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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gordon Brown apologises to me!

I subscribe to e-mail alerts from Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. I like to read how all the main parties spin their campaigning days and after a disastrous day for Gordon Brown, the following has just landed in my inbox:

Andrew,
As you may know, I have apologised to Mrs Duffy for remarks I made in the back of the car after meeting her on the campaign trail in Rochdale today. I would also like to apologise to you.
I know how hard you all work to fight for me and the Labour Party, and to ensure we get our case over to the public. So when the mistake I made today has so dominated the news, doubtless with some impact on your own campaigning activities, I want you to know I doubly appreciate the efforts you make.
Many of you know me personally. You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said this morning.
I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.
But you, like I, know what is at stake in the days ahead and so we must redouble our campaigning efforts to stop Britain returning to a Tory Party that would do so much damage to our economy, our society and our schools and NHS, not least in places like Rochdale.
The worst thing about today is the hurt I caused to Mrs Duffy, the kind of person I came into politics to serve. It is those people I will have in my mind as I look ahead to the rest of the campaign.
You will have seen me in one context on the TV today. I hope tomorrow you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader, but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face, how to meet them, and how that improves the lives of ordinary families all around Britain.
Regards,
Gordon

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cameron only has himself to blame

A week is certainly a long time in politics. This time last week I was getting rather bored with the election campaign. It was the usual knockabout stuff; Brown saying don’t let the Tories in, and Cameron saying don’t let Labour continue. I was finding it difficult to find anything positive, even though the main parties launched their manifestos early last week. I feared the leaders’ debates would be a damp squib too.

Well, things have certainly changed, although I can’t say I’m surprised.  Before anyone asks me if the LibDem surge is sustainable, the simple answer is I don’t know. No-one does and this is why this election campaign has suddenly got very interesting.

Locally in Hull, sources inform me the LibDems have recruited twenty new volunteers; people who walked through the door and offered their services. Nationally, the membership of the party has increased too. The Clegg Factor has worked wonders thus far. The reason for this is simple, and the way some Conservative commentators have tried to rubbish Clegg has been silly in the extreme. The fault lies fair and square with Cameron and his team.

I have said more times than I care to mention that the only way the Conservatives can win this election is by being radical. Well, it’s too late now. Cameron was desperate not to lose this election and a few months ago many Conservatives thought the party would win at a cantor. None of them seemed to realise that not being Gordon Brown was never going to be enough. By positioning the Conservative Party firmly in the centre, he has denied the voters a choice. He keeps muttering on about change, but what does it mean? He wants us to be part of a Conservative government; all of us playing our part in our communities. Fine words, but unless you articulate a definite, cohesive plan, how are you going to sell it? Can anyone give me a reason to vote Conservative at this election, other than Cameron is not Brown? For too many voters he may not be Brown, but there is more than a passing resemblance to Tony Blair. Why isn’t Cameron telling us the truth about the size of government debt and the cuts that will have to fall? Most of the public seem to be in denial about this, and Cameron doesn’t do too much to jolt them out of this collective state of inertia. Tell us the truth and we would have more respect for him. We are sick and tired of being lied to.

It’s all too late now, unless he can pull a rabbit out of the hat. I can’t see how he will do it, but as I said at the beginning, a week is a long time in politics, and who knows what may happen? There is still more than two weeks to go before the nation decides.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eurostar accused of profiteering

As Mount ‘Unpronounceable’ continues to erupt in Iceland, causing more chaos across the skies in Europe, Eurostar has been one of the winners, as people desperately try and return to the UK from their holidays.

According to the Telegraph this morning though, Eurostar has not only benefited from increased business it has been charging a minimum of £223 for a single journey from Paris to London. Normally, you can buy a return ticket for as little as £69. Eurostar denies it is profiteering, but this is complete nonsense. Of course it is, and I always think it is good to remind companies who do this that in a free market they can charge what they like. At the same time, I am also free to decide who I wish to travel with and the next time I travel to northern Europe I will not be travelling with Eurostar, and never will again.

