often a problem with the Tories that they are living in a bygone, cloistered world, with warm beer, cricket on the green and obliging country dwellers moving their carts to one side for the Tory juggernaut to pass through with scant regard for their wellbeing. Thankfully, the Lib Dems who actually represent both Wytham and Wolvercote have dismissed this suggestion and pointed out the potential for huge disruption and accidents. Wouldn't it be nice if Tories went to Wytham to look at it? Wouldn't it be nice if they then acknowledged that they are wrong and recognise that Wytham doesn't need to reflect Wacky Races for a few months.

Friday, 29 April 2011


A lovely AV related anomaly was highlighted on the TV this evening: David Cameron won the leadership of the Tories under AV and David Davis won the first round. Therefore, under the Tories' preferred system, David Davis should be the Tory leader.

This delightful anomaly also applies to the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, who only won in the fourth round of that election, with his brother David leading in each of the preceding rounds.

Now wouldn't it be nice for the 'No' campaign to address these issues...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


'I' reports today that police in London have been rounding up 'known troublemakers' in advance of the Royal Wedding on Friday. They have also been visiting known protesters to warn them not to cause any disruption. Is this appropriate activity in a free country?

The police have a huge task to ensure that everything proceeds according to plan but should they be adopting tactics used in China, for example, in advance of the arrival of some foreign dignitaries? Has the delicate balance between security and freedom - including the right to protest in a free society - shifted too far?

Friday's event will be watched by millions around the world, almost all of whom will wish the couple well and want everything to go as planned. Frankly, anyone considering disrupting the event must be mad as they will be torn to pieces by Union Flag-clad crowds the moment they say or do anything to disrupt proceedings.


The Lib Dems and Labour both confirmed today that AV does not require expensive machines, which knocks £130m off the supposed £250m cost of introducing AV. Slowly the 'no' campaign crumbles.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Good debate on Newsnight about AV, with John Denham making the very useful point that there is absolutely no evidence that AV leads to coalitions. In fact, countries which use AV have had fewer coalitions than the many we had in the 20th century under First Past the Post.

If you add that to the lie that AV requires machines - Australia has used the system since 1918 with not a single machine - and you reflect on the desperation of the 'no' campaign requiring David Cameron to step in, the arguments against AV show themselves up as pretty weak.

I must also reiterate that AV is not complex. As I have said before, if you can count to five, you will understand AV.

I hope people will be given facts on which to base their decision on Thursday 5th.


The speaking engagement in Henley was followed by a full day's campaigning in North Hinksey, meeting with our wonderful deliverers - all of whom are crucial to the campaign, a bit of delivering for me then finishing with canvassing, which is always a challenge but which provides regular rewards, whether it is the lady who stopped my introduction to tell me that of course she would vote for me, or the man who asked me for a poster to display, to add to the growing forest of stakes and posters in the ward.

It's encouraging to find so many people willing to keep faith with us, in many cases despite their concerns over the coalition, and it's nice to have the opportunity to explain just a little of what the coalition is doing. Above all, I have to keep reminding residents that we need everyone to support us on May 5th - or with their postal votes - to guarantee that we can keep on with the good work of the last 16 years in the Vale. No amount of opposition claims can take away the fact that the Vale is a well-run, low tax authority.

Please use your vote on May 5th to help us build on those 16 years of success.


Today proved to be a fascinating one. I was asked to speak to school children in Henley along with representatives of the Tories and Labour. As usual the questions from the students were of a high quality and really challenged us. Not surprisingly they rather laid into me as the Lib Dem representative, which I fully expected.

If they heeded what the Tory leader of South Oxfordshire District Council told them, the Lib Dems are responsible for all the ills of the coalition, while the Tories agree with everything the students say. I hope those present saw through that approach. My job was to explain a bit more clearly and fairly the policies that they are rightly concerned about, including student fees and the changes to the educational maintenance allowance.

The event gave me the opportunity to explain our role in the coalition, which will hopefully have made some of the students pause for thought, even if it will take some time to regain their confidence. One step at a time...

The overriding impression we all took away was the maturity of the questions and the challenge we received from the students. The future's fine, folks.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


According to the Independent, Nick Clegg has set an example to MPs still profiting from the old rules on expenses. He sold his Sheffield home for £325,000 and gave the £38,750 profit to the taxpayer, although he did not need to. Mr Clegg lives in London but rents a home in Sheffield. A rule allowing MPs claim for mortgage payments on second homes has been scrapped.

I wonder how many MPs from other parties will follow suit.

Nick Clegg came to the Vale yesterday and spoke to candidates and friends in a pub in Abingdon. He's a good speaker, even if he does fall over his words too much as he speaks with passion. He has a sense of humour as well - luckily. The Vale's most outspoken Councillor asked him a somewhat difficult question about the perception of the Lib Dems at the moment and he responded with the quip that he knew which clip the watching BBC crew would be showing this evening. Sure enough, Nick Robinson, the BBC's correspondent, held up his crib sheet to confirm this. So look out for the doughty Jenny Hannaby giving the Deputy Prime Minister a hard time on the BBC News at 10 tonight. She's a great councillor but she doesn't always keep her counsel...

