Thursday, August 31, 2006

Are the Norwich South LibDems going bankrupt?

A rather detailed copy of the accounts schedule of the Norwich South LibDems makes its way into my hands which shows a rather depressing picture for the party locally, especially given its disasterous local election results.

In two years the party has seen its reserves dwindle from over £14,000 to just around £5,000 with no seeming end to the draining of resources. They are, apparently, losing around £4,000 a year as their expenditure rapidly overtakes their income. Membership is depressingly static (some claim it is actually now in freefall again) and fundraising activities have halved and continue to fall.

How much longer can this go on? Without a large council group to prop up their finances, I am led to believe that the reserves will run out in 2007 at the latest (their party survived that fate a lot longer than Norwich City Council did anyway). Unless local people are ready to start putting their hands in their pockets - and quickly - then things are looking bad for the LibDems in the City.

They have no assets, falling income, rising costs and no prospect of any upturn in electoral fortunes. A failing organisation if ever I saw one.

Ian Gibson's new way of wasting time and energy - and it doesn't involve solving YOUR problems!

Forget the trashy and pointless content, I do hope the people of Norwich North are asking why their MP has so much time to blog for the Norwich Evening News (only available online) when he should be sorting out the pensions crisis, traffic management and anti-social behaviour in his constituency.

p.s. I am surprised that Gibbo has given his colleague Charles Clarke a free run on the Evening News Reclaim our Communities stuff - but it is nice to see Mr Clarke commenting on something I suppose...

Built to Last

I recieved my copy of the Built to Last document today and took the time out to read it in full. It is, in my humble opinion, an excellent document rooted in Conservative principles that will almost certainly be accepted by the overwhelming majority of the British public (should they choose to read it too).

Ten minutes later I voted YES via the internet. All very modern and saved the party money (apparently).

A good day for Cameron, a good day for democracy and a good day for conservatism.

My first sub committee

Today was my first licensing sub committee (well, first two actually) and although I cannot and will not speak of what went on, I was very impressed with the way it all works and commend the two Labour councillors for their work on this. When you wade through so many complaints about the council it was great to see something work well.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Scotland is a poorer place today

The death of Lord Munro is reported here. A real giant in Scottish and Tory politics. He was so pleased when his old seat was won back by the Conservatives in 2005. He'll be missed.

Evening News "Reclaim our Communities" Campaign

Big congratulations to the Evening News for their “Reclaim our Communities” campaign. As ever, the Evening News is far more in touch with the views of the decent hard working majority of local people than our New Labour Government is.

The Norwich Conservatives strongly support the campaign – at the beginning of the summer David Cameron highlighted the need to create a culture where people accept responsibility more. Responsibility for themselves, their families and their communities.

What is worrying, and I have found this since being elected as a Councillor in May, is the number of people who have totally lost faith in the Police. We all need to have a great amount of respect and trust in the way that the Police work in order for our streets to be kept safe. In order to regain that respect and trust, the police need to be more responsive in the way that they deal with anti-social behaviour.

People need to report anti-social behaviour whenever and wherever it occurs. If the Evening News log helps the police to be more proactive and clamp down on criminal behaviour then I wish it every success.

However, it must be clear that if people report it then the police must deal with it. If the police do not take this chance to work with local people, goodwill soon dries up and they’ll wonder why people don’t report crime anymore.

The Evening News have done their bit, the people of Norwich I hope will do theirs – I trust the police will do theirs also.

Bowthorpe United?

Given the meeitng I attended tonight, the planning application to build a Jehovah Witness meeting room on Wendene, at the heart of Bowthorpe, has united residents against the plans.

I addressed the meeting held tonight at the Worship Centre. Churches, residents and local supermarket chain Roys were represented.

This meeting was a big success and there were clean unanimity in the room that this planning application is unsuitable because of the pressures it puts on traffic and parking in the area. Members are now planning to lobby the Planning Committee against these plans.

Most interesting was the discussion that such a meeting hall is against the original master plan for Bowthorpe – the community was designed to have a single Christian worship centre and this is against that spirit.

I hope all residents who can make it along on 7th September do so to make their voices heard.

Questions Morphew must answer over Labour's Unitary Bid

The MORI poll that I mentioned below has blown up in the face of Norwich City Leaders after it turned out they failed to inform fellow council leaders.

Norwich City Council have commissioned a MORI poll to determine levels of support for Unitary Status across the City, South Norfolk and Broadland districts. However, questions have now been raised about the cost of this exercise and if City Council Leaders had informed their district council counterparts that they were carrying out the poll.

I now have a copy of the leaked poll. The Council have committed a lot of taxpayers cash to an exercise in propaganda. This poll is not fair or balanced – it is designed to get the answer that City Hall want.

If they are to do these polls, they should at least be balanced to give us some faith in the outcome.

Furthermore, I understand that fellow council leaders were unaware that this poll was going on in their council areas. Norwich City should at least have the decency to inform our council colleagues and councillors.

Broadland, for example, have made it very clear that they are against unitary status. I understand that senior figures in Broadland are less than happy about this.

Isn’t it time that City Leaders were honest about the resources and cash that they are pouring into this political project?

Monday, August 28, 2006

(Yet) Another blow for Norwich City's Unitary Bid

Following the vote on Broadland District Council against the Norwich Unitary Bid, which saw all of the opposition LibDem Councillors support the Tory administration's stance, the Evening News online poll (which is currently at the bottom here) has come out 2 to 1 against the plans.

63% of voters were against the idea compared to 29% in favour - and all this time the Council continues to spend thousands upon thousands of tax payers cash on this ill-fated scheme. Labour and the LibDems had better be prepared to justify this when the dust dies down. With all of the expensive MORI polls and glossy documents flying around this bid certainly isn't cheap.

