Southport – John Pugh MP standing down

My good friend John Pugh MP has decided after many years serving the good folk of Southport that the June General Election is the time for him to step down.

I know John has been an excellent MP not least because opposition party members have told me such. And I don’t mean in tribute after hearing he is standing down but before that whilst he has been Southport’s MP.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

John is independently minded but then again that is the test of a good Liberal. Show me a politician who is prepared to be whipped time and time again to vote for things they really can’t abide and I will likely show you someone who is not a Liberal. Remember John stood out against Nick Clegg’s dropping the the Lib Dem pledge to oppose an increase in Tuition Fees, which were originally brought in by Labour when they were in Government. John was right.

On a subject close to my heart, John has been up front in his support for the revitalistion of rail services into and out of Southport to the east and north of the Town. That is an ongoing campaign that has a long way to run and his successor will have to show the same determination to support and promote that cause because the economic future of Southport is very much bound up in such campaigning.

I can’t say that I always agree with John but hey I’m a Liberal too and hope I have a reasonably independent mind too. What I do know is that John is a deep thinker who analyses every matter before him and you can bet that if you challenge him over an issue he can demonstrate a clear thought process that took him to the view that he holds.

I think Southport has had a really exceptional MP in John and they will be big boots indeed for his successor to fill.

Happy retirement from Westminster John but not from the local political scene.

Gas & electricity smart meters that ain’t so smart!

I recall having a new electricity meter installed about 5 years ago (as the old one started to go backwards when we had solar panels installed) and the installer told me we would all be on smart meters by 2015. Well that did not happen, did it.

Then out of the blue last week my ‘Research Assistant’ flagged up a rather odd if not ridiculous situation that those who have a smart meter are likely to encounter if they choose to switch supplier, which of course government keeps encouraging us to do.

If you switch supplier then it is highly likely that your smart meter will stop being smart as the various electricity and gas suppliers don’t all have compatible smart meters/IT systems!

This was supposed to be getting sorted out in 2016 but of course we were all supposed to be on smart meters by now!

John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport has taken this odd state of affairs up with Amber Rudd MP at the Department for Energy & Climate Change and his letter is below – click on it to enlarge –

John Pugh MP

smart meters-jp

Click on the letter to enlarge it

I wonder how this ‘smartless’ process will be resolved and how long it will take to become smart?

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Rail Curves – Vital rail connections – 3 projects come to mind

Curves on railways – in reality pieces of hardly or never used track/trackbed that folks are campaigning to have reinstated so that better services can be delivered.

I can think of 3 of them in the north west of England:-

The Burscough Curves – They should connect the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines but were taken out of use in the 1960’s. OPSTA, John Pugh (MP for Southport) and others across the political spectrum have be fighting for years to get the curves brought back because Southport – Preston trains would be a possibility and indeed Ormskirk – Southport trains as well. Sadly, the powers that be continue to drag their heels whilst giving tea and sympathy.

Looking towards Wigan at Burscough with the Ormskirk - Preston line crossing the Southport - Wigan line via the bridge. The Burscough Curves would reconnect these two lines.

Looking towards Wigan at Burscough with the Ormskirk – Preston line crossing the Southport – Wigan line via the bridge. The Burscough Curves would reconnect these two lines.

The Todmorden Curve – It has recently been reinstated and trains from Burnley will be able to reach Manchester far more quickly. Burnley’s last MP Gordon Birtwistle was a big driver for this work to be done.

The Halton Curve – down near Runcorn/Widnes and it looks like it is on the verge of being slated for reinstatement. When it is it will improve rail services for Merseysider’s and folks in North Wales.

So two out of 3 north west rail curves (2 out of 4 in reality as the Burscough Curves is plural of course) is not bad but rail travelers in West Lancashire and Sefton should not rest from their campaigning until all 4 are slated for being brought back into use.

We are all the poorer for sound bite politics

I often wonder how many politicians of genuine independent thinking may be left as year on year their all-controlling political masters churn out and then demand that silly sound bites are used during every media interview or are placed within every press release.

‘The squeezed middle’ comes to mind as a present favourite but there others which are just as meaningless. Ed Miliband, poor chap, seems to be fed a diet of them and looks so wooden as he tries to sneak them into every interview. But he is far from being alone as senior Tories do it just as ham fistedly. Sadly, I fear it is taking root in senior Lib Dems too.

Of course it is not a new stunt ‘the Pound in your pocket’ comes to mind and ‘never had it so good’ as well but what worries me is that such pointless/meaningless phrases, which easily slip off the tongue, are now just everyday language to our political leaders.

An MP who comes to mind who you would have to try hard to get to do sound bites is John Pugh of Southport, his independence of mind and thought is not easily contained or compromised. But I digress; the issue here is that politicians use sound bites to duck issues, to mud sling and to avoid answering questions.

Why though do the media let them get away with it? Surely, a blatant sound biting stunt from a senior politician would benefit from a firm rebuff along the lines of ‘yes that childlike sound bite is all very well but it does you no credit as a supposedly serious senior politician’! Imagine the howls of indignation and protest, but so long as such media put-downs were fairly handed out across the political spectrum (which of course they would not be) would it not make the sound bite politicians far more wary about trying to take us all for soft Joe’s and Jane’s?

