Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Being a passionate Conservative can be deeply frustrating at times. We knew that after the election there would be a) another bout of navel gazing and b) another leadership contest but the fact is that the debate is both disjointed and mostly being conducted about the wrong things, by the wrong people. The entire future of the Conservative party is being discussed and it seems decided by 198 entirely unrepresentative people; our MP's (of whom only 17 are female, for a start).

They live in the bubble of politics in Westminster and yet seem to be intent on deciding not just our future leader (and in this 'presidential' political age, when the leader of the party is who the vast majority of people actually 'vote for' at an election instead of their local candidate this decision is probably the one that will make the difference between winning and losing the next election) but also deciding the 'future direction' of the party and it's policies.

The question is, are they likely to make the right decision?

How many MP's do what most people do every day? How many of them sit and watch Eastenders, The Simpsons or Big Brother? How many of them wash their cars on a Sunday or take their kids to footie on a Saturday?

How many of them really, regularily go to the pub with their mates on a Friday night or go to a Virgin Vie party with their girlfriends?

The answer of course is probably none. And we are no different to any of the other parties in this regard.

How can we possibly ever connect with the wider public if we don't let the wider public 'in' on our decision making?

In America big decisions (like who the Presidential hopefuls are) are made by a series of 'primary' elections where ordinary members of the public who are merely registered as the supporters of one or other party (they don't have to join, just pledge to vote Republican or whatever) hear the party's hopefuls speak and then vote.

Whoever wins the primary's for each party nomination becomes that partys candidate, which gives Americans a real choice of two 'road tested' candidates at every election.

One way of adapting this system would be for the three main parties in Torbay to agree to adopt a similar system for selecting a candidate to fight the mayoral campaign.

I doubt it will happen, but democracy would be better served if it did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The very unsettling news that the London bombs last week were placed by British born muslims is deeply worrying.

I was in London (on the tube) when the bombs went off and here again this morning it is disturbing to notice that while the roads from West London were full of cars containing Asian men, there was not a single asian male on the tube today - when, normally, a good 20% of passengers from this part of London are of Asian extraction.

Who can blame them? Would you want to be a young asian bloke with a rucksack on the London tube network at the moment? - with hundreds of pairs of suspicious eyes staring at you the whole time?

The mood in the City of London has subtly changed - and not for the better.

I feel desperately sorry for the mess that a few wild fanatics have caused and deeply depressed at the long-term implications for the much-vaunted multi-cultural Britain we are supposed to be.

Is this what the terrorists want? I fear that it is.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Politics never sleeps. In spite of having had an overdose of political activity in the lead-up to the general election - to the extent that I thought it might forever cure my consuming passion for it- I have found myself becoming drawn in to the debate about a directly elected mayor for Torbay.

Partly because the public seem to be taking the opportunity to pass judgement on the Lib Dems and partly because it's a postal vote I am fairly confidant that the yes vote will prevail and we will have an election for a mayor this Autumn.

I have been asked about my own intentions in this direction, but I am clear that I won't be putting my name forward for two good reasons, 1) I have always criticised career politicians who stand for one thing after another just so that they can get a 'paid' job in politics and don't intend to become one and 2) I think there are at least two and possibly three or four existing Conservatives who have more experience of Torbay local politics any of whom would make a better candidate than I.

The important thing is for the Conservatives to pick a winning candidate who can offer a programme that galvanises the local economy; and then get it past the wall of Lib Dems who would still (just) control 2/3rds of the council chamber - enough to block the Mayors programme.

Monday, July 04, 2005

I am pleased to see that Adrian Sanders is at last taking an interest in the vital issue of the bleak future potentially facing parents and children at Upton School, and I welcome his involvement - better late than never, as I always say.

However, like your correspondent Brenda Heath I was more than a little annoyed to see his immediate reaction to this very real crisis is a blatant attempt to blame the Government for a debacle that is entirely the fault of his own Lib Dem colleagues on the council.

The idea that this closure is somehow the result of a conspiricy of under-funding is totally false, the figures given in his piece in last Friday's paper were, I am afraid, misleading in the extreme.

The facts are simple, had the Lib Dem administration not wasted several millions of their budget (and our money) on the needless appointment of several bureaucrats and officers in 2004, inflating their own pay and luxuries like expense accounts for the leader of the council there would be ample funds available to keep this school open.

His astonishing idea to ask the church for extra money would mean -in effect- that charitable donations were being used to subsidise Cllr Harris' mismanagment of the council budget.

Mr Sanders finds himself in another political situation that calls for clear leadership and tough action. Last time it was over the allowances issue and he let us down - this time there must be no backsliding. Kind words and sympathetic noises directed at the parents is just not enough.

I call on him, please, to set aside party political considerations just once, and to use his position at the head of the local Lib Dem party to force the ruling group to re-think their decision.
Only he has the authority to call his troops to order. It can and must be done