Monday, 19 November 2012

Temperate tax rise

I heartily approve of most of the early decisions that have been made by newly sworn in Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson. The biggest of these is that council tax may have to rise by around 2% (as reported by BBC Points West here). This is moderate, sensible, reasonably progressive thinking - and it would mean that the impact of  imposed Coalition Govt cuts on vital local services would be a little less severe.

Freezing council tax as some other candidates committed themselves to would have meant even more severe impacts on public services. Committment to a freeze over a number of years also showed a lack of realism given the dire financial circumstances.

More information here and here and here.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Woman winner!

Fantastic! A victory for independence, impartiality and ability to represent the whole community.

Newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Sue Mountstevens brings a perspective and approach to the role that we really need. Second time today I've voted for an election winner!

Congratulations and commiserations

Many congratulations to George Ferguson and commiserations to the other candidates, especially to Marvin Rees. You have to work hard to become the first elected Mayor of Bristol - but the much harder work begins now. It's a new way to run Bristol with many uncertainties and it has to be made to work. I hope that people in all political parties will work well together and that George's cabinet has someone from each political party with councillors currently on the city council. I hope this is a victory for independent-minded thinking from political people inside and outside of parties. I hope that power is genuinely and effectively spread out into communities, with real opportunities to participate. I hope George's decent record on sustainable development becomes the norm for development in the city. I hope George takes full note of the very large number of votes given to parties (the Greens, Labour and the socialists) supporting the living wage and the fairness agenda and the good number of votes given to the only woman candidate, the Greens Daniella Radice (who was only one percentage point behind the Lib Dems). Feels good to have voted for someone who has won an election - after 30 yrs as a voter!

Very good, gracious speech from the new Mayor George Ferguson here and I agree particularly strongly when he said this,

"I want to use that mandate to go and ask the prime minister and the government in general for more powers for Bristol and for more resources. I think we deserve it.

"We have delivered what they wanted, now they have got to deliver what we want."

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Voters: vote voluminously!!!

Worrying signs - from postal vote numbers and numbers going to polling stations so far - that the voter turnout in the Bristol Mayoral and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner elections could be very low indeed. People have been predicting a low turnout from the start due to the time of the year, very poor information availability, general lack of awareness and interest and the dwindling enthusiasm for politics - but its looking even worse at the moment. So, voters in Bristol - get out and vote in volume and prove that the predictions are wrong!

For Mayor of Bristol: I'm voting for Green Daniella Radice first preference because she has far and away the best policies and would bring a perspective and approach to the role of Mayor that we really need. My second preference vote goes to Bristol 1st George Ferguson because the second round of counting will be a contest between him and Labour's Marvin Rees. George has: excellent experience; a wide range of great achievements in the city already; very good national standing, respect and connections; independent-mindedness and openness to involving people of all parties in his cabinet; demonstrated through his work over decades that he gets and enacts sustainable development.

For Police and Crime Commisioner: I'm voting for independent candidate Sue Mounstevens as my first preference because of her experience as: a member of the current police authority; as a Bristol magistrate for 15 years; and as vice-chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol prison. Her clear impartiality and ability to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate are very important indeed - as is the perspective and approach to the role she will bring. I wont be casting a second preference vote because all the other candidates are standing to represent political parties and I dont want a Commissioner who can be pressured by and who is answerable to a political party.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Men and Mayor

Daniella Radice, the Green candidate  standing to become Mayor of Bristol, has produced the most comprehensive and detailed manifesto of policies of any of the candidates and has made a lot more sense than other candidates at the many hustings meetings held.  All the other candidates have been more vague, generalised, wishy-washy, incoherent and in some cases populist, where Daniella has offered real leadership. She is the only woman standing, which is a story in itself.

It’s important to discuss the fact that only one of the fifteen candidates for Mayor is a woman because: just 22% of MPs in the House of Commons and 20% of members of the House of Lords are women and women aren't in many positions of power and influence across society; 3 million women in the UK suffer rape, domestic violence, trafficking, forced marriage or other violence; 90% of local authorities do not have a rape crisis centre; of 109 High Court judges only 15 are women; women’s average net income per week in 2010 was £180 compared to £231 for men; 20% of people believe it is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit or slap his girlfriend; 36% believe a woman is partly responsible for being raped if she is drunk; 83% of experts cited in news stories are men; 19% is the proportion of women in news stories portrayed as victims, compared to 10% for men...Clearly our decision making would be better if women were present in positions of power and influence on a par with men.
We need to address the issue of disempowerment and the facts clearly illustrate why. Without strong and positive action it could take forever to achieve fair and balanced representation.We don’t get the best range of candidates for positions of power now because we have a system that on the whole continues to favour men and disempower women. We are wasting half the talent we have. The social system and within it the economic and political system is discriminatory, not always in the legal sense but certainly in the sense of culture/traditions. The right to fair and equal treatment that I'm arguing for is a human right that putting into action would benefit every person.

