Friday, 26 February 2010

Are Woking Tories socialist?

The title is obviously a bit tongue in cheek but not much. Not content with running their own power company and and an eco services company, the council this week has bought  the second largest shopping centre in town and that hideous skyscraper that dominates the town centre for £68million. This is despite the fact that Woking is the most indebted borough council in the country already.
Unsurprisingly this is generating huge controversy in the town. Just look at the comments below the local paper article. Apparently a number of the posters are UKIP supporters (Rob Burberry is the UKIP PPC). They can see an opportunity to attack the Tories from the right. Already one of the Tory councillors, with the great name of Peter W Ankers had resigned because of the debt. Now of course he is even more incensed.
"I regard it as too much money being spent on an asset that I am not entirely sure is going to give the returns that you expect it to give."
The local Lib Dems who mainly supported the move  seem to be divided but mainly over the lack of consultation as demonstrated on Rosie Sharpley's blog. At least the Lib Dems have some intellectual justification for their position as there is a strong social democratic streak in the party. The Tories are however dancing on the head of a pin.

The leader of the council John Kingsbury said
"This is a significant step towards  underpinning the medium to long term financial stability of the council and strengthening the economic vitality of the town."
Local Council candidate Simon Ashall said on his blog
"The act of investing in tangible assets on a long-term basis and generating net profits from those investments is using borrowing as a force for good." and
"No longer are councils about revenue income, support grants, non-domestic rates and council tax versus costs – they have a wider, enabling role to play through investment in communities."

 Councillors Ankers, Kingsbury, and Coulson.

The classic comment came from Ray Morgan the council Chief Executive.
"This is not to do with debt. Debt is something you owe that you can't pay back. We are not in that position. This is borrowing. We have the ability to borrow long term and invest in projects that will benefit residents."
Honest, that was said with no hint of irony!

In another move this week it looks likely the council will move forward with a plan to upgrade the Hoe valley to prevent flooding and build houses. The borrowing for this will push the total borrowing in Woking up to over £200million, which is £2,222 for every man, woman and child in the town! If this was extrapolated across the country it would mean local government having debts of over £130billion! Not far short of where Brown and Darling have got us on the national stage.

Cut to Westminster.

OK. Imagine the scene Humfrey Malins (Woking MP) and John Kingsbury (leader of the council) have a meeting with Dave and George. They want to commend Woking to them as the model going forward.
"We think we should borrow billions, because borrowing is a source for good." says Humfrey.
"Nationalise the power supply like we have in Woking,"says John, "its much more efficient. More borrowing will underpin long term financial stability."
"We have a wider enabling role to play through investment in communities, " says Humfrey "after all, its not really debt, its borrowing."
Dave and George have a eureka moment. "That's it! Instead of cutting borrowing faster than Labour, we'll increase borrowing and nationalise stuff!"

Enter men in white coats.....

Edit 1300. Just seen a poll being done here. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New Tories, different colour, or am I prejudiced?

Following my previous post about the Tories disarray in East Surrey, the fact that they have chosen a black man of African origin has given me pause for thought. You see, shocking thing for a very liberal chap to own up to, I am prejudiced. I've always felt that there was an undercurrent of "only white, straight, chaps from the right background need apply" in the Tory party. This prejudice has now been sorely tested. Not only have the Tories selected Sam Gyimah for East Surrey, they have chosen Kwasi Kwarteng for Spelthorne. This along with Adam Afriye from Windsor means there are three people of colour in very winnable seats in the local area. Interestingly all these guys are of Ghanaian origin, the Guardian speculation (in the Diary, so tongue in cheek) is that it is coming to rival the Labour Guyanese "mafia".

In the recent past Labour has drawn much talent from what has been known as the Guyanese Mafia (David Lammy, Valerie Amos, Trevor Phillips, Lord Alli, Lord Ouseley). With the selection of Gyimah, Tories appear to be constructing a Ghanaian equivalent. Adam Afriyie, the son of a Ghanaian father, has already made it to the Commons via Windsor. Kwasi Kwarteng, whose parents are ­Ghanaian, has got the nod in Spelthorne, Surrey. And ­Gyimah, who some predict will make the cabinet someday, was born in the UK but grew up in Ghana. He returned at 16.
Shame there isn't a Lib Dem equivalent. It's another of the problems of our FPTP electoral system that makes it much harder for minorities to be elected.

