Sunday, July 31, 2005

Office Academicals and Shed

The new boots were working on Friday when Office took on Education. Came on for the 2nd half when we were already 5-0 ahead, and scored the first goal of the 2nd half. Ended 9-0. Some very nice goals: Jon Gilberts volley off the far post was quite special. Mine squirmed under the keeper from a first time shot...
Shed had a successful evening against Aston Re-United. It ended 4-0 with some solid performances. Karl played out field for the first time since picking up some niggling injuries, and picked up the final goal (before being subbed off while celebrating the goal).

Friday, July 29, 2005


Selly Oak and Stirchley seem to have avoided many of the freak weather conditions that hit the neighbouring Moseley and Kings Heath. The Council has swung into action with some local councillors helping with the clear up efforts and talking to local residents. The District is also providing support with neighbourhood office staff being drafted in from oustide Moseley & Kings Heath.
John Hemming has compiled a list of flickr and other sites of photos.

Birmingham elections

Just back from the Bordesley Green count. These were the elections caused by the Birmingham Labour electoral fraud cases heard by the election court in Jan/Feb 2005.
PJP x2 Lab x1
Khan PJP 2241
Shah Lab 2183
Saeed PJP 2065
Ullah PJP 2041
Khan Lab 2009
Stacey Lab 1875
Nawaz LD 1372
Hussain LD 1117
Aslam LD 1058
Grn 314
Con 251
Con 154
Con 153

I heard on the grape vine that the Aston election had gone to a recount to determine the 3rd place. (With the Lib Dems looking to win all three seats).
So a bad night for Labour when they've lost 5 councillors at once, they even had a junior minister (Hodge Hill's very own Liam Byrne had travelled up from London) out knocking on doors trying to get people out to vote at 8.30pm. The Lib Dems did better than expected in Bordesley Green, improving our %age from the June 2004 elections.
Had an interesting chat with the Electoral Commission reps who'd come along to observe. Although they aren't allowed a party political background its clear that those who've become involved have been politicised (small P) at some point in the past, ie running students' union elections or similar.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Buck Palace and Houses of Parliament

Was in London Wed eve and Thursday last week. Picked a nice day for it...
Wednesday evening was the LibDem Parliamentary Candidates Association reception on the Terrace in the House. Handful of MPs and Lords on hand. Hectic 15 mins of following CK round and getting shots of him and various people. CK gave a good speech, interesting comments about the internal review of structure.
I still don't think Conference is at fault for the policies it passes, as the policies have on the main received the seal of approval of the Federal Policy Committee (chair: C Kennedy). On anything contraversial at conference, the hall is never empty, so it can't be said that the only 2 men (wearing sandals, and beards affixed) and a dog have ratified our policies.
Mark Hunter, the new Cheadle MP was also there, so managed to say congratulations. Probably didn't recognise several other new MPs, indeed was chatting to Lorely Burt (Solihull) and had no idea that next to us was Steve Williams (Bristol SW), who looks very unparliamentarian.
Thursday morning saw England off to a good start in the first morning of the ashes, and then off to Whitehall to do some photos of me outside Downing St. Took ages to get the right photograph...then back to Parliament to get photos there.
The entire time there were a large number of various vehicles with blue lights and sirens whizzing through parliament sq, and from Scotland Yard. Many seemed to be going in opposite directions, and some we saw going round in circles...
Only later realised that there was something afoot.
Proceeded to the Palace for the garden party in the afternoon. Felt very safe in the surroundings of the garden, really quite isolated from the outside world. Just had to ignore the two police marksmen on the roof of the palace with huge binoculars.
The garden was quite wonderful, with plenty of shade. Food was also top notch, and following tips from dad quickly found how to avoid queuing for too long...Don't jump in straight away, and go as close as reasonably possible to the playing of the national anthem.
Managed to bump into all my fellow birmingham LibDem councillors, and even met someone else: Ali Goldsworthy, who had was with her mum (you can take any sons/daughters between 18-25!). Had only recently spent an afternoon with Ali in Cheadle as we were out campaigning with the PPC. Her other half was the PPCs minder/driver.

Lance: 7 times lucky

Actually, no luck involved. Lance Armstrong is one of the greatest living athletes of our generation. To win Le Tour 7 times running requires sheer determination, guts, and a fine supporting team.
Armstrong has always had the ability to surround himself with some of the best fellow cyclists who's only aim is to ensure he arrives in Paris with the yellow jersey on his back.
Of course there has been an element of luck in it as well. A number of times he's been in near misses (Beloki's tyre burst on molten tarmac on a decent. He broke his pelvis and forced Armstrong to avoid the accident by going across a field).
What next for Armstrong. Well, he has a young family and a celebrity girlfriend in Sheryl Crow. There is talk of him entering politics, and mention of the Texan governorship!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tiverton Rd centenary

