Snipe - The Scoop

Friday, 28 May 2010

Bob Diamond is a Mayor's Best Friend

April 15th 2008

"Boris Johnson today named Barclays Capital boss Bob Diamond as one of his key advisers for City Hall. The City's best-known banker would help him set up and run the multimillion pound Mayor's Fund, which will give money to some of the poorest Londoners."

April 19th, 2008

"Boris Johnson, the bouffant-haired Tory candidate for Mayor of London, has revealed the inspiration behind his decision to appoint Bob Diamond"

September 23, 2008

"Boris Johnson today risked angering thousands of Londoners struggling to cope during the economic crisis by defending wealthy bankers.

"The Mayor said that banking was one of the few global industries in which the capital "truly excelled" and suggested that people should stop "whingeing" about house prices boosted by City bonuses."

December 2, 2009

"Corporate giving could be making a comeback after Barclays pledged its support for Boris Johnson's Fund for London this morning.

"The Wharf-based bank promised a £1million donation over four years for the Mayor's Fund, a charitable initiative to help improve the lives of underprivileged children in east London."

January 1, 2010

"Boris Johnson threw down the gauntlet to shadow chancellor George Osborne today, urging him to rule out extending the supertax on bonuses.

"The Mayor is seeking reassurances that Gordon Brown's tax would not be imposed by a Tory government. The showdown comes after Mr Johnson claimed that up to 9,000 bankers could leave London."

May 28, 2010

"Mr Johnson has worked on the deal for months. City Hall is delighted at the investment, believed to be its biggest sponsorship deal. One source said it amounted to “payback” for the Mayor's support of financial institutions in the credit crunch."

Well fancy that!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Government considering big cuts to Crossrail

The government are considering cuts of almost a third to the Crossrail project, including scrapping stations and axing two branches of the line.

According to a report by Building Magazine (H/T @DaveHill)

All the options under consideration include:

  • Dropping one of the planned central London stations
  • Dropping or reducing some spurs outside central London, including the link to Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood in the east, and Maidenhead in the west
  • Reducing the trains from 12 to 10 carriages, thereby minimising the size of stations
  • Wide-ranging value engineering for the rest of the project.
A source close to the process said: “The team is being asked to look at the whole scheme. If you took out both spurs and reduced the platforms and stations then they’re looking at £4-5bn of cuts.”

The Mayor and Peter Hendy are currently in "crunch talks" with the new Transport Secretary Philip Hammond about the project according to the Standard.

Building.co.uk quotes former Tory Mayoral candidate and current TfL board member Steve Norris as saying:

"If you’re going to cut Abbey Wood or Maidenhead you might as well shelve the whole lot."

Please Steve, don't give them any ideas.


-Update- Crossrail officials say that claims about cuts of a third are "way off the mark." Is this all about expectation management?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Oona King: broad brushes and fresh air

We often hear about the importance of a good "back story" but the problem with Oona King's campaign launch today was that she displayed little else.

For about twenty minutes she spoke to an assembly of pupils at her former Camden school about her multiracial background and how in her diversity "I am London."

Yet back story apart, Oona gave little or no details about what her policies would be if she were elected, or where if anywhere she disagreed with the current Mayor Boris Johnson.

The lines of her campaign were drawn out with the broadest possible brush, yet there were at least some signs of an effective line of attack still to come.

Speaking of her opponents she said:

"The coming mayoral race like no other will be about who can deliver energy and renewal. The last Mayoral race angered many Londoners and I can understand why you know you were either in or out. You were either inner London or outer London. You were for one man or the other. For a guy with blonde hair or a guy with grey hair. For blue or for red...

"But it was very polarised. I don't want a popularity contest based on who is wacky or who is stale. I want passion grounded in innovation and pragmatism... and I'll tell you why because passion alone cannot mend a leaking roof."

There are the beginnings here of a decent pitch to Londoners but they are just beginnings.

What are her views on Crossrail? On the ongoing cuts to police budgets? On the ever-rising cost of travel in London?

What would she do to improve housing, to boost inward investment, or to capitalise on the Olympic games?

Now she may well have answers to all of these questions and more, but if she does, she didn't let on today.

