Posts Tagged Conservatives

Islington’s Euro election results

I’m back home from Islington’s Euro count after the declaration just after 9pm.

In fact the count had been over, and the result had shared with agents and ready to declare for about 20 minutes by then, but could not be revealed until the Euro polls closed at 9pm. So we had the surreal scene of the counters all gone, the tables and chairs cleared, and just the returning officer, a couple of staff, and a dozen party activists standing around – plus the caretaker jangling his keys – as we awaited the declaration.

The main Islington borough numbers are as follows:
Labour 12,428
Green 8,551
LibDem 8,167
Cons 6,170
UKIP 2,639
BNP 1,488

I won’t enumerate all the other minor parties and independents!

These numbers are borough-wide. Our ‘box counts’ sampling individual polling districts show that Lib Dems came second to Labour in the Islington South and Finsbury constituency, with Greens doing particularly well in Islington North where they have their councillor.

The Greens are up, UKIP are down, and BNP did badly; but the main party percentages (and the turnout) are largely unchanged from the last Euro results in Islington. Labour will no doubt be delighted to have held their own, given their very poor results in other parts of the country.

The Greens have the most to celebrate, so it’s ironic they were not at the count to witness it. In our canavssing, we picked up a lot of Green votes who wanted to vote for a non-Westminster party this time, because of the expenses scandal. And of course the Greens benefitted from the PR voting system for Europe – no ‘wasted’ votes this time.

As I’ve been writing this, Labour’s Lord Adonis (himself an Islington resident) has been on the TV saying that the non-Westminster parties have benefitted from protest votes at this election but will lose ground to the three main parties when the General election comes.

Being the most pro-EU of the main parties, has sadly not always served the Lib Dems well. I can remember Euro counts when we came 5th… this time I canvassed many people who are normally Lib Dem voters who said they were voting UKIP or abstaining this time because they are Euro-sceptics, but will vote Lib Dem in the next election: so we’re actually pleased with the result which confirms we are the challengers to Labour in my constituency.

I don’t know what expectations the Conservatives had of the Islington results, but they don’t seem to have benefitted from the upsurge in Tory support elsewhere. The results certainly nails Labour’s lies that the electoral battle in Islington is between Labour and Conservatives.

Now Islington’s numbers go into the London-wide pot for the capital’s Euro results. We should certainly see Sarah Ludford re-elected, although it’s not yet clear whether or not we have got Jonathan Fryer in as a 2nd London Lib Dem MEP. Watch this space…..

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Marking Prisk’s card

Nearly twenty years ago I was living in Hertford, and I still have friends there.

It’s a comfortable area of pretty villages and commuter towns, green fields and good schools, typical Tory territory. Now it seems that the local MP is so complacent about his seat that he’s been off moon-lighting in other MPs’ constituencies.

Mark Prisk, the MP for Hertford and Stortford in east Hertfordshire, got himself renamed the ‘shadow Minister for Cornwall’ and started taking up issues in the far west country (where there are no Conservative MPs). This breaks the rule that MPs must not take up cases which fall outside their own constituency. The fact that there is no Minister for Cornwall to shadow is a bit of a giveaway, and now the Speaker has rumbled him. As Jonathan Calder says, what a stupid Prisk.

As Matthew Taylor (a genuine Cornwall MP) points out, Mark Prisk “refuses to deny allegations that he claims his travel costs for this party politicking from Commons allowances designed to support genuine Shadow Ministerial visits, and uses his Parliamentary office to support this party political activity”. It seems Tory sleaze is alive and well.

Incidentally, it’s a small world: I was at a meeting in a colleague’s office a couple of years ago and saw an picture of my former home on his desk. It turned out he was about to move in there. Despite this connection, I have no plans to declare myself a shadow anything for Hertford.

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Fare’s unfair….

Boris followed Ken’s example, and put up London bus and tube fares by an average of 6% this year.

Some parts of the Mayor’s festive fare rise saw trip costs up by 11%. For example, single bus trips went up from 90p to £1 a time.

All this, when inflation is at 4% and interest rates at a new low of 1%. And most public transport users are feeling the pinch.

Now it turns out that TfL lied – there’s no other word for it – in advertising that those bus fares were falling.

We need properly funded and well run public transport: but whacking fares up by way over inflation – and then fibbing about it – is just not the right way to go about it.

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Lapdancing: time for a change in the law

My earlier post about Islington Conservatives choosing a wannabe lap dancing venue for their Christmas party has attracted a bit of attention.

It’s still not clear if the Tories didn’t know about La Piragua’s lapdancing license application – currently withdrawn – or if they just don’t care. After all, while many people find lapdancing sleazy and degrading to all concerned, some Tories are keen to defend it. Time for the local Conservatives to come clean on where they stand…..

I’d like local councils to have freedom to decide whether their communities want lap dancing venues at all, and if so, where. At the moment, that’s just not the case. In Islington we’ve been calling for changes in the law after an application for lap dancing in a residential neighbourhood near Archway revealed how limited council powers are. It’s almost impossible to stop pubs or bars becoming “sex encounter establishments” if they already have a license to serve alcohol.

Islington isn’t the only place affected. This morning I was on the phone with Stephen Gilbert, down in Cornwall, where he’s been campaigning for councils to have more powers to control the lapdancing clubs springing up in Newquay.

