Wednesday, September 29, 2004

What a great start to the week! A full five period day (bit of a Christmas sing-a-long with Year 9) followed by a fantastic canvassing session in the City. We started off by visiting a sheltered housing scheme and got a really warm reception. We then headed off and did some door knocking down Eaton Road, the home of my former school CNS. Got quite a mixed reception – plenty of people are beginning to look at Blair again, but former LibDems mostly. A lot of good Conservatives and a few poster sites too! My team is really shaping up for this fight and even on Charles Clarke’s doorstep he’s fighting the LibDems for second place.

Funnily enough, one of his neighbours said that despite “claiming” to live in the road, Mr Clarke has never called! I’m really enjoying getting out and about – not to ask for votes but just to see what’s concerning people. Crime is definitely topping the poll, with transport making ground on it. I have to say that Iraq was mentioned only once (against the war) and hunting once (pro-hunting).

One man even asked if there was to be a Respect – The Unity Coalition (George Galloway) candidate. Anyone like to shed any light?

Yesterday I joined a team leafleting in Mancroft ward – the great thing about the City wards is that I always find new homes in the back streets and alleyways that impress me! I then went on to the first UEA Conservative Future dinner out, starting at the Union bar and moving into the City.
On my way there I met an old friend and union hack who, rather funnily, told me that he was having problems deciding on how to vote. He simply couldn’t vote Labour (who can?!?) but after having met the local LibDems he couldn’t vote for them either. As the anguish crossed his face he slowly admitted: “Maybe, just maybe…”

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The trouble these days is that everybody has to try and out-do everybody else!

Just as LibDem Watch find 10 good reasons not to vote LibDem, the News of the World has to go and find thirty!
Comment of the day from one lady, when I called on her yesterday in Thorpe Hamlet:

"My dear boy, if you're only going to be an MP, you'll never be able to afford my house."

How very true.
Sorry I haven’t posted for a while, but I thought I’d bring you up-to-date on the last week:

Monday: School Gov. meeting at Cringleford First & Middle
Tuesday: Canvassing along the Newmarket Road
Wednesday: Meeting to discuss future school provision in Bowthorpe
Thursday: Conservative City Group Meeting, making a speech on pensions and post offices
Friday: Leaflet trip to Town Close
Saturday: Canvassing in Thorpe Hamlet
Sunday: Now in the office trying to wade through survey results!

This afternoon has to be spent planning lessons and marking books, or there will be trouble tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I never did report back on the Easton by-election which was a fantastic result for local Conservatives. The seat borders Norwich South, so it gives all parties something to think about. Labour didn't even have a candidate, but the LibDems threw the kitchen sink at this one. Even saw my LibDem opponent there on polling day! It was a textbook campaign for the Conservatives and really showed what could be done - and a c.7% swing to us later, another Tory Councillor on South Norfolk District Council!

Full Result:
Margaret Dewsbury (Cons) 500 votes
LibDem 336 votes
Green 40 votes

Conservative hold, majority 164

Well Done to Margaret, Vince and the team!
Yesterday’s canvassing went really well – but surprised how long it took because people wanted to talk. Got more poster sites along the Newmarket Road and the whole team seemed to really enjoy it. I have to say that there is a great feeling to the whole campaign, which is surprising because there is normally a lull during the other parties conferences. The advantage to me in an area like that is people are watching the LibDem conference, not liking their policies and switching back to the Tories!

Apparently (!) “The Sun” even had a few choice things to say about the LibDems yesterday – I haven’t seen an attack on a Leader like that since Kinnock. Kennedy claims he’s pleased with the coverage – I’ll bet my hat he’s seething!

Great result last night – our first win of the season!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I wonder what has prompted Normo Lamb, the soon to be ex-MP for North Norfolk, to pin his colours to the masts and declare that they are going to win Norwich South and South Norfolk? He should concentrate on holding his own seat, rather than making silly predictions that means he'll have to eat his hat after polling day. For more fun, see Iain Dale's letter in the EDP!
Just when will South Norfolk District Council get their act together and work with residents around the showground to stop this from happening?
The last few days have been really hectic as the campaign on the ground gets running again. Friday was a very special day at school – the 200th anniversary of the Notre Dame Order and the 25th anniversary of the school as a comprehensive. We had a whole school celebration in the sports hall at which the former Headteacher of Notre Dame and John Pinnington, our current Head, addressed us. That was followed swiftly by a beer and scotch egg night out, not least at the Billy Bluelight pub on Hall Road.

