Category Archives: Kirkgate
Word reaches me that the usual fellows have been grumbling (incorrectly) that the plans for improvements to Spider Park in Kirkgate Ward have been something that was only mentioned as there is an election. Apparently, one of the tiny group has even promised to “go back through Town Council minutes.”
In order to save them some time, the minutes they are looking for can be found on the Wisbech Town Council website here from the November meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee.
Cllr David Patrick, or “Sour Grapes” Patrick as I may now have to call him, has really gotten himself in a rage over comments on Facebook recently. It all started with the obligatory Wisbech Standard article published on command. This is the specific comment which has caused the Taxi Warrior to become so furious:
Its a pack of lies, but when you never ever do anything other than promote your business interests I suppose thats not surprising. Dave patrick approached me a few weeks ago and asked me to stop pointing out his bull on social media. I agreed to take it easy on him if he’d stop spinning yarns. Well Dave, the gloves are off.
He decided that this comment was the straw that broke the camel’s back and came back with the following:
I shall make this one comment and one comment only with regards Steve Tierneys calling it all a pack of lies I am sure he has made all the enquiries to quantify this. I doubt it very mugh but then if he speaks to the town clerk and the Roddons officer. With regards promoting my business interests I do that in my own name and not through the media. So rather than just call me a liar regarding the letter I wrote qualify your statement as to how I am a liar. Gloves off ? You have never been any better than a boxing booth fighter always trying to hit below the belt when under pressure. It seems as though should you wish to criticise we cannot reply but what ever others outside your group do or so is met with by sordid response by you and your cohorts. Freedom of speech only seems to suit what you say and not others. With regards some of your comments I do not rate people who make things PERSONAL and outside of politics you remind me of a playground bully.
And then I said:
You can say what you like, mate David Patrick but I suggest you read what I wrote before you get your knickers in a twist. Happy to write an extensive blog post pulling apart your claims about Rob McLaren if you want me to? Alternatively, you can always try another Standard’s Board Complaint based on fanciful inventions, if you like? I’d have thought you might be a bit busy with your crusade against FACT though? What is it they do, again? Ferry people around? Merry Christmas indeed.
Now I know what you are thinking, dear reader. It sounds like a lot of silly squabbling. And yes, you’d be right. Except that dug into these comments are some claims that really have to be refuted, or else they stand forever as though they are true. So if you can’t bear these long squabbly posts then I recommend nipping off for a cuppa and coming back when it’s all over. Otherwise, since Dave has asked me to ‘quantify’ my comments, I shall proceed to honour his request.
First, some clarifications. You will notice that in his Facebook comment, Taxi Dave that I called something “ALL a pack of lies*.” This is spin. What happens is that in order to make something fit their desired rhetoric the spinner slips in a word or two that change the emphasis of the statement. It’s subtle and you’ve got to look for it carefully, but it’s a common tactic. In this instance the word Dave has slipped in is “ALL.” In fact, I didn’t say “It is ALL a pack of lies.” That is a small but substantial difference because it suggests that there are a number of deceptions, but not that everything is a deception. This is because when somebody is crafting a piece of spin for the newspaper they always mix in some facts in the way a drug dealer might disguise their white powder with flour to deceive the forces of law and order.
So let’s have a look at the claims Dave Patrick made in the newspaper:
1. It was Paul Clapp, UKIP county councillor, who stood beside him gathering signatures for the Walsoken crossing petition. No Tory councillors supported it, In fact they spoke against the petition.
This is true, but it’s also only half of the truth, if you care about the whole picture. Paul Clapp did indeed stand beside Rob McLaren just long enough to get some signatures and a picture in the newspaper. Funny that. However, he did not stand beside him at the key moment – when it came to preparing an LHI bid and submitting it in order that it might actually have some chance of being enacted. Dave Patrick is also being creative with his phrasing when he says that “Tory Councillors” “spoke against” the petition. Because we did not speak against the actual idea, as he well knows. What we criticised was the way it had been gone about. Because we knew full well the only way it was going to be possible was by an LHI bid. Which is a fairly simply task. You prepare the bid and submit it. We offered to help them do so. We also know that since those bids are run by County Council, Paul Clapp, a County Councillor, should also have known all this and been able to advise on it. Instead, Paul Clapp appears to have led Rob McLaren about it in the longest and most publicity-seeking way possible, then deserted him when it came to actually preparing the bid and presenting it. Instead, the UKIP Councillors who showed up supported an alternative bid, the 20 MPH Zone one favoured by the Bucknors. Curious, huh?
