Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Boat Called Dignity

A small boat (the SS Dignity) carrying doctors, human rights activists and three tonnes of medical supplies from Cyprus to Gaza was rammed by the Israeli navy in international waters yesterday, forcing the damaged boat to dock in southern Lebanon instead.
Those on board the Dignity said they were rammed twice in the dark and without warning by the Israeli navy. The latter insisted they were the victims of a media stunt...
English captain David Halpin told Reuters the wheelhouse glass of the boat was smashed and the rail ripped almost all the way from bow to stern. He also said an Israeli vessel rammed the boat after he had refused to stop the boat’s course to Gaza.
Why is an attack on unarmed civilians on a boat in international waters carrying supplies for the suffering not reported as 'act of terrorism' by the British Media I wonder?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I wish you a ‘Happy Interim!’

OK I admit it, I had intended to post a message before Xmas, but the first part of December was hectic, and I didn’t get round to it! It was Xmas Eve before I wrapped any presents, and if it hadn’t been for the joys of Internet shopping (my special thanks to the Amnesty International website) they probably would have been late too!
We are in this interlude between Xmas and New Year that doesn’t have a name. The time of year when some people are working, but many are taking an extended break. Of course some don’t have a choice, 20-30% of Woolworth’s stores have already closed and the rest will be over the next few days. Reality seems to bite hard after Boxing Day.
Last year Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, this year we witness the savage slaughter of civilians in Gaza, and yet more killing in Congo. We need cease fires now, and a renewed commitment to peaceful resolution of conflicts in 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Campaign against Climate Change Demonstration

I was pleased to be able to join a strong Liberal Democrat contingent at last Saturday’s demonstration against climate change in London. These events are important in raising the issue, and keeping it in the public eye. There is an urgent need for international action and I am hopeful that President Obama will ensure American co-operation once he is sworn in next month.
(Steve with Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer and Duncan Hames, Prospective Lib Dem Candidate for Chippenham at the march).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We wish you a noisy Christmas!

How would you fancy living next to a noisy party all over Xmas?
Well that is what could face residents in part of Fishponds Road. The White Lion pub has applied for extensions to 04:00 am on the four Saturday/Sundays before Xmas, and every night from Xmas Day to Sunday December 28th. I have asked the Police to object to the application, and the licensing panel will make a decision at a hearing on Thursday.
(After discussions between the Police and the publican agreement was reached to reduce the four days of extended opening over Xmas to three. They have also agreed to keep noise down to reasonable limits, and to keep the doors shut. The Police have now withdrawn their objection).

Eastville Park tree destruction

Last Sunday local residents were horrified to hear workmen removing trees behind the old swimming pool in Eastville Park. The land is privately owned but has been home to badger setts for many years. The trees appear to have been hacked down rather than felled, and are still lying on the ground.
Council officers have now slapped an emergency Tree Preservation Order on the remaining trees, this is too late to save the wood as it was, but that should offer some protection against further destruction. Some lessons appear to have been learnt from the Grove Wood case. Local residents will be watching for any signs of trees being removed or disturbance to wildlife.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama's historic victory

I was one of many millions watching the TV anxiously in the early hours of Wednesday morning for the American election results. With my remote control flicking between the BBC and CNN coverage, I followed every projection and prediction. It soon became clear that after eight dismal years with one of the worst Presidents in their history, the American people had voted by a clear margin for ‘change they could believe in’.

It was so good to feel positive about a US election, especially after the depressing experience of seeing Bush just cling on in 2004. I really hope Barack uses the next two years to bring real change, he has a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, so there is no reason not too.

In Britain we voted for change in 1997, and the Labour Government seemed to promise so much, but wasted a golden opportunity and in the end changed so little. I really think Obama has the potential to make the world a more peaceful place and drive action on climate change, lets hope he lives up to it.

Grove Wood celebration

On Tuesday I joined local residents at a small celebration of the Grove Wood campaign in the Masons Arms at Stapleton. Last week the Council’s planning committee for this area agreed to place Tree Preservation Orders on the trees in the wood. From now on any pruning work the owner of the land wants to do will have to be approved in advance. This is a victory for common sense at last after many months of campaigning. The campaign to save the wood is far from over, but this is an important first step.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bristol Speedway's first win in 30 years!


Left Picture: The victorious Bristol Speedway team at Swindon:
Standing: Semen Vlasov, Jordan Tyrer, Glen Cunningham (team manager), Linus Sundstrom. Kneeling: Mark Simmons, Mark Burrows

Right picture: Steve Comer with former Bristol Bulldogs riders, Phil Crump, Brian Woodward, and Bruce Cribb.

On Sunday I watched a team bearing the famous Bristol Bulldogs colours get a deserved victory in a four team tournament at Swindon Speedway. The result was Bristol 37 points, Leicester 27, Oxford 22, and Swindon 22. The meeting was held as part of the campaign to bring speedway back to both Bristol and Leicester.

