Tuesday, 31 May 2011

In the north country

One of the reasons I've been absent from the blog of late is that I've taken on another voluntary role in helping to manage a local nature reserve. You'd think this is mostly a case of being out there doing physical stuff like planting trees, cutting back scrub and so on - and there is a good deal of that to do - but there's a surprising amount of background work to do as well in organising and publicising fund-raising events, staying in touch with the council and the Wildlife Trust, liaising with other organisations using the site for events, communicating with the wider community at meetings and through newsletters... it all adds up. But it's very satisfying and gives a genuine sense of belonging to the neighbourhood.

Dearie me, that was almost emetically worthy, wasn't it? Let me be honest and admit that the main reason I've been absent from the blog of late is sheer laziness.

All that said, it was great to spend the weekend in the far north, a part of the country Mrs QO and I have loved as long as we've been together, which is quite some time now. Many parts of Nottinghamshire are beautiful, many parts are peaceful and unspoiled, but we don't have any landscape like the Cumbrian fells.

Photographs never do justice to the high northern skies, nor can they capture the tumbling music of the curlews crying overhead as I took this shot.

I love my home county, and my roots are here. But from time to time it's good to go to those less tamed places.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Monday, 9 May 2011

Voting dust settles

I was very pleased that in the Rushcliffe Borough Council elections, the voters in my ward returned our two Green Party candidates. The People's Verdant Republic of Lady Bay is the only Green ward in the Borough - one very visible sign of what a delightfully individual place it is. The rest of the Borough is predominantly Conservative, of course, though I think it fair to say that Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC) has never come across as so offensively 'Foaming Nutter Tory' as the Big County Council Brother across the way at County Hall. RBC has quietly got on with being a very well run local council with very little in the way of scandal or fuss over inefficiency. Not much to laugh at all, really.

Turning to the AV vote. Well, the blogosphere was fairly heated over this one, but the country has decisively rejected the offered change. I voted 'No' in the end, despite wavering until the day itself. In the end I came down to the position that change is needed, but this single option wasn't the right change. As David Pannick QC pointed out in The Times on the day of the referendum, a better approach would be to do as Australia did. First, have a referendum on whether we want change at all. If the electorate says 'yes, we do', then have a further referendum on a range of options. Constitutional reform is a serious business, and not one to be entered into via a bodged political compromise. Many of the LibDem supporters of AV were pushing it not because it was the solution they really wanted, but because it would have been a demonstration that they could get something out of the coalition. That's perfectly understandable, but just because something might have been politically advantageous for the LibDem party doesn't mean it's a good thing to do for the country in the long term.

I don't at all go along with the view that no electoral reform will now be possible for a generation. I think there's actually quite an appetite for it, but the electorate is more sophisticated than the political circus at Westminster seems to believe, and will be looking for a properly presented set of proposals - not a back of the envelope quick fix.