Once the County Council and then South Norfolk District Council come out against the plans (as they, I'm told, will certainly) Norwich will look increasingly isolated.

Bids are only accepted if there is general support from stakeholders. Labour and the LibDems can't even agree amongst themselves county wide on this and with the county, partner districts, public opinion and the Conservatives against this idea what chance does it have?

Let's stop this now and save the money - I know a whacking great finanical black hole that needs filling...

Who do I rate?

One of my 124 e-mails was a gentleman from Thorpe Hamlet who stumbled across my blog by accident when he typed in "Norwich Conservative" instead of "Norwich Conservatory" into google. He, apparently, read a few months worth of entries and said that I always seem to focus on the negative traits of my councillor colleagues. Didn't I have anything nice to say about any of them? Well, yes, I do actually.

On the Labour side, nobody can doubt the committment and expertise that Steve Morphew (Mile Cross) brings to the role of leader of the council. Roy Blower and Bert Bremner (University) are two of the most committed campaigners in the council and both decent blokes to boot. Newly elected Sue Sands (Sewell), who is a constituent of mine in Bowthorpe, is the type of personable decent person we need on the council. I also have a lot of time for my ward colleague Chrissie Rumsby.

From the LibDems, Brian Watkins (Eaton) is a fine politician who I believe will one day make a dangerously good Leader of his group. Always has time for people and is one of the most intelligent councillors. He brings a wealth of experience to what we do.

The Greens are a funny bunch to try and get to know - you have to admire the strenght of character in Adrian Ramsay (Nelson) and his committment to the cause, as he sees it. Bob Gledhill (Nelson) is genuinely funny and deeply committed. Claire Stephenson (also Nelson) has a lot of her brother's charm and, like Steve Altman (Mancroft) is very easy to get on with. I have crticised the new Green Councillors in the past for not saying and doing enough - council meetings are the Adrian and Rupert show - but I sure that that will change with time.

I don't ask that people are just like me, but I think the best councillors are those that are ward focused, not afriad to speak up against the party and/or council and those who can campaign effectivly. Sometimes a party hack beats a decent local councillor but very rarely. Show these qualities, as many of the 39 strong council do, and you will do a good job.

p.s. It is probably not politically correct to suck up to the Lord Mayor, but for what it is worth I think that Cllr Hartley goes a very good job too.

Bank Holiday & the week to come

After getting stuck in traffic for 4 1/2 hours coming back to Norwich on Saturday I have gone from being static to being non-stop.

Yesterday Louise and I ventured forth onto more DIY - that is until we nearly destroyed one wall in our kitchen and had to have a very long sit down to recover. It gave me time to wade through 124 e-mails that I recieved during our week long holiday. And that isn't even spam - just council stuff, party gumpf and ward issues. Amazing. It took three hours to get through but I genuinely mean it when I say that people deserve a prompt response to queries - even if it is negative.

In the evening we went to the Trafford Arms pub quiz, where I met my Labour colleague Cllr Keith Driver. Keith is a good bloke - an old fashioned socialist who represents Lakenham Ward. Unfortunately his team beat mine, but if we had played the joker on the right round we'd not only have beaten him but won the whole contest. Keith is also a man who can't tell Charlotte Church and John Prescott apart!

Today we have spent the day messing around on the broads with the family. We went from Wroxham to North Norfolk and enjoyed a pincic lunch on the way. Emily wasn't keen on the boat at first but she soon got into it when the ducks started to appear. Big medal goes to Great Aunty Lynda for reversing the boat into a tiny mooring. How did she do it?!? Ice cream in Wroxham and then home.

Tomorrow we are sorting out the kitchen floor and seeing the front wall being re-build. Wednesday I am going to take Emily for her mumps jab (no, we are not having the MMR) and then in the evening there is a public meeting in Bowthorpe to discuss the planning application for a worship room on Wendene. I am in licensing committee meetings all day on Thursday. Friday I shall mostly be preparing for the return to school.

Oh, and congrats go to our local Party Chairman Trevor and his wife Lisa whose son, Alexander, was born today. Lisa was so sure that the baby would be early so this wait had been agony for her (she was induced yesterday, being 10 days late) but I am sure that Alexander will be more than worth the wait!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Good Tory News Day

The opinion polls, Mr Blair's woes and the rantings of the Hefferlump aside, today has still been a good news day for the Conservatives. Dave Cameron has the banner headline in the Observer proclaiming a change in policy on Africa, whilst Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne starts to play out Tory tax plans in the Telegraph. What with the Sunday Times leading on the huge majority now in favour of cutting tax, Labour must be wondering what happened to their news management.

By far the most interesting of these is Osbourne's tax ideas. I have to say that under Howard, IDS or Hague there would have been a scramble to talk about death duties or council tax and in the talk about scrapping stamp duty on shares, Osbourne may have a few people thinking "what?!?". It is good that he has not jumped on the bandwagon (his comforting words on the inheritance tax were enough) this time - and his comments yesterday tell us a lot about the complex word of Cameron politics.

Osbourne, who represents the ultra-wealthy Tatton seat in Cheshire, said he will make the repair of Britain's pension system a top priority - perhaps more so than cutting inheritance tax or reducing tax per say. It becomes more birlliant the more you think about it. Firstly it helps business but secondly it helps a massive potential Tory constituency - those middle aged people now considering their retirement. Pensions is a big issue on the doorstep and I hope that Dave and George will be bold on this. But most impressive about this is the implication of blame. If George had to fix this problem, who caused it? Unlike most other government woes, the blame lies firmly at the feet of Chancellor Gordon Brown. Brown's first tax was a raid on pension funds in 1997 and the industry hasn't quite recovered since. By making this a high profile, Osbourne can rightly point the finger directly at Prime Minister Brown come the next general election.

