Friday, March 28, 2008

Tories announce local poll candidates

The Norwich Conservatives have announced the 13 candidates who will contest the local elections on 1st May, ensuring that everybody in the City has the chance to vote for a Conservative candidate.

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Antony Little said: "Everyone in the City now has a chance to vote for a hard working, common sense ConservativeCouncillor who will put tackling anti-social behaviour, cleaning up the streets and fighting for our Post Offices at the heart of their work."

"The Conservatives are a very different political party for Norwich - the only party that spoke up against the millions wasted on the unitary project and the only party that voted to freeze council tax levels this year."

"Last year we won the same number of wards as the LibDems and gained as many seats as the Greens. Every year we win more votes and more Councillors. This year could be crucial, and every new Conservative Councillor will mean we have a better chance of a value-for-money council that puts residents first."

The full list of candidates is:
Bowthorpe - Niki George
Catton Grove - John Fisher
Crome - Ernie Horth
Eaton - Niall Baxter
Lakenham - Eileen Wyatt
Mancroft - Andrew Wiltshire
Mile Cross - Clive Smith
Nelson - Malcolm Chamberlin
Sewell - David Mackie
Thorpe Hamlet - Matthew Davison
Town Close - Tak Man Li
University - Paul Wells
Wensum - Mike Gillespie

The Police & Political Harrassment

Yesterday I called the police.

A few days ago I wrote this post about the behaviour and maturity of a number of members of the National Committee of the Liberal Youth. A day later, during a council meeting, I recieved an extremely rude text message from an unknown number referring to that post. I also rejected a number of very, very abusive comments on this blog.

The next morning I recieved a number of calls from various companies saying I had requested information on their services. These calls were taken by my wife and we were both a little bit shaken by them all coming so close together. In each case, my name and mobile phone number were given. I enquired further and discovered that each internet log was made within minutes of the text message arriving.

I absolutely reserve the right to pass comment on my political opponents as they would about me. We then thrash out differences in a debate and then a vote - ironically we were doing just that, with myself and Brian Watkins locking horns for the first time, when the text arrived. However, I do not and will not tolerate abuse nor the abuse of my name and contact details. Or indeed anything that brings my family into it.

It was very immature, deeply disturbing and not knowing what was to come I phoned the police and gave them these details. The police phoned the number of the texter and they were warned about their behaviour and told not to do so again. All this was done in half an hour (remarkably kind, sensitive and polite service it was too.)

Whoever it was, and I do not seek to point the finger, but the link between the post, the text and the calls is too obvious to miss. But whoever did it has absolutely no concept of the way a democracy works or how to conduct themselves in public life.

I am writing this post not to "name and shame" them but to lay down a marker for everyone who is fed up of the mindless, childish behaviour of a few people in society.

All this talk of second preferences...

The moment Jack Straw blurted something out about the use of AV at elections, against the current political backdrop of the SV London Mayoral election, you knew that political hacks would spend more time wondering about the use of second preferences rather than solving any political issues.

I would hate the concept of being elected on the back of second preferences, particularly if I had not won at least a plurality of first preferences. You become the least disliked candidate rather than the partially popular one.

But true to form, I found myself talking to an old school friend who still lives in London today. Naturally the conversation turned to politics and knowing that she had never stuck with the same party for two elections running, I asked which Mayoral candidate got her X,

"Well, Boris, of course..." came the reply. OK then, I enquired, what about your second preference?

"A second preference? I don't have one because Boris is going to win."

Of course, I thought, you only think of the second preference when your candidate is obviously going to lose. So the sight of Ken, Paddick and the Green candidate all slogging it out for second preferences amused me greatly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Comments I Won't Publish

As a great believer in freedom of speech, there are few things I won't allow to be published as comments on this blog. If you look through the comments you will see that I like debate, I encourage feedback and have a very thick hide!

However, if your comment is a string of abuse with absolutely no intellectual comment whatsoever, expect it not to be published. I guarantee you that I will take less time and effort deleting it than you will writing it in the first place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How could a Minister be so stupid?

Margaret Hodge, a Culture Minister, has found herself in the middle of a most bizarre row over free entry into Norwich museums. The MP was drafted into the City in order to support Labour's re-election bid and they used the chance to announce a headline-grabbing pledge to make entry into museums free. However, there is always a catch ...