It remains to be seen what measures will be in today’s Queen’s Speech.

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Islington Tories get down and dirty

There are likely to be red faces among the blue shirts at Islington Conservatives, as they’ve booked their Christmas do at a wannabe lap-dancing establishment.

La Piragua, a local Latin American restaurant – owned by a former Conservative candidate – controversially applied for a lap-dancing license last month. This caused local outrage, as reported by Nick Cohen in the Evening Standard.

The restaurant isn’t in clubland, but at the north end of Upper Street; this is a mixed residential area, with William Tyndale Primary School and the Town Hall opposite, and the Sutton Dwellings estate next door.

Even people who have no objection to lap-dancing in principle must see that this is not the right place for this kind of venue; and the Lib Dem council were quick to tell the applicant to withdraw their unwelcome proposal. Unfortunately under Labour government legislation, if the applicant persists, there’s not a lot the council can do.

But Islington Conservatives are clearly undaunted. It all makes any claim to be family-friendly or to care about local residents ring very hollow.

It remains to be seen whether their guest speaker Danny Finkelstein will entertain them with more than words.

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Guardian blog 2 October

My latest Guardian blog – touching on the banking crisis, the Tories, and Heathrow – is now online.

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Willetts rewrites history

Just heard David Willetts on the radio, touring Birmingham. He was arguing – bizarrely – that the experience of Victorian Birmingham under Joseph Chamberlain shows how the Conservative party is relevant today (and he had a totally uncritical hearing from Evan Davies).

David Willetts pointed to Chamberlain’s powerful role as leader of Birmingham council; how the King Edward foundation opened more schools when their original one was a success; and how the Bourneville chocolate firm, founded by the Quaker Cadbury family, built social housing.

That’s all true. But none of it has anything to do with the Conservatives.

Chamberlain could do great things in Birmingham because the Council was a real power in the city. They ran water and gas, health and housing. The Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s deliberately reduced and removed council powers. This has continued under new Labour. Responsibilities that were once given to councils have been taken away and given to unelected or semi-elected bodies instead. And these bodies are accountable to central government, not local voters.

The King Edward Foundation is interesting and unique. It is associated with 7 schools in Birmingham, 2 independent and 5 state grammar schools, the latter with the same ‘voluntary aided’ status as Central Foundation in Islington. Willetts argued that opening more King Edward schools meant the foundation was not exclusive. However they are grammar schools, which entrench social advantage rather than spreading it – as Willetts himself said last year. He got sacked from the education portfolio for sharing that uncomfortable truth with his party.

As for social housing, another item on today’s news is about the shortage of affordable homes. It was the Conservatives who introduced the ‘right to buy’, and prevented councils building new homes to replace those sold. Again, that’s continued under new Labour. And it was Conservative deregulation of financial services that led to first boom, then bust, in the mortgage market, one of the causes of today’s financial crises.

It’s true that Chamberlain started as a Liberal and ended as a Conservative. But Willetts glossed over that everything he was praising came from Chamberlain’s days as a Liberal. Chamberlain joined the Conservatives over the Irish Question (as divisive then as Europe is now) not social policy – and then split them, leading to the Liberal election victory in 1906.

Frankly it’s insulting to Chamberlain to try and claim his Liberal achievements for Cameron and Co. There’s more than a century of difference between Chamberlain and today’s Tories.

ps Chamberlain also has an Islington connection. He lived in Highbury (there’s a plaque on his former home in Highbury Terrace) and named his Birmingham home ‘Highbury’ in tribute.

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Barts baby blues

Shocking news about the decline in maternity services at Barts and the London Hospital.

Generations of Islington and Finsbury kids were born at Barts, until the decision was taken to close its maternity and A&E services. The Tories closed Barts as a local community hospital for Islington, and Labour failed to restore it, breaking the promises Chris Smith MP made to local voters. Although the hospital serves parts of Islington, the maternity services are now over on the Royal London site in Tower Hamlets. We were told this was the best way to ensure modern high quality care for the 21st century.

The recent HealthCare Commission report shows the opposite. The report is based on responses from 26,000 women who gave birth in January and February 2007, making it the largest survey ever of maternity experience across the country. Women who gave birth at Barts & the London spoke of filthy wards, uncaring staff and the degrading practice of being put into stirrups to give birth; the hospital was rated the worst in the country for care throughout labour

Women in labour are not sick; providing a basic decent service should be simple in a well-funded health service. Instead, there is a shortage of midwives while billions of pounds have been wasted on bureaucracy. The cost of the new NHS computer system has already doubled – to an estimated £12.4bn. Many IT experts doubt that such a huge, centralised system can actually work. The Government has imposed private providers on parts of the NHS, at the same time as well-loved community hospitals are threatened with closure. Meanwhile health professionals face constant change for change’s sake, while local communities have no real say over the priorities for services in our area.

The Islington Gazette headline says it all: New mums rate Bart’s worst for labour care. Or is that lack of Labour care? It is time for the Labour government to stop letting down patients. They must live up to the promises they made; invest in essential health services; cut bureaucracy and waste; and listen to local people’s priorities for our NHS. Those are the demands of our SOS for the NHS campaign. Then perhaps women giving birth will have the clean, safe, respectful service they deserve.

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