Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Broxtowe General Election Campaign But Couldn’t Be Arsed To Ask.

This is the last full day of having Anna Soubry as our MP. Well, as we’ve had an hour nicked from us by British Summer Time, it’s not actually a full day. I digress.

Tomorrow, Parliament will be dissolved and MPs will no longer have a P to be a M of. They become normal human beings, stripped of all the privilege of office and instead become full-time candidates, thrown into the bear-pit of what looks like the bloodiest election campaign in living memory.

Soubry ceasing to be our representative is cause for much celebration for many people, myself included. I often get readers tell me that I’ll miss her when she’s gone, that I’ll have nothing to write about, that I must actually love having such a fascinating politician to write about.

They’re wrong. Well, mostly. I never intended to write about politics, especially the local party type. However, five years ago I started dabbling merely because it was election time. The context of this blog was Beeston, as it was set up to be, but as the campaign got weirder the politics became the focus. Over the past half-decade, politics, especially Soubz, has become the thing most people know this blog for. This is purely accidental. Whimsy went out the window, unintentionally.

I’ll be glad to change that if she fails to get reelected. It hasn’t been fun, or edifying, writing about the appalling way she has represented us. sanctimonous soubzLying about the Royal Mail. Being incredibly rude to constituents. Failing to succeed in any of her spurious ‘greenbelt’ campaigns. Laughing about how she is only in politics to ‘fight lefties’, rather than serve a constituency regardless of the political stripe of its make-up. Chucking egregious legal threats around to anyone who dared stand up to her. Having so little care for her constituency it ended up getting the worst local government settlement in the whole of the UK.

But more than anything, I’ll be glad to be rid of the division, the negativity, the snarling nastiness of her attitude to issues. Beeston – Broxtowe – deserves better.

Yet who will that be? Let’s have a look at the state of play:

UKIP Influence?

They pretty much dominated the political scene in England last year ( the SNP took that accolade North of the border), with a huge surge in popularity, two seats won from Tories who found themselves too right-wing for the Conservatives, and Farage seemingly cloned and scattered around the entire countries pubs, to be photographed holding aloft a pint and fag and pretending he isn’t actually a public-school educated former City of London broker. How will they fair here?  Better than last time, but not well.

They won the European Election in Broxtowe, yet that very single-issue vote, at a time when they were cruising in the polls is not transferable at a General Election, where their batshit policies (or more accurately, vociferously announced, then swiftly withdrawn policy ideas) fall on less sympathetic ears. Chris Cobb, their candidate for next year, has been replaced by Frank Dunne, who I don’t know a great deal about, besides the fact he has no megaphone technique (and not much in the way of an audience, either. Save your batteries Frank!).

Farage hates Soubry. I mean really hates. She took him on, and won, in a now infamous Question Time battle. She then said something daft about how he liked having fingers stuffed up his arse, or suchlike, which slightly ruined her stance on the moral high-ground. While there was once talk of UKIP planning a huge campaign here, one that would not replace Soubry with a UKIPper but split the vote and thus decapitate her, it looks like they’ve lost heart as they start to slump in the polls, and need all the cash and energy to shore up their potential winnable seats, not least Thanet South, a must win for Farage. A loss, and the potential resignation of Farage, will be an existential nightmare for UKIP.

My prediction: return of their deposit, which is better than last time. Fourth place.

Lib Dems

Who’d be a Lib Dem right now? An ever diminishing amount of people, seemingly. The last five years have seen them take a real kicking:

Bramcote Memorial Hall, next week.

sometimes deservingly so, sometimes rather harshly. While two local notable party members have declared an intention to run elsewhere (Stapleford’s Matthew Holden is running in Sleaford; Bramcote’s David Watts in Skeggy) they have yet to announce a candidate here, instead choosing to do so in some rather bizarre official unveiling ceremony at Bramcote Memorial Hall on the 31st. I do hope they’ve hired Davina Mccall to do the honours. Tenterhooks, sheer tenterhooks.

Or not. It’s been bandied around Broxtowe for a couple of months that it will be Stan Heptinstall. This rumour really came alive when he was listed as the candidate on the  YourNextMP website, and in a few other corners of the internet. While it was widely assumed that Stan would be enjoying retirement once he stepped down from a very successful year as Broxtowe Mayor, it does make a certain sense. He’ll still be retiring in May, after all.

