Sunday, March 28, 2010

Come On Media, Make Up Your Mind!

A curious set of coincidencies today - I went from the car where a news report was attacking the Tory decision to launch a personal attack on the Prime Minister to the house where ITN were doing the same. Then I clicked on iPlayer to watch Cameron's very impressive performace on the BBC Politics show, only for the questions to be about class, background and being a toff.

Either the media want to talk about personalities or they want to talk about policy. They can't have it both ways!

Or it is a case of when the Tories do it about Labour, it's wrong - but when the media do it about the Tories, it's fine?

(By the way - call that a personal attack? I don't think so! Each posters had a policy message - negative, yes, personal, no.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"News of the World" Backs Cameron

Another newspaper has tonight come out to support the Conservatives - a direct switch from the paper that urged us to vote Labour in 2005. But I thought it was the reasoning that was interesting and (for a tabloid!!) very well written;

THE General Election is almost upon us. If, as predicted, the date remains May 6, we have just 40 days, including today, to make the most momentous decision about Government in a generation.

Over the coming weeks we'll be bombarded with information, propaganda and, no doubt, downright lies. So let us take stock.

When Labour came to power in 1997, with Tony Blair at the helm and Gordon Brown holding the purse strings, we were all told that things could only get better. We are now entitled to judge that pledge against results.

David Cameron and the Tory Party must be given a chance

Mr Blair himself famously chanted 'Education, education, education!' so let's start with that.
In just the last six years, the education budget has tripled from £21.7bn to £66.7bn of our money. As we report today, there are brilliant individual successes like young maths genius Yasha Ayari Asley. But 225,000 pupils left primary school last year unable to read, write and add up properly.

Tesco's Sir Terry Leahy and Sir Stuart Rose of M&S rightly complain this scandalous state of affairs follows many of them right through their education.

Last year, around 100,000 parents were refused a first choice of secondary school. And around 959,000 16-24s were not in any form of education, employment or training.

What about health? Since 1997 Labour have almost tripled spending on the NHS from £35bn to £104bn (again, our money), and we applaud many separate instances of life saving. But the fact remains that, under Labour, the number of NHS managers is increasing almost three times as fast as nurses.

After a decade of Labour rule, only 49% of cancer patients were surviving for five years after diagnosis - lower than virtually all Europe. MRSA and C-difficile have killed almost 44,000 people since 1997.

So where else does our money go? In 2007-08, Labour spent £23bn on the criminal justice system - a third more than 1997. Our policemen and women are among the world's bravest.
Yet in 2008-09, for example, there were over 100 serious knife crimes a day, almost a million victims of alcohol-fuelled attacks, and 10,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour every day.

And what of Defence? Labour says it has increased spending from £27.5bn in 97-98 to £36.2bn last year. But since they came to power, the number of regular troops have been cut by 21,000. We also have 12 fewer warships and 217 fewer planes. As the death toll in Afghanistan mounts daily bereaved families tell story after story of lack of proper equipment and support.

And as we revealed two weeks ago, despite Mr Brown's assurances to the Chilcot inquiry, defence spending WAS cut and not increased, as the Prime Minister later acknowledged.
Immigration too is an issue that has divided many under this government. Let us be clear, this country owes much of its richness to a great many law-abiding immigrants. But as recently as Friday of this week, Gordon Brown saw fit to release statistics that claim to show a decrease in arrivals.

Those figures have been attacked as misleading, but there is little doubt that total net immigration increased from 48,000 in 1997 to 163,000 in 2008. And after 10 years of Labour there were up to 700,000 illegal immigrants here.

Then we have the economy. In fairness, Britain and the world has been hit with such a cataclysm of disaster by useless bankers that neither Labour nor the Tories could have emerged unscathed.

Nevertheless, our budget deficit now stands at £167bn, the highest since World War II. Companies are still going to the wall, breadwinners are losing their jobs and homes.

The Prime Minister will be as concerned about all this as we are. He is a decent man, sincere in his beliefs. Yet despite his commitment to 'recovery' yesterday, many believe Mr Brown's earlier reckless spending got us into this position in the first place.