UPDATE: This is sitting nicely along the mooted new housing policy from last week. Things are interesting in the Conservative Party again!

Welcome home, Councillor

After a refreshing family holiday in Bournemouth (and, to be fair, most of Dorset was visited) it was lovely to come home to a letter from my favourite Bowthorpe nutter. Addressing the envelope as "Con Party" bu always making reference to me by name inside, this gentleman is one of the foremost thinkers of our age.

In the leaflet I talked about waste management, cleaning up parks, anti social behaviour and housing.

His comment: "The people around here don't care about those things, they care about the damage that Thatcher's lot did to Britain. Why don't you talk about that?"

Brilliant! This is the annonymous gentleman's TENTH letter to me of such a vein. I look forward to the eleventh.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Planning Applications

Two of interest going through at the moment - the revised meeting hall bid for land behind the police station on Wendene and the revised plans for a storage facility backing into Thurlow and Atkinson Closes.

Without sounding too "Green" I am opposing both of these (still). The meeting hall concerned me about the amount of traffic it would generate. The new plans state that the hall would only be used on a Sunday - so would the building become a magnet for anti-social behaviour the rest of the week? I also think that the storage facility is still too close to houses and would intrude on gardens, but they have taken on board planning advice and I am informed that they have done enough to satisfy my original concerns.

If you have any queries, please get in touch or view the detailed plans at the City Council website.

Apparently if you don't pay, you can't be a member of the Labour Party

Yes folks, that is the shocking news from this blog coming out of the Walsall Labour Party. A long serving member has quit ... because he was expected to pay.

John Hemming "not totally useless" - shock

John Hemming is the love-rat turned LibDem MP (or should that be LibDem MP turned love-rat?!?) who was touting himself around for the leadership in January. He failed to recieve more than 2 backers (even those came as a surprise) and has since made himself a bit of a rent-a-quote MP, following in a line of great rent-a-quote MPs. He does, however, have one redeeming feature (steady!) and that is his blog - - which I have found a very useful site to gather source material for my A Level politics class. He picks out choice passages from Hansard and lists his parliamentary questions. Only very rarely is he overtly party political. I urge you to take a look if you want to see the nuts and bolts of parliament.

The least you can say about Mr Hemming is he has a useful blog.

Another day in paradise

The tiling is done and the kitchen inches closer to completion. This afternoon I was preparing my speech as I am best man at my mate Simon's wedding this weekend. Hectic too as Louise (with a little help from Emily...) prepare for our family holiday too. Yes, unlike Mr Blair I am supporting the British tourist industry - we are going for a few days to Bournemouth. Last time I was there it was conference season. It'll be very different this time - with one and a half babies in tow. Needless to say, some eco-warrior will accuse me of throttling the planet with my audacious plans to take a holiday. I wonder what is the most eco-happy way to take a break? I understand that Cllr Ramsay is off to Scotland, no doubt via bicycle. Cllr Read may well join him in Scotland, but I understand he travels by a very different method...

Live Blogging the Cameron Speech

Dark suit, red tie. Good start.

Built to Last feedback announced today, revised document tomorrow.
Priority List review announced next Monday.

Cameron begins by saying that he had met and spoken with Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and Shadow Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Wants to see the UN resolution implemented in full - no army in Lebanon expect the Lebanese one. Cameron determine to see an international force at full strength.

Cameron goes on to back the UK Government and the British soldiers. He asks for a full NATO audit to ensure that the troops that go in are fully supported.

He agrees with William Hague that the response was disproportionate and says that the Conservatives won't take a one sided view.

Tory Leader says this is a battle within Islam rather than between Islam and the West.

He is looking and sounding confident.

Says he is shocked, but not surprised, at the 10/8 plot. Cameron says there are people in British society who want to kill themselves and others. Not driven by poverty but by a perverted ideology. MP says he wants a comprehensive strategy. Thanks the public for their patient attitude in the holiday season. Says he wants to work with the government.

Cameron says government not doing enough to fight extremism at home - shouldn't have frozen Home Office budgets. They haven't followed through on Blair 12 point security plan.

Cameron says we should invest in security service. We must enforce and strenghten existing laws rather than create new ones. We must build the fabric of society.

George Osbourn, Shadow Chancellor, challenging Brown's Home Office spending freeze.

Intercept evidence must be allowed in court, says David Cameron.

Cameron repeats his request for a Homeland Security Minister and also for the replacing of the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights.

Why have so few preachers of hate not been brought to court?

Cameron believes the government doesn't follow up when the headlines move on.

Cameron is clearly well researched and his speech is well written.

Cameron puts EAL and history teaching in schools at the centre of the creation of social fabric.

Tories to keep asking tough questions. David Cameron says we need to be balanced and have good judgement.

Excellent stuff from Cameron - both message and presentation. Hope he does as well with the questions.

The race is on...

... and LibDems around the City will know what I mean!

Monday, August 14, 2006

... and no EDMs either

An Early Day Motion (EDM) is a bit of parliamentary fun - they don't really mean or do anything but they do serve as a pointer of which issues MPs are interested in. Hence you can find them from the serious political messages through to congratulating your local football team. They require no more energy than your signature but they do send a message about your interests.

We all know that Ministers do not sign them, so why since being granted the freedom of the backbenches, hasn't Mr Clarke signed a single one? Clinching evidence that he has no interest in anything, anyone and certainly not Norwich.

Under what circumstances should we recall parliament?

