Guest Post: Tom Roberts on the Things Politicians DON’T Say….And How To Change It.

SEVEN DAYS LEFT.

I’ve been hugely busy with stuff outside politics (which makes my retirement in around a week’s time even more pressing), interviewing Alexander McCall Smith – the author behind the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency novels -sipping tea from a china cup in the vestry of a rural church. The experience was so soothing, so lovely – like meeting a genial hybrid of Michael Horden and Roald Dahl – for a while the whole election slipped away. 

Luckily, the guest reporter who covered the last two hustings, Tom Roberts, has sent me a good piece of editorial on his view of the election, what politicians don’t say and why we’re all a little bit to blame…

As a quick game the other day I walked down the high street and asked people to sum up politicians in one word. This may have been a mistake. Several hours later as I climbed out from under the heap of four letter words, that I would be remiss to print here, I believe I found our consensus.
In the words of one woman who didn’t even need to slow down her mobility scooter to give an opinion: “LIARS! THE WHOLE BUNCH OF ‘EM.” As she drove off into the distance at an astonishingly slow pace I considered her accusation. The sad reality is, she might have a point.
Politicians broadly speaking (that means not you Mr Shapps) are not what we would normally consider liars, they are rarely silver tongued figures spinning a web of untruths designed to entice the electorate (admittedly Blair is an exception). Instead politicians become liars by omission, telling us we can have it all and rarely mentioning the downsides. This almost always becomes more obvious in the run up to the election where we see manifestos promising we will reach the stars without mentioning the cost of the rocket.
An example that is consistently brought up (usually by me) is the Conservative welfare cuts. These we have been told stand at £12bn but where they come from is anyone’s guess. We can assume, given the ludicrous extension of right to buy that this will be from hoped housing benefit reductions but this is far from certain. In fact it raises the question of why I have to guess where these cuts are coming from at all, surely we should be told.

BRITAIN-WORLD-ECONOMY-BUSINESS-CBI

‘What’s two plus two? Errr…Twelvety?’

To go broader, recently the IFS released its report on the manifesto promises, unsurprisingly no party got a passing grade. The Conservatives fared worst with a £30bn gap between their predictions and their promises, Labour, despite its new claims of fiscal responsibility saw a £1bn gap. Meanwhile the SNP, the largest party promising an end to austerity, have delivered a more austere budget than Labour. How are we supposed to make an informed judgement in this environment when the rhetoric runs counter to the facts?
The simple answer is we can’t. This country’s unceasingly negative attitude towards its politicians is fuelled by the fact we can never be sure what we’re voting for. Whilst every party promises the world and fails to deliver we will continue to see

'Errr. this many?'

‘Errr. this many?’

people flee major parties to instead cast a protest vote, beyond all else this is what’s driven the rise of UKIP.
UKIP however, despite claims to the contrary suffers from many of the same issues, in their manifesto which they proudly tell us is “cost certified.” They have assumed EU trade remains a constant despite our exit, a claim that is dubious at best. A recent review put the figure as high as £244bn.
However, all this blame cannot simply be thrown at the feet of Politicians, tempting as that may be. We have to accept that the electorate has fed this behaviour. In the social media age of sound bites and click-bait it’s easy to get suckered in to listing off the benefits and hiding the costs. For the best example yet we can look back a few years at Cleggmania.

'Three! Plus one not at all inserted into my behind, contrary to rumour'

‘Three! Plus one not at all inserted into my behind, contrary to rumour’

Nick Clegg promised us free tuition fees, cuts to tax for the poorest, and a fairer economy. These promises turned the Lib Dems from a protest vote into a political power but also sowed the seeds of its collapse. It turns out, it’s easy to promise everything when you don’t think you’ll win. It’s far harder to deliver it.
It says a lot that the leaders with the highest approval ratings have all never held power.

parrotdown

‘One. And a parrot’.

So how do we solve this? That too is difficult, but the easiest solution is to get involved. We can’t hold Cameron or Miliband to justify their largesse as they are kept safely tucked away from such questions. So instead we have to challenge our local politicians, boring as that may be. So please, go forth, attend your hustings, and to channel the spirit of Paddy Ashdown: “Let the bastards have it.”

ADDENDUM:
Since I wrote this there’s been some exciting news, Danny Alexander has returned to the Lib Dems. After becoming infamous within his party for going “native” having spent his time in the treasury becoming slowly more enamored with Tory fiscal policy to the extent that the Lib Dem Glee Club (something else I can’t believe exists) sang a song about it….Oh, Danny boy. Oh for God’s sakes. The other day however he rediscovered something long lost in the world of the Lib Dems: a spine. Following the conservatives constant refusal to say where cuts will come from he decided to point out how costly they could be: £1650 and up for the average working family, an aggressive limit on child benefit, and complete removal of support for the parents of teenagers. Well found, Danny-Boy! TOM ROBERTS

BROXTOWE TORIES AND THEIR SUPPORT FOR THE ABUSE OF ‘VERY FRAIL LADIES’: EXCLUSIVE.

EIGHT DAYS LEFT!

Whatever the colour of their rosette, I tip my hat to those who go canvassing.

I couldn’t do it myself. Knocking on strangers doors is far too closely related to being a shy child and asking for my ball back when it’d ended up in someones garden.

I’ve shadowed politicians as they’ve gone door to door, and been amazed at how upbeat, how energetic they are. As someone who lasted all of an hour in a cold-calling job before getting fired for arguing with a ‘customer’, I marvel at the tenacity.

I was living in Tunbridge Wells during the 2001 General Election, as safe a Tory seat as you can imagine, when one sunny afternoon two dear old ladies sporting blue rosettes came seeking my vote. It was a sunny day, and I was off work, so relaxing in the garden with a copies of Private Eye, The New Stateman, a thumbed copy of Naomi Klein’s’ No Logo’, with The Fall’s Mark E Smith barking madness from my stereo. A faded and well worn Dead Kennedys T-shirt clothed my upper-half.

One of the ladies began to talk ‘Can we count on your vote on ….’ before the other chipped in ‘I don’t think he’s interested, Joan’ before moving on up the street. While not a fan of their party, I salute that dedication to the cause, and wouldn’t have minded if they wanted to chat. Similarly, I’ve let Jehovah’s Witnesses in more than once (and tried to convert them); I stop for surveys (you often get free sweets) and I always try and give the time of day to anyone who raps on my door. I had one of those Mormons in once.

Many canvassers are out now, trying to explain their parties values and plans. One, however, had the misfortune to meet this character recently:

leslie hardy

Now, that’s pretty nasty. To gloat about nearly reducing a ‘very frail’ ‘ woman’ to tears must make you feel so empowered. Yet a fair few people liked the post. Including, incredibly, actual candidates themselves.

Who? A couple have since removed their names and written to me stating their regret, so I’ll leave them off. However, we have the following who still think it’s ok:

ross bellend

ROSS DA’ BELL: Standing for Beeston North, Ross has form in nastiness and threatening violence to get his own way. A couple of weeks back, comments he made threatening to bring a rifle to a council meeting were reported to the police by Broxtowe’s Chief Executive.

rossdabellend

ADAM NFFC STOCKWELL

One of Soubry’s bright young things, Stockwell is an 18 year old candidate who, after spending a term as Youth Mayor, should certainly know better. He’s standing in Stapleford South East, and recently attacked me for ‘being a socialist and calling yourself a Lord’ , without a blink of irony.

The post was also ‘liked’ by Sally Brierly, staunch Conservative activist, Soubry cheerleader and partner of head of the Broxtowe Tories, Richard Jackson. When I asked her on Twitter if she condoned or condemned reducing pensioners to tears, she went into a bit of a tizz and flounced off. Does Jackon condone or condemn? Or is he too busy making wild accusations?

Well done, folks. I hope condoning the bullying ‘frail old ladies’ made you feel happy for a bit. Made you feel strong. I also hope you realise that most people feel such actions are abhorrent. The decent Tory candidates, people such as Eileen Atherton and Lydia Ball, both people who clearly love their area and behave impeccably,must be ashamed that you’re sharing the same colours as them.

If any of these candidates come to your door, canvassing, perhaps mention to them that you won’t support anyone who thinks this is proper behaviour. Ask Soubry, that defender of the nasty minority who spill bile on the Ranting Room, if she thinks this is fair.

But, y’know, do it nicely.

Open Letter to Lib Dem Liar David Watts

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Lib Dem Liar David Watts has been up to his old tricks again. Obviously having too much time on his hands standing as the PPC for Skegness, he’s launched a broadside against me claiming I’m a Labour Activist AND somehow singlehandedly wanted to bring in ID cards for the UK.

David has a history of lying for political gain. In 2010, he fed me a load of false info in the pretence of a leak. I saw it for what it was, and didn’t publish, yet Watts assumed I did, and ran an article about ‘The truth, contrary to rumours put about by Beestonia…’. When I asked for an explanation, none came.

Watts is a desperate man. After achieving the splendid accolade of becoming the worst Lib Dem by-election candidate in post-war history, he has led a negative campaign of half-truths, misrepresentations and cynical claims, entirely contrary to the polite, mannered and positive PPC, and fellow Lib Dem Bramcote councillor, Stan Heptinstall. He’s now clinging onto his political life, and will probably pay for his negativity with a welcome shunt into oblivion come the election.

I have sent him a response to explain his slur, and in the name of transparency, have printed it in full. I await a response….

Mr Watts

I noticed that you have publicly stated on the Bramcote Today forum that I am ‘A Labour Party activist’. 
This is slanderous, and, I suspect a little bit sexist. I have never worked, volunteered, or in anyway aided the Labour Party. 
My wife is, however, a member and activist. We have a strict rule in the house that I do not even fold a leaflet for her. Certain rules in my employment mean that I cannot support any party. By having yourself as a public figure in a position of authority state this mistruth is both libelous and malicious. While never making any pretence of neutrality, I am proudly, and necessarily independent. 
I suspect that a rather misogynistic attitude towards my wife has driven this accusation, that somehow she cannot have independent thought and must be being controlled by me. My wife is a successful bio-chemist researcher, researching ways to combat cancer and other diseases. I can assure you she is no hand-puppet of mine. This is a dreadful slur to make.
You also allege that I am somehow responsible for the introduction of ID cards. This outrageous claim has absolutely no grounding in reality, and thoroughly misrepresents my position on ID cards: I was heavily involved in the NO2ID campaign for many years, and still to this day am very anti their introduction. To suggest that in some way I condone them is wholly untrue, and damaging to my long-term work as a campaigner. 
I realise that their is an election on, and that things get hotheaded. I am aware your style of campaigning is pugnacious. I’ve met you many times in person, and I have never doubted you are a nice guy. Yet to make these slurs, from a position of power, is a disgrace, and brings the council you represent into disrepute.
I request that you remove the statement from the forum and instead put up an apology, in line with electoral practice policy and general politeness. I have copied the the Chief Executive and the Legal Exec of Broxtowe Borough Council for full visibility and accountability purposes. 
I await your expedient response
I’d send this to the Skeggy media too, but since Watts seems set to get a vote so small electron microscopes are being delivered to the Returning Officer right now, I won’t bother.

SNIPPETS / ANNA SOUBRY AND HER FAKE LOVE OF THE GREENBELT.

Nine days to go, and tons to get through, hence why this will drop into your inbox at 9am, and why I’m presently blinking through over-dry contact lenses at 1am in the morning while I type the latest Broxtowe shenanigans. There will be another portion served up later today, so stay tuned. The last couple of weeks has seen the stats for this blog jump hugely; it’s nice to end my writing on politics with people actually reading the bloody stuff.

So, what’s been happening?

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Broxtowe’s Green PPC has revealed in an interview that he has AIDS. David Kirwan gave a brave and thoughtful interview to Buzzfeed about how it has affected him: it’s well worth a read and you can do so here.

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Beeston Today website have sent a reply to a query I made regarding the increasingly politicised content of their website, and the link between them and the Lib Dems through discretionary funding. While their reply shod some light on matters, it failed to clear up a couple of key areas. I’ve read far too many things on Divisional Funding, and sent to many detailed questions to People Who Know About This Stuff, and will be sending a couple of questions over to the people running the site. This is in no way an attack on Bramcote Today, a site I’ve long admired for it’s community-focused work, and how it’s become a great asset to Bramcote, so hopefully we can mop up these issues.

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Buy the Nottingham Post today: not only has it got a pull out on the I Love Beeston Awards I helped to judge, but I should also have a column in there about the election, which also dwells on a particularly toe -curling, hair-curling, episode of my life. I’ll stick a link up later. It’s 1.26 am, and I can’t be arsed.

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SOUBZ AND THE GREEN BELT MYTH

Elections, eh? Truth goes out the window, and we enter a fantasyland of the Tories suddenly finding £8 billion behind their Chesterfield sofa to spend on the NHS; The Telegraph runs a piece of ‘news’ on small business owners that comes diret from CCHQ and is instantly seen as a huge pile of horse-crap in this excellent bit of journalism; and Theresa May claiming that Scotland voting in a democratic way for a fully legitimate party would lead to Britain catching fire, being over-ran by giant marauding ants and haggis force-fed down your throat, untill your stomachs swell like bagpipes that Alex Salmond can tootle on.

