Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Parliamentary Inquiry into corruption at the banks won’t cut it

Ex-Barclays CEO Bob Diamond easily deals with MPs

Following the dismal performance of MPs in questioning city-slicker Bob Diamond, who ran rings around them, the Government has won a vote to keep the judge and QCs away from investigating the banking scandal and having been backed into a corner the Labour Party have succumbed and said they will now co-operate with the inquiry to be led by Conservative MP and Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie.

As Alan Johnson said on last night’s BBC Question Time, there is plenty more to come. Another 20 banks are being investigated by the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) with many more than Barclays expected to be implicated in interest rate rigging to increase trader profits and fleece mortgage holders and small business owners on their loans. There will come a time when David Cameron will be forced to call for a judge.

The Labour Party shouldn’t be so smug though as eventually it will be uncovered they knew about the LIBOR fixing and probably encouraged it. If that was the case, they could be implicated in criminal behaviour which may still see bankers banged up.

But I also side with Labour on the need for a public inquiry – Leveson-style – because politicians of all political hue are in cahoots (no pun intended – keep up!) with their banker mates in The City. This didn’t take long to prove when Bob Diamond called Treasury Select Committee Conservative member Jesse Norman by his first name (as he did with all MPs on the panel) and whilst Mr Norman tried to spurt a question out, Mr Diamond was reminiscing about the old times when he and Jesse both worked for – you guessed it – Barclays Bank!

Both main parties are up to their necks in this banker corruption:
Labour desperately tried to make life easier and richer for bankers whilst they were in office, as they needed to correct their reputation for being enemies of financiers and also they needed the bank’s taxes to create their huge welfare client state. The Conservatives on the other hand ARE friends of the bankers and many are either former bankers or ARE still bankers such as Deputy Conservative Chairman Michael Fallon, who sits on the board of Tullett Prebon. Many MPs also relied heavily on their City friends to fund their General Election campaigns back in 2010.

The above patently explains why politicians should not be questioning and investigating bankers: it is in their interest to ensure the bodies remain hidden from the public. This will not do.


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Stop spending our money

A quote from Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on Sky News earlier was telling: “Public consultation is how we do Government these days.” One could infer from what Mr Clarke said it wasn’t always the case. And, of course, it wasn’t. When we had real leaders running the country, they ploughed on with the mandate given to them by the electorate. As I found when I was a councillor, the return-rate for consultation questionnaires is abysmal. In my view, the reason for this is the public don’t want to be bothered with the minutiae of government: that’s what they elect politicians to do.

But many of the politicians of today are so weak and feeble they must ask “mummy and daddy” – i.e. the general public – permission to almost go to the Treasury toilet. May I remind them the great British public are too busy being real mothers and fathers to their own children and getting on with their own jobs to have to veto every decision taken by government. Just do it – and if we don’t like it we will sack you at the next election. You are not our children – you are our servants. Get to work.

This talk of consultation is because of the latest Coalition Government U-turn – this time on the Pasty tax. Not wishing to go overboard with the food metaphors but this was a right political hot potato which should never have made it to second base in the budget drafting process (that’s if there was even a second base!) let alone make it all the way to the dispatch box. It was only ever going to end in tears if two Conservative chaps who have never had to scrape around for some change to buy a pint of milk at the end of the month decided to tax the working man’s lunch. And so it has passed. Chancellor Osborne is so sorry for his bad behaviour and has promised The Sun he has listened to the ticking off he has received and will try harder next time. There’s one word for that action: weak.

Taxing pasties might not have been the brightest idea but please don’t compound it by doing a U-Turn after half your parliamentary party has gone to their local media to tell their constituents what a sensible idea it is. Clegg does a good enough job at trashing the Tories – you don’t need your own side making fools of your backbenchers as well.

Of course, if we had a proper Conservative Government, we wouldn’t need to touch the beloved Cornish pasty. We’d cut public spending to force down the deficit. There’s plenty of scope. Hardly anything has been cut in the last two years – in fact the Government is borrowing more than Gordon Brown ever did to spend on a bloated welfare state to keep those who refuse to work tucked up in bed until midday everyday. And then there is the NHS which recently spent £17 on a gluten-free pizza, which doesn’t include handling and delivery charges. See? – plenty of scope.

I have a straightforward message to help the Government cut the deficit and bring down our debt: stop spending our money! As Aleksandr Orlov says: “Simples”.


Ipswich Borough Council: Mayor Making Ceremony

My wife stepped down as a Conservative councillor at the elections on 4th May. She only had a majority of three so with the current political storm encircling the Conservative Party, her old seat – St John’s – was naturally snapped up by Labour whose candidate romped home with a majority of 647.