... The pledge is only if Norwich gets unitary. And even then, only if Labour gets control (increasingly unlikely - the Council will be Tory is the boundaries are wide enough). So, Norwich Labour are now writing the budget and service plans for a council that doesn't yet exist. And poor Cllr Ferris says that the unitary council won't need the funding from the museums. How on earth does she know this?

And despite these rather obvious flaws in the plans - obvious enough for most people - the Minister insisted on welcoming the ideas, despite knowing they can't fulfill the pledge.

Typical Labour, but it says a lot about one Labour Councillor who'll do anything to be re-elected and one Labour Minister who'll say anything she's told.

Worrying side of the Liberal Youth

I had been entertaining myself tonight with the lighter side of politics - browsing through the new website of the Liberal Youth, formerly LDYS. However on reading some of the profiles of the people involved it has worried me a great deal about the type of person getting involved on the organisation.

The new Chairman, Mark Gettleson, claims he most wants to be like Chancellor Palpatine - the eveil Emperor in the Star Wars films, who committs mass murder and genocide. He plunges the universe into an imperialistic state and dominates by force. Hmmm, not exactly a Liberal icon?

The Campaigns Chief, Adi Smith, chooses his historical hero as Nikita Khruschev - I'm not even going there with this one, but this seems a bizarre choice for anyone, let alone an aspiring LibDem MP.

And then there is the "hilarious" Jon Massey who idolises Papa Smurf ... please do not let this man near any actual political power.

Bearing in mind that other members of their Exec chose Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, David Lloyd-George, Roy Jenkins, Gladstone or Elizabeth I then it shows that decency does have its place in Liberal Youth!

Now, I'm no old fart and I know that political youth organisations will contain people who are a bit wacky, but these choices made in a public arena must make you question their judgement. And the fact that one of them is Chairman makes it worse.

If I were the LibDems, I'd want this brand new organisation sorted out from the beginning - or its gonna make for some bad headlines for Nick Clegg, who has personally associated himself with them.

If Gordon Brown doesn't want to be seen as a ditherer, he better stop dithering

The government climbdown on the embryo bill will be seen as 2 things - firstly a triumph for David Cameron who has used PMQs to personally association himself with the call for a free vote, and secondly another dithering disaster for the Prime Minister who has once again been forced into a retreat, this time by his own side.

But, I say, if you are are doing to dither then only do it once. The PM's ill-fated compromise may not yet be enough - he's only promised Labour MPs a free vote on 3 clauses of the bill and he will then whip them on the third reading. So if any of the morally controversial aspects stay in the Bill, then any Labour MP who opposed them before will have to vote for them at the end. Oh dear ... how can they vote against it one minute and then for it the next? Not good at all, so I expect the PM will be forced into another climbdown before the vote is taken. And he wonders why people think he dithers...

Watkins is new LibDem Leader

Congratulations to Cllr Brian Watkins for taking the leadership of the LibDems on Norwich City Council. Brian is a hard working, positive and decent man who has made a big impact on the Council; he is taking on the toughest job in Norwich politics at the moment and I do hope that the impending slaughter of LibDem candidates next May won't reflect on him personally. I look forward to working with you, Brian!

UPDATE: According to an impeccable source, at least 2 other LibDem Councillors are annoyed to have been passed over - one is "a little peeved", the other is "fuming". I wonder if there was a contest election? As the LibDems claim to be so honest and open I'm sure they'll tell us!

LibDem one trick pony looking increasingly desperate

A while ago I argued that the LibDem foxes were one-by-one being shot and the party would end up clinging to Iraq as their last desperate piece of political populism. Nick Clegg must have thanked his lucky stars that so much time and media coverage has been dedicated to the "5 years since the Iraq war" stuff, because its the only way he's made headlines since being elected (well, positive headlines anyway ... he got those ones about the EU Referendum, remember!).

The Iraq war is something that the electorate seems to have moved on about (judging by the response on the doorsteps in Norwich and from other colleagues around the country) and yet the LibDems don't seem to have.

