Friday, April 30, 2010

The Papers Say...

I am surprised that some papers are declaring in the election already; I don't know if this qualifies as "old politics" (because some people believe that newspaper endorsements make no difference) but it does alter the media narrative. What would be interesting is the total readership for each group (now I talking like a teacher...) if anyone has the figures?

Running Tally:
Conservatives 3: The Sun, The Times, The Economist
Labour 0
LibDems 1: The Guardian
Others 0

A Good Day To Be A Conservative

As Nick Clegg found out a fortnight ago, the debates can indeed change everything - and David Cameron's masterful, statesmanlike, passionate and dominant performance last night has put a spring in the step of Tory activists and voters - and a real reason for undecided voetrs to lend us their votes. My feeling is that Cameron's performance was so strong because he both talked in terms of values (We are on the side of people who do the right thing) and then in specific policies (we will remove benefits from those who can work but who do not). Clegg looked and sounded nervous, and it showed. He was battered on the Euro and immigration; and for benefit of LibDems out there, "old politics" is when you have a promise in your manifesto that you dump live on TV when you realise its unpopular and unworkable. However Clegg did better on domestic policies, such as education. Brown was again better, but he started from a low base; he needs to lose the stats rolling off like a soviet propaganda film and shouldn't ever smile when it isn't appropriate to do so! My favourite bit was actually Cameron's credo about education - the central role of the child and the importance of choice, standards, discipline and funding. That was, according to Mrs Little (who is a teacher herself), the moment he may just have won the election.

This morning we have been bombarded with calls and visits at the Campaign HQ from pleased Tories and also voters coming across to us for the first time. I have just got back from a session with out Mancroft team and the peopel I met whilst leafleting were very positive. The news from the other groups around the seat is very similar.

Mr Cameron - you have given us what we wanted. For the sake of our country we need to win this election. The Hung Parliament is Mr Brown's lifeline, with Mr Clegg throwing the lifejacket to him, so we must get an overall Tory majority. Conservatives, we've got 5 days to make this a reality - let's get to it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Campaign Diary - Days Nineteen & Twenty

I am almost too relaxed now to write this having had the whole day off campaigning to spend with the family. Needless to say the weather was naff the moment we left the house. Enjoyed a wander around a quieter-than-usual City, distracted by too many cafes. Got home and had one of those manic sorting out the house moments. Turned the place upside down in the name of simplifying our lives.

Yesterday was also a manic effort and I have to pay tributes to all those who helped us get out a constituency worth of letters to people voting by Post this year. In fact the support was so good we managed to grab a few hours of doorknocking around Eaton Rise and the Newmarket Road too, where the response was good - but the "outs" won by a country mile! Today I am glad to say that my team were more active than I was and our latest leaflet has started to make its way out across the constituency.

It made me wonder; people are handing back leaflets now - not because they aren't voting for us, but they say that have been saturated by them. I said recently that I recieved 2 different LibDem tabloid newspapers on one day and I am told they were delivering 3 things together yesterday too. Is this too much? Can you get "too many political leaflets"? Another resident told me that all 4 parties had delivered them on one day. We have done quite a lot of leaflets and letters in this campaign but we've been trying to balance this with doorknocking; other parties have chosen just to deliver literature. I suppose the result will tell us which strategy worked.

Does anyone out there have a view on how many political leaflets are "too many" in a General Election?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Eighteen (the day Newsnight rolled into the City)

Well, today was eventful and have just finished watching myself on Newsnight and that 30 second clip sort of dominated the day.

It began with a Group Leaders meeting at City Hall, a sharp reminder that life goes on outside of the election and I still have an important job to do representing the people of Bowthorpe and Earlham and also the Conservatives in Norwich.

By 10.30 we were all at the Age UK / Age Concern Hustings held at the Vauxhall Centre. It was a great meeting and the Labour, LD, Green & UKIP candidates were there. Funnily enough the questions weren't all about older people's issues (which you might have expected). It kicked off with Britain's member of the EU but soon covered immigration, skills, the Lisbon Treaty & the funding of the voluntary sector. I was told by two of the audience that they felt I had "won" but I am not clear what that means in terms of these local debates where there is more agreement (yes, even between Tories and Greens) than you might imagine.

In the afternoon I did a quick interview for Heart Radio about the election campaign and then the whirlwind that is Michael Crick came to town. It was quick but fairly intensive. He just throws questions at you, plus the camera is always on. He made the critical error of thinking Mike Gillepsie - my agent, and somebody whom the party ought to employe PDQ after the election - was my brother and then went on to criticise the spelling of my name (no "h", you see) so that set us off well! He was stunned to note I was wearing a rosette - no idea why, I wear it pretty much all the time so people know who I am and can come up and chat if they want to. We then had a persistent Green heckler, although he soon got bored. Crick just raised an eyebrow. I think that said everything. Interestingly his questions focused on the campaign and the debate last night and yet the clip they used was my attack on Charles Clarke and his attempts to re-package himself as a Labour rebel rather than take responsibility for the last 13 years of government. Crick asked questions about my current career and if I had declared it on leaflets; the answer is yes and I am proud of being a teacher and proud of my school. Apparently some candidates don't tell people what they do for a living and don't put it on leaflets. Others - like Green Adrian Ramsay and LibDem Simon Wright - are "career politicans", which means they don't have jobs. Crick also asked where we recieved our funding from and seemed a little stunned to note we had raised the spending limit from small local donations. He then probed every bit of election material we put out - including our 2 latest leaflets for this week - and found nothing to raise. I am not moaning about this, I thought Mr Crick was very, very thorough in what he did and it was impressive to see what happens close up. The report itself was very fair and balanced, clearly stating the 4-way marginality of the seat and included clips of supporters of each parties. I think Newsnight did the job well, and Crick's scrutiny was detailed (I wonder if the other candidates got this??). The funny bit was the mess up with the name tags - they called Adrian "Simon", then corrected themselves but still spelt his name wrong!

