Friday, November 30, 2007

National Campaign Day

I have read lots of stuff over the last couple of days by people saying that they can't imagine how anyone could go out and campaign for the Labour Party with all the bad news that there's been recently. By happy coincidence, tomorrow is the Labour Party's monthly 'National Campaign Day'.

Last year, when I was an election organiser, I used to go out canvassing just about every evening. While we had lots of brilliant activists who did a lot of work, frequently these canvassing sessions would involve just me and the candidate (e.g. a cold and rainy Tuesday evening in February).

It's important in election campaigns that candidates spend as much time as possible with people who might vote for them. So they knocked on the doors of people who were down as having supported Labour in the past, or who we hadn't contacted for a while.

But it's also important to try to contact all the other people. There's always a chance that someone who is 'Undecided' or is a supporter of another party might change their mind, or vote differently in local elections to general elections or have been recorded wrongly (and if you never talk to people who aren't supporters, then over time you get a smaller and smaller group of people to contact etc.) Since I wasn't a candidate, or one of those precious new activists who we wanted to make sure found campaigning a positive experience, I got to do this.

So over a period of six months, I talked to literally thousands of people, 95% of whom were extemely hostile to the Labour Party. I think I have heard every different reason why people don't choose to support the Labour Party. I went to talk to people while we were letting out foreign criminals, while John Prescott was having his affair, while we were making a mess of the NHS' finances, on the day when people got their council tax bills and all the rest of it.

And the thing is that it's never actually as bad as you might think it is going to be, some people are pleased to see you even if they don't agree, others are total idiots who we wouldn't want the support of anyway, and when you end up winning an election a few months later by 20 votes, it makes it all worthwhile.

So, that's why I am looking forward to National Campaign Day tomorrow. Anyone can go campaigning when we are massively ahead in the opinion polls and everything is going well. But when the news is bad and the opinion polls are rubbish, that's when it gets really fun.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses

Via Crooked Timber, here are the 9 most Badass Bible Verses. For some reason, they didn't teach in Quaker Junior Meeting about the prophet Elisha, who was shouted at by some young people, and responded by summoning two bears to rip them all to shreds (II Kings 2:23-24), or what Saul required David to bring him before he was allowed to marry his daughter (1 Samuel 18:25-27), or about Elijah:

"The situation was that people of Israel had taken to Baal worship, a faith that added a lot of whores to its rituals and thus gained immediate popularity. Elijah (not the one with the bears, that was Elisha) decided that the people had to choose between Baal and God.

Rather than write a series of books or give a bunch of boring speeches, Elijah invited 450 Baal prophets to a contest, where both sides would set up an animal sacrifice. Whichever God could rain down fire on its sacrifice would be the one everybody worshiped.

It's brilliant in its simplicity, and we're surprised religious debates were ever carried out any other way after that. You can raise all the intellectual challenges you want about faith and the origins of the universe, but at the end of the day, you have to worship the god who can set you on fire. It's common sense.

We like to think Elijah stood in front of the howling column of heavenly fire, straightened his robes, turned to the crowd and said, "Thus, my opponent's argument falls." Then, he finished the debate in the way that all debates should be finished: by having the losers slaughtered."

But I still think Samson should have won:

"[His] story involves a feud with the Philistines, people who lived in part of what is now Israel and embraced the long tradition of going to war with the Jews. Or, specifically, the Philistines went to war against just Samson. And, they pretty much lost. On this particular day, the Philistines had burned Samson's wife to death, and sent some men to capture him. Specifically, they sent 3,000 men."


Finding the fresh jawbone of an ass, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. Then Samson said:

"With an ass's jawbone, I have made asses of them,
With an ass's jawbone, I have killed a thousand men".

(Judges 15: 15-16)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good Old Boy #42

Following the unexpected run of Good Old Boys (Dr Julian Lewis, Evan Harris), here's a good article by George Monbiot about the need to build 3 million new homes. Articles along the lines of 'I used to think something stupid, but then I actually found out some more about the issue, and as a result changed my mind' are tremendously rare and deserve praise and encouragement.

