Talking Points: March 2010

Of course no review will ever be absolutely comprehensive, but hopefully this will give a taster of the topics and trends interesting local bloggers in the past four weeks.

Here's Reading List's archive of local blog news for March 2010.


There was a major national story breaking on our doorsteps when news emerged of a Cookham B&B owner who turned away a gay couple on religious grounds.

Unwelcome Guests

The story encapsulated the potential legal conflicts arising from the new Equality Bill passing through parliament as the right to be free from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or religious conscience were shown to be in competition, leaving a minefield of issues to be negotiated as incoherencies in the bill began to be exposed.

It also brought together a range of different themes highlighting a tangible consequence of what happens when political ideas don't account for people.

Religious issues were one strong theme as conscience and conscientiousness were on our minds, maybe relating to the build-up towards Easter festivities.

Unwelcome Guests; De-sacre-ated; The Bishop's Progress

As well as the question of where to draw the boundaries between public and private rights (as highlighted by the decision of the guesthouse owner to raise objections to particular guests), the matter of fulfilling public responsibilities was raised as Reading's Lead Councillor for Education was forcibly removed from a key advisory committee on religious affairs for his failure to attend any meetings.

Meanwhile Reading's current Bishop of Reading was promoted for his success in assuming new roles as a community leader on moral issues facing society, showing that private beliefs can be a powerful motivating force influencing the public debate.

was at the crossroads of a selection of stories.

Unwelcome Guests; Conservatives Divided On Support For Equality; Maidenhead Tories In Plot Turmoil

The usually tranquil idyll on the south bank of the Thames brought into focus a series of problems arising from an insular mentality. The petty prejudices that can exist when allowed to fester in isolation were matched at official level by their elected representatives.

Maidenhead MP Theresa May attempted to gloss over the divisions the idealistic representatives and ideological activists in her party, while internal competition between those factions at the borough level of Maidenhead Conservatives showed how groups can be torn apart from within as they approach their day of reckoning and each side vie for control.

Potholes were once again high up on the agenda.

Potholes Pile Up; Blitz On Poltholes

The humble pothole is turning into a powerful metaphor for the economic and regulatory problems facing the country in the aftermath of the credit crunch.

Inadequate road maintenance budgets across the county have been exposed by the harsh winter as an area where political parties have used their control of budgets to cut corners and costs on basic necessities in order to fund more politically desirable initiatives.

But attempts to convince the public that roads are being brought back up to standard have been scorned. Opposition parties argued the quick fixes ignored the systemic problems of cynically politicised budgets used for electoral purposes - this makes the problems intractable and likely to be recurrent.

Additional council spending
was also announced in a number of areas.

Blitz On Poltholes; Political Fight Over Play Areas; It's Tree Time!

Councils across Berkshire responded to criticism of their maintenance of roads by finding significant sums of money to placate commuters, while in Reading families and householders saw their interests brought to the front of politicians minds - there's nothing like an imminent election to spur announcements of action!

City status issues
continue to be covered as interest in the matter reached into the highest office and across the globe.

Flattering To Deceive; More City Views

On the one hand Labour leader Gordon Brown intervened in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Royal Charter competition by stating Reading 'deserved' to be a city, while on the other California-based expat blogger Claire Auchterlonie explained why the town is easily (and regularly) overlooked by the Queen, despite - or perhaps because - of the proximity of her major residence at Windsor Castle.

But overall the biggest trend of the month was a general focus on statistical measures of performance - perhaps this reflected increased attention paid to figures as the end of the financial year approached...

Top Of The Berkshire Blogs; Recommended Reading List #52; The Casework Competition; Axis Of Authoritarianism; J.O.B.S.; Blitz On Potholes; Crime Confusion Stirs Fresh Controversy

In addition to Reading List's regular chart of the most influential local blogs, statistical compilations into league tables were published and analysed in the areas of NHS trust performance, local councillor diligence, MP voting records on civil liberties, public employment levels, road maintenance performance and crime clear-up performance.

When tailored correctly to its subject information becomes a powerful tool for social change and improvement - then it's only a matter of the political will to apply the lessons provided by the information... though more often than not ruling politicians it seem to wish to hide from the embarrassment of what it says about what they've achieved!


Life is never dull in Reading, but how any of these talking points play out is something we'll just have to wait and watch... or contribute to ourselves.

We can all make a difference to the lives we live by discussing the choices we face and giving our opinion, so if you want to participate in the online debate contact Oranjepan and Reading List will monitor your local blog too - so why not have your say and get blogging!


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