Housing is in the news - conditions, safety, shortages, rip-off rents, and rogue landlords. In Portsmouth, a city with a housing shortage, local tradespeople are talking openly about ‘600 student houses’ in the city lying empty this academic year. It’s certainly true that in my area many are unseasonably untenanted and hushed. It’s probably a relief for some beleaguered neighbours, and ought to be a welcome source of additional Council Tax revenue for the the Local Authority given that the landlords are liable to pay up to a city facing severe austerity cuts. Significantly, the terraced houses once let to students aren’t empty because of the huge ongoing building programme of privately built student ‘Halls’. This is not a policy victory. It’s a market failing. These ‘Halls’ supposedly have vacancies too, not least because of the eye-watering costs of renting them for students already dependent on scarily huge loans.Read More
Some politicians seem to have nine lives. And just when you think Gerald’s are all used up, along come the Labour Party to give him one of theirs.
Will Portsmouth Labour regret this? Today there are already comments on social media calling them ‘enablers’ and the ‘enablers of an enabler’ – referring to GVJ’s alleged role in ‘enabling’ Mike Hancock to evade for far too long the justice he deserved for his appalling behaviour towards ‘Annie’, a vulnerable constituent.
And indeed, this story is far from over – I hear from a source that two more members of the Portsmouth Liberal Party, one a former city councillor, have been spoken to fairly recently by the Police concerning their continued harassment of ‘Annie’ online, and their potentially breaching the High Court Order which preserves Hancock’s victim’s anonymity for life.Read More
Five very important men sat in a small room in the heart of the Parliamentary estate in London on a warm afternoon on 3rd June 2013. One of them was accused of sexually harassing and abusing a vulnerable female constituent, 'Annie'. Three of the other four had either been written to by her, or had met her to hear her allegations in person. They were all high-fliers - four Members of Parliament and a hotly-tipped successor, senior figures with illustrious careers behind and ahead of them. Or so they thought.Read More
Vince Cable has been a bit quiet lately on the scandals of sexual harassment of women and young men that is wrapping itself round Parliament. I've not seen anything at all from Alistair Carmichael MP, the Lib Dem whip who supposedly 'investigated' the circumstances whereby one of their own MPs crossed the line (and then some) with a vulnerable constituent, 'Annie'. I find it strange behaviour - especially when the Lib Dems reckon they care about women's well-being and mental health. I've got a whole archive of Lib Dem leaflets telling me just how much they care - all with photos of women being looked at very caringly indeed by a Lib Dem politician or a health practitioner.
For me it is a glaring Liberal Democrat dichotomy that whilst the party's members regularly boast of their support for mental health initiatives in their literature, many of their number have participated - and continue to participate - in behaviour that denigrates and demeans people with mental health issues, and some of them seem to have a real issue with women. In fact I think it's more than a dichotomy - it's a disastrous hypocrisy that feeds into an unpleasant narrative that anyone who has ever spoken of having a mental health issue, must naturally lack credibility and integrity, and be a liar and a 'nutter'.Read More
"The back-drop to this was the old enmities and a council culture of complaints and complaining, and Phil Shaddock and Lee Hunt were no strangers to this. There's plenty in the public domain about the antagonistic relationship between Phil Shaddock and Lee Hunt. In fact you only have to Google both their names together to see them enmeshed forever in cyberspace, bound together for eternity by the crawling tentacles of searchbots, their story one of high emotion interspersed with bizarre action sequences - and, of course, the Standards Board for England."Read More
I want to write about Hancock and 'The Mystery of the Blue Letter', because I personally think it's pretty revealing of the mindsets of the Portsmouth Liberal Democrats who allowed it to happen. It's also the tale of a very funny co-incidence - a real-life 'you honestly couldn't make this shit up' moment - and I've taken the trouble to create an oscar-worthy re-enactment of a particular scene which took place on my own doorstep, using a model (well, a bemused friend), for your entertainment. I hope you enjoy the story.
So what's the significance of a 'blue letter'? It's the invention of Lord Rennard and a classic Lib Dem campaigning tool, and the 'blue letter' will always hold a place in Lib Dem election folklore and Lib Dem hearts & minds. That Hancock used and was allowed to use a blue letter to campaign and defend himself from 'ALL' the complaints against him - including the 'crossing the line' activity that just over three weeks later he admitted to doing - is pretty extraordinary, especially given he wasn't even standing as a Lib Dem.Read More
I'm going to keep this piece blunt, because no-one likes a pity party. (Although if anyone wants to throw me one, I think you can work out the name of the new cocktail that could be served by the end of this post. Or indeed this paragraph,) This is an account of the unexpected blow that was landed on me in my early days of becoming a city councillor - the nasty, misogynistic lie of my supposedly being 'caught' doing Sex-In-The-Men's-Toilets of the civic offices with a male councillor - a lie promulgated by some of my own Liberal Democrat colleagues. I was, effectively, falsely accused of committing an indictable offence by colleagues - actual city councillors - attempting to strip me of my dignity. I'd not experienced behaviour like this ever before in my professional life. Smearing. Lying. Objectifying. Isolating. I want to tackle it head on in this piece. It's time.Read More
My major diversion away from archaeology and into politics not only lasted longer than I expected (2002-2015) but ended very differently than I expected, with a media gaze upon me because of my resignation from a job that I valued immensely. This narrative blog has been a fair while in the making, given that I resigned on the 25th January 2014 from the Liberal Democrat Group and Cabinet in Portsmouth over the Mike Hancock saga, but sometimes it takes a while to build up to catharsis, for all sorts of reasons.Read More