He might be the best chance they have to get into third place, and to retain their deposit. A pugnacious campaign in 2010 by the aforementioned David Watts, where he claimed that there was a serious chance of winning due to the Clegg bounce following the debates (Lib Dems hearts must feel heavy when they recall such heady days, days when the polls gave them double digits…), saw them get just shy of 17%. Without Stan, who is a much-loved character and a genuinely nice bloke, they could kiss goodbye to their £500. With him, he might just see them through, and possibly try and articulate the Lib Dem message at hustings with people listening.

Things are in turmoil in neighbouring Ashfield. Jason Zadrozny, their candidate who was in the rare position of having a chance of a Lib

Jason Zadrodzny / Clegg

Jason Zadrodzny / Clegg

Dem gain, has had to stand down after being arrested for alleged child sex offences. Anyone knock on effect, particularly in the north of Broxtowe where he has a strong profile, is not good news. Though their local website has a nice surprise when you check out the page that formally held his profile.

My Prediction: 3rd. But only if Davina says ‘IT’S STAN!’.


The Greens have also, like UKIP, had a surge in the UK over the past few months. While that seems to have petered out a bit, the added media attention they’ll receive in the next few weeks might see them gain a few more supporters, as long as Natalie Bennett doesn’t have another brain fart live on air.   Now, a disclaimer. Their erstwhile PPC, David Mitchell, has become a friend since 2010. But his attitude at hustings back then were admirable not for his polish, rather the lack of it. He admitted that he stood no chance of winning, but wanted to use the time as a candidate pushing out the green message. He was honest in a way that is disarming when you’ve watched as many politicians speak as I have: admitting on issues that he didn’t have a strong opinion on ‘I don’t have a strong opinion on this’. He lost his deposit.

I met their candidate this time round, Kimberley’s David Kirwan, a few weeks ago. We had a drink in the Crown and a chat. An articulate,

David Kirwan

David Kirwan

professional candidate, I enjoyed his company.

The HUGE dilemma is, for many left of centre voters, should they vote for him? My personal ideology and political philosophy probably matches the Greens best: an end to austerity; standing up to corporate greed and a focus on environmental issues that goes a bit further than hugging a husky every decade.

Yet in such a marginal seat, will voters effectively use their vote for a party that can’t win? Kirwan assured me that a Green victory was by no means an impossible feat, especially with the craziness of this election, where the two party system seems to have collapsed. I can’t accept that, however. Unless all the other  candidates go the same way as the unfortunate incident in Ashfield, the Greens will hope to retain their deposit at best.

Labour will take a hit, no doubt, but I feel that it is the Lib Dems who will see their voters shift to the Greens to a greater extent. The Lib Dems have always been the leftist protest vote; the ethically sound choice when sick of the red-blue hegemony. That was until they actually had a dabble with power: yellow mixing with blue has indeed made Green.

They might also find on issues such as animal welfare and the environment,that the idiosyncrasies of the Labour candidate, Nick Palmer, will outflank them: he has a strong record here, spending the last few years working as Director of Policy for Cruelty Free International. Whatever, I am still pleased that they are throwing themselves into the campaign with such spirit: they should liven things up and stop hustings being dragged rightwards by UKIP distraction bollocks.

My Prediction: 5th, borderline on deposit retention.

The Big Beasts

This is the main event, the top of the card bout. Soubry vs Palmer, Round 2.

Soubry has 389 votes in her favour: will she increase her share? This is highly doubtful right now. Ashcroft polling (where marginals get a level of scrutiny, rather than merely extrapolating national vote share) was just under a year ago, and showed Soubry trailing by 14 points. Her personal approval has massively under-performed the national mood, where the polls are pretty much neck and neck. Even if we take Soubry out of the equation, and pretend the Conservative challenger took the Tory national share into Broxtowe, they would still be defeated.

There will be many scalps taken in May: even Clegg is under serious threat in Sheffield Hallam. A minister losing office will therefore not be as big a story as it would have been in past elections, but still a significant blow. We have a swathe of key marginals here: Ashfield, Loughborough, Erewash, Sherwood; and Tory psephologists and strategists know that the East Midlands is the most vital place to hold seats if they stand any chance of becoming the largest party, let alone a majority.

Thus,up the M1 comes oodles of cash, raised from getting Russian oligarchs to play tennis with Cameron; and from a gaggle of hedge fund managers, tax-dodger and other circumspect areas of the establishment. Soubry has a team of eleven to fight the seat, but there has been a fair few problems already. Her campaign manager has stepped down, and many prospective and current Broxtowe councillors who will be fighting their own battles for seats with the concurrent Borough elections aren’t exactly enthusiastic at having to endorse Soubry, who plays badly on the doorstep.

