Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's NOT manflu - am so happy!

It's twenty-five to five in the afternoon and I'm just up.

Yesterday I went to my GP who told me that was actually something wrong with me and it couldn't have made me happier. The thought that I have been miserbale and unwell for 10 days now and it turns out to be nothing would be too much to take. Hence, the fact that I do have something wrong with me, despite the obvious misery that brings, does actually make the pain and discomfort somewhat more worthwhile.

If you want to know just how bad it is, because I have been told I shouldn't talk (by the GP that is, not by the Labour Party) I didn't go to yesterday's council meeting ... the first I have ever missed. I didn't get the chance to rip Labour's budget apart and vote against their 4.7% max tax hike. Bugger. But I'm sure everyone there would have known that if I was there I would have voted against it.

I can now cuddle up with my antibiotics, series 3 of Spooks on DVD and a very large bowl of Rice Krispies to relax.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dean's hat goes back in the ring

I like Gordon Dean - which is now probably the kiss of death - and I think he made an excellent contribution to Norwich civic life. It is therefore good news that I am told he is to re-stand for Council. However it is bad news that I hear it is for Lakenham Ward. Mr Dean will attempt to overturn Labour's wafer-thin 15 vote majority here - tougher than it sounds because Labour's candidate is the equally well known Keith Driver. Whatever happens it'll be a close and tough fight and whoever loses, then the council will have lost a good person. Why don't the LibDems bury the 2004 hatchett and give Gordon Dean the seat he deserves ... assuming they have any safe seats left in the City? ;-)

Norwich South AGM

Tonight's Norwich South Conservative AGM was one of the best - and best attended - in many years. Although no shocks in terms of voters (or even any difficult questions) it was nice to start from the point of financial health and electoral success.

I was elected Chairman of the Association and I take it over at a real high point - we have more and more people joining each day, a better events programme and a real chance of gaining more and more seats next May.

In terms of the team I made very few changes given the wide-ranging reshuffle we had only last December. John Wyatt, Deputy Chairman Membership, becomes the Senior Deputy Chairman - meaning he will stand in for me if absent. Niall Baxter continues as Deputy Chairman Political and Eve Collishaw's job shifts slightly to Deputy Chairman Fundraising.

Despite recent ill-health I am thrilled that County Cllr Judith Virgo remains as President - and her team of Vice-Presidents is much stronger this year including Eaton's Vic Hopes and new-comer Doris Le Grice.

Carrie Chandler continues as Norwich South CF Chairman and Richard Davies as UEA CF Chair. Both will serve on the Executive, along with newly promoted Malcolm Chamberlain, Paul Wells and Eileen Wyatt.

Thanks to all for their support and I look forward to a great year!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Sorry about a lack of posts ... am suffering from a nasty dose of Manflu which seems to halt basic bodily functions like getting off the sofa. I did managed to attend the full council meeting and will report on that latter plus also managed to meet Oliver Letwin on his trip to Norwich, but I fear all that will have to wait. Until then, there is always Questtion Time and Lemsip...

p.s. And not a day off work, either...

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's the Guardian wot won it...

I just find it amazing that the Guardian has this in their piece reporting that ICM poll. Amazing.

Falling Lib Dem support is part of the reason that the Conservatives have climbed in both sets of results. The fact that the party's support drops further when Sir Menzies' name is mentioned suggests that, as with Mr Brown, he is not attracting support to his party.

But there is no evidence that the UK Independence party is eroding Conservative support from the right. The newly-rebranded Independence party scores 1%, against 2% for the Green party and 4% for the combined SNP and Plaid Cymru vote in Scotland and Wales.

p.s. Regular readers will know of my hatred for Prof. Anthony King's bias poll reporting in the Telegraph where, no matter how good for poll is for Cameron or the Tories, he can always make it out to be a crushing disaster. I wonder how he'd spin this one?

ICM Poll: Cameron 42%, Brown 29%

Over at they are discussing the latest ICM poll which shows Cameron back at the 40% mark but, more interestingly, with a 13 point lead if the Chancellor took over. Most of this swing to the Tories comes at the expense of the LibDems, but it will give Labour MPs and activists in marginal seats a lot to think about before they opt for the cash-saving coronation of Mr Brown.