Incidentally in that same Guardian piece, talking about East Surrey, Hugh Muir says's bad, bad, bad for Tory sage and blogger extraordinaire Iain Dale, who lost out to Gyimah. We have already recorded his previous ­election setbacks. Norfolk North in 2005, when he lost by 10,500 votes, and his failure to win the nomination for Maidstone, when he didn't make it past the first interview. Explaining the latest reverse on the digital station Colourful Radio, he said: "These selection contests – they're a lot like The X Factor. There's a lot of pressure ... and I blew it. Normally, when I give a speech, I just think about what I'm going to say, then go in and say it. On this one I wrote out a full text and tried to memorise it. All the words came out, but not necessarily in the right order. It's a bit of a lottery, and it really depends on how you perform on the day – and I didn't perform, so I couldn't expect to win." He is being magnanimous. That's his way. But it is inexplicable, and we worry that there is something more to this.
The only thing I can think that Muir means by the last comment is that he believes Dale is failing because he is openly gay, and since then Dale has failed to get the nomination for Bracknell, the seat of that arch Cameronite trougher Andrew Mackay. It's difficult to judge on this one as there are openly gay Tory MPs like Alan Duncan and Nick Herbert, but my prejudice feels there's probably a good strain of homophobia still at the grass roots of the Tories. And racism? During the recent mayoral election in Bedford the Tories had a virtual civil war which had some barely disguised racist undertones. From Bedfordshire on Sunday (Mrs Attenborough was the Tory leader of the Council, and a candidate).....
But, in what might be read as a reference to the large number of people who attended from the Asian community, she says, in an email to Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles: ‘From where I was sitting, I could see the Liberal Democrats on the front row, Labour on the back row and a sea of faces who couldn’t even understand what the candidates were saying.’

Mr Parvez romped home on the first vote to enormous cheers at Dame Alice Harpur School, leaving supporters of his opponents stunned.

In Mrs Attenborough’s email, copied in to Tory chief David Cameron and leaked to Bedfordshire on Sunday, she says: ‘Exactly why should anyone become a member of the Conservative Party when they can walk off the streets into any selection meeting and choose the most unsuitable candidate, if they want, without knowing anything about them, or go to a meeting with the leader without having to pay £20 for the privilege.

‘It is my opinion that Monday night was quite disgraceful. The members, who had been told to get there by 7.30pm, were left sitting there for two hours and the candidates locked in one nasty classroom for two hours and told nothing.

‘When I protested at the shambles that was occurring outside, I was told by our minder, ‘you can always go home’.
This has echoes of the election in Cheltenham in 1992 when a local Tory called their then candidate "a bloody nigger". In both elections the Tory shambles led to a Lib Dem victory.

I am sure the Conservatives have moved on since those bad old days but how far?

Interestingly the Tories have not chosen any women for the safe seats in and around Surrey except for the incumbent Ann Milton in Guildford, despite the fact that there were senior women councillors involved in all of them, such as Lynne Hack, Sally Marks and Phillipa Broom. As it is, the Tories should significantly increase their number of women MPs but not in "safe" Surrey where it would have been absolutely logical for them to do so.

My wife is a wise lady. Discussing this issue with her she said it's not an issue of race, gender or sexuality but more "PLU". People like us. (She comes from a Tory background). She could be right. Kwarteng went to Eton and Gyimah worked for those agents of God Goldman Sachs.

My prejudice is definitely under threat and I hope that soon we will cease to worry about any of these things because all parties will just choose the best people from a list of excellent diverse candidates.

I think the Tories have moved from the party of Tomorrow Belongs To Me and are probably closer to Neil Kinnock making sure he mentions black people and nurses all the time.

As a footnote Spelthorne could be an interesting seat to watch at the election. Lots of interesting new dynamics, a disgraced incumbent Tory, an ethnic minority old Etonian Tory candidate, Labour collapse and Lib Dem rise in the county elections last year and a UKIP candidate to take a decent slice of the Tory vote. Could be set up nicely for the election after this!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tomorrow belongs to them???

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Stunning hypocrisy from a Tory and lies, damned lies and Tory statistics.

Remember this from last year. Cameron had disgracefully signed up Sir Richard Dannatt before he had stepped down from the Armed Forces. Tory front bencher Chris Grayling (MP for Epsom and Ewell) is interviewed by the BBC and misunderstands, thinking Dannatt has been  appointed by the government. His about face when he realises his mistake is truly breathtaking. Would you trust a word this man says?

Talking of believing a word he says, Evan Davis caught him out a few weeks ago being very economical with the truth on crime figures. He was castigated by the head of the UK Statistics Authority,

Sir Michael Scholar, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, has written to Mr Grayling saying: "I do not wish to become involved in political controversy, but I must take issue with what you said yesterday about violent crime statistics, which seems to me likely to damage public trust in official statistics." In notes attached to the letter, the statistics authority said it regarded "a comparison, without qualification, of police-recorded statistics between the late 1990s and 2008/09 as likely to mislead the public".
The authority said the British Crime Survey (BCS), an annual questionnaire of 46,000 people, indicated there had been a big fall in violent crime since 1995.
It said the BCS was the most reliable way of assessing the trend, because it was "not affected by changes in reporting, police recording and local policing activity, and has been measuring crime in a consistent way since the survey began in 1981"
The BBC article is here

and the full interview is here

I've never voted Tory.....

