Monday, December 10, 2012

Election to the House of Lords

Despite attempts by the Liberal Democrats to reform the upper chamber, 92 hereditary peers remain on the red benches, a compromise deal agreed a decade ago when many earls, marquesses and dukes were booted back to their stately homes and castles. And every time one of the 92 dies, the House operates a "one-out, one-in" process where those hereditaries kicked out in 2000 can apply to get back in.
This week, candidates for the latest hereditary peers' by-election will throw their hats into the ring, following the death last month of Earl Ferrers, the colourful former Tory minister. By-elections in the House of Lords are conducted in secret, with a private hustings held on an undisclosed date. Rather than a polling station, the "voters" – in this case the 47 existing hereditary Tory peers – will cast their ballots in the Lords on 13 February. The contest is fought using the alternative vote system – the reform the Conservative Party rejected in the referendum.
There are currently 183 hereditaries who would be eligible to stand in the election. Yet, given that Lord Ferrers's "seat" was Conservative, only Tory peers are expected to stand.
The peer elected will join the other 89 male hereditary peers.   There are only two female hereditary peers.   Although the Royal succession is to be changed to allow the first born to succeed, the Peers have no intention of changing primogeniture so succession will be down the male line except in a very few cases.
This is quite disgraceful.   What happened to gender equality?   With the 26 male bishops we have 116  purely male positions in the House of Lords.   This is a distortion of democracy.    Time for reform of the House of Lords.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"The foundations of democracy" by Winston Churchill

"The foundation of all democracy is that the people have the right to vote.   To deprive them of that right is to make a mockery of all the high-sounding phrases which are so often used.   At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a cross on a little bit of paper.   No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly palliate the overwhelming importance of that point.   The people have the right to choose representatives in accordance with their wishes and feelings".

Friday, November 23, 2012

The danger of interfering in the selection process.

The following is an edited extract from the topofthecops web site

The PCC election was a massive missed opportunity for the Labour party, but it was also so much more.

To appreciate that, have a look at Wales.   North Wales and Gwent have gone to Independents. Dyfed-Powys has gone to the Tories. South Wales nearly went Independent, with Alun Michael seeing Mike Baker coming within 12,000 votes of him in the second round. Labour, having spent the election cursing the rules on previous convictions must privately be glad of their existence, as Simon Weston surely could have closed that gap and left Welsh policing free of Labour entirely.

Mid-terms are supposed to bring the blues but not these blues. How did the Conservatives on a bad day still end up with more PCCs than Labour?

One way was for Labour to miss-play their winning card. The Labour party had the most open final selection procedure with a postal ballot for every member. Because they were doing elections for the NEC at the same time, it didn't even cost them a meaningful extra sum. They arranged some hustings, short-listed some candidates, and potentially involved all their members in a way no other party did, leaving them in a great position to ask those members to return to the doorstep in autumn.

Except they didn't do that.   In 12 of the 41 areas there was no such election. To be fair, a reasonable number of these would probably have been written off as "no hopers". Labour winning in Surrey or Wiltshire or several other areas was going to be difficult, and in some places they only had one candidate offering to take a bullet for the party.

But that wasn't always the case. In 2 areas, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, the Labour candidate was expected to win, yet by the time the short-list was finalised, there was only one name on it. It's easy to say that heavyweights may have scared off other candidates but, in other areas that were contested, the heavyweights had a real fight on their hands. A number of Labour people have complained of a culture of fixing selections, and this was reported in the local press in places like Leicestershire. Sarah Russell should have won there, but her opponent had recently run the RAF, there was an Independent possibly damaging her vote, and a number of members of the local party felt her selection was fixed and they had no say.