Saturday meant getting up nice and early and we hit the ground going in Eaton following the selection of our county council candidate. We had a really good response, and I was surprised by the degree to which people are probing what the LibDems stand for. I met only one out-and-out Labour voter – on Chestnut Hill, off Church Lane – and a lot of people very angry at the decline of the public services / Iraq war / rising taxation / mistrust of Blair (* delete as appropriate). However I had many good discussions about the LibDems too and quite a few switchers back to us. Their concerns fell in three categories: those who believed them to be dangerous tax rising pro-crime lunatics, those who though they were just a bit crazy with policies such as free cod liver oil for all and those who thought they’d never win so it didn’t matter what they say. One gentleman on Abinger Way said he normally voted LibDem at local elections but realised that the only way to remove the Labour government is by voting for a Conservative MP. “Another powerless LibDem MP won’t do anything but prop up Labour.” I enjoyed his comment so I wrote it down!

Saturday night I donned my best Elvis suit and headed to Cringleford Church Hall for our President, Judith Virgo’s, xxth birthday bash. A fantastic party – Judith certainly knows how to do things properly! Must admit, woke up slightly worse for wear!

Sunday we were at another party – this time for Lisa Ivory, my Agents wife, who is off to India for 7 weeks with Norwich Union. The morning was spent going through surveys and despite my best efforts the evening spent sleeping rather than planning Monday’s lessons.

Monday morning, hence, was a manic plan-athon. Monday evening was spent at Cringleford First & Middle for a governors meeting and then (moving at lightening speed) into Norwich for a Conservative meeting at the new Campaign Centre.

Wow, not a moment to spare! Just waiting at school now ready to head off to the Newmarket Road for more door stepping. Roll on polling day!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Daily Telegraph had a wonderful editorial entitled "Lib Dem Utopia" which clearly exposed the gap between LibDem thinking and reality. I think that may have to be reused in the future! Here it is in full, with kind thanks to North Norfolk's Iain Dale.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The best comment recieved during our recent telephone canvassing in Eaton:

Q: What more can the government do to combat anti-social behaviour in Norwich?
A: Resign

I'd like to buy that man a pint ;-)
Press release I issued today:

Local campaigner backs increase in Specials

City Campaigner Antony Little has strongly back plans for the next Conservative Government to restore the number of Special Constables – which have dropped by 44 per cent under Labour – to at least 1997 levels, by paying them.

Antony, the Conservative parliamentary spokesman for Norwich South, has spent the summer months investigating ways of cutting crime and anti-social behaviour in the City. His recent "Norwich Survey 2004" showed that 81% of Norwich residents claim to have "never" seen a policeman on the beat in their area.

After a walkabout on Riverside with local Conservative Councillors and activists campaigning on the issue, Antony said:“Rather than gimmicks, Conservatives believe in paying the Specials. We will not only reward Special Constables for the valuable role they perform, but that may also help to boost their numbers to at least 20,000 over five years.

“We want to revitalise the Specials - not just by paying them but by allowing them to choose to be available for call out at short notice. At the moment too many regular police officers are diverted from their core duties to perform tasks Special Constables could do.

“Our proposals would bring the Special Constabulary in line with other reserve police forces across Europe and other reserve forces in the UK, such as the Territorial Army and Retained Firefighters.”

Antony has recently highlighted the rise in violent crime in Norwich, the fall in the clear up rate and the decline in the number of specials.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Good day at school today, plus had a great opportunity to catch up with an old UEA friend who has come to stay and look around to see if she really wants teaching as a career.

Have new updated personal profile on - plus lovely picture of me! Notice the party has a new campaigning website for the Hartlepool by-election. I do hope people see through the negative stunts and misleading barcharts and vote according to policies and candidates.