Sadly, many in the media often serve us just as poorly as our political leaders, because of their own political/proprietor bias and unwillingness to take on those in power. As a free thinking Liberal one can despair at the poor quality of public debate either as it comes from politicians or as it is reported by the media. We are indeed poorly served.

I originally wrote this posting for Liberal England blog site where it was published, see this link:-

www.liberalengland.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/guest-post-we-are-all-poorer-for-sound.html

Demanding action to address Southport’s transport problems

Southport’s pressing transport problems to the north and east, which inhibit the town’s development, its economy and its tourist industry are to be debated at the next meeting of Sefton Council.

As someone with a keen interest in transport and railways in particular I am to move a motion for debate which attempts to take forward this pressing problem which, if it is not addressed, will hold back the economy of the town.

My aim is to try to draw people together, of all political beliefs and of none, around a common agenda on a vital subject for the future of Southport.

Taken from the roof tops - An unusual view of 3 Merseyrail Electric units that provide the excellent rail link from Southport to Liverpool

Taken from the roof tops – An unusual view of 3 Merseyrail Electric units that provide the excellent rail link from Southport to Liverpool

Southport has an excellent rail connection to the south but a second rate one to the east and north. Indeed, to travel north by train Southport residents first have to get a train to Wigan on a line that is frequently either overcrowded or which offers a poor standard of travel.

Southport Station with one of the infamous Pacer Trains awaiting departure for Wigan and beyond. These are the diesel units that John Pugh MP has been campaigning to have replaced.

Southport Station with one of the infamous Pacer Trains awaiting departure to Wigan and beyond. These are the diesel units that John Pugh MP has been campaigning to have replaced.

But there are highway problems as well for Southport, with the market town of Ormskirk being a huge barrier for road users trying to access Southport.

I have been discussing these issues with the Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) and with John Pugh the MP for Southport. We all feel that an initiative from Sefton Borough Council is required to get the ball rolling.

This is a long-term problem that is exacerbated by the arbitrary political boundaries between Merseyside and Lancashire which were drawn up during local government reorganisation in 1974. In many ways, the solutions to Southport’s transport problems lie within Lancashire but West Lancashire is not part of the Liverpool City Region so these artificial boundaries mean that solutions are difficult to achieve.

The bottom line is simple. If these transport issues are not resolved then Southport’s development, its economy and its tourist industry will all be held back – which is in no ones interest.

Pugh likens Labour run Sefton to North Korea!

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport and former Leader of Sefton Council is not known for irrational outbursts; indeed he is a thoughtful man who does not crave media attention as do some politicians. On that basis when someone like John waves a flag of concern we should all take notice.

John waved his flag on the BBC North West Politics TV Programme last Sunday and you can see what he said by popping over to my colleague Iain Brodie-Browne’s Birkdale Focus Blog Site to watch a short video from the show.

Sadly, John has a point as Labour run Sefton is becoming very much like a communist regime. It does not like answering questions put to it at Council meetings and does its utmost not to do so. It will not engage in debate about the policies it is pursuing and it fears being scrutinised by its backbench and opposition councillors.

Take the Full Council meeting held last Tuesday. There were two debates initiated by the oppositions Lib Dems. The first was an attempt to open up the Council’s scrutiny process by having some of the scrutiny committees chaired by opposition councillors. The comrades opposed this but failed to give a single reason why they opposed it. Yes their Leader ranted on, for the benefit of his all too quiet troops who are rarely allowed to engage in debate, about this that and the other but he failed to address the point of the debate. Labour then voted to keep their closed shop very much closed.

We then moved on to a second debate where we again pressed for a 10% reduction in the wages paid to the 7 Cabinet members of the Council to assist with the Council’s need to make savings. Unsurprisingly, the comrades were having none of that even though the money we were trying to save was targeted at bringing back some decent democratic representation in the centre of the Borough where Labour have merged 3 Area Committees used by residents to raise concerns about very local matters. The merger was sold as a cost cutting measure but makes no sense at all – what on earth have communities like Formby, Maghull and Crosby got in common apart from all being within the vast middle of the Borough? So Labour again opposed the proposals but without giving a single reason why they thought that keeping more money in the Cabinet’s pockets is more desirable than improving engagement will local communities. No Labour member representing Crosby, Formby or Maghull rose to back their communities but they all voted to keep money in their Cabinet bosses pockets.

And it’s not just on Sefton Council where Labour closes down information channels. Take little Maghull Town Council where a matter was referred to the Police by the Labour run Town Council a few months ago but we opposition members have been unable to obtain the background documents (despite an FoI request) or the detailed reasons for that referral. Yes, the Police decided to take no action but who was under investigation – staff, people who worked for or with the Council? And what about Maghull Cricket Club? We think Labour are trying to use it as a cash cow to gain higher rents from but even another FoI request has yet to reveal what the Town Council’s objectives are in trying to change a legal agreement with the Club.

On a wider Merseyside platform you can also look at what went on with Labour run Merseytravel in the very recent past and where it seems another big financial scandal is about to be dragged from the undergrowth any day now.

So John Pugh MP has a significant point to make even though at face value it may seem like he is a politician simply throwing a little mud at his opposition. Unless Labour start to open up the local councils they run they will end up being accused of more North Korean type approaches to local democracy.