Thursday 29 September 2011

Ben Gummer - an apology

A short post just to enable myself to apologise to our MP - Ben Gummer. A week ago I posted an article that was based on a story broken by the 'Morning Star'. The post is here. Though Ben was 'told off' by the chair for talking during a meeting I have no doubt that he meant no disrespect to those who suffer from mesothelioma and that he did indeed listen carefully to Labour MP Kate Green's speech on Legal Aid and cases of mesothelioma.

I have always found Ben Gummer polite and I know that he is a conscientious and hard working MP, due to his interest in penal reform I know he was keen to be involved in the committee looking at Legal Aid. I do not agree with his views on the changes to the Legal Aid system (posted here) and it seems from the comments to Ben's article that many others are also concerned where the government are going with Legal Aid.

I unreservedly apologise to Ben and will make sure that I ask for his view before printing any story on him in the future.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Total Politics Blog Awards

The results have just come out for the Total Politics blog awards - and I was hoping I might sneak in at the bottom of a list but I ended up doing far better than expected.

Thank you for those who voted for me.

237th in the Top UK political blogs category

34th in the Top 100 Labour Blogs

and 15th in the Top 35 Councillor blogs

My week ahead 26 September - 1 October

Monday 26 September 4pm- Meeting at Grafton House about museums
6pm - Campaigning In St Margaret's Ward, Ipswich.

Saturday 1 October 10.30am - Campaigning in Rushmere Ward, Ipswich.

The weeks started by showing the strength of the Ipswich Labour Party, with an excellent hustings as we chose our Parliamentary candidate. A great turnout of members at Dance east, saw David Ellesmere selected to take on Ben Gummer.

Monday gave me an opportunity to talk to our local North East Ipswich Police team on concerns residents have about speeding in Woodbridge Rd and Selkirk Rd.

Wednesday was the last ever meeting of the Polling Stations working group, the next meeting of this body will see it take on the role of looking at all matters connected to elections.

Thursday was an all members meeting of the Ipswich Labour Party, where we had a great debate on housing, loads of good points raised, on various housing topics - council Houses, sheltered housing and Private Landlords were just three of many discussed.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Flashback to 2007 - selection the Tory way!

A number of Tory blogs seem to think their use of a Primary = open to all - to select Ben Gummer was a roaring success. Below I have posted my original piece from 2007 to remind us all it was not!

Just after the Ipswich Primary, the Tories in the South West of England used one to select a candidate. The person selected was not the choice of the local Tory Party, so they just did not endorse him.

So Mr Spencer, West and Algar - remember that the local party could overturn the decision of the primary.

I attended the Ipswich Conservative Party's new fangled "select a candidate" Primary in Ipswich last night. Two big adverts in local papers plus they distributed 9,000 flyers in Ipswich advertising the event and the outcome? 55 Ipswich constituents turned up to attend the evening, and as well as myself there were four other non Tories from a Pro Life organisation attending. At least 14 Conservative councilors attended and the remainder were made up of their partners and other Tory party members. So it had not got the people of Ipswich that interested though the local Tories are hailing the Primary as a publicity success.

The Four candidates were, Chloe Smith, James Tumbridge, Samantha George and Benedict Gummer.

The evening consisted of each candidate being interviewed for 10 minutes by a moderator then facing 20 minutes of questions. The second candidate, Chloe Smith was asked two questions by the Pro Life supporters- on abortion and embryo research, when she gave her answer it led to a shout of "shame" from the back of the hall. Now the first candidate had not been asked that question, so a quick pause and the Tories decided to make sure that the remaining two candidates received the same questions that Chloe had received.

Gummer replied that he would like to see a restriction on 'abortion on demand', this answer was welcomed by the Pro Life activists.

All four candidates were asked for their Three Tory heroes- all named thatcher and Churchill, Gummer's third choice was Lord Shaftsbury.

I thought that Samantha George, the most experienced candidate but the only one without an East Anglian connection was the best candidate, but after the vote it was announced that Benedict Gummer was the winner with over 50% of the vote.

So now we may see a father and son double act as John Gummer MP's seat borders the Ipswich constituency- maybe the local burger vans will do a roaring trade when the Gummer family are posing for local media pictures!

