Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Ed Miliband’s Government wouldn’t be much different

Iain Duncan Smith tried so hard but has failed to decrease the welfare bill

Stifled: Iain Duncan Smith has conceded benefit bill will rise

The only Tory policy the coalition may have implemented was in fact a lie all along.

Last week, Iain Duncan Smith was heckled whilst delivering a speech in Scotland by “anti-cuts” activists. The video of the episode spread through the internet more because the Work and Pensions Secretary fought back. But when I watched it, what IDS actually said struck me: “If you listen to what I am saying, you will understand the reality is that this country is not cutting welfare, it is managing the growth [in benefits] at a lower level.”

At the time, I hoped it was just Mr Duncan Smith being a skilled political operative by shutting down the socialist hecklers so he could get on with his speech. But it was only a hope and today the truth has been unveiled by IDS himself.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has confirmed what we feared and has told the Daily Telegraph that unlike other European nations, the “reality is that this country is not cutting welfare” because the Coalition Government is simply “managing” the increase in handouts.

He added: “all those on benefits will still see cash increases in every year of this Parliament”.

This is the nail in the coffin for the Conservative Party at the next General Election as it was the only Tory policy that traditional (i.e. those with principles – age is irrelevant) Conservative-members and Tory voters were holding on to to motivate themselves to cross the Conservative box on polling day. With this flagship policy being exposed as a lie, the game is up. This now makes it more likely Ed Miliband will win a majority in the Commons and become the next Prime Minister in May 2015 or failing that the Liberal Democrats will form a Coalition with Labour, most likely with Vince Cable at the helm of the Yellow Peril.

But will it matter? It’s not as if David Cameron and George Osborne are turning the economy around: the single most important task they have to do and the whole point of David Cameron jumping into bed with Nick Clegg (rather too keenly many backbench Tories think). The country was crippled by debt when Gordon Brown was ousted and instead of cutting the debt, the Coalition is adding a whopping £600bn of national debt onto the pile by the next General Election. This is not only taking Britain into a lost decade of stagnant growth but is highly immoral as the Government is borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren to placate the millions of benefit scroungers of today (what are Dave and George frightened of – it’s not as if they vote, never mind vote Tory?!?!).

Every one in three pounds taken from you in income tax is handed out to benefit claimants. And to make it even more sickening, the Coalition is – in real terms – cutting the police and armed forces to pay for it.

Defeat in 2015 is now certain. John Major was right about some parts of the Party being “bastards“. However, this time it is the Liberal yellow-peril loving Cameroons who are taking the Party into the abyss. I don’t blame IDS – he will have tried so hard but he was never one of the Notting Hill fellows!

What have these bastards done to our beloved Party?


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Politics really is getting boring

Great things were once done here

Great things were once done here

We may get the odd moment like David Cameron’s speech on Wednesday but most of the time politics today is as dull as dishwater. And as the dust settles even the PM’s speech was only good on paper with no certainty the EU referendum promise will see the light of day.

It was back to normal on Thursday and as I was watching Question Time last night it is true what they say: politicians really are all the same. It is very difficult to put a cigarette paper between them. The three main parties don’t have ideologies and are merely mishmashes of each other.

Condescending and highly irritating Tory Health minister Anna Soubry was espousing her wish to see the UK continue giving the EU £50 Million a day to take away our democratic rights; former Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ming Campbell told the audience how he wanted a bigger armed forces and Ben Bradshaw (with his perpetual 1980s style tie knot) for Labour said spending cuts would be necessary even if Ed Miliband was prime minister.

At least Ian Hislop told it like it was when he mentioned the Ministry of Defence lost so much money under Labour it would be enough to buy the the upgrade to the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Politicians are so scared now of offending anyone they just don’t take a position on anything and even when the economic juggernaut is heading in the current Chancellor’s direction he merely does a little bit of fiscal tweaking and hopes things will sort themselves out before the next election. They don’t want to scare the horses by actually having concrete and tangible policies such as real spending decreases to help Britain out of recession.

