Say It Again

The Internet never forgets, I know this more than most.  It is good practice to keep this in mind whenever you’re launching something – be it a new product, a come-back single, an App, or candidature for a parliamentary career.

Last night, at a suspiciously late hour, the Conservatives chose Jackie Whiteley as their candidate for the forthcoming Bradford West by-election. Two years ago, Ms Whiteley became their spokesman for Rotherham

As is often the case in these things, and again it’s something I know about, the chosen candidate is quoted as being this, that and the other about their ward, division, constituency or what-have-you. In my past experience, these quotes come from a Big Book of Leaflet Copy. Rarely do candidates genuinely speak in that peculiar mix of tourist board and local paper editorial. 
Ms Whiteley is quoted from prior to the 2010 election saying:

“It is a real privilege to be the Parliamentary Spokesman for Rotherham. Having previously campaigned in the seat at the general election and as the owner of a small business, I have got a real understanding of the issues and concerns of Rotherham’s residents and local businesses.  I will continue to campaign passionately for jobs, investment and a brighter future for the community.” 

Ms Whiteley is quoted from last night saying:

“It is a great honour and extremely exciting to be the Conservative candidate for Bradford West.  As the owner of a small business and local employer, I have got a real understanding of the issues and concerns of Bradford’s residents and local businesses.  I will continue to campaign passionately for jobs, investment and a brighter future for the local community.” 

Memo to Conservative candidate HQ – or to any Party for that matter. The Internet remembers. It holds on to facts, faces, quotes and scandals. It also remembers that a candidate sincere about Rotherham can be sincere about Bradford. If you wanted Jackie Whiteley to be passionate about jobs, investment and a brighter future, you have succeeded only in making her sound computer generated and insincere.

"Localism" requires annual elections

David Cameron may not spend much time considering the finer details of the City of Preston Conservative association, even when it is the ruling administration of our city, but I do wonder if he will start to take a closer look at the latest budgetary wheeze.

Faced with the requirement to fill a financial black hole given to them by 20-odd years of Labour mismanagement, the Tories are chin-stroking over the concept of scrapping yearly “in thirds” elections for Preston Council, replacing them with 4- or 5- yearly “all out” votes. This may look good on paper, but not only does it remove the democratic accountability enjoyed by people in Preston for generations, it flies in the face of David Cameron’s ambition for “greater localism” and “power to the people” and all that jazz.

I am in favour of fixed term parliaments where such a concept suits the institution – Westminster, Holyrood, Brussels – while favouring much more “instant recall” the closer one gets to everyday problems. One case in point is South Ribble Council, only 10 minutes walk from my front door. Their ongoing problems with a controversial waste disposal site angered a lot of voters, but these people could not register their displeasure at the ballot box for an entire year until the electoral cycle came round again. In Preston, with our annual “in thirds” system, voters would have been able to have their say almost instantly. And for the record, yes, the Liberal Democrats of whom I am a member were slaughtered at the eventual elections for supporting the plant from the start.

The Preston Tories may think they have managed to explain away their annual election plan without greater scrutiny. It’s not just about money – the local Conservatives doubtlessly struggle to find enough candidates to stand year on year. Well if the much smaller Liberal Democrats can do it – and in recent years we have been very open in admitting our inability to find enough members to stand even as paper candidates – then perhaps the pride of the Tories has to take a pinching too.

Local institutions need greater scrutiny. This means annual elections at district level, and I include County Councils in this too, put an automatic dividing wall between the voters and the winning Councillors. It becomes too easy to hide in a Town Hall room for 4- or 5- years between elections. Annual elections for Council ensure a reduction in complacency and an increase in democratic accountability. If Cameron wants “localism” to be the new watchword for his first Conservative Government, I suggest he takes a closer look at the administrations running councils in his party’s name.

Fishwick By-election, 2009

The candidates for the Fishwick by-election to Preston City Council, to be held on 1, October, are;

Luke BOSMAN (Liberal Democrat)
Jennifer MEIN (Labour)
Sharon RILEY (Conservative)

I have been made aware of a potential BNP candidate who failed to correctly fill in his nomination papers with about an hour or so to go on deadline day. Oh dear. But the BNP failing (once again) means that members of the party nobody wants to have sitting in Preston Town Hall are doing a very good job of beating themselves rather than being beat at the ballot-box. Which is something of an achievement.

Norwich North – analysis pornography

The by-election result in Norwich North, an election won by the Conservative Chloe Smith following the somewhat forced resignation of Ian Gibson, was blogged and tweeted endlessly throughout the day. I have my own analysis at the end of this blog, but to begin with (although some posts on blogs may well be “trolls” but…) here are some of the current blog comments;

The magnitude of this defeat shows that this was more than just a protest vote and it was more than simply a reaction to the expenses crises – that excuse did not wash after June 4 and it will not wash this time.No, a swing of this proportion – not unlike the one to Labour in the Wirral in 1997 – is a sign of embedded culture change. It shows that the country is ready and willing – if not craving – to vote for a Tory government in substantial numbers.”Alex Smith”LabourList

If, with the government having screwed up the economy for a generation, lead us into the Iraq war and not winning in Afghanistan, got unpopular personnel at the top, were worst offenders on expenses etc and we still can’t beat them, we should be very afraid for the GE. (“Simon R” LibDemVoice)

This was an average by-election & doesnt tell us much except to confirm the softness of the Tory vote & the potential for Labours to collapse. Looking at all the evidence I still see no signs of a Conservative landslide(“plumbus”LibDemVoice

