Clegg’s bid to stop developments on Green Belt land

Clegg ‘Put partisan politics aside for housing solution’

In an article for the Telegraph, Deputy PM Nick Clegg calls on David Cameron to publish a prospectus for future housing developments including plans to build two garden cities in Kent and Buckinghamshire. A report on future developments is said to have been drawn up as long as two years ago, however, the Conservatives have repeatedly denied that a report on garden cities exists. Mr Clegg said: “We need to create planned communities: whole new towns with the infrastructure and amenities they need. Bloated towns and cities are being forced to expand further bit by bit, and the green belt is being eaten away. Garden cities are a way of protecting the countryside. It is possible to create them without building on any green belt, National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And by doing it we could deliver homes people can afford in places they want to live.” Housing minister Kris Hopkins said that he was not “aware of any report which was supposed to have been published by the government but which has been ‘suppressed’.”

Now this may be a sensible way forward Nick, so long as it does not mean building on high grade agricultural land! But having said that I still come back to the issue of the consequences of our population rising year on year – surely this is unsustainable. Planning and environmental policy making in the UK needs to be brought together.

With thanks to the LGiU for this story.

An unnatural coalition that had no choice

Read the excellent short piece ‘Unnatural Coalition’ on Iain Brodie Browne’s Birkdale Focus Blog Site

and then my comments below:-

Unnatural certainly. This Coalition without the dire financial situation of the UK would surely never have happened. But it was that dire edge of a cliff financial meltdown that was the overriding priority. It made us very strange partners of a party that has within it some of the worst right wing folk you can think of.

Then again there was no alternative of course. Labour had too few seats to form a government without adding in all kinds of weird and wonderful political oddities from across the UK. It would have been a Coalition from hell with an opposition Tory Party pulling it apart day by day. Last 5 years? I would have given it 1 at the most.

I often wonder what would have happened if Labour had not lost so many seats and a coalition with them had been a runner. Firstly, I don’t think they would have wanted it and would rather have stayed in opposition due to being politically shot full of holes and exhausted. But what if they had been up for it? Is it possible that they could seriously reign in their tax, borrow and spend approach to Government? I seriously doubt that they could.

Clegg had no alternatives despite this Coalition being one of the oddest political partnerships of recent history. How do we work with a Tory Party that has no heart or a Labour Party that always loses its head and this despite the fact that there are people within Labour, on the social democratic wing, who think at times as we Lib Dems do.

Co-operatives, mutuals and Co-op movement

In the Nottinghamshire coalfield where I was brought up there was a Co-op on every corner or so it seemed and most people shoped at the Co-op. I remember my grandmother talking about her dividend from being a Co-op member/regular customer. You could identify a Co-op store as much by its architechture as anything else; in Notts and Derby they all seemed to be built in a similar and at times grand style. Many had a black and white timbered roof apex I seem to recall and I thought as a young lad they all had to be built like that.

This is the grand looking former Co-op building in Youlgrave - now a YHA. The arched window panels give its history away

This is the grand looking former Co-op building in Youlgrave or Youlgreave (depending how you wish to spell it) – now a YHA. The arched window panels give its history away

Oddly and by chance I then moved at the age of 6 to where many people see the birth of the Co-operative movement – Toad Lane, Rochdale.

Much later in life my good friend Cllr. Bruce Hubbard became a member of the Co-operative Committee for a while.

The link below seems to sum up the ideals of the co=operative movement all be it in this case in America.

Here in the UK the Co-op company has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent times as its banking side of the business has run into hard times and scandals.

I have often wondered why the Co-op Party (the political wing of the Co-op movement) is still a sister party to Labour as it has moved far away from the ideals of mutual businesses particularly since the Blair years when it became a Party of big business. Indeed, the political will to promote mutuals is now far more firmly embedded in the Lib Dems than it is in the modern Labour Party. My years of working in the trade union movement also led me to think that it too is hardly enthusiastic about co-ops and mutuals generally. It seems that the potential independence and individuality of co-ops and mutuals can be at odds with many socialist ideas about centralist control.

I would like to see Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem Leadership champion co-ops and mutual ownership of businesses even more though because if we Liberals don’t who will in this capitalist world we live in.

Nick Clegg’s New Year Message – Not for the ears of the Europe haters!

Click the link above or scroll down directly to the video (below right) to watch.

Nice to see Nick making the case for Europe as firmly as this especially as walking away from it will most probably return the UK economy to ruin.