In broad terms I am saying that if there was no sex discrimination there would be many more women candidates for Mayor of Bristol. Some question this, saying there is no discrimination in the mayoral process itself: doubtless the rules would be illegal if they were directly discriminatory so no surprise there!! But the mayoral election does not take place in total isolation from the social, economic and political context – and we can’t yet say that there is nothing in our social system at all that deters and discourages women from coming forward as candidates (see list and link below). For instance: the costs involved in applying to become Bristol Mayor are a deterrent to many who might otherwise consider standing – however the high cost will discriminate more against women than men because women’s average income and other wealth levels are lower. Discriminatory social, economic and political context deters and discourages women. Some admit that discrimination exists but stick to the unsustainable, implausible position that it has no effect at all on women coming forward to stand in elections such as for Mayor!
In 2008 an Inter-Parliamentary Union reported said that these factors deter women from entering politics to at least a fair degree: Domestic responsibilities; Prevailing cultural attitudes regarding the roles of women in society; Lack of support from family; Lack of confidence; Lack of finances; Lack of support of political parties; Lack of experience in "representative functions": public speaking, constituency relations; Lack of support from the electorate; Lack of support from men; Lack of support from other women; Politics seen as "dirty" or corrupt; Lack of education. See

Take nursing and primary school teaching as examples in addition to being a Mayor. Stereotyping of male/female roles due to sexism results in men and women tending to be deterred and discouraged from coming forward for certain jobs, for example women for Mayor of Bristol - and elected and other positions of power generally - and men for nursing and primary school teaching. It’s not uncommon to find some arguing that not all jobs are equally appealing because of 'natural tendencies' ie women aren't coming forward to be Mayor because they are not 'naturally' suited to it – ‘men and women are different, in most ways’  as someone said to me recently. Different yes but different in most ways no – and of course there are differences between people of the same sex! Men and women have a huge amount in common - they are equally capable for example of being Mayor, though some suggest otherwise. Sexists argue that we have one woman candidate in fifteen for Mayor of Bristol because men and women 'want different things' and therefore women don’t want to be Mayor and its all down to inherent reasons with no effect from sex discrimination in our society at all. What a load of utter nonsense.
The sexists are assuming that what men and women do is what they want; is where their talents and abilities are; that they have no latent, suppressed capacity for anything else; that this wont/cant and does not need to change...and that its only what men and women inherently 'are' that affects what they do ie there is zero effect from the society, the economy and the political system that men and women live in.

My favoured party – the Greens - do not knowingly or deliberately (and certainly not blatantly) discriminate against women in its processes but  it does exist in a social, economic and political context which does discriminate and this does have effects. It is working continually to do better, has a women leader, Natalie Bennett...its ex-leader and its first MP, Caroline Lucas, is a woman...the Greens fielded a good number of women candidates at the last general election (a higher % than other parties I think) compared to the 20% of MPs that are women  but the Greens must do better as other political parties and society in general must!! 100% of Green MPs and 50% of Bristol’s Green Councillors are women by the way :) but the party can only choose from those who come forward not from its whole membership.  Even in the Greens fewer women come forward because the social context deters and discourages them. There is no inherent reason why they would not come forward.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bell's backing

Former BBC war reporter and independent MP for Tatton 1997-2001, Martin Bell - the first independent MP for 50 years and now a UNICEF Ambassador - has backed George Ferguson's campaign to be the first elected Mayor of Bristol.
Martin said of George and his campaign: “I don’t rush around the country supporting everyone running as an independent, but every now and then I come out of hiding when I feel there is a candidate really worthy of support.
“I have experienced how political parties work in Government, and the sheer power of the whips, and the extent with which they persuade people to go along with the party rhetoric.

“I knew there must be a better way to run our politics than this.

“When I heard that Bristol had decided it wanted a mayor and discovered that George Ferguson was running as an independent, I thought he was the perfect candidate.

“I am not denigrating any of the other candidates but here is a man who will simply represent the people, not just a political party.

“I hope he gets elected as mayor on Friday - I believe he will.”

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Obama's oratory

Loved Obama's re-election speech and am really pleased that he won (and very relieved that Mitt Romney didn't!). My favourite part is this, from about nineteen minutes in, as he is coming towards the end...

'...I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states...' 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Negligent Nadine

Following MP Nadine Dorries shining example, boosting the reputation of MPs and the political system: Dear Open University [my employer] I’ll be taking up to a month off work and so won’t be doing my lecturing and research supervision role for a while. You will continue to pay me as usual [I wish!] even though I won’t be doing the work I'm paid for and will be earning extra money during my month off. Cheers!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Efficiency elide

Debates on UK energy policy focus almost exclusively on energy generation/production and often neglect even to mention energy saving and energy efficiency. It’s always going to be cheaper to save energy and be efficient than it is to generate it - not only does it cut household bills and increase the profitability of businesses by reducing their outgoings, it also cuts pollution rapidly, is a very good job creator, can increase comfort, cut noise levels, and can sometimes be done using materials normally thrown away...So whilst we are so wasteful of energy why consider building large numbers of new power stations of any kind? Why is our primary focus not on creating a lower energy, energy thrifty culture? Basic, already existing technologies can be used but the challenge is to combine these with thrifty attitudes and behaviours.

The energy generation debate at present often zooms in on nuclear and wind. Nuclear power is low carbon emission in operation but we’ve had it since the 1950s and it has done nothing to stop climate change. The UK currently has nuclear 16 reactors in operation at 9 different sites - and it’s had more in the past. We've come to rely on fossil fuels and population has increased as has our level and intensity of consumption but expanding nuclear power for decades - and expanding power generation by all methods - has been part of unsustainable plans for industrial and economic expansion. This attitude still prevails. Until we change from unsustainable economic expansion to properly and fully applying sustainable development - including an energy policy with energy saving and efficiency as its primary focus - then we won’t tackle economic, social and environmental problems such as climate change.
The scale at which we waste energy is vast, so the scope for energy saving is huge. For example the Energy Saving Trust said that UK households waste £1.3 billion by just leaving TVs and other electronic devices switched on... . In hard economic times and with energy prices rising you'd think people would be more careful with their consumption but apparently they aren't, so we’ve made little progress towards a energy thrifty culture. Research in 2006 found the UK was top of the European energy waster league.