But last night Tanya was invited back to the Council to receive her Certificate of Service from the Chief Executive, Russell Williams, so that gave us an excuse to go and watch what turned out to be a right Labour love-in.
Last night’s Ipswich Mayor Making ceremony at the Corn Exchange
– when is the Council going to start web-casting these things?
Each year a new Mayor is ‘elected’ to serve a year’s term. Of course, it’s never an ‘election’ and instead the next Mayor is picked beforehand and because of the Administration’s majority the nominee just gets nodded through. The nominee even sits up front ready to robe up and not in the councillor benches. At least when they elect a Speaker in the House of Commons they pretend to not want the job. 
Labour have had more Mayors than any other Party. It is somewhat sinister on Remembrance Day when the Town Sargent calls out for all “former mayors” to come forward to make up the procession to the Cenotaph. It always made me laugh when two thirds of the Labour Group bounded forward – it takes about five minutes for them to line up! So, as Labour gained another four seats in the local elections the new Mayor of Ipswich is Labour Councillor Mary Blake
Ipswich is a funny old place which seems to buck the trend and the Mayor Making at the Borough Council is no exception. Last year’s Mayor Councillor John Le Grys (also Labour) now becomes this year’s Deputy Mayor. In any other walk of life, the Deputy would do his apprenticeship first then step up to the top job – not so in Suffolk’s County town!
Anyway, democracy needs to be seen to be working so Mary Blake’s nomination for Ipswich Mayor was proposed by Labour councillor Peter Gardiner and seconded by Labour councillor Jeanette Macartney – both with gushing speeches about the “wonderful Mary”. Outgoing Mayor Cllr Le Grys then asked if there were any other nominations. Hmm, considering Labour have 32 councillors, the Tories have 12 and the Liberals have 4, it was a rhetorical question. 
Cllr John Le Grys and then Cllr Mary Blake swapped robes. Outgoing Deputy Chairman Roger Fern who had been Mayor of Ipswich before back in 2004-5, so could not be Mayor again, then gave his robes to Cllr Le Grys, who funnily enough was also elected unopposed. Mayor Blake then gave a vote of thanks to the new Deputy Mayor for being Mayor! 
After the Mayor’s speech it all turned into a love-in. Cllr Le Grys replied and reminisced about the year and the antics he got up to; he then name dropped Morning Ipswich Star editor Nigel Pickover who he went tobogganing with or something. He then asked aloud “Is Nigel here? No. Oh Paul is!” referring to Morning Ipswich Star’s political editor, Paul Geater. Labour must think the local rag is their mouthpiece but considering the Morning Ipswich Star’s circulation figures, not many people are listening these days.  
I’m failing to understand why Mr Geater gets his own table and jug of water at Council meetings. What’s the circulation threshold for getting a seat at the Media table? Because there is a good chance the Morning Ipswich Star may have dipped below it. I think I might apply to the Council for media accreditation – considering the blogs are giving the dead tree press a run for their money, it seems only fair we get a place at the special table at Council meetings!
Then the political business end of the meeting started and up popped our old friend Labour leader Councillor David Ellesmere. He couldn’t help but make a party political point when he said he had offered places on the Executive (the Council’s Cabinet) again this year to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. They had – in my view rightly – declined. What planet does Cllr Ellesmere thinks he lives on? Why would the Tories and Liberals want to be associated with a failing Labour Council with no power because of their minority position. But there is a clever tactic here: Labour want to try and build a bomb shelter around themselves for when they inevitably have to go to the electorate for more council tax. The Tories are certainly not falling for that trick, David.
Committee places were then formally voted on. Labour all voted ‘For’ but the Conservatives and the Liberals reneged on their responsibilities to represent their voters and abstained. I thought they would have turned over a new leaf this year.
The final business item was to nominate two councillors to fill Ipswich’s places on the new Police and Crime Panel for Suffolk, part of the Coalition Government’s new Police Commissioner model for police accountability, and will basically act as a Scrutiny Committee. Elections for Police Commissioners take place in November. Cllr Neil Macdonald, portfolio holder for ‘Safer Ipswich’ (very New Labour speak!) took the opportunity to bash the new police accountability policy (which to be fair I’m not exactly in favour of as I’ve posted before*) then he nominated Labour Councillor Peter Gardiner and new Labour Councillor Glen Chisholm to represent Ipswich on the panel. Again, because of Labour’s whopping majority they duly ensured their boys ended up on the police panel despite better talent existing on the Opposition benches – purely partisan!
The meeting then closed but to just remind everyone the People’s Republic of Ipswich was firmly back in the red after it’s dalliance with the Tories and Liberals, a chorus of “Happy Birthday” started up to pass on our best wishes to our Dear Leader, Mayor Blake. May she live for a thousand years!
*The Police Commissioner legislation was eventually got through the Lords by the Government after amendments.


Ipswich Local Elections 2012 Analysis

Firstly, and not wishing to blow my own trumpet (oh why not, it’s one of the trappings of writing my own blog eh?), every single one of my predictions in the Ipswich Borough Council elections and also the Suffolk County Council by-election turned out to be correct. Mr Geater over at the Morning Ipswich Star parish boasted his predictions were a clean sheet as well but he only forecasted the number of gains and losses not precise ward results.