The feeling of elections being fixed spread into other areas that were contested. In Merseyside, John Ashton decided not to enter the contest, seeing it as set up for ex-Ministers.   In Lancashire a prominent candidate was added to the interview list, but 'missed off' the invites, others reported the selection was fixed.  The winning candidate got 5 grand from a union to help his selection chances, and broke the law, failing to declare the donations till after the selection was complete. He was not disciplined by Labour for this, but was disciplined for negative campaigning against his Labour rivals, but in a slap-on-the-wrist way that still allowed him to be selected. One Labour figure told me "there's no point complaining about Clive in the Labour party. He's got the backing of Unite and they won't let anything happen to him."

 By missing full selection processes in 12 areas and allowing a feeling of fixing to spread Labour lost a clear advantage.

Labour also made the mistake of all political parties in choosing politicians as candidates, who the electorate did not want, and turning down candidates with police experience, who the electorate preferred. These preferences were clear in multiple pieces of research, and at the election itself. The difference with Labour is that choosing experienced police candidates would have sat better with their "don't politicise policing' ethic than their eventual choice of candidates heavily populated by ex-MPs and ex-Ministers.

The worst indulgence was John Prescott, whose early interviews betrayed no appreciation of the need to not interfere with police operations, and who, despite receiving more free publicity from the media than any other candidate, gave effect to his Marmite tendency, as those who don't like him used their Supplementary Vote in Humberside to propel Conservative Matthew Grove to victory. Easy to forget that the local party had the choice of a retired Chief Superintendent, and very nearly took it. Another retired Chief Super very nearly stole second place, in the election, on his own, without party backing. In choosing Prescott, Labour showed itself to be out-of-touch with local electors.

But they were also out of touch with the law. Time and again Labour candidates were removed because of some breach of the law that would disqualify them from office. Yes, Theresa May didn't appreciate this either, but anyone with a basic familiarity with the law could have told them that it applied to teenage convictions, and that aspect of the law had been supported by their parliamentary team. One would have expected Labour's lawyers to spot that Alan Charles was not in fact disqualified, but he had to stand down and be reinstated, then forced to explain about his teenage purse theft that would otherwise have remained unknown. And frankly the late attempted withdrawal of Lee Barron in Northamptonshire, leaving local voters with no Labour option that could win, but with him confusingly still on the ballot paper surely demands a proper investigation. It cannot be good that Labour selections often gave the impression of preferring convicts to coppers.

Finally, Labour suffered from a confused approach to these elections. The line taken was "these posts are dangerous and will politicise policing, but you've done it now and so we are taking part". There was no recognition of recent Labour policy positions that were more favourably disposed to a role for the electorate in policing. There was little in the way of spelling out what was different about having a Labour PCC. Few candidates who might win would actually do more than make noises about police numbers. There were no guarantees.

The danger for Labour is that this confused approach continues into office. A number of PCCs seem to be at some point on the road to Damascus, with people like Vera Baird taking to explaining why the role won't be overly political after all. There seems to be a desire to stand up for police numbers, but not in a way that provides money for them by raising Council Tax enough to cause a local referendum. No. The government will be asked for money it doesn't have, and Labour will look they they have not learned the lessons of "spend, spend, spend".

Friday, November 16, 2012

Police Commissioner Elections by Glenis Smith

November 15th
Tonight at about 6 pm I feel guilty because I have chosen NOT to vote for a Thames Valley Police Commissioner. I had a newspaper brief in the letterbox about the Conservative candidate and see his Armed Services record and that he served on the TV Police committee prior to it’s now abolition. However, having looked up a TV website and found Independent, UKIP, and Labour candidates for this position and although 1,000 words were allowed for each candidate to “sell” themselves, I feel at a loss to choose a candidate that will work in the area’s interest. I don’t know them. Who would do the best job? Only Conservatives with their superior finances were able to send to households a “CV” and “Notice of intent” to the population. Was I lucky in Gerrards Cross receiving this? What about the rest of the Thames Valley area? Were they sent this?
I find it unacceptable that all candidates were not given an allowance to spend on reaching the whole of the Thames Valley constituency in order to get their individual cases across – or, are we all supposed to look up everything on the internet?
This is the first time I have not voted in many a long year – in fact, I have voted to elect local councillors, and MP’s since I was 21. I am now 68 years of age.
As a staunch Conservative voter, I now feel – what is the point? I am very proud to have been at the selection of our local MP, Dominic Grieve. In my view he has been a wonderful MP looking after his constituents, and take pride in the fact that he takes a leading role as Attorney General in this present coalition government – although I feel conservative values are thwarted due to this arrangement.
I feel that, on this occasion, the Conservative Party have been less than diligent in trying to get across “the message” they feel is important to impart.
If a lot of important information has been imparted by the Government that I have missed, I apologize for my ignorance.
Glenis Smith

