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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Letter to Herald Express 300507 - FoI

Letter sent to the 'Herald Express' newspaper 300507 :

Marcus Wood of Torbay Conservatives has accused the Liberal Democrats of jumping on the bandwagon in public with regard to the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, but not following this up with action.

The reality is this : on Friday 18th May, Conservative and Labour MPs voted to exempt Parliament from Freedom of Information laws, creating one law for MPs and Lords and one law for everyone else. The opposition was led by Liberal Democrat MPs Norman Baker and Simon Hughes and not a single Lib Dem MP voted in favour of the Bill.

Yes, Adrian Sanders MP did miss the vote on the third reading of the bill, but this was only brought about by a totally unexpected calling of votes earlier than planned. Adrian had previously voted in two earlier divisions on the amended FoI provisions.

Adrian's public position and voting record is wholly liberal and consistent. The new made over and supposedly 'liberal' Conservatives have Anthony Steen MP for Totnes in favour of a bill he sees as generally 'not important' whilst Marcus takes an entirely different view. These two prominent local Tories can't even agree amongst themselves, yet Marcus still has the chutzpah to wrongly assail the Lib Dem record !

Wrong again Marcus !

Barrie Wood
Ellacombe Liberal Democrats


Grammar Schools - Letter in Herald Express 280507

Published 28 May 2007 - written in a personal rather than Lib Dem capacity.

David Willetts, Conservative Education spokesman is right to declare that Grammar Schools 'entrench privilege' and do nothing to serve the needs of children from poorer communities.David Cameron is quoted in The Guardian as saying 'Parents fundamentally don't want their children divided into sheep and goats at the age of 11'. Right again.

Of course, this doesn't sit well with a Tory shadow cabinet for whom over half had the privilege of a public school education.

As for Marcus Wood, the announcement of Tory opposition to Grammar schools leaves him in a difficult spot. Does he defend the new party direction which many Conservatives will be aghast at, or does he speak out against his own party nationally and become more popular with local Tory opinion?

The Tory policy seems to be that Grammar Schools are bad, but not if your child attends one. As it is, under the guise of parental 'choice' the Tories support Labour's programme of Academy schools. Academies have so far a questionable record in terms of entry requirements, so we are far from the end of selection by ability in over-subscribed schools.

While the Tories continue to be obsessed with choice and selective school systems I'd contend what most parents seek is a good school in their own neighbourhood. Tory hypocrisy moves us no nearer to that goal.



Saturday, May 19, 2007

Our Scottish leader must go !

No, not Ming Campbell, no not Nichol Stephen, but 'Calamity Colin' Calderwood manager of Nottingham Forest FC.

His substitutions turned the game around last night - and not for the first time this season ! As is become frequently the case his defensive mindset has seen the club with the biggest support, biggest squad and biggest wage bill in the division flunk yet another 'big' game. 2-5 at home to a Yeovil side who created enough chances to win three or four matches is a disaster. Credit to the Glovers though. Their attractive pass and move football, their attitude in coming back from a 0-2 first leg position was the very opposite of a dire cautious Forest approach.

On the plus side, the generous ovation given to the enterprising Westcountry men by the home support showed our fans in good light. Compare this with the aggressive response in victory of Derby County fans at the Sheep Dip against Southampton makes me very proud of the calibre of support the 'Tricky Trees' have.

Next season a fixture list comprising possibly Shrewsbury, but definitely Hartlepool, Northampton, Crewe and Walsall is so very dispiriting. That is what we deserve. Time to say goodbye Colin. You said anything less than promotion would be a failure. How right you are.

With my local club [Torquay United] also going down to what was the 'Conference' but soon to be exotically known as the Blue Square Premier League it has been the season from hell. And, the torment may not be over, victory in their play-of final for our 'friends' Derby County would seal the most dismal of seasons. DCFC in the Premiership. In the name of God, no, no, no !

For a football fan of any other club I hope your team had a better season.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 18, 2007

Independent 'given' key position on Torbay Council

So Julien Parrott who as an Independent candidate triumphed over both the Tories and myself in the local elections is to be the Co-ordinator of the council's Overview and Scrutiny Board.

