Monday, December 31, 2007

Are you watching, Simon Cowell?

Emily performs a classic; Happy New Year Everybody!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Predictions for 2008

Given my normal phenominal performance in predicting political events, I thought I'd do my Mystic Meg impression and make a stab at what might happen next year. Some of them more likely than others...

1. One cabinet minister will resign, citing Ministerial Responsibility, because of a massive foul-up in their department.
2. Nick Clegg will tell his party to be honest in campaigning and orders them to stop producing dodgy bar-charts. Over 150 party members are expelled for failure to comply with their leader.
3. The media will admit that just because David Cameron had a good education and a priviledged upbringing, it means he can appreciate popular culture and use public transport. Labour pledge not to use the word "toff" during their election campaign.
4. Voters in Norwich elect another hung council but the LibDems become the fourth party and the Greens become the official opposition.
5. At least one MP in each main party will call upon their leader to resign / shape up but all three will still be in place at the end of the year.
6. Education will become a political battleground and we can talk about grade inflation, inclusion, SEN and discipline without being accused of belittling students, teachers etc etc. The LibDems will get an education policy, the Tories will broaden out their policy and the goverment will admit not everything is working and will do something to bloody well sort it out.
7. Children-in-Need / Red Nose Day won't have a record breaking year and will raise less money than previously because absolutely nobody believes they can keep on getting more despite wheeling out the same old tat every year.
8. The Government will fund councils properly and stop heaping their central stealth taxes upon local people. In return councils promise to stop spending money on silly projects and cut waste.
9. The most talented person will win all reality TV events, following a new private members bill that is laid down following public outrage this year's X-Factor result.
10. LibDem Voice will actually post something that is controversial and interesting.

Your views?

Having a Wonderful Christmas Time

Just a quick note to say I hope everyone has had a great Christmas and look forward to a fantastic 2008!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Blogging Council Question Time - December

For once the Questions certainly outshone the debates in terms of topics, answers and good old fashioned political point scoring.

Attack of the Day
An uncharacteristically boisterous attack from Cllr John Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) who asked the Executive if they would lobby the UEA to accommodate more students on campus in order to save the Norwich housing stock. Cllr Bert Bremner, Executive Member for Communities, replied it gave the normally docile Tory a bit of an electric shock. Cllr Wyatt responded saying that the answer was "typically evasive and devoid of any real action". It certainly didn't answer Cllr Wyatt's question but could Cllr Bremner - who has incurred the wrath of UEA students several times - really be failing to provide leadership on this? Apparently so. So shocked was he that Cllr Bremner refused to answer the question. Oh dear - not a festive start.

Fluff of the Day
Cllr Wright (LibDem, Eaton) with a quite bizarre question about data protection. It was clearly meant for some press release or another and was meant to be topical but it failed miserably on all counts. Some ideas are just too clever I suppose.

Insult of the Day
"Comparing yourselfs to the woeful performance of the last LibDem administration is like saying Terry Venebals was a good England manager but only compared to Steve McClaren." Cllr Little (Con, Bowthorpe)

Angry Man of the Day
LibDem Jeremy Hooke (Thorpe Hamlet) launched into Executive Member Cllr Alan Waters about council tax collection rates with the gusto of a man possessed with political indignation. But when he got the reply he wanted, the wind was well and truly out of his sails.

Exchange of the Day
For a second month running this goes to Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) who is moving away from her reputation for shooting herself in the foot. She asked if Cllr Morrey (Labour) would back the campaign to reduce the speed limit on Newmarket Road. When Cllr Morrey said no, Cllr Lubbock produced with wonderful timing and brilliant tone, a quote from Charles Clarke backing the plans. "Well, he's the MP and I'm on the council ... er, I have nothing to do with Charles Clarke," spluttered poor old Cllr Morrey. A second direct hit for Cllr Lubbock.

Question of the Day
The billing of LibDem Deputy Leader Brian Watkins (Eaton) versus Labour's Bert Bremner (University) didn't quite live up to the billing, but it was a well crafted question. Cllr Bremner has been involved with the campaign to save the Blackdale fields for some time. His Labour government has given permission to sell off the fields, so Cllr Watkins asked if the government had let down local people. There was no right answer to this question for Cllr Bremner. So he started a long rant about the campaign not being dead. Very very boring and most people had forgotten the political hole he was in by the end of it. Cllr Watkins had the chance to pour on pressure but his supplementary was a bit flat and let Cllr Bremner off the hook. A great question but, to be honest, a pisspoor answer.

Answer of the Day
In a bunch of Green questions that fell flat, the best of them was from Cllr Little (Town Close) who asked what carbon reduction has so far been achieved. To what poor old Cllr Brian Morrey splutter and wince and then admit he had no idea was priceless. Apparently we were making progress, but, er, um, nobody has any idea how much. If at all. Really. Ah. Yes. Cllr Morrey had a bad night all round really. Full marks to Cllr Read (Green, Wensum) who was quick enough during his question to say, "I wanted an answer to the last question actually but I suppose the answer to this one will do."

Don't mistake activity for achievement

The desperation of opposition has sunk into the LibDems, having issued two press releases in two months attacking the Greens and Conservatives for not putting forward motions at council. The reason I call this desperate is because it fundamentally mistakes activity for achievement.

In the last year or so the Conservatives have put forward motions on congestion charging, travellers, climate change and unitary.

The Greens have put forward motions on frois gras and sustainable developments.

The LibDems have put forward motions on plastic bags, high speed rail links to London and now energy saving at City Hall.

I'm not saying that any are more important than the others (except maybe the Frois Gras one) but it is right that parties should only put forward motions that are meaningful, workable and will make an impact. Some of the absolutely tat we have to debate from the LibDems fails on all three counts. In the end, it seems to me that the Labour administration has taken to ingoring LibDems motions because they are not costed and that is because the LibDems seem unwilling to take part in proper budget negotiations.

Anyway, this is a typical politico issue that virtually nobody outside of City Hall and party meetings will care about.

And who am I to, for example, mention that the only party to use 100% of their chances to cross question the Executive are the Conservatives, with LibDem members frequently failing to scrutinise Labour?

Or that the LibDem Leader used his time on scrutiny to complain about the page numbering in a report and left it to the Conservative Leader to attack the tone and content?

Of course, I wouldn't mention such things ...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A very modern resignation

Social networking may have gone a step too far as one friend points out that Labour's latest resignation in the City has come on the Facebook site. Dan Roper, who I think may even have stood as a candidate before, has quit and left an open message giving his reasons why. At least Labour have found an up-to-date way of people of shunning them.

LibDem member quits when he finds out what the party stands for

Today's postbag was good. Along with a mixture of Christmas cards from party figures I have never heard of came a letter from a gentleman in Norwich who told us about his decision to resign from the Liberal Democrats.

He said he had been a member of the party since the beginning but had concluded that as a group they are now totally pointless (his words, not mine). So what had caused this resignation? A Huhne voter fed up? A disgruntled party activist?

No, for the first time in many years he looked up the LibDem policies on various issues. On top of a long list of policy errors, he says it was their decision to support Congestion Charging in Norwich that was the final straw and you could almost feel the passion of the ripped up membership card in the way he wrote.

This gentleman isn't crossing the floor to Labour or defecting to the Tories. He wants to step back from politics and says he'll look again next May to see who deserves his vote. Good on him. I always like to hear of open minded voters, and maybe one day he'll vote LibDem again.

On a similar note, of fluid politics, whilst out canvassing around Newmarket Road recently I met a couple who told me they were switching from LibDem to Green. Apparently a LibDem had tried to convince them this would mean letting a Tory in via the backdoor. They didn't care at all, because they weren't worried about electing a Conservative. That sort of change is all down to Cameron ; such an attitude would never have existed under Howard or, say, IDS.

There's a lot of churn on the doorsteps of Norwich at the moment. The next election is wide open.

Nick Clegg's First Shuffle

Having started well, Nick Clegg today walked straight into his first political brick wall with his post-election reshuffle. Not the people in the shuffle, obviously, but his first quote about it.

"I'm hugely excited to announce my new shadow cabinet. I think this team is the strongest political team in British politics today," he said.

Oh dear. And this man wants to be taken seriously. It's bad enough they use the term "shadow cabinet" which according to the Parliamentary Library is a term reserved only for the main opposition party. But to claim the LibDems have the strongest team in British politics is so far from the mark it makes you wonder if Nick Clegg is the man who writes all those bar-chart stories for Focus leaflets.

Let's compare and contrast.

Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is having a tough time of it at the moment - but in Huhne versus David Davis, its got to be Basher all the way.

Now think about pigmy Foreign Secretary Milliband against Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. I think both of them dwarf poor little Ed Davey.

Now what about Business? John Hutton and Alan Duncan - both polished performers with a good background. Clearly, no, we'd all prefer to see Sarah Teather in the job.

The environment? Hilary Benn, Peter Ainsworth or ... Steve Webb?

Housing: Absolutely anybody would be better than Lembit!

In fact, I cannot find a single portfolio where the LibDem spokesman would be better than both their Labour or Tory equivalent.

There are clearly some good people on the LibDem frontbench - Browne, Cable, Featherstone, Lamb to name a few. But these are not the political giants in this country.

Add to that the news that the LibDem Frontbench team is now nearly half their total parliamentary party and you understand why their top team is becoming more and more like an "everybody wins a prize" machine.
That was Nick Clegg's answer when asked if he believes in God. I think he was quite right to be honest and this may be the chance we need to broaden politican debate when it comes to religion.

I believe in God. My wife and children are all Catholic and I too attend Mass. I am not christened but do count myself as some kind of christian. However I believe that we best express our christian faith not through the symbols we wear or the church services we attend, but how we behave and act towards others. I like to think I am christian in outlook and attitude if not strictly so on paper.

David Cameron, when asked the same question, gave the brilliant answer "yes, but I don't have a direct hotline." There was once a time when any serious British politican, let alone the man who could be the next Prime Minister, would have to have a serious attitude towards religion. Now I think we can finally start to talk about this properly. After all, it isn't long before Blair converts to catholicism.