Anyway less of the gloating, let’s get down to business.

This was a very bad night for the Tories. Their vote collapsed across the Borough. You know you are in trouble when your majority in one of your safest wards collapses to just over 200 – as in Castle Hill – when you are used to a thumping 1000 gap from your nearest rival. What were the reasons for this? It’s two fold: Labour continue to gain from the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, which has not recovered from last year, and, more importantly the Tory vote, as I predicted, has this year stayed at home. The difference between hanging on in some wards and political oblivion for the Tories rested on their Get Out the Vote campaign, which patently failed:

– The literature failed to emphasise voting Conservative, instead majoring on unknown candidates.
– There was no use of social media from the constituency party as is seen with Ipswich Labour.
– The Ipswich Conservatives website elections page was left blank throughout the campaign.
– The dead tree press media were not informed of Tory MEP and MP visits until late after the event.

A telling moment last night was the Bixley County by-election. This was the only seat where UKIP fielded a candidate and as predicted Chris Streatfield stole over 200 votes, undoubtedly, from the Tory candidate Alan Murray. Even if UKIP had not been standing Cty Cllr Murray’s majority would still have been only 600 in a normally safe Conservative seat where he should be polling close to 1000. As it is, his majority is a slim 300. This is very worrying sign for the Tories.

Overall in Ipswich, the Conservatives lost three seats on the Borough Council: St John’s, Stoke Park and Whitton. Labour gained these three Tory seats and one seat – in Alexandra ward –  from the Liberal Democrats, where Cllr Adam Leeder romped home with a majority 656 with the Lib Dem and Tory vote collapsing further. A very good result here for Labour. As the night wore on the Conservative vote just kept hemorrhaging: hundreds of voters deserted the Tories in Whitton, St John’s and Stoke Park.

Rushmere was one of the wards to watch and even the last minute upset over Ransomes Sports Club failed to prevent Cllr Alasdair Ross storming back to Grafton House with a massive majority over the Conservatives. Back in 2008 Cllr Ross had a majority of 13 – he now has increased this to 547.
It was a major strategic error for the Tories to target Rushmere – it was as plain as day that in this political climate the Conservatives would never come close to beating incumbent and one-man Labour campaigning machine Alasdair Ross. But still the ward was chosen as a target seat. Would this have anything to do with Rushmere Borough and County councillor Judy Terry now being the Ipswich Conservative Party chairman and also being up for election next year? I feel sorry for Chris Chambers – I know what it is like to lose after fighting tooth and nail (as I did against Sandy Martin in St John’s back in 2006). So I really hope his expectations weren’t raised by people who should know better as last night would have been a bitter blow for a young man and could put him off active politics for a while, which would be a great shame.

The Tories would have done better to target Holywells because if it wasn’t for Labour’s poor choice of candidate and the lack of a right-wing independent on the ballot paper, Pam Stewart would have been toast. The majority in this seat is becoming very thin. Former council leader Liz Harsant won by 93 votes last year. Cllr Stewart scraped home with 49 votes after a re-count this year. If Labour sort our their Selection Committee, this ward will be there’s for the taking in 2014.

Another close result was, as predicted, St Margaret’s. This ward also went to a re-count. On a lower turnout than last year (40% to 54%) Liberal Democrat Cllr Andrew Cann pipped Tory Stephen Ion to the post by 97 votes. This was a tricky result to predict. On polling day both the Lib Dems and the Tories had difficulty getting their vote out –  Labour’s share of the vote actually increased by 1% compared to last year – but Andrew Cann’s name recognition allowed him to just pull ahead of the Conservatives.

So back to the Conservative collapse and how this might shape the political landscape over the next few years and beyond. People who have voted Conservative for decades no longer feel at home in the modern Conservative Party and yesterday they told Tory high command exactly what they think. Conservative voters are passionate about getting the economy moving again. They pay most of the nation’s taxes and want to see they are getting value for their money. Instead, the Government is borrowing more now than when Gordon Brown was last in office. The national debt is now at £1Trillion! The Government should be doing everything it can to sort out the British economy in a targeted fashion: Why are they cutting defence spending but increasing international aid to nuclear-armed India? Why is Cameron pandering to the metropolitan chattering classes by trying to legislate for gay marriages when we are back in recession? Why look at House of Lords reform when energy prices are crippling household budgets?

UKIP’s vote across the country rose last night as the Tory vote nosedived. Finally, after months of posts from right-wing commentators like myself, Conservative MPs – other than the usual suspects – have broken cover to denounce the Tory leadership for pandering to the metropolitan liberal elite over the ordinary mainstream British voter. The normally über-loyal Gary Streeter – Conservative MP for Devon South West – went on the BBC last night and said Cameron and his Tory ministers needed to be more Conservative and less Liberal. You don’t say? The only time in the life-time of the Coalition Cameron has done well in the polls is when he wielded a pseudo-veto against a financial arrangement in Brussels to prop up the monopoly money Euro. There’s a message somewhere there.

