Over the last few weeks you may have noticed that the comments stream has been dominated by an individual who has been focussed on the Queen Mary's Hospital. Clearly this is a hugely important issue and one on which I have written a number of times, but the individual in question feels that it is wrong for me to write about anything else.
The actions of this individual has put off others from commenting, attacking those that have and stifled comments on other issues which affect residents in Bexley and Bromley and London as a whole.
I have always had a very open policy towards the comments on this blog and have been happy for people to use it to critisise me, but I now feel that complete anonymity has allowed one individual to abuse the platform that this blog gives people to interact with me and other readers. Because of this I have changed the settings so that only users with a legitimate ID can comment.
I don't expect everyone to agree with what I say or do, but I do not hide behind a veil of anonymity, I am still happy for people to be critical of what I do, but I would ask that if you do so at least have the courage to be open and honest about who you are so that other readers can judge the motivation for your actions.
I would like to wish all the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas.
I'd particularly like to thank everyone who takes the time to comment on my posts, whether you agree, disagree or very much disagree with what I do or what I write, it is the feedback which keeps this site alive.
I'll be spending the next few day with friends and family and will be back at it in the new year. All the best.
At least the RMT and TSSA had the decency to pretend their recent strikes were about something other than getting Ken Livingstone back into City Hall. In the past few strikes a veneer was put over the unions' actions, but the Boxing Day stike called by ASLEF doesn't even bother to do this.
The union have torn up a long standing agreement which covers bank holiday working and demanded triple time plus a day off in lieu for any drivers who are scheduled to work on Boxing Day, despite the already having received increased pay and 6.8 weeks off each year.
It looks as though Ken Livingstone intends to fight the next Mayoral election through the transport unions, hoping that the disruptions will be blamed on Boris. This is cynical politicing at its worst, this will inconvenience many Londoners, hurt the lowest paid (who often don't get paid if they can't get to work) and harm the economy to the tune of £millions each strike day. I don't believe for a minute that Londoners will fall for it.
Why am I being generous of spirit? Maybe because it's nearly Christmas, maybe because it's not in the country or either party's interests for the coalition to fall apart but mainly because the Lib Dems are still learning and you should always give newbies a chance to learn from their mistakes.
Whilst both Lib Dem and Conservative parties are new to coalition, the Lib Dems are also completely new to government. Speaking on Radio 4 this afternoon Ann Widdicombe made the point that Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers are learning on the job the things that junior ministers normally learn earlier in their careers. It's not even as if they've had the chance to learn while in opposition, they've never been in opposition.
Cable spoke about battles with the Chancellor to get his priorities funded, what did he think the Conservative ministers were doing? Did he really think that all Conservative Cabinet Ministers got all they asked for? Everyone fights for funding, but those used to collective responsibility know that they have to present a unified position once that funding has been agreed.
The Lib Dems are in a difficult place. They have got the coalition that they have been preying for for decades and it isn't as much fun as they expected. They are realising that being on the battlefield is much harder than being an armchair General and it's starting the hit home to them that having a campaign message that is basically "We're not one of the other two" won't work now that they have had to side with "one of the other two".
There is an old saying from the days of the Raj which goes something like: "If you are going tiger hunting, make sure you are prepared to catch a tiger". The Lib Dems have a tiger by the tail and it is unbecoming of us to take too much pleasure in watching them try to deal with it.
Yesterday Boris and I went to the opening of a new FareShare depot in NW London funded by by the London Waste And Recycling Board (LWARB).
Boris, and I join the team at FareShare
FareShare do great work taking food that, for one reason or another, the food industry cannot sell and would trash and redistributing it to organisations that can use it. The reason that LWARB are supporting them is because 40% of that food waste would end up in landfill if it wasn't for their work.
The new depot alone will prevent 800 tonnes a year of perfectly edible food ending up in a landfill site somewhere as well as providing two full time jobs and up to 80 volunteering opportunities.
I have to confess that standing in a chilled depot in the middle of December is very hard work on the feet, brogues bad, furry boots good.
The Evening Standard are getting hot under the collar because David Cameron said of our Lib Dem opponents
"We'll be fighting for the same votes. I hope that will be done in a slightly more friendly manner than it has in the past."
Joe Murphy, the Standard's Political Editor, seems to have read this as DC hinting that the Conservatives would pull their punches, I see it rather differently. Having seen the campaigning techniques used by Lib Dems in By-Elections in the recent past I believe that this is more of a message to the Lib Dems not to make it personal or nasty. The partners in the coalition are going to have to learn how to campaign against each other without causing irreparable damage to the government.
