Manchester March


This weekend I’ll be in Manchester supporting the stop brexit march and I thought it would be worth letting my MP, Mims Davies, know some of the reasons why.

Dear Mims,

Thank you once again for taking the time to respond to my letters. In particular, I greatly appreciate your public support of EU citizens’ rights. You have consistently been supportive on this issue since I began writing to you, and I hope you will be able to build on that support with your colleagues at the Conservative party conference. It is time to turn promising language from the Prime Minister’s recent speech into real progress on implementing an acceptable guarantee, independently of the rest of the negotiations. Our friends and neighbours have already waited too long with the current uncertainty.

While it has been my long held view that this country is significantly stronger and more influential as a member of the European Union, I do understand that there is a perception that the UK is somewhat detached from the rest of Europe, and perhaps has differing aspirations.

If our exit from the EU had been skillfully handled, shaped on the basis of the small majority who voted for that outcome, with proper debate and broad agreement, I would probably not be marching in Manchester this weekend.

The unfortunate reality is that the whole process has instead been botched at every step. From the bill to set the terms of the referendum; the appalling referendum campaigns; the subsequent Conservative leadership election; the questionable manner in which Parliamentary consent was finally requested to trigger Article 50; the arbitrary deadline for making the Article 50 notification, without even agreeing on what brexit actually meant; the utterly irresponsible snap election while the two year Article 50 countdown was already running; to the deal with the DUP to cling on to power when the border in Ireland is such a key issue in the negotiations. This is not our finest hour.

If we manage to negotiate an agreement with the EU before the two years ellapse, good, bad or otherwise, it will be a miracle. Regardless of what the current Prime Minister offers by way of a final vote on the deal in Parliament, I hope and expect all MPs to put the country first and act in the best interests of their constituents.

Regards, James


Advertisements

Eastleigh by-election: Conservative


In at number four was a reply from the Conservative candidate. Maybe I should finish with a post showing cardboard cut-outs for the candidates that don’t reply!

Dear James,

Thank you for writing to me with your questions. To be as clear as possible, I will respond to each individually.

1. I believe in equality before the law and supported the introduction of civil partnerships because I strongly believe gay couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. I would not, however, vote for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill because, as a Christian, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

2. The current system does not provide fair justice because it in fact provides no justice in these cases. It urgently needs reform. It is vital that we get this tiny number of national security civil damages claims heard properly by a judge which they cannot be at the moment without releasing highly sensitive intelligence material into open court.If we do not do this the taxpayer will have to pay out millions of pounds to people who have not proved their case and may have terrorist connections. And we will never know whether there is truth in some of the serious allegations that have been brought alleging that the UK has been involved in mistreatment of detainees.

3. We should take every step that is necessary to keep the country safe. We shouldn’t put our civil liberties at risk by doing so, but where there are gaps that need to be plugged, we need to plug those gaps. I believe this legislation is vital to help catch paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals.

4. As a businesswoman with 31 years experience, I think it’s hugely important that business is transparent and free of corruption. I would carefully consider any legislation or regulation that would improve business practice.

5. I believe the NHS is our most precious national asset. That is why I am pleased that the Government is increasing investment in the health service to £12.5 billion over the next four years. I will fight locally and nationally to protect our NHS and hospitals.

6. I am pro-life, but I would note this is not an issue that is going to be revisited during this Parliament.

7. The role of a local MP is to be a strong local champion in Westminster for your constituency. I have spent the last five years campaigning with local residents and campaign groups to fight plans for inappropriate development in Eastleigh. The role of an MP in the planning system is to represent local peoples’ concerns and I believe a Conservative MP would provide a strong counterbalance to the Lib Dem Borough Council that is responsible for planning in Eastleigh.

8. I am pleased that the Conservatives are committed to being a green government, whilst also doing all we can to keep energy bills as low as possible. We have established the Green Investment Bank and published ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, setting an example to other European countries.