I want politicans to show respect, honesty, tolerance, decency, selflessness and - yes - love. If I can get all those things from a non-believer then that is as good as such qualities from a regular church-goer.

I am (as you might expect from a man who teaches at a catholic school) a great supporter of religion. But the qualities of a leader I expect aren't always synonymous with being a christian.

So well done to Nick Clegg - a thought provoking start!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

LibDems vote for a calamity ... just!

The 511 vote margin of victory for Nick Clegg in today's LibDem Leadership vote will no doubt occupy vast reams of blog pages, so I will just stick to a few key points.

Firstly, just over 40,000 people voted - down on those that turned out to elect Sir Ming and a worrying sign for the membership of the LibDems generally.

Secondly the slim margin of victory may cause a headache for Clegg everytime he has a party showdown. He actually got, if you include spoilt ballot papers and those with the inevitable Cable write-ins, less than 50% of the vote. No prize to the first LibDem to throw that back at him when me makes an unpopular decision.

Thirdly, the LibDems will now have a leader for whom the word "calamity" will forever be linked. Again, no prizes for the first use of that at PMQs, Question Time etc. It's a tag he won't be able to shift.

Lastly is the problem with what to do with Huhne. Chris must be gutted ; but the frontbench reshuffle would be easier if it were Huhne shuffling Nick (remaining as Home Affairs Spokesman is a no-brianer) but less easy to know what Nick should do with Chris. Sticking at Environment plays down his important and the fact he was a handful of votes away from being party leader, but can he have somebody who personally dislikes him so much in one of the key jobs? Vince is guaranteed Deputy Leadership and the Treasury. What can Nick do that doesn't look bad?

I always said - to some derision - that the Tories would fear Huhne more and I stick by that. This is the wrong decision for the LibDems and, as so, Cameron must be laughing tonight. Huhne was capable of leading them forward in terms of media and intellectually. Lightweight Clegg - Calamity Man - hasn't had a good leadership contest.

So well done, Mr Clegg. We all look forward, with interest, to what you do now.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Last Word on X-Factor (until next year)

I just wanted to join the chorus of disapproval building up over ITV's total stupidity in trying to sell the X-Factor final as the "battle of the nations". Given the result, it is clear the British people didn't treat it as such - luckily.

If they had done, Same Difference would have walked away with it. As they didn't you can only assume that people voted for who they wanted to win irrespective of where they live (or, as one blogger points out, the Scots voted en masse for Leon but the English voted for the most talented).

I've seen a reasons given for the weaker Leon beating Rhydian last night. Some say it was the Kyle factor (both the performance and that fact that Kylie was the most popular of the 3 duets), some say is was because Rhydian's supporters didn't feel the need to vote because he was so far ahead and some say it was because the Brits love an underdog.

However, I'm most convinced by this one. Everybody knows what a talent Rhydian is, but maybe not as a recording artist. He's already said was wants a Lloyd Webber part. So Rhydian is set for the future, win or lose the X Factor. Leon, however, isn't. The X Factor is the only thing that stands between him and going back to his shoplife in Glasgow. So the person who could benefit most won. The question is, five years down the line, where will both these two remarkable young men be? I'm sure Rhydian will be big in his chosen field, Leon I'm much less sure of.

It's not the design that's the problem - it's the content

Whenever companies, corporations or political parties are in trouble they change something about their image - Pepsi did it, the BBC did it, Blair's New Labour did it and, yes, Cameron's Conservatives did it. However, for it to work. the design change is only the first stage of brand de-contamination and is more often that not followed by substantive change in the organisation.

LibDem Voice - the piss-poor equivalent of ConservativeHome.Com - has recently changed its look. I happen to think the new site is as bad as the old one, but never mind. It's new. It looks slightly slicker and more professional, I grant you, but when you read it, you'll soon notice that it's the same old content. Attacks on the Conservatives, a laugh at Labour and some good old solid grovelling to the leadership for their own side.

CH.Com is well respected because its written by Conservatives for Conservatives. It tackles issues head-on. It's honest about itself and the party. It takes a critical friend stance and does so well. It only mentions the other side when major stories break and never goes scrabbling around for an unknown backbench councillor to accidently make a spelling mistake on a leaflet. It has now replaced newspapers for many of us because it covers all the major stories so well and even breaks the news. It is quite rightly the leader in its field. It is, in fact, everything LDV isn't.

So I do hope that the image change for LDV will now herald the substantive change it requires. Will the new site feature more real news? Will it be informative and honest about the LibDems? Or will it continue to be the party's online attack dog? Don't hold your breath, but if it really wants to change and be more successful it ought to look more than just skin deep.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Leon wins the X-Factor

"You see, this is what happens when you're not allowed to rig votes," - Mrs Little

"Quite," - Mr Little

Not for the first time we started the evening on opposing sides (Mrs Little for Ryhdian, Mr Little for Same Difference) and ended up united against a common enemy.

I'm going to have to stop watching the X-Factor - it's destroying whatever sanity I have left after being at school and on Norwich City Council.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Full Council Agenda - December

Next Tuesday, 7.30pm at City Hall
1. Lord Mayor's Announcements
2. Declarations of Interest
3. Questions from the Public
4. Petitions
5. Minutes
6. Questions to the Executive
7. Review of Licensing Policy
8. Motion - Energy Efficiency in Council Buildings, Proposed by Cllr Cooke, LibDem Leader

Should be short ... and maybe just a little bit brutal!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's Health & Safety Gone Mad!

My favourite story of the week that went shamefully unnoticed in all newspapers, except that organ-of-truth Eastern Evening News, was the Health & Safety exectuive's attack on yet another bastion of childhood.

The Panto being shown on the pier at Great Yarmouth has apparently been told it cannot partake in the tradition of throwing sweets into the audience in case a child gets hurts by being struck on the head by one. Oh dear. Hence from now on, they will pass the sweets from the front row back, in a calm and orderly manner.

Why don't they throw jellies instead? Or do they still hurt when tossed at some velocity?

Anyway, the point is that we have lost completely the sense of "acceptable risk". Children may fall off swings. They may be hit in the eye by a conker. They may be struck on the head by a flying sweet at panto.

As a parent I've learnt to accept that and so should the Health & Safety Executive. Haven't they got better things to do?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Newsnight: 86% say the LibDems are incompetent, but at least only 15% say they are sleazy

Is this the reason why you should never include the LibDems in major polls about leading the country? I'm pretty sure these figures are down to low name recongition but they did make me laugh.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

LibDem Leader to stand down

The news that Hereward Cooke, the LibDem Leader in Norwich, is to stand down next year and move to North Norfolk, is a blow to debate in the chamber if nothing else. Yet the response to this news was different from inside and outside of his group.

Whilst Tory and Labour Councillor seemed genuinely sorry to hear that the council will lose one its better orators (if politically misguided), LibDem wags were less kind. One said (within my earshot) that it was "better to retire than be beaten" - a reference to the fact that Labour have won his Lakenham Ward for the previous two years and Hereward would have the fight of his life to win again. The swing that saw Keith Driver and Mary Cannell win would see Hereward lose the ultra-marginal seat.

However, now the attention will move to the leadership contest. As it was explained to me, the LibDems couldn't go into an election with a Leader who wasn't even standing in that contest. So if Hereward wanted to give his successor a chance to get established, he's have to stand down around Christmas or early in the new year. When he won the leadership last year, a few councillors referred to Cllr Cooke as the Ming Campbell of Norwich ... a safe pair of hands to guide the ship. Whilst Campbell fell by the layside, Hereward continues. But for how much longer? And who'll be in the frame to take over?

Anyway Hereward, you have long been the butt of the political jousting on this blog and in the council chamber, but you are a committed and hard working councillor with Norwich at heart. A real treasure in the council, and I'll certainly miss our political battles. Good luck for the future!

Questions & Answers

Summary of the questions asked at this month's council meeting.

Cllr Rosalind Wright (LibDem, Eaton) asked if charity shops were being charged for waste disposal. We all thought she was on to something there, but the answer from Labour frontbencher Cllr Brian Morrey was a simple no (spread over 4 paragraphs).

Bowthorpe's Councillor John Wyatt (Con) asked, if the council wanted to build houses on the site of old garages how they would work out which garages would be used. Council Leader Steve Morphew replied that the location, usage and condition were all factors. Cllr Morphew then made an unwarranted attack on Cllr Wyatt, suggesting he could have got this information by asking. Cllr Wyatt then embarrassed the council leader by revealing he had asked ... but hadn't been answered!

Cllr Morphew's bad mood spread over into his repsonse to Cllr Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove) when she asked how he felt about the £3 per passenger development tax at Norwich Airport. Cllr Morphew attacked the charge, saying it may indeed deter passengers, but also then turned on Cllr Collishaw for the use of the word "tax" when it should have been "charge". Shouldn't the Leader of the Council have more things to worry about?

Cllr Little (Con, Bowthorpe) asked if the Council would introduce freephone and freepost so that people didn't pay to contacted their own council. Moneyman Cllr Alan Waters tutted like a builder and said that this all costs money. Cllr Little asked, in principle, if he supported it if money was not a problem. Cllr Waters, in a moment of honesty, replied no.

Cllr Cooke (LibDem, Lakenham) asked when the future use of City Hall report would be made public - this is a frequent question and the LibDems have made some political headway in persuing this issue. Cllr Waters said that unitary would change all demands and the report would have to wait.

Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) was the only member to score a direct hit during the questioning session - asking how much the doomed Unthank Road changes cost the public. Cllr Morrey confirmed it was 10% either way of £140,000. Cllr Lubbock's supplementary was an example of what can be achieved with this kind of questioning, blasting the total waste of money on the whole scheme. Cllr Morrey, who usually uses Cllr Lubbock as a political punchbag, was left looking rather foolish.

