Thursday, 13 June 2019

Channelling naffness

The Conservatives' YouTube channel. Visually, the 'first impression' is not coming across at all well. It looks like some dodgy mash-up of a conspiracy-theory / double-glazing pressure-sales channel. Who do the PR gurus think this visual style 'tests well' with?

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Local Election results at last

It's taken a long while but we finally have the done-and-dusted result from the recent local council elections in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Conservatives more than doubled their councillors in Stoke-on-Trent on the night, and now have 15 members on the council. Having concluded talks with the City Independent group councillors, it's being reported that the Conservatives will continue to work with Independents to run the city. Abi Brown (Conservative) will be the council leader for the city.

There was quite a lot of variation in turn-out for the local elections, by the look of it, from pathetically quiet in Hanley Park to what could well have been surges and queues in Baddeley.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives lost Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to 'no overall control', but it's pleasing to see that the questionable Labour candidate there lost having had a mere 77 votes. There's nothing in the news yet about who, if anyone, will be in control of a Staffordshire Moorlands coalition. I guess they're still negotiating.

The Conservatives also won the single seat that was up for grabs in a by-election over in Newcastle-under-Lyme (Maer and Whitmore Ward).

So it's on to the MEPs, next.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

EU elections for North Staffordshire - who's standing?

Ok, with the Council election out the way it's now time to take a look at who Stoke and North Staffordshire gets to vote for on 23rd of May. According to the Returning Officers' official list, the parties standing EU MEP candidates for the West Midlands are, A-Z:

   Change UK — The Independent Group.
   Conservative and Unionist Party.
   Green Party.
   Labour Party.
   Liberal Democrats.
   The Brexit Party.
   UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The Brexit Party is Nigel Farage's new party, and he aims to ensure we get the Brexit we voted for.

Change UK is also an unfamiliar party name, but it seems they're the pro-EU hard-liners who recently broke with the Labour Party.

The rest of the parties you'll already be wearily familiar with.

Unlike normal elections, we don't vote for an individual candidate but rather for a Party. Each Party puts up a slate of candidates for each large region (West Midlands, North West etc). After that it all gets a bit hazy and the final results seem to involve lots of maths and proportional representation juggling — which I have no inclination to delve into. Apparently it takes forever to calculate, and the results can come a week later. But it does mean that our votes matters a bit more, more than if you're stuck in a UK Parliamentary seat with an overwhelming majority.

Old elms, new elms

Got an elm tree near you? These giants once towered over the English landscape, and are commonly supposed to have all died of imported Dutch Elm Disease in the late 1970s. But a few survived the blight.

The Great British Elm Search is mapping the still-living elm trees on its Elms Map and they want to hear about more.

"The Great British Elm Search is recording mature elm trees across the UK to build an accessible, public database that records the state of the elm population and potentially disease-resistant trees. Your help is needed to record mature elms and update the records, which are verified by a group of elm experts."

The above map shows the old trees. There's another map that shows where the newly bred disease-resistant elm saplings have been planted.

The new plantings are looking a bit sparse for North Staffordshire, though. It's still only a pioneering experiment to bring back the elms, but it would be good to see North Staffordshire doing our bit and a dozen new elms saplings springing up in and around the city.

Friday, 26 April 2019

2nd May election in Stoke - who's standing?

Right, then, it's time to take a look at who's standing in the Local Council Elections on 2nd May 2019. The page that pops up on search is Stoke-on-Trent City Council's list by election ward.

On looking at this page, it would seem that Council doesn't yet appear to have a candidate lists online for Hanley Park and Shelton, nor Hartshill, Penkhull and Boothen and a number of others wards. They seem to be cutting it a bit fine, re: this page and the approaching date. A resident might look at the page and wrongly think only half the Council was up for election, which could skew the vote.

However, if you know it's actually a full council election, and you go to their A-Z Directory for the elections, and you known the exact name of your ward (most people don't)... then you can get to lists of candidates for the missing wards such as Hanley Park and Shelton and Hartshill and Basford and Penkhull and Stoke...

But even then, looking at the current listings, the urban city and its surrounding suburban wards don't look very 'hot' at all. There's hardly any choice in Etruria and Hanley / Hartshill and Basford / Hanley Park and Shelton — it's all just a straight: Conservative, Labour or Independent choice. The same goes for both Burslem wards. I spotted about three or four Greens on the lists, including one in Penkhull and Stoke town (presumably hoping for a student vote), and a few hardy UKIP-ers are hoping for votes on estates like Bentilee, Stanfields and a part of the Meir.

Over in the Staffordshire Moorlands, the Labour Party has chosen a very questionable candidate. One has to assume this choice reflects the will and sentiment of the local Labour Party? Will other local Labour candidates, in Stoke and elsewhere, be speaking out about this?

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A new 'Garden Town' north of Stafford.

A new 'garden town' has been announced: "Meecebrook, in the north of Stafford borough - about 10,000 homes".

What's a 'garden town', then? Sometimes also called an 'eco-town'. It's all rather nebulous, but the best I can figure is this.

Properly planned, from the ground up, to:

* fit naturally into the existing natural environment.
* add enhancements to the existing natural environment.

* learns all the lessons from the past British 'garden cities' and new settlements such as Bournville, Poundbury etc.
* designed for the real British weather, not some architect's 'flat-roof and pastel stucco' blue-skies modernist/postmodernist Mediterranean fantasyland.

* high-quality housing, with an eye for beauty and design.
* homes that don't all look the same.
* proper shops with proper frontages.
* use of local / natural building materials.
* meaningful public art.
* widely employs craft-based apprentices during the building.

* cars discouraged.
* locally accessible jobs, via cycling and walking.
* 'work from home' over superfast Internet.
* local supply of the workers needed to manage the abundant gardens, parks, open spaces.

* allotments.
* community centres, local shops and doctors.
* good local schools and home-schooling facilities.
* community networks, autonomous groups, has a volunteering culture.
* robust ongoing control of noise, dogs, litter and other annoyances.

* community ownership of the land.
* the town is locally led, once up and running.
* ongoing control of ugliness and tackiness re: shop fronts, hoardings, signage.

* wider green belt protection.
* local heritage assets protection in the surrounding district.

In terms of local materials, it would be great to see extensive use of hard-wearing tiles and other ceramics from Stoke-on-Trent.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Leaf it out! - leaf blower bans

Bans on leaf blowers are coming into force in places across the USA, as America nudges out of a deep winter and toward another summer. Most notably bans in many parts of California and across Washington.

Let's hope this spreads, and to the UK. I'm usually not one for having the state ban things, but anything that reduces the growing amounts of annoying noise in a suburban summer must be good. Such blowers and strimmers are also old, usually highly inefficient two-stroke petrol engine technology, and are unhealthy in all sorts of ways for those using them. Not least in terms of hearing damage. Many blowers and strimmers are said to get up to 80-100 decibels.

I can't imagine that the local sensitive-eared pet population or wildlife finds them a welcome addition to the landscape, either.

Some places are going even further and banning all noisy landscaping and cutting tools in summer, expecting contractors and gardeners to switch to battery-power or hand-tools or a mix of both. Should Stoke follow their lead?