Friday, April 27, 2007

The task for the Norwich LibDems

Charles Clarke will be the man to watch come the next General Election. The odds of him holging onto marginal Norwich South must be evens but there is a long wya to go between then and now. The LibDems are salivating at the chance of winning the seat, but as I canvassed this afternoon and evening in Eaton, the doorstep responses I got clearly demonstrated the 3 great obstacles blocking the LibDem path.

Firstly is that the former Labour vote isn't going en bloc to the LibDems - it seems to be splitting between the two other main parties, and in Eaton village at least mainly to the Conservatives. People still realise that next time the PM will either be Cameron or Brown. The LibDems, despite the rise in bar charts, are still not seem as the natural challengers in the seat.

Secondly the stubborn nature of the Tory vote. The LibDems are ruthlessly targeting the big Tory vote in Norwich South to encourage them to vote tactically. However it seems the Norwich Tory vote isn't in any mood to put a LibDem MP into parliament any more than a Labour one. I cannot image a single Conservative voter I spoke to today voting LibDem, even tactically. In fact, there was much venom saved for the LibDems, particularly because of their disasterous tenure in charge at City Hall.

Thirdly is the creeping Green vote. I used to think the Green vote only existed where their party worked hard. But Ramsay's media strategy must be paying off - they have a healthy vote, even in the bastion of Eaton village. Most of note was the fact that nearlly all the Green voters were ex-LibDem ones.

All this spells trouble for the LibDems and their ill-fated campaign. The Greens and the Tories will rain on their parade and I fear that whilst Ian Couzens may be gone, his shadow looms large over their efforts.

By now the LibDems should have a set place as the clear challengers and a lock down on the tactical vote against Labour. They haven't - and this makes me thik that something is wrong. Is it their party, their record, their campaign or their candidate? I understand some senior LibDems think it may just be all four.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Planning Committee makes the right verdict over Hay Hill

I am pleased that the committee are not just putting this through on the nod and have decided to visit the site and look at all the objections.

This decision has been shrouded with secrecy from its beginnings under the LibDems and it is right that future actions should be taken in the open and with full consultation.

More and more people are casting doubt on the suitability of Hay Hill for this art work. If we must have the art then there are more suitable sites in the City.

I have a few thoughts but suggests would be appreciated!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Goldie is the real star of the campaign

Annabel Goldie was the seemingly safe pair of hands chosen by the Scottish Conservatives after the resignation of former leader David McLetchie. Ms Goldie was seen by many to be rather dull and uninspiring - and her leadership had a rocky start. A LibDem friend of mine in Scotland even told me that Goldie was our Ming Campbell!

However, now the campaign in Scotland is almost over many people think that the only person to have come out of this enhanced is the Tory Leader. She has shone on TV debates, won over the anti-Tory media and recieved plaudits for her "bread and butter" election pledges. The Scottish campaign seems to have been run very well this time and I hope the campaigners there feel this on the ground.

Whilst McConnell (Labour's First Minister) and SNP Chief Alex Salmond slug it out, and poor LibDem Thingy Nicol delves further into obscurity, Annabel Goldie has made a name for herself. The media say it, the pundits say it and I hope the voters do. Certainly my friends in Scotland are impressed with her - but are saying they are still undecided. I hope Goldie's honesty and integrity give them cause to vote Conservative on 3rd May.

UPDATE: A text puts me right. They are happy to vote Conservative on the top-up, but as the Conservatives apparently cannot win in their local constituency they are still looking for somebody to vote for! A hand slapping for me, there!

A one-horse race?

My thanks to one eagle-eyed resident from Earlham for this gem, which I have reproduced with his permission:

"The article on your blog asked how many horses were in the race to be our Councillor. Only one horse has knocked on my door, only one horse have delivered any leaflets and only one horse has written. That horse is John Wyatt, your candidate! If Labour, the LibDems or the Greens want to win here they don't show it - maybe they are still in the stalls??? As they approach the final furlong, there seems to be a runaway winner. I know Bowthorpe is normally a photo-finish but as far as I am concerned there is only one runner and rider. I say this after years of Labour, but John Wyatt will get my vote next week. Good luck."

Manifesto Launch

Just in case you didn't see the excellent coverage of our City Manifesto in the Evening News (who are, for the record, handling these elections quite well) then please do take a look on our Norwich Conservatives site where it can be downloaded in full, or you can read part of my speech to the party.

