Wednesday 23 December 2009

Lastest on LDC waste collections

I've just got this news from Andy Bryce, the District Council's Head of Waste and Recycling Services. I think they're doing a tremendous job in the circumstances, and they've done well to get a full turnout of staff today. I managed to get about 100 yards this morning before twisting my knee on ice. I hope all the staff manage to complete the day safely, and have a good christmas.

There's additional news on weather disruption at and the Christmas collection schedules at

I am writing to let you know the progress on refuse and recycling
collections provided by Lewes District Council.

We have experienced considerable problems this morning (Wednesday the
23rd of December) on what is already a very difficult week. Early in the
morning when the crews were starting there were a significant number of
road closures (including the A27 in parts).

All of our collection staff have made it into work and all of our crews
have been sent out and are working, however:

The northern part of the District especially the rural areas, but also
Lewes town itself, have been extremely difficult with black ice and ice
under foot. We have delayed collections in those areas and concentrated
along the coast whilst the day warms up.

We have just started diverting refuse and kerbside crews up into the
rural areas (around 10:00 am). In kerbside. We will also be slow to
collect from Piddinghoe, Rodmell, Southease and Northease but have tried
to make a start.

We will be concentrating on catching up on all of the areas both this
afternoon and tomorrow; this, of course, is somewhat weather dependent
but we are aiming to get to the worst areas in the latter part of the

The Bring Sites are generally being collected but certain sites are too
dangerous e.g., the car park in Ditchling that has a steep slope.
There have been a lot of logistical changes to deal with the situation
and circumstances that we are facing.

There will be delays and residents will not necessarily be collected at
the time they may normally expect but we are aiming to and still believe
we can finish the week's work at this point.

We are very sorry if there are some collections we are unable to make,
we ask that residents do leave their waste out for us (remembering that
we are asking for rubbish to be put out one day early and kerbside to go
out on the normal day according to your calendars). The Council's
web-site and District Link have details.

If waste has not been collected by 3:00 pm on Christmas Eve we will not
be able to get to those (hopefully very few) residents until after

We are very sorry for any inconvenience that anybody has been caused.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Despite the lies of the Times, majority believe climate change is man made.

Yesterday, the The Times online published results of a poll that demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of the British public believe that climate change is man made (anthropogenic). Bizarrely, they chose to mis-represent ("spin") the results with the headline Global warming is not our fault, say most voters in Times poll.

First, I'll fess up. My headline is also spin. The poll didn't ask people if they believe in anthropogenic climate change. It asked if
Climate change is happening . . .
... and is now established as largely man-made 41%
... but not yet proven to be largely man-made 32%
... but it is not environmentalist propaganda that is man-made [sic - I presume this wasn't the question that they really asked] 8%
... Climate change is not happening 15%

But, if my headline is spin, theirs is a downright lie, and here's why:

In their report, they used the phrase "established as a scientific fact". But, what they didn't ask is "what do you believe". So, lets take a look at the more detailed report [pdf], and see what people really said.

First, 83% agreed that climate change is happening ("Earth's climate is changing and climate change taking place?" [sic]). Only 2% had no view.

Second, 80% (96% of 83%) agree that climate change is a serious problem. Now, at this point, the question should not be "Who's fault is it?", but "What can we do about it?". However, I'll grant that the answer to the first question has some bearing on the latter. If it's our fault (in a causal rather than moral sense), then maybe we can tackle the problem by stopping doing the wrong thing. If it's not our fault, then we have to start doing something new. Either way, if 80% of people agree that it's a serious problem, then surely that should be the support that the UK government requires in December.

The Times goes on to say "The high level of scepticism underlines the difficulty the Government will have in persuading the public to accept higher green taxes". But that's also rubbish, as their survey demonstrates. Most people (over 50%) surveyed were in favour of higher taxes to combat climate change: specifically with respect to air travel (57%) and gas guzzlers (68%). Oh, and 87% are in favour of stricter building regulations - something that I'm sure the Times would be happy to describe as a "stealth tax", if (a) they'd thought of it, and (b) it weren't so popular!

And this is where we come to the lie. Remember, they said that most people thing Global Warming is not our fault. Presumably, in "most" they're including all those who say it is "not yet proven", but are these really people who say it's definitely "not our fault"? They can't be - not if they also think that taxing air travel or gas guzzlers is going to help. At best, you can characterise this group as "undecided", but my bet is that it consists of some "believers", some "disbelievers" and all the "undecideds". Frankly, it's a poor question.

