Saturday, 17 November 2007

Polls and banning things

Well the good news is that Orange finally seem to have sorted out my broadband connection at home in Bristol. The bad news is that my website server seems to have gone down, or whatever the technical term is, so I can't do any updates today. (This blog is on a separate site - it has to be or I wouldn't be able to say anything too "political" on it - parliamentary rules!)

I am trying to think of a topic for my next website poll. Again, parliamentary rules dictate what topics are suitable. It has to be local, not national - the idea being, I think, that it's all about representing constituents, not about seeking support for a political platform. So I can't ask about the Climate Change Bill, or the extension of pre-charge detention, or raising the school leaving age ('though maybe if I ask would it benefit Bristol???).

The current poll on a ban on plastic bags is currently hovering around the 80-82% for/20-18% against mark, and the issue suddenly seems to be all over the media. Loads of towns - including our neighbouring authority of BANES and all 33 London boroughs are reportedly in favour of a ban. If Bristol wants to stake a claim to being the green capital of the UK, it needs to get its act together. (While it's quite obvious why people would support a ban, it would be interesting to know why they oppose it - is it because they think a tax on plastic bags would be better, or because they don't think it would achieve much, or because they're fed up with the Government banning things? Maybe I need a comments section on the poll.

I've been contacted by campaigners wanting a ban on foie gras in Bristol, as has happened in York, so that's a possible topic. The production of foie gras is already banned in the UK, but there is no prohibition on importing or selling it, and there is an argument that EU rules wouldn't allow us to do so. I've been writing to Ministers about it for a while, as I think there's a way round this, and have also written to the Council leader. Interestingly. Schwarzenegger has already banned the production and sale of it in California - I wonder if Cameron will be taking a steer from him on that too? Can't imagine it would go down too well with his aristocratic friends. (See for more info).

But I think I'm going to go with prostitution for the next poll., rather than another ban. Some people have suggested that a tolerance zone is the answer to Bristol's problems with on-street prostitution. I've been speaking to Fiona Mactaggart MP about this, a former Home Office Minister who has been doing a lot of research on the topic, and particularly on how they approach the problem in Sweden, where it is illegal to buy, rather than sell, sex. She tells me that in Amsterdam they're retreating on their 'tolerance' approach, and in Utrecht they've closed their managed zone.

When the idea of a tolerance zone has been discussed in Bristol in the past, they've suggested it should be along the Feeder, in my constituency. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it's a long straight stretch of road, with a river running along one side and industrial units on the other. It's very isolated at night, and quite a distance from the areas where the prostitutes currently work. Would street sex workers - 95% of whom have a serious drug habit - actually move so far from places they could score drugs? I assume the area would be policed quite heavily, for the sex workers' safety, so would the dealers want to be seen down there? They wouldn't have any excuse for being there at night.

Fiona is bringing a Swedish politician over to Parliament soon, so will wait and see what I can learn from that. Will post the new poll later in the month.


Lee Skevington said...

Greetings Kerry,

You say you can't comment/put a poll up on the climate change bill, does this mean you can't survey opinion about the proposed waste-charging scheme?

We've placed a poll up on the Yeovil CLP website to survey opinion on this. See -

I, for one, would be quite interested in the thoughts of others in the South West regarding this.


Lee Skevington
Yeovil CLP

Kerry said...

Possibly... but I think it would be better to do it in the context of specific plans for Bristol, rather than a hypothetical example. I'll bear it in mind but am going to run with the prostitution/ tolerance zone issue next as I've got the Home Office Minister coming to Bristol soon to meet with local residents about the problem.