Larger lies, that have been told so much they move up a division into false narratives are trotted out again. Chief among these is that Labour profligacy caused the 2008 GLOBAL financial crisis. Spending money on SureStart, social care and the NHS was to blame, rather than, y’know, those casino bankers who still remain unpunished and happily splashing with cash.

One of these false narratives is being ceaselessly pedaled by that politician who is extremely economical with the actulie is our own Anna Soubry, and her concern for the Greenbelt.

The narrative runs thus. The Lib Dem / Labour ran Broxtowe Borough Council decided, out of the blue, to concrete over a couple of sites in Broxtowe and stick houses atop for, well, just a laugh. Because they could. Because they are shitty haters of all things green and probably strangle wrens for kicks.

FEAR NOT! SOUBZ IS HERE! Yes, she swooped down to save the Greenbelt from the evil councillors. A mighty battle was fought, where she threw herself under bulldozers, shielded helpless voles from baseball bat wielding Labour types and tied herself to a tree that a rabid Lib Dem was attempting to fell so he could stomp on a nest of  dainty speckled powder blue eggs.

Alas, she failed. She tried, spending hours camping outside the offices of the relevant ministers, she really did. But she won’t go quietly: she’ll use her last dying breath exposing the callous haters of all things verdant for the bastards they are. Like Boudicca, she fought, she lost, but she has the glory.

Well. That didn’t happen . Anna wants you to believe that, and she’s trotted out the lie so many times it starts to become fact. I’ve had people comment to me ‘Well, don’t like Soubry, but she protects the greenbelt, so she can’t be all bad’.

Let’s take apart this narrative, forensically.

**MYTH ONE: BROXTOWE BOROUGH COUNCIL MALICIOUSLY CHOSE THE SITES TO BUILD FOR NO REASON**

Without bogging you down with too much detail, the central government, y’know, that one Anna was part of, demands that all councils set out a coherent and workable plan to build houses, and try and alleviate the chronic lack of affordable homes on the market. They send this plan off to an independent adjudicator, who rules if it is sound. In drawing up the plan, sites have to be found, and in doing so marginal land has to be considered. Field Farm was one of these. It was found to be the least destructive of any other marginal site (I’m not a fan, btw. I grew up, and still reguarly walk there. Though I understand why it was chosen).

***MYTH TWO: SOUBRY EXERCISED ALL HER POWERS TO STOP FIELD FARM BEING EARMARKED FOR DEVELOPMENT***

The real work to challenge the decision was done by STRAG, the protect group formed to protect Field Farm. Anna saw this was an emotive issue to define herself by, so jumped on the bandwagon.

She made representations to Eric Pickles, the Minister responsible for overseeing development / local government issues. She went away empty handed. Why?

Soubry had a fair bit of clout within the government. A favourite of Cameron, she rose through the ministerial ranks smoothly. She also had a strong media profile. She could have used both these to strongly challenge the decision by Pickles to press on with development. She could have threatened to resign.

Instead, she came away with nothing.

Now either she is highly ineffective as a negotiator, and thus. ‘Broxtowe’s Voice in Westminster’. This is severe, damaging incompetence.

Or she got something else. Perhaps a bit of money for the local area via the local government settlement? Errr, no. We actually got the WORST settlement in the whole of the UK.

So what? As I have revealed here before, it seems Soubry is being lined up for a cosy little appointment in the Lords, donning the ermine for the rest of her career as a thank you for voting with the government consistently, and not kicking up a fuss about that whole ‘Field Farm’ thing. If so, this really nails home her true reason for being in politics: self-advancement over representation.

*** MYTH THREE: FIELD FARM DEVELOPMENT COULD BE JUST SCRAPPED AND THAT WOULD BE THAT ***

Christ, no. If the plans to develop were to be called in, and Broxtowe’s strategy rejected, then it would be open-season on our Green Belt. Developers could bypass local planning altogether, and build when and where they fancied.

This has happened before. A few years back, Canvey island went through this, and vampire squid shonky builders Persimmon marched quickly in. Persimmon and Beestonia have history: a former director of the firm is a Mr Neil Davidson: Soubry’s partner and former Campaign Manager.

When I have previously flagged up this link, the Soubry- Davidsons have been FURIOUS. As reported last year, Davidson’s solicitors sent me a hugely intimidating legal letter demanding I withdraw the blog, make a full apology, pay an unspecified amount to a charity of his choosing; and a payment of at least £1,500+VAT. 

I refused to back down: I did what journalists should do and stood my ground. No further action ensued: though I did refer the threat to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as a egregious threat.

Is it the case that Soubry actually wants this chaos to happen? To allow planning decisions be taken out of hands of local councils, and let any shonky building firm come roll the bulldozers in?

**** MYTH FOUR: ANNA FOUGHT TO KEEP TOTON’S GREENBELT****

This is possibly the most shocking sleight of hand Soubry is trying to pull on the voters. She has been shouting about this a lot this week: ONLY I CAN KEEP TOTON GREEN!

It’s an utter lie, and she should be ashamed of herself for trying to deceive the public. How so?

I received the following email from a  resident of Cleve Avenue, Toton at the weekend:

We have a dispute in Toton over the proposed development on the green field site opposite the new tram terminus. Broxtowe Council shamelessly are going against the wishes of locals and are proposing a development of at least 550 homes. However, at least they are honest about what they are proposing. Anna Soubry allowed the various groups fighting this to think that she was on their side. I was at the council meeting last year when she attended and spoke for the first time that indeed she was against the green belt land being used for housing because she felt it would undermine the decision to bring HS2 here because she was advocating that the land should be used for the development of an industrial estate! When the penny dropped that the residents had NO ONE on their side the feeling of being let down and betrayed was tangible

In summary: she doesn’t want to protect Toton fields. She wants the land to be developed, but for a sprawling industrial estate for when / if HS2 (which she unequivocally supports ). One wonders who the builders of this industrial estate will be…

Her huffing and faux-anger are there to disguise the sad truth: Soubry doesn’t like the Green Belt. She doesn’t like Broxtowe. She probably doesn’t like you. She likes her job, her lavish MP expenses, and the ease with which her lies are so easily lapped up.

Challenge this. Explain to people the true situation. While truth is getting it’s boots on, Soubry’s BS is already pushed through every letterbox and dropped into every inbox over Broxtowe.

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I’ll be writing more about the Tories hate for nature (Soubry supports badger culling, voted against bee-killing pesticides etc, but right now it’s nearly three in the morning…

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But one last thing: huge thanks to Robert Howard, the man behind the excellent Beeston Week blog, for the gift of a bucket full of tadpoles last week (and cheers to the many offers of the pre-frogs I received: amphibian based socialism in action, there. In these hectic election days, building a pond has been the only thing keeping me sane. Thanks, pond.

columbo

STATES OF INDEPENDENCE: GUEST POST FROM RICHARD MACRAE

What does it take to become a councillor? Who seriously would put themselves up for election in Broxtowe, which has one of the lowest rates of pay for the elected in the country; puts you in the firing line for anything remotely connected, or not connected at all, to your area; and sees your inbox swell with letters about dog shit and potholes?
Quite a lot of people, it seems, including two people close to me, though on different ends of the political spectrum. Looking at the candidate lists turns up some interesting names. Many families putting up a whole bunch of candidates ( the record so far being 5 for the Patrick family, over two parties). Some are people taking another step up the professional politician ladder. Some who are standing on a non-ideological level, but work in the community so see it as an extension. A whole bunch recruited by Soubz from the Ranting Room, one of whom seems to be confused about exactly where he’s standing and started his campaign being reported by Broxtowe’s Chief Executive to the police for making violent threats to rivals. Nice!
Then there are the real oddities: the independents. I find these fascinating: without the support of the Party machine/ finances, they go it alone, having to build up utterly grassroot supports and pull voters away from the usual tribalism and national issues that perversely dominate local politics.
I’ve written about Richard MacRae, Independent Town Councillor and Borough candidate, a few times in the past. I’ll declare an interest: we both grew up on the same cul-de-sac in Stapleford; I was even quite good friends with his brother, Pete (we ran the leaving disco for Stevenson Junior School together: where we just played Status Quo’s ‘The Wanderer’ and Ray Parker Jnr.’s ‘Ghostbusters’ in a loop for three hours. 
Tomorrow we have a couple of big stories, including a scoop on Anna Soubry’s Greenbelt betrayal:How and why she sacrificed Field Farm and Toton for a step up the career ladder.
Over to Richard:
My name is Richard MacRae and I am an Independent Councillor in Stapleford, I have been asked to write an article on why I became a Councillor, so here goes.
I never in a million years thought I would ever be a Councillor, it had never crossed my mind what so ever.
Like many people I would receive newsletters and campaign material from various people, have a read then go and put down my X on election day. I thought that if a Councilor was saying something then it must be true. I never questioned them once.
Several years ago I needed a hand with an issue and contacted a local Councillor, nothing happened and I thought that rich-macrae-satwas strange as their newsletters always said how they help people. So I looked into it and got the problem sorted out myself.  This in turn lead to several issues where I cut out the Councillors and got the issues sorted. Because I got the job done people started to ask me to help them with various issues as they knew I would get it sorted.
On the back of realising how many people locally needed help with a whole heap of issues I then set up Stapleford Community Group, at first it was just word of mouth, then I set up a Facebook page, this resulted it more requests for help which I gladly accepted.
Many people said they don’t use Facebook so I set up a website which everyone with Internet access can view. Again this resulted in more requests to help people with more issues.
A committee was formed and Stapleford Community Group became an official group and we have a constitution, child protection policy and code of conduct. We set up a bank account so any funds can be banked safely. It was with help and advice from both Nick Palmer and Anna Soubry who have both been supportive of Stapleford Community Group.
We now organise Bus Trips, Fun Days, Job Fairs and so much more, if you visit www.staplefordcommunitygroup.org.ukyou can have a look.
We also post articles submitted to the group.
Stapleford Community Group remains a non- political group and we have members who support various political groups, we do however talk about local politics as we like to keep the community informed of local going-ons.
In 2013 I was encouraged by local people to stand in the Nottinghamshire County Council elections,  I had no idea what I was doing and walked miles delivering my campaign leaflet.
At the count I had no idea what to expect, a few Councillors told me to expect about 200 votes.  Wow 200 votes I thought. I didn’t even know 200 people. I was happy with that.
The results came in and I had 955 votes, I was told I was 3% away from winning. Others will say I came 9th out of 11 people, which I did but I like the thought of being just 3% away from a victory. Not a bad result for an Independent person at his first election.
The result was such an achievement and encouraged me to carry on, more Job Fairs and local events, helping more people with various issues and of course fighting to protect the GreenBelt too.
In late 2013 two positions became available at Stapleford Town Council for the Stapleford North Ward, where I grew up and still live. So when the election was called by 10 local residents as the law requires (and I wasn’t one of them) I filled out the paper work, delivered my campaign leaflets and then on election day spent the day watching people come and go as they went and made there mark.
10PM and the election was finished, it was of to the county which took place straight away. The boxes were emptied out onto the tables and it was obvious I had won. The count took place, I was excited and certain Councillors were very rude making nasty and snide comments to my partner. They didn’t have the balls to say anything to my face though, they never do.
So there I was, a lad from Stapleford and I was now a Councillor, chosen by the people. I received way over half of the total vote.
I attended my first meeting as a Councillor and noticed a few Councillors were missing, I had the feeling they didn’t want to welcome me to the Town Council, in fact this never happened at any time.
One of the first things I asked of the Town Council was to allow meetings to be filmed, a few agreed but the majority disagreed and made it clear if meetings are filmed they will never attend again. The vote went against my request and I left it at that as the majority rule and I have always been happy with that.
A few months later the law changed and meetings can now legally be filmed. The two Councillors never came to another meeting and both lost there seats earlier this year, as they went 6 months without attending a meeting. Too close to an election to call a by-election or co-opt any one on.
The videos are an eye opener to watch as I noticed that when I talk at Council meetings certain Councillors turn away and either play with there phone, look out the windows,  get up and read the notice boards or just talk amongst themselves, I could not believe how rude these people are.
What are they afraid of?
So hear we are again, it’s election time and I am standing for Stapleford Town Council and Broxtowe Borough Council to represent Stapleford North Ward where I live and love.
I hope the people come out and vote for me again so i can continue to represent them around the Council tables.
I try my best and I honestly enjoy what I do. I always said if I can help one person and make a difference I have done a good job, I am sure I have helped more than one person and I will continue to do so.

Broxtowe Education Question Time: Guest Post From Liam Conway, Secretary, Nottinghamshire NUT

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About 50 people attended the Nottinghamshire NUT organised Education Question Time event at Chilwell School, one of the last remaining community schools in Notts, on Wednesday, April 22. Notable by her absence was the Conservative MP, Anna Soubry – odd really, considering Broxtowe is one of the most marginal seats in the country. Clearly Anna thinks these 50 people don’t need to hear what she has to say about the important issue of education. When panellist, Alan Gibbons, a children’s author, bemoaned her absence by condemning “the most brutal and ludicrous, pro-market, anti-child policies in the history of this country”, he received rapturous applause from the audience. So perhaps Anna may come to regret her absence.