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The State of Party membership

The following article was published on Nothing very contentious about it, but what does it say about the state of Party membership.   In four marginal seats Party membership is less than 100.   Not that long ago a constituency with less than 100 members would have been a Labour seat with a 15,000 majority.   How the Party has fallen?   What are they doing about it?   Sweet F.A., because the only way to reverse the decline in membership is to give power to the members.   This they will not do, so they would rather see the Tory Party go out of existence rather than take the one action that could save it.   Sad, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Con HQ announces first ten of forty target seat selections
By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
Sarah Newton MP, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, has just given ConservativeHome the names of the ten constituencies who will taking part in the first of three tranches to select the forty candidates in the Tories' 40/40 battleground strategy to win a majority at the next election. They are:
1.   Birmingham Northfield, Lab maj of 2,782
2.   Cheadle, Lib Dem maj of 3,272
3.   Chorley, Lab maj of 2,593
4.   Delyn, Lab maj of 2,272
5.   Hampstead and Kilburn, Lab maj of 42 in three way marginal
6.   Harrow West, Lab maj of 3,143
7.   Morley and Outwood, Lab maj of 1,101
8.   N E Derbyshire, Lab maj of 2,445
9.   Sutton and Cheam, Lib Dem maj of 1,608
10. Vale of Clwyd, Lab maj of 2,509
Sarah told me that the forty seats haven't just been selected because of the size of their majorities but because of examination of other factors including demographic trends and local issues. Selection procedeures will begin on 16th November and be wrapped up in time for Christmas in a sign that the party is determined to benefit as much as it now can from early adoption.
None of these first ten have fast-tracked candidates - that is candidates who fought the seat at the last election and have asked to fight it again. A number of candidates in the other thirty of the forty seats have asked to be fast-tracked and are going through the relevant ConHQ and local approval processes.
Constituencies with less than 100 members will have to choose a three person shortlist given to them by a special ConHQ committee or choose their candidate by open primary. Of this first list of ten four seats fall into this category - Birmingham Northfield, Cheadle, Morley and Outwood and N E Derbyshire. The open primary would be at a one-off meeting rather than constituency-wide ballot unless the Association would be willing to pay for it. Something that by the nature of their limited memberships seems unlikely. Sarah Newton insisted that ConHQ would not be operating an unofficial secret A-list. She said that when the party drew up the shortlists of three then all members of the candidates' list would be considered.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to win the next General Election by Allan Glass

We agreed to get some ideas together so I thought I would set the ball rolling.
1) Image.
We are unfairly perceived to be out of touch TOFFS who would not know to grab the wooden end of a hammer. This is newspaper propaganda but believed by a lot of people.
We need a Leader, who is not known to "U" turn,
One who has a record of earning a living before entering politics.
2) Stature
We need to show the team who would work for the country in case of a straight victory.
Prime minister this is obvious.
Chancellor should be known as should the justice and schools and all senior ministers be known so we vote for a team not one person. This takes the heat off one person but gives us better coverage.
3) Make more of our successes.
Get out of Europe NOW!
We took over a bankrupt country and we have worked hard with the voters to get the economy back on track.
Acknowledge the suffering of the populous and thank them for helping the country out of our dire financial state. This would both remind the people of Labours legacy and show that our policies are working.
4) Manifesto. Write it and STICK TO IT.
We need to show that we want jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
Support manufacturing as well as banks.
Stop meddling with the NHS any more than we can avoid.
We need to show that we have a team of people, all need to be recognized as an important part of that team. We would miss a dustbin man far more than a banker in the short term. Hospitals cannot run unless the cleaners keep them hygienic. We need to impart British Team spirit.
5) Leaflets.
We need to keep all of our leaflets simple. Have captions (BULLET POINTS) then go into more detail if we really need to. (More people read the Sun than the Telegraph.)
T. V. Get some politicians with PERSONALITY to answer questions. Have a bank of on call politicians to jump to it when the T V or radio wants someone. It shows we have more than one person in the party.
We all need to be working from the same script.
Show we are not LIBERAL DEMOCRAT led political numpties.
That is my starting point for now.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