I have argued over the last week or so that Cameron is moving further ahead as the best PR and media operator of the party leaders. LibDem Leader Sir Ming Campbell has had a quiet couple of weeks whilst Dave leads a lot of the political news. This seems, on the face of it, to pay off for the young Mr Cameron. It doesn't matter what he says, as long as he's on TV or radio saying it!

However, it has also been pointed out to me that the swing if Brown were Labour Leader (which is, incidentally, enough to put Cameron in No.10 with a decent majority) also sees large numbers of LibDems opt for the Tories. Is this because the thought of Brown is so scary that a lot of LibDems will vote for the only way to stop him ... i.e. Conservative?

I would be interested in what you have to say, but we have to agree that this is a decent poll for Cameron and a bad one for Brown (and, by default, for Campbell). But as we know, one poll does not an election win make.

What a day!

Going back to work is never easy, but teaching for most of the day and trying to clear my desk was almost impossible. This week I am trying to get Year 9 Reports out whilst organising next week's Options Evening. Add to that the normal barage of teaching, stroppy children, rude adults and phoning parents and you can guess what kind of day I've had. Nationwide are not doing anything to make me have faith they are dealing with my mortgage correctly and I'm preparing for a shadow ministerial visit on Wednesday, full council tomorrow night and the Association AGM on Friday. Phew! I've literally just finished working, looked around, found it was gone 9pm and realised I haven't even kissed Emily goodnight. Well, at least Olivia is still up for fun...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It's my party...

Today has been a real treat as a family day. This morning we went to Emily's NCT 2nd Birthday Party and had a fantastic time up to our knees in toys, jelly and sausage rolls. There was even a bouncy castle which Emily loved ... but Daddy wasn't allowed on (no fun, some people!) We hadn't seen some of the kids in 6 months and boy had they changed. Our NCT group is a lovely band and we all get on really well. The picture is from our last beach-walk in Holkham, North Norfolk. We are hoping to go back to there in early June this year too. The NCT was a really important part of having our first child because we all got the chance to share ideas, questions, concerns and fears. The group has stayed together really well and all the kids get on. In fact three couples, including us, now have two babes and another two are currently pregnant ... so it is more like NCT 2nd Generation some time! The NCT also offers a lot of support, especially with breast feeding, but the regular get togethers and toy sales give a welcome relief particularly in those difficult first few months. We have been lucky with our group but would highly recommend the organisation to any parent. Plus we were very fortunate to have the excellent Ann Roberts as our class teacher, who in a Norfolk-is-a-small-place kind of way is also parent to one of my students!

This afternoon we caught up with friends and chatted the evening away ... heavy doses of plotting and planning of drinking sessions! I find it slightly worrying, but equally reassuring, that we want to do dinner parties rather than mad nights out clubbing. I had one of the latter last week and felt bad for about 16 hours afterwards!

However I think my stomach better get used to it with a certain drinking partner set to move in around the corner ;-)

Hey-ho, back to work tomorrow...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sunshine on the Campaign Trail

This morning we headed to North Earlham. Now, North Earlham is by far Labour's strongest area in the Bowthorpe Ward but also the one with the lowest turnout. We were out to discover why and we weren't disappointed.

Unlike nearly everywhere we have been so far, the local residents here were desperate to talk about issues - from anti-social behaviour to bus routes. We moved pleasingly slow as almost every door we called on wanted to raise something. However what shone through was deep disappointed about the way in which Labour neglected their issues. One man, on Larkman Lane, complianed bitterly that this was meant to be a Labour area yet Labour did nothing for them. It was clear that Labour's vote was not coming out - a large number regusing to vote, a smaller number switching to the Conservatives and even a couple to the Greens.

However, as an aside, I met one man on Dereham Road with the most pathalogical hatred of the Green Party - quite amazing. He is voting Tory but apparently met a certain Green Councillor (no names!) recently and said it was only by the love of God himself that he didn't attack him with the nearest blunt object. What could possible have been said? The elector kept quiet on that, I'm afraid.

Anyway, back to the plot. We had old friends over for lunch today with their 18 month old son and so had a pleasant interlude to all this lunacy!

In the afternoon we went to the north of the City and enjoyed some time in Catton Grove. Eve and myself spent some of that time looking at the general state of roads and in particular at the quality of recent road repairs. Some of it really is shocking and needs urgent attention indeed. Issues raised here also included the state of the City Centre, grass verges and the level of council tax. At last - one resident raised unitary (he was against it).

