A Tory ‘Independent’ and an ‘Independent’ Tory

The election for a Police and Crime Commissioner isn’t supposed to be particularly controversial. In Warwickhire we have three candidates at the moment  – Ron Ball, Fraser Pithie and James Plaskitt.

Ron Ball is standing as an Independent. He was recently making noises to the local press about how it was wrong that the other candidates were political, representing political parties, and that he was untainted by such associations.

Turns out that he’s been a member of the Conservative Party for years, and tried to get them to nominate him as their candidate. Instead they chose Fraser Pithie.

Fraser Pithie claims also to be not ‘political’, despite the fact that he’s been an elected councillor in the past, and also having recently said that the PCC elections could be used to boost the fortunes of local Conservative MPs and candidates.

There was another Independent candidate, Andrew Moss. Moss is the only candidate to have been a full time serving police officer (Pithie has been a ‘Special’), and recently withdrew in favour of Ron Ball to avoid splitting the independent vote. I wonder how he feels now, knowing what has been revealed about the political past of Mr Ball?

In the meantime, James Plaskitt is the only other  choice, and the only one of the current candidates who is not a Tory. He’s not hiding his political past – he was MP for Leamington & Warwick for 13 years, so it’s pretty obvious. He is also clearly against the current government policies of cuts and increased private involvement in policing.

Dan Byles MP – did he benefit from Lobbett’s claims?

When I looked up the Tory candidate in the 2010 General Election, the one who won by a margin of 54 votes and who was being backed by Barry Lobbett, who was getting Warwickshire council tax payers to subsidise his campaigning, I found that he was being highlighted for his election spending last year.

Then, it was a question over whether buying a new hoarding with his name, face and the 2010 election slogan should be fully charged to his 2010 election campaign or (as he actually did) only a third of it need be – with the remainder to be charged to future campaigns we assume. The difference was between £1600 and about £500, and had the larger figure been used, he would have been in excess of his allowed spending.

In the end, there was no action taken against Dan Byles on the basis that it is ok to shift the cost over future campaigns, and he remains the MP for Warwickshire North and Bedworth.

However, we now know that during the same ‘short campaign’ period, claims were being made to Warwickshire CC for a councillor to drive to events in support of the election campaigns for that councillor and for Dan Byles. Given that Cllr Lobbett feels he should be recompensed, what would be the effect if Byles’ campaign paid the costs? Would it tip the amounts over the legal limit?

At the very least, Byles could do worse than distance himself from the penny-pinching councillor.

Two kinds of fraud?

Keen Green activist Keith Kondakor has for the second year running pulled his fine-tooth comb through the County Council’s member expenses. Last year he doggedly pursued Martin Heatley over the irregularities in his very large expenses claims (first class travel, curiously long journeys between home and Shire Hall, double claimed journeys). This year he’s obtained via a FOI request another year’s worth of claims by Warwickshire County Councillors.

Along with a very expensive hotel break (£2,500 for five councillors to spend three days in Bournemouth!) and I’m sure a few other inconsistencies, there’s one particular scandal.

It seems that Cllr Barry Lobbett is being told to repay over £600 he claimed for travelling around to do election campaigning. This is clearly a breach of the rules of councillors’ expenses, because election campaigns are not council business. I expect Keith Kondakor will be pressing for more action than just getting the money back and a symbolic rap on the knuckles, as happened with Heatley.

However, there emerges another question. What about Cllr Lobbett’s notification for election expenses? By law all candidates have to declare how much has been spent on their campaigns. So did he include this cost? Because if he didn’t, that would be another matter. If it puts the total over the allowed limit, then he’s in a serious breach of the rules.

Second Best

The elections and referendum are now over, and I’ve had a weekend to absorb the results. First off, the most local:

Eastlands Ward, Rugby Borough Council results

Neil Sandison (Lib Dem) – 1057
Owen Richards (Labour) – 506
Paul Newsome (Tory) – 495
Bert Harris (TUSC) – 67

Last year I came third, some 150 votes behind the Tory (same candidate), and about 1100 behind the Liberal. The turnout was higher then, but comparing to previous years when it was only local elections, the Labour performance was quite an improvement. The swing from when Neil Sandison last stood is over 11% from Lib Dem to Labour. In the leaflets put out by the Liberals they said that the Tories are their main competitors and that Labour is always some way behind in third. Not any more!

