Thursday, 19 September 2013


It will come as no surprise to anyone that I didn't attend the Liberal Democrat Conference this year (or any previous year come to that) and by pure serendipity have managed to avoid any of its TV coverage.  I have however read reports of their conference in the newspapers and in particular, Nick Clegg's closing speech.  It appears that Nick Clegg is proud to have said "No!" to a string of Tory policies.  So what are the LibDems proud of saying no to?

1) Boundary Change - proposals to make a level playing field with each constituency have virtually the same number of electors.  At present Labour can win a large majority in Parliament with 36% of the general election vote.  The Conservative with a 36% vote would fall well short of a majority.  How unfair is that - an election with an un-level playing field? The boundary changes would also have reduced the number of MPs from 650 to 600 therefore generating a cost saving to the public purse.  The LibDems proudly say NO!

2) Human Rights Act and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) - scrapping this Act brought in by the Labour Government which has put the rights of criminal illegal immigrants (murderers, rapists etc.) above the rights of the general community.  Leaving the jurisdiction of the ECHR where judges from dodgy ex Soviet satellites with poor human rights records can over-rule our British courts and free terrorists to roam our streets.  The LibDems proudly say NO!

3) Scaling back green energy plans - we are world leaders at putting taxes on energy use - gas, electric, petrol, air travel.  Poor pensioners afraid to put on their heating and living in 'fuel poverty'.  Family holidays abroad hit by air taxes running into hundreds of pounds.  Enormous subsidies for unproven, intermittent and uneconomical green technologies - just powering your freezers and TV during daylight or when the wind blows - whilst other countries invest in modern gas-power stations which power their manufacturing base with a built-in cost advantage.  These green energy plans no longer make economic sense but can we scale them back?  The LibDems proudly say NO!

4) Inheritance Tax cuts - business owners and farmers can avoid these taxes but other hard working people who live prudently, save rather than spend, or those that invest wisely, have to sacrifice 40% of any estate over £325k (£650k couples) to the state rather than pass it on to their off-spring.  The threshold should at a minimum be raised to £1million This would still tax the rich, lottery winners etc but not the hard working middle classes.  The LibDems proudly say NO!

5) Scrapping housing benefits for young people - when I started work I lived at home for awhile and then rent-shared a very cheap flat in Bradford's red light district until I'd saved up enough to buy my first modest house (£1,000 of equity in a £16,500 bungalow).  The system now is that young people are showered with benefits and incentives not to work.  Housing benefits for young people who could remain with their parents should be scrapped.  The LibDems proudly say NO!

6) Bringing back O-levels and a two-tier education system - some children are academically orientated others are vocationally orientated.  A whole range of skill sets, a whole range of interests, a whole range of abilities - but all expected to shoehorn into one comprehensive system. A system which is failing our children and needs a radical overhaul.  The LibDems proudly say NO!

7) Regional public sector pay - in the private sector you will be paid more in say Windsor than Warrington for doing the same job.  The cost of living is very different in different parts of the country and private sector wages reflect this.  Public sector pay doesn't and the private sector can't compete with it in some regions.  Public sector pay should reflect local conditions and markets which would boost local employment levels.  The LibDems proudly say NO!

When it comes to voting - be it district, county, unitary or national - you need to know all these popular policies that the LibDems proudly block with a resounding NO!

There are two types of LibDems - (i) remnants of the Liberal party who believe in free markets, fiscal prudence, sound money and individual responsibility and (ii) those who admire the state and collectivism and want the state to impose social and economic conformity.  These latter are hostile to individual liberty.  If you vote for either of these type of LibDems you actually vote for a party containing both.  I'm quite comfortable with many of the ideals of the former yet the reality is that even the most reasonable of them seem to support the "proudly NO!" items above.  And what of those who openly say they feel sick to the pit of their stomach at the idea of welfare benefit caps or immigration caps.  Those that just want to spend! spend! spend! and tax!, tax!, tax!  Hard-core socialists disguised in social democrat clothing.

If you support the sensible main-stream policies outlined above then play safe - and always vote CONSERVATIVE at the ballot box.

Monday, 20 May 2013


Outsiders looking in must be perplexed with the machinations going on within the Conservative Party.  The outburst that took me most by surprise was Lord Howe's utterances this weekend about the leader losing control over the party activists.  Lord Howe, most famous perhaps for his part in Margaret Thatcher's downfall, told David Cameron to get a grip of his Eurosceptic MPs and to ignore grass-root calls for EU re-negotiations.

