Category Archives: By-Election

Introducing Councillor Ben Prest

Introducing Councillor Ben Prest

After a month or more of hard campaigning, the Conservative candidate Ben Prest was elected tonight to represent the Kirkgate Ward on Wisbech Town Council.  At Nineteen years of age, I believe that makes him quite possibly the youngest Town Councillor ever elected in Wisbech?

Ben is a bright, eloquent and charming young man and I think he will be a fantastic Councillor.

The victory belongs to Ben, but he was helped by the local Conservative team who worked hard to make sure this young man had every chance.

Ben won with enough votes to beat both the other candidates put together, which, for a young man in his first ever election, is quite a feat.  Somebody said it was “youth versus experience”, which I don’t think was quite right (some sorts of experience are not particularly welcome).  I think that being a fresh face, an earnest and genuine young man, and being a true local candidate were probably the deciding factors.  People seem to prefer candidates who live where they live, or at least very close.  But whatever it was, Ben won very clearly.  Congratulations to him.

North Ward / Waterlees Has Three New Councillors

North Ward / Waterlees Has Three New Councillors

Following the abrupt and expensive resignations of Cllrs Lay, Bucknor and Bucknor from Wisbech Town Council, a by-election has been held to find three replacements.

The political battleground was a straight duel between Labour and the Conservatives.

Labour threw everything and the kitchen sink at it.  Volunteers were drafted in from far and wide and the most comprehensive campaign I’ve seen them run in recent years took place.

I think that letting the Bucknors have a free ride for years has seriously harmed their base in the area, because despite giving it their best and throwing lots of resources at it, they failed to make the mark they hoped.  Nevertheless, they ran a clean campaign and did not get bogged down in the nastiness and vitriol seen from other quarters.  They can be proud of their part in a well-fought and fair by-election.

I am pleased and proud that all three seats were won, comfortably, by the three Conservative candidates; Andy Maul, Laura Cobb and Andrew Lynn.  All three are completely fresh faces to the local political scene and I am looking forwards to working with them for many years to come.

North Ward / Waterlees By-Election, Part 2

North Ward / Waterlees By-Election, Part 2

Just returned from a hectic afternoon canvassing with the North Ward / Waterlees Conservative team.
There was a huge pack of us out today and we managed to canvass and leaflet a large area.
This campaign is a lot of fun as everybody seems to know all three of our candidates so well. Not sure I’ve ever been on a campaign where the candidates seem to know every person, their partner, their kids, their grandparents in quite this way before :) But its brilliant to be working with such a passionate and LOCAL team.

North Ward / Waterlees By-Election

North Ward / Waterlees By-Election

Wisbech Conservatives did not want three by-elections in August.

We’ve already had enough elections this year.
We didn’t want to have to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money on another one. It could have been better spent on the actual town than another election
Nevertheless, Alan Lay decided he was too old to go on, and the Bucknors quit out of the blue also. So we have had no choice but to find candidates.
But they say every cloud has a silver lining and this particular silver lining is a great one. Because we have three FANTASTIC Conservative candidates for Waterlees/North Ward.
People say they want local candidates, people who are known in the area and who know the area. People who understand the local issues and are invested in the community.
We have three people exactly like that. Three candidates who we are sure will work very hard for North Ward / Waterlees. Three candidates who can join Billy Rackley (at Town Council) and Steve Tierney (as the County Councillor) to finally begin to deliver the services and support that local people deserve.
Andrew Lynn – Born and Bred in North Ward / Waterlees. Proud Son of Wisbech. Has worked for years with the homeless and is a foster carer.
Andy Maul – Proprietor of Bygones Cafe, the much-loved diner in the town centre. Well known and well-respected by his friends and customers, Andy wants to work with Wisbech Town Council to return the Market Place to glory, investing in and growing what it offers for everybody.
Laura Cobb – Teaching Assistant at Orchards School. Born n’ Bred North Ward / Waterlees, friendly, helpful and approachable. Laura is keen to see more services for families and children, in particular the rebuilding and expansion of the Skate Park in the ward.
These are the three candidates that have been selected to represent the Conservatives in the by-election at the end of August. More information will be forthcoming as the campaign progresses, of course.
But that’s a *strong* team, isn’t it? A strong team for North Ward / Waterlees. A strong team for the Town Council. A strong team for Wisbech.