To add salt to the wound, Baroness Warsi on the same election result programme likened UKIP to the BNP. Someone needs to whip round a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people to Central Office. It’s never a good idea to smear the voters who you need to win back.

David Cameron is not standing up for Tory voters and yesterday, as a consequence, they deserted the Conservative Party in their droves. As I’ve said before, Mr Cameron is still likely to become the only Conservative leader to lose two general elections in a row unless he wakes up, smells the coffee, and realises his own supporters have had enough. There might just be enough time for him to pull out of the death spiral…

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Predictions: Ipswich Council Elections 2012

Here are my predictions for the Local Elections in Ipswich on 3rd May. Enjoy!

Alexandra Ward

The Liberal Democrat incumbent, Nigel Cheeseman, is stepping down from the Council so the only advantage the Yellow Peril had has been removed. The Liberal Democrat collapse nationally coupled with seasoned Labour campaigner Adam Leeder (who has stood for Westminster in Suffolk Coastal) being on the ballot paper, I expect this to be a Labour GAIN.

Bixley Ward (Ipswich Borough Council seat)

A safe Conservative HOLD for returning councillor Richard Pope*. He won’t get a thousand majority like former councillor Bill Wright used to and I achieved back in 2007 but expect at least 500 votes between Richard and his nearest challenger. Conservative HOLD.

Bixley Division (Suffolk County Council seat)

Alan Murray, the Conservative Candidate will become a County Councillor by the time the count is complete (does anyone know when the Count will take place – 3rd or 4th May?) but expect UKIP candidate Chris Streatfield to do very well but not by enough for the Tories to lose here. Conservative HOLD.

Bridge Ward 

Although James Spencer is a good campaigner who regularly gets under the skin of Labour in this ward he will not pick up Bridge this year. Stay at home Tories who are displeased with David Cameron and the fact there are not enough Conservative voting intentions on the canvass sheet means this will remain a Labour HOLD.

Castle Hill Ward

There is a straight fight between the traditional main parties in this seat. There is no chance of an upset. Robin Vickery will continue to be a councillor. Conservative HOLD.

Gainsborough Ward

The antithesis to Castle Hill Ward this seat also has no other party standing other than the traditional three. No upset. Labour HOLD.

Gipping Ward

Despite Kevin Algar being an enthusiastic campaigner for the Conservatives his uber-loyalty to the Coalition will grate some disaffected Tories. But even if he was a bit more sensitive to Cameron’s weaknesses, there would be no chance of Kevin unseating Labour leader and Labour parliamentary candidate David Ellesmere. Labour HOLD.

Holywells Ward

Alongside Rushmere, this will be the most interesting result on the night (if the count takes place on the night of 3rd May that is – you can never tell if the Council’s officers will feel too tired or not?) after last year’s close run between leader of the Council – as she was then – Liz Harsant and the Labour challenger. Cllr Harsant’s majority is 93. If well-known Liz Harsant with a massive incumbency factor had trouble beating Labour in what is normally a safe Tory ward what hope has newcomer Pam Stewart got. But then you need to factor in that Independent Dale Jackson, former Ipswich Borough Council Conservative Group leader and staunch rival of Liz Harsant, stood in Holywells last year. Many of the 114 votes he gained were from the Conservatives. This factor is not in play this year and therefore Pam Stewart has a good chance of getting elected.

Labour’s candidate does not live in the ward whereas Pam Stewart does, which will be an advantage to Mrs Stewart at the ballot box. Labour’s Elango Elavalakan, according to his potted biography in the latest Labour Rose leaflet, also does not seem to have been in Ipswich long which may lead to some voters thinking he is not yet fully aware of the local issues in the ward or the wider town. Both these factors will damage Labour’s vote.

However, the number of stay-at-home Tories who dislike David Cameron’s policies will be the deciding factor in this ward if this is to remain a Conservative hold. If UKIP had been standing in this seat, it would have been curtains for the Conservatives. As it is, they are not, therefore I predict a Conservative HOLD.

Priory Heath Ward

When I was Chairman of Ipswich Conservatives, I and my fellow Officers took Priory Heath seriously as a potential Conservative gain. The new Ravenswood estate was ripe for Tory pickings but as it turned out many of the people up on the old airport site were not interested in voting in local politics which was borne out by the Ravenswood polling station box consistently having the lowest turnout in the ward. People up on the Ravenswood estate are young professionals who are too busy working to take notice of local election campaigns unlike many on the Priory Heath council estate who depend on Labour for their benefits. Labour HOLD.