So instead of formulating a really exciting policy idea - like removing failing schools from LEA control - they launch a website reminding people who voted for the war (see here). The sad thing is that it pretends not to be a LibDem front and no matter which MP you have or how they voted, you are encouraged to print off an anti-Tory poster to display in your window to remind you about Conservative support for the war, rather than the government who led us into conflict. So, they've managed to achieve a very rare political double act.

They've managed to look utterly irrelevant AND shown how desperate and scared they are of the Cameron resurgance.

Friday, March 21, 2008

LibDem Leader (plus 5 of his Councillors) quit

The worst kept secret in City Hall is that a volley of LibDem Councillors are to quit before the election on 1st May. Along with departing Leader Cllr Cooke (Lakenham), out go Cllrs Mayhew (Mile Cross), Hume (University), Hartley (Town Close), Surridge (Thorpe Hamlet) and Lowe (Mancroft).

Of course all have served the council well - as Lord Mayors, Executive Members and in council and on committees.

Of course, there are some cynics wandering around the place commenting that EVERY LibDem in a marginal seat is quitting, perhaps before they are soundly beaten.

I say this is, of course, not true.

After all, Judith Lubbock is staying on to be beaten!

UPDATE; Hereward tells the EDP he still expects his party to do well. I wonder if he'll make a prediction on how many seats they'll win!

Full Council: Too Litte, Too Late?

Rather like a football team stuck to the bottom of the league who suddenly get 3 points on the last day of the season, the LibDems used the last full council meeting of the year to good effect; in fact, from their point of view, it is a shame that few people will appreciate their strongest performance since I was elected.

We experienced a sustained attack on the Labour executive from 3 members of the public, all of whom put down questions regarding traffic calming on Mount Pleasant. I thought they did extremely well - some people don't like taking on Councillors and others waffle for ages, but this trio of residents made poor old Cllr Brian Morrey (Lab, Catton Grove) look like an idiot and made their point very effectivly. How, they asked, would the 20mph zones be enforced? Don't know, said Morrey, ask the police. So how much money is put aside for traffic calming on Mount Pleasant? 25k says Cllr Morrey - but thats for the consultation! Hang on, say residents, how much traffic calming could that buy in itself? I'd love to see more of these intelligent, articulate residents taking on a political establishment that seems to be totally divorced from reality. Well done to all of them.

We then formally nominated the BBC's Roy Waller as the new Sheriff.

I'm sure that the Treasury Management Strategy Report is vital and needs to be debated by full council, but from the general standard of questions and answers you have to wonder why. The only decent questioning, if I might be so bold, came from the Conservatives. Cllr Eve Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove) tore through the figures - actually probably so well that the breadth of questions was lost. Cllr John Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) asked how the council balance the ethical and financial nature of investment and I asked about the £80m debt that the councilo has and what would happen to it under unitary - "is this Norwich's final legacy to the districts around us?" Even super-clever Labour Cllr Alan Waters (Crome) couldn't answer and so an officer did. The trouble is that the political back-and-forth you could have with an Exec member isn't really possible across the chamber with an officer.

Chair of Scrutiny Cllr Stephenson (Green, Nelson) then reported back on the Year of Exercise & Sport Motion that said we didn't have the time, money or resources to complete. It was all plodding along fine, including the LibDem Brian Watkins (Eaton) who originally proposed the motion accepting the verdict when his ward colleague Judith Lubbock lept up to declare that if we stopped spending money on other things - such as the works on Unthank Rd - then we could afford this. Sadly, of course, Cllr Lubbock misses the point about budget streams but she does have a point regarding waste as council level. How curious the LibDems should discover this so close to an election!

We then turned to yet another one of Brian Morrey's hobby-motions - this time World Water Day. If it is a good cause, add the word "hour, day or week" to the end and Cllr Morrey will propose it. Of course it is right and proper to talk about water usage and supply, but as Cllr Lubbock made the point forcefully, it is barking that the council doesn't monitor its use or try to save money by cutting down. This turned from a fluffy motion, as hoped by Cllr Morrey, into a political bunfight. However, step up again Cllr Watkins who made a blistering attack on the envrionment policies of the government. If this was a pitch for the LibDem leadership, no other candidate need apply. It was excellent - well pitched and timed too. Luckily, with all this excitement, we had the other Cllr Little (Green, Town Close) to give a speech so dull some of us forgot what the motion was. Three cheers to the Lord Mayor for being so accurate with his allocated time slot...

