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 - ...