Thoughts On Roman Bank

Thoughts On Roman Bank

On Strangleholds
The Wisbech Standard has a nice piece on last night’s by-election result.  It’s a shame that in an otherwise fairly decent article they felt the need to use adjectives like “stranglehold” in regards to the fact that the Conservatives have a majority.  After all, if you want to refer to a majority and use colourful language there are many ways to do it.  Could it not have been the Conservative’s “warm embrace”, or the Conservative’s “group hug” or if you wanted to be neutral it could have been the Conservative’s “majority management.”  It may be that opposition voters consider any Conservative majority a “stranglehold” just as Conservative voters may consider UKIP’s control of our four County Council seats a “stranglehold” – but in reality it is simply the result of the votes of the majority of people in the area at hand, isn’t it?

On Labour
Barry Diggle dropped quite a lot of support for Labour since the last election and this is a little odd.  Labour have not been a strong contender in Roman Bank for many years – nor anywhere in Fenland really – but they’ve always had a solid support base to rely on.  Barry is a good candidate – a decent man who commands a lot of respect in the area.  So where has their support gone?  A few voted tactically for us to keep UKIP out.  I expect a little also went to UKIP.  But it looks like many may have just stayed home.  Given that Barry is a perfectly good candidate and there is only one year to go before a general election in which they currently hold a poll lead, if I were Labour I’d be really worried about that.

On The Lib Dems
Oh dear.  Not so long ago the Liberal Democrats were the main opposition to the Conservatives in Fenland.  Only a couple of years later all but one of their Councillors has left, they are openly admitting they cannot find candidates in the area at all which is why they have to field people from March, and out of an electorate of more than 5000 people they have managed to convince just twenty-four to vote for them.  Some of their vote has come to us, but the majority appears to have gone to UKIP.   During our doorstep canvassing we encountered quite a lot of Lib Dem to UKIP switchers – something that amazes me.  I mean, really, how can somebody switch from the Lib Dems to UKIP?  That’s like switching from sugar to salt, or from fresh cream to lemons.

On Independents
People in Fenland, with two well-known exceptions, never seem very keen on Independents.  I think it’s because you simply can’t “know” somebody from the bumf they put out at election time.  People like an idea of policy positions in a range of areas and voting for a party candidate provides that in a broad way.  Otherwise, somebody might seem like a perfectly lovely fella’ but who knows how they’d vote once elected?  They might spend the entire period promoting their own business interests, or just holding petition after petition after petition.  Too much of a role of the dice for most people, I expect.  Seventy votes isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I reckon the Lib Dems would have been pleased to get that.  I noticed in the newspaper article that the Candidate said he was presently “doing a lot of voluntary work.”  Didn’t he recently say in a letter to both newspapers that pointing out you sometimes work for free was unnecessary?  I’d have liked to know what voluntary work he did – sometimes that helps the cause in question to get a higher profile and more help, which is always useful.  Sadly, no detail was provided.

A year ago UKIP took this area – and the other three local seats – with a sizeable swing from the Conservatives.  In twelve months they appear to have shed a huge proportion of their vote.  We knew this because people had been telling us on the canvass trail.  Many people said they’d given UKIP a try because they were unhappy about issues on a national level but that they’d been disappointed with the candidates; their lack of visibility and their poor performance.  Of course, saying that and voting that way are two different things – so we thought we might have a win but we didn’t know until those votes were counted from the boxes.  In the Wisbech Standard Cllr Alan Lay makes two interesting comments.  First, he whines that “it was only the two of them” on their campaign.  I would have thought the fact that they struggle to find campaign volunteers in an area where they have a “stranglehold” on the County Council seats is pretty damning actually.  Except that it’s not true.  We encountered at least two ‘Kippers who were not Clapp and Lay on the Campaign trail – I’m not sure how those volunteers will feel about being painted out of the picture.  Perhaps that’s why you struggle to find volunteers, guys?  People don’t appreciate having their efforts undermined in the press.  Maybe that’s why two of your old activists were out helping us on the campaign trail this time?  Thank you David and Will.  We appreciate everything you did.  And what about the UKIP battle bus?  That purple monstrosity that was cruising around Roman Bank all election day ferrying folk about?  Sounds like it might have been just a bit more than “the two of you”, huh?  Then he says: “We came second, so that’s not too bad.”  I like a man who can put a positive spin on the fact that the electorate had a chance to cast a ballot on the performance over the last twelve months and did so by saying, essentially, “sling ‘yer hook, mate.”