Cllr Stephen Little (Green, Town Close) asked about energy saving in housing developments and was satisfied with an answer that went above the heads of most present.

Cllr Claire Stephenson (Green, Nelson) asked how councillors could keep track of motions passed at council. Cllr Morphew replied that, short of the weekly bulletin, they couldn't. He also pointed out that the council didn't have the resources to support every motion passed at council. Cllr Stephenson then came back, asking the Leader to define the word "regular", missing the open goal of asking what the point of passing motions was if council was going to ignore them.

Cllr Bob Gledhill (Green, Nelson) asked if we could recycle aluminium. Cllr Morrey said no. Cllr Gledhill asked if we could in the future. Cllr Morrey said no. No is currently Cllr Morrey's favourite answer to questions.

Cllr Rupert Read (Green, Wensum) asked if the council kept lists of cycle thefts. Cllr Bremner, Labour Execuitve Member, replied that they didn't because the police did and to ask for those details would break the DPA. Cllr Read then started on a rambling reply which the Deputy Lord Mayor attempted to cut short. "Ask a question," she barked at Cllr Read ... "I would if you let me," replied the irrate member. Anyway, we were all so engrossed by the challenge to the authority of the Deputy Lord Mayor that we totally missed the point and answer to the question.

Next came an interesting clash of the left. Cllr Holmes (Green, Wensum) asked if the Norfolk Pension Scheme invested in any companies with a poor ethical record. Cllr Waters, a Labour member and certainly no New Labour stooge, replied that they weren't really sure, but that in general the performance of the pension scheme outweighed the need for ethics. Cllr Holmes barked a rather hysterical response about how people who lived with abuse may feel about his asnwer. Cllr Waters was in a tight spot - you either protect people in poor conditions abroad or protect the pensions of people in Norfolk. I'm sure this isn't the last we'll hear of this issue.

We flew through the next set of question with little or nothing to report - Cllr Dylan (Green, Mancroft) on democratic involvement in the council's tenant housing stock, Cllr Bearman (Green, Town Close) asked if the council were working towards "matrix" standard, Cllr Llewellyn (Green, Mancroft) asked what the council was doing to support the Families Support Unit and Cllr Jago (Green, Mancroft) asked about involvement of residents association.

Even ever-present Cllr Ramsay (Green, Nelson) was happy with the answer to his question about how inclusive the Boundary Commission report would be.

It was a shame that so many questions - overwhelmingly from the Greens - failed to ignite or hit the spot this month.

More LibDem Poll Gloom: ICM confirms party on the slide (again)

After all of the excitement that the corpse of the Liberal Democrats may yet be twitching, an ICM poll confirms today that their ratings have slipped by another 2%. The poll puts Cameron up, again, 11% ahead of Labour and heading for an overall parliamentary majority. You might have thought that a leadership election, which puts the party in the spotlight, may result in a poll improvement ... but it seems that the backbiting of the Clegg-Huhne battle (which looks, according to YouGov to be too close to call) has damaged the party yet further.

Knife Edge Council Vote on Congestion Charging

At the full council meeting last week, the Council voted for a LibDem motion to accept the Congestion Charge, albeit with various conditions attached. It was one of the closest votes in the chamber, which could have swung either way as members came and went from the floor. In the end, I forced it to a recorded vote so that local people could check how their councillor voted. I have added the wards to make it easier for people to see who their councillors are.

In the words of Cllr Lubbock, who moved the motion: "Why are people so opposed to the Congestion Charge - they need to be made to see the benefits." Her colleague, LibDem Brian Watkins added: "Roadmap for the introduction of the Congestion Charge sometime in the future."

For the Congestion Charge:
Cllrs Bearman (Green, Town Close), Cooke (LibDem, Lakenham), Divers (LibDem, Thorpe Hamlet), Dylan (Green, Mancroft), Gledhill (Green, Nelson), Hartley (LibDem, Town Close), Holmes (Green, Wensum), Jago (Green, Mancroft), S Little (Green, Town Close), Llewelyn (Green, Wensum), Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton), Ramsay (Green, Nelson), Read (Green, Wensum), Stephenson (Green, Nelson), Surridge (LibDem, Thorpe Hamlet), Watkins (LibDem, Eaton), Wright (LibDem, Eaton).

Against the Congestion Charge:
Cllrs Banham (Lab, Sewell), Blakeway (Lab, Mile Cross), Bradford (Lab, Crome), Brociek-Coulton (Lab, Sewell), Bremner (Lab, Uni), Cannell (Lab, Lakenham), Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove), Driver (Lab, Lakenham), Ferris (Lab, Bowthorpe), Lay (Lab, Crome), A Little (Con, Bowthorpe), Morphew (Lab, Mile Cross), Morrey (Lab, Catton Grove), Sands (Lab, Sewell), Waters (Lab, Crome), Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe)

This is a serious issue - voters of Norwich, take note.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cameron's Conservatives take a 13% lead

Con 40%, Labour 27%, LibDems 18%.

Very good.

Defectors are as welcome as always!

The news that a LibDem MEP for the North-West of England, and also a Labour Suffolk County Councillor, have both today defected to David Cameron's Conservatives should be very welcome for the party. It gives Cameron a real roll, as the government decend into choas and the polls shift in the Tory favour it demonstrates that Cam has the big mo'.

However, regular readers will note my general dislike of defectors. I just don't think you can trust people who one day are slagging off a certain party and campaigning to oust them from politics and are happily handing over their membership cheque the next. Sometimes they look desperate (like former Tory MP Quentin Davies) and sometimes they look careerist (such as the now Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, who was once Tory MP for Witney). The first defection I can really remember was Emma Nicholson, a Devon MP who quit the Tories for the LibDems. I went on to read her auto-biography and was totally unconvinced. She's certainly gone further under the LibDems (now a Baroness) than she would have under the Tories (she may just have risen back to rank of Branch Treasurer by now).

So whilst I say welcome to these two gentleman, I think both have a lot to prove ... a lot of leaflets that need delivering and a lot of doors need knocking on. But, for now, let's just enjoy the moment!

Labour's General Secretary Resigns

This started as one of those stories that was very very simple. A rich but slightly controversial businessman wants to give shedloads of cash to Labour and uses friends and employees to do so without being named personally. Labour's General Secretary - the most important paid official in the party - knew of this very dodgy and illegal practice. He resigned. Simple? Well, no...

Now it is claimed that these friends-of-Ambrahams have also donated to the funds of cabinet ministers including Deputy Leader of the Party, Harriet Harman, who is also married to the Labour Patry Treasurer. Now it also seems the the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, may also have benefitted. Yet nobody within either camp bothered to check who these donors were because, if they did, they would discover that such people were unlikely to be able to donate such four figure sums.

And to make it worse, poor Justice Secretary Jack Straw (who is becoming Gordon Brown's lightening-rod-in-Chief) went on Channel 4 to say that no cabinet minister knew of this.

Oh dear...

Full Council - Tuesday Night

Agenda for tomorrow's meeting:

(Normal Gumpf, followed by...0
4. Questions from the Public
5. Petitions
6. Minutes
7. Questions to the Executive
8. Boundary Review
9. Appointment of an Honourary Recorder
10. Motion on Congestion Charging, proposed by Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) in which she lists the many criteria that, after which, we should back the CC.
11. Motion on Growing Obesity Crisis, proposed by Cllr Watkins (LibDem, Eaton) one of the most consistent advocates of sport on the council arguing that 2009 should be a year of sport in the City.
12. Motion on HMOs, proposed by Cllr Bremner (Lab, University) about introducing new planning laws for HMOs (or student houses to you and me).


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Very brave, Mr Beazily

I have just watched the BBC Politics Show during which our local MEP Christopher Beazily ruled out a vote on the EU Constitution saying that the issue hadn't been explained and that we should trust parliamentary procedure.

Nothing about Gordon Brown's promise at the 2005 election which he subsequently broke. Nothing about the convention that major constitutional changes must be ratified by a referendum.

Blair could have forced through devolution in 1997 but he chose to put it to the vote because it was a constitutional issue, despite having a massive parliamentary majority. Ditto in Northern Ireland, London and even the North East of England. Yet Europe is a no-no.

Mr Beazily is, in case you've never heard of him, a Conservative MEP who will face re-selection in the next few months. Airing such views, so alien to Conservative Party members, so close to his re-selection? In the words of Sir Humphrey ... "very brave" ...

The non-issue?

Yesterday morning I was out in Eaton with local candidate Niall Baxter to help knock on doors. Interestingly the unitary issue was way down the list of concerns - it was beaten by the state of the roads, council tax levels, AWC, the fate of the ex-England manager and the driving test not being tough enough.

In fact the only person who mentioned it without prompting was a LibDem voter is massively opposed to the plans - and, yes, she will be switching to the Tories next year.

Not a single person in favour of Unitary, just one person against. Why isn't this more of an issue? Or is it just us and the EDP that care?

Lessons to be learnt from Alysham

The Conservatives did not have a great result in the Alysham by-election on Thursday. Parents Evening at school prevented me from getting there but it is clear that we ought to look long and hard at why this has happened.

There will be those who seek to claim that this puts the new Broadland constituency candidate Keith Simpson under pressure (and, in part, it should do) but we ought to remember that in "normal circumstances" the results across Norfolk were good for the party only last May.

The Liberal Democrats were all-but wiped out in South Norfolk, they lost another seat in Norwich and went down (again) in Broadland. Meanwhile, the Conservatives had total domination in Breckland and also in West Norfolk. We also picked up seats in North Norfolk and made another gain in Norwich.

This result - whilst poor - isn't a disaster because the LibDems won't be able to treat every seat like Alysham next time around.

You only need to look at Clavering - a by-election gain for the Tories from the LibDems last May, held on the same day at the main local elections. Without the ruthless focus (no pun intended) from the LibDem by-election machine it was easily won by the Conservatives.

All we need to do it to create a by-election force as good as the LibDem one. I think we could do it and all it would take is a little political will...

