Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Senior Liberal Democrat advocates leaving EU

For a sign of how far we have come since Thursday you need look no further (if you are one of my local readers) than the latest view of senior Ipswich Liberal Democrat councillor, Andrew Cann. Cllr Cann has written on local blog Ipswich Spy that his view has moved towards the UK leaving the EU.  Let me say this again: a senior Liberal Democrat is advocating leaving the EU.

Cllr Cann poses a number of questions in his article which debunk the EU fanatics theory that we would all go to hell in a handcart if we took back our independence and forged our own way in the world (again). He goes on to say:

“Firstly we’d make our own rules again regarding labour flexibility, working time and continue to improve competitiveness vis-a-vis our European counterparts.
We’d be responsible for our own agricultural and fisheries policies.
We would be free to make our own bilateral agreements with states within the EU regarding movement of labour across borders (something I think benefits the UK).
We would save billions of pounds per annum in net contributions to the EU.
We would not elect Euro MP’s or take part in any of the European Unions institutions.
We would be free to make our own laws regarding public and private procurement subject to what agreements we come to with the WTO and bilaterally.”

So we have a Conservative Prime Minister who vetoes an EU Treaty for the first time in history to protect British interests. We have a Labour opposition who hate Britain so much they would rather side with the French than the British people. And now we have a senior Liberal Democrat who graciously admits he was wrong on the Euro and leaving the EU might be quite a good thing after all.

The political world has changed. It is now highly plausible the United Kingdom will leave the EU within the next decade.

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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.


Old Labour takes office in vindictive form

I attended the Annual Meeting of Ipswich Borough Council yesterday evening as one of the invited guests (my other half is still a Councillor!) and was able to witness first hand the transfer of power to Old Labour after 6 and a half years.

Some people at the time the Conservatives went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats back in 2004 had reservations about jumping into bed with the politicians that always look both ways, but compared to Labour control in Ipswich the town enjoyed a very good number of years with below inflation council tax rises and a council tax cut this year and another council tax cut factored in for next year (if Labour stick with the financial plans).

Let’s be frank though, Labour won power this year at the local elections because they lied.  They ran the cuts narrative on libraries and school crossing patrols when in fact not one had been cut.  Labour also knows Ipswich Borough Council is responsible for not one library or crossing patrol as these are Suffolk County Council responsibilities but they still proceeded to cleverly confuse County and Borough with the electorate.  In short, they scared the electorate into voting Labour.  The Conservatives can be accused of many things but they would never stoop that low.

With a majority of eight on the Borough Council (huge in local government terms), you would have thought Labour would be magnanimous in victory during the transfer of power last night.  Not one bit.  Council Leader David Ellesmere used the two motions to appoint his Executive and Committee placings to accuse the Conservatives of “letting the voters down” by not wishing to sit in the Cabinet (also known as the Executive) with Labour.  Does Ed Milliband sit in the cabinet with David Cameron? No of course not and why would he when Labour lost! 
This was pure vindictiveness from Labour.

At the same meeting, Cllr John Carnall started his tenure as Conservative leader in terrific form. When he challenged a constitutional point regarding the election of the Deputy Leader, in which he correctly pointed out that the new rules passed by the Council in December mean the Leader of the Council appoints their Deputy rather than the Council electing the Deputy, he was told to “sit down” by newly elected Labour Mayor, Cllr John Le Grys.  Moments later officers caught up and realised Cllr Carnall was indeed right and he was allowed to stand up again to make his point after asking the Mayor to apologise, which he refused to do.

Last night was a taste of things to come.  I dislike Socialists more than I have ever done after their performance at the Annual Council meeting and look forward to taking the fight to them.

On a side note, our past friends, the Liberal Democrats, took up Labour’s offer for one of their small number (they only have four councillors now) to become chairman of the Strategic Overview & Scrutiny Committee, which I chaired last year, after the Conservatives, quite rightly, refused to dance to Labour’s tune.  But in typical Liberal Democrat fashion, when it came to the vote on Committee placings, they abstained!  They’ll still end up Chairman of this major Committee as the Labour majority was overwhelming during the vote. 
The Liberal Democrats look both ways again!

There is one silver lining to losing power at the Council: we no longer have to work with the yellow peril!

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Lords defeat Government plan for elected Police Commissioners

Yesterday, the Lords defeated a Coalition Government flagship policy to create elected Police Commissioners, which would effectively replace the current Police Authorities.  Although this is not the end of the matter as the legislation will just go back to the Commons for the Government to have another go.

But whilst we wait to see if the Commons will make any concessions, I have to say I pretty much agree with the Liberal Democrat peers and the cross-benchers who tabled the amendment to defeat the plan.  I can see the logic:  the Government wants to make the police more accountable by introducing greater democracy.  The problem with this is democracy is the least worst political system there is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, and it needs to be weilded with care.  Too much democracy can be a bad thing in the wrong hands. 

Centering the democratic accountability on one individual, which would happen with directly elected Police Commissioners, does put too much power in one person’s hands which is counterproductive to good democracy.  And I certainly do not wish to see the police politicised more than they currently are.

I shall reserve judgement on this policy until after the Government responds to the Lords defeat but I personally cannot see what is so wrong with the current Police Authority model which has multiple councillors on its board and not only holds the police to account but also keeps councillors’ power in close check as well.