After the fun and games we sorted ourselves out and started to deliver our letters to people who have Postal Votes, with several teams across the City. I joined our Eaton group to help and we ended up doorknocking as well. The feeling was good and we felt people moving over to the Conservatives. Two people mentioned Cameron's debate as their reason for switching to us, but yet more voters turned off by the negative LibDem campaign. I also met the owner of a significant local business who had decided to vote Conservative this time on the issue of wanting to pay down the debt quicker. I think the issues and debates are getting through.

Got home to find 2 different LibDem tabloid newspapers delivered - why together, unless they were struggling to get material out. Perhaps they don't have enough activists? Hmmm, I also wonder how close they are to the election spending limit?

Tonight Cameron faced Paxman and I thought he was calm and detailed in his answers. Cameron is looking more and more Prime Ministerial in the way in which he conducts himself -I thought it was impressive and certainly Paxman didn't get a knock out blow. People have picked up on the cuts for the North East and NI, but I would assume that all regions would share in the painful decisions to come - after all, "we're all in this together".

Tomorrow is a big day with plenty of letters to deliver and doors to knock on as Postal Votes hit the mats in Norwich South!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Sixteen

Today was mad and I found myself criss-crossing the City. This morning I spent time writing personal letters to all those people who had written, especially for policy information. I am keen to write my own views to local people and not just a standard template response so this always takes some time to do. In addition I wanted to carry on my phone calls to party members to thank them for their support. This afternoon it was back to the classroom, and then onto the South Park area of the City where a big team of Tory canvassers took to the streets. There was a good response and people seemed keen on talking about issues.

Then tonight all the main candidates were at the UEA for a debate hosted by the BMA - there were some very detailed questions but again we found ourselves, except perhaps the Greens, in agreement about the fundamentals of the NHS if not the specifics of policy! The audience was small but lively!

And now I'm just watching the complete demolishion of Vince Cable by the BBCs Stephanie Flanders and Andrew Neill; good to see Ken Clarke back in the frontline taking the lead in warning against a Hung Parliament.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Fifteen

Who are these people that are switching to the LibDems?

No, really, who are they? I am not disbelieving the polls but if there had been a sea-change of opinion you might have thought we would be feeling it on the streets by now. I spoke to a Green canvasser I met today and also to a friend of mine on the Labour campaign and none of us had picked it up, so it isn't just us. Yes, more people are being "out and out" LibDems but most of those said they were LibDem anyway. OK those people who say "I'll read all the stuff and see how I feel on the day" are usually LibDem but we're not having Conservatives switching. In fact, today we found several Liberals coming the other way. As I say, I'm not doubting the movement but it does seem like a media-poll narrative that hasn't hit the streets (yet).

I spent the morning teaching and then the afternoon helping a team canvassing in Sunningdale and then doing two areas of Town Close in the evening. Response was very good indeed and issue raised included public sector pensions, immigration, Europe and differences in experiences on the NHS in different areas of the country.

p.s. Best thing about today's canvassing was knocking on the door of an old uni friend I haven't seen in years and didn't even know was living back in Norwich! Funny old world, sometimes!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Fourteen

And today it was back to work ... well, for half the day. We had training in the morning about Safeguarding Procedures and then coursework moderation. After all the campaigning it was an odd - but subtly pleasure - to do some schoolwork.

In the afternoon we headed to Thorpe Hamlet where we discovered a surprising number of people in to talk to. My favourite was a lady who is now voting Conservative because she was pleased to have a candidate who shared her thoughts on educational inclusion practices. There was a lot of movement amongst the left-wing candidates (including former LibDems voting Labour) but a steady and growing number of Conservatives. Other issues raised were transport and road layout in the City!

Then after I joined the other Norwich South Candidates (except the BNP) at a Trade Union meeting. It was enjoyable - the audience was, of course, challenging. The only applause of the night went to the Revolutionary Workers Candidate. I felt a little like groundog day - the RWP candidate said every issue was a symptom of capitalism whilst the UKIP candidate blamed everything (and, I mean, everything) on the EU. The LibDems were challenged about their policies on Trident and tax cuts, the Conservatives about homophobia in the party and Labour about Clarke's external work above being an MP. He stunned us all when he said he took on extra jobs to make up the salary he lost when he quit the cabinet - amazing! As always, the Greens had little or no scrutiny.

And home, to lesson planning, marking, blogging and a film called "Adam" about a couple where one of them has Aspergers. Fascinating film that really highlights the issue.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Revolution on the Streets!

Take a look at this very funny film on Telegraph TV of a student apparently burning a Tory leaflets after listening to a Nick Clegg speech. 2 things spring to mind.

Firstly they seem totally incapable of actually burning the leaflet. When the video starts it looks like they've had several goes already and failed! They then fail to set it alight for the camera and their revolutionary moment ends with one of the students weakly tearing up the semi-chargrilled leaflet and stamping on it. It's hardly a Vietnam-style protest effort and the pair of them look ridiculous by the end!

And secondly, what on earth could Nick Clegg have possibly have said to prompt this sort of action? Are LibDems now in favour of revolutionary Tory leaflet street burning efforts? (Don't worry, Tory-leaflet burning students everywhere, under LibDem plans you won't be sent to jail for your insurgency!)