The result on the 14th of January will be interesting but so will the weeks leading up to it.
Featuring 204 blank pages, this stylish A6 guide to Ed Miliband's Policies for Britain is the perfect stocking filler. With an attractive cover starring the new Labour leader, and every one of his policies outlined in detail inside, it's the must-have present this Christmas!
It is worth remembering that NHS London was amongst the more vocal critics of Andrew Lansley's plans to halt the Dazi changes of which APOH formed a part. Indeed the then Chairman, Richard Sykes, resigned in May 2010 over the Andrew's decision to halt planned hospital reorganisations in London, which included the closure of A&E and maternity units at QMH and the introduction of polyclinics.
I have long felt that the management at both South London NHS trust and a NHS London have been committed to implementing the APOH plans irrespective of wishes of local people and politicians. I have long felt that the trust's management didn't use the fact that they had three hospitals under their control to redeploy staff and keep QMH running.
I read with a mixture of amusement and horror at the effort that George Osbourne has had to invest in getting a cheap Christmas tree for the Treasury's offices. He wanted to get something around the £50 mark but it transpired that he was tied into a PFI contract which meant the tree would cost over £800.
When Liam Fox looked into the option of cancelling the two aircraft carriers planned under Labour it turned out to be more expensive to cancel the contract than to build the things. Being tied in to this contract means that we can't afford the aeroplanes to put onto the ships until a couple of years after they are launched.
Everyone in business knows that a contract with the public sector is not always easy to win, often going to one of a small pool of preferred suppliers, but once won are highly lucrative. I used to work in magazine and web publishing and the government's media department, the COI, was the big fish that everyone wanted to land. All over the country, in all areas of the public sector we are paying too much in PFIs and other contracts with the private sector.
I say that there is both an unwillingness and inability to negotiate properly, The unwillingness is born out of two parallel public sector mindsets, firstly that all public spending is good public spending and that by paying over the odds the public sector is "keeping the economy going". The second is a misplaced but understandable fear that by negotiating hard the public sector buyer may push the private sector seller out of business. Both these mindsets need to be stamped on.
The idea that public spending drives the economy is intellectual rot. Public spending is paid by taxes or public borrowing (deferred taxes) both of which stifle private sector growth. Secondly when two companies negotiate neither has altruistic motives, they both try to get the best deal and agree a mutually beneficial position. The public sector should drive down costs as far as it can when negotiating, the company will not sign up to a deal that would lose it money.
Because they have never tried to get good negotiated settlements there is no experience in the public sector of proper negotiations. If we are going to bring about real value in public sector procurement we need to train up a new generation of buyers who drive just as hard a bargain as their private sector contemporaries and we'll need to pay them properly to do so. A small number of big salaries in purchasing departments could save us billions every year.
It turns out that the now iconic (for all the wrong reasons) figure of a student swinging on the Cenotaph flag was called Charlie Gilmore and is the son of Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmore.
The Evening Standard has his excuse along with the now famous photograph, the excuse makes me more angry than I was before reading it. According to Charlie he was
"Running along with a crowd of people who had just been violently repelled by the police, I got caught up in the spirit of the moment. I did not realise that it was the Cenotaph and if I had, I certainly would not have done what I did."
Let's look at that statement and the picture (which you can look at here). He claims to have been "violently repelled by the police", yet the police can be seen calmly standing along the pavement of Whitehall in the photo and no one else seems to be running from attack. He also claims not to have known that it was the Cenotaph, yet he is a Cambridge history graduate!
It rather strikes me that young Charlie Gilmore is either a liar, an idiot or both.
People have a right to protest, I've been on protests I'm happy that other people continue to have the opportunity to do so. There are, however, a number of people who seem to fell that the right to protest also includes to "right" to cause criminal damage.
"Violence against property in itself does not instantly disqualify a protest" Ian Dunt, Politics.co.uk
Ian gives a genuinely fascinating account of the events in and around Parliament Square yesterday afternoon and evening and is well worth a read, but I'm surprised and concerned by the quote above. Damage to property is illegal and forces the police to act, they cannot just stand by and watch the Cenotaph, statue of Churchill or the Treasury get covered in graffiti or smashed up.
The police cannot ignore violence and attacks on people either, and when calming words no longer work the police have to be physical in their response. The student organisers were naive in the extreme if the thought that their protest wouldn't be kidnaped by groups intent on causing damage, that die was cast when 30 Millbank was attacked.