My prediction: Labour first, Tories second: but five weeks is a massssssive amount of time in politics, especially during elections. Expect more twists than the knife Boris will be plunging into Cameron’s back if he doesn’t grab a majority….

I will be writing throughout the campaign, when I can. I am hugely busy right now, which explains why I’m typing this at nine pm on a Saturday night rather than being like any other sensible human and making progress on my sixth pint down The Crown. I’ll post when I can, and will post from my Twitter feed ( @beeestonia ) to get out info in 140 characters rather than a couple of thousand words. There are a few hustings being lined up: they should prove fascinating. After the election, I’ll be stopping writing about politics here for the foreseeable future, but for now, bring it on. It’s going to get messy…





Special Post: Amnesty Vigil Tonight.

Beeston has a very strong and active Amnesty International group: you’ve probably seen them collecting signatures for campaigns in town now and again. It recently merged with the Nottingham branch, but is still active here. We ran a fundraiser for them at The Beestonian Film Club at Cafe Roya last year, and it was encouraging to see such passion, such determination to address the injustices of the world one nudge at a time. For those who believe pressure groups never change anything, and tyranny will continue whatever, then take a look at Amnesty and how they have continually had successes in getting the forgotten, the dissident, the repressed into the public eye, leading to results, releases, reprieves. A thankless task? Tell that to the illegally imprisoned political prisoner who, instead of languishing in jail, finds that the world is fighting for their release, shining a bright light upon the injustices being heaped upon them.

Tonight, the Beeston group will be grouping in Nottingham at 6pm by the Brian Clough statue to mark the fourth year of the war in Syria. This is a part of a global vigil, including Save the Children, Oxfam, Christian Aid and many other humanitarian groups. Their aim is not to take sides: the complexities of the conflict are immense and far from black-hats vs white-hats; but to call for a humanitarian response from governments:

*Boost the humanitarian response – fully fund the aid response and ensure refugees seeking safety find asylum, including through increased resettlement for the most vulnerable (with millions of Syrians now refugees Amnesty has called for the UK to take several thousand of the most vulnerable refugees)

*Stop attacks on civilians – send an unequivocal message to parties to the conflict that attacks on civilians and blocks to aid will not be tolerated

*Prioritise a political solution with human rights at the heart, recognising that an end to the suffering can only be achieved if negotiations – whether local or international – include safeguards to ensure respect for international humanitarian and human rights law

On a more local level: this is a blog about Beeston, after all, then you can make a difference by joining our local group immediately: they meet at the White Lion on the first Thursday of the month (next one therefore on 2nd April), or you can contact them via http://www.amnesty.org.uk/groups/nottingham. It could also be worth asking our MP if she would give support for Amnesty’s aims: while I disagree with many things about Soubry, she has a quite progressive view when it comes to international issues, which I salute.


Less x-box, more ballot box.

Early April, 1992. Page 6 of the Nottingham Evening Post. The main page for long-form features: the serious, hard nosed journalism page. In grainy black and white, a group of six earnest looking students stare out of the page, imploringly. ‘WHY WE AREN’T VOTING ON THURSDAY’ read the headline.

If you cared to look closer at the picture, you would have noticed one of the students, the one it took you a second to work out the gender of due to the shoulder-spilling hair, was a student called Matt, 18. Read the article, which just before the General Election finds 6 first time voters who had decided not to bother voting, and you’d realise that he’d dispensed this pearl of incredible political insight to the journalist ‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for, you’ll just get the same old rubbish’.

I’d not said much as I’d been eating a Pot Noodle during the interview. I was at college at the time, studying Media, and had an excruciating afternoon of marketing lectures to look forward to. But just before lunch, a request was put to us: would any first time voters like to chat to a nice lady from the papers about refusing to vote? If so, we’d sadly have to miss marketing. My hand shot up, as I realised I could now nip to the pub at lunch, smoke more than four roll-ups and still have time to stuff my gob with reconstituted noodle and soya.

Come election day, I excitedly betrayed my promise in the press and slapped an enthusiastic X next to my chosen candidate. I then spent the evening with my then-girlfriend, sadly denied the vote on account of turning 18 a few days after the event, and tuned into an evening of Dimbleby and Snow tediously cutting to dull men in dull halls reading out lists of dull numbers. I’ve been hooked since.

Yet the five people I was interviewed with weren’t opportunists who fancied a cheeky lunchtime pint. They meant it. They weren’t a tiny minority either. At that election, only 67% of people aged 18-14 bothered voting, well below the 77% average of all ages. 80% of those aged over 65 did there democratic duty.

agestatsThat was a relative high point for turn out. Disengagement with politics hit it’s nadir in 2005, with only 38% of young people bothering, against an average of 61%. Things improved a little in 2010, with just over half of young people turning up: an effect that is often credited to the Clegg’s performance in the debates, and his promises to scrap tuition fees.