One elector - from Lakenham - rang to say that having read three manifesto documents (apparently he couldn't find Labour's!) he was voting Tory because ours made most sense. *Blush*

The Glamerous Life of the Election Agent

Apart from holidng down a full time job, I have in the last 3 nights spent my time putting up posters, delivering leaflets, bundling up for deliverers, canvassing, printing leaflets, writing to electors and sending e-mails.

But, In the words of a certain former PM, "I'm enjoying this!"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Candidates - Part II

Catton Grove could prove to be the result of the night. Depsite being a safe-ish Labour seat (the party won it quite easily in 2006), one seat went to Tory Eve Collishaw in 2004 who seeks re-election this year. Miss Collishaw is something of a novelty - a proper Tory in Norwich. She like the incincerator, wants to cut tax and build the NDR. However, few people doubt her dedication and she has added to the life of the council. The ward is an odd shape and nobody really thinks they live in "Catton Grove". Cllr Collishaw is - as I understand from Antony - campaigning hard to win. She is up again Nesar Ahmed - the LibDem candidate who could have done better if his party had taken this seriously a few years back. Green lady Penny Edwards looks to be one of the party's few fourth placed candidates. Labour's candidate this time is Martin Booth. After a bit of research I found out he was Labour's former County Councillor for North Walsham and was on the frontbench during their recent spell in power. Mr Booth's campaign doesn't seem to have taken off, so I predicted a very close Conservative hold.

Crome Ward - Despite being the home of the 2000 Tory gain shock of the night, Crome has since reverted to being as safe a seat for Labour as they have in Norwich. Alan Waters, the man who lost by 4 votes 7 years ago, is the candidate again this year and will be hoping that history doesn't repeat itself as he will have hopes of being Council Leader if Steve Morphew falls in Mile Cross. Green candidate Chris Webb and LibDem Irene Bowling won't be making too much of an effort. But then, you have to question if Tory Kay Mason is either. Current Norwich North Association Chairman Ms Mason was Dr Gibson's challenger in 2001. If this is her reaunch for the next election she may have to wait. Prediction: Labour hold with a slightly reduced majority.

Mile Cross: By far the most exciting ward to follow. Perenial Tory candidate David Mackie and Green Christine Way will be just onlookers in this contest. This seat went LibDem under Vic Elvin (RIP) and Labour has to wrest it back. When Vic passed away, young gun Carl Mayhew disproved the theory that "only Vic can win here". The LibDems are throwing the kitchen sink at this whilst Labour are pulling in activists to try and save their Leader. Leaflets and canvassers are everywhere ... Former LibDem Councillor Simon Nobbs - not the most popular guy but hard working - is setting the pace here but don't write off Cllr Morphew's campaignin and personal vote. If Labour lose this seat they are in real trouble - only because they'll lose the most obvious and best leader they've had in years. Prediction: Too close to call, but at this moment I'd go for a LibDem gain from Labour with a very small majority.

Eaton: This last bastion of a safe LibDem seat is under heavy attack from the Tories this year. With former Leader Ian Couzens standing down, the wife of PPC Simon Wright - Ros Wright - is standing and the Conservatives have the bit between their teeth. They are contrasting Mrs Wright's "parachute" jump into Eaton with their own - Vic Hopes - and his 400 years of service to the area. The Conservatives are certainly delivering more leaflets but you just don't gte the feeling this majority can be overcome in one poll. Labour have former Bowthorpe man Ron Borrett, the Greens have Cllr Janet Bearman's husband Richard and UKIP have South Park man John Wilder standing. LibDems to hold but Tories to cut the majority again. A much better fight to watch in 2007.

Mancroft - Whilst some may right Mancroft off as an easy Green hold, for some reason both Labour and the Tories have chosen to make a fight of it here. Labour's David Fullman (who fought the Town Close by-election in 2005) has been heavily leafletting in the ward whilst Tory new boy Niki George is putitng himself about a bit. Odd thing is that Mr George's leaflets seem not to admit to him being a Conservative ... how well this tactic does is yet to be seen. The LibDems hope that Alan Oliver will win their once safe berth but the general consensus is not. The new Green candidate - Cllr Steve Altman quit after just a year - is Tom Dylan. Mr Dylan is by far the scariest man on a leaflet I have ever seen! But he is odds on the take the seat. Prediction: Green hold

Antony's thoughts... I wouldn't agree with everything here - but I did say I would publish them in full. My personal thought is Morph will hold Mile Cross and that the Tories will come a lot closer in Crome. Tory hold in Catton, Green hold in Mancroft and too-close-to-call in Eaton.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An arrogance that must come to an end

I cannot stand people who arrogantly take the electorate for granted, throughout the year but especially at election time. Maybe I am bias because I spend my life fighting big Labour and LibDem majorities and am used to working hard to get Conservatives elected.

