Something for the Weekend: The wheels on the bus

As my roast cooks away in the oven, there’s just time for a quick Something for the Weekend. OK, I’ll probably do this blog post and then start cooking, but it sounded better the other way. Anyway, enough culinary procrastination. Let’s see what this week’s mélange has for us.

Boris wants your lack of expertise

Boris Johnson’s stock is falling, but you can help him out by submitting your design for the new Routemaster bus. This, you’ll remember, is Boris’s popular but expensive and largely pointless project to turn the clock back to the imaginary golden age of the 1950s.

Through the meduim of an exciting-looking website, Mayor Boris invites you to submit your “fun ideas for a future bus design”. In case you’re worried that you know nothing about the subject, the site is ready to reassure you: “No expertise required!”

Good fun though a competition sounds, with a top prize of £25,000 (of taxpayers’ money?), I can’t help wondering if actually getting someone with some expertise might have been a better long-term plan.

In case any of you are thinking of entering, I should warn you that you’ll be up against some stiff competition from yours truly:
Routemaster design
I’m afraid Tfl can’t return your drawings.

Meanwhile, in the London Assembly…

Apologies to readers everywhere else, but it’s not time to leave London just yet.

Hampstead and Kilburn PPC Ed Fordham went along this week to see Assembly members put questions on crime and policing to Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse. With the issue of the estates strategy – and the closure of Hampstead police station – on the agenda, Ed was shocked to see his Assembly Member Brian Coleman (he of the bling and the expenses) leave the room when this was discussed.

As a picture paints a thousand words, Ed captured the moment by photographing Mr Coleman’s empty chair. You can see the photos and read more on his blog.

In the news

The White House has apologised for inadvertently briefing the press that Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is a political “amateur”, “hated by many” and “one of the most controversial leaders” of a country “known for governmental corruption and vice”. The gaffe came in a briefing kit provided to reporters travelling with George W to the G8 summit. The comments had been cribbed from the Encyclopedia of World Biography.

The BBC’s “Rabbit ripper shocks Germany” tells how 30 pet rabbits in Witten and Dortmund have been killed in the last year in a bizarre and perverse outbreak of animal cruelty.

Top made-up news of the week: Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Is ‘Totally Badass’.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow…

The SSP candidate in the Glasgow East by-election has been getting a hostile reception from some voters – because they’ve mistaken her for the Labour candidate. Scottish Socialist Frances Curran shares her surname with Labour candidate Margaret Curran.

Bizarrely, the man running the election has ruled that his staff aren’t allowed to tell confused voters which is which.

Fortunately, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Ian Robertson, won’t be confused with either of them.

Link dump

If you’re at a loose end this weekend, here are some links to pass the time:

  • She Went of Her Own Accord is a collection (to which you can contribute) of “My mother-in-law’s emigrated to the West Indies”/”Jamaica?”/”No, she went of her own accord” style jokes.
  • Show Us a Better Way is a Government project encouraging useful suggestions for putting Government data to work
  • Vote for which Revel you’d like to see ditched with Revels Eviction (it’s the chewy caramel one for me, but coffee was well in the lead when I cast my vote)

And here’s a useful site you can use to check if a website is down or whether it’s just your internet connection: downforeveryoneorjustme.com

Civil services

Civil partnerships have been all over the news like a sexually-transmitted rash this week.

An Islington registrar who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies because of her religion (a rather absurd stance given that civil partnerships are by definition civil and not religious) won an employment tribunal case. The tribunal seems to have ruled that she had been harassed at work for her beliefs rather than backing her right not to conduct the ceremonies, although it’s not immediately clear what the wider implications of the ruling will be. A counter-boycott of gay registrars refusing to marry Christians is not currently expected.

The Earl of Devon has lost his licence to hold weddings at his Powderham Castle home after he turned down a gay couple who wanted to have their civil partnership ceremony there. Devon County Council ruled that discriminating against gay couples wasn’t compatible with being a licensed location for weddings and civil partnerships. The lucky old Earl has, however, seen an upturn in bookings for receptions since the publicity.

Liz Williams has drawn attention via her singing my song LiveJournal to the Labour Government’s involvement in an Austrian case at the European Court of Human Rights. Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester asked the Government why they were “intervening … to contend that same-sex relationships fall outside the ambit of family life for the purposes of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.” Lord Hunt’s reply and Lord Lester’s reponse are available via TheyWorkForYou.

Headline of the week

Porn appears on rugby programme

Sometimes crime does pay

The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons has discovered that the Department for Work and Pensions paid £3 million in benefits to criminals in prison in the year to September 2006.

Social security payments are supposed to be stopped when someone is convicted and given a custodial sentence. The Government says it has since introduced weekly checks to cut benefit fraud in prisons.

That looks familiar…

Thanks to Islington South & Finsbury PPC Bridget Fox, who dropped us a line about her company’s logo for its new Global Employee Recognition Scheme. She thought it seemed strangely familiar and it certainly rings a bell, but I can’t quite put my finger on it… Decide for yourselves:
Soar logo

Facebook groups of the week

Well-endowed campaigners want to see an end to Marks & Spencers’ surcharge for larger bras. You can join their campaign, should you wish, at Busts 4 Justice.

A pre-emptive strike on registrars who want to discriminate: Registrars should perform their public duty on civil partnerships or resign.

If you like to be on the cutting edge of hand-drying technology, you’ll almost certainly want to me a member of Dyson Airblade Appreciation Society.

And finally

A letter from God:

* Something for next weekend? Email us at [email protected]

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6 Comments

  • Why so down about the buses? These vehicles will be used by Londoners for many years why shouldn’t the users have a say. As an engineer some of the more interesting design ideas I have seen have come from lay people, because the professionals (myself included) are too limited and “know what is possible” obviously these designs should only be used for ideas, but unleash the creative potential of 7.5m people and you will have some interesting directions.

  • Anom (sic),

    But surely the point is that Boris is NOT asking the entirely sensible question :-

    “Bus users of London, how can we offer you a better service through differently styled vehicles?”

    he is saying:

    “I’m going to recreate a 21st Century Routemaster … er, but I don’t know what that means … so, er, help me out”

  • The question has to be asked the second way as it is a more creative question. The first question is too limited and constrained particularly the focus on style.

    What do buses mean for the 21st century? Are they primarily transport or can they offer more – wifi, information on tube and other trains. Can you reasonably include other services? If these buses are going to be there for 20 years shouldn’t they be future proof and something to be proud of?

    I realise this sound idealistic and we will be stuck with some re-styled bus, but if the commuter has this chance to have what he wants included in a bus he must take it.

  • Anom,

    But Boris doesn’t WANT a bus for the next 20 years – he has specifically said he wants to reintroduce a “modern Routemaster” AND HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS !!!!!

    A bus is a bus is a bus, by which I mean an inclusive form of road transport available to the public [hence, omni – bus], and independent of fixed infrastructure [hence, not a tram].

    You can add in details around the edge (wifi, tv, radio, drinks machines – maybe not – vending machines) but fundamentally it is a means of shifting people effectively from (e.g.) Euston to Marble Arch.

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