Saturday 31 March 2007

Saw two Tories!

Out in Sprites today, 17 of us and unlike last week, we had the sun with us. Saw two Tories also out delivering, for us it is just another campaign Saturday, as we have just continued on from last May but the Tories have hardly been out anywhere in Ipswich since last May. the Lib Dems have just stuck to St Margaret's and Westgate but I am sure they will push out a few leaflets in other places and the Green Party are also fielding candidates in most wards.
I am off to Scotland in the morning, taking six young people on their Duke Of Edinburgh Gold Award expedition. Back next Friday and straight back out on the Campaign trail Saturday.
From the10th April, I will be out and about in Rushmere every day- so I will keep you updated on this blog with the highs and lows of the final three and half weeks of the election period.
So I will make the most of this week, at least climbing Ben Nevis will get me ready for delivering thousands of leaflets!

Friday 30 March 2007

Housing shortage in Ipswich -Tory answer, build flats!

Mr Wells the Tory spokesman for housing in Ipswich has been in all the local papers recently, telling us of the current crisis in housing - and that it will only get worse. The Tory solution seems to be build on any brownfield site left in the town, and build flats. Do not think about traffic congestion and never, never build on the fringe of the town ( in the area of the Tory seats).
This week we have seen approval for flats at the old Kwik Fit garage near St Margaret's Green and of approval for over 300 dwellings (including a considerable number of flats) on what is known as the Hayhills development- between Woodbridge Road and Cemetery Road on waste land next to the old driving test centre. This development has led to a number of residents voicing their concerns to the Council. The first knowledge most people had about this new build was when our local Labour team pushed out leaflets in the local vicinity. The Green Party have also protested against the development. the Lib Dems (the development sits in two Lib Dem wards) voted against it but the Tory majority helped get the proposal through. the Lib Dems will obviously tell their constituents they did all they can forgetting that they sit in the Council Executive with the same Tory personnel and help them (mis) run this town.
In Rushmere we are also affected by the Hayhills site, it will increase the traffic and congestion on an already busy Woodbridge Rd and will also lead to the houses in Belvedere Road being overlooked by these flats. What did our two Tory Councilors on the council do? they voted for the development- remember if Mrs Smith or Mrs Terry knock on your door during the election campaign ask them to explain why they did - answer? Unlike me - they live nowhere near the Hayhills site(or even in the ward).

Sunday 25 March 2007

Campaign Saturday in Rushmere Ward, Ipswich

Panic on Saturday morning - the Party agent, John Cook had dropped off 3,000 leaflets on Friday night and there I was in the Golden Key car park on Saturday morning as the sky got very grey, felt the first spots of rain and just myself and Neil the St Johns candidate (who had another 1,000 leaflets). No need to worry, a fantastic turnout of Labour supporters led by our MP, Chris Mole and joined by County Councilors, Borough Councilors, candidates and activists.
So 18 0f us hit the streets of St Johns and Rushmere.
The high turnout even in bad weather- the reason why? Hard to say but maybe it is the last few weeks that we have really seen the true Tory (and Lib dem) face. Proposed cuts to the Ipswich bus service and the confirmed move of Day Care to the private sector, on top of that a bodged Education policy where the communication to both Schools and parents has been non existent.
It is also encouraging that the people of Ipswich are now realising that there is a great difference between Labour and Tory policy- they also seem to be getting the message that the Lib Dems will support anyone and say anything just for a bit of power.
Whilst out I was able to get a picture of the new street signs in Humber Ducy Lane. This road links Rushmere ward and Bixley (safest Tory seat in town). it is in Bixley that thousands have been spent on traffic calming where nothing has been spent in the Rushmere part of the road. After spending the money on the traffic calming they still had enough left to spend on street signs that are like the 'Welcome to Ipswich' signs on the A12! I am sure the residents of this road would rather have seen the money spent on traffic calming on the northern stretch of Humber Ducy Lane rather than these two -out of place - signs.

Abolition of the Slave Trade- a reason for Ipswich to be proud.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the passing into law of the Slave Trade Act. This Act abolished the British slave trade, the US passed a similar law the following year.
This has rightfully caused a significant amount of media interest, much has been on whether we should be celebrating this occasion at all. though the act was passed in 1807 it was not until the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed in 1833 that slavery ended in the British Empire. When it ended the government compensated slave owners in the West Indies - the slaves getting nothing! It was also a further 20 odd years before the slave trade finished in the United States. We must also remember that recent reports still put the number of slaves in the world at over 27 million! For further reading on the current slave trade, try this site for starters.

