Friday, July 28, 2006

Labour were warned

Isn't it funny, some of the people you meet at these conferences?

One delegate I met last night was very, very close to the Labour Party in Norwich during the 1990s and early 2000s when things were going so wrong for them against the Liberal Democrats. Apparently, he took the Labour leadership aside and warned them about the LibDem threat. He got the seats they'd win correct and the years they'd do it in. He detailed what the LibDem messages were going to be and how they'd do their campaign. He got all the LibDem gains correct, down to who the candidates would be and what the winning majority was. Not hingsight, he did all this years and years in advance. Labour's high command - which at the time had Cllr Ferris, Cllr Waters, Nick Williams and Barbara Simpson in it - chose to reject his advice.

I will tell you his advice some time in the future. But the real question is - why, when presented with the facts, did Labour choose to ignore their own political friends and did they sleepwalk into electoral disaster?

A List: One step forward?

I am delighted by the news that Keith Simpson MP has been adopted for the newly created Broadland seat and also that local man Richard Drax has won the Tory nomination in highly-marginal South Dorset. Similarly Reading West has gone for the local champion as has the new notional Tory North East Somerset seat. Top Tory target of Hove selected a local Councillor and LibDem held Lewes has chosen a "son of the seat". Yorkshire targets Selby and York Outer both plumped for the local candidates. And all this happened after the A List was introduced.

Hats being eaten in Hungary

Despite being a billion miles away I was still on the edge of my seat for the Mile Cross by-election result. Sadly (!) the Tories did win, but amazingly the LibDems did. I thought, both from campaigning and from colleagues, that Barbara James was on to a winner there. Last minute LibDem surge? What does this say about the Labour campaign?

Either way, for now, well done to Cllr Mayhew and the time for ripping this result to shreds is later. I'm sure everybody in the ward needs a rest!

EDP report here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tory support hits 13 year high - LibDems slump, say BBC

The Guardian is coming over all Cameron lovey-dovey, which ties my stomach in knots but now the BBC is doing it too! Still, I suppose it is only reporting the facts:

Conservative support has reached a 13-year high of 39%, a Guardian/ICM poll suggests. The party has risen two points in a month with Labour up three to 35%.

The growth in popularity of both parties contrasts with a slump in Liberal Democrat support to 17% - the party's lowest rating since 2002.

Incinerator Project takes a blow

Don't get too excited and stop those champagne corks - it'll give us time on the issue but itsn't the issue resolved.

News report here and here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Here I am

... in Hungary at the e-democracy conference. It shames me to say it but the best stuff so far has come from the US contributors. The UK is very well represented and I have had some excellent discussions with members of the UK Youth Parliament about the failure of Norwich City Council to provide a yough engagement strategy. The stuff I am picking up is priceless. More on that later.

Onto more pressing issues.

The hotel is excellent - I have a wonderful room with river views. The City is beautiful and after this I am going for a walk (just wish Mrs Little was here to share this City with me.) The hotel is well worth the 5* ratings. Hungarian driver do, however, make Italians look safe and pedestrian. They are also very keen on advertising hoardings, which all seem to show the same young gentleman wearing nothing but a very small and very tight pair of red Y-fronts. No slogan, no words so I can only assume that it is advertising Y-fronts and that is big business over here. I have used all the hotel facilities (twice). Goota get some value from the government now, haven't I? Will attempt regular blog updates tomorrow!

A dilema for Cllr Morphew

Apparently a NAIL2 activists thrust a "No Norfolk Incinerator" car sticker into the hands of our beloved Council Leader last night. The big question is - given his reliance on Ramsay's eco-warrior Green Party - will he admit to having a car in which to stick it?

A reader writes...

An e-mail plops into my box following last night's council meeting. And a most interesting one it is too. Watch out Cllr Ferris, Bowthorpe bites back. This does come from an elector in the ward:

The long knives of the Bowthorpe Labour Girls were out for you tonight Antony! Personally I thought Brenda Ferris's comments were acid, appalling and personal. I think she has limited respect amongst her colleagues and is seen as a political brawler. Guess you've got them going, which is good for choice in Bowthorpe. The two issues you raised were always going to be used as target practice for other parties. 90% of EEN readers think congestion charges won't work or not for them in Norwich, and they are probably right long term. The issue of travellers will also return, unaddressed. Its a merrygoround issue. Human rights have complicated things more. Are teachers an ethnic minority group with human rights?? Possibly Brenda doesn't like teachers!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Labour's unity?

Labour's attack on me tonight, repeated by several Councillors, seems to be what a jolly horrible man I am. What shame. Now Cllr Ferris doesn't like me very much - in fact, she probably hates me. Her venom spills over into the chamber very easily.