Note, the poll shows that support for climate taxes is increasing - though the Times shows it's innumeracy here by somehow claiming that more people oppose increasing the cost of motoring, despite showing that men and women are separately less likely to oppose this measure. As are all age groups, and supporters of all parties (assuming "p8" is a typo for "-8").

This bears repeating: the Times are claiming that most people think that climate change is not caused by humans, while at the same time reporting that most people are happy to see new taxes to stop humans causing climate change!

Monday 28 September 2009

Sunday 27 September 2009

Why I'd pay for free wi-fi

I've been to a couple of conferences this year, and both times looked for cheap hotels with free wi-fi. In Birmingham, I needed to finish the presentation (on spam email), so I needed wi-fi to research aspects of that presentation. I also used it to find out about local eateries. It all worked smoothly.

In Bournemouth, at the Lib-Dems conference, I used wi-fi for similar purposes, but also wanted to use it to synchronise my laptop calendar with the calendar on my iPhone, using Apple's MobileMe service which normally does this automatically. The conference fringe timetable is complex, with lunchtime and up to three evening slots, and perhaps a dozen events in each slot. All to be fit around meals, and meet-ups.

I booked a hotel with free wi-fi, but they'd overbooked and moved me to another hotel where I had to pay online before using the wi-fi. At £10 for a week, that's not too bad. The problems started when I tried to pay.

Of course, to manage paid wi-fi, the providers have to put up barriers between me and the Internet. And, they want me to pay over the Internet using PayPal. When I came to pay, my browser popped up a security warning. The security certificate wasn't a PayPal certificate.

I phoned the provider, and was told that this happens quite frequently, and not to worry because the network was completely secure. That's simply not true. Trivially, nothing is completely secure, but in this case I was being asked to click through known security inconsistencies, and given no guidance as to which invalid certificates I should accept.

Throw in a couple of timeouts, and it took me about an hour, in all, to get connected.

Worse, once I was connected, pretty much any secure service I wanted to use wouldn't work properly. Either I had to click through a security warning, or - in the case of the calendar sync process - the service simply would not work.

So, that's a tenner completely wasted, and I'd have gladly paid more than a tenner (for the room) to get free wi-fi, without the payment system that made this so hard to use. Oh, and I never did get the wi-fi to operate with my iPhone - I couldn't get past the paywall even though you're supposed to be able to use multiple devices with the one password.

Friday 24 July 2009

Elevated status

The Sussex Express printed my article today. They've managed to describe me as "a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Priory ward, and a Lewes District Councillor".

In fact, I'm a Liberal Democrat district councillor for Priory ward. I'm not a county councillor at all. Never mind.

Interesting to see that Jason Sugarman chose to use the article to undermine trust, by repeating lies about Norman Baker's expenses.

Anyway, in my article, I said you can read more about the turnout stats on my blog. That's all in this post.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Election algebra

I wrote a piece on trust in major political parties for the Sussex Express. Here's some evidence for a few of the claims that I made about the June 2009 elections.
"The press, and politicians have been worried that loss of trust in politics would mean low election turnouts, or a boost to minor parties."
See, for example, The Guardian

"Neither happened in June"
See graph - note the drop of over a million Labour votes. Other parties exchanged a couple of hundred thousand votes each. That's not to be dismissed, but all the four largest parties here, except Labour, polled better than in 1999. The BNP and Greens did get more votes, and 2 MEPs each, but their total vote numbers weren't enough to qualify as a radical breakthrough.

"the low Labour vote let two BNP members get elected."

Although their vote increased nationally, it actually declined in the two regions where they got elected. It's good to see the BNP vote declining in those areas. The Labour vote was down 180,000 in Yorkshire - 11,000 of those votes would have kept the BNP out there. They lost 240,000 in the North West region, 60,000 of those votes (or 5,000 UKIP or Green votes) would have kept the BNP out there. To be fair, other major parties saw significant drops in these two regions, too.

It would be interesting to try to work out some tactical voting strategies for the Euro elections, but it's much more complex than in First Past the Post. You'd need some pretty accurate polling results in your region to work out where your vote would be best placed to keep out the BNP. The answer is you need to place it with a party that has close to identical support, or close to double or treble the support of the BNP. It's definitely a drawback of the D'Hondt method that you can't express preferences.

These were the BNP votes:



North West



Yorks & Humberside



Saturday 6 June 2009

Reasons to be cheerful, part one.