But I feel we should celebrate the passing of this act and more importantly honour the men and women who bought it about.

William Wilberforce is still the key figure we remember when discussing this topic but in Ipswich we should also be proud of local man, Thomas Clarkson. Though born in Wisbech, he had many Suffolk connections, marrying a Bury St Edmunds girl and eventually settling just outside Ipswich in Playford, where he died and is buried at the local parish church.

It was in 1785 that Clarkson penned an essay about the slave trade (the essay included the diagram of the Brookes Slave Ship, and how 600 slaves were fit into the hold.)that led to him devoting his life to the ending of this cruel trade. one of his supporters was an Ipswich Quaker - Richard Dykes Alexander, and it is on land that he owned that you can now find the Ipswich streets, Clarkson , Wilberforce and Bezenet (also involved in the stopping of the slave trade).

There is a call for Tony Blair to make an apology for our involvement in this vile trade but I feel that is of little benefit to anyone. instead we should remember those who helped pass this act and also focus on passing laws in this county that stop events like the drowning of the cockle pickers in Morecombe happening- they were slaves to the gang masters of the modern day.

I do feel angry that Ipswich itself has not made more of our Clarkson connection, a service is being held today in Playford and also in Bury, the Suffolk Record Office is holding a number of lectures but it is all very low key. The local Tories often complain when they are accused of being a racist party but it is simple thing like celebrating Clarkon's life that lead to such accusations, they seem very keen on promoting a link with Jamestown in the USA- I am sure which will involve a number of visits but can not celebrate an event on their own doorstep.

Wednesday 21 March 2007

Peter Hain- Deputy in waiting?

Peter Hain arrived in Ipswich last night for an evening with the Ipswich labour Party. It started with a question and answer session with over 100 local members and then we adjourned to a local curry house for a meal and some much needed fund raising. Peter was the second of the deputy hopefuls to reach Ipswich as we have already hosted Harriet Harman- though she turned up with no voice- but her husband helped her through that misfortune.
Peter had no problem and over an hour was spent answering questions from party members. Peter started first with a short speech, which highlighted the way he had found himself in the party- coming from South Africa and through his participation as one on the leading lights in the anti-apartheid movement. He spoke of his time in the Northern Ireland Office and his hope that on Monday he would be able to announce that agreement had been reached between Paisley and Adams. he then spoke on his push for deputy leader and also highlighting on what we should be proud of in what the party has achieved over the last two terms. he kept it short, but oozed confidence and also managed some moments of humour, saying that Northern Ireland Secretary must be the only job where you spend Saturday in Washington celebrating St Patrick's day with George Bush then having the company of Ian Paisley 48 hours later!
The questions - in summary- he answered a question on Trident- stating that though he had once supported CND, whilst the likes of Iran tried to build a nuclear weapon we still needed our own Nuclear arsenal. Faith Schools- did not support them and in his time in N Ireland he had found some success in opening non faith schools- though he wished we never had Faith schools he knew that we could also not just get rid of them. He spoke of the lack of social housing and though it had been right to focus on education and the NHS, we should of and hopefully we will in future spend more on the building of affordable homes and social housing. he answered a question on the Catholic Church and gay adoption, mentioning that there had been less conflict with the Catholic Church in N Ireland on that matter. He was then asked to name his 'Green' credentials-he mentioned the green policies he had implemented in Ulster and that he felt he was the 'most' green of all the deputy hopefuls.
He then answered a number of questions on what he saw as the role of the deputy leader- in short- a link between the PM, cabinet and the grassroots, the person who could have a private word with the PM (who he thought would be Gordon - un -opposed) and tell him some home truths-if needed! He thought the deputy leader had to be part of the cabinet and an MP- but maybe he did not need the burden of a post where he had a considerable financial budget.
He was not sure what the position of the Chairman of the party was - chosen by the PM - as now- elected by the NEC or by party members.
Peter then summarized- he stood for trust and commitment- he believed the party needed to re-new itself. To go forward, his strengths included his thirst for campaigning. He also sated that he had at times been a lone voice in that he thought we should have concentrated on the Lib Dem threat as much as the Tories, we may have then keep such seats as Cambridge- this went down well with Ipswich members as we have seen how the local Lib Dem's have jumped in bed with the Tories. We must re-new as he said you could see the Conservatives have regained that feeling that they have that god given right to govern. They were dangerous and needed to be stopped- they only have one concrete policy and that is to take us back to old Tory values.

