Not all politicians are the same - will the St Albans Member please note

Yet again MPs are in the mire because of the astonishing behaviour of a Labour minister. The "mistaken" claim for two adult films just adds fuel to the fire set by Jacqui Smith's dodgy claim that her sister's home was her main residence. Last week it was another Labour minister Tony McNulty claiming expenses on his parents' address eight miles from his own home. Ms Smith has been quick to apologise for the "oversight" and will refund the money.

 

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Whoever said LibDems are not practical?

My stomach is still appreciating the delicious LibDem constituency meal at the Greenwood Community Centre in Chiswell Green on Saturday. The hall was full to capacity with guests enjoying an entirely home-cooked meal - a duo of pates or cooked red peppers, followed by coq-au-vin or spinach and goats cheese tart, and brownies & ice cream or fruit salad to finish. They don't do things by halves in St Stephens!

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Funding threat to Oaklands College Smallford scheme

I could not have chosen a better day to make a return visit to Oaklands College's beautiful Smallford site as my photo of the main building shows! I last came here in the 1980s, some things have changed but the attractiveness of the environment has not. I was shown round by Mark Dawe, the Principal

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'Ere Fletch they've only gone and got it wrong about St Albans again

With the title 'Ere Fletch they've only gone and listed the Scrubs: HMP Wormwood officially one Britain's finest buildings today's Daily Mail announces that Wormwood Scrubs Prison has been given Grade II listed status. There is a picture of Ronnie Barker and the caption The London prison was made famous as the entrance to HMP Slade in the BBC series Porridge starring Ronnie Barker. The Daily Telegraph website carries a similar story. The trouble is that as any Albanian knows it was the former St Albans prison which provided the backdrop. Can you believe anything you read in the press these days?

Bricket Wood is special

Bricket Wood has always had a very powerful sense of its own identity. So it was no surprise to see such a large attendance at the 50th AGM of the Bricket Wood Residents' Association last night in St Luke's hall. I counted around 60 in the audience, and they have 1800 members covering 80 percent of households.

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Eve Aldridge - and the Hatfield Road Methodist Church

Yesterday I attended Eve Aldridge's funeral at the Hatfield Road Methodist Church. It was packed. The size of the congregation was itself a tribute to the quiet impact Eve made on so many people just for being who she was. She used to be a Liberal councillor in St Albans. She came on to the council at the same time as I did so we were both "newbies" and would look to each other when we were unsure of some protocol. Her misfortune when it came to roll call votes was to have a surname beginning with "A" - the councillors are always called upon in alphabetical order - while I could lurk in the happy obscurity of the "Ws".

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200 year roadworks - it's official

I am indebted to local resident Tony Price for drawing my attention to a piece in yesterday's The Register, an online running commentary on the IT industry and an old sparring partner when I worked for BT. They in turn are indebted to their reader Paul Smith for alerting drivers to ongoing and rather prolonged roadworks in Hertfordshire, albeit with "slight" impact on traffic flow.

 

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What is the point of a rail regulator if he can't regulate?

St Albans rail commuters endured yet another wretched Monday morning journey to work yesterday morning as overhead wire problems stopped trains running through London. It beggars belief that rail subsidies are now five times higher than they were pre-privatisation. There’s not even the excuse of snow. Last week I attended a roundtable discussion with Bill Emery, Chief Executive of the Office of Rail Regulation, the man in charge of regulating Britain’s railways. It was very illuminating.

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Really stupid official letters - Volume 36

Our oldest son goes to university. Our second son is about to. So we deal with the student finance system. I have just received a very silly letter to tell me that "Student Finance Direct" is changing its name to "Student Finance England". It says "This letter is for your information only. You do not have to do anything and the changes do not affect any of the on line services you, or the student(s) you support, currently use." So why are they wasting money on postage, colour printed paper, and an envelope to write to me about it? Good to know that taxpayers' money is being so well looked after.

What's in a name?

So much to think about after the "We are Names Not Numbers" seminar at Portmeirion. Firstly what a national treasure Simon Schama is. It was a privilege just to be in the audience when he gave his keynote talk - entirely without notes and with a panoramic inclusion of so many different strands and ideas. Throughout the three days he made incisive contributions to a wonderfully relaxed and swooping set of conversations. And I had the particular pleasure of walking up a hill with him (of course I called it a mountain when I came down) discussing his forthcoming history of the Jewish people from their invention of monotheism - surprisingly (to me) recent, circa 600 BC if I understood him correctly.

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