Sunday, 27 April 2008

Leafletting at bluebell time

The last few days I have been in a flurry of leafletting - for Brian Paddick in Westminster and for local council candidates in Colchester. The Greens are intervening erratically in both places. In London they are encouraging supporters to vote Labour in the mayoral contest, which is odd given Labour's dismal environmental record, while in Colchester they have adopted a strategy that seems brilliantly designed to defeat their own objectives by leaving the Tories in control.
I was leafletting in north Colchester's Highwoods ward, currently represented by Independents. The area was once a royal hunting forest, of which the town managed to preserve over 300 acres from property developers, with the result that ranch-style executive homes exist next to ancient woodland and open space now designated a country park. To the east of all that there is the inevitable Tesco, and beyond that the ward shades into mixed private and social housing with some spectacularly ugly and smelly grot spots which no doubt will give the winning candidate something useful to do. It is the only ward in the borough where a BNP candidate is standing though I have had no explanation how the BNP agenda is even relevant to, let alone a solution for, problems there.
On Saturday I whizzed to and from the ward by bus, but as the buses are infrequent on a Sunday I walked from the town centre to the ward across the country park, which the dog enjoyed. After walking for some time along a grassy ride between woods, I took a side path which promised to be a more direct route, though involving some ducking under branches, but after a few minutes the path became indistinct. I could see houses above and not far away, so I carried on, assuming I must be near an exit, but that way was fenced off, so I followed the track round to the left, towards increasingly tangled undergrowth. Suddenly a fox sprang out from some low bushes a few feet ahead and away at an easy canter. I descended a slope to a little stream where I paused to decide where best to cross. Thus it was that in this unlikeliest of places I found myself surrounded by the glory of an English bluebell wood in April. It was quiet except for bird song, and some idea of the hazy blueness can be got perhaps from pictures, but no words or picture can possibly convey the delicious fragrance.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Hang in there, Hilary Clinton

I welcome Hilary Clinton's decisive win in Pennsylvania because I think the world has suffered enough from a Republican-run White House, and I think Clinton can beat the Republican, but I don't think Obama can. Obama has the funding advantage and the backing of Democrat establishment big names, but for several reasons I don't believe enough Americans will vote for Obama when it comes to the crunch. This is supported by the fact that in the decisive big states Clinton has beaten Obama as traditional Democrat voters have turned out in her support. They know that if they elect Mrs Clinton it's the nearest they can get to having Bill back in the White House, whose astonishing approval ratings when President testify of his political genius. So I hope Hilary Clinton will hang in there and ignore those who tell her to quit the race.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

I go to Estonia, and return

As a directly elected member of the UK Lib Dems’ ELDR (European Liberal Democratic and Reform Party) Council delegation, I went to their meeting in Estonia, on the far side of the EU and on the edge of Russia, the weekend before last. The meeting got some good preparatory work done, we made some good contacts and our Estonian hosts were most hospitable.
What a remarkable city Tallinn is. In a long visit to the Occupation Museum there I learned something of the terrible ordeal the Estonians endured following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, whereby Hitler and Stalin agreed that Russia could have the previously independent Baltic States – a deal between treacherous crooks that soon fell apart. As a result the Estonians were occupied three times - first by the Russians, then by the Nazis, then by the Russians again, this time until 1991. Despite terrible oppression they retained their spirit and in 1991 got their independence back. What a wonderful people.
I returned to England the eco-friendly way by ferries and trains via the Baltic and Scandinavia. This trip has vividly demonstrated to me the vast geographical size of the EU and the scale of its achievement in uniting so enormous an area by voluntary and peaceful means.
The ferry from Tallinn to Stockholm was a glittering, extremely comfortable palace, the weather was calm and as the sun set over the silvery Baltic Sea the scene looked idyllic. The following morning, in pale sunshine, the ferry glided quietly between the islands of the eastern Swedish archipelago. It was an entrancing voyage. This made it all the more shocking to learn that the Baltic is now an endangered sea, where swimming in summer is dangerous due to poisonous algae blooms. No matter how far I travel, I find it impossible to escape the signs of our planet’s sickness.
In Stockholm I boarded a fast inter-city train that travelled south-west across Sweden, then changed to a local train that crossed a causeway over the sea between Sweden and Denmark - a remarkable engineering feat - to Copenhagen. I had a few hours to look round there, then took another inter-city train travelling west, crossing Denmark from island to island via tunnels and bridges. In Zealand I changed trains for Esbjerg where I boarded MS Dana Sirena for Harwich. This ship, too, was extremely comfortable. In addition to passengers the ship carried a cargo of sea containers, the kind that hurtle through Colchester station on freight trains and make you feel like a midget. I counted 29.
The micro-economics of all this were crazy as returning by cheap flight would have been many times cheaper, but I would have missed out on so much that I have seen and learned.
Back to leafletting for the local elections…

Saturday, 5 April 2008

In praise of Evan Harris MP and evidence-based policy

I have just had the pleasure of hearing Evan Harris, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, acquit himself superbly on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions. It was good to hear the case for evidence-based policy-making, with which I enthusiastically agree, put so well, and wittily, too. What a star!

Friday, 4 April 2008

I am nominated

I am standing for election to my local borough council. So many leafletting opportunities, so little time...