Rushmere Ward

The Conservatives have a new whipper-snapper working Rushmere ward but Labour’s Alasdair Ross seems to have an endless amount of time to campaign on the ground and in the ether on his blog and on Twitter. Conservative candidate Chris Chambers has a good campaigning blog and is leading from the front on canvassing sessions (I hope he is knocking on doors not ‘running the board’!). The Tories have given Rushmere target ward status and are piling the activists they have into the seat to win the ward come what may. No doubt Councillor and new Ipswich Conservatives Chairman Judy Terry would take it very personally if they were to lose considering she is up for election next year on Suffolk County Council and her Ipswich Borough seat is up for grabs in 2014.

The Green Party are standing and Eric Nelson will probably take a few votes from Alasdair Ross. The Yellow Peril have no chance.

Alasdair Ross is an excellent campaigner and he has never let up since he won Rushmere four years ago – as New Labour did nationally, the Socialist Ross has worked Rushmere since 2008 as if he was fighting an incumbent. Once you factor in the disaffected Tory vote, Chris Chambers will still be Mr Chambers on 4th May. Labour HOLD.

Sprites Ward

The Conservatives aren’t discounting this seat like they unsurprisingly have done with seats like Gainsborough and Priory Heath as they have put up Duncan Titchmarsh who has fought elections in Ipswich before but now that excellent Tory campaigner Bob Hall has switched to Stoke Park as his preferred route back to Grafton House, Richard Kirby will sail through to the winning post in Sprites. Labour HOLD.

St John’s Ward

My wife is stepping down from Ipswich Borough Council and therefore regular candidate (but not yet a councillor) Eddy Phillips is standing for the Tories in this ward. Looking around St John’s at the private dwellings and pleasant streets, including Goring Road and Lattice Avenue, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is prime Conservative territory.

Unfortunately, many of the private dwellings are occupied by middle-class public sector workers which is not the same as middle-class private sector workers. These people are too intelligent to bite the hand that feeds them and coupled with doughty Labour campaigner Cllr Sandy Martin being a full-time councillor and therefore not having the inconvenience of a boss to please this is still a Labour ward despite Tanya Maclure’s surprise win back in 2008.

Cllr Martin is not standing this year (he is up for election in 2014) but his reputation will put wind into the sails of Labour’s candidate Jennifer Stimson.  Labour GAIN.

St Margaret’s Ward

The result here could be interesting. The Greens and an Independent are standing along with the traditional main parties. Liberal Democrat votes are likely to fall into both the Green and Labour columns with Independent Peter Turtill picking up votes from across the spectrum but mainly from disaffected Tories as a protest vote. The by-election result late last year shows the Liberal Democrat vote to be strangely holding up here but if it does collapse to the Greens and Labour this could allow Conservative candidate Stephen Ion to come through the middle.

But then there is the Cann factor. Liberal Democrat Andrew Cann may well attract Labour votes from those who liked former Ipswich Labour MP and Andrew’s father, Jamie Cann, which could cancel out the defection of the Yellow Peril to the Greens. This is very difficult to call but I think it will be a Liberal Democrat HOLD – just.

Stoke Park Ward

Conservative Paul West is not seeking re-election to Ipswich Borough Council.  If he had been, it is possible he would have hung on here, despite the disaffected Tories staying at home, due to his strong personal following in the ward. As Mr West is not standing again, this ward is very vulnerable for the Tories.

The Conservatives have selected well by putting former Sprites councillor Bob Hall on the ballot paper. If anyone can pound the pavements and work the doors Mr Hall can. The Tories will be trying hard to hold this seat in Stoke Park after Richard Pope (and now new Bixley candidate) was defeated last year.

But word from the doorstep in the Tories’ best part of Stoke Park – the Royals estate – is that the Conservative vote is disappointed and they are saying the Conservative Party nationally has let them down by not implementing Tory policies on the economy and Europe once they gained power. The excuse being peddled by Prime Minister Cameron that the Liberal Democrats won’t let him is no longer believed.

If the Tories can’t get out their core vote they are stuffed. Therefore, I predict a Labour GAIN.

Westgate Ward

Labour councillor Carole Jones is up for election this year. In looking at the figures from 2011, when Labour won by over 500 votes, and with the Liberal Democrat vote expected to slip even further into the Green column or even into the Labour camp this year, Carole Jones will romp home. Labour HOLD.

Whitehouse Ward

As in 2011, this is a straight fight between the traditional three parties. Sitting councillor Albert Grant really has nothing to worry about. Easy Labour HOLD.

Whitton Ward

Former Conservative councillor Steve Wells managed to win big in Whitton in 2006 but ever since then the Tory vote has been chipped away. Labour gained the seat from sitting councillor Michelle Bevan last year with a comfortable 168 majority. Conservative councillor Don Ward is stepping down and with the Tory vote expected to continue falling because of their troubles nationally, this seat is a goner for the Conservatives.  Labour GAIN.

