Sunday 27 March 2011

Remember the 250,000 not the 500 - #March 26

Mr Cameron, today you may be able to thank your friends at SKY, the BBC and those in the national press for the job they did in covering the 'March for the Alternative' over the Last 24 hours - focusing on the small group that broke away and caused havoc in the Oxford Street area. But you would be stupid to ignore the fact that between 250,000 and 500,000 people descended on London to protest against the cuts your government is making.

Now I am not a deficit denier, and I know that Labour would have also made cuts- but I am certain that at National, County and Borough level, many of these cuts are being made for ideological reasons rather than the need to pay off our national debt.

Here in Suffolk we have had the scrapping of the Road Safety Patrols and the threat to close some libraries and sell off the others to an American firm. When places like Ipswich need their Council to take a lead in helping get the town back working we have a Tory/Lib Dem Council prefer to make a 1% Council tax cut rather than invest in public services.

These cuts are for ideological reasons rather than cuts being made to help cut the national debt.

Many from Ipswich went to London yesterday, and many of those were on their first ever protest. Many were not Union members or Labour Party members, these are the ones you ignore at your peril Mr Cameron, Mr Pembroke and Mrs Harsant. These people are angry and the national press may focus on ten people dressed in black (surrounded by 40 photographers) smashing a bank window, but you should focus on why young families decided to walk, many not even making the final rally till at least 5 hours after they had started marching.

Your Monday copy of the Daily Mail may not mention them, but if you want to know how the people of Suffolk feel, maybe you should join us on the 'save Libraries' march in Ipswich next Saturday, not sure even Sky or the Daily Mail will be able to cover up the fact that many in this country do not trust you with the NHS or believe in what you call 'Big Society'. like yesterday, Ipswich Labour will join the protesters, and it seems you have decided that libraries will shut- but we have told the Ipswich public, if we are voted back into control in May, we will save both the 3 Ipswich libraries under threat but also make sure that the School Crossing patrol service in Ipswich is also maintained.

We have produced a manifesto and leafleted most houses in the town, whilst the coalition parties seem to be taking an early Spring break, but we will not worry about them, we will campaign every day till May to make sure we get our message across whilst they spend their time writing their blogs attacking their fellow Conservative, Mr Pembroke - no unity in the Suffolk Tory Party, unlike yesterday where over 250,000 people were united - in protesting against these cuts.

Placard of the day?

Monday 14 March 2011

Lock up your books, the Yanks are coming!

The Suffolk library saga seems to get more confusing by the day, but what is clear to see is the strength of the opposition to the plans that the Tory led Suffolk County Council have for our libraries.

To be fair to the County Council it is not just the future of libraries that is confusing the public, the whole 'New Strategic Direction' seems to be a mish mash of ideas.

But it is the future of the Suffolk Library service where confusion reigns supreme. Judy Terry (our own Rushmere Ward Tory councillor) has called for more responses to the library consultation, now she has had over 1,300 responses - which I think is great, but maybe the problem is that the Suffolk public are not giving Judy and her Tory cronies the answers that they were after! It is obvious that most responses have called for the County Council to continue to run the Suffolk library service.

On the excellent James' Blog, you can read a more in depth look at how it is quite plain to see that they Tories always had a long term plan for the libraries that did not include them continuing to be run by the County Council or even saved by local groups or run by Parish and District Councils.

We now have come to the position where the County Council are now seeming to rule out any sort of conversation with any group that just wants to save libraries and leave them in the control of the County Council. The reason why? It seems we are well on the way to having the Suffolk Library service run by American firm LSSI.

We first heard from Judy Terry that LSSI and one other unnamed group were interested but the very next day we are told that Suffolk County Council had met LSSI four times already. It seems that the consultation was a waste of time from the start.

I am sure no other group has even had more than one meeting with the county, but though we have had Ben Gummer MP threaten to chain himself to Rosehill Library and Dr Poulter is intending to join a 24 hour 'read in; at a Suffolk Library this weekend, we have had no open criticism of the way the County seems to have already decided that LSSI are the way ahead.

Will either of the Ipswich MP's join the planned Suffolk march against the the Suffolk plans for the Library service? I know that Ben Gummer visited Rosehill last week, but he seemed to forget to sign the petition. If LSSI take over Rosehill does that mean he will not see him pretending to be David Blaine in Tomline Road?

