Friday, 30 April 2010
David Cameron's promise of transparent politics has been called into question after it emerged that Conservative candidates are systematically refusing to answer questions about their personal views.
The non-partisan network Democracy Club helps individual activists to come together to find out more about how their own prospective MPs would use political power. During the months ahead of the general election the organisation has built up the most comprehensive database of candidates ever compiled, and in the last few days the activists have been harnessing this to ask would-be parliamentarians where they stand on everything from CCTV cameras to gay parenting.
More than 1,000 of the candidates have now responded in full, and initial survey responses have been made available on-line at TheyWorkForYou.com. But there is striking variation in the degree of participation by politicians of different stripes.
With several days still left to fill in the forms, a clear majority of Green and UK Independence party candidates have already responded in full, as well as an impressive 43% of Liberal Democrats. Labour's response rate lags behind these parties at 27%, but is still well ahead of the Conservatives – who have responded in only 6% of cases.
Pressed by the Guardian to explain why Tory candidates were proving so coy, Seb Bacon, the founder of Democracy Club, cited some of the correspondence that club members had been receiving. Many Conservatives had explained their failure to answer using an identical phrase: "Surveys like this can often simplify policies too far and might not properly represent the nuances of party policies."
The stock response stood in contrast to the personal emails that many club members wrote to the candidates in requesting their views.
The apparently coordinated refusal of Cameron's Conservatives to answer the questions will stir memories of the early days of New Labour, during which the party's high command expressly forbid candidates to take part in newspaper surveys. Bacon said he was concerned that the Tories might be missing whole point of Democracy Club: "This is not a question of some media survey, but a matter of individual constituents using our network to test the individual views of the people who want to represent them. The questions we have posed are expressly not about party policy, but about where individuals stand."
The revelation will be particularly embarrassing for the Conservatives, since Cameron has personally argued that new technologies should be used to open politics up. The party made much of its decision to hire Tom Steinberg, the founder of MySociety, which runs the websites TheyWorkForYou and FixMyStreet as well as having links to DemocracyClub itself.
Oh and via email today I received my 'personal' contract with Cameron. What a load of waffle.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Brown: Very good to meet you, and you're wearing the right colour today. Ha, ha, ha: How many grandchildren do you have?What's revealing apart from the bigoted comment just because someone raises the issue of immigration, is that Brown immediately looks for someone to blame. This occurs again in his apology Labour member sometime later (my emphasis):
Duffy: Two. They've just got back from Australia where they got stuck for 10 days. They couldn't get back with this ash crisis.
Brown: We've been trying to get people back quickly. Are they going to university. Is that the plan?
Duffy: I hope so. They're only 12 and 10.
Brown: Are they're doing well at school? [pats Duffy on the back] A good family, good to see you. It's very nice to see you.
In the car
Brown: That was a disaster. Well I just ... should never have put me in with that woman. Whose idea was that?
Aide: I don't know, I didn't see.
Brown: It was Sue [Nye] I think. It was just ridiculous.
Aide: I'm not sure if they [the media] will go with that.
Brown: They will go with that.
Aide: What did she say?
Brown: Oh everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman. She said she used be Labour. I mean it's just ridiculous.
Many of you know me personally. You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said this morning.See what he did there? Passed the blame onto those nasty press types. It reminds me of an exchange on Have I Got News For You, just after host Angus Deatyon was caught being naughty. After some relentless and expected abuse, Deayton tried to blame the others, and here's Paul Merton's brilliant riposte:
I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.
Yes Gordon in a way it's all our fault.
Monday, 26 April 2010
"Labour's local achievements..."
...it says and lists Didcot Health centre as one of them.
That's funny, because my wife is, unfortunately a regular user of that particular centre and we have it on good authority from two doctors that they themselves campaigned, organised and funded the new health centre themselves.
Oh and here it is from the Oxford Mail 2006 (my emphasis):
DIDCOT'S ageing health centre could be demolished by Christmas to make way for a new £4m building.
Plans for the new centre, and those for a temporary surgery, have been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council.
GPs have part-funded the project - to the tune of £250,000 - and are confident it will get planning approval next month.
They hope the centre will be completed in early 2008.
The plans are the culmination of a seven-year struggle by GPs to replace their current home, which they say is no longer fit for purpose.