9. Please visit my website for more information on my campaign and core values. (http://www.vote4maria.co.uk/)

10. I will worry about that after Thursday! All my focus at the moment is on the next two days. But I would say that I fought the General Election in 2010 in Eastleigh and here I am again! Although I was disappointed to lose in 2010, I continued to live and campaign in the area about the issues I care passionately about: protecting the countryside and standing up for disability rights.

I hope I have answered all of your questions and am very happy for you to publish my responses. My only request would be that they are published in full and not taken out of context.

Many thanks,

Maria

Another detailed reply, which is a good sign, and I am impressed that she stayed in the area after the last general election.

Undecided Eastleigh by-election voter


Thanks to 38 Degrees handy email the candidates page, I decided to to stop waiting for random leaflets to drop through the door. It’s certainly helped me narrow down the options- after all, if they don’t reply when they want something from me (my vote) what are the chances of getting a response when they’ve been elected.

I didn’t get quite the same response rate as the Hedge End Blogger but surprisingly, especially given the short notice, almost half of the candidates actually replied. The next few posts are from the candidates but first, here are the questions (in no particular order!)

From: James Taylor – Hedge End
To: Colin Bex – Wessex Regionalist, Danny Stupple – Independent, David Bishop – Elvis Loves Pets Party, Daz Procter – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Diane James – UKIP, Dr Iain Maclennan – National Health Action Party, Howling Laud Hope – Monster Raving Loony Party, Jim Duggan – Peace Party, John O’Farrell – Labour, Kevin Milburn – Christian Party, Maria Hutchings – Conservatives, Michael Walters – English Democrats, Mike Thornton – Liberal Democrats, Ray Hall – Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party

Subject: Undecided Eastleigh by-election voter

Message:

I will be voting in the by-election tomorrow unfortunately I have not yet heard from all the candidates, and the candidates I have heard from have not addressed all the issues that are important to me. Please could you answer the following questions to help me decide who I should vote for:

1. What are your views on equal rights, for example do you support the introduction of gay marriage?

2. I am very concerned about the introduction of secret courts as part of the Justice and Security Bill. Would you oppose the introduction of secret courts?

3. In my view MPs have a poor track record on technology issues, for example the ill-considered Digital Economy Act, which my last MP was unwilling to discuss. What are your views on repeated attempts to introduce a snoopers charter?

4. Do you agree that it would be easier to reduce dishonest and corrupt business practices if there was more transparency in company relationships and ownership? How would you tackle this issue? For example, would you back legislation to crack down on non-trading companies?

5. Can you promise to fight to protect NHS services both nationally and at our local hospitals?

6. Would you support any changes to the current laws on abortion and, if so, what changes would you like to see introduced?

7. What role do you think an MP has in local issues? What will you be able to do to help resolve issues like planning that other locally elected representatives are not able to do?

8. What measures would you take to promote green technology and to prevent climate change?

9. Do you have a by-election manifesto where I could find out more about issues that are important to you?

10. Do you intend to stand in future Eastleigh parliamentary elections?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Please let me know if you would prefer me not to publish your responses on my weblog.

Good luck tomorrow.

Thank you to all the candidates who replied– you’ve made it through to the final round of voting tomorrow!

If anyone else is still having trouble deciding, there is also a 38 Degrees by-election hustings video.

Leaflet watch


Election day is fast approaching and the leaflets are stacking up. We’ve had more election leaflets than takeaway menus through the door lately!

byelection-leaflets

I don’t know about anyone else but none of the leaflets are actually helping me decide who to vote for. All the favourite NIMBY issues are covered, lots of helpful comments about who can win, who would ‘get in’ if you wasted your vote, where people live, what terrible deeds the other party has committed, and so on. They do waste a tiny bit of space on their own policies, but practically none on anything as boring as evidence.