Ipswich Labour select David Ellesmere to fight Gummer

This afternoon I attended the hustings to help select the next Labour parliamentary candidate for Ipswich.

I estimated that the attendance was over 130 and with postal votes added, it led to a total of just under 200 people voting. - There has been criticism from certain Tories that the selection meeting should have been open to all. I don't believe they are right and I am going to repost the piece I wrote about the Gummer selection in 2007 so you can compare the two processes.

The 4 candidates all spoke for 10 minutes and then answered questions for 15 minutes, all received similar questions, and the topics included: Europe, strikes, Ed Milliband, Abortion and creating jobs.

I was very impressed with the passion shown by both David Ellesmere and Neil MacDonald. They had to be at their best as Jeremy Miles possessed many of the attributes that made Ken Weetch a great Ipswich MP, Francis Rehal did not impress me with her 10 minute presentation but her strength was answering the questions.

I am sure the 3 losers will go onto other selections and I am positive that Jeremy Miles will become an outstanding MP in another seat. Thinking of what will be best for Ipswich, I hope that Neil does not look for another seat as he would make an excellent leader of the Ipswich Labour once we get David elected to Westminster.

Now the real fight starts - with the St Margaret's by-election giving us an unexpected opportunity to campaign in what once was a Tory safe seat.

My week ahead 18 - 24 September

Sunday 18 September 2pm - Ipswich Labour Party Parliamentary candidate hustings

Monday 19 September Lunchtime - Meeting residents at Selkirk Road shops, Rushmere Estate, Ipswich

2pm - North East Ipswich Neighbourhood Group Meeting

Wednesday 21 September 5.30pm - Ipswich Polling Stations working group

This week I attended a meeting looking at future plans for parks in Ipswich. The Labour Group meeting enabled me to talk to members about the possible link between the Ipswich Academy and Gainsborough Sports Centre.

Wednesday was the full council meeting, where even a leading Tory - Gavin Maclure seems to think the Labour Group got the upper hand when it came to answering the questions put to them by the Tory/Lib Dem Groups

Yesterday was a busy day, with an early morning start to see the race start of the Tour of Britain in Bury St Edmunds - more here. I then got back to Ipswich in time to see the pelaton cycle through Christchurch Park. Managed to meet up with a number of Labour members in the park and we left to join others in campaigning in St Margaret's Ward.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Gummer and Asbestos

I might not agree with Ben Gummer on many things but when I have met him on the campaign trail or at events in Ipswich he has always been courteous. From talking to other Ipswich residents who have had dealings with our MP, they also speak highly of his ability to listen and in cases sympathise with the plight of many residents.

But from what I have heard this week, he may have a different side to him when speaking to people who can't vote for him.

I heard a number of days ago that whilst attending the committee looking into changing the way we get Legal Aid, Ben decided to spend the time in the meeting reading the 'Economist' rather than listen to the debate. Not the behaviour you would expect of an MP, and I for one was surprised that Mr Gummer was acting in that manner. But a report about the same committee this week seems to show that Mr Gummer is making a habit of acting like a respectable MP in Ipswich but when in Westminster acting like a rowdy Public School boy.

The article below is from this weeks, 'Morning Star':

A support group for asbestosis sufferers has condemned the behaviour of two Tory MPs during a committee debate on legal aid.

The group, which attended a hearing of the public bill committee this week to hear a debate on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Prosecution of Offenders Bill, said that Conservative MPs Ben Wallace and Ben Gummer had behaved like "rowdy public schoolboys" and displayed "contempt" for working people.

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum said it was shocked at the behaviour of the two MPs when Kate Green MP was speaking about the effect of the Bill on asbestos victims dying from mesothelioma, citing the suffering of her own constituents.

Under the proposed legislation those who have suffered work-related illness or injury and seek compensation would be responsible for success fees which are to be capped at 25 per cent of damages.

Campaigners argue that, without the alternative of legal aid, claimants are returned to a worse position than prior to 2000 when legal aid for such cases was scrapped.

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum said its research suggests that many mesothelioma sufferers, defeated by illness, will never make a claim because of the additional stress and the financial risk they will face.

Jim Sheridan MP, chairman of the public bill committee, was apparently forced to rebuke Mr Wallace and Mr Gummer for disrupting the proceedings.