Dr David Ebbs, who is leading the project, said: "If things go according to plan, we want to be off the site and have the building knocked down by the end of the year. The building project should start in the new year and run through until the end of 2007, with us back in in early 2008."
He said the developers had already ordered the temporary building in anticipation of planning approval.
He added: "The timescale is so tight, the developer is taking as much risk as is commercially viable."
He urged patients to be understanding.
"The temporary building is not fantastic because we have had to compromise on space due to a lack of funds," he said.
And from 2007:
DOCTORS have won their seven-year campaign to replace Didcot Health Centre, which will be knocked down next month.
Apparently, though, it was all a Labour achievement.
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
"I said a prayer last night to St Jude the patron saint of hopeless cases but I doubt that even he will know what to do about the Tory Party campaign.
Something is happening with the electorate. Today’s YouGov poll showing the Lib Dems in the lead is astonishing. Perhaps the public anger with MPs over their expenses and the banking crisis will result in the body politic being smashed to bits. What was true on Friday may not be true any longer.
The stakes are now very high. If David Cameron does not become PM on 6/7th May the electoral system will be changed. The first past the post system will be abolished and there will not be a Tory government for a very long time if ever again. Perhaps John Major will go down in history as the last Tory PM.
This is the most inept Tory campaign in living memory. I know there have been some dud campaigns in the past. William Hague’s was pretty awful but in a way it didn’t really matter. Nobody believed he was going to win the election. This time all the Tory Party had to do was to ask the electorate a very simple question: “Do you want five more years of Gordon Brown?” The answer would be no. The election campaign strategy was therefore all about giving the electorate the reasons for voting against the PM. The M&C Saatchi adverts were a good start.
As I have mused before the Tory opinion poll lead was always based on the public’s loathing of the PM rather than any real affection for David Cameron. The election campaign should therefore have been negative in tone and focused entirely on the PM’s failings. Whatever the focus groups may say negative campaigning works.
There doesn’t appear to be any strategy. The ‘big society’ idea has come and now disappeared. The most popular Tory politician Ken Clarke has become the invisible man. He may be campaigning in marginal seats but he should be on our TV screens every morning, noon and night. And then there is the policy that dares not speak its name. Immigration. Every canvasser I have spoken to from every party has told me that the issue that keeps coming up on the doorstep is immigration. This is a Tory issue and yet I am told that there will only be one day when it is raised. What is going on?
The decision to agree to the televised debates may well have cost the Tory Party the election. It has elevated Nick Clegg from nowhere to equal footing with the PM and David Cameron. Whichever adviser or guru advised David Cameron to take part made a terrible mistake.
So is the election campaign lost for the Tory Party? I don’t think it is. Nick Clegg’s policy agenda is very attackable. As Alan Johnson put it in Saturday’s Times: “The Lib Dems are soft on crime, inept on asylum and bloody dangerous on national security.” How Labour candidates must wish he was the PM …
The Tory Party needs to mobilise its key assets such as Ken Clarke and talk about Tory issues such as low tax, immigration and Europe. It needs to connect with Tory voters and indeed anybody who doesn’t want Gordon Brown for another five years. Thatcher’s great strength was her ability to connect with ordinary voters, particularly those who wanted to better themselves. Politics is all about helping people to realise their dreams. We seem to have forgotten this.
Winning the election didn’t seem that difficult a task until the televised debate which should never have happened. Even now there is a simple message. Only a vote for the Tory Party will prevent Gordon Brown being PM for the next five years. Nick Clegg is never going to become PM but he could help Gordon Brown stay PM. This is all very reminiscent (in reverse) of the US presidential election when Ross Perot enabled Bill Clinton to beat George Bush.
I attended a lunch on Saturday at which many Tories were present. The conversation inevitably focussed on the election. There was a mixture of gallows humour and real concern. Nobody could understand why with the most unpopular PM ever and an economy on its back the Tory Party is polling at the same level as Michael Howard when he lost in 2005. The only solution was to have another glass of wine.
Perhaps this is all some terrible nightmare and I will awake to discover that I have missed the real campaign and that David Cameron is PM with a majority of 52.
Is the game up for the Tory Party? What does the Tory Party need to do to regain the political initiative? Will the Nick Clegg bubble burst?"