Now this is the real advantage of hand held cameras - we all get to share in these wonderful moments!

Campaign Diary - Days Nine - Thirteen

Apologies for lack of Campaign Diary; a constituent said they were disappointed when it disappeared last Tuesday. I thought few people would be interested in my daily movements but it has been mentioned a fair few times in conversation and email. So let's give it another go. One of my "honesty pledges" is to put, wherever possible, my MPs diary online.

So, what have we been up to over the last few days?

This morning I took part in a short debate on the BBC Politics Show in the East, along with 3 other candidates. I am grateful for the txts, Facebook and Twitter messages. I've done a lot of these but you still get nervous and anyone who said otherwise is fibbing! Charles Clarke seemed in good form and confident, and I've no idea why given the doorstep response! The questions were on the debate, education & the environment. The practice question was on Europe. Although I gave the LibDem candidate a bit of a hard-time over their manifesto, it was a positive and lively debate. The best line, though, undoubtably came from Chloe in the audience who said that whatever we think about the debate it was further personalisation of politics over policy debate. The rest of today is spending time with my family!

Yesterday we hit the doors in several areas of the constituency. I enjoyed the time in Bowthopre for two reasons; firstly I get instantly recognised on most doorsteps but secondly because people are able to point to my record of action as a Councillor and know I mean business as our MP. But it was in Wensum that the campaign seemed to come alive. I was canvassing one of the areas off the Dereham Road - and no party came out well. The Greens were attacked for being "all talk", especially their Councillors, the LibDems were playing "fantasy politics" with their manifesto and Labour and the Tories were "just the same". We have to do more to engage with people and give them a reason to vote - to demonstrate the differences. I am sure Adrian Ramsay would be furious (as am I) to be told that there were no difference between the Greens and Conservatives! Interestingly people said only the Greens and Conservatives had gone door-to-door in that area.

So what differences can we demonstrate? The big one has to be the economy and the differences on public spending. The Conservatives would start to get the debt down now; the debt is the biggest threat to the recovery. We would do this through reducing wasteful or unnecessary spending. Labour would keep this waste and start cutting next year (why the delay - if it is "wasteful" spending, cut it now.) Also on crime you now have the Conservatives talking about new powers for the police and honesty in sentencing, whilst the LibDems would not have any prison sentences under 6 months in length. On Transport, the Conservatives support Norwich Airport, dualing of the A11, work on the A47 and making the Acle Straight safe - the Greens support none of these. But are we getting these across sufficiently?

On Friday we had the uber-blogger Iain Dale helping out. He has written a report here! We were out canvassing in Mancroft when the call came and so we decided to take a risk and take Iain to a more challenging area for the party. We could have zipped to an area where we were sure of pledges of support to get a good write up but chose not to - a risk, but one that paid off. Very little LD or Green support, a number of Labour switchers to us, some good core Tory vote but winning by a mile were the "I used to vote Labour but never again" brigade, many of whom are yet to make up their minds. Iain has always been a great supporter of the party in Norwich and are grateful for his support.

I could write more, but I am needed for a re-enactment of the Sleeping Beauty story!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Post Debate Thoughts

I am sure I am the last person in the world to reflect on last night but I thought I would have my two pennies worth.

Firstly some randon thoughts in no particular order - well done to ITV - and indeed all the broadcasters and parties for making it happen. I never thought it would. The rules didn't seem to inhibit proper debate, although I felt the moderator stepped in at some of the best moment. The set was awful. It was good to see the programme without commercial breaks. And I thought it was a little bit strange to see the party leaders - whom we usually only see interact in the House of Commons - caling each other Nick, David & Gordon.

Were there any killer blows - no. Knock out punches? No. Great one-liners? Zilch.

In fact, despite the better format I am not sure that anybody really learnt anything about politics. The left (and I mean, the combined left - LibDems, Labour & Greens) united to pour bile on Cameron, the Conservatives thought he did well. 80% of people thought the Prime Minister did badly. So, basically - your man won (whoever your man is). But - I would like next time for the debate to be slower and more thoughtful. I felt the speed of responses was fast and the pace of the debate was frenetic.

And finally a word about each of them. Clegg was thought to be the winner on the night,no doubt aided by being "introduced" to people and distancing himself from the other two parties. I thought presentationally he did well butwas weaker when challenged on his own policies. He tried to referee stance (used well by Vince Cable) but it didn't work because Cameron challenged him 4 times over Libdem policies. This was much more the media star we were promised when he became leader. He was clearly very well briefed. However - my big criticism would be that he was unable to adapt. For example, when Cameron used the stat about 4,000 educational diktats per year, Clegg still "revealed" the same stat in his answer. He should have acknowledged it from Cameron.

Brown looked the odd one out and sounded the most robotic. Some people said they saw the real Gordon and passion in him; I must have missed it. My view is that his answers were still too formula driven and laden with stats. His insistance that things were not as the general public saw them (defence, crime, immigration) did not go down well and he ought to be have addressed Cameron's repeated point of being in government for 13 years. As one LibDem said, he had low expectations and failed to meet them - I think this is a little harsh but clearly this format is not good for the PM, but he may yet learn. In addition he came armed with a lot of little "one liners" but Labour know you can only use them once!

True Cameron was by far the most polished - I think his experiences at umpteen Cameron Direct town hall meetings will have helped - and some people believe this was his biggest fault. I felt Cameron had the strongest begining (going on expenses straight way was the right thing to do) and ending (positive, up beat). But he did confound my expecations - very few jokes, no yah-boo stuff and little rising to the jibes of the others. He had the most policy to lay out but in that he attracted most criticism and at times became a little bogged down. However, as I said, I felt he did the best (as expected!)