Cllr Hereward Cooke's last motion to council - on Restorative Justice - also found cross party support and he spoke passionately for the concept. The Conservatives raised a few objections, and a few realities, but it still managed to find its way to the executive ok.

Cllr Lubbock stepped into the fray at the end of a long meeting to ask for council's support in opposing the HGV usage of the Newmarket Road bus lane. Well done her but she looked vaguely surprised when I suggested that one solution to traffic in the city was building the NDR...

It was, overall, a fun and boisterous pre-election meeting. We have another one on Wednesday to hear a damning government verdict on our accounts. 7.30 in City Hall if you are free!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cameron's Family Values

In what was meant to be an aside to the launch of the Tory families policy, the political story has appeared to move onto the decision of Leader David Cameron to invite the ITN cameras into his home to film the family at work and play (read more here). Actually I believe this can only add to the news coverage of what are set to be an excellent set of policies.

So should Cameron have done this? Undoubtably the answers is that this is a personal choice. Tony Blair played the family card really well and benefited; clearly Brown isn't going to, and thats his choice. I actually think Cameron is right about one thing - the British public want to know what makes him "tick" and if we are to have this man as our next Prime Minister we'd want to know more about the kind of man he is.

I have never used my wife or family on any party political campaigning (although we did get our picture in the paper when Emily was born - a media hit that wasn't reproduced for Olivia, may I add) but I do talk about my children both on this blog and on the doorstep - because they shape who I am and what my political beliefs are. People ask if I have a family and I always reply to them, normally in gushing terms!

Louise is ultra-shy when it comes to publicity and politics; she married me, not my career. She stays out of everything; occassionally coming with me to a fundraiser or even but her focus in life is being a great mum and a great teacher. She isn't a trophy Tory-wife and I don't expect her to fawn by my side at events and suchlike. If she ever chose to get involved, I'd support her, but I don't think it's likely! She supports me 110% - by keeping my feet on the ground, telling me when I'm being an idiot and occassionally smacking me with reality. That's more important to me than anything else.

So, if Samantha Cameron was fine by it then why shouldn't Cameron open his doors to the news, and thus by extension the nation? That's what personal choice is all about; I may not do it, but I admit I was fascinated by the news coverage.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Random Thoughts on QT

Is it me, or is Charles Kennedy on Question Time roughly every few weeks? Or does it just feel like it? Or do they have so few decent speakers they have to recycle them so often!

Question One: Budget
Fantastic start by George Osborne; attaches budget with fluency; big clap.

BTW, John Denham is very good and George Osborne seems to be playing a blinder! Big claps for the Shadow Chancellor and for tax cutting too!

Kennedy - a slow start; says Darling is hitting rock-bottom.

Woman in audience blaming Tories for everything (is it me, or was the ERM a long time ago now?)

Wow - lady in audience slates Labour and says they must take responsibility and stop blaming the Tories - biggest clap of the night so far.

Denham says Labour have done some good; starts listing "tractor production" style figures. Says he wants to be accountable for record.

Leading businesswoman Louise Horlicks says that the East is financing the debt of the West; she is very much on top of this brief and comes across as clever and rational.

Lady in audience says Chancellor is hypocritical for saying "stability" 22 times despite poor predictions of worse for the future!

Man says that politicans should agree and stop bickering; I totally disagree with this - we need debate in politics. If we all agreed, it wouldn't be democracy! I hate this glib statement that people throw out.

Salmond says Scottish parliament is all about agreement; Osborne says he gets on better with Darling than Brown; Osborne cites education reform as an example of cross-party co-operation.

Second Question: Swearing oath of allegance to Queen
Salmond says its daft; its all Monty Python! Good line to take IMHO. Ruins it by saying he won't take allegance to Britain - makes him look petty and rudely nationalistic. A mistake now.

John Denham says it won't work - causes division. An innovation too far, suggests DD - quite, says Denham. Says he wants debate about Britishness. Attacks Salmond - good on him - for not wanting to see Britishness.

School leaver in audience calls for pupils to be taught about monarchy/political system.

17-year-old in audience says that we should unite around sport rather than monarchy.