* I declare an interest as Richard was one of my ushers at my wedding last year


The people will judge the mainstream political parties soon

As I have been writing for some time (here, here, and here) there is a major problem brewing for the traditional main three political parties, which are the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats Party. Their problem has been visible since David Cameron presented his “big, open and comprehensive offer” to the Liberal Democrats on 7th May 2010 which eventually led to the first Coalition government since the Second World War. Commentators are now suggesting this is what David Cameron was hoping for all along and his time in Opposition had been about reaching out to Liberal Democrat and Labour voters at the expense of his own supporters. If that is true, as I have written before, David Cameron will go down in history as the only Conservative leader to lose two General Elections in a row, as he surely will in 2015 unless he drastically changes course.

The problem got a lot more visible last week when UKIP – for the first time – overtook the Liberal Democrats to become Britain’s third political party in a YouGov poll for The Sun. Other polls have pushed the Yellow Peril ahead again but on the whole UKIP and the Liberal Democrats are level-pegging.

I believe on Polling Day this year for local council elections across the UK and the London Mayoral election on 3rd May there will be a) a low turnout and b) a large rise in the vote for smaller parties and independents. The bookmakers are already on to this with Siobhan Benita, the only Independent candidate running to become Mayor of London, having her odds to win the contest slashed from 500-1 to 20-1.

Outside of Planet London, the local election results are going to be very interesting. I predict a collapse in the traditional party votes which will result in some surprise wins. These being local elections, Ipswich is seeing only the Greens contest widely across the Borough with UKIP only contesting the Bixley County by-election.

But this does not mean that the traditional political parties in Ipswich will be immune from the political fallout which is heading their way.

The forming of the Coalition Government by Messrs Cameron and Clegg has severely damaged each party’s respective core vote or the ‘base’, as the Americans call it. The base is a better word as it signifies the party’s key supporters – the ones who cold call on doorsteps, who deliver the leaflets come rain or shine and generally put themselves out there to promote the party and the leader for free. As volunteers, they are not obliged to carry on working even if they are treated like dirt by the hierarchy, they just walk away. And that is what is happening in droves as a result of the way David Cameron and the Tory high command (Osborne, Maude et al) have sacrificed their supporters on the high altar of liberal elitism to show how thoroughly modern they are.

David Cameron has sacrificed his conservative values (if he ever had any) to show how the Conservative Party has changed and he has sacrificed and ridiculed his core supporters in a vain attempt to ‘detoxify’ the party brand. Just by Nick Clegg getting into bed with the Tories has been enough for his supporters to head to the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats are looking into the political abyss.

The Coalition has achieved one thing: both Conservative and Liberal Democrat membership is plummeting and the number of activists are dwindling. Each party is going to find it difficult to get people to drive old ladies to the polling station come 3rd May as their activists will either be on the golf course or will have decided to save their precious holidays from work for more important matters like sunbathing on a Spanish beach.

Then we come to the wider Conservative vote. Cameron promised so much in Opposition but a lot of floating voters were still not convinced and the base didn’t like the incoherent Big Society message which foolishly Cameron and Osborne put at the centre of their campaign without focus-group testing it first. The end-result was the Conservative Party couldn’t win the General Election – again. But hundreds of thousands of core supporters did come out and vote Conservative just to get Gordon Brown kicked out of Downing Street. But now we have had a Conservative government for two years with no Conservative policy actually implemented – either on the deficit, on Europe, on defence etc. etc. – the base won’t be hoodwinked any more. The only true Conservative policy is the Welfare Reform Bill, ably taken through parliament by Iain Duncan-Smith, but nothing will change in the welfare state until a very sophisticated computer system is developed and installed to administer the whole thing. The history of governments and computers doesn’t bode well for the Welfare Reform Act ever coming into fruition.

Peter Oborne, who seems to change his views depending on the day of the week, wrote this in his Daily Telegraph piece during the week:

The truth is that Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg did not choose to cohabit out of self-interest, but were driven by patriotic motives to join forces to confront Britain’s greatest economic crisis for a century.

Oh, don’t make me laugh! I don’t believe that for a second. Cameron wanted to tick off “PM” on his CV and Clegg is purely about power above principle.
I believe the ordinary voter has a similar view to me. In Bradford West earlier this month, Respect and hard-left politician George Galloway won over 50% of the vote and achieved a 10,000 majority over Labour. Some Tory voters must have voted for Mr Galloway. I’ll say that again: Tory voters must have voted for George Galloway. Not because they have had some kind conversion to Socialism but because they are fed up of their own Conservative Party and the other two traditional main parties and decided to send a message to David Cameron and the Westminster elite.

I don’t think the Bradford West result was a one-off. We will see a similar trend on 3rd May and although this election won’t effect who runs the country on 4th May if the trend continues it will do come 2015.

People are fed up by being led by a liberal elite whose only aim is to appease the chattering classes in metropolitan London at dinner parties in Islington and Notting Hill. These people do not represent ordinary Britons – they do their best to stay away from us ordinary folk in their exclusive streets and gated communities or in their country homes miles from the “dirty” towns. Most people don’t want gay marriage (even most homosexuals), most either want less interference from Europe, which will allow us to deport extremist cleric Abu Qatada on our say-so, or they want out of the EU altogether.