Best exchange of the day:
Voter: "I haven't voted for 10 years. I last voted for John Major and the Tory Party has gone downhill since them so I haven't bothered."
Heroic canvasser (me): "So do you think you might come out of retirement and vote this year?"
Voter: "Yes I will, Cameron is doing well. Is the election today?"
Me: "No, It's on 3rd May."
Voter: "Excellent, plenty of time to get my pencil sharpened."

That must be one hell of a pencil.

Cameron and Hain - they both know what to do!

There is much discussion over at about Cameron's rather slick PR machine and their current work. The past week has bene a quiet one, politically speaking, and only 2 men know how to exploit that.

David Cameron doesn't use one of those famous political grids. He reacts to breaking news extremely well, but he also knows how to exploit quiet news periods. How has Cameron managed to lead on the BBC Politics site two days running ... and how has the government let him do this? Are they so devoid of ideas that they cannot wheel something out to knock the Tory Leader off the lead item? You've got to hand it to Cameron, he knows what to do.

Similarly the other man who knows what to do is Labour's Deputy Leadership hopeful Peter Hain. I know that Hain has come under pressure because of his seemingly endless bandwagon jumping, but he has siezed the initiative and made a couple of fine centre-left announcements that have been well covered because of the quiet news agenda. Like him or loath him, Hain knows what to do too!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Can Iain Dale contain himself?

A sentence not often found on a blog (or anywhere else for that matter):

Good news about Hazel Blears - click here!

LibDems get nasty in Scottish poll campaign

If the reports from the BBC are correct then I think LibDem Leader Sir Ming Campbell will have made a mistake in targeting fellow party leaders in his party's bid not to come 4th in the Scottish elections on 3rd May.

Campbell's attack on Blair and Iraq is rather predictable and suggests that by dragging up this issue again his party has nothing new to say. Isn't this the same record they've been playing since 2003? Anyway, I suspect that not many people will notice this!

The main thrust of the attack was on SNP boss Alex Salmond. Now, no matter what you think of Salmond or his politics, you have to accept that he is widely admired in Scotland in the same bizarre way that Livingstone is in London. A bit of a loon but with his heart in the right place.

The LibDems have built their limited success on the basis of being the "nice party" - of avoiding such attacks and being relentlessly positive ... I know, I know, but this is their public perception not the reality that political campaigners know!

By letting Campbell savage Salmond in this way, I wonder if this take the shine off the LibDem gloss.

UPDATE: I notice also on the site a poll which shows more LibDem voters want Salmond as First Minister than their own well known leader, Mr Thingey.

The Truth About South Norfolk...

I am very grateful to South Norfolk Tory Leader John Fuller for e-mailing to set the record straight about their "appeal" for candidates. I am also thankful because he put me onto his excellent blog - click here - which he will be running up to the May elections (and hopefully beyond).

I got the original story for North Norfolk LibDem Councillor Nich Starling, but I shall be careful of what he writes in future ... not very fair, and also not very accurate!

Cllr Fuller writes:
In fact we were doing a residents survey. At the end of the questions there's an option to ask people whether theywould like to help the forthcoming elections... you know, deliver some leaflets, display a poster, do some telling on polling day. We also ask whether people would like to be considered as candidates...there are county elections in 2 years time as well, you know. In fact we have a full slate in Hethersett and have done for several months. So thanks for the LibDems for mis-representing our survey of residents opinion. Conservatives are asking the questions and listening. LibDems just misrepresent for party advantage regardless of the benefitto local residents. As an aside, we actually advertised for candidates in December 2005, 14months ago with follow-up in the EDP and had a great response withseveral respondents now standing in May. That's innovation. That's why South Norfolk needs the Conservatives. Fact to remember: South Norfolk's Council Tax up 258% in 12 years. Eight times inflation. Twice as high as the county council.

Out and about in Bowthorpe

This morning, before I went off to a Group Meeting, we went off to Bowthorpe to knock on a few doors and ask what we can do to help. I have a little bit of pseduo-celebrity status around there and when the unsuspecting Clover Hill resident opens the door they always look amazed to see me. "You exist," declared one very happy looking housewife as I graced her doorstep. Indeed I do.