I am in a seeming minority of people, luckily aligned with such luminaries as Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and Dizzy, that doesn't want parliament to be recalled over the current Middle East crisis - yet. If, and when, our policy changes on this issue then it might be warranted but it did make me think what circumstances parliament should be recalled. After all, most MPs are off caravanning around Europe and couldn't return anyway...

1. When it involves deployment of UK troops
2. A major national disaster
3. A sudden, large and unexpected costs laid upon the UK taxpayer
4. The death of a senior politican or Royal
5. Over to you ...

p.s. On that basis, it has been pointed out that 10/8 would qualify for a recall but the Middle East crisis wouldn't. Shouldn't there be more guidelines then just the whim of the Speaker of this?

Cameron & the Middle East

David Cameron is set to make tomorrow a day when he will spell out his position on the Middle East, says the BBC. I am very pleased with this decision because I feel that Cameron can help broaden the debate. Luckily, the increasingly useless Sir Ming hasn't managed to fill that gap even with his legendary statemanlike approach to foreign affairs. However I would be most disappointed if this was as a reaction to media attacks that Mr Cameron has been invisible on the issue. I hardly consider myself to be old fashioned on this, but isn't this what we have a Shadow Foreign Secretary for? Bill Hague has done a pretty good job over this. You can see with the whole Blair/Beckett and Reid/Prescott situations what the problems can be with too many cooks on these issues. So I was glad when Cameron let Hague make the running (as I would expect him to allow Lansley the running on health, Davis on crime et al). Our Party needs to be more than just a one-man band. The Shadow Cabinet will never make a mark on the nation if Cameron is our only spokesman.

Couzens to make way?

The issue of who is standing where and who may or may not stand down has become a hot topic at City Hall. Labour big hitters Brian Morrey and Brenda Ferris are both reportedly thinking about standing down, but now the LibDems appear to be thinking of the future too.

Rumour has it that Ian Couzens has come to the conclusion that his continued presence on the LibDem benches will be a constant reminder of his disasterous regime and he will be a centre for Labour attacks. So has the time come for long serving Cllr Couzens to throw the towel in? Well, if as expected Cllr Simon Wright quits his Fakenham seat in May 07 (due to living in Norwich) then the Eaton berth becomes wide open for him...

Building Site (again)

Apologies for the lack of posts but the house is once again upside down. This morning I was at a Waste Management Working Party meeting and then this afternoon I painted the kitchen. The tiler is in tomorrow (apparently) so should be back up and running soon after that. Sorry!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cost of Ian Gibson surges by a massive 36%

A quick look at the figures reveals that the cost of maintaining Norwich North's MP have risen by an enormous 36% since 2001. Reports show that Mr Gibson claimed £89,935 in expenses in 2001-2002 but that figure had massively risen to £122,459 by 2004-2005. This increase outstrips inflation enormously and is rising far faster than wages and prices across the UK.

This really does amaze me - MPs are not subject to any more costs now than they were 5 years ago, so why should their expenses grow so much? They should be linked to inflation like everyone else. Not unless Mr Gibson links his expenses to the rising cost of, say, petrol, gas or council tax.

I wouldn't mind better than not a single one of Mr Gibson's constituents (inbred or otherwise) got a wage rise of 36% across the last five years. We have a duty to keep a check on our MPs spending (it is, after all, our money).

UPDATE: Charles Clarke's expenses have risen by 33% - not very much better. Although given that Mr Gibson has bothered to, for example, speak in debates and ask questions I am inclined to think that his 36% rise is better spent than Mr Clarke's 33%.

Gibson (finally) apologises ... now will he announce that he is standing down?

Following the blast that Ian Gibson has recieved in the Daily Mail (aided and abeited by myself) and the Telegraph. Interestingly this has sharply divided people between those who believe he should quit as an MP now and those who believe this is something worth imvestigation. I have to say that far more are against him than for him.

The Independent is running a similar story tomorrow, and the local rags are keeping up the pressure. I understand that Labour Councillors are fuming - though the divide is between the vaguely supportive North City members and the utterly furious South City ones.

Mr Gibson has made himself a laughing stock after building up a solid reputation as a parliamentarian. I just wonder ... has this delayed the long-awaited announcement of his retirement or bought it forward?

My Day

I have been in and around the ward today, looking at problems and visiting residents. Nothing fantastically world beating - grafitti, road signs damaged and trees mainly. I had an interesting meeting with some residents in Three Score. One of them had read the post below on Charles Clarke's poor record as our MP and said: "Of Course, everybody knows if you want something done around here, you don't ask Mr Clarke, you ask Antony Little."

Nice to be appreciated.

Building work more or less completed at home and this afternoon Emily and I had a wonderful time at the Riverside Pool and then spend a glorious time in Woolies which resulted in me buying the largest pot of pic'n'mix known to man. Sigh. In preventing my daughter falling into the black hold of sweeties, I have had to help her out with them!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What has Charles Clarke been doing?

According to TheyWorkForYou, Charles Clarke hasn't made a single parliamentary contribution since 4th May (the day before he was fired).

He has had more time on his hands than at any time in the past and yet Mr Clarke has failed to ask a single parliamentary question, hasn't signed an EDM or spoken in the chamber.

Bearing in mind that the poor long suffering tax payer continue to pay Mr Clarke's wages, we have to ask: What have you been doing, Mr Clarke?

p.s. I am excluding all that time spent knifing Mr Blair, of course.

Who are the top bloggers and who reads them?

According to figures set to be released shortly, Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale and ConservativeHome are the three most visited political websites. However, what I'd like to know is the kind of people that are using these (and similar websites) and what their political status is (i.e. activists, people with an interest and people without an interest). Are the same people visiting all the sites (like me) and thus is the total audience lower? What is the real impact of these blogs?

If the DLGC can provide bloggers with our trip out to Hungary, then maybe they could commission this research too?