Part of the problems is the fact that my local paper can’t even write a balanced and correct piece about nuclear power, let alone cover energy issues in the round as it should do. People are often ill-informed as a result.  Here's my case against nuclear power:'s  a  post arguing for energy efficiency, combined heat and power and decentralised energy:  Some thoughts on local renewable energy developments here:

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Nuclear news

The Post says 'Japan's largest industrial electronics maker has signed a £700 million deal to buy the UK's nuclear project Horizon, which will build new reactors at Wylfa, Angelsey, and Oldbury, South Gloucestershire...' (here). They should say is planning to build, subject to conditions being right and obtaining the various proper permissions.

Saying 'will build' is distinctly premature and it's bad journalism (again) from The Post not to give further details eg Hitachi has: not worked out exactly how much it would cost to build six new nuclear power plants in the UK; a government-guaranteed "strike price", or minimum price for nuclear generated power, has not yet been hammered out; it is not clear when the plants would be completed, nor who would operate them; the boiling water nuclear reactor system that Hitachi is keen to install has yet to be granted UK safety approval...

There are many ways to build energy security - most of which would generate more jobs and more efficiently and more quickly and without increasing the legacy of nuclear waste to future generations.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Candid Commissioner

Given that the Electoral Commission has said: “The swearing of an oath will be an important symbol of impartiality, emphasising both the significance of this new role in local communities and that PCCs are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate.” can there be anyone to vote for as Police Commissioner for Avon and Somerset than a suitable independent?

Sue Mountstevens (pictured) looks like she will be the only independent standing in November's Police and Crime Commissioner election (a situation not helped one bit by the high cost - the deposit alone being £5000). She is well qualified to do the job: member of the current police authority; Bristol magistrate for 15 years; vice-chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol prison. For me she says all the right things on her website too: . Her Twitter site is here:

Who should I cast my second preference vote for though?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bust bigotry

Its right to call for an end to topless women appearing on page 3 (see report here). Its not simply an exposed pair of breasts that's the issue as some seem to think however. Exposed breasts in some contexts other than as seen in certain daily newspapers, magazines are not an issue.

The thing is that women are being portrayed as mere sex objects much more often and in a much more narrow and ignorant way than men are. The evidence is common experience.

Would it make sense to approach it the other way and ensure that both men and women are equally seen only in a narrow, ignorant, sex object way?? Or should we instead try to ensure that all people are seen in a more rounded, fair and complete way?

Please sign Lucy Holmes petition on this issue here, and join over 47,000 other people (figure correct 17 Oct 2012 but growing fast!).

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

People paramount

Bristol 1st indicates that the people of Bristol are paramount rather than any single political party. The logo marks out what mayoral candidate George Ferguson stands for: representing all Bristol's people and involving them in decisions - and involving in his cabinet, as a matter of principle, people purely on the basis of expertise and not party allegiance. I'm strongly in favour of this pluralist and inclusive approach.

See: stories here and here and Bristol 1st website here

Member's means

Many MPs have second jobs eg North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg received around £132,000 in the year to August from his company Somerset Capital Management. The Conservative MP works 35 hours a month in return for the cash...(story here). As a matter of principle shouldn't we expect MPs to work full time for their constituency? Mr Rees-Mogg for example has time and energy that he could direct into working for voters in his constituency that he is directing elsewhere. Surely there are enough problems and issues to work on in his constituency, the SW region, the country, the EU and the world to keep this (and other) representatives busy for a lifetime! Docking some pay from MPs with second jobs is perhaps missing the point - they should not have these jobs whilst being an MP to begin with, so make it a rule that they cant.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

'Successful' shooting??

Joined in a debate on the cruelty, or not, of culling badgers  by shooting and whether supermarkets should label milk from farms involved in culling  here:

BCFCfinker - @Melindola
Quote from RSPCA link provided below from pdant:

"In order to free-shoot a badger in a quick, humane way, there are two 'lethal' points which would need to be successfully hit."

Seems pretty clear to me. The RSPCA appear to acknowledge that shooting can be humane (or if you want to split hairs, not cruel).


Surely the crucial part of this RSPCA quote is the phrase 'successfully hit' ? Even with people shooting well they are highly unlikely to be 100% 'successful'. Where they are not 'successful' then the chance of inccurately shot badgers being in pain and suffering increases. This means that shooting cannot be free of cruelty.

The RSPCA briefing says there are 'severe welfare concerns'. It refers to 'untested culling methods' (shooting) and the 'untested delivery method' (farmers). It describes the: 'high risk' of wounding; the 'small margin of error' and the anatomical and behavioural features of badgers that make cruelty free shooting highly unlikely.

