Preston needs changing to stay the same…

Preston City Councillor Bill Shannon, (LibDem, Ingol), has set out why he believes the city council requires serious reform if it is to survive in the long-term. In short, Cllr. Shannon believes Preston can no longer remain as a mid-sized unit on the banks of the River Ribble, constrained by the compromise boundaries drawn around it forty-ish years ago.

Whilst disagreeing with Cllr. Shannon on certain subjects I won’t go into here, he’s absolutely right about the future of our city. For Preston to survive, it needs to change, and that means a slow but sure process of amalgamating services as a precursor to full merger with neighbouring administrations.

The fix-and-fudge of local government reform generations ago has left its mark across the country, particularly England where there’s been less change than in either Scotland or Wales. Almost all the local authorities created in the 1970s as a compromise position to the contentious Redcliffe-Maud report remain in place today, their sizes and shapes unmoved despite mammoth changes in population, work-load and responsibilities, employment and the like.

Nobody in Manchester, for example, can fully explain why the council area is such an elongated blob. Of course cynics can suggest plenty of reasons – it kept out largely Tory-leaning bits in Trafford and the semi-rural north, it ensured the Airport and its growth area had to use the “Manchester” name, and so on. Generations away from the map redrawing, the reality on the ground is a population almost unrelated to the official demarcation lines.

Preston, like Manchester, is a city constrained by the flicks of an administrator’s pencil. The city doesn’t stop at the Ribble; people who live to the south are no less “Prestonian”, or less likely to work in Preston, on the grounds of living on the opposite side of an arbitrary border.  The reality of life in this part of Lancashire has seen Preston grow in stature and relevance, and all within the lines of a borough decided upon on a coin-toss in the 1970s.

The financial consequence for the city and its people is profound and dangerous. The only way to safeguard the integrity of Preston, and to ensure the financial security for the services provided for people who live here, is to be bold on the manner in which administrations are formed.

Cllr. Shannon builds a two-step process. Initially councils need to share services, cutting back on duplication which builds up in the everyday processes of providing day-to-day services. As Preston is a two-tier city, served by 57 city councillors and ten County Councillors, there’s plenty of duplication amongst the administrative scaffolding around the representative buildings housed here. Numerous towns and cities across the country are dealing with the Government’s budget slashing by sharing services, and this process can only continue.

The next step, hinted at in Cllr. Shannon’s statement, is a full merger with neighbouring authorities, and is something I’ve always supported. It’s not enough for back-room staff in Preston to work alongside those in the Boroughs of Fylde and South Ribble. Preston is an economic possibility stifled by its status, locked in by suspicious and cynical council leaders in neighbouring towns.

The modern economic reality is too serious for such parochialism. Our city boundaries need to respect that work, study and play in this part of Central Lancashire is no longer respectful of invisible lines drawn on across rivers and along roads. There’s no legitimate reason for South Ribble, Chorley or Fylde being separate when hundreds of thousands of residents already treat Preston as their “hub” for employment, university or college study, or social/piss-up outpost. There’s no legitimate reason why, having cooperated in reducing costs by merging backroom jobs, local councils can’t take the natural step to amalgamate.

My principle is “sphere of influence”. If you live in Tarleton, you’re within the Southport “sphere of influence”, only to be denied by the decision to create Sefton in the 1970s. Preston suffers the same – thousands of potential workers, students, and wealth creators living in Bamber Bridge, Leyland, Chorley, Kirkham, Lytham, all denied by an arbitrary line on a map.

Let’s respect opportunity more than geography. I’ve no time for the types in historic county organisations who wish to reclaim parts of the world which have no existed in forty or more years. I don’t accept calls to “bring back” such places as Middlesex or Westmorland, no more than I do any request to scrap decimal currency.

There’s far too much broken with our democracy – the voting systems at local councils are as close to “corrupt” as you can get, and Scotland is proof of how to resolve that simply by converting to the STV voting system. One other issue is the size and composition of the councils at this level – outdated boundaries drawn for partisan reasons. Cllr. Shannon says we need the “necessary courage” to create a new council, what would inevitably be called “Greater Preston”. I agree with him.

“Preston” was once over  half the size it is now, growing in size only when the separate borough of Fulwood was added in the 1970s. Now the next step has to be taken, not just to correct the problems of Prestonians living far beyond official borders, but to ensure the financial security of Lancashire’s true heart. Anything else is not an option – staying still won’t mean staying the same.