The responses from the creatures in the comments (we shouldn't help people who are living in unsuitable housing, it's their own fault for having children, so they deserve to suffer) prompted an excellent idea for a piece of legislation from a fellow traditional enemy of free speech:

"A common question at hustings meetings is to ask what private member's bill someone would introduce as an MP. This article - as well as the Oxford Union issue - makes a complete ban on internet comment fora beneath articles desperately enticing. People out-smugging the smug know-it-all Monbiot are hard to find, but they are tremendously well-represented here."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ripping them to shreds

The BBC reports:

"Student Roland Scarlett, an undergraduate at Oriel College who attended the debate, said most questions were addressed to Mr Irving.

He said: "I think it was a very balanced argument and both sides did really well. I'm pleased it went ahead." "

Um, wasn't the argument that exposing the arguments of fascists to debate by the fine minds of Oxford students would mean that the fascists got ripped to shreds? Not that the debate would be 'very balanced' and that 'both sides' would do 'really well' ?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Good Old Boy #41

Dr Julian Lewis is a right-wing shadow Defence Minister. This does not make him a Good Ol' Boy.

Dr Lewis does, however, understand why it is a bad idea to invite fascists to speak at the Oxford Union.

And well done to tonight's protesters, exercising the right to peaceful protest which Griffin and his thugs are so desperate to deny everyone, who have managed to get the debate cancelled.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Good Old Boy #40

One tip for any aspiring candidate for election is that the more people you meet and talk to, the more likely you are to win.

Pregthwr sent me a copy of a survey done amongst Democrats in Iowa ahead of their primary caucus in early January. One of its questions was whether people had met and shaken hands with any of the candidates.

33% of Iowa Democrats claim to have shaken the hand of a presidential candidate, including a stunning 17% who say they have shaken Obama’s hand. There are about 526,000 registered democrats in Iowa.

So in other words, Obama has already met and shaken hands with 90,000 people in Iowa. Now that's local campaigning.

Reasons to be cheerful

What a rubbish week this is proving to be. Trying to cheer myself up, I found the following:

1. The European alliance of far right parties collapsed in a row about, erm, racism. The Romanian MEPs, who had been elected by stirring up hatred against the Roma, were angered by remarks by Mussolini's grand daughter that Romanians were 'habitual law-breakers'. The conversation went something like this: 'How dare you say that we are criminals like the gypsies?' 'Well, you all look the same to me'.

2. John Howard's Liberal government, trailing in the polls, borrowed a trick from their American friends in the 'Conservative movement', and distributed leaflets pretending to be from a Muslim group calling for a vote for Labor because of their sympathy for the Bali bombers and support for building new mosques. Not only were the leaflets really rubbish, but they got caught. Perhaps they were rogue individuals, unconnected to the Liberal Party? No, one of them was married to the Liberal candidate for the area.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How to get an open, honest, informed debate on immigration

Nigel Hastilow, the Tory candidate who wrote admiring about Enoch Powell, claims to have discovered that constraints on freedom of speech are greater than he feared, above all because of 'the wrath of the PC police'.

I am struggling to see how this is an issue of freedom of speech. It sounds a lot more like 'I demand the right to say whatever I want without being challenged on it'. Hastilow wrote a column advancing a particular argument. Far from his ideas being suppressed, they were widely publicised. In reaction, lots of people disagreed with him, and said so. The leader of his party thought that they would lose votes unless he demonstrated that he disagreed with Hastilow, and acted accordingly. At which point was Hastilow's right to free speech infringed? What happened was that he lost the argument really, really badly.

He has some sort of case that the Conservative Party ought not to take action against candidates of theirs who speak out against party policy, even if they think it will do them electoral damage, but that is a question of political strategy, not of freedom of speech.

When people complain that it is impossible to have an 'honest, open, informed debate on immigration', it's worth remembering that the reason for this is that one side of the debate advances arguments which are based on prejudice, makes up stories to incite hatred, and when they get called on this, start whining about political correctness. Their complaints about how they are not allowed to make their views known, along with the content of those views, has been covered on a daily basis by national newspapers, and they've included amongst their numbers hundreds of MPs, from Enoch Powell to Bob 'Which part of 'send them back don't you understand, Mr Blair?' Spink.

There is something especially distasteful about this whinging when deployed in an attempt to hurt people who have genuinely suffered from restrictions on their freedom of speech and others forms of persecution. There are so many examples of this genre, but I just want to pick out this article by Geoffery Alderman, which achieves the considerable distinction of being one of the worst articles ever published on 'Comment is Free'.

