Under Attack

Under Attack

Just when you think the Liberal Democrat is a silent paper candidate, out she comes with one of the most astonishing attack letters I’ve ever seen.  The Liberal Democrat candidate for Medworth has come out swinging with a letter delivered widely across the Ward which attacks me and most of the other candidates.  But mostly me. :)

There’s apparently a leaflet too with pictures of a bunch of stuff neither she nor the Liberal Democrats had anything to do with.  Primarily because there are no Liberal Democrats left in Wisbech.  Or, if there are, they are in stealth mode.

Josie Ratcliffe, who claims to be a “fresh voice for Wisbech”, made hay with the fact that the “Conservative Candidate” (that’s me!) has been “beaten twice by Liberal Democrats in Wisbech.”  Actually, no.  I’ve been beaten once by a Liberal Democrat in Wisbech.  That particular Liberal Democrat has since dumped her party and gone Independent.  And Josie, with all due respect, I’m sure you are very nice and all, but you ain’t no Dave Patrick.  For a start, he actually lives here.  The other time I was beaten by a Liberal Democrat was in Parson Drove and Wisbech St. Mary, which are near Wisbech but are villages in their own right.  But that’s okay, you wouldn’t know this because you live in Chatteris rather than Wisbech.

A funny thing about local politicians is that we do all get beaten from time to time.  Just like Josie herself has been beaten by the Conservatives, and the UKIP candidate has been beaten by the Conservatives, and the Independent Candidate has been beaten by the Conservatives.   We all lose sometimes, as you should know Josie.   It happens.

Josie attacks UKIP as “not being the answer” and while I do not disagree with her reasoning, I’m surprised that she thinks that electing an unknown Liberal Democrat from a completely different town is.  I suspect local people may not agree.  I don’t have a lot of love for Clapp, Lay, Gillick and the purple brigade – but at least they are from Wisbech.

Josie then amusingly points out that Labour have “no District Councillors at all” as the reason not to vote for them.  Well, that’s true Josie, and by your logic they never will have!  You Liberal Democrats on the other have have the heady number of “One” district Councillor.  Though he is admittedly a very nice one.  Nice enough that I doubt he’d ever make the mistake of putting out a letter of the type you have done.  Because Gavin Booth would know that our town doesn’t particularly appreciate this sort of negative campaigning and isn’t incredibly fond of being told what to do and what to think by people from Chatteris either.

Josie says: “It’s time for a fresh start.” Finally, something we agree on.  I’ve never been a District Councillor.  Jessica Oliver has never been a Town Councillor.  Electing the Conservatives will be a fresh start – with the added bonus that, you know, we live here.  Rather than in Chatteris.

Nevertheless, if you are reading this blog post, Josie then I’d like to wish you “All the best.”  If you’re ever actually IN Wisbech yourself, pop by and I’ll make you a cuppa.  After you visit us, you might find you like our Town.  Those of us who live here certainly do.

Putting The Record Straight

Putting The Record Straight

In the local paper and on Facebook, the various members of the “opposition” are attempting to use some leaked documents from the local Conservative group to spin up a big drama.  In the usual way they are using a mixture of half-truths, spin and outright lies to make it look like there is some dark deed or other going on.  It’s a load of old cobblers, if you’ll excuse the colloquialism.  In fact, I’m confident that the local Editor and his Opposition Chums know it’s a load of old cobblers too, but in the run-up to a by-election they’ll spin any old yarn in an attempt to get some grumbling going.  It’s electioneering, pure and simple.

So this is the actual  truth, if there’s anybody out there who still cares about the truth.  Most larger political parties have local offices to help manage their affairs, run elections, produce literature, etc etc.  In some big places ALL the political parties do, in other areas only some political parties are large enough to need and afford an office.  In Fenland the Conservatives have an Office and that office must be paid for by fundraising.  Conservative branches, like the Wisbech one I am the Chairman of, raise money to help pay for that office and its staff.  In return that office and those staff support us in our activities and organise campaigns at election time.  There is nothing unusual about this – is it normal and it works very well.