And at a time when the whole nation needs to pull together, his failure to rein in his Party's union paymasters threatens to tear apart any slim chance we have of securing a recovery.

They share an unholy alliance which is not healthy for Labour, and certainly not healthy for Britain.

And against this backdrop of national peril on all fronts we are saddled with a Commons of spivs and expenses chancers. Where the honest MPs are a glittering exception rather than the norm.
True, this shower of time- wasters spans all parties. But as the team in charge, Labour and Mr Brown must shoulder much responsibility.

Overwhelmingly, on all fronts, this country is crying out for change.

Which is why, after much soul-searching, the News of the World believes that David Cameron and the Tory Party must now be given the chance to run the country.

Right now, they are our best hope for a brighter, saner, safer, more honourable future.

We do not make this recommendation lightly. There is much that Mr Cameron still needs to spell out, much he has yet to prove. Many accuse him of inexperience. They said the same of Tony Blair.

And just as Blair arrived with Brown, so George Osborne will have a huge job ahead of him as the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.

His task is both to spend and cut with a sustained assurance that will deliver stability both to families and to the money markets that govern our savings and mortgages.

And it is the job of every Tory MP, new and old, to repay our trust.

To restore dignity to our Parliament, safety to our Forces, comfort to the sick, hope to our children, peace to our streets, confidence to our businesses and pride to our nation.

After the nightmare we have all suffered, Britain deserves better.

We certainly do not deserve a headlong return to the days of Old Labour, of division, strikes and lost opportunity.

This paper backed New Labour to rid the nation of such a blight.

Now, confronted with a renewed threat from old ways, the modernised Tories can be a force for good.

It is time to give change a chance and move forward with fresh vigour and hope.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Clarke, Unitary & Democracy

The call for a referendum in today's Evening News is absolutely spot on – for a process designed to make Norwich more democratic, the Unitary process has been deceivingly undemocratic in its nature and has sought to exclude the views of local people whenever and whenever it could.

When the process first started, we were pleased to note the proposals would need grassroots support but disappointed when this was watered down to just “stakeholders” (i.e. not individual residents – just groups). This was then further diluted when it was went from requiring “support” to “a broad cross section of support” and then down to “a measure of support”.

Charles Clarke declares in the House of Commons that the democracy will come at the General Election and asserts that he believes more people will vote for pro-unitary candidates than anti-unitary candidates. I do not believe this to be an accurate measure of support. Our votes at a general election are decided by a number of issues - the NHS, defence and crime, for example – and not just unitary. I know Labour voters who are set against unitary who would be shocked that their votes were being used to justify this scheme.

There is, of course, only one fair way to record local support or opposition to unitary. Conservatives have always believed that the final judge on these plans ought not to be Councillors or even stakeholders, but the ratepayers who pay the taxes that keep our councils going. When the Conservatives on the City Council put forward plans for a referendum, Labour and their allies voted us down.

It seems that for some people, democracy is only a useful tool when they think they will win and for the rest of the time it is an inconvenience.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

E-Campaign Launched

After a lot of planning and preperation I am pleased to announce that I have an exciting new election website, launched today.

You can visit the site via From here you will be able to contact me, read my thoughts on local issues, view a map showing what I've been up to around Norwich, see which local campaigns I supports, study my honesty pledges for how I will act if elected, watch videos and find out Conservative Party policy for the upcoming general election.

I am genuinely excited to announce this new website. The internet is the best tool for interacting with residents as it enables a real-time exchange of thought and opinion on the big matters for Norwich. Norwich Conservatives have always been at the forefront of e-campaigning in this constituency and this new site puts us one-step ahead yet again.

We have an active presence on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I also regularly update this blog so that residents can read my personal views on local issues. But this new website really brings all of these together, making it easier for residents to find out what I'm doing and what I stand for - I hope they will be able to make use of it.

There are various ways to find out more about my campaign for Norwich South:

Ask the Climate Questions

Tonight, despite my raging hayfever, was spent in the company of the RSPB at a public meeting about Climate Change, although it soon widened out to other issues too. It was, I think, the first time that Charles Clarke, Adrian Ramsay, Simon Wright and I have shared a platform and is the first of a number of pressure group meetings due to take place.