Has he my vote? I still would like to know more about the other candidates, I will seek the opinions of others who attended yesterday at our campaign session tomorrow night. But at present he is my choice. One good thing about this election for deputy- it has got the party hierarchy out meeting members and has reinvigorated the political debate within branches. Just hope that when they are the campaign trail for deputy in April that branches use the opportunity to get them out on the doorstep campaigning for local candidates.

Pete- an eight out of ten performance.

Peter Hain in Ipswich

Peter Hain spent the evening of the 20th March with the Ipswich Labour Party. He attended a question and answer session with members followed by a curry at our favourite curry house in the town.
Peter here with myself- more to be posted on the evening later today- and has Peter got my vote for deputy?

Friday 16 March 2007

Comic relief- doing my bit (as is Tony later!)

Comic relief - Red Nose Day. Just a quick entry as I try and catch the best moments on the box tonight.
At my School today I helped a Year 7 form with their cake stand, raising over £175 and then played in a Staff v Year 11 basketball match- We won, but I now know that cakes and basketball don't mix. Fitness level not as good as it should be, campaigning over the next 6 weeks will sort that out.
Tony Blair will be doing his bit later as he will be part of a Catherine Tate sketch.
Comic Relief and Children in Need show some of the true values that this country should be proud of. sometimes it is easy to just moan and knock this country but tonight is one of those nights we should be proud of ourselves.
Tomorrow I will miss campaigning as I am off to watch Ipswich at Luton- a win is needed or we could still be dragged into a relegation battle. I then miss the group meeting as I have a finance meeting at Sidegate School. It is a pity it clashes as with the election close it is good to hear how others are getting on campaigning. A busy week for meetings as we have a Party Management meeting on Thursday and the highlight of the week is Tuesday. We have a Question and answer session with labour deputy hopeful- Peter Hain, followed by a curry at our favourite Indian restaurant. we have already had a similar session with Harriet Harman.
I have nor decided who I am going to back so i will be very interested in what peter has to say.
After this week of meetings - it will be full steam ahead on door knocking. I want to meet as many people as I can this time in Rushmere.

Wednesday 14 March 2007

Rushmere Tories out of hibernation

The Ipswich Conservative website last flickered into life to welcome us into 2007. in some wards it seems the last newsletter went out in 2005 and Ward Surgeries- well you can't expect them to run the town and meet residents- they have a 50M Olympic Pool to build
Well it must be near the election as a Tory leaflet has been seen in Rushmere- and shock, horror they take the credit for everything! The play area in Shetland Close- to be opened soon- I wonder if they will invite our Labour County Councillor- they forgot last time, when they opened the Dumbarton Rec play area- and Sue Thomas (our County Councilor) even put some of her money towards it.
The leaflet also tells us that they (the Ipswich Tories - gave Senior Citizens - free bus fares- and there I was thinking it was Gordon Brown).
Funny no mention of the proposed bus cuts (including possibly Route 22, which runs through Rushmere) no mention of the local Tory voting against the Zebra Crossing for Rushmere Road.

Well as it is only the second leaflet since the last election, we can't complain- they probably found it hard to find many "good news stories" to print.
To be honest, I am glad they have put something out- it has made me more determined to try and beat them and to expose the real (greedy) face of the Tory party, which is still the party of Thatcher, Howard and the rest- what ever Cameron and his new green tree logo would want us to think.

Monday 12 March 2007

Bring back Alastair Campbell

Just finished reading a superb book- 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' by Paul Torday. Quite topical as you have a Labour Government looking to find good news stories in the Middle East as Iraq drags on and you even have al-Qaeda involved. I won't ruin anymore of the story only to say the character you grow to hate is the prime Ministers Director of Communications, from Campbell to the latest 'Cash for honours' incumbent the spin doctor had become a figure that the general public seem to detest. The one in the book - Peter Maxwell even comes over a bit like the character in Little Britain who is the PM's personnel errand boy.

But to be honest, I wish we had Alastair Campbell back- I am not sure we would have got into this 'beers for peers' or was it 'cash for honours' - what ever- Campbell maybe could have stopped it in it';s tracks. Not sure if he would have helped in a smooth transition from Blair to Brown but I am sure we all hope he is with us on election day- helping with what he is good at- communication!
Even if he is a Burnley fan.