Mr Sheridan is minuted as saying that conversations between the two Tory MPs were "becoming longer and louder" and that they were "showing great discourtesy to the rest of the committee."

Forum chairman Tony Whitston said: "These MPs not only showed discourtesy to the committee, they showed utter lack of concern for asbestos victims whose plight deserved a proper and respectful hearing in the committee.

"These Conservative MPs from privileged backgrounds, behaving like rowdy public schoolboys, showed contempt for hard-working men who helped build industry in this country and who now face a death sentence as a result of their labour.

"Their disregard for the debate on important issues on the committee they serve shows that they would see this Bill driven through despite the many compelling arguments for change.

"If this is their party's position then working-class victims of the worst occupational disease can forget justice."

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Ipswich Tory in blast at Ipswich Tories!

It seemed quite obvious to us fighting to win seats at the local elections in Ipswich last year, that the Tories were either not expecting to win St Margaret’s Ward or were not attempting to win it so that they could still guarantee the support of the 5 or 6 Lib Dems left on Ipswich Borough Council.

But once the votes started being counted it became obvious that the Tories had got their campaign all wrong, losing Rushmere, Stoke Park and Whitton but with little if any work ending up winning St Margaret’s.

Since May the true nature of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition has come to light in the town, they may have run the town together but there was little love lost between the parties. This has now seen attacks on each other in Full Council and the Tory supporting blogs have been keen to inform us that they never had any time for their former colleagues in power anyway.

But what may have surprised many is that some Ipswich Tories are stating that they always expected to win St Margaret’s. The Tory blog ‘A Riverside View’ has even accused Ipswich Labour of getting the facts wrong about St Margaret’s. Kevin commented here that we were wrong to say this – “Former Cllr Stokes didn’t look too chuffed at winning St Margaret’s ward in May. Tories didn’t work it and it fell into their lap”

He also commented on the Ipswich Spy website after they stated that they thought the Tories were surprised to win this – “Tories were surprised to win the seat in May? We were surprised that it was by such a small margin of votes but we were expecting to take it. Next May the Lib Dems four will be reduced to two.”
Now he may be right, there may be only two Lib Dems left come next May but he certainly got it wrong (lied?) by stating they expected to win.

Now Labour thought that, the local press and Ipswich Spy thought that, but ‘A Riverside View’ egged on by the Ipswich Tory twitter account have rewritten history. How do we know?

We know because the Tory who won the seat in May has told us. In an Evening Star article on Saturday the 10th September she doesn’t hold back in her attacks on her former colleagues.

Sarah Stokes resigned last week after just 4 months as a councillor and it has only taken a few days for the real reasons why she has given up to come to light.
She states she was not an active member of the Tory Party and only stood at the last minute after the original candidate had dropped out (or moved to the Rushmere Ward to lose?) She was not made aware of the level of commitment required to be a councillor.

But her most damming comments prove that many of us were right and that ‘A Riverside View’ is being very economical with the truth.
She states that “I had a load of leaflets dropped at my house to be delivered. I asked who could help me, I was given three names – one had just had a hip replacement, one was suffering from bunions and the third was on holiday!”
So much for expecting to win, or did they think it would be so easy they did not have to bother to campaign?

She then informs us that only two Tory councillors were willing to help her, and those two names certainly do not include the name of the Tory leader, John Carnall.
Senior Ipswich Tory Paul West then chips in to inform us they find it difficult to recruit volunteers (not a problem we seem to have at the moment).

But though all above does not make great reading for the Ipswich Tory Party, I expect they may have a chance of retaining the seat whenever the by-election is held – even though up to Sarah resigning, it had only been Ipswich Labour who had delivered any sort of leaflet in the St Margaret’s Ward since May.

But what may surprise many residents but will come as no surprise to us who have witnessed the local Tories both in power and in opposition is that Sarah found she was not being given the opportunity she would have wanted to help voters with their problems.

So we seem to have the had a glimpse of the true Ipswich Conservative Party, one not interested in helping residents or even letting their councillors do so.
Of course a by-election will cost thousands of pounds to be held, and we all know that John Carnall hates to see money wasted; maybe we would not be in this position if they had taken more care when it came to the selection of candidates. Maybe we should send the bill for the election to the local Conservative Association? Local Tories are often critical of Officers when things go wrong and believe they should be held to account. Well this time we know who is to blame for wasting Ipswich tax payers money- are you going to stump up the cash John Carnall?

