Recent News Articles
Transport for London (TfL) last week owned up and made public the actual purchase price of the New Bus For London (NBfL), aka Boris Bus.
And that price, at £354,500 per vehicle, makes the NBfL around £50,000 more expensive than a comparable off-the-shelf hybrid double decker. So, despite Bozza’s promises, the NBfL will not be price competitive with alternatives.
As there are to be 600 production examples of the NBfL, this gives a premium of £30 million. Added to this is the cost of the eight prototypes, which, at £11.77 million, gives a premium over eight comparable hybrids of £9.37 million.
We cannot validate the claims for superior fuel consumption, as TfL have thus far declined to release the figures. So that’s a running premium total of £39.37 million.
For that money, Londoners could have had another 131 hybrid double deckers. And it gets worse: far from being the “greenest ever” bus, the NBfL will have to be retro-fitted with the means to enable it to meet 2014 emissions standards. So that means a further extra cost.
However, TfL would benefit if the design were to be sold to any other potential customers. What are the prospects of this? Sadly, they are precisely zero. This can be gleaned from the unwillingness of operators to take the vehicles on: uniquely for London, TfL is having to purchase them outright and then impose them on operators.
But it is in running costs that the truly scandalous scale of waste can be seen. Each NBfL requires a second crew member when its rear platform is in operation, and this has been estimated to add a cost of £62,000 per vehicle per year.
Do the math, as they say: over the 14-year lifetime of the 608-strong fleet, this will land Londoners with a whopping £527.74 million bill in total.
That’s an awfully large premium payment for Bozza’s vanity legacy.
The question begs itself as to how he has been allowed to get away with it: spraying £567 million up the wall merely for something that is “different”, “iconic”, or which may impress a few tourists.
In 1989, 17 year old mother Sabrina Butler had to rush her nine month old baby boy to hospital in the American state of Mississippi after he had stopped breathing. On the journey there Butler attempted to administer CPR in the hope that she could save her baby’s life.
The next day her baby died. Bruises left from the attempted administration of CPR led the hospital staff, and subsequently the police, to question the young mother about the circumstances surrounding her son’s death.
Just one day after the death of her baby, Sabrina was arrested and interrogated.
She was then charged for the capital murder of her son, Walter Butler. On the 8th March 1990 Butler’s case went to trial. Prosecutors sought to prove that she had inflicted the wounds intentionally and caused the death of her baby.
She was convicted of both child abuse and murder and became the only woman on Mississippi’s death row at the time.
None of the facts presented by the prosecution were seriously contested by Butler’s attorneys during the trial, no defence witnesses were called and no other evidence was offered on her behalf.
By August 1992 the Supreme Court of Mississippi reversed and remanded Butler’s convictions declaring the “prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident.”
She was exonerated in 1995.
Sabrina’s story is one of the ten stories covered in a series of short films, as part of the One for Ten project (we covered it on Liberal Conspiracy a few months ago)).
The tells the stories of 10 exonerees in the US that have been freed from death row after their innocence has been proven.
One For Ten are currently crowd funding to raise the money to make the last two films in this series. To read more about the cases featured in the last two films, have a look at their website here. If you want to make sure their work continues, you can contribute here.
Leading Muslim groups, in tandem with child protection, victim support and civil rights organisations are launching a cross-community response to the problem of ‘on-street grooming’ by gangs in Bardford.
The Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) and anti-fascist group Hope not hate (HNH) plan to launch ‘Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation’ (CAASE) in Bradford on 10th May.
CAASE say they will meet the challenges raised by child sexual exploitation of vulnerable young girls and women head-on.
The initiative is being supported by groups including the Church of England, Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Youth Helpline, Muslim Community Helpline, Federation of Muslim Organisations, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), Faith Associates, the Christian Muslim Forum, City Sikhs Network, plus women’s rights networks including Inspire, the Henna Foundation, and Making Herstory.
Professional guidance will be provided by Victim Support, plus STREET, which works with at-risk young people, and NAPAC (the National Association for People Abused in Childhood) which specialises in support for abuse survivors.
Executive Director of the Islamic Society of Britain, Julie Siddiqi, says:
There are few crimes more horrific than the sexual exploitation of young women: these girls have been let down by everyone. I have been sickened reading about these cases. There should be no excuse, no hiding place, for those who perpetrate such crimes.
