How little confidence can we have in this government's handling of swine flu ?

When swine flu first struck the British government proudly told people we were the second best prepared country in the world (France is the best) to cope with a pandemic.

I listed HERE how much the government got wrong with swine flu, but it seems they are continuing to cock up time and time again.

We read this week that the flu hotline is only staffed at 25% of the levels that will be required for the second bigger wave of infection, with the government having no plans in place to provide for extra staffing.

Then we read that the government are not training staff at airports to spot the signs of passengers with swine flu so as to stop them spreading the infection further. This is despite earlier claims back in April that there is no point in monitoring people leaving or arriving on aircraft as the symptoms cannot be spotted. This, of course, has proven to be wrong. The Chinese using temperature scanners have identified British tourists arriving who have early symptoms but no obvious signs of flu.

Now we read that the Americans are saying that pregnant women are four times more likely to suffer from complications than those who are not pregnant. Again, our government seems almost totally unaware, yet it was our government that lobbied hard to stop the WHO declaring it a pandemic whilst offering advice to pregnant women that simply said "avoid crowded places".

At every point in the swine flu crisis this government has cocked up. Is there anything this government does right ?


I don't really care about the swearing

Was I shocked to hear that David Cameron swore on national radio ? No. It takes a lot to offend me. To be honest, for once he sounded like an ordinary bloke rather than the pompous toff I usually see him as.

Was it a silly thing to do ? I think so. It showed a lack of judgement.

Will it affect poll ratings ? No. I think David Cameron could kick walking sticks away from old people and he would still have a healthy poll lead. This won't affect him one bit.

I guess this is one of those things that gets the political classes very excited but matters not one iota to the general public.

I don't care if a politician swears like a trooper, smokes 40 cigarettes a day and drinks to excess if he or she knows how to put the country back in order, show real leadership on the world stage, stop dragging us in to wars we have not properly prepared for and in general shows an understand and bond with the plight of the British people.

Now is David Cameron that man ? Don't be a tw*t !

Are we being ripped off over soft drink prices ?

I went to the shop earlier to buy some cola (I'm not bother which brand). But I was astonished at the price we are being asked to pay for small amounts of drink.

I went to but a 500ml bottle and the price was 90 pence (or 2 for £1.60). But a 1 litre bottle of the same brand was 65 pence. So I was being asked to pay 25 pence more for half the amount or if I bought two bottles of the 1/2 litre bottles I could pay 95 pence more than it costs to buy a one litre bottle.

The pricing policy seems to be set to rip off the younger market who will buy a 500ml bottle but not a one litre or 2 litre bottle. This price differential seems to punish people exponentially for buying what they need and not buying to excess. I understand that there are economies of scale, but it should not cost 25 pence less to produce twice as much.

The next time the OFT are investigating pricse in supermarkets and price fixing by major brands perhaps this should be investigated.


Can I draw your attention to the clock ?

Iain Dale's top ten blogs has just 48 hours until the polls close.

If you want to vote, Click HERE to link to Iain's site and from there you can find the link to vote.

Independents on ego trips

In the wake of the expenses scandal, there were a number of people putting their names forward or had others putting their names forward as strong independent candidates who would work to kick out those who have abused the system. Amongst this group was Esther Rantzen.

Ms Rantzen said that if Margaret Moran , the Labour MP for Luton South, did not stand down, she would stand against her. All well and good. After all, if Ms Rantzen is dedicated to cleaning up politics she would be a formidable opponents of anyone who had abused the system. The problem is that Margaret Moran will be standing down, but Ms Rantzen insists she is still standing.

So who is Ms Rantzen opposing now ? If she is standing to oppose the abuse of expenses, then all her opponents in the election, those representing the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour are all clean, with no guilt associated with them as regards expenses. So what does she hope to gain ?

In my opinion it is more to do with ego than principle. Ms Rantzen is only famous in recent years for appearing on a reality show which attempted to find her a date, appearing on another celebrity reality show in "I'm a Celebrity", been rolled out as another celeb on "Who do you think you are" then doing a one off special on "political correctness" on ITV which spoke volumes about her lack of knowledge of politics, education and the law. In essence she has used up all her celebrity appearances.

It must be difficult for someone deprived of publicity for so long to suddenly be in the spotlight again and not want to let it go. But if Esther Rantzen genuinely believes that she can clean up politics, why isn't she standing against one of the dozens of MPs who have done wrong and are not resigning ?

For Esther read Ego.

Ronnie Biggs - A personal tragedy for his family but justice is being done

The ongoing media fuss over Ronnie Biggs being in intensive care in Norwich is certainly filling some news gaps locally and nationally in what is usually referred to as the silly season, but it does serve to highlight that elements of our justice system do work.

Firstly, I have every sympathy with his family who must be going through a very difficult time at the moment. I can understand why they are arguing so strenuously for his release, but sadly i completely disagree with them.

Biggs family argue that as an elderly ill man he represents no risk of re offending and should be released on this basis. Presumably Saddam Hussein was in no position to re offend when removed from power in Iraq when he was deposed too ? This argument hold no water given Biggs circumstances. The reason he is in no position to reoffend is because in those years when he might have been able and active, he chose to live out of reach of british justice in Brazil, sticking two fingers up to the UK, rubbing out noses in his freedom when he should have been serving his punishment for his crime.

If Biggs had served his prison sentence if he had shown any kind of open remorse for his crimes rather than simply feeling sorry for himself, he would be free now.

As it is Biggs only chose to return to this country in order to receive free health care when his health had deteriorated. In many ways this makes his hiding from justice worse. He didn't want to respect our laws when hiding in Brazil, but wants to make full use of his rights to claim NHS care. He wants all the rights with none of the responsibilities.

So whilst I extend my sympathies and understanding to his family and his son, who has spoken up well on his fathers behalf, I have to agree with the judgement Jack Straw made a few months ago that Biggs should remain in prison serving the sentence he was given all those years ago.


Dodgy sales patter from Talk Talk

My doorbell rang this afternoon and I was greeted by a smartly dressed lady of Indian subcontinent lineage, saying those dreaded words "It's alright, I'm not selling anything". This is nearly always a sign that they are selling something.

