Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Ipswich Local Elections 2012 update – another Labour leaflet

Labour have been busy producing more literature and their latest missive came through my door earlier this week.

This time the candidate, Elango Elavalakan, gets a showing with a large picture of him on the front-page. The political party, Labour, is not put into the shade though – the word jumps out at you in the main large print headline. To emphasise their brand Labour use red and blank ink on a white background with the party’s rose taking prominence in the masthead as the logo in the top left hand corner and the title of the leaflet ‘Holywells Rose’. 

The back of the leaflet provides a potted biography of Elango, who hails from Sri Lanka. This side also uses the imperative ‘Vote Labour’.  Again, unlike the Conservatives, Labour seem to get that the vast majority vote for political parties not the candidate.

There is the usual spiel from Labour about how wonderful they are and how evil the Tories are.  I took Labour to task in my earlier post.

There is a section on the result of Chancellor Osborne’s budget. Unsurprisingly, Labour spins negatives out of the budget such as suggesting pensioners will pay more tax when in fact all that will happen is their age-related allowance will be frozen from next tax year. Some might say why the wealthy baby-boomer generation, who will be better off in retirement than their children will be, should get tax relief at all. So-called OAPs nowadays spend the kids inheritance jetting around the world and climbing mountains (literally!).

One thing which I find laughable about Labour’s rhetoric in their leaflets are their claims to be ‘Investing in jobs’ and ‘getting people into work’. Could someone in the Ipswich Labour party explain exactly how they are going to create jobs? They have absolutely zero power to do this unless they are going to create new non-jobs at Grafton House? If you are, please send me a link to these vacancies so we can see the proof. You would need to create several vacancies to reach £1.5M or is this being spent on pointless projects run by existing council officers which create not one new job?

Labour’s new election leaflet has been uploaded to ElectionLeaflets.org here.


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Ipswich Local Elections Update: Review of Labour’s Local Voice

A bit later than I hoped (unfortunately the job which pays the mortgage has to come first) I’ve taken a look at Labour’s election address which was pushed through my door earlier this week.

Unlike the Conservatives’ leaflet, the first word which jumps out of you is Labour. The headline is “Labour’s plan for jobs and growth” and immediately to the left in the side bar are the words “Vote Labour“.

It is clearly a generic leaflet, in a clever newspaper format, which looks designed to be distributed across the town so no one particular candidate is promoted. But as I said in my review of the Conservative election address the vast majority of people go to the polling station to vote for a political party and at local elections on the whole the electorate will a) not have met the candidate (I have not been canvassed at all during this campaign and never have been since I moved to my current home in 2006!) and b) frankly, they won’t care who the local candidate is. It’s the rose, the tree or the bird they are looking for and that’s it. Of course, there some people who are looking for the candidate’s name but they are in the minority by some margin.  Sorry to disappoint the egos of the candidates!

Labour’s Local Voice looks to the future with a number of policy announcements. I criticised the Conservatives for concentrating on the past but it is far easier for the incumbent, which Labour are at Ipswich Borough Council, to announce what they will do when they are already in power.

The Labour literature also ticks the boxes for a big picture and few words. The headline story is textbook with a large picture of a three rather suspicious looking characters with hard hats (Cllrs Mowles, Ellesmere, and Quinton) and two large headlines. The text in the article is mainly made up of easy to read bullet points and, importantly, lots of white space. More space is allocated to pictures than words in the sidebar. People will only scan political leaflets and this is borne in mind by whoever designed the front-page of Labour’s election address.

The inside pages also follow the same theme of lots of big pictures and white space. The coloured stand-out boxes are a good technique.  Page 3 has another picture of Cllr Ellesemere (any one would think he was Labour’s challenger to Ben Gummer at the next General Election). This page is not very well laid-out with far too much text about Labour’s achievements and the green stand-out box with italicised text does not encourage us to read it.