Nick Clegg also enjoyed a pint in the pub. I remember images of former Prime Ministers sipping at halves. As a strong supporter of pubs and British beer (in moderation) I applaud the gesture. He clearly enjoyed a good Oxfordshire pint, too.

Nick's a nice guy and he gave a boost to the Lib Dem campaign in the Vale.


According to silver-tongued Lib Dem Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, the Conservatives were in power for about two-thirds of the 20th century under first-past-the-post, even though they won more than 50 per cent of the votes on only two occasions. He noted that they did not want to see that dominance threatened in the 21st century.

He also pointed out that, despite the Prime Minister's denial of Conservative involvement, 'all the moving parts' of the 'No' campaign are linked to the Conservative Party. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Monday, 18 April 2011


I was asked a good question on the doorstep last night. A Labour voter, who has very kindly agreed to support me and Debby Hallett, nevertheless gave me a good 10 minute grilling about the government cuts. The particular issue he raised was about the 'hypocrisy' of local council candidates being photographed in front of Botley Library when it is under threat due to 'Coalition cuts'. A good question and my response was as follows - with apologies that it is a bit long-winded, but pity the poor man who asked me the question and then had to listen to this on his doorstep...

The threatened cuts to libraries across Oxfordshire are 100% the responsibility of the County Council. The coalition government has made cuts across the board and local government has been included. That's because the country is poorer than we were in 2008 and savings have to be made, so the pain is being shared as widely as possible. Local councils have been given clear advice about their budgets for coming years and they therefore have the freedom to make decisions about how to save money - a freedom denied under the previous government, which was far more prescriptive about how councils could spend their grant funding.

In the Lib Dem Vale, senior management has been cut and some staff reductions have been made, making savings of several hundred thousand pounds each year in perpetuity. The County Council has decided that it would rather cut frontline services like libraries. The Vale's decisions have not been easy but they have safeguarded services. The Vale still has one of the lowest Council Taxes in the country and it is one of the best performing councils in England. That's the result of hard work, committed staff and sensible budgeting.

I'm not being a hypocrite by having my picture taken outside Botley library or by joining the library campaign. I am a regular library user and I want to see all our libraries kept open. That will require the kind of tough decision-making Lib Dems have had to do at the Vale. I will continue to support the library campaign to ensure that as much pressure is put on the County Council to think again about threats to important frontline services like libraries, which have benefits far beyond their role as simple lenders of books. That's not hypocritical: it's a clear, unequivocal commitment to North Hinksey and Wytham.

I'm grateful for the pledge of support I received from the voter last night and I hope you will consider supporting Debby and me on May 5th.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


Way to go, Nick! Following our recent party conference (the Lib Dems are the only truly democratic party in the country) which told the leadership most members were not happy with plans for NHS reform, Nick Clegg has today called for major changes to the plans which guarantee that the moves under the previous government to privatise services in the NHS are stopped.

Nick has confirmed that 'there will never be privatisation of the health service on our watch'.

We're still the good guys.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


My wife received a communication from the No to AV campaign today. I'm not sure why I didn't but she very kindly let me read hers and its a shocker. The essence of their argument is that AV is bad because Nick Clegg likes it and he's bad so that's that.

However, they were clearly concerned that this wasn't enough so they included a picture of an attractive female doctor and made up a figure for the potential cost of AV which relies on the lie that it requires machines and a lengthy education campaign for people if it is introduced. Utter nonsense.

To dismiss the second point in a phrase, if you can count to 5 you will understand AV. Simple.

Here's a digression: I have two children and we used cotton nappies for both of them with no problems at all. I remember a campaign by the makers of disposable nappies 'proving' that cotton nappies are just as expensive and harmful for the environment as disposable nappies, millions of which are disposed of in landfills every day. The research was based on the presumption that people who used cotton nappies washed them at 90 degrees, dried them and then ironed them. Well, I must be a bad parent because we washed them quite well at 60 degrees, dried them on a clothes line and forced our children to wear un-ironed nappies. I still feel the shame.

But this is a digression. Back to the AV campaign and back to some facts which the 'no' people cannot admit:

1. An AV election does not require any machines or computers at all. It could use them but then so could a First Past the Post election.
2. As I have said, if you can count to 5, you'll get AV.
3. It has been said that an AV election would require more people to organise it and would cost local authorities more. Well, my experience of working for local authorities and attending far too many election counts which have used a range of systems for European and London elections, to name two, has demonstrated to me that the same number of long-suffering staff were present at all of them and they were paid for a day's work, however long it took.
3. In an AV election the person who gets the most votes in the first round can win. If you look at their shocker of a leaflet, it seems this never happens. Well, that's kind of the point behind AV. It gives people the chance to vote tactically and it forces politicians to work for every single vote, considering the views of a far wider range of people. Essentially, the person who does most to get their message across should win. Is that bad? Do some politicians fear having to explain themselves once every four or five years?

