Sunday, March 29, 2009

MPs Expenses: Just Sort Them Out

The continual drip-drip of allegations and snout-in-trough exposures of the recent weeks doesn't damage a single political party - they damage the reputation of politics and with it, democracy as a whole. Voters I have spoken to on the doorsteps in the recent weeks want us to tackle anti-social behaviour, improve school standards, strengthen our society and repair our economy - so the more time we spend on the issue of MPs expenses the less time we are working on the "big issues" and the "tough choices". So come on Gordon, sort it out and do it fast. And to help, beause Gordon is currently keen on advice from the Conservatives, are my plans.

1. Abolish all MPs expenses - don't give MPs a penny more than that which they earn.

2. Cut MPs salaries by 5%, and then link them to the pay rises offered not to a high ranking civil servant but to our nurses and teachers. Might make our MPs think rather more about the impact of their decisions on hard working families rather more.

3. Abolish money for second homes. Parliament - or rather, the taxpayer - ought to buy a big block of flates near to Westminster, do them up and provide them for free to MPs (not unlike Halls for students). There could be larger flats for MPs whose families come and see them during the week. They would all be furnished to a minimum standard (think Travelodge); any extras come from the MP themselves. The flat is owned by the tax-payers and would switch to the new MP should a member lose their seat.

4. Judge the qualification for these flats by the avergae time taken to get to Westminster by public transport (the real journey time, not those claims made by rail companies). Anything up to an hour door-to-door is a reaosnable communte. Anything more qualifies the member for a flat.

5. Put a complete ban - and I mean, complete - on family members working for the MP.

As a Tory, the free market is very much in my thinking; there are no shortage of MPs and there are many, many very good candidates without seats who would do the job. If people don't like the pay and conditions they shouldn't out themselves up for the job. A big bit of being an MP is public service, and that may include taking a pay cut to do the job.

I am a staunch defender of MPs - the overwhelming majority are decent, very hard working and honourable men and women. They deserve our respect as a population and I personally am grateful for the work they do. MPs expenses get in the way of recieveing that respect and should be sorted out as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

We don't want to give you that...

Chris Tarrent is ruining my life.

For Mother's Day "the kids" bought Louise Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on the Wii (a joke - of sorts, because we both loved Slumdog, and don't worry there was a better gift inside the box too!) and we haven't really stopped playing it since. I have now won £125,000 but it continues to fill every spare waking moment.

And because you can start again if you get it wrong, it encourages you to be reckless ...

I am even playing it during ad breaks.

I may have to go Cold Turkey.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Working Hard for Bowthorpe - All Year Around!

And that's not just an election slogan! I must admit that I took the weekend after the by-election off, mainly to see my kids again, but this week has been straight back into it. The bizarre twilight world of the by-election meant that a number of other issues took a back seat, but they are all back on the agenda now.

On Tuesday night I attended the Lord Mayor's Business Reception at Norwich Castle which was an excellent event; not only well attended but the quality of the debate - particularly on the round table - was impressive. It became very clear that business wants a low tax, low intereferance attitude from the City Hall; faciliate business, they urged. There was good support for a number of the cultural functions of the council (elephants, ice trail etc) and an interesting split over transport (some for more road closures, others for opening up more routes).

Tonight I did a street meeting with residents about pavement issues in Clover Hill, cyclists on pavements and repairing roads. I met with one of the City engineers to talk to residents abot an action plan and I think everyone left happy; nice to have a bright evening to stand outside and chat! Then I had a Bowthorpe Ward Councillors meeting and onto the Bowthorpe Community Partnership where, amongst other things, we heard a report of the opening of the new Youth & Community Centre and concerns about the state of Bowthorpe Hall Road.

And the rest of the evening has been catching up on correspondance and the like. A busy life ...

Friday, March 13, 2009

I wonder if anonymous will comment again?

This gem of a comment appeared on a previous thread; I wonder if the secretive owner will now post a response? I doubt it, but I can live in hope.

Great real Little - the Dims are going to win Bowthorpe and you know it.They were storming around Bowthorpe delivering egg blue handwritten letters while you guys were pushing out the same crappy black and white rubbish with terrible photos.What will you feel like when Simon Wright's machine gets to work in your little nest egg in Bowthorpe? Looking forward to your election against the type of campaign you've seen in the last 5 weeks? Enjoy your council allowance while you can.