She started by saying that she was just checking I'd got my letter from BT stating the exchange had been upgraded and I could now claim free calls. Now I know we had received no such letter, but I replied that I had received a letter from BT (we had received a bill) , and she seemed slightly confused. I asked who she was calling on behalf of, she replied she was just calling to check that we were getting our free calls. After further discussion, she mentioned that as BT customers we could stay signed up with BT and also sign up for Talk Talk, and she could do that on the doorstep if I simply signed up there and then.

I pointed out that I am in an Internet contract with BT and I am happy with my service, but she persisted that I was entitled to my free calls with Talk Talk and that BT had arranged this service with Talk Talk.

I then said quite clearly that I wasn't interested and closed the door. But I am extremely disappointed that Talk Talk seem to be using very underhand methods in trying to get people to sign up to their services under the pretence that it is something to do with BT, which clearly as a separate company, a competitor of BT both in home phones and internet, BT are not working with Talk Talk.

A letter will be going to Talk Talk to explain how concerned I am about their sales methods, and I might contact BBC Watchdog too.

Update: Carphone Warehouse/Talk Talk have contacted me about this and are pledging action.

Update 2 : I have been very impressed with the line Carphone/Talk Talk have taken with theis, keeping me advised by email of developments and the action they have taken. All I can say is that they have dealt with this in a way that shows thhey do not accept this sort of behaviour from agents acting on their behalf.

Brilliant posting from A. Tory.

Anyone thinking of voting the in annual blog awards should become a regular reader of Letter from a Tory.

Read THIS to understand why his writing is so good.

More evidence of unbelievable stupidity of BBC East

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not greatly enamoured with the local BBC we have in this area.

BBC East have further highlighted their inability to do their research with a feature they are having this week about having a "Staycation", which according to the local BBC is all about "Holidaying in the UK" and in particular "in the East".

Except, of course, this isn't what a "staycation" is. In simple terms it's about staying out home and visiting places locally. It is not about taking boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads instead of going to Italy (as they featured last night) or spending a few nights in a B&B on the East coast rather than going to Spain.

You don't have to take my word for it though. It's very easy to do a search on the internet which will tell you that the BBC East definition of a staycation is totally wrong.

Another self inclicted wound - What do headlines like this do for Labour's core vote ?

Is there any way to undermine Labour's core vote than to read headlines saying that the government is going to court to reduce the compensation payout to soldiers severely injured in Afghanistan ?

I can't think of anything which could make the government look less caring and more hypocritical given the current climate and the perceived penny pinching in Afghanistan.

It is symptomatic of this government though (as I wrote yesterday) that they are providing stories for The Daily Mail and The Express which write themselves (that is if the Express can avoid another Madeleine McCann story or link it in some way to Princess Diana.

Whilst there might be reasons for appealing against compensation payouts, irrespective of the mess the government are in politically, is it not the worst time possible from a military strategists point of view to be pursuing a court case in order to claim back what is only around £100,000 ? We have in recent years had something of a recruitment crisis in our armed forces and whilst there are reports that recruitment is easing due to the recessions (something the US forces have relied upon for year whilst recruiting in the poorest parts of the US), it sends a poor message to anyone thinking of joining the army at this moment.

But going back to Labour's core vote, those who were less than enthused about voting Labour last week in Norwich. What does it say to them about Labour's priorities. I always think that the ex local authority housed working class Labour voter are some of the most patriotic voters who take a deep pride n their country. This is why so many of them so happily switched to UKIP in last week's Norwich North by-election. These people might vote Lib Dem where there is a long established Lib Dem presence, they won't switch to the Tories out of a long held antipathy to that party, but UKIP provides a place to put their cross with no feelings of regret.

When Alistair Darling said yesterday that he is still optimistic of a Labour win next year, it really makes you question him on his economic forecasts too.


Mandelson spinning again

While Peter Mandelson follows the rigidly of defending Gordon Brown in the wake of the Norwich North by-election, the problem is that Labour just don't get what is is that Norwich North tells us.

Labour's line is that due to the circumstances in which Ian Gibson stood down, this election was all about expenses, and was a special circumstance unrelated to normal politics. What Labour fail to recognise this that this is a self inflicted wound, and these self inflicted wounds are the sign of a government that is not only unable to control events outside of its control, but those it can control are done wrongly, in this case effectively sacking Ian Gibson whilst doing nothing about the likes of Hoon, Blears and others.

I seem to recall the last Tory government going through a similar episode of self harm over things like "back to basics" and the sleaze that was endemic in the period from 1992-97.

Whilst it might seem like a good defence for Gordon Brown to claim Norwich North was different, the electorate know otherwise and this makes Labour seems even more out of touch.

Vote for your top ten blogs

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2009

It's that time of year again, when Total Politics asks you to vote for your Top 10 favourite blogs. The votes will be compiled and included in the forthcoming book, the Total Politics Guide to Blogging 2009-10, which will be published in September. This year the poll is being promoted/sponsored by LabourList and LibDemVoice as well as Iain Dale's blog.

The rules are simple.

1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.

How utterly useless is the BBC weather website

The BBC used to have a really good weather website. It may not have been all singing, al dancing, but it told you the forecast, told you the temperatures and as clear to understand. Then the BBC decided it needed a revamp. Now it is useless as a means of predicting the weather.

Take a look at the temperature forecast for Friday this week. What does it tell us ?

It appears that in Norfolk the temperature is coing to be light orange, in parts of Cambridgeshire the temperature will be darker orange whilst in Londonderry it will be light green. What does that mean ? Where is the key ? Who on earth thought this is a good way of giving us the temperatures ?

The website also has much less data than the previous one. You used to be able to look at satellite maps which just showed precipitation, just showed cloud, indeed you could select and deselect so many options which are missing from the present website. Sadly the new (I know its about a year old but you get my drift) seems to rely on people being weather forecasters in order to be able to discern what the maps actually shows.

Oh, and please don't get me on to the fact that there is an obsession with telling us what the weather has been like. I know this, I can look out of the window !

Update : There is a key on the website. The point is that I expect it to be bearer to or on the map. If I missed it (and I am quite PC and internet savvy), how many others missed it ?