We're 1 in 25,000,000

Louise recieved a letter yesterday confirming that our details were amongst the 25million lost by the govenrment last week.

This is staggering incompetence, although we have become used to such things from this government. When we signed up to receive Child Benefit we were assured of the safety of the data we were providing.

Getting a letter from HMRC that tried to reassure us has done the opposite. I have no faith that the discs are still on government property and am still having to monitor our bank account very closely.

Gordon Brown has heaped pressure after pressure on HMRC, making them perform more tasks on a smaller budget. The Chancellor has proved he is no “safe pair of hands” either. There are a lot of questions that need answering.

Families, like mine, from across Norwich will not forget this blunder for a long time to come.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The woman from the petrol station speaks...

When I went to fill up my car yesterday, I bemoaned the increase in petrol prices to the lovely lady behind the counter. Her reply:

"I can't worry about petrol prices, I'm too busy worrying about people stealing from my bank account."

Well put.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Norwich Unitary Status given a parliamentary savaging ... a debate worth watching

For those who believe that parliament is all about the punch 'n' judy of PMQs, please watch this film about the debates in Wesminster Hall. 90 minutes through the film you get to see an excellent section on the unitary debate in Norfolk.

Led by Mid Norfolk's Tory MP Keith Simpson, it engages Charles Clarke (Norwich S), Norman Lamb (N Norfolk), Henry Bellingham (NW Norfolk), Richard Bacon (S Norfolk) and also the Minister, John Healy, and Shadow Minister, Alastair Burt.

Overall unitary is given a good thrashing by the LibDems and Tories, but the real winner here is the quality of parliamentary debate.

Click HERE.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Polls put parties in their box

The latest batch of opinion polls helps us to confirm what is happening in British politics. As we all know a single poll is often unreliable, but a series of them which demonstrates a trend is worthy of note. It is clear now that the Conservatives are in the 40-43 box, Labour 33-38 and the LibDems ... well, all over the place. There has been a lot of noise being made about the grey-vote swinging behind Cameron. I personally believe the most important findings of the recent YouGov poll is that the Conservative have a 1% lead over Labour amongst young voters too. Why isn't more being made of that? Aren't we always being told that young people aren't Tory?

LibDems and Leadership contests

Last time they did it, personal scandle rocked the candidates and the result seemed like a messy compromise (which, as it turned out, it was).

This time the candidates are slogging it out in a most bizarre fashion - the Politics Show "calamity Clegg" issue looked like two men from different parties at each other's throats rather than two colleagues competing in an internal election. I think the contempt with which Huhne holds Clegg in is distorting his political judgement. It is getting nasty and may well cost the LibDems vote ... and as I always argue, when the LibDems suffer then all politics suffers too.

An interesting contest for us Tories to observe (Labour, of course, didn't get a leadership vote this year) given the excellent contest we had in 2005.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cameron's Agenda domination (Part 146)

I know this is cynical and I should investigate these isuses more in depth, but whatever you think about the Tory Leader's utterances over the past few days it shows, once again, how he is able to totally dominate the political agenda.

With the Queen's Speech all-but forgotten, Cameron has captured big headlines over rape convinction rates and today about votes on large hikes in council tax. As Mike Smithson, of, always says "when Cameron is in the headlines, the Tory poll rating goes up." This is an excellent strategy - Cameron is tackling some big, and interesting, issues. He is getting the coverage without resorting to the normal Tory-issues. Meanwhile, his frontbench team keep Labour Ministers pinned to the wall, giving Cameron the time and space to set out the positive agenda.

Maybe more later, but you have to recognise this is good politics!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Aylsham in the rain

Norwich Conservatives went mob handed to help our colleagues fighting a tough by-election in Aylsham for the county council seat. This is an odd contest, with two of the district councillors going head to head ... the LibDem candidate who topped the poll last May and the Conservative Ian Graham who also won election in the 3 seat ward. It was ultra close in 2005 - just 29 votes saw the Liberal Democrats gain the seat.

We were canvassing the Norfolk Homes area of the town and the result was very encouraging. Conservative supporters were very "out and proud" (as I had found in North Norfolk the week previously) and were happy to shout about the party's prospects. We spoke to probably half a dozen opposition supporters (I gather Labour just isn't an option round this way). However there were a big group - maybe a third - who claimed just not to have made up their minds. Now either this is the classic LibDem answer to a Tory canvasser ... and I must admit that some were so obviously Liberal that I put "L" on the canvass card despite their protests that they were undecided ... or this election has totally failed to catch the imagation of local people.

I have never understood the point of fibbing on the doorstep. However, if the reaction that up to a third of people are really undecided it says a lot about the weakness of the party attachment in the naughties.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Scrutiny gets angry

I have been thoroughly disappointed with being on Scrutiny Committee for over a year now. It seems totally unable to hold the Executive to account and it feels as if people are deliberately frustrating the work of what should be an important check and balance. We are told we are there to support the Executive - I think we are there to support the poor, long suffering council tax payer of Norwich.

So it was to my delight that today the powers-that-be got a really rough time as Councillors - of all parties - laid into the complacent attitudes at the council. Lakenham were particularly well represented. Keith Driver, who is becoming an increasingly independent minded Labour member, kept coming back to the issue of value-for-money and never got the answers he wanted over the number of firms who tender for council contracts. He also made a good point about the workload of restaurant inspectors when it was revealed that 81% of inspections would be squeezed into the last 6 months of the year. His fellow ward member, Hereward Cooke, was equally irrate. Saying that the officer comments justifying various council failures were "gobbledegook", Hereward make a passionate plea for councillors to keep control of the management of the council. He also tore into the council about community engagement and asked that residents didn't have things "done to them, but with them". Green member Tom Dylan, who represents Mancroft Ward, did brilliantly on several counts including challenging the council to allow councillors to set policy rather than just having briefing notes bought to us and being asked to comment. Other councillors, myself included, enjoyed this moment as one to lay a marker in the sand about who does, and who should, control overall council policy. LibDem Brian Watkins raised the issue of the tourist strategy (again) and to good effect. Labour's David Bradford and Green Leader Adrian Ramsay did similarly good interventions on other topics too.

This meeting probably achieved very little but it did certainly lay down a marker about the work of the Scrutiny committee. This was an excellent examples of opposition and backbench councillors making a stand about just some of the flaws in the system. I hope this heralds the start of a new sort of approach from Scrutiny. It was democracy and accountability at its best ... just a pity not a single members of the public turned up to see it.

Labour sell off Blackdale School fields

The absolute cheek of Roy Blower and Bert Bremner in protesting at the government's decision to sell off the Blackdale School fields for development is shocking.

Roy and Bert are, of course, Labour Councillors attacking the decision of the Labour government ... but they won't tell you that.

But I'm sure that other parties may wish to inform residents of the truth behind this sell off.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Impressed with Chris Huhne

I have just finished watching LibDem Leadership candidate Chris Huhne debating with former Tory Chairman Francis Maude and Culture Secretary James Purnell (insert photoshop joke here) and suddenly feel a bit sick. I had convinced myself that Clegg would walk away with this vote, but having watching Huhne it might be a good job for us Tories if he did.

Huhne was confident, clear and intelligent. He had the environment brief mastered clearly, he was able to destroy Brown in as few words as possible (good for soundbites and came across well on TV) and - most importantly for me - expressed a clear and coherant (and popular) line on education. I was impressed with Huhne, so its probably a good job he won't be the next LibDem leader.

Sleeping dogs etc etc

According to Culture Secretary James Purnell (was it him, or a photoshop on screen ... hard to tell!) two Tory MPs fell asleep during Cameron's speech today, including one who fell forward into his knees. LibDem MP Chris Huhne then retorted that the Speaker fell asleep during Brown's speech! A lovely moment from Newsnight!

Brown's Vision

I was going to post a long post analysing the vision as laid out by Prime Minister Brown in today's Queen's Speech. But as so much of it was trailed in advance or simply stolen from other parties, I really don't think I can make that much of it.

It was dull - just, dull. This seemed like the Queen's speech of a ten year government rather, as Brown would have wanted, the Queen's speech of a new Prime Minister. It didn't excite me at all - I'm definitely not let down because I had no expectations of this Prime Minister at all.

The only point of note was the bad tempered exchanges between the two main party leaders. Cameron did extremely well and clearly won but in a scrappy debate that won't enhance politics at all. It seems the Browns and Camerons won't be going round for Sunday dinner then ...

The last thing to note is the BNP jibe that Cameron used over Brown's fluffed "British jobs for British workers" line. I don't think we ought to be suggesting that mainstream parties are accepting the BNP line but this line should scare the Labour Party and Brown in particular because their rhetoric on immigration is looking scarily like something from the far right.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Another Norwich Road

Saturday morning I was pleased to be able to head up to North Norfolk to help my old friend Trevor Ivory in his campaign to oust the LibDems. We went to Ludham and, in some kind of joke I assume, was given the Norwich Road to canvass. It was remarkable - house after house of Conservative voter. Yet this is a LibDem held district ward. Trevor has transformed the way in which the constituency party campaignins and works and it seems to be really paying off. They are pioneering some of the newest techniques and they seem to be working. From my day out in the sun, I have to say that if we give our Conservative voters the drive and enthusiasm to get into the polling station then this consistency may well yet be very close indeed.

Weekend with a Bang

Sorry - I had to use a terrible Firework pun sometime! Yesterday we hosted our first firework party at home, so much time was spent digging holes and making tubes from which to fire rockets. Sausages were burnt (I mean, cooked), beer was drunk and enough high explosive to ensure a breakout at Norwich prison was detonated. Following the complete failure of the afternoon test run - during which Norwich almost had two by-elections - I was slightly concerned but it did go without a hitch, execpt the one rocket that went up and fell straight down to earth exploding in the garden. Just like my childhood - and Emily had a great time!

