Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 for 10: Predictions for the New Year

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope the next year brings about much joy and success. As is the want of bloggers, my 10 predictions for the first year of the new decade:

1. Norwich City will be promoted to the Championship, and it will be through one of the automatic places

2. David Cameron will be Prime Minister with an overall Conservative majority and will do so with a swing and a parliamentary result that defies all predictions and re-ignites the debate over voting reform. His new cabinet will look strikingly like his Shadow Cabinet; Gove, Fox, Lansley, Osbourne, Grayling and Hague will all keep their positions in government. The bigger shake-up will be at the middle and junior ranks. Chloe Smith will become a government minister.

3. Gordon Brown will not be Leader of the Opposition come next New Years Eve; he will quit in the hours that follow the General Election and in the next few weeks he will also stand down as an MP prompting the first by-election of the new parliament. David Milliband, Alan Johnson and Harriet Harman will be the candidates for the new Leader; Cruddas will be out of parliament and Jack Straw will not win enough support. Harman will win.

4. Nick Clegg will, despite a poor overall result (the LibDems will lose seats), cling on as LibDem Leader pointing to some spectacular gains from Labour as his defining moment. Their gains will not include any in Norfolk or Suffolk.

5. The overwhelming majority of newspaper websites will be "pay-to-view" by the end of the year.

6. The Queen will still be monarch with no signs of being otherwise, but Prince Charles will prompt a political controversy with the new government.

7. Local Government Reorganisation in Norfolk will come to nothing, but nobody will take any political responsibility despite the massive cost involved.

8. Diplomas will stay despite the new government's radical education policy.

9. Matt Smith will prove a more popular Doctor Who than David Tennant, to the surprise of pretty much everybody.

10. The new MP for Norwich South will be ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Christmas

As this is likely to be my only spare time for a good few months yet, I am spending it excusively with my family and so blogging / twittering / Facebook will be non-existent; except if there is a political crisis or amusing story involving a celebrity and a farm animal.

So I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 2010, eh? Scary!

p.s. As one Christmas card said today, "this could be our last under Labour" - I don't think so, it'll just be our last under Labour for a very, very, very long time ...

Ho ho ho

Sunday, December 20, 2009

MORI humiliate pretty much everyone

Overnight political hacks have been having much fun (best summarised here) about a new MORI poll which was claimed to have a narrow Tory lead of 3%, which would fall within the margin of error and could have meant that Brown was level pegging with Cameron, but ended up being a whopping 17% Conservative lead.

The joke was, of course, on everyone - Tories who were scared that the rumours were true were buzzily doing some "expectation managing" and critiquing the work of MORI (regular readers will testify that I hold MORI in no regard at all when it coming to polling; I don't care for the 17 point lead in the same way I didn't care for the 6 point one) and Labour were spinning this was the fightback and that Gordon could still win.

Then the real result was announced and some Tories were left to delcare that MORI was, in fact, spot on and Labour were attacking the MORI methodology.

This has led, rightly, to some saying that the political commentararti ought to wait for results before speculating and looking fools.

In the last few weeks things have gone well for Labour in the narrtive if not the events; Brown has done well-ish at PMQs, the polls were narrowing and the Tories seemed to be underpressure on a number of fronts. Locally here in Norwich the activists were getting bullish, their MPs had a spring in their steps. Good news gave them hope; optimism.

And now? Things have pretty much fallen apart again - the polls are pretty much back to where they were, Cameron is back on the policy frontfoot and the government continues to stumble from disaster to disaster. And Labour MPs? Once again the storm clouds gather over their heads.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Labour in Bowthorpe

The Bowthorpe page on the Labour Website says everything about their ideas for - and chances in - the community.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hewett Fingerprint Scheme Is Good For Security

The decision by the Hewett Nursery to install fingerprint technology to aid security is very welcome indeed, and parents have backed the move in this story in the EEN. As one of my kids attends the nursery I knew about this a while ago and think it to be a thoroughly good thing.

One person did comment to me that the best security is human-to-human contact; a key worker who knows the child and their carers and uses their professional sense. I wouldn't disagree but this technology just adds that extra bit of security and should be seen as a complement to security arragements rather than replacing the old ones.

I was also told that these ideas "de-humanise" schools and turnback the open culture of schools and nurseries. I can see the arguement there, but if you are a regular at the school then they will hold your fingerprint and you are only one click away.

Either way I think this is the way that schools and nurseries will go; for the security of my daughter I think its a good thing but I don't know how far security will have to go in the future.

Evening News Website Layout Leaves Something To Be Desired

I am not taking anything away from the seriousness of this story in the EEN about pornography on school computers but somebody should really have thought about the layout and choice of picture on the website.

Didn't anybody think the choice of splash headline "Norfolk Schools Computer Porn Shock" next to a large picture of LibDem Councillor Mervyn Scutter could lead some people to making the wrong conclusion?

Cllr Scutter is, of course, outraged at the discovery that some porn sites are missed by the Net Nanny - but you'd only find that out by clicking on the story and reading it.

It reminds me of a headline in the Uxbridge Gazette, way back, which was "Strip Club Outrage" alongside pictures of the local MP and Council Leader ...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Pre-Election Report

Today's efforts from the Chancellor have left me both baffled and poorer.

Aside from the politics of keeping putting off the "tough choices" until you assume somebody else will be in power to deal with them (I'd assumed that Darling had been doing this for years), I cannot work out what this has done or what it is for.

It wasn't a blueprint for economic recovery nor a plan for jobs and growth. It raised taxes (later) but only uses this money to pay for extra spending rather than paying down our debt.

No vision; no hope. So it's interesting to see who Labour chose to hit. In one of George Osbourne's best speeches, he pointed out that anybody with aspirations, those who wanted to buy their home, those who wish to save for pensions won't find any comfort from Labour.

I have finally agreed with the BBC's Nick Robinson; this is the politics of 20 years ago, of big government (Labour) versus small government (Conservative) and of attacks of middle income, Middle England.

And on the issue of the election date? Will Labour really want another budget before the poll if this is the sort of news they have to deliver? Don't book any holidays for late March...

Greens Elect New Leader

After Adrian Ramsay's resignation as City Hall's Green Leader, the party has now elected Cllr. Claire Stephenson as Leader and Cllr. Samir Jeraj as her Deputy. There has been a small re-shuffle of frontbench positions too. I hope Cllr. Stephenson uses this as a chance to return to the days when the Leader of the Opposition is also the Chair of Scutiny. My big wish for the Stephenson Leadership is that she starts to flesh out what a Green-led Council would look like; the Greens have a habit of abstaining a lot and failing to produce their own budgets etc.

Friday, December 04, 2009

CO2; Good Start But More To Do

According to a report by the BBC, Norwich South is ranked 450th out of 646 Westminster constituency for its CO2 emmissions (where the 1st constituency has the most CO2 emmissions), above Norwich North (365th) but below Great Yarmouth (530th).

As the worlds delegates meet in Copenhagen, this report on the BBC reminds us all about the importance of taking action as individuals at grassroots levels. This report shows us that Norwich South is doing better than most areas but has much work to do in terms of reducing our CO2 output.

Local people need to take action to reduce their own carbon footprint, which is why more and more people are taking the 10:10 challenge to reduce CO2 by 10% next year.

There is a temptation for some parties to use a big stick to force people to cut emmissions. I would rather see governments and councils using the carrot; such as Conservative plans to reward residents for recycling and provide funding for better insulation.

Bullying in Schools; Why are few ever excluded?

Amazing press release of the day - Official Government figures have revealed that just ninety pupils across the country were expelled last year for school bullying, despite a new survey finding half of all 14-year-old children have been bullied.

Across Norfolk less than 5 pupils were expelled last year from state secondary schools. In over two-thirds of local authorities across England, not a single child was expelled for bullying. In Norfolk 40 pupils were suspended from state schools – meaning the disruptive students returned to the school where they caused misery for their classmates.

Since 1997, Labour Government rules have deliberately made it more difficult for schools to expel pupils, undermining the authority of head teachers and meaning bullies end up back at the same school as their victims.

Bullying makes far too many children’s lives a misery. But the Government’s own figures show that in the vast majority of cases bullies are returned to the same school as their victims after a short punishment, rather than being expelled.

The key to tackling bullying is giving Norfolk’s teachers the powers they need to crack down on bad behaviour. But under Labour, the balance of power in the classroom has shifted too far in favour of disruptive pupils.

Conservatives would give Norwich’s schools the power to take a zero tolerance approach towards serious offences such as bullying. We will give our teachers the tools they need to maintain discipline in the classroom before it spirals out of control.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How about these 2 for good luck?

At a fundraising event we held tonight I met 2 people who claimed to be the luckiest Tories around; everytime they move to a constituency it is won by the Conservatives from Labour.

The pair moved back from abroad into West Norfolk in 2000 - just months before Henry Bellingham re-captured the seat for Hague's Tories from Labour.

They then moved to Norwich North in 2008 - just months before Chloe Smith siezed the seat from Labour in a dramatic by-election gain.

They have then come to Norwich South in 2009 - ...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Who is reading this blog?

Apart from you, right now, obviously.

I have just got to grips with the data provided by my Stat Counter and it is very interesting; although the sort of stuff that I shouldn't look at too much for fear of becoming obsessed.

Wading through everything, it turns out that I am getting visitors from the House of Commons, European Parliament, CCHQ, UEA and - biggest group - Norwich City Council!! Maybe they are keeping an eye on me!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Labour's Ipswich Choice for Norwich Seat

If Labour shot themselves in the foot by ousting Ian Gibson, then smacked themselves over the head with a mallet with their amateruish by-election campaign, they have done some almost medically impossible with the choice of John Cook (click here for more) as their General Election candidate.