The meeting was chaired by the Education Correspondent for ITV Central TV, Peter Bearne, and by general agreement, he did an excellent job, though, with 6 panelists, fewer questions than expected could be answered. The level of deference towards the panellists was also someone surprising, though Ray Barry of the Justice for Men and Boys Party, created a bit of a stir for his view that the low numbers of male teachers in primary schools was responsible for girls outperforming boys at GCSE level.

Positive endorsement from the audience seemed in direct proportion to the experience panellists had with what goes on in schools. Two of the panellists, Kevin Courtney (the NUT Deputy General Secretary) and Alan Gibbons are former teachers, so an audience largely made up of parents, teachers and students were most enthusiastic about their backing for an education system geared to the complex needs of children rather than focussed exclusively on academia.  There was general opposition in the audience to the standards and target-setting regimes favoured by Ofsted and Governments since the 1988 Education Reform Act. When Alan Gibbons said ‘standardisation crushes teachers’ the audience cheered loudly.

Kevin Courtney pointed out the stark contrast between the supposed obsession with standards and the removal of the requirement of teachers to be qualified. He gave the example of a school in Leeds advertising for a maths teacher – qualification required? GCSE Maths! The audience very much endorsed his view that only qualified teachers should be employed from early years to the Sixth Form.

Diane Fletcher, teacher of French at a local Sixth Form College , asked the panel what value they placed on 6th form education given the huge cuts of recent years and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) which helped poorer students stay on. Diane must have been a little bewildered by the answer of the Liberal Democrat, Stan Heptinstall, who spoke at length about the great work of the coalition government on apprenticeships whilst entirely ignoring Diane’s question.

Nick Palmer, the Labour candidate, made it clear that on post-16 and other sectors of education Labour would commit to maintaining education expenditure unlike the Tories, but he accepted that this many that might not be enough for many present. Alan Gibbons, to rapturous applause, said that Labour could coast the election if they raised the higher rate of tax to 60% and scrapped the trident nuclear programme. David Kirwin thanked Alan for his support for Green Party policy and made a commitment to scrap EMA. He was the only panellist to also clearly state that the Green Party would return all schools to Local Authority, democratic control.

A highlight of the evening was that two questions were asked by students from Chilwell School, one focussed on the lack of women and ethnic minority students in STEM subjects and the other on the pressure placed on students by relentless target setting. Both students gave the panellists a run for their money by offering their own very coherent, and somewhat left of centre views on the topics.

The last question of the evening asked the panellists if politicians should not just keep out of education entirely and allow teachers and other staff to do the jobs they are trained to do. Readers will be unsurprised to learn that the 4 politicians on the panel did not support that view.

SOUBZ ACCUSE! / PALMER WRITTEN OUT OF ELECTION/ UKIPPER THREATENS VIOLENCE AGAINST BEESTONIA REPORTER.

STAPLEFORD DISNEYLANS

Trowell Services. Mecca for the ‘eighties skint Stabbo kids.

Back in 1987, I was a 13 year old with little to do. My daily paper round gave me £2.25 a week to spend, so it had to be severely eked. So myself and a group of other friends, with similar financial constrictions, took to walking several miles to Trowell services on the M1 for our kicks.

This isn’t as bizarre as it sounds. The walk itself took us across fields and farmland, then a posh estate in Trowell where we’d invariably see a pheasant – exotic fauna for us; and on arrival the double delights of Outrun and Space Harrier in the arcade would be a 10 pence a time treat. We’d then stand on the bridge that joined the South and Northbound stop offs, playing games guessing car colours and suchlike. We’d then buy some Trebor Softfruits (which, like Red Kite are today, were a thing that gradually made their way North from that confection cosmopolitan that was London). We’d walk home, see if their were any new rope swings up Hemlock Hill, and consider it a day well spent.

One day, while walking down the long road that separates Wollaton from Trowell, en route to the Services, we noticed a wooden stake snapped in half, and the attached blue placard smashed up. VOTE JIM LESTER CONSERVATIVE FOR BROXTOWE it read. A few yards down, the same thing, this one ignominiously floating into a drainage ditch. Every few dozen yards, another.

I was dimly aware there was an election on back then. I was dimly aware I had gone off the Conservatives earlier that year, and had now decided to support the middle party with those two Davids. They seemed nice. My mum even went as far as sticking bright yellow posters in our windows, pledging allegiance to the  Alliance party.

I didn’t know who Jim Lester was. But I felt a bit sorry for him, splintered, smashed, soaked in ditch water. As we walked further down the road, we came across the culprits, two lads from school, David and Craig, who were busy stomping on a freshly uprooted stake. Both were kids forever in trouble, always challenging the teachers, but actually rather charismatic in their naughtiness.

‘What yer doing?’ I asked

‘Smashing all of these up’ they rather needlessly replied

‘Oh. Not a fan of the Conservatives, then?’

A blank look.

‘The Conservatives. You’re smashing their stuff up. Don’t you like them?’

‘ Dunno. We did a load of red ones in Stapleford last night as well’.

We continued, pockets full of change that we’d use to pretend to drive an open top red car down an impossibly glamorous American road, as David and Craig carried on their nihilistic mission.

Why am I telling you this? I was reminded of it earlier this week, after I saw the doctored picture of Soubry on a garden soubryconsostake, and subsequent reports on other vandalism of Tory posters. Who did it? I don’t know, but possibly pranksters who hate all parties; or just love a bit of mischief like David and Craig. Yet Soubry and her Salicrous Crumb Cllr. Richard Jackson seem to know.

soubz2

They seem rather sure that the vandalism was caused by Labour, solely as the party have their main office in Attenborough. Yet the only part of Beeston where Anna has any type of popularity is in Attenborough as well; so it’s hardly a surprise.

It is also against election rules to make false claims against your opponent. If Anna feels it fine to make severe allegations of this kind in public, then I hope she has the strength of conviction to report it to the police. Otherwise it looks a little malicious.

It’s also incredibly arrogant, and typifies Soubzlogic (see Beestonia passim) to assume that just because someone did this it must be Labour, rather than someone who, well, just doesn’t like you. But in Anna’s world, there is no nuance, just black and white. Glorious Conservatives, evil baby-eating Labour. Maybe, just maybe, she should take her own advice…soubrytweet

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More misrepresentation from an increasingly desperate Tory campaign is the latest round of leaflets. They continually plough the negative furrow with an interesting omission: Nick Palmer. Instead, anyone who 20150425_175625came here not knowing the candidates would be rather confused by this contrast. Palmer is conspicuous by his absence. It’s clear why though. Soubry knows that on a personal popularity level, Palmer is seen as much more affable, much more diligent and much more involved in local issues. So the contrast must be avoided: so instead a bizarre bit of scaremongering fills the void (more debt? The Tories have more than doubled our national debt. More taxes? The Bedroom Tax and the VAT rise were both nasty, punitive taxes. Chaos in a coalition with UKIP? Oh the irony!).

It appears that with less than a fortnight to go, Soubz has ran out of ideas: a mix of Lynton Crosby and Josef Stalin takes over instead.

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I heard something rather worrying from the guy I sent to cover the Beeston Express Hustings on Thursday. Tom, for it is he, is a guy I got chatting to at the first hustings, who went on to send a thorough and balanced review in, hence me asking him again. I have no idea of his personal politics or little else as yet, but thought he’s make a fresh voice on here, rather than just have me barking on for the duration.

Yet it seems that his presence at the hustings really annoyed a UKIP fan. As he explains:

One of the most spirited moments in the debate was a question I asked about the boats in the Mediterranean. Frank Dunne offered a rhetoric heavy but policy light response in which he mentioned that the conservatives refusing to provide Aid to Libya 4 years ago and instead insisting on regime change was the cause. The representative of the School challenged him on this, pointing out that UKIP policy was to cut foreign aid. He denied that so I pointed out I’d read the manifesto and quoted the actual figures (a £9bn cut or 86%) At this point the man next to me lent over and said “so what, have you seen what other countries are giving?” I said “I haven’t but we are currently contributing in line with UN guidelines” He started to rant about germany and the man in front turned round to shush us. I nodded and turned away. He then lent in next to my ear and whispered “After this you and me go outside and I’ll knock your fuckin’ head off.” Being wholly british I just said “pardon.” He got louder and said “You pardon me again mate I’ll do it…” at that point the chair told us to be quiet and he shut up.

This is, of course, unacceptable. The guy was tall, bald and bespectacled. Do you know who he is? And is UKIP policy so weak they have to threaten violence when those uncomfortable ‘facts’ come up?

GUEST HUSTINGS REPORT: TOM ROBERTS GIVES US THE LOWDOWN ON THE BEESTON EXPRESS HUSTINGSn

I couldn’t make the Beeston Express Hustings, due to other engagements. This is another of those rare occasions where I find a similarity with myself and Soubry, who didn’t turn up.

Huge thanks to Tom for getting a report over so fast, and with so little notice to write about it, literally just a few hours before it kicked off. 

Last night’s hustings were perhaps an example of the sadder kind of politics we often see. Faced with an audience who largely appeared to have made up their mind the show in front of us wasn’t to convince votes instead it was a sport. Specifically it was boxing, long periods of tightly choreographed jabs and feints with only very rarely actual fighting.

The night began with opening statements. These were largely about prior qualifications but also gave the candidates a chance to introduce themselves. The room seemed to warm to most of the candidates although perhaps in different ways, Stan came off, in his usual way, as cuddly. A kind grandfatherly figure who genuinely does want the best for his community. Nick, despite rambling, was the first to address policy and in doing so seemed the more practical choice. David Kirwan had possibly the most impressive CV (the NHS, the college of nursing, business owner) and so used the opportunity to position himself as a real alternative to austerity using the classic line “they’re all the same.” Frank Dunne came out as boisterous and blustering in a way that seems to be a UKIP trade mark. His “straight talking” made it apparent he felt he was channelling Churchill but in reality he just seemed loud and bouncy. Ray Barry fared perhaps the worst here using the time to launch into a discussion of discrimination against men before accusing politicians of taking men for granted. Visible question marks formed above the heads of much of the audience. Anna Soubry, perhaps in tribute to David Cameron, had declined to attend. When asked why she said she believed the questions at the first debate were biased against her and that she couldn’t get a fair hearing. Given the questions came from her audience this may indicate a disconnect with the people of Broxtowe that will be hard to reconcile.

With the Conservatives not in attendance the watch word of the night became “anti-austerity.” Jabs came in from all directions and parties towards Mrs Soubry but these will largely not be included as she could not reply. I will offer Mrs Soubry, should she read this, the chance to answer all of the questions herself and I will write that up separately. (No. available on request)

The first question was about the IFS reports published today, these analysed the party manifestos and questioned whether their spending matched their deficit targets. The Conservatives had a £30bn gap and Labour had £1bn. The Lib Dems passed the test but were asked if some of their assumptions were feasible. UKIP was assessed by a different group who confirmed the numbers but were alarmed by the significant assumption of continued trade levels with the EU despite a British exit. The Greens meanwhile are accused of an unclear and uncosted plan that requires unreasonably high assumptions with regards tax revenue. Heptinstall was confident in his party and has every right to be, they have delivered the most fiscally balanced manifesto a point he was keen to get across. Palmer offered justified and accurate criticism of the Conservatives but did not fully address the question of whether Labour’s own budget gap could make it difficult to achieve all Labour’s policies. Dunne was also proud of his costed manifesto but completely avoided the lingering question of maintaining pan European trade. Instead he followed Palmer’s route and used his time to attack the other parties. Kirwan was by far the most optimistic but did little to allay fears about his party’s lack of economic expertise. Barry fell back onto his traditional men’s rights arguments and after being pushed admitted his party did not have a full economic plan. Yes, that is quite embarrassing.

The next question was about immigration. In spite of the presence of UKIP the discussion of EU membership was very rarely brought up, this left the debate hard to parse and difficult to interpret honestly so the following should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Although Mr Palmer admitted he was pro-free movement of labour within the EU he also indicated pride in limiting other forms of migration and instituting a points based system whilst in government. These positions are compatible in practical terms but seem ideologically at odds. The Green policy was clearer with Kirwan setting up his stall as pro-immigration from all sources, this didn’t win him fans within the room but may appeal to others. It was at least consistent. Mr Heptinstall broadly agreed with Nick and both of them were saddened that immigration had become such a dog whistle issue. Mr Dunne talked a lot about how to reduce immigration to just the skilled migrants but didn’t acknowledge the elephant in the room of the EU exit. This left the policy sounding convincing but with large, unaddressed caveats which made it a case of offering the world without the cost. Mr Barry, in spite of a lack of official policy came out in support of UKIP’s ideas making it clear that he was in favour of an EU referendum and that he would prefer an exit. He did not address the impact of this but it was nice to see some actual policy.
At this point there was an interjection from the floor asking why Labour and the Lib Dems wouldn’t promise an EU referendum. This led to cries of “Are we too stupid?” and “Are you undemocratic?” Nick Palmer took the brunt of the beating here and although Stan Heptinstall interjected in support it was obvious where the questions were directed. Palmer offered a convincing but somewhat dispassionate defence: saying that calling a referendum would be irresponsible. He pointed out that our economy had just recovered from the uncertainty of the Scottish referendum and that it would be dangerous to jump into another so quickly. He did however say he would be open to a referendum should there be a new treaty drawn up. Although reasonable his answer got a very mixed response amongst the crowd and it’s likely we would have been stuck here for a while had the moderator not intervened as the attacks got louder.