It begs a fundamental question - should the leader be directing the grass-root thinking in a top down manner or should the activists be the ones establishing the party direction?  However beyond that though, at the heart of the issue is what connection is there between the leader choosen by the party and the party rank and file?  And the answer to that at present appears to be - not a lot.  There seems to be a complete lack of trust by the general rank and file in David Cameron and his small metropolitan elite circle.  The views of the rank and file seem increasingly disconnected with those of the leader.

Does the party therefore need a whole new rank and file or does it need a new leader?  With members defecting in droves to UKIP and the extraordinary sight of a full page advert in the Daily Telegraph today from Nigel Farage inviting Tories to switch to his party, it seems that Cameron is jettisoning those members he doesn't want yet not replacing them with anyone else.  He seem intent on destroying the bedrock of foot soldiers that do all the hard graft at election time - delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, getting the message out to an increasingly apathetic electorate.

Where does that leave me?  Not that I'm important in any way, but it is my blog so I feel at liberty to ask, then answer the question.  I've just come out of an County election campaign from which I would have been quite comfortable standing on either the Conservative or UKIP local manifestoes. That's not really surprising given that the UKIP manifesto was written by ex-Conservatives.  One manifesto attracted 577 votes, the other 537 votes.  The MP Nadine Dorries is suggesting in the 2015 General Election that candidates could perhaps stand on a joint ticket.  I'm not suggesting for one moment that someone standing in my County division on a joint ticket would have picked up all 1,114 votes (577+537) but I'm guessing enough to win.  Before I heard that UKIP was standing I felt quietly confident that I was in with a good chance, but the moment I heard that UKIP were putting up a candidate in the Division I knew in my heart of hearts that the battle was lost.

I'm not now going to jump ship and join the Farage crew.  But I would like to see a change in our party leadership to someone who can work with the UKIP leadership to re-unite the right of centre in UK politics.  Someone that the rank and file can feel confident is a true Conservative who represents their views rather than regards them as swivel-eyed loonies.  When I see how our present leader runs the party, my eyes roll rather than swivel.  Let's get our party back and put out a united message for the 2015 election.  The alternative is a Milliband government with Ed Balls holding the (empty) purse strings.  Conservative MPs - its over to you!

Friday, 3 May 2013


The day of reckoning - Friday 3rd May, the count day.  Gipping Valley Division was one of five divisions due to start counting from 9.00am with a result anticipated by 10.30am.

I arrived at the smart Trinity Park Conference Centre at about 9.15am with the verification of the ballot papers (ie. number of papers = number issued) already underway.  At this point the ballot papers are clearly visible as they are counted, pre-sorting, and the first impression was a lot of votes for UKIP.

The votes are then separated into individual candidate piles and the three piles for Conservative, UKIP and Lib Dem seemed to be fairly evenly matched.  My heart was in my mouth - could I possibly squeeze through with a tight win?

The answer regrettably was NO.

When every vote had been collated into candidate batches the final result was:-

Lib Dem 713, Conservatives 577, UKIP 537, Labour & Co-op 301, Green 100.  So the County Councillor of twelve years, John Field was returned for another four year term.  And the realisation that all my hard work had been in vain - another second place for me in a County election.

At least with 136 votes separating the first and second place I don't feel the need to beat myself up with 'what could I have done extra?' type questions.  A few extra votes here and there wouldn't have bridged that shortfall.  The un-answered question in my mind though remains - in a straight three way contest of Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour what might the result have been?  But that of course is academic - one must play the hand one is dealt.

At local level the phrase VOTE UKIP get LIB DEM rings true just as VOTE UKIP get LABOUR is the likely result at national level.  When I think to myself that in that conference centre full of people no one else there, and I repeat no one else there, could be more anti-EU than myself, then it becomes incredibly frustrating.

And when one of our local village stores effectively sponsors one of the candidates then I must continue to remember why I prefer to shop at the One Stop store in the village.

Thanks to those that helped out and supported me from the district office - a very small crew but a much appreciated one.  And finally a big thank you to the 576 other people who like me put their X against my name.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


It doesn't seem that long ago that I wrote the number 52 on my calendar next to Monday 11th March, then 51 on the 12th etc. etc.  The long countdown to the election on 2nd May.  The weather was totally different - freezing cold winds, snow showers, hail storms whereas these last few days have been gloriously sunny - but the time has certainly flowed by VERY QUICKLY.  Certainly my wife will be glad when its all over, any leaflets remaining put in the recycling and the dining room back to normal.