Sitting in the audience at the launch were Jim Fitzpatrick, a long-time opponent of Ken Livingstone, and newly elected MP for Oona's old seat, Rushanara Ali.

For Fitzpatrick and others within Labour, Ken has become "stale" and does not offer the "breath of fresh air" promise by Oona today.

Yet the Mayor of London is about far more than fresh air.

Unlike national politics, being Mayor requires a day-to-day grip of policy and managerial detail on a wide range of issues.

And while Ken has continued to live and breathe London politics since leaving office, Oona has been almost entirely out of the game for the past five years.

We are still in very early days and there may well be other candidates that come forward in the next few weeks.

But if the Labour party want Oona to take on both Ken and Boris, then she will need to get to grips with these details right away.


-Update- Tim Donovan's BBC report from the launch

Contest to be London Mayor in 2012 begins

As reported here a few days ago, nominations for the contest to become Labour's candidate for Mayor will close next month.

The final date for entrants is the 18th June with the shortlist being finalised on the 24th.

A series of hustings will then take place across the capital.

After the hustings have finished, an electoral college of London party members and affiliated organisations will choose their candidate.

The result will then be announced at Labour's conference in September.

Oona King is the first candidate to officially declare and will launch her campaign this afternoon.

Speaking to pupils at her former school in Camden, Oona is expected to focus on knife crime and it's effect on young people.

In a tone which mirrors that of Boris Johnson's 2008 campaign she will say:

"We must show an interest in them when they are still young enough to be guided in the right direction.

"Because they aren't the only ones to suffer; damaged human beings leave a trail of victims in their wake, especially as they turn from toddler to teenager and tragically exchange a baby's rattle for a large kitchen knife"

Former Mayor Ken Livingstone is also expected to declare his own candidacy within the next week.

The Liberal Democrats have yet to decide how their candidate will be chosen.

The party will meet soon to discuss whether to choose somebody on the current London Assembly list or to seek out a "celebrity" candidate instead.

Boris Johnson has also not declared whether he will stand again.

I will have more from Oona King's launch later on today. You can follow me on Twitter for the latest.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Boris to squash protest camp in Parliament Square

The Great Libertarian Boris Johnson is planning to squash the current peaceful protests in Parliament Square:

"A spokeswoman for City Hall said: "Parliament Square is a world heritage site and top tourist attraction that is visited by thousands of people and broadcast around the world each day. The mayor respects the right to demonstrate – however, the scale and impact of the protest is now doing considerable damage to the square and preventing its peaceful use by other Londoners including those who may wish to have an authorised protest. As a result he has given GLA officers the authority to apply to the high court to begin legal proceedings for trespass."

Boris's own Metropolitan Police force have also been doing their bit.

Now I'm no expert on the legal minutiae of the case, but I do know it's a good idea to get your facts right before heading to the high court.

Because despite what Boris, Westminster Council and others are claiming, Parliament Square is not within the World Heritage site, as this Unesco map shows:


On the wider point, I find it hard to understand why Boris and Dave are so keen to stop peaceful protest now, when they've pledged to make it easier in years to come.


So are the government really committed to "allowing members of the public to protest peacefully without fear of being criminalised"?

Or does that not count when it comes to seeing it in their own backyard?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Western Congestion Charge to go by Christmas

Boris Johnson will look to scrap the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge by the end of the year he confirmed today.

Scrapping the extension would lose Transport for London between £50- £70 million in revenue each year.

However, the Mayor also proposes raising the charge to £10. TfL estimates that this will bring in an additional £15 million.

Under the proposal, West Londoners would also lose their residents discounts, meaning that some additional revenue may be found there.

However, the announcement comes on the same day as the coalition government announce £683 million worth of cuts to the transport budget, with even more to come.

And with parts of Crossrail under threat, the prospect of yet more stinging fare rises looks more and more likely by the day.

Labour's London Transport spokesperson Val Shawcross said today that:

"It's hard to see who wins from this. Cyclists, bus users and local residents will all suffer from more congested roads and dirtier air while TfL will throw away millions in valuable revenue at a time of financial hardship. Next time the Mayor talks about TfL's finances or the need to put up fares, he should reflect on what a big mistake he is making."

