Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Canvassing tonight in my home village of Three Score, Bowthorpe. Nice to know that so many people know me in the area (and will vote for me!). Lots of issues arising from the building yard that Three Score in becoming and lots of curiosity about what will become of the communal land. Also you really get to understand the pace at which properties change hands around here – people whom I spoke to a few weeks ago have moved! Great to have a big team out because it makes it so much quicker and more fun. Had my first parent promise to vote for me today, which was very embarrassing – almost forget about those sort of things at work. She said how good I looked on Anglia TV last week! Ah, fame, at last (at least in Lakenham.) A colleague at work said to me today how well I had done in the media but was I really meeting people. Let’s check the diary for this week…
Saturday: On the doorsteps in Cloverhill, Bowthorpe
Monday: City Conservatives Meeting discussing the local election manifesto
Tuesday: Conservative Future Party at Owens, Norwich, was meeting UEA Students to discuss Top Up Fees
Wednesday: Out canvassing in Three Score, Bowthorpe
Thursday: Addressing meeting of Eaton residents about the future of transport in Norwich
Friday: Launching Conservative “GP Out of Hours” campaign (see below)
That’s a lot of people to meet – and I’m having great fun doing it!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Michael Howard's visit to Norwich was extremely well received yesterday. We met at The Forum where Michael did interviews about Libya. We then walked passed the war memorial, where I told Michael about recent plans to move and change it. We then walked through the market. It is a c-change from last time a major figure did this. Everybody - including traders and shoppers were so supportive. Many slapped Michael on the back and just pleaded with him to get rid of this discredited Labour government. We took time to sign the petition against the Lib Dem councils mad plans to re-brand our market and offer support to traders. Several of my pupils made an impromptu appearance, much to Michael's delight! I am so pleased with the reception, and Michael wholeheartedly endorsed my campaign as the EDP reports today. Michael says only we can win in Norwich South and that is becoming clearer by the day. A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote to leave Labour in power. Only a Conservative MP will remove this dreadful government and I am more sure that it what I can deliver for Norwich South.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Great news - the next Prime Minister, Michael Howard, will be visiting Norwich market tomorrow to add his weight to the campaign against City Hall's crazy ideas to rebrand it. It is great to have such heavy weight support. I am going to show him around and talk to a few of the traders. No doubt Mr Howard will be as shocked as I was about the Lib Dem plans to tear up our historic market and replace it with "waves" or "pods". Let's hope that City Hall Councillors finally wake up and take note. 90% of Evening News readers AND the Norwich Conservatives can't be wrong!
My blogging potential has at last been realised (!) at least within the blogging community - thanks to Phillip and Iain for the plugs!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I went out canvassing in Bowthorpe tonight – very-interesting results. Why do opinion pollsters not include “labour waiverer” in their results? Very, very few people admit to voting Labour at the moment – although one very, very brave person admitted to being a Labour member. However they fall into two categories. The first is those who have switched directly to the Conservatives. One lady, on the verge of retirement and with a serious disability, said she had voted Labour all her life but no more thanks to Mr Blair. She said that she was voting Conservative because we are the only party locally to show her that we are working hard on the side of the community. Another, a middle aged man, said he was considering voting Tory for the first time since 1992 because Mr Howard was a PM in the making.

However, there are still a lot of ex-Labour voters not going to vote. Now I have 18 months to convince them that I am worth trusting with their vote. I simply don’t believe the media that they are all switching to the Lib Dems. Or at least it isn’t bearing out on the doorsteps of Norwich. It can be done, but we (as a party) need to prove that we are ready to govern again.
This report in the Evening News hit such a cord I got a phone call at home yesterday from one outraged council tax payer in full agreement and threatening to without her tax too.
Another day, another register cover... The rigour of everyday life not as bad today because I managed to sneak out for lunch with a friend at The Forum in Norwich and a quick look around the market. Also on the good new front is that an old UEA friend is moving back to Norwich. He saw me on the Conservatives Web Site and e-mailed offering me help at the election. Similar thing happened on Sunday - you have no idea how great it is as a Tory for somebody to come out of their house and congratulate you after receiving a leaflet. Support still coming in thick and fast!

I have enjoyed reading about the trouble in the Lib Dem Party today. Poor Charlie Kennedy never looked like much of a leader, and with Michael Howard stealing his thunder (and votes) he needs to try a lot harder. Far be it for me to offer another party advice but I have no idea why they are sticking with Charlie Kennedy when they do have other people (e.g. Mark Oaten, Vince Cable) ready in the background. A lot of commentators are talking up Ming Campbell but he simply doesn't have the authority in my view. Simon Hughes will be damaged goods by then (you cannot talk yourself come third in the London mayoral election and come out as anything less than a lame duck), Evan Harris is apparently quitting parliament and a lot of other Lib Dems are too busy trying to hold onto their parliamentary seats. It must be tricky when you only have 54 MPs, so I think old CK might just hold on due to lack of competition! Still, nice to see another party beset by a leadership crisis for once.

