What You Can Get Away With » 2013 » January

2008 marked a milestone. Not that I’d spent five years blogging, but that it includes the first completely empty, devoid-of-posts month in my blogging career (earlier missing months did have stuff in them before server crashes took them out). There was blogging in all the other months, but fallow months will become more common in the retrospective from now on.

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Despite the best efforts of some French protesters, 2007 happened. This was the year in which I first got elected to Colchester Council, but plenty of other things happened during that year, even if I didn’t blog about them. This was the time when I wasn’t blogging very often, and when it was, it tended to be just short posts.

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I’ve received the following press release from Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council, which I’m quoting in full here.

UPDATE ON TRAFFIC REGULATION ORDERS FOR COLCHESTER HIGH STREET
A way forward has been reached on the implementation of Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) to improve Colchester Town Centre.

Following a thorough review of the responses received during the public consultation held in spring 2012, experimental orders will now be introduced from Sunday 17 March 2013. Using an experimental order allows flexibility to react to any issues that arise following the introduction of the order.

The experimental orders incorporate changes to the original TROs advertised, following comments from residents, business, transport operators and user groups.

The main changes to town centre access will still relate to the High Street with access restrictions introduced on neighbouring streets including Head Street and North Hill. Access to the High Street for all cars and delivery vehicles will now only be restricted between 11am and 6pm, rather than the previously proposed 10am.

Access to the High Street for all will remain before 11am and after 6pm, seven days a week. More options for Blue Badge parking will be available where it is safe to do so at the eastern end of the High Street as loading restrictions will now only apply between Head Street and St Nicholas Street.

Licensed private hire vehicles will be added to the list of vehicles with full access to the High Street, supporting the range of sustainable travel options for journeys to the town.

Careful planning will minimise disruption for businesses and everyone accessing the town centre whilst on-street works take place. The new Town Centre access arrangements will be monitored for one year, if it is deemed successful then steps will be taken to make the scheme permanent.

The TROs are part of the Better Town Centre programme, a partnership project between Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council, which aims to improve and prepare a rapidly growing Colchester for a positive and resilient future.

The improvements are designed to enhance the environment for shoppers, boosting the town’s vitality and economic prosperity. Air quality at key locations will also be improved, along with the reliability of public transport and the operation of the town’s new bus station in Osborne Street/ Stanwell Street. The changes will also support future planned transport projects, including Park and Ride in Colchester.

County Councillor Derrick Louis, Cabinet Member for Highways & Transportation said: “Following our review of the consultation responses, I am pleased that we will now be implementing these experimental orders. We are committed to working with our partners at Colchester Borough Council to deliver improvements that benefit all town centre users.”

Colchester Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Renaissance, Councillor Lyn Barton said: “The Council is pleased proposals to help reduce congestion and improve the environment will now be implemented.

“Having worked with Essex County Council to address the feedback from town centre users I am extremely pleased that access for blue badge holders and deliveries has now been changed to 11am. These revised plans will support the town’s new bus station and help deliver a better town centre for all.”

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Going back over my old blog posts, I’m reminded that I created the ‘alternative Ashes’, tracking where the trophy would be if every Test cricketing nation was allowed to compete for them, not just England and Australia.

In our last update, the Ashes had made their way to Sri Lanka but now they’ve moved on again. Australia won this year’s series between the two countries 3-0, so as well as winning the Warne-Muralitharan trophy, they’ve now claimed the Ashes back as well. Their first defence of them will be against India next month.

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Lib Dem Voice have produced a remake of the old ‘where is the British West Wing?’ posts of a few years ago by asking ‘where is the British Borgen?

(The answer to that question is ‘waiting for someone to forget the poor ratings previous dramas about politicians got or for someone to come up with a good story’, by the way)

However, the part that struck me (from Alistair Campbell’s tweet that kicked it off and used repeatedly in the following discussions) is the idea that there aren’t ‘pro-politics’ dramas on British TV. The problem with that belief is that there are lots of incredibly political dramas on British TV, it’s just that they’re not about politicians. Campbell et al believe that ‘politics’ solely relates to ‘what we do’ – usually white men in suits arguing with each other – whereas politics actually covers a much wider range of interactions between people and power.

