Tag Archives: london

Let this be the last first past the post election in London Boroughs

On 3rd May all the Borough Council seats in Greater London are up for election, which happens every four years. The Borough I live in is typical and has 18 3-member wards. Each voter votes by putting up to 3 Xs on the ballot paper. In each of these wards the top three candidates in terms of Xs on the ballot win. Hence F3PTP rather than FPTP (First Past The Post).

So what’s wrong with that? Five national parties are contesting the borough election, plus around four parties with Residents’ Association in their name, who are active in their own patches. Usually, a party sees its whole slate of three elected, but sometimes one candidate impacts more on the electorate, positively or negatively, and the result is a ‘split ward’. But I have seen nine candidates from three parties having each around 30% of the vote, but only one party gets the councillor seats. Natural justice suggests that they should have had one councillor each. With three councillors of one party, we KNOW that they were NOT the first choice of 70% of the electorate; at worst, the three victors could be the LEAST favoured candidates of 70% of the voters.

It gets worse. Some parties are so entrenched in certain seats that the others have given up. A friend of mine expressed it as ’If you put up a feather duster for XXXX party in YYYY ward, it would get elected.’ Two national parties contest all 54 seats, but the presence of the parents, spouses and children of local party worthies on the ballot papers gives a strong hint of what they think. The voters in such wards show what they think by not turning up to vote for the council, which, more than any other body, delivers government services to them.

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WATCH: The #LiberalLondon Rally

Last night, London Lib Dems launched their campaign for May’s elections. One of the many things that is fantastic about having Vince as leader is that he gets local government. He gets why it is important as an end in itself. He’s been there – as a councillor in another city, Glasgow, back in the 70s. Hackney Heroine Pauline Pearce talked about the scourge of knife crime. Caroline Pidgeon talked about winning in a safe Labour seat. The amazing Ruth Dombey, leader of Sutton Council, talked about their investment in mental health support among other things.

You can watch the whole event here.

And here are some of the Twitter highlights.

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TfL’s Uber decision is no victory for liberalism

The decision taken by Transport for London to revoke Uber’s licence undermines a key theme of Vince Cable’s speech from just a few days ago, a belief in competitive markets. Whilst the company has only operated in the capital for a relatively short time, the benefits it has bought to London’s transport market for both Londoners and tourists alike have been numerous. Uber not only provides a cheaper, more accessible transport solution to its customers, but it has also forced its competitors to innovate, an example being black cabs now accepting card payments, freeing their users from having to carry large amounts of cash. If the Liberal Democrats are to be a proud champion of enterprise, the party should feel no shame in its support for companies such as Uber, which provide choice to consumers in what is otherwise a monopolistic market.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Brexit demands greater devolution – a new deal for our regions

Back in 2013 I wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice setting out the case for London and other cities to have more financial control.

The vote to leave the EU makes the case for devolution and fiscal devolution more urgent. Whatever Leave voters felt they were voting for, it was not ‘business as usual’. It was not an endorsement of centralised power, simply removing it from Brussels to Whitehall and job done.

The referendum result not only affects the country as a whole but also within our nations, regions and cities.  The uncertainties from Brexit may well be better managed at a local level, with local and regional government able to respond more effectively.

At present, virtually all taxation in the UK is determined by central government. Only council tax (and in England from April 2013, a proportion of business rates) can be seen as local taxation – and even this is subject to cumbersome controls, including referendum rules set by central Government.  When you compare this internationally you realise what control Whitehall holds.

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Impressive free public access to our Supreme Court

The main courtroom at the Supreme Court, from the perspective of the Presiding Judge.
This week I wanted to visit a court in London, to get a feel for the proceedings. I didn’t fancy the Old Bailey – its case list is a series of stabbings basically. Not nice. I was about to make the journey to the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand when I remembered the more recently opened Supreme Court.

The United Kingdom Supreme Court resides just opposite Parliament in an impressive building previously occupied by Middlesex County Council and the Middlesex Courts.