Nick Lowles from Hope not Hate said:
We want to encourage all our partners to help us remove the veils of secrecy and control that allow abuse to flourish. We also need to ensure that the media, and far-right groups, do not promote an anti-Muslim agenda over so-called ‘grooming’ trials either. HOPE not hate will focus on busting myths that groups such as the EDL and BNP like to promote in their quest for hate and division.
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain added:
Some of those perpetrators who have recently been convicted happen to be from the Muslim community, so we need to be at the very front of the voice that is condemning this. It is important that leaders of religious communities speak out against this deplorable and abhorrent behaviour by adults toward vulnerable children.
Working with child protection services, local authorities, schools, faith communities and the police, CAASE say they hope to develop a proactive response to the growing problem of on-street grooming, raising awareness, educating and developing community-led responses.
Three of the key PR industry bodies have issued an unprecedented joint statement slamming the government for not introducing a register of lobbyists.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) said it was “incredibly disappointing” that the register was not included in the Queen’s Speech yesterday.
A joint statement sent to Liberal Conspiracy said:
In the Coalition Agreement and in its Mid-Term review the Government made a pledge to introduce a lobbying register. So it is incredibly disappointing that the Queen’s Speech does not include draft legislation to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists that we had been anticipating. It’s crucial that we now get clarity from the Government about their intentions. If they intend to drop legislation this Parliament then they have a duty to the general public to let their new intentions be known. If they do still plan to introduce legislation, then they must publish the detail of their plans.
It’s crucial, for example, that any new statutory lobbying register is universal, including all those who seek to influence public policy and law, and covers lobbying all levels of Government, not just Whitehall. Without a clear statement of intent from the Government it is difficult not to conclude that the Government is looking to quietly drop their plans for lobbying reform.
The industry wants a broad, transparent register, but say that government uncertainty is not helping.
Francis Ingham, PRCA Director General, added: “The industry desires – not fears – transparency, which makes the Government’s inaction all the more frustrating. It is disappointing that the Government is wasting time and resources, but also missing an opportunity to increase trust in the institutions that we lobby.”
After recent announcements and the Queen’s Speech today, you may ask: why is the government so obsessed with immigration?
There’s actually a simple answer to this, and it has major implications for both Labour and the Conservatives.
YouGov regularly track public opinion on a range of issue, asking the same question every time.
One of those questions is: ‘Which party is best able to handle the issue of Immigration and Asylum?‘
Here’s what is shows (you can click it for a bigger interactive chart).
This has a few lessons I think.
1) Voters who think the Tories are better able to handle immigration have been shrinking consistently since the election. It partly explains the rise of UKIP, and is extraordinary given the number of speeches and announcements on immigration the government has made.
2) It shows how little attention voters pay to news, announcements, speeches and impact of policy. Immigration has fallen and been tightened up and yet the public still don’t believe it or don’t know about it. So their faith in the government’s handle on the issue keeps falling.
3) This has an instructive message for Labour too. As I’ve said repeatedly – posturing and ‘acting tough‘ on issues like welfare and immigration by Labour cuts little ice with the public. It didn’t during the New Labour years and it does so even less now.
Voter rarely pay attention to policy or speeches, but instead reach their opinions through vague mood music. In other words they expect Labour to be ‘soft’ on these issues and Tories to be ‘tough’ on these issues, and their general focus is instead on how ‘competent’ a party is on managing its affairs. If they think a party is competent then they’ll assume they’re doing a good job on immigration and welfare too.
This also means that if Labour act tough on welfare or immigration, the public doesn’t hear it or believe it. Which means the party is better of dropping the posturing and focusing on sensible policies and linking the issues to the economy.
Green Party MP and former leader Caroline Lucas today said she would join the picket line against her own party, over pay cuts to workers in Brighton.
The controversy flared up after the Green-controlled Brighton & Hove council announced plans for ‘pay modernisation’ for council workers. They say workers have to face up to pay cuts to avoid job cuts.
The local GMB union branch is opposed to the plans, as are the local Green party.
In a blog-post last week Lucas said she was opposed to the plans too:
I want to make clear my opposition to cuts to take-home pay, and that I am very aware of the devastating impact that the potential loss of as much as £95 a week would have on council workers – especially those already on low pay.