The public tend to remember those companies who like to rip them off when the chips our down. When life returns to normal, I hope many will kick Eurostar in the place where it hurts most.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protest rally in Beverley

Click here to read my latest post for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, giving details of a protest rally outside County Hall, Beverley, on May Day.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The battle for Hull North

For years nothing changed in Hull’s politics. Three Labour MPs and a Labour dominated council chamber was the order of the day. In recent years this has changed. Hull City Council is now under Liberal Democrat control and although currently the city still has three Labour MPs, this may be about to change.

Hull East and Hull West & Hessle will return Labour MPs. Karl Turner – John Prescott’s replacement in Hull East – and current Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, will be MPs after May 6. Hull North, however, is a different prospect. Before I move on though, I think we need some background information.

There are popular MPs from all parties. I’m sure you will have noticed the times when the national swing of opinion says certain MPs will be out on their ear, but many still hang on. This is the local factor that cannot be reflected in national opinion polls. Bob Marshall-Andrews – the Labour MP, pictured left -  is a prime example. Although he is standing down at this election, he is popular with his constituents, and thought he was going to join the dole queue after the 2005 general election. Many will remember his remarks on television after his great escape. ‘Call me Lazarus’, he said. Although he only held on with a majority of 213, the local factor is here again, bucking the national trend.

Generally, it takes many years to build-up a strong reputation. Kevin McNamara – MP for Hull North from 1966-2005 – did this and there was never a chance of him losing his seat. There are recently elected MPs who have managed this feat in a very short time though. James Cran was for many years the Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness and it is fair to say he was far from popular. In 2001, he hung on to his seat with a very slim majority of 781.  His successor, Graham Stuart, another Tory, has campaigned hard in his constituency. He latches on to popular, local issues and although there are some who say if there is a bandwagon, he’ll jump on it, he will be re-elected in four weeks with a much larger majority. His constituents know who he is and they like him.

Now back to Hull North. Diana Johnson – pictured right - was elected in the same year as Mr Stuart; 2005. From my perspective, she has done very little for her constituents. She campaigned to keep local post offices open, but when they closed, she voted to close others nationally. There is a lesson here. If you are going to campaign on popular issues, you have to remain consistent. The LibDems have crucified her on this issue, and rightly so. She has not made a mark in the same way neighbouring MP Graham Stuart has and since the last general election Hull City Council ceased to be controlled by her party. Life has changed, but it seems Ms Johnson has not moved with the times.

The LibDem candidate is someone with a name you will never forget; Denis Healy. For him to win this seat, he will need a 13% swing from Labour. On paper, this seems insurmountable. In reality, it isn’t. The LibDems have thrown everything at this seat, including the kitchen sink. We are regularly reminded that Hull North is a two-horse race. I’ve joked with Carl Minns, leader of Hull City Council, that I intend to report him to the RSPCA. Those two horses have been flogged enough over the years, however, this approach is proving successful. You would think Diana Johnson would be fighting back as hard, wouldn’t you? The answer is no. I’ve barely heard from her, although I understand from informed sources she doesn’t have the necessary foot-soldiers to deliver leaflets and her campaign chest is desperately lacking in cash.

Only a fool would predict the outcome of the general election at this stage. I am going to make one prediction though. Hull North will be a Liberal Democrat gain. It will be a small majority – probably between 1000 to 2000 votes – but a majority nonetheless, and herein lies a lesson. If you are elected to what is regarded as a safe seat, work it as if it was a marginal. You never know when the wind of change will blow, and if you are found wanting, the wind will blow you away.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

John Prescott accused of ‘click fraud’

Last week I reported how the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, reversed in to a car and then drove off. Now he’s in the news again for all the wrong reasons.

Today he has been accused of ‘click fraud.’ This is being reported by BBC News.

In a post on his Twitter page on 6 April, Mr Prescott wrote: "Click here http://bit.ly/RinseCashcroft then click on Labour Have Failed = 50p out of the Tories warchest. Let's do this! #ukelection."