LibDem Kennedy says he doesn't agree with idea; says he is only British third - and then European! Deafening silence from audience - another blunder. Kennedy not on good form. Calls for a debate (standard answer from all palenists now).

Audience member says Queen is irrelevant. Horlick says sport is a good way to integrate; calls for more money to be spent on sport; Osborne says all these issues are part of the answer. Osborne is fluent and sensible - but dull on this question. Osborne quoting a Rabi. Gets a good clap from those still awake.

Question Three: Cameron's use of his children as Tories prepare to launch childcare policies - a publicity stunt?
Horlicks says its his personal choice - got his wife's OK for it. It's good if politicans show another side to them.

Kennedy says that he has never featured his son in this way, but he wouldn't attack Cameron because its his decision.

Audience member says it gives the media free reign now.

Salmond responds that it is a choice for Cameron, but that he wouldn't put his family forward. Attacks on family always upset politicians.

Denham says its personal choice too - Tony Blair did it. Says he used his 5 year old daughter in election leaflet in 1992, but says he regrets it now. Now challenges Cameron on Tory childcare policies in the past. DD says that Denham must be pleased that they've changed - Denham looks slightly awkward.

Osborne says that Leader of the Opposition is different because people want to know more about them and thus there will be more interest in their families. Osborne says real issue is the policies. Says that this will motivate people to know more about Cameron and help the choice of the next PM.

Audience member says that although it is detailed to policy, it is a gimmick. Another says that the children have no choice.

A clear win for Osborne, but Denham did very well. Both Kennedy and Salmond made good points but slipped up whilst neither of the other 2 did.

Why the Tories are making the running on tax again

The issue of the total tax take in the UK is set to become one of the cornerstone issues at the next General Election. When the economy was good, people shrugged off Labour's various tax hikes with a sense that at least they were paying for the investment in "schools 'n' hospitals" that Blair told us all was vital. The new electoral rule was that tax cuts were a vote loser; because any tax cut could be expressed not in pounds and pence but in the number of schools shut or nurses sacked. And it worked.

Now the chickens from the last 10 years are coming home to roost and improvements in public services are clearly not coming fast enough, people are starting to query all this tax. Residents on the doosteps are starting to ask a few harsh questions of the government - why are we paying so much tax, why has it had to go up so much and ... more importantly, can I keep more of the money I earn?

Because without better public services, people are finally challenging the last reason they had for putting up with tax rises year-after-year. I hope Cameron does put the focus on the reform of public services rather than just the funding of them.

I now think the conditions are right for the Tories to talk about tax cuts without being accused of being service-slashers. The rules of the game have changed. Labour convinced people that tax cuts mean service cuts. Cameron now needs to convince people that tax cuts mean a fairer society and reform leads to better services.

I think that residents are now willing to listen to Cameron and the arguement is on our side.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Former LibDem Candidate defects to the Conservatives

The most interesting thing in the decision of one Cllr Sloan, a LibDem Councillor and former parliamentary candidate, to defect to the Conservatives is where he is from.

When a Manchester LibDem Councillor moved over to the Tories recently I said that it made the news because it suggested that Cameron was making moves in our big cities.

Cllr Sloan is from Hull; hardly a Tory stronghold and shows that people across the country are looking again at the Conservatives. I'm glad the people of Hull have a new Conservative representative and I hope Cllr Sloan does them proud and works hard.

Another Con Gain

So despite claiming he quit, it now turns out that Castle Point MP Bob Spink was sacked by the Tory Chief Whip tonight for trying to blackmail the party into saving him from a de-selection vote. Although we are sad that he has done this, it does open another winnable seat up and will join Grantham, Croydon Central and Bexley as definite "Con Gain" seats at the next election.

David Cameron has spoken about wanting a parliamentary party that reflects the country; I wonder if I could, tonuge-in-cheek, suggest that some sitting MPs are doing all they can to give him the chance by vacating their safe seats in new and interesting ways!

The Budget View from Earlham

As a political activist, the Budget is one of the great parliamentary set-pieces of the year. I could have gathered my A Level students around to watch it live and then spend the way bouncing from media outlet to blogs watching the reaction unfold.

