Friday, July 27, 2007

It's a done deal

The EDP reports this morning that a senior source in Whitehall says that the Greater Norwich bid is now a done deal. Nothing we, or the public, can say will stop this now. Apparently everything from Taverham in the North to Long Stratton in the South is about to come under City Hall control. A few points, randomly and in no particular order, spring to mind:

This is the most undemocratic and political move ever by a British government towards a faction of local government, outstripping even the 1974 reorganisaion. I think a lot of people who oppose this move will punish Labour at the polls.

If they do that the irony is, as suggested by the EDP, that the Tories could just form a majority administration in the City. I'm sure that will thrill Morph, Read, Ramsay, Cooke and all the other unitary cheerleaders who did this to get away from Conservative control!

It will mean massive ward boundary changes. I think wards ought to get smaller and that we should have 2 member divisions with bi-annual elections, but anything could now happen.

Broadland and South Norfolk become untennable as districts. What do they do now?

And one final thought - do the Leaders of Norfolk, South Norfolk and Broadland now accept the fait accompi and work towards getting a good deal in the breakup of the councils or do they die in a ditch for their residents and risk letting Labour set the post-unitary agenda? I personally don't think that the residents would accept anything short of death-in-action over this. We must oppose this to the bitter end - and then win the unitary poll.

Unitary was good for one thing...

And that is my hit rate, which went up on Wednesday a great deal. And what was more amazing is that by far and away the biggest sourec of hits was from ... Norwich City Council! I wonder why they were so interested in my mutterings?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Media get it wrong over Unitary

Amusingly Norwich City Council aren't the only people left red-faced by today's announcements. At around 1.30pm today the BBC led quite clearly with "City Council awarded unitary status" and a quote from Charles Clarke. That headline found its way onto the EDP website. Within an hour, the EDP changed it to "Unitary Bid Fails - For Now". Interestingly their sister paper the Evening News took a very pro-unitary line with "City claims victory in Unitary Bid". The BBC have now changed their line to a much more neutral story. Oh dear. The radio stations have, apparently, been reporting that City Hall have been spinning the story about getting unitary but have been caught out.

I understand from an impeccable source within the local media that everybody is seething over City Hall's spinning. They feel, I am told, that they have been taken in. I await tomorrow's analysis with interest.

Unitary bid confusion

First the BBC reported that Norwich had been granted unitary status. Then Charles Clarke leaps in with both feet to congratulate them, though nobody can work out what for. Norwich City Council put out statements saying they had achieved unitary, which all the media duly follow.

Then the Department for Communities issues their press release in which it becomes clear that 9 councils became unitary today ... but Norwich isn't amongst them. The press release says that the government is not convinced by the affordability case (whic was exactly why we opposed it - more tax, services suffer and jobs are cut). So it seemed that Norwich hadn't got unitary. The press feel cheated, City Hall stands accused of spinning and there are red faces all around.

We read on to find out that this will now be referred to the Boundary Commission - City Hall's bid fails, but the government fall back on the bid that was ruled out of order a few months back. Why? Why did the bid that Ruth Kelly dumped months ago suddenly end up back on the table? Clear signs of an emotional political decisions being taken rather than the cold sober treasury judgement we were promised. This bid that will now be taken forward wasn't compliant just weeks ago and now it is. Look out Broadland and South Norfolk - the government confirms that the only way they can make their unitary folly work is by engaging in a land grab AND a power grab.

So, City Hall chiefs are now under fire for spinning the decision, the media have bene made to look fools by City Hall and the good people of South Norfolk and Broadland had better hold onto their wallets. This has costs Norwich £290,000 and it's gonna get a lot more expensive before its over.

Live Blogging PMQs

As this is probably the third most important PMQs Cameorn has faced (behind his first with Blair and then the first with Brown - both wins for Cameron) I thought I would live blog my views on how all sides do.

Brown flanked by Labour Deputy Leader Harman and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith - looks good for TV. They are wearing matching white suits!

Tory MP Phillip Davies raises the issue of the release of dangerous prisoners without tags. A strong political start. Brown hits back with support from various organisations. Brown says they were only allowed out 18 days early. Well, that's OK then! Jibe about the Tories not having enough money to pay for extra prison places.

Stroud MP David Drew raises the flood issues and says that it cannot take as long as it does to get mains water re-connected. Why should this sort of crisis mean that people should be without water for so long? Brown sends wishes to all those impacted by floods and praises those working to get the situation sorted. He looks a little shocked that it was his own MP that raised this. Brown is now reading a pre-scripted answer and failing to look sincere. He is, however, providing a very full answer. Brown says he is visiting the area today, taking Tory and Labour backbenchers with him.

Cameron rises to prolonged cheers from the Tory cheers. Cameron pays tributes to soldiers killed in Iraq. He then praises councils and emergency services in their work against the floods. Cameron says he wants to look to the future ... will the Environment Agency and councils now work together to reduce impact on critical services. Cameron looks consensual and Brown returns in kind. Brown lays out the focus of the inquiry into the flooding. Brown welcomes the stance of the Conservatives on this.

Cameron thanks Brown - Speaker stops Labour shouting down Cameron - he "names" a Labour MP for barracking. Cameron asks if councils will be forced to fund the first part of the flood repair bills because Brown has previously said that the insurance would cover 100%. Brown says that funding available will be 46million for just 2 counties. Brown not answering the question about percentages. Brown says flood defence spending has been increased.

Cameron asks what the government can do to make sure that insurance companies pay up speedily. Does the PM think that the hardship funds locally will be enough? Good questions from Cameron and he has come across well. Brown talks about crisis grants to help the uninsured. Brown says he wants to make sure people insure in future.

Rosemary McKenna, a Scottish Labour MP, asks what we can do to return confidence in broadcasters. Brown says he'll look into it.

Campbell, the LibDem Leader, rises to some cheers and pays tribute as Brown and Cameron have done. He says that he has seen the work on the ground - a jibe at Cameron. In the review set up, Campbell asks, will there be a detailed assessment of all impact on all critical services across the country and not just those in flooding areas? Infrastructure should be safe from flooding, and that includes all sites across the country says Brown. He offers Campbell the chance to look at the terms of reference.

Campbell now raises the Stern Report and the economic consequences of climate change. Will Brown spend the money to combat climate change? Brown says that he has increased spending on flood defences. He avoids Campbell's question.

Eric Illsley says that the smoking ban and high taxation is impacting on bingo clubs. Would Brown meet with him to discuss the issue? Brown says he will.

Graham Brady, the Tory MP who quit over grammar schools, raises to ironic cheers. He asks if Blair was right to give up £7bn Euro rebate? The Speaker tells off the Tories this time! Brown says the Tories don't support the enlargement of the EU ... a weak answer.

Dari Taylor asks about looked after children. Brown gives a strong answer and says he will meet to find a way forward.

Cameron leaps to his feet to raise the EU Constitution - to more ironic cheers! - and says that 90%-98% of the constitution is the same, according to the Irish and Spanish PMs. What % does the PM think is the same? Speaker Martin tells off Labour MPs again. Brown says Tories back on the old agenda. Brown lists objectives secured by the government and says Cameron should back the constitution. Brown quotes Ken Clarke saying the Tory position was absurd.

Cameron hits back by quoting Brown - who promised a vote and then backtracked. Cameron lists the good and the great who say that the constitution is the same. He presses him for the percentage that is the same. Brown continues to avoid the question, he falls back on a long-winded quote. Still no answer to Cameron's question. Tories getting restless.

Cameron asks why he doesn't wake up - and quotes the Trade Minister saying it is the same. Ah! say the Tories. Cameron says that if Brown wants to reintroduce trust into politics he will hold the vote. Brown says Cameron back to the old agenda - didn't take long after Ealing Southall by-election. Wheels are coming off the Tory bicycle ... lucky he has a car coming after him! Good joke, but Brown fails to answer the question again. Overall, a marginal win for Cameron but not his best performance.

Islington MP Emily Thornberry asks about the Royal Mail Strike. Brown says inflation is more important than wages.

LibDem MP Sir Robert Smith asks the PM to bring the British forces home from Basra and put them into Afghanistan. Brown says numbers are down and basically the answer is "no".

Mary Creagh, a Labour backbencher, asks about the need to change the law so that people are not scalded by hot water. Brown thanks her and says that she has done a great campaign. Guidance will be given to hot water installators. He will meet her.

Angus Robertson, SNP, says opinion polls puts Salmond ahead of Brown. Will he back Jack McConnell to be the Labour Leader? Yes, says Brown, and Labour have done well in Scotland. Hopes the SNP won't wreck the economy.

Lindsay Hoyle, Labour, asks if the government will back the new aircraft carrier building to support industry. Brown says yes.

David Heathcote-Amory, Conservative MP, asks what the PM will do to heal English and Scottish drift. Brown says 70% voted against independence ... throws it back to Cameron, does he support devolution?

Groans as Chris Bryant asks about child poverty - a good question, well put and those MPs who groaned must feel silly. Brown gives a list of statistics to show how Labour are making things better. Yawn. Nothing about the future here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Labour say vote for the candidate who lives closest to Bowthorpe

During our walkabout this morning I was passed a copy of the latest Labour leaflet by a resident. In it, the following classic line appears:

"In the end she [ Chrissie Rumsby, the former Labour Councillor ] lost her seat to a Tory who lives miles away by just 9 votes."

Oh, so it's a competition to see who lives nearer to the ward is it then? We won't go into the fact that both remaining Labour councillors live miles from the ward themselves, but that this really is a stupid-bordering-on-hypocritical stance to take.

When I lived in the ward and stood against dear old Ron Borrett who lived "miles away" in New Costessey and then again when he lived "miles away" in Eaton, Labour urged people to vote for the long-distance councillor Ron Borrett.

And next year, when Dereham Road resident Niki George (who lives a minutes walk from the ward) stands against City Centre resident Brenda Ferris (who lives "miles away") I wonder whom they'll want people to vote for then?

I notice that the great Leader Steve Morphew has taken over as agent ... not a great start then Steve!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

New Website Poll

Please take a few moments to check out the new poll on the frontpage of about the proposed academy at Heartsease High. The City Council is due to vote on the proposals on 8th August and we'd love to hear your views.

CCTV Please!

Today was a day back on the streets, knocking on doors and talking to people around Bowthorpe about key local issues.

Following the awful stabbing in Clover Hill village centre last week, we launched a new campaign "CCTV Please" asking people to sign a petition to get the council to introduce cameras and make the area safer. We had loads of people on the streets gathering signatures and we were really pleased to be backed by the police, the victim's sister and also the newsagents in the centre who have had their lives blighted by the anti-social behaviour in Clover Hill.

During the time we did a walkabout and made loads of notes about other issues - litter, graffiti and over hanging bushes - that can be dealt with to make the area nicer.

There was a good feeling on the street today - not just because we are championing a popular and important initiative but because somebody was taking action. A few residents around Peverell Road wanted to know why after 30 years representing the seat why Labour hadn't already done this. A good question!

We will keep the pressure on and are out delivering leaflets next week about this issue - more can be found here. This afternoon I met with John and Niki to plan our activites over the summer - a lot to do!

Baptism of Olivia Grace

A bit of deja-vue last Sunday as we baptised Olivia in much the same way as we did Emily two years earlier - same parents, same church, same priest and roughly the same people! There were, of course, 3 key differences - the Godparents for a start plus also the decision to switch from homemade jam butties to M&S platters!

Most strikingly though was that two years ago the only child present was Emily herself ... this time it was a real kids party with thes babes almost outnumbering the adults (or, given the noise, it felt so!) We must be at an age where all our friends are having children.

We were clearly trend setters! Our redoubtable priest, Father Tony McSweeney, very clearly took charge and even put my brother in his place! And we even managed (somehow) to get cleared out before evening mass at St. George's. A great day!
Photos: Top: Ft. Tony at work, Middle: The Godparents (Katie, Pauline & Chris), Bottom: The Parents & Olivia talking to God

Friday, July 20, 2007

Can you guess what it is yet?

Tonight: The Police, Clover Hill & Thatcher

I am going to spend an evening with the Norfolk police force tonight at one of their "meet-the-poice" events, held in Peverell Road, Clover Hill.. Both John Wyatt and myself are looking forward to getting to grips with this, ahead of tomorrow's campaign launch for the extension of CCTV into the Clover Hill village centre. Then when I get home ... a real treat! On Iain Dale's advice I have bought "Thatcher: The Final Days" on DVD. Friends who have seen it said there wasn't a dry eye in the house, even from rapid antt-Thatcherites. Am looking forward to it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Isaby on the Ealing Southall by-election

I very rarely re-post somebody else's stuff on here, but then I very rarely find something so interesting on the DT Blogs site. Here their correspondant Jonathon Isaby fisks the LibDems who fisked his original article linking LibDem success (or failure) in the Ealing Southall by-election to Sir Ming's political survival. I have no idea about the result tomorrow, other than what a relative who works in Southall told me about the campaign and the tales of another Norwich Conservative who made it down to help. But whatever the result, the LibDems have not come out of this well.

I want to respond to the comments to my blog posting of last Friday, in which I suggested that it would be a very bad result for the Lib Dems (and for the prospects of Sir Menzies Campbell's continued leadership) if they fail to win the Ealing Southall by-election on Thursday.

Sir Menzies Campbell's leadership will be tested by by-election
The comments would appear to come from Lib Dem sympathisers trying to downplay expectations, which is to be expected - but nevertheless worthy of further scrutiny.

Firstly, Martin Lowe reminded us that "Ealing Southall is a strong Labour seat (the previous MP had a 11,400 majority), with the Tories and LibDems more or less in joint second place. I don't think it can fairly be said to be a crushing blow for the LibDems should they not gain this seat."

True, the result in 2005 was a large Labour majority with the second and third-placed parties close together. Indeed the figures were thus:

Labour - 22,937 (48.8%)Lib Dem - 11,497 (24.4%)Conservative - 10,147 (21.6%)
Labour majority - 11,440 (24.3%) ie, Lib Dems need a swing of a little over 12% from Labour to win the by-election.

But now compare the Ealing Southall result with that of Dunferline and West Fife in 2005:
Labour - 20,111 (47.4%)Lib Dem - 8,549 (20.2%)Scot Nat - 8,026 (18.9%) Labour majority - 11,562 (27.3%) ie, Lib Dems needed a swing of just under 14% to win the seat.

In the by-election in Gordon Brown's back yard of Dunfermline and West Fife in February 2006, just five weeks after the death of the previous Labour MP, the Lib Dems did indeed gain that seat - from virtually the same position as they start in Ealing Southall - on a swing of a tad over 16%. Why shouldn't observers of this election cite that as a comparable situation? And lest we forget, that Lib Dem by-election triumph was attained when the party didn't even have a leader!

The second criticism of my analysis was from Olly Kendall, who said that it was "inflated media expectation" to suggest that the Lib Dems could and should be winning this kind of by-election.

Well all I can do is to ask readers to consider what I read in the clutch of Liberal Democrat leaflets I picked up I went to the constituency on Saturday:

"This time [Lib Dem candidate] Nigel can beat Labour... The Conservatives are out of the race here""He [Nigel Bakhai] looks set to pull off a stunning victory""He [Bakhai] is set to be our next local MP"

If those are the messages the Lib Dems are putting out on their literature, surely it's fair for the media to judge them by their own publicly-stated expectations?

From the few hours I spent in the constituency on Saturday, it seemed to me that it is the Conservatives who are making the serious challenge to Labour on this occasion - running the kind of effective local campaign, using tactics more usually associated with the Liberal Democrats.

We obviously wait with interest to see the real result on Thursday night, but based on what the Lib Dem literature is saying, the party is setting itself up for a fall if its candidate comes in trailing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Times: Two more Labour defections to the Conservatives in Ealing

According to The Times, a further two Labour councillors have quit to join Tony Lit's campaign. Tom Watson must be spitting blood tonight and the LibDems will be holding their heads in their hands. Cameron and Shapps are doing a great job and whatever the result, there is no doubt that Lit has the best campaign.

UPDATE: I am grateful to Andrea, as always, who points out that they are Southall residents but former Councillors. The Times doesn't make that at all clear. Either way, a good catch and will keep the big mo' with Lit.

LibDem haven't cut tax ... how odd

Donal Blaney on 18DS has just reminded us that the LibDems are in power in Scotland and dozens of councils around the country and have never cut tax, despite the fact that they could. Good point ... so why should we trust them now?

Iain Dale also points to the fact that the LibDems have argued for higher taxes over the last 3 elections and have now switched. Have they accepted the political arguement for lower taxes? Dale once said that politics was like football - nobody switches from high tax to low tax like nobody switches from City to United.

The more I read about this, the more and more I feel we can't trust this LibDem plan.

LibDem Tax Plans

The LibDems often tell us that they hate the headline grabbing antics of Labour and the bandwagon jumping of the Conservatives. Yet they managed to achieve both today with their tax cut plans. Apparently they will cut tax, raise tax thresholds and support businesses, all by increasing the tax on the super-rich and increasing green taxes. Apparently this is fairer. It may well be, but it also doesn't add up. Iain Dale does a pretty good fisk of the policy here.

However, and I urge the Tories not to fall into this trap either, politicians seem to think that green taxes are dreadfully popular and will pay for nearly everything you want (in the same way that "cutting costs" used to). Green taxes are a good thing, but they are not sustainable. If you are taxing bad things like flying short haul then you have to accept that people will not fly (if not, then the green taxes aren't very green and don't work!). If people don't fly then you don't raise the tax. And thus your tax take falls. So how will the LibDems pay for their tax cuts in two, three, four years time? Will they then raise tax again or cut spending on health and education? Green taxes sound good but in themselves cannot have a tax policy built upon them.

Please, by all means, raise green taxes to support the environment - but don't think it will last to provide meaningful long-term tax cuts. It won't.

It may have got short term headlines, but I think this may cause the LibDems a long term headache.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Political Tennis

There seems to be real churn at the moment in politics with an MP, several councillors, association officers and activists flying all over the shop. But the most bizarre is that of the sixth Labour Councillor in Ealing Southall - a real ding-dong battle worthy of Wimbledon. Here are the highlights!

A lovely serve by Iain Dale, who announces that a sixth Labour councillor has quit to join the Tories. This, linked with the double Colchester LibDem defection could be match point for Cameron.

Labour campaign manager Tom Watson does a perfect return saying that she hasn't quit and is ready to take legal action against Dale whom she claims has slurred her. It looks like a spritied fightback...

Then a fantastic backhand return by Iain Dale, saying he has evidence that she was ready to defect and CCHQ claim she has been bullied by Labour into staying put.

I'm glued to my lap-top over how this game ends! 30-15 to Mr Dale so far ... I await the return play by Mr Watson.

Two LibDem Councillors defect to the Conservatives

The Conservatives have won overall control of Colchester Borough Council following the defection of two councillors from the LibDems (via a fortnight as Independents). This will come as a blow to local LibDem MP Bob Russell who is doing a good job annoying local people and dividing his party.

Like opinion polls, individual defections mean nothing. It's the trend that counts.

William Hill: It's between Tony Lit and Labour in Ealing Southall

One of the many tricks that the LibDems use in by-elections is to lay plenty of money on their candidate in the hope of forcing down the odds and making it look like they have momentum in the campaign. They can then say to people that even the bookies agree that only the LibDems can beat X, where X is any party you care to name.

Today William Hill opened the betting on the bitterly fought Ealing Southall by-election with Labour as favourites and Conservative Tony Lit as second favourite. The LibDems are a poor third - meaning, by LibDem logic, that only Tony Lit can beat Labour! Is this as a result of genuine Tory momentum in the campaign? I've no idea, but I'm sure there'll be a few more seething LibDems out there - one told me a week or so ago that this was theirs to win. It seems that Lit and Cameron (plus the electorate) think otherwise.

Monday, July 09, 2007

LibDem Councillor says to vote for Tony Lit in Ealing Southall (apparently it's between Tony Lit and Labour - the LibDems can't win here!)

LibDem Councillor Abid Latif Chohan has urged people to support Conservative candidate Tony Lit in the Ealing Southall by-election, saying that the LibDems can't win the seat and are being out-campaigned by the Tories. So, that's at least one honest LibDem we know of!

5 (yes, FIVE) Labour Councillors defect to the Conservatives in Ealing Southall

The story of five Councillors defecting on a local authority would make the news both locally and nationally - it would swing control of a large number of councils too - but these defections have a great deal of importance because they happened in a parliamentary seat where Labour are trying to fight off a strong Tory challenge. As I've said before, defections are pretty nasty things which tend to dominate for a few days before leaving the defector(s) largely as lame ducks and the people not properly represented. However when a group of councillors do it then you have to ask questions about the dynamics of that political group or the council.

Well done to Tory elections boss Grant Shapps MP for this one and it will give Tony Lit a real boost - but it says more about Ealing Labour. Sir Ming will be seething I'm sure!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Relentlessly Negative

In the same week that David Cameron promises that the Conservatives will be "relentlessly positive" (apart from PMQs, I note) I recieved a rather irrate complaint from a Town Close resident about the LibDems latest leaflet.

Apart from the mathematically incorrect bar chart, portraying dodgy statistics without any explanation (a staple part of any LibDem leaflet) the newsletter has two stories pushing the tactical vote in Norwich. Two stories? Don't they have anything else to say? I haven't seen it but I am told it is negative from beginning to end. Do they ever learn? Why don't the LibDems link their negative campaigning with their electoral defeat in Norwich ... people want to vote for people who stand for something, as opposed to people who simply say "we aren't the other lot"!

I also urge the LibDems to read the election results, because the party that won certainly wasn't us and it certainly wasn't them...

Soapbox Hypocrites

The BBC report on the welcome news of a budget airways route from Stanstead to New York included some clips of what people thought of this from pasisng people at the airport. Cue two rather smug people complaining loudly about the environmental impact and carbon footprint of this initiative ... just before they themselves boarded a planet-destroying flight!

Isn't it odd how these people think they should be able to fly where they like and it's OK but everyone else should be ashamed of their environment wrecking flying habits!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tory defector failed to be selected as Ealing Candidate

The LibDems are doing much crowing about the so-called defection of the Deputy Chairman of Ealing Southall Conservatives over the selection of local buisnessman Tony Lit. I had no problem with this and I thought the LibDems had done well with this coup, until I discovered here that Mr Gupta has himself applied to be the candidate and failed.

Such obvious sour grapes at his own failure is rather sad and pathetic and the party will be better off once these prima-donna's all depart. Are you in this for your community, your constituents, your party or yourself?

I actually feel rather sorry for Mr Gupta, who clearly became an Association Officer in order to become the next candidate, because all of that time and effort was wasted. By jumping ship he'll find himself as yet another failed LibDem council candidate. Shame.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the Tories outpolled the LibDems massivly at the last election and they only have one very lonely councillor on the Borough Council, compared to the majority Conservative controlled council! A rat joining a sinking ship?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cameron's bloodless coup

I don't think there is much to be said about today's shadow cabinet resuffle. Unlike some Tory bloggers I think that Caroline Spelman will do very well as Party Chairman and I think she will bat well for the party. I am disappointed that Francis Maude doesn't get a higher profile berth than Shadow Cabinet Office Minister and feel that the promotions of Teresa Villiers (Shadow Transport) & Chris Grayling (Shadow Pensions) are well deserved. The new boys in the team - Michael Gove (Shadow Schools), Herbert (Shadow Justice) and Hunt (Shadow Culture) are fine appointments and will really present a new face to the public. However, having said that I think that 2 more experienced heads in Eric Pickles (Shadow Communities) and Owen Paterson (Shadow NI) will add depth to the team. As a big supporter of Osbourne I am glad that he was given extra responsibility and that Hague is being given extra support in the foreign affairs team. A good job, if rather unspectacular.

However the really impresisve thing is the way that Cameron has managed to carry out a full reshuffle without spilling any blood on the carpet - everyone seems happy with this team and it has maintained real unity in the party. The only casualties were Hugo Swire and Oliver Heald - both of whom were pretty low profile and not quite up to the job. The other departing Shadow Minister is David Lidington who is apparently happy with his new job as Hague's No2. Now, I know that Cameron had the advantage of having to match Brown's new enlarged team and that gave him more positions to fill, but the way in which he has shuffled and carefully balanced the wings of the party is very impressive. Compare that to the leaving of Hewitt and Beckett after Brown's shuffle.

A good job well done Mr Cameron!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

British Library wants "Little's Log" for the nation

Along with such brilliant sites as, Little's Log had been chosen by the British Library to be archived for future reference and research work.

Around 150 blogs and sites nationally are involved and the British Library is choosing “sites of research value reflecting national culture and events of historical importance. These could include web pages focusing on key events in national life, museum web pages, e-theses, selected blogs to support research material and web-based literary and creative projects by British subjects.”

This means that my blog will be archived and preserved by the British Library so that my random musing will, unbelievably, be available to both current and future generations of researchers.

I feel very proud that a small-time blogger such as myself has been chosen from the thousands available. I have always meant this site to be focused on local politics and the happenings in Bowthorpe and City Hall, plus a few national insights and some details of my parliamentary campaigns. It has never sought to rival people like Iain Dale but be a resource for local people. My inclusion in the national e-campaigning work of the DCLG plus this news from the British Library are a real honour and I am very pleased to be involved. It is, I am told, a mark of the work that I have put into this and the unique style and character of my blog (whatever that means) - so thank you and also to the people that contribute through comments. I am delighted!

Better start checking my spelling now that I'm being recorded...

Another defector does well

Following his 24 hour burst of publicity, poor old deluded Quentin Davies looks like he is falling into obscurity already, however another recent defector seems to be doing rather much better. After the news that Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward has now been made Northern Ireland Secretary after being parachuted into a safe Labour seat, it seems that Labour switcher Rehman Christi has been chosen for the notionally Tory seat of Gillingham and now must be odds-on to join the Conservative benches after the next election. It seems a little 50:50 if defectors go on to do well at the moment. I wonder if any other Tory, Labour or LibDem MPs fancy their chances?

It always makes me think about Paul Marsden who quit Labour for the LibDems and then changed back a few years later.

Too Busy to Blog!

Apologies for the lack of posts this week - it's been hectic! Thursday I attended a campaign co-ordination meeting in Suffolk for the next general election. I am very impressed at the level of professionalism being put in by both CCHQ and by the Area team and the reports from the targets seats seem to be very positive and the level of activity from across the region should have Labour and the LibDems VERY worried!

Unfortunately Olivia has been sick and so I was able to attend the Ann Widdecombe dinner at Oxburgh Hall - which is a shame as she is always good value! However, Saturday came and we managed to get out to a friend's marriage blessing at St. Pauls in Hellesdon. They married in the USA but wanted to allow their friends and family who didn't get out there the chance to witness their vows. It was a lovely service and the highlight was the bride and groom taking the unusual step of doing their own music - literally! Heidi has an amazing voice and she sung with Christian playing the music. Amazing!

It was then over to the People's Republic of Dussindale for an exclusive drinks party involving a Waitrose-a-thon (don't ask). And then onto UEA for the 1990s reunion. Lou and I cannot believe it is 10 years since we started at UEA - almost the same length of time as Blair's reign. God it feels like a long time! There was a fantastic party in the Square and sitting out in the rain, supping on cheap booze and chatting to old friends it felt like I'd never left. It really was a who's-who of UEA alumni! Old flatmates, senior Tories, people from my course and those randoms who you recongise but just can't remember their names! The music was all 1990s and it was good to see Chesney and S-Club7 in the top 3 songs of the decade. Although was slightly miffed not to include Take That's "Relight my Fire" or Robbie William's "Angel". Well done UEA - you know how to throw a party!

I'm afraid the toll of a certain number of G&Ts was evident this morning and so the day has been spent recovering. Tomorrow and Tuesday I am out on a retreat day with Year 9 in Poringland so I better get an early night!

Questions & Answers

As I didn't blog about the recent full council meeting I thought I would update you on the question and answers given to give you some idea about the subjects that councillors are raising.

New elected Councillor John Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) asked how much the council was owed in rent arrears. Labour's Executive Member for Housing, Julie Westmacott, said that the council had failed to collect £1.6m this year and this was only forcast to fall to £1.4m next year. Cllr Wyatt accused the council of being cavalier with taxpayers money and lacking ambition in wanting to tackle the problem. Council Leader Cllr Morphew said that the Tory response was predictable and that the council was getting to grips with the issues.

I then asked if the council has a "zero-tolerance" approach to anti-social behaviour from council tenants, a subject that was raised time and again at the Clover Hill residents meeting. Cllr Westmacott launched a snotty answer which accused the Conservatives of suggesting that all council tenants were engaged in ASB. In bad tempered exchanges, I then asked if they would come to a CHARM meeting and explain to hard working decent tenants why they are out of order raising this problem, as they seemed I was in putting the question. Labour's Cllr Bremner, in replying gave a list of things the council was doing to cut ASB.

Cross-party harmony then broke out as Cllr Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove) congratulated the council on looking at brownfield infilling to solve the housing crisis and asked when the council survey on the use of garages was going to be published. Cllr Morphew replied that it would be released as soon as it was done.

Cllr Hooke (LibDem, Thorpe Hamlet), fresh from his 1 vote victory over the Greens, asked what the cost of the concessionary bus fares was going to be. Executive Member Brian Morrey replied that it was estimated at £1.35m but that this figure could change.

Due to the recent arson attack on her home, Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) wasn't there to hear the answer to her question about parking around St. Andrew's Plain. Cllr Morrey gave another stroppy answer - Lubbock faces a regular stream of these - in which he suggested that she already knew the answer. However Labour then promised a blitz on illegal parkers in the area, which I think was the point of Cllr Lubbock's question in the first place.

The Norman Centre has long been the central campaigning issue for all parties in the North of the City, and Cllr Carl Mayhew (LibDem, Mile Cross) is making a great play of this in the run up to his re-election campaign next year. However, once again, he walked into a bit of an elephant trap asking why it didn't open at weekends. Labour's Culture Member Brenda Ferris suggested he asked his LibDem colleagues - who cut the centre opening hours during their term in office in 2003. Cllr Mayhew had a rough meeting all-in-all suggestion later that councillor's shouldn't be given allowances. Oh dear. Desperate Carl then had the weight of all parties on his back...

Councillor Little (Green, Town Close) asked what consultation the City Council had done regarding the wi-fi system given the health risks. Cllr Morrey said it wasn't a city council function but that the county council thought that there were no risks. He suggested that Cllr Little write to the relevant government department.

Cllrs Watkins (LibDem, Eaton) and Dylan (Green, Mancroft) both asked about the council position on the Innes' project for the re-development of City Hall. Cllr Waters, in his usual fashion, said that members should control their enthusiasm for such schemes until the review of council property - including taking police opinions into account - were complete. He outlined the process, including a series of meetings.

Puddles occupied the mind of Cllr Bearman (Green, Town Close) this month complaining loudly (well, as loud as she gets) about puddles in the council's underground cycle store. How Cllr Waters kept a straight face answering this was beyond me - but he said that after work on the car park was complete then this would be a priority. Cllr Bearman complained that she waded through inches of water and this discouraged cycling. Cllr Waters couldn't agree more!

Cllr Hume (LibDem, University) clarified the rules of bulky collection for the elderly. Cllr Cooker, Lib Dem Leader and Lakenham Member, then asked how other group leaders would input into the renegotiation of the CityCare contract. Cllr Morphew said he had no idea but would raise it at group leaders meetings.

Housing was raised again - this time by Cllr Lowe (LibDem, Mancroft) - who asked why the length of time required to bring a house back into use had risen under Labour. Cllr Westmacott replied that the department has worked hard to address this and the time was now falling again.

Finally, the only Labour member to ask a question Cllr Cannell (Lab, Lakenham) asked what support the council gave to live music. Cllr Ferris replied "lots" and then gave an answer that I think was more planned for the media than for councillors interests. Too cynical perhaps?

And that was that for another few weeks...