(Almost) Last Post

(Almost) Last Post

Well, here we are.  On the eve of what is probably the most important election for two decades.  I may post on the eve of the election or I may not, so this may be the last post or almost the last post before the election.

Wisbech Conservatives have worked hard for the people of our Town and we have a strong team of experienced and new candidates.  I very much hope that we elect a full spread of blue Councillors and, of course, re-elect our Conservative MP.

UKIP are the party of division and fear, Labour are the party of economic incompetence, taxing and spending.  “Independents” are a wasted vote.  Both locally and nationally the safest bet for a secure future, for you,  your family and your friends, is a vote for the Conservatives.

What happens on Thursday will affect every single one of your for many years to come.  Make the right choice, for the sake of our town, our district and our country.

keepoureconomystrong

Any Questions Wisbech

Any Questions Wisbech

What an interesting evening the Any Questions live radio recording in Wisbech Grammar School tonight turned out to be.  Not particularly for the show – though I did enjoy that.  But more for the dynamics and people watching.

There was a good six hundred or so in the audience and they came from a wide range of backgrounds and politics, but amongst them there was a veritable “who’s who” of Wisbech Politics.  Having so many councillors and activists in the same place but “off the clock” was worth a look in and of itself, if you are local politics nerd like me.  But watching the interactions was absolutely fascinating.

During the course of the event the audience alliegances switched.  It was like watching waves washing in from the sea, relentless movement, with a pattern, but individually impossible to predict precisely.  At times the focus was on the Conservatives, with UKIP and Labour jeering collectively at our expense.  Then suddenly the issue moved onto foreign people and then UKIP were the target of the jeers from everybody else.  There were quite a few times when the answers were far to the left and looking around I could see Conservatives and ‘Kippers equally outraged.

But even these switches weren’t easy to predict.  Somewhere else they might have been, but in Wisbech the UKIP people are very much what we called “Red Kippers” – the left wing socialist side of UKIP (yes, there very much IS such a thing, though it’s more populist than socialist.)

Local Newspaper Editor John Elworthy, probably a little uptight about the drubbing that UKIP mostly got, popped up on Twitter afterwards declaring that the “audience wasn’t representative.”  He may be right, there did seem to be a LOT of Lefties and a relatively small number of ‘Kippers.  But I doubt this was deliberate.  I guess it was more than your average ‘Kipper isn’t a Radio Four listener or the sort of person who attends political discussion programs.  But what do I know?

A colleague of mine pointed out that the LibIndKip Dave Patrick was not sat with the main body of the ‘Kippers and that he appeared to be looking over to them to check if they were clapping before clapping himself.  I hadn’t noticed, but once it was pointed out I could see it for myself.  My colleague felt that it was because he needed to be led by others.  Actually, I don’t think so.  I think he is simply still learning how to be a ‘Kipper.  :)

I saw the UKIP gentleman who is standing for UKIP against me in Medworth and he seemed to be a nice enough fellow.  On several occasions we were both nodding or laughing at the same thing.  But as with all ‘Kippers, my shared viewpoints end when we get away from economics and into sociology.  I’m just never going to hate people just because they are different.

In regards to the show itself, the UKIP fellow seemed to be a bit surprised that he was getting such a poor reception.  I guess he had heard some stuff about Wisbech that turned out not to be true.  Many people in Wisbech know a trick when it is being played on them, particularly the sort of people who made up the audience this evening.  It wasn’t that they were overly hostile, the audience just treated him like he was an irrelevance.  To be honest, he might have been able to get some support if he’d been a bit better, but he simply was not very good.

Honestly though, none of the others were really on form either.  Priti Patel has certainly been better – and even though she clearly could not negotiate a post election coalition before the election had been held – her inability to express a straight answer on that one was disappointing.  David Cameron has already ruled out a deal with UKIP, so there was no reason I could see why she didn’t just repeat that.

Even though Dave Patrick seemed to sit under his own personal gloomy cloud, most of the audience had fun and the different parties seemed less remote for a short time as they took it in turns to share and then disdain the responses that suited their own political hues.  Perhaps it was a better atmosphere because it was solid entertainment and that draws people together.  Or perhaps it was the lack of the Dark Queen, parading through the crowd issuing commands to her underlings? Who knows?

