Sunday, May 16, 2010

Did Kennedy speak up at the time?

The Independent on Sunday today carries the news that Charles Kennedy, former LibDem Leader 1999-2006, abstained on the vote to enter a coalition with Cameron's Conservatives. Yet at the time we were told it was passed with all parliamentarians in favour?

Now Mr Kennedy has revealed his unease and suddenly it brings into question those LibDem claims. So who is not being honest here - the LibDems after the meeting or Mr Kennedy now?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cameron's Coalition (Day One)

Brown's gone ... Cameron's in.

The names have started to roll in that will make up a new cabinet - Osbourne as Chancellor, Hague as Foreign Secretary, Fox at Defence and Lansley at Health all confirmed. First 2 LibDems; Clegg as DPM and Alexander at the Scottish Office.

An absolutely historic day - we'll wait to see what the deal on the table is later on today.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The People's Verdict

So, it's Hung. As I type the backroom deals are going on, Brown is clinging to the doorknocker at No.10 and policies are being dumped and adapted. There is uncertainty but nobody can say that people weren't informed about the problems of Hung Parliaments; this is clearly the will of the people, so we have to deal with that. I think that Mr Cameron's challenge to the LibDems to join him in coalition was bold, statesmanlike and grasps the nettle; we may have a government by Monday if everything goes as planned. Personally I'd prefer a minority Conservative government with a "memorandum of understanding" - maybe one with the LibDems and another with smaller groups such as the Unionists.

I can't deny that I am not gutted with the result - both nationally and locally. There were great moments (Opik and Smith, for example) but the results lacked consistency and too many marginals were missed by the Tories. However we ought to remember that Cameron had an electoral mountain to climb; gaining 100 seats is an impressive achievement and he did score more votes than Blair did in '97. Brown, although hammered in the popular vote, did actually hold up the number of Labour seats rather well. It was probably Mr Clegg who had the most disappointing night, seeing "Cleggmania" (whatever that is, or was) disappear to the point where they actually lost seats at the election. Quite why the opinion poll ratings never translated into votes could be the subject of a whole dissertation! Where were the RATM facebook group when you needed them?

Locally the LibDems picked up Norwich South with a wafer thin 310 vote majority. I have to say that the City scene will miss Mr Clarke's knowledge and experience - Mr Wright has large shoes to fill. Nothing in our canvassing - or that of Labour or the Greens - picked up this LibDem "surge" and so it came as a genuine surprise to most, if not all, of the people at the count. The LibDems had thrown a large amount of money, locally and nationally, at this campaign and done so in a largely negative and aggressive way. Clearly, it paid off.

I loved the campaign and thought we managed to strike a positive and constructive note. It was great that policies were once again the order of the day in British politics. I also thought the turnout was a great sign too; for once, the British people realised the solution to a discredited political system is by voting for change rather than staying away from the polling booths. Polling Day itself was great fun and zoomed by; we had probably the largest and most effective polling day operation in Norwich South for a generation.

And although the LibDems walked away with the prize, I believe that was much for us to be pleased about. We were the only major party to have a swing to us (yes, the LibDems won the seat despite getting a lower vote share than in 05), and managed to put on nearly 3,000 extra votes since the last election. That's 3,000 real people who now voted Conservative that didn't a few years back; we put over 1/3rd onto our vote. This is the first time that the Tory vote has risen in Norwich South since the 1980s. And with the 3 parties now all 3,000 votes apart the next election is shaping up to be a cracking contest - "a 3 way marginal with a strong Green interest", as one TV presenter put it!

I learnt 2 major things in this campaign; firstly that debate is still at the heart of our political system and people are ready to engage about ideas. The second, sadly, is that negative campaigning really does work. I thought this campaign would show that people want to vote for something rather than against something else, but I am not sure I can. The LibDems proved that with enough money and enough negativity you can achieve success. I hope this isn't a lesson other parties learn but I am sure they will.

So, I wish Simon Wright well in his new important position and hope he is able to stand up and speak up effectivly for our City. My feeling is that - like the LibDem Council here in Norwich - he will have one chance at this, because local people don't tolerate failure from their MP. Mr Wright has a largely supportive media and goodwill in the City; we look forward to seeing what difference he can make.

And as this is my last General Election post, a final word of thanks to the hundreds of people who helped in various different ways to my campaign. It is a great honour to think that people give freely of their time and energy to see me elected to parliament. And a big thank you to the c.11,000 local people who voted for me - some will have never voted Tory before, some will be stalwarts and some will be friends who put their trust in me when their political beliefs said otherwise. To each and every one of them, I say "thank you"l you faith in me made the whole campaign worthwhile. Roll on 2014?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Making Your Mind Up!