So we now look forward to the second debate with great interest - my rolling scores are Cameron 8, Clegg 7, Brown 4

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The LibDem Manifesto --- According to Eric Pickles

Says it better than I could, taken from ConHome:

Nick Clegg swapped the photocopying room in Cowley Street for much more stylish surroundings of a news agency to launch his manifesto today, complete with blue backdrop and green parrot. After the cartoons of the Labour Party and our more serious tomes, they adopted a homage to a West Yorkshire 1970’s bus timetable. The old West Riding had a great affection for that post modernist look when it came to imparting vital transport information.
I had a much loved copy of the timetable, so it was with much excitement I started to turn the pages, to find to my disappointment that it didn't give me the quickest route from Heckmanwike to Todmorden, but contained some "fully worked out pledges". Within minutes this "fully costed manifesto" started to dissolve before my very eyes like the foresaid timetable left out too long in the rain.

I won’t bore you with all the detail but needless to say there is £11.6 billion black hole in their calculations. The one of the more bizarre overstatements is the amount of tax avoidance which they claim they will save £4.65 billion through ‘anti-avoidance measures’ on income tax, National Insurance Contributions (NIC), Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty. However, HMRC estimates ‘tax avoidance’ in income tax, National Insurance and Capital Gains Tax is only between £0.8 and £1.6 billion. Perhaps Lib Dems know more about tax avoidance than we had previously anticipated.

I expect you might have come across the odd example of Lib Dem’s varying their message for different audiences but how about this for a ‘u-turn’. For weeks, Vince Cable and Nick Clegg have come out in support of Labour’s anti-business jobs tax and attacked businesses supporting Conservative opposition to the jobs tax. They were unkind enough to call our refusal to implement Labour’s job tax as “school boy economics" and "voodoo economics.” Compare that with "the increase in National Insurance Contributions is a damaging tax on jobs and an unfair tax on employees, so when resources allow we would seek to reverse it.’ (Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, April 2010, pg. 97).

It just reinforces my view that if you want to see Liberal values in a Government, if you want to see improvements in the environment or pull back on the way in which the state is oppressively intruding into personal freedom and liberty, the sensible thing to do is vote Conservative. That is why Liberal Democrat voters are going to switch this time to the Conservatives to remove, rather than prop up Mr Brown in Number 10. Interesting that one of the first telephone calls that I took was from a Liberal Democrat County Councillor in the South of England who has chosen today to leave the Liberal Democrats and join the Conservatives. More on that later but suffice to say, she is very welcome

Best Line of the Campaign (So Far...)

Unsuspecting Tory Canvasser: Can we count on your support at this election?
Voter: Young man, that is a very personal question. You wouldn't knock on my door and ask the size of my *****, would you?

What do you say to that?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Eight Part II

In my genuine political excitement by the Tory manifesto (yes I want more power, I want more control over those who deliver my services, I want less government in my life and I want more say over how my money is spent) I had forgotten to fill you with what we had been up to!!

This morning was another early start - when are they not - and we headed straight out to the doorsteps of the City Centre to test the public opinion. There was a lot of Conservative support but here, far more than other places we have visited, many people wanted to hang fire and see the Tory manifesto before making a judgement. One interesting story to share - one gentleman said he was fed up with cries of "change"; the Greens, he said, offered change - but it was the wrong sort of change. "Being different doesn't make you right," he warned.

From the City and Thorpe Hamlet it was great to get together with Conservatives from across the East of England because Norwich was hosting the regional manifesto launch. We welcomed David Willetts, Shadow Universities Secretary, to the City and he made a passionate and humerous speech to activists. It was another high profile media event and a third senior Conservative in a week shows how seriously we are taking this seat. There's more to come in the next week too!

And with activists gathered, there was little to do afterwards than to head mob handed to the doorsteps and we went into Wensum and along the Dereham Road. We got a very friendly response and the issues raised included reform of the benefits system, education and anti-social behaviour.

Another day where I end up tired but happy!

Campaign Diary - Day Eight

The day the manifesto was launched. You might think this is all a bit obvious because I'm hardly likely to have a pop at my own party's manfisto, or you might think this makes me a political geek, but I am really excited by it.

I not wild about the title, nor its publishing in hardback, but the political content could be the most radical approach to government we have seen in a very long time. The solutions to the problems that this country faces are unlikely to come from a government pronouncement, diktat or regulation. They come from local people - like you and me - taking action and having the power to change things. Yes the government is there for advice and as en enabler; so those who say these plans leave people adrift are wrong.

For those of us who joined the party because we believe in liberty, freedom, small government, low taxes, responsive and excellent public services this ticks all the boxes. It is relentlessly positive; a real contrast with Labour.

Many people nowdays, when confronted with an issue, ask - what is the government doing about this, what action is the council taking, where's the EU when you need them? Depending on this issue, this might not be the way to solve your problems.

So what can do under the Conservative manifesto plans?

It’s an invitation to...
· be your own boss
· sack your MP
· run your own school
· own your own home
· veto council tax rises
· vote for your police
· save your local pub or post office.

Our manifesto sets out our plans to change Britain:
· Our school reform plan will raise standards and improve discipline.
· Our welfare reform plan will make sure that everyone who can work does work.
· Strong families are the bedrock of a strong society, so we are setting out plans to help make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe.
· We will cut government waste to stop Labour’s jobs tax, which will kill the recovery.
· It reaffirms our support for the NHS.
· It includes the boldest and most ambitious set of green measures ever put before the electorate by a mainstream party.

Ever wanted to do something about the problems in this country? You can - you, your neighbours, society as a whole and with the government backing you all the way.