So why was it that her colleagues felt the need to apologise to me afterwards for her conduct? Oh dear, Brenda, keep the troops in line! I have a very unusual ally on the Labour benches who seems to genuinly quite like me, politics aside, and found the performance by Cllr Ferris to be "cringeworthy."

I trust the sisterhood will start the mole-hunt?

p.s. Which Councillor called Cllr Cooke's response to my motion "patronising" and "pointless"? Clue: It isn't me or Cllr Collishaw!

Not Wanted: Teachers as Norwich City Councillors

Two further bizarre moments at tonight's meeting. Firstly a question from LibDem Chris Thomas asking for attendance statistics at licensing meetings. Surprisingly as they are held during the day, both members who are serving teachers (myself and Green Cllr Stephnson) scored 0%. Then later in debate Labour Cllr Ferris questioned why I didn't attend a meeting held at lunchtime. The answer was, surprise, surprise, that I was at school and most probably teaching a class.

Clearly Labour and the LibDems believe that this is a weak spot and intend to exploit it. I say that discrimination against my employment is wrong and people will see that. I give hours upon hours to this job but sorry, I cannot attend when I should be at school. Now people knew about my job before I was elected and still voted for me. If they should change their mind I trust they will vote me out in 2010.

Can you imagine the reaction of a parent whose child was NOT being taught because I had to dash off for council duties?

Now, either the opposition parties pack it in or we have to look at the scheduling of meetings. But either way, Labour and the LibDems have made clear tonight: Teachers aren't welcome on Norwich City Council.

(Almost) Blogging Full Council

I don't have much time because I leave at 5am for Hungary and the e-democracy conference, but I would like to share some of the choice quotes from tonight's full council meeting. Bearing in mind that these come from seasoned politicans and the guardians of democracy in Norwich. I had two motion down tonight - one for more traveller sites and better traveller-protection in Norwich. The second was against the congestion charge.

"Councillor Little, in putting forward this motion, brings to mind 1930 Germany." - Cllr Waters, a frontbench Labour Councillor with many years experience. More on this one later.

"Councillor Little has a reputation in Bowthorpe for having a strange relationship with the truth" - Cllr Ferris, Deputy Leader of the Council

"There are appauling undercurrants to this motion" - Cllr Rumsby

"This is blatant opportunism and self-seeking self-publicity" - Cllr Ferris

So it seems that if you wish to talk about travellers you must withstand being called a pseudo-Nazi, lying, opportunistic racist? Apparently so according to the Labour benches.

Does exactly what it says on the tin

Tories rally against congestion charging.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bowthorpe Campaigning

It is not often that I draw attention to a comment left by an "annonymous" but somebody recently said it was good that I was putting Bowthorpe at the top of the media and campaigning world.

Very true, and I know that this is getting on the nerves of some other backbench ward councillors who think that I am too pushy in trying to get things done. Well, tough. Quite frankly my ward comes first with me and I will continue to shout for the interests of Bowthorpe and Earlham.

The Evening News covers my opposition to the Wendene planning application today and also my motion at tomorrow's council to make Bowthorpe safe from future traveller invasion.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cameron's Campaigning Zeal

Regular readers will know I'm a bit of a Cameron fan (now). Recent posts about education policy or his opinion poll ratings give it away a bit. However the think that I am most impressed with is his nose for campaigning.

Really, I hear you think, what about Bromley - or Moray - for that matter? Well, those were CCHQ by-elections. I am talking about Cameron's nose for publicity. Everything Dave does it calculated - from the chocolate orange outburst to his speeches on GWB (general well being). It is dog whistle politics - but for the centre and centre-left. I completely missed the whole work-life balance speeches because I am too busy pondering the EPP-ED issue. However colleagues in work, not natural conservatives, all picked up on it. "I like what your guy is saying at the moment," said one to me this week. Firm policies are still some way away, but Dave is giving us hints as to what his next Conservative government will be like.

ConservativeHome - the most authoratitive Tory site around at the moment - recently highlighted Cameron's campaigning work. Knowing that the national media was hard to crack on those days, Cameron got three major regional papers to cover his work in detail. He was never going to make it big in the nationals that day, so he made sure that Leeds knew that he was against regional assemblies, he made sure that Leicester knew he was in town for the festival and that Yorkshire knew he is against fast food. He could have sat back and let the media tide run over him, but he made news in the big regional papers instead.

Funnily enough, all three were aimed at areas where the Conservatives need to be working hard to re-gain lost ground. I want to see Tory MPs in Leeds and Leicester and so does Dave Cameron, that's why he focuses his attention there. He could play it safe with the press of Windsor, Witney and High Wycombe, but he doesn't.