When I visited, there were only a few people milling around inside. The staff were very friendly and helpful. I was whisked through the security scanner and then the receptionist explained what I could do in the building. The public are able to wonder around the three court rooms (when there are no cases ongoing) and take photographs. Then there is an interesting exhibition area about the history of the building, the Supreme Court, the Magna Carta and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That latter entity is the final court of judgment for a number of territories overseas.

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Boris Johnson’s foolishness and arrogance in purchasing water cannon

This week Sadiq Khan revealed that three redundant water cannon, bought controversially by his predecessor, are to be put up for sale, with the proceeds going towards helping to tackle gang crime.

It is a decision I totally endorse and welcome.

Back in 2014 Boris Johnson decided to purchase three second hand water cannon from Germany.  We now discover that £322,834 of taxpayers’ money has been spent by the Met Police on purchasing these 25 year old vehicles, and then transporting, fitting out and repairing the machines.

The scale of the foolishness, and quite frankly arrogance, in purchasing these water cannon is hard to underestimate.

For a start these water cannon were purchased before authorisation was given for their use by the Home Secretary.  After they had been purchased consideration of permitting authorisation of their use was undertaken by the then Home Secretary.  It was firmly refused.  On this issue Theresa May showed immense thoroughness in carefully examining the merits for and against the adoption of water cannon.  Her statement to the House of Commons on the 15th July 2015 is an example of a Home Secretary acting in a truly professional way.  The Hansard record is well worth a read.

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On Sadiq Khan’s Hopper bus ticket: an idea you may have heard of before

One hour bus ticket 2009So, Sadiq Khan has made his first big transport announcement, one hour Hopper bus ticket.

Now, even though I live 400 miles away, I know fine that this is not be an original idea from the new London Mayor. Someone has been campaigning for this since 2009. Who could that possibly be?

Step forward Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon. The photo was taken in 2009 in tandem with this article in the Standard and the policy was in the 2012 Lib Dem London manifesto.

Boris blithely dismissed it in the same way Cameron dismissed the raising of the tax threshold policy, saying it was too complicated and costly.

His successor saw the sense in it and used Caroline’s idea in his manifesto. 

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London needs a liberal narrative

Last week’s elections in England overall were rather encouraging, with a modest but heartening rise in the number of councillors and the gain of Watford Council. But one relative black spot, in which the Liberal Democrat decline of recent years continued unabated, was London, where Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon polled less than five per cent in first preferences – a third of the average vote in the country.

That is no reflection on the quality of Caroline as a candidate. No-one could have worked harder and many non-LibDems said they thought she performed the best among all candidates at hustings. After eight years on the London Assembly, she really knew her stuff, and she had some attractive specific policies, such as a one-hour bus ticket and continuing the Olympics precept but channelling it towards the building of affordable homes. Nonetheless, Caroline is now the sole LibDem member of the Assembly (out of 25). Once we had five.

This is all the more disappointing when one considers that London did particularly well out of the post-May 2015 surge in members and that London Liberal Democrats fielded the most diverse and talented list of Assembly candidates ever. They really looked like our multicultural city and most of them worked their socks off. So what went wrong?

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How Caroline Pidgeon would change London for the better

Caroline Pidgeon is spending the last day of campaigning for the Mayoral Election out in Putney with Nick Clegg

LBC has a list of ten ways London would change if she were Mayor.

1) £20 from your council tax will be used to build new houses
The Olympic precept will be maintained, but the money turned to building 50,000 council homes to rent and 150,000 for sale.

2) Tube fares before 7.30am will be half-price
The Lib Dems promise to “introduce half price fares for Tube, Overground rail and DLR travellers before 7.30am – to reduce the cost of travel for thousands of hard-working Londoners and ease peak congestion.”

3) All London’s buses and taxis will become fully electric
A Lib Dem plan is to switch London’s buses and taxis to be fully electric as well as helping to switch commercial vans too.

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Can you help the London Liberal Democrats beat UKIP and win a third Assembly seat?