But today I have spoken to three Conservative colleagues, all of whom are up for election this year in various parts of the country. One is going on holiday, one will only deliver a single leaflet and the other only canvasses on Saturday mornings.

Compare that to work that John Wyatt puts in Bowthorpe, Eve Collishaw in Catton Grove or Vic Hopes in Eaton!

Yet all three men will be re-elected with massive majorities - they hold very, very safe seats.

I am sure that all parties have such characters and such arrogance in their ranks.

And who do I blame for this? The opposition. The reason my Tory chums will win again is because in each of their wards the other parties either don't campaign themselves or even don't stand candidates. If Labour or the LibDems made more an an effort, these arrogant Tories may find themselves suddenly a bit more keen to engage with people.

And in Labour heartlands, and safe LibDem seats, where no doubt the same attitude exists amongst their councillors I think the Tories should be taking advantage in the same way.

When one party takes a ward or community for granted, there should always be another campaigner or party ready to take up the challenge of representing people.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Judge somebody by their friends

The Conservatives have been looking for a big name defection since Cameron became party leader. So far, certain LibDems have resisted the lure and even the Prince of Darkness Peter Mandelson has been touted (but refused by most sane Tory members).

I am pleased that tomorrow the defection will come in the shape of former Ulster Unionist Leader and peer (Lord) David Trimble. Trimble is the one of the most measured and intelligent politicians of his generation - a nobel prize winner and a man of principle. He is welcome into our party with open arms.

This defection may not surprise those who know Trimble closest nor will it send out that many shockwaves, but I alsways think you know somebody by who their friends are.

And if Cameron is bringing people like David Trimble into the party then that is very good news for us indeed.

People the Greens are welcome to (but should treat with caution) - No. 112

Following the news that political dynamo Dawn Castle-Green has jumped ship from the LibDems to the Greens, it turns out another former Councillor has also done the dirty on the yellow party.

Simon Richardson was the Mousehold Councillor from 2000-2004 and made virtually no impact at all. He is most famous for standing in Bowthorpe in 2006 and having the cheek to put out a leaflet claiming that the Tories were out of the race and that only the LibDems could beat Labour (fact check, Con Gain). Even at the count, the poor deluded Mr Richardson still believed he may yet pull off victory. Only when the returning officer showed us the result did his conceed. Amazing.

I am sure SImon worked hard for the people of Mousehold during his tenure, but the Greens has better watch out because methinks his political radar may need some fine tuning!

How many horses are in the Bowthorpe race?

A few comments on the blog (which could, of course, be from one person) have said that Bowthorpe is a three horse race and that the Greens have lots of posters in the ward and are leafletting like mad.

Excuse me?

Having walked from one end of the ward to the other in the past 3 days, I have to ask where these posters are and who recieved these leaflets - because our members from Larkman to Three Score don't seem to have them. I don't see this as anything more than the usual Con-Lab tussle but I'd be interested in more information. The Greens will come a more solid third this time but that's it.

Oh and an A* to the witty resident, who shall remain nameless, who wrote to me asking if Green candidate Blair Campbell was a hybrid of Tony and Alastair!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What's the point of a poster?

Local bloggers - here and here - have today been debating the role of posters in a party political campaign. I thought I'd add my own musings.

Posters take a lot of effort to put together and then display around the constituency. They cost a lot of money but they also take a lot of time to maintain. They get ripped down, fall down and (sometimes) stolen. So why do we do it then?

In my ten years of being involved in politics I've never met a single person who was convinced to vote by a poster or who had switched their vote because of a poster. Not a single time have I heard, "I was going to vote Labour until I saw your Tory posters so now I'm switching."

Do they create the "big mo'" then? Well, no. A lot of posters can equal a lot of support but for every house with a poster there are a hundred that do not - and those hundred have votes too. There is one house in Norwich with 4 LibDem posters on it - which represent a single elector. Similarly there are giant posters in fields in Norfolk that do not represent a single Tory voter! People are not stupid - parties even sometimes run poster campaigns to hide the lack of a real campaign! Reading Martin Bell's biography recently there was an interesting story. Put off bv vast numbers of "Hamilton" posters around Tatton, Bell was told by one aid: "Yes, but trees and fields cannot vote." There are lots of LibDem posters in University Ward - they still ain't gonna win it!