Today we have been on a bit of a mission - Emily has been hurling herself out of the cot recently and so this morning I made her bed up and we have bene searching for a Thomas the Tank Engine duvet cover. When we found it, Emily declared that she wanted a Monster duvet cover instead! When she should have been looking at the Disney Princess range, my daughter had Spiderman in her grip walking up and down saying she wanted a monster on her bed!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Questions to Council

A bumper crop of 22 questions this month. The joy!

LibDem Leader Hereward Cooke (Lakenham) kicked off by asking if the council would use the powers in the Clean Neighbourhoods Act to set up a partnership agreement to help clean off grafitti faster. Although we all wanted Executive Member Julie Brociek-Coulton to say "no, actually, we'd rather like to keep the city looking a right state thank you" in answer to such an obvious and patronising question, she actually said that this was already on the agenda.

Tory Group Leader Antony Little (Bowthorpe) then asked how much the government's concessionary bus fare scheme had cost the City Council, a theme picked up by the EDP the following day. Brian Morrey, Executive Member, gave a reply that was deliberately complicated and threw figures around hoping nobody could put them together. Morrey was then pressed to give a yes or no answer to the simple question if the government has underfunded the council for this scheme. Far from the lack of knowledge, which he claimed to the EDP, Morrey told the council he wouldn't give the answer because he's "get into trouble". I am still awaiting the answer.

Backbencher John Wyatt (C, Bowthorpe) is developing a habit of asking rather detailed and annoying questions in council. He requested information regaring the funding and location of the City's new council houses. Although Council Leader Steve Morphew gave an explanation of the funding formula he admitted they didn't know where the homes would be built. Cllr Wyatt then asked if he would confirm that no green spaces or gardens would be lost. Cllr Morphew clearly struggled with this - one council house in poor condition may be knocked down to make way for new flats, he said, and thus gardens may be lost that way. Overall, the council still has no clue where the houses will go.

The Livestock Market is going to stay where it is, according to Labour's Alan Waters in reply to a question from Eve Collishaw (C, Catton Grove), although Cllr Collishaw hit back by asking why council officers were making it hard for the market to open. Although Cllr Waters denied this, we were left with the feeling that this issue may yet return.

Music loving Jeremy Hooke (LibDem, Thorpe Hamlet) asked if the council has considered bring the BBC Proms in the Park to Norwich. Deputy Leader of the Council Brenda Ferris replied that plans were in the pipeline and both Cllrs looked very happy with their days work.

Long suffering Carl Mayhew (LibDem, Mile Cross) has been ill for two meetings in a row but came to ask what the council were doing to ensure that youth groups applied for funding for sport and community development. He was then provided with such a long list that you wonder why the question had to be aked in the first place.

LibDem Joyce Divers (Thorpe Hamlet) wanted to know if the council will bear the cost of redecorating if their tenants property is damaged by works. Cllr Westmacott said it wasn't the case.

Post Office's were the subject of a rare question from Jill Surridge (LibDem, Thorpe Hamlet) who faces the battle of her life to hold her seat from the Greens in a few months time. Labour's response was that Scrutiny Committee should cross question the Post Office about their plans. Not a good performance and not good enough to hold her seat.

Pigeon control was the subject of Cllr Diane Lowe's question. The LibDem member for Mancroft wanted to know if the process was humane. The council admitted they had no policy on pigeon control. Then came one of the classic moments in the chamber - Cllr Lowe asked why the system pioneered by the last LibDem Council was been dumped. After conferring with her Leader, Cllr Brociek-Coulton said that the scheme was too expensive and was typical of the LibDems. Hangbags at dawn!

LibDem war-horse Judith Lubbock (Eaton) always seems to open herself to attack. She asked why there wasn't more progress towars the 20mph blanket speed limit for suburban roads. This allowed Labour's Brian Morrey to go for the jugular and remind Cllr Lubbock that she was on the committee that made this decision and it wasn't entirely in the hands of the City Council. Although Cllr Lubbock comes up with good questions she normally ends up looking foolish by then end - its quite a talent, really.

Labour backbencher David Bradford (Crome) asked the first of two rather obvious questions to his own side about the new choice-based lettings system. It gave Cllr Westmacott the chance to go on about how great it was and how well it would work. Is this really a good use of council time? Labour would argue it helps get information into the public domain - have they heard of a press release?

Then up came Brenda Ferris (Lab, Bowthorpe). She asked about safety on the Prince of Wales Road and it was not lost on the opposition parties has stupid it looked for the Deputy Leader of the Council to be asking this of her own administration! Anyway, of course things had got a lot safer and her second question asked a Labour Councillor to congratulate the Labour Council on their law and order record. Of course, he did!

The ongoing spat between Labour Leader Cllr Morphew and LibDem Tourism Spokesman Brian Watkins (Eaton) continues with some rather good scrutiny of the 5 year tourism plan. Cllr Morphew said that everything would be ready for the New Year. Cllr Watkins made a good fist of attacking Labour's drift and indecision on the issue. This issue will run and run.

Cllr Rupert Read (Green, Wensum) asked how the council would reduce their massive taxi bill and encourage mor environmentally friendly transport. Cllr Waters said that a lot of encouragement was made for people to walk and cycle. Cllr Read suggested that more encouragement be applied because it clearly wasn't working. This was put in such a humourous way I didn't hear the answer because I was laughing. Sorry.

Wi-Fi was bought up again by the Green Group and asked for it to be shelved whilst health fears are dealt with. Labour's Cllr Morrey gave the same answer as he had given before, except adding that CCTV depends on Wi-Fi and thus the Greens must be arguing against CCTV. The questioner, Cllr Adrian Holmes (Green, Wensum), was confused as he didn't ask about CCTV.

Cllr Llewellyn (Green, Wensum) wanted to ask if the council didn't use any companies involved in the current Burmese problems. The council replied that it didn't.

Cllr Jago had been informed that if you want to take a lot of garden waste to Swanton Road then you need to phone ahead in advance. Cllr Brociek-Coulton was confused as when she went nobody stopped her - although perhaps they didn't dare! Cllr Jago, who represents Mancroft for the Greens, wanted assurances and got them.

Cllr Ramsay, the Green Leader and Member for Nelson Ward, asked why potholes in some roads weren't filled in. He was given a technical explanation.

Cllr Bearman (Green, Town Close) asked why puddles were forming on Unthank Road where the recent road works took place. The Council thanked her for the information and said they would look into it. The issue, that is, not the puddle.

The Scrutiny Chairwoman Claire Stephenson (Green, Nelson) was furious that a SNAP meeting that included part of her ward wasn't advertised to the ward members, including herself. This was, apparently, an oversight and wouldn't be repeated.

The other-Cllr Little (Green, Town Close) asked why residents found it was taking so long to recieve a new green recycling box. Again, another council cock up and the backlog was being cleared.

Finally, Cllr Bob Gledhill (Green, Nelson) asked about tree planting in his ward although I fear nobody was up to hearing the answer.

And that was that for another month!

Another former LibDems enters Adrian's big tent ...

The one thing that Adrian Ramsay, co-ordinator of the Greens at City Hall, has been remarkably good at is encouraging defections from other parties ... well, Labour and the LibDems anyway. Although no sitting member has crossed the floor, all of these defectors are big players in their now-former parties. If you want to find political activists, I suppose the best way is to find other activists and get them to join your side!

Today I learnt thay Paul McAlenan, LibDem Councillor 1999-2004, has quit the LibDems to back Ramsay as our potential Green consistuency MP. So what? Well, McAlenan was part of the "Nelson mafia" a group of young LibDem activists that were active in the late 90s just as I got into politics. Heavily armed with Focus leaflets and some vicious Bar Charts they decimated Labour and crushed the Tories, winning first Nelson Ward and then St. Stephens which seemed to fall with relative ease. McAlenen and friends represented the young, confident edge which surrounded the LibDems before they dramatically siezed control from Labour. McAlenan, along with Billy Boulton and Sarah Mitchell, were the modern and successful face of the party.

Then along came Ramsay and the Greens swept the board in the ward and Nelson elected its fourth party in twenty years. So to have picked up the endorsement of McAlenan is good work for Ramsay - he's a tribal LibDem and to secure his backing shows us either the lure of the Greens or the complete shambles which the Norwich LibDems have become, losing council seats, former councillors and activists. If I were Ramsay, I'd want McAlenan casting his expert eye over his election material. If I were Simon Wright, I'd be extremely worried about this. It looks more and more like he'll only have the North Norfolk LibDems to prop up his piss-poor campaign.

So, where are they now? We hear nothing of Sarah Mitchell now (expect Ramsay to be working his charm) and Billy Boulton famously attempted a come-back to the Council by taking over the LibDem Town Close seat from Derek Wood, which he went on to lose to the Greens on a massive swing. Nelson LibDems is now run by David Fairbairn who has led the party in the ward from calamity to distaster with the Greens now on 62% of the vote.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dateline Group Room

And here we are, in the Conservative Group Room at City Hall (yes, there is one) debating the big issues of the day, with fois gras, plastic bags and webcasting council meetings all on the agenda.

Although I'm afriad that the public don't seem to share the importance of tonight's full council agenda. When I told my colleagues at work, they just laughed and said that my attendance tonight was an indication of how tragic my life has become.

I then shared it with another friend whom I met in the City, who just responded with a sign and asked why we couldn't talk about something important - like fixing the pavement outside of her house.

Do the public share the priorities of their council? Hardly, but let's hope the agenda gets a little more relevant in future.

Monday, October 29, 2007

And Rupert makes two...

I am thrilled to be informed that my good friend and council colleague Cllr Rupert Read now has a blog. Regular readers will note how much I respect Rupert and find his contributions to the council fascinating.

I, however, do not fear his challenge to my domination of the Norwich City Council blogging because it appears he is focusing more on his place as a Euro parliamentary candidate and is slightly more high brow than my mix of gossip, political backbiting and general political rudeness. Rupert's deep and meaningful philosophical entries will contrast well with my grassroots approach to campaigning. Good on you, Rupert!

