Friday, September 19, 2008

BNP come third in Noak Bridge

The results are in for the Noak Bridge Parish Council by-election. There were two independent candidates and the BNP, who put out three leaflets and canvassed extensively. It is in the context of all that effort that the result should be considered:

Party Votes %
Independent 244 49%
Independent 166 33%
British National Party 89 18%

They lost, and lost badly in a field that included none of the other parties that regularly fight elections in Basildon District. I am very proud of our people today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tories on 52%

Apparently there is going to be a Mori poll published at midnight putting the Conservatives on 52%. Two things spring to mind: firstly Simon Heffer will now start complaining that David Cameron has failed because he hasn't broken 60%.

Secondly, who are this 24% who still want to vote Labour?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gordon Brown in deep trouble

This from Nick Robinson's blog a couple of days ago:
The PM, it seems, has been saved for now at least not by anything he's done but by an atmosphere of weary resignation that has taken over much of his party.
Robinson has, to be fair, recognised that this is the equivalent of the Michael Fish 'no hurricane' forecast just before the south of England was hit by a, well, hurricane. Gordon Brown is now in deep trouble, with up to 23 backbench MPs doing to him what he did to Tony Blair, that is to create an environment where he can no longer function as Prime Minister regardless of what the party rulebook says. Labour's arcane system requires 70 odd MPs to precipitate a leadership contest, but the current rebellion calculates that far fewer than that number can put Gordon Brown under enough pressure that he goes. His options are limited: cannot ask for loyalty, because he showed none to Tony Blair; he cannot rely on his electoral mandate within the Labour party, because he and his cronies engineered it so that there was no election. All that is left is force and so far, the response to the rebels has been brutal, with sackings from whatever position held for the crime of, wait for it, asking for a ballot paper as allowed under Labour Party rules. It also begs the question of how the names of the requesters have become know to Gordon's operation, and that is the subject of much debate in online political circles. These heavy-handed tactics might keep Gordon in position in the short term, but they come at a cost of moral authority both within the party and the country.

Politically, Gordon Brown is finished, but at this rate he will drag down his party too. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair stood aside because, ultimately, they were not prepared to do that. Does Gordon have that sense of historical perspective and moral courage, or is he a dictator who cares not what comes after him as his foes close in on his bunker. If it is the latter then the focus of history has become needle sharp on the events of the next few days. Always remember that political parties can die.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

BNP on our doorstep

We have a by-election for Noak Bridge Parish Council, and the BNP are standing. Now, in Basildon the political parties don't usually stand in Parish elections, leaving the politics out of it at that very local level. The BNP don't play like that though, and they are quite happy to run an election campaign full of lies and on issues that a Parish Council can't do anything about. Hot flash: Noak Bridge Parish Council can't affect immigration policy, not that you would believe that based on the BNP leaflets. As for claims that the 'Council' wants to build 10700 houses in the fields around Noak Bridge, helpful map provided, that is the Labour government's housing target for Basildon and Basildon Council's policy is to build in the existing urban footprint, not on the Green Belt. This is also another thing that is nothing to do with a Parish Council.

Of course, the BNP have form in all of this. Up and down the country the BNP has managed to win the odd election through a mixture of lies and distortions. When elected, their Councillors show little interest in public service, and anyway they cannot deliver on their promises. After that the electorate usually wises up and they are dumped. Hopefully, we won't have to see that cycle in Noak Bridge.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Labour isn't dumping Brown

Simon Heffer writes a piece in which he suggests that the obvious course of action for the Parliamentary Labour party to get of Gordon Brown:
...Labour MPs know what to expect when a party continues to be loyal to an obviously defeated and discredited leader. The party soon loses so heavily that it is out of power for several terms. For many MPs, it is the end of a political career. Many ministers suffer a similar fate, eventually clawing their way back into employment only after two or three years of misery and humiliation. Does Labour want its own 1997?

Self-interest should dictate it does not.
If it was that obvious then why is nothing much happening? Gordon Brown is an electoral disaster who possesses none of the policy and character strengths of a John Major. That he has to go is indeed obvious, but it might not happen, and there is a reason for this. According to a parliamentary friend of mine, you have to think about who Labour MPs actually are. For most of them being an MP is the best job that they have ever had, more responsibility and better pay then they could command in the private sector. Most Conservatives on the other hand take pay cuts to enter parliament. So, let's say you are a Labour MP. You are on a majority of a few thousand and mathematically virtually certain to lose your seat at the next election. You have been told that a change of leader means an early election, which will make you unemployed. So, you back Gordon because at least that means nearly two more years in work. If there is going to be a coup it will come from those with majorities in the 6-8000 range who have everything to play for, but given Labour's arcane rules there aren't enough of them against the small majorities and the huge majorities who have no particular reason to dump Gordon. That is why he clings one.