Posters have the ability to make a party look stupid. If they get damaged or grafittied then it is a very public attack on that party. What's more those silly "Winning Here" ones - in areas where that party doesn't win - makes politicans look slightly deceitful.

And yes, I do display a poster. Why? Because it makes me feel good - and vaguely annoys my neighbours. It won't win me any votes, it'll be stolen or torn down a few times. But I'll keep it up because it is a public statement about my politics and who I am. It is a great part of the British electoral tradition. Silly, but I'll still do it ... for no decent reason either.

A successful day then...

As I made my way around this morning, leafletting from house to house, a thought struck me. Who is going to read this leaflet today? The sun is shining, the lawns are being mown and families are getting together.

I took the most sensible decision of the whole campaign so far, which put me more in touch with the public than a thousand leaflets ever could.

I went home, collected my wife and kids ... and we all went to the beach.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A burning issue?

According to today's EEN, the Green Party are plotting to ban the use of goldfish as prizes at funfairs et al held on council property.

What a shame that the Greens, who have worked so hard to make themselves seem like an alternative council leadership, now choose to go down the route of bonkers politics - a roadmap normally held by the LibDems.

Or have I got this totally wrong? Please help me out here.

Is the sale or use of goldfish a major political issue? Nobody has mentioned it on the doorsteps yet the Greens are making headlines about it.

Forget the Quality Bus Partnership, the Unitary Bid, affordable housing, council tax levels, combating anti-social behaviour or improving recycling - we know what will be crossing the Chief Executive's desk on the first day of a Green-led City Council.

I can only assume that this was a silly publicity stunt by the Greens ... unless blog readers put me right on this.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

LibDem faux outrage at UEA votes issue

I think that it is crazy that the UEA has nowhere on campus for the voters of that polling district to vote on 3rd May. However, given the reaction of the LibDems you might believe that this was the greatest attack on democracy for a generation.


We should encourage people to vote but we cannot hold their hand whilst they do it. It must be easy to vote but people must also want to do it.

I live around 6 minutes walk from my polling station.

When I lived in Mardle Street, Bowthorpe, I lived a good 15 minutes walk from my polling station.

In Norwich, as in Norfolk and around the country, you have to make an effort to vote.

If students want to vote they will walk, cycle or even drive to the schoiol next to UEA to do it. If they care about voting they will make the effort and give up the few extra minutes to cast their votes. Maybe they will be so angry by this decision turnout may even rise?

If they say that they won't vote because there isn't a polling station under their noses then that is in itself contempt for democracy and on that principle vast swathes of the country, and the City, would never vote.

And, of course, there is still time for a postal vote to be arranged.

So how do we explain the LibDem outrage? Pure politics. They believe their only hope of not being totally humiliated in this ward is the student vote. They care about their campaign, not about democracy.

However, given the fact that the UEA LibDems have almost ceased to function and that the Conservatives are now by far the biggest party on campus, I wouldn't be too sure that student votes will save them.

So be assured, LibDems. Democracy carries on. At least University Tory candidate Niall Baxter (pictured) has remained calm throughout this "crisis".

The SNP leopard can't change its spots

The greatest strenght, and greatest weakness, of the SNP is the central policy of independence. In years gone by the overwhelming majority of Scots who don't want to break way from the UK have moved away from the SNP because of that.

Now, with Labour in the political gutter, many left-leaning voters are looking for a new home. If you wanted an alternative reforming left wing government you would look to the SNP rather than Labour. But that whole independence thing still puts you off, doesn't it?

So that's why the SNP are promising a referendum (something they never did in 2003 - saying that a vote for the SNP was a vote for Independence!) and have moved the issue to the backburner. To gather up all those disgruntled ex-Labour voters who need a home.

But if you do put the destruction of our nation at the back of your mind, the SNP aren't so bad are they?

Well, if you do vote for the SNP don't be surprised if the kitten you thought you voted for turns out to be a leopard. And believe me, those spots don't change.

Alex Salmond has worked his whole political life for an Independent Scotland - it will pre-occupy every moment of his time as First Minister. He is single-minded - almost a one-policy man. From the moment his feets go under the desk, you know what he'll be plotting. And it ain't cutting crime or improving the NHS.