What the public wants in this election is an intelligent debate on the major issues affecting our country. John Prescott wants to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator, and indulge in silly, childish politics. There are some things in life that never change.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Who reads the papers? Hacker explains

As we prepare for the general election starting gun tomorrow, here’s Jim Hacker explaining who reads the papers. Hilarious!

Johnson Beharry, V.C., snubs the PM

I know through my work how underequipped members of the armed forces have been during the last few years. Lately, when any general retires, we hear the same story. There are so many people repeating the same story, it has to be true. A Royal Marine told me a couple of years ago the British had a reputation of being scroungers. They had not option. They didn’t have the proper kit they needed, and the Americans did.

For Victoria Cross holder, Johnson Beharry, to snub the prime minister in the way he did shows how the trust between our men and women in uniform and the government has eroded. Mr Beharry is not the first to publicly criticise the PM. He is joining a long list of disaffected people who are angry they have been sent to war without essential equipment.

Whatever the outcome of the general election, one thing is for certain. No government should ever send our troops to war without doing everything it can to ensure their safety. Our troops know when they sign on the dotted line there is the potential of fighting in volatile situations. They also know they have no other choice but to follow the orders they are given. A government that takes advantage of this by fighting wars ‘on the cheap’  deserves everything it gets. It seems as if the chickens are coming home to roost on this subject, and rightly so.

The official fight is about to begin

Are you getting excited? In the Red Corner, we have Gordon Brown, once described as the clunking fist. Things went well for him at first, and seemed to be landing a few killer blows, but he bottled it in the ‘Inheritance Tax’ fight, and everything went south. He eventually decided to get a new coach in Peter ‘Bruiser’ Mandelson, but will Lord Mandy desert his charge, even if he wins the fight and mentor a new protégé?

In the Blue Corner, we have David Cameron. His footwork is rather nifty, and like a previous champion, Tony ‘Teflon’ Blair, he talks a good fight, and lands a few blows, but has he got what it takes to win the heavyweight championship? His main backer, Lord ‘Offshore’ Ashcroft hasn’t helped him in the popularity stakes, and some of his team are not helping him get fighting fit. George ‘Lightweight’ Osborne is struggling to help his man in the heavyweight competition.

There is another pretender to the crown, and if neither of them can manage a knock-out on May 6, Nick ‘King Maker’ Clegg will be there as one of the  judges deciding the competition on points. Alongside him is Vince ‘The Sage’ Cable. He’s a wily old bird who will ensure the King Maker makes the right decision.

Unfortunately,  this fight is predicted to be dirty, and expect some low punches along the way, but those who predicted Cameron would be the easy winner a few months ago, are now not so sure. Brown may not land a killer blow, but he could do enough to see off his rival and Clegg and Cable could hand him victory.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

What now for South Africa after Terreblanche?

Eugene Terreblanche was a nasty thug. He was determined to keep South Africa a white supremacist state at all costs. He didn’t give a jot for anyone who wasn’t white, but his murder raises concerns about the future of South Africa.

Is is estimated more than 3000 white farmers have been killed since the end of apartheid in 1994. South Africa’s political leadership has failed to address this problem, and has brushed it under the carpet. For more than a decade commentators have said the country is a tinderbox ready to be set on fire. We are still waiting for this bloodshed to happen, and hope it will not, but unless South Africa has leadership, the inevitable will happen. President Jacob Zuma is incapable of leading. He is completely out of his depth, and his country needs someone strong who will come down hard on anyone – black or white – who wants to return to the days of violence and mass murder.

The Football World Cup is only two months away. I have never thought South Africa was an appropriate host nation. I have always thought the country had too many problems that were not going away. I fear for the safety of football supporters attending the tournament who I don’t believe will be safe. If there is a return to murder and violence after the killing of Terreblance, it is doubtful whether the World Cup will even take place. For everyone’s sake, I hope there will be peace and stability.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Three Chancellors

I’m a little late writing about the debate between ‘The Three Chancellors.’ It was hard at the time thinking about something constructive to write, and five days on, time has not made it any easier.