2. I fully supported the zebra crossing petition and drove Robert to Cambs County Council in order for him to present it.
I propose that this is untrue. The reason it is untrue is because of Cllr Patrick’s use of the word “fully.” Sure, he paid lip service to Rob’s plans when it came to driving to County Council to present the bid. But that was a trip that never needed to happen and it achieved the sum total of the Committee there saying: “Go back to Town Council and submit an LHI bid” (or words to that effect) which is precisely what I had been suggesting all along. However, if you want to claim that you have “fully” supported something, then I propose that you need to have supported it as much as you feasibly could. That’s what “fully” means. In this instance, Dave Patrick admits he went to County Council to present the petition, so he must therefore have known that their advice was to put in an LHI bid. Had he “fully” supported the bid then he would have helped Rob put the bid in, or put it in himself, or at the very least not tried to push the 20 MPH bid ahead of it.
3. All the Independent councillors fully supported the Walsoken zebra crossing bid at town council and could not understand why Robert allowed the Conservatives to present rather than himself. The Independents even encouraged this councillor to take the credit we felt he duly deserved.
The first part of this is untrue for the same reason as (2) above, the use of the word “fully” – and for all the same reasons. However, I had to laugh at the later claim that they “could not understand why Robert allowed the Conservatives to present rather than himself.” When they arrived at that meeting and Rob McLaren was sitting beside them, they knew that the Walsoken Crossing had not been submitted as a bid. I suggest that this was because they wanted their preferred 20 MPH Zone to be this year’s bid and that they threw Rob McLaren’s idea under the traffic in favour of it, but that’s just my personal view. Nevertheless, since they knew there was no bid coming from Rob McLaren how “surprised” could they have been that he didn’t present it? Not very. The surprise, if there was one, was that the Conservatives had actually bothered to prepare a bid that they had been big in promoting, but utterly failed to actually present.
4. Unfortunately Robert walked out of our regular Walsoken surgery rather than engage with residents, the Roddons staff and the Fenland District Council officer because he did not agree with the way the meeting was being conducted. Many of the problems raised at that meeting have been resolved including the Fenland road potholes.
He “walked out” did he? “Rather than engage with residents?” If you’re going to make an accusation like that then you need to provide some evidence. If what you actually mean is that he left, because he thought you were running a sham surgery rather than actually dealing with issues, then that’s not the same as “walking out” is it? Walking out, in the way you phrased it, carries the connotation of a fit of pique, particularly when paired with your further qualifications. Would it be fairer to you both to say that you: “had a disagreement on the best way to help residents?” I suspect it would. One of your wanted to help them by getting in the newspaper a lot, whereas the other wanted to actually – you know – do stuff? You tell me, I don’t know.
5. I continue to hold surgeries for residents with Roddons/Circle Anglia and Fenland Council officers. Robert fails to attend.
Well we know that Robert McLaren has attended surgeries previously, because Dave Patrick says so earlier in the article. The blank statement “Robert fails to attend” could mean many things. It could mean that Robert could not attend a date because of a family issue – in just the same way Dave Patrick has not always made meetings this year. It could mean that Rob McLaren could not attend because of a diary clash. Or it could just mean that Rob McLaren thinks some “surgeries” might be a waste of time because some other Councillor spends all his waking hours trying to do battle with a charity bus service that might trim a little bit off of his own profit margin. I don’t know. What I do know is that the statement is vague and potentially misleading. It says “Robert fails to attend” – but only moments before Cllr Patrick had referred to “their regular surgeries” suggesting that on many occasions Rob McLaren had certainly attended. Otherwise, why use the word “their” and not “my?”
6. Robert refused to support a 20mph speed limit in residential areas, yet he put up posters on bollards in Walsoken telling people to slow down.