For instance, Jimmy McGovern’s stories are usually intensely political, showing what effect the system and its policies can have on people, but they rarely feature actual politicians. Spooks – particularly in the early series – often addressed the fundamental political issue of where the balance between liberty and security should be struck, and how dangerous it can be to give the state too much power. Even Holby City and Casualty have regularly shown the effects of changes to NHS policy over the years.

‘Political drama’ does not have to mean ‘drama about politicians’ – indeed, making it about politicians can get in the way of making a political point. The old adage of storytelling and scriptwriting is ‘show, don’t tell’, and a political drama needs to show the effects of the policies it’s looking at. Those effects aren’t normally felt within the corridors of the power (except sometimes changing who gets to walk them) but they are felt outside Whitehall and Parliament. Great storytelling is about great characters and the way they deal with the world around them, and the story of someone dealing with the consequences of a political decision and how it affects their life is normally a much more interesting story to watch than the debates that led up to that policy being enacted.

Politicians forget that they’re just a part of the political process and that their little bubble of process isn’t the entirety of it. Britain has a long and fine tradition of drama that’s pro-politics, and doesn’t flinch from showing the effects policy has on people’s lives. To ignore that, and imagine that politics is only important when it’s about politicians is another reflection of how the practice and the reality of politics are becoming completely separated in this country.

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2006, for me, will always be all about the walking. After my brother died, I decided it was time to do something different to mark his memory and raise money for charity – the Brain Research Trust – so I decided it was time to follow a long-held ambition and walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

Obviously, that consumed a lot of the blog for the year, but other things happened too…

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Where Are All the Female Bloggers: a Series of Questions that require answers – something discovered during my trawl through the blogging archives. A post by Jennie Rigg from three years ago, but still very relevant.
What next for the Liberal Democrats? – An interesting perspective on the party’s situation from Irish blogger Jason O’Mahony.
Let more women report how the country is run – Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent points out that political reporting is just as male-dominated as politics itself.
Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax – A very bizarre story about a star American college football player and the story of his dead girlfriend who appears to have been entirely fictional. (via)
Why are Local Parties important? – From a Lib Dem perspective, but an interesting nugget in terms of people’s engagement in politics. (via)

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In the category of ‘small, but annoying, errors’ we have this from the Guardian:

Obama will make history in another way on Monday, becoming the first US president to be sworn in four separate times.

THat should be ‘the first since Franklin Roosevelt’, of course, who got his four inaugurations the old-fashioned way by being elected four times.

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Going through my recap of old posts, I’ve recently found the one where I announced that I’d joined Twitter. Almost four years on from that, I now have an additional Twitter account – @CllrNickBarlow – that I’ll use solely for ‘official’ stuff. It’ll mainly be about things I’m doing as a councillor, information about meetings and events and will hopefully work as a point of contact for people who want to contact me about Council business, rather than getting that and everything else confused.

Don’t worry, my main account will still be continuing as normal, though the two will have separate content.

Via Jennie, Michael Crick on how many new peers need to be appointed to make the House of Lords representative of the votes cast at the last election.

It’s an absurd number, but then it’s part of an absurd system where people get appointed to jobs for life on the whim of the Prime Minister of the day to serve in half of the legislature of a country that’s ostensibly democratic.

One thing from it stood out for me though, from David Cameron’s interview in the House Magazine:

I think it’s important to keep refreshing the talent in the House of Lords

I can think of a system that would allow the upper house of Parliament to actually be refreshed on a regular basis. It would ensure that anyone who’s been in their for a long period could be replaced, or if they wanted to stay on, they’d have to prove that they could still do the job to a large number of independent people. The number of members of the house could be fixed, and over a period of time, the whole place could be refreshed without having to resort to the anti-democratic absurdity of needing to appoint people.

But then if he really did believe in refreshing the Lords, he wouldn’t have allowed the reforms to create a democratic Lords to disappear. Yet again, Cameron’s actions show his real priorities, not his words.

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