Continuing the theme the next question was about the Mediterranean boat crisis. Frank Dunne opened the debate with a passionate speech about how much the tragedy had moved him. Sadly, much like Shakespeare’s proverbial idiot, this was “all sound and fury signifying nothing.” Something the audience did not let stand. Mr Dunne proceeded to say we should have provided aid to Libya when they asked 4 years ago. This does not fit with UKIP’s policy of reducing foreign aid and he was again called on the hypocrisy. In a final attempt he suggested adopting an Australian system of turning back the boats and offshore processing. This did not go down well with the audience who pointed out the death toll of such a programme and that these offshore processing centres were akin to prison camps. At this point he also backtracked on that policy leaving him with no cohesive response. The other three major parties were hard to distinguish on this issue, they all wanted to restart the programme and they all wanted to use aid to construct refugee camps in Africa to try and stop the trafficking. The theme that defined each of their speeches appeared to be responsibility and they were all somewhat disparaging to what they saw as a coldness from Frank Dunne. Ray Barry was silent for much of this discussion, presumably because it did not involve men specifically.
The first major debate focussed on housing, the issue in play was the extent of building on brown field and green field sites. Stan Heptinstall spoke first, condemning the Greens and UKIP for quoting numbers that weren’t feasible and, somewhat sadly, admitted that it was likely construction would have to be done on green field sites. David Kirwan rebuked this thoroughly, accusing the local report that reached this conclusion of getting the numbers wrong and developers of just wanting to take the cheaper option of using green field sites. This conflict formed the crux of the debate with Frank Dunne speaking in support of Kirwan and Nick Palmer in support of Heptinstall. There was no consensus reached, although having since read the support it is obvious Heptinstall has a point. The number of houses that can be built locally on brownfield sites is not enough to cover the shortfall and alternate measures may be needed. Nick Palmer suggested we begin building large blocks of flats aimed at a younger population, a policy which seems feasible but costly. It does however necessitate smaller plots of land. There was, however, a consensus amongst most of the panel (Mr Barry did not comment) on “right to buy.” All candidates joined forces to condemn the extension and there was discussion of curtailing it in order to replenish housing stock.

The next question asked the candidates to put aside their differences and to admit to policies from the other parties they liked. This saw some of the most predictable, and most bizarre moments of the night. On the more predictable side Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens rallied together around progressive politics and environmental issues. Perhaps more surprisingly UKIP also agreed that inequality needed addressing and praised the other parties for policies such as free childcare and NHS funding. The Greens and UKIP also formed a loose agreement on HS2 and preserving Greenbelts revealing that even among ideological enemies there is often common ground. The running gag of proceedings was  for candidates to struggle to remember something they agreed with the Conservatives on, even UKIP joined in the teasing. The outsider in this regard was Mr Barry who revealed support of Conservative economic policy and UKIP’s policies on the EU. This finally firmly established his position on the right wing and left him somewhat distant from the other parties. The single Justice for Men and Boys policy that was agreed upon was introducing prostate cancer screenings for the over 40s, although questions were raised about the tests efficacy as it is known to produce large numbers of false positives.

The final question was about youth unemployment, this was a timely question as youth unemployment is 3 times that of the nation itself. The candidates all  talked about improving education with a focus on raising vocational skills to the same level as academic skills. Heptinstall pointed to his party’s record in government on creating jobs although given the 14% fall in real term wages this is of questionable merit. Nick Palmer talked about re-establishing a link between apprenticeships and a job although sadly he offered no specifics on achieving this. Frank Dunne speculated about reintroducing Grammar Schools as engines of social mobility. The evidence on grammar schools is fairly difficult to gauge because those who attend are disproportionately from wealthy backgrounds. David Kirwan proposed reintroducing the EMA as a way to allow school leavers to pursue further training without having to borrow money. He also condemned the school culture as overly reliant on tests but did not offer specifics on which he believed unnecessary.

Overall no-one in the debate ruled themselves out of the running. The four candidates from major parties offered their visions of Britain but on the most part left out the downsides. Stan Heptinstall was perhaps best in this regard, his positions on housing and green issues made it clear than he was conflicted between ideology and practicality but did at least reveal an acceptance of the downsides. Nick Palmer delivered an admirable if not wholly remarkable performance. He was by far the most policy driven of the candidates using his laconic almost dry style to present the audience with the policies without the cloud of rhetoric. Hopefully this indicates a confidence that the policies can stand for themselves. David Kirwan was perhaps the most animated of the candidates, delivering extremely well on his message and his beliefs but the policy underneath was sometimes hard to determine. This left him passionate but also made him seem impractical. Frank Dunne was affable and seemed honest but revealed the standard UKIP weakness of trying to be all things to all men. This left him at times flip-flopping on positions to follow the mood of the room which made his typical stance, to the left within his party, harder to believe. Ray Barry had his usual laser focus on men’s issues. This will have served him well with those in the audience that agreed with him but will alienate him from those who don’t.

On all other issues he was either quiet or revealed a lack of policy and lack of specific knowledge making him hard to take seriously as a candidate. In what may be a theme of this election, if you knew who you were going to vote for this debate was unlikely to sway you towards the other parties. However for those who are still undecided it was a good chance to scrutinise the candidates in a more intimate environment and I’m sure many will have addressed issues that they hold close.

Thank you to the Beeston Express for organising the event, and thank you to Sheila for chairing.

Lady Beestonia? / Nice Guy Eddie Izzard / Hustings tonight!

Today was meant to be a day off. A guest post on here to spare me writing anything, a day doing little before going off to the I Love Beeston Awards this evening in my capacity as a judge. A lie down in the garden, perhaps. A bit more research

Yeah, might, y'know, not accept this one...

Yeah, might, y’know, not accept this one…

into tadpoles, maybe. But no. Daftly, just before I went to bed, I checked my email.

First surprise is BBC Radio 4 heavy news programme The World Tonight, who get in touch regarding a venue for a forthcoming election special they’ll be hosting from Beeston. We are the World, it seems.

Then I noticed that something I had written on a whim about the Justice For Men and Boys party had caused a bit of a stir with their leader, Mike Buchanan. He sent through a comment (see last article) deeming me, in an unimprovable Alan Partridge choice of words ‘A blithering idiot’.

Over on his website, he wrote an angry post about Beestonia, tellingly assuming I was female. One of his followers backed buchanananananaanananahim up on this, now labelling the writing here as the work of ‘a precocious schoolgirl’. Well, unlike some Tory activists I’m not one to go online pretending to be a 13 year old girl. And I have man parts in my pants. I imagine Buchanan and his rabid horde of misogynistic mules must think I’m a traitor to the male gender, a man who, well, quite likes women, and holds the radically absurd view that women are people too.

20150423_125516Someone who really loves to blur the gender lines – ‘Womens’ clothes? They’re not womens’ clothes, they’re MY clothes, I paid for them’ – is Eddie Izzard, multiple marathon man; polyglot comedian and, perhaps, Mayor of London one day. As I finally decided to go to bed, an email pops up telling me that Izzard would be in Beeston later that day (it was well past midnight by then). Blimey. Election madness in full force: celebrities descending on our town isn’t a common thing (oh wait, it is actually) .

So, at midday I’m in the rather strange position of standing next to comic legend Eddie Izzard; who’s also bought along Tom

Foxy, the Hallams, and some wannabe strawberry sellers.

Foxy, the Hallams, and some wannabe strawberry sellers.

Watson MP: the guy who faced down Murdoch in the phone-hacking scandal, and as such a bit of a hero of mine: Murdoch bears deep grudges, and is nastily attacking Labour, the SNP and Miliband relentlessly through his scummy newspapers for daring question his control over the British news agenda. Somehow, we’re talking about strawberries. Loads of telly cameras jostle along the High Road as the pair, here to support Nick Palmer, visit Chimera, Hallams, Iguazu and other shops, as well as chatting to random passers-by (one lady hugs Izzard ‘You’re my first famous person’ she cries. Another says ‘I’m much more excited to meet Tom Watson’, to which Izzard pulls a mock-petulant pout).

elbi izzard

Elbi at The Bean with Mr I.

They then head to The Bean, where the star struck staff come out for a picture (‘anything to get that bloody Soubry out’ one tells me), and then we get to do a quick interview. I explain to Tom Watson that I’m not in anyway incorporated to Murdoch through my publishing ‘Ah good. They don’t seem to want to talk to me anymore’, and Izzard is quite charming, commenting on the Gallic nature of my t-shirt ‘Good and French’. I’ll upload the audio when I get a minute. izzardstrwbs

We were Izzard’s 50th stop off this election (And Tom Watson is somewhere in the seventies). Quite an incredible work-rate, but he is passionate to see Labour win ‘It’s just a question of beestonianfairness. I’ve done well for myself in life, but I struggled when younger, and that never leaves you. I want to do what I can with what I’ve got to help others. And that’s what Labour does’. He was delighted by the turn out of activists ‘This is what we do best. We have the people. The Conservatives just have the money’. He repeated his intention to stand for election, either as MP or as London Mayor, in a few years time. Insert your own ‘London doesn’t need another comedian’ joke here…

20150423_133957 (1)This was no show-up, smile at the cameras then head off thing either. He really talked to people. When he stopped to chat to a guy ambling by called Rob (a self-confessed, recovering Lib Dem voter in 2010) he waved off the Labour Party staff trying to move him on and really got into a discussion, finished, as is inevitable these days, with a group selfie.

Rumours that Soubry has spent the afternoon negotiating a price to get The Chuckle Brothers to accompany her to Costa Coffee are entirely made up.

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Bizarre day, but I have deep suspicions that we have weirder to come. Keep tuned to Beestonia for all oddities, including a bit of a scandal involving a naughty bit of misappropriation of funds…. Also, College House plays host to the second Beeston Hustings tonight. I have heard that Soubry isn’t bothering turning up, due to not liking Beeston Express editor Sheila, who is hosting the hustings. From 7pm. We have our guest reporter Tom to cover the event: but let us know how it goes!

GUEST POST: BEESTON WEEK’S ROBERT HOWARD ON WHAT THE MANIFESTOS AREN’T TELLING YOU…

Some very interesting stuff has cropped up since I last wrote, and which, if I have time, I’ll tap out later between running round Beeston this afternoon after a famous person, and the I Love Beeston Awards later this evening, which I helped to judge.

For now, the excellent Robert Howard (you may remember him for the exceptional stylised maps he designed for Beeston) has submitted a guest piece, and it’s a corker. He’s also offered me some tadpoles. Politics and ponds. My two current obsessions collide… Over to Rob:

What the manifestos don’t say
The aim of this contribution is to encourage you to think about what the political parties standing in Broxtowe are not telling you, then you can ask the candidates for answers and to share their replies with Matt and this blog.
You know the saying: ‘Lies, damn lies and statistics’. So it is with both the general election and Broxtowe Borough Council elections, except politicians, like accountants, civil servants, historians, the media and the NHS to name just a few, play the same game with words — they lie by omission — which is why they don’t like being asked questions they are not prepared for.
Writing in the latest issue of the Beeston Express, David Watts, a Liberal Democrat, says ‘(LibDems) are putting equal emphasis on the local elections… We’ve done this because we are committed to the area’. The truth is a little different. LibDems are so ‘committed’ as to be fielding only twenty-seven candidates and none at all in six wards. This cannot, by any measure, be described as an ‘equal emphasis on the the local elections’. Nowhere do they tell Broxtowe voters this, nor do they apologise.
Knowing this whilst attending the hustings meeting at Beeston Parish Church made me want to gag every time the Liberal parliamentary candidate opened his mouth. How can you profess ‘to care about Broxtowe’ when you put up very few candidates? The same applies to the Greens and UKIP.
The National Pensioners Convention (http://npcuk.org/1940) have published on their website a useful ‘summary of manifesto pledges’. In the absence of a party pledge in relation to a particular policy area, NPC have kindly included the phrase ‘No comment’. I suspect it will come as no surprise to learn that 44 (37%) out of 119 policy boxes contain the words ‘no comment’.
No-go policies appear to include the not long abolished retail price index (RPI), universal benefits, progressive taxation, dental care, the ever-upward state pension age and buses (the latter far more important to most public transport users in Broxtowe than the tram, HS2 or railways) or museum charges. I could go on, but I want you to compile your own list of omissions.
If Nick Palmer wins Broxtowe and the Labour Party the borough council, it will be because they have worked year in, year out, in every ward. None of the other political parties have, as witnessed by their failure to contest every council seat and every ward. At the end of day this is why I will be voting Labour on 7 May. I also want Scotland to elect enough SNP MPs to stop Labour drifting any further to right (which, Matt, is why the SNP will play a part in how England votes).
The Tories have just spent five years in bed with the Liberals (for that is what they are — the ‘Democrat’ tag comes from the days when they got into bed with renegade right-wing Labour politicians), so it is difficult to understand why Labour having to rely on SNP backing to govern is any different?
I will end with some words from a old Beestonian friend now living in Edinburgh:
SNP still has a lot of support up here as you can imagine. Jim Murphy isn’t really making much headway for Scottish Labour that is my feeling. Nicola Sturgeon is very popular – especially after Salmond. She’s hard working and sensible and passionate. 
Despite my feelings about the referendum and rampant nationalism(!), due to the lack of good policies in the current Labour party, I can see why the SNP would be a force for good in Westminster. However, people need to understand the SNP will never give up on independence and they will play dirty if need be. Very dirty!
The Tories are indeed offending folk up here even more than usual. Is this deliberate or just arrogance? And they offend me all the time! I hate their latest housing policy, selling off more social housing etc. It’s awful, does nothing to address the real problem and focuses on the individual, not what is best for the community, for society. 
I have no objection to coalition – providing Tories are not part of it!
Robert Howard

Leaflet Review / Big Beast Beastliness?