Ah immigration. I can absolutely confirm that so far for me, immigration is a major concern - it comes up on the doorsteps regularly. Of course there's a perfectly simple reason why the Tories are avoiding it like the plague and that is because they would have to be honest about the elephant in the room - the European Union. Kerry McCarthy, the Labour blogger also mentions the immigration issue, and again avoids the EU dimension.
And that's the problem, the main issues are being ignored or at least fudged and the British people know this. "I'm not voting, they're all the same", I've simply lost count of the number of times I've heard this phrase.
Peter Bingle's absolutely right, the Tory strategy has mainly been about 5 more years of Gordon Brown. But it smacks of sheer arrogance, aside from the fact that it's a damming indictment on Tory policy if that's all they have to offer - vote for us otherwise the others get in.
Just because Labour is utterly useless doesn't mean we should automatically vote for the Tories. Tory bloggers are quick to jump on UKIP as almost being at fault for a possible Gordon Brown win. But it's not UKIP's fault or anyone else. If the Tories don't win this election then it's their fault for failing to offer policies that the voters want. It reminds me of a Tory activist a few days ago who arrogantly raged; "you're stealing our votes". They're not your votes, they are the British people's votes, all we try to do is try to earn them.
Arrogance and complacency is the Tory downfall.
I'm largely funding the campaign myself so I'm looking for any volunteers who like to help. Email me if you can help with anything at all. Any donations would be gratefully received, cheques payable to UKIP Oxford, sent to; John Maden, 25 Montagu Road, Botley, Oxford, OX2 9AH or text 60777 to donate £5*
*Texts cost £5 plus standard operator charge. Donation of £5 will be made to UKIP. For details call 0800 587 6 587. Data will not be passed to third parties. You may opt out of our database and receiving occasional free messages from UKIP by texting UKIP STOP to 60777 for the cost of a standard network rate message.
Busy week last week, I had an interview with the Oxford Mail in a piece on the candidates in the constituency. Although I agree with the sentiments of the quote I didn't actually say a word of it. Nevermind. I had another interview by BBC South on the issue of Polyclinics and UKIP's position on them. Again, though much better reporting, the quote is still inaccurate.
Collected my nomination papers, and 2 days were taken up collecting 10 signatures - and consuming copious cups of teas. Picked up 20,000 leaflets last Friday and found out the printers MD is a UKIP voter. I cheekily asked him for a discount, got £30 knocked off.
Saturday morning and Sunday spent dropping off leaflets to willing volunteers and canvasing. Largely positive reaction so far to UKIP's message. Despite the leaders' debates, the general reaction still seems to be; 'they're all the same'. People are seething.
So far I've attended one hustings meeting, missed one due to a car accident and have two more planned. I've missed another one because I wasn't invited / didn't know.
I'm off today to have my nomination papers checked and hopefully hand them in with, gulp, the £500 deposit. Then it will be loads more campaigning and leafleting etc.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
I think I will switch over in a few minutes to Have I Got News For You and watch a proper political debate.
Friday, 9 April 2010
Having a quiet liquid refreshment in a pub this evening I spotted the above sign which I have taken a picture of. It's the typical product of 13 years of Labour, not only an attitude of; "we will watch you" but a complete lack of basic grammar.
However the Tories are in fact proposing nothing of the sort. Their proposals will still mean that the 1% rise will occur, they are merely proposing to move the band so that it will still affect those earning over £35,000.
I have received this email from Technical Connection who supply detailed information and analysis to Independent Financial Advisers. I think it's worth repeating it in full here: (unfortunately it is subscription-only website so I can't link to it):
The Tories are not scrapping the NI rise at all, which is what has been widely reported, they are just moving the band from Labour's position higher up the salary scale.
Synopsis: The Conservatives’ proposals for NICs may not be what you expect
Date posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010
On 29 March the Conservatives grabbed the headlines with a promise to reduce the NIC increases outlined by the Chancellor in his 2008 and 2009 Pre-Budget Reports. The Conservatives' ideas were subsequently backed by more than 30 leading business people in a letter to the Daily Telegraph. As a reminder, the current plans for 2011/12 are to:
· increase the main employer's Class 1 rate by 1% to 13.8%;
· increase the employee's Class 1 rates by 1% to 12% and 2%;
· raise the starting point for employee's NICs (the primary threshold) to around £570 above the personal allowance (to about £7,200), so that only those earning above about £20,000 will be worse off overall. There is no plan to increase the employer's starting NIC point (the secondary threshold) by a similar amount; and
· increase Class 4 rates for the self-employed by 1% to 9% and 2%, with the same adjustment to the starting point as for employees.