Norwich MP accuses constituents of inbreeding

Dr Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwicvh North, has suggested in this EDP article that the high rate of diabetes in Norfolk is due to inbreeding. Before you laugh, think about what impact this has, of the elected representative saying this about the people he claims to represent. Imagine the outcry if he said this about a race or religion. People in Norfolk can take a joke (BBC's Top Gear use some choice phrases about the home of Lotus) but coming from our local MP is outrageous. Gibson should apologise at once.

Iain Dale thinks that Gibson has just made his decision to retire. I'm afraid it can't come a moment too soon for me, the sooner our City is free of this man the better. He should go away, grow up and come back when he has something positive to contribute.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Safety First?

The story in today's press about cross country runs being physical abuse and against human rights brings to mind a conversation I had with a youth worker recently.

We were talking about how teachers spot signs of abuse or trouble at home. We agreed that non-verbal signs were as important as verbal ones - you don't need a kid to tell you about the problems to know that something is going on. For example, a teacher may see signs of self-harm when a pupil is wearing short sleeve shirts or the like (normally in such cases the child wants you to see). When I was at school there were always staff in the PE changing rooms, but not so any more. The Youth Worker told me that this was a good thing as there were paedophile threats "all the time" (his words). Whilst acknowledging such threats do exist I really think the danger is overblown. Without staff present the changing rooms become a deeply threatening environment for some pupils and many children live with them as being a den of bullying. The changing rooms are second only to public transport, in my opinion, as bullying zones. Because of a national sense of paranoia over paedophilia we are allowing thousands of pupils to dread PE every week.

That Youth Worker was happy to see those pupils suffer in the changing rooms in order to prevent a percieved threat, I don't think so.

Shock: LibDem says Campbell should go

A conversation with an old LibDem chum of mine brings out a plausable solution to the current LibDem Leadership crisis. What if Ming did a Michael?

That is, to stand down in favour of a single challenger who would then appoint Sir Ming as the party's foreign affairs spokesman instead. Apparently, Sir Ming made his name through foreign affairs but has proved that he is unable to take that gravitas through to other policy areas. Oh dear. So, says my chum, why not put him back where he belongs? After all, the appointment of Michael Moore has been the disaster of the LibDem reshuffle, I'm told. I would have thought that Sarah Teather or David Heath would be in line for that but, hey, who knows how the mind of a LibDem works?

LibDems are fast getting fed up with him, despite better PMQs performances. But instead of stressing his leadership credentials, his work on the Middle East crisis reminds members what a good foreign spokesman he was.

As a Tory interested in the LibDems doing badly I want Sir Ming to cling on. But if LibDem members were suddenly presented with a pre-conference coup - sanctioned by the Leader - who would object?

Stupid or dirty?

As a Tory activist I have to get used to the public perception of the LibDems being all cuddly and lovely whilst seeing them get away with being nasty, negative and dirty in campaigning. However, having read the newly revampt Hillingdon LibDem website I am slightly worried that they are more stupid than deliberately deceptive.

To be a LibDem activist you have to be wildly optimistic on the verge of utterly insane. Remember, the whole "winning here", "two horse race" and "only the LibDems can beat..." strategy fails far more times than it works. So I urge you to read the summer edition of the Cavendish Ward Focus where the party proudly boasts:

"Steve, Elaine and Alan worked hard to provide residents with a real alternative and came closer than ever to taking the ward."

Erm, hang on. The LibDems held this ward for two terms before losing it to the Tories on 4th May on a massive swing. Steve and Elaine were both sitting Councillors! In fact, Steve was the Leader of the LibDem group.

What on earth can this misleading statement mean? Was it a deliberate attempt to deny the fact that they lost the ward and two long serving councillors were ousted?

Maybe but I have come to the conclusion that it must be stupidity on their part. After all, nobody would support a party that deliberately made that up, would they?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Remote Councillor...

Where have I been and what have I been doing? Well...

Following Wednesday to Friday in Hungary at the e-democracy conference, I flew (yes, budget airlines) into Newcastle for my best mates stag do. Straight from that it was home, via Britain's third world public transport system and onto the beautiful Crown and Castle Hotel in Orford, Suffolk, where Lou and I had our first nights away from Emily (ever)! A fantastic hotel. Then off to Oxfordshire this weekend for my Aunt and Uncle's Ruby anniversary. During this time the whole inside of my house is looking like a dump as a new boiler and kitchen are put in - plus re-wiring the house.

All this and I still feel very on top of all my council work - even the hotel in Newcastle had remote wireless access so I was able to keep working anywhere in the world. Officers and fellow councillors had no idea that I was in Eastern Europe (or Eastern Suffolk) when I got in touch. E-mail, broadband and mobile phones really are changing the way that we work.

Tomorrow I am in all day with the kitchen fitters and then it is licensing committee and a group meeting in Tuesday.

I agree with Mrs Cllr Simon Wright

I always get a bit suspicious when people start writing nice things about Councillors in the letters page of the Evening News - Councillors and the Council are there to be used as punching bags, everybody knows that!

So how surprised I was on Saturday to see one resident asking people to support Councillors in their work - wait, no, just a minute ... the author is only the fiancee of Cllr Simon Wright, LibDem member for Fakenham! A totally unbias view there then!

To be serious for a moment, I did however like what she had to say - about the need for the council to take the working lifestyles of people into account. Not just go-ahead young teacher types, but the council should be accommodating of working people, the self employed and those with altenrative lifestyles. Mrs Cllr Wright wrote a good letter which really hit the nail on the head - maybe she should get together with Mrs Cllr Brenda Ferris for a chat? We all know how much Brenda accommodates people in different professions!

