Thursday, 29 April 2010

Walk in the Woods

The Mersey Forest people are promoting some local guided woodland walks in May. It's part of Walk in the Woods month.

Theres a website here where you can find details. Some of the walks are very local - there's one along the Speke Garston coastal reserve for example and another in Woolton Woods.

Obviously I'll be doing my own walking which mainly involves gates, paths and letterboxes, but some of these sound great. Do have a look.

Friends of Garston Park - meeting date reminder

A quick note to say that the next general meeting of the Friends of Garston Park is on the 21st May at 6 30 at Long Lane Church.

Do come along if you want to find out more, want to get involved, or have something to say.

If you can't come along but want to know more, please drop me an e mail at and I'll make sure you get onto our mailing list.

Friends of Garston Park is a group working to support and improve our park. We are for residents, park users, local businesses - anyone really with an interest.

Cowley Street .. look away now!

When you are a Parliamentary Candidate you get huge volumes of stuff - post, texts and e mails (mainly e mails now). Some of this is from residents, wanting your views on various things. Some is from organisations, wanting your views or wanting to persuade you of a particular point of view. And some is from Party Headquarters - briefings on how to answer various questionnaires and questions.

I know, from having been a party HQ volunteer during a General Election, that loads of work is put into providing these briefings.

But I have a confession to make. When it comes to briefings on how to answer questionnaires or residents' queries, I haven't read a single one.

I have been involved in the party long enough now to know what policy is and more importantly to be able to apply the principles we believe in to the issues that come up. And I've been around for long enough now to know what I think ( and boy do we Lib Dems like to think for ourselves!)

That's not to say the briefings aren't useful for some people. Being a candidate can be stressful and if you are new to it you need all the support you can get.

But I decided at the start of this Campaign that I would work out my own responses and on those rare occasions when they weren't our official policy I would say so.

Obviously as a Lib Dem I do agree with Lib Dem policies! But there are a few areas on which my view differs a little and in these cases I am happy to say so. I had a questionnaire the other day for example about troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. I'd like the troops to come back earlier than the timescale in our manifesto, so that's what I said.

I do also believe that the use of standard replies is wrong when constituents, or groups of constituents, have taken the trouble to produce a series of thought through questions that obviously matter to them.

Of course the downside of this approach is that I am spending more time than otherse writing e mails and letters but it is actually rather rewarding.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

National Blood Service

I'm off later today to an event supporting the National Blood Service in Liverpool.

The Blood Service, which has its office in Speke but which also has donation centres at different locations, does really important work.

I am a blood donor myself but there is a constant need to recruit new people and to maintain blood stocks. Today's event is partly about persuading businesses to give their staff the chance to take a bit of time off to give blood.

Moderation back on

I have just had to delete a very recent stream of abuse about a third party from the comments on one of the older posts. Annoyingly this means, to be on the safe side re defamation etc, I am going to have to put moderation back on. Sorry if this means there is a delay in posting things but I am just not prepared to put up with that sort of misuse of the blog.

Should you know where your candidates live?

When I filled in my nomination form details for Garston and Halewood I noticed that the forms had changed.

Instead of just writing on your address, you were given the option of ticking a box to keep your address secret.

If you did that your address wouldn't appear on the ballot paper. Instead there would be a vague statement about living in a particular constituency.

Apparently this is the first time since the Ballot Act of 1872 that some candidates have decided to keep their addresses secret this way.

I'm told that the arguments in favour of allowing this included fears that MPs might be worried about speaking up if people knew their exact address or that the publication of the address might make it easier for people wanting to harass them to track them down.

But surely where you live is one of the facts that people take into account when deciding how to vote? It's hard to argue for transparency if you won't even say where you live.

Like most, if not all, local councillors I publish my home address and home contact details. And I had no problem putting my home address in Garston on the ballot paper.

But I understand that quite a few candidates across the country have chosen to keep theirs secret. A work colleague who lives in Cheshire and has a postal vote tells me she is appalled that the Tories' George Osborne is one of these to make this choice.

Perhaps this is a rule change that needs to be rechanged after the election.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Deadline for proxy votes

If you realise you are going to be away on polling day there is just time to get a proxy vote (someone else goes to vote for you)

The form needs to be back to the Municipal Buildings in Liverpool by 5pm today (if that is where you live)

You can download a form from the electoral commission website or here

Monday, 26 April 2010

Community clean up -15th May

Three of the churches in Garston are again this year organising their annual "litter pick".