So, thanks to all those who voted for me, and to the people who helped out in the campaign. We did more work in other areas where Labour had a better chance of winning, but every step forward helps.

In Rugby as a whole, the only change was pretty much expected – the Tories took the last Lib Dem seat in Dunchurch and Knightlow. Elsewhere there were a few patterns:

1) In most wards, as was the pattern nationally, the Tory vote was about the same. However, the only place they gained much support was Dunchurch.

2) In most wards, Labour’s vote went up. Not all by the kind of swing achieved in Eastlands, but enough to clearly secure the already held seats and to bring some Tory seats towards marginal status – Admirals, Overslade and potentially Hillmorton and Brownsover North.

3) The Lib Dems lost a lot of ground. They collapsed in Dunchurch, and in some wards where they’d been ahead of Labour they slipped behind (Hillmorton and Brownsover North most notably). However, in the two wards where the Tories hoped to make gains – Paddox and Caldecott, their vote went up and they extended their majorities. It’s interesting to note that in Paddox, Labour’s vote also went up quite a bit. However, the Lib Dems could only find 10 candidates this time, which suggests they will have problems outside their strongholds

4) The Greens had been on the slide before this year, but appear to have picked up disaffected Liberals and recovered somewhat. In two places they beat the Lib Dems leaving them in fourth place.

5) TUSC (Trades Unionists and Socialists against the Cuts) are a new slate. They did a deal with the Greens to not stand against each other and between them covered all 16 wards. They came last wherever they stood (and the guy in Eastlands received their lowest vote). Labour concerns about splitting the anti-Coalition vote were not borne out.

Overall, Labour didn’t get the same kind of swing that was seen nationally – if there’s a North-South divide in fortunes, then Rugby is perhaps more Southern. However, someone at the count said that Rugby always seems to be about 1 year behind the national trends. I suppose we’ll find out next year. Or will we? Next year will be an all-out election on new boundaries, and so measuring trends will be much harder.

In the local and regional elections as a whole, I would say that Labour did ok. Not brilliant, but not poorly. Wales was a very good result, Scotland was awful. Making gains in many major cities was certainly welcome, but the Tories won more seats than they lost as the Liberal collapse benefited them as well as Labour.

As for AV – I was surprised at the margin of victory for ‘No’. I do wonder if that was what helped the Tories in the locals, bringing out more voters than usual. I voted ‘No’, but not because I liked the No2AV campaign (it was based on a load of lies). It was more that I saw AV as making very little difference in most places (so would not affect the large number of safe seats), and that it can have perverse effects when the second and third placed candidates are close together. The order of elimination can decide the result, so it’s possible for a party that won last time to gain support but lose the election (if they gain the support from the wrong voters).

Dunchurch & Knightlow byelection

LOWE, Ian Stanley (Con) 832*
AIRD, Robert Turner (Lib Dem) 682
MCNALLY, Robert Peter (Labour) 149
HOUGEZ, George (Green) 20

Spoiled 2

Turnout 1685 32.8% (source: Rugby BC)

Well, PLH was pretty close with his predictions. Turnout was just under 1700 and about a third. The majority was exactly 150, the Labour vote was only 1 away from his predicted 150. The Lib Dems and Tories got about 30 votes more each. The only real difference was that the Green vote was 20 rather than 100. Looking back, the Greens have been in decline across the Borough, and particularly in Dunchurch & Knightlow, where in May they got only 64 votes on a turnout of around 80%.

Compared to May, there hasn’t been much movement between the parties, none moved by more than 2% in share of the vote. The swing from LD to Con was 1.25%, and that tallies with the general trend in the seat – it’s usually a 2-horse race between the two, but the Lib Dems only won it in recent years with a Ravenhall on the ballot, and the Tories have consistently led otherwise. Labour came in a distant third with about 9% (as in May), which is still an improvement on the 2006-2009 results (c. 6%). As mentioned before, the Greens are in decline, having taken third place in 2007, they are now on just over 1% of the vote.

A disappointment for Rob, who was an excellent candidate. Let’s hope he will be standing somewhere where a win is in sight in May.

AV?