Cameron takes an 8% lead

When Cameron first became Tory Leader I said time and time again that polls will come and go but the trend is more important. I said that after leaving the 31-33 box, and then the 37-40 box, Cameron would have to hit 42% with a 10% lead consistently to really be in cruise control.

The Com Res poll today gives Cameron 41% and an 8% lead. We'll have to wait to see if the other pollsters fall into line.

First Tory Councillor quits over Unitary

I have read today in the Evening News (not online) that the first district councillor has quit over the possible unitary future for the county. One of the Conservatives on Great Yarmouth District Council says that the whole issue has been a Labour stitch-up and Unitary would be a disaster.

Now I'm not quite sure how resigning helps this situation but I do feel, cynic that I am, that somewhere in a Westminster bunker some Labour strategist is smuggly grinning to himself because this unitary move might be seen as a way of destroying the strong Conservative activist base in Norfolk. One down, how many more to go? Why, by quitting, are we allowing Labour to get away with this? We as a party must stick together and fight this all the way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SOS for the LibDems

Poor LibDem candidate April Pond must be fuming, with all this negative publicity blowing her NHS Survey out of the water. All that money and glossy paper wasted on a survey nobody will bother looking at. Mind you, no LibDem survey is ever really taken seriously!

Anyway, the serious point is this. The survey has the phrase "SOS for the NHS" emblazened across the top. I find this a serious miscalculation. The parties may disagree on health policies but this headline suggests that the NHS is in imminent danger of collapse. How many people will be scared by this ridiculous over exaggeration? If I were an elderly person or somebody totally dependent on the NHS it would concern me. All parties have the right to have their say on the health service but shouldn't we ought to campaign responsibly and with the impact on local people at the forefront of our minds? This headline is just irresponsible from Mrs Pond and serves as a good reason why she isn't fit to be one of our Norfolk MPs.

And besides which, should she be worrying about breathing life back into her own party rather than scaremongering over the NHS? SOS for the LibDems would be a more accurate headline...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sir Ming was "shafted by a complete shower of shits": LibDem MP

Sir Ming Campbell wasn't up to the job and wasn't right as LibDem Leader. I blogged throughout the last LibDem leadership contest that the LibDems would put off the difficult SDP versus Orange Bookers decision and lance the boil of the right-left discourse in the party and elect somebody who can chart the middle course, avoid making decisions and won't rock the boat. And true to form they elected Sir Ming who was totally incapable of leadership but didn't upset anybody and would hold together the wings of the party.

Now the LibDems still have to make that choice - do they chase Tory votes with a right-leaning Orange Booker like Clegg or do they challenge for Labour votes with an SDP left leaner like Webb? They will have to decide because their party will remain an unelectable political hyrbid until they do.

They could have made this decision 19 months ago. But being wet LibDems they didn't, put off the decision and landed themselves with a leader who lost them hundreds of council seats and plunged them to 11% in the polls.

I hope all those who voted and supported Sir Ming are happy with what they've done to their party. They were warned about this and they ignored it. However, once they get over this leadership crisis, the LibDems have a chance to rebuild their party. For what it's worth - as a Tory - I don't think it'll be in time to save them come the next election.

Of all the comments about the LibDem Leadership this has to be the stupidest...

Somebody from Pinner, in Middlesex, has just texted BBC News 24 to say of Ming's resignation: "one down, now its David Cameron's turn".

This person needs help, either that or the people of Pinner do to put up with him/her.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's the big Green secret?

My mole in the bowels of City Hall whispers to me that Labour have some dirt on the Greens so good that they are saving it up for election time ... I wonder what it can be!

Now it's the turn of the UEA LibDems to fall apart...

It would be churlish of me to bring on about the splits in the Norwich LibDems any longer, so I thought I'd turn my attention to their junior colleagues in the UEA LibDems.

I have posted below about the anger of one former committee member whose image was used on a leaflet to support their local PPC after he had quit the party in disgust. Now its the committee members themselves who have turned on one another.

At UEA SocMart (the one where the UEA Tories maintained their place as the largest party on campus and the LibDems failed to attract more than a handful of members) their Treasurer saw fit to hand out leaflets attacking "anti-student" councillor Bert Bremner, who just happens to represent University Ward. Labour reacted angrily to the charges against good ol' Bert and complained very loudly. So loudly, in fact, that the UEA LibDem Chairman wrote a letter to the student newspaper Conceret, apologising for the act of his Treasurer and saying it had nothing to do with the LibDems.

Now the Chairman has stabbed the Treasurer in the back (the letter was written without his knowledge) the whole committee is falling in on itself.

Success breeds loyalty in any political party (just look at the Blairite big tent and currently Cameron's Conservatives) and it seems like the political decline in the LibDems has created divisions ... both locally and nationally.

So what will the Treasurer do now? In political life, if your leader publicly disowns you in the press for part of your political strategy you have to ask if you can remain in their team.

If you are the Chairman and the Treasurer does this behind your back, you have to ask if you can keep them on your team.

Either way, their very public spat this week - which included a big article on page 2 of Concrete as well as contradictory letters published next to each other - damages politics as much as themselves.

No wonder the two major parties on campus see the LibDems as so irrelevant and without support that they plan to have this years big political debate without them.

The anti-Tory attack that went badly wrong ... and why the governor will get away with it

When David Cameron used the example of a student too hungover to attend his exams on time in his conference speech, it was obvious that Labour would head straight out to find the boy, the school and to dig any dirt they could.

Sure enough, within a few days one of the school govenors had a splash in the Mail saying that Cameron must have been making it up because she, as a governow, would have known about a pupil who had trashed a classroom and attacked a teacher. Cameron, she claimed, lied.

This leads me to conclude one of two things.

Either she fundamentally misunderstands the role of the governor within schools. The school governors at my school understand the strategic direction and high level management but don't get bogged down in day-to-day life and behavioural disputes, short of those which come to govenors review committee. Why would she know about this incident just because she's a governor? There is, however, a more likely explanation.

The govenor was just anti-Tory and was out for a hit on Cameron. Maybe put up by Labour, maybe not. But she certainly enjoyed her moment of attack even including a photo in the article. This was no behind the scenes briefing, it was a full frontal assult on the character of the Tory leader desperately hoping to knock him off course.

Now the Sunday Mail has CCTV evidence - including sound - that the conversation did take place and even includes quotes from the lad himself.

Will this governor aplogise? Don't hold your breath - a political attack required the standard political response (running away and hiding).

Will this governor be sanctioned by her governing body? Of course not, but then as the Sunday Mail saw fit not to humiliate this political pundit gone wrong, why should the school she claims to serve?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fixing an Evening News poll - can you get any more politically desperate?

Eagled eyed readers of the Evening News website are regularly amused by their opinion polls. Always with one eye on the big news, this week readers are being asked if they agree with council leader Steve Morphew in rejecting the proposed congestion charge for Norwich. Of course, needless to say, it should be asking if they agree with me as I was the first party leader to oppose it and it has taken Labour over 12 months to end up agreeing with me. Anyway...

When checked at around 4pm yesterday afternoon the results showed about 85% agreed with our Great Leader and 15% didn't - not a shock as the congestion charge is about as popular as cold vomit.

However, check back at 7pm and in just a couple of hours had changed to 45% agreeing with Morph and 55% disagreeing. A truly remarkable political switch by the good people of Norwich. Or so it might seem...

This is such a big movement that I cannot get it out of my head that it has fallen foul of a concerted effort here - either voting on multiple computers or messing about with the cookies on a computer to allow multiple voting. If this is genuine then the good people of Norwich might be collectivly losing their marbles. Short of that, I wonder if foul play is afoot?

Who would benefit from seeming public support for this? Ah, our Green colleagues - the last party still clinging to a pro-charge stance (yes, even Cllr Cooke's dullard LibDems have managed to spot the electoral problem with this). Maybe this policy isn't down well on the doorsteps of the intelligencia and a nice fair opinion poll is required to help the pill go down?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Is a City Councillor about to jump ship?

I like to think of myself as being pretty up-to-date with all the events and gossip in City Hall but I was almost shocked to be asked what I knew about rumours of a defection in Norwich.

I have to admit I know nothing, although I know Councillors in all three other groups who are upset with their leadership either locally or nationally. I didn't know it had come to this though!

I cannot remember the last time any City Councillor switched, but any news would be welcomed!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Is this why Brown won't call an election?

On Saturday I went with a team from Norwich South to help Brandon Lewis is his campaign to be Great Yarmouth's next MP. Brandon has done a fantastic job at reinvigorating that association and has run a wide ranging and almost textbook campaign. We were amongst dozens of people out on Saturday and Tory leafleters rampaged through Yarmouth's suburbs at quite a speed. The issue was the traffic snarls at the Gapton Hall roundabout and unlike some candidates (of all parties!) who just talk, Brandon has bene lobbying the council and government hard on this, including a petition on the No.10 Downing Street website. The great thing was being able to meet people from all over who have come together for the campaign - not just from around Norfolk but from Suffolk, Essex and even further afield. There is a great sense of purpose and I hope when Brandon wins (for which he will now have to wait a bit longer) he writes a campaign guide for other candidates on how he did it. This isn't just about money and Ashcroft cash, it's about a style of leadership and campaigning that really works.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

ConservativeHome analysis of the new crisis facing Brown:

A Leader in Trouble...

No, surprisingly not Gordon. Tonight's YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is pretty dramatic - showing a 3 percent lead for David Cameron, turning around his party's polling position. However the really interesting figure isn't the 41-38 Conservative-Labour figure but the woefully low 11% (yes, eleven percent!!!) for the LibDems.

Now that the yellow peril have some time before any election I wonder how long before Sir Ming gets a visit from the men in grey suits? This doddery old fool is dragging down his party day after day, and yet amusingly the sheepdog loyalty of his party (and bloggers) keeps him in post even when public confidence in him is through the floor.

Everytime a LibDem blogger bleats on about Sir Ming's good points it makes me smile because it helps ensure he stays in place and continues their decline.

