Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ministers Threaten To Quit

Don't for a moment think I am happy about this, but the Channel 4 exclusive about 2 Tory Ministers - Jeremy Wright & David Lidington - threatening to quit if the plans for a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham are not scrapped does have an interest side line for us teachers of politics. The rail line, we are told, would do great damage to their constituencies and they will go if it presses ahead because they'll want to vote against it in the House. This really is collective responsibility working - if you can't support a key government policy you can't be in the government. What a world away from Labour Ministers campaigning against hospital closures that their government forced through, for example.

Ministers have 2 options - abandon their principles / constituents and vote with the government.

Or vote against their own government, which Ministers cannot do. So quit as a Minister to vote against them.

Collective responsibility - Ministerial responsibility - Individual responsibility.

Maybe, just maybe, making a comeback in a government near you ...

Cable is Wrong on Bankers

If I didn't know better, I'd have assumed that the rabble rousing speech by Vince Cable was a leadership bid in the making. He delivered it extremely well and very funny in parts it was too. And the LibDem crowd lapped it up - yellow friends of mine who were there said it was, finally, what they wanted to hear. So, good news - except for the fact that we need to stop this ridiculous banker bashing.

Even LibDem Susan Kramer says this must come to an end. And I say so for two reasons.

Firstly because Labour are using it as a fig leaf for their disastrous tenure. Forget Brown's government, they tell us, it's all down to the bankers. Yes, every problem of the last 13 years - would you believe it! Well, actually, no I don't. What about the role of the government in setting a framework and the role of regulators in enforcing it? What about Brown's reckless spending and borrowing and spending and then borrowing some more? By reinforcing the public image that its all the fault of the bankers we let Brown, Labour and the Milibands off the hook for their role in this.

And secondly because it isn't true. The vast majority of bankers did not cause this and are not "spivs". Somehow it has been acceptable to be publicly vile to a whole profession on the basis of a minority of them. All teachers are bad!! All police officers are bent!! All politicians are corrupt!! Obviously nonsense and yet we allow people to talk about bankers in the same way. Tax them!! String them up!! Castrate them!! Hardly fair or accurate, from a party that preaches fairness. Playing to the crowd? Who'd have believed it from a LibDem?

As somebody tweeted me this evening - after agreeing with this argument - let's focus our anger on the minority that deserve it. Sadly, Cable's speech was aimed at his party and his standing rather than serious debate. I'm surprised that Cable has allowed this to happen.

I notice that not only the "establishment" but also the Director of the Adam Smith Institute (whom Cable credited with his ideas) have rubbished it now.

This post says it rather well too

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chugging Rules In Place

I am extremely pleased that new regulations that I championed as a Councillor have now been put into force (details here) to combat issues that many members of the public feel about chugging (or "face to face fund raising").

There will now be rules as to where fundraisers can be and limits on the number of times and days of the week that the activity can be carried out.

Norwich is, rightly, a vibrant City - but when we were going down Gentleman's Walk on Saturday, with Libby in a buggy, it was like being on a cannon run. It was so busy it was actually uncomfortable and we ended up seeking sanctuary somewhere else. If these new rules help to improve this situation just a little bit they will be worthwhile.

I spent a long time researching this, liaising with the regulation body (the PFRA) and then putting the motion through council so I have a certain amount of pride in this announcement.

Well done to the City Council for having the guts to take on this issue.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why I'm For Andy

The Labour Leadership contest has been an absolute bore-fest for those of us not in the Labour Party; similar, I should imagine, for non-supporters in any leadership election. However I have been interested in the media coverage, debates and focus groups which have provided the electorate (which covers Labour Members and Trade Unionists) with a great deal of information.

Of course, my original choice was the current Shadow Home Secretary Alan Johnson, whose assured, confident and humorous Commons speeches have shown a man very relaxed with not standing for the leadership. I am glad he didn't stand, but wonder if he even intends to stand for election to the Shadow Cabinet? Anyway, back to the rest ...