I thought the topic may lead to some lively debate but there was plenty of consensus on the panel and the audience were clearly converts to the cause. There were a number of people there - maybe 50 - but many were Green members and I doubt if anything of what was said really changed any minds. The questions were varied and detailed though.

However the quiet and thoughful questions and answers would certainly confound those who believe politics is yah-boo and punch'n'judy.

Thank you to those who organised and attended.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Labour plans £4bn worth of NHS cuts

The small print of the budget shows a £4bn reduction in the NHS budget.

Why is it that if this were a Conservative budget, the media, Unions and the Labour Party would call them "CUTS". There would be protests, direct action, campaigning & scare stories of vulnerable people dying.

But it's OK, because this is a Labour budget, so they are only "efficiency savings".


It passed me by

Was there a Budget today? Really? That was it?!?

I had been keen to know how the government was going to tackle our record debt, support business, encourage enterprise and get people back to work. After all, this is what people on doorsteps want to know. But I don't think I am any further forward tonight.

The Chancellor spoke for an hour, but said nothing.

He whacked up the cost of cider (thanks Darling - he knows what I drink now!)

He stole a Conservative policy about Stamp Duty.

He admitted (I think) that his growth forecasts were wrong.

Petrol up, cigarettes up, booze up - again.

No rabbits. No hats. What was the point of this budget? Wouldn't it have been better to have held a General Election?

UPDATE: I know you can't fit every piece of economic news into the budget, but why on earth didn't the Chancellor mention billions of pounds worth of tax rises. I wonder why, in such a long speech with so little else to say, that was forgotten?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stories from the doorsteps

The LibDem campaign - costly and glossy thought it is - seems to be hitting the buffers somewhat as panicky canvassers come up against a truth on the doostep; their support is in freefall.

And tonight we were talking to one voter who said that when she said to a LibDem canvasser that she was voting Conservative this year, the canvasser immediately became very rude and aggressive, saying "you absolutely must not vote Tory or Green." The voter, shocked by this suddent turn in attitude, retreated inside.

This isn't the first case of this; we had a resident from Bowthorpe who said that the LibDem "wouldn't take no for an answer" and "seemed intent on having a fight" about their decision to vote Tory.

However the good news is that they aren't always as direct. Another resident tells us that when he challenged the assertion that the Conservatives couldn't win, the canvasser became flustered and retreated quickly. And again, this time on the telephone, when another resident retorted that she wouldn't have her democratic choice limited by the LibDems saying that only 2 parties could win here, then the canvasser hung up on her.

I believe that canvassers are the face of your party - a question for all of us in this election is about courtesy to residents. Maybe we ought to have a "decency promise" on how we deal with people on doorsteps? I wonder if the other candidates would sign?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Parliament in Chaos

Tonight we have the sight of 3 former Ministers being suspended from the Labour Party over a lobbying scandal and MPs from all parties being accused of breaking the code of conduct regarding overseas trips (including LibDem MP Norman Baker who has led the charge against so many others).

Doesn't all this lead us to only one conclusion - a General Election now, and the chance to deliver us some desperately needed change?

"LibDems not playing fair"

The public really are becoming wise to the tactics of some parties who seek to mislead. I have just had a very angry email from one local resident who asked: "I am just wondering if you are aware of the 'dirty tactics' the Lib Dems are using with election figures. I feel they are using the last set of figures unfairly because it reads as it they are fact for the forthcoming election, and the 'bars' are not portrayed in proportion properly."

Nothing new there, you might think - the LibDems have a long history of only being elected on the back of tactical votes rather than what they really stand for (if you can work out what they really stand for) and doing so on the back of the dodgy use of bar charts and statistics. They are the staple of a LibDem leaflet - in Tory areas then "Labour can't win here" and in Labour ones then "only the LibDems can beat Labour", normally irrespective of what the results are. Where they can't "prove" this using the last election results, they could use the council results, or the number of council seats, or the change in seats, or a parish council by-election held years ago or maybe the European result for whole region?

The most worrying thing is that the resident believe her neighbours may react to this misleading information not by voting LibDem but: "I am concerned people will be misled by this into not bothering to vote."

