Is Nick Clegg the one night stand of British politics people would rather just forget?

You know how it is. Whatever the reason, be it having a bit of a tiff with you current partner, perhaps they really miffed you off about something or were just getting on your nerves that night but it just happened. You decided to say sod them and hit the pub. Blasting away the frustration and annoyance with a few drinks and suddenly the world started to look a bit different. A few drinks more and you felt empowered as if you could take on the world. It’s then when it happened. In walked someone new you’d never seen before. Didn’t look much to start with but after a few drinks more and a bit of chit chat they appeared charming and everything different from what you’d become used to.

A few drinks more and you’d made up the decision, this person was wonderful, so refreshing to be with, they promised you everything you had been yearning for all these years. One thing led to another and that was it.

Then the next day you awake, a bit delirious to roll over and realise they weren’t quite what you recall from the night before. In fact, they’re pretty damn rough as hell and you wonder what possessed you but you make the best of a bad job, no one will ever know if you don’t mention it so you sneak out to pretend it never happened.

Then you realise this wasn’t just a simple one night stand, not something you could just get away with and go back to normal. No, this was the full on bunny boiler of a one night stand. They kept cropping up before you in different places. They’d taken your telephone number and kept trying to call you at the most difficult of times even though you’d realised your mistake and just wanted things to go back to the way they used to be. They’d do things to make your life more difficult and simply not get the hint that you’re not interested anymore.

The problem is they just wouldn’t go away. They’d continue to keep making your life more difficult for years to come, all the time you wishing you just hadn’t done it.

Yesterday there was a by-election in the ward just across the border from me in Wolverhampton; Bilston North. It’s not natural LibDem territory by any means but it’s very telling to watch what happened to the LibDem vote there. I think a fair comparison would be to the result in the 2008 local government elections to avoid the disparities of the relative turnout at this year’s combined elections which give even more damning figures. However between 2008, a particularly bad year for Labour when we lost the seat to the Tories which we gained back last night, the LibDem vote is down 75%, coming last of 5 behind both the BNP and UKIP.

I’ve been doing psephology for more years than I care to think but on the back of the recent Bloxwich West by-election in Walsall there is a distinct pattern emerging in the Midlands. The LibDems are losing votes heavily and with all things being equal, they’re not just staying at home but actively switching and it looks like they’re mostly going to Labour.

Personally I’m not surprised. As someone who does the rounds on campaigning there’s a message coming from LibDem voters that just keeps cropping up. “This isn’t what we voted for”. During the combined General and local elections, LibDem leaflets were ablaze with Nick Clegg. Local candidates described (rather dodgily in my mind) as Nick Cleggs man/woman in (insert area). Those familiar with LibDem campaigning practices know all too well if there’s a populist bandwagon to jump on, you’ll find a LibDem already sitting there. I can’t help thinking that there’ll be a lot of local LibDems that wish they hadn’t played that card now people have woken up to the realisation he’s little more than a quite right-wing neo-liberal wolf in sheep’s clothing who could quite possibly destroy their party along the way.

Walsall has a new political blogger

I’m sure I really shouldn’t be giving linkage on this one but those from round these parts will almost certainly have come across the name Derek Bennett at some point. Local Ukipper, I think even at one time he lived two streets away from me and lets say that he’s probably the antithesis of pretty much everything I believe in.

That said, I just came across his blog which has been going since August so he’s relatively new and half an hour is enough to catch up on his back catalogue of posts of which some are rip-roaringly funny, from my political point of view anyway.

Personally my favourites are the plug for a book about the Fourth German Reich which apparently is the EU although I’m sure that would come as a surprise to most Germans and I have to admit I’ve heard some emotive language used to describe Post Office closures but I think a ‘Post Office Holocaust’ is probably pushing the realms of reason a bit far.

That said, drop by, have a laugh, it cheered up my night. Right, back to work, important stuff to do.

I do love good balanced reporting

Over to the Express and Star for another installment of local taxation rises. This time with Walsall Council announcing a 2.94% increase which is heralded in the Express and Star with the headline ‘Tax rise lowest in area’.

There are two issues that seem to crop up in relation to this. Firstly that I questioned as to why the article on council tax rises for Wolverhampton only reported the ‘Band D’ figure and it’s good to see that the Express and Star have reported the actual figures for all the bands for Walsall but anyone would think the Express and Star were biased and I’m sure it would have nothing whatsoever to do with the political control in the respective boroughs.