Um, no. Robert McLaren stood right alongside the Independents trying to push their 20MPH Zone. I was there. Alright, he didn’t claim to have “extensively canvassed his residents” in the way that both Patrick and the Bucknors did. Probably because Rob had not extensively canvassed his residents and so didn’t want to tell lies about it. Rob was a little more open to listening to the debate about it that they were – probably because he hadn’t decided exactly what the outcome would be in advance. But Rob McLaren did support their bid – right up until the moment that it came into conflict with the Walsoken Crossing that he had petitioned for, presented to County Council, been in the newspapers with and promised to his constituents. At that point, unlike some, Rob McLaren was unable to do something sneaky for political gain and just voted for the Walsoken crossing. It was an unpleasant situation for him, but it was not one of his own making. I propose, dear reader, that he had been royally stitched up. But that’s for you to decide.
Earlier in the year when this was all going on I blogged about it extensively. I was a harsh critic of Rob McLaren because I thought he was going about things the wrong way. But it was clear that what was really going on was that Rob McLaren was being used, like a pawn in a bitter game of chess. He trusted people, because that’s in his nature, he is a good guy. But once he realised what was going on he had enough of it. And who can blame him?
Now, a few other remarks from the article which need a response:
With regard to Jasmine Park and the need for play equipment, I have had numerous meetings with the Fenland Council leader as well as the cabinet member with responsibility for open spaces and parks, and I continue to push for this funding for my ward.
Here’s an idea, Dave. Instead of “pushing for” funding (whatever that means) how about doing some actual fundraising? How about setting up a community group to champion the idea. You could help them put bids to organisations that give grants. How about that?
Although it can be frustrating, things do not happen overnight and no political party has a magic wand to wave that will grant you all your wishes.
I like this one. I’m going to save it and quote it back to him the next time he or his allies demands a “quick fix” from the Magic Money Tree.
With regards Robert’s Christmas decoration competition in our ward – apart from cheap publicity – what will this actually achieve for the people of Walsoken?
What a mean thing to say. And particularly galling coming from one of the masters of “cheap publicity.” But let me answer the question. It might make them feel a bit more festive. It might brighten their mood. It might encourage one or two to put up some more lights, also making people feel more festive and brighten to mood. It might foster more community spirit. It might remind people that they actually have a local Councillor who is interested in something other than Taxis. Who knows? But the entirety of Rob’s “cheap publicity” was a couple of messages on Facebook. Which is a lot less exposure than Dave Patrick’s sour grapes rant in the Wisbech Standard, isn’t it? Make of that what you will.
With regards the “Conservatives get things done” comment – the very state of our town suggests otherwise.
Why does it? The “state of the town” (notice, Patrick doesn’t clarify what he means by that) is what precisely? Whatever it is he is referring to I bet you that the Conservatives have been working to improve it – but that’s impossible to say since he leaves his statement open and vague. Either way, Dave, although it can be frustrating, things do not happen overnight and no political party has a magic wand to wave that will grant you all your wishes. Hmmm?
The town’s Christmas lights, whilst great for the few days they are there, were paid for by our residents’ council tax rather than a lights appeal carried out over the year – which was agreed at town council but not undertaken by the Tory councillor who said he would do it.
I presume Dave is referring to me. I have done exactly what I said I would do, so this is a lie. Unless he is not referring to me, in which case he should clarify which “Tory Councillor” has not done what they said they would do. As Dave knows full well, we have never said that the Lights Appeal would take place before the work was quoted on because until it was quoted on the public could not be surveyed – and until they were surveyed we could not proceed.
The £30,000 set aside should not have been necessary. It does not add up much to actually improving the state of our town, particularly when Wisbech Foodbank is in such demand.
Whereas pointless dead end Standards Boards complaints, a load of unenforceable signs saying “20 MPH” and the closure of the much loved F.A.C.T. Community Bus service would be a wonderful addition to the “state of the town” and fill the bellies of the hungry? Pull the other one, Dave, it’s got bells on.
I have no doubt that following the publication of this letter I will receive the usual tirade of abuse from some of Robert’s new best friends on social media – after all it is what some of them do best.