Like thousands of others, I was at the last Speedway meeting at Eastville stadium nearly 30 years ago. At the time we all hoped our team would be back on track in a couple of years, but sadly it has been a long wait. Meanwhile the sport has changed, engines are now much quieter, and there is a Grand Prix series, which attracts large crowds, and big TV audiences. Yet the basics of Speedway are still teams of riders competing for six points in each heat.
The campaign to bring speedway back to Bristol is now gaining pace, there have been some positive discussions with officers at the City Council, and there seems to be all-party support for finding a site for the Bulldogs to use, probably in conjunction with other sports. A petition has been launched, which can be signed on the new Bristol Speedway website at: http://www.bristolbulldogs.co.nr.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tony Potter wins St. George West

Liberal Democrats won the St. George West Ward, which borders Eastville, from Labour in a by-election on Thursday. Tony Potter polled 923 votes to Labour's 816, and 506 for the Tories.

I've known Tony for more years than I care to remember, like me he is a native of East Bristol, and I know he will work hard for the people he represents. I look forward to working with him locally and on the City Council.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back from Bournemouth

I’ve just returned from five busy days at Liberal Democrat Conference. This year we are the only one of the three main parties to use a traditional seaside venue, and we were rewarded with sunshine at the weekend! There is so much going on, and as usual the fringe was the most interesting part, its now so large it almost overshadows the business in the main hall.
On Monday I chaired a debate on ‘Welfare: who provides with Cardiff MP Jenny Willott, and John McInally, the Vice President of the Public and Commercial Services Union. This was the most successful fringe event PCS has ever run at Lib Dem Conference, and there was a lively discussion with lots of questions. Grove Wood was being discussed by one of the planning committees today, so I left Conference early to get back to Bristol, but I did manage to see an excellent presentation by the successful Lib Dem Group running Newcastle. I felt quite inspired by what they’ve achieved, and even more determined to ensure we win the seats we need to get an overall majority in Bristol next year.

Sadly I was also witness to an unsavoury incident, which has been reported, in the national press. On Monday morning when I was handing out leaflets at the Conference Centre Adrian Sanders MP pushed past me, almost knocking me over. He physically attacked Mark Littlewood (the party’s former Press Officer) and Stewards and Bournemouth Centre security staff intervened to calm things down. I understand the incident was recorded on CCTV, and a written apology has been made and accepted. Regardless of who anyone is, this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and I was extremely saddened to see this at an event designed to promote free expression and debate.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stapleton Conservation Society

Following a highly successful public meeting at the end of July, the Stapleton Conservation Society was formally re-constituted last night. Recent planning issues in the village, and the felling of trees in Grove Wood (see elsewhere in this blog) have heightened awareness of the need for preservation of the character of the area.
A committee has now been formed, and a website and Facebook page will follow shortly. Stapleton has been without an active amenity society for a few years, and it is good to see this being re-established. Muriel Cole and I, as local Liberal Democrat Councillors will continue to give the group our support.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Walkabout in East Park

Last week I took part in a ‘walkabout’ in the East Park and Gadshill Rd. area. There was a good turnout of local residents, with Council Officers and Police present.A number of problems were observed including fly tipping, misuses of open spaces, security, overgrown trees and hedges, and some of the effects of the street prostitution activity on Fishponds Road.
I hope that having the different agencies viewing the area together will help in getting co-ordinated solutions to problems. This is the first walkabout in Eastville, and a follow-up is due in a few months time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

1968 - the crushing of the Prague Spring

Forty years ago this week the army of the Soviet Union and its allies invaded Czechoslovakia, bringing to an end the ‘Prague Spring.’ For a few months the Czech and Slovak people had enjoyed increased freedom of speech, and greater press freedom. I recall watching pictures of passive resistance by the people, slowing down tanks, daubing them with paint and chanting slogans. The invaders got the message that they were not welcome! I also remember hearing broadcasts in English from Radio Prague just before the invasion, and how the tone changed after it happened..
The tanks may have imposed Soviet rule, but they never broke the spirit of the people. Protest movements grew up in the years after the invasion, and laid the foundation for the ‘velvet revolution’ of the late 1980s.
The recent pictures from Georgia were depressingly familiar to those of us who remember August 1968.

More fly tipping cleared

We’ve had another spate of fly tipping in East Park. Last week I reported a load of black bags, an old mattress, and a fridge. I’m please to say some of these have been cleared. We need to keep reporting fly tipping when it happens, and if it is clear where it has come from, the perpetrators can be prosecuted.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This man will never forget - August 14th 1967


August 14th is always a date I remember with sadness. Because August 14th 1967 was the date most of the Offshore Radio stations operating around the coast closed as a result of the Labour Government’s Marine Broadcasting Offences Act.
Although I was only young at the time, it soon became clear to me that much of the justification for this law was based on misinformation, exaggeration, and more than a few ‘dodgy dossiers.’
The attitude of the political establishment to its citizens at the time was incredibly patronising, and music radio was considered something to be rationed and controlled. These stations from ships and forts may have been short lived, but they were a key element in the growth of the British music industry in the ‘60s and 70’s.