The protest yesterday stopped being about fees very early on, and Ian Dunt makes clear that is wasn't a minority attitude that lead to the violence. David Cameron is right to say that what the protesters did yesterday was completely unacceptable, I think that what happened was disgusting.
In the recent past there have been a number of people very critical of the police crowd control tactic called containment, many call it kettling. The tactic is used to prevent small groups of protesters splitting off from the main protest and causing damage in the surrounding areas.
Today we have seen why the police defend their right to use this tactic. The main student protest was around Westminster, Whitehall and Parliament Square but a number of protesters split off and moved up to the Oxford Street where they caused a great deal of damage and attacked the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall who were in a car in the area.
The people who claim that kettling has no place in public order policing need to explain what the police should do to prevent violence and vandalism spreading through the streets of London when the organisers of protests lose control. It seems that just asking nicely doesn't work.
This Assembly urges the Government to introduce legislation requiring that for a strike ballot to be passed it must receive over 50% support from the total membership of a union, in order to stop a small minority from inflicting tube strikes on millions of Londoners.
The Labour members mounted a passionate defence of union rights, ignoring the fact that it is the low paid and part time workers who are hit the hardest when they can't get to work.
I was surprised and disappointed that the Lib Dems on the Assembly also sided with Labour and the small cabal of union members who forced through these strike votes rather than with the bulk of the union members who didn't vote for industrial action and the bulk of London commuters who are inconvenienced by strikes.
This morning Val Shawcross was named as Ken Livingstone's running mate for the 2012 election and she said this to the Evening Standard “I dislike the nasty personalisation that goes on in party politics and I feel that a lot of the electorate, especially women, feel the same,”.
She also said that Boris was guilty of "old fashioned sexism" for not appointing enough women to his top team. I wonder what Isabel Dedring (Environment Advisor), Pam Chesters (Health & Youth Opportunities Advisor), Manira Mirza (Arts and Culture Advisor), Kate Hoey (Sports and Olympics Advisor), Rosey Boycott (Food Advisor & Chair of London Food Board), Lizzie Noel (Volunteering and Social Action Advisor), Patience Wheatcroft (Chair of the LDA Forensic Audit Panel) and Veronica Wadley (Chair of the London Arts Council), all of whom were appointed by Boris, would say to that?
The Electoral Reform Society regards AV as the best voting system when a single position is being elected. However, as AV is not a proportional system, the Society does not regard it as suitable for the election of a representative body, e.g. a parliament, council, committees, etc
This is taken from the original version of the ERS website, a website which now claims that:
The Society has long argued that AV is the best system when you're out to elect a single winner.
It has also stripped out the arguments against AV which were present on the original page, a full breakdown of the changes to the ERS website is available on the AV2011 website which is itself well worth a read.
I've just watched a very slick video from an organization called False Economy opposing the government's spending plans. It is full of the usual guff that has become the common currency of the left, that the deficit is all the fault of the banks, that reducing public spending will crash the economy and that reduced spending will mean that children go uneducated, the streets go unpoliced and that disabled people will starve.
I'd like to put these arguments to bed and have plenty of real facts to use but I'd like some help in one area. Can anyone out in internet land point me in the direction of the following figures please:
The size of the UK deficit before the bank bailout.
The size of the non-recoverable elements of the bank bailout.
The current asset value of the stocks, etc bought as part of the bank bailout.
The size of the UK structural deficit at the time of the general election.
They're like buses. You wait for ages then a load of them turn up at once.
I went up to Conservative Central Head-Quarters this afternoon to talk to the regional Chairs of Conservative Future, the party's student and youth wing. I walked from Charing Cross to Millbank (still encased in wooden boards after the violence at the first student protest) and passed through Parliament Square to get there. There were a number of police officers looking cold and bored and a few hundred anti-something-or-others with wooly hats and placards calmly and non violently protesting about something-or other.
Graffiti on Nelson's Column, London
The group I saw may (or may not) have been the same bunch who were with Polly Toynbee hypocritically protesting outside Top Shop earlier, they may have been demanding that people who don't go to university should subsidise those that do or they may have been angry that the weather is undermining their scare stories about the climate. I don't know because I stopped listening to protesters as soon as they started smashing things up and spray painting statues.
As I said, the protesters that I saw were calm and well behaved but their actions are being undermined by the actions of violent idiots who think it's a bit of a laugh damaging public and private property.