Cameron has an eye (and a nose) for what works and what doesn't. He plays his audiences well and he is re-positioning the party without the party even knowing about it. Cameron should court the regional press well - they have a massive combined readership. Cameron should also focus on a couple of widely read blogs too and make sure he's a regular on the big radio call-in shows.

Cameron has one hell of a Campaigning Zeal - and the country (and the party) likes it.

EEN media tart

For those of you unfortunate not to have access to the Norwich Evening News or (hang your heads in shame) those who do not read it, I am all over it a bit at the moment.

Here I am organising a protest against the Costessey Incinerator.

I am also attacking the traveller community who left their rubbish around Old Hall Park.

Also I urge action on combating attacks in the classroom.

I am encouraging traveller's to respect the environment.

I have supported the launch of a campaigning website.

Speaking at a public meeting in New Costessey.

Paying tribute to LibDem Councillor Vic Elvin, who passed away.

I know there are at least 3 stories planned for next week. Am I a tart? Well, compare and contrast to Iain Dale and I think you'll find me a chaste virgin.

Vertical education?

There are reports in today’s “Sunday Times” about Dave Cameron’s firming up on education policy. Apparently he recently visited a school in Plymouth that has abolished the concept of year groups and now always free movement of pupils up and down the school strata according to educational ability. When they arrive aged 11, pupils are comprehensively tested and then put into a group, matched against the whole school, as per their ability. Mr Cameron reports being impressed by a 15 year old doing AS Maths. It is, apparently, the solution to the failed educational theories of differentiation, inclusion and streaming.

When I first read this I nearly chocked on my nightly hot chocolate. No year group? Eh, gad, that’s me out of a job for starters. Then you get around the thinking it through. I urge you, approach this with an open mind.

Year groups are out – pastoral care and such are administered through vertical houses instead. Why shouldn’t a pupil who is academically gifted in, say, history be taught accelerated GCSE during lower years? I can’t think of a single reason why pupils of different ages shouldn’t work together. Schools could be timetabled as a single unit. Gifted pupils would finally find the challenge they need, mixed ability groups that fail students would be a thing of the past and (most importantly) teaching will become easier because you are aiming your lessons at a very specific academic target.

If you can think of the problems or issues with these then please leave them in the comments section.

Brilliant thinking going on here – not Tory thinking, but maybe Tory policy? Cameron is looking and learning from the best of the public sector. More power to your elbow, Dave.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Google word ad quirks

You may have noticed that I am using the google word ads (on the right hand side). This is a system that pulls out keys words from your blog and finds adverts that most closely match those words. And on this site the three mostly commonly used words are "Norwich", "Conservatives" and "Tories"... hence today's ad is for "Norwich Conservatories"

Tories teach to educate, not teach to test

David Willets is going a great job in the education brief, moving away from his stereotype as an economics-man. I was interviewed today about why there are more and more attacks by young people on teachers on what we can do about it. I think that's an issue which is real dog-whistle politics to teachers. The TES, hardly a Tory think-tank, would run with it. However I am pleased to see that David is working away on another issue which is getting increasingly frustrating:

Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts has warned that testing in schools should only be a means to an end – an education based on a real mastery of real subjects.

And he has promised that the Conservative review of education will examine what can be done “to provide a better, deeper, richer education which will inspire learning beyond the school gates.”

Addressing a Built to Last Road Show event in Southampton, Mr Willetts, focused on the idea of general well-being, and its relationship to education, and argued that tests in schools should only be a means to an end. “That end is an education based on a real mastery of real subjects,” he declared.

Mr Willetts told his audience: “Our challenge is to think in fresh ways about the problems facing Britain and how they should be tackled. That is what these Built to Last Road Shows are all about. We know how Labour approach it. First they appoint a Happiness Czar. Then they set targets for how we are all supposed to become happier. Then we fail to reach the targets so there is an elaborate attempt at re-defining them. The Happiness Czar is sacked and replaced by a Happiness Lenin who promises tougher measures.”

Insisting that the Conservatives “must do better than that”, Mr Willetts stated: “We are focusing on test results that we can measure and not education which we can’t. This is the exact equivalent of David Cameron’s warning that we are focusing on GDP that we can measure and not general well-being that we can’t.

“When we have talked about education exclusively in terms of league tables and targets, we have separated ourselves from parents and teachers who feel that there is something missing. Much of what is valuable in education cannot be measured in tests and league tables, just as the value of life is not only about prices and markets. It doesn’t mean education should decline into ‘edutainment’ interspersed by tests. Education must be a route to deeper happiness – the real fulfilment that comes from mastering an idea, mastering a skill, mastering a subject. There is the fulfilment that comes from rising to a challenge, doing something difficult, pushing yourself harder.”