I think this is something the LibDem candidate will no doubt be questioned on this during the campaign.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Councillor Norfolk Blogger

Despite the various clashes, and very different views on the political situation locally, I wanted to congratulate Nich Starling on his victory in the Taverham North by-election yesterday. It was a solid win and on a decent size swing too - he should be proud of that achievement. The ward, which currently is in Chloe Smith's Norwich North seat, is traditionally a very safe Conservative area and I predict it will return to form very soon ;-)

Well done Nich, enjoy being a Councillor and I hope this position of responsibility doesn't lead to you losing your edge when it comes to blogging.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Business As Usual

I am incredibly grateful to all the messages of support we've had since the news of death threats on our Campaign HQ came out.

All of us on the Conservative campaign are deeply shocked at this and will continue to help the police fully with their investigation. We are very grateful to the team at Ferndale Business Centre who worked quickly to remove this vile statement.

In politics you get used to the rough and tumble of debate but this takes it to new levels. Our campaign offices are in the use a lot of the time, including at night for meetings with local residents. This is either a sick joke or a very real threat to local democracy because it is intended to make people not feel safe.

Many many people give up their time and effort to support my campaign to be our next MP. If this is an attempt to stop them, I have one message - it won't work. We are used to some unsavory elements locally but their opinions are best expressed through the ballot box, rather than death threats. This incident has made us more determined to get out there and sell the Conservative message to the people of Norwich. It's business as usual as far as we are concerned because democracy doesn't halt in the face of an unpleasant minority.

I would also like to thank my fellow candidates for their messages of support, including ones from MPs Charles Clarke and Chloe Smith.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crushing embarrassment for Labour as C4's Factchecker says their Sure Start claims are "wrong"

As anybody who has been paying attention to the Labour gumpf in Norwich, the "Tory cuts" to Sure Start have headlined. This claim has caused real concern amomgst local people, particularly Mum's in areas like one I represent, who are worried that their support will be taken from them. This claim is taken from a Conservative idea to move funding to support outreach and Health Visitor work. I have for some time believed that the party ought to be more vigerous in defending the position - which is that there are no planned cuts - because Labour had repeated the fib so many times it was taking on an air of truth. Even the Labour Councillors at City Hall have bet their political reputation on this.

Oh dear. Now the C4 Factchecker has done the research (click here for more) and come up with ... Labour claims, coming from cuts to Sure Start, but from the health budget. So the inflammatory headline on Labour’s scare story is, strictly, wrong.

Will I get an apology from those Labour Councillors, including their Leader Steve Morphew and Childrens Spokesman Sue Sands, who were vigerous in their attack on this issue? I not holding my breath, but Mums and Dads across the City ought to take note of these independent findings.

Labour claims not true ...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Sir Trevor met Dave ...

Tonight's efforts on ITV was a good use of an hour and provided a great overview of the man who wants to be our next Prime Minister. As a political observer I preferred the fact that Cameron went for Sir Trevor McDonald, in direct contrast to Brown's choice of his Labour-chum and disgraced former Mirror editor Piers Morgan. McDonald was polite, decent, insightful and yet probing (for example, asking about "that poster" and if Cameron could ever sack Osbourne).

Samantha Cameron came out very well indeed and the programme really enforced the loving and solid nature of their relationship plus her influence on his politics; and the interview with his Mum really illustrated how his childhood has shaped his life. The section on Ivan was touching but not over-the-top.

I didn't feel the behind the scenes footage was very revealing, but what both David and Samantha Cameron had to say was. They came across as very passionate about changing the country, very relaxed, almost normal and clearly enjoying themselves.

I think this programme will have really solidified the Tory base and, hopefully, made others think again about the Tory Leader (he really took the "posh" stuff on and made good on it). Those who have already made up their minds about "the old Etonian" David Cameron won't have budged.

But, as always, I speak as the Cameron faithful and will wait to see what the staffroom has to say tomorrow!