Proving that all parties have issues with selections, Cllr Cook is an Ipswich Borough Councillor who lives and works miles away and whose association with Norwich is a decade old. Now rather than being able to take the fight to MP Chloe Smith, I understand Cllr Cook has already run his campaign into a brick wall as questions about his living and political arrangements surface.

Does Cllr Cook plan to move to Norwich, in his own property, and if so ... when?

If he doesn't, this must surely show that he doesn't believe he can win and won't commit to the City.

Does Cllr Cook plan to move his family with him when he does this to make Norwich his full time home?

Again if he doesn't and simple lodges or stays with somebody then how can he really claims to stand up for local people without understanding our City or its services?

Does Cllr Cook intend to stand down from his Ipswich seat now so he can focus on the campaign ahead in Norwich?

If he doesn't then questions may be asked about how he can represent one area miles away from campaigning in another. Will Cllr Cook continue to claim allowances in Ipswich whilst seeking to be elected in Norwich?

I am not saying Cllr Cook is a bad candidate but he certainly isn't a clear clean choice. Labour will have to spend the first few weeks of this campaign sorting out those issue during which time Miss Smith (not only to let the moss grow) will be consolidating her by-election lead.

What do we think young voters care about ... and what do they really care about?

I don't usually reproduce other posts in full but this one from the Speccie about a BBC Politics Show poll is well worth reading:

The Politics Show conducted a fascinating poll into the concerns of voters aged under 20. The Recession Generation are primarily concerned with, well, the recession. Economic recovery, public spending and tax came top of their list of priorities, closely followed by health and education. It’s clear that younger voters have exactly the same concerns as the wider population, and encouragingly for the Tories, those polled prefer David Cameron to Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg by a clear margin of 8 percentage points. The Liberal Democrats attracted only 18% of voters, indicating quite how damaging their tuition fee u-turn has been.

Popular myth dictates that younger voters are consumed by tackling climate change. Intriguingly, climate change came towards the bottom of the list of pressing concerns. Has emerging scientific contention engendered a more general scepticism? Have economic realities created a sense of realism? Or has the relentless noise of Green campaigners initiated ‘green fatigue’? As the great Copenhagen shindig draws near, and ever more ludicrous soothsayings about the world ending next Tuesday are made, the political consensus seems out of touch.

When I did a meeting at the UEA last week I said that in my discussions with students, fees actually came a long way down their agenda behind the economy, jobs, crime and transport. Too often politicans, and the media, decided what they think young people ought to be ineterested in - often its the environment, drugs and international aid. This poll appears, and I realise its only one survey, to reject that suggestion and say that young people focus on the same things that other groups do. I must admit to being very surprised that climate change came so low amongst young people but it shows that the people set the agenda rather than politicans.

As for the voting intentions that didn't surprise me at all; most students I have met both in formal meetings and in the Square/Hive tell me they are as fed up with Labour as everyone else and will be voting Conservative to make sure we are rid of Brown and Clarke.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rumbling on ...

The debate over "real life experience" rumbles on. Today after work I had a very productive hour with the Sabbs at UEA discussing student issues - from housing to student finance and back to parking at the UEA. Aftewards leaving campus I met a gentleman who not only recognised me (!) but had also read the posts below. I believe more-or-less word for word here is what he had to say about it:

"I want an MP who has recently worried about bringing up kids and how to pay their mortgage. No political party is perfect, I don't agree totally with any of you, but at least we can pick the candidate who know what life is about."

To balance up the arguement, an email I ahve recieved:

"Your attack (I, by the way, deny this is an "attack") on other candidates who don't have jobs is a nonsense. The question is, will our next MP have the right instincts when it comes to voting on going to war, tackling climate change and child poverty. Political instinct is worth more than any job you might hold for the moment."

Interesting stuff. Keep it coming.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

PB's Super Six on Norwich South

There are very few people left who really believe that "only the LibDems can beat Labour here" (including very senior LibDems who say to me privately that they don't expect to win). I was speaking to Costessey residents in the last week who desperately wanted Labour out - surely a good target then for the Libs? No, they wanted a proper change and were voting Conservative. You can only be sure to get rid of Brown by voting Tory, they added.

And now PoliticalBetting.Com's Super Six Predictors have had their say; these are the best political tipsters on the site.

2 say it will be a Conservative gain; 1 for Labour, 1 Green and 1 LibDem.

Hardly scienfific and hardly authorative but nobody can say this is anything but a wide open race. People who say otherwise are deliberately misleading the voters.

What experience do Green Councillors have?

There is a very funny and mischevious letetr in today's EEN (sadly not online) which encourages Rupert Read to stand to be the new Green Leader on the basis it is only right that a philosophy lecturer can top the experience of a politics graduate who has never held a proper job (!)

That got me thinking if a party leader should have what we now fondly call "real life experience" to do the job properly. I'd like to hear what you have to say on that issue.

But a glance at the publicly available register of interests for 2009 show the following as the professions or jobs for the 13 Green Party Councillors;

Cllr Janet Bearman - no job
Cllr Tom Dylan - Employed by the Green Party
Cllr Bob Gledhill - Full Time Green Party Councillor
Cllr Adrian Holmes - Software Developer
Cllr Howard Jago - no job
Cllr Samir Jeraj - Admin support for another Green Councillor & UEA Student
Cllr Tom Llewellyn - Development Manager at Norwich Buddhist Centre
Cllr Stephen Little - Full Time Green Party Councillor (also on Norfolk County Council)
Cllr Ruth Makoff - UEA Student
Cllr Peter Offord - Tutor
Cllr Adrian Ramsay - Deputy Leader of the Green Party
Cllr Rupert Read - Lecturer at UEA
Cllr Claire Stephenson - Teacher

I wonder which of these people think has the experience to be the next leader?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ramsay Resigns as Green Leader

I would have thought that the resignation of Adrian Ramsay as Leader of the Greens at City Hall would have made more of a splash in the media; he has, after all, led them now for many years and has taken the Greens from a rump party to the official opposition.

Adrian has made the Greens into a very acceptable organisation; his successor would well be the type of person who undoes years of work in under a day. I understand, from somebody who knows the inside of the Greens, that the party remains very much split between 2 factions - those who wish to keep the public face of the party and those who believe the ideology is what matters. We note that Cllr Rupert Read has ruled himself out of the race - Ramsay believes the next Green Leader will also be the next Leader of Norwich City Council (I'm not convinced by this) so this could matter a great deal and could, so I'm told, lead to a swift reversal of his position. If his party pleads, will Read answer that call?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

X-Factor Breaking News:

Great stuff from CCHQ; I bet they've had this one on file for a while!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Defection to the Labour Party (by Libby, aged 2)

Do you believe in "signs" ...

Imagine being a Tory Councillor and the local PPC, when you walk into your dining room to find out that your darling, sweet, gorgeous 2 years old had gotten hold of your "lucky" Conservative rosette (the one you wore winning each of the last 5 local elections) and had coloured it in using a felt-tip pen.

Then imagine - as you react calmly and lovingly to this incident - discovering she had coloured it with a red felt-tip pen.

Top to bottom red scrawled over the blue, the logo, the lot ... it is as bad as you think.

So either a sign of my impending defection to Gordon's tribe - or I have a very naughty toddler - and I know which it is!!

"Mechanical Failure" sinks blog

Thank you to the (two) people who emailed to ask if I was still alive as I had stopped blogging. I am alive and well, which is more than could be said for my laptop which apparently had "mechnical failure" (sounds nasty). However it is now fixed and service can be resumed.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Exclusive (biscuit) poll says Gordon set for landslide

Forget the real polling, tonight I have the results of a new and exclusive poll which shows Gordon Brown set to have a landslide fourth term and the LibDems almost wiped out of the Commons.

At tonight's ND Sixth Form open evening I asked visitors to eat the biscuit which represents their favourite and which thus represents the party leader they are most aligned with.

Whilst Dave's biscuit choice has a steady trickle, Clegg's biscuits remained almost entirely in place and Gordon's flew off the plate.

If Gordon is as in touch with the country on other issue as he clearly is with biscuits, I can strongly predict a fourth Labour term and maybe even a Labour Gain in South Norfolk? Who knows...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Clarke claiming more but doing less?

The expenses row has turned the spotlight onto our MPs, how much they earn, how much they claim and what work they do. So it is only right that we look closely at what our local MPs are up to. Is Charles Clarke providing value-for-money?

According to the research done by, Mr Clarke is yet to speak in the House of Commons during 2009 and his only parliamentary contribution was in a Westminster Hall debate about the local government (unitary) review in Norfolk. In addition, Mr Clarke has not tabled a single written question and served on just one select committee - Labour's controversial East of England Committee. Mr Clarke's voting behaviour doesn't hold out to much scrutiny either, voting just 66% of times which is below average according to "publicwhip".

And all this is at a time when Mr Clarke has held company directorships, been paid to give speeches, write articles for newspapers and go on overseas fact finding trips.

During this time Mr Clarke has claimed over £160,000 - making him one of the highest claiming MPs in the House.

I have made honesty a major part of this election. I have said I will hold no other paid job than being an MP and that I will be a value-for-money MP claiming less in expenses than Mr Clarke. What's more, I will ensure I am speaking up for the people of Norwich South in the chamber and asking key questions of Ministers.

It will seem to a lot of people that this is Mr Clarke claiming more but doing less. Maybe Mr Clarke knows his time in parliament is up, but he ought to be doing what people elected him to do and stand up for the City.

