Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eco-Mayor? Open Mayor?

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Labour candidate for Mayor Marvin Rees does not have good green credentials. Labour in Bristol and nationally have had very little to say on the sustainable development that greens want. Several of Marvin's statements indicate a lack of regard for sustainability, for instance: "freeing up public owned land to build homes" (here), which could mean going back to flogging off our cities parks and green spaces; and favouring the existing plans for the expansion of Bristol Airport, saying "Going forward, I am in support of developing the airport." (here) . He wont be getting my second preference vote as a result of this - and because he is not open enough to working with people in other political parties and in no party.  We need a Mayor who understands economic, social and environmental sustainability challenges and who wants to include people in his cabinet on the basis of expertise not political colour.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Marvin's muddlement

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Labour's mayoral candidate Marvin Rees says, "I want Bristol be a city of aspiration with a vision for the position it wants to hold in the world and a plan for how to get there."(here) but he then gives few specifcs let alone a plan for the city. Committing to: an arena; football stadiums; a living wage; fight for money for and powers over transport; general support for the voluntary sector and zero food waste is bits and pieces populism not a coherent plan to enact a vision. The article is mostly Marvin’s muddlement.....

George's generalities

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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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Predictable unpredictable?

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If the result of the Bristol mayoral election is really 'completely unpredictable' (as this Post story says) how come the bookies can come up with betting odds? Or is it that we know from past voting patterns and current polls and political developments that the most likely outcome is a Labour or liberal-minded independent candidate winning? In other words Marvin Rees vs George Ferguson because both are broadly progressive and not being blamed for current problems. Surely we can count out Tories and Lib Dems because of the ongoing recession and the cuts/austerity program. The Tories dont have the votes needed across the whole city in any case and the Lib Dems are taking the brunt of the criticism of the coalition govt (thus they are at 10% or so in the polls). Hard to predict the final result between two particular candidates: yes. Completely unpredictable: no. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wellbeing wishes

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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, September 25, 2012

Speed support

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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??

Monday, September 24, 2012


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It turns out that Tory candidate for elected Mayor of Bristol Geoff Gollop is in favour of expanding Bristol Airport (The Post inaccurately reported his views, see correction here). However, he's only in favour, he says, if it is '...controlled, is sustainable and is done in an environmentally-friendly way.' Come back to reality Mr Gollop because there is currently no such thing as sustainable, environmentally-friendly airport expansion, nor is there likely to be for some time to come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Plane good sense?

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Leading candidates in the race to become Bristol's first elected mayor have spoken out against the proposed £150 million expansion of the city's airport. Three of the four main candidates publicly announced at a debate in the city yesterday that they were opposed to the plans, which aim to ensure the Lulsgate site can cater for up to 10 million passengers per year...(more here on the expansion of Bristol airport and also business and housing issues).

Labour's Marvin Rees, the only candidate of the four present (Independent George Ferguson plus Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative candidates) to come out in favour of expanding Bristol airport as currently planned said, "What we need to do is have a coherent plan that looks 40 to 50 years in the future." 
But what fuel will the planes run on in 30, 40, 50 years given that the current fossil fuel source is finite and also subject to price instability and hikes in price? And what will be the state of our climate if we continue high carbon emitting activities such as mass scale flying?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pound publicity

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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.

Fair fares

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The Post reports that, 'A Mayoral candidate has promised to introduce £1 and £1.50 bus fares in Bristol if he is allowed to take control of the city's bus services. Liberal Democrat Jon Rogers, a cabinet councillor who used to be in charge of the city's transport department, wants to see a "Transport Bristol" authority set up to run them – in the same way as London.'. If this is a good idea now then why was implementation not started a few years back??? Jon Rogers and his Lib Dems have been and are running the city! Yes to lower bus fares and yes to a transport authority for Bristol but yes also to judging politicians by actions and outcomes and not just words.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Growth equivalent to good??

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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, September 15, 2012

Super seagulls?

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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, September 12, 2012

Culling controversy

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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

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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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Political possibilities

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My response to the view, expressed in an online debate here, that there will only ever be two political parties (ie either Labour or Tory) running the country: Given the huge and interwoven economic, social and environmental problems the country and the world has, new political thinking is now more needed than ever. New political movements, like the Green Movement, do come along and new parties do get into government at a range of levels. Liberals have a share in govt now and they currently run Bristol City Council and other councils - and Liberals have been in govt in the past, albeit a long time ago.The labour movement developed over the last 100 yrs, so there is no reason why other movements and parties cant do the same or better. 

The Green Party addresses the real world where other parties wish 'for exponential economic growth and endless population growth on a finite planet with dwindling resources' (see online comments here). Greens are making political progress - they have their first MP in Caroline Lucas in addition to Green members of the Scottish Parliament, they are now runnning the council in Brighton and Hove, have two MEPs (Jean Lambert in London and Keith Taylor in the South East), and have two councillors in Bristol (Gus Hoyt in Ashley and Tess Green in Southville) in addition to hundreds more on other councils around the country

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Conference coverage

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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, September 01, 2012

Daniella details

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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.

Poll of polls

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Take a look at this poll tracker from the BBC website, especially the poll of polls. Now tell me the chance Lib Dem candidate Jon Rogers has of becoming the first elected Mayor of Bristol this November. Not looking good for them/him is it, struggling at around 10% nationally. Some people take a bit of convincing of the fact of Lib Dem present unpopularity (see this mini online debate here following a letter I had published in The Post). I think the Mayoral election will come down to Labour's Marvin Rees vs independent George Ferguson (pictured).