So before you think the SNP are a viable alternative for Scotland, think about what spots they might be hiding.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New Blogger in the City

Just a link for Maltheus who has a new blog - and judging by his first post the politico's in the City just better look out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Are UKIP fibbing again?

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage has claimed that the party is fielding "one thousand councillors plus" - but a party source has been forced to admit that this includes parish councillors (the smallest electoral unit and there are, therefore, far more up to be elected).

Why do they make these claims when they know people will check? How many district councillors are UKIP standing? They have only managed 3 out of 13 here in Norwich. Similarly I understand that claims to have 20 councillors have also turned out to be false - they have less than 10 and most of those are defections rather than elected councillors!

Candidates 2007 - Part I

Following last year's report, which caused some ripples in political circles, I have asked a friend to pen a few thoughts on the candidates standing this year. This is not my work, not my views and not written by a Conservative supporter. If you are easily offended, turn away now - and I promise this is totally unedited (apart from spelling, tut tut)! All comments welcome.

Blair Campbell (Green) is the surprise nomination this year, hailing from the trendy new part of Three Score. His nomination is likely to annoy the Tories who are now treating Three Score like some kind of heartland. The Greens are likely to move well in front of the LibDems this year. Backbench Labour Councillor Chrissie Rumsby is seeking re-election but is a fairly mute and useless political operator. Not particularly well liked in the area and not very active either - she'll be relying on votes in Earlham and not standing against Antony Little. Tory candidate John Wyatt is Little's right-hand man and has certainly earnt his spurs in the ward but lacks his colleagues popular appeal. However the Tory "Leader" has been active enough locally to pass his support on. LibDem Francis McIvor won't make much of an impact. I predict a Conservative Gain, but with a smaller majority than last year.

An interesting fight this year with the 4 main parties and UKIP standing for election. Popular Labour Councillor Keith Driver is standing for re-election, but with the Labour majority cut to 15 votes last year this is a seat on a knife-edge. Will Driver's work be enough to balance out his party's disasterous standing in the opinion polls. The reason to be worried is that last year's LibDem candidate has been re-deployed elsewhere and now Gordon Dean is the man on the frontline - Dean was a City Councillor for many years and a frontbench Transport spokesman. He is considered to be one of the LibDems best campaigners and shows they are serious about winning the seat. There are new candidates for the Greens, Jacqui McCarney, and for the Tories, Carrie Chandler. But they will be as out of the race as UKIP man Steve Emmins. This is a LibDem-Labour blood fight to the finish. Prediction: Too close to call, but if forced to say I'd go for a narrow Labour hold.

This ward is becoming predictably boring at the moment with the Green majority stretching further out at each new poll. The only change here - LibDem Fairbairn, Labour Bartram and Green Ramsay are standing again - is with the Tory candidate Malcolm Chamberlin, who claims that have coined the phrase "golden triangle" whilst working as an archant media man. All three opposition parties here are putting in the footwork but you would be insane to bet against Ramsay getting a four figure majority. LibDems to hold onto second place - just - but all three loser parties getting bunched up this time.

I had to comment on this is the first round of reviews because of the lack of a Norwich-over-the-Water candidate. What does this mean for the big vote they got in 2006? If the Greens had done more work here earlier they could have benefited from the voter fall-out, but I fear Penny Killingbeck may have to settle for second. The LibDems are standing former University councillor and media hate figure Ian Williams. Mr Williams is used to having dust-ups with other parties in the letters page of the Evening News but that combative spirit often makes him a good candidate. The Tories are standing Tony Landamore and it is surprising they don't do better here. Prediction: Labour hold, increased majority due to no NOTWP candidate.

A Full Day's Campaigning

Phew! I have been on the streets since 9am this morning and my feet need some TLC tonight! This morning I was out with a team on the streets of Eaton, delivering leaflets and talking to local people about the issues that are concerning them. Then, after a rather pleasant family lunch, we went back out onto the streets where there seemed to be fewer people to talk to. This evening it was a canvassing session in Catton Grove. It seems to be going really well there - the surprise is person after person saying that we are the only party campaigning and certainly the only party to call. Are Labour doing anything or are they just doing it quietly? If so, it is so quiet the voters aren't hearing it either! Off for a bath now...

UKIP - hypocrites or just not very bright?

