Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bowthorpe Gets Dirty: Part 2 - "Rude & Aggressive"

We've now had several complaints about political canvassers in this election being "rude and aggressive". I haven't blogged about it until now, but the most recent contact has been rather bizarre.

A young Mum from Clover Hill got in touch to say she was canvassed by Labour this week; when she said she voted for me the canvasser turned on her, calling her "stupid" and walking away. Is this a moment of anger boiling over or a general campaigning technique? The voter was very angry indeed with that response - we disagree in politics but there should always be courtesy.

This seems to be a reoccuring theme for some in the Labour Party; a certain leading figure crossed the road in North Earlham to barrack Andrew, the Conservative candidate, up a residents pathway with the voter at the door! I've heard of crossing the road to start an arguement but that takes it to new levels. If the voter was wavering on deciding to vote at all, that scene would certainly had put them off. I am glad that Andrew was decent and polite throughout.

This has been a negative by-election; with spin, PR and smears a plenty. I hope local people notice who is doing it ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ivan Cameron : An Amazing Life

As the father of two young daughters, I cannot imagine losing either of them, and in that respect I have no idea what David and Samantha are going through. I can but imagine how I might be in their circumstances. Those pictures of Ivan's parents caring for him, touching him and holding him are very special indeed.

I am very rarely moved by the news, but watching the BBC tonight I admit to getting very upset indeed; a child is so precious and so wonderful that losing them at any age must be devastating. David and Samantha should thank God for his 6 years tonight and that they showered him with love and affection during that time. Ivan was in a great deal of pain, but the touch of his loving parents no doubt helped him through those times. But we should also keep Nancy and Arthur in our prayers who have lost a brother they both loved very dearly.

Our families shape us as much as we shape them; Emily and Olivia have changed me and my politics and we have heard today how Ivan changed David Cameron. Few people can ever say they moulded a Prime Minister, but I think Ivan Cameron has done it. He lived a remarkable life and both he and the Cameron family are in my prayers tonight.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bowthorpe By-Election Candidates

Jo Storie - Labour ; lives in Bowthorpe, former county councillor but has certainly not been involved in any of the community groups since I have been involved.

Dave Thomas - LibDem ; lives on the other side of the City and stood for a seat in Thetford in 2007. Nothing known locally, other than criticism of starting campaign the day after John died.

Christine Way - Green; perenial Green candidate, lives in the City Centre.

Andrew Wiltshire - Conservatives; lives in Bowthorpe and works for Social Services. In his twenties and runs the local CF branch.

Interesting that only 2 candidates live locally; I wonder what people will make of candidates being parachuted in with no track record and claiming to be "local campaigners"?

How genuine is Green pledge on supermarket booze?

The "other" Councillor Little - that is, Stephen who represents Town Close for the Greens - had a rash of excellent press last week that included linking in with the EEN's campaing to support pubs by not buying alcohol in a supermarket for a year (click here for more). Great, you might think - but a click on a different web page makes the story a little less clear. Rather than being a personal crusade, according to, Stephen writes that:

I will not buy alcohol from a supermarket for a year but only if 500 other people will do the same.
— Stephen Little, Green Party City Councillor

That isn't quite the same thing - and as only 19 people have signed up so far it might seem that Cllr Little is off the hook; so if this is more than just a publicity stunt, no doubt he will be making clear the pledge stands, even if 500 don't sign up...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can we measure anything by defections?

I have always had a pretty neutral stance on defections; I neither join the clamour for by-elections nor get hot under the collar about who is going where. However, I note that the London Borough of Hillingdon has seen two pretty high profile defections to the ruling Conservative group in recent weeks. Firstly LibDem Roy Chamdal switched to the Conservatives and now Heathrow's Labour Councillor Santokh Dhillon has joined too. This adds to the heafty Tory majority in Hillingdon and also says something about the way the opposition are working.

Interesting to note the way that the party losing the member reacts; Labour in Hillingdon said it was because Cllr Dhillon spent a lot of time in India and was useless, whilst the LibDems said Chamdal wasn't doing any work for them anyway. Do we really need this? Can't you say that they are good people but you respect their decision - the same right any voter has - to switch parties. Is character assassination really necessary? Won't the public be rightly suspicious to find, for example, the LibDem leader advocating their candidate in a by-election one week and stabbing him in the back the day he quits?

Although the wonderous Parliamentary defection hasn't happened yet, these add to a stream of local government / activist defections. People are saying that you can tell a party on the rise because of the stream of defectors. But how far do the defectors recognise a party on the rise? Which came first - the party strength or the defectors?

Maybe all this tells us is what the polls already show - a very likely Tory majority at the next election?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

LibDems will scrap plans to dual the A11

Anybody who attended the City Council debate on the subject of dualing the A11 may be surprised by that blog headline, but once again the gulf between local and national LibDem parties is startling.