Saturday 10 March 2007

Bus leaflets in Ravenswood

I actually enjoy getting out, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors and meeting people. some members of the party do not like it, each to their own. But they are missing out on what is a vital part of local politics and also on what can be a quite enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. I also enjoy working in different wards in the town, many have the same problems as Rushmere. it is often the same faces out each Saturday, but results in St Johns and Bridge Wards in Ipswich last year show that the more work you do the better the result will be.
Today over 10 of us were in Priory Heath, whilst other members also held a surgery in Westgate and Sue Thomas our Rushmere County Councillor was holding her own surgery at the Selkirk Road residents shop.
I was fortunate to be in Ravenswood (a new housing development on the old airport site) with Phil Smart. on top of meeting local people, whilst delivering it also give you the chance to discuss local and national political events. Phil is our "Mr Bus", who has been at the front of our campaign to stop possible cuts to the Ipswich Bus Service. This week the campaign took a nasty turn as the Tories (with Lib Dem support) ousted Phil as chairman of the Ipswich Bus Company. But as an Ipswich Party member told Phil, when it turns nasty and personnel you know you have won the argument.
The people from Ipswich have a great sense of pride in their bus service and it is up to us to get the message over that every Tory and Liberal on the council voted for a budget that will lead to a reduced bus service in the town.
We managed to get most of Ravenswood delivered, as it is a new build it can be slightly more difficult to deliver than the older estates but as well as being a fountain of knowledge on bus routes, Phil also is the ideal man when it comes to sorting out delivery routes, the use of a pincer movement was even thrown in to appeal to my military background.
Another good thing about going to Ravenswood it reminds you of what a Labour run Ipswich council achieved whilst in power, as Ravenswood is a great example of what a go ahead council can achieve with a builder if they get a chance or have the inclination to do so.

Northen Ireland elections

After serving in Northern Ireland on three occasions and on the last time actually living in Belfast with my family, I take a great interest in the political situation 'across the water'.
This week has seen elections that will hopefully lead to Stormont taking control of Northern Ireland again. I think Tony Blair and Peter Hain should be congratulated for their determination to find a political solution to the problems in Northern Ireland.
It is a mark of how far along the road to peace Ireland has come in that this election was almost like an election here in the UK and that is probably the first time that has happened for over 40 years.
I believe that we could have reached this point many years earlier if the main stream parties from over here had organised and got themselves involved in politics in Ireland. it could have helped stopped the voting by religion and replaced it with people voting on principles and real policies.
For those interested in politics in Northern Ireland I would recommend this blog: Your friend in the north blog and for a review of the election this post.

Thursday 8 March 2007

Patrick Mercer- an ex soldier's view

I was quite shocked when I read the copy of the full Patrick Mercer interview- shocked and very disappointed. Not because a Tory frontbencher had made the remarks but because a former senior officer in the Army had made such a statement.

To be honest I would expect many Tory MP's agreed with his view but it is, his position as an ex Regular Army Officer that concerns me.

I spend quite a considerable time defending the Armed Forces, for many people - since the end of national service - they do not have first hand experience of the Armed Forces or have had family who are or have served in the forces.

Mercer was right on a few points, the Army is no place for those with soft shells, the banter does fly but no sometimes it can go too far in most cases, commanders and instructors know where the limits are. True- ginger people do take the brunt of many jokes- but in the same way as the recent Catherine Tate sketch. what is not acceptable and I believe where Mercer gets it wrong is that the terms - "ginger bastard", "black bastard" and "fat bastard" are not common terms used by soldiers.

I served for 25 years in an Infantry Regiment like Mercer, and the army over that time became very aware that it was seen by many both inside and outside the black community as a predominately white organisation. the army set up a number of measures to counter this. To be fair to the Army, when I joined in 1978 there were a large number of black people in the Army, my regiment recruited from urban areas like East London and two of my first Sergeants were black. I never saw any overt racism but later in my career, serving black friends did say they had suffered at times. But the young black population did see us as racist- maybe due to the lack of black faces outside Buckingham Palace and that did keep recruiting figures low.

Mercer was speaking after the announcement of a black soldiers union- this is actually driven by those from the Commonwealth wishing to be represented- they have different problems with leave, culture, bringing wives and family to the UK and the subject of being granted British Nationality.

I totally refuse to accept Mercer's view of the Army- it certainly was not part of the regiment I was in, and certainly not the view of the Army that is currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I actually was in my Regiment in Bosnia in 1998 when we handed over to Mercer's Regiment. To be honest then myself and other senior soldiers were shocked by the attitude of some his Regiment- not racist but it just seemed to they had views and acted like a unit that was stuck in days of National Service- stuck in some sort of time warp- I am almost certain that attitude has changed dramatically since Mercer left.