I just wonder as to how this will work out. The one independent is to be put there by Tory votes is to scrutinise the Tory mayor and cabinet ! As if happens, despite it being spun already in the local paper, this matter has not actually been voted on by council members. Yes, I know the Tories are in the majority, but surely they could wait until the matter is voted upon ! Oh well, I suppose that is democracy Tory style.

This follows on from the Tories denying the Chairman-elect and current Deputy Council Chairman (Roger Stringer) the top civic post since having a majority of councillors following May 3rd. Are the Tories determined to eliminate the Lib Dems from all positions of responsibility ? Even the executive Tory mayor was allegedly critical of the Tories in putting forward Beryl McPhail for the Chair's job.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cameron's Sheep and Goats

David Cameron, in relation to his no new grammar schools announcement, is quoted in 'The Guardian' as saying " Parents fundamentally don't want their children divided into sheep and goats at the age of 11". David Willetts talks, rightly, of the history of Grammar schools entrenching priviledge, but what about the genetically modified goats of Eton ? Dave's parents clearly did want to 'entrench priviledge' via his Etonian education.

And, with the Academies having a questionable record in terms of entry requirements, we are far from the end of selection by ability by over-subscribed schools.

Further, we are still stuck with our partial Grammar school system in Torbay. As for Marcus Wood (Tory PPC) this education initiative leaves him in a difficult spot. Does he defend the new party direction which many Conservatives and others will be aghast at, or does he speak out against his own party and become more popular with local Tory opinion ?

So far, trying to face both ways at once seems to be his approach !

Once again, despite Blairites, the Tories and the right of the LDs making a fetish of 'choice' what most people still want is a 'good' school in their own locality. To those people I say show me a consistent snapshot of public opinion that says otherwise.

Labels: ,

Proud of party support

... so says Gordon Brown - Prime Minister elect, but elected by no-one outside of Fife.

How much 'prouder' and 'humbled' would he be if he had at least the support of the majority of the Labour party ? So 313 say 'yes' to Gordon, but what of the 200,000 other Labour members ?

This is the man who has just said he hopes to 'rebuild trust in politics' - a bit rich from Gordon Brown, the man without a mandate !

Labels: ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tory / Labour spot the difference !

The following short letter published in 'The Independent' on Saturday 12 May said succinctly why the Tories are not an alternative to Labour.

Sir : Before we finally condemn Tony Blair for his war escapades we must remember that he would not have been able to go to war either in Iraq or Afghanistan if it had not been for Conservative support.

And we would not be now committed to wasting billions on a worthless nuclear weapons upgrade without the Conservatives . For many millions such as myself , the Conservatives are not a serious alternative.

Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

Of course add support for Blair's education proposals [ for Academies read Tory CTC's] , on / but now off support for ID cards and even on February 7 2006 [as reported in 'The Guardian' Cameron was trying to pinch innocuous ideas from Gordie such as a national youth volunteer programme, compulsory English classes and a new focus on history teaching.

So what's it to be Tory, Labour or a distinctive liberal agenda?

Can anyone draw up a more definitive list of policy 'similarities' between the the bigger two parties ?


Friday, May 11, 2007

To Be Fair to Blair

I am no fan of Blair, but was a little too harsh in my posting yesterday, so I would recognise the following I see as achievements :

Minimum wage
NI - peace and devolution
Scottish and Welsh devolution
Civil partnership legislation
No boom and bust - a relatively stable economy (albeit one coming under pressure now - Gordon leaving the Treasury at a convenient moment).
Sure Start
Tax Credits for those less well off (albeit fiendishly and unnecessarily complex)
Increased resources for Education + NHS (although not always delivering 'value for money').
Trade Union recognition rights
Compare northern cities like Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester now with how they were during the Thatcher years !

Don't get me wrong there's a whole slew of negatives too, but to always rubbish the 'other side' can leave one looking churlish and silly.

As others have said, come the big occasions and you have to admire the combination of skill, performance and chutzpah of Blair's oratory. Yesterday was one such day.

Finally given a choice between 'authoritarian' Labour and the faux 'liberal Conservative' Cameron crew then I'd go for the former.