The Lib Dems on the other hand welcomed the proposals. Their London Assembly group leader Caroline Pidgeon said:

"I welcome the final removal of the Western Extension from Congestion Charging which has penalised an area quite different to the initial Congestion Zone."

Under the proposals less polluting cars will be able to use the zone for free. Green Assembly member Jenny Jones said:

"The commitment to rewarding less polluting vehicles is welcome, and was agreed under the previous Mayor"

But added that:

"It is difficult to see why Boris is meddling with a policy that has been proven to reduce traffic at a time when London is struggling to meet European limits on air pollution and faces major fines. This is a big backwards step on air pollution."

Under Boris's plans, the charge would be withdrawn on Christmas Eve of this year.

You can make your views known about the proposals by completing the statutory consultation launched today.

Nick Griffin to stand down as BNP leader

The implosion of the British National Party continued apace last night as Nick Griffin said that he would stand down as leader.

Griffin made the announcement, after a truly dismal set of election results for the BNP.

Announcing his intentions to resign in 2013, Griffin told the BNP Advisory Council:

"By then I would have been leader of the BNP for 15 years and that is long enough...

“It will be time to make way for a younger person who does not have any baggage which can be used against the party.”

Griffin said that he would step aside for a candidate who was "a serious contender for power."

So far the only "serous contender" to be suggested is Richard Barnbrook. Yes I mean *that* Richard Barnbrook.

Please, please, let it be so.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Oona King to fight Ken Livingstone to be Mayor

Former London MP Oona King will announce tomorrow that she will take on Ken Livingstone to be Labour's candidate for Mayor.

The Guardian confirmed tonight what has been an open secret for some time:

"King will fight Livingstone to become Labour challenger to Boris Johnson. The contest – like the leadership contest – will be decided at the party conference in the autumn."

Oona will officially launch her campaign on Wednesday.

According to Guardian writer Jackie Ashley, Oona thinks that Ken was a "good Mayor" but counters that:

"It's nobody's birthright, and I don't believe in the hereditary principle."

Oona left frontline politics in 2005 when she lost her seat to George Galloway.

A fan of Gordon Brown, Oona was tipped for a job at Number 10, but was dismissed as a "lightweight" by some.

No other candidates have declared so far, although a few including former Home Secretary Alan Johnson have been mooted in recent months.

Since her announcement King has moved up to fourth place at 12/1 to be the next Mayor behind Alan Johnson, Ken and Boris.

More details about the race are expected to be revealed this coming week with nominations closing in June.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Bob Bailey resigns as head of London BNP

Bob "it's all a conspiracy" Bailey has resigned as head of London BNP after losing his seat and getting arrested for assault.

According to a statement by London BNP, Bob stood down in order to:

"concentrate on clearing his name following unfounded allegations of assault during the recent London Elections"

Before claiming that:

"Bob leaves London BNP in good shape"

Under his leadership the BNP lost every single seat they held in the capital.

These included his own and the council seat of the BNP's only London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook.

Barnbrook has so far failed to mention this defeat, although he does admit that:

"We didn’t do nearly as well as we’d hoped."

However, all is not lost. As he puts it on his blog:

"the result, disappointing as it was, doesn’t actually change anything"

Oh dear. I think we're stuck in the first stage of grief here Richard.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Coalition to abolish Government Office for London

The new government will abolish the Government Office for London, it was announced today.

The agreement forms part of the new coalition agreement also promising to freeze council tax "support Crossrail" and clamp down on aggressive council newspapers.

The GOL was set up before the formation of the Greater London Authority and has long been something of an anomaly.

All parties on the London Assembly agreed a motion calling for it to be scrapped last year.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Assembly Caroline Pidgeon said today:

"The Government office for London has been on borrowed time ever since the creation of the Mayor and London Assembly in 2000. It is a superfluous bureaucracy which we can all do without.”

“This is the first step to avoiding duplication of activity, saving money and improving accountability in London's governance."

It is not yet known where the powers of GOL will be devolved to and what projects will lose out from the decision.

It is also not known what new powers the Mayor will be given or whether he will still be called to speak to commons select committees, as he famously was last year.

However, the Mayor yesterday called on the new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to be called to the London Assembly instead.

Crossrail

The coalition agreement also pledges to "support Crossrail." However there is still no firm commitment to complete the line.

