Be a Councillor East

I began the week with a post about how rewarding being a trustee of a charity can be. Equally, or even more, rewarding can be standing and being elected as a local councillor. So I thought I would highlight the current “Be a Councillor” campaign for the East of England.

You can find the campaign’s website at:

I noticed that they are holding a meeting for those interested in being a councillor in Bedfordshire at the Corn Exchange in Bedford on the 17th November. You can book a place at this event here.

On that note, Luton Liberal Democrats have already started the process of selecting our candidates for the elections in Luton next year. But we would still like to hear from people who be interested in joining our team of candidates. You can contact us through our website.

The new Bedfordshire Chief Constable

Another Luton related story I have been slow to blog about is the news that the next Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police is to be the wonderfully named Alf Hitchcock. Mr Hitchcock will take over when the current Chief Constable, Gillian Parker, retires at the end of the year. More here.

Bedfordshire Police, as the smallest force in the UK, seems to have been struggling to find a clear strategic direction over the last few years. What appeared to have been the current Chief Constable’s plan to merge with the Hertfordshire force has recently fallen through. So Mr Hitchcock has quite a challenge on his hands.

I confess, it would be without a shadow of a doubt too easy to get spellbound by the comic possibilities of Hitchcock’s name and get into a frenzy of telling bad jokes related to the work of a notorious film director. But given my own strange name that sort of thing would be for the birds, money for old rope, and I would definitely be talking about the wrong man. So before you get vertigo and develop the suspicion that I’ve gone psycho I’ll take the 39 steps needed to open the torn curtain, go out the rear window and head off north by northwest. :-)

Margaret Moran may be charged over expenses

I am coming a bit late to this story but for completeness I thought I ought to record here the latest in saga of the expenses misdemeanours of former Luton South MP Margaret Moran.

Earlier this month the Telegraph reported that Moran was likely to face criminal charges over false expense claims; “MPs’ expenses: Margaret Moran may be fifth MP to face court“. The list of allegations makes for depressing reading.

This week is Trustee’s Week 2010

This week (25th to 31st October) has been declared by the Charity Commission, NCVO, and others to be ‘Trustee’s Week’. This an annual event to highlight the work that trustees of charities do and to encourage more people to consider becoming a trustee. I am a trustee of Luton Culture and its one of the most rewarding things that I do.

Find out more on the Trustee Week website.

A new Conservative councillor on Luton Borough Council

I was concerned the other week about what was happening with Luton councillor Morel Benard.

While I still have had no official communication about any change in her status from council officers, it seems that she has left the Labour group and joined the Conservative one. Evidence of this comes in a further change on the council’s website.

Although rumours are circulating around the Town Hall, I have no knowledge of the reason for her move. Maybe she’s been impressed by the coalition government? Although I can’t imagine it is much fun being a member of Luton’s Labour group – I doubt being a member of the Tory group is a barrel of laughs either. Perhaps we will hear the reasons for her change of party at the next full council meeting?

Benard’s defection makes the balance on the council now: 25 Labour 17 Liberal Democrat 6 Conservative

My new website design for Bridget Fox

I’ve only been vaguely following the major political events this week because I have been busy working on a new website for Bridget Fox for her to use in her slection campaign for the GLA list. I’ve just finished adding the final touches today and you can see the site at

This project involved setting up a new WordPress driven website, developing a new theme, adding a choice of plug-ins, before implementing the initial page structure and content.I am pleased with how the theme development went. It enabled me to refine some techniques and design concepts. It also reminded me of the frustration that Internet Explorer does not yet properly implement drop shadows and rounded corners in CSS. Which spoils the impact for anyone looking at the site using IE. Although it doesn’t really have an impact on the look of the website this was also my first attempt to use HTML5 techniques in anger.

The starting point for the development was the Toolbox theme which helped give me a head start with the necessary PHP code. It works very well as a base template and I would recommend it  for anyone thinking of doing their own theme development.

The theme’s colour scheme is based on my Lib Dem colour palette with the addition of more variations of grey. Which is something I will look again at using when revising my other Lib Dem related websites.