Labels: ,

This week is not last week or so I hope

Last week saw a shock [to some] defeat at the hands of an independent for me in the Torbay local elections and the week was topped off by Nottingham Forest falling just short of automatic promotion to the ludicrously titled 'Championship' [Division 2 more like) and the end of 80 years of league football at Plainmoor. That Forest lost out to Bristol City - the team my step-daughter supports - makes it that bit worse.

On the plus side the indie candidate beat the Tories too !

Never mind the hoo-hah about Blair it is a vital week for different set of Reds. It's a trip to Somerset for the twice former European Champions and a trip to the new Wembley hopefully beckons for a play-off final. Please don't flunk it boys as you've done in other 'big' games this season. Well for Aha the 'Sun Always Shines on TV', but TV (especially Sky) cameras turn the Trees into gibbering wrecks. The 0-1 League Cup defeat at mighty Accrington being typical and the spineless defeat to Chelsea touched a new low. I think we've lost something like 7 out of out last 10 appearances on live TV, so I expect the worst.

To hell with entertainment - just give us a good score to take back to the City Ground....please !


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Miracles do happen ! Blair gets something right !

Did I really see the 'Big Man' 'Dr' Ian Paisley agreeing to share power with nationalists in 'Norn Iron' ? Big up for the perennial 'Dr No' of province politics. Ulster - well six of the nine counties - finally said Yes. How great that is !

Republicans too deserve credit. It seems not that long ago that on a Trades Council visit we took in a visit to the Maze prison and border areas and stayed in 'hotspots' in Derry and Belfast. To see republicans embracing home rule at Stormont is quite a compromise, but one well worth it as it will be saving countless lives.

Last I heard the area around the Maze was being touted as the potential site of a new stadium to house the province's football team. How times change !

Credit to Tony Blair and the Labour government [and let's not forget the much missed Mo Mowlem's contribution here]. Credit is also due to the forgotten men of the peace process such as John Hume and even David Trimble.

Similarly, the republican heritage of Fianna Fail and Bertie Ahern from the '26 counties' was instrumental in bringing the Shinners on board. Well done to all.

We have a cessation of violence, even a semblence of peace, but it's still a long road to an inclusive, liberal and non-sectarian NI. There's still a battle for hearts and minds to be won before the ghosts of the past can be finally banished. Here's to a better future for a beautiful part of our isles. Maybe this is where our sister party - the Alliance party - can be most influential.

A pity 3,000 + lives needed to be lost before the futility of war was realised.

My thoughts are with their families, irrespective of their 'tradition'.


Tony Blair and Me !

May 1997, whilst having few illusions as to what might be achieved, ushered in Tony Blair and a 'Labour' government. As a [then] Labour party member and former councillor I cheered their election and the demise of the Tories. I was very definitely 'tribal' Labour !

May 2007 I stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate in the local elections in Torbay. That speaks volumes !

The authoritarian control-freakery of the Blair-led party doesn't trust it's own members let alone the wider public. There seems no ideological basis for them to exist anymore, other than they may or may not be better technocrats and managers of UK plc. That on so many issues they are closer to the Tories than us says a lot about each of the three main parties. Further, Tony's 10 years have arguably dented the future prospects for all progressive politics within and without the Labour party.

Why the Lib Dems and not Labour for me now ? What I wrote on 10 January 2006 sums it up :

For my part I changed my politics to a degree, but Labour changed there's even more. I used to be portrayed as ' hard left' [!] in my Labour days, but this was a crude stereotype. Whilst I shared with the left a commitment to social justice and a bias to the poor in terms of policy priorities, I did not and do not adhere to top-down centralism. I never will be told what to think or act politically !

Other issues where I depart from 'New Labour' othodoxy can be summed up as such :

commitment to green issues and inclusive grassroots co-operative practice with power devolved to the lowest practicable level (eg credit unions, time banks, mutuals, town/parish councils, community associations, neighbourhood committees)

firm believer in electoral reform (STV)

opposed to the state 'policing' of families (asbo/parental orders)

believe in free university tuition (as experienced by most of the Labour cabinet)

entirely believe in upholding individuals' civil liberties (anti-terror legislation, trial by jury, 'house arrest',equality before the law). I distrust the potential power of private monopolies and the state equally.

internationalist in outlook (pro reformed and more democratic EU and UN)

Accept that open and COMPETITIVE markets usually provide well the consumer goods and services we expect, but am less convinced about private engagement in public service provision such as schools, hospitals, probation service et al. New Labour has a dogmatic private good, public bad philosophy.

