Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic time tomorrow; we're just back from Mass at St. John's and went to see Panto at the Theatre Royal on Monday - both events that really make Christmas, but particularly this year for Emily. I really know what they mean when they say Christmas is about children.

Enjoy the Yuletide season!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I've done it!

Since the Chancellor cut the rate of VAT, I have always thought that the "pence" savings were never going to add up to much and although collectivly it was a large tax cut people wouldn't necessarily feel the benefits (unless you bought something huge - which I rarely do). I thought that it wouldn't bring confidence or extra spending into the High Streets or net shops.

So I have been keeping a mental tally of my VAT savings on all of the bills and spending that I have personally done; and I am pleased to announce that I have now saved, thanks to Darling, my first £10 (yes, ten pounds!). Saved mainly through various utility bills and shopping at DIY stores, I was pushed over the edge of the tenner mark by a 7p saving in Tesco's this morning.

Fantastic - now I just need to decide what to do with the money I have saved!

Simple answer for me really, I've just donated £10 to the NSPCC via their fundraising web page. Normally I tend to donate to the BHF or Cancer Research but the NSPCC have been forced to make some pretty deep cuts in Norwich recently and for some kids Christmas isn't the time for joy it should be.

Charity is one of the biggest losers of recessions; and I am pretty sure that donations will be down across the board ironically at a time when we need them the most. I am a great supporter of charitable works because of how it fits in with my political beliefs; to mis-quote Hoover, "one dollar given in charity is worth ten dollars given by the state".

So my VAT cut has gone to charity; maybe the government will be upset with me that it isn't going directly into the tills?

UPDATE: The BBC is reporting that the IMF has said that the VAT cut will not impact consumer spending. There's a shock!

GTC Update: the lights are on but nobody's home...

Following my post below about the GTC, I set about as this mornings task to settle the dispute regarding my lack of membership and thus my illegal teaching in England (well, I wouldn't want to waste any more time marking and lesson planning if I am about to be sacked).

However on calling the GTC I was told by by an autumatic machine that their office hours are Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 6.30pm and Fridays 8.30am to 5pm. Said machine then put the phone down on me with a characteristically rude click.

Hang on, hang on. A few checks here.

It's between Monday and Friday - check.

It's between 8.30am and 6.30pm - check.

It's not a bank holiday - check.

So where are you GTC? I guarantee you the Education Department in Norfolk County Council are working (I phoned to check) as are the Advisory Service in the PDC (ditto checked). So where is our alleged professional body for teachers?

The message didn't even tell me when the GTC would be open for business again; and the letter tells me I must have this sorted by 16th January. I tell you, the stress may well get to me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rupert Read Apology Watch: Still no sign

Various letters to the local paper and this blog have all called upon democratically elected Green Party Cllr Dr Rupert Read to apologise for backing the utterly illegal actions of the "Plane Stupid" group who bought havoc to Stansted recently.

Judging by this post on his blog it isn't coming anytime soon.

It is a disgrace that any man who seeks power via the ballot box should endorse those who seek influence via direct, destructive and undemocratic means.

My experience, from the media and the doorstep, is that most people are very unhappy with his public stance on this. It is a shame that when Ramsay has worked so hard to make the Green Party electable and decent in Norwich and beyond, that Read is undoing all that work along the political fringes. I don't know why Ramsay continues to tolerate him - unless he agrees with him?

Police & Politics

There is a reason why civil servants, including senior police officers, are instructed to stay out of politics. The Met's Bob Quick has just found out why. (More here).

Quick's apology should draw a line under the matter and hopefully the investigation can continue.

However one more thought springs to mind.

I remember a school governor once accusing David Cameron of lying about a boy who turned up drunk to a GCSE exam; when Cameron was proved right, we never found out if the governor apologised for the misguided attack.

If people are going to enter the world of politics they ought to take on the politicans rules; which is that if you are wrong you should, at least, apologise as publicly as you made the original statement and retract. I am glad Quick did this, whilst the governor still hides; Quick may yet still come out of this with his reputation intact or even enhanced.