Off the Register

As you might know if you’re an anorak of the highest order, to stand for election in Britain you need to register a political party with the Electoral Commission (at £150 a chuck, if I’m not mistaken). If you prefer “independent” you can just go for that, or like David Icke and Clint Bristow of the EDL you can choose to have no description at all, just a blank space in the ballot where voters could draw a smiley face.

The ‘churn’ of Registered Parties is administrative trivia which shows in some cases the deflated and defeated dreams of people who thought their political party would win the first elections to come their way.

Here is a summary from the election period onwards of parties whose names are no longer registered with the Commission, and with them pass the electoral dreams of so many….

*May 2012
“Anticapitalists – Workers Power”
“Beavers Cranford Party”
“Horbury Independent Political Party”
“Resurgence”
“Shepway Independents”
“Somali United Intellectuals Expatriates Democratic Party”
“Spiritual Unity Party”
“The Individual Reform Party”

*June 2012
“Convox”
“Downlands Residents Group”
“England First Party”
“Save King George Hospital”
“Socialist Studies Party (1904)”
“The Dover Alliance”

*July 2012
“Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
“Community Alliance”
“For Integrity and Trust in Government”
“Great Aycliffe Independents”
“Independent Republican Party”
“Romford Residents Association”
“Stone’s Independent Voice”

*August 2012
“Northumbria Party – The North East Party”
“Public Services Not Private Profit”
“Voice 4 Torbay”

*September 2012
“East Kilbride Alliance”
“Heart of Puriton”
“PLC Party”
“Protest Vote Party”
“United Unionist Coalition”

*October 2012
“East Dunbartonshire Independent Alliance”

*November 2012
“New Dawn”

margins of error

If there’s one criticism of political bloggers and commentators which can stick to the targets like so much grease to the side of an oven, it’s the reactionary knee-jerk which comes from every daily opinion poll. Earlier this week, two daily polls put the UK Independence Party ahead of the Liberal Democrats, albeit by a single point, and from there came pieces in the Spectator about the trouble Cameron finds himself in and from Liberal Conspiracy rubbing hands in glee over the good all this does for Labour.

As a card carrying Liberal Democrat of twelve years standing, I am supposed to be weeping into my muesli and blaming Nick Clegg for every ill under the sun. Whilst I do have issues with the way the Party is going along a number of routes, the UKIP rise has barely registered with me at all. It’s a statistical blip. I know this because of my learnings. I know this because the newest daily poll has them below the LibDems again. By two percentage points.

There are poll findings which concern me, though these are more carefully considered points than the natural fluctuations (within most margins of error) of a voting intention straw poll. YouGov found that, amongst the younger voters, support for the Coalition is running at only 31%. When given the option “A Coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats” to the question “If you had to choose, which of the following options would be best for Britain?”, fewer than 10% of respondents agreed.

For our Party to continue in the Coalition, our message must be distinctive, determined and far louder than it is currently. Voters are not learning about the success stories of the LibDems in Government – from the income tax allowance increase to pupil premiums and scrapping ID cards. The manner in which we have reigned in the Conservative Party’s natural tendencies has been lost amongst so much blather and bluster, most of which stems from a right-wing press desperate for an early election and/or a Conservative leadership challenge. Neither of these pipe-dreams will come to anything, though this can be only one reason why the polls are behaving as they are. In the run up to a festival of democracy – London Mayor, London Assembly, Scottish and Welsh councils, hundreds of English councils *and* two English Mayoral elections – there is bound to be other parties in the back of voters minds. In the aftermath of Bradford West, the power of voting “Other” has been proven to work. Of course voters are going to choose other options in an election period.

Any findings relating to dissatisfaction with the Coalition is of far more relevance than the ups and downs of party polling. 

I am not concerned that UKIP polled ahead of us by only one percentage point for two days in April 2012. By April 2013 such a blip would have been forgotten. Unlike  Nigel Farage’s party, we are in Government and making a change on a number of policies, rather than standing outside any sphere of influence obsessing over a European problem which doesn’t exist. There will be few UKIP voters taking votes away from the LibDems. What all LibDems need to do in the run up to polling day is what we always do: FOCUS.

taking the register

Justice Minister Michael Willis has hailed the switch to individual registration as “radical” and “an unprecedented move”.  To tackle electoral registration fraud, including at the initial stage and on polling day, the step-change away from blanket forms for one house is a welcome development in attitudes by central Government.