It may even be that Michael Howard is the only current party leader to go into the election still in charge of his band...
I recently had the chance to visit Brakendon Close, sheltered housing just off Bracondale, and chat to the residents. There is a fierce determination amongst these folk that they will use their votes at the next election – just as determined as the ‘A’ Level pupils I teach who claim they’ll also vote. So why is turnout so low? The government believes that lowering the voting age to 16 will help, I’m not so sure. They could equalise the age of candidature (to allow 18 year olds to stand for council), which would do a lot more. I’m pretty sure all that would do is to serve to decrease turnout (as proportionally less of the 16-18 age group would vote). We have a citizenship lesson here on Wednesday – may be worth a straw poll to find out! Anyhow, the government has to do something, only for its own electoral chances. It’s a fact that Tories and the over 55’s (i.e. the Tories’ strongest supporters) are more likely to vote than any other. Just look at the number of majorities that fell in 2001 because the Labour vote collapsed rather than the Conservative vote surging. I see where all the polls are coming from now – if, say to choose a random Labour MP, Charles Clarke were to see his vote fall by 3,000 (current estimate at decrease in turnout) then his majority is just 6,000. If I can persuade a couple of Lib Dems to support me (as the response on the doorstep says I can) then his seat would fall on a swing of just 5% - i.e. exactly what the Tories are currently getting in the polls. The Lib Dems may be contented to think Charlie Clarke’s got it in the bag, but I think it’s all to play for!

Monday, March 22, 2004

I’m afraid that life hasn’t got any less hectic the last couple of days. Friday I took my year 10 pupils to the European Conference organised by Norfolk County Council at Carrow Road. Lovely lunch but a few rather dubious speakers I felt. Mr Clarke was his normal bullish self, Tory Euro MP Bashir Khanbhai spent his slot advocating foreign language lessons for 5 year olds and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said what he thought people wanted to hear. Still, nice lunch.

Afterwards it was a leafleting session on Riverside. Got a call halfway through from the press about a complaint I had made to Norwich City Council. See press release:

LITTLE: “Lib Dems Council Tax insult to Norwich”

Norwich Conservatives have claimed that the 24-side glossy booklet put into all council tax bills by the Lib Dem run Norwich City Council was a “gross insult” to all those who had been hit by steep tax rises.

The massive document – full of photos and quotes from Lib Dem Councillors – is in stark contrast to the much smaller and cheaper version inserted by Norfolk County Council.

Norwich South’s Parliamentary Spokesman, Antony Little, was outraged when he opened his council tax bill to find the expensive City insert.

“The document from the City is so much larger and more expensive than that from the County, yet contains no more information. I even doubt how many people would study such a long document. When more and more pressure is being put on Norwich taxpayers, I have to ask: how much are we being asked to pay for this Lib Dem propaganda and spin? Could they not have produced something cheaper like the County Council? How much lower would our bills have been without this document?”

“I agree an explanation is required regarding the bills but this document is a gross insult to every council taxpayer in Norwich. I hope the Lib Dems have the decency to apologise for this error and accept that at this point in time in our City such an expensive waste of our money is at best unfortunate but at worst entirely disgraceful.”

It made it into today’s Evening News, which was good! Afterwards I met a large canvassing team to start our campaign in Town Close. It was generally a very good reception (where people were in). A few switchers from Labour, Tories in good spirits. Found a new member and a new poster site. Plus the bonus of one voter saying she was going to vote for me because the Lib Dems couldn’t win in Norwich! Very true, I told her!

Saturday morning was spent on correspondence (five new members in the week that I have been Parliamentary spokesman for) and then out canvassing in my home ward of Bowthorpe. Again, really strong name recognition – which is good news at this early stage of the campaign. So many Labour voters coming over to us because they see Clarke as a stay-away MP.

Bought back down to earth today at school – very tiring!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The media frenzy (?) in Norwich South continues - gave an interview to Broadland Radio and the TES yesterday. Funny thing only the Evening News is yet to report my selection. You know you've made it when you're on teletext!

Campaign kicks off in earnest tomorrow!
Thanks again to Lib Dem Watch for exposing the rather dodgy face of the Norwich Lib Dems - we await the verdict of the Standards Board with Interest. Lib Dem Watch continues to provide a valuable service for us all!