The GTC - Pointless and Wasteful

Norfolk Blogger may be totally off the mark when it comes to politics, but he continues to hit the right notes when it comes to education; and in fact serving teachers of all parties do seem to be coming together on a bit of a consensus when it comes to edcuation policy - we just need this to filter up to the political parties themselves.

In this particular case, NB puts the spotlight on the GTC (General Teaching Council) which he asks what it has achieved in the last 9 years apart from threatening to rob teachers of their QTS over drunken behaviour and the like. Since when did the state control us like this? Anyway ...

... Although I would agree with every word, it isn't the utter pointless nature of the GTC which irritates me. I could just about handle a government created body which had no point but discharged its duties in an effective and efficient manner. The trouble is that the GTC is neither.

I recieved a letter from it this week.

It told me that I am not registered with the GTC and I must be; OK but here are the facts.

I am a qualified teacher in my 8th year working at my 2nd school. I am in my 6th year at Notre Dame High School.

They are writing to me at my home address; how did they obtain this if I wasn't previously registered.

I have voted in pointless GTC elections in the past.

I have done all this - apparently - without being registered.

I have been teaching in schools - apparently - without being registered.

So there is one of two explanations:
1. I have been registered all this time and the letter is a total waste of my time and my taxpayers money.
2. I have not been registered and have illegally been teaching for many years. All those grades will have to be annulled. Those kids in universities shall have to be withdrawn. I shall have to stop marking this GCSE coursework. Oh well!

The GTC says everything about Labour - a giant, monolithic organisation with no purpose or sense of good about it. It wastes money, creates pointless paperwork and most of all, has no impact on my life, my teaching or most importantly my pupils lives.

I trust that when Mr Gove is looking for savings to be made - the £33 registration fee per qualified teacher comes from the government remember, because tecahers complained about having to pay it ourselves - in the Education Department this is first on the list.

The GTC? Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Greens knew about Greyhound Opening 18 months ago ... but said nothing

Personal statement by Councillor Steve Morphew, Leader of Norwich City Council and Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Brian Watkins, Leader of the LibDems and Councillor Antony Little, Leader of the Conservatives.

Steve Morphew, leader of the council, said: “I have every confidence that the inquiry is dealing with this seriously and thoroughly and will report fully at the earlier possible opportunity. The final report will be made public, along with any lessons that need to be learned.

“I am as concerned as anybody about this as it clearly raises important issues and I also want to be reassured that proper procedures are in place and being followed.

“I would like to make it absolutely clear that I did not know properties were being offered to Green Party councillors. I have reported the matter to the council’s standards committee as this is clearly a serious allegation.”

Brian Watkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “I am very concerned that it appears a councillor knew what was happening 18 months ago, and that he did not go through the proper procedure, which would have been to report it to the council. There appears to have been a serious lack of judgement from the Green Party and also from their leader.

“I am reassured that the investigation is proceeding as quickly as possible, but there are clearly important issues that need to be addressed. When the inquiry is finished, that will be the time to comment further.”

Antony Little, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “There has been a great deal of public speculation about who knew what. It is clear that some Green Party councillors knew this was going on but did not see fit to report it, as is their statutory duty.

“The Green Party has been calling for a full investigation and now it appears they have information that may be critical to that inquiry.”

“We have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the people of Norwich and it needs to be clear who knew what and why they did not bring it to the council’s attention sooner.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's got Brown, it's got Cameron but no Clegg ... what does this tell us about LibDem literature?

When a lady in Thorpe Hamlet waved a political newspaper at me, all I could see was Gordon Brown's head. Then on turning to the inside there was David Cameron (both deliberately unflattering pictures I should add). On searching through, I discovered that it was a LibDem newspaper yet nowhere could I - or the householder - find a picture of Nick Clegg (who aparently leads their party). The lady was most put out - not because she was a Tory and wanted to attack the LibDems but because she likes Nick Clegg and was outraged they could show their 2 main opponents but not their own leader. Her killer line to me was a good one. Why should we trust a party that won't even advertise their own leader? Any ideas on why they did this would be welcome; it seems to break the political rules of not giving your opponents free advertising?