Last near nearly 70 people were involved and the organisers say people are welcome to join in for the whole session, or just a part of it.

It starts at the Long Lane Church at 9 am (with breakfast) and finishes at the Bridge Chapel on Heath Road around one (for lunch). The other church involved is All Souls.

The Council provides litter picks (the long things you can use to pick up stuff without bending down!), gloves and bags and then comes and picks the bags up later. Volunteers also get high visibility jackets to wear.

The organisers say that everyone is welcome. Children need to be accompanied by an adult.

Fingers crossed for good weather!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Dear Maria Eagle...

I am somewhat bemused by the statements on your leaflet, and those of your Labour council candidates.

You appear to be telling voters in Garston and Halewood that in the General Election the Liberal Democrats are in third place.

This is odd because five years ago you stood next to me on the stage at the count when the result was read out. And unless you are suffering from severe memory loss you will remember that you won, I came second (yes me the Liberal Democrat) and the Conservatives were third. It wasn't even close for second and third was it? If you remember I got 33.5 percent of the vote and the Conservatives less than 10 percent.

Now whether or not statistics are your thing, you must surely recognise that 33 is a higher number than 10.

Of course you may argue that the boundaries of the constituency have changed. We are now Garston and Halewood not Liverpool Garston.

OK that's true and there cannot logically be a past result. But as I am sure you are aware the UK Polling organisation has calculated notional results for constituencies with boundary changes. Again this shows the Lib Dems in a clear second place. UK Polling has a website and I am sure it will take a matter of minutes for you to verify this if you haven't already.

Of course you may take the view that you are providing a public service in informing people about national opinion and that is why you have chosen to use figures from the whole of the UK rather than Garston. It's a weak argument but let's for the moment persist with it. Surely when we use statistics we use the most up to date ones we can find. And since 2005 we have been innundated with opinion polls the average of the recent of which currently show your party in third place. No doubt your desire for accuracy will persuade you to mention these in future!

See you at the count!


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Time is so tight...

.. that I expect I won't have time to moderate the blog very often. That would mean comments would sit around for quite a while before being published. So as a short term experiment I have taken the moderation off.

I will check comments when I can and anything I believe to be defamatory or unfair to a third party (of whatever political persuasion) will be deleted.

Investigation - I need the facts

Yesterday several people called me about an incident in which a constituent was arrested. They made a lot of serious allegations which, if true, are really shocking. They asked me to look into it.

Sadly however, despite at least three of the callers promising to e mail me details (time , place, source etc) nothing has arrived.

So, if you are reading this can you please e mail me the details. My e mail address is

Anti BNP event

This (posted below) might be of interest. It's come to me from a group organising campaigning against the BNP.

Dear Friends,

Just a reminder that our final benefit night before the election takes
place this Saturday (April 24th), 8.30pm - midnight, Pilgrim pub, Pilgrim
St. £3/£6.

We've got folk and ceilidh bands, and an open mic session for singers and
musicians to get up and entertain.

All proceeds go to our campaign against the BNP between now and polling
day. We're going to cover as many homes as we can in the areas where they
have candidates. Leafleting this weekend and next.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Party funding

A supporter wrote to me the other day to say he supposed the Garston and Halewood Lib Dems didn't have the same sort of financial resources as the other parties.

He's certainly right - although it isn't always the party with the most cash that wins.

That did get me thinking about party finance and donations though.

As parties feel the need to mount ever more expensive campaigns, the pressure to accept large donations gets greater and greater. And you can get a feeling that big donors are simply attempting to buy influence.

And even if large donors are not trying to buy anything, the mere fact of the donation can limit a politicians ability to properly do their job (which can't be a good thing).

The current rules on donations means that sums over a certain amount have to be declared and are published. You can look up details of party donations on the Electoral Commission website.

If you look up Liverpool Garston and Garston and Halewood (because the constituency has changed its name this time) you'll see a donation from me to the Lib Dems. You'll also see a range of donations to the Labour Party including South Liverpool Housing and Peel (the bit responsible for the airport).

Now both SLH and Liverpool airport are significant organisations in Garston and Halewood so you might argue that they should want to make donations. But doesn't the acceptance of these make it harder for Labour politicians to disagree with these organisations?

There may be times when the Labour MP or Councillors need to argue against something SLH wants to do. Or there may be times when the airport's expansion plans need voting on. Do these donations make it more difficult for the politicians to be seen to be making a fair decision?