Friday, August 04, 2006

UPDATE: Mayoral Primary latest

I have had a call to say that the Press were informed before the declared candidates that CCHQ wants a delay. Now that conservativehome are saying the same thing I know it is safe to print!

Call me Councillor

Whenever Labour get back into power they always try and destroy those things which make up the backbone of the state.

First it was the House of Lords, then the electoral system and devolution.

Now, top Labour Councillors in Norwich want officers and council staff to refer to us by our first names! Luckily, said Councillor has been slapped down, having been told that being referred to as "Councillor" not only keeps the barbarians from the gates of civilisation and maintains a level of respect between everyone - but also covers up when the officer can't remember the name of the person to whom (s)he is speaking to!

Just Brilliant

This afternoon I had a meeting with my fellow Tory City Councillor Eve Collishaw.

Eve could have been the most influential Conservative in the County. When the Conservatives took control of County Hall in 2001 she was one half of probably the most powerful female double act in local government - along with now former Leader Alison King. Cllr Collishaw quit as Deputy Leader and Economic Spokesman a year later and has always been intensley loyal to the City areas of Norwich. Eve went on to win in Catton Grove in 2004 and is now Deputy City Tory Leader and Spokesman for Economics & Transport. I wonder if, had she stayed on and been a good girl, if Eve would have been County Leader after Alison quit last April?

The point of the meeting was to go through the many facets of the current council budget crisis that continues to emerge. The grip and grasp that Eve has of the situation and her ability to relay that in plain English was astonishing. I hate jargon but she thinks outside of the box in such a Conservative way (oxymoron, anyone?) and is very perceptive. Just brilliant. Catton Grove, myself and the Tory Party are lucky to have people like her.

Tax It, Spend It, Waste It: New Survey Launched

Norwich City Council faces a major choice about how to deal with the disasterous budget that has been left to us by the LibDems. As far as we can tell, 3 options exist:

1. Raise Tax to fill the LibDem blackhole (it'd be a big tax rise)
2. Cut front line services (we are talking millions here)
3. Cut costs at City Hall (could include selling buildings, cutting bureaucracy)

You can have your say and vote by clicking here.

Confirmed: Tories delay London Mayoral Primary

Chairman of the Conservative Party Francis Maude has issued this statement:

“Eight weeks ago we set out plans to give every Londoner the chance to become the Conservative Party’s candidate for Mayor of London, and to give all Londoners the chance to play a part in the selection process.

“Since then we have received a number of excellent applications. This has been extremely encouraging. We have also received expressions of interest from a number of very serious potential candidates for whom the timescale we originally set is too restrictive.

“Given that the mayoral elections are still nearly two years away, we are therefore extending the deadline to give these and others the chance to come forward.

“We want as wide a range of people as possible to take part in this exciting and innovative process with a view to selecting a candidate next spring.”

The 6 declared candidates must be extremely annoyed and frustrated, as well as feeling very let down by CCHQ. I am beginning to think that Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie might have a point in their complaints about how Tory candidates are treated by Central Office.

Tax It, Spend It, Waste It

I am shocked that first a senior Labour Councillor thinks that wasting £4000 on postage is not a problem and now a LibDem Councillor believes that the Council being plunged into an overspend of £400,000 is not a problem either.

So the LibDems don't see a problem with not balancing the budget and Labour aren't interested in saving money - nothing changes there then.

Nobody knows the real extend of the financial difficulties that we face - the figure could be more or less than the £2m - but we do know that Norwich City Council has massive financial problems which aren't going to be sorted any time soon.

City Council too often forget that it is our money that they are spending - the money is not the council's, it is from the tax payers of Norwich. In the current climate the ruling Labour Group and their LibDem friends should be working in bringing down costs, saving money where possible and providing value-for-money services.

No business, let alone a household, would run their budgets like the City Council house. Norwich City Council could learn a lot from a struggling small business or a family living on a tight budget to see how they live within their means.

The attitude of the Labour and LibDem groups is disgraceful, but I am pleased to say that the Conservatives are back in City Hall ready to highlight waste and provide an opposition to our "tax it, spend it, waste it" council.

Fortress Harefield

I was amazed by the results at the local elections in Hillingdon (where my parents live). This highly marginal Council has been NOC for eight years, but on 4th May tha Tories gained 15 seats and almost wiped out the LibDems altogether.

The LibDem lost all their seats bar two - one in Ruislip Manor and one in Hillingdon East. Both were held only just and by two very high profile LibDems. Every other seat, no matter how safe, fell.

The Tory-Labour race was even more interesting. The Tories snatched Uxbridge South, West Drayton, Yiewsley, Charville (North Hayes) and Heathrow - hardly heartland areas.

However I believe the most interesting result was in Harefield. Why, I hear you cry, because this ward has been Tory since 1998. Well, let me tell you. Harefield looks all suburban and middle class - it is a village on the Herts border and seems very leafy on paper. But it does contain several large council estates and was an easy gain for Labour after Blair became leader. The village Labour branch grew and grew. Both sitting Labour Councillors were considered to be so safe that they joined the Labour frontbench in 1996 and one of them was made Deputy Mayor in 1997. Then came 1998 and a strong Tory challenge ... 20-something Tory candidate Caroline Mutton and ultra-bright Sandra Jenkins snatched the seat by 1 vote (yes, count 'em, one vote).

Labour were outraged and fought back hard. In 2002, former Tory Group Leader Richard Barnes and ally Henry Higgins took over the seat - and with Labour fighting tooth and nail they won by 33 votes. The village remained a knife egde marginal.

