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.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Faversham and Mid Kent shortlist

1. Yes - it's four women
2. Yes - they were selected by the Sift Committee of their own accord
3. No - there was no pressure from CCHQ

Congratulations and good luck to four outstanding candidates. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Please let it be true

News reaches West Kent Towers that one of our local members, selected to fight a "challenging" Labour seat many miles from Kent, was campaigning in the constituency with her husband. After a hard morning's leaflet delivery they entered a remote local pub for a livener. The candidate wisely ordered a half of larger "and what would you like darling...?"  Mr Candidate (who is not at all political) scanned the bar shelves. "Do you have any Hendricks?" he asked hopefully. The barman fixed them with a suspicious stare; "I'm not sure what's on the juke box, you'll have to check."

Sunday, 15 February 2015

State funding for political parties - not in my name!

The issue of taxpayer funding of political parties is back on the agenda following this intervention from Ken Clarke. HERE

For the entire time I have been a member of the Conservative Party (35+ years) we have been the party of the individual and the free market. Under successive Conservative governments:

  • State subsidies where (rightly) withdrawn from nationalised industries to force them to compete on an equal footing with the private sector. 
  • Whole areas and indeed sub-regions of Britain faced economic restructuring after unprofitable industries (rightfully) closed-down due to their inability to attract customers or make a profit.
  • Responsibility for such decline was placed (rightfully) at the door of those companies whose management and trades union leaders were unresponsive to their customer's needs in the modern market place.
  • Whole swathes of government administration have been (rightfully) removed from the state sector and transferred to fee charging agencies in an effort to force them to be market responsive and charge end-user fees for their services.
  • Subsidies to local councils have been (rightfully) reduced and caps placed on Council Tax increases to force councils to reduce non-core expenditure,  dispose of assets, merge back office functions and do "more for less". 
  • And, of course, our welfare reforms have been (rightfully) implemented including the benefit cap and the spare room subsidy on the basis that state handouts should be a last resort, not a way of life, and people ultimately have a responsibility for themselves. 

And as a Conservative, I wholeheartedly support it all.

What I cannot accept or understand however is how any politician (especially a Conservative) could say...

"All the above is fine for the state sector, for the free market, for local government, for benefit claimants and for business - but not for us in Westminster. If my political party cannot balance its books, cannot attract members (or customers), cannot compete in the modern market place and cannot cut costs to fit the economic situation then we shall simply dip into the taxpayers' pockets to make up the difference."

If we do go down the line of state funding how could any Minister make a moral case for refusing state subsidy or an increase in funding when whoever they were sitting opposite at the negotiating table could simply say, "why are you refusing us as we all know you wouldn't be here if they state removed your subsidy too." The policy would re-empower every pressure group and give trades unions a stick to beat us with. More importantly, it would fundamentally weaken the moral case for free markets.

It really doesn't have to be this way. The National Trust has 3.93 million members who between them contribute £140 million per annum. Studies indicate the majority of those people never visit a NT property. They contribute because it's something they believe in and they want to help. I know it's been said many times before, but surely we need to do much more work on why just 1% of the 10.7 million people who voted Conservative in 2010 are prepared to join our party, and just 2% are prepared to support us financially. I fail to see how accepting taxpayer funding will do anything to make our political establishments more responsive to their customers (voters) than they are now.