Mr Michael Willis is now…….Lord Willis, and his place in the Justice Ministry is no longer occupied by a person from his Labour Party. The profound shift in electoral registration came before the most recent general election and was a direct consequence of decreasing confidence in Britain’s credibility as a place for free and fair elections. Labour had been stung by an electoral judge condemning the ease with which fraud could be conducted as something which would “shame a banana republic”

Back in 2009, when Mr Willis was flying the flag for this policy as a Minister in a Labour government, the rash of condemnation appears to have been muted. Not so now, as the Coalition’s desired move towards the same policy has whipped up the kind of furious anger reserved for filling in comments sections at the bottom of newspaper on-line content. At the core of the opposition argument is a flawed premise – “Ah, it will deny the poor a vote!” – and a disingenuous one at that.  “Elections should be based on population not electorate” is another auto-response, an attempt to suggest that all future elections should involve people who are not eligible to vote. Population figures were not used for the boundary review instigated under Labour, and nobody with much of a mind about them is suggesting that should happen again.

Labour helped bring individual registration to the United Kingdom during their time in power by way of Northern Ireland. Known for having…colourful and not always, shall we say, expected attitudes towards putting names on the electoral register, the Norn Iron experience has seen a fall in numbers. How many people were real in the first place is open to argument, and it’s that argument which now needs to be tackled here. As the Birmingham case has shown (and not exclusively), we cannot be confident that the rigorous checks we expect on validity are being made. We certainly cannot be confident that the names on an electoral register are always real.

On the politics forum I visit – Vote-UK – this issue has been roundly discussed. As an adjunct to the main debate, one poster said;

 At the 2010 election I witnessed some quite disgraceful behaviour at several polling stations in inner city Birmingham. There was clear intimidation and bribery of electors and in several cases the police stood by and watched. If they were willing to turn a blind eye to what I witnessed I have no difficulty believing that they would ignore other cases of electoral fraud.

Another poster added:

Individual registration is obviously superior and it will also hopefully help to keep people on the register who move from place to place regularly. My only concern is that complaints about it removing people from the register are being viewed solely through a partisan prism. I think we should all be able to accept that those legitimate voters leaving the register are more likely to be Labour supporters, but still agree that we ought to be making an especial effort to try to keep the register as full as possible.

Whilst a much less enthusiastic tone was set by the member who wrote:

The real issue here – which I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned in this thread – is not (thread title notwithstanding) moving to individual registration (for which there may be some good arguments, as already mentioned) but effectively making registration voluntary……

As the story says, this is a deliberate calculated decision to lessen involvement in the democratic process – something which I regard as fundamentally immoral 

 

This last post has been the prevailing tone of the opposition. It is not one I agree with – and deep down, I suspect many opponents realise that too. From my own experience in Preston, there is a clear case of “head of the household” registration in some communities, something which cannot be tackled if election officers lack the safety net which individual registration provides. Broader arguments against the change talk about working class, or black and ethnic minority or non-English speaking people having the ladder of democracy somehow whipped away from them. This is far removed from either reality or intention; it is the responsibility of everyone involved in “politics” generally, be it national or hyper-local, to ensure the people we want to represent have the ability and opportunity to case a vote. “This is excluding the poorest in society” is not a valid claim if either you do nothing to ensure that the people who worry about have registered.

Another thread in the argument involves the moves to make parliamentary boundaries fairer, and reviews of constituencies more frequent. From around 15-year cycles to 5, the first of which is now underway. “This is just gerrymandering!” cry opponents, showing another blatant misunderstanding which borders on the medically unstable. Elections have always asked those who are able to vote to do so – it makes no sense to set up straw man arguments about immigrants or under-18s.  If opponents wish to encourage individuals to register for elections who are, for example, about to turn 16 and for whom “voting” and “politics” seem like bizarre sexual fetishes, they could do well to help the Youth Citizenship Commission in their aim to roll out registration in schools and colleges.

If we are to have an electoral system people can believe in, then those seats we create for elections must be robust reflections of the voters within the boundaries who are able to vote; everyone who has the right to vote, with the ability to do so, on a register we can trust. There is too much doubt on the issue today, and partisan bleating about “fixing the system” pithily denies an awkward truth about the system as it currently stands today.

It is not evil for any Government to consider it vital that those who are willing to participate in elections should be encouraged to do so themselves. Labour recognised this in 2009, and the Coalition are now seeing it through.

Labour keeps its grip on the NW

When the Boundary Commission for England released its initial proposals to reduce the number of constituencies across the country, you couldn’t hear yourself think over the shouts from the Labour Party of “fix”, “fudge”, and “gerrymander”.  Got a Bingo Card? Full house before noon. “It’s a Tory stitch-up,” came the cries, and at the first glance it was almost enough to believe the hype.

