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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Playing Catch Up !

Well it's nearly a month since my last missive. So what's new ? Not much really !

Last month I was selected to contest the Ellacombe ward on Torbay Council for the Lib Dems. And, maybe as a reaction to a prospective 'full on' level of political activity I have been bedevilled by illness since. I have a rare condition that periodically involves muscular weakness and muscular spasms. Luckily most of the past year has been trouble free, but the last three weeks have been absolute hell. Happily I'm coming out of this spell now, but activities other than the necessity of going to work have been curtailed massively. My first political engagement for weeks was the local party executive last Friday and, in truth I didn't really feel like it and couldn't wait to get home ! It is just so disappointing when you think you have a condition under control and then it comes back to haunt you again. But the possibility of losing to the Tories is a strong motivator and I fully intend, alongside my co-candidate Cllr Stocks, to campaign vigorously and retain the ward for the party in what will be a difficult set of elections in the borough next May.

Mind you it looks like Torquay United are having 'mobility' issues too. 10 hours without a goal and 1 point from seven games. So another season of struggle and with it a brand of dire route one football. Still my first sporting love - nearly wrote my first love to the disgust of my wife - Nottingham Forest are - the Scunthorpe debacle excepted - top of the table, picking up points with more efficiency than style and looking like promotion is a real possibility for them. In our historically speaking lowly position points make prizes and here's to a return to meeting with our 'friends' from Derby and Leicester next season ! With top striker Nathan Tyson still to return from injury things are looking good.

Moreover, the boys are still in the hunt for 'glory' in the Johnstone Paints Trophy ! What a waste of time this is ! Still having won the old Full [or is that Fool] Members Cup twice we have history in winning such minor competitions [ in the guise of sponsorships from Simon and Zenith Data Systems].

On the wider political front we've just 'celebrated' a year of Tory rule in the shape of an elected executive mayor. The result ? A £1.9m budget overspend. A £2m underspend on social care meaning the pending privatisation of two much respected local authority care homes. We've had endless speculation on the future of Oldway Mansion and the Pavilion, both much loved historic buildings threatened by asset stripping by the Tories. Regeneration is key for the Mayor. Yet this regeneration pays more heed to business interests than those of local residents, with the push for a new casino by the mayor attracting at best lukewarm support from the people of the bay. Indeed, people - especially the most vulnerable - hardly come up on the mayor's political radar at all. His updated community plan list 10 major priorities, but fails to list one of the foremost unmet needs within the bay, that of affordable housing [be it for rent, to buy or shared ownership].

In place of concrete policy we have had the ludicrous spectacle of the mayor's ego-stroking media stunts. We've had the mayor in a hard hat at AstraZeneca, in parking attendant uniform with the NCP staff on duty, we've had Nick Bye dressed as 'Hercule Poirot' - the list goes on. I think here is a man who'd go to the opening of an envelope if he thought the 'Herald Express' or other local media outlets would give him publicity. We've publicity instead of policy and a mayor serving the interests of a few and not the many. The experiment of an elected mayor has been a total disaster. Strong opposition is required and it is the way events have unfolded here in the bay that encouraged we to stand for election to the council after vowing never to become a councillor again after my previous experience in Leicestershire !

What is interesting is that whilst the Lib Dems have strongly opposed the 'outsourcing' of the two care homes and it is a big issue with a combined total of 7,000 plus signatures on petitions challenging their closure, the ubiquitous Blarite Labour spokesperson, UKIP, assorted 'independents' have had nothing to say on the matter. It is only the LD that present a challenge to the mayor, within and without the council chamber, there is no other alternative and that is a message that must be got across to the voting public.

Time to up the ante !

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

REAL Tory policy views !

The Conservative.Home / 'The Independent' survey of Tory grassroots makes interesting reading. Included in it's principal findings are the following nuggets :

Right-wingers are most popular members of shadow cabinet: The members of the shadow cabinet who would traditionally be seen as right-wingers - David Davis (72%), William Hague (56%) and Liam Fox (44%) - generally produce much higher levels of 'net satisfaction' from members than those who could be categorised as 'modernisers' - Francis Maude (2%), Theresa May (3%) and Oliver Letwin (10%).

On Cameron : 27% are either quite or very dissatisfied with Cameron

The authoritarian John Reid is the most feared would-be Labour leader, no doubt as his agenda chimes well with the core Tory impulses. Remember too how the term 'liberal conservative' was met with an embarassing response from the Tory grassroots during a Cameron speech earlier this week !

The A-list : A paltry 6% of Tory members believe that the A-list includes "the most talented candidates in the party" ....More than half of members (54%) thought it "a politically correct list that has excluded many of the party’s most experienced male and local candidates and it is a backward step."

Tax - and the only figures you're going to get from the Tories this week ! : 91% want personal tax cuts with 30% wanting a promise of a substantial tax cut before the General Election. Most members are disappointed with the modest Tory opinion lead: 65% of respondents thought that the 4.8% lead in ConservativeHome's poll of polls (as the lead was last week) should be larger given Labour's difficulties.

And beyond this poll we can see fissures on tax all too apparent within the Tory party. The Thatcherite 'No Turning Back Group', chaired by the 'much-loved' but strangely gone missing these last few months, John Redwood, has produced a pamphlet on taxation. In it; Lord Blackwell, who ran the Downing Street policy unit in John Major's government, said he thought taxes could be cut by between £20bn and £30bn over the next Parliament.

He said ensuring that public spending rose 1% slower than the growth of the economy would leave room for those tax cuts - and still see spending on public services increase by £40bn. What could be easier, everyone a winner - as if !

Edward Leigh, Conservative chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, claimed that at least 100 Tory MPs wanted plans for tax cuts set out immediately. He warned: "If the Conservative Party does not promise tax cuts then it's nothing."

Mr Leigh said the Conservatives would be "torn apart" by Chancellor Gordon Brown, the most likely next Labour leader, if they were "all spin". This is the same Mr. Leigh from the socially conservative 'Cornerstone Group' whose traditional views on family, welfare and immigration make chilling reading. Take a look at their website, the reactionary Conservative elements are alive and well and influential in that party.

Redwood points to the low tax regime of the Irish Republic and it's levels of economic growth, but typical of the Tories says nothing of the huge increase in inequalities in Ireland and the attendent social problems that have resulted.

It seems 'The Vulcan' wants to return to a retro 1980s Toryism, as do most of the members. This is the real Conservative party of today. Just like NuLab, they will tolerate Cameron as long as there is any possibility of winning the next election, but his platitudes hide the right wing sentiments of his membership.

Another word of warning. The last Tory leader to offer a threadbare policy programme to replace a discredited Labour government resulted in Thatcher and her ideological onslought and a very disunited Kingdom. Anyone for more of the same (potentially) ? Thought not !

On the plus side, I think the veneer of a new moderate conservatism is being exposed this week and, indeed, many commentators are taking issue with the total absence of concrete policy on ANYTHING.

Meritocracy - ' Dave' Cameron style !

Having posted last week on the fact that one affluent and atypical London borough seems strangely so awash with Tory political 'talent ' that it provides more A-list party candidates than from Lancashire and Yorshire combined, it seems that Eton public school is similarly blessed.

'Dave's ' shadow cabinet of 35 contains from one public school - Eton - as many representatives (5) as there are from the thousands of state schools nationwide. That says more about the Tory party than any level of cosmetic makeover.

Welcome to the new 'inclusive' Conservative party of 2006 !