Gems from the manifesto

My mornings have started with leafleting sessions at 6.15am twice more this week, to get our local election address out in my ward. But last thing at night my reading material has been our manifesto for the general election.

I bought a paper copy to read in bed, and reading through it has reminded me exactly why I’m a Liberal Democrat. What a fantastic set of policies, many of which have been well publicised.

But I spotted half a dozen gems which aren’t so well known. Some of them I wasn’t even aware of and I’ve been to every national conference for several years now.

So, ignoring the big promises, here are my favourites:

  1. Encourage community-owned renewable energy schemes (p.28) – It goes without saying that these would be brilliant in Calder Valley, harnessing the water power that was used by industry here 200 years ago.
  2. Cut red tape for putting on live music (p.46) – Why have Labour made it harder to put on a small gig in a pub or church hall. Seriously. Why?
  3. Strengthen the Youth Service by making it a statutory service (p.51) – Youth services have been cut severely by Tory-run Calderdale council this year, there is now no council-run youth provision in central Hebden Bridge. As a non-statutory service, it is an easy target for cuts.
  4. Change the tariffs used by energy supply companies so that the first energy you use is the cheapest (p.53) – I have changed to a gas supplier that charges the same price per unit for every unit used by every customer. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds insulating my house. Why should someone who hasn’t bothered get cheaper and cheaper energy the more they use. This is the case with all the major suppliers.
  5. Fight to stop MEPs having to travel to the Strasbourg Parliament every month (p.66) – What a waste of time, energy, and money. Surely this is a no-brainer.
  6. Protect free speech […] through reform of the English and Welsh libel laws (p.93) – The case against Simon Singh may have been dropped, but it should never have been allowed to be brought in the first place. Our libel laws need urgent reform.

How good would it be to get all these through parliament?

Speaking of manifestos, Lewisham Liberal Democrats have published their local government manifesto which is an extremely impressive document for a local party to produce, with lots of excellent but serious policies. I wish them all the best in their campaign to elect a Lib Dem mayor and take control of the council, and I hope we can produce something similar, if maybe not quite as slick, for the local elections here next year.

Save 6 Music – by listening to it

The BBC Trust today admitted that the stories leaked last week – that 6 Music and Asian Network would be recommended for closure – were true.

BBC 6 Music is the only radio station I’ve encountered that is focused solely on good (non-classical) music, with a particular emphasis on up-and-coming singers and groups. The entire station is essentially a continuation of the work done for many years by the late great John Peel.

The DJs are extremely knowledgable about the music played, and regularly have bands into the studio to perform live and talk about the music, continuing a tradition that goes back to the early 60s when the Beatles (amongst others) would come in to perform on the light programme. There is no time for the tedious light-hearted “banter” engaged in by the likes of Jonathan Ross or Terry Wogan on Radio 2.

My favourite show, and the reason I have a DAB aerial stuck to the front of my house, is Marc Riley’s weekday evening show. Not only does he play great music, but he has a fantastically subtle dry sense of humour, not unlike that of Eddie Mair. And he has the best jingles. I also enjoy Lauren Laverne, Craig Charles’ Funk ‘n’ Soul show (yes, that Craig Charles!), and Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour (when it’s on).

A quick look through my iTunes ‘purchased music’ list reveals that I’ve bought music from Voluntary Butler Scheme, King Creosote, The Loves, The Poems, Pete and The Pirates, The Wave Pictures, Half Man Half Biscuit, XX Teens, Vetiver, Wild Billy Childish and Beans on Toast – all as a result of hearing them on 6 Music. I’ve also seen several of these groups live. Most of these are new groups who get vital exposure on 6 Music. Radio 1, Radio 2 and the commercial stations simply won’t take the risk of playing anything other than safe music designed to appeal to a middle-of-the-road audience and advertisers.

Lib Dem spokesperson Don Foster has said that 6 Music and the Asian Network are being used as sacrificial lambs. He’s absolutely right – if cost savings need to be made, there are plenty of other places that they could look. I would suggest that taking a long hard look at TV channels BBC3 and BBC4 would be a good start.

So what can we do to help save 6 Music? Well, of course, comment on the BBC Trust’s consultation. But most of all, listen to the station, and if you like it, tell your friends. It’s been very poorly advertised up till now, and hopefully the listener figures will take a big jump as a result of this week’s publicity. You can listen on Freeview (TV), DAB (radio) or online. Anyone listening live online will be counted by the BBC’s servers, so why not listen while browsing, or check out some old shows on iPlayer.

Hopefully together we can persuade the BBC to reverse this decision.

Edit 3 March 2010: Join the Facebook campaign to save 6 Music. Also don’t forget to complete the BBC Trust’s consultation. Tell them what you think!