I think the answer for all this is for the Prime Minister to call a General Election and give the people of Norwich South the chance to vote for a Conservative MP who will work hard them, not a stay-away Labour MP.

Statistics detailed here:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Show Us The Money!

Press Release; and a typical Clarke hypocrisy:-

Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich South, Cllr. Antony Little, has asked Gordon Brown to stop dragging his feet over a new law which requires the Government to tell us how much taxpayers’ money is spent in Norwich and in every other part of the country. In Parliament on 28 October, Labour MPs actually voted against a motion calling for more openness on public spending across Norwich.

The new law, called the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, was introduced by a Conservative MP and passed by Parliament with wide cross-community support from local and national organisations. It could help fix Britain’s broken politics – by giving local people the power to decide how their cash is spent in their area, and requiring a regular breakdown of spending by central government departments and quangos in new ‘Local Spending Reports’.

More and more taxpayers’ money is being spent by unelected quangos. A new report published on 26 October by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed that quangos now spend an astonishing £90 billion a year – equivalent to £3,640 a year for every household across Norwich.

But Labour Ministers have been trying to water down the new law. They initially only wanted to publish spending by councils and NHS Primary Care Trusts – facts already in the public domain. Further information will only be “developed over time”.

Norwich South Labour MP Charles Clarke was one of those who voted against this important transparency issue.

Conservatives are calling for greater openness and accountability, and are pledging to:
• Use the Sustainable Communities Act to publish detailed Local Spending Reports including central government and quangos, and devolve more power to local communities.
• Require Norwich City Council to publish online figures for all expenditure on goods and services over £500, as is already being piloted by Windsor and Maidenhead Council.

Councillor Antony Little said: “It’s time for the Government to show us the money – and tell Norwich residents how much of their money is actually spent in our area. Gordon Brown wants to stop local people finding out that they get a raw deal from his Government, and conceal that his unelected quangocrats spend almost £4,000 a year per household in Norwich wth little or no say for local people.

“Local communities deserve a far greater say on how their money is spent. It’s time for change, and only Conservatives will open up the books and give power back to local people.”

Mystery Solved!

Remember this story (click here) about me recieving what was pretty much a letter of abuse about a Tory leaflet which featured the NHS? Well, mystery solved because the original writter has responded with evidence of the leaflet enclosed - trouble is, the offending leaflet wasn't (as I suspected) a rouge Tory effort but the latest LibDem leaflet.

Glad we got that cleared up!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why aren't we talking about allowances?

The City Tory Group have been moving for months to get a debate on Councillors allowances and - in our view - cut them overall whilst rewarding those members who do take on extra workload. Anything which reduces the burden on taxpayers during this time of recession and cuts is vital for helping to restore public trust. I say - we are not in this for the money nor the glory (what glory?!?) so let's show this to the public.

So in the same way that I feel that Labour, the LibDems and Greens have blocked this debate at City Hall, now the Tories are doing the same at County Hall (click here for more) over the issue of allowances for Twin-hatters; those people who serve, and claim allowances, on 2 different councils. In Norwich this includes Labour's Bert Bremner and the Green Stephen Little. There are various Conservatives in the same position in the County too.

I understand the point about recieving the allowances for the work you do - double the work meaning double the allowances. In fact a LibDem Councillor wrote recently to the EDP to make this very point. However I also understand the anger that being a Councillor is the equivalent to a part-time job and that some people are building up massive allowance claims to live on because being a Councillor is their sole income. I understand some people believe that to be wrong and that Councillors need outside experience and aren't rounded people if politics is all they have. I also understand that people know that they are voting for a twin-hatter and do it with that knowledge. I also understand that having synergy between councils through twin-hatters can be a good thing. I understand that some people don't want taxpayers money to be used as an income for aspiring young politicans who just want the time to devote to a political career. It is - as you can tell - very complicated.

But the answer to these questions won't come from closing down debate. Let's talk about them, not as party animals, but as elected representatives looking to do the best for people. Shutting down debate looks shifty and as if we are happy with the status quo because some people do well out of it. And this isn't a party issue - don't believe those who tell you otherwise - because Councillors in all parties on at leats one council has voted not to talk about allowances.

The only way to address this perception and restore public trust is to have the debate; fully, honestly and in the open.

No matter which party you are in, refusing to talk about the issue won't make it go away. It just makes all politicans look that little bit more aloof than we did before.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Liz Truss & Trust?

There are 2 things I know about Liz Truss.

One is that she is the newly selected PPC for South West Norfolk, a safe Tory seat, and thus almost certainly the next MP for the constituency.

The second is that a few years back she had an affair with a then-High Flying Tory MP called Mark Field.

I know this because (a) I remember reading about it in the newspaper and (b) I googled all of the finalists for the seat when they were announced and I read about it (again).

If I knew about it ... why did the selectors and members of the South West Norfolk Conservatives not know about it? Does this really constitute a breach of trust? Was she, a highly bright and articulate young woman, really going into the selection to talk about her rather poor taste in men? Does this change the way they think she could do the job of PPC and MP?

I have the highest regard, and I really mean that, for the South West Norfolk Tories. I hope they manage to answer these questions.

Why I oppose the challenge to the Essex & Silver Rooms

City Conservatives have today joined the growing chorus of opposition to the government's shift to personal budgets which could see valuable local services, such as the Essex and Silver Rooms, closing. I thought I would say, in more detail, why this is.

The decision to close the Essex and Silver Rooms comes as an unfortunate move for Norfolk County Council, forced in part by the Westminster government telling our local government to move to a “personal budget” model which represents a dramatic change from the former block-contracts system. Though the “personal budget” for social care offers people greater freedom, it doesn’t readily allow for day centres because they cannot guarantee the income they previously received, effectively forcing their closure.

No centre can move ahead without knowing it will be funded properly. Under “personal budgets” the centres may survive but if a number of people move their funding away from them, then they will have to shut. If these services close, where will people who depend upon that specific centre then go for care? It seems to me that this shows one of the potential weaknesses of the new system. I am strongly urging Norfolk County Council to recognise the needs for these important centres to stay open, especially given the shortage of day centre places and the waiting list to attend many of them.

So ... what now?
I will be working with my colleagues on Norwich City Council – from all parties – to see what we can do to help the campaign. I know some people believe all is lost, but I feel positive we can change this decision if we all work together. If we can prove that this is a genuine cross-party campaign with the strong backing of local people then we have a chance.

Norfolk County Council have options - for a start opposing what is being forced upon us by the national government. I hope they are in a listening mood.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I could add to the mass written on the blogs about the appearance of the BNP Leader on Question Time tonight, but I don't know what I could add that hasn't been said.

So I will simply direct you to Norfolk Blogger's take on it - which puts it better than I ever could.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Anyone delivering Tory leaflets without telling me?

I recieved a letter today from a constituent saying that she had read our leaflet and wanted to disagree with our policy on the NHS.

Trouble is, we haven't put out a leaflet about the NHS ... which is a bit odd.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Next General Election in 30 Minutes

After a discussion about getting more people interested in the work of the council, we then had a debate which one member of the public who did turn up to watch the council meeting described as a "disgrace". It was interesting and I cannot deny I love the cut and thrust of what we do, especially when the council is being political-with-a-capital-P, but this person said the debate was "messy, generally thoughtless and the kind of thing that puts us [ the voter, I assume ] off." I think that was a bit far - after all the debate gave us a very clear insight into the next election.

The motion was one that highlighted positive statements about Sure Start from national politicans (even the Green Party) and suggested that we ought to back the service and refrain from unfair political attacks - such as those parties who might suggest another party wishes to scrap Sure Start because this worries people unncessarily. I don't think anyone expected what came next ...

Cllr Andrew Wiltshire moved a very good speech about the work that Sure Start did. I have to say that I was left bewildered by the response of Labour's Cllr Sue Sands who reeled off a list of clubs that her Sure Start ran citing this as the reason it ought to continue. Great idea; let's share good practice from around the City. Unfortunately Cllr Sands doesn't seem to appreciate the work of Health Visitors quite so much and doesn't see the next to expand their work or to have a multi-agency approach to what Sure Start does. Cllr Ramsay, Green Leader, gave a good speech in favour of the motion - then LibDem Cllr Lubbock (and quite why she was chosen to respond was beyond me) descided to take the motion apart line by line. She didn't appreciate me correcting her every error - including when she criticised the stated aim of Sure Start (as taken from their website). A bizarre moment of my life that one. Lesson 101 of the Council; Whenever you want to oppose a motion but can't work out a decent reason you always say it is "badly written". I'd say her speech was badly written alright. Council Leader Cllr Steve Morphew wanted to know what the Conservatives would change about Sure Start and it was laid out some specifics about changing the role of the Health Visitors, the link to early years education and the role/direction of local services. Not good enough for Cllr Morphew who demands to know more. He is given more. He doesn't like the response so screams that he wasn't given an answer. He was given an answer, he just didn't like it or agree with it. So Cllr Morphew has the words of David Cameron stricken from the motion; quite why is beyond me but never mind. The motion is still passed - yes, the Conservatives still voted for it - and I assume Labour will continue to frighten some very young and very vulnerable voters with this come election time.

I remember letters written by Steve Morphew to the people of Bowthorpe saying that if they didn't vote Labour they wouldn't get new windows in their council homes. They didn't vote Labour but they still got new windows. Maybe we can't believe everything our Council Leader says?

So why do I say that this is a marker for the next General Election? Labour say everything is fine, keep spending chaps and smile for the cameras; the Conservatives want to change and reform our services so they better serve out communities; the LibDems look bewildered; and the Greens had very little indeed to say about the issue.