However, and this really does indicate rather poor journalism in the use of the headline. Now I’m not exactly sure what the Express and Star determines to be ‘area’. Is it Wolverhampton and Walsall? In that case then yes, factually accurate but at lease from my perspective, if we are talking about comparisons then I would consider ‘area’ to mean the four Black Country boroughs (please, no arguments about the boundaries of the Black Country) of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell.

This is strange because Sandwell Council put out this press release the other day.

Now forgive me for questioning the mathematically competency of your average Express and Star hack but isn’t 2.9% less than 2.94%?

That said and I’m sure like any other householder, the figure that’s really important to me is the bottom line actually cash amount.

I know I should do a nice table with all the bands in it but it’s late and I can’t be bothered so here’s ‘Band A’ as that’s what is of more concern to me in actually living in one.

Sandwell: £855.88
Wolverhampton: £941.52
Walsall: £948.94

Dudley don’t announce theirs till March 3rd so we’ll have to wait on them but it’s fair to say, Walsall, despite the nice headlines isn’t exactly the cheapest place to live. Let’s not get on to the quality of services either shall we.

Why band D?

The annual rounds of Council Tax increases are underway and the papers do love these ‘Shock horror tax up by X amount headlines’ but I always wondered why they use band D properties as the example of how much extra actual money it’s going to cost?

Wolverhampton recently announced their increases in Council Tax and dutifully there was the Express&Star with a handy helper of this will cost the average band D property household an extra £64.68 a year.

Then I thought well, I’ve got a lot of friends and family in Wolverhampton and none of them live in a band D property, the odd few in band B but mostly in band A so I had a little look over at the ONS for a breakdown.

Of the 104,059 properties in Wolverhampton, only 6,064 are in and D, that’s 5.83%. However, there’s 55,004 band A properties (52.86%) and 21,984 band B properties (21.13%). So even though the overwhelming majority (73.99%) of properties are in band A or B, the media quotes a figure that is only indicative of what will be the actual money increase for people living in 5.83% of households.

I know it’s probably a bit much to ask or expect the local printed press to do a few sums and provide some actual public information so that everyone could see the exact amount of extra money they’ll have to pay in the coming year but what is the point of using band D as a comparison when only a small minority of people actually live in properties of that type.

Surely they should try and inform the vast majority of people what they’re likely to be paying extra which in the case of Wolverhampton would be all those in band A and B.

Just a thought, or are all the band D properties in Tettenhall?

Update: Not really an update as I’m still writing but I had to check. Banged in a postcode for a part of Tettenhall and shock horror, there’s more band D properties there (25.06%) than any other band. I sometimes wonder if they should rename the paper the Tettenhall Star.

Backing the Black Country

It’s time to start mobilising those votes for the Black Country’s Urban Park bid for the People’s 50Million lottery funding.

If you’re not aware of the competition, it will be broadcast on ITV with a phone vote but you can already vote online here.

If you want to see full details of the bid for the Black Country Urban Park then there’s a dedicated website already set up for it here.

Personally I’m most excited about the prospect of opening up the Seven Sisters limestone mines under Wren’s Nest Hill as a tourist centre. Sadly public access to it isn’t allowed at the moment but apparently some of the underground caverns are like cathedrals in size and truly awe inspiring.

So the message is simple. Get voting and support the Black Country Urban Park bid. Not my thing but for those that partake, there’s apparently one of those Facebook groups set up for it here and for those wishing to show their support on their own website I’ve knocked up a few buttons.

As with all image content on this site, unless otherwise stated, it is free for anyone to use and original larger images are available on request in xcf format or if you want another format just say.

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Our first image is a montage of the clock tower at Walsall Arboretum and the Farley clock tower in Greets Green, West Bromwich to symbolise the creation of a green corridor between the two towns with public spaces, cycleways and visitor centre starting at the Walsall Arboretum and finishing right in the centre of West Bromwich, or the other way round if you like.

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Our second image is that of the canal in Wolverhampton which if the bid is successful in the public vote would be developed into a major tourist attraction and community space.

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I’m reliably informed that this is one of the underground limestone caverns of the Seven Sisters development at Wren’s Nest, amazing what a treasure is underneath that hill ready to be explored.

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Again, reliably informed that this is one of the many underground canals leading between the seven sisters caves in Dudley.

Finally, for those of a technical nature, that little slideshow of the images running in the left hand sidebar isn’t Flash so sorry if anyone wants it, it’s not possible to download and use. It’s actually a nice bit of AJAX that I’ve been playing around with. Not perfect, knocks an alignment out on page load but it won’t be up there forever and I’ve been meaning to have a play with it for a while.