London Colney by-election result

St Albans Labour Party has been trumpeting their narrow 32 vote margin in holding their London Colney parish council seat as the greatest news since the second coming.  Of course their candidate Maria Aguado is to be congratulated on her victory.  But the real news was the trouncing of the BNP and the barnstorming performance by LibDem first-time candidate Vibs Nazeri.

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A win-win for everyone

I want to say thank you to Tesco.  The news that they are dropping their plans to build a superstore on the London Road site and instead move their St Peters Street store to larger premises in the former Woolworths is a shot in the arm for St Albans. We can now get an appropriately mixed development at London Road - who knows, a primary school, perhaps a small shopping centre, housing of course, all done in a way that respects the scale of the city centre.

I hope there will be an intelligent planning brief for the site but equally no delay. Meanwhile only yesterday I was talking to market stallholders whose site is outside the former Woolworths.  They were so sad at the decline of St Peters Street at the Hatfield Road end.  They knew there was a possibility of a reinvigorated city centre Tesco and they were looking forward to it as a magnet and anchor. Well Tesco looks to have delivered - full marks to them.

BBC Radio 4 "The World This Weekend" on the MP expenses scandal

Today's "The World This Weekend" included a long item on the MP expense scandal and looked in particular at voter reaction in Stevenage (Barbara Follett) and St Albans.  Both Anne Main and I were interviewed for the programme while we were at St Albans City Station on Friday evening.  There were vox pops with local voters. I was kindly introduced as "The main challenger in this constituency Sandy Walkington" - and the BBC is of course always right.

Would our trains always run on time if radio, television and the FCC top brass came to St Albans station every evening?


It's just a thought. The arrival and departure boards at St Albans City gleamed with on-time trains tonight. How different from recent months.  And what a coincidence that the FCC top management were doing their Meet the Managers (or "Face the Music") session, not to mention more radio and television crews as well as local media than you could shake a stick at. It's nice to know an on-time service can be delivered.  More please.

Bedmond Tin Rocket


I can well remember my first time in Bedmond.  It was circa 1985.  With a friend, I had done  a great circular cycle ride from St Albans reaching Sarratt.  Coming back, we came up Toms Lane, and I well remember the weary push.  All I wanted was the ridge and the then easy ride back to St Albans. Imagine my astonishment when I came to the top and found the tin church.  These are common in the Highlands, but I never thought I would see one in Hertfordshire.

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"FIRST - Transforming Travel"

I had not consciously logged First Group's strapline until I was sitting this afternoon in a Palace of Westminster committee room seeing a set of slides produced by Mary Grant, chair of First Capital Connect and managing director of all First Group's rail operations. FCC certainly has "transformed" travel but not perhaps in the way that the marketing copywriters had intended.

Ms Grant was there with Neal Lawson, the new MD of FCC, to meet Norman Baker MP, the LibDem shadow transport secretary, and fellow LibDem MPs Tom Brake and Paul Burstow, both of whom represent constituencies "served" by FCC.  Also present was Bill Bradshaw, former Director of Strategy for British Rail and now LibDem transport spokesman in the House of Lords.  Norman had kindly asked me to join them, together with Nigel Quinton, my counterpart in Hitchin & Harpenden. At least there were no New Labour crocodile tears.  But no tears at all really.  Some routine expressions of regret - "how we inconvenienced passengers was unacceptable" - but I had no sense that they truly understood just how horrible the last few months have been for local commuters. 

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Crossing boundaries

A belated note about last Saturday's St Albans Interfaith Group's reception at the Civic Centre. St Albans is special in so many ways, and the longstanding interfaith group (which predates 9/11) is evidence of that.  The initiative came from the Rev Tony Hurle of St Paul's Church, who wanted to create a regular dialogue between the local religious communities.

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We apologise to passengers for late-running and niggardly compensation

First Capital Connect is making a dog’s breakfast of its compensation offer for the months of hopeless service.  Why am I not surprised?  I am joining Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker MP in a meeting tomorrow with Neal Lawson, the new occupant of the FCC managing director's office, and I will be saying that they have to do better in terms of recognising what their passengers have had to endure.

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What hope if you can't even write your name?

I was profoundly depressed to see that the Government's own figures show that almost a third of boys from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot write their own name after a year at primary school.  The increasing lack of social mobility in the UK is very concerning. 

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Really interesting health discussion

Lamb meeting

It was a reflective and thought-provoking public meeting on Thursday night with Norman Lamb MP and Cllr Nick Hollinghurst talking about the current state of and future prognosis for our health services both locally and nationally.

Marlborough Road Methodist Church was nicely full and the audience was treated to a grown-up discussion of the opportunities and threats that the NHS faces. Hick Hollinghurst spoke first on the local picture, positive and negative. Then Norman spoke passionately about the need to improve particularly in mental health provision, about reducing some of the more rigid NHS targets (negative) and replacing them with guarantees of standards (positive), about the need to streamline the multitude of supervisory bodies all doing similar jobs and to bring greater efficiency into the NHS by re-designing processes and service delivery.

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