The media don’t help matters. Still feeding off the expenses scandal, they feel politicians can be treated anyway they choose. It does not matter that the 600 odd members of parliament hold positions of great seniority with a backbencher akin to a FTSE 100 chief executive. The sneering and debasing of anything a politician does or proposes by the print, broadcast and electronic media indoctrinates the ordinary member of the public to think MPs are fair game who are lower than paedophiles and deserve no respect whatsoever. That collective mindset is very dangerous. If we lose respect for our democratically elected representatives, we start to lose respect for democracy itself.

We need a fundamental shake-up in our political system. We need to make it easier for people from all backgrounds to stand for election at a local and national level. If the MoD can waste £39 Billion pounds on bodged procurement contracts, surely there is some money available to make it worthwhile for a man or woman in their 30s or 40s to stand as a local councillor or member of parliament?

We need people with ideas and passion for their beliefs who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade. If nothing is done to make British democracy more representative of her people, we really are heading for decades of management-speak politicians who would be more suited to the corridors of Davos rather than Downing Street.


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UK debt dangerously out of control

Where’s Cameron? I am told he is sat behind George (we hope!)

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, today stood up at the despatch box and delivered his Winter Autumn Statement on the state of the public finances and the measures he is taking to fix them. Although he is not fixing them.

Constrained by the Liberal Democrats, who are becoming less representative of Britain by the day, the Chancellor can’t take the drastic action required to reduce the national debt. He can go on about reducing the deficit until the cows come home but it is the debt which will ruin our children’s and their children’s chances in life. Net debt will rise to 80% of GDP over the coming years.
There was some good news. Labour’s scheduled 3p rise in fuel duty in January has been scrapped. The income tax personal allowance is to go up to £9,440 next year, £235 more than previously announced. The yellow peril’s “mansion tax” has been shown the door (Clegg’s deluded look on the front bench shows how mad he is) and the total ISA limit (cash and shares) will increase to £11,520 from next April.
The Chancellor announced a number of infrastructure projects paid for by the son of PFI – PF2. Same method, different name. What this means in reality is big infrastructure projects like extending the Northern Line in London and dualling the A30 will be paid for by private companies which the UK taxpayer will have to pay back with interest, fees etc at a later date. That is the government is paying for today on the backs of the unborn. In other words, more debt.
You see the national debt is not some monopoly money on a playing board, it is REAL money, which must be paid back. And who must pay it back: you and I through taxation. So if this Government keeps on borrowing more to pay for luxuries we can no longer afford like the still very generous welfare benefits, a bloated NHS and £2bn in “international aid” to help the third world build windfarms, the next generation will have to pay Government more in taxes to pay the money back to the banks and our foreign creditors like China. That’s less money in the next generation’s pockets to pay for excesses of today’s generation: it is criminal.
There are now very few politicians in parliament who get it. Clacton’s Conservative MP Douglas Carswell is the exception. Anyone who wants to understand how we got into this mess should read his latest book, “The End of Politics”.


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Who do you think you are kidding Mr Cameron?

The Prime Minister yesterday gave a good speech on the subject of the welfare state in the UK. Everything he said has been said before by the Right of the Conservative Party and the right-wing media. Nevertheless, it was good to hear it from the lips of David Cameron, who is, at best, slightly distrusted by many in his own party in terms of his natural Tory instincts. Many backbench MPs and even more party members keep asking themselves: “Is he one of us?”. The jury is still out on that one.

However, I agreed with every word of Mr Cameron’s speech on removing housing benefit from those under-25 who have a room at home with their parents. I’m sorry, if you are under 25 and you want your own pad and more importantly independence from those nagging parents then you need to work for it. Get qualifications, get a job and then you will get your OWN money to pay for accommodation. The state does not owe you independence from your parents. Period. You have to work for life’s pleasure. No one owes you anything, especially the hard-pressed taxpayer.

The tax take from ordinary workers in the UK is massive. Did you know every penny collected in income tax is spent on state benefits? Approximately £165 billion. £84 billion of this is spent on working-age benefits, which comprises Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing benefit, child benefit, Gordon Brown’s beloved tax credits etc. When voters are told how much of their monthly tax bill is spent on paying people to sit at home all day on their Xboxes they are livid. Polls say 74% of the public think welfare payments should be cut. 

