Sunday, 28 September 2014

Should we have ordered air strikes on Iraq?

Ben Gummer (our Tory MP) has a regular column in or local paper, the Ipswich Star – some have been informative, some interesting and some poor but I would describe this week’s offering as both atrocious and pompous.

He started his column telling us about the birth of his son but then seemed to used most of the time making excuses for his son not being born in Ipswich, quite sad that he feels he has to do this I am positive no one in Ipswich Labour would have made any sort of issue about his wife giving birth in London, in fact most of us would not have been surprised by the news as we would expect Mr Gummer to spend more time in London than he does in Ipswich and as his wife is also from London not sure his son not being born in Ipswich is any sort of a story at all, but I am not being critical of Mr Gummer explaining why his son was not born in Ipswich I am just disappointed that the way modern politics is going that he thought he needed to explain the details of the birth of his son.

But what made me angry was the second part of his column – Ben Gummer used the second half of his column explaining why he was going to vote for air strikes in Iraq, he even went further to say that he believed we should also be bombing ISIS in Syria. Now I do believe Mr Gummer was right to use his column to tell Ipswich residents of why he was going to vote to allow our forces to enter the conflict though I was surprised that he was willing to state how he was going to vote before he listened and joined in the debate at Westminster.

I like Mr Gummer would have voted for Britain to join the coalition so him voting for us to join the US and others in bombing Northern Iraq but it was the pompous manner he put over his view and how he then used the column to not only attack Putin and Farage but also the Labour leader Ed Miliband,

The pomposity of his column was highlighted to me by what seemed him showing off, by describing the theatre of operations as Northern Mesopotamia. Now I may expect someone with an Oxbridge history degree to know what this part of Iraq was formally called and maybe even use that knowledge to understand some of the tribal and territorial issues that make this such a volatile region to live in but you would have just thought he would have called the area Northern Iraq rather than Mesopotamia.

To me it came over pompous and showing off and that is the last sort of reaction you should be after when explaining why you have voted to commit our Armed forces to combat.

Then after getting over his pomposity we had the attack on Ed Miliband, stating that the situation in the region now and the rise of ISIS is down to Ed and Labour MPs not voting to order air strikes on Iraq last year. What rubbish and he also seems to forget that a large number of Tory MPs also voted not to go to war in Syria and they were not your usual ‘little Englander’ Tory rebels.

Many including me actually believe that ISIS would have even been stronger if we had attacked Assad, the trouble is the Syrian rebels have never been united and ISIS was already attacking other Syrian rebel groups at the time of that last vote. My view is shared by many and a Labour MP asked Ed Miliband a leading question that indicated he had the same view but instead of Ed using his answer as an excuse to attack Cameron, instead he said the debate was about ordering air strikes on Iraq now not debating what would have happened if we had voted for action last year. The answer of Ed Miliband was statesmanlike, the sort of answer you would expect from a politician when such a grave matter as sending British planes into action was the subject of the debate. I am afraid our own Tory MP decided to use the vote as an opportunity to score cheap political points.

What Mr Gummers column does come over is one of desperation as he knows the tide is against him in Ipswich

I did state earlier that I, like Mr Gummer would have voted for air strikes in Iraq and like Mr Gummer agree that the RAF should be able to follow and then bomb targets into Syria but that is not to say that I applaud Mr Cameron for the stance he has taken in fact he has just failed to show any sort of leadership over the matter.

The coalition has been in action for a number of weeks but Mr Cameron did not see fit to recall Parliament earlier.

Like Mr Gummer and myself, I believe Mr Cameron believes we should also take action in Syria but he does not have the confidence to be even sure that he can persuade his own party to support him let along persuade his coalition colleagues or Labour or any other smaller political groups, a fact that Mr Hauge seemed to admit on the BBC this morning.

Former Generals and Air Commanders have been critical of Cameron, with one stating that to defeat ISIS it will need ‘boots on the ground’ and another senior ex British General with a former NATO command also being very critical of Cameron, the General disappointed in the way we have left others to lead not only in the battle against ISIS but also in the Ukraine conflict but that is the direct consequence of the drastic cuts to our Armed Forces by the Tories.

We have committed 6 planes to the mission over Iraq, less than Denmark and Australia. Mr Cameron does needs to learn that once you reduce the size of your armed forces you will find that you can no longer expect to be seen as one of the key decision makers in NATO, Europe or the UN.

