A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

Labour out of the race in Harborough, Oadby & Wigston

April 18th, 2015
Harborough, Oadby & Wigston Local Election Candidates 7th May 2015
Harborough, Oadby & Wigston Local Election Candidates 7th May 2015

If the numbers of local election candidates are anything to go by then my local Harborough constituency looks like being a race again between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.

Labour missing from over half local elections

Labour start from a position of zero councillors in Harborough (which includes Oadby and Wigston). They only have candidates for under half of the 45 local council seats. Labour have finished 3rd here behind the Tories and Lib Dems at every general election since 1979. In 2010 they got just 12% of the vote in Harborough. Under first past the post, voting Labour here will simply hand another win to the Tories.

Record low number of Conservative candidates

The Conservatives  are also in poor shape locally. The Tories have sunk to a record low of just 15 candidates in Oadby and Wigston. At the last Borough elections in 2011 they were reduced to just 4 councillors. Since then in-fighting and splits have seen that number fall to just 2.
horses

A Two-Horse Race

Local Councillors in Harborough, Oadby & Wigston April 2015

Local Councillors in Harborough, Oadby & Wigston April 2015

So in Harborough the Liberal Democrats will once again be the best chance to unseat the Conservative MP. The Lib Dems have a strong local government base, holding 33 of the 53 council seats in the constituency.

In the local elections the Lib Dems have 38 candidates to the Tories 30. This is more than any other party and includes a full slate in Oadby and Wigston Borough and Market Harborough.

Few UKIP and Green candidates

Given their national media coverage, both UKIP and the Greens have surprisingly weak numbers of candidates locally.

Over the whole constituency there are just 4 UKIP and 7 Greens standing. With this showing, it is probable that neither can provide a realistic challenge in Harborough, Oadby and Wigston on the 7th of May.

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Why I’m Voting Liberal Democrat in Oadby (Harborough Constituency)

March 27th, 2015

LibDems_StyleGuidlines2010.inddI am voting Liberal Democrat in the General and local elections on 7th May.  Why?

Locally it is a fairly easy decision. The Liberal Democrats have won a  majority on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council for several elections.  They have run the council effectively, budgeted sensibly and their councillors keep in touch and consult via regular leaflets and residents’ surveys.

They are also the only party who seem to be serious about the local elections as they are the only ones contesting every seat in the Borough.

The General Election required more thought, primarily because Nick Clegg  has had to make many difficult decisions as leader in a coalition was always going to be a tough ask. However, the party’s grassroots and many MPs are broadly social liberals like myself. A future leader is likely to be tougher on both the Tories and Labour if any cooperation in required. The Liberal Democrats have an excellent agenda for reforming government. They also have a strong environmental streak, coupled with clear, costed and moderate tax and spending priorities.

In Harborough Constituency, which covers Oadby and Wigston, the Liberal Democrats have been the main challengers to the Tories in every election since 1979 and obtained their best result as recently as 2005. Under our voting system, a vote for any other party only helps the Conservatives win again.

So on 7th May, I am voting for Zuffar Haq, the Lib Dems’  local candidate for MP who is a proven campaigner for the NHS and on many other issues. If you live locally, I urge you to vote for Zuffar too.

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In favour of switching off Street Lights

August 6th, 2014
Copyright Roger Kidd under Creative Commons Licence
Copyright Roger Kidd under Creative Commons Licence

The Conservative-controlled Leicestershire County Council, “plans to save up to a £1 million annually by switching off street lights or limiting the hours they are illuminated,” according to the Leicester Mercury.

Like other areas, Leicestershire has rolled out a partial or full switch-off of selected street lights since 2010. Around 2-3% of lights have been changed so far. So the report must mean that the scheme is being extended.

I am in favour of a judicious reduction in street lighting. It saves tax-payers’ money, reduces carbon emissions and makes the nocturnal environment more natural for wildlife. It also allows people to see more of the night sky. For the latter reason, the Campaign for Dark Skies (part of the British Astronomical Association) supports more efficient street lighting.

The County Council list sensible criteria for exempting areas with above-average crime, road hazards and so on. Many lights on roads near to us have been switched off after midnight with no anecdotal increase in traffic accidents or crime. I can’t find any data from Leicestershire Police on changes in crime, although police in Dorset, Hertfordshire and South Gloucestershire all report no increase in crime or traffic accidents. This is a generalisation, as Police can and do request that the lights are switched back on if there are problems.

The Crime Prevention Web Site neatly summarises the positive and negative arguments for street lighting.

Leicestershire Liberal Democrats suggest LED street lights as an alternative to a partial switch-off. However the jury is out on the impact of these brighter, bluer lights on people, wildlife and the night sky.

Perhaps legislators should also look at ensuring lamp fittings on private and public buildings are correctly designed direct all light towards the ground. Only recently, the Leicester Mercury published photos that show how much light goes wastefully upwards into the night sky. Any new LED lighting should be on the warmer, yellower end of the spectrum to reduce glare and reflection.

Switching off street lights is not a conservative thing to do. Maintaining the status quo, keeping the lights on  and reassuring elderly residents would be a more natural policy for the Tories. They are driven by the need to save money, rather than pragmatism or  environmental concerns.

However, it is disappointing to see the Lib Dem Group on the County Council oppose this move, principally on the basis of fear of crime and indeed fear of change. I would counsel them to make policy based on evidence, rather than uninformed perception. They should support the policy, but with oversight to ensure reduced street lighting is not at the expense of road safety or actual crime. Properly directed, “warmer” coloured LEDs may also be part of the solution. LED lights can also be switched off when they are not needed, thereby saving energy and money in two ways.

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