Two hours worth of doorknocking and virtually no issues to raise at all. There were the normal gripes, including fly tipping and litter. Again, no mention of the incinerator, Unitary Status or the Council's new twin bin system which continues to puzzle me as the Evening News treats them as the most important issues in the City. I wonder if all three don't fall into a box marked "activists care but nobody else does". I don't want to think that, but you can't argue with the evidence.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Worst leaflet ever produced in Norwich (and perhaps the nation)

If only I could scan it in, I would be a very happy man!

On returning home I found a copy of the Labour Rose for Town Close Ward. Now, I used to be a real leaflet snob. I hated the Tory ones of the 90s, printed as they were in tight size 12 font but our more recent efforts I believe have been the best in the City. I loathed (and often still do) the Green ones, because the quantity of information presented is too much for an A4 sheet. However, thanks to photographs and lots (and lots) of adverts that seems to be less of a problem. I have, on the other hand, always admired the LibDem Focus sheet. It was pioneering in politics but I now wonder if a lot of the gimmicks (e.g. 2 horse race, bar charts etc) have had their day. I remember one old Lakenham Focus that looked as if it were done on a typewriter, but generally the standard and print is good. Labour have always struggled. They recently reluanched Labour Rose as an A4 booklet style including arty shots of various candidates and councillors. Some good, some bad and some very, very ugly.

Yesterday's was the worst (and I mean, the worst) I have ever seen. Tight text, no photos, the stories ran on between the pages and all of the stories were utterly boring. Devoid of content and shockingly bad to look at. I'd be surprised if anybody, let along large numbers, of people read this. A whole page deciated to a county council spokesman than not even I have heard of? That's gotta be desperate!

Come on Labour, we know you aren't serious about Town Close, but at least look at and learn from successful branches like University or Lakenham and see how they do it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Doughty Street to South Park Avenue

Back refreshed from a very relaxing few days away. Well, it was a bit of a busman's holiday in some respects as blogger Iain Dale invited me onto his Vox Politixs programme on 18 Doughty Street. It was a real experience - firstly that the address exists and to see the whole operation in action. But secondly I have never taken part in such a long debate before - over 2 hours worth, including reviewing the papers and the blogs too. I appeared with the President of Kings Conservatives (who had a new blog to plug!) and also libertarian blogger Brian Micklethwait, who was very good value if nothing else! We discussed a lot of the topical news, including North Korea and the de-selection of Sir Patrick Cormack ... but the best bits were saved for the debate on crime and Brian's view that all law-abiding citizens should be armed! I'll leave you to download it yourself and judge!

Yesterday I then went out with our team in the South Park Avenue area of Norwich. South Park is a very nice estate on the edge of Eaton Park but finds itself electorally in Eaton Ward rather than being more suitably placed in with more similar North Park and University Ward. Hey-ho, gotta love the boundary commission. Anyway, we are very lucky to have an organiser just for this part of the ward and he is going a great job at getting people canvassing and delivering. In fact yesterday a team of us followed the "Focus" deliverer around ... poor chap! Response was pretty good. There are more and more student houses in South Park but generally the population is pretty static and, im my opinion, thus the voting intentions are static too. Labour's vote, small as it is, it staying pretty solid unlike the other areas we have been to in the last fortnight. LibDems have a clear lead here but people are starting to question them. A couple of comments made by people are worth sharing: "LibDems have been in for years and years and what's happened? Nothing." Also, "Lubbock promises this and that - so what? Never happens." Finally, "Voted LibDem last year for the last time. I would go into why but I'm sure it would bore you." If South Park doesn't turn out solidly for the LibDems then they could run into trouble.

Once again nobody mentioned council tax or the incinerator. Neither was Unitary raised. Issues concerning people are traffic flows, state of the pavements and anti-social behaviour. One resident told me about the stress that her family is under thanks to local yobs and the inactivity of the police, courts and politicans.

I am pleased with the strength of the Conservative vote here - again, another area where we have found it tough in recent years. We are picking up direct switchers but, again, people are willing to consider us again in a way they haven't in the past.

One last thought: leaders. Nobody mentioned Blair. Nobody mentioned Cameron. Two people mentioned Campbell - both against him. I don't know why, or even why I'm mentioning it.

South Norfolk Conservatives need YOU!

