Cathedral like a beacon on a hill - the view that could be lost for ever

I have sent in my personal letter of objection to the Helioslough proposals for the Radlett freight terminal. I hope I am among many, many local residents and organisations to have voiced our dismay. There are so many different grounds why this proposal is wholly unsuitable for the site -

  • "coalescence" of currently separate communities destroying any remaining sense of a rural setting for the south of our city and district
  • massively increased lorry traffic on a highway infrastructure which is already close to breaking point
  • much of the workforce operating the site having to be imported daily from miles away adding to unnecessary traffic congestion
  • a whole mass of unanswered questions about the impact on commuter rail services which are vital to the economy of St Albans and the surrounding villages, and
  • the terrible impact on the quality of life of those living near the site.
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Shaking Hands with History

I gave my Shaking Hands with History talk to St Albans U3A (University of the Third Age) today. I followed Animal Architecture and the next talk in their series of talks is Open Wide: A Short History of Dentistry. They have eclectic interests, these U3Aers.

It was perfectly sweltering outside and the inside of the shimmering green main hall of the Highfield Centre was like a furnace, so I am grateful to them for at least not giving the impression of going to sleep. Because I always do the talk ex-tempore, it can sometimes be a voyage of discovery for me as well when I realise I have left out one of the key stories and need to rebuild the talk as I go along. I don't have any props and simply wave my hands a lot. I keep asking myself if I should generate some illustrations and do a powerpoint presentation with illustrations from the Battle of Waterloo to the July 7th London Bombings. But on balance I will continue to attempt to paint word pictures in the best traditions of From Our Own Correspondent. I think it more or less works. I am happy to speak to any local groups so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Why don't we just use the "c" word?

"Redaction" is a slippery word. I associate it with Bush and Blair and other dodgy neologisms such as "special rendition" for state sponsored kidnapping. Redaction is just a fancy word for censorship and we should say so. Looking at MP receipts on-line and seeing all those blacked-out details is genuinely shocking. This is public money being spent and apart from a very few exceptions I just don't buy it that MPs' security is being compromised by making their home addresses public. I live at 6 Hobbs Hill in Welwyn. Previously I lived at various addresses in St Albans: 4 Dorcas Court, 42 Pageant Road, 4 Watling Street. The newspapers tell me that Mrs Main's taxpayer-funded second home in St Albans is at Samuel Square - coincidentally at the top end of Pageant Road only a few yards from where I was living when I last stood for election in St Albans. I don't think telling the unredacted truth about where we live is going to cause the sky to fall in.

How to make MPs sick and other topics at Marlborough School

Excellent session at Marlborough School. First time I have been there in decades and I had forgotten what a pleasant environment it is in terms of the way the buildings are presented and laid out. I was speaking to Year 12s though a few final year pupils also sneaked in. Given that the greedy antics of a few MPs have made voters really sick and thus have diminished the stock of politics, I told them how to make MPs sick. Take one lavish lunch in Brussels, then put them in an ancient propeller driven aircraft to fly back across the Channel in a storm. I can tell you it works a treat... It was mainly a question and answer session and there were some really good ones - on MP expenses of course, also the law round drugs, immigration, sustainable transport, getting young people interested in politics to name but a few. And then some really thoughtful follow-up e-mails and facebook exchanges.

Sandy will walk it?

"Sandy Will Walk It" was the crassly hubristic slogan of my first parliamentary election campaign in St Albans in 1983 - complete with a little walking stick man figure as the logo. I didn't then but I did today - the St Albans Half Marathon at least. I did the Walking Race which has the great advantage of starting in the relative cool of 8 am - see atmospheric early morning picture (below).

The strangest moment was walking up Bedmond Lane and hearing a shrieking whistle ahead as a steam roller clanked, rattled and hissed past on its way to Redbourn. It seemed a metaphor for my own ancient machinery huffing and puffing round the 13.5 km course, which beats the bounds of the west of the constituency. Going back down Bedmond Lane, we met a different kind of steamroller in the shape of the awesome phalanx of runners bearing down on us between the high verges like some wild infantry charge. All they lacked were the assegais. I finished my stroll in just under three hours which meant I was there to see Dominic Easter triumph in the proper race in just over an hour. I first met Dominic when I spoke at St Albans School a year ago. He is on course to be a great running star, he made the race look so easy, and I will be able to tell people that I finished the Half Marathon ten minutes in front of him - shame I had to have a two-hour start... It was a particular pleasure to be greeted at the finish line by Iqbal Zia, the new Deputy Mayor. 

In the picture I have my race finisher's medal. Iqbal has the much more significant badge of Deputy Mayor of the City and District of St Albans. He is the first representative of St Albans's non-White communities to hold this office and he is proving to be a star. Today he took off his badge and jacket and joined the children and their parents in the 1.5 km fun run round Verulamium Park. Great stuff. One of the many best things about the St Albans Half Marathon is the way that so many different types of people are encouraged to participate - runners, joggers, walkers, veterans and children. Schools compete against each other, and my oldest son's first school St Alban & St Stephen retained the school trophy. Good to see their enthusiasm given all the snickiness about school sports. I finish this post with pictures of the two kinds of steamroller on Bedmond Lane.

Historic clean sweep for LibDems in St Albans

I do not believe that Conservatives and their forbears have ever failed to win a single council seat in the St Albans parliamentary constituency. Well the impossible happened last Thursday when the Liberal Democrats won every single county council division lying wholly or partly within the St Albans constituency boundaries. As Herts County Council's own website shows, there is a splash of yellow across the middle of the county.

The picture above shows seven of the eight LibDem councillors from the St Albans constituency with the road and pavement dossier which has become a metaphor for Conservative failures in Hertfordshire.

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Collective Cry of Rage on the State of Roads and Pavements

We have finally completed the mammoth task of collating all the responses to our roads and pavements surveys which was delivered earlier this year to over 36,000 households in St Albans and the surrounding villages. Nearly 2,500 households completed and returned the two-page questionnaire.

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Gardens of Eden

It is always fun peeking at other people's gardens. It is even more fun when you are licensed to peer. So I really enjoyed the opportunity given to me by last Sunday's National Gardens Scheme to see just what creative people with genuinely green fingers can do. Here are two gardens in St Stephen's Avenue - two oases of suburban bliss, where the gardeners started with standard slices of lawn and trees and created paradise:

Sing a song of sixpence - except it's sadly rather more than that

I had not previously heard of the Corrigan Brothers. They performed at President Obama's inauguration with their song "There's no-one as Irish as Barack O'Bama." Now they have turned their gentle satire onto the MP expense issue. Listen to their song here and smile ruefully - it's our money they are singing of.

No second home at taxpayer expense

I have always been totally transparent in my commitment not to claim any second home allowance if I am elected MP. Today's Sunday Telegraph story on the anger of St Albans voters reflects the wave of revulsion I have personally experienced on the doorstep from people outraged at what the Daily Telegraph has revealed on Mrs Main's use of the Additional Cost Allowance. I have issued the following statement to the local newspapers:


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