At yesterday's Mayor's Question Time, Boris raised fears that the coalition may attempt to amputate or delay either of the branch lines.

He told the Assembly that there was still a lot of "ignorance" in government about the benefits of the project and pledged to mount a "Stalingrad-like defense" of it in the months to come.

Heathrow

The coalition have pledged to scrap the planned third runway at Heathrow and to oppose expansion at Stansted and Gatwick.

However, there are no mentions of other airports in the deal, suggesting that further expansion in the South East is still a strong possibility.

Councils

The new government has pledged to "impose tougher rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers."

This could impact on councils such as Greenwich and Hammersmith and Fulham which produce newspapers that actively compete with local independents.

The coalition has also pledged to freeze council tax across the country for one year and possibly beyond.

With money tight this could mean an increase in regressive charges for "non-essential" services, as seen in Barnet and elsewhere.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

No cash or conductors for Boris's Routemasters

Boris Johnson will not pay for conductors to staff his "new Routemaster" and will not supply extra funding to police them either he confirmed today.

Speaking to the London Assembly he said that:

"We're confident that we can use our existing resources to make sure that whenever the open platform is open, which will be a lot of the time, there will be someone in uniform to help oversee."

However, despite promising them in his manifesto, there will be no "old fashioned conductors" on the buses:

"When it is running in open platform mode as it will on busy streets in the centre of town... then clearly there will be someone on the bus in uniform who will helping passengers. There won't be an old fashioned conductor because there's no need to take tickets in the same way, but there will be someone in uniform to help customers."

He said that the "uniformed presence" would comprise instead of existing fare evasion teams and Police Community Support Officers

Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross pressed the Mayor today on whether these officers would be taken away from their normal duties.

The Mayor refused to be drawn on this but insisted that it was "not beyond the wit of man" to manage staff on the new buses.

When there is no extra staff to mind them, the platforms will be closed with what Boris called a "shower curtain type jobby."

These will also be closed in the evenings, making the "new Routemasters" appear for all intents and purposes to be standard double deckers for much of the time.

The final designs have had a mixed reception so far with many criticisms focusing on the high cost and lack of "Routemasterishness" about the plans.

The first model is not expected to appear until the end of 2011 with only five being built before the end of Boris's first term.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Snipe London: Boris cast adrift

My first City Hall column for new London-wide magazine Snipe is now online. Head over to here to read it all.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A New Box on Wheels for London

And so here we have it. The final designs for what I assume we must still call Boris's "New Routemaster"

I say "I assume" because there doesn't seem to be much left that's Routemasterish about it.

Where's the distinctive front cab, or the open platform (now a door)?

Why no single entrance, or single staircase?

It's just a standard double decker plus an extra door, extra staircase, and an extra member of staff.

I mean it's not horrible. In fact compared to some of the horrendous designs we've seen over the past year it doesn't look too bad.

It's just not a Routemaster.

It's an expensive theme park ride/coach trip hybrid with a curved roof, higher staffing costs, and a draft at the back.

I don't hate it, I just don't really see the point. Do you?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Little enthusiasm for Boris's new Bus

Londoners remain largely unenthusiastic about the Mayor's "New Bus for London" project with less than 20% of those consulted saying it should be a top priority.

The project was the least popular of five planned measures for the bus network according to a TfL consultation of almost 5000 people.

Better information at bus stops was the most popular option at 42%, with more environmentally friendly engines following close behind.

Scrapping bendy buses was the third most popular option for the buses, with 36% choosing it as one of their top priorities.

However, the Mayor's flagship project to build a new bus for London was one of the least popular proposals across the entire transport network, scraping just 18%.

The results of the consultation only give an indication of public opinion, as most respondents will be self-selecting.

However, the findings will cast further doubts on a project which will reportedly deliver just a small number of very expensive buses by the end of Boris Johnson's first term in office.

Other findings include:

Tubes

Providing a more reliable service on the underground was the most popular measure at 49%. Only 29% called for more tube lines to be built.

Providing more step free access was the least popular option with those consulted.

Rail

Making Oyster PAYG available across the National Rail network was the most popular of all proposed transport measures at 54%.

Improving the quality and safety of suburban stations was also highlighted as a top priority.