Interestingly the number of people who returned their Norwich Survey 2004 saying they'd vote according to candidate not party is large. I'm sure that can only do me good - I want my campaign to based on the doorstep, meeting people, listening to concerns and offering real solutions. No doubt my opponents - and we all know which party I mean - will want to debase this election into a silly tactical voting contest but I'm not sure the people of Norwich will fall for it. We want a local man to be our MP and be ready to stand up to a nanny state government that has failed us all.
Statistic of the day:

Where would you like to see more of your taxpayers money spent? (Note, respondants could give more than one answer)

Cutting Crime 47%
Education 35%
NHS 31%
Pensions / Senior Citizens 30%
Transport 29%
Defence 3%

Just a selection but interesting I thought - it really does support my theory that law & order and education will be the big two themes of this election (in which case, Labour and Charles Clarke don't stand a chance). In many ways you might have expected the top three (as they always poll the top in lists of voters concerns) but the next two interest me a lot - a real feeling that pensions are heading for crisis point and that transport is now neglected under Labour. I hope the Conservatives are ready to take both those policy bulls by the horn!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Just got time to settle down and blog after another hectic weekend. Friday was shockingly busy at school and Louise has not been well recently. We had some old school friends up to stay – my Best Man in fact – and took a tour of North West Norfolk, taking in Kings Lynn, Castle Rising and going up and down the coast. Fish ‘n’ Chips on a freezing cold beech (lovely) and then some ride on the seafront which almost caused them to make a re-appearance. Nice.

I spent the afternoon in the office sorting through the surveys that have been coming back in their hundreds. I am no longer surprised at the sheer number of new members and the offers of help we are getting – the feeling on the doorstep is good and that is being reflected in people’s willingness to get involved in the Conservative Party again.

A couple of nights ago we did an evening of telephone canvassing across Cringleford, where the Tory vote seems incredibly strong. One lady thanked me (and, as a politician, it isn’t often that happens) for my campaign to expose the true face of the LibDems. That’s fine, I said, I fully intend to carry on! I never think telephone canvassing is as good as knocking on doors (though much warmer on cold nights!) and to reinforce that, one gentleman said he’s only talk to me if I called on him. True to form the next night I went around to meet him. A lovely man, ex-RAF, who voted Labour in ’97 and ’01 but felt he was ready to come back to the Conservatives now!

Survey quotes of the day: (A new regular feature):

Question: What is the solution to anti-social behaviour?

“Zero tolerance policing – small crime leads of big crime” (Chester Place)

“Encourage better parenting” (Park Lane)

“Starts from cradle discipline then into schools” (Hellesdon Road)

“Greater financial penalties” (Mile End Road)

I’ll try to post a few each day to give you some idea about what people in Norwich think!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Well, that's another day at the chalkface over with - and a tiring one too. My period one going into period two is a mad dash across the school site (better keep fit than leafleting!) only to find that three quarters of my GCSE group weren't there! I am starting to get nervous quite early on about the number of lessons left and the coursework I haven't yet marked. Better go - have an assembly to write and then off to help in the Easton By-Election.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

When a friend text me to say that “RJ is now in the Shadow Cabinet”, I briefly thought that Michael Howard had finally come to his senses and appointed John Randall to his rightful place around the Shadow Cabinet table. However, it subsequently turns out to be John Redwood. I am actually quite pleased about this appointment – love him or loath him, Redwood is one of the strongest performers in the Commons and the Party and we do need his intellect and talent back on the frontbench. I can remember when he was Shadow Trade and Industry and what a fantastic job he did them. Slowly but surely the big beasts of the Tory Party are coming back, united under Michael Howard, ready for government.

Last nights Campaign Centre meeting was extremely positive – lots of people ready to go! Surveys coming in at an incredible rate – literally thousands returned so we’re taking a while to process them. The general feedback is that crime tops the concern list followed by education. Those will be the big campaign themes I suspect, rather than the ridiculous nonsense being pumped out by Labour (a prize for anybody who finds a Labour leaflet in Norwich South at the moment) and the Greens who are off on another anti-road bash by campaigning against the dualling of the A11. Still, let them be.