Diane Abbott, the "great communicator" has fallen flat in my view. As a dinosaur leftie we all knew she wasn't going to win, but I expected her to blow the contest wide open. I doubt she will even in these late stages. The two Milibands are just b-o-r-i-n-g; David has history involving a banana that may well haunt him for a long time and his admission that he drinks beer by the half-pint is his "baseball cap" moment (copyright, W.Hague). Ed on the otherhand comes across in a kind of nerd-trying-to-be-groovy kind of way. That leaves the two people that have really impressed me the most in this contest.

There is Ed Balls, who scrapped home in his Morley seat at the election, the most loyal commander left in the Brown bunker. He has shown himself to be a bulldog and would be an opportunistic fighter for Labour in opposition; just what they need in many ways. However despite this he doesn't look like the next Prime Minister. He may well have secured himself the Shadow Home Secretary position as a reward for having such a good leadership campaign.

And so to Andy Burnham - the frontline candidate whom we knew least about before this election. He's impressed me as the man who speaks in normal language and with a normal tone of voice. He represents his home constituency and has been loyal through-and-through. He has been leading the debate with ideas (not that I agree with them, of course, but at least he's brave enough to put them forward). He seems at ease, handles pressure well and has stayed above the Mili-spats going on. I am impressed and would be much more concerned if he led Labour than any of the others.

Having said that - to be frank I don't think any of them look like election winners. One Labour activist said to me at the count on Thursday that when Hague fought Clarke and IDS fought Clarke, they prayed for the leader most likely to screw up the Tories. Was I, he asked, doing the same for Labour? No, I replied, whoever wins the Labour crown then Cameron is still sure to win the next election. For us, it's a win-win-win-win-win situation. But if Labour activists were to take any advice from an old Tory lag like me, to make the best fist of the next parliament - it has to be Andy Burnham.

In choosing between FPTP and AV, do I vote for the system that will stop STV?

As a politics teacher I am looking forward to the AV referendum next year (although personally I wouldn't vote to have one; too expensive at this time). I don't yet know which way I will vote, but I am currently leaning towards the "No" side and one thing in particular has been tipping my view.

I am concerned that the people advocating AV are actually those who want full blown PR, which I am definitely against - this article on the Coffee House blog says it all, that all those chosen to push AV actually don't support it but another system.

Why would I vote for a system which may lead, in time, to a system I am totally opposed to?

Friday, September 10, 2010

That's It - The End.

Well, the results from last night were pretty shocking and certainly a poor night for both coalition partners. Judging from the BBC, ITV and Archant reports I was certainly the story of the night. Sadly I lost my seat, by 46 votes, to Labour.

For the last week I had began to become convinced I would lose - and in case you think that is 20-20 hindsight I actually said this to Labour friends as well as my campaign team. Knocking on doors, although there were far fewer Labour voter than Tory ones, they were simply more motivated to vote. The low-turn out, the switch from LibDems to Labour, the campaign on cuts (which never mentioned where Labour would swing the axe, of course) were all factors. But as the sitting member you always look to yourself and your own personal role in the election. I have put my heart and soul into being a good ward councillor but clearly it wasn't enough.

To all those who are my friends in the community, the people who supported me in Bowthorpe and Earlham, to my colleague ward Councillors and to the hundreds who voted for me, I am personally very, very sorry.

Being a councillor has been a fantastic experience and I have got to contribute to the civil life of our City in ways that few ever get. I look back on the last 4 years with pride, but life moves on. I am lucky that I have a job I love and a young family to enjoy. I shall miss helping people in Bowthorpe and working for them (I had resisted being "emotional" until the emails and calls from residents I am helping or have helped started to come through) but I always said that I wanted more in my life than just politics.

I am sticking to that promise - starting today.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Thursday is by-election day - when 13 seats, and perhaps the future direction of the City - are decided. I know this election campaign hasn't exactly set the world on fire but it will make a difference here in the City.

Some parties are trying to convince you this is a referendum on the Coalition Government.

Some parties are trying to say its a county council election instead.

Some parties have some very choice figures to say only they can win here.