Cycling

Providing more secure cycle parking was the most popular measure at 37%. However the planned cycle hire scheme came in as the least popular with only 20% listing it as a priority.


Walking

Tackling crime was the main priority for respondents at 47% with only 27% calling for more information on routes.

River

51% wanted to pay by Oyster on river services with 37% calling for more stops.

The top 18 measures across the whole network can be seen by clicking on the image below:

Building a new bus did not make it into the top 25.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

What Lib-Con means for City Hall

Boris Johnson hasn't wasted any time this morning, already describing the new Lib-Con government as "a cross between a bulldog and a Chihuahua."

I'm not sure that's going to convince his new leaders to hand over Crossrail but we'll wait and see.

Especially now Lib Dem MP Tom Brake is being tipped as Minister for London by the BBC.

However, down in City Hall there's more pressing concerns, namely who gets their bums on which seat.

Tomorrow is the London Assembly's AGM and the Tories are desperate to get themselves back in charge of scrutinising the Mayor.

However, unlike nationally, the Lib Dems are refusing to go into coalition with the Conservatives in City Hall:

One source told me:

"At City Hall, and almost certainly at LFEPA, we will be retaining our agreement with the Labour and Green partys. Our work is about scrutiny and we have always argued that the opposition should lead that work."

Obviously there's a bit of wiggle room there but if the Lib Dems do stick with the "progressive coalition" then Brian Coleman could soon lose his hard-fought majority on the Fire Authority.

Following the big Labour surge in London last week, the Conservatives are due to lose a seat, which means that Brian loses his majority.

And if Brian Coleman cannot command the confidence of that new board, then it would be pretty extraordinary for Boris to try to put him back in charge of it.

Chair of the London Assembly

The other big role on offer is Chair of the London Assembly. And with Green and Labour AMs taking the last two turns, the Lib Dems are now due to take theirs.

However, given the national coalition, the Green Party and Labour may not be entirely happy with the deal.

But if Dee Doocey does take the position as expected, then there can be little doubt that she would keep Boris on his toes.

Welcome to the new age of multi-party politics London.


-Update- I'm told that Labour and the Greens have agreed to vote for Dee Doocey AM (Lib Dem) for Chair and Jennette Arnold AM (Lab) for Vice-Chair.

Lib Dem Mike Tuffrey AM will take a new position on LFEPA and Caroline Pidgeon AM will replace him as leader of the Lib Dem group.

Speaking after the Lib-Con national deal was announced she said:

"We will ensure the Mayor of London is held to account every day of the year. We will not hesitate to challenge the Mayor when he fails to deliver for Londoners.”

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Photos from "Take back Parliament" rally

I was at the Take Back Parliament rally today to demand a fairer voting system. You can read my piece about it at the Guardian here.

Demonstrators slay the Murdoch dragon in Trafalgar Square.

John Strafford is that rarest of beasts: a Conservative Party supporter in favour of PR. You can read more about him here.

The demonstrators were of all political persuasions but all were in favour of fixing the deeply disproportionate and unrepresentative system we have at the moment.

Organiser Guy Aitchison rallies the crowds in Smith Square.

Nick Clegg comes out to speak to the demonstrators.

Read my full report at The Guardian.

Friday, 7 May 2010

BNP wiped out in Barking and Dagenham

The BNP lost all their seats on Barking and Dagenham Council today as a high turnout wrecked all hopes they had of taking the borough.

Richard Barnbrook had hoped to lead the council alongside the self-proclaimed "dream ticket" of Nick Griffin as MP.

However, in a shock outcome the BNP lost all their councillors in the borough, with the Labour Party taking every available seat.

Griffin came a poor third in his race against Margaret Hodge last night, and Barnbrook slipped into fourth place in his Goresbrook ward.

His predecessor Bob Bailey who was filmed fighting with Asian youths earlier this week also lost his seat.

Barnbrook was severely damaged last year after he was suspended from the council for making false claims about murders in the borough.

As I wrote for the Guardian, the borough's 12 BNP councillors were hugely ineffective and regularly created chaos in the chamber.

Today's outcome is major setback for the party, and a huge victory for the local campaign against the BNP.