London Liberal Democrats are making a push for funds to help them run the best possible final flourish to the campaign and get out the vote operation.

A You Gov poll indicated that if we can just get one more percentage point, we could beat UKIP and get Merlene Emerson elected as our third assembly member.

Caroline Pidgeon says on the London Liberal Democrats’ website:

Polls show that a handful of votes could separate UKIP and the Lib Dems on 5th May.

Those votes will either elect Merlene Emerson to join me on the Assembly, a British-Chinese liberal, or a prejudiced UKIP voice.

For every additional £500 we can contact 93,000 people with Facebook advertising to run alongside our targeted literature and canvassing. We’re aiming to raise £10,000 in the next few days so we can contact our target voters three times each on Facebook to maximise our chances of getting our vote out.

Four years ago we pushed the BNP off the London Assembly. And, by just a few votes, kept out UKIP as well. Help me make sure we do it again.

Thanks again for your support!

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LibLink: Getting real about tackling London’s air pollution

Greenpeace has been asking the London Mayoral candidates about how they would tackle air pollution in London, where air quality is one of the lowest in Europe.

Here is Caroline Pidgeon’s response:

It was not long ago that understanding about air pollution was pitiful, especially amongst MPs. Just 18 months ago a poll of 100 MPs revealed that hardly any recognised that air pollution the second biggest public health risk, with only smoking posing a greater risk.Thankfully things are changing. Yet while the greater recognition of the horrific consequences of air pollution is welcome, the real challenge is to ensure action is actually taken.My manifesto is quite clear that real action is needed straight away.

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Caroline Pidgeon: With me as Mayor, London would work for everyone

 

Caroline Pidgeon has been talking to London 24 about her plans. Most of the interview is policy stuff that we are all aware of – her plans for more affordable childcare, more houses, better transport and half price tube fares before 7:30 am.

She was asked what London would be like after 4 years of her as Mayor:

London would be a far more family-friendly city, and a city that really works for everyone. We’d have more homes to help deal with the housing crisis, we’d have targeted fare measures to really help get people get around, we’d have more cycling infrastructure and improvements for pedestrians, we’d have cleaner air because I’d bring in electric buses and taxies, and less traffic because I would bring in changes to the congestion charge to get some of those private vehicles off the road. Alongside that, I’d be fighting to improve childcare in London, so more wraparound childcare for parents in the mornings, evenings and school holidays. We’d have a city that just works better for everyone.

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Caroline Pidgeon judged winner of ITV/LBC mayoral debate

Mike Smithson had no doubt about the winner of last night’s ITV London/LBC mayoral debate.

And he wasn’t alone. Caroline’s strong performance attracted praise from unexpected quarters.

You can watch the whole thing here:

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Caroline Pidgeon taking Twitter questions this afternoon #AskCaroline

Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon will be answering questions on Twitter this afternoon:

This comes the day after her manifesto launch and a successful mayoral debate last night where her performance attracted widespread praise.

Yesterday, she launched her manifesto, which you can read here.

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WATCH: Caroline Pidgeon excels in first LBC London Mayor hustings

This morning, Caroline Pidgeon took part in LBC’s first mayoral debate alongside UKIP’s Peter Whittle, the Greens’ Sian Berry, Tory Zac Goldsmith and Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

I know I’m not unbiased, but if I had listened as an undecided voter, I’d have thought that Caroline would be the best Mayor. She had facts to back up what she was saying, she understood the key transport, housing, policing and childcare problems and talked like a Mayor. This is in contrast to her Labour and Conservative opponents, who sound more like Stadtler and Waldorf from the Muppets every time I listen to them.

Zac’s pitch boiled down to: “I’m a Tory so I know how to talk Tory to other Tories, vote for me.” and Khan’s was “I’m not a Tory, vote for me.” Neither of these inspire any sort of confidence.

