News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blogging From Canada

It's been a few days since my last post, as I'm in Canada at the moment and was not able to get to a PC. I haven't kept up with UK news either, so won't comment on anything happening there.

The weather has been a cantrast to the UK, with scorching hot weather day in and day out. Apparently, that's about as unusual as England's floods. While I've been here so far, I've met most of Corissa's extended family in Ontario, and that visit also gave us the opportunity to see the Niagara Falls. They are trully magnificent, although I would have preferred them if they were less commercialised. Hiking up to them through the wilderness would have been a more striking introduction, rather than having them surrounded by a Vegas-esque resort town. Only in America (and Canada, it would seem)!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oh Canada

I'm all packed now, ready to fly out to Canada tomorrow morning. I'll be meeting Corissa's extended family, as we're stopping off in Ontario. It's the first time that I've been to eastern Canada. I'm looking forward to meeting my soon to be family. Hopefully we'll get the chance to see the Niagara falls while we're there too!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Unlimited Immigration isn't working

New figures released by HM Customs & Revenue reveal that 2.5 million people have come to work in the UK over the last 5 years. The figure is based on the number of new National Insurance numbers issued to foreigners.

Damian Green, Conservative MP for Ashford and Shadow Immigration Minister said that the "huge" and "accelerating" figures were "extraordinary" and should be cut. He added, "The benefits of immigration will be lost among the social and economic difficulties caused by the sheer scale of the current numbers."

I certainly agree. The figures show that the number of people coming to the UK has increased in each of the last five years, hitting a phenomenal 713,000 in the year to April 2007. That's more than 1.1% of the population of Britain and is clearly unsustainable. Of course, the figures don't tell us what proportion of the immigrants don't even speak English. I fear that many of them will be in that category, thus putting additional strain on the already overstretched public services. Other figures also reveal a higher birth rate amongst immigrant communities, contributing to a shortage of midwives and meaning that the native population is being increasingly marginalised in parts of the country.

Lib Dem spokesman Nick Clegg disagrees. He said that the 16% increase in east European imigrants "are only coming to Britain because they are successfully providing services and doing jobs available in the British economy to the benefit of British consumers." I'll remember that next time I'm offered a Big Issue by the Eastern European immigrant in Sandgate Road!

The fact remains that as of 17th April this year there were 7.9 million people of working age who were not in work. At the weekend, Damian Collins (Conservative PPC for Folkestone & Hythe) told the 81 attendees at the Hythe East curry lunch that within Shepway, the number of people in that category in Shepway had increased by an unbelievable 74%, at a time of supposed prosperity and full employment. The whole situation of mass immigration and disguised unemployment is a fiasco of Labour's making. Much of it is the responsibility of Gordon Brown himself.

The figures for the year to April 2007 reveal that most of the 713,000 immigrants came from the EU - 321,000 from the new eastern European members and 103,000 from older countries. Non EU countries account for the remaining 292,000, with Asia leading the fray at 145,000, then Africa at 61,000, Oceania 33,000, The Americas 32,000 and 16,000 from non-EU Europe. I should declare an interest: my fiancee, Corissa, is Canadian, so will have counted towards the 2.5 million total. Of course it's not all one way - 10% of Britons live overseas, with popular destinations including Spain, France, Australia, Canada and the USA.

Damian Green points to the need to reduce the number of immigrants for the sake of stability. He argues that the focus should be on the non-EU immigrants. I'm not sure that I agree with that. Many of the immigrants from within the EU are unable to speak English and become a burden on their new communities in the UK. I see this as an argument for a loosening of relations with the EU. It's time to restore our border controls. Most imporantly, immigration from the EU is unchecked, so there's no way to know who is here and who isn't. That needs redressing. Mass movement within Europe is not working, and I believe it will all end in tears. At least many of the non-EU immigrants are from English-speaking countries, ensuring that the new immgrants do not unnecessarily burden public facilities with the cost of translation. Many of them will also be from Commonwealth countries, so they may be more culturally similar to the existing population than those from our nearer neighbours.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The rains came down...

In this little corner of the world, it's hard to imagine the misery that people across great swathes of the country are now suffering. From Gloucestershire to Yorkshire there have been deluges, with countless people homeless and without water. The threat to a power station could bring a degree of suffering to a wider audience too. It's true that there were some areas of Folkestone that were flooded a couple of weeks ago. Whilst that will have been traumatic for the isolated few who were affected, the scale can't be compared. Handling such a widespread crisis must be daunting for the authorities - where can you move the displaced to? Many must be miles from home, adding to the inconvenience and misery that they are suffering.

There are some who are already trying to point the blame. Why did local authorities allow homes to be built on flood plains? I think it's easy and tempting to blame someone, but the truth is that it's nature. Wherever you build houses, there are risks. High land may suffer from cliff falls and subsidence. As Folkestone found out earlier this year, there's always the risk of earthquakes. Hurricanes, lightning and tornadoes can strike anywhere. I doubt that there's a square inch of the planet that isn't at risk of multiple natural hazards. We can't control nature, and shouldn't control nature. In truth, nature controls us and we forget that at our peril.

