Tuesday, 28 May 2013

My week ahead 29 May - 2 June 2013

Wednesday 29 May – 9am, Planning meeting

7pm, Ipswich Town FC Independent supporters Trust meeting

Thursday 30 May - 2pm, Councillor training on use of social media

Saturday 1 June - 10am, Labour campaigning, North West Ipswich

4pm, Labour post-election party

Sunday 2 June – 2pm, Brunswick Road ‘Big Lunch’ – Brunswick Rd Park

The murder last week of a young soldier on the streets of London was a reminder of the dangers myself and fellow servicemen faced in the 1980’s – then the threat was from Irish extremists – who not only targeted soldiers but also our families. I thought and hoped those days were well in the past but the murder of the young Drummer in Woolwich showed that the enemy may have changed but the threat still continues.

The aftermath of the murder and the actions of the English Defence League also make this a week that will have a lasting effect on this country. I will write a more detailed post about the events of the last 6 days later in the week.

Last week we had another North East Ipswich Area Committee meeting, as this was the first meeting of the municipal meeting a new Chair had to be elected (or the old Chair – me – re-elected)
When it came to the election of the Chair one of our Labour members was stuck on a train so the Tories proposed Cllr Pope to be elected as Chair whilst my colleagues proposed me. The vote was 4-4 and a second secret ballot was also 4-4. Standing Orders then state a Chair has to be nominated for the meeting and the Chair of the committee will be elected at our next meeting.

Cllr Stroet again suggested Cllr Pope stating that I might learn from watching another Chair I action, from his tone it was obvious that I had plenty to learn.

Now if you read Ipswich Spy – or the Tory blog that just copies/steals posts from others you will know (according to them) I reluctantly seconded Cllr Pope! Now I was disappointed that the Tories decided to try and score cheap points over the election of the Chair but I then decided to quickly second Cllr Pope rather than have another 4-4 vote and leave the meeting to be chaired by an Officer. The reason I did this was that I was sure the many residents who had turned up for the meeting were there to hear about matters concerning our local area rather than witness petty party squabbling and this seemed to easiest way to get the meeting to go ahead as planned.

Now ‘Ipswich Spy’ does declare itself to be neutral and even though the main contributor is a former Tory councillor ‘Spy’ does attempt to be neutral but in this case he has just taken a story direct from a Tory source as he was not at the meeting or bother to check the facts with myself.

Did I learn anything from Cllr Pope as he chaired the meeting? Not really but he did do a good job and it became obvious that he had as much difficulty as I do in stopping Cllr Judy Terry from acting as if she is running the meeting!

So what now for the committee? Fortunately work on the action plan can continue as Cllrs have volunteered to lead on the 3 main points – all Labour Cllrs as it seems the Conservative councillors have decided not to get involved in working on the action plan (that is for the benefit of their residents)

After the meeting it was obvious that Cllr Carnall thought it was all a great laugh and said it was our fault for not making sure we had all our Cllrs present, he then seemed surprised when I informed him that not one of the 3 Tory Cllrs in the South East had turned up for their last meeting. At least Cllr Pope was more constructive and we agreed that we would hold a joint meeting with officers to plan the agenda for the next Area Committee.

But after the events in Woolwich the behaviour of the Tory Cllrs seems even pettier that it seemed on the night.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

My week ahead 20 - 27 May 2013

Monday 20 May - 4pm Culture portfolio meeting
6pm Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

Wednesday 22 May - 7.30pm - Fabians meeting - 'Asylum and immigration - have we got it right?'

Thursday 23 May - 7pm - North East Ipswich Area Committee, St John's Church Hall, Cauldwell Hall Road

Friday 24 - 27 May - Trip to Verona and last stage of the Giro D'Italia

Saturday was like the first day back at school after the summer holidays, seeing your friends for the first time in ages and catching up with the gossip - but this was not our first day back at school but our first day back campaigning after two weeks off! We had 16 of us out in South West Ipswich, delivering thank you leaflets to our residents.

This is the way to deal with UKIP, getting out and talking to residents about their concerns. It is also important to be able to talk about issues like immigration and the Suffolk Fabians have a meeting about this issue on Wednesday.

But what are the other two main political groups doing to counter the rise of UKIP and to deal with the issues that concern the people of Ipswich? The Lib Dems have gone back into their 11 month hibernation, just counting the days when they are out of the coalition and they can go back to being a minor opposition party - whilst the Tories seem all over the place, blaming UKIP, thinking of joining UKIP and then attacking each other!