Far be it for me to agree with David Cameron

It is not very often that I can find myself agreeing with David Cameron. Too many people I know who have met him or know him speak so poorly about him as a person that I find it hard to ignore my instant allergic reaction to him. However, I do find some of what he has said to the press about possible spending cuts make sense.

On the BBC website it says of Cameron

"He highlighted what he said was the half a billion pounds spent on government advertising and the fact that people earning over £50,000 a year could still qualify for tax credits. "

It is hard to disagree with these as areas for cutting.

It is incredible sometimes to listen to local radio and find of the four adverts played in a advert break, one will be for tax credits, one is for direct.gov and one will be advertising some educational grant system that 99% of people cannot claim. It seems to me sometimes that government advertising seems to be there just to keep local radio stations in business.

As for tax credits I have found it absolutely crazy that myself and my wife qualify for tax credits. We both earn above average wages so why should we received tax credits ? When i mentioned to people at work that we receive them it was astonishing to see the reaction of people in similar circumstances to me who did not claim them because they presumed that tax credits were for the poor, not people earning a decent income. However, this is where a contradiction comes in to Tory policy.

The Tories also want to raise inheritance tax levels which only benefits the super rich, not those middle income earners. By removing tax credits and raising inheritance tax levels it might appear to many that middle income earners are subsidising the super rich. Quite how this would play at the ballot box would be very interesting.

And in essence, this is the problems with the Tories under Cameron, some sensible ideas, but full of contradictions.


Tom Watson on Norwich North

You'd have thought that Tom Watson, Labour' by-election attack dog, the man responsible for some of the least pleasant and aggressive Labour by-election campaigns in recent years would have something to say about Norwich North on his blog wouldn't you ? Wouldn't you ?

Apparently not.

It reminds me of the Daily Mail's re-writing of history when they were the only national paper that didn't report the loss of Romsey by the Tories in the 2000 by-election.

The denigration of the youth and women in politics

I got the time today to watch back some of the Sky News and BBC coverage of the count of the Norwich North by-election on Sky+. What astonished me was that when Chloe Smith turned up to the count, they commented very precisely on the colour of her top.

Would they have dreamt about doing so in such detail if she were a man ? Of course not. it is bad enough that it is suggested that she is too young to be an MP, but with the press seeking to make comments about what she is wearing it surely makes us all realise how much harder it is for women to get in to politics and be taken seriously.

On teatime I was travelling to my old political stamping ground in North Norfolk with Radio 5 live on and was amazed to hear so many comments being read out about Chloe Smith that were concentrating almost exclusively on her age. Now I didn't vote for her (quite evidently), but was disgusted by the implication that at 27 she should be nowhere near parliament. I pulled over and texted this response to the presenters.

"I am a Lib Dem voter and activist in Norwich North and have was involved in the election and was at the count today. I don't consider Chloe Smith's age to be a problem. It is policy and judgement that matter and she should be judged on these, not her age. Perhaps if more young people were interested in politics we might not be wedded as a country to so many outdated principles and rules that don't serve the modern world"

I hope Chloe Smith does a good job, but I don't believe she would do any better job if she was 47 rather than 27, indeed given the energy required to be a decent constituency MP (and I have seen how much energy it requires at close hand in North Norfolk), the fact that Chloe Smith does not possess a bus pass is surely an advantage ?


Norwich North By-Election Awards

Further to my Norwich North by-election awards nominations from election night, I declare these the winners.

Missed Opportunity Award Winners - Greens (For proclaiming that they were set to snatch second place then failing to run a campaign worthy of 4th place)

Best Campaign - Conservatives (For virtually not putting a foot wrong in terms of not doing anything that might expose their candidate to scrutiny)

Worst Campaign- Greens (Where was their campaign ?)

Best Candidate Nominees - Chloe Smith (Very on message, very much the Tory girl, very assured, if slightly boring)

Best Minor Party Campaign Nominees - Craig Murray (Perhaps the only campaign outside of the main 5 parties that was seen)

And an extra four awards -

Most gracious speech at the count - Chloe Smith (It's not always easy to be gracious in victory and I've seen some nasty winning speeches, but she spoke well)

Least gracious speech - Rupert Read (Whe lectured us all on clean campaigning then proceeded to attack the Lib Dems, Labour and the Tories. Hypocrite ?)

Nicest Party at the Count - UKIP (I couldn't vote for the Lib Dems as I was one of them and that would be unfair. The Tories were very friendly too, Labour were polite but the Greens not).

Best result - Joint winners - UKIP and Conservatives (Bigger victory margin than the Tories were predicting at the count, UKIP did better than anyone expected).

Do the press simply not understand elections ?

Since Ian Gibson resigned his Norwich North seat a few weeks ago, the press have been making predictions and assumptions about Norwich which serve to underline that the press simply do not understand elections properly.

The very earliest reports locally on TV were about how the Green Party would the main threat in this seat whilst the national press also adopted this view, along with the view that it was a shoe in for the Tories. This was a line the press had decided upon and a view that evidence, campaigning and visits to Norwich would not change or alter. Yes, it was clear that the Tories would win this from the moment Gibson resigned, the press' mind was on this all being about the Greens, to the exclusion of Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP.

Take for example the comments made to me by a BBC producer when I was waiting to appear on 5 Live drive. He said "It's going to be difficult for your lot, being squeezed in to 4th by the Greens". Now I knew this wasn't going to happen from the amount of literature being produced and delivered, but the the journalists were not interested in the campaign. In their minds the starting positions of the parties was also the finishing position. In effect they cared not one jot about what was happening on the ground and the campaign, the canvassing, the leaflets were not important and would not get in the way of the story they wanted to perpetuate.

Perhaps the most hard done by party in this election was UKIP. BBC East should hang their heads in shame for doing a head to head debate amongst (as they called it) the four main candidates, excluding UKIP, despite UKIP polling far more votes across Norfolk in the Euro elections that the Green party. The fact that UKIP came in 4th place, well ahead of the Greens and not far behind the Lib Dems speaks volumes about the way the press sought to get the result they wanted and not the real result. The press had their mind set on a Green breakthrough despite the fact that the Greens had no real campaign at all. The only things the Greens actually did in the campaign was to launch a campaign pledge (which all the signatories broke), which the Lib Dems refused to sign simply because it was a meaningless pledge. But oh how the press loved this pledge. Why ? Because it allowed them to indulge their obsession with the Green Party.