Again for all those interested in the future of the Suffolk Library service, I urge you to take a look at James' Blog

These are some of the examples of ' saying one thing but meaning another' that James has unearthed (all from the mouth of Judy Terry!)

'However, should responses to the consultation prove disappointing, it is imperative that we make the necessary savings, meaning that we may have to close 39 libraries.'

Then the next sentence is: 'The prospects are exciting for a library revolution, and I look forward to hearing your views.'

Now where does this leave 'Big Society?' - or has Mr Cameron forgot to tell us it is now called 'Big Private Company?'

The County do not seem keen to talk to the various 'save Libraries' groups, but I thought that is what 'Big Society' was all about - I always knew that most Tory Councillors either did not understand 'Big Society' or if they understood it, were dead against it - well here in Suffolk they seem to have totally blown it out of the water - and an American private company is likely to be offered the chance to run the libraries rather than any 'friends' groups.

Now again it seems rather strange, that in the local paper when we have all these stories about LSSI, that we have not heard from Lib Dem Cllr Inga Lockington (who wanted to start a 'friends' group at the Westbourne Library and Tory Cllr Stewart who chaired the public meeting about the future of the Rosehill Library.

Maybe it is because it is their fellow coalition Borough Councillor, Judy Terry who is leading the way in destroying the Suffolk Library Service.

I hope many of you can join the 'Save Suffolk Libraries' march in April- wonder if Gummer and Poulter will turn up?

Sunday 6 March 2011

What now for the Lib Dems in Ipswich?

Last Thursday Labour got the result they expected and worked hard for in Barnsley, but the talking point has been how the Lib Dems slipped from second place At the General Election in May to sixth place last week. The Lib Dem vote was so poor that I actually got 14 votes more than the Liberal candidate in Barnsley when I won Rushmere Ward, Ipswich in 2008! UKIP also did well, taking votes from the Tories, BNP and the Lib Dems, they now hope to position themselves as the third party in Britain.

But where does that leave the Lib Dems in Ipswich? Will the national decline in their popularity be repeated in Ipswich? Barnsley was of course an election for parliament and in a strong Labour town but on the same night in East Anglia, we saw Labour push the Lib Dems into third in a safe Tory seat in Cambridgeshire.
Nationally, many Liberals are unhappy with Clegg and it is not just Student fees, last week whilst sharing a table with a leading Suffolk Lib Dem, I was left with no doubt that many are unhappy that the Lib Dems are involved in a government that is forcing through many of the severe cuts that local councils will have to make.

I was interested to see many of the comments from Tory activists at their Spring Conference were not as critical of their junior coalition partners as I thought they would be – in fact many praised Nick Clegg – not sure that is what Lib Dem activists wanted to hear, one comment from a Tory summed their feelings for Clegg up best:

“Nick Clegg seems like a nice person. I don't think he is really a Lib Dem. He seems to be more in tune with a lot of Conservative philosophy. I don't think he ever really believed in tuition fees. He is not a proper Lib Dem but it would be difficult for him to defect to the Conservatives because he gets his power from being the Lib Dem leader.” Matthew Miller – Tory activist.

But back to Ipswich, will we see the same fall in the Lib Dem vote? Even before the General Election the Lib Dems were on the back foot in Ipswich, from having councillors in four Ipswich wards they were down to being represented in only three, and this May that could be down to only two wards. What will they do to fight back? In Stockport and other parts of the country we have even seen Lib Dems Cllrs and activists split from the main party and next week we are told to expect the Lib Dem ministers to take a pounding from Lib Dems Cllrs at their Spring Conference. With an expectation that Lib Dems MP’s will be instructed to not vote for the proposed Tory plans for the NHS, might be a difficult week for Clegg but will we see Lib Dems leaving the party in Ipswich? Will we hear Atkins, Cann or others criticizing the coalition’s plans for the NHS?

Don’t hold your breath would be my answer, the Ipswich Lib Dems are not a party that the traditional Ipswich Liberal family the Grimwade’s would recognise, two of their seven councillors are refugees from the other two main political parties and many of the others seem to have just arrived by default from a St Margaret's Ward Residents Association meeting.

Of course they would find it hard to be critical of Clegg and his fellow Lib Dem ministers, they themselves jumped in to bed with the Tories when offered a chance of (limited) power, they are so determined to stay in power with the Tories they just covered their ears when Tory councillor Wells attacked them in his final speech as a councillor, it seemed to me he was just saying out loud what most of the rest of the Tory councillors believed.