In Conclusion
We were not the favourites to win.  The bookies’ favourite was UKIP.  They won last time, and this one was on the brink of the Euro Elections with their populist “message” getting massive media coverage.  Maybe people just got sick of the void of local activity and policy?  Maybe the fear of Fifty Billion Martians coming to eat our babies is getting a bit old?  Maybe people have simply started to see that “common sense” sometimes means “nonsense” and “the truth” something means the opposite.  I think we won this election for three reasons.  We won it because people have seen UKIP in action and know now what electing them means.  We won it because we ran a strong, old-fashioned Campaign and lots of wonderful local people came out to help.  And we won it because Samantha Clark is a fantastic candidate; well-liked, well-respected, honest, caring and genuine.  And local.  It seems people do like that after all.  Who’d have thought? :)

Roman Bank Wisbech. By Election. Conservative team celebrating the win.
Photo borrowed from Wisbech Standard Article HERE.
Picture: Steve Williams.  

Congratulations Councillor Sam Clark

 Congratulations Councillor Sam Clark

CLARK Conservative 763 48.08%
COUNT Lib Dem 24 1.51%
DIGGLE Labour 193 12.16%
LAY UKIP 537 33.84%
MURAT Independent 70 4.41%
1 spoilt paper      
Turnout 29.7%      

A resounding victory for our great Conservative candidate.  Well done Sam, and well done the people of Roman Bank!  Good decision.  I think Sam will do you proud.

Gorefield Public Meeting

Gorefield Public Meeting

Just over a week ago I was asked to organise a Public Meeting and Campaign Session for all seven of the Conservative MEP candidates for our region – and I had to do it (a) within a week and (b) on a Bank Holiday Monday!  Cue lots of pulling out hair and general panic on my part.  Particularly since I was doing this in the middle of a by-election campaign in the same area and that our MP, Steve Barclay, was also going to attend.

Never mind, we got there.  The candidates wanted to come to Roman Bank so I booked the village hall in Gorefield and then set about delivering hundreds of flyers to let people know it was on.  I had no idea what to expect – it’s not easy to get people to come to a political campaign meeting at the best of times, let alone on a Bank Holiday and let alone when it’s lovely and sunny!

In fact the hall was nearly full.  We had 67 attendees, plus the candidates.  The format was a short presentation by each candidate followed by a question and answer session with the audience.  A number of interesting questions were asked and the MEPs were well received by an interested and intelligent audience.

After this, the Candidates joined local Conservative candidate Samantha Clark on a mass canvass through Gorefield.  We were joined by two dozen Conservative activists and this meant we were able to roll effectively through the entire main area of the village taking in the High Road, Back Road, St Marks Road, Churchill Road and the Oxfield Drive Estate before we ran out of time.  Of course, we’ve already canvassed all these roads several times, but it’s nice to revisit houses where you didn’t catch anybody home and try and talk to the ones you missed last time.

After this we all decamped to Wetherspoons in Wisbech for a very pleasant lunch.  Then the team moved to the Market Square to talk to pedestrians and shoppers and generally to mingle.  I think some folk were surprised to see their MP, all seven of the Eastern Conservative MEP candidates and so many activists, but the reactions were friendly and engaged.