It's not just the BBC though. Last week Rod Liddle made himself look like a prize tit by devoting a whole article in praise of the Green surge and breakthrough in Norwich North. Other newspapers too had fallen for this guff. I spoke to a Sky News producer yesterday at the count who was asking me how close the it was between the Greens and Labour. She was shocked when I told her the Greens were 5th. "Poor Rupert" the Sky News producer replied. "You've fallen for it too", I replied, and she had. The press had bought their own lie.

Witness early reports on Sky News yesterday which were effectively saying from the count that they expected a Tory majority of 2000 because of the impressive showing of UKIP and the Greens. I saw the BBC journalist listening and scribbling notes. I said to her, without giving anything away "Take what they are saying with a pinch of salt".

So many of you will be saying these are the words of an annoyed Lib Dem, and yes, in many ways I am annoyed at the way the Lib Dems were treated in this election. All the press stories were negative, fed to them by the opposition. BBC East again reported April Pond's moat, but very little of the positive stuff whilst allowing the opposition to slag of the Lib Dems for refusing to sign their joke pledge not to slag each other off. The BBC didn't seem to understand the irony in this situation. But BBC East also chose to praise each of the candidates in their introductions in the TV debate except for April Pond, with her introduction being about her house. Truly awful and rather pathetic journalism.

But I know I am not alone in my distrust of the way the press seek to tell the story they want rather than telling the real story. I was chatting to a Tory MP at the count yesterday and he told me that the press asked for a statement from him on something recently. He said the thing they were reporting was untrue, and he told them that in no uncertain words. He repeated that he knew it to be a lie, and the press' response was "We're reporting it anyway". So what is the point ?

It is little wonder that political blogs are now becoming preeminent when it comes to find out real political news. Not only do most political bloggers really understand politics, and by this I don't just mean policy, but I mean elections, campaigns and strategy. But they also know what is bullshit and what is genuine. Whilst people might resent Iain Dale's Tory bias, at least we know his political leanings and you can cut through the bits you don't like to get to the key elements of truth within what he writes.

I am no great fan of Guido Fawkes self congratulatory style and his obsession with being Guido rather than Paul Staines, but he does the sort of journalism that political journalists today simply cannot be bothered to do. No wonder they resent him so much. He puts so many of them to shame.

Similarly you may not like my bias, and I have been called an attack dog by some people whose views I don't greatly respect, but I think those reading this blog would have got a far greater insight in to what is happening in Norwich North than you ever would have from reading The Guardian or watching and listening to the BBC (or Sky), which is a shame as they are my TV channel and paper of choice. The other advantage of a blog is that you can send a comment to the blogger and get a response. Try doing this with the BBC. I wrote days ago about their debate and I have still not had a response.

So whilst we are constantly being told that politics needs to be cleaned up, lets not forget that those who report our politics are themselves not entirely honest in their reporting. The truth is not important to them because they work to their own agenda, the agenda agreed by the newspaper owners or producers in advance and the agenda which fits what they want the outcome to be.

Ultimately though the problem with the reporting of politics is that political journalists do not understand anything that happens outside of Westminster and the old style political "lobby" journalists don't understand elections.

Update : I am reminded of what a Tory said to me at the count yesterday which highlight the level of of political knowledge of the typical political correspondent. One major TV news channel said to the Tories that this is the sort of seat they should expect to win because it really should be a Tory seat anyway. When the Tory told the news channel that since the war the seat had been Tory for just 14 years, the reporter had no idea. It would have taken the reporter 5 minutes on wikipedia to find that out.


Thanks for calling, do come again

Can I thank those of you who have looked in on this blog for the last few weeks to follow the Norwich North by-election. It has been a busy and quite exciting time for all those of us in this area who care about politics.

Now I appreciate that many of you read this blog just for the election coverage, but I would stress that this blog has been going for nearly three years, I post on all issues local, national and international, so I am not a one trick pony.

So if you like to rant, want to put me right on an issue or simply just want to read what a slightly euro sceptical Lib Dem in Norfolk has to say, do call again.


Nich Starling - Norfolk Blogger

Greens split on Norfolk County Council ?

One of the area committees on Norfolk County Council threw up an interesting insight in to Green politics in Norwich.

After discussion with the two Labour County councillors and the two Lib Dem county councillors in the Norwich area, it was agreed that the Green Party group leader (Boswell) would chair the committee and that Lib Dem and Labour would rotate vice chairmanship. So what happened at the meeting ? Lib Dems and Labour support their Green Group Leader but the rest of the Green group vote against their leader and put someone else in as chairman.

Questions about arses and elbows might apply, but it tells us something of the internal problems the Greens are having with strong rumours also circulating about relationships between senior Greens in Norwich appearing to be somewhat strained.

The Count

Well I am home. Sorry to those tweeting me at the count who I did not reply to. I am new to the whole Twitter thing and it was actually a rather hot place to be and I was scrutinising votes.

The count itself was amusing. The Tories were extremely pleasant, polite, and most unlike those who I used to have to deal with in North Norfolk. One of their national agents doubled up on verifying votes from polling district by watching two counters, I watched another two, and then we pooled our data, which was helpful whilst Labour seemed initially very down in the dumps fearing they may have come third.

After the initial bundles from parts of Broadland where the Lib Dems do better, the Lib Dems seemed to be pulling clear from Labour, but in those city wards that may not have had an active Lib Dem campaign in years, Labour were some way clear.

What did make me chuckle was the massive oer optimism of the Greens who do not seem able to sample votes accurately. Their sample from one ward in Thorpe Hamlet, so they were saying, had them well ahead. Interestingly out take (and that of the Tories) was rather different.

The candidates started arriving in dribs and drabs. I had a long chat with Glenn Tingle, the UKIP candidate, particularly about issues and immigration, and I have to offer an apology for even linking any hint of race with their campaign. His utterly charming wife is not what the BNP would call British, so he naturally holds no truck with any racist views. Indeed, the whole UKIP crown were a pleasure to speak to.