So could I convince the member of the public of this? No, but they thought none of us came out well. They were annoyed that what should have been a fairly bland political moment was hijacked by Labour. Get used to it, there's plenty of months before the election and I suspect all issues will be subject to this kind of game playing.

Let the political debate begin (we just might want to warn the public first!)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peers shouldn't face questions in the Commons

I have been following the debate over the recent moves to have more Peers as Cabinet Ministers and how the elected House of Commons hold them accountable. Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, has suggested that they ought to face MPs in the chamber of the Commons (click here for more.) I would disagree.

Firstly this wouldn't be an issue if the Prime Minister hasn't taken so many Peers to be members of his cabinet. The system works best if the government of the day is drawn from the elected members (except, of course, those positions which have to sit within the Lords, such as its own Leader) because it keeps the lines of accountability and scrutiny very clear.

Constitutionalists and historians will keenly know what this country has been through to protect the integrity of the elected chamber. The privilidge of being an MP earns you certain rights and sitting in the Commons is one of those. The Monarch isn't allowed in the chamber - echoes of 1642 and all that - and has to address the joint session of both Houses from the House of Lords. And now, in disrespect to the history and traditions of the fight for parliamentary democracy in this country we are now to allow unelected Lords to address the chamber.

So, let's review - we don't allow Monarchs to do it, we don't allow foreign Heads of State to do it and we don't allow great statesmen to do it. But now we are allowing Mandelson and Adonis to do it. Doesn't seem right so far, does it?

Isn't the solution an arrangement with Westminster Hall or some other similar venue? Accountability is very important but we ought not to throw the baby out with the bath water here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cameron's new intake

The Conservative intake of 2010 will look very different to all those that went before it, according to an article in tomorrow's Sunday Times (click here). I am profiled - as a Tory candidate who is also a state school teacher and a Union Representative - along with other PPCs who don't fit the Tory mould. The Sunday Times is the latest newspaper or political site to regard Norwich South as a winnable seat for the Conservatives. It's well worth a read.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great day for the City

Chloe Smith is now - officially - the MP for Norwich North. ConHome has some great shots of the swearing in here. As the weeks have rolled on, some have forgotten what a great victory Norwich North was for the party generally and Chloe personally. A great day for the City!

Influential poll puts Tories ahead in Norwich South

The EDP and Evening News cover the story here, including the factually incorrect and rather grumpy protestations from my opponents. I am not taking any vote for granted at this election and we must prove that we are ready for, and responsible in the use of, power. There is still a lot of work to do, but this backs up what we are being told on the doorsteps that we are performing very strongly in the race to be our next MP.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Oh, yes...

A LibDem friend of mine, a former activist for their party, made a point to me about Cameron's speech.

Mr Cameron didn't mention the LibDems once during the speech.

And in setting the debate at the next election between "big government" and "small government", Cameron has essentially defined it as between Labour and Conservative. No alternative.

"Oh, yes..." I replied.

Ready to Lead

Cameron's speech was probably the best he has given as Party Leader; even beating his noteless triumph of 2007. It was sensible, measured, detailed and gave the best narrative of what our party stands for that I have heard. Cameron's attack on poverty; and the standing ovation it won; says a lot about the party and where we are going. The section about Sam and Ivan was heartfelt and decent - such a passage could have been tricky for a political leader, but Cameron's genuine and personal statement certainly hit home - especially for new fathers such as me. His sections on education, health and crime were pitch-perfect.

Cameron looked like a Prime Minister in waiting - this wasn't the tubthumping speech of past leaders and it wasn't designed to fire up activists. But in a funny way it did just that - by adopting a softer more serious delivery, Mr Cameron has shown us what he wants every Tory candidate, MP and canvassers to do on the doorstep.

This speech hasn't won the next election - I don't think we have done that yet - but it certainly sets out a clear path for us to follow and a great message for the doorstep.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Gaffes come and Gaffes go

I have been amused by the media going bananas over the gaffe in which Tory Home Affairs Spokesman Chris Grayling got the wrong end of the stick over Gen Dannatt. It was on the same day that a certain leading BBC journo called David Cameron the "Prime Minister" and a SKY equivalent said George Osbourne was the "chancellor". These things happen, and everyone gets over them - even Political reporters!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cameron's Bank Balance = Brown's Health?

I have just finished watching Andrew Marr grill Tory boss David Cameron as the party conference opens in Manchester. Marr was, at times, rude and deliberately provocative. Good, I say, that's just the way it should be and people at the sharp end of politics deserve that sort of scrutiny. However, once again, Marr went off political issues - Cameron had been quizzed about Europe, tax, spending & welfare reform to this point - and out of the blue asked Cameron what his personal wealth was.

When Cameron went to give an overly detailed answer, Marr got impatient and asked for a total figure. The question is - why should people know this? Now, being a teacher and a Councillor I am used to the fact that pretty much the whole of my financial dealings are available to anybody who can use google to search for my pay scales. My financial disclosure at City Hall will confirm anything else that is left. I am personally happy for people to know about all of this - but I don't think the private financial details of politicians are necessarily fair game for the public. Why should David and Samantha Cameron's bank balance be a matter for public scrutiny?

Personally I wonder if this was Marr's attempt to balance out his asking last week if the Prime Minister was on medication? His question prompted a tidal wave of anger and the more general point of what is or is not acceptable to ask politicans (including the Prime Minister).

On the Brown issue I back Marr; if the Prime Minister is doing anything which may affect his ability to do the job then he should be open about it. Do we really think that Cameron's bank balance impacts on his ability to do the job? I am not so sure.

If this was Marr's attempt to balance the books between the parties then it was rather bizarre to say the least.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And the result from the Commission into the Bleeding Obvious is...

Some schools waste money, according to a report (read this). But isn't the report itself the biggest waste of money - I could have told you this for free, as indeed could most of the people who work in schools?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When will Gordon's parliamentary maths not add up?

This week another Labour PPS and now a Business Minister have quit. It seems every week another person or people are jumping out of Gordon's tent. Yet, somehow, these people must be being replaced.

Labour have 350+ MPs and just upwards of 200 peers.

Hasn't Gordon run out of people to do jobs yet? I am amazed there is anyone left to serve!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Zzzzz" ... Conference responds to Norwich Lib Dem speech

During my mammouth watching of the LibDem conference I was lucky enough to be able to watch Eaton Councillor Ros Wright addressing the main hall about consumer policy. Her speech - devoid of any point as far as I could see - must have been so riveting that when the camera panned to 2 crowd shots during it, one showed delegates fast asleep and the other recorded a batch of delegates leaving the hall. I will leave you to make of that what you will...

In Brown and Clegg, Cameron is very lucky in the quality of his opponents

I could write a very long blog post about how awful the week has been for the LibDem Leadership, with Clegg and Cable taking the brunt of it. But has a review far better than anything I could write so please take a look.

I have been told by 2 people this week, who have watched the conference in full, that is has actively put them off voting LibDem. In almost disbelief at this, I have today made time to watch the conference ... I haven't watched a LibDem conference in any detail for some time (probably since university) and thought that as politics becomes more profession that surely it must have been better than I remembered. Erm, no, it was if anything worse ... Oh dear, a week that Clegg may want to forget.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Lessons to be learnt" admit LibDems as Cable's tax policies fall apart

The BBC reports on a very stormy meeting of LibDem MPs and frontbenchers who collectively tear apart the shambolic tax policies announced by Treasury Spokesman Vince Cable. Apparently they say that lessons will be learnt - will the first lesson be that not everything Cable says is gospel and, despite being the most influential LibDem in the country, he cannot carry the whole party and his own disasterous leader along.

Monday, September 21, 2009

5 steps to an acceptable tax hike ... but can it actually work?

Want to raise tax? Want to avoid the unpopularity that comes with wanting to raise tax? Follow these easy steps and you won't go far wrong!!

1. Only tax the "rich"
2. Define "rich" as anybody with a "million" of something
3. Make the tax rise sound small; only do things in demonination of "1%" or "2%"
4. Say the cash is for something very important indeed - so rich people are supporting good projects
5. Completely over-value the tax rise to make people think it is a great way of raising money

The trouble is that even if you do all 5 of these, most tax plans of this ilk tend to fall apart quite easily. Unless, of course, you think people will believe anything you say and do...

Obviously St. Vince of Cable has been taking the advice but already there are concerns about it. Even some LibDems are worried about this - they are worried because the people it hits live in some of their marginal seats in the South West and also South West London, and others remember the fate of Guildford in the 2005 over the "local income tax" policy (which shared a number of the criteria 1-5 too).

However I worry more that policies like this tend not to work. This one will hit house prices and independent financial experts have already said it won't raise anywhere near the figure that Cable claims. Houses that fall into the tax band will suddenly fall just under it - that is just one way to get around it. Many more will no doubt will be worked out later.

Cable has a position in politics where he feels and acts like he's untouchable. I think this may be a policy too far and not even his soft press can cushion the blow if it all falls apart in the wind.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Battle of Britain

Just a few words about the wonderful service to mark the sacrifice made by the RAF in the Battle of Britain. With Civic pagentry in full flow, a fly past of a Spitfire and a marching band to boot it was a very special event. I also find the Battle of Britain week such an uplifting event - praise and thanks for the greatest of sacrifice with the cornerstone thought of liberty. The remarks by the RAF chaplain were particularly meaningful drawing parallels between the 1940s and military conflict today.

On Friday we are having a Conservative event to commemorate the event too; we having a visiting speaker about the role of Norwich & Norfolk in the Battle of Britain. I am really looking forward to it.