What would be wrong by having a system where customers can know fully what they are buying by labelling milk as from a farm involving badger culling or not involving badger culling?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

People, power, parties

Interesting to note that all the main contenders for Mayor of Bristol have committed themselves to 'more people power' (here). I really do hope such a thing actually comes about. What I'd say to the three bigger parties, however, is: why have we had no significant and effective empowerment of people in Bristol if it's really what you stand for? Consultations are often a sham, voters are disillusioned and opportunities for genuine, empowered participation are poor. I have little faith that the big parties really want to empower people - if they did they would empower people to be able to remove them from office between elections through a recall/petitioning mechanism. Political parties want power for political parties in my experience.

The better, more specific ideas on participation and empowering people are with the Green's Daniella Radice (here) and with George Ferguson (here).

Inequality disempowers people, so its also interesting that this issue came up in the online discussion/comments on this story. Lib Dem candidate Jon Rogers raised the matter. Here's a copy of my response: @CllrJonRogers - The gini coefficient which is a measure of overall income inequality in the United Kingdom is now higher than at any previous time in the last thirty years. See . The Coalition the Lib Dems are in will be cutting billions more from public spending, including spending on welfare for the poorest, in the coming years. See . You, as a Lib Dem Bristol City Council Cabinet member have made well over £20 million cuts in council spending per year, including to services for the vulnerable.... See . Can you explain how all this helps to create a more fair and equal society?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Massive mudslinger

Believe me I'm no fan of elites but this is a non-story, saying, One of Bristol's leading musicians has claimed mayoral candidate George Ferguson's membership of Bristol's elite Society of Merchant Venturers is a conflict of interests. Massive Attack's lead singer Robert Del Naja... (here). There is no substance to it at all. Its all pure supposition and mere accusation, in this instance by just one 'famous' person throwing mud. So a candidate(Ferguson, pictured) belongs to a society (Merchant Venturers) and even if he resigned from the society he would still have friends in it. So what? There must be many, many candidates who are members of various organisations and who would retain friends if/when they left in the event of getting elected. Now, it really would be a story if there was any evidence of undue and unjustifiable influence or unethical practices - but there is no such thing! Or can someone provide evidence....?

Come to think of it aren't members of political parties members of a selective society, with a lot of friends etc etc...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Austerity applesauce

Any new Mayor of Bristol will have very hard budget choices forced on them it seems, given that, 'One of the first jobs facing Bristol's incoming elected mayor will be to cut an extra £25 million from the city councils budget. The authority has revealed it faces making deeper cuts than first anticipated as funding from central government is reduced.' (see here). However, that should not stop whoever the Mayor is from giving voice to the growing numbers of people who see the complete folly of cuts and austerity economics.

Govt borrowing is up AND we've had savage cuts. In fact Govt borrowing is up in part BECAUSE we've had savage cuts. Cuts are depressing economic activity. Austerity policies, pronouncements, plans and actions have reduced confidence, reduced spending, reduced investment, increased costs to govt, reduced govt income...and have been a big help (!) in causing and then lengthening the recession we are still in (thanks to Dave, George, Nick, Vince and co). I support the case against austerity and cuts and for a Keynsian stimulus for our economy to get out of recession and going in a sustainable direction.

Friday, 28 September 2012

George's generalities

Independent mayoral candidate George Ferguson has today laid out his seven-point vision of a safer, caring and healthy Bristol...Getting Bristol moving and working are first on the candidate’s list, followed by “a healthy and caring City”; “a democratic Bristol”; “making Bristol great”; “vibrant Bristol” and “a safer Bristol”...his “magnificent seven”...(see here).

George Ferguson has been very clear he does not want a Bristol that is: immobile; unemployed; unhealthy; uncaring; undemocratic; not great; lifeless; and unsafe. He's not committed himself to anything in his seven points that anyone would oppose!

That he needs to put flesh on these very, very bare bones is an understatement. He has strongly and consistently opposed petty party politics and seems open to involving people of all parties and none - and these are amongst his key strengths - but he's not really committed to anything very specific apart from building an arena, opposing bus rapid transit, revoking Sunday parking charges (to which I am opposed) and applying for world heritage status for the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Its not a specific plan for Bristol is it.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wellbeing wishes

Followed the link from this Post report to the Bristol Manisfesto site and contributed my 'three wishes' (below) to the 'Three Wishes Campaign'. The site says 'The Campaign’s aim is to collect Three Wishes for Prosperity to make Bristol a better place to live. The wishes collected will then create a manifesto document which will be freely shared with each candidate [for elected Mayor of Bristol] and the city as a whole. The manifesto document will then be a benchmark to empower the Mayor to make Bristol an even better place to live, not just for the first term but for years to come.' I hope something of practical use comes of this campaign but its not a good start to talk in terms of wishes. 
* The Mayor should aim to build stronger, more self-reliant local communities, meeting needs both now and on into the future and enacting both local and global fairness and equality and aiming for the goals health, wellbeing and quality of life.

* The Mayor should strive for ever better energy efficiency and seek to exchange the use of finite resources for renewable ones at the highest possible practical level.

* The Mayor should take an ecological, evidence-based, reasoned, systems-thinking approach, based on respecting our environment because it's a part of us and we are a part of it.
See here for the views of 50 people on what the Bristol Mayor's main focus should be. I like Mike Birkins comments, not surprisingly.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Speed support

More people have had their say on proposals for the introduction of 20mph speed limits across Bristol. So far about half of people who have shared their views...which would see the reduced speed limits in place in central Bristol within a year – were in favour of proposals as they stand, while another 20 to 25 per cent have been said to agree to the scheme in principle but wanted to find out more. Here's a copy of my online comment on this story, which attracted a number of 'its a fix' type views which in turn generated this response from Tiny_Steve and from me:

Tiny_Steve - "It's obvious that the Council must have manipulated the figures and the people speaking to the Post were hired stooges. As everyone knows, these comment pages are the only true barometer of the opinions of right-thinking Bristolians. Especially those who have nothing to do all day but sit looking at the Post's website."