Two weeks tomorrow and we’ll be marching up to the ballot box with intent, reluctance, or because it’s en route to the pub.

Letter boxes are taking a severe hammering right now. I’m sure you too have seen an indentation in your hallway’s thick pile shag as missives fro mall parties come vomiting through the front door. Today we take a look at some…

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A weird one that intrigued, and recently made the national media,arrived a fortnight ago and I’ve been meaning to mention it20150422_172702 since then (left). Apparently, it tells us on the reverse that ‘MARRIAGE  IS A BIG ISSUE’, which passed me by. Sort of thought the NHS, tax avoidance, Trident and, well, everything else trumped questions about bridesmaid’s dresses, Best Man speeches and getting the DJ not to play any Black Lace. But no. It’s marriage, and the fact that letting all people express love and commitment to each other regardless of their orientation is a mortal sin and will bring down the country.

The Coalition for Marriage is a Christian group, and counts Soubry’s colleague Fiona Bruce MP as one of it’s supporters, which must make tea-room conversation awkward.

Perhaps if the ‘Christians” involved spent more time and energy on stuff that really does threaten the fabric of the UK: the swelling gulf between rich and poor; the use of Nazi rhetoric in the tabloid press; rather than preach hate, division and bigotry, y’know, that stuff Jesus didn’t much like, we’d be getting somewhere.

On this issue, I fully supported Anna’s stance, as I do a lot of her views on social issues. In many ways, I wish she was part of the Conservative Party that wallows and revels in it’s bigotry: then I could be consistent in my general view of her. But Soubz, with her strident anger and refusal be pulled rightwards by UKIP; and her vote to make marriage equal, deserve nothing less than a salute from me. I hope you do as I do if you have received the leaflet, and shred it into confetti to throw at your next gay wedding.

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They sent one round Caroline Lucas’s Brighton Pavilion constituency as well, incredibly. Not really doing their research on that one…

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Justice for Men and Boys, the anti-feminist oddities that are standing round here (well, it’s £500 to the council in free deposit money, I suppose) have a quite nicely printed one, that seems to show Alistair Campbell menacing a child, and is menboysfull of some rather bogus stats. There manifesto is even weirder, and quite vile and misogynistic: women who have children with anyone else but their husband will be jailed, abortions banned, etc. They’re not really worth getting into a huff about, I suppose, as they’ll just fade away after the election.

Weirdly, at the last hustings I ended up chatting to the candidate, Ray Barry. I didn’t twig who he was for ages, assuming him to be a mainstream party candidate for the Borough elections. When he revealed who he was, I made my excuses.

Frustratingly, he came across as a nice guy. If I’d known his views beforehand, I would have not even given him the chance to show this. Again, that moral oddness: rather like the urbane, amusing, erudite white South African I once met over a drink, who charmed me into rich conversation and the promise of maybe a little more, until she suddenly killed any libidinous thoughts – and desire to talk further -with her sudden assertion ‘Blicks, y’see, not like us. Build different’.

I imagine that underneath all the women-hating bile he totes around, Ray Barry is a nice guy, who, through a combination of some rather crap events in his life, and a certain gullibility, has ended up in a very bad place. Similarly, there probably is a need for reform in access for fathers, but in comparison to the horrendous abuse, daily sexism, and utter inequality that bizarrely still stops over 50% of our population living an equal life….

As for the head of the party, Mike Buchanan, he does come across as a nasty shit. He has made attempts to befriend me on Facebook -I have no idea why – and been obviously rebuked.

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No love is being lost in the big-beast ground war. On Saturday, the Tories got up early and took the pitch Labour usually occupy on the High Road. Labour moved a few metres down, and erected their gazebo as per usual. A few hours later, however, a police officer came and demanded to talk to the organisers. Apparently, a complaint had been received from the Tories that Labour had illegally driven a car down the road to help put up the gazebo (rather than have it carried from their local office, just off the road). After Labour had explained the situation, the police officer was satisfied and apologised.

How weird. Why did the local Tories do this? Not only wasting police time, but outright lying to a police officer?

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More bizarre goings on in Attenborough village, a sentence I thought I’d never get to write. I was on an evening walk round soubrysavthere, ostensibly to collect tadpoles for my new pond (I failed: anyone got any spare?) and passed by the Strand, possibly the most Tory area imaginable. It was no surprise to see a blue sign staked into a garden therefore, but on closer approach it became clear that this was not the usual sign: rather a quite nasty, weird parody, seemingly professionally done. I have no idea if the resident had done this, or it had been done without them knowing, but it’s by far the oddest thing I’ve seen this election (and as I mentioned previously, I read the Justice for Men and Boys manifesto).

It seems it might not be the only one. Tory borough candidate Richard Jackson soubry accusationand Soubry seemed to suggest several posters had been ‘defaced’ in a Twitter exchange, with them both accusing Labour of being behind it.

A pretty severe allegation, but I’m sure the police will be informed. The Tories and the police are getting to know each other fairly well of late: not just the aforementioned allegation of using a car illegally, but one of their borough councillor candidates has apparently been reported to the police by Broxtowe’s Chief Executive for threatening to shoot a Labour opponent. Nice!

Keep it clean, folks.  Two weeks left….

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: DER NER NER; DER NER NER NER NER.

Seventeen days left and things are getting weirder. This is good. The national media are popping up everywhere. Only yesterday. after having my hair trimmed back from it’s Tory floppy-fringe into a more dour Orwell cut, I walked into one of the chief political writers for The Economist. While I don’t suppose the hot economic topics after May (will Wilkos rack up their prices when they reopen? Are Beeston library fines punitive?) will much tickle the fancy of such publications post-election, it’s nice to be the centre of attention from that most navel gazing of capitals, London.

The 2010 campaign, when I was a little known, barely published local writer, unmarried, a big boozer and smoker who’d hammer back a couple of bottles of wine and 20 Lamberts while tapping out the latest screed; well, that campaign was weird, weird and fun. This one has been a little lacklustre, both nationally and locally, possibly due to the fixed date. It’s probably better for democracy, but I miss when election dates were a mystery until a few weeks before. Similarly, I’m sure that PR is a much better system, but I love First Past the Post for it’s sheer drama on election night. We have an absurd system. I hate myself for loving it so much. I’m also married now, after meeting my wife after the 2010 campaign. I quit smoking soon after, and boozing after that, and now write for actual money rather than, to quote Byron ‘…to empty my mind, [else] I go mad’.

Here’s a few snippets of stuff that fell into my purview recently:

LYING LITIGATING SPIV VISITS LYING LITIGATING SOUBZ

Yes, everyone’s favourite liar, conman and smirking idiot Grant Shapps came to Beeston the other day to, ahem, boost Soubry’s flagging campaign. Shapps, you’ll recall, is the chair of the Conservative Party and a guy so profoundly idiotic he has two have three names to accommodate his malign buffoonery. Masquerading as ‘Sebastian Fox’ (Christ, is any name for Tory?) or ‘Michael Green’, Shapps sold software on the internet promising untold riches. Of course, it was all balls,with the get-rich schemes eventually being deemed illegal and chucked off the internet. Still he continued, despite being an MP. When a constituent questioned this, Shapps threw a hissy-fit and sent his lawyers after the guy. Problem is, Shapps was then counter-sued by the guy, and now looks like being hauled through the courts for making egregious legal threats. Perfect he should team up with Soubz, really. *update: since writing this, Shapps has got into deeper poo after it was revealed he’d been naughtily editing not just his own Wikipedia entry, but several fellow senior Tories as well. Ooops….

CAMERON CHICKEN?

Much has been made of Cameron being too frit to debate on TV to a wide audience, instead endorsing our long term view that he is a total mass-debater by getting as many party leaders in between himself and Miliband. Yet his treatment of local journalists is proving to be pretty shit as well. When he was recently here, The Nottingham Post asked for an interview. The PM’s team demanded three questions only, all to be sent over 24 hours before the meeting. This is pretty weird treatment: if you’re so confident of your record and future plans, why not show it?

It gets worse. They were then told the PM would only answer one of the pre-selected questions, and when the reporter tried to ask about local issues, including ones on the NHS struggling here, he refused to answer.

It’s not just Nottingham he has done this to. All over the country, he has been denying access from local press, instead demanding they print out whatever party line Lynton Crosby wants him to spew in the ears of journalists. While the non-dom newspaper proprietors on the nationals try and paint Miliband as Satan ( that ‘North London intellectual’ thing they put out… am I the only one thinking this is just code for ‘jew’?), the local press are getting increasingly frustrated at the Tories and their candidates. Cameron used to work in PR, astonishingly.

This treatment of journalists is hopefully something that Soubry, as a former member of the National Union of Journalists, should be apoplectic with rage about. She bills herself as a champion of free speech after all.

Yet her own position here is looking weak. Over the last few years, her definition has been tenuous at best. She refused to write a column for the Beeston Express when she found out other politicians had been invited to contribute, shrieking out a bizarre diatribe about it becoming a left-wing rag (????). She kicked whole swathes of people off her mailing list, until the local press sniffed around the story where they were miraculously reinstated.

She has thrown uncountable legal threats at me, getting her partner Neil DaviDson to send threatening letters demanding I pay £1,500 + VAT (though the Solicitors Regulatory Association make it clear such up-front demands are not legal). When I stand up to the demand, and refuse to withdraw my comments, she gets the scummy Broxtowe Blue (ran by a chap over in her real home, Gedling) to attack me instead. Nasty party indeed.

BRAMCOTE TODAY: LIB DEM MOUTHPIECE?

I really like Bramcote Today. It has acted as a great source of discussion and information for some time. Yet lately it seems to have decided to drop impartiality, and print some rather choice stuff. The latest to catch my eye was a slightly frothing one regarding the SNP manifesto. Weird, I didn’t think that they were standing anyone, or haggis was on the menu at the Top House. Reading on, it was a warning of the implications of a government involving the SNP. Weird, I thought that the people voting SNP were actual UK voters, and if that’s what Scotland votes for, they deserve to have a voice. But whatever. It was still a bizarre topic to have spout off in a hyper-provincial blog.

If Bramcote Today is independent, as this blog is, then fine, I apologise. But I seem to remember it being funded by money gifted from the Lib Dems via the council (each councillor can ‘donate’ a sum of money to a local group). If this is true, this would be misappropriation of council funds, it seems. There was already a case a few months back when Independent Councillor Richard Macrae sent me an exchange he had with the moderators on the site. Seemingly, they’d refused to post comments he’d made regarding David Watts, Lib Dem councillor for Broxtowe. The grounds for this were ‘Watts has threatened to sue us if we do that’. A rather topsy-turvy way of doing journalism that: usually you print and then if the subject is annoyed and wants to sue, you either remove or challenge. You don’t have an editorial policy that screens out criticism just in case it might be subject to legal action.

Now, I concede I don’t know too much about the way Bramcote Today works, so would be happy if someone could put me right. Cheers.

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I’m hoping to post daily now on here as the election enters it’s final fortnight. But I would love some help, and extra plurality of views would be good too. If you’d like me to host an article on here, draft me a precis at mattgoold23@hotmail.com and I’ll get back to you asap.

Guest Post from Tom Roberts: Hustings Review.

As promised, here’s a pretty comprehensive overview of the hustings written by a guy I ended up sitting a couple of seats down from, Tom Roberts. He seemed pretty clued up, checking the vast amount of statistics that get bandied around at events like this. I asked him to send his write-up in, and he did. I think it’s a pretty fair assessment. 

There are just 20 days to the election, and it is really hotting up. The Independent ran a rather strange focus piece on Soubry today, where she drove round with the journalist as she slagged off the people living in certain streets for the crime of being middle class AND supporting Labour, as if the only response to working up to a nice house is to kick the ladder away and join the Tories. For somebody like Soubry, who has worked in exclusively middle class jobs (broadcasting, as a barrister, and an MP), that’s pretty rich. Especially as she was massively reluctant to move to Broxtowe as she couldn’t match the opulence of her pile in Mapperley in our borough).