Sunday 11 September 2011

My week ahead 12-18 September 2011

Monday 12 September 4pm - Meeting at Grafton House on Parks and culture
6pm - Labour Group Meeting

Wednesday 14 September 6pm - Ipswich Borough Council, Full Council Meeting

Saturday 17 September Tour of Britain - race start- Bury St Edmunds

Sunday 18 September 2pm - Ipswich Labour selection of parliamentary candidate

This week started with campaigning on Monday night in North West Ipswich. On Thursday I attended the North East Ipswich forum, the importance of maintaining a Safer Neighbourhood team in North East Ipswich was mentioned by many residents.
Friday was the highlight of the week as I went and met residents at Dundee House on Renfrew Road, the residents are very concerned about the future of sheltered housing in Ipswich. The Tory Government is cutting the money given to councils to assist in running these highly valued schemes.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Abortion, Nadine Dorries and why Ben Gummer should have told us how he would vote.

Today in Parliament, the Tory MP Nadine Dorries's abortion proposals were heavily defeated.

MPs voted by 368 votes to 118 – a majority of 250 – to reject the amendment by the Tory Nadine Dorries after she lost the support of her co-sponsor, the former Labour minister Frank Field.

But what many Ipswich voters may not know is that our own MP Ben Gummer was one of the 118 who voted with Dorries.

I had asked on this blog and by twitter for Mr Gummer to inform us on how he intended to vote. To be fair to Ben, he did email me this morning and indicated (if not in a direct answer) that he would support Dorries. indicating that as Frank Field was supporting the amendment it was not just a straight Right v Left vote.

He also indicated that his view had not changed since he was interviewed by the Guardian (before the last General Election) and that he has always been open about his views and was elected on that basis.

Now I was aware of Ben's views on abortion and I have no problem with them even if I do not agree with them, and I am sure that a number of other Ipswich residents were also aware of how Ben feels on the matter but I am not sure many would have read the interview in the Guardian and that his views had any influence on his election win.

I respect Ben for sticking to and voting for what he believes in, his principles were so strong that this was the first time he has not voted with the Prime Minister.

Where I do have a problem with Ben, is in a matter like abortion where many residents have very strong opinions, he should have used his Evening Star column to inform residents of his support for the amendment and how he planned to vote for it. But instead his column last week did not mention the matter at all or even the NHS debate which the abortion amendment was part of.

I would not have expected Mr Gummer to change his opinion but at least he may have become more aware of what his constituents thought.

So I hope in a future Evening Star column he gives us his opinion on the new Conservative proposals for gaining planning permission for housing development and how he feels this will effect plans for development of the Northern Fringe in Ipswich.He might even state if he feels we should build on the Northern Fringe or continue to build on brownfield sites in the town.

Going back to the Nadine Dorries amendment, I am glad it was defeated heavily but still concerned that a number of senior ministers voted for it. I see the Dorries proposals as a move towards Far Right USA style Christian thinking.

But Nadine blamed the Lib Dems and even stated that Cameron originally supported her!

Dorries claimed that the prime minister had advised her on the wording of her amendment by saying that she should describe abortion counsellors as independent.

Dorries said: "I went to see the prime minister regarding this amendment and he was very encouraging. In fact it was at the prime minister's insistence that I inserted the word 'independent'. I attended a meeting at the Department of Health and at that meeting it was decided what the outcome, the process that would be implemented, to make this a reality."

The Dorries amendment would have stripped non-statutory abortion providers such as Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) from offering counselling to women. This was designed to provide greater opportunities for independent counsellors, some of whom are influenced by pro-life groups, to provide counselling. NHS abortion providers would still be free to offer counselling.

Dorries claimed that the prime minister changed his mind under pressure from Nick Clegg, after the deputy prime minister was lobbied by the former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris. Dorries said: "Basically the Liberal Democrats, in fact a former MP who lost his seat in this place, is blackmailing our prime minister. Our prime minister has been put in an impossible position regarding this amendment. Our health bill has been held to ransom by a former Liberal Democrat MP."