Gordon Brown is weak, manipulative and totally unfit to lead our country

Gordon Brown and his team have been spinning for weeks now that there will be an early poll, to capitalise on Labour's poll lead. This was meant to fighten the Tories and galvanise the Labour Party. It was meant to create rushed Tory policy announcements that could be destroyed.

Now, suddenly, Brown has managed to unite the Tories and deliver Cameron the best conference he could have hoped for. The Conservatives surge in the first round of polls, take a strong lead in the marginals and now lead Labour in the national polls.

So having led his troops half way up the hill, Brown was left in a lose-lose position. If he had the election he would probably have lost his majority. If he didn't call the election then people would question Brown's position.

This is all a problem of Brown's making. He could have stopped all these poll rumours weeks or even months ago. He didn't do so and he's left himself wide open to Cameron attacks.

Cameron's reaction (which, unlike Labour, gave interviews to all channels instead of just the BBC) was brilliantly done - statesmanlike, not too gloaty and with just a touch of anger. Cameron has been dominating the news with this statement too.

Brown was too overconfident and has made a huge political error. He has shown himself to be weak, manipulative and ultimately unfit to lead our country. I wonder, now, if Brown could ever beat Cameron - this year, next year or beyond?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's Neck and Neck! Only the Conservatives can beat Labour here...

My unfailing optimism about the future of the Tory Party is normally frowned upon in our staffroom. They either pity me or ignore me. Then today something happened. Somebody (and you know who you are!) pipped up with "your man gave a good speech, didn't he?". I replied, "Yes, the speech that'll make him Prime Minister." Then something strange happened. Laughter didn't break out. A few looked serious at this thought, a couple nodded and one said, "you could just be right."

The ICM poll tonight puts Brown and Cameron neck-and-neck on 38% a piece with poor old Sir Ming's LibDems well out of it. Other polls are showing roughly a 3.5% swing to the Tories, with Labour's lead cut to 4%, 3% and 1% (depending on your pollster). Not a bad result for an hours work Dave!

My favourite post-speech moment came with a sixth-former today who admitted - in front of his class mates - that Cameron's speech nearly made him cry. I didn't admit that I nearly cried too (!) My sixth form class clearly loved the speech, all bar one who hadn't realised he'd even spoken!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Absolutely Amazing

I have just finished watching a re-run of David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party conference.

I am speechless - it was absolutely amazing in both terms of content and delivery.

I have never been so proud to be a Conservative and Cameron has given me the determination to get rid of this dreadful Labour government. He's really made me feel we can do it.

I know this is predictable because I'm a Conservative and I am meant to love leaders speeches but this was by far the best I have ever seen. When I've calmed down from the excitement I may post more. That is, if I recover in time for the election!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Spin & Brown

It doesn't matter what you think about the Iraq War or the future of our troops in the region, you have to question the judgement of a Prime Minister who promises to reject spin and put parliamentary back at the centre of political life and then re-arranges a visit to Iraq and announces troop reductions to the media not MPs.

Brown has sunk lower than even I thought imaginable with this one. He has broken his word (again) and played politics with the armed forces.

If he goes to the country on 1st November I really hope that 10 years of New Labour spin will be rejected and Gordon will be turfed out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Who is the stupidest member of Norwich City Council?

I haven't been publishing as much tittle-tattle as maybe I should with an election apparently so close. However I think this little gem makes up for it. I have it on superb authority that the Chair of one of Norwich's biggest and most influential residents committees isn't backwards in coming forwards with an opinion about who they think is the City Council's stupidest member.

The answer - which I leave for you to guess in the comments section - amazed me and I certainly wouldn't have agreed with it. More clues later ... maybe!

Political Lesson No. 144: Another danger associated with giant novelty cheques

Sometimes there are moment in politics so wonderfully amusing you wished that the rest of the population found it as funny as you do.

A little birdie tells me that the LibDems distributed a leaflet during Freshers Week at UEA, including a front page photo of a beeming LibDem PPC handing over a giant novelty cheque to a student showing how much coulod be saved with some LibDem policy or another.

The only problem is that this student was a member of the LibDems when the photo was taken but has since quit the party in total disgust at the way in which it has been run locally. His fury was apparently legendary and his certainly made his presence felt as he slammed the door shut on his membership.

How lovely for him to know that his erstwhile support for the LibDems lives on in photo form. I wonder if he is happy with this, or is it that (as was suggested to me) the LibDems have few photos to select for their leaflets because people won't be photographed with their candidate for Norwich South?

On the eve of a possible election the LibDem campaign seems to have melted before it was even formed.

I'll explain this slowly for the benefit of Stephanie Flanders, Newsnight, the Labour Party and the left-wing blog-o-sphere

There has been much confusion about the number of people that will benefit from the Inheritance Tax changes announced today by Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne. There are big differences, explained by the fact that some statistics talk about households, others about householders.

Well, this is the way I see it.

The householders don't benefit - they're dead.

It is the families left behind that benefit, and there are a lot more of those than you might imagine.

When my dear old Mum and Dad pass away - which in the case of my Father is particularly unlikely as his Mum is 91 and going strong, and his Aunty was 100 before she died and he has the constitution of a concrete elephant - then the three sons will all share the benefit of this policy.

But we are not "one family". Now we've grown up and moved away, we are three families. Chris has his family, Michael has his and I have mine. Hence from the single property three families will benefit. Three different households in three different areas will benefit. Hence the total number of families that will benefit will be larger than householders who pass away.

Similarly there will be more people benefiting as well. It isn't just the three sons - there will be three partners, currently 3 grandchildren (maybe more) and maybe by then even their partners. At the moment 8 people will benefit from this policy in my circumstances alone and that is bound to rise. The thought that I would benefit financially but my children wouldn't is just silly. Hence from each deceased householder comes far more people benefitting.

And finally the question of how many houses are included. My house in the centre of Norwich, a 3 bed semi, is likely to be worth around 250k which will undoubtably put Louise and I into the current IHT threshold for our kids to pay the tax. Are we rich? A teacher married to a part time teacher? Hardly, and house prices are reasonably low in Norwich. This policy from the Tories will be felt far and wide in the country.

This policy is a masterstroke beyond what I imagined and even what I thought we were capable of. You only have to look at the totaly panic from Labour to know this.

Edwards goes on a split hunt

The Tory tax proposals got very good coverage from both the BBC and ITN tonight with only Newsnight being typically stubborn about admitting how good the plans really are. What was interesting though was not the Beeb's analysis of the figures but their desire to create a "split" story at the conference. Denied the bloodletting and public fury that Labour and the media wanted, poor old Huw Edwards was sent out amongst the delegates at the Tory conference to find a rebel. Could he use a shadow cabinet minister? Maybe then a frontbencher? No? Well, try the normal barking brigade of the parliamentary party? No rent-a-quote backbenchers? OK, well hit on a drunken association chairman then. Ah, they may be drunk but they're still backing Cameron. So, finally Edwards finds the rebel - a rather dotty looking Tory shire councillor dragged up from God knows where, truly gaining her 15 seconds of fame on the News saying she hadn't heard what she wanted yet from Cameron.

Is this is the best that the might of Aunty can produce then you know the Tories are having a great week in Blackpool.

Tory Conference: The Story So Far...

I am not able to go to conference because of work, but I do enjoy watching it in full on BBC Parliament rather than relying on the edited versions on the BBC News which normally cut away from policy announcements to the sight of old people having a kip. So how well have people done so far?

William Hague: An amazing speech in that it was good but not good enough to be the speech-of-the-conference (which he could have easily made it) so that will hopefully be left for Cameron. Witty, conversational and hit all of the right targets. He is a master at this ... 8 out of 10

Boris Johnson: I may make myself terribly unpopular but I didn't rate the performance at all, which feel between the stools of being funny and serious. I think he failed to hit the targets and didn't make a good job of it. I expected more but maybe my view of failure is because I had such high expectations. Still, he is a good public speaker but must decide what candidate he wishes to be. Rating 5 out of 10

Mayor Bloomberg: Absolutely fantastic and the real moment of the first day. He was extremely engaging and, despite falling out with the GOP, appealed to the Conservative audience. His 4 step approach to managing change was masterful and he has a record to be proud of. I hope Cameron milks him for every piece of advice before he goes! 9 out of 10.

George Osbourne: Not the best delivery but what a speech in terms of content. This was the stuff that the party was waiting for and hearing the cheer go up with the inheritance tax announcement was fantastic. The audience loved it, as will the electorate I'm sure, and Osbourne is now one of the serious political players in this upcoming election. 8 out of 10 and maybe a few bonus marks for the headlines in the morning...

David Willetts & Michael Gove: I couldn't understand why Willetts didn't get a better reaction for his speech which was better in delivery than Gove's and probably more serious in content. Have the delegates not forgotten or forgiven? He made some excellent points but after a hard hitting attack there was an awkward moment of silence where a clap should have been. Gove did well on his first outing too. Gove 7 out of 10 but Willetts deserves 8 out of 10.

Grant Shapps: The master campaigner had a difficult task making a speech about housing interesting (it might be possible but I'm not sure) but it is odd that he shoulod be given such a high billing when other members of the full shadow cabinet aren't speaking or making a set piece speech at all. He needs to improve his style. 6 out of 10.

Alan Duncan: The perma-tanned frontbencher does it again - an excellent speech, well delivered and brilliantly timed, but one that absolutely nobody but us diehards will notice. Knocked off any headlines by Osbourne. What a shame he isn't given a higher profile. 8 out of 10.

I also have something to add about the debates. The panels are made up of the leaders in their fields and it is a bit painful to watch them "take questions" from legions of PPCs who are only doing this to get a few column inches in their local newspapers. The experts sit glumly whilst the PPC's make mini-speeches and then are asked to respond without a question having been asked! I would demand that all contributions at least finish with a question - and a meaningful one, rather than the sort that has the "I obviously agree..." answer from all panelists. Come on, we can do better!

