I'm listening to coverage of the Lib Dem conference and the two big things that come across are: Nick Clegg's apology over the tuition fees pledge and the line that Tories are evil and it's only the presence of the Lib Dems in government stopping us from delivering our evil agenda.
These two points are closely linked.
Second point first. The "Tories are evil" narrative is short sighted and counter-productive. It is clearly being deployed by senior Lib Dems in an attempt to keep their grass-roots onside, it isn't working because the more the Tories are painted in such negative terms the more Lib Dem activists will ask why their MPs are in bed with us.
It is a line which doesn't stand up to even the most superficial examination. As was shown with the Lib Dems plans to screw up the House of Lords, if a policy really is unpopular with the Conservatives we have the numbers to kill it off. Tax cuts for lower paid workers and way of helping bright, but poor, kids get on in education and in the Conservative party's DNA.
The Tories are evil line, shows a habitual dishonesty in the Lib Dems relationship with their voters and supporters as shown in the tuition fees pledge. You will notice that the apology is for signing the pledge rather than breaking it. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have both tied themselves up in knots trying to defend their actions, it would be easier for them to tell the truth; they never believed that they would get anywhere near government so felt it was safe to make a whole host of uncosted and undeliverable promises. Now that they are in government they realise that they will never be able to do that again.
If the Lib Dems want this coalition to last until the next election they will need to get out of the habit of lying for short term political gain.
The news was that the number of fires in London has more than halved over the last decade and is now at its lowest point since records began in 1966. In 2001 there were 55,063 - around 150 blazes each day, by last year that figure was down to 26,845 fires, around 74 each day, a 51 per cent drop. In 1966, when records began, there were 30,436 fires. The number of house fires in London has also fallen, by more than a quarter (26 per cent), from 8,940 in 2001 to 6,618 in 2011.
The London Fire Brigade has implamented a rigourous program of preventative work to reduce the risk of fire. Visiting vulnerable and high risk members of the community, installing smoke alarms, giving fire saftey advice, visiting schools, working with the furnature industry, architecture and building industries to design fire risk out of products and building. This work has undoubtably saved lives, the figures show that Londoners are now safer from fire than ever before. Yet, no interest from the media.
Clearly I, and everyone else in the Fire Authority and Fire Brigade, will work to ensure that these figures keep going in the right direction but it would be nice if the media were a bit more willing to recognise the Fire Brigade's sucess.
The 2012 Games are over, our Olympic and Paralympic athletes have achieved more than we could have hoped for and deserve the praise that they will receive from the crowds at today's parade.
In addition to them the civil engineers who built the venues, athlete's village and other infrastructure deserve our thanks, as do the members of the organising committee, officials from the sporting bodies, the sponsor companies, members of the emergency services, the army of volunteers, members of the armed forces, transport workers and everyone else who helped make the Games such a huge success. Many of their contributions will have been behind the scenes and not formally recognised but they will know, in their own hearts, that they played a part in putting on one of the greatest events that the world has seen.
Over the last six weeks London has been shown off to the world and the feedback has been fantastic, international visitors have showered us with unsolicited praise. Just as the athletes surpassed the high targets that they were set, so London and Londoners have excelled in providing a warm, welcoming and impressive reception to the millions of visitors that we have had.
The years leading up to the games and the last six weeks in particular have reinforced my huge pride in our city and I feel that we have every right to claim that London is the greatest city in the world.
Today's announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister shows the Lib Dems in the worst possible light. He said that Lords Reform is being dropped because the Conservative back-benchers will not support it and therefore the Lib Dems will not support the boundary review.
Revenge, retaliation, childishness, self serving? Take your pick.
Let's just remind ourselves about the relevant part of the coalition agreement:
We will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. We will whip both Parliamentary parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.
Last time I checked we had a referendum on the AV system in May 2001, at a time of the Lib Dems choosing, and it was defeated. The boundary review doesn't have, and never had, anything to do with Lords Reform and no amount of retrofitting justifications will change that.