An interesting post from North Norfolk Councillor Nich Starling on the South Norfolk Conservatives quest to find local government candidates. Across the country parties find it difficult to get people to stand, but I wonder what you might think to a blanket leaflet drop asking all residents to consider coming forward?

Initially I was horrified by this thought and the damage it could do to both democracy and the party. Then I thought a lot more about the issue.

I believe every person has a right to vote for the candidate (or even party) of their choice. It is why I would make the nomination process quicker and easier, even if that meant more cranks standing. As a lifelong staunch Conservative I cannot bear the thought of NOT having a Conservative on the ballot paper. So what should associations do when gaps appear? I'd want my local Tories to fight tooth and nail to provide me with a candidate and therefore this approach could be warranted - if somebody comes forward. South Norfolk Conservatives should be congratulated for not leaving a stone unturned in their task of providing all residents with the chance to vote Tory on 3rd May.

Furthermore, as my cogs turned I thought about the recent national party advice on broadening the activist, candidate and councillor base by advertising as widely as possible. If CCHQ sanction, say, adverts in newspapers asking for candidates then why should this leaflet be any different?

After nearlly choking to death earlier I'd now say "well done" to South Norfolk Conservatives. Let's hope they get their full slate.

UPDATE: A poster on Nich's blog kindly points out that the LibDems have the worst record of the three main parties for putting up local government candidates.

Third Oxford LibDem Councillor quits

To lose one councillor is unfortunate, to lose two is careless but to lose three???

More from Stephen Tall, who is (at the time of writing) still in the LibDem group!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Canvass Report 2 : Middle Norwich has their say

This is the second in what I hope will be a regular series of reports from doorsteps around Norwich and Norfolk. As I'm not standing for election this year (is that my wife I hear cheering...) I am spending my time on other people's campaigns and am having a great time both in the City and around the County.

Yesterday I started off with being extremely impressed with the team that Vic Hopes is building around himself in Eaton. I caused a stir in the party with my first canvass report post on Sunningdale and was taken to task for it yesterday! So, in spite of the rain, we set out to canvass the roads off the Newmarket Road and I (for one) found it pleasantly surprising.

Vic is one of those candidates who has managed to poach a lot of support from other wards and constituencies. He had a big team yesterday - including one mutual aider all the way from London! And he certainly put on a big show. Vic lives in Eaton village but the extent of his support goes way beyond that. I was shocked at the number of people who were going to vote for Vic personally ... and from all political hues and none. We had a great time, pleny of Blitz Spirit in the rain!

There were plenty of issue too and it is interesting that in this very "middle Norwich" area a lot of it came back to value-for-money. Apparently this week the people of South Norfolk said they wanted to pay more tax. Well, the people of Eaton would like value for the tax they pay already. We saw problems with the roads, trees that needed cutting back, grafitti and litter hotspots ... but none being dealt with by the council, or the LibDem Councillors. Also we were told several times about traffic problems and flow in the area.

Like Sunningdale, many people were looking at the Conservatives for the first time in many years.

After lunch at the Cellar House we then transfered en bloc to Catton Grove and (now even colder and even wetter) want to campaign for Eve Collishaw. The problem with trying to do that is that everybody knows Eve - she gets stopped in the street and she always talks in full to everyone she meets. Hence if you are trying to get her onto doorsteps and up the street it can be quite hard! Interesting issues that arose include the state of Mousehold Heath, anti-social behaviour and broken roads.

Shipfield is an interesting place to canvass - certainly not the most Conservative area and a real eye opener. Many of the residents didn't like living there - they said that kids stalked the place and that it was dirty. Many had turned away from politics full stop. I'm not sure we won many votes but in taking the time to stop and talk through some of the issues then maybe we went one step to rejuvenating their faith in politics.

And just to boot, whilst canvassing up Sprowston Road a car went by a puddle and soaked me!

I enjoyed every moment of it and it gives me great faith that May will bring good results across the City, County and the Country!

Tories try to encourage defections ... tell us something we don't know!

There shouldn't be anybody who is in the least bit surprised that Team Cameron are actively trying to get moderate figures in other parties to defect, in fact I'd be annoyed if some people somewhere weren't spending every minute of every day planning some high profile swtiches. Admittedly Peter Mandelson is slighly beyond the pale for me, but everyone else seems like they could legitamtely live in Cameorn's big tent.

