Friday, March 30, 2007

Just how much


do you need?

So Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders is yet again making hysterical noises demanding yet more consultation on a Casino in Torbay. I think our MP’s protests merely demonstrate how out of touch with local opinion he has become

In my online survey of local opinion less than 2% considered the Casino their most pressing issue; compared to 42.8% who worry most about the local economy and 25% the need for a bypass.

The Casino scheme is already the most reviewed, consulted and voted on project in our entire Civic history.

1). There was a full public consultation by the Government on super-casino’s when the Green Paper was published in 2004.

2). There was a full debate in the House of Commons when the law was passed.

3). There was local consultation by the Council before the application for a Casino was made in 2005.

4). Mayor Nick Bye held a public meeting to debate the Casino in 2006.

5). There was a debate in the Council to scrutinise the decision to launch a bid for a licence by Torbay TDA earlier this month.

6). There has been an unexpected second opportunity to public consultation in both Houses of Parliament this week.

And finally there will be a further ample opportunity for local residents one and all to have their voices heard during the planning application that will have to take place before a Casino could ever open.

How sharply this contrasts with the lack of consultation by the Lib Dems over closing schools and toilets in Torbay and, most of all, increasing their own pay.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why the Budget was a particular blow for Torbay.

If you had wanted to design a budget specifically to harm our economy you'd have been hard pressed to have come up with anything better than this Chancellor managed last Wednesday.

Two groups suffered disproportionately from increased tax and reduced concessions and they were:

1) People without children earning less than £18,000 per annum who lost the 10p tax rate and
2) Smaller incorporated businesses whose tax rates increase from 19 to 22p in the £.

Torbay is an economy that is dominated by small, local businesses including privately owned shops, service business and especially hotels and inns.

Furthermore Torbay has a much higher than average percentage of single people and couples without children on relatively low earnings -often the employees of the hotel and leisure businesses on which the bay depends.

Quite why these two groups should be so drastically clobbered remains a mystery but the fact is that Torbay (and other coastal resorts like us) will be more seriously hit by these measures than anywhere else.

I am appalled that a Labour chancellor would hit struggling small businesses and the lowest paid worker gorups with a tax increase while dishing out tax cuts that benefit global corproations and the richest 10% of income earners.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Labour slump in first post-budget poll

In todays Telegraph poll the gap between Labour and the Tories has grown by 2% since the Budget on Wednesday.

What a high price Gordon Brown is paying for a few seconds of discomfort for David Cameron.

It really beggars belief that a supposed genius should craft his entire Budget, the backbone of economic policy for the nation for the next twelve months, on the basis of a two-second finale aimed at wrong-footing his political opponent.

It worked initially, but like so many other Gordon Brown initiatives, it has unravelled within days.

Instead of being seen as a reforming chancellor he is viewed with suspicion and mistrust that -according to the polls- matches and even exceeds the mistrust the public hold for Tony Bliar.

And the real problems this budget will add to are only just beginning to peep from under the political hyperbole.

An unprecedented shift for low income earners away from keeping them out of the tax system and instead snaring them in a hand out dependency culture - the very opposite of what they need.

An attack on the profits of small business, the very people on whom Gordon Brown has depended to keep the economy motoring, and a tax hand-out to anonymous global corporations like BP, Shell and HSBC.

Gordon Brwon apparently treats his cabinet peers with contempt but clearly imagines the public are even more stupid than his Government colleagues.

Luckily they aren’t. Is it any wonder his poll ratings have slumped?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Launching my Kids Play Area campaign.

Shadow Minister for Children Tim Loughton kindly agreed to help launch my campaign to raise £100,000 to build a new childrens play area - hopefully on Preston Seafront.

Since my children were quite small we have been aware that the facilities available to our youngest visitors to the seafront have been pretty meagre.

The fact is that neigbouring Teignmouth has a superb new facility complete with rope climbing frame and myriad new and exciting attractions, all free and open.

I have conducted a small survey and during the winter months 80% of the people walking along the green were from within the Torbay area and many of them (and 92% of those with children) commented that facilities for childrens play were limited unless you want to pay.

The council clearly have limited resources which , quite rightly, are directed towards residential play facilities and their track record in this regard is qute good. We want to raise funds from private donors, local businesses and through fundraising to build a really exciting adventure playground for vistors and local children alike.

The council have indicated that they may be able to offer us a patch of land by the new pirate themed crazy gold course on Paignton green and we have set our hearts on filling the space next to it with our park.

We intend to hold a competition amongst local children to help design the park which we hope to theme along pirtae/smuggler lines.

If you can help or know someone else who might, please contact me on 01803 557753.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The controversy raging over the Sherwell Valley School sex video and the Torbay Council sex-and-booze survey of 12 year-olds seems to sum up the confusion we have made of childrens policies in this country. It really is time to admit that the Government is the cause of the social problems our young people face, not the cure.

At school no-one is allowed to fail, yet winners aren't recognised and excellence in many schools has become a dirty word. The hardest working are often ignored because teachers are too busy making 'behaviour contracts' with disruptive pupils who they are afraid to rebuke for fear of legal action.