One of the Tory MP's who spoke against Mrs Dorries was Louise Mensch, the trouble is for the Tories is both these women seem more interested in raising their own profiles rather than representing their constituents

Sunday 4 September 2011

My week ahead 5 - 11 September 2011

Monday 5 September 6pm - Campaigning in North West Ipswich

Thursday 8 September 7pm - North East Ipswich forum, St Alban's School (Digby Road)

Last week saw my first presentation the the Council Executive as I briefed councillors on the plans for sharing the Gainsborough Sports Centre site with the new Ipswich Academy.

On Thursday I joined councillors from the Scrutiny committee as we had an informative tour of the Ipswich waterfront, finishing off at UCS.

Saturday was 'Love our NHS' day, I joined other Labour colleagues and Union members, there was no problem getting the public so sign our petition, very hard to find anyone who thinks the NHS is now a better service since the Tories took control of the country.

Mr Gummer, have you lost your voice?

At the start of his time as MP for Ipswich, I quite often found myself criticizing Mr Gummer for the time he took to set up an office and get a website up and running.

His office is now open and a website is up - it looks flashy enough and also informative in parts. you can find out when Ben speaks in Parliament and you can also check his expenses on line. But for all that, with the length of time it took I would have thought the news stories and blog posts by Mr Gummer would be more up to date.

That is one of the problems I have with Mr Gummer, he is in the paper most weeks, often commenting on national and local issues but when it comes to something vitally important to Ipswich residents we hear nothing!

So Mr Gummer if you read this post, I (and I am sure other Ipswich residents) would like to know your views on these matters, and how will you vote in Parliament on them?

I believe so far, Mr Gummer has always voted with the Government.

1. NHS Reforms, the public are concerned, nurses are worried and even Doctors do not seem keen on the Tory proposals for the NHS - Mr Gummer, what do you think, and how will you vote this week?

2. New proposals for planning - Supposedly, the reduction in paperwork and red tape will make it easier to build homes. In Ipswich we have the Northern Fringe Development. Not heard much from Mr Gummer. Dr Poulter our other MP, believes the new plans will not see building on the Northern Fringe for at least ten years, and Dr Dan just thinks we should continue to build on brownfield sites in Ipswich (your constituency, Mr Gummer) Not sure residents on Foxhall Road would like to see any more brownfield development in East Ipswich, our roads already struggle with the current traffic. Even a senior Ipswich Tory (and ex Councillor) does not seem keen on what he is hearing from Dr Poulter and also Tim Yeo - read it here. But Mr Gummer, what do you think? Will we see building on the Northern fringe, or do you want it to stay as greenbelt and would rather see more buildings on brownfield sites in the town?

3. Nadine Dorries, your fellow Tory MP is trying to get through a bill that would make it harder for women to get an abortion. The Prime Minister has even let it be known that he will not be voting with her, but what about you Mr Gummer? Will you vote with the PM or with Mrs Dorries? I remember attending your selection meeting, slightly ruined as an example of democracy by certain questions only being asked to certain candidates on the pro-life debate. I am sure many Ipswich residents would like to know your view, and how you will vote (on their behalf)

Over to you Mr Gummer, maybe you could use your next Evening Star column (or your own or Ipswich Tory website) to answer these three questions.

North East Ipswich Forum - 8th September

The next North East Ipswich Forum will be held this Thursday (8th September) at 7pm. The venue will be St Alban's High School in Digby Road.

I will be there, come along if you get a chance

Saturday 3 September 2011

Care for Casualties

This morning I was campaigning in Ipswich town centre with fellow Labour colleagues as part of 'We love our NHS Day'. But whilst in town I noticed another stall decked out in Rifle Green. I went over to speak to the two men who were raising funds for my old Regiments charity- The Rifles and 'Care for Casualties'

Neither of the men had been in the Royal Green Jackets or the Rifles but they were doing their bit for the regiment as their father had served in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

Bob McHenry is now 85 but spends every weekend raising funds for 'Care for Casualties'. this weekend he had two bookings, so whilst he was in Clacton he had sent his son to Ipswich.

Their effort is much appreciated by those who have served in the Royal Green Jackets and the Rifles - Thank you.