Explaining that the Party is reviewing the whole system “to see what we can do to provide a better, deeper, richer education which will inspire learning beyond the school gates”, the Shadow spokesman declared: “Tony Blair declared his most important goal was ‘education, education, education’, instead he’s turned into a sound engineer; it’s ‘testing, testing, testing’. But tests should only be a means to an end; that end is an education based on a mastery of real subjects. If we can get that right, education will serve its real purpose to enable people to live more fulfilled lives.”

LibDem hats in rings

An evening at City Hall well spent, but who is that shadowy figure at the gates? Whilst long serving LibDem Leader Ian Couzens is inside debating the future of climate change, his "enemies within" plot outside of City Hall. I understand that another top LibDem has been spouting off about how they could do Cllr Couzens job better than he could. Ian had better watch his back.

Peak Oil Meeting

I am grateful to CRed, Greenhouse Project and others for tonight's Councillor briefing on the peak oil campaign. Energy consumption is clearly going to be a big issue and the fact that you can get three Group Leaders and an Executive Member around a table talking is good news.

I pushed strongly for the council to find ways of getting Norwich City Council to lead on this issue. I think the Greens want to continually shift the focus around to the NDR or airport - but I think we should find the issues on where we agree first and then have the big political fights later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hot, hot, hot

Office furniture has melted … life draining away … and it’s only 8am!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is there going to be another LibDem decapitation strategy?

The LibDems were never very good at decapitation - it having failed miserably at the last General Election - but they are to have a second go at it here in Norwich. No, not Charlie Clarke (don't be silly) but on their own leadership.

The failure to topple Ian Couzens after the local election crushing has apparently been weighing on the minds of LibDem Councillor and members. I think that the LibDems are too gutless to stage a coup this side of the next Group AGM, but...

... next May the only LibDem seats under threat from the Greens and Labour is Town Close, so there is no prospect of repeating the 6 seats lost on 4th May. Hence Cllr Couzens could be quietly "disposed of" without the need for a bloodbath that sometimes happens after a poll crushing.

And who could be orchestrating this? Well... that would be telling, but my spies say there will be more than one candidate when the vacancy arises.

I've made a Will

Tonight Louise and I did the bizarre act of planning for our deaths. Not something I anticipate happening but I am one of those shockingly prepared people and with one-and-a-half children I thought now rather than later. A rather decent young man did the deed for us - from a legal firm off Bracondale. I was very pleased with the service actually. I just feel a bit strange talking about whom should care for Emily in the result of our death. I have asked for a full state funeral, of course, but failing that whatever's cheapest. I want the *real* money spent on the party afterwards!

Planning application likely to cause concern

A planning application by the Jehovas Witnesses to build a "Christian meeting room" has been re-submitted to Norwich City Council. The plans to build behind the Police Station on Wendene caused a stir last time they were put forward and had to be withdrawn. Now Bowthorpe Ward Councillor Antony Little is worried the same could happen again.

Cllr Little said: "There are lots of unkwnon quantities with this planning application that are likley to worry a lot of local people. Most obviously is that of traffic and parking. Wendene is not designed for large number of vehicles and there are already concerns about speeding in the road. This planning application could put a lot more cars coming through Bowthorpe and the surrounding roads. That has a knock on effect for safety. Parking for such a large number of cars would also be a problem."

"I think that this application needs to be worked out very carefully and if the effects are too great on the local community then I am ready and willing to lead the opposition to this planning application."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Social Whirl

Apologies for not posting sooner but once you wade through this lot you'll have some idea why I've not been able to catch up!

Thursday afternoon I went to my first Scrutiny meeting. Now I was very disappointed. I was very much under the impression that Scrutiny scrutinised things - you know, the running of the council and so forth. But apparently not. I'm not quite sure what we decided upon but it seemed so far from scrutiny to be unrecognisable.

The afterwards I flew off (not literally, Cllr Read!) to the charms of Diss for the Norfolk & Suffolk Area AGM. Normal dull-ish procedures but a good presentation on how well we'd done since last year from Chairman Tiz Baskerville and a chance to catch up with Lakenheath by-election winner Colin Noble and his team. Our Area President Baroness Shepherd gave the address during which she encouraged all Tory Councillors to give the otherside "hell". "They did it to us," she advised, "so you do it to them!". Gillian is always good value and her drive is missed in the Commons.

Friday night started at the Brooke Primary School carnival, where the good Mrs Little was in charge of flag dancing. Oh yes, truly a sight to behold. Good to see ward Councillor John Fuller and Adrian Gunson there too, in order to support the event. Teacher and pupils should be proud of themselves.