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Surrey East Conservatives in selection chaos.

Call me Dave has spent a lot of time over the last few years talking about re-empowering local people, councils etc. It seems this only works though if you're not a Conservative member. In the selection process for the new Woking candidate last year, local Tories were overridden and to my knowledge at least one long standing councillor didn't even get a rejection letter to his application. They were just ignored.

From Conservative Home
some local activists were annoyed at being told local candidates would not be considered under any circumstances if they hadn't already been through a parliamentary assessment board by April - only to now be asked to delay so that people with no record of involvement in the party whatsoever can put their names forward. 
And this from the comments
CCHQ are probably right to delay selection in the case of most safe Conservative seats that have come up for grabs. However in the case of Woking, this cannot be regarded as a solid safe Conservative seat.
Humfrey Malins' majority is laregly built around a personal vote and the Lib Dems are a real threat here. If a CCHQ favoured candidate is parachuted in late, the local Lib Dems will have a field day in proclaiming that an outsider has been imposed on the local Conservative Association and the citizens of Woking, in which case we will probably lose the seat.
CCHQ should let Woking Association resume their selection schedule asap, and accept that the PPC will need as much time as possible to get locally established and see off the Lib Dem threat.
So much for local accountabilty. And today in the Daily Mail we have a fabulous article about Surrey East and the shenanigans there.
there is uproar because David Cameron has personally decided the six people who will be interviewed for the post by the association in a local school hall.
This draconian  measure has incensed local party members up and down the country, triggering a wave of protests and resignations which is in danger of spilling over into a civil war with devastating implications for Mr Cameron.
Interestingly one of the complaints of local Tories is that there are no heterosexual white males on the list.

Richard Butcher, a retired solicitor who has been a local Tory councillor in Surrey for more than 50 years, is outraged.
‘We are all very, very disappointed. We have had only two MPs here in the past 35 years. It should have been a privilege for us to be able to choose our next one, but that right has now been taken away.
‘Why does Mr Cameron think he knows better than us what we want for our constituency? He doesn’t live here!
And gain from Conservative Home
So much for new politics. It looks like executive patronage and party control are here to stay. Peerages for dead men's shoes are the political equivalent of the long service company silver carriage clock and look very dodgy.
As long as things like this happen, voters will continue to see politicians as a club who carve up the top appointments among themselves.
Of course there have been other major internecine spats including many mentioned in this article. War in Westminster North where one of Dave's Etonian mate's wives is the candidate and she got the local, hard working chair sacked. Nice.

The farcical scenes at the smart Commander gastropub, close to David Cameron’s Notting Hill home, dramatically exposed the faults in the Tory leader’s modernising project.
Miss Cash, a libel barrister, educated at an Ulster state school and Oxford University, is the archetypal Cameroon candidate. Like so many A-listers, she has never served her time as a local councillor.
But she had gained the support of party chairman Eric Pickles as a move was made to oust her nemesis, Mrs Sayers, as chairman.
In an unprecedented move revealing the importance of Miss Cash’s candidacy as part of Cameron’s modernising plan, Pickles turned up to the meeting in person, as did some of the Tories’ most influential movers and shakers.
During an astonishing evening of internecine warfare, which represented a battle for the soul of the Tory Party, a chaotic and packed meeting heard Miss Cash declare: ‘I have an announcement to make. I am standing down immediately.’

Pandemonium followed and David Cameron’s office frantically tried to persuade Miss Cash (who has been described by Tatler magazine as ‘Tory totty’) to rescind her resignation.

Eventually, she agreed to remain the party’s candidate and sent a message to the social networking site Twitter saying: ‘I did resign. Assoc did not accept. CCHQ has resolved specific issue so I am not leaving. It’s official DC [David Cameron] has changed the party!!!!!!!! I love Twitter. Normal business has resumed and am back online. Lots of rumours flying around distracting from business of electing a new govt! Go go go people!! We have work to do.’

Well done Dave. Your belief in local democracy is par excellence. Perhaps one Etonian one vote might be a better slogan.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Cameron's buddy finds a new trough already

As I said when starting this blog I am really disillusioned with politics at the mo. I've been actively involved since the 1974 elections and never been this cheesed off. One of the things that is really winding me up is the hypocrisy of Cameron and the Tories on so many fronts, as I first mentioned on the expenses post. I live in Surrey so the Labour party are an irrelevance to me here under our "first past the post" electoral system. They came 5th in the County elections last May behind UKIP and the Residents' Associations. For me the Tory party monopoly on power is destructive and I am convinced that they are pretty much unchanged from their slash and burn roots (see Surrey County Council new budget).