Now the instant reaction buzz has died down, number crunchers have taken their time over the spreadsheets and maps, and found some rather interesting details which Labour’s critics may find interesting.

If we focus on the North West of England, the conclusion is very clear; Labour do very well out of the proposed changes, even if those include such insane creations as “Mersey Banks” (two sides of the River Mersey connected by the M65 and a couple of dual carriageways) and a “Leigh” seat which excludes Leigh town centre whilst requiring prospective parliamentarians to navigate Chat Moss.

From the website Electoral Calculus comes news about Greater Manchester. Rather than demolish the strongholds and citadels of Manchester, notoriously undersized Labour bankers as they were, the BCE proposes to strengthen Labour’s in built majority. Current LibDem seat Manchester Withington is calculated as a Labour hold; the same conclusion is made by UKPolling, who decides current MP John Leech would fall by just short of 2,000 votes.

The proposed Manchester Central (which also incorporates Salford city centre and Salford Quays) would fall from an 11,000 to 8,000 seat majority for Labour, not exactly a collapse. Indeed, factoring in the Hazel Blears factor (her cheque-waving fixed-grin arrogance cost thousands of votes last year), the seat could have an automatic majority beyond the existing figure.

There are notional gains for Labour too – the newly divided Burnley would present them with two notionally held seats. “Rochdale North and Rawtenstall”, a creation destined to force BBC news presenters to sound like Jane Horrocks, and “Rochdale South” would move further away from the grasp of the Liberal Democrats who regard the town as their northern spiritual home.

Under the new proposals, Warrington, Chester, and Bolton shift away from marginal status, which for Bolton at least should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. The proposed “Westhoughton” (which should be called “Westhoughton, Horwich South, Hindley and Leigh. And also Atherton”) creates a cushioned safe-hole of nearly 10,000 votes (around 7,000 using Electoral Calculus).

What this means in the wider picture brings two conclusions; that the in-built natural Labour bias has not been fully eradicated. Neither the BCE nor Democratic Audit found a way to jigsaw Manchester or Liverpool in such a way to make them any less safe for Labour. The second conclusion underlines the extent to which Labour misunderstands the concept of ‘gerrymandering’, almost certainly wilfully. The new rules presented the BCE with a challenging remit, something which occasionally produced unfortunate accidental brain-farts one assumes can be redressed (taking Fishwick out of Preston, for example, something which hasn’t been the case in any context since the mid 1830s). What has happened in the NW is an interesting result of taking boundaries further out into towns which have been consistently undersized before – in quite a lot of cases, it is the Labour Party which benefits the most.

Of course, there is quite a lot of tea-leaf stirring here. These predictions are drawn from past local electoral results and stats, and in politics as in business, past performance is no indicator of future behaviour. It’s notable that the loudest critics of the scheme to reduce the size and cost of Westminster have missed out the specific consequences in those parts of the country where first glances would have given the impression of impending disaster.

The whole episode makes things very tough for the Liberal Democrats, who I have supported for over 10 years now. We lose, notionally, two seats, and that is a significant number in a region where vote share and constituency numbers have never correlated particularly impressively. If anything, the results show just how much greatly strengthened should be our resolve against the Labour Party, in parts of the country where we have consistently out performed them.

If Labour go into the 2015 election thinking, genuinely or not, that the boundaries have been stacked against them, they may discover the flip side of getting what you wished for.

Fishwick — losses and lessons

Previous post [Fishwick by-election]

Result (1 October, 2009)

Jennifer MEIN [Labour] 656 (55.69 +13.24)
Sharon RILEY [Conservative] 283 (24.02 +3.90 )
Luke BOSMAN [Liberal Democrat] 239 (20.29 +1.31)

LABOUR HOLD

By-election tales can often – if spun by the losing side – focus on the trivia and minutiae of the day rather than any theories as to the result. It would be far easier for me, maybe even far more “in character”, to tell of the man asking if we were bringing back hanging, the Scouse comedian on his way to the bookies, the Labour car with a taxi-cab style illuminated ‘Vote Labour’ light on the roof, (“Does it have in imprint?”).

Fishwick is a savvy little place, with a fiercely proud and independent community spirit. The ward takes in housing estates, neat suburbia, and even isolated farm-style houses within a stroll of the Ribble. In recent years its electoral history would produce very confusing graphs for the outsider to analyse: Conservative gain for the first time in living memory, a fleeting moment of Respect-assisted marginality, and a return to healthy Labour majority. Explaining this movement brings in a number of different reasons – a population not too attracted to being treated as after-thoughts by an arrogant and distant Labour party, perceived indifference towards the Muslim population, a certain desire for a change in representation which would produce results for the regeneration of the Fishwick Bottoms and Farringdon park alike.

