1. Press Release Library Standards and the decline in book borrowing Boris Johnson MP said: "Too many libraries are getting rid of their stocks - particularly classic works - because they think there is no market for them anymore. "There is no substitute for picking up a book and reading it from cover to cover. Libraries have always provided opportunities for millions of people who cannot afford expensive books and it is very sad to see the decline of a vital national service. "We must hope that this change in standards does nothing to speed the tragic decline in book lending which has fallen by an average of around 20% in Britain in the last five years." 2. Press Release Boris Johnson MP; Give Oxfordshire's tenants a foot up the housing ladder Action on housing pledged by Conservatives Boris Johnson MP today backed new plans to extend home ownership in Oxfordshire. New Conservative policies would mean extra support for 'shared ownership' schemes, allow social tenants to buy a stake in their home, and make it easier for housing associations to build more affordable housing. This will help those who currently cannot afford to get on the housing ladder. Boris Johnson explained, "Particularly in Oxfordshire it is now increasingly difficult for residents on modest incomes to buy their own home. Labour once promised they had 'no plans to raise tax at all'; but their property taxes - such as council tax and stamp duty - have hit first time buyers. The average first time buyer in Oxfordshire now pays an extra £1546 in stamp duty compared with 1997. "Social tenants have also lost out, with Right to Buy discounts being cut back. Where council housing has been transferred to housing associations, tenants lose the same Right to Buy. We desperately need to address this lack of affordable housing in Oxfordshire yet it seems the Government's only policy has been to be to concrete over our green fields. Were planning decisions to be further removed from local people under Government plans for a South East Regional Assembly, I can only see this situation worsening". Under the Conservative plans for Action on Housing: - Conservatives will promote and extend support for shared ownership schemes. Shared equity helps people buy their home of choice without having to fund 100 per cent of the value. - We will extend the Right to Buy to over a million housing association tenants, and reinvest the receipts from sales in new social housing (while recognising the need for some exemptions in small rural areas). - We will help social housing tenants purchase a home, not just their present property, via transferable discounts and also allowing them to build up a stake in their equity of their home. - We will reduce Labour's disproportionate and excessive regulation and inspection of housing associations, and make it easier for them to work with private sector developers to build more affordable housing to buy and rent. Boris Johnson MP concluded: "Conservatives want the dream of home ownership to come true for more and more people, so that they can benefit from the security and independence which home ownership conveys."
* Too many libraries are getting rid of their stocks - particularly classic works - because they think there is no market for them anymore. Press Release (next posting) * New Local Council Bloggers in Warwickswhire - Following on from "Local Democracy Week" last week, three members in Warwickshire County Council are keeping weblogs (one from each of the major parties) and taking questions from the public which will be answered on the web site. Read by visiting www.warwickshire.gov.uk/ldw2004 * More to follow
The Euro parliament is no longer a joke for bored hacks By Boris Johnson It was a pretty chastening experience to be an MP yesterday, and not just for your columnist, but for all 659 of us. There we were, shuffling through the green-carpeted lobbies in the time-honoured way, trailing our fingers on the warm worn oak, bowing to the tellers, bending together in the forgivable halitosis of intimate conspiracy. Time after time, we gathered to vote on the Domestic Violence Etc Bill (Lords) Report stage, expressing the will of the people according to our ancient system. And what did the world care? Not a fig. Where was the action, the news, the story? It was hundreds of miles away in the upstart parliament of Strasbourg, the restaurant-rich Alsatian city. In Westminster, we beavered away in Gormenghast-like oblivion. In Strasbourg, they had excitement; they had drama; they had the noisy tectonic grindings of the new constitutional geology. What a scene it must have been for the immense army of journalists, lobbyists and poules de luxe who follow the Euro parliament's caravanserai from Brussels to Strasbourg. What gasps there must have been in the space-age bars and galleries, where they sit sipping their cremant d'Alsace. First a British political party, UKIP, went into spasm, with momentous consequences for the forthcoming general election. It is hard to know what verb to use of Kilroy's resignation of the UKIP whip. Did he flounce out? Did he stalk out? Did he blow a gasket? It does not matter. Continue reading Daily Telegraph column out today (Euro Parliament)