This manifesto has given me real fire in my belly about the party. I haven't felt this way about a political idea, perhaps ever. Roll on the candidate debates, roll on the election.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Seven

Now my feet are really starting to hurt!

A day on the campaign trail has taken me all over the constituency today, starting off in the South Park area and heading up Newmarket Road delivering letters which tell people why I decided to stand for parliament. This letter has got a response so far and is relentlessly positive and goes into what I hope to achieve as an MP.

I then went over to the studios at Radio Norwich to pre-record some election clips and then the horror of a Pop Quiz and some questions about the constituency. I thought I knew very little about pop music, but clearly teaching in a High School and having small children have benefits because I did rather well. I got all the constituency questions right - good job given the fact I live and work in the City!

This afternoon we had a number of visits to do and I particularly enjoyed dropping by one residential home - not least because of the excellent tea and biscuits (first sit down I'd had all day). IIt was good to have time and comfort to discuss issues that you rarely get on the doorstep. These "coffee morning" style events are also good because the audience are self-selecting and they choose to hear from the candidate. Clear from discussions that the actions of the City Council are damaging Mr Clarke's campaign and many people are frustrated with being told by one party that other parties cannot win! We managed to get around 5 events this afternoon at whirlwind pace - well done to the team who managed to keep up!

And this evening we hit the doorsteps in Town Close and found a very good response. A lot of people still concerned about the possibility of a hung parliament and what the LibDems would do. One lady put in best when she said she couldn't wake up with a LibDem MP but to find Gordon Brown still there! There was genuine anger about the LibDem campaign but people very much welcomed our positive campaign. In addition, education was a big issue and so too was the economy. One businessman I spoke to said he had his head in his hands over Labour's NI rise. People seemed very pleased to see us and it felt very good on the ground.

Home just in time to watch Nick Clegg getting the Paxo treatment on the BBC. I am afraid his answers on tax, a hung parliament, immigration and the NHS were very poor indeed. He was much better - and much more passionate - on education. Clegg doesn't come across as a very strong media performer, but I was told by someone he was deliberately poor to reduce expectation for the debate. Can it be true ...?

I'll be thumbing through Labour's manifesto later so will let you know what I think!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

LibDem blunder on VAT

I thought that the LibDem poster, unveiled last week, which decried the Tories for a VAT rise was completely made up. Yet nobody in the media picked up on it ... until this morning when LibDem Treasury Spokesman Vince Cable got stuck on the issue on the BBC:

JON SOPEL: I mean let’s leave aside whether or whether not there is a black hole in the Tories' finances. Leave that to one side. You don’t know factually, that they are going to raise VAT. That is your conjecture.

VINCE CABLE: It is a conjecture and it’s a reasonable assumption and I wouldn’t claim anymore than that.

JON SOPEL: And that £389 is a rough figure plucked –

VINCE CABLE: It’s a ball park estimate of what it would require in order to fill that gap, and it seems a reasonable way of expressing that argument."

...JON SOPEL: Would you rule out raising VAT?

VINCE CABLE: No, I don’t. It’s something –

JON SOPEL: So therefore your position is no different to them."

So, in short, the LibDems completely make up a Tory policy, attached a fantasy figure to it and try (again) to scare people. I don't know if I find their behaviour more or less worrying than the journo's who failed to dig deeper on this earlier in the week.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Five

Well today turned out to be as hectic as I predicted yesterday! we started the day bright and early in the Bowthorpe Main Centre, handing out leaflets and holding an "NHS surgery" (of the political sort) to see what people's views on health are. We got a gerat response, and it is interesting that the vast majority of people have a better personal experience of the NHS than they percieve as the national picture. There was a lot of talk about Tory plans to make cancer drugs more widely available. In addition the other thing that came across strongly was that people felt there was a lot of waste in the NHS that could be redirected back into frontline services.

From Bowthorpe to the doorsteps of Eaton Village where the talk moved from health to the political system. The Tory posters here clearly outnumbering all other parties it was a good reception. We met quite a lot of LibDem voters who want change and Gordon Brown out of Downing Street so are voting Conservative this time. Many people said they would be concerned by a hung pariament and that Clegg would prop up Labour (with good reasoning- the LibDems have done little else but back Labour against the Conservatives this week, to little avail).

From Eaton we went to the Anglia Square shopping centre for the seocnd half of the NHyeS day of action. We met a team working on Chloe Smith's campaign and also by South Norfolk's Tory Leader John Fuller. It was very much little good old fashioned soap-box politics (JM would be proud). Plenty of debate, some genuine disagreement and people really wanting to engage. The eprson who sticks in my mind was a young Mum who said she was furious with Labour for their scare stories about Tory policies on Sure Start. Parties shouldn't ever do this to people.

And then, finally, over to Town Close and another batch of deliveries. The shoe leather took a pounding but it was worth it to get the last of the leaflets out here. And tonight another mamouth session of replying to constituents letters and emails - am enjoying every minute.

And tomorrow - well, tomorrow belongs to my three lovely young ladies!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day Four

Today has been a day for catching up, to reflect on the campaign so far and to plan for the days ahead.

So whilst the team were out delivering in the Golden Triangle, we were sitting down and working out the messages and themes for the day ahead. We took delivery of our next leaflet - if I may say an excellent A3 newsletter focusing on the economy, NHS and my record in Norwich. All very positive. You'll see this going through doors in the next couple of weeks.

From there we went door to door delivering letters and leaflets to New Costessey. We picked up an extra deliverer and it is good to see more Tory posters up. Issues raised included immigration, Labour's NI rise and what we are calling the "real life experience" debate - should an MP have done something before going into politics, with more and more candidates being "career politicans"? As always in Costessey there was plenty of debate!

