Saturday, December 30, 2006

The BBC report more Lib Dem defections

The gentleman pictured above is Richard Porter, who fought Camberwell and Peckham for the Lib Dems at the last General Election and who has joined the Conservative Party over the Christmas break; along with colleagues John Barstow, who stood at Tonbridge and Malling, and Tariq Mahmood, a physician who contested Uxbridge.

The BBC reprt says:

"Mr Porter is a gay rights campaigner who wrote the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the 2005 general election.

He described Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell as a "has-been" who had put the party "in reverse gear".

He said his personal beliefs were no longer best represented by the Lib Dems, but by the Conservatives.

John Barstow, a union steward, said his former party were "bland, formulaic and out of touch with real life".

Earlier this year three other Liberal Democrat general election candidates defected to the Tories.

They were Adrian Childs in West Suffolk; Jeff Clarke, in Wirral West; and Rene Kinsett in Swansea West, plus the former Labour candidate for Horsham, Rehman Chishti. "

People have heard the talk, they have listened to David Cameron promise to make our party more inclusive and adopt a 21st century political agenda but I recognise that people need to see more than words. Herre we have yet more proof that change is real, and permanent.

The Conservative Party are serious about broadening our appeal and reaching out to a far wider section of the community for our support. The fact that so many senior political activists from our opponents- people who were right at the front line of the last General Election- have seen enough to give us this vote of confidence is very good news indeed.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Is yet another round of in-fighting coming?

This mornings Communicate Research poll for the Independent newspaper has the Lib Dems down on just 14% and follows the YouGov poll that was in the Sunday Times at the weekend and had the Lib Dems at 15%.

With all the usual caveats about opinion polls a pattern has emerged. In December all of the main polling organisations showed figures representing a significant and sustained fall in support.

This is against their showing at the last GE with Kennedy still at the helm of over 22% - a quarter of Lib Dems appear to have deserted the party since Ming Campbell took over as leader.

What might provoke another round of jostling in the Parliamentary Lib Dem party is the bald fact that at this level of support as many as half the Lib Dem MP's currently in Westminster could be at risk of losing their seats (and, of course, their livlihoods), indeed according to Martin Baxters 'Electoral calculus' website such a result would leave the Lib Dems back where they were in the 1970's -down to just a rump of half a dozen MP's.

While no-one in Westminster belives the result likely to be that bad, there is nothing more potent to brew serious dissent in a political party than the prospect of losing.

I expect it to be a long cold winter for Menzies Campbell; and a bad result nationally for the Lib Dems in next Mays local elections could see a fresh challenge for his job.
I am sorry for the lack of updates but due to technical problems I have not been able to access the blog recently.

Alls well today though.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sorry for the lack of updates, due to technical difficulties I have been offline for nearly a fortnight.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What do we do about street Prostitution?

One of the interesting and possibly positive side effects from the horror story in Ipswich is the dialogue and debate about the legal status of prostitutes.

The soft underbelly of Britain today is occasionally exposed to public gaze and this case is one such time when ordinary members of the public have to face the reality that -even in a secondary town like Ipswich- there can be hundreds of girls out on the streets in danger every week.

Why do they do it? What makes perfectly sensible people risk their lives to make their living in this way? Risking not just violent abuse but sexual diseases, arrest and imprisonment, and complete social exclusion?

In a word, hard drugs.

Estimates vary, but around 70% of prostitutes are thought to be drug addicts and most of those are the street girls who face the biggest danger.

Should we legalise prostitution? Well I do believe those who argue that the current legislation works against those most vulnerable by outlawing brothels and forcing more girls to streetwalk but otherwise I am not convinced that their legal status is the problem.

The issue, like so many others today, comes back to drug addiction.

Unless and until we can bring ourselves to accept that blanket prohibition simply acts an an incentive for criminality - addicts push hard drugs to others to finance their habit in a kind of pyramid selling scheme- we can never begin to tackle the problem properly.

Sure, a massive increase in rehab schemes as we propose will help, but will it solve the problem?- I don't think so.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The truth: Families are vital

I am relieved and pleased that Iain Duncan-Smith has put the question of the status of the family at centre stage in our review of social policy.

Bluntly the results of detailed social research constantly tells us that family breakdown and/or absentee fatherhood is linked to a whole range of damaging social problems ranging from attention deficit disorder, social exclusion, educational under-achievement, unemployment, obesity, drug abuse, crime and anti social behavior.

Left to it's own devices the breakdown of the family unit threatens the cohesion of society.

While it is not the job of Government to decree how people should choose to live their lives policymakers do have to recognise the impact of their decisions on social behaviour.
As a result of years of neglect for the status of marriage it is hardly surprising that fewer people are choosing to marry; and even less surprising that fewer and fewer people are seeing the benefits of having children within a stable married relationship if the law offers extra benefits to those who don't.

Mr Duncan Smith says that marriage has been undermined by the tax and benefits system under the current Labour government; well he is partly right - we didn't do that much to support marriage ourselves when we last had the chance; so it's a cross party issue that has been a problem for a long time.

He says that the current report is about finding out what the problems are and what has gone wrong - not to lecture people to get married - but to help couples, married and unmarried, to stabilise their relationships.

I agree. We could start by promising a tax regime that recognises the status of families and introduce a transferable married allowance.

We should also have another look at the way the law works with regard to separated parent and their relationships with their children.

I still think ithere are many absentee dads who get off their responsibilities too easily whilst others -who do want to be involved in their childrens upbringing - often find themselves banned
by law from having any involvement save paying maintenance.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Are we overdeveloped enough already?

There has been a huge fuss all week after the Council officers responsible for planning strategy issued a document identifying 'preferred' land for 800 new homes along the Yalberton valley. Unfortunately this document had not yet been seen by any of the elected representatives (from any party) who will in fact make the decision.

An apology for this has been quickly given by the Council officers concerned but not before a great deal of stress and alarm has been caused to residents and businesses nearby.

Firstly, there is no way this proposal is going to get anywhere without a full and open public debate and if the level of public hostility demonstrated to far is continued I suspect this proposal will wither quite rapidly.

