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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Greens and the SNP

Jim Murphy has made the obvious point that it makes no sense for the SNP to ask English voters to vote against Labour if they really want to see a Labour government.  The public position of Nicola Sturgeon is that she thinks English voters should vote Green, but anyone who considers that for  few moments knows that the effect of that suggestion is to maximise the possibility of a Tory government. 


I suspect that is precisely what Nicola Sturgeon wants.  Her more minor reason for the move is to sideline the Green Party in Scotland, something that the English Greens seem all too eager to help the SNP with.  If I were a Scots Green I would feel utterly betrayed by my colleagues south of the border.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Shahrar Ali let off the Hook

I see that the Kilburn Times has an extremely gentle piece on Shahrar Ali.  It glosses over the various ways in which the Green Party has sought to block environmental objectives, including food growing, one of Europe's greenest buildings,  carbon emissions, improved recycling, and even district heating.


The strangest of these is the entrenched hostility to Brent Civic Centre.  The environmental benefits of this building are huge, and unattainable realistically in any other way.  People who stand for election really should expect a far higher standard of accountability than appears in the piece.

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Damage of Volunteer Libraries

Dawn Finch, who is an eminent figure in CILIP, the professional body for library professionals has posted a harsh critique of volunteers running community managed libraries.  I wouldn't agree with every point in it but I recognise the general thrust. 


One point that does not come across in the piece is the effect on a wider Council service running alongside the volunteer service.  Since this appears to be the preferred model in many authorities, it is worth pointing out.


Most "stand alone" volunteer libraries actually seem to need a lot of professional support in dealing with areas that volunteers have little or no experience in.  That does not just mean direct library stuff.  It includes facility management, various kinds of insurance, legal matters, building maintenance, trade waste contracts and so on.  There is some evidence that volunteer organisations have had unrealistic, or at least misunderstood, expectations of what they can expect.  It does not appear to be understood that a key driver for many authorities are the huge weight of funding cuts hitting areas of high and rising demand for public services.  I suspect that for most of the authorities that have gone down this route, volunteer libraries are simply a relatively easy way for the authority to jettison responsibility for the building concerned.


That sort of thing, in many authorities, is dealt with by departments other than the libraries department.


On specific library expertise, again many volunteers don't seem to understand how complicated it can be or what level of pressures the library staff may be under.  One example is the necessity of tagging books if self service technology is going to work.  Take the comments here:


"One of the important subjects discussed was the exploration of what could be shared by the Brent Library Service and Community Libraries. This is very important for us because part of our future success, I believe, will be the extent to which we are able to develop a good working relationship with the Brent library service – maybe not financial (as such), but, sharing services, contracts for outreach services, volunteers, training and being part of their lending and IT services could save us a lot of headaches (and finance) and be very significant for our operation of a community library."


There appears to be little or no understanding of how relying on various services drains financial and other resources away from Brent Council Library service, and thereby endanger the effective delivery of the Libraries Transformation Project


In other words, having volunteer libraries can actively damage a traditional Council library service rather than adding to it.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Traffic Enforcement in Harlesden Town Centre

Since the new Harlesden Town Centre Scheme started operating, I have noticed that numerous cars still go down the street in front of Harlesden Methodist Church, where they are prohibited.  Brent Council really needs to enforce its traffic restrictions if the scheme is going to work as it is supposed to.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

SNP Backs David Cameron

I was startled to read the Daily Telegraph scoop this morning.  According to a leaked memo, Nicola Sturgeon is secretly rooting for David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister.  While, the SNP preference for the Tories over Labour is obvious to people who actually follow their strategy, it will come as a big shock to some "progressive" people South of the Border.


The memo is written by a UK Civil Servant based on what French diplomatic sources told him/her of conversations between Nicola Sturgeon and French diplomats.  It is apparently standard protocol for such reports to be passed to the UK government.  It is not standard practice for such documents to be leaked to the newspapers, and Nicola Sturgeon is now denying the remarks were made, as (rather more weakly) are the French diplomats.


Cato the Elder had a good rule of thumb for such enquiries, which was to ask: Who Benefits?


The SNP categorical denials don't convince me since it seems very obvious that they want to stop Labour forming a government.  Why else ask people in England to vote Green, and Welsh voters to go for the Welsh Nats.  They also have a long record of denials that turn out to be false statements on legal advice to the EU, the Oil price, the currency and so on.  They have used up what credibility they have.


I imagine the French diplomats are hugely embarrassed to be dragged into an election campaign in their host country, but they had no reason to misinform the UK Civil Service, or to assume the communication would be leaked.  They do now have good reason to try to distance themselves from the whole thing, as it is career threatening for any diplomat to be anywhere near this.


I can't see why the UK Civil Servant who wrote the memo should have wanted to include misinformation.  I imagine s/he is cringing under a desk at the moment wondering what is going to happen.


In terms of who leaked it.  I don't see it as being either the SNP or the Tories since their effective alliance cannot be openly acknowledged by its very nature.  It can't be Labour, because how would they get it?  If I were heading the Leak Enquiry, I would be visiting the Liberal Democrat SoS for Scotland office, as it seems most likely to help the Liberal Democrats.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ibrahim Taguri Not Standing

I gather Ibrahim Taguri is not standing after all, so it will be up to Lauren Keith to lose for the Liberal Democrats in Brent Central.