From the Grass Roots

                  CROSS ON SATURDAY 3RD NOVEMBER 2012

Dear Members

Unfortunately I am unable to join you at your meeting today but I understand one of the items on the Agenda is how the Conservatives can win an outright majority in the 2015 General Election. Most of you here today already have a Conservative MP. with a healthy majority; some of you such as the Newbury representatives have a Conservative MP with a Liberal Democrat as a runner up and will be seeking to try and increase that majority.  My own MP sits for a Conservative marginal in South Wales with a majority of just over 4,000. He first stood in 2005. Was a well-known Member of the Welsh Assembly, lived locally and had worked hard in the constituency for over seven years. In my opinion his majority should have been between 7,000 and 8,000 against a virtually unknown Labour candidate. It was not to be.
The party needs to be honest with itself. Forget about boundary changes which may (or may not) give an extra fifteen or so MP s unless and until the party polls nationally at least 40 to 41% of the vote it is not going to win an outright majority.
Yes; the party can win in England (even though large areas of the north and the big cities have no Conservative representation) but not in the context of the United Kingdom. Scotland is lost for ever. Yet the writing there has been on the wall for over fifty years. Even when Harold Macmillan (himself a Scot) was increasing the Conservative majority to 100 in 1959 the party lost seats in Scotland. And in the General Elections since then we have been reduced to 21 MPs, then 10, then none and now one. When eminent Conservative Scottish politicians such as Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Dr. Liam Fox and Michael Gove (all Cabinet or ex Cabinet ministers) migrate to England because they cannot get elected in their native country, you know something is wrong.
UKIP is another headache for the party. Surveys will confirm that for every one vote taken by the party from Labour, two are taken from the Conservatives. And the message is simple – Laws should be made for the British nation in the parliament at Westminster and we should have no truck with a bloated European bureaucracy. Our party is hampered by the fact that we have to keep both the Euro Fanatics and the Euro Sceptics on side. There are lots of people in this country who will not vote for David Cameron simply because he refused to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.
Another problem is the fact that the average age of our membership is now around 68 and that nationally we probably have only around 170,000 of whom only 10 to 15% are active, most being either councillors and their families or constituency officers. Matters are not helped by Central Office parachuting unwanted candidates into certain constituencies against the wishes of ordinary members. And let us take women candidates. If a woman is good enough she will be able to beat even the best male candidate. There were two redoubtable Dames in the parliaments from 1950 to 1964. Irene Ward first entered parliament in 1931 and later sat for Tynemouth. Joan Vickers beat Michael Foot twice in Plymouth Devonport. More recently Ann Widdecombe after standing in Burnley in 1979 and against David Owen in 1983 landed the safe seat of Maidstone where she was the MP from 1987 to 2010. These ladies were formidable in their own right and they did not need quotas or preferential treatment.
The moment you take away selection from the ordinary rank and file member you are inviting trouble. People will just lose interest and won’t work for the party.
The party seems to think that because of the current weakness of the Liberal Democrats it may pick up some of their parliamentary seats. I beg to differ. The Liberal Democrats will claim that the government, by reason of its being a coalition, has been forced to adopt certain Liberal Democrat policies – and they will claim the credit for that.  Also when a Liberal Democrat MP gets really stuck in he or she is often very difficult to dislodge.  In recent years I have spent a few days each year in Torquay, part of the Torbay constituency. A typical seaside town, many retired people, many small businesses, and coupled with the larger hotels many smaller B & B establishments.  The council itself is predominantly Conservative and there are a number of safe Conservative wards. For over sixty years Torquay (as it then was) was a safe Conservative seat. However since 1997 it has had a Liberal Democrat MP and the Conservative vote has fallen from 28000 to just over 19000. For the reasons already stated, it is going to be very difficult to dislodge the current Liberal Democrat MP.
Although there seems to be some sign that economy is recovering slightly there is still a long way to go and if Liam Halligan in the Sunday Telegraph is to be believed we still have a mountain to climb, with horrendous interest payable on the country’s debts.  The ordinary man in the street simply does not believe the Chancellor, George Osborne, when he says ‘We are all in this together’.  And that was before the fuss over his rail ticket – something probably blown out of all proportion but which still gave the wrong impression.  And when David Cameron expressed his full confidence in Andrew Mitchell five weeks ago, I thought to myself then: This is John Major circa 1994 – when will Mitchell resign?  
The only good news really is the weakness of the Labour Party. We are fortunate that Ed Milliband was elected by such a small majority and then only by reason of the Trade Union block vote. Also that his shadow Chancellor is Ed Balls who, as adviser to Gordon Brown when Chancellor. overtaxed, overborrowed and overspent and is partly responsible for the current economic mess. It may well be that many in 2015 will vote negatively – better the devil trying to clear up the mess, rather than the one who created it in the first place. Many Liberal Democrats, particularly those former Labour members such as Vince Cable, don’t really want to be in a coalition government with us; that much is obvious. Our problem is that people from all walks of life vote Conservative (and that was so even when class differences were far, far greater than they are today) and yet the party is still seen by many as being for the rich, better off and the privileged.  No matter what we do or however hard we try that impression is difficult to shake off.  That, more than anything will prevent us winning an outright majority in 2015, something, which should have been there for the taking in May 2010.
I hope that this open letter to you all will stimulate your discussion.