A great example of this is the career of Cameron's chum and No 3 in the expenses hit parade, Andrew Mackay. He has just announced he is to become a lobbyist. This from the Guardian.

Well, the disgraced Conservative MP Andrew MacKay has come up with a new twist on the practice – skipping out the government service stage and jumping straight to the corporate payoff. He has announced that he is to join the lobbying arm of the global PR agency, Burson-Marsteller after the general election. He will go from his role for the opposition – first as shadow Northern Ireland secretary, then in David Cameron's inner circle – to that of lobbyist without serving so much as a day in between as a minister.
This reflects badly, first, on MacKay himself. Not only was he forced to pay back £31,193 in expenses, after he and his wife, also a Tory MP, claimed second home allowances for two different properties, thereby paying for neither out of their own pocket, but he is not even prepared to leave a decent interval before selling his Rolodex, offering corporate clients an inside track to what he (and they) presume is the next government.
But it is Cameron who has the greatest grounds for embarrassment. News of MacKay's new job came in the very week when the Conservative leader launched an attack on – you guessed it – lobbying and lobbyists.
Cameron said the trade in access and influence had "tainted our politics for too long", and that it "exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money ... we all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way."
In words he must now regret, Cameron laid it on thick: "In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism. We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism. So we must be the party that sorts all this out."
Clearly, MacKay's move leaves that – and Cameron's proposed two-year waiting period before ex-ministers can start lobbying – sounding pretty hollow. Put simply, it makes the Tories look like hypocrites.
But the damage goes deeper. It reminds voters that, for all the air-brushing, Cameron remains a creature of the very corporate elites that, in the era of the financial crisis, are now so distrusted.
Recently the Conservative leader boasted that he had the City in his blood, that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all stockbrokers. A survey found that at least 50 Tory MPs due to serve in the next parliament have either worked in the City or the financial services industry. It's not easy to square that with the message the Tories claimed so loudly at their last conference: "We're all in this together."

Hypocrisy indeed. No doubt there will be apologists out there who ask what is poor Dave to do? Well if he really means what he says he could say that neither the Tory party or any incoming Tory administration will have anything to do with any lobbyists who have been front benchers of any party! He won't of course. Lets be honest there is only one reason these guys are employing him and that is beacause he has an in to Dave and co.
Its this sort of crap, and there is so much of it I will be able to blog from now until election day, that is disillusioning voters. As you say Dave, "time for a change".

Thursday, 4 February 2010

MPs expenses. Tories win first prize!

I have wondered ever since all this stuff broke how the Tories have managed to spin  this as more of a Labour issue. One of the first things to come out of the Legg report is that 5 out of the top 6 amounts to be paid back are from Tories.

  1. £42,458 by Barbara Follett (Lab, Stevenage), 
  2. £36,909 by Bernard Jenkin (Con, North Essex), 
  3. £31,193 by Andrew Mackay (Con, Bracknell), 
  4. £29,398 by John Gummer (Con, Suffolk Coastal), 
  5. £29,243 by Julie Kirkbride (Con, Bromsgrove) 
  6. £24,878 by Liam Fox (Con, Woodspring).
Its also intersting that despite Cameron's protests  that nobody should appeal some of the more egregious abusers still did. From the Telegraph

The appeals list naming current and former MPs seen by The Sunday Telegraph includes Vera Baird, Stephen McCabe, Dan Norris, Frank Roy, Claire Ward, Phil Woolas and Michael Foster — all of whom are current ministers or government whips. They are joined by two Tory frontbenchers, Ed Vaizey and Julian Lewis, and Michael Howard, the former Conservative leader.
Others who appealed included:
  • Sir Peter Viggers, the Tory MP who included with his expense claims the £1,645 cost of a floating duck house at his Hampshire home.
  • Kitty Ussher, who resigned as Treasury minister when it was found she avoided paying up to £17,000 in tax on the sale of her constituency home.
  • Douglas Hogg, the former Tory minister, who included with his expenses claims the cost of having his moat cleared, piano tuned and stable lights fixed at his country manor.
  • Andrew MacKay and Julie Kirkbride, the Conservative husband-and-wife MPs who made claims that meant they effectively had no main home but two “second homes”, both funded with public money.
The release of the names of those who have fought the process is significant, not least because David Cameron, the Conservative leader, told his shadow cabinet not to lodge appeals because to do so would anger voters.
More to come when I've had a chance to read it all!