But the central issue remains, the council is under huge pressure from the Government to find room for several thousand new homes over the next 20 years and there just isn't going to be enough brown land available.
There is pressure to build more homes here and in Newton Abbot while protecting most of the South Hams from much development and Dartmoor National Park from any at all.

My view is that while we need new homes, and new homes that people want, there is a limit to how much land can be found in Torbay Borough to build on.

The answer to me is obvious.

The Kingskerswell bypass, if given the go-ahead, will throw up parcels of unviable agricultural land all round it which could easily provide the escape-valve for pressure for building land; in addition to the brownfield sites we already know about.

That is the right place to look for new space to develop; not the unspoiled countryside that we so need to protect.

Monday, November 27, 2006

'Campaigning on the rates' controversy erupts in the Bay.

A big story in Saturdays Herald Express accuses local Lib Dems of funding their MP's election campaign out of a fixed levy of their council allowances; evidently outraging the new editor and causing a flurry of phonecalls and emails to yours truly from irate residents (one of whom claims to be a Lib Dem voter) all angry that we Conservatives may have been disadvantaged in the election as a result.

As it happens I don't think that the amounts involved would have had a significant effect on the election result but the principle at stake is very clear.

I don’t think many people have any idea the extent to which politics is already funded by the taxpayer. The costs of running Parliament have tripled since 1997 mainly as a result of a massive hike in the allowances MP's can claim for 'constituency support'.

Most MP’s intentionally or otherwise find a large chunk of their costs allowances finds its way to benefit their constituency organisation; for instance by renting offices or employing activists as researchers. Our own MP employs a grand total of five staff including his wife and two prominant Lib dem councillors. They are employed work exclusively on non-political constituency business while they are being paid from his allowances; but presumably can do what they like the rest of the time.

Mr Sanders suffered from the lowest turnout on record at the last election in spite of record expenses and spending on support voter turnout at an all time low suggests that customer satisfaction with MPs has not benefited from the largesse of the Government.

Now we learn that Lib Dem councillors here in the bay are being forced to donate a fixed % of their allowances (paid out by council tax payers) to their party organisation (an incentive for councillors and their party to increase their allowances if ever there was one).

So although our MPs total costs easily exceed £1,000,000 each Parliament and now we learn that he needs council taxpayer’s money as well.

Aren't the already significant benefits of being the sitting Member of Parliament able to turn up to coffee mornings and dinners enough for the local Lib Dems to raise their campaigning cash though fundraising, as we do?

Apparently not.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thursday evenings Conservative Future meeting.

I doubt the Devon Dumpling will ever forget this lot....

There are other pictures on my camera too torrid to show.

I am accepting 'political donations' from anyone else who doesn't want their pictures published. Sadly Claire did not come up with enough to prevent me showing her about to eat her hand:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is Torbay to be the new 'Monte Carlo' or another 'Las Vegas'?

Went to a very interesting debate last night with Mayor Nick Bye and Civic Society leader Ian Handford slugging it between them the question of whether Torbay needs a new 'super Casino'.

The audience were almost exclusively drawn from the congregation of St Matthias church and so it was clear from the off that they were unlikely to be persuaded by Nicks argument that Torbay needs to meet the needs of visitors and provide a wider range of leisure activities than it does at the moment.

last night was a triumph for civilised debate (even though I suspect coming out in favour probably cost me a few votes !) and was well handled by chairman David Scott.
I thought Nick was outstanding - humourous in just the right measure - but also he showed a determination and sense of purpose which went down well even with those who oppose the Casino bid.
Perhaps if we had more public debates like this critics could understand more clearly the reasons why the Bay has failed to move forward effectively in the past; it's not just a lack of leadership by councillors but a reluctance on the part of the public to make or accept change.
One benefit of having a directly elected Mayor that is becoming clearer by the day is that there is now one person to passionately and (in Nicks case) patiently put the case for change to the local community.
I believe that they are already responding more positively than ever before; even if in the case of last nights audience they weren't persuaded about this particular proposal; Nick lost the final vote by a ratio of about three to one!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Join us at the Devon Dumpling on Thursday

A handful of 'Conservative Future' folk and I are getting together on Thursday for a drink at the Devon Dumpling (Devon Dumpling 108 Shiphay La Torquay Devon TQ2 7BY Tel: 01803 613465. TQ2 7BY)

Conservative Future is the Conservative version of Club 18-30 so quite why I am invited heaven only knows, I will try to keep up - I promise.

The plan is to have a beer or two and meet the National Deputy Chairman of Conservative Future Claire Palmer who will be joining us for the evening from London.

We probably won't get round to talking politics much... but you never know.

If you are still of an age to call yourself 'young' then please come along and we will make you welcome.

The Devon Dumpling is near Torbay Hospital and we will probably congregate upstairs.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Broken Promised Land?

I returned from Israel on Friday in some ways more confused than when I left a week ago.

It's been very easy as an outsider to criticise Israel for being heavy handed with her neighbours (see posts passim) but in many ways going there, and especially meeting the people, makes life for me more complicated and, to be honest, a little less comfortable.

The first thing to point out is that Israel herself is riddled with doubt, both about the Lebanese conflict and the security fence. As a vibrant free democracy such doubt is visible daily in the newspapers and in the pubs and restaurants where politics is the main point of daily discussion - in vivid contrast to our obsession with the goings on of various C list celebs in this country; and most of her Muslim neighbours where political dissent is not allowed.

Undeniably the security fence represents an unacceptable restriction on Palastinians, in my view making their economy totally unviable. Aside from the fact that it is far from the 'Berlin Wall' as presented in our media (less than 5% of it is concrete, the rest is security fencing as illustrated above) the fact of it's existance creates a divide between Jew and Arab where in many areas there didn't used to be one; compounding an already difficult racial divide and making the have and have-not division even more stark than it already was.

What has driven the Israelis to such drastic action is the plain fact that no-one else is able to defend their country against constant missile and bomb attacks from neighbours; worse, there is almost no-one of authority in either Gaza or Lebanon for the Isrealis to do deals with, even if they wanted to. The fence does at least work, the number of suicide bombings has fallen to virtually nothing since the main parts became operational.

