Cable – He said what many of us think about Murdoch’s media empire

So Saint Vince (together with a number of other Lib Dem Ministers) is in a bit of bother having been the subject of a sting operation by the Daily Telegraph, but did he say anything that is really shocking about the power of Murdoch’s media empire? I think not. My guess is that Vince just said what many people think but in his position, as a Minister, we are collectively shocked.

Clearly, he was not going to give Murdoch a free ride (and he was right) but will we be able to say the same for the Tory Minister who will now deal with the Murdoch BSkyB matter?

My Dad used to get the Telegraph when he was alive and I guarantee he would be upset with their stunt. In his last years he was always complaining that the paper had lost its way and its standards.

But more than anything it is good to see that Lib Dem Ministers in the Coalition Government are still being radical Liberals. It’s being free thinkers that sets us Lib Dems apart from Tory and Labour politicians. Yes, of course we Lib Dems disagree with Tories over many things but why do the media think that is so surprising just because we are in Government with them?

More on the snow

I have spent much of today in bed with the flu bug but slipped and slithered my way to Bootle first thing to go to work; its not getting any better out there!

I have been contacted directly by half a dozen Sefton residents with concerns about the ability of the Council to deal with the severe weather. In turn I have be on to senior Council officers trying to ensure that Sefton is doing what it can. My Cabinet colleague Cllr. John Fairclough (Labour) on our balanced Council, where no one party has overall control, has responsibility for highways so I am sure he must be up the wall with complaints and concerns from residents.

Clearly, Sefton will need to have a long hard look at how it responds to severe weather so that lessons can be learned from this cold snap. It could mean ploughing (no pun intended) more money into Sefton’s bad weather response in the future by reducing expenditure in other areas of the Council’s activities.

People are so kind but Ministers can be quite daft

Today I have had quite an adventure; what with the snow melting the slipping and sliding about in the car has been quite an experience. 3 times today I have been helped to get the car going again by perfect strangers who found me stuck at the side of the road with wheels a spinning! Each time they volunteered to help me and that restores your faith in human nature. Thanks to every one of them.

And that makes me think of silly politicians who promise that they will solve the weather problems. A Scottish Transport Minister has already been asked to resign because he said all was OK when it was not. Now Philip Hammond, whom I have posted about before, is coming under attack for being to cocky about how we will cope with the snow. Why even Tony Blair who was nearer to his God than any recent Prime Minister could not control the weather so what on earth makes Ministers make predictions that all will be OK when the weather always wins and no one can safely predict it or deal with it in its extremes.

The coldest cold snap that I can ever remember in Sefton

I have lived in Sefton for as long as it has existed (1974 to date) and I do not recall a cold snap as harsh as the one we are presently suffering. I was born and raised in the Nottinghamshire coalfield and harsh winters are the norm there but with the gulf stream we rarely have bad winters here in Sefton. But things they seem to be a changing – could it be global warming? I would not be at all surprised if it is a part of that process.

Road gritting is not working because temperatures are too low, -11 in Maghull as I type this post and Sefton’s present record seems to be in Crosby where I an told -17 has been reached in the past few days! I have just come off the phone with a resident who was suggesting to me that a stretch of Hall Lane in Maghull could do with being closed for safety reasons as there have been a number of vehicle and pedestrian accidents around the canal swing bridge that has a steep slope up to it on the western side. I have put that request to the Police and Highway Engineers to consider.

Of course it is also time to help those who can’t get out due to buses not running and them being too unsteady on their legs to cope with the ice due to age. I am about to take some shopping to an elderly couple that I know; lets hope my Skoda is up for another challenging journey across Maghull. Having said that it has done a lot better than a top of range Lexus I saw today which was doing a good Strictly Come Dancing spin in front of me. However, I think that was probably down to the driver going too fast for the conditions. Some people never learn.

School Uniforms – Lib Dems put pressure on schools

School uniforms, if they are bought at shops such as ASDA or Tesco to name but two cheap outlets, are affordable even if you are on a limited budget. However, some state schools still ask parents to shell out for expensive colours or parts of a uniform that can only be purchased at certain shops. This despite the last Government issuing ‘advice’ over the matter some years ago. 

In these times of austerity schools need to ensure that their uniforms are easily affordable and we Lib Dems are reminding them of what we think is their obligation. We say this in the context of Sefton Council withdrawing the subsidy that it used pay to families who struggled to fund school uniform costs. There is no longer any money to subsidise uniforms. However, if you turn the issue the other way around is it not ridiculous that the public purse should have to subsidise school uniforms when they are so cheap in the supermarkets?

I support school uniforms as they teach children about the need to dress appropriately for the world of work. Not only that uniforms help keep parents costs down when it comes to children clothes as they preclude the need for children to be in a costly fashion parade at least during school hours. So please Sefton Schools help parents obtain affordable uniforms by making them easy to obtain on the high street. It’s not a lot to ask in these hard times is it?

Richard Kemp – Pickles and Shapps / Labour’s Sefton dilemma

Cllr. Richard Kemp, the Lib Dem Leader on the Local Government Association – LGA, is a calm and sober commentator on political events so to hear him saying publicly via the national media today that Eric Pickles (see my posting of yesterday) and Grant Shapps (not a Minister that I have really noticed) are both in a world of their own as Coalition Ministers (my words not his) then all is not well. By the way Sefton Council voted to give notice of withdrawal from the LGA last Thursday as a cost cutting measure.

The Tory Party have always had their eccentric off the wall characters and my hope has been that they and the loony right (who Cameron clearly wants rid of) would be pushed to the sidelines via the Coalition Government. However, a couple of them seem to have sneaked through to positions of power which is regrettable. A test of Cameron will be what he does if they continue to be flaky. All political parties are themselves coalitions of differing views. Remember how Kinnock, Smith and Blair tried to rid themselves of Labour’s extreme left. Remember how John Major became a prisoner of the Tories loony right wing when he was Prime Minister. I am sure there are other examples and I am quite prepared to accept that we Lib Dems have our odd fringe people as well!

My firm view is that the Coalition is right but then again I sit on a Council that has been run by a 3 party coalition since 1986! To believe that any single political party has a monopoly on wisdom is to delude one self. On Sefton Council 95% of the decisions have all-party agreement to them; that is a positive not a negative thing. Yes, I know that Labour suggested that they were likely to remove themselves from Sefton’s Cabinet last Thursday to become an opposition party, but will they really do that? Should they really do that? Their dilemma is that their Leader is one of two Deputy Leaders of the Council so if they truly want to oppose the Council’s required savings, that I have posted about previously, then they may have to walk away from Sefton’s multi-party governance to do that with any credibility. But if they walk away they will cease to be able to influence the Cabinet. What will they do, we await their decision with interest.

I see advantage in having a wider political tent than just one party; it should lead to better government as it makes it less likely that extremists can have undue influence which was clearly what brought Major to his knees. Multi-party government would also have stopped Margaret Thatcher who, in my view, did far more harm than good. This, of course, means we need to vote yes in the fair votes referendum next May. Extremists and loonies need to be marginalised in British politics like they are in most modern western democracies.