Time for a change

The Trabant wasn’t a totally dreadful car, or at least it wasn’t when first launched in 1957.  It was cheap, easy to drive and repair, and for its size it could haul a decent load.

Problem was that by 1991, it remained essentially the same two-stroke, 26 horse power motor it had been back in 57.  In East Germany innovation was just too difficult.  It didn’t have the investment in research and development; it didn’t have a culture that encouraged critical thinking and experimentation.  And people weren’t able to look over the borders at what others are doing and copy them. 

East Germany was too heavily centralised for that, all important decisions were sucked to the centre.  Sadly, for all the talk of localism, and freedoms and flexibilities, British local government remains heavily centralised too.  It’s nothing like East Germany thank goodness, but even though we are elected, councils remain agents of central government as much as we are the servants of the local people who elect us.  Continue reading

ASK Nick

I was up at St. Charles Sixth Form College the other evening for the first in a series of “Ask Nick” sessions. 

Now whatever you may think of the wisdom of giving these residents Q&A sessions a title so rich in punning potential, I’m sure most of you will see the sense in council leaders getting out and about to meet and talk with residents. Continue reading

Speaking up for arts and culture

Perhaps it’s Constable’s full-leafed trees, Henry Moore’s reclining figures, Turner’s seascapes or Stanley Spencer’s visions.  It could originate in Camden Town, Glasgow, Newlyn, Cookham or St Ives. The sound track might be Elgar, Handel, Parry or Walton and there’s bound to be Lennon and McCartney. Does your dramatic preference veer towards the kitchen sink, barrack room or drawing room?  Closer to home perhaps it’s Lucian Freud, Harold Pinter, Oscar Wilde or Lord Leighton that strikes a chord.

But in whatever direction your artistic preferences lie, the sustained vigour of British culture always has something to offer.  Continue reading