Apparently, anon, people liked the "crappy black and white rubbish" because it featured local issues with real solutions to problems rather than "mass printed to look like handwritten letters" which were strings of meaningless nonsense. I know this because the Conservatives got more votes than the LibDems. The thing is that day after the poll, the LibDem campaigners have all gone home, only here because it was a by-election, whereas everyone involved in our campaign is still here because we were all local. The Norwich Tory campaign team that took on and beat the Norfolk LibDem juggernault is very much ready to go. Quite frankly, if this is the best that Wright and his team can do then I say of the next election - BRING IT ON.

The LibDems can take no comfort from Bowthorpe

I am going to make some early remarks about the by-election; and I stress early because I have been so tired I haven’t really thought through all the angles. I also hope this to be an honest account of what happened.

For those who do not know the circumstances or the campaign on the ground or the local factors this could be a confusing result; on sites like Vote-2007 a lot of people simply applied the polls or the national situation to the result. Many people thought that could lead to a Labour win. I have to say, the one result that – until the day – I thought utterly unlikely was the Labour win. On the day it was clear that Labour was moving its core block-vote and a lower turnout could have meant them squeaking back in. That is why the utterly efficient Tory get-out-the-vote was so important.

It is also important to remember the history of the ward; a factor which is largely ignored in the analysis of the result. Bowthorpe had, for a very long time indeed, been Labour’s safest City berth. The challengers in the ward were the LibDems, and after a narrower result in 2000 – if I recall correctly Labour held on by a couple of hundred – the war settled down into a familiar pattern of results. When I took over as candidate, Labour were polling around 1100, LibDems 750 and Tories 350. In 2003, the year I first stood, it was Labour 1100, LibDems 614, Tories 609. So, remember, this ward has a longer LibDem history and has a big LibDem vote within it; much larger than the natural Tory bloc. The reason that the LibDem advance looked so impressive is that the Conservatives had squeezed their vote so effectively in the 04-08 period and they were starting from an ultra-low base of around 195 votes. So when I see LibDems claiming a hell-of-a-result, I really want to point out that this was exactly the same sort of result they have always got in this ward.

Then there was the campaign itself. The LibDem bandwagon hit Bowthorpe hard; they produced at least 9 A3 leaflets during the campaign, on top of god knows how many more plus direct mail. The LibDems pounced on this ward the day after John died and relentlessly pursued it in the next 7 weeks. The sheer weight of campaign support they received was phenomenal; I have never seen anything like it – something the Tory Party ought to take note of. Nobody could deny the effort that went in; they imported campaign organisers and their Eastern Region Director was here for the whole of the campaign. Labour had, similarly, support from amongst others their London Campaign Director. We had no such support in any way, shape or form.

Given the money, the campaign support, the backing from local MPs it is remarkable that anything stopped the LibDem bandwagon. But when it came down to it, local issues and local candidates matter more than the weight of leaflets you could deliver. I am very proud that local people turned their backs on negative politics and voted for a candidate who offered a positive vision based upon years of getting results. The LibDems will no doubt point to an increase in votes; they should be looking at why their vote share ever fell that low in the first place; their campaign bought them back up to where they were. They should then look to see if their own campaign is what killed their candidate in the end; more of this later.

Sometimes, the thing is not what you have but what you do with it. And I would like to comment on the campaign that each party ran – but that’s for another day (after sleep).

By-Election: Con Hold

More on this tomorrow but this is a fantastic result for us and I will be expecting apologies from various anonymous comment leavers!

Results of Bowthorpe ward by-election - Thursday 12 March

Candidate name Political party Votes Elected
Jo Storie Labour 761
Dave Thomas Liberal Democrats 686
Christine Way Green Party 193
Andrew Wiltshire Conservative 915 X

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bowthorpe Thread

As you might imagine I am going to be very busy in the next few days, so may not be able to post. However you can use this thread for predictions, comments on the campaign or literature and suchlike.

It will be very interesting if the very negative and very, very intense LibDem campaign pays off; we wonder what the lack of a Green campaign will do to their vote and if Labour can ever recover in this ward.

John Wyatt was a great councillor and I hope the person who replaces him on Thursday is every bit as good - I trust that person is Andrew Wiltshire; local, hard working and the best man to beat Labour!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Latest Norwich South poll

Conservative 33%
Labour 31%
LibDems 24%
Green 13%

According to latest poll of polls here

No matter how many of these we get, the pattern of the seat being a tight Lab/Con marginal remains. A two horse race, anyone?

Bowthorpe Gets Bizarre: Vote Witshire?

The City Council have admitted that they have spelt our candidate, Andrew Wiltshire, wrong on the ballot paper - they have called him WITSHIRE instead. They have apologised but this just gives the impression that the council doesn't have their eye on the ball and can't get anything right.