Isrealis that we spoke to everywhere - even in the IDF, (Isreali defence Force) are desperate for a strong and clear leadership to emerge amongst the Palastinians so that they can try to negotiate a lasting deal on a viable two-state solution; at which point they would gladly dismantle the fence.

But the only leadership available to talk to, Hamas, have remained committed both to armed resistance and the destruction of Israel and until they say otherwise, Isrealis feel compelled not to deal with them.

There is an outside chance that drastic segregation in this way might just persuade more moderate Palastinians that they need open relations with Israel - they need access to Israeli businesses and consumers for jobs and prosperity, but it's a long shot in my view.

But in the end I concluded that, faced with similar circumstances, we would do the same as the Israelis.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is this really a suitable 'address' for someone on the Sex Offenders Register?

There has been a very good response to my campaign to highlight the daft rules on sex offenders registration that means they can give police 'approximate whereabouts' instead of a formal address.

According to the Home Office "under section 83.7 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, an offender who has no residence in the country must give the address or location of a place where they can regularly be found. If the offender is not regularly in the place they have given as their residence, they are in breach of notification requirements and they will be prosecuted."

So it appears that homeless sex offenders can get away with saying 'I live on a park bench in Torre' and that is satisfactory within the law, provided when the police go there they can find them.

Aside from the obvious strain on police resources (just how many of these people are the Police having to 'keep an eye on' ?) there are several other important issues here. On the one hand, if these people are so dangerous that they need to be constantly monitored by police then surely leaving them literally 'on the streets' is a serious security lapse.

On the other hand if they have been succesfully rehabilitated and are not a danger to society then why do we need a sex offenders register at all?

Either way this is another case of the Home Office making rules up to suit tomorrow's SUN headlines and then discovering loophole after loophole.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Has Gordon Got That Sinking Feeling?

Another day, another bad poll for Gordon Brown. In todays Daily Telegraph there is another poll out this morning - the third this week- that suggest Labour support will sink further if Mr Brown takes over at No 10.

Labour are shown at 32, Conservatives on 39 and the Lib Dems on 16% in the headling 'if there was a general election tomorrow who would you vote for?' question but the real interest is in the detail of the other polling questions.

As Mike Smithson on puts it:

"A key question in YouGov was “If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative Government led by David Cameron or a Labour Government led by Gordon Brown?”. The split was CON 46% - Lab 33% which is by far the biggest margin that such a forced question has seen."

There has been a regular lift in the Conservatives poll share when the theoretical Cameron vs Brown question is put, but in the last few weeks this has gone from a 2 or 3% increase in the Conservative margin to a much harder to ignore level of closer to 7 points, making a 13% lead for the Tories overall.

With all the usual caveats about polling this far out from a general election it is, nonetheless a mystery as to why Labour seem intent on choosing a new leader who would appear to be even more unpopular than the one they so unceremoniously want to dump.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Yet more sweetness and light within Torbay Lib Dems.

The Liberal Democrat group on Torbay Council have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons yet again.

This time the knives are out for Cllr Loretta McHugh for having had the temerity to accept a job in Cabinet looking after the needs of local Children.

As I read Jim Parkers piece in the paper last night reporting bitter recriminations between Cllr Loretta McHugh and her Lib Dem associates I was struck by the fact that what seemed to matter most to the rest of the Liberal Democrats was not the fate of children in Torbay but the impact on their precious party.

The most revealing statement in the story was Chris Lomas who said "Now she can walk straight out of one of our confidential group meetings straight into Nicks office..." which tells you all you need to know about the kind of discussions that go on during Lib Dem 'confidential group meetings' doesn't it?

Whereas most people would imagine that the people they elected to represent them would spend their time worrying about how to make the bay a better place the Lib Dems have lifted the lid on what they really spend their time discussing - how to get rid of Mayor Nick Bye.

Mr Lomas admits as much "How can you sit on Nicks right hand one minute and the next be discussing group ideas to defeat [him]?" he says in a leaked email.

Loretta McHugh has judged that the needs of her constituents come ahead of the needs of her party, she is right and it's about time her colleagues got the message.

With friends like these who needs enemies?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Two sides of the same coin?

The current fuss about muslim women wearing veils reminds me of the recent fuss about young men wearing hoodies.

Personally, I find both forms of apparel quite intimidating; although for different reasons, Hoodies because they can appear threatening and burka's because of what, to me, they represent in terms of female oppression. But just because the majority don't like an item of clothing doesn't mean some people aren't entitled to wear it.

I passionately believe that people can and should be able to choose to wear what they like within the law, but the caveat is that that they then have to accept the consequences of that choice.

I think the Thurrock Shopping Centre were within their rights to refuse entry to lads wearing Hoodies, and Headfield Church of England Junior School, in West Yorkshire is fully entitled to refuse to employ a teacher who wishes to wear the full veil; and a Conservative Club is entitled to refuse me entry if I am wearing jeans against their dress code as happened recently in Torbay.

Spending time as I do in West London it has been very noticeable this year just how many women are now wearing hajabs and veils - what was once a minority adornement amongst British Muslims has rapidly become the vast majority in some communities.

I believe they are choosing to do so as a reaction -as an act of defiance- agains the negative press their religion has been recieving since the July 7th bombings last year.

This is an age-old issue. As many ageing millionaire pop artists will tell you, the best way to boost your support is to be banned by the establishment and vilified by the Daily Mail.

We forget that lesson at our peril.

Monday, October 16, 2006

There is an interesting story in todays Herald Express concerning the ongoing saga of car park provsion in Torbay.

Apparently the Lib Dems have decided to use their majority on the overview and scrutiny board to launch a 'review' of car parking.

This is an interesting development in the frantic rearguard action being mounted by a political party facing meltdown at the next elections due in May 2007.

Having caused uproar with the imposition on local taxpayers of an expensive and inflexible arrangement with NCP over on street parking and the highest car park charges on the South Coast the Lib Dems are now saying "In light of the public concern and the shelf-life of the existing parking strategy, the overview and scrutiny board decided that a wide-ranging review of parking provision within Torbay would be timely."

It would have been timlier still if they had done the review before signing a 5 year agreement with NCP.