Yesterday marked the start of the centenary celebrations of Tiverton Rd J&I school in the ward.
Robert & I went along to the special assemby in the morning. Assemblies have changed alot since my day...but somethings were strangely familiar. I suppose all school halls look and feel the same.
We were treated to a chant from the nursery class, and then various performances and displays from individuals and groups up through the age groups (including the obligatory recorder pieces).
Throughout the day there were various things organised, but I couldn't stay for all of it. Robert & Alistair appeared for the fete in the afternoon, and had cake...
The centenary is going to be celebrated for what seems like a whole year, and reflects the fact that there was quite a lot of capital spending in 1905 from various municipal budgets. Raddlebarn School is also celebrating its centenary this year, and I think Selly Oak library was built then as well.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Birmingham single track

Sunday was spent investigating National cycle route 5 into the city centre, and then out towards Ladywood, round Edgbaston reservoir, and then down the Harborne walking route (a disused railway line).
I found that the old line was probably as close to a "single track" as you could find in Birmingham. OK, you aren't hurtling down hill, but some technical riding is required with small logs/branches/roots to be negotiated.
The Rea route[1] into the city is a very pleasurable ride. I need to time the difference between using the Pershore Rd to the Council House, vs using the cycle route, using the same bike.

[1] The rangers are also funded partially out of Selly Oak NRF, and the route extends as far as the entrance to Cannon Hill park, not just to dogpool lane.


A great result:
Mark Hunter (Lib Dem) 19,593 (52.15%, +3.27%)
Stephen Day (Tory) 15,936 (42.42%, +2.01%)
Martin Miller (Labour) 1,739 (4.63%, -4.16%)
Leslie Leggett (Veritas) 218 (0.58%)
John Allman (Alliance for Change - Suffering Little Children) 81 (0.22%)

Was well worth staying up until 0030 to watch the result. I'd already had word that we would hold it by at least 2000 votes, but to make it 3600 was fantastic.
Mark's speech was also well crafted. The sincere thanks to Patsy's family was good. Daughter Libby was running the front office of the HQ (and I blame her for the blisters I got last weekend), while her father was running around the constituency sorting out postal vote applications.
My lasting impression was the very first door I canvassed at 2 weeks out: "I can't support you liberals because you support the repeal of section 28. I don't mind those homosexuals, but what they do is perverse!". I marked her down as a hard tory... I thought it was going to be a very long afternoon if that was how the first door to be answered felt. Fortunately it got better after that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Football vs Cricket

Well its the start of the football season tonight (TNS vs Liverpool in a Champions League qualifier). But the cricket season has barely begun, with the Ashes test series to kick off next week!
It will soon by Christmas.

Office Academicals update

The latest game on Tuesday was against Finance. Big local "derby". Lots of blagging rights attached to this in inter-office meetings and the like. Unfortunately I was carrying the big stick at the late lunch degree ceremony, so couldn't play.
Finance took it 2-0 with goals after the first 7 minutes that I could watch. They had a set of ringers playing, and our team wasn't full strength, so not a true test...
Results and table are here.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

To cheadle (and back)

Phew what a scorcher...
Eventually worked my way up to Wilmslow by (Virgin) train and then cycled on to Bramhall. Turned out that Virgin had "closed" reservations for all cycles over the weekend, so when I was trying to get hold of one I wouldn't have been able to! Fortunately, not many cyclists on the network so plenty of space to stow the bike. Only had some problems from one "train manager", who asked for my none existent reservation from Wilmslow to Stafford. Given there was plenty of room I'm unsure as to what his issue was.
Delivered lots of leaflets on Saturday, and then met an old uni friend, Mike, on canal st. before jumping on a tram to stop over in his house in Crumpsall, apparently an up & coming area, its only 10 mins on the tram from the city centre, which beats most of South manchester.
Eventually made it back to Bramhall today, and too blistered to deliver, so sat and stuffed envelopes (with Gwyn and Asad, other refugees from Birmingham), before I went out and did some candidate photos at a fete.

Friday, July 08, 2005

cycles on trains

Just had one of those frustrating conversations: sorry we can't make a reservation unless you book a ticket over the phone. But I've already bought a ticket. You'll have to make the reservation at a manned station. But I tried to do that and they couldn't. You'll have to try another station. I can't make it to New St today... Hang on, can you tell me whether there are any spaces. Yes, let me look. Oh there are no vacant spaces on any trains you want.
Grrrr. So wont travel with Virgin and will try and pick Central train services to go to Cheadle tomorrow. (and may chance my arm with seeing whether the spaces are used on the virgin services...)

North Birmingham cycling

Cool but pleasant enough evening ride with some guys from Transportation. Rode out to Sutton park via the walk/cycle route. Some impressive work on this route, but shame about the amount of glass on the tarmac sections, fortunately we only had one puncture. Need to look at a map to describe the route in detail, but we went out through Aston, under the M6 just north of J6, then through Stockland Green, Kingstanding etc before getting to the park. Most of this was cycle/walkway, so very little on road.
Return was via New Hall Valley route. Most of this is quite nice, but there is a section that hasn't been completed yet. Most of use got nettle stings, and bramble scratches...glad I had the mountain bike for this section as you get more control bouncing over stones with the front suspension.
Was also handed the one of the last printed versions of the cycle/walk map. Will spend an evening going over it to see if I can spot anything that needs amending.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bears vs Steelbacks