However, given the utterly dull performance given by the Chancellor, Mr Darling, I am rather glad that didn't and I instead spent the evening with a team of campaigners in West Earlham. Amazingly, not a single person mentioned the budget on the doorsteps at all; but then, there wasn't much to mention.

So, the government got is figures wrong (again), booze and fags are to be taxed more and Darling cops out of any real reform at all. I suppose he was boxed in by the previous Chancellor - one, Gordon Brown - but still he could have done better than this, in terms of presentation if not actually policy changes. He was humiliated by David Cameron's strong, assured and detailed analysis and a few parliamentary speakers could learn something from Cameron about how to deliver a speech!

So given the budget was such a dud, I am pleased to have spent time on doorsteps rather than glued to the TV. We had a fantastic reception tonight, in roads that have traditionally not been good for us. What was marked is the number of people that said they would consider voting Conservative. I canvassed for the party in the mid-1990s; back then, barely more than a third of the country could ever see themselves as voting for us. From tonight, things are now very different. I'm sure Labour won't believe me, and because of their arrogance they wouldn't do anything even if they did, but they ought to be very worried indeed about the polling results in this community. Earlham believes Labour has failed them, and is actively looking for an alternative; it is now up to the Conservatives to step into the role of champion for the community.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Don't Take On Basher

David Davis is currently proving what an asset to the Conservatives he is, appearing on BBC's Question Time.

He crushed lil 'ol Ed Millband over ID Cards, and I'm sure the link "Orwell was meant to be a warning, not a template" will be recycled after tonight.

Good on him for taking on idiotic celebrity Marcus Brigstoke and his arguement that we shouldn't have a referendum on Lisbon because people hadn't read it. He concluded: "Are you honestly saying that we shouldn't get a vote because people can't understand it; are you saying the people in this audience can't cope with it? What a ridiculous conclusion."

And best of all, his attack on the utterly shameless Shirley Williams for her fence-sitting over Europe. She came out fighting OK, but being loud and rude doesn't make up for lacking an arguement. Then Basher asked her if it was "unimportant beause it doesn't need a vote" or "so important three of your frontbenchers had to resign over it". Williams blubbed for a few seconds, then he went for the throat again. Williams looked intellectually feeble, out-of-touch and just a little bit absurd for the whole programme; and her knock about with Davis just made it worse for her.

Warning, as if a warning is required, that you take on Basher at your peril!

Says it all, really....

Don't ask why but I am currently enjoying the repeat of Defence Questions from 3rd March on BBC Parliament and one thing is very evident. The Commons enjoyed packed Tory benches, one or two LibDems and others ... and a mere smattering Labour MPs (curious as they have 355 MPs in total so as a percentage. It says a lot about the seriousness with which Labour MPs take defence issues I suppose...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Is Clegg planning to make LibDem frontbench smaller as one silver lining of the Euro-fiasco?

One of the points I raised below was the massive size of the LibDem frontbench; roughly half of their parliamenarty party hold "senior" positions. It is notable that Nick Clegg has reshuffled his team by effectivly removing the jobs of the quitting MPs; Tim Farron's Countryside brief will move the Environment Spokesman Steve Webb, David Heath's Justice portfolio now moves to Home Affairs Spokesman Chris Huhne and Scottish/N.Ireland Spokesman Alistair Carmichael has his jobs moved to International Development Spokesman Michael Moore.

Firstly, this is fast moving - Clegg did this within an hour of their resignations, meaning he knew about them and has made these decisions before the ink was dry. I think that looks bad on him as a leader. Secondly this could, I'm informed, be part of a plan to slim down his top team in the future to ensure that less MPs can drag his party down by opposing his whip - after all, you can live with awkward backbenchers, but not with maverick frontbenchers.

Obviously Clegg will have to re-appoint a Justice Spokesman but Countryside, Scotland and N.Ireland are likely to be extra part time jobs for some poor unsuspecting LibDem MP. And when he does have the full reshuffle expect a bigger cull.

Nick Clegg: Utterly Useless

If the Liberal Democrats had any powerful men-in-grey-suits they should be striding towards Mr Clegg's office tonight to give him the roasting of his political life. His populist position on the Lisbon Treaty has failed on all fronts and now he must face the public backlash and the political crisis within his own party. How has it come to this?