Labour do their usual trick of painting the Tories as evil, which they do with a classic ticks and crosses stand-out box:

Labour peddle the lie that they brought John Lewis at Home and Waitrose to Ipswich when they did nothing of the sort. These were cross-party planning decisions and if anyone helped bring Waitrose to the town it was the former Conservative-led administration and the work their transport chief, Cllr Tanya Maclure, did to improve the Giles Circus landscape which is situated right outside the new Little Waitrose store in the town centre – and is an improvement Labour were vehemently against whilst the Giles Circus new pedestrian and road scheme was being constructed.  Labour were also against £9million being invested by Tesco on the western end of the Waterfront with all Labour councillors voting AGAINST the jobs and investment when the decision was made at the Planning Committee.
Labour’s claim they introduced free tickets for serving members of the armed forces to see shows at the Regent and Corn Exchange is laughable considering it was a motion laid down at a Council meeting by Tory group leader Cllr John Carnall that brought in this policy.

Going back to style and format of Labour’s Local Voice, the back-page in contrast to the front-page is a disappointment. There is no clear message due to there being too much text. There is a picture of Adam Leeder, Labour’s candidate in Alexandra Ward, which is strange as the newspaper was delivered in Holywells Ward where Labour’s candidate is Elango Elavalakan. The articles on the back page look like a standard set from Labour HQ in Victoria Street, London which have been added to the locally produced pages – this means the formatting is inconsistent to the other pages but let’s face it most people will probably only read the front-page then bin it.

The ‘We want to hear from you’ section is very good and makes use of the thousands of copies which will be distributed to homes to drum up new activists and members and money for the Labour Party. The Conservative leaflet completely missed this trick, which as a former Tory constituency chairman, is quite grating.
There is also a banner at the top of page three letting readers know who to call or email to organise a postal vote – something which the Conservative election address also lacked.

Despite Labour’s economies with the truth, the leaflet pretty much does the job as the front-page is a classic example of a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) leaflet, having the words ‘Labour’ and ‘Vote’ and an action picture.

The front-page and back-page of the leaflet have been uploaded to ElectionLeaflets.org here.


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Ben Gummer wins health money for Ipswich

Despite all the posturing from Labour they never actually did much to improve the NHS. They spent more time saying how evil the Tories were and suggesting we would ruin the NHS at the first opportunity. Undoubtedly, some privatisation would bring in some much needed efficiency and performance management in to the NHS which would allow managers to sack nurses who leave an elderly lady without water all day. But when it actually comes to enhancing the current nationalised NHS, it is left to the Tories to actually provide the improvements as has happened today in Ipswich. 

The town’s MP, Ben Gummer, has secured £10million from the Government for Ipswich Hospital with £5million be used to set up an elective specialist heart centre, known as a PCI centre. As Ipswich Spy reports, the plans will mean patients who currently have to travel to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for routine elective surgery will be treated at Heath Road. Evidence used to make this decision will have included a report published by Professor Roger Boyle in December 2010, which advised that an elective (PCI) centre be built in Ipswich while emergency patients should continue to travel to one of the three PPCI centres. This report was triggered by a campaign headed by Ben Gummer before the General Election for Ipswich Hospital to have a facility for invasive heart care treatment when it was revealed Suffolk was the only county in the region that would not have an emergency heart care centre (PPCI centres) built. At the time, Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole stood by, did his Government masters’ bidding, and said it was the best thing for the people of Ipswich. The people disagreed and he was duly disposed in May 2010.
This is a superb achievement by Mr Gummer. It shows he has the capacity to get access to the right ministers in the health department, and I am sure the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley himself, to get funding for Ipswich. Many people in Whitehall would need a map to find out where Ipswich is, hence why our railway line is so diabolical, but on this occasion they have had a constituency bugging them for money. Mr Gummer’s little chats with ministers whilst they are trapped in the lobbies has paid off.
Chris Mole never had such achievements. He waited for money to be pushed to him rather than the other way round and when it came to Ipswich Hospital he was his master’s voice, the little poodle as he tried to climb the greasy pole of Government and still never achieving higher office than a junior transport minister in nine years of being Ipswich MP.
On the other hand Mr Gummer has communication skills which allow him to talk coherently, and, more importantly, persuade those in power to look at Ipswich. For the best part of two decades, ministers would never have talked about Ipswich as the MP did not. Now, at last, Whitehall is starting to realise Ipswich isn’t just a little village in rich rural Suffolk but an urban regional centre with just as many difficulties and needs as most major towns in this country.