The Green Party were there – all one of them.  Labour were there in force with what appeared to be a union crowd alongside.  Many (though certainly nowhere near all) local Conservatives were there.  Gavin Booth was there – the only Lib Dem in the village, but in good humour as always.  My friends the Forsters were there, as was Liberal Legend John Smith.  Steve Barclay was there with his wife.  Wisbech Society had members present, as did most other groups and committees in town.  The Gillicks were there, I guess the Town was not quite frightening enough to stop them coming out tonight, which is good to know.  Representatives from each Wisbech Conservative Campaign Team were there, with almost the full Waterlees Team contingent present.   Like I said it was busy.

But nothing very significant happened really.  It was an entertaining event and a useful one, but ultimately nothing very noteworthy emerged.  No game changers, no news explosions as far as I can see.  At the beginning they asked how many people had watched the Leader’s Debates, to which many said they had. Then they asked if anybody has changed their minds.  They hadn’t.  And there you have it, Ladies & Gentlemen.  Barring some massive surprise event, most people really do know exactly how they are going to vote.  It’s all over, pretty much, bar the actual voting and counting.  We just don’t know which “over” is it.

Chasing Phantoms

Chasing Phantoms

In the past, when I have been involved in a local campaign, I have noted that the opposition do not appear to be doing very  much.  But they were at least doing something.  Sometimes.  This year’s big campaign is quite different and positively eery.

I have been out canvassing almost every day for the last few weeks both on my own area and in many of my colleagues’ areas on team action days.  I have not personally encountered even a single member of the opposition at any time, not from any of the parties.  I have not had a resident tell me they have been visited by a single member of the opposition either.  It’s kind of surreal.  What is arguably the most important election period in a decade and there’s nobody around!

In part it’s because – at least here in Fenland – the Liberal Democrats are extinct.  You can usually count on Liberal Democrats to run a reasonable campaign if they are around, but they just are not around.  The Green’s have a candidate here or there but their local base appears to be about three people and I’ve seen none of them doing anything.

The two main opposition parties these days in Wisbech and the surrounding area are Labour and of course UKIP.  Dean Reeves has covered his house in posters, and the Parliamentary Candidate Ken Rustidge has been seen once or twice by other people – but given that they may be in Government next Friday it’s a pretty big vacuum where local Labour would normally be seen.  Despite a certain Independent candidate claiming that Labour stepped aside for her, our information from them was that they don’t endorse her in any way and simply couldn’t find enough candidates.  Which is weird, isn’t it?  I mean – this is Waterlees we are talking about.  Once a Labour bastion.  And they couldn’t find any candidates?  It doesn’t sound healthy.

Now UKIP are probably the main local opposition, at least based on the previous County Council elections.  UKIP have had years to prepare for this election and to build on their wins last time – but still couldn’t even field a full slate of District candidates?  Nor a full slate of Town Council candidates without getting their Parliamentary Candidate to stand for Town Council!  (Against me, as it happens.)  Though I doubt the people of Medworth will choose him, I do wonder what he would do if he were elected for Town but not anything else.  Travel up from his multi-million pound London property empire to sit on the Wisbech Allotments Committee?

The thing is, I’d be much happier if UKIP were doing some canvassing.  In my experience, when people actually meet them their support shrinks.  I met a man the other day who had met with Peter Lagoda (while he was still with UKIP, before the benefits fraud thingy, and the racist language and the £7000 resignation) and following that meeting was quite clear he would never vote UKIP again.  I’ve heard similar stories a few times.

Word is that there is one place where UKIP are out and about.  Roman Bank.  Sam Clark gave them a good hiding in last year’s by election, so it seems an odd place for them to choose to put their energy.  Mind you, it’s a different campaign there this time so anything could happen.  I very much hope their hiding is repeated by the sensible folks from the villages.

When you go out and talk to people they will often quote echoes of what they have heard in the newspapers, or on the TV, or through word of mouth.  But we are hearing nothing that has been heard from any of the candidates.  Most people are saying: “You are the only ones who have called.”  We were fully expecting an almighty campaign with the area flooded by activists of all kinds.  But other than the usual faces and voices doing their usual thing on social media, it’s very quiet out there.  It’s like chasing phantoms.

Of course that doesn’t mean the phantoms won’t win in some places.  Perhaps they will.  In which case, I am led to wonder if they will also be phantoms when it comes to doing the work they are elected to do?  I don’t think it takes an enormous stretch of the imagination to believe that is so.

Tribal

Tribal

I was pleased to encounter a lady while canvassing this week who immediately recognised me on the doorstep.  She was very nice and assured me that she had noticed all the work I had been doing as her Councillor, that she supported many of the actions I had taken and that she and her husband had received my monthly newsletter and both enjoyed reading it.