Then came 2006. The result?
Con 1279
Con 1102
Nat Front 581
Lab 376
Lab 375
LD 256
LD 218

How had, in the period 2002-2006, Labour have gone from being 33 votes behind with a strong challenge and strong ward structure to being 900 behind and in third place - behind the NF! This result was as bizarre as I have ever seen and is a tribute to the work of Richard and Henry. An amazing win.

Assemblyman joins race to be Tory Mayoral candidate

I am very pleased to say that Richard Barnes, the Tory Assembly Member for Hillingdon & Ealing and also Councillor for Harefield Ward, is to seek the Conservative nomination at the Mayoral election. I think that Richard would be an excellent candidate and (at last) somebody who represents the outer zones of London. Richard has been at the forefront of the campaign to save Harefield Hospital and also on the issue of public safety, transport (especially trams) and is well known for his work with the Met police. Richard has the backing of Lord Stevens, former Met Chief, and I think he will pick up a lot of support from London MPs and Council Leaders too. Despite being quoted as a 100-1 outsider, I think Richard stands a good chance. He has a site here, but no campaign site yet.

Critique of CCHQ hits home?

Tim Montgomerie is fast becoming one of the most influential Conservatives in the country as his website is now more visited than the national site. Tim uses the site to encourage debate between Conservatives and the work that the party did on the A List was ground breaking. Francis Maude and David Cameron should, therefore, take note when Tim makes the follow line about CCHQ, headlined "Is CCHQ fit for purpose"? Read it yourself and then join in the debate here.

Rumours are rife that David Cameron has over-ruled Francis Maude and ordered a six month postponement of the London Mayoral process if a big-hitter candidate does not come forward before today's 5pm deadline. It was predictable and predicted that CCHQ's rushed timetable would be unlikely to yield an adequate field of candidates.

Unfortunately it's only the latest example of a failure of CCHQ to deliver the kind of political operation that David Cameron deserves. There remain central weaknesses in CCHQ:

We know best attitude. This was summed up in last year's post-election plans to change the constitution of the party (which had to be abandoned) and anti-democratic plans to abolish grassroots members' right to vote in the leadership election (which failed to win the required level of support).
Candidate selection. The A-list has been beset by a wide range of difficulties. CCHQ unsuccessfully attempted to keep the names of A-listers secret... many of the 35 seats that CCHQ decided should select candidates first had not been consulted and decided not to select... more non A-listers are being selected than women A-listers... and only this week 'B-listers' haven't even received the courtesy of a letter telling them that they are not on the top-up... ConservativeHome has been highlighting the huge hurdles facing lower income candidates since the start of the year but the drive for a representative party has not begun to address this key issue of social justice.

By-elections. The campaign in Bromley & Chislehurst fell far short of the Liberal Democrat effort.
Centralisation. The party's poor performance in northern England demands a radical response but there are no clear plans for a serious decentralisation of campaigning power to Yorkshire or Lancashire, for example, although the major cities are now twinned with shadow ministers.
Wastefulness. Anyone who has ever worked at CCHQ knows the level of wastefulness that characterises operations - particularly at election times. At this year's local elections Conservative councillors all over Britain who had ordered bespoke pledge letters received the wrong material - with all of their letters addressed to residents of one ward in Manchester. The 'Built to Last' referendum is a waste of party resources given its uncontroversial and motherhood-and-apple-pie content.
Rush, rush, rush. Important issues are not developed properly and policy announcements are rushed out. In the last few days Association officers all across Britain are being invited to consultation meetings about the party's rebranding exercise. People are being given two weeks' notice in the middle of August to present their views. I'm reminded of Inigo Wilson's definition of "consultation" in his excellent Lefty Lexicon: "A formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time".
There are some excellent individuals in CCHQ and a series of recent appointments are designed to address some of the above weaknesses. There should be no shying away, however, from the continuing failure of CCHQ to be the campaigning force that the party needs.

Two to watch

At the recent Budapest conference, I must admit to having been impressed with the range and quality of bloggers who attended. From a wide range of political background, everybody had a different take on blogging and the future of it.

Former Labour PPC and newly elected Oxford City Councillor (sound familiar, replace Tory for Labour and Norwich for Oxford...) Antonia Bance was an extremely passionate advocate of blogging but was having a moral dilema about where her blog should go. Read it here and decide but I feel she does the political stuff so well that it would be a shame if her blog got lost in a miriad of wobbly paving stones.

Also I met the wonderful Gavin Ayling, who proudly boasts of being on Adur (where?!?) District Council where opposition has almost been outlawed and he himself was unopposed as Tory Councillor for somewhere extremely safe and posh sounding. Despite his liberal conservative leanings, Gavin mostly uses his blog to push the issue of a Parliament for England. Despite the late night and rather boozy debates I am still not too sure on this issue but maybe reading his blog could turn my head on the issue? Read it here.

p.s. Also good to talk to was Matt Ellis, Deputy Leader of Litchfield Council, who is working on his blog at the moment.

It was Straw wot won it!

The elderly gentleman who was man handled out of Labour's conference for daring to shout a single word of dissent at then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has been elected onto Labour's ruling NEC. I bet neither Mr Straw, nor the rather abusive and burly bouncer, voted for him. More here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

From our reporter in the field...

Charles Clarke is gone but not forgotten. The erstwhile Home Secretary, Education Secretary and Labour Party Chairman is back in Norwich South and delivering some high quality tat around the place talking about all of his achievement. Well, or maybe not.

You see, the wonderful A3 full colour piece of literature declares that Mr Clarke is "Getting things done for local people." You might have thought that a Labour MP, with a Labour government, now a Labour Council and who was, until recently, one of the most important people in government might just be able to achieve something. Just open the leaflet and read on...