We shall, indeed, always remember them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who told Clegg this was a good idea?

The start of the LibDem conference has been marked by a "savage attack" by Nick Clegg on David Cameron - though the interview I saw on ITN was rather more stuttering than savage. Clegg, who was elected in part because of his media savvy skills, seems to be getting worse as time goes on. Either that or in comparison to Cameron he just seems to be getting worse.

This betrays the worry of the LibDem Leader about who the real challenge is at the election. I am told that the loss of their South West powerbases at the recent county elections has made a lot of LibDems across the country very jittery about the Tory threat in their seats. What would happen if they went backwards at this election? For a start, Clegg's leadership would be over and (assuming he clings on in his own marginal seat) Chris Huhne would be ready to strike.

However, let's say the election result shows a collapse against the Tories but losses are offset against a dozen or so gains from Labour; even if the numbers are down, Clegg could claim a victory of sorts and if Cameron landslides then he could claim nothing could have stopped the Tories and the defeats are to be expected.

So therefore, what on earth is Clegg doing having a political pop at Cameron when the wide-open goal of Labour sits before him and with it, the only chance of him clinging onto his job.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

LibDem caught in expenses row (and how he could have avoided it)

One LibDem MEP has been caught employing his girlfriend and then massively hiking her salary.

That is one reason why I have said that I will never employ a member of my family in any way shape or form. Even if this employment is totally legitimate, the salary is justified and she is working very hard for the money, then the public will still be suspicious because of the way it looks. Answer: be above board and look like you are above board by staying away from employing family* in this way.

*I am very aware that a girlfriend is not a relative as such, but apparently their relationship is well known and, to me, the same rules should apply.

Sewell Toy Library - Open for Business

I am pleased to say that the Sewell Toy Library reopens at Norwich North Surestart Centre on Saturday 19th September from 10.30 - 12.30.

This is a fantastic project, part run by a local Labour Councillor and part by commuity volunteers. My girls always love visiting and given the usual concentration span on a toy is pretty low, this is great and affordable way to keep them entertained!

A great community project - if you haven't done so, pay it a visit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Save General Election Night

One thing where both Charles Clarke and I agree - don't worry, there aren't many like this - is the issue of the when to count votes. We both greatly support the idea that we continue to count on a Thursday after votes have been cast and an evening of high-drama on live TV. The idea that people would be at work and miss things like Michael Portillo or Ed Balls losing their seats (oh hang on, the second one hasn't happened yet) would be awful. What about the security of the ballot boxes? What about the seemless transfer of power in a democracy?

The cross-party alliance running the campaign put it better than I could ... After reading this, go onto Facebook and sign up to the campaign.

This is more than just a political anorak obsession, it is actually important ...

Here are a few reasons why you might support the campaign:

*We want to know who won as soon as possible*
Quite simply, once the polling stations have closed we want to know the result as soon as possible. And this argument holds on two levels. Firstly, on a constituency level, but more significantly on a national level: if the general election is going to be close, then it is possible that if lots of seats are not counting until Friday - especially marginals - then we will not know who is going to be Prime Minister, form the Government etc until Friday lunchtime.

*It would be a backward step*
In the digital 24-hour media age when we are used to getting news quicker than ever before, it would be a backward step to delay election counts. If anything, we should be seeking to persuade the few constituencies which historically count on a Friday to bring their counts forward to Thursday night.

*Fewer people will be able to follow the results coming in*
Sitting around the television into the early hours is an election night ritual for people across the land, many of whom do not perhaps follow politics closely on a daily basis. But if there are fewer results to announce - and the potential of not getting a national result to boot - they are less likely to bother tuning in and when the remaining constituencies declare and the national result becomes apparent on the Friday, anyone at work is not going to be able to witness the climax of the electoral process.

*The TV coverage of the election will suffer*
The outside broadcasts (OBs) at counts up and down the country have provided many a memorable moment over they years, and they bring the results to life. However, the reason why broadcasters are able to provide such a variety of OBs is that there is no other call on the satellite trucks and outside broadcast units during the night. If there were an increasing number of counts on Friday during the day, fewer of them would have cameras present, thereby reducing the ability of the broadcasters to give full coverage of the results.

*It's a tradition, dammit*
The traditional British way of doing elections is to have people come out to vote and then count the ballot papers immediately afterwards. It's how we do it and what we're used to.

*Threats to the integrity of the ballot*
Security is a less important concern, but worth a mention all the same. Some of us might be just a little uncomfortable about increasing millions of ballot papers being left overnight before being counted.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Please contact your local council (most likely the electoral registration department or Chief Executive's office) to discover when the votes for your constituency at the general election will be counted.

Sir George Young should just be the start

As a long-term supporter of Sir George Young (particularly backing him in both Speakership contests as my first choice candidate) I am thrilled to see him back in as a lead player in the Shadow Cabinet. This move tells us a lot about Cameron's leadership.

Cameron can be both loyal and ruthless - he backed Duncan during his PR blunders but then chose his moment to demote - not sack - this very able but misguided Tory MP. But his choice of replacement say more. Young is moderate, experienced and has cross-bench support. A perfect guy to lead the Conservative fightback on expenses but also an interesting choice to face Harman over the dispatch box. Her shrill proclaimations will fall flat against the decent, polite and measured Hampshire MP Sir George.

So what now? Personally I hope Sir George will be the first of a number of long-serving and experienced Tory MPs who are bought back to the service of the country and the party. Cameron won't lose any of his fresh style or reforming zeal by doing this, but he will gain people who really know how to run the country.

In 1997 Tony Blair really lacked key frontbench support who had held government posts in the past and so his Ministers spent a lot of time learning on the job and relying heavily - perhaps too heavily - on the Civil Service. But then Blair's lot were out for 18 years and Cameron has a much deeper pool to choose from. So, will there be another shadow cabinet re-shuffle before the election (I doubt it) or will Cameron simply choose to add some names to his Ministerial ranks after the '10 election.

I note that the number of Ministers will fall next time - we will already have Business Secretary Ken Clarke but I hope there will be jobs for James Arbuthnot, Peter Ainsworth, Iain Duncan Smith, Peter Lilley and Tim Yeo?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

SNAP: We're serious about ASB

Anti-social behaviour and speeding have once again become priorities after the meeting of the Bowthorpe Safer Neighbourhoods Action Panel. At a meeting yesterday held at Chapel Break, the Bowthorpe SNAP decided upon 2 new priorities.

The first was to tackle speeding down Rawley Road by investigatingpossible traffic calming measures and increasing traffic officer presence. Rawley Road is a commonly used cut through in the area with a school at one end and with residential homes along it. There is an issue with speeding and with the school term about to start local people felt thisought to be an issue which is highlighted. The local police are very supportive of this initiative because it fits well with other traffic calming projects in the area and across the City. Bowthorpe has suffered the tragedy of losing of our youngersters in a road traffic accident and this priority hopes to remind all motorists of the need to stick to the speed limit.

The second priority was to tackle anti-social behaviour in the Peverell Road area by invetsigating the use of Dispersal Orders, increasingwarden/PCSO/Police foot patrols at key times and working with Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council to design out the crime (i.e.block up alleyways used for crime and disorder).

This was the number one issue raised and I am grateful to local peoplefor their input into the matter. This is something which we have lookedat before, but the weakness of the SNAP priorities is that you can worktowards solving an issue, it then ceases to be a priority and then theproblem comes back.

Local hard working people have a right to live their lives in peacewithout intimidation. We were told of large groups of youths throwingstones at windows, lighting fires, urinating in gardens and pulling upplants in gardens. If challenged by residents, local people are jeeredand have abuse thrown at them. This has to end.

If yobs want to make life difficult for local residents they ought toknow that we will use every tactic to stop them. The Police are actively looking at Dispersal Orders to stop gangs of young people from hanging around, especially late into the night. We are ensuring that more footpatrols go on at key times to discourage anti-social behaviour. And we want to work together to make sure that we don't make crime easy - by cutting off alleyways that are used for nothing but crime and disorder we can send a strong message that we the community won't tolerate this anylonger.

I am glad Peverell Road is back on the agenda; we owe the decent residents of the area every chance to live their lives free from crime. This SNAP priority shows we are on their side and ready to fight for them.

New Year's Day

Well, the firsy day back to school was exciting but largely uneventful - just a reminder about the amount of work we need to do before the kids even hit the classrooms! Bishop Michael Evans celebrated a wonderful Mass with us this morning, wishing the teaching staff a "Happy New Year". We were joined by a visiting priest from Cambodia and a stark descriptions of the differences between the teaching professions in our two nations. A very sobering start to the year, really.

The best bit about the first day back to school is all the "catch up chats" you get with colleagues and friends, many of whom have the luxury of spending most the break abroad. It was pleasing to see how many people have had my latest campaign leaflet and remembered it - the photos worked well and people certainly liked my "Honesty Promise".

Childcare means I couldn't go to the leaving party for John Jones at the Council - a real shame as John has been a dependable and methodical Head for the Legal & Democratic Services at City Hall (spelling errors aside!! Sorry John, had to be said!!) and we will be very sorry to see him go. His replacement has, meterphorically, big shoes to fill.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Big Day for my Little Girl

Today Emily goes into hospital to have her tonsils out; it'll involve an overnight stay and a general anaesthetic. She is being a big brave girl, unlike her parents both of whom couldn't sleep and are nervous as hell. For Emily this is a sleepover in a hospital; for Mum & Dad its torture. Why did nobody warn us about this before we became parents?