Sounds like a good start, right?

So we chatted for a while and then I asked if I could count on her support in the election and she said: “I’m sorry, no, I’m voting Labour.”

So, no worries, this happens sometimes.  But I was bemused.  Hadn’t she just assured me that she was entirely happy with my work as her Councillor and that she appreciated that I had done the job well?  So I said: “Of course, it’s your vote to use how you choose.  If you are a Labour supporter then it makes sense that you would be voting Labour nationally, but wouldn’t you vote locally for the Councillor you thought would work hard for you?  Have you met the Labour candidate?”

She explained that she hadn’t met the Labour candidate and that, in fact, no Labour person had ever knocked on her door.  She knew very little about them and she even admitted that she could not see how a Labour Councillor could do any more than I had been doing.  So I asked: “Have I taken some action you don’t approve of?”  She said I had not, and that in fact she approved of the Town Council’s work and broadly of the District Councils work too.   She had simply voted Labour all her life, and that she simply could not bring herself to ever do otherwise.

The tribal vote is something all parties have and all candidate’s for all parties encounter it.

But if got me wondering.  Am I the same?  If I lived in an area where there was a hard-working Councillor from another party who I thought had done everything they could and represented me well – and if there was a Conservative who I didn’t think would be anywhere near as good, would I still vote for them?

Truth is, I honestly don’t know.  I have never lived anywhere in which the local hard-working Councillor was not a Conservative, so the issue has never arisen.  But I suppose that sometimes it must.  I like to think that in that instance, if I was sure the Conservative would not be as good a Councillor, I would consider voting some other way.  Never UKIP, obviously, but potentially for Labour or the Lib Dems if the Councillor was not too militant and seemed to be up for the work involved?  I like to think so, but I don’t really know for sure.  Maybe I am as tribal as that lady was?

Of course, each of us owns our vote.  We can use it any way we like.  We can vote based on person, or party, or eye colour, or a cool-sounding name, or the toss of a coin.  It’s our choice, based on each of our values and perspective.  But I find it interesting, nonetheless.

St George’s Day Event

St George’s Day Event

I’ve been out all day volunteering with the Wisbech Town Council St. George’s day event, which is primarily aimed at kids and families.

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We were blessed with sunshine and the day went smoothly featuring a free bouncy castle, free facepainting, various competitions including fancy dress, colouring and the annual Dragon Hunt.  There were stilt walkers, firebreathers and jugglers.  There were knights and damsels and colourful hijinks.  There was a storyteller (me, as it happens, save the jokes ;)  )  and a wonderful Punch & Judy show.  Loads of kids and parents came by and joined in the fun.

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I noticed a few things.  I noticed that the Lithuanian and Latvian and Polish and English kids all played and laughed and had fun together without any problem whatsoever, while their proud parents watched them have fun and smiled.  I noticed that none of the key opposition – Independents or UKIP – turned up to help.  Nothing new or surprising there.  Except you’d have thought UKIP might have come along, given how they keep saying they want to limit people’s holiday choices by making St. Georges Day a Bank Holiday.  

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I also noticed that with the change in the weather there has been a change in the mood.  People seem ready to let the sunshine in.  Long may it continue.

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Thanks must be given to all the volunteers who turned out early this morning to set up marquees and tables and chairs and display boards.  To Veronica from The Angel who painted so many happy Children’s faces.  To the excellent bouncy castle and Punch & Judy people.  To the very very very tall man and the jester :)  To the folks from 2020Productions for all their invaluable help and enthusiasm.  To the awesome ladies from Cats Pajamas who are so supportive both in terms of time and resources.  To David & Jess Oliver, Sam Hoy & Garry Tibbs for their tireless work.  To Susannah Farmer of course, and to the Mayor & Mayoress, Michael & Jane Hill.  To David Gutteridge – aka the Viking – who had the idea to do all this in the first place a couple of years ago.  I’m sure there were others I am forgetting, so thanks to them too!

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Dear Special Friend

Dear Special Friend,

I am in safe receipt of the latest installment of your delightful letter campaign.

I’d like to thank you for being a regular reader of my blog.  It is gratifying to know that the opposition takes the time to read it and that you find it challenging and interesting enough to write to me about.

Your rather direct and personal style is a joy, making it so easy to understand the points you are trying to make.  Even the CAPITAL LETTERS you write in are helpful, since I am a little short-sighted in my old age and this assists me in perusing your vivid content.