The UK’s welfare system creates a very perverse society. Take the young couple, outside of London, who have no intention of working having a child. They are automatically given a council house and when all the different benefits are totted up you are looking at more than £27,000 in benefits tax free. Another couple next door, one a hospital porter, the other a care-worker, both work long hours each day and together take home £24,000 a year. They would love to have children. But after they have paid the mortgage or rent, paid for food and the bills, they know they can’t until they saved for a few more years: they are doing the right thing. It is wrong that their hard earned money paid in tax is handed back to the work-shy couple next door to enable them to have children with full assistance from the state.

Work should always pay more and until the Government’s benefits cap of £26,000 is actually implemented, which it won’t be until next year at the earliest because the complicated IT system required is yet to be fully developed, people who don’t work and receive state handouts are better off than those who do work. Our country’s benefits system was gold plated during the Blair and Brown years to deliberately create a client state where one generation after the next in the same family were encouraged to live a life on benefits, at the expense of you and I. That is not what the welfare state, envisaged by William Beveridge, was meant to be for; it is a safety net for those who fall on hard times, it is not meant to be used as a way of life.

Life on benefits should be tough. Work should always pay more and, frankly, able-bodied people of working age should find a period of time on benefits so difficult they should be desperate to get back to work; as part of the “tough love” approach, benefits should be time-limited to act as a motivator to find work. As it stands in this country, many school-leavers choose claiming benefits over ever trying to get a job because living off the state is such a comfortable option. By next year the Welfare Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, promises the £26,000 benefits cap, equal to the average wage, will be in force. But let’s not forget all benefits are tax exempt. Claimants don’t pay tax on them. Therefore, to take home £26,000 if you are working means you would need to be on a salary of £35,000 per year. This is madness and must stop.

I look at my monthly pay slip and thousands of pounds of year go to the Exchequer. That money only pays for benefits and state pensions. It doesn’t pay for education, defence, or even the millions in contributions to the EU we must send to Brussels each year. All that must come from other tax revenue we pay such as stamp duty or fuel duty – or, most likely, borrowing!

Another point made by Mr Cameron in his speech yesterday was minor but nonetheless important. He pointed out that those who claim benefits are called customers by the local council or job centre. The PM rightly pointed out they are not customers, they are claimants. When I was a local councillor, reports were full of the word ‘customer’ or ‘client’ when referring to benefit claimants. When someone pays for a service they are a customer. If something is given to someone, the word customer does not apply! This language just rubs salt into the taxpayer’s wounds.

Now, of course, all of the reforms David Cameron hopes for will probably never be implemented. Not in this parliament because the airy-fairy Lib Dems won’t let him and after the next General Election there is a high probability Labour will be back in charge, due to the indecisive and weak government Coalition brings. I hope that won’t be the case but fine words from Mr Cameron’s inner Tory won’t be enough next time round – the electorate needs to see action and now.


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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.


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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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Ipswich Local Elections 2012 Update: Liberal Democrats leaflet

Finally, the Liberal Democrats have bothered to deliver their election address to the voter, albeit two days before polling day. You could call it a Get Out the Vote leaflet but considering it is blanket-distribution and as they put it through the door of a former Tory councillor and a current Tory councillor (well at least for another 48 hours) it isn’t.

I don’t think the Lib Dems are taking Holywells ward very seriously despite saying on page two of their leaflet that Holywells has only ever had Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors. I can only remember Tories in Holywells and I’ve been knowledgeable of Ipswich politics for ten years. Last year’s election results saw the Yellow Peril come a distant third in with only 213 votes so I’d suggest they are being a tad optimistic with their rhetoric.

The Lib Dems would seem to have a big problem in attracting people to stand as candidates. Robert Chambers, son of defeated councillor Jane Chambers in last year’s elections, is their Holywells candidate. Next door in Alexandra Ward, her daughter, Catherine Chambers, is the Liberal Democrat candidate. The Chambers are either trying to create an Ipswich political dynasty or the Yellow Peril are desperate for candidates and activists – I bet it’s the latter.