Personally I would rather we were all able to raise the money we need for campaigning through small individual donations. But certainly party funding is something that needs looking at as part of a bigger reform of politics.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Accessible Voting

The Disability charity Scope is running a campaign to make polling stations more accessible. They've got a great website where you can look up details for the polling station near you and also take part in a survey to report back.

Even though more and more people are registering for postal votes, accessibility at the actual polling stations is vital and although most local councils will review their locations on a regular basis this is really welcome as a campaign.

In Liverpool, as I discovered recently, we also involve an organisation that supports blind and partially sighted people in making the Presiding Officers (they're the people in charge at the actual polling stations) aware of the issues that would face someone coming in to vote who is blind or has sight problems. I am told we are the only authority to do this.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

I agree with Nick T shirts

I'm told that "I agree with Nick" was one of the most used phrases in the Leaders' Debate

And apparently you can now buy T shirts to show you agree too!

Here's the link

Out in Gateacre

I was out this morning with the Lib Dem team in Gateacre. We spent part of the time helping the Gateacre in Bloom people with a community clean up. Here's a picture of me weilding a litter picker cleaning up the stretch by the shops.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Policy views

As a candidate in the General Election I get asked a lot of questions. Some are about me personally (and I blogged a little earlier to give some more biographical details). Some are about specific local issues and some are about thoughts on policies or policy areas.

I am going to try to blog about some of these policy areas as the weeks go on. It's easy to miss things out though so if there is a subject you are particularly interested in do drop me an e mail. The best e mail address for me now is

The Leaders' Debates - a minority view!

As a Lib Dem I ought to be over the moon this morning about Nick Clegg's performance last night. He was certainly the best of the three in the debate, an opinion bourne out by a range of public polls and critics commentaries.

And I am of course pleased. As a Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Nick doing so well can only help me.

But I have to say I still wish we didn't have these debates.

I've blogged about this before, so this isn't a sudden opinion.

Not everything I said before was right. I did say I thought the debates would be a yawn a minute stream of soundbites, and actually the one last night was a lot livelier than that.

But I still maintain my opinion about the real problem.

Politics is, or should be, about ideas, policies.. about what sort of society we want. It should be about people choosing between approaches and ideals.

I already feel that politics in this country is becoming too Presidential, too fixed on a few lead characters.

These debates can only hasten that change.

We should be making our decisions based on principles and policies. Instead I fear that Presidential style debates will mean we end up making decisions based on whether or not someone made a gaffe on TV (remember George Bush looking at his watch) or whether someone made a good put down (remember the remark about Dan Quayle).

What's more, in a General Election we vote in constituencies and most of us aren't voting for the party leaders. I will be voting Paula Keaveney for example! My worry is that as more and more is transferred to this national Presidential approach, people will feel less and less interested in who actually they are choosing to represent them.

But putting all of this aside, if the Leaders' Debates become significant in terms of persuading voters, parties will have to choose leaders who are telegenic in a traditional way. What if you are very short? or very fat? or have a facial twitch? or a slight speech impediment? None of these should rule anyone out of being Prime Minister but I bet they'll start to.

So well done to Nick - but I still hope we don't have debates next time!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Lib Dem Manifesto

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto was launched yesterday. It's being produced in all sorts of versions, including audio and Easy Read. Here is a link to the manifesto on the website.

Validly nominated

All the official paperwork is done. I am now validly nominated as the Lib Dem candidate in the Garston and Halewood Constituency.

It's always a relief when the paperwork is sorted.. and four days ahead of deadline too!

Giving Blood

My wonderful PR students at Edge Hill University are doing two great campaigns this year. One is for a West Lancashire charity called Home Start. The other is for the National Blood Service in Liverpool.

In Liverpool their brief is to persuade employers in the Business District and City Centre to make it easier for staff to give blood at the Moorfields Centre. There's lots planned but this week they were not only out in Exchange Flags with the Blood Service van and stall - they also called in to Radio City and Radio Merseyside to get some coverage for the campaign.

I am a blood donor and I know how important it is to maintain stocks of blood. So many lives have been saved and operations made possible.

It's really great to see the students working so well on a campaign that could save lives.

I am really proud of all of them.

Monday, 12 April 2010

More about me.

I had an e mail from a constituent the other day pointing out that the available biographical material about myself is a bit on the thin side and that people might want to know more about me as a person. There will be more biographical material in some of the leaflets going out, and I have added a biographical section to However I thought I'd add a bit here too, so here goes. If you are the sort of person who finds this need to read on.