UPDATE: In the comments James has mentioned the lack of policies in this programme - but this effort, like Brown/Morgan, wasn't about policies and it certainly wasn't an hour long PPB. The programme told you lots about the man-who-would-be-PM and the values which drive him. I have always argued we need to policies more up front but this wasn't the vehicle for this.

Friday, March 12, 2010

That LibDem Election Slogan In Full

The problem with the LibDems election slogan - "Change that works for you. Building a fairer Britain", isn't that it is a Tory-Labour hybrid, but that is it too long and tries to convey too many messages in one go. The LibDems are about change, on your side and building a fairer Britain - none of them bad things may I add - but it was once said that any good slogan or policy should fit on a bumper sticker, but this one would require a very wide car indeed!

In many ways, it tries to be all things to all people, and thus typical of the way the LibDems have been for many years.

Guardian / Independent Sales Down Again

The latest figures show that the sales of The Guardian have slipped again to their lowest in 16 years - see here for more. The Independent has crashed again too. I have two friends, one of whom was a very loyal Guardian reader and the other an occassional Independent reader, both of whom have stopped reading in the last few weeks. They haven't switched papers but have stopped reading and turned to online news and blogs. Both have done it when the rags switched to default election mode of Tory-bashing instead.

I think that backing Labour at this election might not be commerically viable.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Unitary Riddle II

Apparently we shouldn't judge Norwich City Council in its current form (because it isn't very good) on its suitability to be a unitary authority because the unitary would be a new council.

Except that we should judge Norfolk County Council in its current form and its current policies as a reason for unitary (i.e. the current administration at County Hall is doing things City Hall doesn't like) rather than examining the relationship between two tiers of government.

Unitary riddle or Labour hypocrisy?

Unitary Riddle

One of the big arguments in favour of Unitary is that it is wrong for representatives from areas miles away to vote on issues which impact on your area. So, for example, a Councillor from far-a-way Sprowston shouldn't vote on the closure (or not) of Westlegate.

Yet last night, in the House of Commons, Labour MPs were bussed in on a three-line whip to defeat a Tory motion about the shambles of the Norwich Unitary proposals and so MPs from areas miles away were voting on issues which impact on us here in Norwich. So, for example, Labour MPs from Glasgow, Liverpool and London were voting on Norwich Unitary.

Spot the contradiction?

Shouldn't Labour have left this vote only to MPs whose areas are affected - those in Suffolk, Devon & Norfolk? Oh, no ... that would have meant they would have lost the vote wouldn't it? After all, MPs from Norwich North, South Norfolk, North Norfolk, South West Norfolk, North West Norfolk & Mid Norfolk all opposed the Unitary with only 2 MPs (Norwich South and Yarmouth) voting in favour.

Unitary riddle or Labour hypocrisy?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mr & Mrs

So the Mail on Sunday have published a frontpage story claiming that Samantha Cameron once voted Labour; I suppose we all do silly things sometimes, but on this occassion she didn't - according to CCHQ, Mrs Cameron not only voted Conservative in 1997 but took 5 weeks off work to campaign for her husband in Stafford.

However, even if she did, should we expect political spouses to vote the same way as their partners? After all, I assume that Mr and Mrs Bercow vote different ways (him being the former right wing MP turned Speaker, her being the Labour local government candidate).

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Restoring my faith in human behaviour

Sometimes it feels as if we live in a very sanitised world where interaction between humans is limited by the rules of engagement; a fera of crime, of strangers, of adults even. However something today has shown me a glimmer of hope.

Walking to City Hall, I got "acosted" by a student, dancing in front of me and signing "hiiiiii Sir" in an irritating voice (a working hazard of being a teacher, but a delighful ritual if you like that sort of thing). I smiled at the dear little one, chuckled a little and moved on (thinking - ha ha, you have a science exam tomorrow and I don't!). As I moved away, he yelled "is that your wife" at the complete stranger walking next to me.

"I'm not that lucky," was my reply - and then far from being embarrassed or offended, the lady grabbed my arm and said to me, "go on, let him believe it!". As we walked towards City Hall she and I spoke about the positive attitude that many young people have and why witty banter and joking in public were important traits.

To whomever you are, thank you for making me realise the old adage is still true, "a strange is just a friend you haven't met yet."