If you think the scrutiny and challenge you receive from me on this blog and elsewhere are “a tirade of abuse” then you must have led a sheltered life. Perhaps, rather than just alluding to it, you could spell out what you qualify as a “tirade of abuse” otherwise this just looks like lies, doesn’t it?
I propose your problem, my friend, is that you don’t like challenge. The reason you don’t like challenge is that you are singularly poor at making your case. And the reason you are singularly poor at making your case is because you generally don’t have a case. But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.
*I should also point out that the comment “a pack of lies” carries no attribution. At no time did I specify what was a pack of lies and any presumption that I was referring to Dave Patrick’s Wisbech Standard rant is just that, a presumption. Nor did I specify who I was referring to who does nothing other than promote their own business. This may seem tricksy, dear reader, but this is what we bloggers do in order to protect ourselves from the repeated attempts to silence us. You’ll notice, if you look carefully at Dave Patrick’s article, that he performs a number of these same literate flourishes himself. Though I suspect that may have been the helpful work of another.
Connected. Or Not.
Like it or not, the times are changing. Social media is everywhere, in everything. As with any relatively new technology there will always be some who are phobic or precious about it, but with each month that passes more and more people are embracing the use of this new method of communication. We live in an ever more connected world and while that comes with a downside, it has some significant and powerful positives too.
Nowhere is this more true than Twitter. While Facebook caters to friends and family, more and more Twitter is becoming the medium of choice for politics. All over the country politicians of every hue and colour are taking to the Twitter Stream to report meetings live, to share their ideas, to invite contributions. Often, as one meeting is going on, hundreds of people are receiving information about it and making their own comment and subtle contributions. I doubt there has been anything else in recent times which has so immediately or powerfully brought the community back into their political process.
But council meetings have a grand tradition and as you would expect some people cling to those traditions passionately. So, occasionally, a council will try and use one method or another to ban Twitter during meetings. I’m proud to say that our County Council has embraced the modern world and welcomes all forms of communication; live Tweeting, video, audio and any variation. All are equally encouraged in the chamber. We take the view that Councillors and the public are capable of exercising discretion and care so that such activities can go on without disturbing the meeting or having any detrimental effect on participants. A public meeting is a public meeting. Anything that helps people who want to get involved do so is a benefit to us all. As far as I know there is cross-party agreement on this.
Unfortunately, such an open, modern and connected view of public proceedings isn’t shared by all. Recently, a Wisbech Town councillor of the Liberal Democrat variety has begun moaning about councillors tweeting during their meetings. Yes, you heard me right. A liberal is opposing public communication during meetings. I was as surprised as anyone. I mean – this is one of their things. Usually.
I wondered if this was a position other Liberal Democrats shared. So I asked around. This is what Liberal Democrat Cambridge City Cllr Sarah Brown said:
Sarah is one of several Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council who live tweet in their meetings. (A practice which the council support, I believe.) There have been Green and Labour tweeters there too, regularly.
Another Liberal Democrat, Cllr. Belinda Brooks-Gordon, who is an opposition colleague of mine at County Council responded to the suggestion that there was something ‘disrespectful’ about using Twitter to communicate with the public during meetings as follows:-
A couple of years ago I did share some of the reservations about tweeting. I wouldn’t have live tweeted during a meeting myself. But I’ve come to realise what an important and powerful tool Twitter is and how much it can benefit politics in general and the local people specifically. Even back when I was unsure, I wouldn’t have tried to ban other people using it though.
In regards to the “paying attention” argument, some people are better multi-taskers than others. Personally, I only tweet at “appropriate moments” like a lull between agenda items or during a long “sum up” of an item I already follow quite well because I’m not so good at doing two things at once. But I do believe that councillors are adults who are perfectly able to decide how often to tweet, when to tweet and when not to, in order to give the meeting and speakers the attention they deserve. I would have thought this was a position Liberals would all share, but I guess some of them are more Liberal than others.
Chatting to Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Manning, I got the following opinion:
All of which I’d agree with. Councillors do have an obligation to make sure they can follow what is going on and should not tweet if they are speaking or being spoken to. But this is obvious, isn’t it? I don’t think it requires a heavy-handed approach and I’d even suggest that trying to dictate how and when councillors communicate with the public is anti-democratic whether it is done from the chairman’s seat or by a muttered complaint from the opposition benches.
