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 !