I think Torbay residents will see this for exactly what it is - the Lib Dems simply hoping to try and divert some of the public anger and distance themselves from unpopular decisions they took so that the public 'forget' about them before next years election.

I think they are clutching at straws.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The biggest criticism of David Cameron so far is the chorus of voices saying ‘yeah, nice guy, but what where’s the meat, what are the policies?”

This is a fascinating change which has gone largely unnoticed.

For years we have been belting out policy after policy and no-one has been interested; two thirds of the electorate cared not one jot what our policies were - they weren’t going to vote Conservative whatever we said.

The contrast, as an activist, between years of trying to make people take an interest in our policies and today being criticised for not giving them enough detail is truly astonishing.

Now, all of a sudden, it matters what the Conservatives are going to stand for; what our policies are going to be because people desperately want a viable alternative to New Labour.

They may -in the end- still not decide to choose us, that much is self evident from the polls. But what is very different to any other time that I have been involved in politics is that a majority of the public care who we are and what we would do; and are clamouring for more detail (which I am glad we are not going to be rushed into revealing before we are ready).

There is a very important warning there for both Labour and the Lib Dems and fortunately (for us) neither of them show any signs at all that they have seen it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Is Farage going to damage UKIP's appeal?

I don't usually comment on UKIp but the recent election of ex Tory Nigel Farage as leader has interested me because he is clearly intent on taking the party in a sharply right wing political direction.

This is relevant because in my experience - and perhaps uniquely in this neck of the woods - a great deal of UKIP support comes from voters who probably would otherwise not vote Conservative.

In and around Brixham the EU is deeply unpopular because of the problems with fishing issues and the resulting resentment has underpinned the strong UKIP support there; but many of those voters used to vote Labour.

In the Torbay constituency
the backbone of UKIP are ex Tories, we lost many supporters to UKIP (then the Referendum Party) mostly during John Majors time. In my experience on the doorstep these people will never forgive the Conservatives for signing up to Europe in the first place and are a lost cause politically. The evidence of the last election, however, suggests that the increase in UKIP support came from disaffected Lib Dem voters, the vast majority of whom are politically to the left of centre.

Will that support stay for a party that is clearly aiming for the farthest reaches of the right by supporting policies such as flat tax, massive tax cuts (paid for by borrowing money), re-introducing school selection, a massive increase in defence spending and repatriating people?

And just as relevant, by seeming to morph into a very right-wing political party, will UKIP dissipate it's appeal on the one issue that has so far bound activists across the political spectrum together - being anti Europe?

Nigel Farage found himself 'out of love' with a Conservative party that was too middle of the road for him, yet was seen by most people to be too reactionary and right wing even in those days. Is he in danger of finding many of his own supporters don't share his elitist vision of Britain?

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm still reeling from the discovery that my office building of six years in Windsor has become the centre for 'race rioting', according to Newsnight.

I vacated it when I got selected in Torbay and the landlord then sold it to some Muslim businessmen who already owned the Dairy opposite.

Now I gather their decision to turn it into a muslim learning centre has caused 'riots'. Rubbish, there were frequent riots when we were there, long before the muslims bought the dairy.

The joke is that we used to call the road (Shirley Avenue) Beiruit High Street because barely a morning passed when there wasn't a burned out car, or full crime investigation squad there. The neighbourhood is so rough we had bars on the windows and a full security railing erected - just to protect us during the day when we were there!

The broken window shown on Newsnight last night was my actual office window, and I can tell you that it looked like that (broken) about four times a year.

People imagine Windsor as ganteel, but forget that it is in fact a garrison town with some genuine deprivation. This area (Dedworth) is a large 1950's council estate and there are a very large number of problem families housed there. The street suffered some very unsavoury characters - skinheads and troublemakers -real 'neighbours from hell' stuff - two or three homes used solely for the dismantling and dumping of scrap cars, that kind of thing. About ten years ago a chapter of Hells Angels even moved into a house nearby and eventually there was a horrible murder there; there were drugs busts and constant running battles between rival gangs.

I complained frequently about the lack of police presence in the area and I am not surprised the Asians who owned the dairy have had to make their own security arrangements. The way the BBC have hyped this into a racial incident is disgraceful.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I arrived here on Sunday to gales and lashing rain.

Ominously - given our adoption of an Oak tree for our logo my path to conference was blocked by a large fallen Oak tree across the road. There were press photographers there instantly, waiting for the opportunity to use the photograph as an appropriate metaphor for the week ahead. Given that the history of recent Conservative Conferences has been an orgy of self destructive and bitter infighting, you can't really blame them I suppose.

Luckily ours is a more energetic and youthful oak tree and it seems to be surviving the wild forces beating against it in Bournemouth rather well.

In spite of the sound of press knives sharpening on Sunday the tone and content of the Conference so far has been in a different league to any that I have experienced thus far in my relatively short political life.

There is a hot debate on tax policy which won't be resolved this week, there is much on social action - releasing people to take action themselves rather than waiting for a Government initiative to solve every social problem, and a very great deal about the environment, including the sound of some very tough decisions being prepared for.

Other than much disgruntlement about the missing passes (there are still several hundred delegates locked outside as I write) we are having a great time learning to be 'new'.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Welcome (?) the new style Conservative Party Conference.

We will have smoothies, fruitcakes and many varieties of nuts in Bournemouth this year -no, this is not the delegates I am talking about; but the refreshments.

I have been going to Party Conference since about 1998. Mostly the conference is an orgy of excessive drinking and eating, usually until early dawn (most politico's are nocturnal). Conference debates don't get going until the afternoon to allow everyone time to recover, daytime staple diets are lashings of coffee, large fried breakfasts, alcohol (from about 11.00 am in some cases) and copious portions of fried fast food.

Apparently, this is all over. According to my insider this year it's all health and wellbeing - even the debates, which will begin 'fresh and early' at 9.00 am.

The entire conference agenda is dominated by social action initiatives and topics with sexy hip titles like "Healthcare 2020" , " sustainable agriculture", "women and the environment", but actually which seem to be talking about banning lots of things - a worry for Libertarians like me.

Usually we get the odd free pen some lapel badges saying things like 'EU -NO Thanks!' or "LORRIES NEED ROADS!" and the offer of a blood pressure check but this year I am expecting to be given a peace flower, or a kaftan.