UKIP in Norwich may be celebrating their launch of three candidates for the 3rd May poll (out of a total possible thirteen), but they don't seem to have thought through their campaign very well.

There is a lovely glossy UKIP leaflet doing the rounds at the moment ... the problem? It is printed in Germany.

Not very patriotic - and persumably access to cheap German printers is something UKIP would want to deny other people.

UKIP are something of a joke and if this is the standard of their campaign, I don't think any party has too much to fear!

A Family Easter

I can't remember the last time I had the whole of Easter (well, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday) off but it certainly was fun. We are well advnaced with the election so I stood the troops down this year for a bit of R&R - which I understand was both well earned and well enjoyed in all quaters!

Friday morning Emily was off on an Easter Egg Hunt - and loved every minute of it! She is turning into quite a chatterbox (god knows where she gets that from!) and replayed her finds all day. We were surprised she could do it - the hunt was clearly too easy! In the afternoon we were with family for a big get-together - great fun.

Saturday was a very relaxed campainging day - more of a saunter round than hard core campaigning I feel! In the morning I joined Eve Collishaw's campaign team in Catton Grove to visit some of the many new build properties in the ward - an amazing array of teething problem queries were raised, and Eve is getting to grips with those today. In the afternoon we canvassed in Chapel Break. I am still surprised that, given that Labour polled over 900 votes last year, we meet so few people who are out-and-out Labour voters. Are they lying, hiding or just totally unsure?

Easter Sunday was spent at my parents place in London and at a quite fantastic BBQ at my brother's house. It made a great change from the normal turkey fare and the weather was superb. Emily, of course, ended up soaked playing with cousin Francis and I have to say that the pimms punch wasn't bad either ;-)

I hope you all had a great Eastertime too!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A National Party

Thanks to Iain Dale for this important post ... the LibDems love to spread it around that the Conservatives are a southern and rural party whilst they represent the whole nation. These figures suggets otherwise, and most interesting is the results for the North of England - where there are more LibDem free zones than Tory ones! Another LibDem fib nailed there then!

Thanks Iain.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Now that's how you launch a campaign!

Following on from the disasterous LibDem manifesto launch, I am pleased to say that the South Norfolk Conservatives seem to have got it right.

Their Leader, John Fuller, will today pulish an incredible detailed manifesto and campaign web site which is amongst the best I have seen. The party has a full slate of 46 candidates, including my friend Margaret Eastham and former UEA Chairman Will Kemp.

They also have a YouTube video to go with the manifesto launch - an excellent initiative which I believe should be "as standard", especially in council's where we hope to gain control. The time and effort that has gone into this is phenominal.

The South Norfolk Tories have a real chance this year to (finally) win back the Council and the LibDem blunders should make it easier - but shouldn't make us complacent. This council is for the taking - if we work hard enough.

Well done John - you've got a great team and you deserve success. Keep up to date with the campaign on John's blog here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Residents matter more than targets, says new County Leader

I am very pleased that our new County Council Leader Daniel Cox wrote a comment on this blog a few days ago and, as a Conservative, I am very impressed with what he had to say. I thought it deserved a wider audience so re-print it in full here. If this is the route we are going down, then the '09 poll can't come soon enough for us...

I am honoured to be leading Norfolk County Council at such an exciting time in local government. Whether or not Brown takes over from Blair, or Cameron takes over from either of them, I believe that the pendulum is firmly swinging away from central government’s command and control.

I will be looking to build upon the work of my predecessor, Shaun Murphy who, ably assisted by the cabinet and officers, has taken Norfolk County Council to be recognised as a 4 star, excellent authority, achieving Beacon status for our services and delivering improved value for money. Our services must continue to improve.

Not just to shoot for the Audit Commission’s stars or to tick the right boxes for the DCLG, but because our residents deserve the best. We do face many challenges. Not least the Comprehensive Spending Review this year, we are likely to have an estimated funding deficit of £25million and although our efficiency project continues to make good progress, we will all be faced with difficult decisions and choices.

Fury of Earlham

In the last two days a big team of us have been out and about canvassing in North Earlham and West Earlham. Clearly these people have been ignored for a number of years because we got the full on wrath of some very irrate residents - on the plus side, if you want evidence that politics is alive and well, please do knock on some doors in the area!