Part 1...
We, the Lib Dems, took Bristol. That's England's seventh largest city.

It's odd, by the way, that Bristol was up for election with all the county councils. That's because, legally, it's defined as a county for the purposes of the Lieutenancies Act 1997. It's our smallest county by area.

Here are the largest cities (source Wikipedia) in England, and who governs them. We have a hand in running all of them except London and Manchester.
  • London is run by a Conservative Mayor, held to account by a mixed assembly (Con 11, Lab 8, LD 3, Green 2, Nazi 1) currently chaired by Green Party assembly member Darren Johnson. Liberal Democrats run some of the London Boroughs.
  • Birmingham is run by a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition, the deputy leader being Lib Dem cllr Paul Tilsley.
  • Liverpool is run by Liberal Democrats, under leader cllr Warren Bradley.
  • Leeds city council is run but a coalition of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Independents, led by Lib Dem cllr Richard Brett
  • Sheffield is run by Liberal Democrats, under leader Paul Scriven
  • Manchester is run by Labour (61 seats), with Lib Dems second (34 seats), and the Conservatives holding one seat.
  • And, now Bristol is run by Liberal Democrats, with 36 seats (Con 17, Lab 16, Green 1).
  • We also run a number of other British cities, like Newcastle, Cambridge, Portsmouth, Edinburgh (with SNP), Cardiff (minority administration), and Swansea (in coalition).
So, our win in Bristol underlines the fact that we're a party of government, and that we're strong in urban areas. And, there are a number of examples of us working in coalition with others. While we don't seem to have any counties, we do have districts and boroughs throughout England.

Friday 13 March 2009

Election algebra

I got interviewed for the BBC News web site at conference last weekend. I was quoted:
"Maybe they will have to compromise on some things, but I don't think it is necessary to form a coalition. I don't see why the largest party needs to be the one that forms the government.
. Actually, there's some stuff missing in that quote. What I really suggested was that if a coalition is formed, it doesn't need to contain the largest party. I gave the recent elections in Israel as an example, where there was a lot of talk of a coalition forming around the second party.

Anyway, someone was kind enough to email me and call me a cretin, on the basis of that quote. Using phrases like "completely fail to understand the concept of a democracy". Thanks, Iain, perhaps I'll return the favour some day.

"... based on that quote, you do come across as an utter cretin who's unaware they've just proposed something dangerously undemocratic and illiberal that would involve turning back the constitutional clock to the 18th century. "
he says.

But, now that he mentions it, perhaps there are circumstances under which the Queen might reasonably ask the second party to form a government. Indulge me for a moment, and please try not to blow a gasket, Iain.

Suppose, for example, that party A gets 40% of the vote, and 48% of the seats. Party B gets 55% of the vote, and 46% of the seats in parliament. Which party should form the government? What if supporters of party C (with 5% of the vote, and 6% of the seats) clearly express a preference for B over A in opinion polls.

Now, clearly a constitutional crisis (what Iain fears) occurs if party B is asked to form a government. But, in the figures above, I see a crisis occuring even if party A is asked to form the government.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

iBlogger for iPhone

Last time I looked, there wasn't an iPhone app for blogspot blogs. You could, of course, use its web browser, but that's a little slow fir the purpose if you don't have a 3G or wifi connection.

Now, there's iBlogger, which supports a wide range of blogging engines, including blogspot. This is my first post with iBlogger, but I'm expecting it to be mangled somewhat because I need to change a setting on my blog.

It has some nice features. Allows tag management, lets you add links, and will use the iPhone's location services.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Edited to add:

My mistake. It seems I'd forgotten that I've used lifecast before. Lifecast supports picture blogging with blogspot and flikr, which is "coming soon" in iBlogger. iBlogger seems to work better with multiple blogs, though.

iBlogger for iPhone

Last time I looked, there wasn't an iPhone app for blogspot blogs. You could, of course, use its web browser, but that's a little slow fir the purpose if you don't have a 3G or wifi connection.

Now, there's iBlogger, which supports a wide range of blogging engines, including blogspot. This is my first post with iBlogger, but I'm expecting it to be mangled somewhat because I need to change a setting on my blog.

It has some nice features. Allows tag management, lets you add links, and will use the iPhone's location services.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Conference Calendar

NB: I've fixed some problems with the file encoding. It now works with Thunderbird.