We then hit the phones, talking to people across the City. I was telephoning members to thank them for their support - so many more people want to help at this election! It was at this time that the MORI poll for Norwich South, showing an increased Labour majority, myself in second place but the collapse of the LibDem vote, and so the media went mad for comment.

Tonight I was insistent that for the first major canvassing session we went back to where it started for me, politically - Three Score in Bowthorpe. This is where Louise and I had our first home. It is great going there, not only because of the number of Tory pledges, but because of the famililar faces and being the ward Councillor so seeing people that I have helped over the years. It took ages - of course - to get round, but more posters went up and we had an incredible canvass. Again issues were along familiar lines - economy, crime and tax.

Am trying to get an early night - I have 4 campaign stops tomorrow!

MORI: Norwich South Poll

Amongst those absolutely certain to vote:
Labour 39, Conservative 20, Green 19, LibDem 19

(Can't win here? - hardly)

I am very interested by this poll. We’ve heard a lot from other parties about tactical voting. Maybe now we can tell the people of Norwich South to vote for the party whose policies they most believe in or whose candidate they most wish to see as our MP – a real choice for local people?

Leader on Candidate

Cameron on Little: “We have got a very strong candidate in Norwich South. We showed what was possible with Chloe and we want that to be part one.”

I wonder what Brown would say about Clarke


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Day Three - Campaign Diary

Some days turn out just like you expect them to - and others, well, don't.

This morning's efforts at Norwich Station were well recieved - as predicted yesterday we got some smiles from the same commuters seeing us twice! From there we went on the doors in Eaton; and it was great to see the first of many blue posters going up in gardens. And then the call came - David Cameron was on his way to Sprowston High School to focus on some elements of Conservative plans for National Citizen Service. The head there - Andrew John - really has done an exceptional job at the school and it was a great place to show off what could be done if we provide the right opportunities for our young people. I met with David Cameron and he was very supportive of our campaign and very keen to see me replace Mr Clarke as our MP here in Norwich South. Mr Cameron really does have a great grasp of what is needed, both in education and the country as a whole. Having your party leader express such faith in your campaign really does give you a boost!

From there over to the Golden Triangle where we were meeting voters around the Unthank Road area. Despite claims but some parties about who is where in the public standing, the people I met were split between all four parties - and more, I met my first BNP voter. It was a worrying moment, but the voter said it was all he had left; after voting Tory in the 80s, Labour in the 90s, LibDems in the 00s and the Greens locally he believed we had all failed and the BNP was the only way he could make his voice heard. I spoke to him for some time and after chatting about the reality of BNP policies I left him thinking again. It shows all parties have a job to do in raising debate. There was better news as we picked up an extra member and got a new Conservative registered to vote!

This evening was spent on the doorsteps around Newmarket Road where a host of issues were raised - from inheritance tax to the voting system (I think my A Level Politics teacher knowledge of this shocked the resident!!). There was a lot of Conservative support today, but boy were the drives long and I need an early night!

One last piece of good news - LibDem Simon Wright has now agreed to the Clean Campaign Pledge. I hope his election material matches what he has just signed up to! Well done to all of the candidates, the people of Norwich South will appreciate this and hopefully the standard of debate will be better for it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

LibDems Finally Make A Pledge

At last - the LibDem candidate for Norwich South has issued an "honesty pledge" over expenses; I now look forward to his response over the Clean Campaigning Pledge too.

I am gald that the LibDems have finally got around to recognising this issue, although I understand many people are cynical that now we are in an election suddenly the local LibDems seem to care about the expenses issue.

In September 2009 I issued a strong honesty pledge which I have had on my website since them, that I have delivered to every home in the constituency. I stand by that pledge and believe I was ahead of the curve on this issue.

However what concerns me about the LibDem version is that it is massively watered down from what I would like to see.

I have now written to the LibDems with three very specific questions about the use of public money.

Will you accept the Communications Allowance or will you, like me, refuse public money to produce promotional propaganda for you and your party?

Will you, like me, ensure that your parliamentary office is totally separate from your constituency party office to ensure that there are no accusations of using parliamentary expenses to supplement a party cost?

Will you, like me, not employ anybody on a part-time basis alongside party political employment to ensure there are no accusations of using parliamentary salaries to supplement a party wage?

The Conservatives have been right to put the repair of our politics at the heart of this campaign. I am genuinely pleased that the LibDems have done this pledge but hope it can now be part of a wider debate about improving the reputation of politics.

Campaign Diary - Day Two

Today was obviously a lot calmer and less hectic than yesterday but just as busy. A combination of good old fashioned campaign activity and some very boring stuff ... but if you are interested in what candidate really do, read on.

We started off with an early morning leaflet drop around Thorpe Hamlet and speaking to commuters heading for Norwich Station. It was a good chance to meet people but they are often in a rush so conversation was - erm, limited. We may go back tomorrow and have a great chance of seeing the same people, so maybe (suggested one gentleman today) we could have a conversation day-by-day one sentence at a time?

After that it was back to everyday life and a family trip to the dentist (politics doesn't get anymore glamerous than this does it?) and then into the campaign office. So what kind of things are we up to when not on the streets?

What is surprising is how quickly the backlog of people wanting to be called or emailed about issues builds up. Although some are policy based and easy to be answered, a much, much greater number I want to answer personally because it is important that people know what I think as well as what the party wants. This can literally take hours if you put the thought and effort into the replies and calls. I have to say that most people are Conservative-minded who want reasons to firm up their support. Everyone who I spoke to was very pleased that we had taken the time to get in touch and most are amazed I do it myself and don't get a campaign worker to phone them.