-Update- Sabby Dhalu from Unite Against Fascism said yesterday:

"The people of Barking and Dagenham have overwhelmingly rejected the fascist BNP. This is a victory for the whole of Britain as the BNP has not just been defeated in Barking and Dagenham, it has been annihilated. Not only did the BNP fail to gain a single seat, it suffered an overwhelming defeat at the hands of a team of councillors who represent the multicultural diversity of Barking. The anti-BNP majority in Barking and Dagenham made its voice heard. Let's keep it this way."

Newly elected MP for Barking, Margaret Hodge said:

"This is a great moment in history – a never to be forgotten moment for both the good people of Barking and Dagenham and for all of us in Britain. Our voters have been faced with a stark choice. They have overwhelmingly chosen to support democratic politics, built on tolerance, fairness and decency – not fascist politics built on division, prejudice and hatred...

"The message from Barking to the Nazi party is clear: Get out and stay out. You are not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy."

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Tube stations increasingly "unstaffed and unsafe"

Funding cuts means that many Tube stations are increasingly unstaffed and unsafe, a union claimed today.

Figures released by the RMT show that over the past six months 439 shifts were left entirely unstaffed at some stations, with those in the suburbs most affected.

At Mill Hill East station 95 shifts were unstaffed. Other stations facing shortages include Roding Valley, Brent Cross and West Finchley.

The figures come as Boris Johnson and TfL get set to cut 800 more jobs across the network.

A number of ticket offices are also set to close, despite promises to the contrary.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said today:

"The muggers paradise of unstaffed stations is already a reality across whole swathes of the tube system as these new figures demonstrate. Tory Mayor Boris Johnson has ripped up his promise to Londoners on tube staffing and voters need to take note of that on Thursday."

However, billions of savings will need to be found on the Underground in the coming years whoever is elected this week.

And with staffing a major cost, we may just have to get used to more empty stations.

A spokesperson for TfL said today:

"It is very rare for stations to be left without a member of staff. When it does occur - normally on stations that are on the outer part of the Tube network and above ground - we arrange for them to be covered by another member of staff as soon as is practical."

But with staff numbers reducing across the board, those times will now surely only get longer.


I have uploaded the full list of unstaffed shifts
here

Barnet withholds expenses file until after elections

Barnet Council has delayed releasing details of Councillor expenses until one day after the local elections finish.

The details were requested by a local blogger almost a year ago, but their release has been repeatedly pushed back by officers.

Freedom of information requests should ordinarily be responded to within twenty working days.

Only a fraction of the information requested has so far been disclosed.

In one leaked email, the borough's Conservative Mayor Brian Coleman complains that the requests were an "attempt to make trouble" and not "a sensible use of Council resources."

Meanwhile his own "use of resources" have been withheld from constituents.

Coleman, described as an "expenses farmer" in the latest edition of Private Eye, is a notorious abuser of the expenses system at City Hall.

In just one year he claimed £10,000 in taxi bills and has consistently fought against disclosure.

Last year he was the only London Asembly member not release their expenses, saying that only the "mad, sad and bad" would want to see them.

He reportedly only gave in after a showdown with Boris Johnson.

Details of all Barnet Council expenses will now be released on the 7th May. Just one day after voting in the local elections closes.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Andrew Gilligan gets his facts wrong shock

Andrew Gilligan plugging his leaky vessel for the umpteenth time.

I smiled to myself a few months ago when a rival, Labour blogger with a reliable record of not knowing very much announced that Policy Exchange’s river report had “sunk at a rate of knots“. (One more triumph for London Labour, by the way – opposing yet another transport project which is popular with the public, purely on the grounds that the hated Johnson supports it!)

Now if you're going to accuse somebody else of "not knowing very much", then it helps if you don't within the same sentence, get things wrong yourself.

You see I am not a "Labour blogger" nor am I a member of "London Labour."

In fact unlike Andrew I have never had any attachment to the Labour party whatsoever.

I have voted Labour locally in the past, but I have also voted for Green and independent candidates.

And at the last general election I voted for those staunch Labour types known as the Lib Dems.

Needless to say, Gilligan made no attempt to contact me before writing his post.

Now I don't mind Andrew having a pop at me. In fact I quite enjoy it.

But two days after asking him to correct his false claims, he has still completely failed to do so, or even to reply.

Could this be because (once again) the facts don't fit with his story?