Monday, April 30, 2007

So who is going to win on Thursday?

Because this is a site dedicated to the local political scene I am talking here about Torbay Unitory Authority.

The current situatuation is that out of 36 councillors 9 are Conservative, 24 are Liberal Democrat and then there is Cllr Harris; ex Lib dem leader who resigned from their group and independents Cllrs Turnbull and Ian Oxley who resigned from ours; all of whom vote Lib Dem.

This means that the split is 75% to 25% Lib Dem to Conservative.

Under the new mayoral system Nick Bye can propose legislation which must be approved by a majority of Councillors. If the Mayor does not have a majority and his proposals are rejected he can force them through the council as long as no more than one third of the councillors vote against; if that happens the measure is lost.

So technically as long as there is one third of councillors prepared to support the Mayor then he is in control of the legislation process.

But much of the councils business is in fact managed and controlled by committees and panels such as the police and fire authority, whose members are drawn from the majority group or in ratio to the members from each party.

So a majority on the council chamber leaves the majority party largely in control of the important levers of power.

So to win the election on Thursday Conservatives need at least half the councillors - that's eighteen; double our current total.

Am I expecting us to do that?

I will stick my neck out and say, having seen the poll returns, yes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Chart that tells the tale

You don't have to look far to see where it's all been going wrong.

This is a graphic showing the number of bed night stays in Torbay Borough per year for each year since 1990 when the Lib Dems first took control of Torbay.

The figures, obtained from the Town Hall, show a revealing ongoing and relentless decline exept for two years - 2001 and 2002, when the council was briefly in blue hands.

Now there have been very many, including -it has to be said many Conservatives; who spent the 1980's and early 1990's anticipating the end of UK tourism and diverting resources and effort away from our core industry. 'Diversification' was the name of the game and it was partly a promise of new jobs for local people that won the Lib dems enough support to win control again and again in the 1990's.

The problem is that in diverting resources away from hospitality and tourism the bay has been allowed to decline into decay. The short boost in 2001 shows that returning the focus back to keeping the streets clean and the flower beds blooming can have an instant effect.

I believe that residents have recognised that, even if UK tourism were in decline (and so far there is no evidence to support this -UK tourism numbers are up and the number of people coming to Devon is at a record high) our best hope is to grab a bigger slice of that market, not give up on it and try something else.

The very thing that makes our location perfect for visitors and tourists also makes our location poor for manufacturers and distributers.

I advise and consult with hundreds of larger manufacturing and distribution businesses and none of them would choose a location on the coast because 1) It's the furthest point from most customers and 2) half the catchment for both staff and customers is sea. To put it bluntly, the only way to compensate for the unavoidable drawbacks of our location is either very big grants or very low pay.

If we return some of the glamour and quality to the Torbay experience we can thrive as a location for the millions of visitors coming to the South West; and we can continue to be an attractive location for people to retire to; that in turn supports the shops and small businesses that make up the local economy and provide jobs and prosperity.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cameron Comes To Town
The worst-kept secret in Torbays history is finally out in the open, David Cameron was in town today.

A visit like today has to be carefully planned – choreographed almost moment by moment; but because of the demands of his job as leader of the opposition Camerons schedule has to be kept flexible until the last point possible. The risk of causing disappointment therefore means that generally the arrangements are kept 'unconfirmed' until the preceding 24 hours; much to the frustration of many local media and politicians desperate for confirmation we couldn't give.

Anyway I met him at Occombe Farm at 09.30 as planned this morning complete with an entourage of press cameramen, reporters and photographers. The handful of farm shop customers were then treated to the sight of the leader of the opposition doing a bit of real food shopping surrounded by the constant hubbub of flashbulbs, shouting camera crews and anxious press agents.

After an amusing tour of the livestock (as one wag pointed out the pigs seemed more at home with the press pack than the politicians...) and a briefing on the solar panel and fresh water recovery systems that the farm relies on it was in the car and off to the Herald Express offices for a cup of coffee with the editor and to meet staff in the newsroom.

Then it was up to Babbacombe and a quick whizz down the cliff railway. As we descended the TV people were keen to film David with the rising car passing us in the background. I suddenly had this terrifying image of the carriage rising into view stuffed with Lib Dems making faces at the window and waving yellow banners as they drifted past....

Then it was an endless round photo's on the beach with our council candidates and a gee-up speech and a promise to return the day after the elections if we win from Mr Cameron; then a chat with Mayor Nick Bye, then more photo's on the way up to make a pre-recorded interview with Channel 4's “The Politics Show”.

After that, in the car and off to Teignbridge; phew!

Local MP's get a good deal of press coverage, but unless there is an election 'opposing' candidates like me do not. A visit like this is an opportunity to try and level the playing field for just one day and it is very, very welcome.

The effort made by everyone, not least David Cameron personally, is considerable. The fact that he spent so long here I think is testament to how seriously we view the need to win this seat back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


You can read them here:

And then there was one....

