A Big Challenge to Brighton & Hove Tories: Do you believe in the Big Society?

David Cameron has failed one of the first tests of politics. If you have a Big Idea and nobody gets it, try to drop it quietly.  Cameron’s Big Idea is the Big Society and not even his mother likes it.  The problem is, nobody understands what the brand is.

Cuts in funding to national and local government, to schools, the NHS and to charities has resulted that the idea has been rejected at birth.

Cameron has said that the Big Society is “my absolute passion”.  Norman Smith, the BBC’s chief political correspondent, said “The Big Society is crucial to David Cameron’s political prospects precisely because it is his Big Idea, his “mission”.  The danger therefore if it flops is that he will be personally identified with that failure and Tory MPs will point accusing fingers towards him for not focusing on a more clear cut, traditional Conservative message.”

But before that, I have a Big Challenge to local Big Conservatives (Rachael Bates, Rob Buckwell et al): What the heck is the Big Society.  Please can one of you explain what your Great Leader is on about, is the Big Society going to feature in May’s local election campaign, and do you want to pledge your unqualified support to Cameron and to his Big Idea?

The Mears Master Plan: More reaction

Jason Kitcat is not a happy bunny.  He is unhappy about the BBC coverage of the announcement of the Tory budget: He writes on Twitter “Couldn’t BBC News even get a single opposition quote? Weak reporting”.  He is, of course, right on that. 

But of more importance is his reaction to the draft budget itself: “Cynical, irresponsible, gimmicky – take your pick!”. He describes the budget as “breathtaking. It slices HUGE chunks of budgets for children’s services and social care. Almost £5.5m from Children’s & Families services, about £6.1m from Adult Social Care as well as smaller but harmful cuts from planning, licensing and central services including, for example, health & safety support work. Additionally the Tories propose to spend £1.1m capital funds removing cycle lanes from Grand Avenue & The Drove. Yes, that’s right, removing cycle lanes. They also wish to borrow just over £4.5m to refurbish car parks.”

Interestingly, Jason says that “My colleague Bill Randall and I have asked to meet Labour councillors to discuss any joint amendments we might be able to agree on.”  This could be the first real test of whyether Labour and the Greens can work together.  Some how, it is something I doubt.  The anamosity between Labour and Green hacks runs deep, particularly amongst Labour activists and several councillors.  Some long standing Labour councillors still believe that it is their right to control the Council and have the City’s MPs, and they cannot stand these Green upstarts!  Come the first Friday of May, there will remain just a small rump of Labour councillors.  The Greens, I believe, are willing to work with Labour.  They, of course have everything to gain, nothing to lose.

How do others see Mary Mears’ ‘Master Plan’?  Dr Faust doesn’t think its will wash with the public: “I would have thought it likely that any proposed cut from the Council could be more than wiped out by a rise in the police precept – so people might see an overall rise anyway. However the move does present a challange to other parties – how much will they propose to raise Council Tax in order to save jobs and services? The reduction from the Tories just makes the gap larger, and a harder sell. Arguing for a 1% difference is far easier than a 10% one.”

‘Clive’  thinks that the council tax cut is the equivalent of an irresponsible giveaway budget – “it is the kind of behaviour that the coalitionistas are trying to pin on the last government, with very little basis in fact.  It only has to be hoped that enough people see through it – fortunately B&H voters are pretty clued up, in my experience. One percent is not much, either, and it won’t be enough if the opposition parties remember that the Tories are in power here (barely) and it is their seats (the winnable ones) that ought to be targeted.”

Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates) as you would expect, thinks the Tory plan is just grand: “I am indeed extremely pleased with the plans to reduce council tax. I join Rob Buckwell in saying that I hope that those in opposition don’t block this sensible plan which will help hard-working people to retain more of their own money.”

But ‘Steampunk’ disagrees with Grizzly and is united with Dan Wilson’s comment reported in my last post: “Dan exposes the cynicism of the 1% tax cut succinctly with the concrete example that for most ‘hard-working people’ this amounts to around £10 cash back per year (admittedly more for the better-off). To pretend that this is going to help families – or in more abstract terms help the local economy – when the reality is that you would be shutting services and making hundreds of people redundant is totally dishonest.”

More to follow …..

Boycot Israel over international piracy and ongoing crimes in Gaza

When Somali pirates attack ships in international waters, the Royal Navy is dispatched and the BBC rightfully condemns such piracy.

But when a peace convoy setting sale from Turkey is attacked in international waters, no though is given to sending the Royal Navy to protect fellow NATO ships, and the BBC repeatedly shows the ‘justification’ put out by the pirates.

The Israeli government says its soldiers were attacked by those on the ships.  In international law, when a ship is attacked in international waters by pirates, deadly force may be used.  No such force was used by those in the flotilla.