I am also taking time to call party members and key supporters to chat about how they think the campaign is going. Amazingly from a few sheets of calls, not one single known Conservative voter is switching to another party - a 100% retention rate isn't bad when other parties are claiming (wrongly) we are out of the race!

I also spend time working on a very special campainging event for Saturday and setting up a BBC interview next week.

My other job today was to go round and personally thank a number of our leafleters. As I rose up in the party through the voluntary wing of the party I know that people don't have to go the extra mile for your campaign so a doorstep visit and a thank-you from the candidate is appreciated. We are now moving onto our second (and in some areas, third) leaflet of the campaign so it is important we keep people motivated. I was especially pleased with a new volunteer from Bowthorpe who is ultra-keen and just wants us to keep throwing work her way!

From there I went off to Eaton to help the team there put out a leaflet - though sadly the rain cleared people from their gardens so not many people to chat to! From a rain soaked Eaton back over to Bowthorpe to meet 2 local residents to talk through their issues with the council.

And the last jobs of the day were delivering a poster to a new site in Town Close and getting a proxy vote signed. In both cases they had asked to speak to me before they would do it - fair enough, really - and I am pleased to say something must have been right because they did.

Back home - Emily still awake (secretly I am pleased!!) and blogging.

p.s. Day Two and still no response from LibDem candidate Simon Wright over the "Clean Campaign Pledge". It's starting to look suspiciously as if he either doesn't want to sign or is looking for a way out.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Campaign Diary - Day One

This is my third General Election here in Norwich South - two as candidate and one as agent. I've done three sets of "flying starts" leaflets, launches and campaigns. This has been by far the best and has left us with a real feeling this election is there for us to win. I'll explain why in more detail.

Today has been a very funny day because we've all had to react to an event that we've known has been coming for a long time! Whilst the nation was glued to its TV watching the Prime Ministerial car shuttling back and forth from the palace, the wheels of the election campaign were springing into action.

At the request of a resident I spent early this morning at a residential home meeting having morning tea with people and discussing the day to come. Many people thought the election has been called given the posters that had gone up and the leaflets coming through doors. I got an angry lady saying she was put off voting LibDem by the sheer weight of material they had posted to her.

From there and into the office to rally party workers and get things ready for the day. It may sound a little silly but putting on my rosette - with my name emblazoned on it - it felt like everything was coming together. We then send teams off leafleting - and I went with a group to the City Centre.

Walking around with a Tory rosette on has been hard in past - people yelling "Labour" at you (or worse) hasn't always been pleasant. But today things felt very different. People smiled, said hello, willingly took leaflets and chatted about their views. I went out this evening with teams in Eaton and Town Close and must have spoken to a lot of people - I know all PPCs say this, but genuinely everyone I spoke to was either a committed Conservative voter or seriously considering it.

I also did my first major interviews of the day - for the BBC, local radio and the newspapers. Clearly they all believe that Norwich South will be an interesting seat and could go any which way.

As we waited for the launch in the Forum I was approached by 2 people - one, a lady from Bowthorpe who said she was keen for me to win and offered to display a poster and deliver for us. The second was the former owner of a shop I used to frequent as a student who wished me luck and said I would be getting his vote as a small business owner.

The Andrew Lansley launch was a great event, well attended and in the very modern setting of The Forum. Mr Lansley is - hopefully - Cameron's Health Secretary and I can see why. Attendees were very impressed particularly with his detail and grasp of policy. He certainly sent activists away with a spring in their step, back out onto the streets.

The feeling tonight out delivering leaflets was one of great relief that it had all started. I agreed - but this constituency is going to be very tightly fought and I do hope we can keep it clean and positive. Let's engage people with politics and debate ideas.

As of moments ago the LibDem candidate has yet to respond to the "clean campaign pledge" - I hope he finds time, as Clarke and Ramsay have done, to respond on Day Two.

So why does this campaign feel so different? There is such a positive feeling on the streets, the doorsteps and around the City. Norwich has a spring in its step - and so does the Conservative campaign.

Yahoo News: Norwich South's "Three Way Marginal"

It has been pointed out to me repeatedly today that Yahoo News did a piece on Norwich South in which it was described as a three way marginal ... between the Conservatives, Labour & Greens.

Clean Campaigning

Chloe Smith and Antony Little, the two Norwich Conservative candidates at the General Election, have written today to all declared candidates in the city asking for their support in a clean campaign pledge. This follows the model of the clean campaign pledge signed by Chloe Smith and the Green Party candidate, Rupert Read, at last year's Norwich North by-election.

Chloe Smith comments: "The pledge, updated for this election, promotes honest and positive campaigning. Unfortunately, at the 2009 by-election, the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates refused to sign it. I hope all Norwich candidates in the General Election will join me and Antony Little in signing it now."

Antony Little adds: "As this parliament comes to an end, the issue of honesty is very important to people we meet on the doorstep - but that honesty covers the way in which we campaign as well as expenses. People want us to be positive, set out our policies and not spend all our time making personal attacks and predicting who can or cannot win this election. Chloe and I are putting honesty and positive politcs at the heart of this campaign. "

We, the undersigned, pledge in the forthcoming General Election campaign:
· To show by our actions that politics need not be a dirty game, but can be a clean and positive activity, engaged in genuinely for the good of all.
· To tell the truth about what we stand for and have achieved, and about what others stand for and have achieved.
· To refrain from personal attacks.
· Not to mislead the public about who is doing well and about who is likely to win in this election.
· To make only honest and reasonable promises.
· To fight a clean, positive and honest campaign around the issues that concern the people of Norwich North.
· To be honest about public spending, and not to scaremonger in ways that may frighten the most vulnerable members of our society, such as children and elderly people.
· To take money only from organisations and individuals whose motives in giving us money we do not have reason to suspect, and who do not ask for influence over party policy in return.
· And to sign up to transparency on MPs' expenses.