At conference, I like to have the conference calendar on my iPhone, to save me carrying bits of paper around. So, having done the work of entering all the events into Apple iCal, I've exported them into an iCalendar standard file. You should be able to import into your electronic diary if it supports the iCalendar standard.

The calendar contains separate entries for every event in the main programme, consultation sessions, opening times for the conference exhibition, and combined entries for training events and for fringe events.

click to download calendar

I've rolled all the "invitation only" training events in a given time slot into a single calendar event. Where there's only one public training event, I've given it an entry of its own. Otherwise, I've combined training events into single entries for the time slot. As far as I can see, all the training events are in the Harrogate International Centre's Queen's Suite

I've created separate entries each for the four "HQ fringe events", but the remaining fringe events I've bundled into two entries per time slot. One entry for events in HIC, and the other for events in the conference hotel.

All these conference events make for quite a crowded diary, but by combining fringe and training events, there's usually not more than two parallel calendar entries - except during the Friday consultative sessions. So, after importing the calendar, delete the events that you aren't interested in, and perhaps the exhibition hours.

If you spot any problems in the calendar (nobody has proof-read it), please post a comment here, and I'll try to update it as soon as possible.

Wikipedia has a list of applications with iCalendar support

Edited to add. I've fixed a couple of things on the calendar. One item had a duplicated UID, and I've converted it to iso-latin1 which Thunderbird seems to prefer, and removed some curly quotes and ligatures. The old version is at

Sunday 22 February 2009

Labour out of touch on social housing

The Labour Party circulated a leaflet recently claiming that Lewes District Council had failed to meet its "25% target" for social housing. They even said that Liberal Democrats "admitted" their claim. They're wrong on both counts, and here's why.

The council doesn't have a 25% target for social housing. Our target for the year was to deliver 60 housing units. We've delivered 65 already, and think we'll deliver more before the end of the year (April).

The source of Labour's confusion, seems to be based on their misunderstanding of our method of delivery. We ask developers of large housing projects (more than 15 units) to provide 25% of their developments as social housing. But, we don't always expect to get that. Sometimes, we get other benefits like flood defences or decontamination of old landfill sites (you'd be surprised how many there are of those, or other contaminated land. So, it's our policy to ask for 25% there, but we don't expect to get it. That's not a target.

In fact, it would be ridiculous to make a target whereby the provision of social housing depends on the provision of private housing, which we don't control. If we've identified a need for 60 social housing units, we should be able to deliver it whatever happens in the private housing market. That should be obvious to anyone now that Labour's mythological "end of boom and bust" has been busted. Still, judging from Labour's leaflet, they're still denying responsibility for a recession caused by their deregulation of the UK's financial system.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Mutuals have better customer service.

Who'd have guessed that mutuals would have better customer service? The Times reports that six of the 9 banks with better than average customer service are mutuals - four building societies, the Co-operative Bank, and top of the list Smile - the coop bank's online subsidiary.

Number 10 in the list is HSBC, but they didn't manage to exceed the average for the industry.

Bottom of the list is the demutualised Abbey. Several more ex-building societies are now slumming it in the gutter with the likes of Barclays.

In the illustration to the right, mutuals are labelled with circles. Note how all the better banks are either mutuals, or online subsidiaries.

Monday 19 January 2009

Thursday 15 January 2009

Multi Milibands

Why do the Milibands sound so much like Tony Blair? Everything they say is qualified by "I think that's the right thing to do" (Ed at 0:29), and "There are legitimate differences to be had" (Dave at 4:50).

Anyway, nice to know that we've given up on the War on Terror. Now, I wonder whether we'll be able to convince the USA that it's a wrong policy?!

Sunday 11 January 2009

Solar power

For a while, I've been looking for a combi boiler that's compatible with solar water heaters. I'd heard that most combi boilers weren't suitable, but nothing more specific. Well, here's one: the Ferroli HE S boiler range seems to be compatible with their [pdf] solar hot water system, and their underfloor heating system. They use a solar panel to heat a small tank of water, and use that tank to preheat water on its way in to the boiler.
They seem to have some other nice products, like their "'Plug and Play' AquaSolXS", which combines various parts of a solar water heating system with a hot water cylinder, to make an easy to install system. That should keep installation costs down, perhaps even component costs, too.

Friday 9 January 2009

Camouflage - not what it seems?