UPDATE: After a traumatic day all is well and Emily recovering nicely in the N&N. More in the morning.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The depth of the Tory lead

A Conservative opinion poll lead of 16%, as published in The Guardian, is hardly newsworthy at the moment - but what is worthy of note is the analysis here which shows the Tory Leader ahead in all social classes and all regions. Has there ever been a time when a government has collapsed so completely and amongst even its most loyal supporters? Brown gets back to running the country next week ... welcome home, Prime Minister!

Possibly the most rude, pointless and patronising political interview ever

If you feel the need to cringe this morning I suggest that you read this interview with Dr Sarah Woolaston, the Tory candidate chosen by Open Primary in Totnes, organised by The Independent newspaper. Clearly its name has got nothing to do with the political outlook of the paper and I feel very ashamed having previously credited the paper with being a decent read after seeing this. I don't know if it tell us more about the people who email questions in (possibly the odd Labour stooge there somewhere) or the Independent team for publishing them.

Look at the questions; are these really the best they recieved? Some show little or no attempt at balance or even trying to get an important or interesting answer. Of course not all of the questions were awful - Norua Jamenez rightly asks about the experience of the Open Primary, Stephen Casey asks about the political philosophy behind Dr Woolaston's 3 year membership of the party and Craig Sotherton, Anil Joshi and Niall Simpson all asked valid questions on the NHS.

But there were others...

Jeff Gilchrist asked Dr Woolaston to justify the way the Conservative Parliamentary Party voted in the 1945 parliament; what on earth is he going on about? Do we ask the LibDems about David Lloyd-George or ask Gordon Brown to jusift the actions of Ramsay MacDonald? I am sorry Jeff but that is a very bizarre question - and unbelievably the Independent chose it to publish!

Frances Chaudrey asks about the role of Michael Ashcroft in funding Tory campaigns - OK I grant you its an issue within political circles but I am on doorsteps day-in-day-out year round and not a single person here in Norwich has ever raised it. It may be a big deal to Frances, I am not taking anything away from that, but does it really rate amongst the 10 biggest issues raised with The Indy?

Tim Vole offers the chance for Dr Woolaston to single out the most offensive thing that Anthony Steen has ever said; this question is offensive in itself (given its probably intent just to embarrass Dr Woolaston and/or Mr Steen) and Dr Woolaston's repsonse that most people have moved on is correct. This is negative politics at its worst; not tell what you want to change about the country but tell me what you hate the most about a man who is months from leaving office.

Verity Matthews asks about the expense claims of the "Tory squirearchy" - seemingly forgeting that the claims and possible illegal activites of our MPs covered all parties including the governing one - and the response of Dr Woolaston to remind them of LibDem candidate April Pond's moat was brilliant.

I don' t have a problem with challenging questions or the topics here, but I do question the judgement of the editorial team in choosing them for publication to a future legaislator. Are we really short of questions on crime, education, foreign affairs or the economy? I understand a GP getting a lot of questions on the NHS (including the fair one on Hannan's comments) but is this really the remit of her role? Or has the Independent just pandered to its own prejudices and allowed anti-Tory readers to have their day in the sun? This whole exercise is designed to trip up and embarrass not to probe, search and find her views. Where is the vision and the positive view of what Dr Wollaston can help to achieve in government?

Come on Independent, I was almost a regular reader - until this.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Daily Mirror: A waste of paper and ink

Whilst trapped inside of a soft-play centre during a rainy time I was forced (i.e. boredom drove me to) to read all of the newspapers on offer. It included my staple diet of the Evening News and EDP, plus also a few titles I hadn't read in a long, long time.

I was deeply shocked by the Daily Mirror; aside from being badly written and utterly misguided, it seems to have totally missed the point. Luckily the whole newspaper took me less than 2 minutes to "read". The political stories were laughable; I didn't think anybody or anything could still support this government like the Mirror does. I was told about "desperate Cameron" who was "trying to con people into thinking he could be trusted with the NHS"; this wasn't in the opinions page or the letters page, this was the news stories!! The Paul Routledge column actually made me double-take it was so out-of-touch; we need more proper socialists writing this stuff because, God knows, with this government in power we need a laugh. The headlines make The Sun look rational and the choice of celebrity gossip was, frankly, second class indeed.

The whole content and structure of the paper lacked anything approaching clarity. It was devoid of a single interesting article. I understand that I am part of the Telegraph faithful, but I cannot stand the Daily Mail and have more and more been taken with the Indy (which, although it contains little to no news, always has something worth reading), and so the Mirror probably isn't designed with me in mind. But even so, is this really the best they can do?

What have Labour got left to say?

The news that a ComRes poll for tomorrow's Indy shows a strong Conservative lead on the NHS, despite Labour's summer attack on the issue, shows again that the old political narrative is dead. Labour have tried to convince people that the Tories wish to privatise the NHS - let us assume for a moment that people believed this. What does the poll then tell us? This narrative, alive since 1997, has simply said that reduced spending equals less services (or fewere schools'n'hospitals, as Blair would say). Parties who want lower tax and less government spending also want to sack Nurses and Teachers. Now, it is all change.

People no longer wish taxes to continue to rise; most believe they should be lowered.

People no longer believe cutting costs means sacking frontline workers; in fact teachers, policeman and nurses would be the last thing to be cut out of the education, police and health system (believe me, there is plenty of bureaucracy to choose from first).

So if people do believe the Labour spin and still trust the Tories more with the NHS what does that say - other than another Labour line is dead. What now do Labour have left to say?

Of course the Tories don't wish to privatise the NHS. David Cameron, who of course has made a pledge to increase NHS spending despite overall cuts in government spending, now has people on side - he ought to take this chance to lay out in clear detail the reform which needs to accompany it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Daily Telegraph: Clarke facing "concerted Tory push"

The Daily Telegraph today reports that Charles Clarke is coming under increasing political pressure and faces the reality of losing his Norwich South seat next time becuase of a "concerted Tory push". We are certainly getting a lot of traction in the campaign and the media are really noticing how many shadow ministerial we are getting, the volume of leaflets going out and the professional nature of the campaign.

It says:
Other Labour big hitters who face a concerted Tory push are Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, whose 3,000 majority in Norwich South looks shaky after Chloe Smith won the neighbouring seat in last month’s by-election to become the youngest Tory MP for 30 years.

Interestingly the LibDems are at war - both locally and the blogosphere - about the decision to target Norwich South with the utter lack of support for their candidate is symptomatic of this. Most independent commentators are now saying they could be the wooden spoon winners coming fourth in Norwich South.

Why is Ramsay being so timid on the "Honesty Pledge"?

I have the latest Green party newspaper thrust into my hand today - more on that later - included in which is an article by their PPC Adrian Ramsay demanding an independent body deal with MPs wage, allowances and expenses and also details of promises being made by young Ramsay if he shocks everyone and wins the parliamentary seat. This is a co-incidence because this is also what I have dedicated my latest parliamentary newsletter to as well. So let's compare.

Now usually minority parties, such as the Greens and LibDems, can promise what they want because they know they cannot win and wouldn't have to fund it or implement it. So you might expect Ramsay's honesty pledges to be wild and over the top, really taking in the public anger. Strong, bold way of cleaning up politics? Errr, no...

Ramsay pledged to carry on living in the constituency (ditto for me), to put his expenses on the web (who on earth won't be doing this now) and to carry out surgeries across the constituency listening to residents (isn't this part of the job anyway?).

I know that my promises have caused some colleagues to double-take but I believe each of them to be desirable and possible to achieve. They include:
Taking no paid work other than being an MP
Publishing my diary so you can see who I meet and whta I am doing
Never to employ any member of my family
Never taking taxpayers money (MPs communications allowance) to produce party leaflets
Claiming less year-on-year in total costs than Clarke

So why is Cllr Ramsay being so timid with this? Even if political expediency doesn't allow him to be bold doesn't he believe in making things more open and transparent?

There seem to be a number of issues on Ramsay's plate at the moment - other bloggers are asking which Green Councillor has been thrown out of the national party and if he backs Rupert Read's internal campaign which is mired in negative campaigning.

But this is serious stuff; will the Greens be as serious and strong on this as I am?

Don't do it, Eric!

According to the DT's Andrew Pierce, reported all over the place, the Conservatives are going to pile in extra resources to target Labour's big hitters in seats that the party has a chance of winning. With the swing that the party achieved in Norwich North we could have a very good chance of removing John Denham in Southampton, Jack Straw in Blackburn and Ben Bradshaw in Exter. Also rather appealing is the thought of winning the Yorkshire seat of Balls and Darling's Edinburgh Berth.

I have to admit that I worry about having a so-called decapitation strategy. I warned against it when the LibDems tried it before the '05 election and - as predicted by this blog - it came across as being nasty, neative and malicious. I think for the same reasons we ought to avoid it too.

If these MPs fall as the Tory tidalwave crosses the country then so be it, but to pour in resources to try and defeat big hitters would come across as being arrogant and wrong. Don't do it Eric!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Politicans & Footballers: How long should a sex scandal haunt you on google?

One of the brilliant things about the predictive searches on Google is that it lets you know what other people are searching for and which are the most popular searches. It has also thrown up, for me, a big question in the last few days - google can be a great record of your successes but also a permenant reminder of your failures. If you make a slip up - no matter of what proportion it doesn't only damage your career at that moment but can follow you around. Currently, as far as I know, there are only references to "conservative" and "Norwich" for me. But imagine if you were caught in a scandal; how long would that ghost you on Google? And do different people suffer in different ways and for different lengths of time?