Then off into Norwich for a night of drinking and dancing ... funnily enough this part of the weke goes a bit hazy.

Saturday was the Lord Mayor's Parade and it was excellent! Lord Mayor Felicity Hartley should be proud of the event - well done to City Council Ents team as well!

Today I have travelled the length of the county - from a BBQ with Richard Bacon MP in Seething to Iain Dale's birthday team on the North Norfolk Coast.

Phew ... and it's not over yet because I have to prepare for tomorrow's lessons!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blogging off to e-democracy conference

I've been asked to represent the UK at an e-democracy conference because of my work with this blog.

Press release issued today:
Norwich Blogging Councillor asked to represent UK

Blogging Councillor Antony Little has been asked by the government to represent the UK at an e-democracy conference to be held in Hungary.

Bowthorpe’s Councillor Little will be one of the UK representatives at the event, which is co-sponsored by the UK's Department of Communities and Local Government, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy and the National Association of Secretaries of State (USA) and will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest, Hungary, between 26-28th July.

The event already has over 250 delegates registered representing over 40 different countries. The event is designed to develop a new conceptual framework to measure engagement and participation both at home and abroad and also offer the opportunity to meet and network with the key policy advisers on these issues.

Cllr Little said: “I am thrilled to be able to attend this event and represent the UK. My blog started as a bit of fun but has turned into a great way of keeping in touch with local people. I’ve since added a comments facility to encourage feedback too. It is important that local people can read my views, see what I’m doing and how I’m representing them.”

“Blogging has really taken off in the UK and I’m sure that this conference will give delegates the chance to share good practice in using IT to encourage participation.”

“I hope to be able to work with colleagues from Eastern Europe in look at ways to make democracy work better.”

Event organiser Dylan Jeffrey said that Cllr Little was chosen because he has “one of the most direct and enjoyable blog sites hosted by a local councillor.”

SHOCK: EDP well behind the times

The closure of the Conservative Club in Norwich pre-dates my involvement with the Norwich Conservatives, the Tories as a whole, my compulsory education and maybe even my life span. I have no idea when it closed because it happened such a long time ago. Currently the remaining members are finalising the division of whatever capital remains from the closure of the club.

However, the excitable young EDP hack who is phoning every Tory this side of the Wensum seems to think this is the biggest scandle going. Now I know the EDP are just a teeny-weeny bit anti-Tory but these continual non-stories are getting the paper (and their publisher Archant) a bad name locally. Given the effort that the journo has put into this, how can it be justified?

Or is it that the EDP are just struggling to keep up with stories that happened 20 years ago?

My Day

I have a full page profile today in today's Bowthorpe News. Also the Evening News have picked up the story about the litter left by the travellers. Absolutely disgraceful - and the picture in the paper should shame the people that left it. In the printed edition, but not on-line, I also have a piece in about the destruction of council play equipment in North Earlham. Sometimes the actions of a minority really make those of us fighting to make our communities a better place to live wonder if our efforts are worthwhile.

I have got home to find that Lord Levy had been arrested and bailed again - this stink is heading back to No.10 methinks. Once again Cameron humiliated Blair at PMQs - cutting him down with the John Prescott "tell us its not true" remark - but I have to say that Sir Ming's efforts with the NatWest Three were very impressive too. At last! Well done, Sir Ming.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is Project Cameron really working?

People always find evidence to support their case one way or another on this issue. Over on they'll debate for hours the message of the latest opinion polls. Some show Cameron 10 points ahead and going up, others show him 1 point ahead and going down. I think no one poll should be taken too seriously, but the trend of opinion polls should. Cameron has been the first Tory Leader to lift the party above Blair's Labour ever (bar the 2000 Petrol Crisis). Good news then? Not so, claim yet more cynics - Cameron should have commanding leads such as those Blair enjoyed in the mid 1990s. Personally I'm not so sure. The dynamics of politics has changed and I think the days of the vast poll leads is over. Yes, Cameron can, should and will do better. But moving the party out of the 29-33 box is a great start.

So what of the party policy review? The nay-sayers claim that the Tories are worthless because of their lack of policies. They say the LibDems are stealing marches on us. Hang on, though. Think about this. The Tories have suffered for a decade or more with two problems. Firstly our best ideas are stolen by Labour within a flash of announcing them. And secondly putting out policy too far advance in an election gives our opposition and the media time to pick holes. I think three years prior to a poll is too far to project policy (Sir Ming, take note) and policy u-turns two years down the libe will be crippling. Cameron's task forces are going great work and the pre-finding announcements of the energy task force have, rightly, wrong footed the left.