The party Chairman even emailed me "our fruit smoothie bar will be on hand to spread a bit of goodness and well-being throughout the conference." Mmmm , great!

Luckily everything I have been invited to that I want to actually go to is happening after dark in licenced premesis.

And Bournemouth still has an all-night kebab stall.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Was Cheri's outburst yesterday a Freudian slip?

Apparently, according to a Reuters journalist while Gordon Brown was in full flow yesterday, saying how much he considered working for Tony Blair an honour, Mrs Blair is reported to have blurted out the words 'thats a lie' - apparently in disgust, as she was leaving the hall.

The story, reported by a Reuters journalist, erupted across all the main media, spurred on by the knowledge that Mrs Blair cannot stand Gordon Brown at the best of times, let alone when he is poised to deny her husband his job.

Editors clearly decided the unwitnessed exchange was genuine, even though it was eventually denied seven hours later by Mrs Blair.

Interestingly what she said was "the story is not true ... and I don't believe it anyway."

Looks to me like a case of 'hell hath no fury' and all that; but it has certainly made a very boring Labour conference come to life..

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Letter to the Herald Express:

Dear Sir

In his letter to you of September 18th Cllr Peter Killick demonstrates perfectly the disease that the Torbay Liberal Democrats, and through them Torbay Council, has had since they came to power sixteen years ago. They turned Torbay into "the council that likes to say NO".

The one constant I have noticed when I talk to local business is endless stories of a Council who have crushed enterprise and deterred anything new.

While Conservatives, local businesspeople, trade groups and countless willing independent citizens have been brimming with ideas for regenerating Torbay, - whether supporting yacht races, backing new development ideas or supporting inward investment the Lib Dems have slammed the door in the face of plan after plan.

And since our mayor was elected by the people of Torbay, the Lib Dem group have opposed every new idea or proposal he has come up with.

For instance, Nick Bye made a perfectly reasonable suggestion last week to consider bids from a non-profit organisation to run the St Kilda’s care home yet before a single proposal has come forward Mr Killick is already saying ‘No’ - why not wait and see what's on offer first?.

But then he and his party said ‘NO’ to a referendum, then another big ‘NO’ to a directly elected Mayor in the first place.

Offered a chance to be in the cabinet -making positive contribution to the future of Torbay- the Lib Dems said no, and then said it again six months later, just to make sure we understood.

Nick brought in property experts to try out some fresh thinking about ways to deal with the Councils sprawling property portfolio and its £50m repair bill. I was horrified says Cllr Ruth Pentney, -or in other words - 'we won't consider anything that might help improve Torbay unless we thought of it first'.

Emergency seafront repairs; the 2006 budget; saving Upton School - even urgent matters like these the answer has been "No, No, and No".

As a result of the Lib Dems negative attitude and closed minds Torbay has been stuck in neutral since they took charge in 1990.

The local economy has been drifting while the rest of Devon has been booming. Millions - even billions of new investment has poured into areas like Exeter and Plymouth - because they had the sense to say 'yes please' whilst our lot were too busy arguing about their allowances and how many loos to close.

All is not lost, in May next years there will be elections to the council and residents can at last say 'No thanks' once-and-for-all to any more of the Lib Dems childish political antics.

Torbay deserves a fresh start and a positive attitude, hopefully in next years elections we will get both.

Yours Truly

Monday, September 18, 2006

Will a 'make over' save Ming?

As my picture of Lib Dem Leader Menzies Campbell and his deputy Vincent Cable at the Lib dem conference shows, the party leadership has an image problem.

Given that the young bloods like David Laws, Nick Clegg etc don't want to mount a coup this side of a general election (because they don't want to take the flak for the Lib dems certain disappointment come the next GE) is it any surprise that the spin masters have been suggesting ways for Ming to get with the yoof and trendy up his image a bit.

I am awarding a mystery prize for the best tip on here for Menzies Campbell. Should he engage the services of Trinny and Suzanna for that complete makeover? Or would he be better to organise a guest presenter spot on 'Have I Got Old News for You?'.

Suggestions can be left anonymously, but then you won't be able to claim the prize.

And please remember people, a leader is for the life of a Parliament, not just till Christmas.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Will the next Prime Minister be Gordon Brown?

It is the generally agreed view of nearly everyone in the political world that Gordon Brown is a 'done deal' to take over from Tony Blair.

I'm going on the record here and saying that I don't think he will get it.

Who would have doubted, in 1989, that the next tory leader was going to be Michael Hestletine? - Who would have believed, in 1997 and again in 2001, that the next Tory leader wasn't going to be Ken Clarke?

For those who can remember back that far, who would have questioned that the man to replace Harold Wilson was Roy Jenkins?

Even Mrs Thatcher was a rank outsider, upsetting the expected coronation of Whitelaw in 1975.

The point is the favoured candidate almost never gets elected, the only case that comes to mind was Anthony Eden eventually taking over from Winston Churchill and we all know how that ended up.

My money is on education secretary Alan Johnson sneaking through the middle as Labour members peer over the precipice and see a Gordon Brown led party being an electoral disaster and decide they want a new face, not another old one.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wheels fall off the Deals from Hell

The Liberal Democrats are famous for having made some of the daftest decisions in Torbays history including suddenly deciding to close down half our public toilets, putting council tax up so much the Government stepped in, causing outcry by awarding themselves a 63% pay rise and trying to close down several local schools ignoring angry parent protests.

But less well known is the fact that Torbay Lib Dems have also signed up to some eye-wateringly bad business deals, including the recent NCP fiasco, which will leave a financial legacy for years to come.

First Liberal Democrats paid for an ‘independent’ parking study - by a firm of consultants owned by the car parks operator NCP!

Then they awarded the deal to manage car parking in Torbay to –guess who? That’s right, NCP!

Next they spent £700,000 to house the new department, even though the council had other empty offices and a massive debt problem.

Now we learn that the ‘self funding’ deal will actually mean taxpayers forking out millions in fees to NCP unless local residents pay for parking permits as well!

Worst of all, in spite of thousands of complaints Torbay residents are stuck with NCP’s money-grabbing traffic Wardens for at least another five years and council tax payers will be paying EXTRA for the privilege.