Obesity is a massive problem, but we've built over all the playing fields and eliminated competitive sport from junior schools.

Teachers are banned from putting plasters on cut knees, and are not allowed to cuddle or comfort a crying child anymore while police officers patrol our schools and are sending boys to court instead of the headmaster for fighting in the playground. We are criminalising children for being, well, childish. In one recent local case a 16 year old ended up in court for 'kicking a door' at his care home, for instance.

Kids - who aren't allowed decent Saturday jobs anymore - are expected to run up tens of thousands in student debt at university and then lectured on the 'evils' of being in debt.

With sex education it's even worse. On the one hand we seem determined to fast-track our children to adulthood yet on the other we seem terrified of letting them grow up.

While we are locking up sixteen year old boys for having sexual relationships with their fifteen year old girlfriends we are busy sending out surveys to their 12 year old siblings asking them whether they know how to get hold of the pill.

We force shockingly sexually explicit videos on eight-year-olds at school, and then want to ban adverts for hamburgers when they get home.

Yet the more the authorities interfere, the worse the situation becomes. Each new initiative by Government is followed a couple of years later by a predictable increase in problem pregnancy, under-age sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases.Torbay Council says it works 'in partnership' with parents, but the partnership is one-sided because as a parent you are no longer trusted to educate your children on the facts of life in the manner and at the time you see fit.

While parents gently re-assure their teenage children it's wrong to have sex too early the authorities are busy telling pre-pubescents exactly how to do it and where and when to get contraception, even how to get an abortion without parents knowledge.

Is it any wonder our young people are so confused?

Monday, March 12, 2007

More good news in the weekends polls

For some time now I have been saying that Conservatives need a sustained 40% or more in the popular polls before we will be taken seriously as a possible Government in waiting.

For those less obsessed with polling data than me, the situation for Conservatives has been very bad since 1992, with the party stuck in a 'range' that rarely rose above 33% of electors.

When Cameron took the reigns in 2005 there was an immediate 3% lift in the 'range' which moved from 30-33% to 33-36% - a welcome change but still not enough to make the party a credible threat to Labour.

All commentators agree that to win an outright majority the Conservatives need a lot of support because they are still so far behind in the numbers of seats we hold in Westminster - less than 200 at the moment.

We all accept that there is a lot further to go, but there have now been polls from all the major firms that put Camerons Conservatives above the important 40% threshold.

If this is sustained as the Labour leadership passes to Brown (and the surveys say that it will - indeed most who ask the question find that Brown is even less liked than Blair) we are in a very strong position as the third term of New Labour passes the half way mark.

The locals in May will be a much better 'real' test of public opinion, but I'm more than happy with our position just now.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Why you won't catch me talking about race.

Not because Patrick Mercer has been sacked for the 'unfortunate' phrasing of his comments on ethnic minority soldiers; well not directly because of it.

The temperature of debate in politics can sometimes get just too hot to be any use. At such a point carrying on any serious debate becomes pointless because all sides are just not listening. Global warming is a good example of where anyone who just happens to question the current consensus is promptly vilified in the media for being a) wantonly irresponsible and b) obviously in the pay of the oil companies.

Such is the fever in the media just now about Muslim extremism, immigration and multi-culturalism that any attempt to make any point on any side of the debate becomes seriously counter-productive.

But it is a pity that matters of concern to ordinary people in their daily lives can become too hot to handle for the elected representatives they have chosen to speak up on their behalf.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lib Dems confirm coalition plans with Labour.

In yesterdays keynote speech to the Lib Dem conference leader Ming Campbell set five 'tests' which a Labour Government would have to pass before he would enter negotiations over a coaliton.

Crucially, for Lib dems, changing the electoral system isn't one of them.

For years the Lib Dems have refused to say if they would go into a power sharing deal with either of the main parties ahead of a general election that gave a hung result; a position I have always said would be unsustainable if polls suggested a hung parliament looks likely.

Obviously, given the Labour and Lib Dems shared past and the fact that the have worked in coalitions in Scotland and in wales, most people imagined that the Lib Dems would favour a coalition with Labour but this is the first hard confirmation.

What is even more interesting is the 'low price tag' Menzies is attaching to a deal. Previous talks (as happened in the lead-up to the 1997 election) failed over the Lib Dems insistance that any coalition would introduce Proportional Representation as the price of their support.

The BBC were reporting yesterday that there was disagreement amongst senior Lib Dems about the significance of Menzies moves; with many on the right of the party distancing themselves from his speech.

This is a very interesting -if slightly risky- political move. There are great benefits to the Lib Dems in the north of England and in Scotland in being seen as the 'sensible' partner in a left of centre Government which will undoubtably increase the Lib dems appeal north of the border.

However the prospects for Lib dems in the South of the country under such a scenario look decidedly grim. If the majority of voters in England decide that they don't want a Labour Government why would they vote for the Lib dems in marginal seats like Torbay, who are promising to prop up Gordon Brown in No 10?