As it became clear Chloe Smith had won, the game was to work out who was second and how big the Tory majority would be. Sky News early on seemed to have fallen under the Greens spell and were reporting a good result for them. The Tories thought they had won by about 5000, and I thought about 4000, so the final results was, in my opinion, a great result for them and I would expect the Tories to hold the seat at the general election, even on redrawn boundaries.

As for the minor parties, some pleasant people in the Murray camp, some not so. The Looney leader was polite, but overall, I have to say the Lib Dems were genuinely not that disappointed.

I was told some months ago (when Gibson resigned) that the press were already briefing that the Lib Dems would come 4th, whilst internal party sources had real concerns about how the campaign would pan out for us. As it was we held our ground.

The clearest thing to come from the election was the Greens inability to campaign across a whole constituency, they collapse in their vote from just 7 weeks ago (in the local and Euro elections) and the way that they clearly are not seen as a means of change in general elections, despite the massive coverage they were given.

Whilst UKIP were excluded from the TV debate and did not have the money of the major parties, their campaign won over more voters than the Greens. Yes, the Greens will argue that they only got 3% in 2005, so their vote trebled. But in a poll a few weeks ago they were on 14% and in the local elections they were on 16%, so where did that vote go.

For me the Greens performance was summed up in their candidates speech which went on (and on) for pages. He talked about clean politics, not telling lies and honesty, yet his speech attacked, lambasted and lectured whilst he ignored his claims that the Greens could come second because as a result, it turned out to be a lie. It seems that the Greens are the only people who still think they are telling the truth when they tell lies. Second to fifth is a big lie.

Yes, the Lib Dems didn't come second,we were wrong by one place, but as a Labour official said "We (Labour) did the right thing calling this early because in another week you'd have been past us !"

Oh for one more week.
Anyway, must eat now.


Norwich North By-Election Awards

As the campaign is now over, I thought it a good time to do the "Norfolk Blogger By-Election Awards".

Missed Opportunity Award

- Liberal Democrats (For missing local campaign opportunities in Taverham to show how badly the Northern By-Pass plans the Tories support will affect that area)
- Labour (For failing to choose a candidate that had some local support and didn't look parachuted in)
- Greens (For proclaiming that they were set to snatch second place then failing to run a campaign worthy of 4th place)

Best Campaign Award

- Conservatives (For virtually not putting a foot wrong in terms of not doing anything that might expose their candidate to scrutiny)
- Lib Dems (For shrugging off claims the party would come 4th and running a campaign that was clear, visible and effective)
- Craig Murray (For at least being heard in a crowded field of candidates)

Worst Campaign

- Labour (Where was their campaign ?)
- Greens (Where was their campaign ?)

Best Candidate

- Chloe Smith (Very on message, very much the Tory girl, very assured, if slightly boring)
- April Pond (Visible, carried the flag for the party well, massively improved the Lib Dem position and energetic)
- Craig Murray (Did well at events he was allowed to, spent a fortune of his own cash)

Best Minor Party Campaign

- Craig Murray (Perhaps the only campaign outside of the main 5 parties that was seen)
- Libertarian Party (First time campaign, a leaflet, some canvassing and some coverage)
- NOTA (More an idea than a party, a brave attempt)

I'll post who I think should be the winner tomorrow. Your ideas are, of course, welcome.

Election day leaflets from the Tories and Lib Dems and a story of my fame and other polling day tales

I was out delivering election day leaflets with my good friend (don't I sound like Iain Dale) Norman Lamb earlier when I spotted a couple of Tories doing the same thing. I always like to have a pleasant polling day so trotted over to chat to them (leaving Norman to do the leg work).

The Conservatives came from Sheffield, but when I asked if they wanted to swap leaflets, the female Tory asked "Are you the Norfolk Blogger". When I said yes, she got all excited in a very unexpected way, we then posed for a photo (which they say they will send a link for), and had a pleasant chat. What mad me laugh was that they were genuinely pleased to meet me but didn't really seem that bothered by Norman Lamb. Makes a nice change as for years when campaigning in North Norfolk he was always the star turn and me merely one of his flunkys !

Anyway, here are the leaflets we (and they) were using.

My other polling day story of note was the house I knocked on with the door being opened by a really rather attractive woman in her early twenties wearing the briefest of bikinis and appearing to be pulling on (but not quite wearing) a very brief pair of shorts. I used the leaflets in my hand to shield her more exposed lower parts from view as she apologised (really, an apology wasn't necessary) and explained she was staining a fence and was wearing as little as possible so as not to ruin her clothes. She had already voted so I thanked her (for her vote).

It has been a hot day.

Follow me on Twitter at the Norwich North count

If you want to follow me on Twitter at the Norwich North election count tomorrow. My twitter feed is @norfolkblogger

Murray Attack Leaflet

I fear his halo may slip if I publish his leaflet that arrived yeserday inside a menu for an Indian takeaway, but this is Mr Murray's attack leaflet.

Are Broadland District Council totally useless at running elections ?

Many people are asking why it is that the count for the Norwich North by-election is not being held on the evening of the election, and others are asking why it is that the count is not even being held in Norwich North or in the District of Broadland or the City of Norwich.

In 2004 I was agent for elections in Broadland and they sent me the wrong agents forms. At the time I was a councillor on North Norfolk Council so I got the correct forms from their electoral packs and crossed out "North Norfolk", inserting "Broadland" in their place. Only when I returned the forms did they suddenly realise their error and send out replacement forms to all candidates.

In 2005 at the General Election there were complaints in Norwich North, and most notably in Thorpe Marriott (Taverham) that the polling stations were not properly organised and prepared so angry voters who had queued for some time were turned away at 10pm not having voted.

In 2007 at the local election count they took the best part of a whole day to count the local election votes despite a low turnout. People at the count that I knew described it as a shambles.

Now in 2009 the same council are holding the count for a parliamentary by-election the following day, not even on the same night as the election. Then to compound things the count is not even being held in Norwich North or the District of Broadland. Instead it is being held in South Norfolk !

But don't worry. These people only act as the guardians of our democracy.


Follow me on Twitter at the Norwich North count on Friday

Just a quick note to say that taking in to account what I am legally able to say, I will be twittering from the count on Friday. To follow me click on the Twitter link on the right.