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Ed Miliband is the Captain Smith of the Labour Party

In today’s Daily Telegraph, their superb and supremely intelligent columnist Fraser Nelson pretty much sums up my own views on British party politics today. He describes the woes of both Labour and the Conservatives. Fraser’s characterisation of Labour’s key players in the parliamentary party is spot on with his main premise that both Ed Miliband and David Miliband are Labour losers who are not the answer to any question the Labour Party is asking.

From a Conservative perspective, Fraser states what I have thought all along but not articulately very well that Labour actually did quite well at the last election, considering they were being led by the worst post-war Prime Minister. They have one of the biggest Opposition parties ever as a result. But this isn’t because the voters liked Labour, they just didn’t understand or like what the Conservatives stood for. This cuts back to my view on why the Conservatives lost the last General Election, which I have written about here. The fact Cameron could not win a majority in 2010 puts him in the bracket of the most electorally unsuccessful Tory prime minister in history – all my Coalition-loving Tories should question why we failed to win so many seats in the last General Election instead of thinking we won the General Election when we patently did not.

Fraser Nelson also has time in his article for a Tony Blair appearance. This section from his article is wonderful:

“One wonders what Tony Blair makes of all this. He visited Britain last month, and, like many foreign dignitaries on tight schedules, held a breakfast meeting with an invited audience. Carefully selected young Labour MPs were summoned and sat like groupies at the Cabinet-style table, as he held court.”

Enjoy the full article here.


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Cameron acknowledges Tories lost General Election

There’s an interesting piece in The Guardian today which sets out questions to David Cameron from key figures in the media, arts and politics.

Cameron is an eloquent speaker and has an easy turn of phrase which makes his words pleasant to listen to and read. But putting that – rare – compliment to one side, he makes a telling admission in his answer to Lord Lamont:

Lord Norman Lamont, former Tory chancellor of the exchequer:
If there were no coalition and you were governing as a Conservative prime minister alone, what three things would you most like to have done that you have not been able to do in coalition?
“Further action on welfare reform. Perhaps the control of immigration. But I don’t buy the argument that because it’s a coalition it’s an inactive government. It’s a pretty rolled-up sleeves reforming government.” [Guardian: And the third?] “I thought two was enough.”

It shows you that the Coalition is having a damaging effect on the policy areas which the public put in their Top 5: Welfare, Immigration. Cameron’s dodge on providing a third shows some slight contempt for Middle Britain and his Conservative base.

Another question from Alastair Campbell hits the nail right on the head:

Alastair Campbell, Labour spin doctor:You fought an election with the fallout from the economic crisis still dominant, people worried about jobs and living standards, MPs expenses having done considerable damage to Labour, Time For A Change as a powerful force, Gordon Brown getting battered daily to take his ratings even lower, with your party’s finances in great shape while Labour was close to being bust, a hugely supportive media promoting the image of you as a new leader of a changed or at least changing Tory Party… why on earth didn’t you manage to win a majority?
“Well, there’s clearly something eating Alastair Campbell. How did I upset him so much? Look, I’m responsible for the election campaign and I take full responsibility for the result. We had a massive mountain to climb. We didn’t quite make it over the line. I think that at a time of economic difficulty, people were nervous of change. And we were quite frank that we’d have to make spending reductions and I think that probably held us back.”

A post I wrote back in August gives my view on why we lost the General Election in 2010, despite it being a Perfect Storm.


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Lib Dems gain St Margaret’s Ward

Counting to elect a new councillor on Ipswich Borough Council in the ward of St Margaret’s (a more affluent ward in the town) took place overnight.

The winner were the Liberal Democrats whose candidate, Cathy French, won with a majority of 71 over the Conservative candidate, Stephen Ion.

Firstly, a hat-tip to Ipswich Spy who have provided a comprehensive post on the by-election result first thing this morning and are miles ahead of the Morning Evening Star in their election AND results coverage. As Ipswich Spy pointed out a few days ago in their comments section, if you want an intellectual read on Ipswich politics stick to the blogosphere and not the dead tree local press who are now woefully lacking in quality journalism. Most of the political blogs in Ipswich are far superior than the rubbish printed in the political reports of the Morning Evening Star.