The Conservatives' plans do not change the 1% increases in the rates. Instead they propose the following revisions:
· An increase in the starting point for employee's NICs by £24 a week above the Labour figure to about £8,450, assuming 2.5% inflation. The Conservatives say that this would mean anyone with earnings of under £35,000 would not be worse off after the change.
· An increase to the UEL by £29 a week to around £46,500 (against £43,875 currently). This will not make much difference to high earners because they will also benefit from the cut of £24 a week in the starting point.
· A rise of £21 a week in the starting point for employer's NICs to about £6,950 (against a current £5,715).
The immediate annual cost of the Conservatives proposals is put at £5.6bn.
The message of the Conservative proposals is that for most people and employers the marginal rates of NIC will rise by 1% in 2011/12: whoever wins the election, salary sacrifice will become more attractive.
Expect more of this spin and bluster to come.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
I agree that counting should start as soon as possible, not only to try to protect the integrity of the election, but also because the markets will need to know asap on Friday morning the result - any uncertainty could result in financial chaos. Apparently the only constituencies not starting on Thursday are (my emphasis):
Argyll & Bute
Berwick upon Tweed (confirmed for Friday)
Blyth Valley (confirmed for Friday)
Broadland (confirmed for Friday)
Norwich North (confirmed for Friday)
Central Suffolk & North Ipswich
Kenilworth & Southam
Lancaster & Fleetwood
Morecambe & Lunesdale
Oxford West & Abingdon
Selby & Ainsty
Skipton & Ripon
Tiverton & Honiton
Torridge & W Devon
Warwick & Leamington
West Bromwich E
West Bromwich W
Westmorland & Lonsdale
Great! That's the one I'm standing in
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
Now I'm sure she's traveled by helicopter previously, but why land at Buckingham Palace just before an important announcement such as an election (the date of which was widely predicted), when she knows that it will be covered live?
I wonder whether this is a signal of what the Queen really thinks of Gordon Brown; "I'm taking time out from my busy schedule to see you, you do it when I say".
Although she's famously apolitical, the Queen has form in her subtle nature (my emphasis):
In the midst of the economic crisis yesterday, when news about the nation’s finances dominated every news bulletin, the Queen did something she had never done before; she held an audience with the Governor of the Bank of England, at Buckingham Palace, for the first time since she came to the throne 57 years ago.It was a clear signal that she did not trust Brown's updates on economic matters. Something he acknowledged a few days later by exacting his revenge by resurrecting changes to succession to the throne which her Majesty is known to detest.
And of course this from John Prescott's biography:
I was surprised at how small the Queen was and when it came to my turn [when he tried to refuse to bow when meeting her], she mumbled something. I couldn't hear what it was, so naturally I bent down. She just smiled. She knew she'd got me. As far as everyone watching was concerned, and the local photographers, it looked as if I was bowing. But I wasn't. She'd deliberately lowered her voice and caught me out.The Queen in her own subtle way, in my view, has expressed to the British people how not to vote at the next election.
Thursday, 1 April 2010
The New Statesman has this groundbreaking news:
Gordon Brown is preparing to call the general election this coming Tuesday, 6 April, making way for a month-long campaign culimating [sic] in polling day on May 6, Newstatesman.com has learned from several sources.Learned from several sources eh? Or in fact just looked at the calender and worked it out from logic. Then the article follows with this:
Confirmation that the announcement will come two days after Easter contradicts speculation that rail strikes planned for that day -- which Government insiders now expect to be delayed -- would cause a delay in the announcement, possibly until as late as the week after next.Which is of course complete nonsense as Events dear boy, events points out.
The timetable is clear, for a 6th May election dissolution has to occur on Monday April 12th. Usually, but not essential, there's an announcement a couple of days before to allow for Parliamentary wash-up where outstanding legislation is dealt with. So it is obvious that after the Easter break an announcement is likely to occur on Tuesday thus giving a few days to resolve the outstanding parliamentary business. It's hardly rocket science, but James Macintyre gets paid for writing this nonsense.
Perhaps the New Statesman should re-title its article with the words; 'stating the bleeding obvious!'