To be fair, all the leaflets are a complete waste of paper, but somehow the Lib Dem leaflets always manage to wind me up the most. Perhaps it’s because they really don’t just appear at election time- they annoy me all year long! That and their habit of being ever so slightly economical with the truth. After years of campaigning on protecting green fields the most high profile exposure has been green field gate gate. Shortly afterwards we got a leaflet with three ‘facts’ about the Boorley Green development- perhaps it would have been better to be up-front about the complexities of local planning. A step in the right direction but they seem to be suggesting that it’s a choice between the golf course and all the other countryside that’s helpfully coloured in green. Let’s see how that map looks in 50 years.

Amazingly they’ve moved on from protecting the countryside. (The last leaflet didn’t mention it once!) Unfortunately the new topics are about what the Conservatives are doing, not about what the Lib Dems are promising to do. So negative as well as misleading.

Apparently the county council has been wasting money on new offices. No mention of the Lib Dem’s own office move but it’s the £12,000 price tag for 6 taps that really stands out. It would be nice if they explained how you can spend that much on taps, except that might make them appear even more petty.

And finally, my personal favourite is how the county council is ‘wasting’ money on streaming meetings. Now you could quibble about the exact cost (I expect you get what you pay for to some extent) but it seems to me like they’re actually saying it’s not worth spending money on improving transparency and democracy. Given the track record of the town council, I can understand that. It would have been great to see what happened in Botley recently as well, but that wasn’t available online either. Sadly, democracy costs money. I wonder how much money the by-election is costing. Remind me why we actually need a by-election?

Photo © Richard Jacks

Another uninspiring election


Looking for Beer, Baccy and Crumpet party? Thanks to Ray for pointing out that their manifesto is now online!

Despite having twice the number of candidates, I think I may have been a tad optimistic to think that this election would be any more interesting than usual.

Being 2013 unable to adapt, almost all the parties are effectively engaging with voters using a variety of social media tools pushing tons of leaflets through doors. So far I have one letter and one leaflet from UKIP, three leaflets from the Conservatives, five leaflets from the Lib Dems …and nothing from the other candidates. The other candidates shouldn’t be too concerned though since:

  • I don’t want a free booklet about how many people will move here from Romania and Bulgaria
  • Everyone seems to be fighting to save our green fields
  • The Lib Dem leaflets are as infuriating as ever (that rant will have to wait for a future blog post!)

I have actually found a few of the candidates amongst the people talking about the election on twitter. It wouldn’t be a huge loss if they weren’t though- not exactly much substance, more:

  • where they’re canvassing (need to do a uksnow style map for this in time for the next general election!)
  • what the weather is like
  • how great their support is
  • how busy their HQ is
  • who’s interviewing them

In just two missed opportunities:

  • John O’Farrell revealed that he spoke about local issues to Ed Milliband, just not what those issues were
  • Maria Hutchings is against building on green fields in Botley/Boorley green but less willing to engage in discussions about where the houses might go instead (I actually thought Maria’s twitter stream was reasonably good before the election- maybe she’s too busy knocking on doors to tweet now)

As for everyone else on twitter, today seems to have been mainly:

But what about the other candidates? There are plenty of them but finding out about them is not quite so easy. Maybe if I lived in the centre of Eastleigh, I’d know more. Luckily, Eastleigh News has some articles, including one for the Beer, Baccy and & Crumpet Party, and The Independent has a brief introduction to some of the lesser known candidates. Even better, Matthew Myatt has managed to record a few interviews with the candidates, including Howling Laud Hope.

All of which makes for a pretty miserable choice. So far Laud Hope is most likely to get my vote! If I get time, I’m planning to try out the 38degrees email the candidates form to actually try and extract some useful information to base my vote on. In the mean time, if you are a candidate, please feel free to leave a message below!

Update: most people seem to find this post while looking for the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet manifesto so added link to their manifesto! (22 February 2013)

Anyone can win here!


Well it turns out you can resign from the House of Commons, so if I was crazy enough to stand in the by-election I wouldn’t have to break any manifesto promises! (Even when it comes to resigning those weasily MPs have to bend the rules ever so slightly to get round the slight inconvenience of not actually being allowed to resign, which I guess isn’t a huge shock.)