Many political parties also ask their elected Councillors to pay a “sub” to support the Office, primarily because they are the ones who will most often use the office’s services.  There is no “law” forcing them to say “Yes” but most Councillors are happy to do so because they recognise the value of the assistance the organisation gives them with things like election law, leaflet design, electoral advice, organisation of volunteers – and an additional and central outward face to the Community.

Until recently, most local Conservative Councillors were not paying any sub to the party.  Instead, they were attending functions, or helping organise functions, or fundraising in other ways.  But times are hard and bills need to be paid – and the level of contribution that Councillors put into their local association varies from individual to individual so that some Councillors and local activists were essentially doing all the fundraising, while others were not pulling their weight.

It was therefore proposed that all Conservative Councillors (District and County, not town) be asked to make a small contribution – something which already happens in other Political parties, and with Conservatives elsewhere in the country.  Alongside this Councillors were asked to agree to a “minimum” electoral work.  What they were asked to do – fifty leaflets a month – is incredibly tame.  It’s such a low amount – and vastly less than most of us do anyway – that it’s hard to see how anybody could be upset by it.  This is, in every respect, a perfectly reasonable request, in my opinion.  Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t go much further.

The opposition are attempting to spin it as something other than what it is.  So let’s be clear – how Conservative Councillors choose to fundraise from our own pockets in our own time is entirely our own business.  It doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything, it is a private concern.  It is true that some of my colleagues were unhappy with some of the new suggestions for a variety of reasons.  They are perfectly entitled to have an argument about it within the local Conservative party and I expect that at the end of the debate a reasonable and balanced decision will result.

But this business about: “You can’t be a Conservative Councillor unless you pay” is a half-truth.  I think it’s fair to say that if you want to cruise along, do no fundraising, no electoral work, and expect others to pay for everything for you – you’re probably not going to fit in well with the Conservative party.  If you think that canvassing is “beneath” you, or that somebody else should deliver your leaflets while you enjoy a nice cuppa in the sun, then you’re probably not going to fit in well with the Conservative party.  If you think that you are “entitled” to be a Councillor forever and should never have to face competition for the role – you are probably not going to fit in well with the Conservative Party.  You should probably become an Independent.  But even then, you’ll find you have to pay for your leaflets and communications – unless you don’t intend to do any.  Good luck with that.

I should also add that this row is broadly nothing to do with Wisbech.  All the Wisbech Councillors (that I can think of offhand) already do much more work than the “minimum” being set.  All the Wisbech Councillors are entirely prepared to pay a fair amount of our own money into the central pot to fund the office and organisation.  If some Councillors from elsewhere in Fenland have some issue with that – they are perfectly entitled to chat to the Chairman about it.  But we Wisbech Councillors aren’t fussed at all.  We appreciate the work the office does on our behalf and we understand that we have to play our part in that.

In the end, an internal debate over private fundraising in a political party – with no cost to the public and no effect on the public whatsoever – is not “news.”  Well, not unless you want to fabricate an elaborate story to pitch to people on the hope they’ll get the wrong end of the stick.  For political purposes.  The fact that is is “news” here, and now, says more about those trying to make it into a story than it does about local politics.

Campaign Diary 21st September 2014

Campaign Diary 21st September 2014

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the run up to the Medworth By-Election Campaign and it’s frenetic start.  We’ve knocked on 95% of doors in Medworth, delivered two pieces of literature and given out dozens of posters.  It’s been exciting to meet so many people and delightful to find such strong Conservative support in the area.

