Monday 29 April 2013

County Elections - who to vote for 3: LibDems

Yeah, yeah, I know, you hate them. Nick Clegg and all that. I take your point. They're about as popular as public lice. But this is a local election, about local issues. Lets hear them out. At least our local candidate in Kings Hedges has bothered to reply to Cambridge Cycling Campaigns Survey, so thats one up on the Tories.

I'm sure I remember hearing that the LibDem candidate here, Neale Upstone, vowed that he never wanted to be a councillor again after last time. Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, after he's stated he cycles about the place he comes right out with the goods when asked about cycle provision for new developments:
Yes. In particular, I believe dedicated off-road routes are the only mass transit solution as shown in Europe.
Okay. I'm on board with that.

Then on evidence based policing on road issues:
Broadly, yes. I think safety should be the priority, injury accidents whether injury drivers, cyclists or pedestrians have a massive impact on people's lives and a cost to taxpayers. I think we need to start talking about *dangerous* anti-social behaviour (both driving and cycling) and prioritising that over pestering teens in hoodies.
The incident on Hills Road could well have been me having caught up with a reckless driver and made my views on their speeding known. The police response when reporting the threats from the passenger who got out and 'in my face' should not have been "it's better to ignore speeding drivers". My response: I'll be ignoring what you said as I want our streets safe for children, and I will not live in fear of bullies.
So, you agree with the idea that we should be policing such things but that we should be putting more effort into the things that are most dangerous? Excellent. Spot on.

He's clear on what kind of cycle provision we need, he's direct and unequivocal regarding the problems faced on Orchard Park... He wants clear improvements on Milton Road but chickens out of condemning the police as they deserve for how they've targetted cyclists there (shame). Bloody hell - a local politician speaking no-nonsense good stuff about cycling. We should have him stuffed.

Is he a one off though? Lets pick another one. Arbury is next closest to here so lets see what the candidate there, Daniel Stephen Levy has to say.

Its a bad sign when he responds to the question about cycle facilities in the new developments thus:
Safe, high quality cycle routes are going to be an important part of the infrastructure needed to support growth in Cambridge and the surrounding areas. The Liberal Democrats are already seeking to have £8m invested in cycling and the Chisholm Trail. If elected I would support this measure.
However, investment in other forms of travel, including facilities for pedestrians and frequent, reliable bus services will also be needed. As a councillor, I would seek to find the best possible balance between all these various facilities.
Really? In response to a cycling question you're going to go on about some idea of 'balance' between public transport, pedestrians and cyclists? Would you start waffling on about pedestrians if the question were about the A14 or cyclists if it were about train services? No, of course you bloody wouldn't. This insane concept that improvements for cyclists must somehow be contextualised by changing things for everyone else too has even sunk into the LibDems it seems.

His response on evidence based policing is even worse:
I fully support evidence-based policy making, but I'm not sure I agree with the rather strange definition of the term that is given in the question. If something is evidence-based then it should be based on all the available evidence, not just the bits that fit with a particular agenda.
Agenda? What? The question is simple enough, should the evidence (for example how many people are harmed by different activities) lead police priorities - thats not some suspicious or peculiar agenda, and that you believe it is speaks volumes about your own peculiar world view. Flat out, why would you want to set police priorities other than on evidence? Why is this something candidates find so hard to grasp?

He goes on to give out entirely the wrong message on cycle facilities - we've got ample wide enough roads across most of the city, I'll simply not have it that routes of identical width in Holland have space for cycle lanes but here in Cambridge they don't. And his reticence to come right out and support high quality facilities for new settlements isn't so much short sighted as outright stupid. And I'm afraid, its down hill from there.

Bottom line is that the two candidates I've looked at are as different as chalk and cheese - Upstone gets it, Levy doesn't. Upstone understands that you can be pro-cycling without being anti-anyone else. Levy doesn't. Upstone gets that we're interested in making things better for cycling and that this in turn reduces congestion and makes for a safer environment for pedestrians. It is unclear whether Levy does.

In short, you might consider voting LibDem if cycling is an issue for you. But corner your candidate and pump him for information first. As a party, the local LibDem group clearly are not pro-cyclist (the City Councils dreadful record shows that to be true), but there are some among them who are spot on.

So if you've got a good LibDem candidate and the thought of Nick Clegg betraying every principle you hold dear doesn't make you feel physically sick, they might be the party for you.

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