Caroline talked about building houses and making sure the workforce has the sufficient skills to deliver, of making sure the lowest paid can get to their work with cheaper fares before 7:30 am, of investing in cleaner taxis & making them affordable for taxi drivers, of building cycleways. It was all good, solid practical stuff.

You can watch the whole thing in these two videos. Enjoy. 

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Bold and ambitious childcare plans on offer from Lib Dems in London and Wales

The cost and availability of childcare is one of the most important things affecting working parents these days. This week, Liberal Democrats in London and Wales have launched plans to improve affordability and choices.

In London, Caroline Pidgeon has said it’s time to “end the brain drain of talented young women from London’s workforce.” Her plan includes:

  • The GLA and other organisations in the wider GLA Group (TfL, Metropolitan Police Service and London Fire Service) should offer interest free loans for employees to meet the initial costs of childcare registration at a nursery which can cost up to £1500. The adoption of this policy should become an example of good practice amongst businesses across London.
  • When GLA land is released for schools it should be standard practice that nursery provision is also provided
  • London Boroughs should be encouraged to extend business rate relief to childcare providers
  • The Mayor of London should establish a Childcare Fund with support targeted at improving wraparound and childcare options covering the longer hours many London employees have to work. One potential way of financing the fund would be through a hotel levy.
  • More childminders should be trained to help support families with wraparound flexible childcare.

Caroline said:

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…This is a “microwave” budget from Osborne

This is a ‘microwave’ budget from George Osborne. He has just re-heated many announcements already made.

Some announcements can be welcomed – albeit cautiously at this stage as we haven’t seen the precise detail. Devolution of Business Rates and the proposals for financing infrastructure projects from land value increases are things the Liberal Democrats have long argued for.

Those of us in London had already been told last week that Crossrail 2 was going ahead and that there would be a need for Londoners to match fund the development costs. The increase in the share of business rates retained by London will help fund this vital new project, but a £1.9billion cut in TfL funds, as a result of Sadiq Khan’s fares policy, puts at risk important investment in London’s future transport needs.

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Caroline Pidgeon interview: The “ordinary Londoner” aspiring to be the city’s first female mayor.

Caroline Pidgeon has been talking to the Ham and High about the qualities she would bring to the office of Mayor.

First and foremost, she uses local services so understands what they need:

Ms Pidgeon believes it is her “ordinary” quality which means she is ideally placed to become the city’s first female Mayor.

“I’m just an ordinary Londoner, I’m the one rushing to catch the tube in the morning and hoping it’s on time, and I’m the one taking my two-year-old to nursery,” she said.

She also highlights her long experience in London’s politics:

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LibLink: The Liberal Democrat vision of Caroline Pidgeon

 

During the week the Guardian published a very rounded post about Caroline Pidgeon and her bid to be Mayor of London.

It starts:

I ask her a gloomy question. She gives an upbeat reply. “Morale is actually very, very good in the party,” said Caroline Pidgeon, who has the possibly onerous honour of being Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor. “We’ve got tons of new members in London who are excited and energetic, and that’s fantastic.” Her party says there are now 10,000 of them in the capital, the highest number for decades. Plus, council by-election results have perked up since last year’s general election gloom: wins in Sutton and Richmond, improved performances elsewhere. “This election is wide open,” Pidgeon enthuses. “We’ve got a new field of candidates and I’m hopeful that as the most experienced candidate with eight years at City Hall, Londoners will give the Liberal Democrats a good vote.”

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Caroline Pidgeon’s plan to cut pollution and improve London’s air quality

Caroline Pidgeon is on a mission to prevent Londoners’ health being harmed by pollution on the capital’s streets. She has just unveiled a pretty radical plan for the congestion charge, raising it for all vehicles and even more for diesel vehicles. Also, she wants to have a peak-time charge.

From the Guardian:

A new report by the party’s mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon recommends a rise in the daily charge collected by automated payment from the current £10.50 to £13 with a higher automated charge of £19 on vehicles entering the zone “at the height of the rush hour” in order to deter traffic from entering the centre of the city.