PS Due to a breakdown of my Broadband system (offline for a month and counting) my ability to update the site and add photo's has been severely constrained. Please bear with me - BT ASSURE me that all will be resolved by next Thursday, we live in hope (thats what they told me last week, and the week before...)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Zionist plotting?

Unfortunately I have been told the comments section of my last post (Israel/Lebanon) doesn't work. Please feel free to post comments here instead.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lebanon -now what?

I am scheduled to make a fact-finding trip to Israel in November to see for myself the situation in the Middle East.

I am not currently a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel group who are organising the trip but I am generally sympathetic to Israels plight and believe that they have a right to defend themselves from attack.

However the recent Lebanon war in my view exceeds what is a fair and rightful response to the attack from Hezbollah. The best analogy I can think of is that if you had neighbours whose kids were throwing stones at your cat, would you be entitled to break into their house, trash their furniture and beat up the parents?

How would the world have reacted if, during the 1970's IRA attacks in London, the RAF had bombed bridges and power stations in Dublin?

In the modern age of 24 hour tv news overwhelming brute force is often less useful than winning the war of hearts and minds. Unfortunately Hezbollah have come out of this as the underdog heroes and are now stronger and more powerful than ever, in my view.

The shame of it is that the Israeli's, like the Americans after 9/11, have over-reacted exactly as the Arab extremists intended making the terrorists much stronger and free democracies weaker.

Perhaps the fact that the Israeli's appear to have lost this war might in the long run serve a useful purpose. The realisation that having the strongest army in the region is not enough to beat a determined unsurgency might persuade the Israelis that they have to consider occasionally turning the other cheek when provoked by their enemies.

I will know more when I return.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

We spent the afternoon with friends and all the children watching the Red Arrows perform over Torquay Harbour this afternoon.

I am fortunate enough to have a house that has a terraced Garden that looks out across the Bay from directly above the harbour and we had a superb viewing spot.

There is no doubt that the British Armed Services are the most proficient in the world.

Seeing the planes in action reminded me how stretched our armed services are at the moment, when - since 1947- have we had soldiers fighting for their lives in so many places at once?

Why is it that we seem to have been dragged into so many conflicts?

Could it be because the 'war' on terror is a nice little distraction from the less pleasant realities of the way the country is (or isn't) being run - or is that being just too cynical?

There is a very good satirical movie (can't remember the name) in which Dustin Hoffman plays a Hollywood film director called in to stage a fake war to ensure the US President gets re-elected on a wave of patriotic euphoria.

Fiction, or course.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Many thanks for all the comments (and complaints) that the site has been stagnant for a fortnight; I forgot to update it before I went on holiday.

Well, I am back and there will be an update before the weekend.

My apologies to any posts that have not appeared - I wasn't able to moderate them from the beach, unfortunately!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It stinks.

We learn nothing from history do we? After a couple of decades of hard lessons about nationalisation and 'central economic planning' we learned by 1979 that the last people who should make business decisions are politicians, especially Labour politicians.

The whole sorry tale of New Labours attempt to introduce a more relaxed gaming and gambling regime is rapidly looking like a return to the bad old days of Governments interfering in business - with similarlily disasterous results.

On the one hand the one remaining 'supercasino' that is going to be allowed is looking more and more like a pre-scripted stitch up rather than an open merit based contest. When the idea was first mooted for a supercasino the prime candidate was Blackpool, which would have been the perfect place; now it looks like it will be a white elephant at the wrong end of London.

Meanwhile we read that places like Luton and Canturbury are more likely to be 'selected' by the Government for the next generation of casino's than Torbay.

What in the name of all that is useful have the Government got to do with it? Why should some Whitehall quango know better than the Casino operators and local planners what is best for us?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Emerging news on the Lord Levy arrest....

Stories are slowly emerging in the press that contrary to earlier speculation and his own press statements Lord Levy is refusing to co-operate with the police investigation into cash-for-peerages.

I am hearing that
during interviews Lord Levy has insisted on reading out a pre-prepared statement and refusing to answer questions.

There is growing recognition (and frustration) that Levy is blocking the investigation progressing any further up the chain (i.e. to No 10) by saying nothing more than he has to unless he is actually charged.

There is a downside, which is that if he is charged his uncooperative behaviour will look very damaging in court.

I conclude one of two things - 1) He is confident that there is not enough evidence to charge anyone, including himself or 2) He is acting as a 'body shield' to protect Tony Blair for as long as he remains in office.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Could this ' pretty straight kind of guy' be the first Prime Minister in living memory to be arrested?
I have been musing on the prospects of the police interviewing Tony Blair under caution at 10 Downing Street ever since Lord Levy was interviewed.

the Independent reports this morning that “..There is a shiver going down the spine of No 10,” one insider said yesterday. “The paper trail is proving stronger than the police expected. They are pretty good at persuading people it is in their best interests to talk.”

I asked a friend who is a senior police officer what he thought and his view is that even a face-to-face interview with the PM is highly unlikely, and an arrest is unthinkable. The Prime Minister would be assumed to be cooperating fully and there would be no precedent to interview him under caution.
They may submit questions to him but they would probably just ask for a written statement in reply.

In fact senior officers say that arresting very high profile 'suspects' is often done merely to knock the stuffing out of them first so that officers can 'cut them down to size' and interview them as equals.

It seems to me highly unlikely that any charges will ever be brought but just the prospect of the Prime Minister having become embroiled in a scandal leading right to his door must be hugely damaging.

At the very least it suggests massive poor judgement to have allowed things to get this far, at worst it could be that there really is some truth in the allegations.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Going... going.... gone?

Joy of joys. There are reports everywhere in the media today about the almost certain demise of the ID card scheme.

I am lifted this morning by this news. I cannot explain why I have such a determined hatred of the concept of an ID card, other than the fact that it goes against everything I thought we valued in the country in terms of being free citizens. The concept of a British policeman being able to stop you on the street one day in the future and say "your papers, please" was just too chilling for words.

Outright abandonment in one go is unlikely but there will I am sure be a series of 'amendments' which will mean that the all encompassing biometric card and the 'big brother' style universal citizens database that go with it will not now be instigated before there is a change of Government.