How about internaal changes to the party? Well, despite its imperfections and my personal opposition, Cameron and Maude got their A List. The people on it may face criticism but few challenge the aim of it. Now we need to ensure that more people who really represent modern Britain - not just disabled people, women and ethnic minorities - get selected. C'mon constituencies - time to do your bit. The party has 25,000 new members since December 2005 (more than Labour and the LibDems put together) and our media machine has certainly sharpened up. True, the doom mongors cite the Bromley by-election and we have much to learn about fighting mid term polls. But I am confident that Cameron is getting to grips with the party.

And latsly are we holding the government to account ... David Davis looks increasingly like a happy man and Prescott is slowly dragging the government down with him. Cameron is getting the better of Blair at PMQs and the frontbench are beocmign more effective. Indeed, Labour themselves are helping us with their botched hand-over plans.

Cameron is getting a lot right - the important stuff, anyway - but has a long way to go. Don't rush the policy review but concentrate on the image, membership, candidate selection, media and organsation of the party in the short term. Put polls behind you and focus on the trends. Have a great party conference and then look forward to 2007 and PM Brown with confidence. I know I am.

Busy, busy, busy

It has been, and will continue to be, a hectic week. On Monday I did two work experience visits at Bignold First School and then the Assembly Rooms. I then gave blood (the full pint) and attended a pastoral governors meeting. There followed a "gentleman's evening out" in the delights of the Kings Arms (Hall Road) and then Oasis (Queens Road).

Today I have conducted tutor meetings and then led Year 8 to victory in the bowling competition against very stiff opposition. We then had friends back for food - and I have finished the night delving into Scrutiny Meeting issues and writing my e-Matters newsletter.

Tomorrow is a free day (whooppee!) and then Thursday is the Scrutiny meeting followed by the Norfolk & Suffolk Area AGM, held in Diss. Gillian Shepherd is to be the guest speaker. On Friday I am visiting the Brooke Carnival and then going out to party in the evening! Saturday is the Lord Mayor's Parade and then the Civic Reception in the evening.

And during this time I am writing motions for council and have to have a group meeting! Such stress ... but I love it!

Travellers have gone - but their litter lives on

The Travelling community has now left the park in Bowthorpe Old Hall Road, but their litter and mess live on. I think this is sad. Most of the static community would welcome visitors, even on communal land, if they left it neat and paid respect to the natural environment. To leave a mess, which the council tax payers fork out to clean up, can only damage relationships with the next set of travellers.

LibDems falling into the old Tory trap

Back in the late 1990s, when I first became involved in Norwich politics, old die-hard Tory activists used to tell me that winning no seats wasn't a problem. You see, the Conservative voters were lending their votes to the LibDems and would eventually return. That has proved to be false in at least half a respect - local LibDem voters do, on the whole, vote Tory at General Elections. But it has taken a hard slog in an old Labour ward to return Tories to Norwich City Council. Success has, yet, to come from returning LibDem voters.

It is therefore with some surprise that I learn that the Norwich LibDems are fooling themselves in a very similar way. I had dinner the other night with a LibDem who took great delight in telling me that their 4th May drubbing was OK as far as they were concerned. LibDems voters were lending their votes to the Greens and would all come flooding back when they realised the error of their ways, he said.

I think this is as niave as the Tory suggestions. LibDem voters on the left have switched to the "real thing" - or the nearest thing to acceptable socialism, the Green Party. They won't come back until the Greens make a big, big cock-up of something (not likely soon as they are a mile away from power).

If the LibDem attitude is to sit back and wait, I think they'll ponder on the opposition benches for a long time to come.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cameron's for dinner?

One of my poshest friends - who votes Labour it must be added - simple had to tell me that according to Tattler (which I read infrequently) the Cameron's are the number one sought after dinner guests.

They are welcome at mine anyday of the week, as long as they don't mind my cooking or Emily's rather native table manners.

Official: Inclusion doesn't work

Left wing educationalists, TES journos, Government Ministers and do-gooders look away now. This will offend you. And if doesn't, it should do.

Inclusion doesn't work.

The original 1978 work into inclusive teaching was a masterstroke of the late 70s socialist government thinking. The idea that all children, regardless of their emotional, physical or educational needs should all be taught in the same school. They should get the same education (and thus, as she called them, life chances) as every other pupil.

But, we are told, whilst they are to be educated together they should be taught differently. Only you can't stream because that's wrong too, so every teacher should differentiate to the whole ability and needs range in one classroom. What absolute nonsense.

The problem is, every child is different (or as the current lexicon has it, every child matters). So when the New Labour government came to power in 1997, socialist thinking came creeping back in and special schools empied their classrooms into mainstream education. Teachers are expected to teach the entire ability range, differentiating where required and adapting to the vast array of behavioural and emotional needs in their class.