Charles is campaigning for wardens in West Earlham
Charles in campaigning for a better bus service around the University
Charles is campaigning to get a better deal from City Care
Charles is campaigning for traffic calming on Jex Road
Charles is campaigning for more money to be spent on parks in the Dereham Road area.
Charles is campaigning for CCTV in the City Centre
Charles in campaigning for a 20mph zone outside of Tuckswood First School.

So, you haven't managed to achieve any of these then Charles - you hold power and all you can do is campaign still?

To be fair, he claims a success with Sure Start in Bowthorpe and Alley Gates in the Golden Triangle. Well Done, Charles - well worth electing!

Empty Council Houses in Bowthorpe

Following a question that I put to Council I have a list (accurate to last Tuesday) of all of the empty council properties. Here is the list for our community:

3 houses in Beecheno Road, North Earlham
1 in Bevan Close, West Earlham
1 in Cooke Close, Chapel Break
1 in Freshfield Close, West Earlham
1 in Gilbard Road, North Earlham
1 in Harsnett Close, Chapel Break
1 in Holworthy Close, Clover Hill
1 in Malbrook Road, West Earlham
1 in Notykin Street, Clover Hill
1 in Robson Road, West Earlham
2 in Seabrook Court, Clover Hill
1 in Stevenson Road, North Earlham
2 in Swafield Street, Clover Hill
1 in Wilberforce Road, West Earlham

I'm sure that information will be useful to anybody currently going through the housing process, and will hopefuly speed our council up doing their job properly and getting these houses back ready for occupation.

Chaos at Little Mansions

The present Mrs Little has swung her handbag and 'lo, a new kitchen will appear. And with it, a new boiler, new electrics and new radiators. So for the next 10 days my house is being turned into a building site. Dust and workmen everywhere. We currently have five of them in the house and my laptop and I are confined to a single room. I'm a Tory Councillor, get me out of here!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Welcome to the Bear-Pit, Carl

A big well done to new LibDem Councillor Carl Mayhew on his recent victory in Mile Cross. I've only really met Carl once and look forward to getting to know him in future. Anybody that could win Mile Cross, save for Vic Elvin, as a LibDem clearly has a future ahead of them. However I would like to offer a few pieces of advice.

Firstly, you've got some serious making up to do with your two fellow ward councillors. You'll need to get on to be able to work with them. I've, luckily, got a good working relationship with one of my ward colleagues and I know how hard it can be to work with other parties. Just keep in mind that they don't like you and you probably don't like them. Don't underestimate how little the other side think of you. But you have to work together for your community.

Having said that, Mile Cross has two Labour cabinet members - you can clean up on the grassroots stuff and I urge you to do that. Get in touch with everybody worth knowing. Visit all clubs, fetes and the like. Take plenty of business cards with you. Be seen and be known - it'll pay off when you need information or favours.

Ignore your councillor colleagues - for now. Don't get involved with party politics just yet. Make a "worthy" first speech to council and then focus on the ward. You've got a hard fight in 2008 to hold your seat, so start now. When you have found your feet then delve into the murky depths of internal LibDem politics.

Get to know all council officers and other key staff. Be nice to the cleaners - they know everything. Shred most of the information you get. Say yes to every invite for the first three months then slow down - too much excitement kills you. Read "Councillor" magazine and the weekly bulletin but dispense with the rest of the gumpf. Know your county councillor and try to get on with him, even if he is Labour.

Cllr Mayhew probably has a long career ahead of him in local politics - if the voters of Mile Cross let him.

Conservatives highlight City Hall waste (again)

For those people who don't want to see how their Council Tax is wasted, look away now. Click here for the City Council postage scandal. My thanks to Catton Grove's Cllr Collishaw for being brave enough to start the questioning off.

UPDATE: On his blog, Norwich Tory Trevor Ivory quite rightly points out that this waste alone is equal to 4 council tax payers annual bill - or considerably more in my ward.

EN reports on the Norwich political "young guns"

The election of a 26 year old LibDem has sparked the Evening News into reporting about the large numbers of young people in the Council at the moment. Myself apart, the Greens have Cllr Ramsay, Cllr Stephenson (Nelson), Cllr Altman (Mancroft) and Cllr Llewelyn (Wensum) who would qualify. The LibDems rely on new Cllr Mayhew (Mile Cross) whilst Labour only have Cllr Rumsby (Bowthorpe) - but one wouldn't like to speculate as to her age, for fear of arrousing blushes and being seen to be ungentlemanly. The full story is here.

Norwich Tories add their names to B&B fight

As the summer holiday season gets into full swing, Tory Group Leader on Norwich City Council, Antony Little, added his name to a new campaign to stop Gordon Brown’s and John Prescott’s latest money-making ruse – a new stealth tax on British holidays.

Mr Brown and Mr Prescott have asked former Labour councillor, Sir Michael Lyons, to produce plans for new local taxes. In December’s interim report, he raised the prospect of a new local levy on local hotels, B&Bs and hostels. Such a tax would hit the City B&Bs very hard including areas such as the Earlham Road.

This would be on top of existing business rates and VAT on hotel bills. Based on similar taxes in other countries, this could potentially add £100 a week to the cost of a family holiday or visit to Britain’s tourist destinations. Less well-off families would be the hardest hit.

Cllr Little, who represents Bowthorpe, said:
“The brilliant summer weather has shown what a great place Britain is to spend a short break or a holiday. But the great British holiday is under threat from a bed & breakfast stealth tax - Gordon Brown's latest money-making ploy."

Conservative Chairman Trevor Ivory echoed the message, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with choosing to travel abroad, but no-one will benefit from making British holidays a rip-off. Gordon Brown and John Prescott have already hiked up council tax bills across Norwich and the country. Now I fear they want to hike the price of a British break. I am adding my name to the campaign to ask the Government to think again.”