Thank goodness for that.

Monday, July 10, 2006

David Cameron is going to make a major speech on young people today, a move which has already been attacked by the Labour Party.

I’m glad he has decided to say something about this because I hate the way we tend to demonise all youngsters just because some groups of young men (and women) can seem intimidating.

One of the worst habits of modern politicians is to play up ‘threats’ in the hope of being seen as the white knight with the solution.

Blair and Bush have invested a great deal of time and effort to play up the threat of terrorism which, although real, is not really any greater here in the UK than it has been since the 1960’s.

It is true to say that we Conservatives have also been guilty; during the 2005 election I was unhappy with the tone of some of our crime posters.

Gangs of young people hanging around on street corners can appear threatening, especially to old or single people and even more so late at night.

But it doesn’t help if the press and politicians between them have worked the public into a frenzy of fear based on a handful of shocking incidents of violence being blown out of all proportion.

In the main we live in a safe place. Your chances of being mugged, robbed or violently attacked in Torbay by a stranger (hooded or otherwise) are absolutely miniscule. The Herald Express faithfully detail every incident and never have more than a handful each month - in a town of 140,000 people and 660,000 visitors.

You are probably more at risk of injury from an uneven paving slab than a hooded youth while walking round Torbay.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's been silly season in Torbay.

To make a change from the normal web posts I thought I'd try something different. The fuss about 'dangerous' palm trees and wild traffic wardens made me wonder what people REALLY think about our local authority.

So I thought I would ask you.

Take my poll and view the results :

I think Torbay Council is:
Very poor, and getting worse
Very poor, but improving slowly
Poor, but not as bad as people say
Poor, but no worse than most other Councils
Not too bad.
Moderately good, trying hard to be better
Moderately good, could do better
What is all the fuss about? They are fine by me
Free polls from

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dr Pedrick-Friend - my Labour opposite number at the election, had a letter published in the Herald Express today entitled "Labour inherited economic meltdown" unsurprisingly full of inacurracies and errors.

Firstly, far from being 'in meltdown' in 1997 Britain was the most competitive and fastest growing economy in Europe with low tax, low Government borrowing and fully funded private sector pensions.

Clearly David's doctorate is not in economics - his statement 'the treasury lost over three billion (on Black Wednesday) ... which could have been used to build schools and hospitals' is completely wrong.

Sure, if the government had maintained $24bn foreign currency reserves (ie not sold sterling) that day, and the pound had fallen by the same amount, the UK would have made a 'paper' £2.4bn profit on sterling's devaluation. But it makes no difference to the Governments spending ability in Britain, either way.

As it happens Chancellor Gordon Brown has lost much more by selling 60% of our gold reserves between 1999 and 1992 raising £2.1bn for gold that would be now worth £4.5 bn - real money that really could have been spent on UK hospitals and schools.

But if Mr Pedrick Friend wants to compare facts, how about these:

ONS figures show the total of people out of work rose to 1.61 million in April. Overall the level of people 'economically inactive' has reached a record 7.9 million, the highest number since records began in 1971.

OECD figures show British productivity is now languishing behind that of both the EU and the US.

According to the ONS the UK's current account deficit grew to £31.9 billion in 2005, the highest on record in cash terms.

Gordon Brown is now running a budget deficit of 3.2% of GDP and earlier this year the European Commission stepped in to call for the chancellor to rein in his spending.

One in five British employees is working for the Government, 9/10 of whom are members of taxpayer-backed, index-linked, final-salary schemes. One expert, Stephen Yeo of consulting firm Watson Wyatt, estimates the government's (unfunded) liability for public-sector pensions comes to a staggering £30,000 per UK household.

There have been 80 new taxes since Gordon Brown took over. Figures produced by the OECD show that the UK's tax revenues are set to hit 42.7% of GDP this year, up from 40.7% in 1999 (and below 39% under the Conservatives).

Britain's personal debt is increasing by £1,000,000 every four minutes. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders total household debt has grown sharply as a percentage of disposable income over the past decade - the unsecured debt to income ratio was almost double that of 1995. According to a recent Financial Services Authority (FSA) report 14 million adults (35%) are relying on their overdrafts to get by each month; 3.5m are permanently overdrawn, while two million workers start the month in their overdraft, even after they have been paid.
New Labour have squandered the economic legacy of low Government borrowing, low tax and high productivity they inherited in 1997. Bit by bit the country and most of it's citizens have used up their reserves and for the last few years have been surviving on borrowed money.

There is going to be a long hangover to sort out the national finances and George Osbourne is absolutely right not to promise early tax cuts under even these circumstances, let alone those that might face an incoming Conservative Government in three years time.

I fear the complete reverse of Dr Pedrick Friends comment- that it may in fact be Conservatives who inherit Labours economic meltdown.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cameron 10% Lead - MORI this morning.

No party can hope to win an election from another without having first become the focus of popular opposition.

Although there have been a few isolated months when that has been true of the Conservatives the reality has been that for most of the period since Tony Blair came to power in 1997 that the main beneficiary of disaffection with New Labour has seemed to be the Liberal Democrats.

Partly I believe this is because they have honed their skills at opposition to a fine point, having had nearly 80 years of practice at it, but also it is because the Conservatives have been 'down for the count' and not really been in the public consciousness beyond the 30% or so who are our core support. That is why, while the Conservative vote has flatlined, Lib dem support has tended to rise each time Labour support has fallen and vice versa, on and off since the mid 1990's.

Increasing evidence now exists that that dynamic has changed for good, with a string of polls demonstrating that growing numbers of people who oppose New Labour are showing their anger by directly supporting David Cameron's Conservatives.

The local elections where one, and the aggregate by election statistics are another- and lastly the regular polls of which this is the latest and best.

This may change - I think it will be hard to sustain this level of poll lead if Labour gets a new leader, for instance, but Camerons journey to 10 Downing St has begun in earnest.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is going back to this really the way forward?

I grew up in the 1960's - a time of almost unbounded optimism for the future.

From science fiction to science fact the future in those days was seen to be a place where mans ingenuity would solve all our problems.

Running out of oil? No problem, we can all drive nuclear powered cars.