There’s still a long way to go in the campaign yet as the By-Election doesn’t take place until 16th October 2014.  Nearly a whole month away.  We’ve got some unusual and exciting things planned for the campaign – but shhhh – can’t say too much.  The opposition are listening. :)

Our Campaign Website is up and running at http://www.medworthward.com  so please do go and check it out.  We’ll be adding stuff to it as we go.  I’ve also set up a dedicated email address for messages about the Campaign, questions, requests for information, or offers of help with the campaign.  mail@medworthward.com

I was surprised that I am the only candidate who actually lives in the Ward.  Local newspaper Editor John Elworthy jumped in to defend the opposition in the usual way on Twitter pointing out that I’ve stood in other areas previously.  As usual, he completely (deliberately?) misses the point.  There’s not anything intrinsically wrong with somebody standing to represent a place they don’t live – whether that is acceptable or not is up to the electorate.  They will decide if the downside of living elsewhere is balanced by the upside of the Candidate’s potential qualities.  But I doubt many would deny that in an ideal world most candidates would live in the place they seek to represent.  And it is surprising to find that UKIP and Labour couldn’t find a single suitable candidate who did, that the Independent lives even further afield in Guyhirn and that the Liberal Democrat lives way over in Chatteris.  I find that people do care about these things and that they do, on balance, prefer a more local candidate.  It’s not the only thing that matters for sure.  But it’s not unimportant either.

Anyway, I digress.  I’m having a lot of fun with my team of volunteers – all good friends.  We have people of every age and of multiple nationalities.  We have been getting out there and just being positive and upbeat on the doorstep and people seem to be responding.  We briefly ran into the UKIP guys, who looked a little hot and bothered to me, like a perpetually boiling kettle.  But they were nice enough and Andrew Hunt shook my hand and we wished each other “break a leg” in the theatre tradition.  Apparently Independent candidate Erbie Murat was also seen out and about, but I wasn’t told if he was still wearing that multi-coloured rosette that he put such store in last time.  I hope so.  It was a cool rosette.

No sign of Labour yet, nor the Lib Dems (obviously.)  A number of left-of-centre voters have told us they plan to vote tactically, to which I can only respond: “Thanks!  We’ll try to be worthy of that honour.”  I know that voting for another party would be difficult for me too, the only time I’d think about it would be to keep out the BNP, or Britain First, or UKIP.

Jessica and I will be out and about all month.  Put the kettle on, we’ll bring the cakes.  :)

poster1

The Community House (Waterlees)

The Community House (Waterlees)

I have a confession – I’ve never visited the Community House. I don’t know how or why, but even when I was a County Councillor I never managed to get to it, though I often meant to.

But my friend and colleague Cllr David Wheeler has always proudly told me what an excellent facility it is and how much good work it does – and that’s good enough for me. David Wheeler knows his stuff and he knows Waterlees like few others. If he says it’s awesome, you can take that to the bank, in my opinion.

Also, having shared events and chatted with staff there a few times I’ve always been impressed by their clear dedication and passion for their job.

Now it seems to be a little early to be tolling the bell for the Community House. Cabinet Members seem pretty clear on the fact that this is a consultation only, and you have to have consultations about expenditure at Councils. We must surely expect our Councils to regularly review ALL their spending to see if the way they are using taxpayer’s money is the best use of the funds?

Normally, when something is in consulation, people express their views and Councillors have a heated debate and at some point a conclusion is reached. Rarely do you see anything in the local papers until there is an actual decision one way or another. Sure, let’s be aware of the consultation so that we can – you know – be consulted. But the time to get angry is after a decision we don’t agree with, not before evidence has been gathered and arguments aired.

Instead we’ve got people saying “this wasn’t in the Wisbech2020 meeting” – well of course it wasn’t. Wisbech2020 isn’t a platform for everything Councils may or may not do for the next decade. Its an aspirational set of plans and goals, to allow for cooperation and teamwork between councils, agencies, groups and local people. It didn’t include every consultation the Councils will ever do or it’d have needed to be sixty volumes long.

My feeling about it is that enough of my trusted colleagues speak well of the Community House that I am convinced of its value. But I have to admit I have no idea – presently – what it costs. Until we have all the information, we can’t really know whether money is being used in the best way it can. And that’s what is missing from this heated, vitriolic (and oddly convenient) debate.