Britain, despite the best efforts of Labour through uncontrolled immigration, is still a conservative country with Christian roots and values. Tony Blair managed – through clever political smoke and mirrors – to pretend to the British people he was leading a ‘Tory-lite’ government but of course behind the curtain Gordon Brown was pulling the economic levers of destruction causing immense damage over 13 years which created a client state consisting of millions dependent on handouts or in non-jobs in the public sector; he destroyed a pension system which was the envy of the world, sold our gold at rock-bottom prices and delivered the biggest peacetime deficit which is still crippling this country today because George Osborne is deliberately failing to get on top of it to appease his liberal chums.

The chickens are about to come home to roost. The tectonic plates are being crushed together and they will soon break apart – this could happen on 3rd May or may take longer but it will happen. The British people have had enough.


Locking Ipswich parks is wasting my money

Peaceful Holywells Park

When I was a backbench Conservative councillor on Ipswich Borough Council back in 2010, the ruling Executive ordered a report to be written on the practicalities of leaving the parks, owned by the people of Ipswich and run by the Borough Council, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This was being taken very seriously by both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the Borough Council coalition as a way of reducing significant costs and by allowing the taxpayer to enjoy their parks during the low light periods of early morning and late evening. It had my full support on both the economic and quality of life aspects of the policy: a win-win idea which surely would get implemented?

But then the nimbys got going. Some leafy St Margaret’s residents got it into their paranoid heads that Christchurch Park would be overrun by ‘undesirables’ late at night spoiling the tranquillity in their extensive gardens which back on to the public park. This immediately got Liberal Democrat Cllr Inga Lockington, who represents St Margaret’s Residents’ Association Ward, very excited and she decided it wasn’t such a great idea after all to leave the parks unlocked for the enjoyment of the taxpayer at a time of their choosing. As she was a member of the all-powerful Executive committee, it mattered that Cllr Lockington disagreed but she only had one vote.

However, freedom to use our parks ran up against a far bigger obstacle when the Friends of Holywells Park managed to find 2000 people to sign a petition saying they were against the public park being closed. It did not matter these 2000 people a) probably didn’t all live close by to the park and b) they would not all have been voters in Holywells ward (the ward would be a strong Green Party consituency if they were!),  Holywells Conservative Cllr Liz Harsant, and Leader of the Council at the time, decided it was enough to kill the policy to unlock the parks and reduce the Council’s bill in employing men to drive round in vans locking all the gates two hours before the light disappears.

When the policy report finally got to Executive a deal had been done behind closed doors between the Conservative and Liberal Democrats Executive members to drop the policy. As a backbencher it was raised in our Group meeting and I voiced my disquiet at being dictated to by a minority at the expense of the majority who would like to walk their dog whilst it is still light within the grounds of beautiful Holywells or Alexandra Park instead of being chased out like an alien by a jumped-up, whistle-blowing park ranger in his 4X4 transit van.

There was one dissenting voice – in public, at the Executive meeting: Executive-member Cllr Richard Pope. From the steely look on the face of Cllr Harsant I don’t think Cllr Pope had got the memo. Instead, he told the assembled public gallery he and other parents should be able to take their children to the park before school during the low light period between sunrise and when the park is opened by the ranger an hour or an hour and half later.

Not being an early bird, I look at it from the other end of the day, but nonetheless just as relevant to what Cllr Pope said at the Executive Committee. I was always for the park being left open 24 hours a day for the reasons outlined above but now I have a dog and have become a dog walker I am angry that when I take my dog out for his walk upon an evening – in broad daylight – that I have to walk past a locked Holywells Park which I own as a taxpayer and instead I have to walk my dog along pavements buffeted by passing noisy cars, trucks, lorries, motorbikes and vans. All because a few nimbys don’t like other people using ‘their’ park and had the time to organise a petition whilst it seems the majority of taxpayers were out working.

Now we have a new broom at Grafton House, I would be interested to hear the policy of the Labour administration. Perhaps, Deputy Portfolio Holder for Culture & Leisure and fan of this blog, Cllr Alasdair Ross, could offer his thoughts?


Ipswich Borough Council Local Elections 2012

The party election addresses have started to drop on my doormat in Holywells Ward. These are meant to be manifestos but the Conservative little leaflet doesn’t really tell us what they would do if they got back into power but rather lists (in a somewhat wordy fashion) what they achieved whilst in office at Ipswich Borough Council. Tax and culture achievements are emphasised, which suggests former Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr John Carnall and former Culture & Leisure chief Cllr Judy Terry wrote the literature.