However, two problems with making this explicit have become apparent. Firstly is how to cope when people like David Laws and Norman Lamb (pictured) say they won't defect due to not being Tories. And secondly how we ask the people of their constituencies to vote Conservatives after heaping praise on them so much! Cameron has basically said these men are so good that we want them in our Shadow Cabinet ... but please now vote for this other chap! Another example of good local activists being shot in the foot by the generals pistol.

Let's focus on winning over defectors ... but let's do it in private please!

Off on our travels...

We are just packing the last few bits (when I say "few", anybody with one small child let alone two will know how ironic that is meant to be) for a couple days away. We are heading to Oxfordshire to see my Aunt and Uncle and then onto London after that. Hoping to catch up with old friends and see some family. Posts will be light (or non-existant) until we return!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cameron does it again!

Tory Leader David Cameron and his aides must have thought long and hard before launching his call for Blair to resign. It is true that the excellent soundbites at PMQs this week got Cameron some of his best headlines since being elected over a year ago. It put the Blair succession issue back on the media agenda and compounded another bad week for the Premier.

But I cannot help thinking that this wasn't just some short-term headline grabbing initiative. Cameron toured the media handing out the same "hello, just go" line for a few days and the Sunday Express poll today picked up the same theme (53% want Blair gone now, including 43% of Labour voters.)

So is there a longer-term strategy in place? The more I think about this, the more I think there is. When Dave was elected I said that his real USP was being able to "out-think" Labour on a number of issues. I feel he's done it again.

Blair is the Tories best asset. We want him to stay in place long enough for his to lead his party to one last (and maybe the greatest) slaughtering at the polls this May. We want meltdown in England, a battering in Scotland and a thumping in Wales. We want Blair to be the man who leads Labour into the oncoming electoral machine gun fire and watch as Labour Councils and Councillors are defeated.

So when then demand he quit? Because the one thing he now cannot do is resign - because we've told him to. If Blair quits now, Cameron will claim the scalp and will be the Tory Leader who finally got rid of Blair. The Tory media will declare that the Witney MP will have been instrumental in ousting the Sedgefield MP. Hence Blair cannot quit now and give Cameron that boost. He must hang on and go in his own time and in his own way. And in the time being, lead Labour to that May defeat.

Win-Win for the Conservative Leader.

Sunningdale man turns again to the Tories

I was away this weekend at my nephew's first birthday party in London, but still the campaigning goes on here in Norwich with two teams out - the first in Catton Grove and the second in Sunningdale, which is a small community near Eaton just off the Newmarket Road.

For many years Sunningdale was considered by many in my party to be a LibDem hotbed and there is one ex-Tory candidate, in recent years, who has refused to campaign there.

I canvassed the area during the 2005 General Election and found it to be fairly mixed. It is a nice area with a lot of new-build houses which contain a mixture of young families and retired couples, spitting distance from one of the most sought after roads in the City and located in what should be a safe Conservative council ward and yet isn't. It should be a rock-solid Conservative voting area. Yet, clearly, it wasn't. Somewhere along the line we had "lost" Sunningdale-man.

The Sunningdale-man issue has played on my mind ever since then, and as we knocked-up voters on polling day that year I considered why we were only visiting every second or third home. The Conservatives were failing if we couldn't motivate such people to support us.

Since then we have focused a lot of time and energy on that area (along with a number of others around the City) and tonight I have come home to find the results of yesterday's canvass.

There were a singificant number of "switchers" since that general election - mainly from LibDem to Conservatives but also from those that didn't vote to the Conservatives. But the main shift, and this was a big enough shift to give us the lead for the first time since I can remember, are the numbers of people who are now actively considering Cameron's Conservatives.

People who we have as rock-solid LibDems, some who were rude a few years back and those who haven't voted in a while. All saying that a mixture of things - some local issues like the mobile phone masts, some national issues like crime but mostly the impact of Cameron - are making them re-examine what the Conservatives have to offer. They won't commit to voting for us, but they will think long and hard what future they want for the country.

We're going hard for Sunningdale-man - to prove that we offer a green, sustainable, prosperous future for the City. To prove you can have a robust economy and good public services.