Since I last posted on here I've produced a second leaflet - a two sided black and white A4.  Not the glossy affair that arrived from the Lib Dems (after a little persuasion from my wife we got a copy!) but with, I hope, an effective message.  I'm very aware that the "squeezed middle" are the ones most suffering from the austerity aftermath of Labour's years of binge spending.  Inflation continues but wages and salaries are in many cases are just not keeping pace.  That's why I wholeheartedly support the decision to freeze council tax for four years.  It won't be easy to do and there will be some difficult choices to make over that period but it is the right approach.  I think most politicians don't really get how unpopular council tax is - unlike income tax and NI it isn't subtly taken from your pay before you see it, but is right there every month on your bank statement, teasingly staying in your account from payday until the 15th then whisked away by 'DD'.

My leaflet also sets out my local connections in an election where two candidates live some distance away - in Stowmarket and Debenham.  My only reason for standing is to represent my neighbours and my community - what is their motivation I wonder in parachuting into the Gipping Valley?

There's work still to be done today to reach out to voters who haven't yet received my second leaflet.  In a perfect world all those leaflets would have gone out yesterday and today as an "eve of poll" leaflet but the reality, with over 3,000 homes in the Division, is that it is at least a full week job.

I'll post again on Friday when all the ballot papers have been counted.  In an election where the Conservatives are expected to lose seats not gain them, I can only grasp on the thinnest strand of hope.  But for today and tomorrow at least, there remains hope.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


The last two and a half weeks have been busy with the distribution of my election leaflet and then, over the last few days, with the distribution of a personal letter to registered postal voters.  That's a lot of hard pavements to pound and a lot of letterboxes for trapped fingers.  The organisation of the leaflet distribution was pretty straight-forward as I had established a series of logical delivery rounds from both the 2009 County campaign and then fine-tuned for the  2011 District campaign.  The weather was mixed throughout.  Our local MP helped for a couple of sessions - the first in Bramford where we had sleet and snow, the second in Barham and Flowton in glorious weather.

Between all this pavement pounding I had to compose my postal vote letter and then by hand, individually fill in the salution and sign them.  Fortunately my signature is a swift swiggle which is a result of signing literally many thousands of company cheques over a lifetime's work.  Of course the salutions "Dear Mr Voter" needed to written as neatly as possible - a challenge with 900 letters to be done.  The most time consuming part however was the envelope stuffing.  However all were complete by Thursday afternoon for delivery between Thursday evening and this weekend.  Fortunately I had a helper on Friday so the task was halved and I got more delivered on Friday than I initially anticipated.

Here's my dining room table on Thursday afternoon once all the letters had been organised into the logic delivery rounds:-

During delivery it was amazing how many times the postal voter lived at the very end of a cul-de-sac!

It is difficult to estimate how many miles we both walked on Friday with so many drives to walk up and so many of the bungalows having side doors.  Inevitably though some letters had to be left over for Saturday and Sunday deliveries and it was a little disheartening to hand some over on Saturday morning only to be told that the voter had already filled in their ballot papers and posted them back.  A lesson for another campaign is to get these postal vote letters out earlier.  Or post them!

How the time has flown by - now there is less than two weeks to go to election day.  I suppose I ought to get a second leaflet out as for some people it is already two weeks since they received my first leaflet.  First though I need to give my poor feet a well earned rest - I don't think my legs are ready for that second leaflet distribution yet.

Feedback generally has been quite positive.  Some very pleasant people with easy conversations and "Good Luck" wishes.  Others who are quite proud never to have voted and the odd rude individual.  Probably my favourite conversation was with two more elderly ladies.  They were standing on a drive and I introduced myself and offered my leaflet.  "I'm not really interested in that sort of thing" was the response.  I said "Take a look anyway" and handed over my leaflet, then offered another to the second lady.  "Are you interested?" asked the first to the second and "Not really" came the reply.  I set off on my way but after a few yards turned round and catching their eye said "You know we are pledging to freeze council tax for four years".  "Ohhh!  You've got my vote!" came back the instance response.  I may need to remind them again on the 2nd May though.

In terms of the competition, I have crossed paths several times with the Liberal Democrat's main helper and bumped once into the UKIP candidate when we were both out in Little Blakenham.  Both the UKIP and the Liberal Democrats seem to have achieved a very comprehensive distribution of their leaflets.  No sign of either the Greens or Labour out and about on the campaign trail - unless you can tell me differently. 

Saturday, 30 March 2013


I wasn't intending to write a post today, so soon after yesterday's Campaign Start posting but I've just read an article on the East Anglian website that has compelled me to blog about it. Before I became a member of our District Council I was aware of the general concept of housing benefit and that some poorer households got help with their rent and that social housing rents were subsidised. However I rather naively assumed that everyone paid council tax.  After all, there are 8 bands with the top band paying three times the amount of the lower band - a rather blunt and very progressive tax.  I'm guessing that most people assumed likewise as I like to think of myself as well read but without then knowing the in and out minutae of the housing benefit system.