Had a relatively pleasant evening at Edgbaston cricket ground to watch the final group stage match between Warwickshire and Northants. I was one of the few Northants fans in the ground, and made the error of cheering when we got our first wicket (at least it wasn't a football match!).
Twenty20 is a fun spectacle. The crowd was quite enthusiastic, for the kids it could work out as £2.50 per game! We sat in the Hollies stand, which we'd never dream of doing on a Saturday at a test match as the atmosphere is spoilt by the alcohol.
Warwicks won quite easily, which was good as it meant they also progressed to the knockout stages, while Northants had already booked their place as group winners. Some of the Northants players had mares: one bowler got taken for 3 sixes in a row, while Huggins had an awful time in the field, with several miss fields including one embarrising one where he slipped over while collecting the ball, and letting it go for 4. Not sure he'll want to come back to Edgbaston in a hurry.
Unfortunately the finals are taking place at the Oval this year. Last years final was held at Edgbaston and that was a great day of sun, cricket and Guiness.

Office Academicals & Shed

Shed had an awful game on Sunday night. They're still without Simpson, and were missing a handful of regular starters. They eventually pulled through 1-1, but it was a struggle against a side who they should have beaten well.
Office Academicals are progressing nicely in the two summer lunchtime leagues: the Tuesday team won well against an unknown postgrad team, who included a player who did nothing to dispel the stereotype of latin players with highly strung temperaments. I only saw the 1st half, but understand that Simpson returned from injury for 8 minutes. A 4-0 win probably should have been better, but still leaves the team with only 1 loss.
The Friday team are also doing well. Hopefully I'll get a full 15 mins this week.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Council speech

Spoken twice in two meetings! Its almost becoming a habit.
The council meeting lasted until 9pm, with a 2pm start. The start was delayed by the chamber being "stormed" by some residents from Lee Bank supporting an Asda planning application. I don't mind a bit of direct action, but its important that once you're in "occupation", you've got to leave someone outside to spread your message effectively.
The meeting dragged on because it had a very full agenda. Too much in my opinion, and debates at the end were farcicle, in fact they weren't debates as we moved straight to votes to even allow a 9pm finish.
One of the items was the Local Transport Plan (local being the West Midlands!). Its pretty much a bidding document to central government to leverage capital funding, which is dependent on meeting certain targets. I spoke on the lack of references to cycling, and the neglible target of a 1% increase over 7 years, throwing in some bits about cyclists being a harrassed minority on the roads.

new bike

Lets off road...
Have just put together my new Giant xtc4. Only problem is that I'm missing the front skewer, so can't attach the front wheel securely. Will have to wait until tomorrow to complete the set up and get it out on the road/trail/towpath.
Should be the perfect opportunity as its another "mystery bike ride" led by Will and Graham from the City Council cycle/walk team (heck, they are the cycle/walk team).
Need list of goodies to buy from halfords to complete the bike: lock/computer/bar ends/lights.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

To cheadle

Rail travel at weekends is a bit of a nonsense at the moment: it took 3 hrs to drive to Cheadle, which is about as long as it would have taken with public transport (no direct trains, and bus replacements). But 2hrs to return.
Had a productive afternoon with the Birmingham team sent out straight away to canvas. I've not worked in a LD/Tory area before so it was a bit strange getting my head around the shift in canvas questions. I did eventually find a Lab voter in the afternoons work, but they are a rare breed.
A very good atmosphere in the HQ, and managed to say hello to Hilary the agent, and later saw Lord Rennard (by-election supremo/deity).
Hope to return for next weekend, but will train it to Wilmslow and then cycle to Bramhall. Should work out as 2hr journey time. Unless it rains of course...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Election Scrutiny

Good scrutiny meeting this week where we had reps from the Electoral Commission visit.
I'm increasingly convinced that we need to move to individual registration, rather than household (as they do in NI), and to require individual indentifiers (DoB/Signature). I'm not convinced of the need to record National Insurance nos, my understanding is that NI nos aren't necessarily secure (about 80m in existence, and significant gaps in their coverage, eg women of a certain age, and, I suspect, within the female population of some minority groups).
The questioning also highlighted the lack of knowledge of election law of the elected members. OK, some of it is a bit obscure, but I thought it was common knowledge that agents could appoint polling agents to attend polling stations.
My interpretation of our election law is that the political parties have the responsibility of observing fair play during elections, as the elections are administered by local authorities & officers. This contrasts with new/developing democracies, where administration of the election is done by the parties as they don't trust the authorities to carry it out in a non-partisan way, and that observation is done by neutral, external agencies (OSCE/OHDIR/EU etc).
This has a couple of consequences:
1) The Electoral Commission has no right to observe elections in the UK! Something of a gaping hole in the legislation.
2) Accusations by the observers must be taken seriously by the legal authorities. They often don't as they see it as being partisan. (See the work of John Hemming and Ayoub Khan in raising awareness of the PV problem in Birmingham).

Full Council next week

Crikey. Apparently the postage cost of sending out Council papers for next week would have been over £10 per Councillor! Now that I've collected mine, I have no idea how to read it all in time for the meeting... And the meeting itself is bound to last for at least 6hrs.