One note on the side of the card said: "likes change, hope and optimism." Says it all really. But it could have said: "likes Cameron." Cameron has made people listen againt to the Tories. Sure, a certain number of people will never forgive us - like some people will never forgive the 1976-79 Labour government. But the vast majority are once again tuned in to what we have to say. And most of those like it.

Cameron has put us back in with a chance - in Sunningdale, Eaton, Norwich and the Country. I am not saying this is the start of some 1997-esque Tory landslide. But I wait and see - with a certain amount of my own hope and optimism.

Labour government heap £300,000 bill for licensing onto YOU!

The Evening News has been doing some digging and will report fairly soon that the net cost to Norwich City Council taxpayers of the switch to 24-hour licensing laws is around £300,000 - a massive sum of money that outstripped even what the Conservatives predicted. The cost to the council should have been revenue neutral, we were told, but clearly somewhere along the line something has gone very, very wrong. Now councils up and down the land are demanding that central government pass on money to pay for the policy that they forced local government into. I think it is a reasonable demand given the scale of the money involved (what we could do with 300k is beyond belief). However I also think we need to look at the level of the licensing fee for this too. We should neer be trying to make a profit out of this but if applicants fees aren't covering the realistic cost of processing then they should be charged more - it isn't fair on taxpayers to cover this cost.

Central government shovel more and more onto councils and never pass on the money required. Next time council tax goes up, ask who is really to blame - local councils or the Labour government?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Questions the Council must answer over Hay Hill art sculpture

The new art sculpture on Hay Hill has caused a bit of a stir. A lot of time and money has been put into this and a lot of lives and livelihoods are going to be impacted. We are asking questions about the cost of this change and, in particular, what consultation the City Council has done.

It strikes us that a change this important requires consensus - or at the very least compromise - amongst all those who are going to be affected.

The council have a lot of difficult questions to answer and we look forward to them giving clear, honest answers.

Because I want the Conservatives to be the honest party in Norwich, I am printing my letter to the Chief Executive below, in full:

Dear Laura,

Following speculation in the local press about an installation of art work on Hay Hill a number of issues have arisen which the Conservative Group on the Council find quite concerning. The way in which this issue seems to have been handled leaves a lot to be desired and I am writing to get some clarification on a number of key points.

How much public money has been spent – or is planned to be spent – on the piece of modern artwork planned for Hay Hill? From which department will this money come and is any match-funding involved?

Have council officers seen this piece of art or at any time visited the artists, who I understand are French, either at home or abroad?

If so, when and where did the meeting take place, how much did it cost and who paid for it? Who were the officers involved and how did they feedback their views to elected members?

Is the piece of artwork finished? If so, where is it being kept and what are the costs of storage?
Can you describe to us what the artwork looks like and tell us what it is called and what it represents? Can a picture of how it will look when it is completed be shared with the people of Norwich?

What consultation has taken place with affected stakeholders and residents and what feedback was received?

Will the artwork be safe and secure and how confident is the City Council that it will prove popular with local people?

The art sculpture is a major investment in the main shopping thoroughfare in the City and will impact greatly on a large number of people. We believe that such an investment requires a great deal of consultation with stakeholder groups and a consensus – or at least compromise – should be agreed before financial commitments are made. I would be grateful for answers to these questions as soon as possible.

Best wishes
Cllr Antony LittleLeader, Conservative Group

Lubbock hits her target

I doubt is was arranged, but the Greens and LibDems did a lovely stitch up job on Labour over the cuts to the Orbital Bus Route around Norwich. Green Party Councillor Janet Bearman (Town Close) laid down a straightforward question to Labour Executive Member Brian Morrey about the representations made by Norwich City Council to Norfolk County Council over the reduced service. Cllr Morrey, normally one of Labour’s most dependable performers, seemed to waffle a bit and get slightly tongue-tied. Then LibDem Judith Lubbock (Eaton) saw her chance and went for the jugular. Normally Cllr Lubbock’s attacks are blunted by her long winded and rather superior tone. But not this time. She got the attack perfectly timed and savaged Cllr Morrey for failing to put the interests of the City first. Oh dear. Cllr Morrey floundered, spluttered and finally admitted … no representations at all.

A good issue, a good point and bought up in the right way.

Well done Cllrs Bearman and Lubbock, though I can feel the “Focus” leaflet being written from afar…