The latest big beast to be sent up to shout for Anna is obnoxious berk Michael Fallon, him of the back-firing ‘Miliband stabbed his brother’ quote that saw the nation grimace when he expected them to cheer, and has forced the Tories to try and positive up their campaign by promising magic money trees

If you’d like to write a guest piece, please send me a precis / whole piece and I’ll try and get it in, if it’s relevant. Great to be dead lazy and get others to do this bloody time-consuming job   give space to as many voices as possible.

Over to Tom:

The stage was set at St John’s on Monday night for a Grand Battle of wills between candidates. The representatives were Anna Soubry (Con), Nick Palmer (Labour), Stan Hepstinstall (Lib Dem), David Kirwan (Green), Ray Barry (J4MB). The UKIP candidate was invited but unable to attend.

The opening question was about their priority in local affairs and how this fed in at a national level. Soubry focused on the Economy parroting Cameron’s claims that difficult decisions (surely we need a new euphemism? – Ed) had led to a secure footing and that this would lead to a prosperity throughout the generations. For many younger members of the audience this was a surprise given their wages have dropped by 14%. Barry talked a lot about “Men’s issues” and requested a public enquiry into “The misery inflicted upon men and boys.” This would be the last point of the night where he actually talked policy. Kirwan offered a somewhat scattered list of priorities ranging from the Tram to the NHS to HS2. These seemed to strike a chord with the audience but a lack of depth and focus hurt his overall argument. Hepstinstall ,as expected of an elder statesman of local democracy, talked about his focus on Broxtowe, placing himself in firm opposition to the large local cuts and the attempts to absorb Broxtowe into other constituencies. Palmer also addressed the economy calling current policies unsustainable and driven by consumer credit.

Carrying on from Hepstinstall’s discussion of grants the second question was about the large cuts to local government grants and asked the candidates to come out in opposition. Soubry again went first and claimed that the cuts were necessary as the nation was still in recovery deflecting blame from herself towards the formula. The Greens attacked all parties pointing out they had all agreed to some cuts and instead called for an end to austerity He complained that current services were on a shoestring budget; a claim echoed by both the Lib Dems and Labour. Palmer broadened the argument onto the national NHS pledge made by the Conservatives criticising them for making unfunded pledges. He also attacked the formula as it stands for giving more moneys to the Home Counties. Hepstinstall questioned the long term sustainability of the current budget and commended the local electorate for agreeing to pay for green waste collection which went someway to replacing funding. Barry began what would be a theme of the night and admitted that this was not in their manifesto and that he didn’t know anything about the grant cuts. He did add that he would oppose them.

The next question was about keeping Trident. Kirwan maintained the Green Party line calling for it to be scrapped and the money to instead be spent on infrastructure. Hepstinstall offered a metered and emotional response saying he looks at the world and sees the threats (ISIS and Russia) and thus, we have to keep it. He did however call for a cheaper alternative. Palmer criticised the idea of a cheaper alternative, calling it a clear choice between Trident or Nothing. He proceeded to surprisingly break with party policy coming out in opposition to Trident as he could see no situation where it would be useful. Barry again admitted this was not in his manifesto although said he personally supports Trident also mentioning Russia as a potential threat. Soubry also talked about ISIS and Russia claiming that trident works as an effective deterrent in the “very dangerous times” we live in.

Building upon this the candidates were asked if they did consider ISIS and Russia a potential threat and if they were perhaps scaremongering: after all, ISIS have no way of attacking us in a way that could be prevented by Trident, and Russia’s threatening noises are more to shore up Putin rather than based on any tangible attack. Soubry talked about how we now lived in the most dangerous time she’d been alive, explicitly addressed that she’d lived through the cold war. Nick Palmer addressed the question directly accusing some of the other candidates of scaremongering, he claimed that by doing this we risk “glamourising it” and increasing their influence. He was particularly scathing towards Soubry’s claims that these were’the most dangerous times’. Hepstinstall  backtracked slightly although he also warned about how the last few years had seen an increase in the number of surprise attacks. Kirwan also accused the panel of scaremongering, claiming that the current situation was better than many times in past. Barry again admitted that defence was not in his manifesto, he also talked about “terrorists creeping in.”

Addressing the economy, the candidates were asked how they would combat growing wealth inequality. Hepstinstall talked about re-balancing the tax system to move the poorest out of tax brackets and to increase taxes on the wealthiest. He also addressed the previous pledge about tuition fees saying he wanted them to be free as he felt it was unfair to have benefited from free fees himself and to then charge others. Barry again revealed his party had no policy on this. Kirwan introduced his party’s slogan “for the common good.” He then expanded on this; talking about closing tax loopholes and pursuing tax avoiders demanding that they “pay their fair share.” He also claimed to want to abolish tuition fees, a policy which would be impossible as they would always be a minority party in government. Palmer also addressed tuition fees, backing party policy to cut them by a third and accusing the Lib Dems of sacrificing students in favour of power.

He then talked about his controversial decision to sign on after losing his seat. He claimed this had given him an understanding of how bureaucratic signing on could be and how reporting very small scale earnings (£30-£40) had made him feel like an idiot for both taking the job and reporting it. He contrasted this with the ease of reporting profits in a company claiming this as proof that the system is biased toward the wealthy.

He also talked about scrapping Nom Dom status and a fairer taxation system, claiming this was only possible within europe. Soubry led with an emotional story about growing up around those from deprived background as well as attacking Palmer for claiming benefits. Her claim was that a strong economy would tackle the issue and that it wouldn’t be solved by giving out “free money.” Her speech led to a minor controversy in which she was accused of claiming unemployment benefits was ‘shameful’. She later claimed she was referring specifically to Palmer claiming them.  (as Soubry should know, it’s actually a requirement to register as unemployed even if you’re not entitled to any money: you still have to register for National Insurance reasons). The Conservatives were then attacked by Kirwan and Palmer for demonising benefit claimants and making them jump through hoops, specifically addressing the bedroom tax and aggressive sanctions.

This led into a discussion of the living wage with the audience member who proffered the question wondering aloud “Why are we supporting companies to pay low wages?’ Hepstinstall gave an emotional speech about his wife’s work with food banks, talking about how the community that use them were enormously grateful and often returned to offer donations when they were back on their feet. Barry again admitted to a lack of official policies but said that “tax credits make people dependent on the Government” and that he instead believed in equality through wages. Kirwan and Palmer both pushed for increases in the minimum wage (to £10 and £8 by 2020 respectively) although disagreeing over the balancing point at which it would lead to increased unemployment.

The question about the what to do about Mental Health services engendered widespread agreement amongst the panel that the current services were not fit for purpose. Palmer offered the biggest soundbite of the night with “Mental Health is the Cinderella of the NHS.” Hepstinstall pointed out that his party took the early initiative and suggested improved training for teachers to recognise risks. Soubry talked about improving organisation to address the larger numbers coming forwards and blamed a lack of funding on having trouble recruiting. Barry talked about 70% of men in prison having a mental health condition and how this was unacceptable mistreatment. He did not address that there is (depending on locale) parity or a worse situation for women in prison. When asked about this afterwards he simply claimed higher numbers of men in prisons have these issues, so they should be the focus, although he also admitted this was because there were more men. David attacked Soubry’s claim about trouble recruiting by discussing the stagnation in NHS pay claiming that if we want better services we must be willing to pay for them.

Mark Iles, a former soldier and a local veteran’s campaigner was then brought in to address what for him is a personal issue, the fair treatment of ex-service personnel. Palmer admitted a lack of knowledge on the issue but expressed a desire to discuss it. Soubry began talking about funding veteran’s care through LIBOR fines but was interrupted by Iles who gave an impassioned speech about having to fight for his pension for six years. He issued her with a copy of a letter he had sent asking her to address his concerns and produced a sign reading “Betrayal of the Military Covenant.” At this point he was asked repeatedly to sit down and despite his father (himself also a veteran) speaking up to help fight his case eventually relented. At this point the debate was moved on.

The final important question addressed the recent Conservative pledge to increase Inheritance Tax bands. The questioner polled the audience as to whether any of them owner a house that would be affected, unsurprisingly producing no responses. Kirwan, Hepstinstall and Palmer broadly agreed on this saying it would perpetuate a wealthy class and that it only benefits the richest in society. They called the increase “pointless.” Barry, again without official policy, offered the opinion that the amount it would cost is a drop in the ocean relative to the entire deficit. Soubry defended the policy claiming that it was only fair to be able to pass our things on to our children. She claimed that it amounted to taxing the property twice.

The actual final question was a softball about getting young people interested in politics. Barry talked, almost inexplicably, about more women getting into university than men claiming we must address this (He fails to mention that acceptance/rejection ratios are the same). Palmer, Hepstinstall and Kirwan again fell into agreement on lowering the voting age to sixteen with Hepstinstall using the success of the Broxtowe Youth Council to point out that young people do have an interest. Soubry admitted that she was not a believer in lowering the voting age but admitted to being swayed by the arguments of the other candidates. She pointed out that the parties would do best to reach out through policy.

The meeting broke up, and the crowds broke up and streamed out, off to debate in ever shrinking groups over a pint, on the drive home, or across the internet.

BEESTON FIELDS PRIMARY: EDUCATION SPECIAL BY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR COLIN TUCKER.

A couple of guest posts for the next couple of days. Tomorrow, we have Tom, a guy we bumped into at the hustings, who has sent us his take on the event: we’ll post our own analysis when we can (possibly when the tinnitus from the PA clears).

Today, education. Now, as I don’t have kids myself; and my own state education is a fading memory of freezing my arse off in muddy fields, teachers who didn’t get the memo about the abolition of corporal punishment, and former MP Liz Blackman / very likely future cabinet member Vernon Coaker being my teachers; well, it’s a subject I’m not au fait with, apart from teachers not liking Gove very much, and a placard that made me splutter that simply read ‘DEMON POB’.

With the NHS, ask a nurse. With education, get in a teacher. Ahead of a an education hustings next week that Soubry has refused to participate in, we asked a former teacher to educate us on a particularly egregious policy that stomps over democracy and sacrifices the education of our children on the alter of free-market ideology.

Over to Colin Tucker..

Retired teacher, Colin, is Secretary of ‘Hands Off Our Schools’ which campaigns against the ’academisation’ of state schools and the setting up of ‘free’ schools, in the Nottinghamshire area. Many if its members live in Beeston. It has no party-political affiliations.

Have you been consulted?

What would you be expecting if someone said they were going to consult you? They’d put both sides of a proposition then ask you to say which you preferred – maybe, if there were lots of you, there’d be a ballot of some sort?

Well, not if you’re living in the brave new world of ‘academies’ as set up by Michael Gove, Conservative Chief Whip and former Secretary of State for Education.

Take our local Beeston Fields Primary School, which is in the middle of a ‘consultation’ about becoming an academy (a publicly-funded school outside the remit of the Local Authority). Obviously, you knew that much already, because it has been wildly publicised in the local area! You didn’t? It hasn’t? Then read on.

The Governors at Beeston Fields propose it should join ‘The Flying High Trust’ (of which, more later). As a school currently outside the top two OFSTED categories, Beeston Fields can’t ‘go it alone’ as an academy: it has to join a multi-academy trust and, it appears, the ‘Flying High Trust’ approached Beeston Fields Primary. A number of meetings with governors have taken place and the Governing Body has decided that the school will become an academy – part of the Trust – in September this year. At which point, the ‘consultation’ started! You might think this is the wrong way round, but, to be fair, this does seem to be a standard way of proceeding. A consultation is required by legislation but who is to be consulted – and how – is vague. Frankly, it’s no more than a ‘nod’ to ‘democratic process’.

The Beeston Fields consultation seems to consist of a very ‘pointed’ letter to parents from the Headteacher and two meetings for parents on the same day, just before the end of (last) term. The Head’s letter (dated 5 March) would appear to be the first time parents were made aware of what is proposed. It implies heavily that the Local Authority is now ineffective and that schools are expected to look for alternatives. There is much praise for ‘Flying High’ and an invitation to the meetings where questions can be answered and parents can meet representatives of ‘Flying High’. There is no suggestion that anyone will be there to put the ‘cons’ of academisation or that any kind of vote will be taken. There seems to be no acknowledgement that any parent might oppose this move, only that they might need fears allayed and concerns addressed. There’s acknowledgement that staff and the local community should be involved in the process but no clear route for the community to express its views. In an FAQ document on the school website, it is asserted that staff have been involved and ’no objections’ have been raised!

This move to become an academy is, under the law as it now stands, irrevocable but is being made by a handful of people who, in theory at least, might have no connection with the school or the area in a year’s time.