It may well be that FDC wont close the Community House because, after the consulation, they’ll take the view that its well worth the cost. No doubt those making the big noise now would then say “See, we saved it!” when they had naff all to do with it. But if not – what would our options be?

Those currently trying to make a media storm about the building focus only on one of the options – force the District Council to change their minds. Sure, if they make a bad decision then I’d support that and will join the voices trying to explain they’ve made a mistake.

But there are other options, depending on what the cost of the place is. We could rescue it by forming a community group and fundraising. We could approach County Council, or Town Council, and ask if they’d be willing to help rescue it. We could approach local businesses and groups and ask for their support.

But there is something different about these latter options, in the worst case scenario that FDC refuse to see the light. These latter options all require some work. Some effort. Some commitment. Rather than just headlines and newspaper quotes. Which is why, if you asked about these other options, you’d probably see tumbleweeds blow across the road.

First Two Campaign Days

First Two Campaign Days

I’ve had a couple of really nice days starting the Medworth campaign.  The weather has been lovely and I’ve enjoyed talking to people on the doorstep.  It’s particularly refreshing to be campaigning in an area which is reasonably close together.  After years of Roman Bank where miles of country lanes and fields separate the villages, and sometimes the houses, it’s remarkably easy to pop letters into hundreds of doors in a much shorter space of time.

We’re getting a positive response on the doorstep.  Solid Conservatives who think Steve Barclay is a great MP, that good work is being done locally by Councillors and that the way to solve problems isn’t to make a petition and get your picture in the local newspaper – but to actually have some knowledge, experience and energy.  I think people also like to meet folks who have positive ideas, rather than just hate hate hate and some bigotry thrown in for seasoning.  Also seem to be gaining support from old Labour and Lib Dem voters, sometimes on their own merits and sometimes tactical voting.  Obviously, we welcome honest and principled support from all sides of the political compass and hope that – if elected – we can live up to the trust that such diverse types would be placing in us.

It’s been nice to meet so many people who already know me, whether from Social Media or one of the various things I get involved in.   My Facebook “friends” list is growing like lightning just lately and it really seems that more and more people are getting engaged with local politics.  I can only see this as a good thing.

Having made an exciting start – looking forward to the rest of the team joining me over the next few weeks.  It’d be nice to break the local record of “helpers in one day of campaigning”, but since that was fixty-six it’s a big ask :)  Still, you’ve gotta have goals!

If you live in Medworth, see you on the doorstep soon!  If you make the tea, I’ll bring the cakes. :)

A4 Poster

Campaign Starts Tomorrow!

Campaign Starts Tomorrow!

The first Conservative leaflet is now ready and I picked them up today.  Which means we can get out on the streets tomorrow for our first day of full campaigning in what, I expect, will be a hectic month.

A bunch of great volunteers have already put their names forward to help, but if any of you dear readers wish to join in – just let me know.

We still don’t know who our opponents are.  Apparently UKIP is putting up Andrew Hunt (who may, or may not be the same Andrew Hunt who stood as a Libertarian Party Candidate a couple of years ago.)  If it IS the same Andrew Hunt then I expect Cllr Michael Bucknor of the Wisbech Independent “Group” will be exceptionally grumpy – since he really doesn’t seem to like Libertarians very much. :)

Anyhow, I digress.  Looking forward to a great day meeting people in Medworth tomorrow as the big start of a positive, upbeat and honest campaign.  Jess Oliver and I will see you soon!

Dispersal

Dispersal

The Police attended the meeting of Wisbech Town Council last night to give a report of their activities in the town.

They clarified the “Dispersal Order” in Waterlees – explaining that the common perception is wrong and that the Police will not “take home” Under 16s who are not committing a crime, only the ones who are involved in antisocial behaviour or criminal damage.