Newsnight just showed footage of a transit station, where the Israeli army screen goods due to be imported to the Gaza strip - humanitarian aid. A soldier showed us "contraband" that they'd discovered in the aid shipment. What was it? Camouflage trousers. "Waterproof uniforms", apparently. Two pairs of trousers in amongst several tons of what could simply be second hand clothing. Not impressed! I'm sure that they'd have shown us something interesting if they could find it. This set me in mind of Colin Powell's devastating evidence of WMD - a satellite photo of a truck parked outside a building.

Thursday 8 January 2009

TTL meeting

I attended the Transition Town Lewes forum tonight. Heard that the currency group has £30,000 in circulation. Ovesco are doing good work using local contractors for energy efficiency works, and have great plans for the future. The waste group has been working with the County Council and Furniture Now! on an anaerobic digester, which will take food waste from local businesses. The transport group aim to set up a locally owned car club shortly. All good stuff, very encouraging.

Tuesday 6 January 2009


NoiseTube looks interesting. It's a way to use mobile phones (currently Nokia N95, iPhone soon) to map noise pollution, which makes a change from using mobile phones to create noise pollution.

I've signed up.

Monday 5 January 2009

Small World Reunion

50 years ago, the crew of the Small World balloon attempted a trans-Atlantic crossing. My dad, Tim, my grandfather Bushy, with Colin and Rosemary Mudie. They travelled four days in the air, then 20 days by sea between Tenerife and Barbados.

Artists impression of the Small world

On my father's birthday, after some time at sea and with some distance to go, they opened a tin of  evaporated milk to celebrate.

Here, Colin (left) and Tim meet again, in more comfortable circumstances, at a family celebration of Dad's birthday.

Colin Mudie and Tim Eiloart

Sunday 4 January 2009

A new spin on global warming.

Apparently global warming will slow the rotation of the planet. Water melting at the poles will migrate toward the equator, thus increasing the moment of inertia of the planet (ie, moving some of the mass away from the axis of rotation). To conserve angular momentum, the planet will slow a little. Days will become approximately one-tenth of a second longer, so don't lose sleep over this. 

Source: "Do Polar Bears Get Lonely", published by New Scientist.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Recycled insulation - how green is that?

I'm staying with my brother in St Ives, Cambs. He has a flat in a listed building, and is insulating the loft over his bedroom. After a lot of kerfuffle with the planning officers (more to do with staff turnover than anything else), he's finally got permission to go into the loft and insulate it. He's used a recycled plastic fibre, which you use like rockwool insulation.

The advantages:
1) it's very nice to use. In fact, it's like a fleecy blanket, not at all itchy.
2) it's 90% recycled bottles.

The disadvantage is that it's still plastic, and 10% new plastic. But, it keeps the old bottles out of landfill, and out of incinerators, and means that the CO2 from the plastic doesn't get into the atmosphere - at least not for another few decades.

I'd be interested to know what the real environmental costs are relative to the other options for loft insulation. Rockwool seems pretty benign, as does sheep's wool. But all three have their manufacturing costs, and sheep's wool comes with methane emissions and land use issues.

Friday 2 January 2009

Barak Obama

I've just finished reading Obama's "The Audacity of Hope". Pretty promising stuff, if he can deliver.

I just wish he was able to get on with it. In the UK, government can change overnight-but we've still got nearly three weeks to wait for Obama, even though it's nearly two months since he was elected. OK, so a newly elected PM here has a shadow cabinet waiting to go, but surely one month ought to be enough.

Thursday 1 January 2009

Newhaven to Seaford walk

We took a walk from Newhaven to Seaford, via Newhaven Tidemills today. It's a nice walk, once you get past the Newhaven industrial estate at Newhaven Town station. Newhaven Tidemills is the ruin of a village which existed to support the tidal power driven flour mills. The village had about 100 people living there, but the mills went out of business when the railways made it easier for farmers to ship grain elsewhere.

Nevertheless, there is the remain of a railway station at Tidemill, which evidently was dual tracked at one point. Now, a single track runs from Seaford the Newhaven. And there's a second railway track towards Seaford, running about 100 yards south of the current track, but largely paved over.

A lot of work has been done recently to uncover the remains of the old village, which was flattened in 1940 to prevent invading forces from finding cover there.

There's been some talk of building a new tidal power station there, but I don't think it would be of much use. They used to grind 3,500lb of flour a week. More feasible these days would be off-shore tidal stream power stations.

The walk is part of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way. A little way to the north of Tidemills is a new wildlife area - the Ouse Estuary Project - with this rather groovy bird screen overlooking reed beds. We saw a kingfisher, an egret, teals and more.

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