That changed last year when the council members were briefed about the housing benefit and council tax changes.  We were advised that central government were reducing the payments by 10% but that pensioners would be protected so that the 10% savings would have to met by working age claimants.  In practice this has been significantly diluted by forcing second home owners to pay 100% council tax on their second properties (even if just used occasionally) and charging landlords a full council tax on unfurnished properties if their void periods between lettings exceeded a few weeks.  The general consensus across all political parties of the council felt that these two changes were reasonable.

That still left some working age benefit claimants having to pay more (or rather some) council tax.  In Mid Suffolk's case, going from zero to 5% and in Babergh's case from zero to 8.5%.  It appears from the East Anglian article that some Essex families are going from zero to 20%.  I must confess that I would have been happier to see the payments change to something other than a token contribition as these small amounts will be difficult to collect - 5% is the equivalent of four cigarettes a week or a lottery ticket and a small chocolate bar a week.

In the website/newspaper article you will see a Director of the New Policy Institute (whoever they are) saying "We are turning into a society where we are extremely tough on those at the bottom of the income pile".  Extremely tough!!!!  Expecting people to pay 5% towards their council services is extremely tough?  Council services are the bedrock of a civilised society - education, waste collection, highways, care of the elderly etc. - not some extravagent luxuries.  Someone paying just 5% of Band A towards these vital services is paying 1/30th of someone owning an average Band D property.

Anywhere else other than with these 'hidden' (ie. non-apparent) subsidies and I think the average person would be speaking out vocally about this enormous level of discount.  For example - going in to the petrol station and waiting in the queue to pay and they hear the cashier say to the person in front of them "That will be 5p a litre please for your diesel".  Or with a trolley full of shopping (say £60 to keep the maths simple) in the local supermarket and the person in front has an identical trolley full but is charged just £2.  There would be a loud chorus of "Why are they getting petrol at 5p a litre?" or "How come they're getting their trolley full for only £2?"  And if those people then went on to buy a full price packet of cigarettes or a lottery ticket with their savings then imagine the outcry!

Of course the person from that policy institute would be a voice in the background advising us that 5p a litre or £2 a trolley full is still extremely tough on these people at the bottom of the income pile.  The ultimate irony is that even their 5p's and £2s may be being paid by you and I anyway through the tax and benefit system. 

And that's why I chose as the first priority on my County election leaflet "To speak up for the 'squeezed middle'"  All those people who are working hard, pay a lot into the system, get little back out and who are now finding day-to-day budgeting to be extremely tough despite making all the best efforts themselves.

Friday, 29 March 2013


Back in May 2012 I sat in front of the CS&NI Conservative Association's local government committee, a panel of nine prominent local party members, after I had put myself forward for selection as the Conservative candidate for the Gipping Valley Division in the 2013 County elections.  Afterwards I felt confident I had acquitted myself well to their questioning but I was still pleased to later receive their letter advising that I was through to the next stage.  Two candidates had put themselves forward for the division and therefore the next stage would be a ballot of party members in the division.  We both had to write an A4 length paper "Why I would like to be the County Councillor for the Gipping Valley Division" and these were then circulated, along with the ballot papers.  The ballot papers were opened on 29th June (co-incidentally, my birthday) and I was relieved to hear that I was selected.

One of the questions I had been asked at the selection interview was "If you were not selected for your own division, would you be prepared to stand elsewhere?"  I had answered that quite honestly by stating that I was putting myself forward to represent my neighbours and my locality and that I would much rather do that than stand elsewhere in a 'Safe Conservative seat'. 

That all seems a long time ago but now the campaign is about to get underway.  A couple of weeks ago I submitted my nomination form signed by ten local residents and on 22nd March a letter arrived from Electoral Services advising me that my completed form "is a valid nomination".  And meanwhile I had written the wording for my first leaflet and then collected those from the printer yesterday lunchtime.

Now begins the task of sorting all these into a series of delivery rounds and then getting them through all the letterboxes of the Gipping Valley Division.

So let battle commence!  Last time in the County election [2009] I received 739 votes which was just 59% of the votes the winning candidate achieved.  So it is a very big ask - a 'seismic swing' needed.  And what I don't know yet is which other parties will be putting forward candidates.  As well as my Lib Dem opponent, will Suffolk Together and Labour field candidates again and will UKIP enter the equation for the first time?  That will have to wait until 9th April when the 'Statement Of Persons Nominated' is published.

All I know now is that I'm going to have a very very busy April!