I then left the MEP team to get on with their road show and headed back into Roman Bank; specifically Newton and the long difficult Sutton Road stretch.  Only a few days to go until the By-Election and every second counts.  I’ll be glad, come the small hours of Friday morning, when this latest one is over and I can have a rest.  And hopefully, good people of Roman Bank be willing, a celebratory drink.  Fingers crossed.

Campaign team outside Wisbech Market Place.

Local Conservatives & Friends

Steve Barclay listening to resident

Chatting as the meeting hall begins to fill.

Steve Barclay MP, prospective Councillor Samantha Clark,
David Campbell-Bannerman MEP

Samantha Clark, thrown in the deep end! :) :)
MEP Candidates, Steve Barclay MP and Samantha Clark.

Steve Barclay MP with some of the MEP candidates.

You can’t have a meeting without tea!

Steve Barclay MP and Vicki Ford MEP – involved in some debate!

Cllr Garry Tibbs

Cllr Samantha Hoy & James Barker

An “action shot” – :) :)  Canvassing in Gorefield High Street

The Conservative cohort and Friends outside the hall.

Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Gorefield And Leverington

Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Gorefield And Leverington

Something strange happened to our campaign team today.  It started out quite small, just Samantha Clark, Stevie, Elliot and I.  But then throughout the day people kept appearing and joining us until, by the end, we were eleven strong!

We spent the morning in Gorefield, working our way down the High Street and many of the roads that lead from it.  Then we grabbed what was meant to be a quick lunch – but took nearly an hour due to the Bank Holiday business – and ducked across the A1101 to the bit of Leverington that is closest to Wisbech.  At the same time we had volunteers along Sutton Road and also in the main area of Leverington, completing the leaflet delivering to some of the roads we hadn’t reached yet.

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Signed, sealed, delivered.  She’s your Conservative Candidate.

We were lucky with the weather.  Beautiful and sunny, making the walking a pleasure.  We are close to our first complete circuit now.  All we have left to do is to get to some of the country roads that are very long with few houses on them – these get left because they require a team with a car to realistically do them.  Plus a few roads that have missed our routes so far.  But not many.  We’ll get to those before the end of the week.

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Brenda, Tony, Sam, Steve, Stevie.  In Leverington.

By next week we hope to begin circuit #2.  This means going back to all the areas we’ve already visited, canvassing people who weren’t in the first time and delivering our second leaflet.  That will then take us to the final stages of the campaign where we may or may not put out a third piece of literature, depending on whether we need to respond to anything the opposition are doing.  Frankly, they don’t appear to be doing much.  UKIP have two leaflets out, the one which just goes on about how Alan Lay “always tells the truth” and a generic “29 Million Europeans Want To Steal Your Job” type thingy.  Actually, we bumped into Alan Lay briefly today.  In the absence of custard pies and water pistols, we said: “Hello!” instead. ;)

Peatlings Lane with local friends Alina and Bob.

I have not yet encountered anybody who says they are going to vote Independent.  In fact, the only comment I’ve heard is: “What has Wisbech Town Council got to do with our village?”  It’s a fair point.  Labour and the Lib Dems don’t appear to have put out any leaflet at all yet, nor canvassed anywhere.

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You’ve got to be in it, to win it.  

Still enjoying the campaign immensely.  It’s a great team, with a great candidate.  And these are villages I love.  What’s not to like?

Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Tydd St. Giles

Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Tydd St. Giles

We made inroads into Tydd & Gorefield today.  A smaller team than previously, probably due to it being Easter and all, but still a very good day.

We started in Tydd St Giles, canvassing all the central area of the village.  Tydd St. Giles is probably the village where I know the most people and so I always enjoy walking around there and saying “Hi” to old friends.  Usually, I know more people than anybody on a campaign team, having worked in the area for so many years.  But not anymore.  Literally, Sam Clark seems to know everybody.  Awash with energy, she zig-zags from one side of the street to another, greeting people by their first name, introducing us to one of her relations, regaling us with tales of how she knows this person and that person.  It’s a lot of fun!

We enjoyed refreshments in Gorefield and then moved on for a couple of hours there – but this wasn’t primarily a Gorefield day.  Those are coming next week.  So we stuck mainly to a few key areas where we know our support is strong.  We’ll be back for a more thorough canvass shortly.