The front-page of the election address – Holywells Ward Focus – promotes the candidate over the party – oh dear, that’s probably lost them a few votes. No one is going to go to the polling station (apart from may be ten people for a completely new candidate) and look for Robert Chambers – if they want to vote Lib Dem (and I suspect only about 200 will again want to) then they will look for the bird. The Yellow Peril really have lost their campaigning touch!

The leaflet is poorly laid out throughout. It’s looks as if it was designed using Microsoft Publisher. I bet they wish they had a graphic designer like local Tory Stephen Ion in their camp who only uses state-of-the art Apple desktop publishing. Better text formatting, rather than inconsistent fonts and spaces in the wrong place, plus more action pictures on the story subjects would be more hard-hitting. Political campaigning is advertising, that’s all.

Putting aside the dreadful text formatting in the middle section of the leaflet where you can’t separate the wood for the trees it is so poorly laid out, the Yellow Peril have included a poster, which majors on both the Party brand and the candidate’s name. A good tactic!

The back-page is just plain dreadful. It makes one’s eyes hurt just trying to read it – and I don’t mean because it has a picture of Andrew Cann. Writing in block capital letters is a school-boy error – it never helps to shout at your electorate! The mixture of stories is confusing – what is the central message? The white text on yellow looks washed out and can’t be easily read. “£45 a Month better off” and “£90 a month better off” (note their difference in case for the word ‘month’ – oh dear!) but better off for who and why??

On a positive note, the Lib Dems have used their mass-distribution leaflet to drum up financial and activist support for their Party. Labour never miss this trick but the Tories did this year (which as the former constituency chairman, I find particularly grating!).

The Lib Dems used to be a campaigning force to be reckoned with but along with their vote their skill-base is draining away as well. Whoever designed and wrote this leaflet needs to be assigned duties elsewhere in the party machine. Not that it matters in Holywells – they will be lucky to beat the Greens into third place!

UPDATE: I have uploaded the front and back of the Liberal Democrats election address to ElectionLeaflets.org at http://www.electionleaflets.org/leaflets/7216/


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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.


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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?


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Councillors are elected to vote not abstain

I was not able to make the Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting last Wednesday as I was away on business so I wasn’t able to take up my usual position as scribe for the blogosphere. Instead, my fellow Tory blogger, Kevin Algar from A Riverside View, kindly stepped into the breach to report on proceedings. His excellent report can be found here and yet again the blogosphere trumps the dead tree press over at the Morning Evening Star for political reporting and commentary in Ipswich.

In reading Kevin’s report, I was disappointed to see that “Conservative Councillors all Abstained” on the ‘Taking Decision Making Closer to the People’, also known as Area Committees, paper. Now, I am no advocate of this Labour policy by a long shot: it is a classic case of ‘command and control Socialism” which will do the opposite to the title of the paper. I can’t understand how taking community engagement from community halls to the austere and formal environment of Committee Rooms at Grafton House will help take decision-making closer to the people of Ipswich. It won’t. But, of course, Labour don’t want to have the inconvenience of having to associate with us great unwashed do they? It’s not as if they really care about the common man anyway.
But putting the weaknesses of Labour’s policy to one side, I believe it was wrong for Conservative councillors to abstain. Councillors are elected by their constituents to represent them at the Council and when you are in Opposition, as the Tories are, the Full Council meeting is the only place you can exercise your vote on behalf of your residents. To not vote For or Against but instead to do nothing is, frankly, a cop out. They might as well have not bothered turning up.
In the House of Commons when a vote is called (which will be counted by tellers) there are only two lobbies: the No lobby and the Aye (Yes) lobby. There is not an Abstain lobby. If the MP decides not to vote, he does not turn up to the preceding debate. In fact, any MP who doesn’t vote (unless they are ill) really does not deserve his place on the green benches and neither does a councillor deserve their seat in the council chamber.
Now, this isn’t just an issue with the Conservatives. Labour abstained many a time on Ipswich Borough Council when there was a Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration, which also demonstrated contempt for their electorate, and Liberal Democrat Cllr Ken Bates also abstained during the Area Committees vote on Wednesday.
I just hope all councillors (and MPs) take heed and understand they have a duty to represent the views of those who sent them to the chamber. Abstaining is shirking responsibility.