Why this disengagement? Could it be, quite simply, they don’t want you to vote?

Sounds paradoxical, of course. A political party gives not a jot who votes for them, as long as they get the numbers. Yet young people are an

Some young voters, yesterday.

Some young voters, yesterday.

inconvenience. They are hard to canvass, hard to get to the polling station, and notoriously capricious with their intentions. Better to focus resources on the older vote. They have more time to get to the polling station, have much more experience of the system, and are more rigid in their intentions. When I’ve been to hustings, or other public political meetings I have the strange sensation of being young again.

As such, it becomes easier to legislate. Pensioners are sacred. They’ve done disproportionately well under austerity, insulated from the worst excesses. Pensions and universal pensioner benefits protected. Exclusion from the Bedroom Tax. Greater asset wealth through increased house prices.

The young are not so lucky. Tuition fees. EMA scrapped ( a decision local councillor Steve Carr famously supported as he once saw ‘Some students eating pizza and drinking beer. If they can afford that, why do they need EMA?’), making education more exclusive. Zero Hour contracts ensuring they can’t find stability in work, but keep off the unemployment stats.

Youth services – in particular Connexions – have been all but wiped out, denying crucial advice for those struggling after leaving compulsory education.

Young people with mental health issues have had their services cut, despite overwhelming evidence that early adult intervention leads to huge reductions in rates later in life. The charity Young Minds has reported that it has had to step in and help those who would have previously been referred to local authority /NHS services, services now subject to swingeing budget slashes, if not outright closure.

The arts, traditionally a great social mobility elevator, is increasingly being solely the preserve of those who can Nick-Clegg-holds-up-the-p-006afford it.

Green issues, which will impact most on the young (as they’ll be alive to suffer the consequences of environmental ruination and climate change).

The bigots of UKIP run riot as their core vote are most likely to make it to a polling station. There support among the young is minuscule.

Chances of owning your own house? Get real. Or a lottery win.

Young people. You’re being shat on.

Yet why bother? Surely it’s the same whoever you vote for, right? Isn’t Russel Brand spot-on, when he claimed he never voted as it made little difference?

Brand was right in many ways. His often overtly verbose proclamations are often spot on, and the lazy dismissals his critics make are brilliantly dealt with in this article. However, disengagement from the vote is, to borrow Stuart Lee’s description of voting UKIP

“…like shitting on your hotel bed to protest bad service, and then having to sleep in it.”

We get the politicians we deserve. If we disengage, then the self-serving run free. Why bother trying, when you know no-one cares? Best get in, get what you can, and get your moat cleaned monthly. The people? They’re too busy saying we’re crap but not doing anything about it.

Nottingham-Castle-engravingIt is a cliche to bring up the Suffragettes smashing windows and throwing themselves under horses to stress the value of voting. Yet the importance of having a vote was realised well before that, right here in Notts. We razed Nottingham Castle after the Civil War to symbolise the destruction of the Monarchy ruling the roost. Two hundred years later, we burnt it down again after it’s occupier, the Duke of Newcastle, voted against electoral reform.

I’m not having a go at the elderly here. I like the fact they are legislated for.I don’t want them to be denied protection from the bedroom tax. I’d like EVERYONE denied protection from the nasty levy. I don’t want their benefit protection scrapped. I’d like all benefits protected. I don’t want our politicians writing legislation just for the elderly. I want them writing it for us all.

I’m preaching to the converted, I suppose. I realised how interested readers here are interested in politics when I hived off the topic to another blog: I was asked so many times why I’d done that and how disappointed they were, that I thought it best to bring it back. Some wags have written stating ‘Yeah, it’s cos there’s an election coming’ , possibly arching an eyebrow and giving a little nod as they typed, as if to say ‘There. I’ve exposed the evil leftist cabal that he works for, and it’s cynical ploys to swing the vote’ . As I’ve said before, if the cabal are out there, please get in touch. Unlike most of my critics, I’m not paid to polemicise. But I digress. What can we do?

There are over a million missing voters out there, the majority first-time voters. This is due to changes in the registration system that make it more difficult to register. Locally, the registration rates have dropped an incredible 6.4%. First-time voters might not realise they need to register, and simply assume they just go to the polling station in May and have a vote. If you know any first-time voters, or anyone you might suspect of not registering, pass on this link: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. It takes five minutes. It’s a lot simpler than torching a castle or jumping under a horse.