Nobody appears to have seen hide nor hair of the Lib Dems or Labour.  Perhaps they are keeping their powder dry until the campaign has progressed a little?  UKIP have been around somewhat, though I’m not picking up news of much activity and people’s enthusiasm for them appears to have waned.  As one gentleman said to me today: “Every week there’s some new crazy thing they’ve said or done.”  Quite.  But they do maintain some die-hards, as you might imagine.  One man told me he was: “Voting UKIP because there was going to be a mosque in Wisbech.”  It’s rare that I’m stumped for words on the campaign trail, but that was a puzzler.  How do you respond to that?  I mean, as far as I know, Wisbech isn’t inundated with devout Muslims, but I could be wrong.  Maybe they are hiding?  Maybe they’ve got some secret plan to conquer us all.  There is that big empty old Court House after all…. ;)

The Independent Candidate, Erbie Murat, has been seen here and there.  A lady told me a very funny story about his visit to her, but since I have no way of confirming the truth of it, it would be improper for me to relate it.  It did make me chuckle though.

We didn’t quite get a full day in because Sam had a function to attend and I needed to get back to the office and collate the data from the previous week.  Also, my feet were sore.  I’m out of shape!  But by the end of this campaign I’ll be back to normal.  Walking (what seems like) hundreds of miles has a way of sorting out your condition.  Funny how nobody has thought of political campaigning as a new exercise regime.  I think there’s something to be said for it.

There still a lot to do, but I’m pleased with the campaign so far.  People seem very supportive of Sam as the local candidate.  The fact that she is so well-known and -liked is a big help.  People know that with Sam Clark they will be voting for a genuine, caring and compassionate local lady.

Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Day 2

Roman Bank Campaign 2014 – Day 2

When I say “Day 2” I don’t really mean Day 2, of course.  It’s just the second day I’ve been out with the canvass team.  In fact we’ve been in Campaign Mode for over a week, delivering leaflets, attending functions, knocking on doors, calling people up.  Outside of “Official Campaign Days” the rest of the Campaign is always a frenetic ongoing mass of activity.

Three teams were out today.  My team were in Foul Anchor in the morning while the other two leafleted in Leverington.  Then we all moved to Leverington for canvassing later in the day.  We didn’t have the glorious weather of Day 1, but the rain held off until lunchtime and by then we were inside, drinking tea and eating ham rolls at the day’s HQ in Four Gotes.

Leverington is the largest of the villages in Roman Bank and has a very diverse mix of people who call it home.  I’ve always enjoyed canvassing Leverington because I know a lot of folks there and also because there’s never a dull day – something interesting always happens.

Three things stick out in my mind about today’s Campaign.  The first was that I encountered some UKIP-Con switchers.  This is new for me.  Until their meteoric rise last May UKIP weren’t really “a thing” in most places, but when we did encounter their supporters it was usually because they had switched from the Conservatives over some national issue; gay marriage, our EU membership, spare room subsidy – whatever the angry cause of the day was.  UKIP have enjoyed some electoral success, but that has come with a price – public exposure.  Although the local press are still giving them a mostly easy ride, there has been such a series of gaffs, problems and criminality that even a friendly local media can’t completely protect them.  So it is that we’ve had to create brand new codes for our sheets; the UKIP “waiverer” and the UKIP-CON switcher.  We don’t mind.  We just shake their hands and say: “Welcome home.”

