Sunday, 1 March 2015

Ten political hypocrisies

1. Why do so many people who demand a nice affordable home for their child or grandchild, almost always object when new homes are proposed in their village?

2. Why is it OK for an MP to be a Minister (which is a second job) but not OK for an MP to be a doctor or pursue other interests?

3. I wonder if all those people who complain about immigration changing our culture ever eat curry, pizza or noodles?

4. Do all those people who think the private sector should have no involvement in public service provision really believe their weekly shopping experience would be enhanced if the government ran every supermarket with no choice of brands or shops?

5. How can anyone who cheered and celebrated the success of our elite athletes at the Olympics, achieving what they did through specialist training and development, then oppose grammar schools offering the same opportunities for our academic elite?

6. If increasing taxes on tobacco is supposed to discourage people smoking, isn't it also true that increasing taxes on wages will discourage people earning? 

7. Why do the people who complain most loudly about politics and politicians never join political parties to help bring about change?

8. Why is it that we oppose state control of media in various dictatorships yet in the UK have a hypothecated tax to finance our own state controlled broadcasting company?

9. Is it right that basic rate taxpayers, many struggling to make ends meet, should pay higher taxes to cover care home fees so that wealthy children can inherit their parents' estate?

10. I wonder if all those who move to Costa del Sol complaining that "immigration is ruining our country" ever wonder how the Spanish must feel when their local villages are turned into ghettos by gin, golf and "all day breakfast" ex-pats, many of whom don't speak a word of Spanish?

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A moving and emotional end to a busy week

At home in time to eat with my partner for the first time this week, after six days of the most varied, frantic and exciting events of the 2015 election campaign. Here is a summary of what the West Kent Towers team got through this week. 

 Team Tom sets off to canvass the residents of Tonbridge

Monday: 325 items of post and 720 VIs captured. 14 ward newsletters sent to print. F72H campaigns finalised in three constituencies.  Meeting with Maidstone & The Weald Association candidates to agree and sign-off local campaign plans.

Tuesday: 182 items of post and 400 VIs. Briefing with 8 late-selected LG candidates. Lunch with donor. Faversham & Mid Kent Parliamentary selection. 

 With modertor, Rob Hayward, preparing for the Faversham & Mid Kent Parliamentary Selection Meeting

Wednesday: 420 items of post and almost 1,500 VIs. Accept delivery of window posters, letterheads and rosettes. Hire a van and pick up 55,000 Residents Surveys' and deliver them to T&M candidates for delivery this weekend. Drop-off 30,000 Residents' Surveys at fulfilment house for Tunbridge Wells. 

Thursday: 155 items of post. 350 VIs. Commence printing 7,200 Fighting Fund letters. Sign off a further 14 local newsletters.  Send three constituencies-worth of EA1 to print. Send templates for EA2 to parliamentary candidates. Start work on templates for EA3.  Sign contract with fulfilment house. Trial run (successfully) "Haywards Macro", a bespoke macro written for me by my amazing friend, Dr John Hayward, which sorts 75,000 names on an electoral roll and places them into different tabs depending on number of occupants of each household. 

Friday:  240 items of post and 450 VIs. Start work on local government manifesto template. Design F72H leaflet. Accept delivery of correx boards. Attend Maidstone Association AGM. 

Saturday: Attend T&M AGM with a magnificent and moving farewell speech by Sir John Stanley MP after 41 years outstanding service to constituency and country. Organise four canvassing teams (35 people total); additional canvassing / delivery teams in C&A, TW and Maidstone.  Pop into Tonbridge school to finalise Nicholas Soames event. Lunch with parliamentary candidate and helpers. 

 "For forty-one years as your MP including some very difficult and trying times as a Minister,
the friendship and loyalty of the members of this Association have been my strength,
my own Rock of Gibraltar. I could not have asked for any more."

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

D-70 in pictures

 The letterheads have arrived.

 The A4 and A3 window postershave arrived. The correx boards come tomorrow.


The new supply of three-tier rosettes have arrived - all 300 of them!

And all three versions of EA1 have been signed-off by Royal Mail and have gone to print.

Oh yes - and 55,000 Residents' Surveys are about to land on the doormats of Tonbridge & Malling this week.

Chatham & Aylesford's Iron Lady

An envelope arrived at West Kent Towers this morning containing one of Tracey Crouch MPs latest Resident Surveys - complete with its own decoupage! 

It was from a 72 year old lady who took great delight in informing us that she was voting Conservative for the first time since "you dumped Mrs Thatcher in 1990"  The reason?  "Tracey is our own Iron lady and deserves to win again."

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A moment of schadenfreude

Just home after the hugely successful Faversham and Mid Kent Parliamentary Selection contest, clutching my box of papers and a bag full of money from the collection. Whilst counting the cash to let the Treasurer know how much was raised, out came a very generous donation in the form of a €100 note.

"That must make you smart" said Steve, enjoying the schadenfreude a little too much. "I guess a good Better Off Out-er like you will want to give it back..."  

"Well, we need to be pragmatic about these things....." I said, sounding a little too much like Sir Humphrey Appleby than even I was comfortable with.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Does racism become acceptable on Friday 8 May?

