Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another day, another Lib Dem defection...

Yesterday the LibDem Group Leader on Sedgemoor Councillor quit and joined the Tories; a pretty impressive move for a group leader in many ways. Apparently he wasn't happy with the way that the LibDems were moving nationally.

Then Richmond Councillor Marc Cranfield Adams announced he was defecting to the Tories during a full council meeting (what a show off!). And now we hear that Cllr Janet Hedges, of Epping Forest, is Cameron's newest recruit.

Does all this matter? I used to think not, but a friend of mine pointed out that Thatcher's political base in 76-79 was built upon defections because people move towards the winners. The Sun is now backing Boris (the first Conservative endorsement since before 1997) and now the Telegraph is openly talking about the first parliamentary defection to the Conservatives (we've had a couple of MEPs but no MPs as yet).

Picking off LibDems, who are let's face it, struggling to say the least, is the easy bit - can Cameron start to lure Labour?

Happy St George's Day

Well, it's been a while ... Sorry for the lack of posting and even the lack of putting up comments but a mixture of frantic campaigning and then putting my back out has really done me in. Last Tuesday I stood up too quickly in church and couldn't move - literally. I've never had any back problems before and since then the doctors have been trying various combinations of drugs to try and help me. Things are looking a bit better now (I've motivated myself to blog) but the only time I'm not in pain is when I am walking - standing and sitting are both pretty painful and even getting in and out of bed is a problem! But enough of that, it's St. George's Day so let's celebrate!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Norwich City Council: UEA Students need not apply

Every now and again you hear of a story so sad that it explains why so few people give up their time for local democracy.

I have just spoken to a resident who lives in Eaton and who had been canvassed by the Liberal Democrats for the election. On telling the canvasser that he was voting Conservative, she told him not to vote for "the student" and he was "21 and would leave soon".

Apart from the fact that UEA Student and Conservative candidate Niall Baxter has made Norwich his home, including finding a house and a job, it is really rude and patronising to suggest that UEA students cannot be councillors and fully contribute to their adopted-home City.

Maybe this LibDem canvasser - actually, a very senior Councillor as it happens - thinks I should never have stood? Maybe she doesn't want UEA Students to stand full stop ... I wonder what UEA Students who are currently having their votes courted by the LibDems would think of this?

We already know that the LibDems have a problems with teachers serving as Councillors - they made that quite clear (see here), but now they are ruling out students too. Maybe they want civic responsibility to be the preserve of the wealthy middle class housewives with a lot of time on their hands?

We need a diverse council representing our whole City - students, teachers, young, old, black, white, male and female. I am proud of all of our candidate; I just wonder why the LibDems can't be more positive and honest in their campaigning?

Actually, I think this shows how much they are running scared at the moment - I hope the people of Eaton see through this shabby, shallow trick and the student voters around Norwich now know who isn't worthy of their support.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bizarre Tax Changes

Thanks to Brown's last budget I, as a middle manager and teacher on post-threshold pay, am significantly better off because of his tax changes.

Thank you, Mr Brown.

However, my wife, as a part time primary school teacher, is significantly worse off.

Together I think we do end up better off, but why? Why is the lower income earner hit whilst my tax goes down? And why if income taxes are to fall should they do so on us?

This was a topic of conversation in school today; a lot of the teachers were much better off whilst many of our support staff colleagues - admin, cleaners and dinnerladies - were down in the dumps. Many of them swearing they won't vote labour on 1st May.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Who is Samir Jeraj?

Apparently he is the Green candidate for Town Close Ward, where I live, and must be odds-on to be our next councillor, especially as the LibDems seem to have given up on a ward they used to regard as safely theirs.

However, I do chat to a lot of my neighbours and nobody knows anything about him. How long has he lived in Norwich? What does he do for a living? What's his background?

He could just be a political newcomer, and you can't be criticised for not having a political background if you are new to the game, but it is noticeable that their newsletter which was delivered today makes no reference to who he is or what his background is.

I should, of course, delcare an interest. Of the 4 candidates going for this seat, the Conservatives have by far the most well known - businessman Tak Man-Li, who went to school at the Hewitt and whose family still live and work in the ward. I think people should know about their candidates and the Greens, who are normally very good at this, don't seem to have given out much information. People want to know.

Anyone got an answer?

I have just been passed this email from Niki George, our candidate for Bowthorpe, who recieved it from a constituent. This is not the first person to mention this - in fact I had a resident wave his card at me whilst out canvassing yesterday.

This moring I received my free bus pass in the post from the Cuty Council, a bit late maybe but no real issues with that. What is concerning me is the apperent free blantant advertising of the Labour party within the design.

Not only the red ribbon but also the red rose in the top left corner, it might be argued that this is just a design, but in my view it is too close the the labour colours and motiff to be anything else but advertising the labour party.

Is the delay in bring these cards out so close to the local elections anything to do with the so called logo or am I being cinical (nothing unusual in that), I take this logo and design extreamly personal I am concerned that money has been wasted yet again, and has this money been spent illegally on pre advertising prior to the elections.

Anybody know how or why this rose got there? If it isn't for something specific then Labour have some real questions to answer. Already they are in trouble for launching a massive government advertising blitz - on Safer Neighbourhood Teams and tougher immigration rules - in the lead up to the election. This could be serious.