It does not mean that just deploying armed forces is the only thing we can do as a country to help the situation in Iraq/Syria, we should be proud of the help we have given in overseas aid, something we would not be able to do in the future if Tory right wingers get their way and our aid budget is reduced but there is even more we can do – we are helping the refugees on the ground in both Turkey and Iraq but what I found both surprising but then more embarrassing is that by June this year only 43 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter this country!

In the late 30’s many politicians did not cover themselves in glory with their willingness to appease Hitler (you can also add the Daily Mail to that list) but many of the British public did not just sit and do nothing, and I am sure many of us have been through Liverpool Street station and have looked at the statues that were erected to remember the Jewish children rescued by the Kindertransport’ – when you lean the story of those children, the contribution to British life by those children rescued it does make a total of 43 Syrian refugees accepted seem quite pathetic.

My week ahead, 29 September - 4 October 2014

Monday – 29 September, 6pm – Labour Group campaigning, South West Ipswich

Wednesday – 1 October, 2pm – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich

Thursday – 2 October, 6pm – Ipswich Borough Scrutiny meeting

Saturday – 4 October, 10am - Labour campaigning, North West Ipswich

This week we see a further ‘call in’ at our Scrutiny meeting, quite a surprise after a number of years of Tory Opposition where we saw little interest in scrutinising anything.

Disappointing is that issues they seem to be calling in all could be seen as electioneering stunts, but lets hope that this Thursday they bring some valid arguments to the committee.

We continue to campaign hard, our conference is now over, not sure why the Lib Dems are having one and then finding it hard to differentiate between the UKIP and Tory conferences it seems that the part conferences take in politics seems to be ever changing. But our delegates and attendees at Labour 14 have come back invigorated with 4 of them joining us out on the doorstep this weekend. Now to keep it going till May (and beyond)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

My week ahead, 22 - 27 September 2014

Monday – 22 September, 8am – Ipswich Angle editorial meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning in West Ipswich

Wednesday 24 September, 2pm – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich
6pm – East Ipswich Area Housing meeting

Saturday 27 September, 10am – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich

The big news (and good news) story this week was Scotland voting to remain part of Britain, as someone with Scottish roots I was both happy and proud when the result came through.

More of a shock was the way Alex Salmond quit so soon after the result came through, he did not seem that gracious in defeat, implying that the leaders of the 3 main political parties would renege on their last minute promises (of more power for the Scottish people). I was not impressed with his resignation speech and am glad to see that Ed Miliband is stating that the plan put forward days before the election must be kept to. I think and hope it will.

But people may believe Salmond when they see the way the Tories in Westminster are behaving, rather than getting behind their leader a sizable group of Tory MPs with John Redwood at the front (though a cabinet minister – Chris Grayling is also happy to join in) are using this opportunity to put the boot in to David Cameron, as they see he is in a currently weak position. With friends like this.......

Here in Ipswich we had the debate at full council on the Northern Fringe, not surprising the Tories attempted to put more barriers in to try and delay the start of the much needed development whist the Lib Dems seem to have forgotten how they voted when they were part of the administration!

One amusing part of the week was via twitter watching another episode of Ipswich Tory in-fighting, the latest spat took place not here but on the streets of Clacton! The current Tory Gipping Ward candidate spotted the former Tory Bridge Ward candidate campaigning for UKIP! He greeted his former colleague and possibly (still) a fellow Ipswich Tory member with the cry of ‘Traitor’!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside

Today I spent the day in Clacton campaigning for our Labour candidate, Tim Young. For many reasons I was pleased to spend a day by the sea in Essex. First of all I like Tim, made easier because as well as being a sound Labour man he is also an Ipswich Town fans – so what is there not to like?

I also wanted to experience how a campaign is run at a by-election and also to compare the real feelings of residents on the streets of Clacton compared to what was reported in the first few days of media frenzy when Carswell jumped ship. A media frenzy that soon died away when the real story was found to be a few hundred miles north and over the border in Scotland.

What I found was a buzzing campaign centre with many volunteers who were boosted in number today by our large Ipswich contingent. We were also joined by the Suffolk Labour Rural Express – 3 more of our Suffolk PCC’s and other members who had spent the weekend touring Suffolk before arriving in Essex. Of course I expected to find a well organised office and was told that UKIP had a busy centre close by but the Tories were still in a state of shock from the defection of not only their MP but also a number of their members.