Locally an Ipswich Tory activist called me a moron on twitter - water off a ducks back, but I thought that sort of behavior just puts more people off politics and gets all politicians a bad name. trouble is there seems to be no self-discipline or leadership in the local Tory Party to stop it. Two of their members/candidates who have blogs seems to enjoy calling opposition Councillors names (when not attacking each other) but then it seems that this sort of behavior is also rife at the top of the Tory Party with the accusations that a senior adviser to Cameron called Tory activists 'swivel-eyed loons'.

Getting back to dealing with good news, this week the Ipswich HEARS service has now reached the target of 1,000 customers, this is a great service that looks after our senior residents and gives families peace of mind. When we took over at IBC, the Tories were planning to hand HEARS over to Suffolk County Council and we know that they would have looked to get rid of it (like the library service) as soon as they could. Well done to all those involved in HEARS.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

My week ahead, 13 - 19 May 2013

Monday 13 May – 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 15 May – 6pm Annual Meeting of Ipswich Borough Council, Town Hall

Saturday 18 May – Labour campaigning in North East Ipswich

This week seemed strange, no doors to knock on, no leaflets to deliver but rather than being thankful for the rest I felt bored and also felt the need to be out campaigning. Good news for me is that we will (Ipswich Labour) be back on the doorstep this Saturday!

But I have managed to spend some of the week speaking to Rushmere residents, on Friday we had the launch of the ‘No Cold Call’ zone (NCZ) in Whitby Road. Now a certain Tory will say we are taking the credit for something that was the brainchild of our former Tory County Councillor! But the force behind the Whitby Road scheme was a resident (as it should be for the setting up of a NCZ) and Labour activist and she was assisted by our new County Councillor, Sandra Gage. Sandra had got a NCZ set up in Meadowvale Close and she was able to help the Whitby residents work alongside Suffolk Trading Standards to get the scheme operating. Our former Tory County Councillor has had nothing to do with the scheme.

The launch of the NCZ did give me a chance to ask the Treading Standard officers how they intended to implement the Suffolk Tory manifesto policy of a Suffolk wide NCZ – from their answers it seemed obvious that they had not been consulted on the proposal and secondly they did not think it would work!

On Wednesday we have the formal business of the Annual Council meeting, let’s just hope the Tories do not use it as they have in the past to make stupid little points of order!

The election result in Ipswich and what do we do about UKIP

Just over a week has gone since the County Council elections, plenty has been written and blogged about the results with most of the articles concentrating on the success of UKIP at the ballot box. This has meant most articles and debate has been similar all over the country with little discussion about local results.

Before the election a number of local journalists complained that politicians in Ipswich and Suffolk were spending most of their time talking on the doorstep or producing leaflets concentrating on national issues not on matters that are the concern of Suffolk County Council. Welcome to the real world! Ever since I have been campaigning, most elections seem to be decided on national issues and results often depend on the performance of national politicians in Westminster. Now I would have liked this election to have concentrated on County Council issues, the terrible state of education in the county, and how it is deteriorating under Tory control should have been the main issue on the doorstep and I am sure the Tories only wanted the talk to be about their promise/bribe of 0% Council tax rise for the next 4 years. But in the end many voters voted on national issues- economy, Europe and immigration. Local issues can effect elections on occasions, the way the Tories have badly handled the building of a waste incinerator in Norfolk certainly helped the downfall of the Norfolk Tories.

So journalists, political commentators and politicians are left to discuss the reasons why UKIP did so well and also how to campaign against UKIP in the future and more importantly, I believe in how to regain the trust of the voting (or non-voting) public.
Ipswich Tories seem to be just burying their head in the sand and coming up with the much used statement that UKIP took more votes from Labour than they did the Tories. Firstly I am not sure that statement is correct but I also believe that where UKIP got votes from varies from region to region and even ward to ward.

There is no doubt that UKIP took voters from Labour in Whitehouse Ward but the Tories would have also lost votes to UKIP in Whitton and St Margaret’s and the failure of UKIP to stand in Bixley makes it harder to see the UKIP effect on the Tory vote but in 2012 when UKIP were not the ‘flavour of the month’ they took many votes from the Tories in their safest ward.

It is important that all political groups try and understand why voting UKIP was popular and you can’t just follow the Cameron example and call them all fruit cakes, loonies and racists. I think you also have to distinguish between UKIP Voters, recent UKIP activists and others using UKIP for their own purposes.

I spoke to an elderly couple in Sprites Ward and they had voted UKIP but also they had voted for the Greens! So certainly a protest vote and the man said it was but more concerning the lady had said it was a protest vote but she did believe (from the UKIP leaflets and the Mail) that 21 million Bulgarians would be arriving at Dover by Christmas!