The count is being held in South Norfolk at the Norfolk Showground. I was there a few weeks ago and just had a signal on Vodafone, so fingers crossed I will be able to Twitter from there.

No2ID Norwich North Hustings video now available

For anyone who want to know more about the candidates views and opinions without lots of the bias shown in the BBC debate the night (where the audience was packed with Tory councillors from outside of Norwich North with them being allowed to ask preprepared questions), you can use the below links to get the answers from the No2ID debate held last Friday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SFXQyi5SVs - Question 1, ID Card - Part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqa4p23rtDg - Question 1, ID Cards - Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9oFwBX7BY4 - Question 2, Afghanistan - Part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2znXyOks5YA - Question 2, Afghanistan - Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjmZBb_08GU - Question 3, Norfolk Unitary Authority

Final Lib Dem tabloid from Norwich North

This is the final Lib Dem leaflet that I delivered to my locality earlier today. I expect there will be good morning and knock-up leaflet to follow. The Tories are delivering what we in the Lib Dem call a "D's and P's leaflet", to their, as they call them "pledges". It's great following a Tory doing this sort of leafletting as it allows you to note down which houses are Tory for our canvassing records.

With the Tory leaflet to their voters which I will count as a proper leaflet, and counting the fact that the Green's have had a leaflet go out in parts of Norwich which never made it to most of Broadland (we have only received one Freepost from the Greens aswell), the final totals appears to be

Lib Dem 14 (Inc 2 Freepost)
Tory 13 (Inc 2 Freepost)
Labour 5 (Inc 2 Freepost and one posted - Although one of these leaflets never reached parts of Broadland)
UKIP 4 (Inc 2 Freepost - Although one of the other two hand delivered leaflets only went to parts of the constituency)
Murray 2 (Inc 1 Freepost)
Green 2 (Inc 1 Freepost)
NOTA 2 (Inc 1 Freepost - Although the other NOTA leaflet had limited distribution)
Others 1 (Each - All Freepost)

Labour Minister admits to shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan

The public know it, opposition MPs have raised it and the army are losing soldiers because of it, and finally a government minister has had the gits to admit we do have a shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan.

The sad thing is that it takes a minister who is standing down to finally have the backbone to admit something that is so patently obvious to everyone else.

On the same theme (of sorts) isn't it time, given the shortage of Chinooks in Afghanistan that the RAF considered suspending its Chinook display team and instead sent them and their crews in Afghanistan ?

What the BNP are like

Is this the sort of party that stands up for British values ?

Update - Cath Elliott highlight the lies they tell on leaflets too.


Final Tory Tabloid from Norwich North

It appears the Tories are a little jumpy, feeling the need to respond to criticisms of Chloe Smith on the back page of their leaflet.

I note that they are still failing to admit that she was working for the Tory party, on loan from her employers. This blatant attempt to mislead could look silly if last minute opposition leaflets highlight that her website says something different from her leaflets.

There is also a covering letter (hand written style) which I'll add to this posting later. It contains one blatant lie, referring to polls showing it is neck and neck (despite their only being one poll and that was from about 3 weeks ago).

Norwich North By-Election Latest - Labour candidate has swine flu

Anglia News are reporting that Chris Ostrowski, the Labour candidate in the by-election in Norwich North, has swine flu. He is apparently recovering well at home. I do, of course, wish him a speedy recovery.

Why did the BBC allow the Norwich North debate be hijacked by Tory Councillors ?

Watching the BBC East debate on the Norwich North by-election last night I was amazed that the BBC allowed so many Tory Councillors not only to be in the audience (an audience they claimed of ordinary electors from Norwich North, but allow them to ask questions (even the first question) when many of them were not even councillors or residents of Norwich North. Indeed one was a senior cabinet member on Broadland Council and Norfolk County Council. Who does the BBC's research in to these things ?

Hopeless Tory bias from the BBC again !

You can watch the debate HERE

Is Taverham (and Norwich North) beinng "conned" by an Independent wearing a blue rosette ?

In Taverham South in the Norwich North constituency there is a Councillor called Claudette Bannock. She claims on leaflets, in community newletters and at the council to be independent. The question is, how independent is she ?

She is a registered member of the Conservative Party. She turned up to a recent local council by-election count wearing a blue rosette and was clearly part of the Conservative team and she was shown on TV yesterday as one of the crowd of Tory supporters greeting David Cameron on his visit to Norwich North.

This really does beg the question, is Mrs Bannock trying to con us by claiming she is independent when clearly she is a Conservative.

What is more though is the effect this is having on Broadland District Council. She sits there as an independent. This means the independents have three councillors thus allowing them to register as a political group (and one of them therefore gets a leaders allowance). The truth is though that without her the independents could not have a group and the Tories would therefore have to give the chairmanship of the scrutiny committee to the opposition Lib Dems (which they should be entitled to anyway as the main opposition).

When we talk about honesty in politics, and it is one of Chloe Smith's campaign pledges, then isn't it time for some honesty from Conservative's masquerading as independents ?

Norwich North By-Election - Thomas Burridge - The Libertarian Party Candidate

My name is Thomas Burridge, I am the Libertarian Party candidate for Norwich North.

The Libertarian Party offers something very different from any other party that is contesting the election; it offers the people of Norwich North freedom. One might be forgiven for assuming that freedom would be a given in any country that can be called a democracy. However the sorry state of affairs is that we are more controlled economically and in our personal lives than at any time in living memory, The Libertarian Party wishes to end the new labour police state, we wish to remove attempts to control your life (the smoking ban, speed cameras, ID card etc) and we wish to end government interference in your personal finances by completely scrapping income tax.

The same emphasis in individual choice is placed on local issues as well as national issues, we don’t presume to decide for you what is best for your community. If you decide that you want, for example an incinerator, a bypass or perhaps a wind farm or eco town then we will do our best to provide it, if you were to decide you did not want these things then we would do our best to oppose. What we would not do is presume that central government can hope to make a better decision than local people.

If you wish for a party that will truly defend your life and your liberties then I suggest voting Libertarian on July 23rd.

Thomas Burridge

Note from Nich Starling (Lib Dem Voter): This is posted here not as an endorsement but in an effort to give more coverage to those candidates who do not have the money or resources to publicise their campaign. Remember, whoever you support, to make use of your democratic right to vote on Thursday.