In what Pidgeon describes as a potential “game changer” in tackling London’s high levels of air pollution she would also slap an additional flat-rate of £2.50 on all diesel-powered vehicles subject to the charge, claiming that this would bring forward the benefits of the forthcoming Ultra Low Emission Zone, which is not scheduled to be activated until 2020.

She argues that these measures recognise an increase in congestion levels in recent years and that differential pricing would reflect variations in the degree of congestion at different times of day. Although Pidgeon’s definition of the rush hour peak would be kept under review she anticipates that the higher charge rate would initially apply between 7:00 and 9:30 in the morning and between 4:00 and 6:00 in the evening.

Caroline said:

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Caroline Pidgeon “feistiest performer” in first London mayor debate

The first London Mayor debate took place last night and Caroline Pidgeon came in for praise from commentator Martin Hoscik:

Pidgeon was the panel’s feistiest performer, pointedly contrasting her own 8 year term on the London Assembly with her rivals’ lack of City Hall knowledge and experience.

And she provided the evening’s only real flashpoint when she denounced UKIP candidate Peter Whittle’s support for leaving the EU as an “insane” threat to the capital’s economy.

But, perhaps aware of her own bruiser-like tendencies, Pidgeon ensured that her opening statement was peppered with references to her own experiences as a part-time worker and a mum, real-world experiences which could help her connect with enough voters to reclaim the party’s traditional status as the third biggest on the London Assembly to which she’s also seeking re-election.

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LibLink: Caroline Pidgeon: A Lib Dem mayor would help London’s lowest paid get to work

Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon has been writing for Left Foot Forward – a very good move, to connect with many of our former voters.

Her emphasis was on transport and she set out her stall and explained why it would help the lowest paid:

London’s economy is served by many low-paid workers, such as cleaners and security staff, who often get to work long before other people. Half price travel for any journey made before 7.30am would directly benefit many of London’s lowest-paid employees.

The policy also has wider benefits as it will encourage some people to start their journeys at an earlier time. Overcrowding, especially on the Tube, is already a massive issue.

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London Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon welcomes TfL takeover of suburban trains

Caroline PidgeonToday it was announced that the Transport for London would take over London’s suburban rail network. From the BBC:

Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will be taking over the running of the capital’s suburban rail network.

It will take over the routes as the various rail franchises come up for renewal.

The new partnership between the Department for Transport and TfL says it aims to ensure there are more frequent trains and increased capacity.

The first rail franchise up for renewal is South West in 2017.

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon welcomed this move, although she did say that it really wasn’t happening fast enough:

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Caroline Pidgeon talks Heathrow, housing, transport and Boris’s mismanagement of industrial relations

Caroline Pidgeon has given a wide ranging interview to the Richmond and Twickenham Guardian.

As 3 new tube strikes loom, she was deeply critical of Boris Johnson:

We are in a very, very bad position in terms of our industrial relations because Boris Johnson has never properly and formally sat down with the unions.

I think he might have passed them in a corridor or something but never formally sat down.

Boris Johnson and TFL messed this up from the start with their deadline. Immediately then the unions could hold him over a barrel and start making more and more demands.”

They did quite rightly raise concerns about working late shifts but occasionally it has seemed some are just spoiling for a fight.

What we need to do is to start off with having a good relationship with the unions and there has been a failure right from 2008 from Boris Johnson to establish that relationship.

“The others want to be something, I want to do something”

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Heathrow and Saudi banks – where Boris invests London taxpayers’ millions

Well, well. Boris is against Heathrow expansion, isn’t he? You have to then wonder why his office is investing millions in Heathrow airport. According to the Independent on Sunday, the Mayor’s office invested £3.54 million in the airport just two weeks ago. Liberal Democrat Assembly member Stephen Knight is quoted:

The GLA said that notwithstanding Mr Johnson’s trenchant views on Heathrow, it remained a suitable investment. But critics of the Mayor, who is ultimately responsible for GLA investments, said there was a clash between the mayor’s public position and his officials’ investment decisions.