Of course the Tories only have themselves to blame when UKIP gain support over Europe and immigration. The Tories are full of anti EU rhetoric but the likes of Cameron know we are better off in the EU than out of it, but he now even has minsters openly saying they will vote to leave Europe. On immigration they were happy for the Mail and the Express to lie about immigration and migrant workers, it suited them when they were in opposition but now the boot is on the other foot, and so they blame Europe as they are worried about UKIP taking their supporters.

Europe and immigration are both issues that we need a grown up debate about, but it is almost impossible with the one sided reporting of the national press – but voters want it to be debated and solutions found. Voting UKIP is not a solution but part of the problem.

Voters (and I also believe) non- voters have turned to UKIP as they see that all politicians have their greedy noses in the trough – they believe all politicians are as bad as those MP’s who abused the Westminster expenses system. They also believe that many in politics come from the same political class or in the case of the Tories from the upper class. The funny thing about this is most of the UKIP MEP’s do seem to come from a rich political class, many have been caught out with their claims and some have even gone back to being real Tories (as in the case of the UKIP MEP in this region)

It is important that we speak to residents about immigration and Europe when we are campaigning on the doorstep. It is also up to those in Westminster to make sure they are seen to be squeaky clean – trouble is the headlines in the papers this Sunday are about a Tory MP been taken to court for failing to pay mortgage expenses back and a Tory PCC employing a chauffeur.
So we need to speak to UKIP voters, don’t label them as nutters or just discount their decision to vote UKIP as a protest, we need to continue to engage with our constituents and make sure we regain their trust.

Even those who decide to stand and campaign for UKIP, we must treat them with respect – in some cases it will be difficult and the UKIP leadership do have a number of problems to make sure they are not just seen as ‘BNP in ties’ or ‘old Tories’. The UKIP leader has admitted that they never had time to vet their candidates and a number of those elected are about to be thrown out of UKIP after it has come to light that they have close links to the BNP, EDL or have put racist posts on social media.

In Ipswich we know we have work to do, but in one way it will not see a change in the way we work – we campaign every week and in all wards in the town not just the ones we know we have to win. We are used to a party gaining votes without doing any groundwork – the UKIP votes have replaced the Lib Dem votes in many wards. We will work harder to engage with all constituents and I am sure the national party will also ensure that immigration and Europe is debated in a sensible way.

For the Ipswich Tories it will be a much harder task, they seemed to throw all their effort into St Margret’s Ward to end up getting nowhere – they do not have many activists and little leadership – and at a UKIP meeting in Ipswich this week a number of their members attended. At least one ex councillor and a regular candidate- it seems that at least one of them will stand for UKIP next year, but this is also a problem for UKIP – are they a new force in British politics or just a home for refugees from the Tory Party – many who have either left over single issues (Gay marriage) or are jumping to UKIP as they feel they have more chance of being elected. What UKIP does in Ipswich over the next two years will be of interest to all local politicians?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Well done Sandra!

First off I must say it has been a pleasure to campaign for and alongside Sandra Gage. There is no doubt in my mind that Rushmere will now be far better represented than previously now we have Sandra as our County Councillor.

She lives in the ward, her children went to local schools and she cares passionately for the community she lives in. Her previous experience at Suffolk County Council will also be a great asset as she starts to work for us - her constituents. Working alongside Tracy Grant and myself she will make sure we have a strong Labour team in Rushmere, she will also bring a number of skills (plus passion) to our North East Ipswich team.

There certainly is no love lost between myself and Tory Judy Terry so I am glad that she is no longer representing us on the County Council, her disastrous handling of the Library service and more locally her involvement in the dispute over a the provision of a lollipop person outside Sidegate Primary School means she will not be missed by many residents. She has certainly let down many Rushmere residents with her ill thought out statements about the prefabs in Inverness Road but it does mean we have plenty of work to do to repair the trust between those residents in the prefabs and their elected representative's.

We also can't just ignore the number of votes that UKIP gained in the ward, we must listen to their concerns - was it just a protest vote? It is understandable that many residents have concerns about immigration and debate on the matter is needed but it is not helped by the inflammatory leaflets put out by UKIP (highlighting the number of Bulgarians that could enter the UK) or some of the very right wing press reports written by the likes of the Mail and the Express.

We will soon be delivering a leaflet to all Rushmere residents giving our contact details. But for now it is just to say 'well done' Sandra and 'thank you' to the Rushmere residents who voted for Labour.

Candidate Name Party Name Votes
GAGE, Sandra Labour 1117
TERRY, Judy Conservative 628
ELLIS, Peter UK Independence Party 401
WILMOT, Kirsty Green 94
JONES, Gareth Liberal Democrat 90
JACKSON, Dale Independent 34