Interestingly, this debate has cropped up before. Sometimes, it’s old-fashioned Conservative councils who are struggling with the pace of modernity and feisty Liberals who are encouraging their councils to get with the times. Look here. Where way back in 2010 the Conservative-controlled council banned the use of phones in general and Twitter specifically. The Liberal Democrat campaigner Richard Baum said:
I think that it’s perfectly possible to send text messages to Twitter (or anywhere else actually) whilst in meetings without either disrupting that meeting or concentrating any less than is required. Sending a tweet takes a few seconds, and is a fine way of keeping people informed on what’s going on. To ban it is not forward-looking or fair, in my view. Even if phones have been banned for another reason, they’ve chucked the baby out with the bathwater with a blanket ban.
At the last meeting of the Council, I sent various tweets. I don’t think they interrupted the meeting in any way, since the phone I was using was out of view and on silent. The tweets told constituents what was going on, and were even picked up by the Manchester Evening News who broadcast them live online alongside those of their own journalist. There was no difference between texting my thoughts and writing them down, except that by texting them to Twitter I was letting my constituents know about them there and then.
In the end, it’s up to the chairman and controlling group to decide these things and councillors must abide by their decisions. In truth, this argument has been had many times before and I’m sure it will be had many times in the future. My own feeling about it is that Tweeting is just another communication tool. Like any other, it can be used for good or for ill. When it’s used for good, as it usually is when helping the public engage with meetings they might otherwise never know or care about, it’s a brilliant thing indeed. One by one, councils are coming to realise this. It is a shame that some individuals prefer to ban things than to try them.
Today was the much-touted “Wisbech Day” when Cambs County Council brought its cabinet to our town for a guest-studded breakfast, their cabinet meeting, a public meeting, a “civic leaders” meeting and an afternoon of breakout groups, road trips and workshops. The initiative, suggested by notorious newspaper editor John Elworthy and enthusiastically delivered by county leader Cllr Nick Clarke was eventful, interesting and – I really hope – ultimately very useful.
The breakfast (coffee and a tasty bacon bap, laid on by the Wisbech Standard god bless them) was a good chance to talk to councillors, business leaders, civic leaders, cabinet members of both Cambridgeshire County Council and Fenland District Council, members of the public who were invited because they read the local paper and council staff and officers. It was packed and everybody was friendly, talkative and engaged. We then listened to speeches by both FDC and CCC leaders, which set the tone for the day and spelled out past and current measures aimed specifically at our town.
We then moved on to the cabinet meeting which was conducted in the usual way. Opposition councillors took turns challenging cabinet on this policy or that and their interventions seemed, to me, to be more numerous than is the norm. Whether that was by chance or thanks to the special spotlight I do not know. If it was the latter then I’m surprised they left behind their best speakers. Not that I have any problem with councillors Stone, Van der Ven or Bourke, they are all very nice, intelligent (and no doubt hard-working) members. But if you’ve got a big game, you shouldn’t leave your best players on the bench. I almost don’t want to mention Cllr Van der Ven’s boo-boo because she seemed so embarrassed earlier and I do try and be a gentleman, but its just too tempting. She had travelled to the meeting by bus, to talk about the cuts to bus subsidies. So she spoke to the people on the bus, asking them why they were travelling. The reasons varied; going to a shop they ran, travelling to look for work, going to look after a disabled friend, going to save a kitten from a tree (or somethings like those, I can’t precisely remember.) She asked them what they thought about the fact that their bus was due to be cut and the horrified travellers expressed their outrage – which Cllr Van der Ven duly and somewhat triumphantly reported to cabinet. Except that the bus service she had travelled on was not a subsidised service. It is a commercial service – so it’s not going to be affected by the subsidy withdrawal. At all. You have to feel a little bit sorry for all those people on a successful, commercial service in the face of some (albeit accidental) scaremongering about losing a service that’s perfectly safe. Still, their loss was Labour’s gain. Cllr Tariq Sadiq, it must be said, played a blinder. Although I often disagree with the content of his arguments, I am always struck by how balanced, reasonable and constructive he can be. In regards to how opposition is coherently done, school was most definitely in.