Take for example a young man called Ben Alnwick; the goalkeeper in City's 4-0 win in the Carling Cup this week. Having heard of Alnwick from his time with Spurs I googled him to see his form. Aside from his footballing career, predictive google gave me 7 alternative searches about him - all referring to a sex scandal that we was involved in 3 years ago when he was 19 years old. He was filmed having sex with a lady alongside 2 of his team-mates and 3 years on he still pays the price on google. If you google Alnwick thats what you know about him.

So out of interest I turn to Steve Norris; former Tory Minister and erstwhile candidate for Mayor of London. Mr Norris was one the people who typified "Tory sleaze". Norris apparently kept 5 mistresses secret from his wife for some time - a very busy man! Google Mr Norris and ... you guessed it, not a word of this comes up! If you google Norris he gets away with no references.

So what are the differences between Norris - a high profile sex scandal - and Alnwick - a low profile one - where Alnwick is still there and Norris isn't? Could it be what they have achieved after the sex scandal is over? Alnwick is still playing football, not a lot to report, whilst Norris has gone on to be one of the most high profile Tories and their first candidate in the London Mayoralties.

OK, so let's take a politican who fell from grace and never recovered. Somebody who has done virtually or actually nothing since leaving office. Take, Ron Davies. Labour's Welsh Secreary was forced to quit in 1998 after a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common. Let's predictive google Ron Davies then, of whom we have heard nothing since then. Well, there is one reference to just "resignation" and one to "badger" but nothing to otherwise suggest what he was involved in. If you google Davies you have to click on to find his sex scandal.

So maybe its to do with the time period; Alnwick's case was quite recent so let's look at more and less recent cases. Every google predictive on (Lord) Cecil Parkinson is about his sex scandal and love child - and that happened 20 years ago. For Boris Johnson, his sex scandal is not mentioned at all.

Could it be be about political seniority? Former Prime Minister John Major's affair has a single reference, as does Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescotts. Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook gets away with it completely. Unlikely to be about that then.

What about the more bizarre caes? Well, LibDem MP Mark Oaten's has 4 predictive references and 3 of them are about his incidents with Rent Boys. So maybe.

Either way, footballer Alnwick has a right to be a bit miffed if his minor case ghosts him on Google longer than the more serious sex scandals by politicans. However I suppose that the predictive google works on how popular certain search phrases are - so the public set what is notworthy and what isn't. Mayne Norris & Cook have been "forgiven" in the eyes of the public whereas Oaten hasn't? Certainly people who google Oaten seem to care more about the scandal than his other political works. Or maybe ALnwick is just more interesting?

This issues continues to puzzle me - and I suppose it will carry on doing so - about why people google what they do. A combination of factors, not least public curiosity about the cases must lead this one.

But predictive google continues to give me hours of fun even if it isn't always fair on people. For example who on earth is googling "Charles Clarke Diet"?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forgotten "Three Score"?

Site visits are one of the best things about being a Councillor because you can point to an issue and say to a council officer: "there you go, what do you think of that!" and they will see it rather than just note a name of an area from an email.

This morning I spent a few hours doing the rounds in Three Score, a new development in my ward, with 2 highly experienced council officers looking at the situation. What we saw was rubbish, weeds, broken glass, fly tipping, over grown bushes, hacked back bushes and a real sense that the footpaths in particular had no care in them.

One resident said to me it felt like a "forgotten" area - except, he added, when they needed his tax money.

There's a lot that needs to be done - the residents here pay full council tax and demand full services. Next week I am showing the City Council CEO around the area too in a bid to raise its profile and get the action it needs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's on offer in Anglia Square?

During my A Level Business Studies lessons one of the few things that remains with me to this day is that balanced business zones work best; you don't find shopping centres with just clothes shops in or out-of-town centres with just computer outlets. Today I spend some time talking to shoppers and traders who work in and around the Anglia Square / Magdalen Street area and i was surprised by the balance on offer. I was able to go to the cinema, have cafe coffee, do my food shopping, buy household goods and browse small independent and sometimes quirky traders. It was a good experience; and on the day that the unemployment figures rose yet again, and showed an upturn here in the City, I also spoke to traders who were advertising for more staff.

So given this, why is the perception of this area so bad? I did warn, years ago, that Chapelfield would unbalance the City yet further towards the south. Unlike other parties I don't oppose Chapelfield and in many ways it forced the rebranding of the Anglia Square area, but it also means that you can get pretty much everything you want without coming above ground. The strenght of the Norwich economy lies in the footfall of people exploring our wonderful City. How many tourist pounds are spent to the north? Not many now I bet. The Lanes have done well to reinvent themselves but Anglia Square doesn't seem to have matched that.

This goes against percieved wisdom but Anglia Square isn't awful - it's got a lot of good shops and a lot of life about it. The shoppers were happy and the traders, mostly, bouyant. Maybe that message isn't getting through but something does need to be done.

I'm not saying Anglia Square will ever rival Chapelfield or the Mall, but it does have a role to play in the overall services offered by the City. Maybe we all ought to be spending a little more time there and more effort in speaking up for it?

What should a candidate wear whilst leafleting?

An unusual exchange whilst out leafleting yesterday; and an admisison - I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

I came to a couple in their front garden and passed them the newsletter.

The gentleman said, "aren't you the Conservative candidate who wants to be our MP? You better smarten up your act if you want to get into power."

I was a little stunned; his wife quickly lept in: "Oh dear, you are always saying you want politicans to be more like ordinary people and look..."

And then it struck both of us at the same time - we were wearing pretty much the same shorts and t-shirt as each other.

We laughed, and the gentleman finished: "I am even dressing like a Tory now" - "Or," said his wife, "like a young person!"

Being 30 now, I enjoy being referred to as a young person...

Oh it's such a perfect day!

Yesterday must count as pretty much an ideal day for me. It started badly - with a live mouse being deposited (the third in a week) in my kitchen by my large ginger tom cat - but got progressivly better.

Firstly was the badly needed hair cut at Graham's in Grove Road. Graham, aside from giving a great cut, is also the font of knowledge and gossip in the area - he knows what is going on and is always willing to let me know what people are thinking locally.

From there I went for coffee in The Forum with my friend Brandon Lewis - the next MP for Great Yarmouth. We have, in some ways, similar seats to fight so we like to share tips and advice for campaigning. By lunchtime we were out leafleting and meeting people in Eaton Village.

During the heat of the afternoon it was time for gardening and playing with the kids; including a hosepipe!

And then by the early evening back out leafleting and speaking to residents.

I got in trouble a few years back for suggesting that teacher's waste their holidays by relaxing rather than planning lessons and the like. I am willing to risk it again; yesterday was very productive, very relaxed - bring on the summer!

At Last ... a garden party with sunshine

Last Saturday was the Annual Norwich Conservatives Garden Party, this time held in the beautiful gardens at the Old Lodge in Mulbarton. The best thing, though, wasn't seeing old friends from both in and outside of Norwich, or the strawberries, or the home made scones (sorry about the oven Karen!) but the fact we did all of this, all afternoon without a drop of rain! Sunhats were the order of the day! We raised a great amount for the campaign fund and everyone had a great time. My thanks to the organisers who, once again, did a great job!

Monday, August 10, 2009

10 Challenges to Improve Education

Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove uses a Q&A session in today's Independent to set out what he clals the 10 big challenges for improving state schools. They are - I think all of them - to be absolutely welcomed and each needs a Conservative solution too (though some I think would just need the wave of a Ministerial pen). I hope that teaching colleagues and unions would back this too.

I would emphasise 10 main changes. First, recruiting and retaining the highest quality individuals into the teaching profession.
Second, getting Ofqual, the standards watchdog, to fix our exams so they are directly comparable to the world's best. I want our 16 and 17-year-olds to sit exams which are as testing, and as attractive to colleges and employers, as those on offer in Singapore and Taiwan.
Third, allowing state school students to sit truly stretching international exams, such as the IGCSE, which currently only private school students have access to.
Fourth, ensuring Ofsted focuses on the quality of teaching rather than the zeal with which a school complies with irrelevant bureaucratic diktats.
Fifth, reforming the national curriculum to strip out unnecessary accretions and concentrate on providing a stretching academic programme for all pupils to the age of 16.
Sixth, giving teachers new powers to keep order in class, including protection from violence and intimidation.
Seventh, liberating the weakest schools from local authority control and handing these schools over to organisations with a proven track record of excellence.
Eighth, allowing the very best schools to benefit from academy status, and freedoms, providing they use those freedoms to help other, under-performing, schools.
Ninth, encouraging new providers into the state system, as they have in Sweden, by allowing parents to transfer the money the state currently spends on their child's education to the sort of school they really want.
And tenth, reforming pupil funding to ensure more resources are spent on the very poorest – to help reverse the widening gap in our education system between the fortunate and the forgotten.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Totnes Matters

The "Open Primary" result at Totnes, which saw local GP Dr Sarah Wollaston selected as Conservative candidate, could yet be the most significant political event of the year. Have I gone mad - a rural seat in Devon, setting the pace for the country? Well, yes ...

This was all part of Cameron's localism agenda, about enpowering people and getting more citizens involved in the democractic process. Post-expensesgate a chance to really engage with voters. Finally, all those people who live in safe seats but who aren't in a political party (and that's the overwhelming majority) will get a say on who is their local MP, or at least the candidate. For what its worth, I think this helps sew up Totnes - a marginal seat with a strong LibDem challenge - for the Conservatives.

The nay-sayers are in full flow, however, but I say this. Forget the turnout arguement; 25% of the constituency is far more people engaged that the few hundred local members under the old system. Forget the cost arguement; democracy can be expensive and we have to live with that. Forget the opposition parties trying to rig it; they can't do it.