Labour's Growth Agenda: Concrete the Countryside

I understand that Labour have had to admit that their planned growth agenda around Norwich and Norfolk can no long be contained within brownfield sites and greenfield sites would have to be used to hit govenrment targets. This is both a disaster and totally unacceptable. We were always sold on the growth agenda on the basis it wouldn't mean concrete on the countryside. Conservatives in Norwich have been critical of the plans - not least challenging the finances for the infrastructures, concerns over water supply and worries about employment for the new population. This latest news could be the death knell for the plans.

Of course, the weak-willed may claim that there is nothing we can do about this, but why must councils always be complicit in doing the government's dirty work? I look forward to Labour Councillors joining us in this. Why don't councils - of all colours, blue, green or whatever - stand up and say no. Our residents deserve nothing less.

My Union Journey

I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of NUT Leader Steve Sinnott; not least because of the human tradgedy of passing away at what is really such a young age. However, I am not surprised to hear that the strike planned for 24th April will go ahead.

The NUT is a union that I'd like to be a member of, but can't quite bring myself to do it. When I first started teaching I joined the ATL because people said it was the union for Tories; because of their no-strike policies. I don't have a no-strike policy - I reserve the right to strike but under extreme circumstances, and I mean "extreme". However my local branch of the ATL seemed totally uninterested in campaigning for the rights and conditions of teachers. They were good at being a union and legal backstop but failed on the proactive stance I wanted.

The NUT is more of the kind of thing I wanted - taking the government firmly and loudly to task for their education failings. I liked the idea of being a thorn in the government's side (whatever the colour). However, when I switched schools and chose to switch unions the NUT was opposing the government's workload agreement. Now, the workload agreement wasn't a great document but made a start in putting the professionalism back into teaching. Hence I joined the NASUWT which I saw as being a halfway house between the extremes of the ATL and NUT. I have since become the union rep. I don't know how much long I'll do that job because I do get the impression it is holding back my career progression but I have enjoyed the work involved.

So why are the NUT striking? Over their demand for a 10% pay increase. Now, I'd be the first in the line for a 10% pay increase but it just is so far away from financial and political reality as to be unbelievable. We all enjoy some "aspirational goals" but shouldn't our unions be drawing the line in the sand over fights we can win?

So I will be supporting any moves to improve our pay and conditions but this strike is just damaging to our pupils welfare. I anticipate a union climbdown before the 24th. At least, I hope so.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

UPDATED: City Elections: Nominations revealed

Yesterday was the last day to get your nomination paper in for the City elections. You can get a full run down here but I thought I'd just summerise the situation. The main 4 parties are contesting every seat - Conservative, Labour, Green and LibDems - plus there's UKIP in Lakenham and Norwich-over-the-Water in Sewell.

In terms of interesting candidates;
For the LibDems its all change; the talented Gordon Dean is relgated to an absolute thrashing in Catton Grove, whilst his former Councillor Colleague Chris Thomas takes on Mile Cross - the LibDems say this indicates how seriously they are taking the ward, but I didn't know Chris was that keen on getting back on the council. Nelson stalwart David Fairbairn now ends up defending Hereward's old patch in Lakenham, whilst Judith Lubbock takes on Eaton. Interestingly former Heathersett Councillor Jackie Sutton - who lost her seat in the South Norfolk Tory landslide of 07 - reappears as candidate for ultra-marginal Thorpe Hamlet. Lastly I suppose is the decision of another former Councillor, Ian Williams, to take on Sewell. The NOTWP candidate will I'm sure shake this seat up and any party who effectivly harnesses the anti-Labour vote may do well. Williams has been, in his (and my) time, a formiddable candidate and this could now be the ward to watch.

Labour have had an easier time of candidate selection. Their sitting Councillors have a tough time - Mick Banham in Sewell, Brenda Ferris in Bowthorpe and Julie Westmacott in Catton Grove all have the fights of their lives. Deborah Gilwahi (Mile Cross), Brenda Arthur (University) and Bob Sanderson (Lakenham) all hope to step into LibDem shoes and the hopes of the party will essentially rest upon their shoulders. Dvaid Bradford, a real champion, stands again for Crome. The most interesting candidate in many ways is Steph Clark - standing in Wensum - incidentally standing against a LibDem called Brian Clark. Labour feel they have a real chance here and have certainly done a lot of work. And, of course, we have to mention the gallant Phil Taylor who is leading the Labour chances in Eaton.

The Greens have a full slate again; one switch is being made with Adrian Holmes leaving Wensum and seeking election in Mancroft leaving his old ward to UEA student Ruth Makoff. There are also some relationship candidates this time. Adrian Ramsay's girlfriend is their candidate in Bowthorpe and Janet Bearman's husband is standing in Eaton. Stop-the-War campaigner Peter Offord leads their charge in ultra-marginal Thorpe Hamlet. In Town Close the unknown Samir Jeraj is standing (more of this later).

Please feel free to post your predictions

Thursday, April 03, 2008

All Sorted

My thanks to all those who text, called and emailed regarding my issue with a little political harassment. I have to say that the person involved has now admitted it, apologised and resigned from his position within the Liberal Democrats; an honourable decision and I think that draws a line under it. He made a mistake and paid for it with his job - I hope he learns from this and when he makes a comeback never acts the same way again. I think his resignation and apology signals he is a decent guy who made a mistake.

Look East couldn't get it more wrong

"The Greens are the largest opposition party at City Hall with more than 20 Councillors."

Spot the errors. The Greens are not the largest opposition party and they have exactly 10 Councillors. Indeed having 20 would anyone the majority party with an overall majority. So who could have spouted this nonsense? An A Level politics student? No, step forward BBC's Look East.