Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Big screen entertainment

Birmingham City Council has recently installed two big screens in the council chamber with projectors linked to a snazzy camera system that zooms in immediately on any given councillor's seat, identifying the speaker and the party. This is actually an excellent idea, although seeing the councillors in glorious colour is not an experience suitable for those with weak stomachs.

My spy in the public gallery reports that Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Hunt presented a petition containing 800 signatures against any form of congestion charging. Now councillors have to represent all their constituents and I suppose that this petition might have come up as a result of a genuine groundswell of public opinion, but I'm really not convinced. This feels like a petition generated by the Lib Dems themselves.

If only the Liberal Democrats had a policy on road-pricing.

But wait! Hang on a minute - they do!
Liberal Democrats believe road user pricing is essential...

...this issue requires robust political leadership if road user pricing is to be widely accepted in the UK. This is the challenge that the Liberal Democrats are willing to face...
Make that SOME Liberal Democrats. Others are after cheap political capital. Indeed, some of us remember the former Lib Dem transport spokesman Don Foster, who wrote to the Secretary of State to confirm the Liberal Democrat policy on road pricing, but then went on to explain in detail why it was entirely unsuitable for places like Bath. Can you guess which constituency Don represents?

The Liberal Democrats also completed the eviction of their former colleague Cllr Abdul Aziz by removing him from the Coordinating Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Naturally, you would think that they would seize the opportunity to redress some of the representational imbalance that continues to affect the council (where a large part of the Birmingham population is entirely unrepresented by the leadership - unless you count the three day a week allowance paid to Tanveer Choudhry for leading the Local Area Agreement Task and Finish Scrutiny Committee which has done almost exactly no work since being formed in July)

In any case, you would, of course, be wrong. Clearly, Cllr John Hemming MP hasn't got enough to do, so he can find time to serve on that committee as well as being a businessman, wannabe astronaut, gentleman farmer and member of parliament.

Fresh and well-fed from an expensive formal dinner with representatives from Guangzhou (I'm not sure if kidney was on the menu with the steak), Whitless was talking up the chances of Birmingham attracting the Chinese team for the 2012 Olympics, although how their swimmers would cope without a 50m Olympic pool for training is an interesting question.

Ironically, a motion was brought to the council about the decline in manufacturing in Birmingham, which gave little Bobbie Alden a chance to speak his (rather limited) brains. He blamed the problems of industry on the tax and red-tape policies of Gordon Brown, rather than accepting the unpleasant truth that volume manufacturing is thriving in places like China because the workforce will work for pennies and not demand fripperies like holidays, safe working environments or pension plans.

The Tories did themselves no favours today, catcalling and barracking Albert Bore as he tried to raise a petition in support of those British citizens imprisoned by our American friends in Guantanamo. Similarly, one of their number came back with potentially libellous remarks about Sir Albert's appointment as chair of the University Hospital NHS Trust.

A reshuffle is in the air as departmental functions are being moved around in a grand game of musical chairs. Of course, the new departmental heads will be appointed after a thorough process of fair and open selection. Or they could just be picked for their loyalty and willingness to do as they are told. Guess which path the council has chosen. This has an impact on the cabinet as well, and Tory Cllr John Lines is wandering around telling all and sundry that he will be the new cabinet member for constituencies and housing - which may come as a surprise to the current holder of the local services portfolio, Lib Dem Jim Whorwood.


Jon Hunt said...

Thanks for your interest. Yes we did generate the petition you refer to - but the local people collected the signatures. Quite a few people appear to have photocopied up to a dozen forms or more.

The thing is I'm a Liberal, not a green fascist. Your government and its agents appears to be going down the road of green stalinism, imposing solutions regardless of their impact on local communities and quite happy to stick toll points in the middle of estates.

If your spy network was better you would know we launched a major, and fully considered, challenge to Gridlock or Growth at the Passenger Transport Authority on Monday. If the highly-paid consultants that New Labour loves to employ could come up with a better scheme, that would hit gas guzzlers and rat-runners we might have something we could support. Actually I came up with something better on the back of an envelope on Monday morning - but nobody paid me £0.5m for it.

Anonymous said...

I notice with regret that yet again the Labour Party fail to encourage younger people to get involved in politics. Me and my two friends were in the public gallery yesterday, we are only in our teens (17, 17 and 16) and all we had to hear was some block (who I gather was you) and some women constantly moaning about Cllr Alden and the fact that he is working. The current Erdington Labour leaflet is again another example of Labour isolating younger people from politics. Who will the next generation of politicians be if all Labour can do is slag off young people so that they become so isolated from politics?!!!