Well, for reasons best left to Mr Clegg he decided against sticking to his 2005 election committment and backing a public poll on the Lisbon Treaty. Quite why is beyond me, but never mind. He then thought up a huge wheeze - go for the big referendum on the "in-out" question; he'll look mildly euro-realistic, it'll be an elephant trap for the Tory right and gets him out of his Lisbon hole. One problem - it was a rubbish plan.

Immediately people like me, who want Britain to say in Europe but don't see the need for a constitution/treaty would be disenfranchised. It's like saying if you won't play football then you won't play any ball game at all. Europe-with-Lisbon or no Europe at all. Actually, Mr Clegg, I want to be in Europe but without Lisbon. I want to play Rugby (if you follow my point).

Now Mr Clegg could have hidden behind political obscurity and hope nobody noticed this blunder, but then a dozen or so of his parliamentary party promised their electorate they'd vote for a referendum and this blew the lid off the plan. Again, Nick Clegg could have dealt with this - but he insisted on having a massive LibDem frontbench (half his party count as such) and so consequently a few of them held important posts and so having them resign looks bad.

He might still have escapes, but then he went on Newsnight last night and totally humiliated himself; firstly by being savaged by Paxo and then saying that Brown was u-turning but, of course, he wasn't at all... And then he chose the most barking of views; that he should three line whip his MPs into abstaining! So he's prepared to force his own side to resign over not making up their mind!

And today three senior members of his party quit and, from what I hear in Norwich, his party grassroots are in uproar. Not helped by the fact that 63 will be his magic number - the number of votes that the referendum was defeated by and also the number of MPs in his party.

So, Nick Clegg is utterly humiliated in a political crisis entirely of his own making. He could have avoided this at several points and didn't.

This issue is no longer about Europe, it's about Clegg's judgement. He should go home, learn the lessons, make up with his own party ... then start working on his reshuffle. Because I'm pretty sure a few LibDem MPs will be going to home to think about their future under Clegg.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Back on the Streets

Apologies for lack of posting about the campaign trail, but its so hectic at the moment there is so much to write that I don't know where to start! (So I didn't start ... you get the picture ...)

Yesterday a big group of us went to Clover Hill in Bowthorpe; and we found a fantastic reception on the doorsteps. One of the big problems in working with Niki George is getting him from door-to-door - he just wants to talk to people and they want to talk to him! Niki has managed to involve a lot of new people in his campaign and all they saw of him was the occassional glimpse whilst we canvass the rest of the street!

The campaign so far has seen a fair amount of "shadow boxing" with Labour; they've been saying some rather interesting things about us (as a party) and about me in particular. I'm sure this won't do them any good; the last time they tried this was against Eve Collishaw in Catton Grove last year and it spectacularly backfired. It did again this time - the voter said that because of Labour's attitude, she was willing to think about voting Conservative this time.

The issues that were raised were mainly centered around anti-social behaviour, road safety and recycling. Interestingly the bus lane was raised a fair few times and so was the whole unitary mess.

A good day out all-in-all; Bowthorpe Ward's shaping up to be another cracker!

Mother's Day!

We've had a great day in our house and I am rather pleased to say that Louise had no idea what we had planned for her in the morning!

After the complusory lie-in and breakfast in bed (at which she wasn't prepared for a two-girl fight over a pain-au-choc - Emily won, but Olivia gave as good as she got) came the present. Now Daddy really wanted to buy Mummy a smoothie maker, but as he has foolishly promised a nearly-3-year-old that she could choose, Mummy instead got a ...

... toy sweet shop. Well, the shop was a toy but the sweets were very much real. Emily loves playing shop - she has a great imagination - but Olivia seemed to be more into shoplifting than paying for her goods. Oh well ...

Then after this I managed to completely pull the wool over her eyes by arranging a surprise lunch at a new restaurant in the City, complete with family and friends on standby. Louise was totally stunned; more so for the fact she almost managed to walk past everyone she knows! The food was amazing and service very good; the restaurant was heaving and I don't think I've seen anywhere that busy in a long time - but newly opened restaurants and Mother's Day seems to attract a lot of people! Then from there, back to ours...

A really fun day out; the girls have been non-stop so we're both shattered. Now settling down for an evening working on election material. A great end to a great day!