Just where did you think the 'a new leader means an early election' stuff actually comes from?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Wat Tyler project well underway

Basildon's Conservative Council regeneration portfolio is not short of major projects. This reflects our activist approach to improving our community. Basildon Tories don't just sit about, we get things done despite jibes from our local Labour party. I remember a comment from a Labour Councillor a while ago while we were discussing our plans in a Council meeting along that lines that 'you haven't built anything yet'. Well the George Hurd Centre opened recently, a £2m centre for the elderly housing a day centre and offices for voluntary organisations working with the elderly. We have now been asked by the Audit Commission if they can use that project as an example of best practice by Local Authorities, because of the way we managed to get it built at no cost to the Council as part of a land swap deal that also saw the provision of affordable and social housing for our people. Our next opening is likely to be the Heritage Centre at Wat Tyler park, which has been paid for largely by Lottery funding and which will boost the attractiveness of what is already an excellent public asset. Building work is progressing well and the project is on time to complete for an opening next year. This compliments the other regeneration efforts in Pitsea, which are also proceeding apace.

The only cloud on the horizon is the general economic malaise, which has hit the property industry especially hard. This has had the effect of winnowing out poor projects around the country, and all of ours are still in progess, but recession and uncertainty are not friends of large-scale regeneration. Better national leadership can make a real difference here. Can we have some please?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Did you miss the Relaunch?

Was that it? This was supposedly the week where Gordon Brown fought back, releasing a series of eye-catching policies that put the government back onto the political offensive and started to rebuild trust and support among the electorate. Except he didn't. The Stamp Duty freeze was pitched only at the low end of the market and adds up to trivial money against the size of the housing market. The increased fuel allowance never happened. And, er.., that's it. In the middle of this of course Charles Clarke unleashed his broadside and, tellingly, Gordon Brown was only defended by a backbencher, a couple of junior ministers and Ed Balls, a man who would be standing next to the Prime Minister against the bullet-scarred wall if it all were to come to an end. The Cabinet kept quiet. No senior minister rallied to the boss. Not one. Meanwhile the polls stay awful and another Scottish by-election is coming up with even worse prospects than Glasgow East. Then there is Labour party conference where it is already being said that Gordon has to give the speech of his life. Huh? Most people don't watch party conference speeches and even if Gordon Brown makes a good speech it does nothing to change the dynamics of the situation. The reality is that the government is dysfunctional, and everyone knows it. Labour keep giving Gordon brown another month, then another month, to do what? If he could do something then he would have done it by now, unless he is some sort of political masochist.

The question is if the Labour party are political masochists.

UPDATE: After I had posted this I came across and article that puts me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Polly Toynbee. Or maybe it puts her in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with me...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

'Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are'

So says Charles Clarke in the New Statesman, where he delivers a devastating critique of Brown's henchmen's use of the word 'Blairite' to marginalise anyone who criticises them. His is one of those who 'fear that Labour's current course will lead to utter destruction at the next general election' and states that 'we will not permit that to happen'. This is fighting talk, but his analysis of Labour's current situation is pretty much spot on. Brown is trying to characterise anyone who criticises him from within Labour's ranks as a malcontent supporter of the former Prime Minister, hoping to capitalise on the discomfort that many in Labour felt with their most successful Prime Minister, well, ever. What he isn't doing is anything to reverse his party's current poor electoral performance and historically low level of support. Over the last few days we saw the much heralded relaunch, which consisted of marginal unfunded support for the housing market that no expert thinks will make a blind bit of difference. In political terms it was like a pebble in a pond: a few ripples and then gone. Labour remain in their hole, with a party conference coming up that is likely to descend into civil war.

I'll get some popcorn in.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Darling vs. Brown

So, it wasn't a grand strategy then. When Darling spoke out he was freelancing, maybe thinking about his place in history, or finally discovering some shreds of self-respect. Whatever the reason, he told the truth as he saw it, for a short while at least. Brown wasted no time in putting Darling back into his box, but no-one could mistake his mumbled retreat for enthusiastic support for the Prime Minister. Of course, the problem with all of this is that the topic of disagreement is the British economy. Brown and Darling rowing about just how doomed we all are cannot but cause a loss of confidence, and that has translated into a mini-run on sterling which may in turn lead to people getting tossed out of their jobs and having their homes repossessed.

Dysfunctional government may be interesting spectacle, but we all have to live here.

The difference between boys and girls

My two small offspring were presented with similar soft toys in the shape of a pig.

Girl's choice of name: Piggy

Boy's choice of name: Lothar, destroyer of the undead.