Alderman's argument is that the reason why people don't like immigrants today is because of their impact on the social infrastructure, unlike one hundred years ago when his ancestors came to this country and there was no state support. To improve the reception and settlement of immigrants in our country, he therefore suggests cutting back on the support that newcomers to this country are entitled to by the state.

The main problem with this argument (or, one of the main arguments, anyway) is that resentment against immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century was even more virulent than that which people experience today, from individual acts of violence to riots. Alderman knows this, because he writes about it at the start of the same article.

Truth is, anyone has the freedom to argue that 'Enoch was right'. But it's those people and their pitiful arguments who are preventing us from having a proper informed debate about immigration, not their opponents.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why are so many people leaving the UK?

I've searched in vain but I can't find what Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch has to say about reports that emigration from Britain is at a record high. Which is odd, because he's normally the first to comment when reports come out of people moving to another country in record numbers, especially when many of whom have absolutely no intention of working, refuse to learn the language and have taken advantage of European Union laws on freedom of movement.

Deprived of Sir Andrew's wisdom, I turned to the Daily Telegraph's website, which has a discussion article called 'Why are so many people leaving the UK?' Excluding the openly fascist comments, it features:

*"America has been my home for forty years now, but my husband and I have always planned upon returning to England to retire. I now realise that my dream and our plans must be revised and we must look elsewhere...There are still some beautiful areas of Englnad where one can "hide" for a while, but for how long? Seven million emigrants [sic] scheduled to arrive by the year 2031! I think it will become almost impossible to find a quiet and green spot and there is nothing left to do but watch it happen." [I want to move to Britain and have somewhere nice to live, and I think it is disgusting that other people want to move to Britain and have somewhere nice to live].

*"I left the UK for a better life. Also because the political elite decided to import en mass the third world, thus you became third world. On visits I hear reasonable, fair minded people talking about very drastic action having to be taken to resolve a number of social ills including uncontrolled immigration and "refugees"." [I moved to another country for a better life. I am very angry that there are other people who have moved to another country to seek a better life].

*"We left in '81 for job reasons and have been back many times. Each visit I feel more like a foreigner...It is not being racist [(a)] to point out that Great Britain is a small island and unlimited immigration has hurt. There is simply not enough room [(b)]." [(a) Oh yes it is, (b) oh yes there is.]

*I suppose you have to look at it in the same way as Germany in the late 1930's. The people who could and saw what was coming under National Socialism, moved out and some came to the UK as a safe haven until Fascism was defeated and could move back if they so wished. [words fail me, but at least whoever wrote this doesn't have a vote here any more]

*"Having seen what the left wing politicians have done to my country over the past 15 years it makes me want to cry." [so that's Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and, erm, John Major]

*"The country is overpopulated and there is no government that has had the courage to curb the immigration laws, they have welcomed everyone with open arms and now the British people are paying the price for it! All of this and the Nanny state it has become it was a no brainer for me to immigrate 12 years ago." [But, but, I thought that in Daily Telegraph world it was the Labour government which let everyone in? We haven't been in power for 12 years?!]

*"It is unofficially Government policy to run this country's decent people into the ground - it's called punishing people for voting Conservative. Therefore, more of these horrid right-wing
fascists might leave. Clever, but a sad truth." [Damn it, our secret is out!!]

And on the other side of the debate:

*"I am sick of the ex-pats crowing how great it is in another country, this is a British paper for British peoples not the wingers [sic] who have run away."

*"England is great and you should all stay there. Posted by Craig (Aussie) - Brisbane"

The laziness theory of unemployment

Chris Dillow has a good post about the real facts about unemployment, here. Some right wing creatures in the comments contend that unemployment is caused by people being lazy, with such potent arguments as:

"If I was being flippant I’d say the evidence is my local social housing estate, which I drive by on my way to work every morning. There’s no sign of movement, apart from the satellite dishes, as no one there works...The real problem is that unskilled people are unwilling or unable to accept the consequences of their life choices/their situation, believing themselves to be somehow worth more than the market will pay them, they use this insult to their over inflated self esteem as justification for doing nothing at taxpayers expense. A decade of brainwashing about “not stigmatizing poverty” allows them to sit in front of the TV all day with a clear conscience. "

So...people are unemployed because they think (shock horror) they are worth more than £5.50 per hour, so instead they choose to receive 50 or 60 quid per week. The robust evidence base for this being, 'I know what they are like, I drive past them every day.'