What I particularly like, when I get a new letter from you, is the fact that you were subject to the cost of a stamp, an envelope, paper, printing and most importantly – time.  That will be time that you are not spending spewing your nasty poison on somebody else.  Please do continue to send me your letters, better that than somebody who might actually be affected by them.

I am glad that we have now moved on from the threats just to the insults though.  You will appreciate that it’s quite difficult to take threats seriously from an anonymous coward who thinks that they can intimidate and bully through the post.  At least now I can appreciate your colourful invective for what it is.  I fear you have woefully misjudged your ability to intimidate but have no desire to knock your clearly fragile ego.  I think you need help, to be honest.

I am concerned for your health.  I understand and appreciate that “Haters gonna Hate” as they say.  I am sure you have a large reservoir of hate and that it must extend beyond your fixation and stalking of me.  All this venom is not good for you and I’d like to offer some helpful advice.  If you are a person of Faith, may I recommend prayer as a good way to come to grips with your violent and negative emotions?  If you are not a person of faith, then physical exercise, or therapy, or both, might be appropriate outlets.

Very Best Regards,

Steve Tierney

Sick

Sick

It is NOT appropriate to abuse the poppy as a cheap local political gimmick.

It is NOT appropriate to abuse the memory of fallen heroes as a cheap local political gimmick.

It is NOT appropriate to suggest that the SNP – however we may not want them propping up a Labour Government – are in any way similar to the Nazis.

It is NOT appropriate to say “don’t let their sacrifice be in vain” referring to fallen soldiers who died fighting for our country, in regards to the possibility of the SNP propping up a Labour Government.  The Scottish fought and died alongside the English, brave Scottish regiments were and are part of the British Army.

No amount of wriggling, or lawyerly word games, or weak justifications makes any of this okay.  It is not okay.  It is rotten.  It is disrespectul.  And it was desperately ill-judged.

UKIP Candidates should be ashamed of themselves for the front page of the wraparound ad in the latest Fenland Citizen.

Anybody can make a mistake.  Perhaps this was just a mistake?  If so, fair enough.  But as candidates or agents representing the party that placed the local ad; Charalambous, David Patrick, Lisa Duffy, Paul Clapp, Alan Lay and the rest should all apologise, in my opinion.  I doubt they will.  But if they accept that this was an abuse of the memory of fallen heroes and an insult to the Scottish who fought by our side, then they should.

Nick Clarke

Nick Clarke

“I bet you won’t be blogging about Nick Clarke, Steve,” an opponent teased me on Social Media.

Well, no, I wasn’t going to.  But not because I avoid blogging about things that aren’t “on message” – actually I’ve really never shied away from such things.  More because my focus is on the national and the local and, since I left County Council, Nick Clarke falls somewhere between those two areas.

But, as the saying goes: “Challenge accepted!”  You know me, Dear Reader.  When somebody tells me I can’t or wont do something, it just makes me want to do it more. :)

My friends spotted this as being “a thing” some time ago, but I wasn’t ready to believe it.  However, the proof is in the pudding and that pudding is presently being served in large portions at the other end of the County.

So, my position on Nick Clarke, former Conservative Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, who defected to UKIP this week to much local media fanfare and UKIP crowing:

I joined County Council at the same time as Nick Clarke.  We were on our first Member-led review together.  I was part of his team when he campaigned to be Leader of the Council and a strong supporter throughout.  Later, I became a Member of his Cabinet and served under him as Leader.  He was one of the finest Leaders i’ve ever met.  He is capable, competent, very intelligent and a powerful personality capable of getting things done.

But Leaders don’t work alone.  Nobody can.  He was empowered by the support he had and by a strong team.

I am, consequently, extremely saddened by Nick’s departure.  I won’t try and pretend otherwise.  I hold him in high regard and great respect and I never imagined he would choose this road.  But sh*t happens and life goes on.

I don’t like Nick any less because he has joined UKIP, and I don’t like UKIP any more because Nick has joined them.  Frankly, I think that Nick Clarke is worth more than the entire rest of the Cambridgeshire UKIP team put together and I very much expect him to soar up their ranks as a rising purple star.

But I also think he will quickly find that the team he has joined is a very different sort of team.  That when the media fanfare and spotlights fade, he is surrounded by a different calibre of people.  And while he may well continue to shine brightly, it will be in a drab party landscape of peeling paint and angry faces.  Perhaps he will visit Wisbech and stand alongside Alan Lay and Paul Clapp and David Patrick?  I think that will be an eye-opener for him.