Willy waving and not knowing your subject

BBC Look East had a debate last night between the three main parties and the Green candidate in Norwich North. It is not available online, but there is a video from some coverage done a week a two ago when the candidates did a speed dating event with the focus being on education.

What is hilarious is the Labour and Tory attempt to assert their local credentials, something that April Pond for the Lib Dems and Rupert Read for the Greens didn't feel they had to do. There was from the Tories and Labour an element of willy waving, wasting the opportunity to talk about the subject in favour of showing off their threadbare local credentials.

As someone who works in education I welcomed Chloe Smith's claim that teaching professionals will be allowed to get on with teaching. This is, of course, at odds with Tory policy which is to allow parents group, charities, etc, to take schools over and allow people with no education background at all to start running schools. Perhaps this is why she has gone to such lengths to avoid talking policy on her leaflets.

As for the Green candidate, I worry when someone knows so little about education that he calls the SATS (to be said as one word to rhyme with "hats") as "S" "A" "T" s, with each letter said separately. Very American. That said, Mr Read has made plenty of visits to the USA, see his UEA webpage (don' mention his carbon footprint) so it's a mistake we might expect.


Missed Cameron by 5 minutes - A lucky escape for me

I passed Drayton Village Hall today and missed David Cameron by five minutes. Just as well as I would have felt obliged to ask why the Tories have broken their own campaign pledge in Norwich North. What have they done wrong ?

Stephen Glenn outlines it all so well HERE.

Labour Leaflet 5 and phone canvassing

Here is Labour's second freepost. This means they have delivered two leaflets to the city wards, one to other wards, they've had two freeposts, and one posted. This is an unbelieveably poor effort for a held Labour seat.

On top of that I was phone cavassed this evening. It perhaps says much about Labour's campaign that this is the second time they have phoned in a month and I told them last time I was a Lib Dem member. They didn't know I was a postal voter (we used to tag postal voters on the computer in North Norfolk for each and every election as soon as the lists were given to us). This is the sign of campaign with no organisation and no proper leadership.

The fact the guy laughed when I told him I would be surprised if he found many Labour voters. The response that "I have found a few but I have been phoning all evening" says a lot.

Celebrity hypocrisy ?

Is there nothing worse than a sanctimonious celebrity lecturing us on the ills of society and government when they actively support that government ?

Ex Eastenders actress Michelle Collins, on The One Show, started telling the hosts about her charity work for Barnardos and how she was campaigning with them to get the government to do something about loan sharks and then started telling us about what happens to the most vulnerable in society during a recession. She said that she was campaigning to get the government to do something about this.

The problem is though that the government are hardly going to do something about it when the person moaning about their policies actually goes out and campaigns for that same government.

Update : The one highlight of The One Show was the presenter from the beach telling people to "Look at the webshite". Made me laugh.

Two companies, two different ways of dealing with Swine Flu

Swine Flu has well and truly arrived in Norwich after the city avoided the worst of it for some time. But it is interesting to note the different reaction of two city firms to outbreaks amongst their staff.

Let's take company number one, a large international financial services and insurance company. My brother's best mate works in IT at the insurance company and recounted the story of a member of staff who was feeling unwell, suddenly became feverish, ran to the toilets and was very ill and vomited in the toilets, but very little of it went in to the toilets. Now you'd imagine that the company would take this seriously, close the toilets, get them properly cleaned, advise staff what had happened ? No. Nothing was done and it took three (yes three) days for the vomit to be cleaned. The toilets were left open all throughout this period with dried swine flu vomit on the floor. Nice.

Company number 2, a British owned international company with interests in travel, insurance and the media (who my brother works for) had two members of staff become ill with swine flu. The two ill staff were immediately sent home and the bosses then advised all staff that the company had provided for them and their family courses of Tamiflu (including Tamiflu suspension for infants) so that if they become ill they will have immediately have tamiflu to hand.

What a massive difference in the response of each company. But then again, what do we expect given the advice from government to the health professionals.

At the doctors today with my son, we got on to the topic of swine flu and my doctor told me the advice they are getting is different almost every day, some advice is out of date, more is available on the internet than doctors are being told and the advice to pregnant women is odd and wrong.

And to think the government still think they are doing a good job on swine flu and are in control.

Lib Dem leaflet 13 (and 14)

We received this yesterday (I think). It is a Lib Dem tabloid. We also received a letter today, which makes it 14 Lib Dem leaflets.

Tory Leaflet 12

This is the digital version of the 12th Tory leaflet that they specially delivered to my house only (whilst ignoring the rest of my street).

Thankyou to the Tory (I think) who sent it to me by email rather than the costly non-eco friendly way they were using at the weekend.

This is, according to my file, the 12th Tory leaflet. The Lib Dems are on 13 (including one new one today- see later post) , Labour 5 (including one new one today - see later post), UKIP 4, Green 1, and all the rest on one.

Once can be an error, but twice ? Oh Mr Murray what a lack of honesty

I criticised Craig Murray a few weeks back for failing to understand that placing election posters on road signs, traffic lights, street lights, etc, was not something that was done in Norwich or Norfolk and that it was out of order for him to turn up in Norfolk claiming to be local (after claiming to be a Scottish before) when clearly he was not following the rules.

After this Mr Murray's cronies weighed in, even quoting the Town and Country Planning Act as justification (whilst ignoring the fact that this relates to election posters on the land of people who have given permission, not for the placing of placards, on County Council property), with not one of his people saying simply that they had made an honest mistake, and I stress "honest". But oh, not Mr Murray.

Instead today, Mr Murray's posters adorn street lamps, road signs and other street furniture all around the ring road, with a particular focus on the area surrounding the Lib Dem HQ. These went up after dark last night. Now the first time, Mr Murray might have had an excuse. But I know that he now knows that this is not an acceptable electoral practise locally and that by flyposting again he is choosing to ignore this previous advice. It does make me wonder how honest he is.

But what is more odd, and I can't for the life of me work this out, a number of Lib Dem posters similarly went missing in that area after dark last night.

Now I am sure an honest man like Mr Murray wouldn't have his supporters take these posters, but it is a very strange coincidence isn't it ?