What did not expect to find was the reaction we got whilst canvassing on the street in the Rush Green Ward, we found residents that did not even know about the by-election, the lack of posters from any party- 2 Labour and 1 UKIP, and also a feeling of residents not knowing who to vote for. We found Labour and UKIP voters but I only met 2 Tories but the real significant find was the number of ‘don’t knows’ we found, in general many of these were planning to vote UKIP. They told us they had felt let down or ignored by both Labour and the Tories so they felt drawn to UKIP, there was also the issue of immigration, it seems to me that in many coastal towns in the east from Ramsgate to Hull. Immigration is a much bigger issue to them than it is when you move further inland. UKIP would have expected to have taken most of their votes but for these voters they now feel confused, they would never vote Tory and Carswell is still seen as a Tory and not many had a good word to say about him, many agreed with his anti Europe stance but it was obvious from talking to residents that Carswell has never seen as an MP who would spend much time talking to and looking after the interests of residents in Rush Green, Jaywick or some of the older parts of the town.

Not the sort of view you would have had of Carswell if you had watched or read the first media reports from Clacton, from those first reports you would have thought he was ‘Mr Clacton’ but from talking to voters today he is more ‘Mr Frinton’ or Mr Holland on Sea’ than ‘Mr Clacton’.

My guesstimate of the Clacton election result – a win for UKIP but with Labour also increasing their vote even pushing the Tories for second and the Lib Dems? I would expect the Lib Dems to lose their deposit – again.

I hope to get to Clacton again, there are certainly many voters who planned tp vote UKIP that now feel betrayed by having Carswell forced upon them. This gives us in Labour a great opportunity to talk to these voters, to show we have not forgotten them and that we are the best party to fight for them.

Vote Tim Young

My week ahead, 15 - 21 September 2014

Monday – 15 September, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 17 September, 2pm – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich
6pm – Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting

Thursday – 18 September, 5pm – North East Partnership Group meeting
6pm – North East Area Committee meeting – St John’s Church

Another busy week ahead not only with meetings and campaigning but also spending as much time as possible watching the last few days of the Scottish Independence referendum campaign. It has been a long campaign but one that has overtaken all other news in the last 3 weeks as the opinion polls seem to indicate it will be a close run thing.

For all leaders the result on Friday will have a lasting effect, a ‘Yes’ vote will make it harder for Labour to win a General Election, Lib Dems will lose even more MP’s and Cameron will be known as the Prime Minister who presided over the break up of the union.

If it is a ‘Yes’ result there will still be some winners – Salmond (and his ego) Boris Johnson and all those Tories who are ‘little’ Englanders at heart.

Losers will be Cameron, Clegg and Ed Miliband but the biggest losers will be the people of Scotland (and also the rest of us in the United Kingdom)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Time for Labour to say they will scrap Police and Crime Commissioners

Over the last few months the position of Police and Crime Commissioner has sunk to a new low. The low turnout for the election in the West Midlands, the refusal of the South Yorkshire PCC to resign over his involvement with the Rotherham scandal (though in that case he should be joined in resigning by a number of South Yorkshire Senior Police Officers) the suspension from the Labour Party of the Bedfordshire PCC, the Norfolk PCC attempting to suspend himself and the walking PR disasters who are the PCC’s in Kent and Surrey. All these are recent examples of why the next Labour Government should make one of their first jobs stating that the post of PCC will cease after they have completed their four year term.

That is not to say we should go back to the way the police was run before, the Police Authority were toothless and though they were made up of elected members they were able to raise the police part of the council tax without any fear of being held responsible for the rise by the public.

This week Labour have announced that they are close to laying out plans for their vision of what will replace the role of PCC. Tories not surprisingly are pushing us to declare now what we plan, forgetting that they had plenty of time in opposition to come up with their answers. The trouble was they decided on the role of PCC, they had plenty of time to decide on legislation and implementation but still came up with (supported by the Lib Dems) a plan that allows a PCC to stay in post even if found guilty for a criminal offence (as long as the crime does not lead to a 2 year jail sentence) they also failed to place in any form of recall or even to give the Home Secretary (or the local Police panel) the power to get rid of poorly preforming PCC’s. Then again they have failed to implement a plan for recall of MP’s though they had promised to do so. This week The Home Secretary said there should be a way that they could recall PCC’s – well pity she never thought of that when they set up the post.

The local political gossip column has reported a number of my tweets and posts about the role of the PCC and attempted to use those posts to cause friction with my fellow ward Councillor Tracy Grant (a civilian employed by the police). Stating that at least the Tory PCC, Mr Passmore had saved the Suffolk Control room. As I was a member of the scrutiny committee who listened to Mr Passmore who when speaking to us made it quite clear that at the time he thought the control room merger was in the best interests of Suffolk, I do not take what he says that seriously because it seemed to me that the closure was a ‘done’ deal and that only the threat of an orchestrated campaign by the EASDT pushed him into a sudden change of plan (where he had no Plan B.)