New evidence now suggests that children with very special educational needs (SEN) actually suffer from mainstream schools often becoming the victims of bullying and suffering from being taught in larger classes by teachers who are often (myself included) not equipped to deal with their needs.

SEN pupils need priority but a vast majority of the most special cases need to be in special schools to achieve this. You cannot keep throwing these pupils at your common-or-garden classroom teacher and telling them to keep adapting. It doesn't suit the pupils, it doesn't suit the teachers ... and it shouldn't suit the parents.

New Tory Leader David Cameron has made much out of his campaign to maintain Special Schools. He should be congratulated for that stance, but now I want to see him explode the left-wing myth about Inclusion. Real individualised learning means pupils being in the right school at the right time. The vast majority of pupils with EAL, SEN or advanced behavioural problems would benefit outside of mainstream education rather than from being in it.

This is not some rant of a teacher "too lazy" to teach the whole range - as a colleague from another school regularly says about me. I teach to all abilities in my classroom and I keep a safe and disciplined environment in my classroom. It is about meeting the individual needs of each pupil not one-size fits all. If pupils need work on literacy to bring them up to standard, or need help with behavioural management then that should be done outside of the mainstream classroom. Whats wrong with letting the overwhelming hard working majority get on with their work without having their teacher taken away to deal with the needs of the few.

Didn't Tony Blair once say something about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few? Well, Special Schools and units will meet the needs of both - both the many in mainstream education and the few in those schools and units. So, come on Tony - I know it is a bit much expecting you to fulfill a pledge in your dying days but this would be a great legacy: denounce inclusion.

Too many inclusion do-gooders with too many excuses I'm afriad.

Council Leadership decided (at last)

Labour have to do it, the Tories can't do it, the Greens wanted to do it ... and the LibDems have fluffed doing it.

Appointing a front bench team.

Now we can be smug here as with only 2 Councillors there is a limit to what we can achieve. But the Greens have managed to rope 8 different councillors into shadowing the 8 exec positions, so why can't the LibDems?

Cllr Couzens takes on the role of Leader and Shadow Member for Resources.
Cllr Watkins takes on Shadow Economy, Communications & Organisational Culture as well as Shadow Tourism, Culture and Leisure.
Cllr Lowe is now Shadow Community & Community Safety.
Cllr Divers is Shadow Environment (god help us all).
Cllr Lubbock is Shadow Development.
Cllr Cooke is Shadow Housing.

Then apparently Cllrs Couzens, Cooke and Divers will share the new role of Shadow Contracts & Procurement. Words simply fail me.

They had years in office, achieved little and left the council in a state. Now either they are admitting they don't have the talent to form a frontbench team (look at the Greens, they don't have the talent and that didn't stop them) or they aren't even taking their role as an opposition seriously.

The elctors of Norwich City have never taken kindly to incompetence. Nor, for that matter, those who shirk their duties. LibDems take note - the 2006 drubbing was only for starters.

p.s. for those that care:
Leader of the Group: Morphew (Lab), Couzens (LD), Ramsay (G), Little (Con)
Deputy Leader of the Group: Ferris (Lab), Cooke (LD), Collishaw (Con)
Economy: Morphew (Lab), Watkins (LD), Ramsay (G), Collishaw (Con)
Tourism & Culture: Ferris (Lab), Watkins (LD), Altman (G), Little (Con)
Community: Blakeway (Lab), Lowe (LD), Gledhill (G), Little (Con)
Contracts: Blower (lab), Couzens/Cooke/Divers (LD), Stephenson (G), Collishaw (Con)
Environment: Brociek-Coulton (Lab), Divers (LD), Bearman (G), Little (Con)
Development: Morrey (Lab), Lubbock (LD), Read (G), Collishaw (Con)
Resources: Waters (Lab), Couzens (LD), Holmes (G), Collishaw (Con)
Housing: Westmacott (Lab), Cooke (LD), Llewellyn (G), Little (Con)

p.p.s. What has Cllr Jago done to annoy Ramsay then?

Tory member quits to join Greens

The most remarkable thing about David Cameron's time so far as Tory leader is the impact he has had on our membership, which has risen by 25,000 nationally (we now have more members than Labour and the LibDems put together) and also shot up by well over 100 locally.

It seems odd to note that one of our members, who joined when Michael Howard became leader, had written to resign saying she is going to become a Green member. Her reason is the lack of Conservative policies, the failure of the Labour government and the fact that the LibDems are "nutcases".