School today was pretty tiring too – Prince Edward was visiting today. Did I get to meet him??? Don’t start me on that one! All my classes seem really nice – have a huge GCSE set too. ‘A’ Level pupils show a lot of promise too. I like life at the moment!

Monday, September 06, 2004

The best news of the day is the new Tory plans on education after the party revealed where it is going to make £1.1bn of savings to redirect into the frontline of education.

The proposals – to streamline inspection processes, slim down the LEAs and cut staff at the Department for Education and Skills – would provide an extra £158 per pupil to be spent at the chalkface.

Seven quangos face the chop, in a “cull on bureaucracy” to provide for better teaching and learning.

These proposals will remove vast swathes of unnecessary government control over education spending here in Norwich, and put large sums of extra cash in the front line where it belongs, to be spent by Head teachers and professionals on the things that matter to schools.

It is essential that more money should go to front-line schools to help teachers, and less on paying for bureaucrats who simply harass us.

There can also be little doubt that few of my teaching colleagues will miss the quangos, bureaucracies and paper-shuffling empires which we will sweep away as part of these changes!
Sorry I haven’t blogged for a while – we spent last weekend at a friends wedding in Cley-next-the-Sea in North Norfolk (actually it was former PPC for Norwich South Andrew French’s wedding) and the start of school has been typically hectic. I find it amazing just how long it can take to get back into the swing of teaching – the other day I found myself utterly speechless (now, that is amazing!) in front of 25 year 7 pupils simply because they were staring back expecting me to say something profound. Still, new office sorted and now tings are back on an even keel.

The campaigning continues and we had surveys go out to 20,000 residents of Norwich last week – covering areas from Eaton and Earlham to Lower Hellesden, Thorpe Hamlet and Tuckswood. We’re starting to get the results back in and it looks like a fantastic response! A colleague at work told me today how unusual it was for a politician to actually ask the views of the electorate and she would reply. Another teacher – not ay my school – said that the questions were really spot-on about what matters to local people. I love that kind of feedback! From the first batch we’ve got loads of new members and poster sites so it looks good. In total in the last year I’ve now personally written to around 40,000 people – that’s half of the population of Norwich South!

Also on the agenda last week was the launch of the new Norwich South Conservatives Webshop (great deals for all!) and a new recruitment drive.

The week ahead holds a lot of teaching, plus I’m addressing the Norwich Conservatives Campaign Group tomorrow, have a regional press meeting on Wednesday, out canvassing on Thursday and then friends to stay for the weekend. My cousin is being christened on Sunday in Essex so it’s all go!
Norwich’s “Compensation culture” takes centre stage for Conservatives

A new Conservative campaign group in Norwich is set to tackle the problem of the City’s “compensation culture”. The group – made up of representatives from around the City – will tomorrow hear up-to-date figures about the amount that compensation claims are costing taxpayers in Norwich.

Many people now sue the council for personal injuries such as trips and falls on council land, but the “compensation culture” now heaps the pressure on council taxpayers and detracts from those making genuine claims of negligence.

I recently e-mailed Council Leader Ian Couzens to warn, “People target the council because they believe it is a soft touch”. Continuing, “I have grave concerns about what this might mean for the running of a local authority”.

Figures released by the council show that the council spends £106,000 a year on public liability insurance but also paid out £166,000 because they are still liable for an excess – with 60% of the claims being made for trips and falls on council land.

The scale of the compensation culture in Norwich is now costing each household in Norwich dearly on their council tax. We need to defend the rights of those who have genuine claims but clamp down on those who sue the council to make money.

Conservatives will suggest a dual policy to cover Environmental improvement and to reduce compensation payouts. We will pay for specialists to go around Norwich to look at areas where claims might arise and put things right before claims can be made. That means straightening pavements, sorting footpaths and repairing damaged playgrounds.

The LibDems must start to get a grip on power and sort these issues out now before they get totally out of hand.

Our policy will both improve our environment and still save money for council tax payers in Norwich.