What is this all about? The claim – in the case of Beeston Fields, and more generally – is that it’s all about improving education for the children. It must therefore be stated clearly and unequivocally, that there is no evidence that a school becoming an academy has any beneficial effect on educational outcomes – and neither does the setting up of ‘free’ schools. Gove, Cameron et al have frequently asserted that they DO but their use of statistics is dubious and has successfully been ‘rubbished’ by Henry Stewart at Local Schools Network.
(See http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/05/the-academies-illusion-what-the-data-reveals/ and http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/03/free-schools-policy-exchange-finds-no-positive-effect-for-schools-nearby/)

At Beeston Fields, parents seem to have been kept largely in the dark until they received a – to say the least – contentious letter and invitation from the Head. The ‘consultation’ period runs from 6 March to 1 May (ie eight weeks, two of which are the Easter holiday, but only three school weeks after the ‘consultation’ meetings). Her comments about the effectiveness of the Local Authority and the ‘encouragement’ to seek other forms of support, are misleading and we must take with a pinch of salt her claim that her staff ‘raised no objection’ and ’recognise the benefits’: I know too much about the makeup of small primary schools not to imagine a head ‘telling’ her staff about her plans, to which none felt brave enough publicly to object, and of her taking their silence as assent.

Beeston Fields parents have barely three weeks after the end of the Easter Holiday before this ‘sham’ consultation ends, on 1 May. However, anyone against will be unclear of their course of action: write to the Head or Chair of Governors and receive a ‘There! There! It’ll be alright!’ in return? Organise opposition? Get up a petition? It is, to all intents and purposes, a ‘done deal’.

Still they’ll be joining that prestigious-sounding multi-academy trust, won’t they? Like so many of these trusts, ‘Flying High Trust’ is basically an Outstanding OFSTED-rated school, Candleby Lane, in Cotgrave, which three other primaries have joined with. Despite some high-sounding aspirations on their slick website, they actually have no real record (it was founded in 2012) and nothing like the weight of back-up of a local authority. I know nothing of the motives of the people behind ’Flying High’ but I do know the original head of Candleby Lane is now ’Chief Executive’ of the Trust (someone else does his head’s job). I’ve no idea what he is paid but I do know other local ‘trusts’ that originated with a single person and their school, where the ‘top man’ is paid well over £200 thousand (Barry Day at Greenwood Dale and John Tomasevic of The Torch Academy Gateway Trust) and, for some of us, there is a suspicion that people are following a self-interested agenda that is not entirely motivated by improving education for the masses!

Academies and ‘free’ schools are fairly obviously a significant part of the Conservative marketisation agenda, which believes that ‘the market will provide’. (In fact, they are a continuation of the ’opted out’ Grant-Maintained schools of the Thatcherite era). That might be true of, say, independent coffee shops, but it’s no way for a publicly-funded education system to function. Inevitably, there will be ‘failures’ along the way, which is tough if you’re the coffee-shop owner whose business goes under, but in education it can blight children’s lives (think ‘Al Madinah’ in Derby).

There have also been some high profile scandals such as Jo Shuter, former Head of a school in London, now ‘struck off’ as a teacher because of some outrageous ‘fiddles’; or the former principal of a ‘free school’ in Bradford now facing fraud charges, both at one time highly praised by Gove and Cameron. Elsewhere, within the rules (just) ‘directors’ of these now independent but state-funded schools, find ways of syphoning off our money through ‘consultancy’ fees or by awarding contracts to their own companies. Those of us who spend time digging around in the murky world of academies and ‘free’ schools, keep coming cross Tory donors and fellow travellers who seem to be making a bob or two: funny that!

At a time when we were being told money was scarce and had to be used wisely, billions have been expended on the ideologically-driven academies and ‘free’ schools projects. If a Conservative-led government emerges in May, many observers fear the ‘market’ in education will be opened up and the ‘players’, some of them foreign companies, won’t need to hide behind the front of a ‘charitable education trust’.

A few years from now, who will run Beeston Fields Primary School: the unelected board of a trust based elsewhere in Nottinghamshire, or, following a ‘takeover’, a successor company, perhaps based abroad? Certainly not a local authority answerable to your elected representatives, if the current ‘consultation’ goes quietly through, on the nod.

If you wish to know more about the neo-liberal reform of education, visit the ’Hands Off Our Schools’ website (www.nottsantiacademies.org) or the ’Local Schools Network’ (link above) or the ’Anti-Academies Alliance’ (www.antiacademies.org.uk)

If you wish to take part in the Beeston Fields consultation, email the Head or Chair of Governors, care of officeteam@beestonfields.notts.sch.uk.

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SOUBRY CALLS FOR COALITION WITH LABOUR: EXCLUSIVE / HUSTLIN’ THE HUSTINGS / TIME RANG FOR TORY CANDIDATE?

************* EXCLUSIVE! SOUBRY CALLS FOR TORIES TO GO INTO COALITION … WITH LABOUR! ************

Yes, it’s true. After the Tory manifesto launch this morning, Soubry took to Twitter to offer up her thoughts, and seemingly wanted to stress a surprise pledge….

coal

While I haven’t read Labour’s manifesto, I don’t think they put any opening for a coalition in it.

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Last night’s hustings, eh? I’ve never been to such a well attended political meeting before: or such a lively one. I’m going to write up a proper report later. I’ve not got time to right now, due to having a long session of root-canal surgery in an hour. Don’t feel sorry for me, please, it’s actually going to be a doddle compared with the time I spend observing certain politicians.

A few key points of last night though:

* Soubry refused to agree to challenge the Local Government Settlement for Broxtowe – the worst in the country- as ‘Broxtowe manages it’s finances well’ . Which is rather bizarre logic: acting prudently is punished? Meanwhile, local authorities in safe Tory home county seats all receive MORE in their settlement. Caring for Broxtowe, eh, Anna? She later complained that ‘no-one asked a question about local issues’ errr, I know you’re good at blocking out stuff you don’t want to hear, but I asked the question

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/renegotiate-broxtowe-s-local-government-settlement-1 – click here to make sure she does address it if she is elected.

* Trident: Not a local issue, but an interesting response. Nick stated that he would vote AGAINST renewal as it was a ‘white elephant’, and the money spent on addressing the real threats to national security – you can’t nuke a terrorist cell in Dudley, can you? The Rant Room responded in typical tasteful fashion by superimposing a picture of Palmer having his head sawn off by an ISIS terrorist. Keep it classy, guys.

* Guy going ape: the meeting descended into farce when an old soldier, decked in medals, stood up and went into a lengthy tirade at Soubry about having served in Afghanistan, but now having his pension removed. It was difficult to hear what the point was, even when he held up a pre-written placard, but it took ten minutes to have him removed. At first, I saw him as an annoyance, but later, thinking back, I felt a real sadness. The guy must have a really strong sense of being cheated, a real sense of a lack of justice, to get so worked up. If anyone knows who he was, and can put me in touch, please do. I’d like to hear his story – albeit over a cup of tea, not screamed out of a screeching PA.

* Soubry calling those who sign-on ‘Shameful‘. The exact structure of the sentence was unclear from the notes I later compared with others, but the implication was clear: being out of work is something to be ashamed of. Unsurprisingly, when her government forces the unemployed to jump through so many hoops they will eventually falter, be sanctioned, and have to take recourse in foodbanks. Shameful, Anna, Shameful. Edit: People are claiming several different versions of what was said here. From my notes, the context was Soubry was talking about Palmer signing on, and accusing him of doing it as a ‘middle-class experiment’ (it’s actual a legal requirement if you want to keep paying NI). She said ‘it is a shameful experience for many’: as in Palmer was taking a holiday in other people’s misery. It still reinforces the stigma towards the benefits system that the unemployed are subject to: rather than being a process one pays for, then uses, its an experience akin to begging for alms.

A pretty good, lively hustings, showing that Beeston is a place that cares about this election. I was walled in by Conservative Councillors, one who had the audacity to accuse me and my ex-colleague friend sitting by me as ‘Palmer plants’. This from a politician, and a dedicated brown-nosed one at that.

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Some curious and explosive news developing involving a public meeting a wannabe councillor and the police….stay tuned for whats shaping up to be a bit of a scandal which I’m frustratingly can’t talk about yet … I’m off to get my mouth numbed into submission to make sure.

THE NHS: OSBORNE OUT HOWARDS HOWARD / GUEST BLOGGER, ACTIVIST AND NURSE LISA CLARKE ON WHY SOUBRY CAN’T BE TRUSTED.

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Panic hits the Tory ranks.

The Tories plans to succeed off a negative, nasty campaign is faltering. Rather than damage Labour, each attack makes Miliband look the more honorable man. 

A crisis meeting is called. Top Conservatives gather round a table. ‘What should be do to get the public on our side? How can we show we’re nice? ‘Well, what do the public like? Has anyone met one lately?’ ‘The NHS seems popular’. ‘ah. Say we’re going to increase spending by….errr *throws dart at board* £8 billion a year’.

And so off to the media they trot. And the media ask ‘How are you going to fund this?’ to which they suddenly realised they forgot that bit. Osborne made Michael Howard’s legendary Paxman ‘Did you over-rule him?’ interview look tame when he was asked by Andrew Marr where the funding would come from, refusing to answer the question a staggering 18 times (Howard only managed 16).

Can the Tories be trusted with the NHS? Who better to ask than a nurse? Stapleford’s  Lisa Clarke has worked in the NHS for many years, and was turned onto politics through it. She’s also a hugely vibrant hard-working feminist activist: she recently was subject to a load of abuse – and subsequently banned- from those mates of Soubry’s on the Ranting Room (stay tuned for a bit of news about how Soubry has had to recruit some very choice candidates from there, later in the week). Over to Lisa:
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My name is Lisa, I am an NHS nurse and I’m angry. I am so angry in fact, that for the first time in my career I have felt the need to take action, to speak out – I have become an NHS activist.

Having been a nurse of 23 years, I am entirely comfortable in the world of drips, wounds, blood and medical horrors, explaining complex diagnoses and caring for my patients. Thanks to the investment of the NHS that our society has gifted me, I have developed not just clinical skills, but also skills in communication, negotiation, in the assertiveness required to advocate for my patient and to challenge poor practice or abuse.

In recent years, outside my working life I have been involved in a high profile feminist campaign and in the last few months these two previously separate areas – the professional and the political, have merged, as I have been called to join the fight to save our precious and vital NHS. An NHS that I am watching slowly and quietly die, whilst everybody is being encouraged, by our greedy, millionaire-lead media, to look the other way. nhscuts

When I first was asked to speak at an NHS rally in August of last year, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, what I was allowed to say without risking my job. I wanted to talk about the damage I was seeing all around me, the piecemeal selling off of services and the impact this was having on the workload of colleagues and the experience of patients.

When we are ill or hurt the vast majority of us will turn to NHS services, at least in the first instance, for medical help, but many probably don’t realise how much of that care and what supports it, is already no longer in the ownership of the NHS –

  • if we need transport to hospital this is likely to be provided by a profit making private company
  • The hospital we stay in cleaned and maintained by a private company
  • the porters who transport us from department to department, ward to ward – now contracted by a private company
  • The treatment centre where outpatient appointments and procedures are carried out – private
  • The beds we lie on maintained and provided by private contract
  • The food patients eat, that is so vital to their recovery – privately bought in and distributed by private company
  • The home care company who bring equipment and medication to the home, so that patients can give their own treatment – private

In fact if you look at the health service UK wide, you will find many vital services now provided by private companies – Maternity, Abortion services, Mental health, Minor surgery, Bereavement, Palliative care, Sexual assault referral services and Paediatrics to name but a few. The list simply gets longer and longer.

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It was with all of this in mind that in the end, when I stood up on a stage, on that August afternoon, next to local politicians and incredible campaigners, I found I actually had quite a lot to say. I was nervous, but motivated and energised by the experience. Spurred on by the organisation of this huge action by just a few people, who felt so strongly that they were walking across the nation gathering support and raising awareness.

Moved to action by the passion of others and fuelled by the emails I was receiving from 38Degrees among others, I might ordinarily at this stage thought about writing to my MP, but sadly it had already long since become apparent, that was entirely futile.

Anna Soubry has been my local MP since May 2010 and I’m not a fan.

Now, I have been a socialist for pretty much my whole life, adult or otherwise, so I must acknowledge a bias here and when Anna replaced my really excellent and hard working Labour MP I was not at all happy. The loss of a local ally felt every bit as bitter to me as the prospect of handing a conservative government custodianship of public services, including the NHS and the education system my children were currently benefiting from.

However, I am a positive thinker and somewhat of a hippy in my middle age and so when I first became involved in No More Page 3, I did contact Anna by email to ask for her support. I wasn’t expecting a response, having heard of a poor record on answering emails, but was pleasantly surprised when, within a day or two of sending I received an invitation to meet.

After an initial cold reception to the campaign, Anna offered the benefit of her wisdom and experience at recruiting MP support and I remain grateful that she shared the petition with constituents in her newsletter.

But when I have tried to describe this meeting to anyone I find I am unable to explain or articulate quite what it was that rattled me; and why I came away with a feeling that it was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I’m not sure exactly what made me uncomfortable, but it is notable that despite this being a formal meeting (a young man was taking notes) she used the word ‘cunt’ twice in the first ten minutes, with a liberal smattering of expletives throughout. Now as a 41 year old mother SWEARZof teenagers, who has been described as potty mouthed herself, I was hardly offended. But despite my own penchant for a well placed swear word and the acknowledged blue air of a nursing staff room, I was more than a little taken aback that this was considered accepted language when meeting a constituent for the first time. Perhaps this was Ms Soubry’s way of “breaking the ice” but it didn’t really help her feel like an approachable person. This was my voice in parliament after all.