Well said Tiny_Steve. And it could not possibly be the case that 20mph limits are a reasonably sensible move that therefore has a lot of public support could it. After all the findings of this current exercise aren't at all in line with the British Social Attitudes Survey run for the Department of Transport which found ' "the majority (71 per cent) of respondents were in favour or strongly in favour of speed limits of 20 mph in residential streets"...only 15% were against', or the University of the West of England's review which found ' "there are substantial majorities disapproving of breaking the speed limit, supporting reductions in speed limits including local limits of 20mph"...on residential streets, 76% of people are in favour of having speed limits of 20mph'. And there are no further examples of public opinion eg in York, Oxord and Islington supporting 20mph limits here -

And its obvious that a candidate stongly opposing 20mph limits will become the first elected Mayor of Bristol and stop this kick in the teeth for't it??

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Pound publicity

Great to see good publicity for the Bristol Pound and thus publicity for many local businesses (here and here). Good to see the local currency issue brought into the Mayoral election with George Ferguson saying he would be happy take his pay - if he wins - in Bristol Pounds (here). The purpose of the Bristol pound as a local currency are pretty well explored and explained in this Post article. The Bristol Pound is a good idea. Given the chaos that has ensued from creating fewer currencies within the EU, doing the opposite and creating more currencies seems good sense to me.

The advantages of the Bristol Pound are that: it enables people to support the local economy and local businesses to support each other; it helps to build the local economy by creating a protective area defined by the currency; local businesses that accept the Bristol Pound are distinguished from any big operations that do not; supportive linkages between local people and local businesses are strengthened; the ideas of buying locally first, taking personal responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the community are promoted; stress is laid on local economic vibrancy and thriving, a broader and greener emphasis than just growth.

Anyone who simply does not like the idea of supporting local businesses that take the local currency doesn't have to use the Bristol Pound. Personally I object to the money I spend in Bristol not circlulating here and doing more work here, so I support thr Bristol Pound.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Growth equivalent to good??

Interesting story and online debate in this Post report in which a  '...cabinet councillor has answered critics who believe the city council is deliberately trying to slow down Bristol's growth and prosperity.'

The truth is that growth is not equivalent to prosperity, though this report suggests they are. Prosperity is a broader idea, encompassing general flourishing, thriving, general wellbeing, happiness and health as well as the economy.

Neither is growth equivalent to success. You have to rein in growth in the genuine pursuit of prosperity.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Super seagulls?

Seagulls are not the biggest threat to Bristol's heritage, though this Post report says they are. Just compare the scale of total seagull impacts with total human impacts for instance! There are problems caused by droppings, noise and so on but the Post headline and story are an exaggeration. The Post could have made a much better attempt to produce and publish a piece which explores all sides of the issue - after all if we are to solve gull related problems its going to be on the basis of everyone being better informed. This BBC report gives a good explanation of why there are so many seagulls in cities and sets the context for cities and birds pretty well - .

Those who may be tempted to advocate shooting gulls need to know that all species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

According to the RSPB, 'This makes it illegal to intentionally or, in Scotland, recklessly injure or kill any gull or damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. In Scotland, it is also illegal to prevent birds from accessing their nest, and in Northern Ireland, it is illegal to disturb any nesting bird. In addition, the Mediterranean gull is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, making it illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds at or close to their nest in Britain or to disturb their dependent young.

However, the law recognises that in certain circumstances control measures may be necessary. Simple nuisance or minor damage to property are not legally sanctioned reasons to kill gulls. The UK administrations can issue licences, permitting nests to be destroyed or even birds to be killed if there is no non-lethal solution, and if it is done to prevent serious damage to agriculture, the spread of disease, to preserve public health and safety and air safety, or to conserve other wild birds...'

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Culling controversy

I've chipped in to the online debate on badger culling proposals (see here and here or view the many Post stories that have recently appeared listed here) and copy my contributions in this post: Interesting exchange between vets on bovine TB here It includes this statement from vet Andrew Wilson: "...16 member states of the European Union are recognised as officially free of bovine TB, along with Scotland and a number of regions of Italy. As far as I can find out, not one of these countries or regions had to control TB in wildlife in order to obtain its officially free status...."

Killing badgers is both wrong and unlikely to to be effective in fighting TB.Vaccination is a realistic alternative to culling according to this site . Follow up on the many references given there if you want to know more. It says this for instance, " An injectable badger vaccine was scheduled to be trialled in England throughout 2010, but the coalition scaled back plans in June of that year. Out of the six planned trials only one survived in Stroud, Gloucestershire, where badgers are being trapped and injected with the BCG vaccine over a period of five years (76).

This reduction in funding to alternatives is especially short-sighted as, in November 2010, Defra research showed the outcome of some trials that showed that vaccinating wild badgers over four years resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in the proportion testing positive to the antibody blood test for bTB (72). As natural prevalence of bTB is just 15 per cent then widespread vaccination could be of significant benefit. Especially as there is an annual turnover of badgers of around 30 per cent (badgers have a life span of 3-5 years). Theoretically, the number of infected badgers would decrease each year and new infections would be rare (101).