2014-04-17 12.35.41

One of my colleagues encountered that most rare and exciting of creatures; the Campaign Troll.  Most people, even those who don’t support your party, are polite and friendly at the door.  Even the grumpy ones can usually be won around by a polite: “Well thanks for your time, have a great day!”  But there are some who are just perpetually furious with your party and want to tell you – loudly and angrily – about all the things they hate.  The list can include things which have nothing to do with you, things that a different party did, things you have no power over, things that happened decades earlier or even before you were born, and occasionally things that never happened at all and have apparently been invented out of thin air.  I call these people Campaign Trolls, though they do not usually live under a bridge.  Under a cloud, maybe.  We had one of these today.  Initially he told us that he used to vote Conservative, but had switched to Labour and then to UKIP.  After telling us at some great length what he disliked about Margaret Thatcher, Immigration, Tony Blair, Immigration, Young People, North Sea Oil, the NHS and, for some reason, the Royal Jubilee celebrations, he brought his argument to a powerful conclusion:  “I called your candidate six months ago,” he said, “And what did she do?  Nothing.  Useless, she is.  Useless.”  When we pointed out that our candidate is brand new and has never been a District Councillor before he looked a little embarrassed.  We tried to give him an easy out by saying: “I’m sure it was just a mistake, perhaps you meant somebody else,” but he was having none of it.  “She is a Parish Councillor,” he said, hitting triumphantly on the wording in her leaflet.  “That’s why I called her!”
“She’s a Parish Councillor in Newton,” we gently pointed out.  “This is Leverington.  Leverington has its own Parish Council.”
“Well,” He roared, “It doesn’t matter anyway!  You’re all the same.  That’s why I never vote.”
“But you told us you voted Conservative, Labour and UKIP…”

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The final surprise was in a quiet and pleasant little back road in Leverington.  I had just finished a lovely Conservation with an older lady about the new Tesco (she was very keen on it) in Wisbech when a colleague rushed up to me pointing excitedly at his canvass sheets.  “Look, look!” He said.  I stared at the columns and there, amongst the Cs and Us and Ks and Ss (Conservative, Undecided, UKIP, Socialist) there was a single “L”.  My colleague had circled it for emphasis.  “Wow,” I said.  “An L?  What IS that?  How strange.”  So rare now is it to have Ls on our canvass cards that finding one is a little bit like when a trainspotter sees some really obscure engine.  The rest of our team approached muttering “Oohs” and “Ahs” at the strange sigil which adorned the column.  “Who’d have thought?” I said.  “We’ve found the only Liberal Democrat In The Village.”  We considered some sort of protection order.  It’s not that we are particularly big fans of Liberal Democrats, but when something is this rare and endangered we have a duty to protect the last of its kind.  After all, who wants to live in a world where Liberal Democrats are extinct?  Oh.  Wait….   : )

2014-04-17 13.45.17

The Independent Candidate Erbie Murat has chosen to go for the “no frills” approach with his literature and printed a plain piece of white paper on a single side.  That’s cool and kinda “old school”.  I like it.  Colour and design are less important than message, right?  Erbie’s main message is to tell everybody about his “Honesty & Integrity” and also to point out his great and long experience in local government both in Peterborough and Wisbech.  You’d think that with all those years experience he’d know how to write a proper election imprint.   It’s a pretty tiny thing since he did include his name and address and the abbreviation “p&p” which may stand for “printed and promoted by” or may stand for “postage and packing” – but those Election Law folk are sticklers for the rules and his imprint is not formatted correctly.  Clearly he didn’t mean anything by it – and I’m certainly not going to be reporting him to the Electoral Commission for such a small mistake.  But for somebody making their pitch on how experienced they are, it seems a little careless. After all, the correct format is explained in the information pack you get when you become a candidate.

2014-04-17 13.45.41

I found the UKIP leaflets fascinating.  It’s a little scrappy purple thing that has no policy or plan whatsoever and simply says: “We tell the truth” in various ways over and again.  I chuckled at the bit that says: “a trait that is common amongst all UKIP Councillors – the truth” and I wondered – did anybody tell Lagoda?  I mean – he’s Independent now – but he wasn’t over the course of the previous year while he was telling everybody how innocent he was.  Also noticed that Alan Lay seems to think that he is standing for “Roman Bank Wards” – it’s one District ward Alan.  Just one.  Not a whole bunch.  #sigh  God forbid anybody chooses to elect Lay again – can you imagine how many letters to the paper we’d have then?  The Wisbech Standard would need a new section, “Letters From Lay.”  :)

All that aside it was a thoroughly enjoyable day in Leverington talking to local people and just enjoying the the sights and sounds of the village.  Already looking forwards to our return visit next week!