Our campaign for Luke Bosman was without any serious fault. The result was somewhat deflating after a whirlwind campaign with some very positive reactions on the doorstep. There seems to be a genuine wish for Town Hall to have a positive alternative to Labour, a feeling which did not ultimately lead to enough votes for Luke despite our best efforts. Attention has been drawn to matters which really concern Fishwick residents, be it the speed on the main roads, the future of Jalgos club, or the future of the number 16 bus (which clogged up the road directly outside the Tudor Avenue polling station every time it passed).

Fishwick has elected its current County Councillor. I wish her well, while hoping that she can now maintain representing her electors wearing two different hats. We have until May or June next year to keep her, and the local Labour party, under scrutiny.

The local Liberal Democrats may appear to have come out of this election the most bruised. I have to say the loss has only strengthened our resolve to fight for people who have long since given up waiting for an alternative to the Labour party in their area. We are attracting members and voters in far greater numbers than I can recall. Labour now have to prove themselves worthy of Fishwick voters trust.

There will come a very interesting, tough, fight in Preston as we make the run-up to the elections in 2010.

extra-time needed on tuition fees policy

Uni students were probably not spending this morning at the breakfast table pouring over blogs and Twitter feeds on the hunt for updates regarding the Liberal Democrats and alleged “u-turns” on tuition fees policy. One of the more instantly recognisable policies for the LibDems, opposition to tuition fees is the reason why so many votes came our way in recent elections. Speaking sense on this – and forcing Labour into altering the policy in Scotland – made far more people see the true benefits of voting Liberal Democrat.

Clearly £12bn – the cost of scrapping the charge according to Nick Clegg – is not a figure easily found elsewhere. Even with the very impressive list of cost cutting policies announced today, finding every last penny is going to be a difficult task. Such is Brown’s legacy. Blair’s own legacy – and what a charge sheet that is! – is to chain an education mortgage around the necks of so many thousands of students who wonder why they bothered going to university in the first place. Under Brown’s disastrous leadership there’s not even enough uni places to go round to meet the demand of those who assumed Labour were not lying when they set their “50%” Uni target.

Clegg’s apparent “honesty” on the spending cuts issue was not handled very well. “It’s a policy I support but know we can’t afford” is certainly a refreshing admission but hasn’t gone down very well. There can be no backtracking on tuition fees; it’s almost as though the next policy to go under is opposition to the Iraq war.

My vote at the next election is not going to change, I will always support a Party of genuine progressive politics and honesty. But Clegg needs to be careful. Some policies are worth keeping, for we are surely the party who care more about long-term opportunities than short-term headlines?

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.

to pause

Inevitably the dreams on Saturday night were menacing and obscure, the first sleep in a new flat clearly designed (perhaps even pre-determined) to tap pointed fingers through the thin bubble of my consciousness. Basement flats attract very little natural light, but at least the fear of having a downstairs window broken while being upstairs, resting at the back of the mind as it has for years, can be calmed. I am not the only person to have this, am I? The sense of an imminent break-in while being elsewhere, always close enough to force CDs to be stopped or televisions to be muted at the slightest creak or scream? No…?

I cannot fathom how it is so late on a Monday night, actually. It seems the moving-in has occurred with the similar trip-switch rapidity which characterises most of this year so far. It’s like a photo album with a soundtrack remixed by South Central or watching a video tape on fast-forward, images jarring and jump-edited amongst the washes of white-noise. Drinking much in Blackpool folds into eating a seafood lasagne on Mother’s Day which merges into the counting of the votes which somehow takes me to yesterday on a sofa watching Poirot.

To pause, only for a day or so, would be good. Although inevitably there is no pausing at the moment. There are elections to be organised, so eager am I to show the people of Broadgate and Riversway that there is an alternative to the complacent and over-confident Labour councillors. I need to get back into writing and reviewing. There’s a camping trip in Scotland. There’s….house….stuff. The previous owners have donated a wine-rack, which is the surest sign and purest definition of temptation if ever I saw one.

Somebody somewhere asks, “Are you happy, though?”, and I have to respond “Yes”, because the rapid sense of movement is perhaps a case of “careful what you wish for” in reverse. Imagine time going slowly, so slowly, that the days seem to be filled only with the clicking of clocks or the dripping of taps, or the tapping of keyboar…No, er, yeah…Doing nothing all night, that would be unthinkable…

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]
Anne FRYATT [NOTA]
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]
Glenn TINGLE [UKIP]
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.