Anonymous said...

Another issue, since you mention proportion inbalance, I would like to add is the one about Cllr Maragret Wells. According to the papers she is an independent, according to her fellow stockland greeen cllrs, she is an independent but for some funny reason she is classed as a Labour cllr when it comes to proportionality?! Practise what you preach!

Lou said...

The decline of the manufactoring industries in Birmingham has dealt firce blows to many people in our city. We should be looking for a way to revitalise our economy, for its current dependance on the tertiary and service industries is non too reliable, we were once the workshop of the world and we have the skills and scope to reclaim our tittle, this time with green tachnologies, it is with a heavy heart that I see Cllr Alden's suggestion not being respected and his hardworking forward thinking ways being mocked.

As a regular attendee of the public gallery who stays the whole meeting, where possible, I am slightly dissapointed that the 'spy' could no inform you of the homelessness reports or any other substantial, and non partisan, information.

PoliticalHack said...

I'm delighted to see younger people taking an interest in local politics. Honestly, I am.

But that doesn't stop me from saying that I think Alden was wrong in what he was saying. He was trying to make a cheap, partisan point. If you run as an elected member, then you take the flak regardless of your age.

Sadly, my colleague had to leave early to get to another meeting, couldn't hear about the homelessness policy. There was a damn sight more cross-party co-operation coming from the Labour benches than the cheap shots from the Lib Dems and the Tories.

Anonymous said...

hi people, new reader to the site, is quite good really, but i want to know why you cover up your identity?

Anonymous said...

I believe english lessons are in order as I see you managed to spell 'Bobbie' incorrectly, it is actually spelt 'Bobby'.

PoliticalHack said...


Bobbie is an accepted alternate spelling for Bobby.

By the way, the word 'English' is usually written with the first letter capitalised.

As to me hiding my identity - I've been running the blog since summer 2004 and I've just stuck with the name. If someone wants to find out who I am, I know they could, but they wouldn't be impressed.

Anonymous said...

If the Liberal Democrats were serious about improving public transport and promoting green issues (instead of playing party politics with them as Jon Hunt seems to want to do), then why don't they show some bottle and take a stand with their Tory friends? Why don't they put their collective feet down and insist the Tories reinstate the Tyburn Road bus lanes without delay?

Or is it say one thing and do another?

Anonymous said...

The Lib Dem's haven't played politicals with transport issues. Actually a lot of the signatures for the petition were collected by concerned residents. One being my old Primary School Headteacher, someone who has no politcal alliances at all!!!

Praguetory said...

Bigger picture for a second. Congratulations to Mike Whitby on cementing the ties between Birmingham and China. Few councillors in the land would have the imagination or ability to deliver on this vision.

PoliticalHack said...

PT - I'm waiting to see what we get back from the twinning with Guangzhou, but I welcome Whitless' attempts to push Birmingham as an international city. I just wish he'd ensure that the progress of the Labour years is continued, rather than allowed to stall.

The Lib Dems seem to lack either the ideas or the will to push the Tories to adopt them. I've been quite amazed at how little of the LD policy has been enacted - they've allowed the Tories a free hand and have loyally backed them on everything for the past two years.

And the LDs are playing politics - they started the ball rolling on the petition knowing that they were exploiting public opposition to road charging, rather than taking the political lead that their own policy demands. It is all being done for local political gain, rather than as a result of any genuine belief.

Your old headmaster is being used if he doesn't realise the political point of the petition. By the way, every party does it. I was presented with a Tory petition the other day for my signature when I was elsewhere in the country and I told them precisely where to go.

Praguetory said...

I know where you're coming from, PH, but I'm impressed with the consensual co-operation between the Libs and the Tories.

I don't know what my former headmaster has to do with politics or the petition, although I understand that he does know Mike Whitby. I'm not sure we're talking about the same person.

PoliticalHack said...

Sorry PT - replying to another message. Your headmaster is irrelevant to this particular conversation.

Anonymous said...

My old Headteacher, who is a she not a he, started off the petition in her area and passed it on. So please stop making assumptions.

Kaz said...

So who are you then cos I'm asking?!

PoliticalHack said...

No assumptions - merely going by what Jon Hunt wrote in the first comment. HE claimed that they generated the petition.

No comment. :-)

Anonymous said...

He won't say who he is Kaz because he is probably a councillor or a councillors husband and so doesn't want to embarass themself. You'd think if he was any of the above he would have a little more back bone!

PoliticalHack said...

My blog, my rules. And I'm not going to rise to the bait.