Saturday, February 28, 2009


Congratulations to Cllr Mick Wilkes, one of the Lib Dem councillors for Hall Green, on securing his party's nomination for Lord Mayor. On the one hand, it will put him beyond use for a year and stop him being quite such a nuisance to the Regressive Partnership, but on the other, it seems an odd honour for someone who cannot be described as being close to the Hemming wing of the Birmingham Liberal Democrat party and more of a traditional sandalista.

Is this a further sign of the plates shifting within the party locally and perhaps indicative of a move in the centre of power away from the Yardley mafia?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Change of plan

I was going to write about the piece in the Guardian on Cameron today, but I really don't feel like it.

There aren't words to describe this gut-wrenching, gnawing fear that must affect every parent from time to time. Nothing can ever terrify me as much as the thought of losing one of my children, but I can't pretend to know how Cameron and his family feel today. All anyone can do is to offer sympathy at a time when words cannot convey the depth of sadness that must be over the family now. It is right that party hostilities were suspended today. There are things that matter more than chucking a few words across the gangway of the Commons in the hope of scoring points on the news bulletins.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Not so much a conference, more an infestation.

Obviously I'm delighted to see an almost-major political party commit to holding their conferences in Birmingham and bring £11 million into the local economy, but I we'll need to start stockpiling muesli in industrial quantities as a top priority.

Mind you, I'd like to see Labour do the same thing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

'Red' Nigel Dawkins

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

Thus ran the phrase formerly known as Clause IV of the constitution of the Labour Party. That was what dragged us into public ownership of huge chunks of British industry - not always for the better.

Thatcher was renowned for privatising anything that wasn't nailed down - and some things that were - and nobody ever mistook the Tories as being in favour of nationalising industry.

Until now. A comrade of mine - (hat tip to Nathan) - points out that Cllr Nigel Dawkins, who claims to be the Conservative candidate for Selly Oak, has written a massive letter to the Birmingham Post, which cheerfully handed over the letters page to Nige and his Tory mate, Andrew Mitchell.

Nigel's peroration concludes with this dramatic climax
'If this Government had the slightest idea how to support manufacturing in general or the car industry in particular then they should have bought Jaguar Land Rover last Match (sic) from Ford instead of letting it go to TATA. The price tag then was £500 million – that's about £33K for each of its employees. That would have been a bargain. They could have then have put perhaps £3 billion into a development fund to built up the company and then floated it off ten years later ensuring that it remained British. It's not too late. Forget about European rules on state aid, the Germans and the French have. This Government should seek to take a large stake in Jaguar Land Rover, perhaps even purchasing it and be prepared to make the necessary investment to build up the range of models.

Unlike anyone else in the Tory party, Nigel's proposing that the government buys Jaguar Land Rover. I want to know where he got his £500 million price tag for JLR. Ford sold Aston Martin for around £450 million, but all the figures bandied around for the deal were of the order of £1.15 billion. Nigel doesn't explain if he would have expected continued Ford support for dealership financing arrangements or if he thinks that Ford would have paid £600 million into the pension fund if HMG had bought the company instead. Also, I can't find any suggestion from any political party that JLR was ripe for nationalisation.

I'm sure that George Osborne/Ken Clarke will be only too glad to see Nigel flying the red flag for Jaguar/Land Rover. Truly, this will be the people's car.

Or maybe he hasn't quite thought this thing through.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Birmingham in the snow

St Philip's Cathedral and some flowers push their way through the snow, while over in Victoria Square, we find a snow-covered Iron Man, the rather chilly floozy in the frozen jacuzzi and the Council House.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant

It is one thing to have a celeb front up a government campaign - Carol Vorderman was the face of the Year of Mathematics in 2000. She also lent her name in support of a government proposal last year to put a specialist maths teacher into every primary school as part of a programme investing £24 million into training existing teachers, which came out of a report chaired by Sir Peter Williams who is a very serious scientist - he chairs the National Physical Laboratory and is Treasurer of the Royal Society. The panel included Sir Jim Rose, an experienced primary head teacher and former director of inspection at OFSTED, amongst other serious educationalists. Carol welcomed that report and the proposals, even offering a quote
"I am thrilled that at long last an official body is raising the spectre of our negative cultural attitude to maths, particularly in the media. Ask any parent in the land if they think it's important that their child is good at maths, and they will emphatically say "yes". And yet, we hear (to the point of boredom) on children's tv, on soaps, on news and daytime shows 'oh I'm rubbish at maths' or 'you're a nerd' or 'I don't need to be good at sums cos I can just use a calculator'. Do we say the same about English? Would anyone approve of 'oh I'm rubbish at reading', or 'I don't need to be able to read or write cos I can just watch the telly' as messages to send out? No they wouldn't... Our children are not stupid: our children are not inherently inadequate: our children are not born hating maths, we just manage to convince them that they should.

You do have to ask how much she actually knows about the detail of education - a woman who has described Shakespeare as 'as dull as ditchwater.' I know that she's been a talking head to help sell the private Kumon method - which has been criticised by some maths teachers - but that's hardly a qualification. In her time, she's flogged her ghostwritten detox diets and - controversially - spent a decade advertising a sub-prime lender in TV ads aimed at people with a rather poor understanding of maths. No wonder she had to drop that gig if she's trying to improve the quality of maths education - she'd be reducing the number of people likely to fall for their high-cost loans.

Should we be surprised that after spending a lifetime translating her gameshow fame into a profitable sideline in advertising, she's come round to selling another dodgy product to the great British public. Her involvement is just another vacuous publicity stunt to push the Tory party rather than actually developing policies to improve outcomes. Mind you, I suppose that Cameron had to find somebody from a comprehensive school to leaven the mix of Etonians.

Asking Carol to head up an inquiry that will - presumably - influence a future Conservative policy, is somewhat akin to asking Jeremy Clarkson to lead on the future of the British motor industry.

Or have I just broken a story embargoed for next week?