Sunday, February 29, 2004

The poor old Norwich Lib Dems are having rather a tough time of it at the moment at the hands of Lib Dem Watch. Shame.
Another typical Sunday in the Little household. The revelations from Clare Short on the Dimbleby programme managed to ruin my whole afternoon through constant thought about the exact level of corruption in this Blair government. Managed to get out and take some photos of bus stops (for my next leaflet). Oooh, the excitement. Spent the rest of the day watching the snow slowly melt.

The press are being very nice to us at the moment – the Evening News made me a Councillor this week and North Norfolk Radio has made Iain Dale the MP! Still, they are the jobs we’ll have pretty soon anyway so what does it matter?

My teaching union, the NASUWT, has sent me an e-mail asking me to sign up to a campaign against false allegations that are made by pupils about teachers. I once suffered a very serious allegation from a year 9 boy that turned out to be totally untrue and completely baseless. Did I get an apology? No, my reputation was dragged through the mud and the school were put in a very difficult position on the basis of a total lie. I totally support the NASUWT on this one and think government should be looking a lot more closely at protecting teachers in such circumstances. It strikes me that we need to protect vulnerable children and also protect teachers against malicious children. They do lie and they can ruin careers (note to self: remember the case of the Norwich head accused of trying to force a fish’s head down a boys throat that was (again) a completely made up story). It isn’t easy, but I hope that the government and the unions are working hard because it really does matter.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Many Lib Dems are currently bemoaning the fact that there were no Lib Dem people on Question Time this week in Norwich. Is it me or is the show better without them anyway?
It has been a surreal couple of days. On Friday morning we awoke to find a sprinkling of snow so, joy of joys, my school was closed for the day. My wife, however, had to go to work, as her primary school remained open. Many people express surprise that schools close during snow. It is a fundamental part of health and safety about getting kids to (and from) school. Plus, we now have the kind of compensation culture that means if kids slip in school and we’ve done nothing about the ice then the school is liable.

This extra time gave rise to playing on the computer and tormenting the kittens for an extra few hours before going to Daventry for a Conservative training weekend. Lovely hotel, but expensive bar. Training was good and have learnt a great deal about both my abilities as a candidate and what the party – and the electorate – expect of me.

Small world time – when I got up this morning who was the first person to meet but Sarah Macken, an old friend from UEA who was attending. I didn’t even know she was a party member but nice to have a chat about the “old times”. Seems so long ago, but that’s what happens when you reach 25!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I had a wonderful evening last night at the Notre Dame High School performance of “The Sound of Music”. It was really well laid on and nice to know that we have so many talented pupils. It was well worth a look on any of the next three nights or Tuesday at the Norwich Playhouse. Most enjoyable!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The constant LibDem cries about Norfolk County Council being responsible for the SOS Bus in Norwich really now demand a response. I issued this last night, ahead of a talk I will be giving tonight:


Leading Norwich Conservatives have reacted angrily to Lib Dem suggestions that the County Council should rescue the much needed SOS Bus and have instead demanded that the Lib Dem controlled City Hall should be the ones to boost the scheme.

At a speech to the City Group Conservatives tomorrow (Wednesday), Deputy Chairman of the Norwich South Conservatives & Spokesman for Bowthorpe Ward, Antony Little will accuse the Lib Dems of “gross hypocrisy“ and demand that they cut their £500,000 public information budget and save the bus.

The Lib Dems had demanded that Norfolk County Council cut their stall at the Royal Norfolk Show to pay for the SOS Bus.

Antony, a secondary school teacher in the City, said:

“As far as we Norwich Conservatives see there is a clear duty of care for the City Council to be acting on this issue. It's all very well for the Lib Dems to go around demanding that other Councils pay for it, but to do so when the Lib Dem City Hall is wasting half a million pounds on “public information“ and “public opinion research“ is gross hypocrisy.“

“To take money away from the Royal Norfolk Show may effect the number of foster parents or carers that Norwich recruits. It is, effectivley, money being spent on caring for others.“

“However, the City Lib Dems are planning to spend far more of our taxpayers money on their own blatant self-publicity, spin and propaganda disguising itself as “City Pride“. Perhaps the Lib Dems should sacrifice a few posters on bus stops and banners on City Hall to pay for this vital service.“

“The amount of money required to help the SOS Bus is, effectivley, a small part of their £500,000 publicity budget, and we're sure that it is a sacrifice that can be made to secure this vital service for Norwich.“

“The Lib Dems have acted very badly in all of this. They should now show some leadership, cut the ridiculously large propaganda budget and put the £36,000 needed into the SOS Bus. They have the power within their budget to save our bus, will they now do so?“
Had the pleasure of attending the Eaton Conservatives pancake party last night at the URC on Ipswich Road. Extremely enjoyable – both the company and the pancakes! Around 30 came, and such events really are the backbone of the Conservative Party at the moment. Also got me thinking about taking up chess again, but don’t know how I’d fit anything else into my life!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I simply don't know which piece of Lib Dem hypocrisy to post first, before rushing off to class!

