Saturday, 30 October 2010

Cleggerons scared out of Oxford

Only six months ago, in May 2010, just before the General Election, Brookes University in Headington, Oxford, laid on a triumphalist reception for Nick Clegg, the handsome, well-dressed leader of the GlibDem party. He was invited to speak because he was promising students an end to university tuition fees. Vote for me, he proclaimed, and I will set you free. No more loans, no more debt, no more stress and worry.
Actually, that invitation was of dubious legality because there are laws about pre-election hustings meetings. Any publicly funded institution such as Brookes is supposed to be non-partisan and invite representatives of all competing parties, or none at all. Brookes took no notice of objections like that but went ahead with its big event. The local press sent photographers and reported that tall, smarted-suited Nick was received like a celebrity. He and he alone could save them from the terrible Tory threat, or Labour threat, and lead them to the promised land.
Virgin voters, who had never seen the inside of a ballot-box before, crowded in thousands to offer their support to the Glibdems.
It was not the first time Clegg had come to Oxford to make the same promise and woo student votes with the tuition fees issue. He had done the same thing in November 2009
Six months later, my word, how things have changed. The Cleggerons are now in power and the Browne Review has suggested raising student fees to hitherto unheard-of levels. On Wednesday this week, Vince Cable, Cleggeron Business Secretary, was billed to appear in Oxford talking at the Exam Schools in the High Street. At least this was legal as there is no General Election in the offing now for four and a half years. Once again, a mass of students congregated, but this time they were there in protest. They had heard in advance of his visit and 1200 of them agreed on Facebook to turn up and make things a bit hot for Vince. They wanted to tell him exactly what they thought about the coalition, the Browne Review and the upping of those tuition fees he promised to abolish.
They had lost their political virginity all right.
The police and the university authorities started to get worried. They thought it might turn into an outright riot.
So what did Vince do? Hearing about the protest, he called off his visit. He decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and stayed away.
Is it maybe time to declare Oxford a Cleggeron-free zone?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Bin City

The new refuse collection system has turned Oxford from a city of dreaming spires to a city of bins. Huge plastic bins, green or blue, with stacks of plastic crates and their scattered lids now dominate the urban and suburban landscape. Everywhere you look, there are bins, bins and more bins. They seem to have taken over like alien invaders.

One house I saw in North Way has a row of six wheelie bins in the front garden, next to a pile of six plastic crates. It looked like a barricade or a road-block, not a garden. Our townscape is now hopelessly, horribly, Bin-Laden. It is an environmental disaster.

These PVC monstrosities block paths, obstruct gateways, overcrowd and dominate small gardens, clutter up pavements, deface verges and give everyone the feeling they are coming home to a dump rather than a house. Where can you hide them? Where can you hide from them? Nowhere, is the likely answer, unless you have an enormous garden with a handy grove of evergreen bushes. There is something sinister about a line of wheelie bins lurking behind a wooden trellis. And most of them seem to be permanently surrounded by litter.

Is it just the fault of the Labour council? Or the GlibCon government? No. like most barmy ideas it all relates back to the EU. The EU's policies include punishing people for throwing too much away. If we don't reduce what we send to landfill, we have to pay fines - and the fines are in millions. The EU has the power to impose unlimited fines on this country - how many people realize that? So we have only a fortnightly rubbish collection and our recycling receptacles are getting bigger and bigger until they crowd us out of our homes and cities. But the fact is that there is little market for most of the materials that are collected for recycling. Much of it is stockpiled or even sent abroad to where it can be tipped legally without any fines.

I am a conscientious objector to wheelie bins. I have managed to evade having them, on the grounds that my steps are too steep. Naturally, after I had explained this to the Council, they went on and sent me a green wheelie bin, and then in due course a blue wheelie bin, both of which I managed to get sent back after many lengthy discussions. I don't throw away enough to even half fill either of these monster receptacles. I get my milk in returnable bottles and rarely buy tinned food. If supermarkets put their chickens in absurd plastic bubbles like crash-helmets, I don't buy them.

As if two crates were not enough, we were all issued with a preposterous food waste box. Why? I don't throw food away. I buy only what I need and I eat it. As they won't take it back, I use the box for making nettle fertilizer in. It happens that nettle fertilizer is illegal under EU regulations, so I have the satisfaction of defying Brussels and the Council at the same time.

If they want to reduce landfill, why don't they issue us with free compost bins? We have to pay for those ourselves.

One of the results of the nutty refuse policies is that random dumping of items has surged upwards. Only today a lady in Malford Road told me that somebody had thrown - yes, thrown - an old red hoover over her garden fence, because she lives near to a footpath which is a favourite dumping venue. It could have injured her. Other things she has had chucked into her garden include rolls of old carpet, car parts and used syringes. I went into the lane and saw stuff like planks and boards dumped there. I asked her whether she realized that the Lib-Labour Council has just imposed charges for private householders taking things to the municipal dump. Could there be a connection between that and dumping? She agreed although she admitted that she had voted Labour without realizing what they had done. Their latest dastardly trick had escaped her.

Don't make the same mistake on Thursday!

NB Since writing this article the same dear lady has contacted me to tell me that the hoover, which she had put back in the alley, was thrown back over her garden fence a second time. Awful, but I had to tell her there was not much I could do about this. She voted Labour!