Maybe Mercer left because he was not suited to the modern Army- lucky for him he found a place where his 1960's type of views were welcomed with open arms- the Conservative party.

I fear that he will actually gain some support- from those that like to quote political correctness as the route of all evil. I just hope a few Senior Officers will speak up for the Army and put Mercer in his place.

Alasdair Ross

ex Sergeant Major in the Royal Green Jackets- and proud of it.

Monday 5 March 2007

10 months since we saw a Lib Dem in Rushmere.

Now it is getting closer to the local elections it should not be long till we see those yellow newsletters arriving through our letterbox. 10 months since we saw the last Lib Dem leaflet in Rushmere. Not that we need a leaflet to know what they are going to say! (Or not say)

How they have saved culture in Ipswich
How they have saved the market (that is the market that now seems to be dying on it's feet)
How they are going to find somewhere for the Age Concern tea room
They will also boast that how with their Tory allies they have kept Council Tax below 5%

What they won't say is:
How Council Tax will be below 5% because they are going to raise the rent for the bus depot, which will mean a reduction in our excellent bus service
they won't explain why it has taken them two years to find a new place for the Age Concern tea room (and probably another two years before it is open- oh and they will fail to mention how they will have to share with about ten other community groups)
they wont explain that the market may seem to take more space up, but there are actually less stalls.

But what there leaflet will say is how they are campaigning for the people of Rushmere! In Lib Dem speak that means they are campaigning for six weeks and then won't be seen till March 2008.

316 days since last Lib Dem leaflet....and counting!

try this- Geography quiz

Try this countryquiz - not as easy as it seems!
You have to name (and spell correctly) the 192 UN member states in 10 minutes!

cheers to Andy Smith and Erik Wannebo

Friday 2 March 2007

Bus campaign and the Lib Dems (a joke!)

Our Ipswich agent has now joined the Labour blog gang (look at the link on this page) and I must steal his joke about the Lib Dems.
The 'Save our bus campaign', has got quite nasty and Phil Smart one of our councillors and also Chairman of Ipswich Buses has taken most of the flak. But Phil has still kept his sense of humour and here is his joke:

Q. Why are the new buses on service 13 like the Liberal Democrats?
A. Because they change colour from green to blue as they go along.
The picture is of our Ipswich MP, Chris Mole as he boards a new Number 13 bus.
(note the 'Not in service')

Football and politics

Sheepshanks - time to go?

I was going to try and leave football off this blog, it is my great love but I wanted this blog to be about politics and the concerns of Ipswich and in particular - Rushmere residents.
But the last few results and our proximity to the drop zone, make it impossible not to mention Ipswich Town FC.
I have a ten year season ticket- (army pension- not spent that wisely!) so I am in for the long term and I am sure we will survive but Football and politics can come together.
I have been involved and a member of the Football Supporters Federation from it's start after the events at Hillsborough in 1989 and I also helped start the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust and one of the reasons why I am involved in both is the lack of supporter involvement in the running of the game. It is hard to get fans to unite as if your team is doing well you can easily forget about the others but though it is hard you can get fans to share a common purpose as seen with the recent outcry about ticket prices. the trouble is as Premier teams think and in some cases actually cut prices, here at Ipswich we are about to see ticket prices go up!
The Trust had a good working relationship with the Club but after we were critical of Mr Sheepshanks and his bonus at the Club AGM, it seems we are no longer in the "in crowd", despite raising large amounts of money that have been used for the benefit of the Academy.
The Club seem to be happy to take our money- but only as long as we toe the party line.
Ipswich need a number of new investors but as long as Mr Sheepshanks is there, that will probably not happen. You can see they are desperate and last season got involved with a dodgy fellow, who seemed to have charmed Sheepy and the board, until the Trust pointed out that this new investor had a pretty poor track record when it came to running a football club.
Sheepy and his East Suffolk mafia were very vocal at the AGM in defence of each other and the large bonus, a number of Directors were still very critical of the Trust in the reception afterwards. But tellingly when a Club Director (who is a Chairman of a large company) was asked if he would expect to still be the Chair of his company if it was under a CVA, he answered he would not expect to be a Chair a week after going into administration let alone two years!
How come then when we say that football is not like any other business they argue with us that it is a business and has to be run as so. But then in hard times they expect to be treated differently and not like a business.
The only good thing that may come out of our recent slump in form is that more supporters may realise it is time for a change at the top of the board of Ipswich Town.