We all know where the one trick pony of UKIP stands but with both Tories and Labour running scared of them 2014 is going to be interesting. Let’s just remind ourselves of which parties have the most to fear from a good UKIP electoral performance.


Free Schools – A great idea but they do need qualified teachers!

Free schools are a very Liberal idea; no one should have a monopoly in providing education, including the state and local authorities, but it should always be of a high standard.

We Lib Dems welcomed the opening of Hawthorne’s Free (High) School in Bootle because it offers a real opportunity to turn around the increasing numbers of families who are sending their youngsters out of Bootle each day to high schools in Maghull and Crosby. We wish the School well, whilst realising they have taken on a monumental task which by and large Labour has ignored and certainly hope will go away as soon as possible.

But what about the fuss over the free school in Derby which has hit the buffers due to Ofsted saying it is failing in every way? Of course that is unacceptable, of course it has to shape up or be closed down. Yet Tories oppose seemingly any form of regulation of Free Schools, I assume this is on the basis that market forces will decide whether it sinks or swims. This is falsehood though because whilst a school fails its children are being let down and they don’t have another childhood to make up for one that an education system has failed.

It is because of such concerns that Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg has called for changes and some necessary regulation. For my part I can’t see how a school can work effectively without qualified teachers and whilst I am not sold on the rigid (tractor factory) National Curriculum there does have to be a clear standard for education wherever it is delivered.

Personally, I would not have the Government fund Free Schools that are set up for religious purposes. But then again I don’t think it is the job of the state to teach religion at all. Surely, taking on board a religion should be a decision of the individual not something predetermined by a decision of your family?

But back to Free Schools, they are a good thing and can be a force for change and excellence in education but they can’t just take money from the Government and pretty much do with as they wish! The Derby experience should not be a call to close all Free Schools as some in the Labour Party seem to think it. Then again where do Labour stand on Free Schools? Utterly opposed? Well they used to be. Supporting them? Well that was their surprising recent announcement pre-Derby. Moving back to opposing them? Well their utterances post-Derby would lead you to think they are doing another U turn!

The objective is quality education and Free Schools can deliver that but regulation of them must be brought in so to stop a minority of them damaging the education of our young people. I wonder what Labour’s policy on them will be next week?

Clegg, Cameron, Miliband – Is there a workable combination?

Well the answer is both yes and no.

Clegg and Cameron were right to bring the Coalition Government together, of that I have no doubt despite my lifelong opposition to Conservatism. They were right because:-

* the UK was teetering on the brink of economic collapse
* a world recession was hitting hard
* we had been spending and borrowing beyond our means for far too long
* Labour had not only run out of steam they were responsible in no small measure for the state we were and presently still are in.

But don’t times change! Cameron, a slightly pinko Tory, held all before him those 3 heady years ago and his Euro nutters were firmly back in the in their boxes well bound and gagged. Now they are very much out of their boxes running around like headless chickens causing Cameron all kinds of difficulties and UKIP all kinds of joy. That means the strains are clearly showing in the Coalition as Clegg, a chap on the right of the Lib Dems, can’t allow an ever more rightwing Tory Party to do the daft things they seemingly want to do. Like lemmings running for the cliff the Tories have been utterly panicked by UKIP and now half of Cameron’s troops are marching to UKIP’s tune. It can only get worse and we are two years away from an election!

So Clegg is desperately trying to keep the Coalition on track whilst Cameron has to deal with and pander to his ever more desperate Party. That their relationship must be strained there can be little doubt.

But what’s all this talk about Clegg and Miliband becoming good buddies (you can’t repeat that though); does it hold any water?

Well it might or might not. If you look at from the historical perspective you must say that the Lib Dems and Labour have more in common than the Lib Dems and Tories. However, as always happens under Labour, the economy goes to pot and it did so in a spectacular way during the Blair and Brown years. How can you work with a political party that helped bring financial disaster upon us, has failed to seriously acknowledge its failings or address the consequences and which has form from just about every previous Labour administration for failing on the economy?

As my daughter Jen often says – Every Labour government ends in financial failure, every Tory one ends in social failure. There are no right and wrong answers over say a 5 year governmental term because of events. Whom you could work with one year you could not work with the next. How on earth Clegg balances it all out and keeps his sanity I have no idea but when we have recovered from the economic mess, in say 10 years or so, I suspect that we may have him to thank for working with impossible people to do the possible.