Towards the end of the meeting my friend and colleague Cllr Hoy got up to talk about the huge new drainage project which she has successfully championed and brought forwards to protect and serve the people of Waterlees. Millions of pounds of vital investment, but the announcement was interrupted by a parade of placade-carrying taxi drivers who thought that, actually, their issue was more important. Now whenever I talk about Cllr. Patrick I get accused of “sour grapes” because he beat me in an election a few years ago (I’m really not a ‘sour grapes’ kinda guy, but you’d have to know me to know that.) So before I mention this particular ‘event’ I need to clarify a few things. First of all, I like Dave Patrick. He’s a friendly fella with a positive attitude and some sound ideas. He’s also an important local business leader. Second, in principle I share a lot of the concerns of his taxi driver cohorts. I’m a Conservative Libertarian – I’m no fan of over-regulation, nor of needless bureaucracy, nor of council initiatives which damage local enterprise.
The taxi drivers are (primarily) opposed to a plan to move their taxi rank up the road from its current location. They make good points and they are perfectly entitled to air their views to try and influence the direction of council thinking. Their suggestion that the council is wasting money by spending £75K moving their rank has some merit. But there is a real issue with safety which needs to be considered, and the fact that there hasn’t been an accident doesn’t negate that. The fact is that there hasn’t been an accident yet. But there have been near misses, and anybody spending some time in the area will clearly see that the current layout is not ideal – with buses and taxis and pedestrians intermingling in a tight area. Dave Patrick may position himself as “man of the people” today, but if he were to win his battle and then a child went under the wheels of a cab – how quickly might “the people” remember who thought the current layout was hunky-dory and opposed safety measures?
But all that is neither here nor there. It’s a fair debate, and it needs to be had. My problem with the taxi demonstration today centers on two things. The first is that all of this is a District Council issue and the leader of the taxi drivers is a district councillor himself. They came to the wrong meeting. County Council have no power or influence over the decision whatsoever. When asked why they’d come they said it was to: “Embarrass Fenland District Council.” Maybe its just me, but that sounds a bit petty. I say again – the taxi leader is a DISTRICT COUNCILLOR. He already has the ideal platform to make his points and the ideal position to be heard making them. “But they aren’t listening,” is his plaintive cry. Well, Cllr Patrick, whose fault is that? The council? the system? The electorate? Or might it be the person making the case simply hasn’t made it well enough?
My second problem is that I am now sick and tired of hearing Dave Patrick, day in and day out, harping on about taxis. I used to jokingly call him the “Cabinet Member For Taxis” but its past a joke now. If Cllr Patrick were just a normal guy who happened to take an interest in the plight of local taxi drivers – fair enough. But he isn’t. He’s a local taxi driver and leader of their trade group. Which makes his constant, relentless and single-minded pursuit of taxi matters look like pure self-interest rather than public service. I have no idea if Cllr Patrick does anything other than taxis in his ward – but if he does, her certainly doesn’t make such a big deal of it. It’s not hard to see what his primary interest is. I like taxi drivers, they are necessary and perform an important service in our town. They deserve to be heard. They have a fair case to be argued. But the people of KIRKGATE elected Cllr Patrick to be their representative for their area, they deserve better than this. And if anything Dave Patrick is now a liability to the taxi driver cause, doing more harm than good with his attention-seeking – the taxi drivers also deserve better than this.
In the afternoon we had an interesting workshop for local “civic, community and business leaders.” The police and Roddens were there to lead discussion on a variety of difficult issues from community cohesion, to alcohol abuse, to domestic violence. It was a fascinating debate and I was fortunate to be in a group with four school head-teachers who were full of useful insights and ideas. Later, we split up into different groups, with different cabinet members to look at local issues. Wisbech councillors had the opportunity to suggest “topics” and a number of the things we’d put forward were used. I finished the day by taking cabinet members and officers to Magazine Lane to talk about road surfacing. It was a useful visit and the local residents came out to bend cabinet’s ear (at my gentle urging) about the need to think carefully about appropriate repairs for different road issues. I know, I know, not the sexiest issue in the world, but potholes and highway repairs remain the number one issue raised by the public and this sort of bread-and-butter work must be done, and done well.