My regards to you all

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Police Commissioner Elections

Police Commissioner Elections
According to the Electoral Commission's website Register of Regulated Donees, with the Lancashire Labour selection safely out of the way, County Councillor Grunshaw registered two donations to his selection campaign from the trade union “Unite”, each allegedly worth £2,500, for printing and posting of mail-shots for his selection campaign.

One of these donations dated back to April, but by delaying the submission to July, Labour members cast their votes unaware that Unite's backing extended to spending £5,000 on the mail-shots they got through the election campaign, and unaware that he had this funding advantage over his opponents.

One of Cllr Grunshaw's mail-shots landed him in trouble with the Labour party and led to him being forced to apologise to his Labour rivals for the post.

There are a few odd things about this though.

1) Doesn't the trade union “Unite” represent Police Staff?    Is it proper for a PCC candidate to accept such a significant benefit from a Union that represent staff in the organisation he seeks to lead?    Will there not be questions over the impact of his every policy on police staff and union paymasters?

2) The really strange thing though is that Councillor Grunshaw's declarations seem to be the only ones from any candidate in these elections related to their selection campaign.  Any such donations to party members, including those in kind, and that includes the cumulative value of a number of smaller donations, to a total value of over £1,500 should already have been reported to the Commission.

Are there really no other candidates who have had such benefits?    No other candidates receiving payments from a union?    Were there no other funded mail-shots in Labour's all-postal ballot selections, where mail-shots were the only way to get more than 200 words before the party members who have the votes?

Have the trade unions been trying to buy influence with Labour candidates?

Have Labour candidates failed to disclose this, keeping an inconvenient story from Labour members, and from the wider electorate?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

COPOV Revived

This web site is replacing the old COPOV web site.   Do please contribute to it.