Mr Knight said: “Only Boris Johnson would not be able to understand the total contradiction between publicly opposing a third Heathrow runway, whilst behind the scenes pouring millions of pounds of London taxpayer’s money into Heathrow bonds, which will help finance such an expansion.”

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LibLink: Caroline Pidgeon: It’s time to follow the money on the debate over Heathrow

So, David Cameron is putting off the evil day when he has to make a decision about Heathrow. Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon has reiterated her opposition to a third runway:

Londoners will be angry at delay when the obvious conclusion is that expanding London airports will be too polluting and too disruptive. If the evidence doesn’t support a third runway then the answer must be “No!”
“Sadiq Khan is as flexible on airports as a pair of flip-flops: he used to support Heathrow, now its Gatwick. Who knows how long before he flops back to supporting Heathrow?

Zac Goldsmith is isolated from the Tories on this issue and powerless to intervene. They have saved his blushes today but the Tory plane is landing on a third runway at Heathrow for sure.

Only the Liberal Democrats are firmly opposed to airport expansion. There is underused runway capacity around London that we should exploit by improving train connectivity and speed to central London.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes… Action, not rhetoric, on knife crime

When it comes to knife crime there appears to be two default settings that most Westminster politicians adopt.

The first is to turn a blind eye to the issue for large periods of time.

For example in London during the six week General Election period, 26th March to 8th May, there were 789 victims of serious youth violence, 1,231 victims of knife crime and 441 victims of knife crime with injury.  That’s 40 a day.

Yet despite these figures the issue was almost entirely ignored.   Few politicians campaigned on the issue or wanted to talk about it.

The second position for Westminster politicians is to suddenly take a very short term interest, but to be totally obsessed with the idea that ‘fixed term’ sentences are the only solution.   

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Why open government is good government and why it is time to defend the freedom of information act

The announcement this Summer that Ministers are now seeking to ‘review’ the freedom of information act had a most depressing ring to it.

For a start any fundamental review of freedom of information (FOI) legislation is hardly necessary. Just three years ago the cross party House of Commons Justice Committee, chaired by Alan Beith, carried out an extensive investigation into the operations of the Act.  It reported that: “The Freedom of Information Act has been a significant enhancement of our democracy. Overall our witnesses agreed that the Act was working well. The right to access information has improved openness, transparency and accountability.”

Few pieces of legislation get that kind of endorsement.

Indeed the Justice Committee not only defended the Act but also highlighted where it should be strengthened. For example it criticised public authorities that kick requests into the long grass by holding interminable internal reviews.

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Caroline Pidgeon expresses concern about Stagecoach involvement with LGBT Rainbow bus

Rainbow BusIt’s a lovely bright sight on the streets of London. A bus with rainbow livery to celebrate the 10th anniversary of OUTbound, the Transport for London’s LGBT staff network.

It’s a nice idea to have such a clear statement of solidarity with London’s LGBT people.

There is a cloud though, and that comes in the form of the involvement in Stagecoach’s partnership in the venture. You know, the same Stagecoach whose chairman Brian Souter took such exception to the abolition of Scotland’s equivalent of Section 28 that he spent a huge some of money on a campaign against it, sending a ballot paper to every home.

I might be prepared to dismiss it with an ironic smile – after all, doesn’t taking their money for something their chairman really doesn’t believe in is kind of funny – if it weren’t for the actual misery and harm that Souter caused.

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Opinion: Decentralisation to the London Region – the case has yet to be fully made

Before the recent Scottish independence referendum, promises squeezed out of the ‘Westminster establishment’ over more decentralisation of power to Scotland. The independence referendum was a close run thing. Now those in favour of full independence for Scotland are in a majority, and it seems that this will be reflected in the coming UK General Election.

The UK government has also conceded to a small increase in the powers of the Welsh Government.

On independence and devolution, Scotland has form, of course. But there are more modern reasons for the recent rise of pro-independence sentiment.

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