Monday was the big budget debate at County Hall, with the ruling Conservatives planning some pretty big investment into services and a 5.75% council tax rise. Que Lib Dems jumping up and down, calling it a disgrace, declaring half of Norfolk can't pay and aren't those wicked Tories awful? So step forward the alternative Lib Dem budget - surely a radical overhaul of the public finances with a ruthless streak of prudence to save the council tax payers of Norfolk ... er, 0.23% actually.

Yes, that's right, all this fuss and even the Lib Dems admit that would only bring down the council tax in Norfolk by 0.23% (that's a matter of pence per month to you and I). The hypocrisy of the fuss they are making stinks to high political heaven. They'll do (and say) anything to win votes.
The Lib Dems are up to their old tricks again, and trying to convince people that they can win Norwich South - I'm glad it's not just me that disagrees:

"They (Norwich South Conservatives) are a good group and most of the officers are in their twenties. I think they're going to run a very good campaign in this year's local elections and then against Charles Clarke. The Liberals, of course, are trying to say they stand the best chance of beating Charles, but they have never done well in Norwich South. They also have a candidate who seems to have amnesia about where he actually lives." Political Commentator Iain Dale

Pleasing facts to note:
1. Lib Dem vote share fell in 2003
2. Labour vote share fell in 2003
3. Conservative vote share rose in 2003
4. Last poll rating for Conservatives = 40%
5. last poll rating for LibDems = 19%
6. Conservatives have always come in top two for Norwich South
7. LibDems have never won Norwich South
8. Lib Dems are a complete shambles at City Hall

I'd call that a recipe for Tory success at the next election.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I spent this evening on a very interesting walk around Ambrose Close. Firstly, I persuaded the Housing Association to clear the communal garden area of all the litter that had built up over many weeks without care. However, the estate guys managed to prune the bushes and even do the weeding, but left all the litter exactly where it was. Sigh*. Secondly a lot of residents are complaining about this close not having any pavements, and mothers with children being forced to walk in the road with cars not exactly minding their speed. Knocked on a few doors and the fears being caused by this are evident. When the petition is ready (hopefully within the week) then it must be a priority for the Council. Will also let the Evening News know – a classic example of a complete planning mess. Who doesn’t put in pavements? Now I can settle down and watch “The Deputy” on the BBC and do some marking – year 10 essays on the role of William Harvey in renaissance medical discoveries and his impact on modern heart treatments. Lovely.
Am doing my bit to make sure everybody checks out Lib Dem Watch which does a stirling job in keeping an eye on the Lib Dems - their disappearing policies, disappearing support and (the more you read) disappearing credibility.

And the Norwich Lib Dems come in for a slating more than most...
For those of you who can stand the excitement (and the content), check out the website of the newest and hottest band in my year group:

Joe Gardiner Experience
Friday and Saturday were pretty quiet days – spent most of it writing various speeches and digesting the budget of Norwich City Council.

The Lib Dems nationally say its “obvious” that extra spending has to be paid for out of extra taxes (else how could the Tories spend more without raising tax, they say) but somehow the local Norwich LibDems have massively splashed out on services with a 3.5% tax increase … oh, hang on, they’ve robbed the balances! Talk about a cynical election ploy – and what’s worse, they’re spending £500,000 on self-publicity (or propaganda, as I like to call it). This budget needs much deeper looking at – there are so man flawed assumptions (like, making more from car parks despite the Lib Dems going around closing them).

But that’s the Lib Dem way isn’t it…

… when the Tories move money from waste into the frontline it’s unworkable, but when the Lib Dems do it then its effective.

… when the Tories set a low tax budget, the Lib Dems cry foul of not enough investment, but when the Lib Dems do it then it’s tight fiscal management

… when the Tories tighten the council belt the Lib Dems call it cuts, when they do it then its prudence.

Funny that Lib Dem world, all things to all men!