Additionally, laboratory studies with captive badgers demonstrated that the vaccination of badgers by injection with BCG significantly reduced the progression, severity and excretion of Mycobacterium bovis infection. This seems to strongly support the claim that vaccination alone could reduce bTB infection in badgers by a significant amount (in the same time period of 4-5 years that has been suggested for 'culling'). It would not lead to perturbation and would also be cheaper than the Government's current plans (see The Cost).

As it stands, despite the findings, this Defra study concludes that vaccination should take place alongside badger 'culling', which appears to go starkly against the results of these trials which show that non-lethal approaches will be enough to protect badgers from the disease...”

Tackling transport

Seven of the candidates to become Bristol's elected mayor have raised doubts over the controversial bendy bus scheme. Three of the candidates at a hustings meeting in Broadmead last night even said they did not support the £50 million route into the city centre from the Long Ashton park and ride site at all (full story and online comments here). Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), especially BRT2 and bendy bus use is highly flawed, badly designed, not cost-effective, and will impact on the city, the environment, and local people negatively. Bendy bus technology has potential problems with: insufficient effective motive power; slower speed and acceleration due to the extra weight; overheating leading to stalling, or even a fire if diesel fuelled; in crowded areas with narrow streets and tight turns the accident rate may exceed than conventional buses. Bendy buses are supposed to be highly fuel efficient but this must be dependent on the city and the system they are running on and so in practice I have doubts that they will be more efficient in operation than double deckers here in Bristol. Good to see the stance in clear opposition to BRT taken by several mayoral candidates. George Ferguson has given me more reasons to give him my second preference vote, with Daniella Radice getting my first preference vote.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Conference coverage

Some local press coverage of the Green Party Conference taking place in Bristol this weekend, here and here in The Post. Also coverage here on Bristol 24-7 and a variety of BBC stories listed here (including new leader Natalie Bennett's conference speech on iPlayer). Interesting video clips here on You Tube. There's substance to Green Mayoral candidate Daniella Radice's newly launched manifesto, which is more than can be said for some other mayoral candidates and indeed more than can be said for some online commenters  Green principles and policies and Daniella Radice's manifesto deserve genuine and widespread debate. People need to get past traditional allegiances, preconceived ideas and prejudices and look at all the evidence that strongly supports green social, economic and environmental policies.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Daniella details

Go here for the latest details of Daniella Radice's campaign to become the Green Mayor of Bristol Daniella will get my first preference vote, not least because she has been the most forthcoming so far with her policies. My second preference vote is most likely to go to George Ferguson, though I will be monitoring the election closer to the time to see who is most likely to be in first and second place after the first round of counting.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Candidate questions

Some interesting questions for elected Mayor of Bristol candidates have been posted in online comments on this Post story. Here's a selection of the best, sorted out from the silly, sarcastic, and more loaded ones...with the name of the contributors first:
·        Fishandchips  - “How will mayor candidates help to guide people to become confident, improve psychological access and strive to be successful in business or in their chosen subjects?”
·         Fishandchips  - “We need a leader who can work with people at every level. My question is how can they demonstrate this quality
·         green_man - “Will you resign, resulting in an election, if a sufficient proportion or number of Bristol's voters petition you to do so?”
·         BCFCfinker - “Will you do what's best for Bristol and not what's best for you?”
·         Kromax - “What will you do to bring employment to Bristol?
How will you open up south Bristol to employment opportunities?

Will you bring trams to Bristol? Will you bring an Arena to Bristol?

Will you bring secure parking for motorcycles/cycles to Bristol i.e. at Temple Meads/ in the centre?

Will you turn off traffic lights out of peak times or alter timing where appropriate?
·         Marshwalker99 - “What experience do you have of managing a complex operation which spends around £1.3 billion pounds a year

Thursday, 23 August 2012

City Conference

The Green Party Autumn Conference will be held at the Council House in Bristol from 7-10 September this year. Included will be policy debate on: working hours; economic democracy; making corporations responsible; international law of ecocide; end of life palliative care; animal racing; Aarhus Convention and environmental information and participation; natural resources; nuclear waste; libel law reform; crime prevention and justice; economics...

On the draft timetable the Conference Opening Speech will be from Daniella Radice, the Green Party Candidate in the Bristol Mayoral election followed by a speech from the Party’s newly elected Leader who will be introduced by Caroline Lucas MP, outgoing Green Party Leader.

Details via:


Pedestrianise please!

One of Bristol's busiest roundabouts might be scrapped – to make way for pedestrians.
Highway experts and environmental groups have been discussing the idea of pedestrianising part of St James Barton roundabout as a long-term aim to calm traffic in the city centre (full story here).

Pedestrianise? Is that a good idea? After all its not as if people evolved for walking upright is it!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Carbon killer

Air pollution causes the premature death of tens of thousands of people in the UK every year. Toxic carbon monoxide gas is one of the problem pollutants.

The way that even low levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal, by disrupting the heart's rhythm, has been unravelled by researchers in Leeds.
They found that levels common in heavy traffic could affect the way the heart resets itself after every beat. in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine...

Full story here:

More on UK air pollution issues here: and here

Monday, 30 July 2012

Scepticism squashed?