Those of you who watched it will know what I’m talking about. I found it one of the most unedifying pieces of political theatre I have seen in Britain. I didn’t learn anything new. George Osborne looked and sounded like a boy in a man’s world. Vince Cable and Alistair Darling never – from memory – referred to their party leaders. Not so with Osborne. He uses David Cameron as his crutch. Darling and Cable looked at him with distain, but this wasn’t surprising. Both of them are left-wing politicians and it is fair to say Cable is vastly more left-wing than Darling. Cable couldn’t disguise his distain for wealthy people. Why else would he come up with a mansion tax? Playing the politics of envy is something that should be confined to the dustbin of politics, and although Vince is economically qualified to be Chancellor, politically I wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole.

Now to the current incumbent of 11 Downing Street. One could be forgiven for thinking the last 13 years saw an economic miracle in Britain and none of the fallout of the last couple of years had anything to do with the government. Darling was given an easy ride.

So who would I want as Chancellor of the Exchequer? None of them. One is economically illiterate. One is entrenched in the politics of envy and one is in a state of denial. I think you can put the names to the descriptions.

Double-standards Mandelson?

Lord Mandelson has had a pop at Bob Diamond, the head of Barclays Investment Bank, describing him as the unacceptable face of banking.

Many would describe Peter Mandelson as the unacceptable face of politics, but leaving this aside, why has his lordship singled out Mr Diamond? Barclays didn’t receive handouts of our cash a year and a half ago. If the report from BBC News is accurate, he also didn’t receive a bonus in 2008 or 2009.

If Mr Diamond had been working for a state-run bank, then I would have criticised his pay packet, as this money should have been going back to the taxpayer. All Mandelson is trying to do is divert attention away from the government’s woes, and score some brownie points with the voters by attacking greedy bankers.

His lordship is one of the most greedy, egotistical politicians we have seen in Britain. Pot calling the kettle black?

Friday, April 02, 2010

A bump in the car park at Craven Park

This afternoon I ventured to Craven Park, the home of Hull Kingston Rovers Rugby League Football Club. Good Friday is the traditional day for a derby between Rovers and Hull FC. As a black and white, I am pleased to report Rovers were beaten, 18-14. Thankfully, at the end of the game I returned to my car, found it undamaged and joined a rather long queue to leave the ground.

Unfortunately for someone else, they returned to their car to see someone had reversed into it. I hate it when that happens, don’t you? But who could be the culprit?

A friend of Cllr John Fareham, the leader of the Conservative Group on Hull City Council, sent him this story:

The players were coming out and getting into their cars to go home before we got out!One laugh (and cause of frustration) was that John Prescott was parked just behind Rob's car (who gave us a lift, today) - Rob was blocking him in so JP backed the jag - into the car behind him but he didn't bother about that!! - into a space and then shot off round the back of all the queuing cars. We assumed the one or two remaining stewards stopped other cars to let him out!!

So there we have it. The former Deputy Prime Minister backed into another car and didn’t stop, and didn’t leave his details and was then given priority as he exited the ground. Cllr Fareham has written to Hull Kingston Rovers about this matter. Hopefully Mr Prescott will be brought to justice.

UPDATE: Apparently, there was no real damage done to the car, but John Prescott was off like a bat out of hell. Even so, he should still have arranged for his details to be passed on to the owner of the car he bumped. There may be some damage no-one noticed after an initial inspection. Poor show, JP.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

News

At the beginning of March I was in London for a meeting with Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. This was a follow-up meeting after our meet-up over Christmas.

I am now a part-time employee of the TPA, building on my voluntary role in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire. As a result of this, my blogging has been confined to writing for the Hull & East Riding TPA blog. Those posts are now being published on the main TPA website.

I will still be writing here from time to time, and will endeavour to increase the frequency when the general election campaign formally gets under way. As yet, I have not decided whether to continue with this blog after the election.

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