It could be that I am just a contrarian, but these days I feel much more in tune with the Lib Dems nationally than Blair's Labour. In reality I have more in common with the instincts of social liberals, be they in the Lib Dems, Labour or Greens. I still see myself as being firmly left-of-centre, albeit in an unorthodox collection of ideas and influences. Maybe others don't see me as being very Liberal, who knows ?!

Maybe I am the 'Brian Sedgemore' of Torbay ;-)

Bye, Bye then Tony. The Labour government has been run almost along 'democratic centralist' lines. With the fall of the 'Communist states' in the latter years of the last century only the Vatican and Labour hold to this tradition in Europe now !!

Anyone think Gordon Brown will be any better ? Hilary Benn as Deputy Leader wouldn't be a bad shout - anyone agree ?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ming Campbell - The Lib Dems IDS ?

The Lib Dems' IDS - that's the view of a crowing Marcus Wood, Torbay's Tory PPC. Amazing how one set of local election results can bring out an arrogance from the Tories.

Now, I placed Ming 3rd out of 3 candidates in the leadership election, but I would firmly counsel against him being replaced at the top of the party.

Yes, I do think Ming doesn't appear to connect that well with the floating or soft Lib Dem inclined voter. He does seem a bit wooden and charisma free. I can't envisage him going down well on a Newcastle council estate or in the area I live in, a disadvantaged area of Torquay.

However, it is not the perception of his personality he should be judged on. He has continued to be consistently Liberal albeit in keeping with what Tony Greaves called the right-wing tradition of the old Liberal Party. He was, is and will continue to be Liberal. Compare that with what Cameron used to say and what he's articulating now.

The loss of council seats and disappointing results in Scotland and Wales owes more to the fact that for the first time in a generation or more the Tories are once again electorally competitive [in England at least], in a way they were largely not under IDS, Hague or Howard. It had to happen eventually, sadly. Basically CK had a much easier ride and the fortune of a pivotal issue that harvested votes beyond our core support. So arguably the combination of lacklustre Tories and a once in a generation prime issue that separated us from the opposition should have delivered more, particularly with Labour also running out of political capital on other issues too. So it is against these elements that we should consider the Campbell record. Maybe the much lauded Charles Kennedy actually under-achieved ?!

Leading a party is a bit like being head coach or a manager of a football team. It takes time to shape a team and get results. Many in the LDs probably got complacent and expected a steady but inexorable rise in support to continue, especially at the Tories expense. Certainly too many changes at the top and disunity can only lead to the Lib Dems becoming the Manchester City of politics. I'm still slightly hopeful about the play-offs, so I didn't proffer the example of my beloved Nottingham Forest !

So we need to accept that we all as a party and not just Menzies Campbell need to raise our game. The Tories are back, get used to it, but if we hold our nerve and campaign on those issues where we are strong we can hold our own. It should be Cameron under scrutiny, but eventually the policy commissions and working parties will have to come up with at least SOME firm commitments and with the passing of time the vacuity of 'Dave' may well become even more apparent.

Already we have Green Tax Switch versus a big fat zero. On crime, LD councils have implemented innovative ideas and that compares with what exactly from the Tories ? Localism is one of the Tories 'new ideas', but is something that LDs embrace instinctively rather than for the sake of party 'rebranding'.

All in all let's get behind Ming and recognise that the political terrain is more challenging. Lets not make it harder by being seen as lukewarm in support of our party leader. Dwelling on past successes will get us nowhere ! Ming is far from the IDS of the Lib Dems ! Cameron may well prove to be the Tories Blair though !

Labels: ,

Lib Dem 'Unionism' - Why ?

I continue to find strange the complete attachment to 'unionism' from the Scottish Liberal Democrats. My point of view is well expressed by Simon Jenkins in today's 'The Guardian' He writes :

"That the party of Irish home rule should reject so liberal a proposal as territorial self-determination is odd"

As Jenkins further argues, all that is being demanded is merely a vote on independence and one seemingly tempered with the alternative option of increased self-governance for Scotland, which LDs support.