I’ve set out my position on this to the Council and made my opposition clear to the GMB union, who represent many of the workers facing changes to their pay and allowances.
In a tweet today she said she would also join the picket line against her own party’s policy.
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) May 8, 2013
In other words, the local Green MP and the local Green party are opposed to a policy put forward by the Green cabinet members in the council. Extraordinary.
A paper published today by the think-tank CLASS makes the case for a Land Value Tax in the UK to challenge the housing and debt crisis.
It is the first time a key think-tank has called for a LVT. The paper is authored by Andy Hull, a Labour councillor and a former senior research fellow at the IPPR think-tank.
The paper proposes that a Land Value Tax, targeted at unproductive wealth and speculation, could help deliver the house-building revolution – and the economic revival – our country desperately needs.
Author Andy Hull says that introducing a LVT would “take political courage”.
It will mean facing down vested interests, not least the big land-banking ‘developers’ who deliberately drip-feed properties onto the market, making large profits on small volumes of output, even though they have the land and the country desperately needs more homes.
It will take a manifesto commitment, a real mandate, and no doubt a battle in parliament. But, at least in some sense, this land is ours. And our tax system should reflect that fact.
The paper – ‘In Land Value: The Case for a Land Value Tax in the UK’ is available from here.
The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) was established in 2012 by Unite the Union, GMB and the Institute of Employment Rights to act as a centre for left debate and discussion.
Labour are fully behind the call to offer asylum to Afghani interpreters, Yvette Cooper’s office confirmed to Liberal Conspiracy today.
A statement from the shadow home secretary said:
We owe a debt to those Afghans who have worked alongside our soldiers, some of whom have been injured in roadside bombs or gunfire. In some instances interpreters have faced threats from the Taliban against them and their families, and as we begin leaving Afghanistan we cannot leave behind people who face threats from the Taliban after risking their lives to help Britain.
Regretfully Theresa May hasn’t done or said anything on this.
The Prime Minister should support a scheme that provides settlement to Afghans who have worked alongside our servicemen and women. Like the settlement programme agreed for Iraqi staff and their dependents under the last Government, it should ensure the Afghan staff are helped to settle and are not subject to the long waits and employment bans currently in place.
Examples of Afghan interpreters injured on the frontline, and then waiting two years in asylum queues, or even rejected, while worrying about Taliban threats to their families are very troubling. Our allies do not treat those who work for them in this way, and neither should Britain. These interpreters have already shown great commitment to British interests. If someone fears for their family’s safety as a result of working with British troops, and helping to fight for Britain’s long-term security, we should act.
Lib Dems too are said to be behind these calls, with strong statements of support from Paddy Ashdown. But we don’t know Nick Clegg’s views yet.
The retailer Tesco sis the latest to come under fire from customers for selling toys divided by gender.
The difference was highlighted by the campaign Let Toys Be Toys, who posted this picture last week.
A message from Let Toys be Toys on Twitter also brought a response from Tesco.
@lettoysbetoys Toy signage is currently based on research and how our customers tell us they like to shop in our stores
— Tesco Customer Care (@UKTesco) May 4, 2013
Unsurprisingly, the Tweet from Tesco attracted a vitriol response from others on Twitter.
Here are some of the responses.
You can read more of the responses here.
It’s likely that Tesco will relent sooner or later.
More recently, toy companies such as Hamleys and even Boots have reversed their policy of specifying which toys are suitable for different genders.
David Cameron is planning to u-turn on his pledge to enshrine foreign aid spending in law, to pacify the right wing of his party.
If the u-turn goes ahead it will come as a major embarrassment to the ‘modernising’ wing of the Tory party and the Liberal Democrats
The Observer reveals today that the policy = promised in the 2010 coalition agreement – will not be in Wednesday’s Queen’s speech and will not now come to pass under this government.
Responding to reports, Oxfam Campaigns Director Ben Phillips released this statement:
We would be extremely disappointed if the Government dropped its pledge to enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to help the world’s poorest.
Whilst the government deserves credit for delivering the UK’s aid promise, this still needs to be made legally binding so that our aid is a reliable lifeline for those who depend on it.
The bill has been ready for more than a year, with ministers promising it will be introduced when time allows.
Another u-turn by Cameron because he remains weak with his base.
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