The BBC report that: A formerly sceptical climate scientist says human activity is causing the Earth to warm, as a new study confirms earlier results on rising temperatures...

...latest study, released early on Monday (GMT), concludes that the average temperature of the Earth's land has risen by 1.5C (2.7F) over the past 250 years.

...In a piece authored for the New York Times, Prof Muller, from the University of California, Berkeley, said: "Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming.

"Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."...

Full story and access to lot of data, analysis, comment and debate via the BBC report here. Arguably it is because Prof Muller et al had a moderate, practical, pragmatic scepticism that he reasoned that a change of mind was justified by the evidence. Long may moderate, practical, pragmatic scepticism reign.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Road reason

A blanket 20mph speed limit on all of Bristol’s residential streets will be in place by 2015 (full story and debate here).This is a very good decision. For me the case for 20mph limits is that residential roads are for living not driving in. See here for why 20mph -
Many of the Mayoral candidates have been advocating it and are backing the decision because they know that its popular with the public. In the 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey 71% of people asked were in favour of 20mph speed limits on residential roads -

Some persist in saying that here is no logical or proven reason for 20mph limits in residential areas  but in fact there's plenty of research around. See this analysis of the effectiveness of 20mph speed limits from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents ( for instance. Those opposing 20 mph limits seem to be driven by something other than the evidence and reasoning upon it - see the debate on this story on The Post website here - with even more here - for plenty of examples of abuse, avoidance, denial, misinformation and misunderstanding...

Some repeat myths in their comments eg saying that air pollution would be worsened. Actually 20mph limits will NOT increase air pollution, as shown here and are a key feature of a more sustainable approach to urban living. The key is that the streets involved in this decision are residential streets ie people live there. Living there need not and most often does not exclude driving there of course but lets not forget that cyclists and pedestrians and not just motorised vehicles use roads and that all sorts of community activities can and should happen on residential streets if they are safe enough - and this brings me to another reason why I say streets are for living (by which I meant primarily for living) and that is that if the speed limit is 20 mph, in the unfortuneate event of a collision the people involved are much more likely to live than to die.

Some still argue that roads/streets, even residential ones, are primarily for cars and not pedestrians, cyclists and a range of activities, potentially. However, many of the roads/streets in Bristol were there long before cars were owned and used on a widespread basis and some go back even before the invention of the car. Mass car ownership did not take off in the UK until the 1950's and many things have happened on the roads/streets before and since. A good proportion of Bristol's roads/streets were never designed for cars. Roads are simply thoroughfares, routes, or ways on land from place to place - and in residential areas and in cities serve a wider purpose, including easement. Even where they were/are specially designed for car use why should we not choose, with general agreement, to adjust and manage that, especially in residential areas, so that the balance favours human beings not motorised machines running at a speed likely to kill or cause serious injury? See and also

Others say introducing 20mph limits is a waste of money, can't be enforced and everyone will ignore it. They seem to have forgotten the evidence eg from RoSPA on their effectiveness. 20mph limits have saved lives where they have been introduced in Hull, London and elsewhere. See here. No-one has been able to dispute this evidence in the two lengthy online debates I've taken part in.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Daniella debate

Debate about Green Mayoral Candidate Daniella Radice on this post story eg by FOX_Joe - Out to lunch bunch of daydreamers! Living in a bubble would be wonderful, but we don't. The most out of sync with reality 'political' party; in short communists with a slightly better education.

My response: @ FOX_Joe - "Living in a bubble would be wonderful, but we don't."

Actually we do live in a bubble of sorts - the biosphere on our planet that provides all the resources that sustain our economy and society, has to take in all our wastes and pollutants and is the basis of our lives. Why call the people who plan to live sustainably and fairly in this bubble 'daydreamers' and unrealistic and not those who are squandering finite resources, blighting the world for future generations, building an economy that mainly benefits super-rich, corrupt and unethical bankers and their establishment politician and media friends and not general wellbeing...Your assessement is upside down FOX_Joe. Obviously I'm a green and so support Daniella and her policies but can you deny their rationale?


Copies of some further contributions I've made to the debate, which is pretty lively:

@ Richard34 - Daniella is proposing to go much further with devolving power than the current Neighbourhood Partnerships. She advocates creating - and Mayoral working with - democratically elected neighbourhood councils, which of course we dont currently have.

Current transport plans are hardly revolutionary and many aspects of the 'Greater Bristol Bus Network' and bus rapid transit - especially using bendy buses - have rightly been heavily critcised. There's been a lot of talk about public transport improvements in Bristol for decades and we have still got a lot of problems and a long way to go - thus the Greens proposals to create a major transport hub for local bus and train interchange at Plot 6 next to Temple Meads station and to develop the local economy in such a way as to improve local job creation, local shops and community facilities such that the need to travel long distances is cut.

On education Daniella will lobby the government to transfer the secretary of state's powers over free schools and academies to the Mayor, not to the council ie central government dictates are being opposed and local democracy favoured.


@ BCFC Finker - ok, still nothing on policies or principles, so no genuine substance to your comments. And dont forget that people will have two votes in the Mayoral election, one for first and one for second preference. People can therefore vote both with their heart and with their head. This may cause some interesting voting patterns, especially with the Lib Dems and Tories struggling due to the persistent failures of the Coalition Govt.