Finally, a point about my long-suffering leader. Nick Clegg, who is being pilloried at the moment, quite unreasonably, for all sorts of ills. He's taking it on the chin and sticking to the LD agreement to work with the Tories for the good of the country. If the best the AV campaign can do is to snipe about Nick Clegg and the coalition, it reveals a lot about the strength of the 'No to AV' campaign.

I hope you will consider the pros and cons of AV carefully and I hope you will vote on May 5th according to your view. I hope that your view is in favour of a positive development for our political system. I trust that most people will not be taken in by the nonsense the 'no' campaign is peddling.

NB: for a clear explanation of the relative merits of AV and First Past the Post, don't trust me, trust the BBC and the Electoral Reform Society. There is good information out there.

UPDATE: the Independent clearly reads my blog too, for it has provided a more detailed rebuttal of some of the nonsense surrounding the AV campaign here.


We had a good morning in Botley shopping centre this morning, with the combined candidates from Cumnor and North Hinksey & Wytham offering ourselves up to be grilled by the Saturday morning shoppers. We gave out copies of our manifesto, currently being delivered across the Vale by a wonderful group of members and supporters.

We also spent much time promoting the AV campaign as well as answering the inevitable questions about the coalition. There is often not much time to tell people about the 16 years of LD control of the Vale, with the low taxes, high quality services and focus on key issues such as a massive increase in recycling and one of the best records on building affordable housing in the country.

I hope we've managed to convince a few more voters to help us continue our work on the Vale and forgo the needless complaining of some opposition candidates.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


I understand that some other candidates for the election in May have commented that the West Way Shopping Centre is 'shabby', which I disagree with. I use the shopping centre several times a week and, while it is not Bluewater or the Orchard Centre in Didcot, it is an excellent local centre, with all the essential services people need, including the much loved library. The West Way shopping centre is not perfect but it has the beautiful parade of shops in front and fairly functional and 'green' precinct at the back. Most importantly it 'works' and it is popular and well-used.

Rather than constantly complaining about problems, what I would like candidates in local elections to do is to tell us what they would do. Its time for cards to be laid on the table and for residents to make their minds up. If you have nothing positive to offer, stand aside because the Lib Dems most certainly have.

Simply put, we offer low taxes, good services, year-round engagement with residents and a focus on our local communities across the Vale. Beat that - if you can.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Former Liverpool City Council leader, Warren Bradley, is worried about the coalition and concerned that our principles are being damaged by the coalition. He thinks we face meltdown at the election.

Well, Cllr Bradley, I'm worried about the coalition as well but I am also clear that it is the right thing to do. When I was fighting the General Election in 2010 in Henley - not exactly the easiest terrain to be a Lib Dem - I was clear about Nick's message that he would work with whichever party won the most votes, which is precisely what he did and precisely why, despite my abhorrence of that party, I'm prepared to hold my nose in the interests of the country.

Its also why I'm prepared to go on to the doorsteps of Oxfordshire - not full of rich academics, you might be surprised to hear, but made up of the ordinary folk who form the backbone of our country - to argue the case for the Lib Dems in government and for our proud record of running the Vale of White Horse District Council in Oxfordshire since 1995 very well, with low taxes, good services and a listening council.

Not surprisingly, I have found the response on the doorsteps here to be a mixture of disappointment mixed with understanding and acceptance that Nick is actually playing with a straight bat. I also find that when I tell people about - for example - the lower taxes for the lowest paid, the higher pensions, the halting of the wasteful and pointless Trident programme, the reason why student fees could not be scrapped this time round, plus the removal of many of the unnecessary restrictions on our civil liberties Tony Blair imposed upon people - they tend to understand that we haven't changed and that our MPs have simply done what every politician must do, which is to sit down and talk to our political foes to find the best way forward for our country.

That's not selling out our principles, that's politics. In fact you might argue that it is politics at its very best: the willingness to work with ideological enemies in the wider interest of the country.

I'm finding the experience on the doorsteps of Oxfordshire to be challenging but also very encouraging as most people are willing to listen and usually to accept that we are still the good guys, even if, like me, they can't stand the Tories.

I'm out to win in May. I'd like to think that Cllr Bradley is as well but sadly he's gone and made the job that little bit more difficult for his colleagues in Liverpool and for people like them across the country. I hope he will reflect on that and, instead of asking Nick to consider his position, perhaps Cllr Bradley might reflect on his own.

Monday, 11 April 2011


I have been chosen as the candidate for North Hinksey and Wytham in the forthcoming district council elections, together with Debby Hallett. This is a brief biography to introuce myself.

I worked for the Vale of White Horse District Council between 2002 and 2009 and I currently work for Oxford Brookes University in Botley, focusing on local government improvement and development.

I have been involved in local government since 1994, I have been a parish councillor and parish clerk and I am a founding and continuing member of a committee running a very successful community shop. I am a keen - if infrequent - cyclist and I try to use and support public transport, although my job doesn't always allow for this. Working in Botley, I am a regular user of Botley library and all the local services in the town centre.

Together with our team, Debby and me are trying to get round as many homes as possible during April to introduce ourselves and to seek your support so that we can work with colleagues to continue the successful work of Liberal Democrats on the Vale, a council we have run since 1995.