So apparently we will get a referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote system, likely to be held on 5 May 2011. Already Cameron has come out to say that he will campaign against it, of course the Lib Dems will be all for it as it was getting the referendum that was part of the coalition deal.

The other reason that the Lib Dems like AV is that it could well help them – it tends to help larger parties and particularly centrist ones in a 3-party system.

But for now I don’t know how I’d vote. It’s really not an easy decision. First Past the Post elects the most popular candidate, even if they are only marginally more popular than the others. AV would elect the least unpopular candidate. Both systems retain the single-member-constituency feature that we’ve had in the UK for some decades (it used to be that we had two-member constituencies, in fact for most the history of the Commons that was the case).

In terms of achieving proportionality, AV can be counter-productive. It can also exacerbate swings. It doesn’t really help the smaller parties much, other than giving more voters a chance to try them out as first preferences before they put the main party they favour most as no2.

On the other hand, AV does present more choice to voters, and it does mean that people can more ‘safely’ register a protest vote.

Still, there’s nearly a year before we have to make up our minds. I don’t know what Labour will do – probably there will be some division, unlike in the other main parties. I don’t think it would be wise to try to ‘game’ the vote, to try and make political advantage out of it, but it has to be recognised that there are differences of opinion. Some people want PR-type systems, others want to retain the system as it is.

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Picking a winner

This week two things started properly. One was the Labour Leadership elections, with five candidate qualifying for the final round. Alas, John McDonnell didn’t make it, but at least people stopped nominating Millibands for the other two to get in. I’ve yet to decide who to support. I would put Diane Abbott in as my no1, but my girlfriend has told me I’m not allowed to (so much for sistahood, eh?). All I know is that Balls is no5 in my book and nothing’s likely to change that unless it turns out that Andy Burnham is even worse.

But for now we have the really important competition down in South Africa. This time I will be backing seven teams in the World Cup:

England
USA (Clint Dempsey & Carlos Bocanegra)
South Africa (Kagisho Dikgacoi)
Nigeria (Dickson Etuhu)
Ghana (John Paintsil)
Australia (Mark Schwarzer)
Japan (Junichi Inamoto)

Obviously England are the main team I’ll be supporting. Not with silly flags or by wearing the shirt, let alone with face paint, but in the time-honoured tradition of watching them on the telly with beers in hand. But all of the others have current or past Fulham players in their squads, so I’d want to see them progress. Besides, Ghana and Australia doing well means Germany doing badly, Nigeria are up against Argentina and South Africa are in a group with France so that’s the main rivals covered. None of those teams are ones that I wouldn’t want to see do well anyway, they are all reasonable footballing sides, with a fair amount of underdog status.

If Fulham had a Uruguayan or Italian international I’d have been mightily torn between backing a Whites player and my loathing of negative sides that cheat their way through. When England play the USA tomorrow I certainly want England to win, if for nothing else other than to shut the Yanks up about 1950. But as long as England look good to get through the group, I will want the Americans to do well against Slovenia and Algeria before shockingly putting the Germans out in Round 2.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the games where Whites players feature. I was at work for the opening game of the tournament, which saw Dikgacoi in action against Mexico, so I am reliant on the highlights and web-reports. 1-1 is a good result for the hosts, and while they were lucky not to concede in the first half they could have nicked the game at the end. The Mexicans are usually a very good side, and are often underestimated at the World Cup. They’ve have made it to the knockout rounds in the last four tournaments, and each time fallen at the first hurdle.

Our lad Kagisho made his mark on the game: booked midway through the first half for fouling the rampant Giovani, failing to convert a headed corner at the end of the first half, and then being involved in the build up play for the South Africa goal in the second half.

I’ll be making with more frequent posts (‘onest!) on how my favoured seven teams and the Fulham contingent are getting on. In the meantime, here’s how I hope the next few games go:

Tonight
Uruguay 0-0 France (with several players sent off and loads of bookings. Any Uruguayan who commits a foul to be injured as a result)

Tomorrow
S Korea 1-0 Greece (The Greeks beaten when their offside trap fails)
Nigeria 2-0 Argentina (Maradona turns purple as Etuhu gets an assist)
England 3-1 USA (Rooney and Defoe goals win the game after Dempsey opens the scoring)

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