If the union is that strong then Scots will recognise this and vote accordingly. Why be so afraid of a vote ? Give the people of Scotland the outcome they choose. As it happens, rather than a vote for separation it looks from here as if much of the SNP support came in this election from leftist voters sick of Blair and McConnell, hence the transfer of votes from Labour and socialist parties.

Maybe north of the border there are other complications, but the independence referendum seams a strange deal breaker from t'other side of the border.

Don't get me wrong, Alex Salmond's rhetoric about Labour not having the moral authority to be in government and that Labour was on the decline for good in Scotland was utter cant. So 47 seats and well short of a majority gives you authority, whilst 46 spells the end for Labour is fatuous to say the least. What price the SNP not winning either a majority in either vote share or seats at the next Westminster elections ?

The rest of his Jenkins' opinion piece is utter tosh BTW !

Labels: ,

Tory Ranter of the highest order!

On Marcus Wood's blog today is an amusing piece of ranting from a Tory coucillor rather shy on identifying him/herselsf ! (see

Anonymous said...

I am a conservative councillor (not one of yours) who has faced a concerted barrage from the Lib dems for years.

I am surprised at you Marcus for using terms like 'good leaflets' - they are the worst kind of gutter politics.

What the Lib Dems do is spread lies and rumours, make nasty and petty personal attacks against their opponents, deceive their electors about their chances of winning and generally do anything to win votes at any cost.

No policies, no philosophy, just envy and bile directed at anyone already elected.

All this does is drag everyone down to the lowest level - and then we wonder why no-one bothers to vote and councillors are held in such low regard.

Oh I know I shouldn't bite and I briefly referred to the Green Tax Switch and crime initiatives of the party but this just shows the standard of some elected under the Tory banner. Who said the 'nasty party' was a thing of the past ?!


Sunday, May 06, 2007

23-9 to the Tories in Torbay ! What Next ?

My previous post proved quite prophetic as in Ellacome the vigorous long-running campaign of Julien Parrott saw him beat both the Tories and myself in the local elections. At least we retained one seat in the shape of Cindy Stocks who is Ellacombe through and through.

Having absolute control now the mayor has an entirely free hand, but I hope he learns from his mistakes to date, for the good of the bay.

Listen to residents as much as business interests, consult and take people with you and engage with councillors, including LD ones, irrespective of the cabinet make up. It will no longer do for Mayor bye to blame us for all the ills of the bay - and vice-versa for us !

From a LD perspective, I am encouraged that many of our disadvantaged areas (ala Watcombe, Hele, Ellacombe, Upton et al) still have SOME Lib Dem representation and the concerns of residents in such areas can be voiced through them.

Further, six to twelve months ago we were dead in the water and people were unremittingly hostile to us, this is no longer so. I'll admit we have work to do to restore our fortunes, but working all year around as we do, you can be sure of some vigorous contests ahead !

Amusingly a Conservative party boasting the Town Hall 'talents' and egos and personalities of Bye, Carroll, Excell and Oliver should be 'interesting' to follow. It will be interesting to see if the unlovable Caroll retains his position of leader following the initial Tory group meeting on Monday.

All is not lost though. Our MP - Adrian Sanders has a personal popularity level that is far greater than that for the party and indeed the local Tories too. Moreover, the heavy defeat fails to illustrate that we were not too far behind in a number of seats despite the hostility to the Chris Harris led LD group who took a number of decisions that alienated us from bay residents, even allowing for the hugely unimpressive Tory executive mayor that followed.

Interestingly as the electorate sought to punish us and usher in fresh faces all the LD successes were sitting councillors and the group has no new faces. In several wards, including the one I stood in, the new faces [at least to bay politics] polled notably fewer than the better known councillors. Thus a number of wards were politically split between ourselves and opponents.

It seems imperative that we select and build-up new candidates at an earlier stage.

To be fair to Marcus Wood (Tory PPC) his criticism that we ran too hard on the thorny issue of the casino bid he may be right. Whilst bay residents ARE opposed to it and resent the lack of consultation we probably 'gambled' too much on this issue and on the failings of the elected mayor. In hindsight more from our local manifesto may have delivered better results and we must move beyond being the anti-Mayor Bye party.