Today is polling day and the day when you get to have your say on the future of this country.

I think Mr Cameron ought to be proud of a positive campaign based on hope and optimism for the future, and giving us the change we need - reforming politics, mending our society and fixing the economy.

It feels as if Labour have had nothing positive to say in this whole campaign - and if you don't believe me, compare the front pages of the pro-Labour Mirror and pro-Tory Sun today.

We can have better - an MP who listens, keeps in touch and has the real-life experience to know what life in Norwich South is all about and not another career politican.

If all the people we have met in this campaign who have said they'll vote Conservative do so then we can win.

But whatever you do, go out there today ... and vote.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why Does This Matter?

1 - Political Choice
For as long as I have been involved in politics, large numbers of people have said that "you're all the same". You can hardly say that today, with large differences between Labour and Conservative (paying down the debt - starting tomorrow or next year), LibDem and Conservative (Trident - scrap or keep) and Green and Conservatives (A11 - keep as it is or dual it). You have great choice on the ballot paper tomorrow, use it.

2 - Your Vote Counts
In Norwich South any one of the parties could take victory; controversial Labour MP Charles Clarke is facing the fight of his life and yet the decision on who should replace him is still up in the air.

3 - Campaigning Styles
The Conservatives have run a relentless positive campaign this year in Norwich, against some other parties who have been very negative and whom believe they should get power by simply not being the other parties. If Britain really does like positive campaigning then the LibDems will be crushed; if they like negative campaigning then the result may be different.

4 - The Political Class
As the only candidate with a job I have been surprised at how many people have not wanted another member of the political class as our MP; it isn't just what PM you want or what party you want in government but who you want as our local MP. Do you want another career politician as your MP?

5 - Because it does.
Democracy matters as does participation. Even if you are planning to vote for one of the minnows - UKIP or the WRP for example - or if you are going to spoil your ballot paper, simply doing so sends a message. 2 minutes of your time for democracy? A fair trade.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Endorsements et al

We've been getting more endorsements in:

Conservatives 12 (+5) : The Financial Times, The Sun, The Times, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Sunday Express, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Economist, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express

Labour 2 (-7) : Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror

LibDems 2 (+2): The Guardian, The Observer

No Endorsements: People, Independent on Sunday

Rank Hypocrisy

Anybody spot an hypocrisy here;

LibDem Leader Nick Clegg appears on the BBC telling people to vote for the party they believe in and says no politicans should tell you to support a party you don't wish to.

LibDem candidate Simon Wright issues a newspaper to people in Norwich South that has fourteen (yes, 14) references to tactical voting, telling people that some parties can't win and so you ought to back the party that can beat Labour.


I am proud of our positive campaign here in Norwich South, I wonder if Mr Wright will look back and think the same about his?

Monday, May 03, 2010

What the Papers say (Part II)

We've been getting more endorsements in:

Conservatives 9 (+5) : The Financial Times, The Sun, The Times, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Sunday Express, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Economist

Labour 2 (-7) : Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror

LibDems 2 (+2): The Guardian, The Observer

No Endorsements: People, Independent on Sunday

David Cameron's Contract With Norwich South

At the start of this election campaign I invited you to join the government of Britain. My message was that we're all in this together, and we've got to stop pretending that government is the answer to every problem.

So during this campaign I've been talking about the new, active part I hope people will play in making the country better and building the Big Society.

Now, as we get into the final week of the campaign, I want to set out our side of the bargain in a contract with you. This contract - as you can see below - is a no-frills, no-nonsense commitment to do some very specific things if you vote for us.

With trust in politics at an all time low and people tired of politicians breaking their promises, this contract couldn't be clearer. If we don't do the things it sets out, if we don't deliver our side of the bargain: vote us out in five years time.

David Cameron
Leader of the Conservative Party

A contract between the Conservative Party and You
We go into the general election on 6 May with trust in politics and politicians at an all-time low. And I can understand why: the years of broken promises, the expenses scandal, the feeling that politicians have become too remote from the people - they've all taken their toll. That's why I'm making this contract with you.

For too long, you've been lied to by politicians saying they can sort out all your problems. But it doesn't work like that. Real change is not just about what the government does. Real change only comes when we understand that we are all in this together; that we all have a responsibility to help make our country better.

This contract sets out my side of the bargain: the things I want to do to change Britain. But it also makes clear that I cannot do it on my own. We will only get our economy moving, mend our broken society and reform our rotten political system if we all get involved, take responsibility, and work together.

So this is our contract with you. I want you to read it and - if we win the election - use it to hold us to account. If we don't deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years' time.