What Ipswich Spy seems to fail to report is other than the control room, most of the police force in both Suffolk and Norfolk has already merged, just a few days after attacking me ‘Spy’ ran another story about Suffolk Police in which they themselves quoted, Chief Inspector Chris Spinks, head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit. Just another example how much of the two police forces are already merged. Some could say that the only parts of the police that both Suffolk and Norfolk still have that are not merged are the posts of PCC, Chief Constable and the two control centres!

Now I am not advocating the merger of the control rooms, as someone who ran the Operations Room in Sangin in 2009 I do have some understanding of how a control room works. In Sangin I ran a control room that controlled over 1000 troops but underneath us we had 5 other control rooms including 2 in the same location as us. We then reported up to a further control/Operations Room in Lashkagar who then reported up to three separate Operation Rooms in Kadahar, Kabul and West London! I could envisage a full merger of Suffolk and Norfolk police still needing more than one control room – maybe one in Ipswich, one in Waveney covering both Lowestoft and Yarmouth and then a further one in Kings Lynn all reporting into a joint control room in Norwich.

I do wish that the last Labour Government had implemented the plan that Ronnie Flanagan devised which would have seen forces merger, it may have been the opposition of the police themselves that had stopped Labour from pressing forward. But it seems even the police have now changed their thoughts - The number of constabularies in England and Wales should be cut to save money that was the view of Police Superintendents' Association president Irene Curtis who went onto say there were "too many chief constables and too many police and crime commissioners". And that the 43-force structure wasted millions of pounds and had not been reformed for 40 years.

But one starting figure last week did indicate how badly we were being served by the Suffolk Police, as we have many of the police departments already merged you would have thought Suffolk and Norfolk residents would have been treated equally but in Norfolk police attended 98% of recorded crimes in the year to November 2013 but Suffolk police attended just 66% - below the average of 79% across England and Wales. So we are not being treated the same even though a number of our senior officers are running joint Suffolk and Norfolk teams.

Mr Passmore has done some good work with the police as part of his role as PCC and has not seen to have made the same mistakes as some of the other PCC’s but he has made some serious errors. One was remaining as a District Councilor in Mid Suffolk, this error was highlighted this week when he was critical of Suffolk Police for not commenting on a licensing proposal that Mid Suffolk had asked the police to comment on. Now I understand where Mr Passmore is coming from, I have been critical of the police at both planning and licensing committees for not submitting anything when asked for their thoughts but the difference is I am not the PCC. What will happen the next time Mid Suffolk ask the police to submit evidence on a licensing application- it would seem to be that Mr Passmore publically being critical of the police this time will put undue pressure on them to say something next time.

I will iterate my view that the next Labour Government should get rid of the post of PCC, but replace it with something better and more accountable than the previous Police Authority. I would go further and state that forces should be merged. The situation in Suffolk and Norfolk already highlights that in most cases the forces are already working as one even if one county seems to be getting a better service. NHS organisation never seems to get a good press but having a health authority that controlled the health service in both Lowestoft and Yarmouth was one good idea. A merger of Suffolk, Norfolk and maybe Cambridgeshire would not have to cause control rooms to close- but it would make more sense (in solving crime and serving the public) if a control room in Cambridge also looked after Haverhill and Newmarket.

Then we have cost – Police cost should be removed from Council tax – it should be from direct government with a set figure worked out by the Home office. Not sure many MPs would be happy about that!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

My week ahead, 8 - 14 September 2014

Monday – 8 September, 4pm – Culture portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning West Ipswich

Thursday – 11 September, 10am Labour campaigning in NW Ipswich
6pm – Scrutiny meeting

Saturday 13 September, 10am – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich

Sunday 14 September, 11am – Labour campaigning in Clacton

We continue to campaign hard in Ipswich as we get closer to the General Election but this week we will also take a trip to Essex to campaign for our Labour candidate in Clacton.. The Labour candidate, Tim Young is well known to us in Ipswich, a Colchester councillor but raised in Clacton and also an Ipswich Town fan.
The Clacton campaign does seem like no other campaign seen at a by-election before.

Tory MP now the UKIP candidate, the former UKIP candidate now giving up his County Council seat and declaring his support for the (pro Europe) Lib Dems, and just to muddy the water the right wing press willing to attack all candidates other than Carswell as they seem determined to get the story they are after which is a UKIP win (on Camerons birthday!)

Funny old game, politics! But I am sure we will have a good day on the doorstep when we head off to Essex to support Tim.