I say this - this is a City Council election, about City issues for City voters. Read the manifesto documents of the parties (the Conservatives one is here, for example) then make your decision.

But whatever you do - vote and vote for a positive reason.

I obviously hope that my record as a Councillor in the last 4 years will see me home in Bowthorpe but nothing can be taken for granted and we will fight every minute tomorrow for each and every vote.

Norwich Leaseholders Demand Connaught Inquiry

I don't usually reproduce comments from this blog but this one is well worth it, from Leaseholders Chairman Pauline Walton:

Leaseholders have been expressing concern about the management of this procurement project since it began in March last year.

We believe there Norwich Council has a case to answer for its failure to notice the state of Connaught's accounts in November last year, and adverse reporting by fund manager Tim Steer in mid-December. We believe that the Council was reckless in its appointment of Connaught on 10 February 2010, given the incredibly low bid price (30% lower than anyone else). We wonder whether its "due diligence exercise" really proved that this bid was affordable.

Morrison tried to warn this council immediately it knew it had lost the bid, but the Council pressed on.

Citizens of Norwich deserve better than this.

Now, with Connaught's social housing operation in administration, I presume we can look forward to another interim contract while the council has to go through a major expensive procurement process all over again.

Surely this warrants a public inquiry?

Pauline Walton
Chair, Norwich Leaseholders' Association

Personally I couldn't agree more - this has been a shambles and the point is that I don't know if the argument made by Mrs Walton is correct. An inquiry would sort that out. This all demonstrates the shambles of the way that Labour have run the City Council. There were warned ...

An inquiry is a good long term solution, but a vote to remove this Labour administration tomorrow is a better short term solution.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Connaught goes into Administration

The bad news for the staff and customers of Connaught was heavily trailed this morning and we now know that they have gone into administration (more here). This in, obviously, a very worrying time for both the 10,000 Connaught staff both here in Norwich and around the country and also for the tens of thousands who depend on their services.

There has been much concern expressed at Labour's handling of the Connaught contract, including from both City MPs Chloe Smith and Simon Wright, and also by the Conservative Group on the City Council. Questions were raised about the situation surrounding the Morrison bid, the "teething problems" at the beginning of the service and now the financial perils of the company. All along Labour have told us - don't worry, it'll be fine. There are, apparently, plans in place to ensure services do not suffer. I am not on the Council so I know no more than anybody else but Labour are going to have to make those plans public pretty soon.

This whole situation seems to have been handled very badly indeed. Was this contract ever robust enough? Labour have some big questions to ask - but residents on the doorstep tonight were rightly very concerned and many believed this incident was symptomatic of the way Labour have run City Hall.

No wonder Labour are desperate to turn a City by-election into a County election or General Election - because they are afraid of their own record in office.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Almost There

With polling day now just a few days away, I can report that I am absolutely shattered. Day-in-day-out campaigning - a mix of canvassing, leafleting and meeting residents groups is all coming to an end and on Thursday people will have their say.

I don't know if I'll have blogging time between then and now but this is just really say a big thank you to all those people in Bowthorpe and Earlham who have been so kind when we have called. Your support is greatly appreciated. Thanks also to those who have tramped the streets with me during these four weeks - plus those who have dished out the moral support!

This is an election nobody wanted but the result will shape our City for many years to come.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Local media & Local democracy

Archant goes through good times and bad times when it comes to reporting local democracy and elections. Currently, under the present Editor and team, they are having a good time. Shaun Lowthorpe and Dan Grimmer are like the Statler and Waldorf of the City (there goes my favourable coverage) but are doing an excellent job. At the moment they are previewing 2 wards per day in the lead u to the poll. It's even better to see them coming off the fence and having a punt at who they think is in the game at the moment. So far they think the Conservatives will hold Bowthorpe, LibDems hold Eaton (just) and Labour to hold University. Lakenham is too-close-to-call. It's good to see pieces from all the candidates (except UKIP who failed to provide any copy) with then an opinion-style piece from the paper. When the first article about the elections appeared on page 57 of the EDP I did fear a lack of coverage, but this really is a good service to democracy. Well done, Archant.