This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Torbay Tory PPC - Sponsored by Bearwood Corporate Services

Letter to Herald Express 111206 :

As The Independent (30 April) noted, the Tories were able to outspend their opponents to devastating effect in last years’ General Election. 23 of the 31 seats won from Labour by the Tories were targeted by three Tory donors who channelled money directly into constituencies. In 19 of these 23 constituencies the Tories outspent Labour by 2.5 times and the resultant swing to the Tories averaged 4.5%, well ahead of the 3.1% national trend. One of these men, the Belize based tax exile Lord Ashcroft, through Bearwood Corporate Services, donated £5,000 to Marcus Wood’s campaigning funds in Torbay and The Guardian (November 28) reports that Lord Ashcroft has already promised to ensure that the Tories spend more in marginal seats well ahead of the next election. This, of course, will seek to circumvent spending restrictions immediately before an election.

It is laughable that Marcus Wood, Conservative parliamentary candidate, has the temerity to challenge the small donations made by locally based individuals be they Lib Dem councillors, members or supporters to support the campaigning work of Adrian Sanders MP, whilst 60% of his own campaigning costs were met by a man who pays little UK tax, whilst Conservative party treasurer gained overseas donations to the party that many deemed inappropriate and on the BBC News online site (23 November) he is quoted as describing curbs on party spending as ‘barmy’.

Lord Ashcroft has bought influence before. Michael Ashcroft has made large donations in Belize too - rumoured to total about $1m - to the right-wing People's United Party (PUP) when it was in opposition. In 1998 the PUP came to power after defeating the centre-left United Democratic Party (UDP) and subsequently introduced several pieces of legislation financially advantageous to Mr Ashcroft. They included a law giving tax-exempt status to some companies including Mr Ashcroft's offshore holding company Belize Holding Inc (BHI). The Ashcroft-owned Bank of Belize was also granted the exclusive right to set up offshore companies in Belize for US and UK citizens (BBC Website 31 March 2000).

I think it is Marcus Wood and the Tories that have much more to answer with regard to party campaigns funding and having lambasted Lib Dem councillors for supporting their MP, in the interests of even handedness he will want to equally denounce the £1,800 donation made by his Devon County Council colleagues to their party in Teignbridge ! Likewise he will be ‘angry’ that Labour councillors in Leicester donate three per cent of their larger £7,800 basic allowance to group funds promoting that party’s agenda in the city.

I’ll let readers decide if they prefer a candidate supported by ‘foreign' money from an influential tax exile or small donations from local people supporting Adrian Sanders their local Lib Dem MP. I know which I prefer and trust. Maybe the ballot paper should read Marcus Wood (Conservative Party) sponsored by Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd !

Thatcher and Pinochet

How nice to be reminded by the unlovely Margaret Thatcher of how horrid she and her party can be ! How thoughtful of her to pay 'tribute' to that mudering despot General Augusto Pinochet. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those murdered in Chile by his regime and I;m very much on the side of democratically elected governments [even ones as bad as her's was ] !

I wonder what 'Dave' makes of this ?!

Tory PPC dismisses Christian Voters' Views !

Unpublished Letter to 'Herald Express' 23 November 2006

On his online diary entry of 22 November Marcus Wood, Conservative parliamentary candidate, reports on the public debate between mayor Nick Bye and Ian Handford of the Civic Society regarding the provision of a ‘super casino’ in the bay. Beyond waxing lyrical about the debating skills of the mayor [and I readily admit he is a talented debater and an eloquent public speaker], he seems to imply that even though the meeting in his words voted three to one against the casino bid that this can be largely ignored as many of the audience were allegedly drawn from the Christian community.

Are we not council tax payers, voters and an integral part of the bay too? Why are the opinions of people of faith any less important than the wider electorate? I trust Marcus will publicly apologise for his offensive tone and accept that this issue is one that divides opinion across and within all political parties. Your own report on the meeting is informative. Revealingly those you record as speaking in favour of the casino were largely drawn from the ‘political and professional class’ with those opposed being members of the public.

As Adrian Sanders MP said in the Herald Express on 18 November the social costs could well outweigh any economic benefit and the Torbay bid scored poorly in terms of regeneration prospects. In the same article our Conservative mayor tries to distance himself from the bid by saying ‘this is not being pursued personally by me, but it is a bid supported by the cabinet and some councillors.’, yet the same Nick Bye then tries unsuccessfully to sell the idea of a casino at a public debate a few days later ! Confused? I am!

Although I remain unconvinced about the casino bid, I fully acknowledge the motivations and integrity of those who see the matter differently. However, I trust voters equally respect and welcome independent minded candidates seeking public office, even Christian ones!
Barrie Wood
Ellacombe Liberal Democrats
2007 Local Election Candidate.

Note to Editor: see entry entitled Is Torbay to be the new 'Monte Carlo' or another 'Las Vegas'?

£500 the Price to be a Tory Councillor !

Letter to Herald Express published 29/11/06 :

Far more revealing than your front page story regarding the usage of Lib Dem councillor allowances is the revelation from Kevin Caroll, Deputy Leader of Torbay Council and leader of the Conservative group, that their candidates are expected to pay £250 towards an election campaign and, upon election, pay a similar sum to the party. Surely this undermines David Cameron’s efforts at remaking the Conservatives as a more liberal and ‘inclusive’ party and one attempting to be more reflective of modern
Britain. ? Surely the Tories need to reach out beyond the professional and business classes that are heavily over-represented on councils all over the country. Is £500 the price of being a Tory councillor?

Conversely, I am delighted to say that I was both approved as a candidate and selected by the Ellacombe ward party as Lib Dem candidate for the 2007 local elections on the basis of my ideas, experience and commitment to both the party and the bay. My income was never a factor. As someone on an income very much closer to the minimum wage level than the national average and with a ‘lifestyle’ to match, I believe that I reflect the experience of many Ellacombe and Torbay households and that such voices need to be heard at Council level.

Contrary to Marcus Wood’s claims that the Tories are genuinely changing it seems its prospective candidates for public office are still drawn from, and represent, a narrow strata of Torbay’s populace. It looks like ‘same old Tories’ to me, representing the interests of a few rather than the many!

Barrie Wood
Ellacombe Liberal Democrats