All postal voters should be aware that the votes will count, including if you have corrected the council's spelling on the ballot paper!

This is unbelievable really; that there wasn't thorough checking with regards to the spelling of candidates names. I really haven't ever heard of this before; I hope it doesn't confuse and doesn't put anyone off from voting. The council has written to apologise; but as one voters said to me on the doorstep tonight ... and they want unitary status?

Bowthorpe Gets Dirty: Part 3 - LibDem phone canvassing

Next ... a Chapel Break resident raises with me the tactics being used by the LibDems with their massive phone bank effort in this election. Apprently the chap rang to ask who the resident would vote for, bearing in mind that only the LibDems could win in Bowthorpe. When the resident challenged them on local election figures, the phone canvasser paniced and hung up. This is not the first LibDem phone canvassing complaint we have recieved. I have passed this onto the LibDems and asked them to cease this kind of tactic. I know that the people running the LibDem campaign aren't from Norwich, but people here don't appreciate this kind of campaigning at all.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Politics Conference: Post Match Analysis

Today I was in London with 21 (yes, count them, Mr Little, always 21 of them...) students at an A Level Politics Conference. Despite the hard wooden seats it was a good day, and we saw a decent array of politicans.

Caroline Spelman MP - Shadow Communities Secretary - Was nursing a cold and sounded like she did; not a great effort and seemed to stray off the point. Tried to make local government sexy and largely failed. Pity as I think she is usually very good at this sort of event; nearly the youngest speaker and didn't really connect.

Tony Benn - Former Labour cabinet minister - Always good value and the most engaging of the speakers. However he does always remind me of why I vote Conservative. Apparently the world economic slump is dealt with by taxing the rich and building council houses. Also, when questioned directly by the students about interventionism and when it works and doesn't, he failed to answer the question. Got a rousing cheer; couple of good jokes especially about being pleased to recieve a death threat because he knew he could still worry and irritate people. Benn is living more and more on his reputation I would say.

Don Foster MP - LibDem Culture Spokesman - Don was the surprise of the day for me. He was very articulate and answered the questions directly and honestly. However, he did blow a few radical student dogwhistles; plenty of stuff about Iraq and civil liberties to get them clapping. However he spoke in a very accessible way and came across as being very decent.

Alan Duncan MP - Conservative Shadow Leader of the House of Commons - The absolute star of the day; though mainly with good quips and a fantastic Tony Blair impression! He was entertaining and the only one who stuck to the A-Level script about the role of parliament. Best bit was during the questions; when a middle aged Politics teacher got up to challenge him about Thatcher's "dismantling of the welfare state", Duncan replied quick as a shot - "What nonsense and if this is the kind of thing you are teaching then heaven help us." Cue clapping.

Simon Hughes MP - they said he was LibDem President but I am fairly sure he isn't - seemed to have put on a great deal of wait. Spent ages talking about people who knew that had died and films he had seen. Oddest speech of all. Then went on to say that the LibDems got 25% at the last election (not true) and were on the verge of power. Students were actually laughing when he talked of a LibDem government. Very partisan speech and over shadowed by Foster.

Chris Bryany MP - Deputy Leader of the House of Commons - wanted to avoid all mention of his government so spoke for 20 minutes about how he became a Labour MP and the journey he took. It was very interesting - and also very emotional - especially regarding his sexuality and growing up living in Franco's Spain and then in South America. However, he good a rougher ride from the questions but stood up well and earned some respect for that. Came out as good as a government minister could.

Frank Dobson MP - Former Labour Health Secretary & London Mayoral Candidate - joined the other lefties in worrying about the rise of the far right. Did some good old fashioned banker-bashing and, to be fair, some government-bashing too - although he said the government was not really to blame for the economy. He got rugby tackled by a lady about now being able to get on the housing market - but Frank told her to rent instead! This caused some gulps around the room; I think people want to own their own home, so Frank's idea that we all rent went down badly.

So all-in-all some very interesting stuff; the LibDems were the most political of the speakers. I was concerned that 2 of the 3 Labour speakers were "formers" and thus didn't have to defend the government. The left were very pre-occupied with the rise of the far-right and all mentioned the BNP - a genuine concern or, again, student dogwhistle politics? But most of all, the re-occurring themes, through speeches and questions, were foreign affairs, civil liberties and jobs/economy - plus a few on education. Nothing on crime or the NHS. What does this tell us about the future domestic political agenda?