It seems unbelievable that with the news yesterday that David Milliband has moved to end speculation about his potential candidacy for leader the mighty New Labour machine is reduced to a shortlist for the top job of.... one.

There is a famous MP's quote (I cannot remember who said it, might have been Alan Clarke) but when asked in the house of commons if he would ever want to become Prime Minister the reply was 'everyone here - from the cleaner upwards, secretly wants to be Prime Minister'.

This is the job vacancy of all time so far as Labour politicians are concerned, here is the chance to go directly from nought to Prime Minister without passing Go; to become in one bound the leader of the party; to take control of the fourth largest economy in the world etc, etc.

And nobody but Gordon apparently wants the job.

That says something about either Gordon Brown or the state of the Labour Party but I'll leave you to decide for yourself which.

PS. I was at the PoliticalBetting book launch yesterday and the serious political punters are pouring money in to what they say is a one-way bet; Gordon Brown. Some have also worked out that an outside bet is excellent value on the now fairly remote chance that, Cameron -style, an outsider comes from nowhere to steal the crown.

Whisper it, but Hiliary Benn was a name that went round yesterday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another Futile Gesture.

The news media regionally have picked up a story from Torbay Council concerning variable car park charges depending on the 'environmetal friendliness' of your car.

This must rate as one of the daftest proposals ever; even allowing for this councils rich heritage of stupid parking ideas.

At first I thought that this idea was a late April Fools joke; proof that the Lib Dems do have a sense of humour after all - but sadly, it is not.

As it is I already see confused visitors trying to work out the Byzantine regulations surrounding the Harbour Car park near my home every day. Long term parking here, short term parking there - but 'shoppers' must park on this level - but not in spaces which are reserved, and not there because we have fenced that bit off for some reason that no-one can remember. - and don't forget that some parts of the car park are locked up after 8.30pm (but not every evening, just when we feel like it).

Imagine - visitors already confused - tired of queing at the sole working ticket machine have then got to get out a calculator to work out the parking charge. What would it be? 25p per cc per hour? Or would it be per ton of CO2 per day (or part thereof)?

Imagine the ridicule of the national media as angry drivers point out the that they were made to open the bonnet of their car by our famously over-zealous NCP wardens to prove they have paid the right amount?

This is yet another badly thought through, politically motivated, anti-motorist and anti-visitor proposal from an administration that have made our council a National laughing stock.

Laughable - but not very funny. These councillors came up with this stupid idea at our expense.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Madness of Megans Law

I am still fuming after listening to the Today programme this morning reporting the news that parents are to be given the right to know if paedophiles are living near their homes as part of a pilot project.

The move follows years of campaigning by parents for Megan's Law - named after a similar rule which was introduced in the US. North East Somerset will be the first area to test the scheme after the idea was championed by local MP Dan Norris.

The points batted backwards and forward across the airwaves by the pro-and anti factions revolve around the liklihood of sex offenders 'going to ground' and disappearing through fear of reprisal; the justice or otherwise of allowing the public to identify these people and the relative liklihood of such a move being 'effective' in reducing the risks.

My anger has been provoked by the madness our criminal justice system is infected with.

These people are either:
1) still at risk of offending against children in which case they should not be at liberty; or
2) 'cured' (or were never a risk in the first place) in which case why do we need to be warned about them?

The sex offenders register is a dogs breakfast attempt to make good a fatal flaw in our justice system - the public no longer trust that 'rehabilitated' violent or dangerous criminals are in fact safe.

The prime responsibility of the criminal justice system should be to protect the law-abiding from the law-breaking; but for much of the last forty years we have instead been pretending that the role of our prison system is to try and 'cure' criminal behaviour.

And it hasn't worked; anywhere. The sex offenders register was the first time in modern times that the legal system has accepted the possibility that some people may potentially never be safe; but it is a bad compromise that achieves nothing.

Instead of making a bad situation worse, we need a new agreement between the courts and the public that offers justice and safety.

And yes, that does mean more prisons and less parole.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A very interesting report has appeared on the BBC politics website about the local political scene so far as older voters are concerned this afternoon:

Quite why the Beeb decided to investigate the concerns of the grey vote down our way is a bit of a mystery but the attention is welcome nonetheless.

And they have learned what we here all know. Older voters here are fed up with rising bills and falling pensions.

They are sick and tired of being intimidated on the streets at night and they are appalled at a society that seems to glory in the removal of freedoms and liberties many of them fought with their lives to preserve.

They are totally fed up with crushing political correctness and European inflicted legislation mucking up our common-sense approach to law and order.

To be fair to the BBC they seemed pretty unimpressed with most of the political parties potential solutions (or perhaps lack of solutions) to their concerns; although the consensus seemed to be that the Conservatives would provide their best hope.

It might be slightly ungentlemanly of me to point out that the BBC couldn't find anyone still planning to vote Lib dem at the next election, but it was an interesting fact nonetheless.