Running out of Planet? No problem, we can colonise Mars.

But we have grown up to the realities we face since then. For every scientific advance there is often a side-effect and mankind has had to learn to evaluate whether the gain is always worth the pain.

Which brings me to the Prime Ministers admission that Nuclear Power is 'back on the agenda' as a solution to our growing energy gap. This is worrying because it means that we are admitting a failure to find a better solution.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need a radical re-think about our use of energy and I have always believed in the power of individuals and local communities to achieve much more than grand Government initiatives.

Rather than think big over power generation, why not think small? Before we rush out and invest hundreds of billions in new power stations that may contaminate the planet for centuries why not look at ways to reduce our usage of power and encourage millions of homeowners to generate just a little power of their own?

And new technology promises to help. New ways of micro generation such as photo-voltaic roof tiles added to ever more efficient building materials and electrical equipment can, if applied across millions of homes, close the gap without recourse to a 1950's Dan-Dare technology that has proven to have side effects too terrible to risk.

The shame is that it increasingly looks like we aren't going to to give the 'small is best' option a chance.

Monday, May 22, 2006

This is todays front page from the Herald Express.

I don't think I should or could add anything to the long and detailed story printed across five pages of the local newspaper and there is no need for me to do so.

Perhaps now the Lib Dem activists in Torbay may learn that politics is not a game to be won at all costs, but a serious business about who runs our country and our borough and how they do it.

It remains to be seen where Bay politics goes from here, but perhaps after this dreadful nadir we can get on with the business of discussing the alternative methods by which each party would aim to improve people's lives. Let's hope the others are in future prepared - as Conservatives always have been - to discuss and be judged on our policies in an open grown-up and fair debate.

Conservatives have to focus on providing a decent, honest and committed alternative administration in 2007 and that is where our efforts must continue to concentrate.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Word reaches my ears that the local newspaper the Herald Express has a 'very big' political story in tomorrows edition.

Nobody outside the paper knows for sure what the story is (secrecy abounds) but what is the betting for more revalations concerning the Lib Dem council group?

Having had to put up with the Lib Dems calling them 'corrupt', I wouldn't be at all surprised if local journalists haven't pulled out all the stops to try and find out if it's been a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

We will see.

Monday, May 15, 2006

How is he doing?

On a previous thread a regular contributer to this site Barry Wood (no, we are not related) implies that I haven't been giving Nick Bye very much public backing.

This is worrying me because I think Nick Bye is the best thing to happen to Torbay in a generation - and so do a large and growing number of the people who live here - and I would hate to think that anyone thought that I had any doubts.

For the first time we have an independantly minded directly elected individual representing the population at the heart of our local Government.

In just a few months Nick has:

* Averted the closure of Upton School
* Avoided the Lib Dems disasterous budget and made sure that council tax increases are affordable next year, without dipping into the councils meagre reserves.
* Restructured the overpriced and ludicrous car park charges.
* Got the Kingskerswell By Pass on to the shortlist for funding.
* Fast-tracked a vision for Torbay into a real roadmap to regeneration including some really exciting 'think big' ideas including a casino development, redeveloping the Princes Theatre and turning the disaster of the crumbling prominade into the catalyst for another Bay attraction.

(I may have omitted other achievements - this list is just from memory!!):

But above all he has proved that it's not 'weak' to compromise- it's a sign of strength.

Listening to public opinion and then reacting to what people want - and if necessary being prepared to change plans- is something Torbay residents have wanted for a long time.

For far too long we have had poor governance at local level; we have suffered froman officer led council who have been happy to dictate on the basis that 'they know best' what is good for local citizens and more recently, a Lib dem group who have dismissed every criticism as being 'politically motivated' and therefore irrelevant.

Nick has the ideas and the passion to change this - and there is growing evidence of a real culture change in the town hall- but he can't deliver it on his own.

That is why we are working hard to ensure that next May we win enough Conservative seats to overturn the current stalemate which exists between a Conservative Executive Mayor and a Lib Dem dominated council chamber intent on blocking his every move.

Nick has exceeded even my wildly optimistic predictions when I was campaigning for him last year, and I know there is more to come in the years ahead when he will have the backing of the new Conservative Council when it arrives next May.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Letter to the Herald Express

Dear Sir
One of the reasons I give my children for being honest is that in the truth will come out in the end and lies will only ever get you into trouble. This is advice I expect might resonate with MP Adrian Sanders as he reads the headlines in your paper on Thursday “MP told to reveal all over mayor”.
He was asked about his involvement in the “NO” campaign several times last year and on each and every occasion he stated categorically that this was an independent campaign in which he was not involved.
It transpires that the Torbay First scheme was apparently cooked up by Mr Sanders in his own home.
“It was devised in Adrian Sanders kitchen…. It was formed after discussions with Adrian, Party officials … and councillors including myself and Chris Harris” says Cllr Gordon Jennings. This is backed up by Lib Dem president Andrew Douglas Dunbar: "Adrian was at the first meeting I was at when it was discussed.. Adrian was brought in because it was a political story".
The story is important not because Adrian and the Lib dems opposed the mayor (we all knew that) but because it exposes the way the Lib Dems in Torbay habitually go about doing their political business.
Mounting a campaign that clearly involved the whole local party organisation and then pretending it wasn’t theirs is a deeply dodgy and fundamentally dishonest way for a political party to operate.
Mysterious businessmen who apparently used to live in the Bay but have now moved away paying for things in cash (was it in a brown paper bag, I wonder?) may be normal procedure for the Lib Dems but to the rest of us seems distinctly odd.
Faced with perfectly reasonable questions from me the response is to first refuse to answer and second attack the questioner. More worryingly, when I queried the ownership of the campaign headquarters I was even warned off by my MP with a thinly veiled threat of legal action.
Quotes like ‘what I do dislike is losing elections, thats it.’ and ‘It would have been a poor strategy to have come out on one side as there was a 50:50 chance of the referendum going either way’ reveal so much about their real political objective; - not about improving the lives of the residents of Torbay; - not about making Britain a better country, not even about fighting for Liberal principles: but simply about winning elections -at any cost.
No wonder people are disillusioned with politics.
Yours truly