If out of work benefits had increase in line with average earnings since 1981, they would be £30 per week higher then they are. In real terms, the value of out of work benefits has fallen massively over the past three decades. And yet the number of people out of work has increased substantially.

The 'laziness theory of unemployment', when applied to recent British history, goes like this:

After the First World War, British people got lazy, and became increasingly lazy in the 1930s. When the Second World War started, they stopped being lazy, and continued not to be lazy up until about the mid 1970s. Then they suddenly became very lazy indeed in the 1980s, before becoming a bit less lazy in the 1990s and through to the present day.

Put like that, it sounds ridiculous. And it is. And we need to make sure everyone knows just how ridiculous it is.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Joined up thinking

The Tory proposals to require 'high spending' councils to have a referendum before putting up the council tax, instead of capping them, has the potential to cause real chaos. Councils would have an incentive to put the most popular items in their budgets up as an alternative (no one is going to say 'if you don't vote for this 5% increase, we are going to have to reduce our IT procurement budget'). I wonder which would be the first area to decide to, e.g. shut all their old people's care homes rather than pay an extra £2 a year in council tax.

What I can't decide is whether this is a stunt to get good headlines, or whether it is a sign of the slash and burn, small government crazies getting their way.

One effect of these local referendums would be to absolutely hammer the voluntary sector. Charities which are involved in delivering services for the council would find that they were being asked to do the same or more with smaller budgets, and small groups which rely on the council for grant funding would find that there is less money to go round.

It's worth bearing this in mind next time Cameron or Duncan Smith go on about how they want to let the voluntary sector play a bigger role in tackling social breakdown.

Quick quiz. Given the choice between cutting taxes on property (today's policy), and giving money to charities which work with people who are socially excluded (last month's policy), which do you think a Tory government would do?

A new kind of politics

Via Dave Osler, the Financial Times reports that the government has spent £2.9 million on 'listening events' on issues such as nuclear power and the NHS.

Getting people to participate in decision-making, if done well, is well worth the money. For example, if money had been spent involving people in deciding how the tax credit system should have been designed before it was first launched, then billions of pounds would have been saved.

But there is a big difference between getting people to participate in decision-making and consultating them about plans drawn up by people in power. It also raises alarm bells when reference is made to the people involved in citizens' juries being 'representatives of their communities'. They can't be representative unless the community has been able to elect them, and has some way of holding them accountable. People on citizens' juries represent only themselves.

All of this leads to cynicism about the process and the outcomes, which happen conveniently to support what the government was going to do anyway.

If Gordon Brown genuinely wants a 'new kind of politics', then we could use participatory methods to talk about some of the big issues facing the country - from climate change to welfare reform. Rather than the government coming up with its own plans and then consulting on them, people could be given the opportunity to take part in developing the ideas about what the priorities should be, and it would then be up to our representatives to decide which ideas are possible, and would be the best and most effective ways of solving the problem.

There would have to be resources available to make sure that people were not excluded from taking part, and it might even cost as much as Opinion Leader Research get to run their events, but it would be worth it.

Of course, there's no reason why anyone should have to wait for politicians to be convinced of the benefits of participatory decision-making. In a village in Lithuania, elderly people had been ignored by their local representatives for many years in a range of requests. So before the elections, they all got together, and talked about what the most important things which needed doing in their area were. Then they put these together into a charter, and asked all candidates to sign up to the charter if they wanted the support of all the elderly people in the village. Within six months of the election, they'd got more of what they wanted then they'd seen in years and years.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What does the NHS need? More money

You know how some people go on about how much money Gordon Brown has spent on the health service, and how the fact that there are still problems, such as a 'postcode lottery' when it comes to providing new medicines, shows that the money has been wasted?