Not good looking enough for a noticeboard

We are currently delivering 2009 calendars that include key contact phone numbers for local services and also websites. Needless to say it does include a picture of me ... and then this appeared in my inbox.

"I am writing to thank you for the calendar which has just been delivered to my house. It shows great innovative thinking not shown by the local Conservatives in many years. Well designed, well produced and exremely impressive. I am sure a lot of my neighbours will be pleased and it demonstrates how seriously you are taking this area for the next election."

So far, so good ... we are impressive, serious and innovative ... and he goes on ...

"The only trouble is that I cannot possible look at you for the next year and so have sliced your picture off the side of the calendar."

Lovely. I might be the serious choice to replace Charles Clarke but not apprently fabulous enought to adorn a noticeboard for a whole year.

This made me laugh - but Louise laughed longer and louder!

It's freezing cold and raining ... let's go out leafleting!

The planning stage was a nightmare, actually doing the delivery seemed like a sort of bizarre punishment but the end result did make us all feel good - yesterday and today, teams have been out delivering across the City in Thorpe Hamlet, Lakenham, Bowthorpe, Earlham, Eaton, Wensum, Mancroft and Nelson. Amazing level of activity in the constituency at the moment and I really do have to thank all those who are really making politics interesting in Norwich South at the moment. The thing that distinguishes this campaign from the last is the sheer number of people getting involved - without them, politics and the democratic process wouldn't work. I extend this thanks to all those across the political divide who give up cold weekends for political activity.

Today we also found time to go Christmas shopping to Norwich where the crowds seemingly failed to be. In the closing down sales - particularly in The Pier outside Chaplefield - it was pretty busy but the rest of the City was seemingly quite slow. After that it was off to see Santa at Notcutts - but only to fnd he was very busy! Well, it is that time of year ... we've said we'll take the girls to see him when there isn't a 90 minute queue (yes, ninety - our girls are good at standing in line, but not that good!).

I suppose I should mention reality TV too; X-Factor finally after many years got the right result - Alexandra Burke is amazing and talent-wise in a different league from the others. I am slightly disappointed in the choice of debut single but I am sure she'll have an amazing career. So too will JLS but I have this feeling Eoghan will die off into cable TV obscurity. The one thing ITV does very well is X-Factor finals.

Shame the same thing cannot be said for the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing last night - not my cup of tea but Louise and the girls like it. I did however watch the results show and if I had of voted last night (which I didn't) then I would have been mightly annoyed with the decision to put all 3 couples through; the BBC should have thought twice about that.

Anyway, I have a couple more blog posts to publish then I'm off out again in the cold ... all for democracy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Greens will never say "sorry"; so why should anyone who has ever flown vote for them again?

Predictably, Green Party poster-boy Rupert Read leaps on the bandwagon and backs the borderline-illegal behaviour at Stanstead today.

I feel very very sorry for the passengers whose flights have been cancelled by this irresponsible action. The Green lobby needs to campaign through the democratic process and legitimate, peaceful means rather than this.

For those people hoping to see family at Christmas, travelling on business or going home after studying in the UK, this is not something they can forgive.

This total disregard for travellers and their lives says a lot about the protestors and the contempt in which they hold people. I hope the leaders of this protest - and their supporters - apologise for their frankley quite distrurbing and very disruptive actions, but I very much doubt they will.

And if you have ever flown - think on ... this could have been your flight. How would you have felt? And it could yet be any flight you take in the future.

Any party which supports this doesn't deserve support at the ballot box - because they themselves ignore the ballot box as a means of achieveing their aims.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Are web stats linked to the paper campaign?