We will change politics
Our political system needs to change. Politicians must be made more accountable, and we must take power away from Westminster and put it in the hands of people - individuals, families and neighbourhoods.
If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:
1. Give you the right to sack your MP, so you don't have to wait for an election to get rid of politicians who are guilty of misconduct.
2. Cut the number of MPs by ten per cent, and cut the subsidies and perks for politicians.
3. Cut ministers' pay by five per cent and freeze it for five years.
4. Give local communities the power to take charge of the local planning system and vote on excessive council tax rises.
5. Make government transparent, publishing every item of government spending over £25,000, all government contracts, and all local council spending over £500.

We will change the economy
Gordon Brown's economic incompetence has doubled the national debt, given us record youth unemployment, and widened the gap between rich and poor. Unemployment is still rising, and this year we will spend more on debt interest than on schools. We need to get our economy moving.
If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:
1. Cut wasteful government spending so we can stop Labour's jobs tax, which would kill the recovery.
2. Act now on the national debt, so we can keep mortgage rates lower for longer.
3. Reduce emissions and build a greener economy, with thousands of new jobs in green industries and advanced manufacturing.
4. Get Britain working by giving unemployed people support to get work, creating 400,000 new apprenticeships and training places over two years, and cutting benefits for those who refuse work.
5. Control immigration, reducing it to the levels of the 1990s - meaning tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands a year under Labour.

We will change society
We face big social problems in this country: family breakdown, educational failure, crime and deep poverty. Labour's big government has failed; we will help build a Big Society where everyone plays their part in mending our broken society.
If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:
1. Increase spending on health every year, while cutting waste in the NHS, so that more goes to nurses and doctors on the frontline, and make sure you get access to the cancer drugs you need.
2. Support families, by giving married couples and civil partners a tax break, giving more people the right to request flexible working and helping young families with extra Sure Start health visitors.
3. Raise standards in schools, by giving teachers the power to restore discipline and by giving parents, charities and voluntary groups the power to start new smaller schools.
4. Increase the basic state pension, by relinking it to earnings, and protect the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel and other key benefits for older people.
5. Fight back against crime, cut paperwork to get police officers on the street, and make sure criminals serve the sentence given to them in court.
6. Create National Citizen Service for every 16 year old, to help bring the country together

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Verdict on Political Junk

Since being emailed by him, I have been quite taken by the Stop Junk Mail blog, which highlights ways of stopping people like me from putting things through your door that you don't like. Actually, we could start a debate if election material is the "democractic process in work" or just junk mail but that isn't the purpose of this blog post.

In the recent posts, Junk Buster has been reviewing the election material that comes through his door. By far the most interesting thing is the taking of task of the LibDems for havign nothing but a tactical vote plea rather than focusing on policies. We've heard that time and again on the doorsteps. We actually met one LibDem today who wasn't voting because of their literature. Here are his summaries but take a look at the blog for the full info:

All the texts are well-written, the photos are first class, it's free of negative campaigning, and it's the only leaflet so far that has been printed on recycled paper (and using non-GM vegetable-based inks). But, the leaflet contains too much information about Adrian Ramsay and too little about what the Green Party stands for.

Politics is about making choices. During an election campaign candidates set out their stall, explain to voters what their priorities are (and aren't), and how they will deliver their promises. At the next the election the incumbent MP can then be held to account. Not so with Mr Clarke. Or at least in this 'election communication' we don't get a single example of what Mr Clarke has actually achieved for Norwich South since 1997, and his pledges are as vague as they can be.

I have a really good impression of Nick Clegg. I'm one of the many people who didn't really know him until a couple of weeks ago and never had much of an interest in the Lib Dems. Mr Clegg's performance during the election campaign has changed that. But what would he make of a leaflet like this - devoid of any content, of any positive reasons to vote for the Lib Dems? I expect 'election communications' to give information about policies, to tell me what a party stands for. Direct marketing can actually be quite useful for that; because it's written you don't have to fall back on soundbites and one-liners. This leaflet doesn't even start to answer the question on the front.

The back of the leaflet actually contains information about what the Conservatives stand for. Crime and anti-social behaviour should be tacked, head teachers should have the power to exclude badly behaved pupils, and local services should provide value-for-money. What is good about the leaflet is that it almost solely talks about the Conservatives' policy ideas and that it doesn't just slag off the other parties. It's not glossy, fairly informative, contains no negative campaigning, the photos are alright, and apart from the small print its all very readable. Not too bad.

UPDATE: I removed the part about the use of info because it isn't true - we do not use personal details for anything other than the campaign in question (i.e. if you signed a petition you would only recieve a resposne about that and not about our activites generally etc.) and have not entered them onto any databases.