Radio Caroline refused to die on August 14th '67 and carried on broadcasting from the North Sea right up to 1990. It continues to this day, and can now be heard without fading and interference via satellite on Sky channel 0199, and over the world wide web: http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk (I’m listening to it as I write this). The station’s founder Ronan O’Rahilly has always been one of my political heroes. “I’ve been fighting government’s for years, that’s the reality,” he once said....I’m sure a lot of us know how he felt!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Great British Beer Festival and Pubs in Peril

Last week I took three days off to work as a volunteer at the Great British Beer Festival at Earl's Court. Its good to do something completely diferent for a few days, but the festival as well as being a celebration has a serious campaigning side.
Pubs are closing at an alarming rate all over the country. In this area, the Bell in Stapleton has been closed for some time, and the Old Tavern in Blackberry Hill (pictured) is also awaiting a new leaseholder. A pub company put the Queens Head in Upper Eastville up for sale, and ominously mentioned 'development potential' in its details, but I'm very pleased to see its still trading as a pub.

Local Pubs are focal points for local communities, just as much as local post offices and shops (also under threat). The local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale has set up a campaign group to save local pubs, and details can be found here: http://www.pubsinperil.co.uk/


Graffiti gone

A couple of residents reported an outbreak of graffiti in All Saints Lane rear of Grove Road. I'm pleased to report that this has now been mostly cleared by the Council, they will be remove the rest once the grass in the lane is cut back.
We do have a problem with this in the area, a few weeks ago I managed to get lots of 'tagging' graffiti removed from the M32 bridge in Stapleton Road.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bitten by a dog

I suppose its an occupational hazard when you do a lot of FOCUS Delivery, but on Saturday I got bitten on the leg by a dog running free in the garden of a house with no gate. I suppose I should count myself lucky it hasn’t happened before, but I did intend to spend the afternoon watching Bristol Rovers at home to Den Haag, not sat in a hospital waiting room!
What worries me though is that this dog could easily have attacked a small child instead of me, and then the consequences could have been tragic.

“Help -I want to vote for Obama!”

We Liberal Democrat Councillors are used to getting all sorts of requests for help, but this one was a bit different. An American woman left a message on my answering machine saying she wanted to ensure she was registered to vote in the USA, and to get in touch with the West of England chapter of the Democratic Party.
After a bit of internet research, I managed to e-mail the Secretary of Democrats Abroad UK, who has promised to ring her.
With so much talk of voter apathy, it was good to talk to someone with such an enthusiasm for an election, which is still over three months away!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stapleton residents meeting - Thursday 24th July

The Stapleton and Frome Valley conservation area is one of the oldest in Bristol, dating back to 1972. It has helped ensure that the essential character of the area has been protected, whilst allowing sympathetic development.
Muriel Cole and I have had discussions with a number of residents who feel the time is right to revive a Conservation Society for Stapleton. This would enable residents to have a direct input into the Council’s conservation advisory panel, and work with similar groups in different parts of Bristol.
A local residents meeting has been called to discuss this on Thursday 24th July at 7:30 pm in Stapleton Church Hall.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grange House Stapleton

This historic building has been subject to a number of planning applications recently. A plan to build a four-bedroomed house in the garden was withdrawn, but an attempt to convert the historic stables for residential use has been re-submitted. There were a number of objections to this when it first appeared. The building is an established stable block, with a patterned stone floor which the developer was proposing to cover up! Listed buildings in Stapleton need to be be preserved and it is important that any development is in keeping with the conservation area. The planning application will be considered by the Conservation Advisory Panel shortly.

Save Grove Wood Trees!


I was pleased to be able to join local residents in their protest against Bristol City Council’s decision to allow the trees along Blackberry Hill to be chopped down. The decision was made under delegated powers by a Council Officer in the face of a very large number of objections from local residents. Everyone accepts that the trees need some management, but I’ve seen no convincing reason as to why they should be removed.
The campaign will continue, an official complaint has been lodged with the Council, and if that fails the complaint will go to the Local Government Ombudsman.For more information on Grove Wood and Snuff Mills, please check out the excellent campaign website at: http://snuffmills.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Windscreen washers at M32 junction 2

I’m getting a lot of complaints about the ‘windscreen washers’ that are hanging around junction 2 of the M32. They suddenly appear, wash your car windscreen and expect payment for this ‘service’ you didn’t order.
I’ve been in touch with the police, and they are actively pursuing the culprits, who are also operating at Temple Meads.
The best advice I can give at the moment is:
1) Keep your car doors and windows locked when driving through this area
2) Make it clear you don’t want your screen washed
3) Don’t give them any money (if they’re not making money they might stop)
4) Report any incidents to the Police (it all helps to build up a case).

This is a very busy junction, with several lanes of traffic merging, and going in three different directions. These windscreen washers are adding yet another hazard, so please help to rid the area of this menace.

I've joined the bloggers!

Sometimes you feel by the time you write a leaflet, get it printed and then delivered its out of date by the time it hits the doormat..........time to get into 21st century technology and join the ranks of the bloggers.

I’m hoping to keep this updated regularly with news of what’s happening in Eastville Ward, and no doubt a few comments on wider political and other issues too.