Update : Craig Murray assures us in the comments section that he had nothing to do with the removal of posters so we must assume that there was another team of people out that night, in the same area, who were removing Lib Dem posters. I offer my apologies to him for making the assumption that he was in any way involved.

NOTA (None Of The Above) - Norwich North

NOTA (None of the Above) registered as a Political Party in March 2009 after initially being declined by the Electoral Commision as it was an acronym of "None of the Above" - a prohitibited expression.
NOTA exists solely to advocate, promote and facilitate the POSITIVE abstention facility on ballot papers - giving power back to the electorate

At the moment - many of the electorate see the present political system as being a choice between - beng run over by a bus or being run over by a train!

NOTA is doing the job of the Electoral Commission whose Chair person recently said:
"I think too many of us forget who, exactly, the elections are there to benefit. We forget that these are NOT aimed at helping governments or parties or individual candidates. They are for Voters, to give them a Voice. To help them effect change they want to see. So we need to start putting Voters first. So, how are we going to do it? How are we going to put Voters back at the heart of the System ?"

We at NOTA beleive the answer is quite clear - VOTE NOTA.

"From the small number of people we've spoken to, with our limited resources, the feedback is positive and the indications are that with NOTA (None of the Above) as an option on the ballot paper then the non Voter would be converted to a Voter!"

Note from Nich Starling (Lib Dem Voter): This is posted here not as an endorsement but in an effort to give more coverage to those candidates who do not have the money or resources to publicise their campaign. Remember, whoever you support, to make use of your democratic right to vote on Thursday.


The mask slips - Tory Candidate works for the Tory Party - So much for her honest campaign pledge

The Times is reporting that Chloe Smith is not what she claims to be in her leaflets.

The Times reports

"She describes herself as a “business consultant” but is vague about what exactly she does for Deloitte. Perhaps this is because she is currently on secondment to the Conservatives’ implementation unit. Ms Smith, who is registered as an assistant to James Clappinson (sic), a shadow work and pensions minister, is drawing up plans on how the party would govern once in power."

Whereas Chloe Smith's leaflets state that
The James Clappison referred to in The Times article would be t whose website links were removed from Chloe Smith's own campaign site.

It would also be the same James Clappison who has been implicated in the expenses scandal after claiming up to £10,000 despite owning 24 houses.

So instead of getting a new broom, or the "change" the Tories are campaigning on in Norwich North, instead we have a party hack who appears to want to mislead people about what her real job is, masks her links to scandal hit MPs and someone who does not live up to their own promises and pledges.

And to think the worst the Tories can say about the Lib Dem candidate is that she has a moat !

Recognise this local Labour Party member ?

These are pictures of Bridget Prentice, Labour MP for Lewisham East.

So who is this lady on the Labour Party leaflets in Norwich North not so local after all ? Doesn't she bear a striking resemblance to Bridget Prentice ?

Of course, I am sure that Labour are not that short of local members that they are having to pass of their own London MPs as local party members, are they ?

Peter Baggs - Independent candidate for Norwich North

Peter Baggs - Independent Candidate

He who stands alone against strong and powerful political partys. But it is he who they should fear most as they cannot control him and what he stands for. No party whip to make him vote the way they want, no gag to stop the truth coming out.

Alone he has no real power, so what we need is a group of individuals with the common goal of promoting real democracy, promising to obey the wants and needs of the majority. That is what I stand for here in the Norwich North constituency, hoping to elicit help to take this throughout the country at the general election by getting together men and women who will stand as candidates and ask the majority to vote for them and after election to be true to their constituents’ demands, not Labour or Conservative cabinet decisions. This week 74 Labour MPs, who had signed commons motions which favoured a review of extradition agreements with the U.S. , failed to go against the party line and abstained or voted with the Government. This happens all the time and is not democracy as I understand it.

Together we can change the system if we put the effort in.

Peter Baggs

Note from Nich Starling (Lib Dem Voter): This is posted here not as an endorsement but in an effort to give more coverage to those candidates who do not have the money or resources to publicise their campaign. Remember, whoever you support, to make use of your democratic right to vote on Thursday.

Tories don't know where Norwich North and Norwich South boundaries are

Lib Dem canvassers in Thorpe (Norwich North) were surprised to be handed a Tory leaflet (with a mystery bar graph) that had been delivered to the house by the Tories a few days earlier. What was the problem with it ? It is a leaflet for Norwich South, not Norwich North. Now we know that a small number of houses in Norwich North transfer to Norwich South at the next general election, but it doesn't half confuse matters to give them leaflets telling them they are in Norwich South when all their election leaflets (and polling cards) say Norwich North.

The graph really is the biggest work of fiction of the lot. The Tory graph shows a totally made up set of results and explains that this is "How you voted in Thorpe Hamlet".
The actual result was.Let's not take any lectures on bar graphs from the Tories !

What have the smaller parties got to say in Norwich North ?

I will from tomorrow be posting a 150-200 word statement from the minor parties and independents standing in the Norwich North by-election.

The Libertarians have promised to send something, NOTA have already e-mailed me and one of the independents says he will send something later.

Whilst I am in no way supporting or endorsing these other parties, as part of the democratic process I think it only fair to give them a little more coverage in what is a very crowded field. So if you want to know what the minor parties (essentially not those with money to burn) have to say, keep an eye on this blog.

Who's afraid to discuss the issues in Norwich North ?

The EDP reports on the Tory candidate's unwillingness to take part on live debates and hints that the BBC East debate which the Tories signed up for and which has been plugged by the BBC for the last fortnight may have to be pulled because Tory candidate Chloe Smith is being "wrapped in cotton wool" and kept from debating issues.

This is interesting because the Tories do seem to think that debates are a good idea, most of the time.

When Blair refused to debate with Michael Howard at the last General Election he accused Blair of "Running Scared".

Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague has said about debates before

"I believe in other democracies there should be televised debates at election time."

And David Cameron was reported in the press to say "
The Tory leader proposed the debates as part of a series of measures to improve the tarnished image of politics, including finding a consensus on reform for MPs' allowances and expenses."

So, for once, I agree with these senior Tories. Debate is important. So why is the Tory candidate in Norwich afraid to debate the issues and "improve the tarnished image of politics" ?