It is utterly astonishing that we were not able to show the electorate what a disgusting sham the Conservatives are on expenses – not having sacked the three ‘flipping’ front-benchers – on top of their overall lack of any policies whatsoever. “RobertC”LibDemVoice

As someone who welcomed a Labour victory in 1997 the wheel has turned full circle and most of us are eagerly anticipating a similarly spectacular comeuppance for you in 2010.”Andrew Webber” LabourList

As for Labour and its future, it certainly doesn’t look good, but I do warn my party not to get carried away with this result. It is tremendous yes, but there is still along way to go to reach government again. “Scott Carlton”ConservativeHome

The result will be recorded in history as a Conservative Gain, leaving the acres of analysis and comment to the archives. Something does need to be said about each of the party performances in turn, not least because this was the first opportunity given to voters to comment on the expenses scandal. Clearly voters who felt that Labour’s “star chamber” had pushed Ian Gibson out for the sake of looking reactive to the expenses mess had their say in capital letters.

I would liked to have seen a better result from April Pond, the Liberal Democrat candidate. Our by-election machine has clearly not been working properly for some time now, as seen in Crewe & Nantwich and now Norwich North. The Focus newsletter onslaughts may need to be re-evaluated, not least the infamous bar-charts showing distorted statistics. Electorates may have fallen for this in the past; the results recently suggest limited returns on such “old standbys”.

Labour have tried clutching at straws since the result was announced, it was like watching a badly written character in an otherwise good play. This seat should not have been lost, but once again a complacent and lazy Labour party have been shown more than just a scant disregard from voters. It is not enough to say that Gordon Brown is working terribly hard on the matters of the day – on June 4th, and now again, his actions have been commented upon in shouts of derison. The country is exhausted with Labour’s destruction of everything it touches: we need Gordon Brown out of office, and a general election held immediately.

UKIP and Green supporters are very happy, and so they should be. Both parties recorded their best ever by-election results. UKIP are probably still riding the high-tide from the European Elections, although continued high results like this could suggest that they really are setting themselves in a position as Britain’s “alternative conservative”. Green Party supporters may have hoped for better than fifth after topping Norwich last month, but to get 10% in this part of the country is nevertheless an encouraging sign.

Now for the also-rans. Craig Murray wanted to “put an honest man in parliament”; his blog suggests he had difficulty in asking the BBC to give him air time and problems with the Post Office regarding his election DVD as standard election communication. To go from a standing start in an election like this, with a media like ours, was always going to be difficult, although some of Murray’s blog posts suggest he has a tendency to make overblown conclusions from simple affairs.

The BNP did very badly. Which is a good thing.

The Libertarian Party made their debut, following months of blogosphere hype, getting less than 40 votes. Just thirty-six. An absolute disaster from a bunch who claimed to be the next big thing in politics.

Bill Holden (independent), Peter Baggs (independent), and Anne Fryatt (NOTA), scored very badly too. Traditional protest vote candidate Alan Hope from the Loonies got only 144, a sign perhaps that even this group have run out of voters.

For this election to have any long-term significance, it needs to be the rock that falls squarely on the roof of Labour as it crashes down the mountain. There is always talk of “Brown’s last chance”: for this to be a genuine observation Brown needs to realise the level to which his party has fallen in popularity. His governance is laughable, his party exhausted, his standing snake-belly low. Norwich North will be spun by Labour’s robotic loyalists as “just one of those things”. Had they any idea of the real world they would be preparing their general election literature and brushing off their CVs.

Norwich North by-election

There is to be a by-election for Norwich North following the resignation of Ian Gibson. The candidates for the vote, to take place on the 29 July, are:

(Updated 10 July)

Peter BAGGS [Independent]
Thomas BURRIDGE [Libertarian]
Bill HOLDEN [Independent]
Howling LAUD [Official Monster Raving Loony Party]
Craig MURRAY [Put an Honest Man into Parliament]
Chris OSTROWSKI [Labour]
April POND [Liberal Democrats]
Rupert READ [Green]
Chloe SMITH [Conservative]
Robert WEST [BNP]

I can find no on-line presence for Peter Baggs, any info welcome.
Thomas Burridge can be found at the his party’s blog, the first (and youngest, indeed) candidature from the UK Libertarian Party with his own blog too
NOTA” has a website stands for “None of the Above”, a phrase which in full is barred by the Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) (Amendment) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/147) [but I guess you may have already known this…]
Bill Holden cannot be found on-line as far as I can see…but did very well as it happens with a very good URL purchase
The Loonies have a website of veritable sanity…
Craig Murray has a controversial but always compelling blog. He was once “our man in Uzbekistan”
Chris Ostrowski is not this tweeter, but via LabourList I discover he beat ffinlo Costain, a man who wrote to Private Eye ages ago about his name being spelled with a small-case double-f
I declare an interest in hoping April Pond does well for the Liberal Democrats. She will continue to fight part of Norwich North when she stands for us in the newly created Broadland constituency next time round, you can support her here
Rupert Read is a local councillor, and he has a blog. The Greens technically won Norwich at last month’s Euro elections, so watch out for them here…
Chloe Smith is the bright, young, Tory hope
Glenn Tingle has his website here, he wants to “tear up the Human Rights Act
I have no issue or problem with the BNP standing, democracy being as it is, but I am sure you will agree that direct links to the British National Party website spells disaster for all concerned.

I am notoriously bad at making predictions – for this one, the only result I can say with some justification is the loss for Labour. Truely deserved.