At the end of the day the Castle was the scene of our “wash up” debrief. Everybody seemed to feel that it had been a great day. A useful day. I made the point that this was all very well, but that the day must result in tangible policies. There was a determined agreement from all directions. I feel very positive about it all. Very positive indeed.
You Win Some You Lose Some
The Wisbech North and Kirkgate By-Elections are now all done. Dave Patrick beat my colleague Stephen Brunton and myself to take the Town and District seats. In both cases he won with a good majority and has a clear mandate from the electorate in regards to the issue which was at the center of his campaign.
The County Council seat was won by my friend and colleague Samantha Hoy in a nail-biting close finish. Sam deserved her win, having worked incredibly hard for it and (in my opinion) being an excellent candidate for the post. I’d like to thank the people of Wisbech North who supported her and helped her to become (I believe) the youngest councillor at Shire Hall.
As I said after the announcement was made to the people present at the count: “The election campaign was fought impeccably by gentlemen (and gentle woman). It was a credit to local democracy.” I’d like to offer my congratulations to both the winners. I am sure they will both serve the people of Wisbech North well.
In coming days I’ll analyse the results of this by-election and comment in blog posts about what they might mean for the forthcoming general election and indeed the local area itself. But for now, I’m going to get some sleep. It’s been a long, long month.
My Message For Tomorrow…
Tomorrow is April 15th. The Big Day for those of us standing in the By-Election.
I have only one thing to say. Vote Conservative.
We wont let you down.
And for those candidates and supporters of all parties who have put so much time and effort into this by-election campaign and are now stressed to the max waiting for tomorrow’s developments I have a peace offering. A relaxing view to ease your minds and help you chill out. Don’t say I don’t do anything for you, my political colleagues of all ideological shades and hues.
Here It Comes…
By now residents of Wisbech North will mostly have received our second piece of literature for the local By-Election this week. We have canvassed the whole of the entire division – no small feat in such a short timeframe – and for that I’d like to thank the troop of merry, generous and energetic Conservative activists who have pitched in. I’d also like to welcome the new activists who have come on board during the campaign and as a result of the campaign. I think you’ll enjoy your time as party members. It’s an exciting team – and an exciting time to be a Conservative. The more the merrier!
That’s it now. We’ll be around and about this week, every day, saying: “Hello”, leafletting the few roads who still need a second leaflet or where there are “holes” in the canvassing because people were out – but we have set out our stall, made our commitments and presented ourselves to the electorate. Conservatives out there please remember to vote on Thursday 15th April. Every vote counts if we wish to make sure the area gets decent hard-working Conservative representation, deliver a solid Conservative victory and silence our most vociferous opponents. Thank you, in advance, for your kind support.
(Click on either page below to see it in full-size)
I’ve encountered some funny things while out on the campaign and I thought readers might like to share some of them. Humourless commenters please note that I am relaying these events in a spirit of fun. Nevertheless, I promise you they are all true events.
In an area of Waterlees today I encountered a trio of Polish gentlemen. After I introduced myself they were quick to inform me that they weren’t allowed to vote in the UK. Nevertheless, they were friendly types and we had a brief chat. I asked them which political parties they supported in Poland and one of the men said that he voted for the Law & Justice party (a right-of-center party) and he clarified that: “Many people in Poland support right-wing parties.”
I suggested that, were he able to vote in the UK, he would probably vote for the Conservatives then. He shook his head: “No, in this country I would vote UKIP.” I was obviously a little taken aback at this – not because I have any problem with UKIP but because – well – it seemed counterproductive for him to have this opinion.
“Really?” I asked. “But Surely if UKIP were in charge the Polish would find it harder to come here and work because you wouldn’t benefit from free movement via the Union?”
He nodded and confirmed that he knew this. “Why then?” I asked.
“I don’t want more Polish to come here,” he said with a chuckle. “We have a good thing going on.”
I knocked on one door today and was greeted by a man who did not appear, to put it mildly, in best humour. “Not interested,” He told me, “I don’t vote and I ain’t gonna vote. You’re all the same.”
