And it was very cheerful at today’s presentation of cheques to local good causes by St Albans Abbey. The Abbey gives away ten percent of the annual giving by the congregation plus the proceeds from the annual fireworks in Abbey Orchard. This year the total given away amounted to £54,000. (The other 90 percent of congregational giving goes to fund all the Abbey’s day-to-day activities as a place of worship).
I was present in the wonderful space of the retro-choir in my capacity as Vice Chair of Trustees of St Albans Bereavement Network to receive our very welcome cheque from sub-dean Richard Watson. But we were only one of 39 charities to benefit and most of them had representatives present. It was like a school prize-giving. Familiar names like Centre 33, Earthworks, Emmaus, Reachout plus, the CAB, and the Women’s Refuge. And others who had me reaching for google, but which illuminate the diversity of our community.
I know that other faith groups in St Albans are equally generous. It adds up to a major contribution and one of the reasons why this city is so special.
Tags:Richard Watson·SABN·St Albans Abbey
Somehow we dodged the showers and had a lovely party to celebrate my winning the St Albans South county division. It’s always difficult organising anything in the summer months with school and village fetes, weddings etc. But a cheerful 40 or so of us assembled in our garden for chicken jambalaya and good cheer.
Wellington famously said of his army before the Battle of Waterloo, “I don’t know what they’ll do to the enemy; but, by God, they frighten me.”
I know I’m biased but I think we all look pretty unfrightening (and there are lots more of us out of view). But we were good enough to see off our opponents pretty comfortably. Similar celebrations are being held in the other seven county divisions, which together with St Albans South make up the St Albans constituency.
The great strength of the Liberal Democrats is that we are like a family. It’s not about big business or trade unions, it’s ordinary people chipping in however they can – being members, delivering leaflets, sitting at polling stations. And like all good families, we help one another and rise to the occasion, whatever it may be.
Tags:members·St Albans Liberal Democrats·supporters
Some more thoughts on last Thursday’s county council elections. There are eight Hertfordshire county divisions wholly or partially within St Albans parliamentary constituency.
The Liberal Democrats won six of them, and came second in the two others. We were the only party to be first and second everywhere (Labour even plunged to fourth in half of the divisions). Liberal Democrats were the only party to poll more than 1,000 votes in each division, demonstrating the breadth and depth of our support locally.
Because two divisions are ’shared’ with other parliamentary constituencies – Sandridge between St Albans and Hitchin & Harpenden, Abbots Langley between St Albans and Watford – it is not possible to be precise on the statistics for the parliamentary seat. But the Liberal Democrat share of the vote across the constituency was approximately 33 percent, comfortably ahead of the Conservatives on 24 percent and Labour in third place on 22 percent.
Neighbouring Watford also scored an overall Liberal Democrat victory in terms of both seats and votes. There is clearly something in the air of south-west Hertfordshire.
As far as the county council is concerned, the Liberal Democrats remain the main opposition to the Conservatives with 16 county councillors.
And while the Conservatives scored zero in St Albans constituency, UKIP scored zero across the county. That says something about Hertfordshire too.
If you want to see the full results, there is an excellent interactive map on the Herts County website – http://bit.ly/g0lPd Just click on the map for your area and the result pops up!
Tags:election results·Hertfordshire County Council·voting statistics
May 2nd was a very long day. But in the early hours of this morning here was the result of the contest for the St Albans South:
So I am a county councillor.
Across the St Albans constituency the Liberal Democrats held five out of the seven divisions so far declared (East, Central, Sandridge, St Stephen and South), gained a clear majority of votes, and were second in the two divisions we did not win. So just as 2012 saw better results than 2011, 2013 has seen a step-change on 2012.
Full analysis to follow.
And so to bed.
Tags:county council·election results·Hertfordshire·St Albans
The sun is shining at last on those of us who have been pounding the streets campaigning over the last three and more months. On the basis of canvassing so far, the ‘outs’ are winning by a country mile.
But within my own division of St Albans South I have managed to speak either face to face or over the phone with more than 2,ooo voters. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a friend has come down from Humberside to help, and she is awestruck by the niceness of people on the doorstep.
One issue has come up again and again, the state of the roads and pavements. It doesn’t matter which part of the division, it is a universal concern. And people are right to be concerned – it’s not just that they keep their homes and gardens beautifully maintained and are then let down by the dire state of the public realm in between. It’s also that our roads and pavements are the most constant and tangible expression of what we pay in taxes. If ‘they’ can’t get them right, what does it say about the rest of the way they spend our taxes?
It is a condemnation of the Conservative administration at County Hall. Their huge majority – they have more than twice as many councillors as the whole opposition combined – allows them to coast when there is so much that needs to be done.
Even our local Conservatives are campaigning on the slogan IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
So do go out to vote today. Polling stations stay open till 10 pm. If you need a lift, just call 01727 855523. And if you have forgotten to use your postal vote, just take all the paperwork to your polling station.
Once again thank you to all the residents who have made this campaign such a welcoming and friendly experience. Hertfordshire is a special county. It deserves better than the current administration in County Hall.