I am 50 and I live in Garston (Under the Bridge). I have a terraced house and although I am single I share it with two cats.

I work as a University Lecturer at Edge Hill University. I teach in the media department. My main subject is Public Relations but I also help with teaching about local government and politics for the journalism students. I do research as well as teaching and am currently looking at e communications in politics, at the way organisations lobby politicians and parliamentary candidates and at what employers would like to see in a Public Relations Degree.

Before working here I was a journalist for BBC local radio and then moved to working in PR and communications for a series of charities, including Save the Children and Action for Children.

I am a published author - Marketing for the Voluntary Sector, Kogan Page, 2001.

I keep my hand in with broadcasting when I can. Until recently I was the book reviewer on Radio Merseyside (am taking a break so the station isn't accused of political bias) and I do paper reviews on City Talk.

I love reading and one of my ambitions is to write a Detective Novel.

I am also a keen quizzer and have been on the BBC's Mastermind Programme answering questions on one of my all time favourite TV shows, Seinfeld, and on Liberal Prime Minister H H Asquith.

I also enjoy trying out new recipes (I became a vegetarian just over a year ago) and attempting to grow vegetables and herbs in my back yard.

I can drive but on the whole I don't, prefering public transport and cycling. I don't own a car any more.

I am a Councillor on the City Council and represent Cressington ward. I have however fought the General Election in this constituency twice before and so have developed quite some knowledge of issues whether they be in for example Gateacre, Woolton, Netherley, Belle Vale, Allerton, Garston, or Speke. The Halewood part of the constituency is newer to me but I have put some time in to learning the issues there too.

I have a lot of political interests including civil rights, the environment, overseas development and poverty.

One of my most abiding memories is of travelling to Mali with Save the Children and seeing just what a gulf there is between us and people struggling to survive in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Message to writer

This message will only make sense to one person but because the letter is anonymous I can't think of any other way of replying.

This is just to assure you that the issue you raised, plus the follow up details, has been passed on to the relevant people and I'll be staying in touch with them to remind them to pursue it.

Thanks for being in touch

Friday, 9 April 2010

Do you want trees?

I blogged a little while ago about doing some digging in Stamfordham Drive in Garston. We wanted to see if the ground would still be suitable for planting some trees. It was.

Some residents came to us as Councillors to say they'd like to see some trees there.

Now we need to see if that is a majority opinion or not.

So shortly a letter from the Council will be going out to ask residents in Stamfordham their views. I don't have the exact date for the letter but I'm mentioning it now so people can look out for it.

You're welcome to post your views on this blog too or drop me an e mail at

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Equality Pledge

When you are a Parliamentary Candidate you get contacted not just by constituents with questions but by all sorts of organisations either asking for views or for support. Actually its a great chance to talk about some big issues and principles that sometimes get lost in the minutiae of campaigning.

Over the last few weeks I've been in contact with some really great organisations and campaigns. It's impossible to talk about them all but I'll try to blog about some of the issues that are particularly important to me.

I want today to highlight the Equality Pledge. There's lots of evidence to show that a society that is more equal means better mental health, higher overal quality of living and so on. So today I signed the Equality Pledge which is organised by this organisation. Hopefully more candidates will sign up as this is one of those topics which we all ought to concentrate on.

Poll cards and deadlines

Just about all the poll cards for the local elections in Liverpool are out now. People will also be getting a second though, for the General Election. You don't actually need your poll card with you when you go to vote (although it makes it a bit easier when you get there if you have it)

There's still time to get on to the electoral roll to have a vote in both contests. The deadline to register is 20th April. That's also the deadline to apply if you want a postal vote but haven't asked for one yet.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

We're off!

Well the worst kept secret is out! Gordon Brown is off to the Palace today before an announcement of a General Election on 6th May (the same day as the local Election).

I'll be blogging about my campaign and the national campaign from now on as well as about my normal Council work.

Election literature is supposed to carry a "p and p". This is so that people can see who is responsible for it. Given the title of this blog I think its pretty obvious who is responsible but to be absolutely legally correct I'll repeat this "p and p" every now and then.

Published by Terry Van Eker promoting Paula Keaveney(Liberal Democrat) all at 75 Canterbury Street, Garston, L19 8LQ.

Fingerprinting staff

I'm doing a bit of a work at the moment looking into worries about an organisation fingerprinting its staff.

Can't say a lot right now as I am looking into it, but I hope to post again shortly.