I raised my hand to ask a question because this seemed an odd statement to me. First I thanked them for the clarification as this new explanation did not match what we had previously been told. But then I asked what purpose the “Dispersal Order” served if this was the case.

Surely, if the Police arrive and the young people are committing a crime – ie antisocial behaviour or criminal damage then the Police already have the power to (at the very least) take them home – or even arrest them? So if the Police are not, after all, going to be picking up under 16s and taking them home if they aren’t committing a crime, what does the dispersal order add?

The Officer gave an example: If they had a call alerting them to a disturbance in the Adventure Playground which included descriptions of youths who were throwing eggs or similar then they could go there and pick up the youths who matched the descriptions and take them home.

This all seemed a bit odd to me, it didn’t quite fit together. “If they are committing a crime, surely you could already have arrested them, or escorted them home? I still don’t see what the dispersal order adds.”

“If we turned up and tried to disperse the youths and they told us they were not going to move, and if they were not doing anything wrong when we arrived, we would not have the power to move them,” was the explanation.

But if the Police turn up and the youths aren’t doing anything wrong, then they wont move them anyway – if their explanation of their intended use of the Dispersal Order is true. They said at the start they wouldn’t be using the powers on youths who were not committing a crime.

When I ask the same question several times and get answers which contradict one another it makes me wonder if I’m just not making myself clear, or if somebody is trying to avoid telling me something.

If the intention of the Police is to regularly turn up at “hot spots” and use their new powers to send groups of youths home based on a phone call and a vague description then they should just say so. I expect quite a lot of people would support that, and at least it would be clear.

I remain unsure what they will do when the youths immediately leave the home and head back to where they came from. Or what they will do if the youths say: “No, I’m seventeen.” Or even what they will do if the youths simply run in every direction and come back ten minutes later.

It seems that the only thing the dispersal order really does it to stop groups of young people from hanging around together. I can’t see it will really stop them at all, since young people do tend to want to hang around together and generally wont stop simply because other people don’t approve of it. Seems to me it’ll just make them have to do it somewhere the Police can’t stop them or they can easily get away.

If the Police have the resources to enact this dispersal order, attending every day to keep groups from gathering, then I have to ask why they weren’t there before – using those same resources to prevent the crime?

Nobody could sensibly oppose measures to cut down on crime and antisocial behaviour.  But there are two simple questions.  If somebody is committing a crime, why aren’t you arresting them?  And if somebody is not committing a crime, why are you harassing them?

Medworth By-Election, October 2014

Medworth By-Election, October 2014

There will be a by-election in October for the Wisbech Medworth seat vacated by Jonathan Farmer since the verdict from his court case.  I have been selected as the Conservative candidate.  Jonathan Farmer will be one of my nominees and I will be campaigning with his blessing and support.

There is likely to also be a by-election for the Town Council seat, though at the time of writing that one has not yet been called.

Therefore, I’m afraid we are about to have a frenetic few weeks of election chaos.  I do not yet know who my opponents are going to be although the rumour is that UKIP will be putting up a guy called Andrew Hunt.  I expect Labour will field a candidate.  I do not know if there will be any others.

I intend to run a strong and vigorous campaign, as I always do.  I will attempt to knock on every door and the people of the ward will hopefully see me out and about, with my small but well-formed team of hard-working volunteers.

It’s true we don’t have a gaudy purple “battle bus”, nor union colleagues to ship in from miles away – we are simply local people who believe in hard work, straight-talking and honesty.  I hope very much that the good people of Medworth will elect me to represent them as best I am able.

I’ll be blogging during the campaign to let anybody who is interest know what I’m up to and where.  If you live in Medworth then I very much look forward to meeting you soon.

I should add that I do also live in Medworth, that I was married while living in Medworth, that my Son was born while living in Medworth and that I work in Medworth and own three properties in the ward (a house and two shops.)  Therefore, I understand first hand what the issues and concerns are of my neighbours.

See you out there, soon!

people power