Friday, February 20, 2004

Sorry I haven't been doing much lately but I hve been feeling really down in the dumps with some evil medical disorder that falls somewhere between flu and a nasty head cold. Spend the whole of today in bed and most of yesterday, raising only the go to the Norwich South Conservatives AGM as a guest speaker, alongside the wonderful Iain Dale.

It was very well attended actually and the "political conference" section was extremely upbeat. Iain Dale, who is the next Conservative MP for North Norfolk spoke with real passion about where the next Conservative government was going and how the party can get in touch with people again.

My speech, on the other hand - whilst equally upbeat, I'm sure - was a bit more of a damning attack on the LibDems in Norwich. Only yesterday did it strike me that Eaton is the cause of all harm in Norwich - Ian Couzens selling our balances down the river for his own propaganda uses, Judith Lubbock changing her mind over mobile phone masts and declaring them to be safe so that LibDems wouldn't have to fulfill a pledge to remove them, and Brian Watkins - the man who said that "no change is not an option" on Norwich Market, before finding that 90% of people opposed the changes and declared that the market was now safe and that it was him who saved it. There is nothing the Lib Dems won't say to win your vote!

Still, the longer they are in power, the more they are exposed...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Much excitement so far this half term! Spent Monday in Cambridge looking for various female items of clothing and then onto Newmarket for tea. Nice ride out and back in Norwich just in time for an NCAP (Norwich Conservatives Administration Meeting), which was highly pleasurable, and drinks in the Golden Triangle.

Tuesday was spent down the police station “assisting them with their enquiries” (no, really) and then onto Bowthorpe for more doorstepping about the Post Box. A night in with the Brits and my AGM speech is light relief.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Lazy Sunday afternoons...

After Church this morning I've spent a rather lazy day seeing some of the finer sights in the Eastern Region. A picnic in Oulton Broad seemed like *such* a good idea until it started to rain and got so cold that it made us retreat to the car. We went off to enjoy Beccles and then home. Very pleasant if not very pleasant weather.

Spent the afternoon reading the papers and starting write my speech for the Norwich South Conservatives AGM on Thursday. Also managed to start on the Ambrose Close petition (see below).

Did manage to catch Bremner, Bird and Fortune. Lovely gag about LibDems having no serious policies that threaten them with power within 45 years. Even better piece in today's Sunday Torygraph about the challenege for Oliver Letwin this week. It actually summed up the problem rather nicely. Labour have got the entire nation to believe that public spending is all good and that any cut in public spending equals the immediate sacking of teachers and closing of hospitals. The truth is that much government spending is NOT good (i.e. burgening civil service, quangos et al). Letwin must set out that you can cut spending and maintain real investment in education and health. Better spending, it's called. As the Torygraphs puts it, "the pie gets smaller but some slices get bigger." Once thats done then the Tories can either choose to cut tax (which is, for the benefit of the trendy leftie media, a good thing) or raise spending on certain things. Let's hope Letwin can do his stuff - Labour will try and spin it that the Conservatives are cutting "schools'n'hospitals", so let's hope we put paid to that.

Am now being made to suffer watching some God awful film staring some man I've never heard of. How we Conservatives suffer...

Saturday, February 14, 2004

After a morning on the doorsteps of Bowthorpe I went to Norwich to show my support for the market traders in their battle against the Lib Dem plans to wreck their livelyhoods as quickly as possible. The LibDems say "no change is not an option", we say the market is a landmark - do it up don't do away with it.

However (after a massive lunch in the market) I was heartily disappointed to find that the protest - what there was of it - was being led by several senior Labour Councillors. Now we are used to the Greens and LibDems hijacking popular causes but this really takes the biscuit. I was working under the mistaken premise that this was a fight being led by the traders; it's great for local politicans to throw their weight behind such campaigns, but to try and pretend that they are leading it really crosses a line. I spent a while speaking to traders (many of whom were not happy with the work of Labour), signed the petition and left. Norwich market is such a special place and it has our full support, but we are backing a campaign led by the traders, not by any political party.

And when the Council sees sense, it'll be the traders who deserve the credit, and not the politicians...
There’s nothing better than having to use Saturday recovering from a Friday!

School dragged on as it always does on the last day before half term – teachers even happier than the pupils when the bell goes! After school I went to the Assembly House in Norwich – very nice indeed. The rooms are so light and airy, and the ceilings so high that conversation needs to be loud just to communicate across the table. Had tea and scones there (how sophisticated) celebrating a friends 50th birthday. I didn’t realise the variety of events that it puts on – I hope that the prospect of a new concert hall doesn’t take anything away from it. I once went to a lecture there on the future of the police service and was most impressed by the whole place.