I genuinely wish Nick well in his ongoing career, on a  personal level.  I don’t wish UKIP well at all..  I bet that even if UKIP were to crash and burn in spectacular fashion, Nick Clarke would emerge just fine and prosperous from the ruins.

Last Full Council

Last Full Council

Last night was the last Full Council meeting of Wisbech Town Council.  These meetings are always quite sad because there’s a chance, after building up a good working relationship and making friends that some of your colleagues may not be there after the election.  There’s a chance you may not be there. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable meeting which ran smoothly with some interesting moments.

The first interesting moment came at the start, in the section where “Members of the public” can ask questions.  A “Member of the public” came to ask a question, that individual being none other than UKIP County Councillor Alay Lay.  We rarely see them at Town Council and usually the section entitled “County Council Business” is devoid of information or their exciting presence.  But here they were and they had a question!  Almost simultaneously, an opposition Member popped up their  iThingy screen and appeared to begin videoing the proceedings.   The camera was pointing my way*.  Curious, huh?

So Alan Lay is called to ask his question and it is something about fundraising.  Except he fails to say what the subject of the questions is and now everybody is looking bemused.  The Chairman asks him to clarify what he is on about and he repeats the same thing, louder, punctuated by “COUNCILLOR TIERNEY SAID”, but still without explaining what he was referring to.  You could see the opposition looking a little agitated, almost as though they knew what the question was supposed to be from the “Member of the public”, and were frustrated by his inability to articulate it.  Not that I am suggesting this is the case at all, definitely not.  It couldn’t possibly be an “orchestrated” bit of political theatre, because they don’t do that.  Do they?

Anyway, eventually Cllr Mrs Bucknor clarifies that Alan Lay means the Christmas Lights, cue much amusement at the fact that she appeared to know precisely what he was going to say.  Again, this is pure supposition and could easily be complete coincidence, but I like to imagine cartoon versions of a male and female Councillor; where he is looking shame-faced and she is pointing her finger at him and saying: “You had ONE job, Sir.  ONE job!”  But I digress.

What unfolded was a piece of ham-fisted political theatre that I am sure anybody would have found embarrassing.  My advice to all such kind fellows is: if you are really going to contrive a political trap, try to do your homework.  Otherwise, your attempt to suggest whatever you are trying to suggest will backfire and you will simultaneously look a bit silly and also end up congratulating and endorsing your opponents.  Which is fine, if that’s what you intended.  Less so if you didn’t.

The County Councillors stayed a little longer and then left the building, conveniently just before the Agenda Item “County Council business.”  Apparently it’s okay for them to present as “Members of the Public” and ask questions of Town Council, but not to present as County Councillors at the appropriate time to return the favour.  We knew this already, of course, as we very rarely see them and almost never during their own agenda item.  Maybe questions are uncomfortable?

The meeting progressed smoothly until the section on Planning, which Cllr Bucknor used to raise the issue of the strange disappearing £260,000 Health Centre.  This is an issue that has been concerning several of us.  I have been looking into how it came about and why we appear to have lost a quarter of a million pounds of funding.  I know that the Planning Committee at WTC have also demanded answers on it, as have Cllr Tibbs and Cllr McLaren.  So we were pleased the issue was raised by Mrs Bucknor.  There was at least one person in the room who wasn’t pleased about it though.  One person who seemed to go white as a ghost and sink into their chair.

Luckily for this particular individual, my own research into this issue has led me to think it’s rather more complex than it appears.  Which is why I spoke up and pointed out that the Clinical Commissioning Group had refused to operate the Health Centre and that therefore it was not viable.  I still feel that the developers maybe should not have been let off such a large community contribution scott free, and am digging to find out how this came about and what we can do about it.  Mrs. Bucknor, Cllr Tibbs and others appear to agree that the issue looks a bit off, to put it mildly.  By this time the individual who had seconded the motion to let the developers avoid the payment was looking a little green around the gills, but I am sure this was nothing to do with the subject in question.  I have a feeling we won’t see this one raised via the Elworthy Hotline. ;)

And with that, it was over.  Next time Wisbech Town Council meets it will be with at least some different faces, maybe many.  Cllr. Wheeler, Griffin and Tanfield are not seeking re-election, which is a loss to the Council and the Town, but naturally we all wish them well for the future.  Fingers crossed that next time there is a meeting I am able to attend as a Councillor and that I am surrounded by a sea of sensible, hard-working, honest and genuine blue.  That would be a nice day.