The main gripe goes back to Labour - they've relied heavily on this area for generations and used to capture a big majority of the votes. Now a lot of Labour voters are too irrate to vote and a larger number are looking elsewhere - some at the LibDems, a surprising number at the Greens but mostly at the Conservatives.

Labour are arrogant, out of touch and take these people for granted - and that is just what the residents told me! Streets that aren't clean, dangerous pavements, the Shoemaker in terminal decline, grafitti everywhere and a council that doesn't seem to know where Earlham even is.

There is also a lot of geographical anger - that all the investment heads into Mile Cross or Lakenham rather than into Earlham.

These people have been let down, year after year. Many - in fact, the vast majority - won't bother to vote at all. And what have politicans done to address this? Nothing.

We need to show the people of Earlham that we can listen and we can act - and that includes Charles Clarke as well. He should spend a little less time plotting against Mr Brown and a bit more time looking at how his core voters are living.

Because at this moment in time, they aren't his core voters - they are non-voters or wavering towards the Conservatives. If we can convince them that we are serious about sorting out their problems, Earlham is a must gain seat for the Tories.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is it me, or are Tory Leaders getting younger these days?

With the news that Norfolk Conservatives have chosen 36 year-old Daniel Cox as their new Leader, it seems that Tory chiefs are getting younger.

After all, the member for Wymondham joins David Cameron (who was 39 when elected) and, of course, the youthful Tory Leader of Norwich City Conservatives (who was 27 when voted in)!!!

Seriously, congratulations Daniel - I hope you get a hold of the reigns at County Hall and show us what a decent Conservative Council can achieve! Well Done - we all have high hopes for you!

UEA cuts are a further blow to local healthcare

Norwich and Norfolk are not having a good time of it at the moment with regards to our healthcare. The loss of beds, wards and some whole facilities has hit hard both locally and around the county. All opposition parties are, quite rightly, up in arms at Labour's cuts to the NHS.

However, more worrying is news tonight that the UEA plans to cut lecturer numbers at the school of nurisng and midwifery because of a fall in student nurses numbers. Now, I know that staffing decisions must be left to the UEA, but the implication is that fewer people are training for the medical profession which will have a corresponding impact on healthcare in the locality.

Many UEA students stay on to live and work in the area - myself included - and no graduates are more welcome than those who work in our NHS. Yet with fewer coming through it may be that local providers have trouble getting staff in the future - maybe 5 or 10 years down the line.

UEA midwifery students delivered both of my children and they were both excellent - a credit to the university and the NHS. We need more of them, not less.

Is this part of a national decline, in which case what are the government doing about it?

Or is it part of a local decline, in which case what are UEA doing about it?

Either way, another blow to the NHS.

Confusion over LibDem election claims

How do I know all this? I was telephoned tonight by a resident of the South Park estate to enquire about the contents of a LibDem leaflet that was mangled in his letterbox this evening.

Apparently (I haven't seen it) their new candidate, replacing former Leader Ian Couzens, claims that this election is a two horse race between Labour and the LibDems and that only the LibDems can beat Labour here etc etc.

The gentleman in question got confused by this - thinking that Eaton was a Conservative-LibDem battleground and therefore Labour had no chance of winning anyway. Which it is, and they don't.

When I explained the electoral situation in Eaton and the pattern of normal LibDem election gimmicks the gentleman seemed very annoyed indeed. Why would they ask people to vote LibDem to beat Labour if Labour couldn't win, he asked, unless they were being midleading?

Anyway, he concluded, if he had seen through it then most people would. I do hope so and I loo forward to reading that leaflet.

UPDATE: A second call about it now - interesting blunder to make on day one!

South Norfolk LibDems: A lesson in stupidity

The unwitting Headteacher of Framlingham High School must have been chuffed when, albetit at the last moment, he was phoned to see if LibDem Education Spokeswoman Sarah Teather could pay a visit to look at the school's new facilities. A great opportunity to show how far the Sports College had come in such a short time.

He must have therefore been deeply unimpressed when bus loads of LibDem councillors and candidates came charging onto the school site, waving hideous daglo orange placards and hogging the media attention.

You see, this was no parliamentary visit but the launch of the South Norfolk LibDem manifesto for 2007 - only nobody told the Headteacher that his school was about to become a tool in a party political stunt. Furious parents contacted the local Conservatives and - pow! - it ends up all across the media.

The South Norfolk LibDems, riven with splits I understand, have real trouble holding onto the Council this year - and these kind of incidents don't do your party, let along politics per say, any good.