The view from the front of the train

Most men, if they’re honest, have wanted to drive a train at some point in their life.  Others want to whizz round in a racing car or score a goal for England or a try for Wales.  Anyone who’s seen me try to kick a ball (and I avoided this as much as possible in school) will know that the latter is unlikely.  While visiting engineering apprentices I have actually sat in a racing car (it’s a tight squeeze) but the engine was turned off.  But this evening I did get to at least sit with the train driver while we hurtled from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads at 125mph.  So that’s one boyhood interest finally ticked off.

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Twenty years of candidacy

Twenty years ago today I was a candidate, nervously awaiting the outcome of my first electoral contest.  I was fighting the Redland ward of Bristol City Council, where the Liberal Democrats had put in a derisory performance since the party’s formation four years previously.  The seat was held by the Tories but Labour had come within 12 votes of winning in 1990, at the height of the poll tax protests.  But this election was being held just a month after John Major’s triumph in the 1992 general election.  At about 1o.30pm (local election polls closed at 9pm in those days) I learned my fate.  I’d doubled the Lib Dem vote to a mathematically pleasing 1,111 votes but had come third.  The new Conservative councillor, Mark Casewell, won with a comfortable majority over Labour.

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Bristol needs an elected Mayor

I will be voting Yes in Thursday’s referendum on whether Bristol should have a directly elected Mayor.  The debate over the last few months has persuaded me that Bristol will have a stronger voice both in London and on the international stage if a Mayor acts as our ambassador.  It is that outward facing role that has swung me from being a sceptic to an enthusiast.

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Liberal controls on state surveillance

The Coalition Government has a good record on rolling back the many intrusions into civil liberties by the last Labour administration.  So the news headlines of the last few days have caused me some dismay.  A leak from the Home Office (by who and with what purpose, I hope we will find out) suggested that the government was about to grant the security services and police their dream scenario, the ability for real time snooping into our emails and social media messages.

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Politics of pasties, pensioners and petrol

April 1st is probably a good day to write about just how irrational political debate can become.  The last fortnight has seen some really meaty political events for politicians, the press and the public to get their teeth stuck into.  But instead of the big reforms in the Budget and another major party funding scandal being seriously discussed we’ve had pasties, pensioners and petrol.  Thank God for the shock Bradford West result, highlighting the uselessness of Eds M and B.

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Budget 2012 – good for Britain and Bristol

Today’s Budget confirms a tax cut for millions of people in two weeks time and looks forward to the biggest income tax cut in a generation in April 2013.   As a Liberal Democrat in the Coalition I am delighted that our policy of £10,000 tax free pay  is now within touching distance.

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Diamond speeches

Just back from the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords where I met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.  The reception for  300 MPs and Peers followed the full turnout of both Houses for the “presentation of addresses” in Westminster Hall.

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Sale of Nazi memorabilia

When is it okay to profit from the sale of artefacts associated with a vile regime from history?  Should there be a market for items associated with Hitler and Stalin?  What about their henchmen?  Or their victims?

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Championing the Sustainable Communities Act

Planning applications often cause a rumpus.  Supermarkets, football stadiums, blocks of flats or even replacing windows in a listed building have all been examples of controversial applications in my almost 20 years as an MP and councillor.  Local residents and indeed their elected representatives often get mightily cheesed off by the opaque formal planning procedures and the obfuscations of developers.  I have long believed the planning system needs reform.

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Why I support Gay Marriage

When Civil Partnerships began in December 2005 I said that people would soon refer to them as marriages.  Adverts in gay magazines showed all the trappings of a wedding such as rings and cakes. It was just that there were two men or two women in the photographs or in miniature on top of the cake.  Even if the law didn’t call these new civil unions between same sex couples a “marriage”, society soon would.

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