The evening was just as good – a couple of games of bowling at Number Ten, in Bowthorpe. Even my socialising is in the ward these days! Even more amazing is that Louise, my wife, who is normally the worst bowler on the planet (top score: 44) found herself in the possession of a “magic ball” and won the first game and even scored 96 on the second. Am afraid that we may have had one too many to drink because I can distinctly remember listening to some very cheesy music that night…

Saturday morning means more canvassing – trying to get our “Post Box” petition finished. Then onto Norwich for a bit of shopping and a protest against the LibDems awful plans for our Market. It was actually me who discovered that it was possible for the so-called “fourth option” (of refurbishment of the existing market as opposed to redesign) to be put to City Hall. The LibDems said they offered us three choices (of various hideous designs), but the truth is that you can vote for the fourth option but you have to actually write, phone or e-mail separately. Very cunning of them – the Lib Dems have made it so hard for people to vote for the fourth that they think people just won’t bother. LibDem Cllr Brian Watkins says “no change in not an option”. His colleague Cllr Hereward Cooke (always on the look out for a positive headline) says that the people will get what they want on the market. Will the LibDems actually listen? Everybody from the market traders and the thousands to have signed the petition to both the Conservative and Labour opposition want the fourth option – so don’t bank on the LibDems taking any notice…

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Lies, Damned Lies and LibDem graphs...

The dodgy mathematical work of the Norwich LibDems seems to be attracting an unusually large amount of media attention at the moment. In recent days, Norwich South Conservative Chairman Trevor Ivory wrote in the Evening News that the LibDems were suggesting that they were best placed to remove Charlie Clarke in Norwich despite the fact that the Conservatives are in second with the LibDems a poor third and the LibDem share of the vote fell between 2002-2003 whilst the Tory share rose.

Now the Norwich Greens are complaining too, blasting LibDems for changing scales on graphs, altering the proportional size of blocks and even removing the Greens from the voting statistics. In Nelson Ward (where the Greens came within a whisker of winning last time), the LibDems are putting out voting results from years ago to deny the Greens their small recent successes.

The whole concept of these graphs is to try and get everybody to tactically vote out Labour in favour of the LibDems (or in the case of Eaton Ward, vote Lib Dem to stop the Tories winning). It works something along the lines that Tories and Greens would rather a Lib Dem win than Labour - and Labour would rather the LibDems win in Eaton than the Conservatives. Shame they haven't clocked onto the fact that actually most of Norwich knows full well the facts without the aid of a LibDem graph and the only thing that united Tories, Labour and the Greens is a hatred of the Norwich Lib Dems.

Now I know I must be old fashioned but this is an awful way to try and garnish votes. I vote on the basis of principle, policies and (yes, even) personalities - but never for the person best placed to beat somebody else. What a political cop-out.

Without such tactics (which, despite their claims to be the honest party, the Lib Dems nationally support) I wonder how far the LibDems would get. Their only electoral appeal appears to be not being the other three parties.

If Norwich voted on principles, policy and personality (and not LibDem graphs), the result would be very different...
Its been a very good day today, tempered only by a rather disturbing conversation with several of my year group. They declared (very loudly) that cannabis had been made legal, and even if it wasn’t then the police wouldn’t mind you possessing or smoking it. That is quite clearly not true (on any level), but shows the level of confusion that this muddled government thinking has created. I oppose the reclassification of cannabis because of the very signal it sends out to very vulnerable young people. I fear that the government will reap what it sows on this one but the ones who’ll suffer will be our young people.

Whilst out and about in the City today I met an old UEA friend (or foe?!?) who’s visiting Norwich working on a book about how Labour have failed to tackle the vital issue of child poverty in the UK. For a staunch Labour member and activist it is a very brave subject to tackle. She had (surprisingly) nothing but praise for Tory Pensions Spokesman David Willetts – who himself recently visited Norfolk to address a Pensioners Forum – saying that he at least had the intellect and compassion to really further the cause of those trying to eradicate child poverty. On the other hand, she totally slated a Lib Dem MP whom she recently visited. He was totally disinterested, she reported, and had no vision (let alone policies) to actually help. Apparently he bleated on about tuition fees and scrapping the council tax, but completely failed to address the point of the interview. Typical Lib Dem.

