Monday, February 27, 2006

This sounds so familiar...

In stead of twice weekly deliverys, in Birmingham we are sent a daily dose. Therefore I have to do an intray exercise every evening after tripping over the pile of post.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A week of training

Not blogged for a week or so, but have been couped up in various training sessions being trained.
Last weekend I finally managed to attend the LibDem Training 4 Trainers weekend. This was held in the very pleasant Somerset surroundings of Keynsham (that K E Y N S H A M for you Radio Luxemborg listeners...). The course was held in the grounds of the Cadbury's factory their, which was kinda ironic as I live next to another Cadbury's site.
The only issue I had with Keynsham was with the difficulty in using public transport to get there. Despite the railway station the service was only hourly to/from Bristol.
The training was fantastic itself. We had a great group of 17 trainees, including a few people I recognised/knew of. I finally had a chance to find out on Friday whether I'd "passed" the training: and I have now been accredited as a Trainer on Campaigns, Agenting and EARS.

My other training this week was two days worth of project management. Much of it is common sense, but we learnt some different tools than I've seen before.

Friday, February 17, 2006

University Applications

Have new tuition fees affected applications? Almost certainly the introduction of fees in 06/07 has distorted the number of applications that were made in 05/06 (ie the 8% increase), and the 4% decrease this year. This was to be expected. The same happened on the introduction of the £1000 fee in '97. There was an above average rise before, then a decrease in the year of introduction, but taken over the two years applications increased.
What most commentators might have missed was that despite the 8% rise in applications, there hasn't been that level of increase in student enrolments. Where there have been increases in funded places, there have been increases in applications, but some of that has been associated with the courses being vocational (nursing and social work apps are up, but so is the availability of places).
I'm glad to see we've inherited another numpty as a HE minister with his choice comments on the above average decrease for "non-vocational" courses:
A sharp fall in the number of university applicants wanting to study such "non-vocational" subjects as history, philosophy, classics and fine art was "no bad thing", Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, said yesterday.

This has resonances of Charles Clarke and his comments about not needing more historians. I suspect that the newLabour mindset is very Orwellian and therefore historians are no longer required as there is a whole cadre of people to rewrite it for their current political masters. In the same way we no longer need philosophers trained in logic and argument as there is no longer any dialogue or debate.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

New poll

Colin Ross has put up a new poll on his interweb thingy. This time he is looking to collect 1st and 2nd preference intentions so that the vote transfers can be analysed to predict the result. (Unless someone gets over 50%, which I think no one is predicting ATM).

Monday, February 13, 2006

How Labour works

Peter Black and Jonathan Calder (Liberal England) have already made reference to Richard Gibbs expose of how newLabour campaigning works in the Sunday Mail. None of it should come as much of a surprise to anyone who has seen newLabour clones in action during walkabouts and leader's visits.
But to me Gibbs is not just some character who'll probably not make the footnotes of history, but who stood as one of the Labour candidates in Bournville, and who occassionally turned up to District Committee meetings on behalf of Selly Oak labour (not difficult to spot as the public attendance never got above ~10). So it is interesting to read a bit more about him, and to discover that he has actually completed a volte-face by returning to the Tories (although he claims not to actually be paid up yet). And that the story in the Sunday Mail is also probably an extract from a book that he's written since not being re-employed by the Labour party. I can only presume he's looking to get it published during the first week of May. Unfortunately I'll probably put off reading it until 5 May...

Friday, February 10, 2006


Well, after what seemed like an age of flicking between Sky News and News24 they eventually went live to the Dunfermline declaration, and crikey, we won with a 16% swing! Never mind the majority, just look at the swing.
My back of envelope (and spreadsheet) calculation suggests that we could win seats close to home like Selly Oak!
Very disappointed with the news coverage. They had more for the Hartlepool by-election, which was never really that close...
Also, congratulations to all those who've won at the bookies, or betting exchanges. I hope you're donating some of your winnings to the party.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Meeting madness

Have completed 6hrs of meetings at work today (not council ones either). Fortunately I haven't got any council meetings this evening or else I'd probably go stir crazy.
It was mostly madness as I came out of them with more work, but with a backlog because of holding the meetings...

Frankly Laws

I'm not sure whether it was because David Laws was being interviewed alongside Frank Field on Today this morning (on the appalling performance of the CSA), but I counted him using "quite frankly" and "frankly" at least 4 times. Although he wasn't necessarily being frank.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A lift, a deputy director campaigns, a regional chair and 4 members of the regional exec

What happens when you have a lift, a deputy director campaigns, a regional chair and 4 members of the regional exec? (Not sure whether you could make it more scandalous by saying there were 4 failed PPCs, but none of them were disgruntled or mentioned defecting).
We were only stuck for about an hour, so just enough time to hold a meeting, share a few stories about how Lib Dems in other places are always more bonkers than our own (mainly the welsh), names of people we wouldn't want to be stuck with (fortunately none of us were mentioned...) and gossip, to be released from the lift just before the person who proposed singing was strangled.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Free speech

My tuppence worth on the "cartoon" issue.
I will defend the right of the newspapers/tv to print/show the cartoons, but I also believe in responsible use of free speech. Its a right that has been hard fought for, so it needs to be used carefully, just so that some nanny state doesn't come along and rob us of it (pretty much as the "religious hate law" may have done).
I don't personally think the cartoons are bad taste (they were on C4). They are certainly crude in their ideas. In tolerating others beliefs, I don't think responsible reporting should self censure because of the satirical content, but because of the picturing of the Prophet, that was clearly not tolerant of the religion.

Simon says he's not "safe pair of hands"

Not sure Hughes chose the best ending to his interview on the Today programme this morning. He basically said he's the only option if you don't want a safe pair of hands, or inexperience.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Written Questions

This written question came up in the work context. The question clearly asks one thing and the answer is to something completely different. The current average cost of a PQ is estimated at £138 (although this calculation comes up with something lower).
The Minister's answer demonstrates the most common myth about higher education funding: that it is per capita funding at a set unit of resource per student.
The figures provided in the answer are the theoretical "standard resource", and not the actual resource. The actual resource is a combination of the assumed fee income, and the block grant. This exists as a university total, so you can't calculate what each student is worth.
Not only that but the "standard resource" differs by institution, so there are London weightings, historic buildings (this is how Oxbridge gets away with teaching so few students), and other odds and ends.
So why care? Well when various university people see summaries of parliamentary activity, they want to know why they aren't getting their slice of the pie. So we end up having to say why the figures are only theoretical, and that we (the university central admin) aren't skimming off the top. Grrr.

Bunged Up

Have the worst head cold I've had for ages, and it came on suddenly yesterday afternoon. I'd thought I'd got over a bug last week, but it was probably just the start of what I've got now.
Lemsips all round.