So how will this change politics?

Firsty imagine if just one party did this nationwide next time, including making sitting MPs open to challenge. Then think about the kind of candidate who will be selected. I think it will inherently favour local candidates - party members are usually selecting the person they want to be the next Foreign Secretary, voters may want somebody who really knows about the area. I think it could benefit non-politicians and also people in non-traditional jobs. Lawyers and management consultants will find it harder to be selected than GPs, teachers and radio presenters. Why, because in these jobs you have a profile in a community already. A teacher, say, in a large comprehensive will be known by thousands of families locally who have been through the system. Ditto a GP in a tight-knit community. All goof stuff you might say.

Now for the bit the whips won't like. In the USA, the Primary system ensures that candidates owe their political survial more to local people and less to the party machine. Primaries in Britain I think will lead to more mavericks or independent - minded MPs being selected. In a tight vote, will that MP in a safe seat think about pleasing their whip or pleasing the voters who are due to vote in their primary next month?

One more thought; if they want to keep up as a radical democractic party I cannot see the LibDems being able to not follow suit soon - every day they delay and every Tory contest that is decided this way makes Clegg look more and more establishment and Cameron more and more grassroots orientated. But for Labour; can they follow suit without upsetting the Unions (their paymasters)? An interesting thought.

Absolute full marks to Pickles and Cameron for this one. It needs really serious thinking about and could radically change the landscape of politics.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Delivery Day

In a week where Homebase and Aldiss have both let me down, this made me laugh outloud. Nothing works the way it should and this blog post - brilliantly written - really does represents the highs and lows of "delivery day".

I bow down to Richard Fair!

The Parcel's Story
06/02/09 - 15:38:26 Sort Centre Droitwich Spa: Sorted
07/02/09 - 06:12:35 Norwich Depot: Received
07/02/09 - 06:50:35 Norwich Depot: Loaded onto vehicle

My Story
06/02/09 - 15:02:37 Norwich:Order placed. Slight excitement that it will be delivered in less than twenty-four hours.
07/02/09 - 02:48:46 Norwich:Noise outside. Can't be delivery man, can it? Goes back to sleep.
07/02/09 - o3:01:01 Norwich:What if it was someone taking something away rather than bringing something. Goes back to sleep.
04:21:33 - Toilet visit. Ponders sanity of purchase. Heads back to bed convinced I've done the right thing. Although...
05:30:00 - Birds outside wake me. Toilet visit.
07:19:21 - Wake suddenly. I've overslept and missed the delivery man. Check clock, it's only 07:19. Get up and check online tracking of parcel. It was loaded onto van half an hour ago. It could be here any minute.
08:11:34 - Someone on the radio talking about something totally unrelated to my parcel. Decide to risk toilet visit, "If he comes now, he comes now" I tell the window in the front room where's I've been stood for twenty minutes wondering if I dare risk a toilet visit.
08:24:08 - Check front step to see if parcel or card was left while in toilet.
08:46:11 - Risk shower. Leave all doors open so I can hear knock on front door.
08:48:00 - Leap out of shower, grab towel, run to door. No one there. False alarm. Return to shower which appears to have self-adjusted it's temperature.
09:52:33 - Give up on Guardian Quick crossword. Mind on other things. The parcel is bound to be here soon and then I can play.
10:43:26 - Washed up after breakfast. Washing in machine. Rubbish in bin. No parcel. Check online tracking of parcel. It was loaded onto van at 06:50:35.
11:32:13 - Rearranged living room slightly. Basically I've removed the table cloth and am now calling the dinner table 'my writing table'. Sit at my writing table and added church candle and matches to shopping list.
11:49:05 - Decide on an early lunch so that I'll still have time to go shopping after parcel arrives. Leaves all doors open so I can hear delivery man knock over sound of mushrooms frying. Check online tracking of parcel. It was loaded onto van at 06:50:35. Smoke alarm goes off. Panic, I can't hear anything other than the bloody smoke alarm. Check front door. Open back door. Smoke alarm stops. Check front door again.
12:17:45 - Check online tracking of parcel. It was loaded onto van at 06:50:35. Hang washing up. Close back door. Put heating on.
13:41:41 - Next door dogs barking. This is it.
13:42:10 - Wave to next door as they arrive back for somewhere.
14:01:20 - Check order for parcel to see if it really is meant to be delivered today. It is. Check online tracking of parcel. It was loaded onto van at 06:50:35. WD40 a couple of hinges.
14:43:56 - Check Twitter and Facebook. Get depressed reading about all the things other people are doing with their Saturday. Draw a picture of a van crashing off road into tree.
14:53:22 - Suddenly realise that Norwich are playing at home and van may be stuck in traffic. Or he may have actually had an accident. Screw up drawing. Check online tracking of parcel in case there's any mention of the the accident. The parcel was loaded onto van at 06:50:35
15:08:44 - Investigating strange smell. May be slippers again.15:12:59 - Double checked the Order. Delivery could be any time up to 18.00. May have to chance another toilet trip soon. Not related to first item at 15:08.15:15:08 - Check online tracking of parcel. 13:30:39 - Unable to deliver Address Query
15:16:08 - Call supply company. Tell my story. Told to call delivery company. Delivery company answerphone says that they close at 14.00 on a Saturday.
15:20ish - Call company company back. Tell them my story again. Told that they didn't have full postal address. I read out my full postal address from copy of their Order Receipt, also mentioning the fact that it states that delivery would be up to 18.00 on a Saturday. Told that there's nothing they can do until Monday when the delivery company... I interrupt to say that my contract is with them, not the delivery company. That I want my item delivered Monday morning - to the address on the Order Receipt and I want an immediate refund of £6.75 postage for Saturday delivery. Told that it is company policy not to refund postage until delivery is complete. I tell them that it is my policy not to shop with John Lewis Direct ever again.
16:08:33 - Finally starting to get my Saturday back into some sort of shape. Called O2 with PAC number so I can have my old number on my new phone. What a breath of fresh air that was. Phone should switch on Wednesday. Chatted with guy about SIM cards for a while. Stopped short of asking if he's on Twitter.
16:10:00- Looking up John Lewis Direct and Home Delivery Network addresses. They will be getting letters, although I suspect that even with the right postcode there's a chance they'll not get them.

Postscript to Parcel's Story
07/02/09 - 13:30:39 Norwich Depot: Unable to deliver Address query

Postscript to My Story
08/02/09 - 11:01:37 - Called in O2 shop for screen cover for iPhone. Spotted gadget I was expecting from JL. Bought gadget.
08/02/09 - 12:31:17 - Called JL and cancelled order.
Let us never speak of it again.

Final Postscript to My Story
09/02/09 - 10:51:01 - Home Delivery Network arrive with parcel. Sent away with parcel.
Now, really, no more mentions.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The On-Line Campaign

If you don't often do so, please take a moment to browse my campaign website which includes all of my formal press releases and details of the local party. Latest stories include the future of the railways, NHS dentistry, welfare reform, expenses and Iraq.

Political Problem Page

I was speaking to a high profile political activist recently who told me of a problem and asked my advice. I found it quite difficult, so with their permisison I am sharing it with you for your thoughts.

This person - and I won't tell you the party because it doesn't matter - is a well known political activist and has been for many years. They have rotated through all of the jobs within the constituency organisation including standing for hopeless seats and trying their hardest to fight them well. Then at the Norwich North by-election the activist found themself in such opposition to the candidate that their party had chosen it sparked the question; does an activist have to be active for all candidates - knowing that they would let down their party if they didn't?

At first this person did some delivery rounds but without motivation. As time went on they ground to a halt doing nothing by half way through. They found themself being critical of the candidate, not just in private but also in public (though nothing in the press).

By the end, the activist was getting a really hard time from other party members for a failure to pull their weight in the campaign.

Is it right or fair to do that to an activist who won't campaign? Should this person have done more? When does a candidate put you off so much that it changes the way you see the party and your motivation?

So over to you ... does the candidate matter, was the activist right and what should their colleagues response have been to this?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Citizens taking action

Back into the swing of things, today I had 2 events to attend; the first was the launch of Homelessness Awareness at the Forum at lunchtime. It was good to see the Civic Arm - Lord Mayorand Sheriff - and the Political Arm together for this event. Amusing to see local MP Charles Clarke sitting inside a giant snow-globe in some bizarre way. What was interesting was the large number of different groups who make a difference in the City and events like this is important to pull all of them together. I am not in favour of endless government strategies; more than often they cost money and don't work; so I was interested to hear how these groups work together without the use of a 300 page glossy document to help them - it's called people taking common sense decisions and acting in the best interested of those whom they seek to serve. Other arms of government take note!

On a similar theme this evening I went, along with newly-elected Norwich South Conservative Councillor Andrew Wiltshire, to meet a residents association which has been formed by 2 adjacent blocks of flats who are fed up with anti-social behaviour ruining their lives. Like-minded folks got together and decided to work alongside the police and the local council to do some pro-active. Fed up with not being able to use stairwells or having to walk over litter in the corridors, these people have set about creating a sense of community. They are totally inclusive of all residents and are working hard to put on events and get people talking. Now they want help to persuade the powers-that-be to help them install some outside seating and a BBQ areas in their communal gardens. It sounds like a fantastic project and I will be doing all I can to help, with either attracting funding or lobbying for them. I hope that the usual red-tape and bureaucracy doesn't get in the way - this new exciting group is takling the issue of ASB on the ground by themselves and in a way that suits them.

What is government for if not to facilitate and help people help themselves?