Pam Stewart, the Holywells candidate, is the headline act on the front of the election address. The Tories have gone again for promoting the candidate above the party. I have never agreed with this tactic as the vast majority of people look for the Conservatives logo and not the candidate’s name on the ballot paper. So if you want people to vote Conservative, it’s best to emphasise Conservatives over the name of someone only a handful of people voting have ever heard of. Mrs Stewart is a new candidate and will only pick up an absolute maximum 50 ‘personal’ votes. Last year Ipswich council Tory Leader Cllr Liz Harsant probably had around 150-200 ‘personal’ votes but she had been leader of the Council for seven years! Needless to say the majority of people voting in Holywells ward last year would never have heard of Liz Harsant but had certainly heard of the Conservative Party.

The leaflet design is professionally produced, which is unsurprising as it is created by a graphic designer, former councillor Stephen Ion, who produces Conservative Party literature at their Headquarters in London. Mr Ion will have offered his services for free and shows how lucky Ipswich Conservatives are to have him on-board.

Cllr Liz Harsant gets a plug in for her blog on the back of the leaflet – could Pam Stewart not have started a blog?

The election address could have majored more on the work Conservative councillors did whilst in office to improve the landscape in the town centre, especially the excellent new Giles Circus scheme, and successfully encouraging Tesco to invest £9 million into the west end of the Waterfront by Grafton Way and Commercial Road, which will be visible over the next couple of years. There is a significant number of Culture & Leisure achievements, whilst important, spread the Tory success story a bit thin.
I also think the leaflet is too small and a larger item through the letterbox would attract more attention – at the end of the day this is about sales and marketing.

All in all it is a professionally produced leaflet which certainly catches the eye but does the busy electorate have time to plough through the text or would bigger pictures in an A4 or A3 format with more emphasis on the Conservative brand pack more of a punch.

I’ve uploaded the leaflet to here.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the Labour election address: The Local Voice.

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Another non-Conservative policy

After thirteen years of Labour, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has done some good things: accelerating Tony Blair’s policy on Academies and introducing Free Schools, the Welfare Reform Act (which will be good if implemented) and cutting 50p tax to 45p (should have been 40p) to encourage the enterprise we desperately need.

But David Cameron as Prime Minister is allowing distinctively non-Conservative policies to take centre stage as well. This coupled with rumours he is actually quite happy being in coalition and is not so keen on winning a Tory majority at the next election is starting to leave a bad taste in the mouth. Firstly, we had little bones thrown to the Liberal Democrats at the start of the love-in back in May 2010 with the introduction of wasteful Local Enterprise Partnerships replacing the wasteful Regional Development Agencies then we moved on to bigger fish with the great ‘pause’ over the Health and Social Care Bill which has resulted in a dog’s breakfast of an Act of Parliament, which is not understood by anyone and with the only achievement being to give most of the power to the most incompetent health workers in the NHS: the GPs. 
We have the continuing sop to the chattering classes and the yellow peril that is the gay marriage policy and last week Home Secretary Theresa May was wheeled out to tell us the Coalition was going to stop the poorly paid from being able to afford a can of beer to relax upon an evening.
As Philip Davies MP said on Sky News last Friday, the fact Caroline Lucas from the Green Party is in favour of minimum alcohol pricing should have sent a signal to Mr Cameron the policy was not such a good idea. It will do nothing to stop the louts who can’t think five seconds into the future from “pre-loading” before heading into town to get drunk and have a punch-up in the street. However, it will stop sensible ordinary people on low incomes from enjoying a glass of cheap beer from the supermarket after a hard day’s work.
What on earth has government, one with an allegedly Conservative Prime Minister, got to do with telling people they can’t buy 2 for 1 promotions at the supermarket? It is the policy of the Chinese Communist Party or the former USSR. Ironically, the policy is probably illegal under EU law.
The economy is already in an enough mess without the Coalition trying to make it worse by lowering retail sales. My advice for Cameron and Osborne is to concentrate on reducing public spending and for Theresa May to get tougher with the louts who stop decent people from entering their town centres at night rather than penalising the law abiding and hard-working.


Why is Diane Abbott still a Labour MP?

The answer to the headline question is the same for why Ken Livingstone continues to be Labour’s London Mayoral candidate on 3rd May: they are both people of the Left.

Diane Abbott posted a racist tweet on Twitter which said “White people love playing ‘divide and rule'” and apart from being told to remove the offending tweet no disciplinary action was taken by the Labour high command and she was allowed to carry on as normal.

Now we have Ken Livingstone saying the Conservative Party is ‘riddled’ with gay people ‘like everywhere else’. Again, Labour leader Ed Miliband will take no action.

Just imagine if a Conservative MP had sent a racist tweet or if Boris Johnson had talked about homosexuality in such divisive terms. That would be it, game over. End of career.

But not for the Left it would seem. They have spent so long painting the Tories as the devil incarnate they now actually believe themselves to be all holy. This allows people like Ken Livingstone to spout their filth and cosy up to extremists like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has praised Hitler and the Holocaust, without any sanction.

As the Left are such strong advocates of equality, should they also not be treated the same as the Right?