Category Archives: Green

Fine Words Butter No Parsnips


Nick Clegg is speaking today.  I began to listen and stopped. More of these inananities will drive me over the edge – about time! – I heard that. We live in an Orwellian age of news-speak. Fine words indeed: but do they have meaning. Here are some words: social justice, fairness, progressive, liberty, green, sustainability. Let’s test them by tryng out there opposites. Anyone out there, and raise your hand,  who thinks the opposite? Who is in favour of injustice, unfairness, reaction, pollution, and unsustainable economic development. No takers? Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no need for me to add anything. We are all on the side of the angels. Thank you for coming.

I confess to you that I am heartily tired of this nonsense-speak. Let’s return to basics. Politics is about policy not protestation; actions speak louder that words, the road to Damacus is paved with good intentions (you see that even I know how to take refuge in a cliche); it takes time to judge whether a policy improves a problem or worsens an outcome; and, for the philosophers among you, not every problem has a solution.’ (Discuss in a coherent passage of not fewer than 500 words, thank you). And to summarise ‘fine words butter no parsnips’.

Let’s take two  big calls. First, is it likely that a slow growing economy with persistently high unemployment, a reduction in the quality of public services  and an attack on welfare benefits will result in more or less social justice? Might it be true that universal benefits  alone can ensure that those who are entitled to expect help receive it? Undermining universal benefits might result in  some claimants  receiving benefits they do not need or are not entitled to be given but to close loopholes at the expense of depriving the deserving would not add to the net sum of social justice, would it?

Secondly, take this statement from Cleggie. The Coalition has ‘restored British civil liberties.’ It is a Liberal delusion that liberty is an absolute. Of course it is not. What does he mean? He means of course,  the abolition of speed cameras, reducing the size of the DNA database, smaller and less effective external defence, ineffective border policing, fewer policemen on the beat, more criminals on the street. Freedom .yes. Let’s check. You are a guy who favours a large measure of personal freedom in your life. Good on you. Are you for or against the following: more fatalities and serious accidents on our roads; lower detection rates for serious crimes, rising crime , inability to defend our country against all the threats to our way of life, and a higher probability of serious terrorist acts in Britain. No, of course you are not. Are you then grateful to the Coalition for bringing  this state of afairs closer to our everyday lives? Speak up at the back. No evidence of this outcome, I exagerate, time alone will tell. Very good, sir. You make my point. Let us judge policy by its outcomes not by its claims. It may take time to know an outcome.  However, should  we not put up the red markers. Watch this space and all that..

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Filed under Alan Milbourn, BBC, Big society, Cameron, Civil liberties, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Deficit, Environment, George Osborne, Green, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Politics, Social justice

Rubbish Referendum


Readers, I am aware that referendums have been the principal tool of dictators over the ages. They can be manipulated in place and timing to produce a desired result. Nevertheless, they have their place in the scheme of things – my scheme of things! I have had an impressive  reply to my article  announcing proposals for a new National Volunteer Rubbish Clearance Scheme with many helpful comments on variations to our proposals (particularly, I admit, from Lib Dem strongholds along the south coast but from a number from other locations as well). We are able to divide the suggestions into three types of scheme which I shall describe and the thought is that  they could be tested in the National Referendum we propose to hold on 5 May 2011. As you know, this date was set aside for local elections in many areas but we have added a number of other subjects, covering such urgent matters as the gerrymandering of the voting system, CCTV cameras, legal rights for gay couples to be married in church, the future of the fishing industry off the coasts of Cornwall, Wales and Scotland and no doubt some other subjects. So why not the future of rubbish? These referenda will be great fun. The ballot papers are in different colours (we propose Green for rubbish), and a number of areas are planning the presence of brass bands at the polling stations. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot please everyone all of the time – of course, we can but that’s another story. Now here are the main choices:

1. A National Scheme. This might be dubbed the  expert approach. There are people who think it important to retain professionalism. Some people are very busy with their lives and say they do not have the time to collect rubbish. You might think this a selfish approach but it has some appeal. Their suggestion is that their should be a National Rubbish Officer with a small central staff and  a Rubbish Officer at every local area level. Former Council staff should be urged to volunteer their services to the community to make it all happen properly.

2. A Grass Roots Scheme. This suggestion might be summarised as a people friendly scheme. The task of coordination and the actual collection would be given to the new Free Schools and Academies who would be permitted to retain some of the profit. Free schools need a lot of money. (Michael Gove is keen on this). If need be spare land at these schools could be used for burying some of the rubbish. A number of Associations such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides and the Territorial Army would join in to give muscle to collection.

3. A Special Needs Scheme. Some people have pointed out that there are practical difficulties with rubbish; collecting it from Tower blocks, frail elderly people,  and the disabled (there will still be some who cannot be forced out to work). You cannot expect children to cope with everything. These vulnerable people will need special consideration and in the Special Needs Scheme they will get it.

Well, isn’t it exciting! Who would have thought that we could get this far in organising the Big Society?

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Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Disabled, Education, Green, Labour Blogs, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, National Service, Nick Clegg, Re-cycling, Rubbish, Schools, Voting reform

Rubbish in the Big Society


I am delighted to announce a conclusion from the public consultation on local authority services that can be delegated to volunteers. Not surprisingly, given all the ingenious consideration  to the subject by Lib Dem members throughout the country by far the most votes were in favour of RUBBISH collection. From the many suggestions made by the public we can outline a new RUBBISH service that will save money, lead to the sacking of hundreds of local authority workers, and be green and environmentally friendly. This new RUBBISH scheme distinguishes between creating less RUBBISH, recycling and dumping. Collection is to be organised bottom up from street level. All streets of any length will need to appoint a RUBBISH Leader who will be responsible for making the scheme work. Once every two weeks RUBBISH can be collected. Into blue sacks will be placed paper, in green sacks bottles, red sacks will be provided for cans, and black one’s for general RUBBISH. Now a word about general household RUBBISH.  There is too much of it and with a little consideration you could create less. You will be rationed and any excess you must get rid of your self, Some of it will be useful in the garden with a little thought. Each street must designate at least two large garages or some other suitable space for paper and cans. It is the responsiblity of the RUBBISH leader to dispose of the RUBBISH to central collection centres. And here an imaginative and environmentally friendly change. No more trucks. Did you know  that these specialist vehicles can cost up to £100,000? They can be disposed of to other countries with less developed RUBBISH disposal systems and so raise money. In their place we propose that bicycles be hitched to wooden trailors. You can use your own bicycle if you wish. We suggest that the cycles and trailor be painted a distinctive colour so that other vehicles can make room for you. So you see the enormous advantages of our new scheme. Money will be saved, less rubbish will be created, and disposal of paper, tins and glass will raise much needed cash. This money will go back to your street and you can use it not only on RUBBISH collection points but  on community projects such as playgrounds and parks. less pollution will be created. A word aboiut pracical difficulties. Many people, the old and the infirm will have difficulties. Please help them cope. Remember too that  many Council RUBBISH operatives will have lost their jobs and be unable to get another. They will wish to join in. Please involve them and for FREE. Well done everyone. Splendid. You see what can be done in the BIG Society. We can do more. Keep it up. (And God help us, from the back of the audience!)

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Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Environment, Green, Labour Blogs, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, Politics, Pollution, Re-cycling, Rubbish