Not one to be easily discouraged I smiled and asked him: “In what way?”
He blinked a couple of times as if surprised that I hadn’t yet run off into the sunset. Then he set his jaw and pointed out: “We only see you when its election time.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll come ’round next weekend. And the weekend after that. In fact, I’ll pop by every week to say hello. Then, in a few years time when there’s another election you’ll know me pretty well.”
“I don’t want to see politicians at my door,” he said. “I work for a living.”
“You’d prefer not to be bothered?” I asked. “You’d rather we stayed out of your hair and just got on with the job you’d elected us to do, rather than walking about and interrupting you while you’re busy?”
“Yes!” The man nodded with gusto. Then stopped. Then blinked again. Then, to his credit, smiled. “I suppose you have a point,” he acknowledged.
At another house, as I approached, I clearly saw the “I vote UKIP” sticker in the window. Nevertheless, I knocked. Some colleagues think its a waste of time to knock the doors of known opposition-supporters, but I always take the time. I like to talk to people with different viewpoints anyway (as you can probably tell from this blog) – but also because I think if you are canvassing you owe everybody a chance to hear what you have to say. Even if they would prefer to shut the door in your face – at least you’ve given them the option.
Anyway, the door I knocked at turned out to be none other than UKIP Town Council Candidate Alan Lay. I found Alan to be a very pleasant man with straightforward honest views and we had quite a long chat about this and that. Towards the end of the conversation Alan told me in a conspiratorial fashion: “I’ve been talking to people and I’m confident that we’ll have a couple of council seats by this time next week.” I obviously told him that with all due respect I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. Then he produced a business card with his website address on it and demonstrated it as evidence of his strong campaign: “We even have a website!” he said. “I bet you don’t….”
Hmmmm. I hope all of Les’ predictions are of equal accuracy.
The Small Print (legally required during election campaigns.)
Published by Mrs D N Clark on behalf of Steve Tierney of 111 High Street, March, Cambs PE15 9LH.
One Crazy Day
I’ve been out campaiging all day with the Wisbech North Team and we’ve covered almost all of the Kirkgate ward now. It’s been a long and interesting day which I’ve enjoyed very much – despite being dead tired by the end. My thanks to the large team which joined us in the afternoon (nearly twenty of us at one point!) and came from all over town and indeed all over Fenland. Also thanks to Steve Barclay for joining us – having the parliamentary candidate on the road is always a great bonus!
This was followed by a wind-down at the Fen’s Conservative Future Karaoke evening, which filled the air in Wisbech with “music” and was a great chance to laugh, have a few drinks and generally be merry.
Spending eight hours walking from door-to-door is certain taxing (maybe less so for Stevo and Sam whose legs are considerably younger than mine_ – but rewarding too. This sort of old-fashioned campaigning beats blogs and newspaper inches and glossy posters any day of the week. People get to meet you, judge your character for themselves – and make an informed decision.
One of the things Iwas particularly struck by while canvassing today was the complete absence of the socialist vote. In the entire day only two voters were prepared to admit they supported Labour. There was a smattering of Liberals and a few UKIP and (sadly) rather a lot of people who don’t intend to vote at all. But the socialists appear to be in hiding. I think that says a lot, actually. It would not surprise me if Labour came fourth in the by-elections.
In the entire day covering many hundreds of houses only one single person even mentioned the taxi rank move to me. The Wisbech Standard assures us that it’s: “dominating the by-election campaign”. I didn’t notice that. I was quite happy to discuss it with people – but mostly they wanted to talk about the local schools, potholes and antisocial behaviour. And the need to create more jobs.
I’d like to finally thank the many people who took the time to meet and talk to us today. It’s never ideal to have your Saturday disturbed by political activsts with clipboards and rosettes, but your patience and (often) support was welcome. Even those with whom I had some debate about politics were friendly and reasonable. So different from last year’s campaign amid the expenses scandal. Thank goodness.
The Small Print (legally required during election campaigns.)
Published by Mrs D N Clark on behalf of Steve Tierney of 111 High Street, March, Cambs PE15 9LH.