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.

Birch Ward

But, seeing as I’m back, here’s my thoughts on the recent announcement that one of the wards at St Cross Hospital is about to close:

Birch Ward’s shut down at the end of the month is appalling for the town. There hasn’t been any real consultation. It seems that some people heard about it before others – Jerry Roodhouse and Mark Pawsey were quick to comment, but the local PCT – who commission medical procedures at St Cross for the people of the town were not (so I am told) asked for their opinion.

The Tories will blame the last government, and their pals in the Lib Dems will play the same card. However, the pressures on hospital trusts are being imposed by this government despite promises to ‘ringfence’ the NHS. On top of taking a hard line on budgets – causing one hospital to have been transferred to the private sector where the company itself has suggested that care may suffer – they are pressing ahead with the plan to impose a massive restructure. even though the Health Bill has not been passed yet, they have closed agencies and started to spend some of the £3billion that the reorganisation will cost.

Still, the local Tories and Lib Dems can do something. They can work with the Rugby Labour councillors who have called for UHCW to reconsider the decision, and they can join the calls for a Judicial Review.

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).

Sod off, Woolas

It looks like Phil Woolas will be losing his seat, barring some last minute attempts at a Judicial Review. I didn’t know anything about the tactics being used in his Oldham East election campaign, but looking at the material it is pretty low stuff. Telling porkies to suggest that your main opponent is backed by Muslim extremists, especially in an area which has seen racial tension in the past, is downright shoddy and irresponsible.

That he was a Labour MP is a source of shame to me, and should be to any member. As a minister he seemed to revel in applying some of the draconian parts of our immigration laws (and let’s put a line under the line that there were no controls ore restrictions to immigration under Labour – they became progressively stronger over time). I’ve never had much sympathy for those people in Labour who try to play up on the fears of the white working class for political ends.

But my dislike for Woolas goes much, much further back than that. Back in the early 1990s I was a student in Manchester. At around the time of the Blair takeover, and the return to prominence of Peter Mandelson, he made me so angry I nearly left the Labour Party.

The Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth, Geoffrey Dickens, was suffering from a long illness, and it was likely that he was going to die. However, he was still alive and in post when messages started to come through that we (the Manchester University Labour Students) should go out to the moors towns on the other side of Oldham to campaign. Personally, I felt it was tasteless in the extreme to put an election machine out on the ground for a by-election when the sitting MP was still alive.

Woolas was the Labour candidate for that seat. When Dickens did pass away in 1995, the campaign (which I had no involvement in) was bitter and personalised. The Lib Dem candidate was the subject of various attacks. They failed, and Woolas came second to Chris Davies. Deservedly so, to be honest.

In 1997, the seat was changed in the boundary review, and the new constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth was created. Woolas beat Davies in the rerun. I’ve no reason to believe that the campaign was any more cordial. In 2001 the BNP stood, following riots in Oldham in the spring. So since then there will have been the added racial/religious tension. Woolas and the local party (with the complicity of the region?) clearly tried to tap into that in order to hold the seat – which was never very seure.

I’m glad that he’s been suspended by the Party, but it was disappointing to say the least that he’d been retained in the Shadow Cabinet after the allegations and legal challenge to the election were known. Labour needs to make it clear that they will not pander to racism or seek to use it for tactical gain. Woolas should not be the last casualty of this – he will have had an agent and advisors.

Reddy Eddy

After a summer of uncertainty, Labour now has a leader. Ed was my preferred Milliband, but I would have supported either of them as leader. There’s still stupid stuff in the press suggesting that David and his supporters want to make this some kind of soap opera (or Greek Tragedy). Mainly because the ‘political’ correspondents for the Beeb and newspapers etc wouldn’t know real politics if it kicked them on the arse, but they do know how gossip works.

The Tory response has officially been muted, but the attack dogs of the Daily Mail and the blogosphere were straight out of the gates with the “Red Ed” jibes and claims that the Unions ‘own’ the new leader. The Mail went to town (and I’m not linking to that rag) on his domestic situation, as if that’s really important in the 21st Century.

The margin was small (51%-49%, but was actually wider than it was for Nick Clegg when he beat Chris Huhne to the Lib Dem leadership). Read the rest of this entry »

Council Tax cowardice

Today’s announcement from the Government was that they would ‘delay’ a Council Tax revaluation for England until after the next election. Of course, it turns out that they weren’t actually doing anything that Labour hadn’t promised to do – the manifesto for the 2010 election stated explicitly that no revaluation would happen in this Parliament if Labour won.

But Pickles is not averse to talking total arse for political gain, and the Tories would have wanted to do something after recent polls saw them slipping and Labour coming level, before the leader is chosen and the Conference starts. “New Politics” seems to be the same old spin, huh?

There were scare stories a few years ago that a revaluation would happen, Read the rest of this entry »

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Best of five?

The polls closed on the Labour leadership election earlier today. I voted last week, before the Question Time special was aired (which I barely watched anyway).

I didn’t choose how to vote by reading all the tittle-tattle in the press. I tried to ignore all the guff about personalities and concentrate on my own opinion. I also tried not to ‘game’ it by trying to think about who would be a more favourable candidate in the media or who the Tories claimed to be scared of. Whoever wins will have to face a hostile press and the Tories anyway.

But I did skim their manifestos as provided to Harry Barnes and his Dronfield Blather site. Well done to Harry for getting all five candidates to submit something over the summer. The only one of the five who I saw talk was Andy Burnham who visited Rugby at the end of August. So, how did I vote (if you care, of course)? Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Burnham, then?

Last Friday night, Andy Burnham came to Rugby to speak at the first event being run by the new Warwickshire Fabians. He was much better than I thought he would be, and he’s got a lot of very good ideas. I’m just not sure if I can see him as a Leader though.

As he is currently Health spokesman and his last post in the Labour Government was as Health Secretary, a lot of what he talked about was related to the NHS. Of course, the Tories are making a lot of changes to the NHS while at the same time trying to impose budget restraint, and this means that there’s a lot to talk about. He also outlined his idea for a ‘National Care Service’, to provide free care for the elderly paid for with a 10% tax on your assets.

The tax part may alarm, but his other big idea is to introduce a Land Value Tax which would replace Council Tax, Stamp Duty and Inheritance Tax. If this happened first, then the 10% Care Tax, hypothecated to ensuring that people don’t end up selling their homes just to provide for their own care arrangements, could well be more popular than IHT.

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Party of Five

I’m still not sure who I’m going to be voting for in the Leadership ballot, and so something that isn’t simply about personalities or who got the first contact with the media on today’s Tory / Lib-Dem idiocy is useful.

Harry Barnes has been campaigning for some time to get each of the candidates to provide a ‘Manifesto of Intent’. After months of badgering, he’s succeeded, and they are available at the Dronfield Blather. Definitely worth a read before voting.

In addition, tonight Andy Burnham is coming down to Rugby to speak at the first meeting of the new local branch of the Fabians. I’ll pop along to see what he has to say…

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:

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:

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)

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)