The full results were (hat-tip to Ipswich Spy):

Cathy French         LD     942 (41.8% (+6.7%))
Stephen Ion           Con     871 (38.7% (+1.7%))
Glen Chisholm        Lab   439 (19.5% (-1.8%))
Spoiled Papers                 9
Majority                 LD     71 (0.03%)
Total voted                       2261 (6276 voters (36.03%))

As you can see from the above the turn-out was high for a by-election but not unusual in St Margaret’s where turn out is always above average. The Liberal Democrat vote is up compared to the local elections in May this year but I prefer the comparison to 2008 before the national Liberal Democrat collapse. Cathy French now has a larger majority than her party had in 2008 – 71 compared to 45. This should be disturbing for Labour as it looks from this result that the Lib Dems are on the ascendency again in Ipswich after their political collapse earlier this year. However, by-elections, especially local by-elections, do have a tendency of obscuring the national trend. The real test will be the local elections in May next year.

Labour, despite the spinning of Labour MEP Richard Howitt, have nothing to be smug about in St Margaret’s: their vote is down compared to the May local elections this year and one opposition councillor has been replaced with another opposition councillor on the Borough Council.

I had predicted Stephen Ion would win for the Tories but I was proven wrong by underestimating the Liberal Democrats’ motivation for a fightback after their disastrous polling in May’s local elections this year.
Mr Ion is to be congratulated for his hard work in the by-election and he would have made a good councillor, drawing on his experience from when he represented Rushmere ward. However, I had my doubts during the campaign on how effective election literature which linked Mr Ion with David Cameron would be in a ward which has a lot of traditional Tories (the same Tories who the Conservatives call on every General Election). It should be remembered, as I’ve written before, that David Cameron didn’t win the General Election in 2010 mainly due to the Conservative leader’s message being at odds with the views of the party’s base. Reminding Conservative voters of this during the St Margaret’s by-election was, in my view, not a good move.

In summary, nothing, as yet, has changed on the political landscape in Ipswich. The real test of opinion is May 2012 when 16 council places are up for election across the Borough.


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Boris-Foster Island

My MP, Ben Gummer, last week alerted me in one his tweets to an announcement by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, showing again his support for a new Thames airport. But this time the idea is a bit more specific.

Boris has teamed up with Lord Foster, the brilliant architect who designed the marvellous Willis Building in Ipswich and has designed both the Hong Kong International Airport and the terminal building at Stansted Airport so he knows one or two things about designing airports!
Foster’s proposal would see a new UK London airport built on the Isle of Grain in the Thames estuary, Kent. A railway station would also be built underneath the terminal building to cope with 300,000 passengers a day and would link with Crossrail.
I’ve always been a fan of all things aviation: airports, aeroplanes, the history of manned flight etc. Since 9/11 travelling by plane is a stressful experience but putting that to one side aviation technologies have made the world smaller and allowed people to visit places they could never imagine visiting even 50 years ago, which must be celebrated.  
Aviation has also brought great wealth, in terms of enabling trade, to the masses and is the reason why the Government needs to pull its finger out and get on with planning and building a new London airport before further economic damage is done to Great Britain. Both London and Gatwick will reach capacity in 20 years and, quite frankly, Heathrow should never have been allowed to expand from the hut and a small airfield it was in 1929 to the third busiest airport in the world it is today. Not just because the airport is IN suburban west London but because the flight path is over central London, which I believe makes Heathrow the only airport in the world which has its flight path over a major city.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much trust in the Coalition actually doing something about this any time soon. In fact the Conservative Party manifesto in the 2010 General Election said the party was against airport expansion. The new transport secretary, Justine Greening, is yet to comment on the new Thames estuary airport but she is expected to publish a draft aviation policy for consultation in the spring. An important point is, as Labour succinctly put it, there is no money left so private foreign investment would be needed to build the airport.
The fact environmentalist Ben Gummer is for the new airport is a good sign and hopefully the Conservative leadership’s position against airport expansion takes a different course soon or we will only make our dire economic outlook even worse.