Here's another take, from an American health expert arguing the pros and cons of the USA moving to a universal health care system. He rejects the arguments that this would reduce innovation and stop people getting the best possible cutting-edge healthcare (which is the argument of the Republican Party), but adds the following caution:

"None of which is to say a universal coverage system couldn't have a chilling effect on innovation while severely pinching access to medical care that is expensive but, arguably, worth it. All it would take was a system that had both a rigid budget and very low funding. The British have such a system, or something approximating it. Even after some recent spending increases, they still devote just 9 percent of the gross domestic product to health care, less than many European nations and a little more than half of what the United States spends. And that shows up in the availability of cutting-edge care. Relative to other highly developed countries, Britain is one of the last to get the latest cancer drugs to its patients. And that probably helps explain why British cancer survival rates generally lag, too.

But few of the plans under discussion in this country would create such a strict budget. And nobody in this country seriously proposes reducing U.S. spending to British levels." (my emphasis)

The American healthcare system comes in for a lot of justified criticism, but it's worth remembering that they, along with European countries which offer the very best in innovative healthcare with the latest drugs, spend much more per person on healthcare than we in Britain have chosen to do.

There's a debate about how to change the structures of the NHS, and what to prioritise, and getting those things right is far from unimportant. But if we want the very best healthcare in this country, then we have to pay for it. The people who are saying that all the extra money has been wasted are the same ones who ran down health spending so that it lagged so far behind that of countries like France or Switzerland. Compared to the inefficient American healthcare system, the NHS gives vastly better value for each pound spent. The problem is not enough pounds, not that the money we spend is wasted.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The wisdom of the lynch mob

Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror:

"I've been meaning to do a piece for a while asking why so many England fans have developed a pathological hatred for Frank Lampard. It was going to be along the lines, "He is a good footballer who works hard, scores, creates and isn't actually fat. So why the lynch mob?"

Until I read the former public schoolboy saying this: "I am a Tory and I really like David Cameron."

And I realised how much we tend to underestimate the intelligence of the lynch mob."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ron and Mike

It's hard work trying to find a suitable successor to George Bush, particularly when prospective candidates have to win the approval of the Republican 'base' before trying to defeat Hilary Clinton. Two Republican candidates who have been gaining momentum just recently are Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee.

Ron Paul wants to abolish income tax and most of the American federal government, including the Federal Reserve, and believes that the biggest problem with the American healthcare system (and just about everything else) is that there is too much government interference. He is immensely popular on the internet, and recently raised $4 million in just one day from 37,000 individual donors.

Mike Huckabee is a social conservative, much loved by a certain kind of religious voter. These voters are totally opposed to abortion, and are concerned about immigration. They therefore gave Huckabee a rapturous reception when he explained that, “Sometimes we talk about why we’re importing so many people in our workforce."

"It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Free speech and the fascists

I am sorry to hear that my new friend Dr Evan Harris is determined to spoil our friendship by speaking at the Oxford Union alongside Nick Griffin and David Irving, in support of the motion, 'This house believes that even extremists have a right to freedom of expression within the law'.

Now I believe that extremists have a right to freedom of expression within the law. Messrs Irving and Griffin, along with many other extremists of all shapes and sizes, have websites, for example, which contain masses of information about their views and which anyone with an internet connection and rudimentary google skills can access. If they were to bring their soapbox and stand in the main street of any town, they could talk to shoppers and passers by to their hearts' content. The BNP, in the few parts of the country where it can find enough supporters, can produce leaflets and shove them through people's doors.

Furthermore, I believe that it is right to challenge extremists and show their ideas to be false, particularly when it comes to Holocaust deniers and fascists. Again, there are some excellent places in which this kind of debate can take place. The courtroom, for example, has proven a very effective forum for debunking Irving's books and proving him to be a Holocaust denier, and for convicting many of Nick Griffin's strongest supporters as are violent thugs who have broken a range of different laws. Running successful election campaigns against the BNP whenever they stand for election is another important duty.

However, if I were to design a format which would offer the fewest possible opportunities for debating productively with extremists, I could hardly do better than a private members' club full of people who have an overinflated view of their own intellect, with only the most limited opportunity for cross examination, in a debate where Dr Evan Harris seeks to challenge the extremist views of Irving and Griffin by speaking on the same side as them in a debate about free speech.

