Sunday, 29 March 2015

Candidate websites

Sencan recently attempted to look at who to vote for in the general election, which is now just five or six weeks away. We live in the South Cambridgeshire constituency, whose current MP, the Conservative Andrew Lansley, is stepping down. It is a fairly safe seat; the Lib Dems were nearly 8,000 votes behind in 2010, with Labour a very distant third. Therefore there will have to be severe ructions for the Conservative not to win.

There have been a couple of changes in the candidate list over the last six months: Sue Birtles, the Labour candidate, stood down after an apparent argument with the local party, although ridiculously the main Labour party website still lists her as candidate.

The other change is much more sombre. Lister Wilson, UKIP's candidate, sadly died earlier this year. I listened to him speak at a hustings last year and whilst I am not a natural UKIP voter, he was an impressive candidate.

So far we have had one leaflet through the door. This was a few months ago, and was from Heidi Allen, who will be standing as Lansley's replacement for the Conservatives. We have had nothing from any of the other parties.

Sencan wanted to find out more. I pointed her at a few sources on the 'web, and soon we were at It lists five candidates, and we thought we would go through to see what their personal manifestos were. It was a very disappointing and disheartening experience.

Heidi Allen, Conservative. Heidi has a personal website detailing her diary, campaigns and local news. It looks fairly swish and professional, and it is easy to see her views on some important topics within the constituency. The website layout does share similarities with those of other Conservative candidates, although the content appears to be specific to this constituency. She is also active on twitter.

Dan Greef, Labour. Dan has a personal website, but sadly this seems to contain nothing other than a large picture of himself along with his phone number, and email and twitter addresses. There appears to be no way of discovering his personal views on topics within the constituency.

Sebastian Kindersley, Liberal Democrats. Sebastian has a personal webpage, but it is fairly shallow in depth and appears to contain nothing pertaining to the constituency. In fact, it is a template, and he has not removed the 'sample page' link that goes to, as expected, a pro forma sample page. He has a personal Facebook page, which again mentions little about the constituency, but does imply he goes to the same gym as Sencan! He is also on Twitter, but has sadly been inactive since January. This is particularly disappointing as the Liberal Democrats came second in this constituency last time out.

Marion Mason, UKIP. Marion has a webpage on a UKIP website, but this does not seem to mention topics important to the constituency. She has a personal Facebook page, but I cannot access it as I am not friends with her. Which is fair enough, but it also makes it irrelevant to voters. She is on twitter, but appears not to have tweeted since August.

Simon Saggers, Greens. Simon has a website that thankfully contains some information on some local issues. He is also active on Twitter.

It makes for is a very depressing list, with too many candidates who do not care enough to inform voters on their views.

Here is a message to all prospective parliamentary candidates: if you want my vote, develop a good website. Twitter is pointless as a means of expressing complex views, and especially if it is just used for meaningless soundbites or parroting party tweets (I'm looking at you, Dan Greef).

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Dartford Crossing

We've just spent an enjoyable weekend with friends in the south of London. This involves using the Dartford Crossing - the magnificent cable-stayed Queen Elizabth II bridge on the way out, and the adjacent twin-bore tunnels on the return.

Last time we did the journey, towards the end of last year, we paid tolls in each direction. Yesterday we crossed the bridge to find the road bypassing the toll booths as the old toll system has now been replaced with electronic payment.

This peeved me for the following reasons:
*) In what is obviously a cost-cutting move (they do not need the staff), the tolls have increased from £2.00 to £2.50

*) The prices were not displayed on the motorway on the run-up to the bridge - it would be good for people to know how much it cost, so that they could make a choice about whether to use it or not (even if most would not have a choice).

*) Although you can pre-pay, they give you up until midnight the day after to pay - not particularly good if you are away on a long trip. And the penalties are £70 if you miss that midnight-the-next-day deadline (halved if you pay within fourteen days).

*) Under the original PFI scheme, the tolls should have been removed in 2003, twelve years after the QEII bridge opened. Instead, they were converted to a 'charge', for which the company would widen parts of the M25 (using the cheap and not-so-cheerful active hard shoulder scheme) and renovate the Hatfield tunnel.

*) Even though I managed to get Internet access within the time period, this might not always be the case, and I really don't want to give my card details out on the Internet too much.

*) The signs state something like 'Go online to pay' without giving the URL. If I was an Internet scammer then I would copy the official site and give it a similar URL with SEO to get people in.

This seems a really poor and user-unfriendly move to me, with little advantage to the end-user over the old scheme. Or do you disagree?