The patron saint of blogging, Iain Dale, is often bemoaning politicans who don't take advantage of e-campaigning either to keep in touch with constituents or to get elected in the first place. With a blog (this one), a website, a regular e-newsletter and more to come I'd like to consider myself somewhere in the top half of candidates when it comes to using the net. But one moan of MPs and the like about online campaigning is there is little evidence about the actual impact it has; and a recent statistic I have come across may help to flesh this out a little.

My campaign site - - is run using wordpress which has a much clearer and easier stat counter than most providers. You can see on a graph how many unique visitors you have and it is therefore easier to correlate this against other campaigning activity.

If the site it linked to by another big player - either Dale or ConHome - then you get a spike in visitors. Similarly if it gets a name check in the local press or even sometimes this blog can push visitors over to it.

I don't see e-campaigning and traditional campaigning (posters, leaflets et al) as mutually exclusive and thus we spend a lot of time in Norwich South out delivering and door knocking. The website has featured in the latest leaflet which is currently being delivered.

And with each big delivery session ... yes, you get "the peak" too; so last weekend we delivered thousands of leaflets in Thorpe Hamlet, Lakenham, Town Close, New Costessey, Bowthorpe and Earlham - and yes, the site got its biggest day of traffic. Yesterday we splurged in Eaton - another spike - and today in Town Close - and, yes, a smaller but very clear spike.

Because this happens everytime we do a major leaflet drop and there being no other explanation the web stas have to be linked to the paper campaign; if people like what they read or want to know more they can go online.

So yes I believe the future of politics is online and the visitors on sites like this are increasing all the time. But many candidates will wonder how to develop an audience; and here we come to a chicken and egg situation. You have to run a good paper campaign to establish your online presence - but when you have and people return time after time, then the internet comes into its own.

Statement regarding "Times" report on Norwich City Council Housing Department

Joint statement on behalf of Cllr Steve Morphew, Leader of the Council and Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Brian Watkins, Leader of the LibDem Group and Cllr Antony Little, Leader of the Conservative Group:

"Senior officers are carrying out a rigorous investigation. Leaders of all political groups on the council have been briefed and have passed on the position to councillors in their groups. All councillors already know there is an investigation taking place and so to call for something they know is happening is deliberately misleading. We will not allow the investigation to be compromised."

"We have a responsibility to the council and the people. Making irresponsible comments about an investigation they already know to be thorough and rigorous smacks of councillors playing politics when the city expects and deserves more. If there is an investigation into allegations about the standards of behaviour then councillors should be setting an example by letting that happen rather than making it more difficult."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Great Parliamentary Moment ... and the Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech is usually one of the highlight's of the parliamentary year - but this year it seemed very slimmed down (and as a small state Tory I have no problem with that) but the relative lack of business does demonstrate a certain lack of focus and direction on the part of the government. However, whatever Brown's last full parliamentary year hailed, it was unlikely to beat the statement by Speaker Martin, which really did give us a marvellous parliamentary occasion.

It wasn't really much to do with what he said - although the revelations about the police not having a warrant may cause problems for the Acting Commissioner - but the tone and manner of the Point-of-Order contributions that followed it. What followed was a general cross party debate, where party advantage wasn't pressed and where the primacy of the Commons was at stake. MPs of all sides showed the dignified and serious response that this situation demands. The contributions from former Tory Leaders Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith, former LibDem Leader Sir Ming Campbell, former Minister Denis McShane, former cabinet minister Douglas Hogg and Tory grandee Sir Patrick Cormack delivered well presented, relevant and forensic insights into the current problem - demonstrating why our parliamentary democracy needs former frontbenchers to stay in the House to use their wisdom and experience in such a way. And when Ashford MP Damian Green spoke it was to deliver a perfectly crafted and devasting attack on the whole affair.

This clearly isn't the end of the matter and it will go on; however I think a competent performance by Speaker Martin may guarantee his job for a while yet. However if this gets worse then he could yet be in trouble.

What made me smile was the govenrment mortgage plan; not in the Queen's Speech but announced today, knocking the Green affair off the top media slot. Deliberate? From Brown? Hasn't he given up spin?