It's a bad idea to invite fascists to speak at the Oxford Union because it increases the chance that fascist thugs will beat people up, because it gives them credibility and free publicity and because there is absolutely no way that they can lose from it, but even if you think that debating them is the way to expose their arguments and that your 'point of information' is going to make them see the error of their ways, surely you would hold a debate about any of the extreme things that they believe, rather than picking an issue on which they agree with the liberals?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Harrow Tories more trick than treat

You may recall that one of David Cameron's big themes is that more should be done to support the voluntary sector, and local community organisations. Local Tories are still struggling with this a bit.

Tories in Harrow, for example, had a meeting in which they rejected bids for funding from groups in the Turkish speaking community, some African communities and the Afro-Caribbean and Bangladeshi communities, and agreed to cut the overall grants budget in real terms next year. Then they all put on Halloween masks.

Now some would regard this as rather insensitive, but, as Cllr Rye (leader of Harrow Council) explained, the wearing of the masks was just a bit of fun, "we are very happy that we enjoy what we do and that's what we were doing."

Going 'trick or treating' can, indeed, be very enjoyable. But is it really part of the new compassionate Conservativism to start playing 'trick or treat' with the voluntary sector?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Good Old Boy #38

Rick Muir has a good article on Comment is Free defending multiculturalism and making some sensible suggestions.

The comments are hostile, and fall into two categories:

1) "I am too thick to understand the argument that Rick is making. I am angry about this, and it is the fault of the author."

2) "I have not read the article, but I believe it is about 'multiculturalism'. This has provoked me to write on the internet about how I don't like immigrants."

All of which made 'pregthwr's' comment all the funnier:

"This so-called Rick Muir is typical of the chianti-swilling, stoke-newington living chatterarti who are destroying Christmas and this country.

Mince pies? I bet they are organic mince pies made by Guatamalan immigrants not good wholesome ENGLISH mince pies.

Yes ENGLAND! Have you ever heard of that so-called Rick - I think not.

Only if the common-sense patriots who comment on 'articles' such as this are put in charge of the country rather than muesli-munching PPEists who have never done real job in their life will we have any future.

So in summation so-called Rick - BOO! CiF posters - HUZZAH


Friday, November 02, 2007

The return of the nasty party

Hopi Sen analyses the Tory plans on welfare reform in another of his excellent posts.

The Tory proposals are currently at the level of telling people they don’t get any benefits if they turn down a job, any job. But they will be publishing detailed proposals, based on those in Wisconsin in the USA, in January.

The idea of 'tough love', of helping people out of poverty by cutting off their benefits and forcing them to get a job (which is how the Tories will try to portray it) will appeal to a lot of people, and unless challenged, journalists will uncritically repeat the big lie that it will help cut poverty and is based on 'successful' programmes.

It was encouraging to hear Peter Hain recently say that this was a line in the sand, that Labour wouldn't follow the Tories on this. Labour needs to get back into the habit of demolishing Tory proposals, and there is no better place to start than this one. The government also needs to clearly explain what its alternative is - hard to do because it involves lots of little tweaks to the current system rather than one big change, but no less important for that.

What David Cameron is proposing is as extreme as anything Thatcher did, and based on the evidence of where it has been tried, it will have the same results as Thatcherism did - more young people sleeping rough (the return of Cardboard City), more children growing up in poverty, more families breaking up because they can't cope, and all for a system which will end up proving more expensive then the one that it replaces.

The tragedy with Welfare Reform in the USA is that during the good economic times of the mid 1990s, they had a chance to reform the system to get people into good jobs, provide more job training and childcare, but instead they ended up with Newt Gingrich's bill which forced people into work without any support when the economy turned bad.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Good Old Boy #38

A slight setback for the Green Party's 'community campaigning' :

Cllr Treehugger (Green) wrote to a resident of his ward, saying that he'd had complaints about the dustmen not clearing up after their collections, and asking for Mr A to keep an eye out and let him know if this was the case.

Mr A responded by saying that Cllr Treehugger was paid quite enough money to do this himself, and that it was about time he started doing the job he was paid to do. Mr A noted the leaves were not being swept up in the street, leaving old people to fall over and the NHS to incur costs, and Cllr Treehugger should sort this out. He also noted that some graffiti had not been removed, and a "no motorbikes" sign had not been installed, in spite of Cllr Treehugger's promises on his last walkabout.

Mr A is still awaiting a reply.

[names have been changed to protect the innocent]