Monday, March 15, 2004

That grin is still firmly plastered to my face! Day began with excellent news that my selection was all over the billboards for the EDP City-wide. Had a really good article on page two, once again confirming that I am in second place with the Lib Dems a poor third. My interview with BBC Radio Norfolk was played for a second day running and got a good slot on the hourly bulletin for Radio Broadland. The phone calls and e-mails of support are coming in thick and fast. Two ex-uni mates who live in the country phoned to say they'd heard me on the radio. That really shows the advantage of being a local candidate. Pupils very supportive also - gave me a chance to do a bit of citizenship teaching about the role of an MP, but most were more concerned that I might not teach them anymore. Luckily my year group will be just about leaving at the time of the election (I can hear year 10 pupils heaving a sigh of relief all over the county!) Gave another interview to the Evening News this afternoon. Phew! History Office at school feels more like CCO at the moment!

First leaflets in for printing and distribution - am arranging a canvassing night on Friday to kick start the campaign. It's all go!

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Have just heard my interview on BBC Radio Norfolk - have also headed the bulletin on the hour all day. The EDP phoned for an interview about why teachers hate Charles Clarke so much that their prepared to stand for parliament to get rid of him. So many reasons, so little time!

It was good that all the news coverage is focusing on the fact that I am second place and only I can beat Charles Clarke. Hopefully that message will get across because no doubt the Lib Dems will try and pinch votes by claiming to be something that they're not. That's politics for you!
OPINION POLL LATEST: According to the poll in the Evening News on Thursday, I'm just c.4,000 votes behind Charles Clarke with the Lib Dems a distant third. We can win Norwich South!
It's been a whirlwind couple of days! School on Friday was a bit of a haze - one child said to me that it was irrespective who won Norwich South because the MP would still be a fat, jug eared fool. I don't know if Charlie Clarke or I should be more offended! Just walked around with a big grin on my face. My colleagues were so supportive, as were the vast majority of the pupils who got to know. My happiness even spilt over into class - kids didn't know what was wrong with me, smiling and singing! Funny thing schools, everybody thinks that teachers cannot be Tories but you'd be surprised at the number of staff who whispered to me that they vote Conservative! It's like being in a top secret club or something!

Friday night Louise and I went for a celebration meal at the Adam & Eve on Bishopgate - highly recommended for those who live locally!

Saturday was my first campaign meeting. Knocked off all the press releases - gave interviews to the Evening News and Radio Norfolk. Even did the nationals - it took so long in the office because I had so many calls and e-mails from people congratulating me and offering to help. I cannot remember the last time that a Conservative campaign felt like this - felt like we can win!

All those I wanted on my campaign team have agreed (excellent news). We're on a roll...

Friday, March 12, 2004

Last night the Norwich South Conservatives gave me the great honour of making me their prospective parliamentary candidate for the Norwich South Constituency. It really is an honour to be selected for the City in which I live, work and call my home. And it will give me great pleasure to take on our out-of-touch Lib Dem Council and never-been-in-touch Labour MP. Norwich needs an MP who is part of our community – who knows the people and the problems.

Am really looking forward to the campaign, as a teacher I look forward to really taking on Mr Clarke over education! Roll on the general election…

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Now call me an ultra-loyalist if you want but I think that Michael Howard's performence in Harrogate this weekend was fantastic - just what the activists wanted to hear and, to be honest, Labour have got a long way to go to beat him.

Their original plan was to sell him as some kind of un-re-constructed Thatcherite vampire, but that hasn't worked. Next was the charge of being "Mr Poll Tax", but with the current Council Tax outrages that didn't go down too well either. Now comes the whole opportunism attack, which I believe will also fail. All this name calling from a so-called grown up political party. So dirty I don't believe it doesn't come straight from the Lib Dems!

The Parents and Patients Passports, plus the pledge to reverse cannabis laws, plus the tax efforts are really going down well on the doorsteps - people are looking at Michael Howard as the next PM.

Nobody denies that the maths makes it difficult for the Conservatives - they'd be mad not to target enough seats to have a working parliamentary majority, but I think they should also target enough Lib Dem MPs to put them back to the rump they deserve to be. I believe that the Conservatives can win back seats like Ludlow and North Norfolk in the same way they did the Isle of Wight and Taunton last time.

These Euro elections will be vital. I'm very disappointed that Mr Bandwagon himself - Martin Bell - is choosing to fight the Eastern Region. Didn't the voters of Brentwood give him the message last time? He doesn't even live in the region - and only pledges to move to either Norfolk or Suffolk if he wins. Like him, I hate this system of election, but there is no way he'll get my vote. Interestingly my neighbour said the same thing this morning - his desire to be elected is greater than his desire to serve. Not good enough, Mr Bell.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Bit of a knackering day at school, but some excellent news when I got home. Top secret - my tell you soon!