I am tired of listening to the lies and justification of the Israeli state, and the pitiful reaction of both the UK and US governments.

It is time for a full scale boycot of Israeli products.

Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts put in strong performances on TV this weekend

Are you still undecided how to vote on Thursday?  It might be worth your while having a look at a couple of programmes broadcast over the weekend on BBC TV and featuring several of the candidates in Brighton Pavilion.

The first,  Newsnight  broadcast on Saturday evening has an item featuring Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Vere, as well as a great clip of Green Councillor Alex Phillips about the Greens no loner being a party of sandal-wearers … only to be shown wearing sandals herself.  The broadcast finishes with a bruising encounter between Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Paxman.  It shows Caroline at her charming best agains the Purile Paxman. It shows that, no matter what, Caroline ha the personal qualities she will need as a Westminster MP.

The feature on Brighton Pavilion can be found here and starts at 17 minutes 10 seconds and runs until 29 minutes 50 seconds.

The other is yesterday’s Politics Show South East.  Broadcast from the Brighton Grand Hotel, it featured a debate between Caroline Lucas (Green), Nancy Platts (Labour), Berni Millam (Lib Dem), Charlotte Vere (Conservative)and Nigel Carter (UKIP). For what it is worth, I thought Nancy came across strongest in this debate but luck is not with her in this election. It is ridiculous but this item could not be seen in Brighton Pavilion since it was the slot broadcast from Maidstone.  Instead, in Brighton Pavilion we were able to see a debate broadcast from Southampton and featuring a Dorset constituency.  The BBC must really sort this out. 

As for Charlotte Vere, she came across characteristically robust and personable.  She claims her leaflets are “100% positive”.  So I checked on the 5 Tory leaflets I have received and I have to say she is right! It is a shame that the same can’t be said about her Tweeting.

Gordon Brown takes on Paxman – a great performance from a man who should remain Prime Minister

What an absolutely supperb interview Gordon Brown has just given to Jeremy Paxman.  Forget the beauty parade  of the Leaders’ Debates.  This was Brown one on one with the Bruiser of the BBC, Paxman.

A word first about Paxman.  He has in recent years become too predictable, interupting, bullying and ridiculing his interviewees.  I have turned off Newsnight when he has been presenting.  There was less of that tonight, but when he did fall back into his bad ways, Brown coped well, focused and determined to make his points.  Brown was master of his brief, showing his true qualities, command of his brief, and his determination to manage the current economic crisis.

If you do nothing else before polling day, watch this interview on BBCi.

Small earthquake in opinion polls, few non-Tory casualties

There is a rather worrying opinion poll reported in today’s Daily Telegraph.  (I should really call it the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph.  The Today Programme on Radio 4 always refers to the Mirror as the “Labour-supporting Mirror” although mysteriously never refers to other papers being Tory-supporting).

The poll carried out by Crosby/Textor in 100 of the most marginal non-Tory seats had the Tories on 43%, Labour 31% and the Lib Dems 20%.  This, according to the pollsters, would see the Tories winning 74 seats from Labour (but not, presumably, Brighton Pavilion where the Green’s Caroline Lucas is likely to win), but none at all from the Lib Dems.

We are told that there is a hunger for change, and Labour will no doubt be the big loser, but the Tories are still unlikely to be the big winner.  If the nation wants change, it is not a change to the Tories.

I have a problem with the Crosby/Textor poll.  First of all, who the heck are Crosby/Textor?  They are hardly Mori, not even YouGov.  They sound a bit like the odd bunch who conducted the rogue poll that put Labour ahead in Brighton Pavilion.  It is a shame that the Telegraph chose not to publish a constituency by constituency breakdown of the poll, nor did the Telegraph state how many individuals were actually interviewed in total and in each constituency.

So, on first reading this poll rang alarm bells, but on reflection I feel that the campaign in the marginals still have a long way to go.  Tonight’s debate by our glorious leaders could yet have a significant impact on the outcome, assuming they don’t bore us to death in this sanitised debate.  Bring on a Santos/Vinnick debate where they abandoned the rules.  But that was fiction, not real politics!

25 days to go and the Greens are everywhere

I tuned in to the Andrew Marr Show, and there was Caroline Lucas, impressive, charming and authoritative. Then there she was on Sky with Adam Boulton, surprisingly, impressive, charming and authoritative.  Later I turned on the Politics Show, and there was Caroline Lucas once again, surprisingly impressive, charming and authoritative.

This contrasted with the Tory Amanda Plattell who ‘contentedmummy’ described on Twitter as looking “as evil as she sounds”. Together with some non-descript journalist, they attempted to rubbish the Greens and their prospects, but came acros as bitter and sectarian.