@SouthvilleDav - Greens like Daniella and I have long been campaigning aginst biofuels - they simply aren't green at all - see As for what you say on solar energy, you are absolutely right - and I'd go further and say that we should be investing in solar to grow the industry in this country so we can supply as much as we can for ourselves.

@ Richard34 - you are arguing against greater democracy and against democracy being closer to people instead of remote and in the hands of a few eg a single individual as Mayor. Its partly because democracy is not in people's hands in their neighbourhoods that voters have become disillusioned and politicians self-serving and unethical. There's nothing woolly about what Greens are proposing on this as neither you or anyone else have been unclear on what the plans are.

The current bus station is clearly badly located and our whole public transport system needs a redesign, including creating a proper integrated transport hub at Termple Meads, which is beginning to go through a redesign process anyway. We need to be much more ambitious with our integrated transport planning or we will never make a dent in serious problems of congestion, delay, air pollution, carbon emissions...Current plans wont make a dent in these problems and in fact will make some of them worse!!

Thinking that the current education system is 'wonderful' is a very big mistake. Conservatives once told us we needed GCSEs for instance and now have gone full circle to tell us we dont need them we need the old O'levels or similar!! Greens are not just talking about a transfer of power from central government to the Mayor but to the Mayor working in a partnership with neighbourhood councils and the parents, teachers, governors and pupils/students themselves given that the system is for them and their community not for ideologues in any political party, certainly in a remote central government. Lets have some parent, pupil and people power in the system.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Green + Guidance

Congratulations to Daniella Radice, both on her selection as the Green Party candidate for Mayor of Bristol and for producing the most detailed and coherent statement of polices of any candidate to date and a promise of further detail in September. So, you get a Green plus guidance on what she will actually do if elected! Policies announced cover boosting the local economy, protecting and enhancing Bristol's environment, a fairer, more democratic city with power devolved to neighbourhoods, prioritising our health and wellbeing, and more...see Daniella's campaign website Also see local press coverage here and here and Bristol Greens website announcement here.

Speeding = stupid

Interesting how people try to defend speeding when news stories such as this one (Rise in deaths on Bristol's roads) appear - just look at some of the online comments. Of course we should want everyone - all child and adult pedestrians, all cyclists - to use good road sense but no-one should defend speeding or other irrresponsible forms of driving, not least because it contributes to one in every four deaths as a result road collisions (see RoSPA link below). Speeding is unacceptable, period - it is an avoidable cause of death and serious injury if people show some responsibility.

Inappropriate speed contributes to around 13% of all injury collisions, 16% of crashes resulting in a serious injury and 24% of collisions which result in a death. This includes both 'excessive speed', when the speed limit is exceeded but also driving or riding within the speed limit when this is too fast for the conditions at the time (for example, in poor weather, poor visibility or high pedestrian activity).

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Supplementary voting system for Bristol's Mayoral election

Bristol’s first Elected Mayor (and the city’s first Police Crime Commissioner) will be chosen this November using a voting system called the supplementary vote (though I suspect many Bristol voters are as yet unaware of this due to the very poor level and quality of information that’s been made available). This system means you have votes to cast for two candidates ie you can choose first and second preferences. At the count the electoral authorities start by totaling all the first preferencevotes. Any candidate achieving over 50% wins, though with many candidates standing – including all the political parties plus independents - this is unlikely to happen. If no-one gets 50% the authorities eliminate all but the top two candidates, and in a second round redistribute all the votes for everybody else by the second preference on the ballot paper.

This means you can vote for your absolute first preference without worrying about wasting your vote because you know they can’t win this time. You have your second preference vote to cast for whichever of the likely top two candidates you least object to being mayor or don’t mind them giving them a go. In Bristol the top two look like being independent candidate George Ferguson and the Labour Party’s Marvin Rees, at least for the present (you could vote for someone else as a second preference or not cast your second vote at all, but then would not affect the result at all).

Here’s the Electoral reform Society guide to the supplementary voting system:

Friday, 6 July 2012

City Deal

The £100-million Bristol Metro train network which will bring massive improvements to local railways is to go ahead with the first services running by 2016. It comes as a result of the City Deal agreed between local council and the Government which was announced yesterday...(more here).

Business rates to be kept in Bristol and used to raise more money for investment is very welcome. Plans to improve the local rail network are also welcome. Lets hope what is planned is effective and efficient. I do think there is a democratic deficit in all this thinking though and would like to see much greater and inbuilt opportunities for public participation, creating better openness and accountability - it wont be sufficient to simply lobby our authorities to use this money in the best way.

Details of the 'City Deal' for Bristol, according to The Post, are:

* A new growth incentive and the economic investment fund, which will allow West of England to keep 100 per cent of growth in business rates over 25 years to invest in projects, allowing authorities to deliver an investment programme worth £1 billion over 30 years.

*  Ten years of major funding allocation for the Greater Bristol Metro; flexible delivery for the Bus Rapid Transit Network which will allow savings to be recycled locally; and new powers over rail planning and delivery.

*— A Public Property Board will manage up to £1 billion of city council assets and an estimated 180 land and property assets to unlock more land for economic growth or housing and to lever in additional investment.

* A city growth hub with up to £2.25 million of government funding which will provide additional support to inward investors. This will be based in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and will work closely with UK Trade and Investment.

* The business community and local enterprise partnership will have more influence in skills provision in the city region, in particular the £114 million Skills Funding Agency funding for Further Education colleges for post-16 provision, to help capture employer demand.