We encourage voters:
· To expect from us decent and honest behaviour, as candidates and as their elected representatives.
· To ask Parties operating in this election whether they have signed up to the Pledge or not, and, if not, to encourage them to do so.
· And to help us enforce this Pledge, by reporting truthfully to us and to the media any apparent breaches of it.

UPDATE: Charles Clarke agrees to sign, Adrian Ramsay suggests a watered down version, no word from Simon Wright

The Launch

Today's launch with Andrew Lansley was excellent and I will write about it more later, but I thought I would keep a rolling log of coverage and comment:

Norwich Evening News report here

And the EDP version here.

General Election Campaign Launched

The Conservatives have launched their campaign to see Chloe Smith re-elected as MP for Norwich North and Antony Little elected as MP for Norwich South.

The pair will be joined at The Forum by Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – the man whom David Cameron has said will be the new Health Secretary in a Conservative government. Mr Lansley, himself an East Anglian Conservative MP, will be holding a half hour meeting with a small group of Norwich older voters, from a range of local organisations, to take their soundings on Conservative proposals to provide dignity for senior citizens.

The races here in Norwich are likely to be amongst the most fascinating in the country, after Chloe Smith dramatically snatched the Norwich North seat from Labour at a by-election last July. And all the signs point to a photo finish in Norwich South where local teacher and city Councillor Antony Little is taking on disgraced former Minister Charles Clarke.

Chloe Smith said: “I have spoken in Norwich and Parliament about the need for plans that add up on social care. It is a vital issue and one on which we all have a real choice at the general election. In Norwich, this election is about picking two local champions with a record of action and a promise of more. It is a choice: five more years of Gordon Brown or the kind of energy and leadership we need, locally and nationally."

Antony Little said: “At last we have a date for the General Election and a chance for people to vote for change in our country. Locally people tell us that Labour have run their course and they want fresh leadership from an MP with the real-life experience to make a difference. It can’t be right that in a city like Norwich we still have real pockets of poverty, fear of crime and overstretched public services. We plan to run a positive campaign outlining why people should vote for us as Conservative candidates based on our plans for the future.”

Monday, April 05, 2010

Facing Both Ways?

Clegg on BBC today: "Any increase in taxation is unwelcome."

LibDem policy at every General Election I can remember has been ... to raise tax? So LibDem policy is unwelcome?

60 seconds

Just to confound those who say I spend too much time on the pages of the Evening News and EDP, I have been profiled today by yahoo as one of their key players in the General Election, and includes a 60 second interview. As if you don't know everything there is to know about me, click here to find out more!

Don't mention the Q-word (unless it's quality...)

Don't take this as sign of bad parenting or anything, but Emily had a slight accident on the stairs and we had to take her to A&E at the Norwich & Norfolk. She couldn't walk properly (or at times at all) and has a problem with her ankle. Nothing a few days of ice, sitting around watching TV and all of the Dinsey Princess DVDs can't sort out.

However I would like to comment on our trip to A&E - sometimes the most bemoaned of all the NHS services. Now I know it was lunchtime on Bank Holiday Monday but the waiting room was quite full. We were seen within minutes by a triage nurse who was both very caring with Emily (who was in a lot of discomfort) but also treated Louise and I like humans even though we didn't understand the medial terminology. Emily had to go for an X-ray and was seen straight away. The process was fast and efficient - the staff so friendly and they really took the time to explain things to you properly. We were in and out within an hour and my daughter - who was born at the N&N - was in the best possible hands the whole way through. The service from the reception staff onwards was excellent. When parties run campaigns - from NHSYes to #welovethenhs this is exactly the type of feeling they wish to tap into.

So we come to the blog post title ... when we were waiting in A&E I thought I had whispered to Louise, "It's quiet here today", but the staff nurse overheard and told me off for using the Q-word lest a hoard of people suddenly descend upon A&E!!

The only Q word I'd use for our experience today is quality - well done NHS.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Osborne does it again

There are few people who believe anything other than Osborne's Inheritance Tax announcement (and the subsequent Tory poll hike) put the Prime Minister off calling an election that he might have done.

Now, after some Tory wobbles, the Shadow Chancellor does it again.

His well-handled announcement that the Tories would half Labour's NI tax rise started it all. This great policy would not only remove one barrier to job creation but would financially benefit both low and middle earners. It was fully costed and without holes.

Then Osborne pulled off an excellent performance on the "Ask the Chancellors" debate against a stale Darling and rather-too-pleased-with-himself Vince Cable. He even got the real Chancellor into a real spin over Labour's death tax plans.

Now, just as it was all calming down, the Tories revealed dozens of top business leaders who back their plans and whom represent some of the biggest names in the UK, like M&S, Sainsbury, Mothercare & Next. A nice coup - but there is may have ended.

Mr Osborne then got a helping hand - in the shape of the normally sure footed Lord Mandelson. For some reason, Lord M decided to accuse the business leaders of being duped. Oh dear. It gave those business leaders the chance to come out and say that Labour were running down business and the economy was safest in Tory hands.

And tonight more and more businesses have come out for a Cameron-Osborne leadership of the economy.

Most of the polls have shown that this week support has shifted back to the Conservatives. Has George Osborne done it again for the party?