We may not have to wait for election day in May to see where the Lib Dems currently are and where they are heading , we will see when the nominations for the local election are announced whether they will stand in every Ipswich ward, will Councillor Andrew Cann stand again in Westgate Ward, try and find another seat or just not stand and concentrate on his duties as a County Councillor? Will we see leaflets in any other Wards on top of St Margaret's Ward and Alexandra? We have not seen a council election leaflet in Rushmere ward for at least 4 years. Now it may seem that most of the Lib Dem councillors in Ipswich are quite happy with the coalition government, but it is not their blind loyalty to Clegg that will decide how well they do in May, it will be if Lib Dem voters are willing to forgive Clegg for his stance on tuition fees, it will be if the voters of Ipswich are willing to vote for a party that is forcing these severe cuts (many that seem to be driven by a right wing ideology rather than because of the need to make cuts to help reduce the national debt). Not sure there have ever been many Lib Dem members in Ipswich but I am sure there must have been a number of activists who were willing to go out a deliver leaflets – even if only in a very few of the Ipswich wards, will they still be prepared to put on that yellow rosette and spend a couple of hours delivering the local ‘Lib Dem Focus’ leaflet? Not sure the Lib Dem leaflet that went out in Barnsley on Wednesday helped them – ‘it's Lib Dem or Labour here’ will we see a truthful ‘only the Lib Dems can come last here’ leaflet?

The Tories, may be slightly less popular than they were in May, but seem to have not suffered the same fate as the Lib Dems, though like the Lib Dems, very little campaigning seems to have been done, with only one Tory leaflet being seen in Rushmere between May and December last year, though we have seen two leaflets delivered in Rushmere ward over the last month.

Finding out what the local Lib Dems in Ipswich think about how the government is doing is quite hard, Cllr Pollard and Cann are often quoted in the local papers, but no Lib Dems leaflets are to be seen and their website has had only 4 news stories since last May and two of them were on the same subject.

What you will see over the next two months, is the Ipswich Labour Party continuing to campaign hard, we have not stopped to be fair since last May, and plus we have been buoyed by the many new members that have joined since the last election. I am sure we will see the Tory election machine move up a gear (seems to stuck in neutral at the moment) but will we see the Lib Dems?

Thursday 3 March 2011

New Politics, Fresh Ideas

On Monday, I attended an event at the Ipswich Corn Exchange, organised by the Local Government Association, looking to get more people interested in being a councillor, was very disappointed by the attendance, only 11 people from all over Suffolk. I hope poor promotion was the reason rather than a lack of interested people. If it is because a shortage of people, does not leave much hope for 'Big Society'.
There may have only been 11 people at the event, but it turned into a good meeting, as they had an opportunity to listen to then question a councilor from all the three main parties plus an independent. What was interesting is that a number of those there wanted to know what were the fundamental differences between the policies of the main party's.
Cllr Cenci mentioned 'Big Society' but those there seemed to be as confused as the rest of us to what the term actually means. At least three of those I spoke to afterwards want to be local councillors and Labour did seem to be their preferred party.

Last night, I attended another 'political' meeting with a much larger attendance, it was a chance to debate politics and policy with the public and also in the presence of Deputy Labour Leader, Harriet Harman.
This meeting at the Suffolk New College was all part of Ed Miliband's plan to listen to the public to help us create a new way of doing politics, the project goes under the name of 'new politics and fresh ideas'

I came out of the meeting really enthused, the people there were not Labour members, many were Labour voters but there was 'floating voters' 'non voters' and Lib dems, maybe even a couple of Tories but the table led discussions were just what was wanted- 'fresh ideas'.

I would urge you to get onto the website that goes alongside the meetings and register, it really does give you the opportunity to help bring fresh ideas to the table, and many will find their way into future Labour policy.

The website is here - new politics and fresh ideas

Labour have always been the constitutional reformers. And we passionately believe in the value of our public services. Throughout our history we have striven to put power in the hands of people. We believe that world class public services help people achieve much more in life. Widening access to power is as important as widening access to prosperity and opportunity.

Labour worked hard to change the way politics and public services were run. But most people feel the changes did not go far enough and that further radical reform is still needed. Decisions still feel as if they were being taken too far away. On the decisions that really mattered, many did not feel they were allowed either enough control, or enough influence.

Tell us your fresh ideas