The new theme, which has the very unsurprising working title of ‘Bridget’, needs some further refinement, after which I may consider making it more freely available.

Labour leadership election – How Luton Labour voted

Credit should go to the Labour Party for their openess in releasing the detailed figures of how their members (and MPs and Unions) voted in their leadership election. I’ve extracted the figures for the two Luton constituency Labour parties and posted them below.

Luton North CLP 30 18 2 191 52
Luton South CLP 17 20 9 89 67
Luton North CLP 0 293 825 35.5%
Luton South CLP 1 203 344 59.0%

There are some interesting things to note from these figures. Firstly, the members of the Labour party in Luton overwhelmingly backed David Miliband for the leadership. Like the rest of the Labour membership across the country they have ended up with Ed – the Miliband they didn’t vote for.

Secondly we can work out the size of the membership of the Labour party in Luton, which is a large figure of 1,169 people. However, with a turnout of only just over 42% for the election of the party’s national leader you have to question how genuine many of those members are.

The details of how Luton’s two Labour MPs voted are also available. I imagine both are rather pleased with the result as Gavin Shuker was an Ed Miliband supporter and Kelvin Hopkins had him as his second choice. I am a bit surprised that the new MP for Luton South didn’t use all his preferences in the vote. Perhaps he didn’t understand the system?

Mr K Hopkins MP 1 3 4 5 2
Mr G Shuker MP 2 1

You can find the figures for local parties and MPs on the Labour Party website.

Is there to be a Luton Council by-election?

I’ve just noticed a curious thing. The Luton Borough Council website has Labour councillor for Saints ward, Morel Benard, down as having retired from the Council last Monday. As a fellow member of the Council this is news to me. I certainly haven’t had any official notice of her stepping down.

I wonder what is going on?

The relevant web page is here.

Vince Cable at the European Parliament: “A rising tide lifts all boats”

Business Secretary Vince Cable caused a great deal of overblown media fuss in his conference speech in Liverpool the other week by explaining some fairly basic economic theory. As good a speech as that was, I have been much more impressed by the remarks he made on Friday to a meeting of MEPs at the European Parliament in Brussels. While it has fewer jokes, I think that this speech is of much more significance and needs greater attention paid to it than seems to have been the case.

There is some interesting stuff in there about the government’s approach to Europe, about the differing responses of European nations to the economic situation, and Cable’s take on what the priorities for the EU should be. However, the thing that most struck me was how embedded in liberal traditions his argument was.

To be a liberal is to advocate free trade.

Free trade was at the heart of the speech. And expanding free trade is at the heart of what Cable argues should be our response, not only to the aftermath of the economic crisis, but to the longer term issue of the economic rise of China, India and other developing nations.

The speech can be read in full on the Liberal Democrats website and I have embedded video of it from the BBC below.

Video proof that I was in Liverpool

To prove that I actually did attend the Liberal Democrat’s conference in Liverpool here is a video of my talking about ‘the three most important issues facing the government’. The video was taken by the people from Winkball who were hanging about the conference filming the views of attendees.

I don’t think the video makes me look terribly attractive, but I was suffering from the effects of the night before and squinting into the sun as it was filmed.

On not blogging conference

The last few weeks, for various reasons, have been rather disrupted and unsettled. There has been a lot going on but, somewhat unusually, I have not been very certain about what I think about it all. As a result there hasn’t been much blogging going on here.

Keeping a regular blog going I find, aside from the issue of time available, requires a level of certainty and confidence in oneself and ones opinions which when lacking creates a serious block on writing. In fact I have been questioning whether it is really worth the effort for me to keep this blog going at all.

Rather unhelpfully this crisis in confidence has coincided with the Liberal Democrats annual Autumn Federal Conference which is, amongst other things, a significant source of blogging material. Given that it was the first ever conference held whilst the Liberal Democrats are in national government it should have been an opportunity for several interesting and insightful articles. Alas this looks to have been an opportunity missed.

I have decided to persevere with ‘Strange Thoughts’ but with a slight attitude adjustment. I am going to  avoid taking it seriously and try to have more fun with it. I will attempt to stop fretting about the posts I haven’t written and enjoy more the ones that I have.