The current LD group need to formulate a way of balancing constructive engagement with, as well as opposition to, Conservative Mayor Bye. From a personal point of view, I still think it'd be a mistake to join his cabinet. There is little common ground and the mayor is utterly uninterested in the fate of some of our more disadvantaged districts. The public perception, much advanced by Bye, is that we were utterly oppositional throughout his term of office to date. We need to counter such perceptions better, irrespective of the tone of our local paper.

I think the election strap line of 'Standing up for local People' and the claim that we ARE the only party to work all year round need to be realised from heronin. That is the way forward. What credit we have is for opposing the mayor on issues that have resonated with local people, such as the casino, the concessionary bus pass scheme, future of some of our historic buildings and in opposing the closure of care homes. We need to carefully pick the terrain that we maximise our opposition to the mayor.

Lastly, the council group has a new leader, in Steve Darling. He would have had my vote and should prove the right choice as he is almost certainly the figure who unsettles the Tories [and especially the Mayor] most. A radical choice and an astute political operator and a ferociously hard-working councillor is what we've now got heading the LD. The only way now is up !


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

So what's the vibe on the streets ?

Following on from our defeat in the 2005 referendum over our structure of local government and the subsequent election of a Tory Executive mayor we faced a difficult set of local elections here in Torbay.

As regular readers of 'Liberator' will know relations between our council group and the rest of the party (MP, officers, activists and supporters) could have been better. Unsurprisingly as well as the mayoralty vote, we lost a number of successive by-elections.

Torbay, by anyone's standards, is an oddity at local government level, with wild swings between the the Tories and ourselves typical at council level. 2003 was an emphatic win for us, but we were trounced in 2000. So defending a high watermark of 2003 was always going to be a severe challenge and less than six months ago I envisioned low single figures as being the totality of the incoming LD council group of 2007.

But, due to the ineptitude of the Tory Executive mayor, allied to a much more sure footed leadership of the group [for the most part] under Cllr. Gordon Jennings and we're back in the running again. I'll predict no more than that, even if the Tory PPC is forecasting his party having a majority of councillors. We are getting a good response on the doorsteps, but the presence of a committed Indie, another Indie, UKIP and BNP, as well as Tory and Labour means that I am not so quite as optimistic as my running mate, Cllr Stocks. Mind you, I am a curmudgeonly glass is half empty kind of guy anyway ! My one previous experience of being a candidate I felt exactly the same, only for a comfortable victory to be the result. Here's hoping for a repeat scenario !

Sadly the mayoral election is not until 2011, but such are the mayor's failings that this can only help in our efforts to retain the Westminster seat. For lots of anti Lib Dem sledging go to : . Don't expect to read much in the way of Tory policy ideas though. Attacking Adrian Sanders MP continually seems a poor tactic especially as Adrian's personal popularity arguably outstrips that of both the local Tories and Lib Dem parties !

To be less than partisan, I must publicly pay tribute to the Labour candidate. Arguing the case for a hugely discredited party in national office and in an area with no Labour councillors can be no easy task, but his workrate has been phenomenal and without any obvious party support on the streets. Jermaine I salute your efforts ! A triumph of youthful optimism for his one-man-band campaign. He will truly deserve every vote. I hadn't the heart to tell him our squeeze message was about to hit the front porches of the ward today !

As a candidate in a local ward one thing strikes me greatly. In 1989, as a Labour candidate and subsequent victor in a then marginal ward, I don't remember being worked so hard as I am now ! Now I know what the Lib Dems mean by pavement politics ! It's time to inspect some more of those Ellacombe roads armed with leaflets ! To all those also standing and / or campaigning enjoy it and here's to some good success stories on Friday morning !


Stop the Rot : Letter to 'Herald Express' 300407

As yet unpublished ! :

It is with some incredulity that Torbay Conservatives' core message for the 2007 local elections is to 'stop the rot' with regard to Torbay Council. One assumes this is meant as an attack on the Liberal Democrats, but this blithely overlooks the fact that their party controlled the council from 2000-2003 and again from October 2005 to date. The first administration was rated as 'poor' by the Audit Commission and Conservative rule since 2005 has seen the Tories seek to foist a second casino on Torquay without reference to the residents of the bay, to ignore the 7,000+ petitioners and respectively 'privatise' St.Kildas and close Dunboyne care homes. We've seen the abysmal handling of the change in the senior citizens bus pass scheme, without recourse to proper debate at full council and worrying 'noises' about the future of some of our most famous landmarks.