In order to make his back-on-an-envelope £20bn tax cuts stack up, LibDem Leader Nick Clegg is announcing the savings in dribs and drabs as and when they are dreamed up. Last week this included cutting the road building programme by 90% (yes, ninety percent). This would, inevitably, include the work that is needed on the A11 and the A47.

I happen to believe that this was seen as an easy hit for Clegg; enhances his environmental credentials and provides a serious wodge of cash for his tax cut plans. However the arrogance of the national party means that was never communicated with the local party nor alligned against local priorities.

So local LibDem Chiefs will be left to answer to local people about why the A11 won't be dualled under the LibDem spending plans.

This decision couldn't have come at a worse time for business in Norwich and Norfolk; and again demonstrates why the LibDems can't be trusted with the big decisions.

Are there 10 LibDems in Bowthorpe?

At the last election there were 195 votes for the LibDem candidate; and they came in last place. This obviously isn't a fantastic result (despite the claims that only they can win here!) but doesn't explain their apparent desperate efforts to get their nomination paper signed for the by-election. Let me explain.

The nomination paper requires 10 signatures from local people - we usually ask either our members or keen supporters. There is never a shortage in Bowthorpe; however in wards where you are not so strong it can be a challenge.

Having said that, I don't think we've ever had a situation where the candidate and his team have to go door-to-door begging for signatures. I know the LibDems have precious little canvassing for Bowthorpe (usually not bothering at all with the ward) but they must know 10 people locally to sign ... or do they?

I was contacted by a gentleman from Three Score most put out that a young man bowls up on his doorstep asking him to sign. The resident - who was a little frail and veryanxious by this visit - asked for ID but non was forthcoming. The canvasser keeps pushing the man to sign, apparently getting more and more determined. The resident, though, refuses and finally the canvasser goes on his way. This made the resident feel very worried and insecure indeed. The resident also told me that the canvasser didn't even identify the party he was representing.

I note from the statement of persons nominated that the LibDem candidate has his signatures from trawling around Three Score; could they be the mystery party desperate for signatures? If so, it shows that no matter how many nasty and negative leaflets you deliver the public will always back a positive, hard working and year-round team.

If - and we aren't sure it was the LibDems but the evidence points that way - it was them, then any party struggling for nomination signatures ought to be very worried indeed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bowthorpe Gets Dirty: Part 1 - the LibDem Campaign

If anybody thought that the by-election caused by John's death was going to be a gentleman's affair then this weekend will surely have made them think again.

The LibDems kicked off their campaign the day after John died; hardly showing a great deal of respect. When this was reported to the media (incidently, not by me) instead of their Group Leader or PPC leading from the front, a junior spokesman was wheeled out to give their excuses. Aside from smearing me, they said this was part of thier normal campaigning in Bowthorpe. Hmmm, that would be the same normal campaigning that hasn't seen a single non-election leaflet delivered in the last 3 years? The LibDems are noted for their utter lack of respect around by-elections and their negative tactics. I haven't been disappointed.

The second LibDem leaflet attempted to link the Greyhound Opening scandal with the decision to appoint the next Lord Mayor. Apparently we have "gone easy" on Labour and, oh, by the way, Tories and Labour are discussing plans for the new Mayor. Now, these would be the same discussions that started last October (before Greyhound Opening) and in the presence of LibDem Leader Brian Watkins who knew all about it. Hardly secret and not at all linked to Greyhound Opening. But don't let any facts or honesty get in the way of a LibDem campaign; smear and innuendo are all that matter to them.

And then to this weekend ... the usual part of any LibDem campaign is the famous bar chart. Up to this point they had been using the last constituency results - but apparently voters were actually laughing at the claim that only the LibDems or Labour could win in Bowthorpe, so they switched to only the LibDems or Conservatives this weekend. The LibDems came last in 08 with just 195 votes. I wonder if the LibDem agent would like a £50 charity bet with the Conservative agent that says the LibDems don't come in either of the top 2 positions? Maybe I should write!

The Labour campaign will gets its own blog post later, but the attitude and conduct of the LibDems has been reprehensible. How long ago was it that then-LibDem Leader Hereward Cooke had to apologise for their election tactics and admitted lying on their leaflets? I think the same thing may have to happen again. Either way, if Brian Watkins wants a working relationship left with any of the other parties he better start showing some leadership and take a grip of the campaign rather than letting the electorally-militant wing of the LibDems take over again.

Normal Service to be resumed ...

After a short break from blogging, due to various factors, I am going to get back into it; with a by-election in Bowthorpe, the council budget and unitary delayed there will be plenty to talk about!