Tags:Hertfordshire county council election·postal vote·St Albans
The Green Room at the Maltings Art Theatre is an extraordinary space – lots of wall mirrors, a collection of sofas and chairs, a furry cover draped over the speakers table. But it was a brilliant venue for last night’s St Albans Liberal Youth meeting on Votes at 16.
The headline speaker was Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West. He successfully piloted the first ever House of Commons vote in favour of Votes at 16 earlier this month. It’s already the norm in countries as diverse as Brazil, Austria and even Argentina.
Stephen told his audience that there is clear evidence that people are more likely to start voting in the stable environment of home and school than if their first opportunity to vote coincides with being away from home at college or in a flat-share.
“Once you start voting, you tend to continue voting. Voter participation is key for a successful democracy. The evidence from other countries is that this works,” Stephen told his young audience.
I thought it was fantastic that it ended up being standing room only, particularly as it is exam revision period. And the barrage of questions both in the meeting and afterwards was wonderful evidence that young people want to engage if they are given the opportunity.
Great credit to Nick Sutton and Jennie Quinton of St Albans Liberal Youth for such an entertaining and thought-provoking meeting.
PS Why the title of this blog? Well the room was lined with mirrors. And Stephen told us that he is a passionate anti-smoking campaigner following the death from smoking at a far too young age of one of his closest family members.
Tags:Jennie Quinton·Liberal Youth·maltings arts theatre·Nick Sutton·St Albans·Stephen Williams MP·Votes at 16
The Succession to the Crown Bill passed its final stages in the House of Lords yesterday. This means that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby will become next in line for the throne regardless of gender. Future monarchs can also now marry a Roman Catholic (although you still have to be Protestant to be Head of State).
Nick Clegg introduced this legislation into the House of Commons. Not all of his attempts at constitutional reform have been so successful.
But generally Queens seem to have done rather well over the centuries – two Elizabeths, Victoria and Anne come to mind. So lets raise a cheer for this modest but long overdue change.
Tags:Nick Clegg·Succession to Crown Bill
Party manifestos are among the great unread documents. It is a truism in politics that it is generally your enemies who read them most avidly. And their only aim is to find something they can twist and use to attack you.
So I guess it is a sign of the cynic in me that I always assume when canvassing that if someone says they want to read all the party’s policies before deciding, it’s most probably polite code for them not planning to support me.
But here is our manifesto for next month’s county council elections – http://stalbanslibdems.org.uk/en/page/six-to-fix
In our door-to-door election literature, we have talked a lot about roads and pavements, because it is clear that they are absolutely at the top of people’s concerns.
Our opponents may sneer at this as ‘pavement politics’. But tell that to the old person who has tripped and fallen, or the cyclist who has been thrown off her bike by a pot-hole. Decent pavements and roads matter. They are also a kind of metaphor.
We all pay tax. Much is spent on important but intangible items. The most immediately visible and tangible item of public spending is the ‘public realm’ outside your front door – the pavement and highway. If the county council can’t get that right when it’s under our noses, what does that say about its competence in other areas?
The Liberal Democrats’ tagline in government is ‘A Strong Economy in a Fair Society’. Our manifesto looks to deliver this on a county level within the competences of the county council. We challenge the Conservative administration’s massive expenditure on PR and spin – £11 million, which would fill a lot of pot-holes! We talk about the environment, about schools, about public transport and cyclists, about how the county council might help to revive moribund high streets, the challenges of increasing demands on the social care budget and how that can be delivered equitably, and how we can deliver more for young people.
The manifesto is a quick read. It will give you a sense of our vision for our county – all comments welcome!
Tags:2013·county council election·Hertfordshire·Lib Dem·Liberal Democrat·manifesto·Six to Fix
I have just read that Britain’s ‘rough roads’ are being copied by Japanese car engineers, since the roads in Japan are too smooth to simulate driving conditions in the UK. As a two-time visitor to Japan, I can vouch for that!
So Honda has created a special 6.8 km track to replicate the UK’s ‘noisy and uneven’ road surfaces. “They even have British road signs for added realism.” (Presumably unwashed and obscured by foliage to make it really realistic…)
Honda says that UK roads absorb more water than the harder surfaces used in continental Europe. When the absorbed water freezes, it expands and cracks road surfaces, creating the classic British pothole.
The Americans bought London Bridge and transferred it stone by stone to the Arizona desert. Perhaps the Japanese could buy the Abbots Avenue railway bridge – surely the worst road in St Albans? – and we could have a new one…
Tags:Abbots Avenue·Highway repairs·pot hole
When people ask me what has the EU ever done for them, I like to point at the capping of mobile phone roaming charges as a direct, tangible and practical consumer benefit.
Well from last Saturday new rules under the EU Consumer Rights Directive should have a major impact on the obnoxious habit of levying high card charges right at the end of an on-line transaction. We can all think of airlines, ferry companies and cinemas which do this. It is thoroughly irritating and close to dishonest after lower prices have been advertised upfront.
The charge for using a debit card should never be much more than 50p, while a £100 travel ticket might have a credit card surcharge of £2.10.
This is a welcome reform which will directly benefit consumers. Hats off to the EU for introducing it.
Tags:credit card·debit card·online surcharge·What has the EU done for us?