These days, I edit and write for Liberal Democrat Voice, formally as Friday editor and but also at other times as news breaks or topics need to be discussed.
This week has been typically busy, with zombie pubcos and vampire railways in the frame, as well as the vital issue of biodiversity offsetting.
First up was an attack on the pubcos. These are the companies that took over large number of pubs in the 1990s. Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland raised the issue in a hard hitting speech in the Commons on Monday night and I reflected:
QUOTE: Four years ago, I cried when the tenants of my local were forced out by a pubco. They’d had a brilliant first year. They’d made the pub a hub for the local folk scene and helped breathe new life into the community. But on New Year’s Day, their rent doubled. That was the price the pubco levied on their success, and it was an impossible demand. The pubco accountants cared not. The pub has struggled ever since. It’s up for sale, facing closure.
On Friday, I tackled the seemingly obscure topic of biodiversity offsetting. Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire and the man at the helm of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is an enthusiast for the scheme. The basic idea is to give the green light to developers who wish to build on wildlife rich landscapes, providing they pay for, or contribute to, a biodiversity scheme elsewhere. The proposal worries me:
QUOTE: It’s the lichen, the mosses, the liverworts, the beasties too numerous to mention and too small to see, as well as soaring trees, lush grassland and boggy ponds that give a patch of land its distinctive biodiversity signature. And this cannot be established in weeks or years, sometimes even decades.
QUOTE: And therein lies a danger. Few land managers, whether nature trusts, councils or farmers will want to be tied to century long schemes. We live in an age of short-termism and no one is going to tie themselves down to manage a bit of land for 100 years.
Saturday saw me writing on the vexed question of High Speed 2. The BBC reported that a recent report boasting the benefits of the scheme failed to mention that wide swathes of the country will lose out economically as the rail line sucks investment into major cities. (It’s worth noting that Shropshire is predicted to be a net beneficiary.) HS2 always generates a lively debate and my post is no exception.
My other Lib Dem Voice blogs this week: