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.