The Daily Mail – first for rubbish!

The Daily Mail, I’m told, is the one of the biggest selling daily newspapers in High Wycombe. Strange then that they would want to antagonise the locals with their ill-judged piece calling us ‘the town where only the rats are happy‘. Reading the article, you might be forgiven for thinking that High Wycombe has become a cesspit of filth and vermin. But in true Daily Mail style, the truth has been distorted to produce a hysterical headline that will ensure that the blue-rinse brigade go scurrying to the polls next week to vote Tory. Err, except Wycombe is a Tory council already!

Now let’s just set out some facts behind this case. Wycombe District Council have been rolling out a two-bin system with alternate fortnightly collections. As it stands, not every home in Wycombe yet has the new system. If you do, as I do, then you have a green bin for compostable material (including food waste, garden waste and soiled newspaper) and a grey bin for non-recyclables. Each are collected on alternate weeks. We also have a smaller bin for recyclable paper. The pile of black bags you see in the Mail photo should not contain anything of interest to vermin, and at any rate it is the householder’s responsibility not to leave waste food outside in bags.

For those of us with larger families, we struggle to cope with one bin per fortnight for non-recyclable items. This is mainly down to the excess packaging that food producers and supermarkets foist on us. But I also find that many residents are filling their grey bins with items which are recyclable! Glass bottles, aluminium cans and recyclable plastic bottles are still going into the grey bins. The problem is that WDC are not doing enough to recycle these items. We do have bottle banks, but frustratingly they are not emptied often enough. I was outraged once when I turned up with a fortnight’s bottles I had carefully saved, only to be told to throw them in the rubbish because the bottle bank was overflowing. I have worked on the continent, where a four-bin system is routinely used to manage waste and recycling. If they can do it – so can we.

Bins are like motorways, if we just give people more bins – we will fill them. We have to cut excess packaging at source and make it easier for people to recycle the recyclable packaging that is currently ending up in landfill.

The slow, strange death of the Labour Party

How strange is the way that history repeats itself. I have been canvassing for the forthcoming election in an area that should contain a bedrock of Labour support – a large estate of now administered by a housing association. Obviously I have been doing this because I hope that some disaffected Labour supporters might consider backing my party instead. I have now concluded that there are three types of Labour supporters in Britain today:

  1. Thick and Thin. This supporter is still loyal, and will probably get out and vote Labour on May 3rd. He or she has supported Labour through thick and thin, and recognises that 2007 is thin! Thick or thin Labour voter is at a loss to explain some of the decisions of the current administration, and secretly longs for Blair to be replaced in the hope of a new dawn where Iraq, cash for peerages and Blunkett will be allowed to fade as bad memories.
  2. Disillusioned. Disillusioned voter spent 18 long years believing that while the Tories were only out for themselves, and couldn’t be trusted, Labour politicians were different. When the time came (because come it surely would), a Labour government would usher in a new dawn of ethical government. A government that would turn Britain on it’s head, bringing social justice and fairness for all. When the Labour politicians behaved exactly like the Tory ones had done, they came to the conclusion that all politicians were the same, and none of them could be trusted. They are likely to stay at home because none of us can be trusted. They may vote Labour again if and when Labour looks like it has consigned Blairism to the dustbin of history.
  3. Angry. Angry Labour voters are similar to Disillusioned, except that they still think politics matters. They still want to vote on May 3rd, but want to vote for someone that deserves to be voted for. This is the real danger area for all of us! Angry is an opportunity for us, but also and opportunity for Cameron’s reconstructed Tory offering. I’m sad to say that some Angries have been an opportunity for BNP in some areas too. Angries may have been former Tory voters (for many switched in 1997), so if they believe the Tory party has truly reinvented itself they will return to the fold. We must reach the Angries, for they are the floating voters of 2007 – and as we all know, floating voters decide elections.

What’s really interesting is that Labour knows this. If you spend a little time trawling Labour discussion sites, they all know what the problem is (or rather who the problem is), but the Labour Party seems to lack any mechanism to apply the brakes as their runaway train hurtles towards the canyon with no bridge.

When the Tories were at their lowest ebb, in the dying days of the Thatcher government, they could be forgiven for thinking that, as the party of natural government they would live to fight another day. The next Labour leader faces being the John Major character – more balanced and moderate than his predecessor, but unable to halt the slide into oblivion. During the 1997 election campaign, I recall some moderate Tories saying that ‘one term in opposition might be a good thing’ – it might enable the party to bounce back when a grateful electorate returned them in 2001. They never dreamed that they might be in opposition for two or even three terms.

Labour have no such excuses, and yet appear determined to continue their headlong plunge into the abyss.

I make no excuses for believing two things:

  • That this constant see-sawing of fortunes and power between the two biggest parties is bad for Britain, only a strong third party like ours can deliver any balance
  • That the first past the post system makes it extremely difficult for us to deliver that balance as it delivers Labour or Tory majorities in parliament on the slimmest of margins in votes cast

That is why we matter, and that is why we should all be out canvassing – instead of reading this!

Balancing men’s and women’s rights

Every advance in medical science can bring new ethical dilemmas for the medical profession, and for society at large. The decision today that a woman cannot be made pregnant using frozen embryos without the father’s consent is heart-rending for everyone concerned.

But I believe that the right decision has been made. In some areas of pregnancy and parenting, the woman has de facto rights because she is the one carrying the child. A man cannot object to a woman having an abortion for this reason. This can be gut-wrenching for some men, who feel they must have some stake in the unborn life – and yet the decision is entirely taken away from them.

In this case, the man’s consent was required before pregnancy could be begun – and this must be the right principle. The man’s reason for withdrawing consent is not at issue.

I do feel sympathy for the woman whose disappointment must be heartbreaking for her – but to have decided in her favour would have been to deny the man any right to say whether or not he consented to the deliberate creation of a situation in which he would have been an ‘absent father’.