And before any Lib Dems claim that the boundary review was some Tory germandering exercise they might want to explain why it was in their manifesto for the 2010 General Election.
I had the huge privilege of being at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, and it was fantastic.
Danny Boyle showed us all why he is one of the most artistically and commercially successful film-makers alive, he takes clichés and turns them on their heads. Picturesque historic Edinburgh, through the eyes of a drug addict in Trainspotting. London's busy tourist destinations but empty except for zombies in 28 Days Later and not the India of Taj Mahal but of poverty, organised crime and corruption in Slumdog Millionaire. If we wanted a "Last of the Summer Wine" version of Britain, Danny Boyle was the wrong man to ask.
The ceremony started with the picture postcard version of England, with village cricket, maypoles, milkmaids and livestock. That was quickly replaced with a journey through Britain's counter cultural history from the Jarrow marchers and Suffragettes, through the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones to a parachuting Monarch.
I was buzzing at every stage of the event, except for the parade of athletes which was great for them but less so for us. The transformation from rural idyll to an industrial nightmare at the instigation of Victorian Capitalists with their Orwellian "strange cylindrical hats" was visually stunning culminating in molten steel Olympic rings showering sparks from the sky.
Putting the quintessentially British NHS centre stage, both literally and metaphorically, was an overtly political statement, playing Chariots of Fire would have been nice, but Rowan Atkinson taking the piss out of it (and by cheating on a run also the Olympics a little bit too) was genius.
Sneaking an image of Ken Livingstone into one of the animated sections was understandable and forgiveable seeing as he played a pivotal role in securing the Games for London and dealing with the terrorist attacks the day after.
We do (small c) conservative stuff better than anyone else in the world, Jubilees, Royal Weddings, the Ashes, the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race, etc. etc. etc. If we had done the same last night we would have been forgiven but not remembered. By holding a mirror up to the Britain that we are, rather than the Britain we think we are, Danny Boyle put on a show that will set the standard for many games to come.
I have been a member of the TA for over 20 years but now I believe that it is time for the TA to go. You may be shocked to read that from me but in light of the government's announcements last week I believe it is time to reevaluate the relationship between the regular and reserve forces.
I am not advocating an end to part time military service or reserve units but I am calling for an end to the rather artificial separation of the full time and part time elements of the British Army. Please remember, there have been volunteer soldiers and part time military units in Britain for centuries, the TA celebrated its centenary just a few years ago.
There were Trained Bands (or urban militia) in London from at least the 1640s and the Yeomanry (volunteer cavalry) in the shires from 1790s and other forms of part time soldiery from much earlier still. The current TA is an evolution and a step towards greater integration of the full time and part time army.
I believe that the convergence should continue.
Almost all TA units have a close and formal relationship with units in the Regular Army, infantry regiments have TA battalions, Cavalry and Artillery have affiliated regular regiments too. When you see footage of soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan it is likely that a couple of them will be members of the TA deployed alongside their regular counterparts. The commission that hangs on the wall in my house is the same in all respects to the one that hangs in the home of a regular officer (except that mine has my name on it). There is no separate Head of the Territorial Army, the chain of command in the same as the army as a whole.
In reality the TA is a concept, a state of mind, rather than a discreet entity.
TA soldier serving in Afghanistan
Over the last ten years our reserve forces have been deployed in all the major theatres of conflict and are seen as useful, credible and cost effective. Yet the brand of the TA still brings with it the whiff of keen but amateurish or even slightly Walter Mitty. This is far from the truth yet in the BBC's reporting of the rebalancing of regular and reserve numbers they chose to use footage of half a dozen blokes marching up and down in an old wooden hall. Slightly better than Dad's Army, but only slightly.
The time has come to fully embrace the One-Army concept and only have one army, most of which is full time, a large part of which is part time.