Anna’s initial impressive fast response to my first correspondence was never repeated. I have contacted her on at least four occasions since on various issues (I still have the emails) and in every case, despite our previous meeting and my being on her mailing list, I receive an automated and sometimes a personal reply asking to prove that I am a constituent.
My emailed pleas are often last minute, prompted by campaigns and regarding a pivotal vote happening in the next few days. I send it off hoping it is read and my view considered it in time, but replies take one to two months to come and on at least one or two occasions have not come at all. When I do receive a response it is to explain why she voted in the opposite direction and by this time of course the issue has long since become redundant and debate is futile.

As a consequence when appeals come through now asking to write to MPs to garner support and encourage debate in parliament, I know there is nothing I can add, that taking the time to write an email will be time wasted. I feel ignored, unimportant and unrepresented and that is not how our democracy should work.

Thankfully there is now some hope that this is soon to change. Ms Soubry is no longer my MP *celebratory klaxon* and whilst she is standing again, seems unlikely to win. It appears this seeming ignorance of the views of constituents has been noted by more than just me and our previous Labour MP Nick Palmer is standing for Broxtowe again, back by popular demand.

Nick was the first MP I ever emailed back in the early 2000s. A concerned parent of two children with severe food allergy, I had questions and sought help regarding provision of allergy services. I sent off my heartfelt plea late at night and received an immediate reply that it would be looked into and later an offer to take up the issue in parliament and with the health secretary.

Whilst the nations allergy service provision may not have been magically fixed by that email exchange, by Nick’s help or by the letter I later received from the health minister of the time,this personable approach impressed me. Nick wanted to listen, wanted to help and gave me a faith in the system and an understanding of what it can be like engaging with an MP who actually does work hard to represent and advocate for his constituents.

At the latest NHS rally I was pleased to see Nick’s name next to others on a pledge to reinstate NHS services, going further than the promises of the Labour manifesto. The Bill proposes to fully restore the NHS as an accountable public service by reversing 25 years of marketisation. It aims to abolish the purchaser-provider split, end contracting and re-establish public bodies and public services accountable to local communities. It is a bold plan and may go beyond what any major party currently offers but at least I know, no matter what happens nationally, if Nick gets back in I will have an ally here in Broxtowe in continuing my fight for our NHS.

It was in September of 1992 that the health service began investing in me, just as it had thousands of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals before me. The NHS has devoted it’s time and our money to science and research, it has learned how to give excellent care, has developed treatments and new drugs and has advanced and invested in hospitals and people.

These developments belong to us ALL and must continue to be available to us ALL.

The NHS is ours. WE have paid for this, WE have learned this, WE must never hand it over into a system that would only NHSCARTgift it to those who have and neglect those who have not and no matter what happens in this general election this fight must go on. In my area I know very well which way to vote if I want to vote to save the NHS as we know it, and if I want to have the open , responsive and positive contact with those paid to represent us.
My voice counts and so does yours, you simply need to decide:  who is going to listen?

Lisa Clarke ( http://lisalouclarkey1.blogspot.co.uk/) / @LisaLouClarkey.

Hustings Ahoy! / Petition: Have You Signed? / Voting Smart

The Leader Debates are now done and – to a great sigh of relief from the PM – over. Bizarre that they held these before manifesto launches, but hey. Miliband seems to have ridden out of them well, the SNP even more so. Cameron, who looks like a man peeved that he’s having to do unpaid overtime, tried to hide behind his podium. All rather disappointing, which I suppose was the point Cameron wanted: knowing full well most viewers would switch off when they heard that Cameron, on live TV, would be mass debating.

The ad-hominem attacks on Milliband continue from the right-wing press and their chums in the Tory party; the Anti-Kinnock playbook being wielded out by that scummy racist Lynton Crosby. Attack the leader as being weak, and then paradoxically then accuse him of being too driven. Quite wonderfully, however, the British public have seen through this. Blame social media, blame the lack of love the public have for politicians using dirty tactics; blame the fact that the Tories just cannot help themselves being the Nasty Party. the more they attack Miliband, the stronger he seems to get. Crivens! Will we have to discuss actual policy now???

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Debates come to Beeston this Monday (13th). The Parish Church is hosting a hustings with all the parties (though Frank Dunne of UKIP can’t make it). That’ll be Soubry, Palmer, Heptinstall, Kirwan and the guy from Justice For Men and Boys Party. It’s open to all, free to go in, and should be interesting.

The previous sets of hustings in 2010 were notable for how little Soubry knew about policy; or indeed, where Broxtowe was; the Lib Dems David Watts in boisterous mood with his claims that the Lib Dems were the second horse in the two-horse race (the actual results on the day suggesting they more closely resembled a retired Skeggy donkey); the Greens confusing the hell out of seasoned husting-watchers by being honest and saying ‘we’re not going to win. I know that, you know that. But read our manifesto, it might give you some ideas for the future’; Chris Cobb out of UKIP being disappointingly polite; and the BNP’s candidate failing to turn up after failing to find anyone to read the invite to him.

This year will be much different: Soubry now with the polls against her, defending a poor record, and fighting for her seat rather than drifting in on an ‘Anyone But Brown’ swing; Palmer’s mild intellectualism against her blustery temper; Stan Heptinstall’s mild intellectualism also against Soubry’s blustery temper; Kirwan (Greens) putting in a much slicker, but perhaps not as admirable performance than his predecessor; and the guy from the party whose name takes an age to type out and won’t get more than a fraction of a percentage point annoying any journalists there who have to go back to their offices and type out his parties incredibly long and convoluted name just to point out the fact that he’ll take a mere fraction of a percentage point and if at the next election he could choose a party which doesn’t have such a long and convoluted name then everyone would be much happier.

Hopefully, the event will be filmed and put on-line. If not, I’ll try and blog live from there, possibly over Twitter. Hope to see you there.

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The petition that’s been set up to demand our next MP vigorously renegotiates the recent Local Government Settlement that left Broxtowe with the worst deal in the whole UK ( https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/renegotiate-broxtowe-s-local-government-settlement-1 )  is coming along well, gathering steam. Already, we’ve had several candidates endorse it: Nick Palmer; Stan Heptinstall and David Kirwan.

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Independent Stapleford candidate and tireless campaigner Richard Macrae has put his name to it. UKIP acknowledged awareness of it, and I think they signed: if they’d like to drop an email to confirm I’ll get that mentioned. No response from any Tories, who are probably be put off by me being the ‘enemy’ (on the left of the political spectrum). i’d like to assure them all that this isn’t a party political issue. It’s the future of Beeston (and Broxtowe as a whole) being able to maintain services, keep paying council staff a Living Wage and have money to spend making the town look fit for purpose when the tram rolls in. Put party politics aside, for the sake of Broxtowe, and lets work together, in a civic and civil manner.

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If you haven’t signed: do so. While many petitions sometimes seem somewhat ineffective due to being easily ignored, this one is directly demanding something in a marginal seat. If you have signed it, thank you. Now tell your family, your friends, random people who you pass in the street. Candidates from all parties will be knocking on your door like amphetamine-addled Jehovah Witnesses until polling day: ask if they have signed it, and if not, why not?

Put it out on Facebook. Tweet it on Twitter. Share it on other social media sites I’m too old to bother working out how to use. Print out copies and sellotape them to your clothing. Lets get this big.

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A dilemma among many voters on the political left is who to vote for. Many feel that Labour aren’t rejecting austerity and showing it for what it really is: a transference of public ownership assets into private hands; or have various other reasons why they’re uncomfortable. The leaders debate had one bizarre consequence: Sturgeon put in such a solid performance that should she field candidates across the whole UK, not just Scotland, she’d do better than the Lib Dems.

The dilemma deepens due to our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system. Broxtowe is a ‘crucial marginal’; where a swing of less than 200 people can change the national score on who runs the country. As the polls show an incredibly tight race, this is a weirdly distortion of power. In 2001, I was working in Tunbridge Wells at the time fo election. A hugely safe Tory seat, a vote there is effectively useless: I was working at the BBC at the time and had booked our radio interviews in with the winners (including a very bad-tempered Anne Widdecombe) well before the votes had been counted.

Such power puts those who want to show support to anyone but the only two real contenders in a pickle. How can they vote for, say, Green, without inadvertently ushering in another five years of brutal austerity and Soubry ruling the roost?

That’s why this ingenious idea comes in: http://voteswap.org/seat/i65849 . It’s a tool where you simply find someone in a seat like Tunbridge Wells, whose vote will be a waste at a constituency level, who is willing to swop with you and therefore ensure your support for your chosen party still gets included in the national vote share, but doesn’t accidentally usher in the Tories, or worse. It’s a ridiculously simple and elegant idea: and until we see sense and bring in proportional representation, the best solution to the dilemma.

Message to our Future MP: Reverse the UK’s Worst Local Government Cuts

A striking omission from this election has been that of Foreign Policy. It’s not cropped up in any of the debates, party broadcasts or policy statements. This is perhaps not surprising as it’s all got so hideously complex trying to work out who is our friend and who is our enemy, the Foreign Office sound very much like the side-switching Ministry of Peace in 1984.

Take Syria: not so long ago we were ready to ally ourselves with the ‘rebels’ against Assad. Soubry voted for this, but was blocked when Cameron was humiliated in the Commons. Now, the rebels are ‘insurgents’, members of ISIS, IS or whatever branding they’ve gone for this week. Two years ago, people travelling to fight Assad were seen as akin to Laurie Lee crossing the Pyrenees to take on Franco, now they’re seen as bigger traitors then Lord Haw-Haw. It’s all very confusing.

As such, our worldly influence is diminished to the point where William Hague seems unobtainable with awe on meeting Angeline Jolie, and I’m struggling to think of anything else he’s done in his role. That’s not necessarily a complaint: like a child in a gun shop, it’s generally best if they don’t touch anything.

Before you point out that Europe and Scotland are hot topics at the moment, these don’t really count. Scotland is not actually a foreign country as yet, despite the close shave last year, and the question of Europe lacks any nuance, generally just a little more subtle than the subtext on  how you feel about Johnny Foreigner.

Is there something else though? Are we contracting?

Has globalisation been a real disappointment, and while we can talk to anyone round the world and buy a lychee from a Guangdong farmer, we prefer to have a blather down the pub and pick up a clutch of local rhubarb from Hallams? We were warned that the ‘Global Village’ would atomise us, the geographic submitting to the like-mindness, and perhaps it did for a while. But now chain stores are suffering while indies flourish. People are looking round themselves more, and wanting to be a part of it. We’re reconnecting with our environment after a flirtation with cyberland.

Which is ace for me, of course, writing about all things Beeston. Hyperlocalism is the name some idiot dreamed up for it, and despite the ugly portmanteau it does the trick. The magazine I edit is going from strength to strength, with our Facebook site recently topping 2,000 Likes. The Civic Society is having a purple patch, as people join up to have a say in the local area. Whatever your opinion on the tram and the Square development, one bonus is how it has given people an imperative to care about their locale. I was part of the judging team that drew up a short-list for the forthcoming ‘We Love Beeston’ awards yesterday. Mike Sassi, editor of the Nottingham Post (who are running the awards) was amazed by the amount of entries. Well over 500, some whole essays on why a certain institution or individual deserved honoring.

This focus is something that we must keep. I’ve been working with Beeston Continuum / Beeston New Deal to keep this up, and it’s had great support. After years of being buffeted by tram lines, redevelopments and so much hi-vis Beeston is visible from space we must keep the momentum to shape this town into something WE want. The council have been listening, and recent meetings showed they were willing to put cash where it’s needed.

Except there is a problem. We’ve had all our money nicked.

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It’s not the council’s fault as such. Broxtowe’s Chief Executive, Ruth Hyde, has kept budgets in check for years; and a general policy of holding onto assets such as leisure centres and social housing has paid off. Council tax has been froze for several years. Yet this prudent management has been rewarded with a serious kick to the balls.

Broxtowe has been awarded the worst Local Government Settlement in the UK. The impact of this is serious. To protect front line services, money earmarked to make this place for purpose in years to come; to help us recover after the tram works, to help us push for redevelopment done our way, and generally make the place look nice, we need this renegotiating. There were promising noises from the Lib Dem’s David Watts recently, after he stated that their might have been an error in the calculation. Credit due for him taking this on.

We must keep demanding we have this settlement renegotiated. We don’t know who our MP will be in a month’s time, let alone what sort of government they’ll be for them to be part of / in opposition of, but we must demand that they get this renegotiated the moment they step into their Westminster office.

I have drawn up a petition for anybody to sign. This is not party-political: I call on all Beestonians / Broxtownians to demand we get a fair hearing and a better settlement. I call on all candidates, local and PPC, to sign and support. We need this petition going as wide as possible, so please share it around.

Politics isn’t something removed, something global and untouchable. It should be local, collective and accountable. Sign and make it so:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/renegotiate-broxtowe-s-local-government-settlement-1