The Eastleigh by-election should at least be a little more interesting than the last general election and, finally, I’ll get the chance to vote Monster Raving Loony! If there don’t turn out to be any better alternatives that is- at least it’s marginally less pointless than spoiling a ballet paper for a change.

I was wondering how the local Lib Dems might adapt their irritating campaign tactics for the by-election. The result won’t make any difference to which party is in government, and that’s already a coalition of the only two parties who can win in Eastleigh. Well, it appears that old habits die hard. I do hope they’re wrong; it would be so nice to have a change!

So far it looks like we can expect a massive seven candidates to stand but I’d still like to see more independents. There’s not long left to get nominations in but if anyone needs help with signatures, please get in touch!

Manifesto


For the last few local elections I’ve had no one to vote for. It’s not long until the general election and I’d really rather not have to spoil my ballot paper again, which could be a problem…

Lib Dems

The local Lib Dems are keen to point out that they don’t just appear at election time, which is true. Unfortunately the result is that their newsletters just tend to annoy me a lot more often. The latest front page is all about their opposition to building houses on greenfield land. Now I’m not all that keen on the idea of that either if there are alternatives, but planning seems to be a problem on the brownfield Wildern Mill site as well. (Still resisting the urge to have a real rant about local planning in general, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time!) There’s also a reminder of previous campaigns, including the fight to stop a gravel pit. The good news is that Eastleigh does have excellent recycling collections for all the newsletters.

I might be more tempted to vote for the Lib Dems on national issues, except they keep reminding me that there isn’t any point.

Conservative

Seem to keep a fairly low profile locally. Either that or they just don’t think I’m likely to vote for them. They often seem to be campaigning for the same things as the Lib Dems. For example, Maria Hutchings’ out of date looking web site also features the fight to protect green spaces and over development.

The Conservatives biggest plus point nationally is that they aren’t Labour, and they could win the next election.

Labour

They appear on the ballot paper but I have no idea what they think about local issues. Nationally, they seem to have put the unelected evil Lord Mandelson in charge, so there’s no chance I’ll be voting for them. If Mandelson keeps coming back, he’s not getting the message.

RON

There was UKIP as well last time but otherwise we don’t seem to get much more choice in Eastleigh. Not even an option to reopen nominations to give the candidates/parties pause for thought. So who can I vote for. One idea bubbling away in the back of my mind for a while is that I could vote for myself- I’d just need to get on the ballot paper.

That was all before the Digital Economy Bill, which was beginning to look like it would go through without any real opposition. What can you do when none of the parties support your views? The Digital Economy Bill might still sneak through without the scrutiny it requires, handily under the cover of an election campaign so, while I would rather not stand in the election, I haven’t ruled it out completely. Scarily, I’ve already been offered the £500 deposit and a nomination! My manifesto would be simple: to stand down at the earliest opportunity. So a vote for me would be a vote for RON. Yes, a single issue candidate, but one who it’s safe to vote for. Does anyone want to join the RON party? A good way to register frustration with politicians and draw attention to the Digital Economy Bill, or a waste of time and money?

Update: Eastleigh News have a handy guide to my competition. I wonder if anyone else is thinking of standing.

Update: It’s now too late to register a new party, which is a shame- I was thinking that “For The Win” would look good on the ballot paper! There is still time left to stand for election, but after much consideration I don’t think there is really enough time to go for it this election. If I did stand, I would want to do it justice and put in some serious work, otherwise it would basically be an expensive way to spoil my ballot paper! I would need to think about my current job, properly research the mechanics of submitting nominations and the rules that govern candidates. I would also need to check that I could actually deliver on my manifesto pledge and stand down immediately in the unlikely event I won! (I just assumed that would be possible, but while chatting to my campaign team someone pointed out that it might not be possible, so definitely worth finding out. I wouldn’t want to be one of those parties that make all sorts of promises which they don’t keep!) Then there would be the small matter of attempting to get at least 5% of the vote!! Still, depending on how bad the next batch of MPs are, you might see a few “For The Win” candidates in the next election! Just leave a comment if you would like to be one of them! (13 April 2010)