One Tory poster I've seen speaks of the achievements of the Tories under Mayor Bye and asks us to imagine what they might achieve in four years following the local elections. Just imagine indeed !

Conversely other literature asks voters if they are fed-up with a Lib Dem run council. It seems they can't even decide if they are running the council or not ! On the plus side they do at last recognise Mayor Bye in their election materials as being one of their own. Hopefully we can move on from his pretence to be 'Independent'. What a shambles of a campaign !

How kind of David Cameron, someone whose knowledge of the bay was hitherto unknown, to outline his vision for Torbay. The Tory leader joins Marcus Wood and Richard Morgan (Torbay Development Agency) in promoting a second Torquay casino. All these people beyond knowing what's best for us are, of course, unelected and therefore unaccountable to local people.

As for the Conservative Mayor, he was quoted in this paper on November 18 as saying about the casino : "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 tried unsuccessfully to sell the idea of a casino at a public debate a few days later ! Confused? I am ! Such feelings were reinforced when the success of the bid was followed by the inevitable 'photo-op' of the mayor celebrating this outcome.

Every indicative poll, be it through respondents to Bayview, listeners to Radio Devon, the poll on the website of Adrian Sanders MP and the one public debate have all shown overwhelming opposition to the casino. No wonder the Tories say no to a referendum on the matter !

With the local elections almost upon us I have been asked many times by people in Ellacombe my own personal view. I was, and remain, vehemently opposed to the casino as I believe the notion of regenerating Torbay on the back of others' addictions is morally repugnant. Furthermore, I remain sceptical about the project in purely economic terms too.

The Lib Dems will stand up for local people, the Tories seek to impose their plans upon us. Whilst bay residents are denied a direct vote on the casino you can express your opinion via the Torbay Council elections on Thursday. Please use your vote and send the Tories a message they can't ignore.

Barrie Wood
Liberal Democrat Candidate
2007 Local Elections
Ellacombe Ward

Torbay Tory Campaign and Stupid Tory Pledge

As many will be aware we have an all-powerful executive mayor in Torbay, along with a Conservative 'cabinet'. The greater number of councillors are currently Lib Dem. An uneasy period of 'co-habitation' since October 2005 has been the result.

The thin-skinned mayor is not keen on being challenged and held to account by the Lib Dems, despite the limited powers these councillors have.

In their local election materials on the one hand the Conservatives boast of his achievements since being in power. On the other hand they ask if people are fed up with this Lib Dem run council. It seems like they can't even decide if they run the council or not.

The combined 'achievements' of the mayor and his Tory allies to date include :

* Closure and / or privatisation of care homes against fierce opposition from the people of both Torquay and Brixham.

* 'Success' in winning in their bid to 'regenerate' Torquay via their casino bid - again, yes you've guessed it, despite overwhelming opposition to the plan from local residents. Naturally they were never asked for their view.

* Made a complete hash of the change in the senior citizens concessionary bus pass scheme. This was done behind closed doors without even reference to the LD Transport 'Champion'. The actual implementation of the new scheme looks to have swallowed up much of the cash that was to be saved by the change of policy, due to a lack of foresight in issuing the revised pass.

* Mayor Bye getting elected as a 'Conservative' but tried [unsuccessfully] for several months to pass himself off as an 'Independent' despite continuing to be active in a local Conservative Association !

Still his colleagues have come up with a list of priorities for the first 100 days of a Tory council which include the tackling of the issue teenage pregnancies. This from people who already control the council and make a hash of even a bus pass scheme. You really couldn't make this stuff up.

Still it is a pledge and moves on from the executive mayor election campaign where the Tory winner offered a vision of a 'cleaner, safer, more prosperous bay'. Try reversing this and find me a candidate of ANY party seeking a crime infested, litter strewn and poverty stricken bay.

Torbay - the place where pantomime and politics meet !