Talking of which, my wonderful band of deliverers have been out and about because I received my February edition of “Bowthorpe Matters” today, which I co-Edit. Of particular note this month is the news that there won’t be a new High School in Bowthorpe as previously promised. Our local Labour Councillors deserves some praise for honesty: It just costs too much, she says. So we now have a 9,000+ residents development with no High School. Even children who are born now will need a High School within 11 years! Its nothing but short-termism again, and a complete lack of understanding about how these developments work. No thought has gone into the infrastructure around here.

I received a very interesting letter today from a resident in North Earlham asking us to lobby for the Bus Lane between Cloverhill and Earlham Green Lane to be re-opened in a bid to free up residents on the Cloverhill side of the border and try and prevent Larkman Lane being used as a rat-run. It is certainly something that we are looking seriously into – if you have any comments, e-mail and let us know.

On the way home tonight I got the chance to visit a pathway that a resident had reported that was absolutely caked in mud from the building site on Chapel Break Road. It really is appalling – now wonder local schools are complaining about children coming in covered in mud. Either the building firm or the council need to take a bit of responsibility, but it needs clearing fast.

I am out tonight visiting residents in Ambrose Close talking about problems with traffic and pavements in their area. It’s all go in Bowthorpe!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I don’t know about the pupils but I learnt a lesson today – never leave the house without having breakfast. Taught on an empty stomach and boy did I regret it. Still, all went well and even managed to spend an hour balancing equations without a single involuntary yawn.

This afternoon I was invigilating a year 9 mock SATs exam and (as you do) whiled away the time reading copies of the recent A Level Maths papers that were left lying around. My God, it’s depressing. For all those who say that “all” exams are getting easier, I urge you to look at an ‘A’ Level Maths paper. I did that exam – with some success – and was even considered quite good at it. Now, seven years on, it may have well been written in Serbo-Croat for all the sense it made. Sudden realisation that I have forgotten nearly everything I learnt at school. Hmmm…

This evening was spent at Conservative HQ doing paperwork – am now sure that politics is the only career more bureaucratic than teaching. Still, it emerged during the evening that we now have more than 1,000 people signed up against City Hall Councillor’s suggestions for a Congestion Charge in Norwich. Amazing, really, that they could even suggest it – but am pleased that the Evening News readership and our own surveys are massively against. What’s worse is that the national LibDems have now said they’ll make it easier for Norwich to introduce it! A tax on entering our own City – big charge to come in, big charge to park, it’s an infringement of our right to movement I say. And the so-called opposition at City Hall? As one Green Party spokeswoman recently said: “My solution to congestion is to rip up the roads.” Lovely. Norwich economically destroyed and straight back to the Middle Ages.

Oh, one last thing – try if you want a good look at the party claiming to be the “effective opposition”. What is more shameful is that the Norwich LibDems are held up for national scorn. I feel quite ashamed to know that people up and down the country are laughing at us – or worse, pitying us for having a LibDem council. Still, there’s always the elections to change all that...

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Phew! What a day - full timetable of teaching today, including a year eight performance of a play about the English Civil War. True that Cruise and Kidman have nothing to fear from my class - except several parts that ended up being more panto than Shakespeare - but a great effort anyway. Still, was a bit of a laugh and they got a lot out of it. Marking is pilling up a bit.

Had a Department Meeting after school today during which we were lucky enough to have an extremely effective teacher called Angela Brooke addressing us on ways of managing classroom discipline. I didn't think I had a problem until she painted the picture of what my class could be like! She had a real insight which broke down into providing consistency and structure, using a variety of tasks and resources, and the use of positive praise within the classroom. Am going to certainly apply one or two of the hints that she gave us - always good to really reflect on your practice. Also made me determined to set up a colleague observation asap.

Whilst my wife was at her parents evening tonight, so I used the time to go door-to-door in the Three Score village in Bowthorpe collecting names for our "Post Box Petition". Unbelievable that a community of 9,000 basically shares a single postbox. I wrote to Royal Mail who informed me that the had no plans to install any more. Three Score desperately needs their own box (I say speaking as a resident!) Very popular on the doorstep too, and we'll see what Royal Mail have to say when I present them the petition. It takes time but is worth it in the end - it was only people power that changed the Council's decision on Norwich Market and the roundabout at Wendene, so we wait and see.

Busy, busy, busy!
This is the first posting on my new weblog (or Blog!) The aim is to keep you up to date with what I've been up to in my campaign in Bowthorpe, the world of education and my views on political issues, both Norwich related and national. Do feel free to post your own comments at any time!