And immediately after the Politics Show, as if by imaculate planning, there  was a knock on the door – a Green Party worker. Yesterday I bumped into several Green Party workers.  The mood of all is upbeat and positive.

By contrast, the mood amongst Labour supporters is one of demoralisation, in Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown, and in Hove.

As for the Conservatives, The SussexSquare (Geoffrey Bowden) tweeted to Charlotte Vere last night, “its amazing that the majority of your tweets are devoted to attacking Caroline Lucas. You must be scared of her!”.

So I looked at the previous 10 tweets posted by Ms Vere.  Seven related to Ms Lucas!  Ms Lucas is everywhere – even having the highest profile on the Twitter account of her Conservative opponent. 

And what about Ms Lucas herself?  How many of her tweets made reference to Ms Vere?  I looked at her tweets, not just the last 10, but every one over the last 10 weeks (I must get a life!).  How many referred to Ms Vere?  50%?  More?  Well, none actually.  Not a single one.  Zero.  It is as if Ms Lucas is not even aware of the existence of Charlotte Vere.

The amazing thing about Caroline Lucas is her energy, and how she remains pleasant and totally focused, no matter who she is talking to.  She has the rare talent to relate to ordinary people and make them feel special, while charming those beasts known as Marr, Boulton and Sopel.

A word of thanks to Charlotte Vere

I don’t often have the chance to offer thanks to Charlotte Vere, but she has done something that deserves thanks and praise.

Yesterday she tweeted about Caroline Lucas’ appearance on BBC’s Straight Talk with Andrew Neil.  I for one would not have known that Ms Lucas was appearing on this programme, but thanks to Ms Vere I was able to watch it.

Once again I was struck by Caroline’s poise and command, even in the face of hostile questioning from Neil.  Compared to other political leaders, she comes across as genuine, principled and worth supporting.

It was fantastic to hear her commitment to the abolition of Trident, for being a party of the left, for redistribution, and so on.

What was a shame was Charlotte’s observation that the “wheels came off” when the opposite was true.  Andrew Neil was aggressive with Ms Lucas, yet she showed characteristic grace and good humour.  She also showed characteristic competence and authority

She also clearly charmed the brute that is Andrew Neil and it won’t be long before she joins Itchy and Scratchy (Abbott and Portillo) on the sofa on This Week!

But a special thank you to Charlotte Vere.  Please keep us posted on other appearances by Caroline Lucas.  It can only strengthen her candidature.

You can watch Caroline here http://bit.ly/cMEpf4.

‘New’ style Tory candidates are just fresh faces fronting the same divisive, Thatcherite policies

The Guardian Weekend colour supplement has profiles of eighteen ‘new’ Conservative candidates from around the country.  It reflects that amongst the Tory ranks will be more women, gay and non-white MPs.  David ‘Dave’ Cameron points to these candidates to show how much the Tory Party has changed.

Amongst those fighting marginal seats is Louise Bagshawe (Corby and East Northamptonshire), the author of chic-lit novels: “I’ve always been a die-hard Thatcherite”. Also featured is former GMTV presenter, Esther McVey (Wirral West), media barrister Joanne Cash (Westminster North), failed Brighton politician Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford), Philippa Stroud (Sutton and Cheam) who wants to strengthen families, ex-BBC producer Charlotte Leslie (Bristol NW) who has “never liked authority stamping on what individuals want to do”, and Keeley Huxtable (Birmingham Northfield) who has “always believed in a small state and giving people power over their own lives”. Dom Raab (Esther and Walton) likes the Conservatives’ commitment to “defending our freedom as a nation and ending the creeping mission of the European Union”.

Most of this sounds like Thatcherism, anti-Europe, pro-small government, tax cutting (and therefore public spending slashing), and ‘giving people power over their own lives’ … but only if they can afford it. The faces are certainly changing amongst the ranks, but the philosophy remains the same, and the leadership is Oxbridge.  Cameron remains a toff, and the legacy of Thatcher will be reflected through these, the latest of her children.

I almost forgot Charlotte Vere (Brighton Pavilion).  A fresh set of policies? A break from traditional Tory values?  “I have been a Conservative all my life.  It’s about having a strong sense of social responsibility, a view that opportunity is for everybody, believing that a more effective government is better than a bigger government – and ideally paying as few taxes as possible”.

Why the Brighton Politics Blogger doesn’t give interviews

In recent weeks the Brighton Politics Blogger has been asked to give a number of interviews regarding the political situation in Brighton Pavilion. Two requests were for filmed interviews – the Guardian film and this weekend, and most recently by the rather lovely Danielle Glavin for the BBC Politics Show.

Unfortunately, BPB is very shy and retiring, lacking the confidence to speak my mind. How I wish it wasn’t so. I sit here day after day, alone, sad, unloved. Can anyone suggest how I might overcome this terrible affliction. Is it time for me to come out …?