Most of us (including, I suspect, many of UKIPs own supporters) must have been horrified at Rozanne Duncan's outburst about black people during Sunday night's "Meet The Ukippers" programme on BBC2.  UKIP have defended their position by saying that she was expelled from the Party "with immediate effect."

One small point in this has been overlooked, however. And this point lies at the very heart of why many people fear UKIP. 

After Rozanne Duncan's racist tirade, the local UKIP Press Officer turned to the camera and said, "She has been told time and time again to keep her mouth shut..." and "I might have to take her aside and tell her to tone it down until at least after the election..."

Clearly Rozanne Duncan's deeply unpleasant views were known to UKIP.  If not, why else would their Press Officer have "told her time and time again"? And why, if her unpleasant views were know, was she going to be asked to keep her mouth shut, but only "until after the election...?"  In UKIPs eyes, does racism become acceptable on Friday 8 May?

And if her views were previously known, why was she not only allowed to remain in the Party but was also reselected as a UKIP council candidate?

I can only conclude that UKIP were quite quite happy to turn a blind eye to Rozanne Duncan's extremism, until it was recorded on camera.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Oh dear, Ed!

Poll of swing voters in one West Kent constituency. 

"Putting party politics aside and thinking of them as individuals, who would you prefer as Prime Minister of Great Britain?"

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Beware who's behind the knocker!

A warning to all candidates - you never know who's behind the  knocker!

We had several teams out in Tonbridge & Malling last evening, including a group in the small hamlet of Four Elms, in one of the remotest corners of this rural constituency. By 9am this morning, however, I had received a full report on their activities, from a very senior member of the Party Board, no less. 

"Hello Andrew, just calling to let you know that your team in Four Elms were doing a good job last night." - said the Board member. 

AK: "How on earth do you know that...?"

"One of your local team called at the house owned by the eldest daughter of my managing director..."

AK: "Oh, and what did she say..."

"She said he was somewhat effete but not wholly unattractive..."

AK: "No! No! No!  I meant is she going to vote for us.....?"

"Oh yes, though she did say that even after she pledged her vote, he kept her talking for 15 minutes. Do pass it on..."

Somewhat effete but not wholly unattractive.... Surely she wasn't referring to our local candidate?

The Bishops should address their own failings first

I have never held the view, as some do, that the Church and/or Bishops shouldn't comment on matters political. Faith leaders have a role and a duty to voice their concerns, and society is wise enough to filter those views through a prism of theological liberalism, just as our Reform Jews filtered the traditional views of Jonathan Sachs. 

My concerns over yesterday's headlines is not based on a view that the Bishops shouldn't have a voice. It's about the material inaccuracies of the comments and how they willingly based their assumptions on a flawed premise. 

According to Pastoral letter "the Church of England finds its voice through being a presence in every community" and "recognises the inherent danger in the current situation where people are disengaging from politics, arguing that restoring faith in both politicians and the political process requires a new politics that engages at both a deeper more local level within a wider, broader vision for the country as a whole."   It is this basis of "disengagement" which is the driving argument behind the Bishops' wider assumptions and deserves greater scrutiny. 

I fail to see how a church, whose own internal figures show regular worshippers have now fallen to around 1% of the UK population, can lecture any group about their failings to "engage more deeply". And they should remember that political parties actively engage 4% of the population and annual involvement of 35% - 68% at election time. All of us who believe in politics as a vehicle for good must be dismayed at how our trade is viewed by many, but I suspect I would to put my own house in order before taking the moral high ground and lecturing others. 

Now is the section I really object to, "Unless we exercise the democratic rights that our ancestors struggled for, we will share responsibility for the failures of the political classes..."

I think we should pause at this point and remember that almost all of the great social reforms of the last 100 years came from politics, not faith. In fact, the Church of England was one of the major roadblocks to social reform and liberation.  Universal suffrage was opposed by the Church of England. The foundation of Trades Unions was opposed by the Church of England. The right of access to family planning was opposed by the Church of England.  The right to divorce a violent husband was opposed by the Church of England. An equal age of consent was opposed by the Church of England. And of course the Church opposed Civil Partnerships and Same Same Marriage. 

And even today, twenty one years after the ordination of women to the priesthood, the Church still sanctions sexism and homophobia, albeit grotesquely wrapped in an ugly cope of "tradition". The Church still has Provincial Episcopal Visitors "flying bishops" to provide pastoral support and oversight to parishes which refuse to recognise the ordination of women. Opponents of women priests will argue that this is not based on sexism or bigotry but a traditional interpretation of scripture. I am sorry, but can you image the outrage if any other national organisation employed peripatetic managers who toured the UK supporting branches who refused to employ black people on the grounds they are not traditionally British? They would be scorned and prosecuted - and rightfully so. But we turn a blind-eye to such discrimination where the Church is concerned. It is one thing that individual members of the Church of England still hold such unreconstructed views but quite another that the Church panders to such prejudices - not dissimilar to UKIP criticising racism whilst continuing to use dog whistle messages to keep them inside their tent.

So yes - Bishops are entitled to speak out politically - but they should take care  when they do so and should perhaps have the honesty to address their own failings too.