The Boris Johnson mail bag is bursting at the seams for plenty more reasons than one lately. (not including the latest Have I Got News For You - how could they be so outrageous!) Apart from the recent storm, Henley's constituents are expressing serious concern for the new system of receiving State pension payments - a more streamlined and less flexible route will be the only option from next year. Many pensioners are incensed. Tax credits, for all the government claims that they would help families, seem to have brought despair to many families who have suffered massive inconvenience from the mismanagement of claims and funds being re-claimed back to the State coffers. All increasing the burden of red tape. Watlington Car Park - of all villages in South Oxfordshire, Watlington village doesn't really need to have car park charges imposed in the face of local uproar and desperate pleas from local shopkeepers. Even in the current trial period, they find custom running dry and are in danger of going out of business. The Mental Capacity Bill and Fox hunting issues are still on the agenda and bubbling along. Here is Olly's press release about the recent closure of sub-post offices in Henley. The large post office now cannot comfortably accommodate the demand and the queues are unacceptably long. ("Locals enjoy the opportunity of a chat in the queue" was the defence of the Post Office Chief!) "Though we had a fantastic response from those people who have been inconvenienced by these closures, Postwatch decided to stick by its original decision not to re-open the investigation and review their decision. Despite Boris Johnson's strong representations and their acknowledgement of the fact that the closure of Newtown and Northfield End Post Offices will cause 'significant inconvenience' to the Post Office's customers in Henley, they decided that it was impossible for them to oppose every closure on the grounds that it remains important to position these closures within a wider context. Many thanks once more to those who wrote in to express their dismay at these closures. It is unfortunate that, in the end, the Post Office and Postwatch opted to close these sub-post offices in the face of such strong local opposition." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So - now to you - Bloggers Any issues that rankle? Burning rants? (Let's rest awhile from the recent embroglio...and have a time of quiet...until you open up the new copy of The Spectator, that is! ...How does the aphorism go: "a 'week', more like 'day', is a long time in politics"?) How about South Oxfordshire constituents (please declare yourselves!) who would like to respond? We (including Ann - planning the diary to the election, and Wayne - local agent masterminding the campaign) would much value your input.
I'm sorry I caused offence to Liverpool I can't remember what words Paul Bigley used to describe me yesterday afternoon, on the line to a BBC studio, but I think he said I was "a self-centred, pompous twit". He wanted to say how much he disliked my appearance, my voice, my mannerisms, and how much he wished I would just disappear. No matter how big your ego, there is something crushing in being so addressed, not just because I have never met Paul Bigley, but also because he has just suffered an appalling bereavement, and is the object of national sympathy. How do you feel? they all asked, when I left the studio. Do you feel bad? asked the girls and lads with the cameras and the notebooks. Continue reading Apologetic in Liverpool
From Boris Johnson - sent to the Liverpool Daily Post this morning It is quite an education to be at the centre of one of these sudden media firestorms: the cameras on the doorstep, the phone ringing off the hook, the endless requests for interviews, the shouted abuse. By Saturday morning my poor Commons secretary was so overcome by the avalanche of electronic hate mail that she had to retire to her bed. And yet I can't really pretend to be surprised. We had a firestorm because we had an editorial in the magazine that was frankly incendiary, and I have no one to blame but myself. I am the editor. I put it there. I must now take responsibility for enraging my party leader, alienating the people of a great city, and incurring the anger of not a few of The Spectator's readers. What on earth was I thinking of? How could I possibly have approved an attack on Liverpool? Continue reading Statement on The Spectator article
Re: The Spectator editorial out today Boris is very sorry as he certainly didn't mean to offend anybody. We will come back to you asap.
*Bloggers* I am greatly heartened by your support. Here is my column: To call it genius, frankly, is putting it mildly. When the nation sank back on the sofa last Saturday afternoon, and everyone rubbed the eye that had been accidentally punched by his neighbour's gesticulation, and when the screams of delight had died away, we were left to contemplate the mental processes by which David Beckham, 29, was able to slot that second goal into the back of the Welsh net. The rest of the animal kingdom must bow before him, because there is nothing else like it in nature. No dolphin jumping for a ball; no monkey hurling a nut; no archer fish catching a fly with his sputum dart - no other species can solve such a complicated, three-dimensional problem with such speed, and, of our own species, Beckham is the supreme exponent. He was five or six yards outside the penalty box to the left; Welsh defenders were lunging at him, and yet - in a trice - he had sized up exactly how to strike that laminated sphere so that it moved in a gorgeous, uninterruptible parabola, describing the entire hypotenuse of the box, and arriving with such speed in the top right hand square foot of the goal that it left the keeper's fingers flapping as uselessly as a dying butterfly. Any biologist would be bound to concede that this was the human brain at its finest and most efficient. He would also have to say, however, that there seem to be different types of cleverness; because if Beckham is in some ways cleverer than the cleverest rat or squirrel, he seems in other respects to be a few apples short of a picnic. Continue reading Unbend the truth like Beckham, Tony
Hello Just had to let you know that I am stifling a most horrendous flu - post conference and Autumn side-effects no doubt. Any tips for the speediest recovery? Boris