I have to say I'm really enjoying this conference, even from a distance, and its seems that Cameron has really grasped the agenda. We'll have to wait for the polls but if a post conference bounce doesn't happen then it isn't for the spirit and tone of those present.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tory fury at undemocratic City Hall

There were furious scenes at tonight’s council meeting in Norwich after Labour and LibDem Councillors voted down plans for a democratic referendum on the controversial unitary issue – and then proceeded to stop Conservative councillors and rebels from their own ranks taking part in the debate.

After just 4 speeches on the motion, Labour Councillor Alan Waters moved a motion to vote on the issue straight away – backed by Labour and the LibDems – which blocked two Conservative Councillors and breakaway Green and LibDems from speaking.

This is clearly a “double attack on democracy” and it was an attempt to suppress anti-unitary feeling in the council chamber and in their own parties. Catton Grove Conservative Councillor Eve Collishaw and Lib Dem Mile Cross Councillor Carl Mayhew both attempted to log that their efforts to speak had been denied in the minutes but were refused by council chiefs.

This is an unbelievable attack on democracy. The people of Bowthorpe, Catton Grove and Mile Cross should all know that their voices were silenced by an oppressive Labour and LibDem majority on the council.

First they say that government, not the people, should decide on the future of our local government, and now they say that anti-unitary councillors shouldn’t be able to speak in the debate.

We know that Labour treat Norwich like their own fiefdom and don’t want Conservatives to raise the issue of the amount of money they are wasting on this issue or the idea that people should vote on the future on the council but we are democratically elected and will continue to speak up for our constituents.

Councillors are, quite rightly, fuming about this tonight. What is the point of being elected if Labour and the LibDems won’t let free speech rule?

LibDem Councillor Carl Mayhew stormed out of the meeting just seconds after being denied the right to speak on the issue. We all know how Carl Mayhew felt on this issue, but we stayed to oppose more wasteful spending by the LibDems in the next motion. The question now remains – do Norwich City Council believe in democracy at all?

This issue won't go away now ... its open season in City Hall.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How can you get it this wrong?

The news has just reported that Brown's predictions of a £4bn deficit would actually turn out to be £6.5bn.

How do you manage to miscount by that much and why would we put the man who did it into Number 10?

Who are these Blue Brownites?

Over at they are asking the same question. Apparently there is not a single poll, even those which show large Labour leads, where more people who voted for Howard in 05 and who will now vote Brown outnumber those who voted Blair and who will now vote Cameron.

I have spent a lot of time on the phone to party members and on to doorsteps in Bowthorpe and Eaton this weekend and I haven't found a single person who is switching.

After all this Thatcherite grandstanding, blue backgrounds and policy rehashing, if Brown cannot point to any new support then his traditional voters may just wonder what they sold out for?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Surveys, membership, events and campaiging

All those who are gloating about Cameron's apparent unpopularity are welcome to look through our postbag at the moment. We are currently running a survey in Earlham and the Bluebell Road area. Whilst Eaton always gives a solid lead, we are now picking up support in Earlham too. When we did this survey last year Labour were ahead by 8-10% in Earlham and the results so far are neck-and-neck - with LibDem support completely non-existant. We are getting people rejoining the party - members who have been lapsed for many years as well as new members from across the City. We're also getting more and more people getting involved - I can't believe we have more deliverers on the Larkman than we need, and also more people coming to canvass sessions. Our events - with some top name speakers - are rapidly becoming sell-outs.

Cameron's "unpopularity" really seems to be paying off here in Norwich. The more "unpopular" he becomes the more members we get, the more donations we recieve, the more deliverers we get and the more events we sell out.

Ming's judgement in question (again)

The leader's speech is a traditional conference set piece which should inspire the troops and win good publicity. The LibDem chief has, I'm told, failed on both counts. The BBC is leading on his claim that he isn't too old to lead the party and says that with age comes experience and judgement.

Sir Ming was wrong to do this - by even including it in the speech he has skewed his own media story. This is probably the one speech that will definitely get coverage and to waste it by fueling the leadership story is a classic example of his lack of judgement.

Added to his tax-the-rich call, his EU referendum u-turn and his closeness to Brown you have to wonder if he has any judgement at all.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sir Ming sets a new low for a political leader

Ming Campbell's call for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU was clearly designed to be a political masterstroke, so how did it go so wrong?

Sir Ming has previously ruled out a vote on the EU Constitution despite promising one just 2 years earlier. He then suffered ridicule from the press and, more damagingly, his own side via the blogosphere. Then days later, Sir Ming aimed to trumpt his critics by calling for a vote on the whole question of Britain's EU membership. Instead of declaring this a brilliant act of democracy, the collective political wisdom of the nation stumbled backwards, stratched its head and said "what?!?"

The LibDems don't have a problem with Britain's membership of the EU - why call a referendum and then campaign for a "yes" vote? Doesn't this just give fuel to the UKIPers around the place?

But the biggest problem is this. I would probably (though not certainly) vote to saty in the EU but to reject the constitution. So what would I do in the LibDem referendum? If I voted "yes" it would seem as if I were backing the constitution, but if I voted "no" it would say I wanted to pull out of the EU.

This policy is so muddled, and so stupid, that it failed to achieve any of his objectives and just reinforced how shaky his leadership really is. This was badly thought through knee-jerk reaction - the kind we in the Tories were used to seeing under IDS. It looked good for five and a half seconds and then the reality of this latest rushed-policy sinks in.

Campbell, and by extension the LibDems, now have no credibility on this at all. I know some LibDems are tearing up their membership cards, others are openly calling on him to resign. If their parliamentary party could be ruthless with Kennedy, why aren't they showing more guts when it comes to useless old buffer Sir Ming?

United 93

I have just finished watching the film "United 93" which charts the flight of the doomed United aircraft on 11th September 2001. I can honestly say that the final few scenes were amongst the most harrowing I have ever seen. Few films make me feel the way I do now, and I am sure that is what the directors intended. Louise has never wanted to see the film, so I chose to do it with her not about. I knew it would be a tough film to watch even before I started but nothing could prepare me for the immortal words, "let's roll." The passengers and crew on board are real heroes but it was so hard to watch people making phone calls to their loved on. What would I have said to my loved ones in that situation? Would I have fought back? I like to think so, but I like to think I'll never find out. An amazing film, well made, well acted - but don't watch it unless you have a few hours more to reflect.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Treshold, Scrutiny, Unitary & Gordon

A short one tonight I'm afraid, it's been a five period day including my threshold observation (scary), then Scrutiny committee and then Norwich Area committee to thrash through unitary (again). I pity the deluded attitude of my Labour, LibDem and Green colleagues who really think that one day we'll all get together and thrash through a deal on unitary. As the sensible Labour Councillor Sue Whittaker said, "pigs will fly". The fact that we disagree is good for democracy - it means we can have a fight, vote and then get on with the majority. If we all agreed, they'd be no point in elections!

The scenes on TV on my return home were more of a shock - Gordon and Maggie! Is this a cunning plan for Gordon to alienate the last left wing voters into not supporting him? I can't imagine why he thought this was a good idea - it won't win him a single Tory vote to see him with Thatcher but it may just lose a bucket of Labour ones! He should have stayed well clear, because it has taken the heat off Cameron after the publication of a difficult policy document.

Similarly the decision to use Saatchi&Saatchi for their adverts is rather more "gimmick Gordon" than "flash Gordon". This hasn't been a bad day for Gordon, but it could have been better ... by not even getitng out of bed!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


That is, of course, the Lower Hellesdon, Earlham, Larkamand and Marlpit Safer Neighbourhoods Action Panel and its where I've been tonight. It is a collection of key agencies, including housing officers, the police, the council and the NELM development trust for residents to meet with and then a panel of members select the priorities for the area. They can be to do with crime, the environment or even planning and transportation. It was a fantastic event in which local peopel had their say on what was going on - and the powers-that-be having to sit, listen and then take action. I was slightly disappointed in the number of particularly City Council issues that were "still being actioned" but clearly a lot of work had taken place. Local MP Charles Clarke sat in to hear the debate and I hope he heard the message loud and clear - people are sick of the mess and fly tipping on the streets. They don't want rude kids making lives a misery by, for example, throwing things as their houses and hurlign abuse on the streets. They want to feel safe on the streets.

For what its worth I spoke up on the issues of clamping down on illegal mini motor bikes on the streets and pathways and also for a cleanup in West Earlham. I hope someone takes note and we aren't sitting here in 3 months wondering if somebody else might action it.

Apart from Iraq, what are the LibDems for?

The LibDems spoilt their summer of silence with a brief period of media activity when Gordon Brown replied to a letter written by Sir Ming demanding the withdrawl of troops from Iraq. It is, therefore, a surprise that the next LibDem media hit is ... Iraq, again.

Apparently Sir Ming has made a video about the issue and will use their conference to put it centre stage. Why?

Is there a single person who doesn't know the LibDem policy on this? And, more importantly for them, is there a single vote still to be won with this issue?

Why are they not trying to expand their single issue USP and at least trying to make the next election competetive? The Tories learnt the long, hard way what this does to a party. Our experience with Europe tells us something. If you find an issue that your party loves but the country doesn't rate then don't expect to win an election by banging on and on about it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wanted: A Friend for the LibDem Council

Trevor Ivory has a brilliant post on his blog, and news item on his website, regarding the closure of the public toilets in Holt. The results of his survey - in which a third of the town took part - make astonishing reading, particularly the part about the council finding just a single supporter in their handling of the issue. Apparently local LibDem MP Norman Lamb has remained silent on the issue - how very unlike him. Bearing in mind that the survey was returned by more people than normally vote in local elections it certainly has some weight. During the days when local councils are fighting for their existence being this out of touch on a crucial issue like this won't help in the fight against Unitary.

With Holt now sporting the only UKIP Councillor for a long old distance, this move shows the serious fight that we are putting up in areas like this. The Conservatives are campaigning hard and showing themselves to be in touch with local people. I hope Trevor inspires other Conservatives!