In past posts I have spoken about why parties should beware people like Susan Curran and Dawn Castle-Green who "party-hop" around the City. Adrian Ramsay will be pleased with his new recruit but should be aware that - as she quit Labour to join us under the new right-wing leadership of Howard - he should be cautious and maybe save celebrating until she realises what the Green Party stands for.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Illegal traveller site in Bowthorpe

Tonight I have been down to Bowthorpe Hall Park to see and speak to a fairly large travelling community who have illegally set up on the park. The group started at 2 or 3 caravnas at the beginning of the week and tonight I counted a dozen. Worringly enough they got access by destroying the gates on the Heritage Garden, which was the hard work of the local community.

I banged on a few doors to get some perspective from local people. Everybody had the same 3 concerns, and some rather more.
1. That the rule of law was under threat
2. That local people were being prevented from using a community resource
3. That the site would be left in a state that would either ruin the park and / or cost a lot for the tax payer to clear up.

I think we need a healthy dose of "tough liberalism" here. I have no problem with their choice of lifestyle and believe that we need a county (or region, or nation) wide strategy to provide traveller camps to prevent this from happening. I would like to see an agreement with City Care where if they bundle up their waste carefully and place it at the side of the road then it will be collected.

However ... I also believe that the current Human Rights Act is preventing many councils from dealing with these issues effectivly. I think that we need to make planning laws the same for travellers as for the rest of the community. I reject the crude quotas on traveller camps from regional bureaucrats and I want to see the council and the police with the power to act quickly in such cases.

Norwich City Council claim they will move the travellers in 3 weeks - I'm not so sure, but I'd like to believe them. They are illegally camped on the communal land which belongs to the whole community. I spoke to some people on the Bishy Barnabee Way end of the park who refused the take their children and dogs across the land because of this. I spoke to an elderly lady who lives nearby who is worried about potential anti-social behaviour.

Isn't it time that the national goverment, the police and the City Council stood up for the law abiding majority here?

I'll keep you up to date on this one.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Clover Hill AGM

Tonight I went to the AGM of the Clover Hill Community Association and found it to be most informative as to what goes on inside this "flagship community". It really was first class and very impressive to see a community project so business focused. We watched a DVD on the project to restore the ruins of St Michaels in Bowthorpe and also the skelton of the new website which I will link to when it is completed. A night well spent!


Yes, I'm back to blogging after those nice people at the Treetops Dental Surgery, Pottergate, put all of my wonky teeth back in order. A day's recovery later (I had to be knocked out!) and all is well. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it is very good service and is taking on new NHS patients!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Honesty in Politics?

I won't bore you with my expert analysis on the World Cup, but suffice it to say that the whole of Year 8 start penalty practice on Monday in case any of them ever get into the England team. My heart particularly goes out to Lampard who had a rotten World Cup.

The worst thing about it was that I didn't watch it alone. Whenever you see international football matches with other people, two things are certain. Firstly I have to pretend that I know more about the whole football thing than I do. And secondly there will always be somebody (they are self nominating) who could have done better if only yesterday the FA has sacked Sven and appointed them instead. Mind you, I think that about me and the government. Anyway, the heat, alcohol and football disaster haven't made for a great night.

I have stopped short of making comment about the Bromley by-election result. I am now going to do so because tonight I have watched Bob Neill's victory speech and Ben Abbotts (who?) losers speech on the BBC Player. Clearly it was a close run thing and the Conservatives did do badly. I'll leave it to conservativehome and Party Chairman Francis Maude to work out why. However the style of campaigning interests me.

People always tell me that they prefer positive campaigning - and really want to talk out policies. However, when the LibDems run a campaign based entirely on slagging off another candidate they don't suffer any loss of votes. The LibDems are dirty, nasty campaigners (as their briefing guide from LibDem HQ tells them to be). Yet people treat them like political virgins. If people really hate negative campaigning, why don't the LibDems lose more by-election campaigns? Or is it that negative campaigning works? Voters say one thing and do another. I wonder how many people vote 'for' something rather than 'against' something else?

Because of the campaign that he ran, I hope Ben has a short but obscure career in his third party and that he loses even his council seat soon. I admire a lot of people on all sides of politics and he is certainly not one of them.

One Tory activist who made several trips to Bromley from Norfolk told me that he thought that people lied more on the doorsteps there than he had ever seen before. Why do people lie? It only makes more parties disturb you on more occassions. If you told party X to sod off they'd never knock on your door again. If you tell party X, Y and Z you are going to vote for all 3, you'll endure three lots of direct mail, three lots of leaflets and three lots of knocking up. Yet people continue to do so - if you are really afraid of the canvasser, just say you don't want to say, rather than fib.

On a similar vein, apparently the public don't like punch & judy politics, especially at PMQs. So when punch & judy are absent do they accuse preceedings of being boring?

Rather like the LibDems, it seems a lot of people say one thing and do another. Maybe it is time for everyone to be a bit more honest in politics?