One thing that does concern me is the revelation that many local authorities self-insure. There are times when self-insurance makes sense. For example, Marks & Spencer self insure all of their stores. That makes sense, because they are spread out. It's unlikely that any kind of disaster could befall all, or indeed a significant proportion, of them at once. If such a disaster did occur, we'd be looking at the end of civilization as we know it - which the loss of your local M&S does not constitute! For a local authority to self-insure does not similarly make sense. In Hull, the cost of damage to council properties including schools, housing and much more besides, has been estimated at £200 million. The council has £9 million set aside as part of the self-insurance scheme. I'd like to see local authorities and central government co-operatively insuring. Rather than paying an insurer to offset risk - with all the associated paperwork and daft rules and regulations that result - alll authorities should pay a small amount into a central pot. In the event that the pot does not stretch far enough, the liability should be distributed amongst them. The formula to divide costs would need to take account of the ability to pay (largely defined by the size of the population) as well as the amount insured (dependant on size and level of facilities in the area). The result would be that our elected representatives would regain control over much that the insurance industry effectively controls at present, at the same time as benefitting from the spread risk.

Business leaders backing Cameron

Today's Times rather buries an interesting story about the relationship between the new PM and the business world, after his decade at the Treasury. A full 75% believe that a Conservative Government under Cameron would be better for the economy. Tony Blair fares little better than Brown - 48% of business leaders would give the former PM a job. Thankfully for him, the American taxpayer has made him into a Middle East envoy. What did the Middle East do to America to deserve that?!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Calm after the storm

After the last few weeks of manic campaigning with more twists and turns than an entire F1 season, things have settled back to being as they were. Two Labour MPs representing two safe Labour constituencies.

That's not to say that there were no winners or losers but for the most part the main players won and lost in roughly equal measure - as has become customary in recent elections! Sadly, the hoped for Conservative breakthrough in Ealing Southall didn't materialise. Tony Lit remained in third place, closer to Labour but slightly further behind the Lib Dems compared to 2005. That said, his share of the vote did increase slightly, which is unusual for a third placed party in a by-election. The Conservative campaign did well to avoid the customary Lib Dem squeeze. In Sedgefield, despite slipping to third place, Graham Robb did see the Conservative share of the vote rise as well.

The Lib Dems will have been quite happy coming second in both seats. That sums up one of the Lib Dems' main problems - they still can't grasp that in First Past the Post, the only place that matters is, well, first. Second place means loser. They did see their share of the vote rise a little in both seats, but not by as much as we have come to expect from the self-proclaimed by-election specialists. Coming second should be enough to buy Ming the Merciless some more time though.

For Labour, they can take heart from retaining both seats. The swings against them were significant, but not catastrophic. The big swings against the last Conservative government dwarfed yesterday's results. That said, they are currently in their honeymoon period, having just crowned their new leader, so perhaps they should have expected to do better. In the longer term, the Lib Dems might even begin to pose a threat in Sedgefield - an old mining seat which was always unlikely to produce a Conservative MP - so Labour might find themselves having to fight further battles ahead.

For the minor parties, two results stand out. In Sedgefield, the BNP obtained almost 9% of the vote, which was a strong performance and indicates a high level of disatisfaction with the main parties. In Ealing Southall, a very poor showing for the English Democrats (they were the only party to be beaten by the Monster Raving Loony Party) could prove damaging, both to their cause and their party. It was the Bootle By-election that killed the last remnants of David Owens SDP, when they came behind the Loonies. The fact that there was so little interest in voting for a party advocating an English Parliament may see that topic being further sidelined. That said, it may be that the policy is less popular in a constituency with such a large ethnic minority population, so they may well live to fight another day. Democracy can't really be described as a winner either, given that the turnouts were so low. In Ealing Southall, the major and most of the significant minor parties were fighting hard, but none was able to catch the imagination of most electors. To an extent, it may have been because it was a fairly vacuuous election with little substance, that two seats would have little impact in the grand scheme of things and the expectation of easy Labour victories, but I think an awful lot of people simply don't care. That's a symptom of a much deeper problems in both British politics and many British people today.

All in all, I can't say that I'm anything other than disappointed, but I'm not surprised either. This has been the first time that I can remember the Conservative candidates holding their own in by-elections, so that's a small positive to take away. I think that the results also show that the foney war is not over yet - many people are still waiting to see how things bed down with Prime Minister Brown.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Votes being counted

It won't be long until we find out the results of today's elections. Both seats started out with massive Labour majorities, so anything other than a Labour win has to be a surprise. It will also be interesting to see how well the infamous Lib Dem by-election machine has worked this time around. For the Conservatives, this is a real test for the new by-elections strategy, being used for the first time.

I don't know much about the Sedgefield campaign, other than I expect Labour to hold and and see little chance of the Conservatives taking the seat. Ealing Southall has seen a stronger Conservative challenge, so I hope that we will see some improvement in our share of the vote. Victory seems highly unlikely, but I can dream! If Tony Lit doesn't win, it will be the first time I've campaigned in an unsuccessful parliamentary election. I knew that was a likely outcome when I went up though, so it won't worry me unduly!

Don't forget to vote!

With less than three hours until polls close, it won't be long before we know the results of the Ealing Southall and Sedgefield By-elections. Both present an excellent opportunity to give the tired and complacent New Labour project a kicking, and what better way to do that than to go out and VOTE CONSERVATIVE?!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wedding plans moving on apace

Things are getting rather busy again as we plan for our wedding in October. Corissa and I are spending much of our free time making the invitations at the moment so that we can post the Canadian ones while we are in Canada later this month. October really isn't far away now, so we'll need to hit the ground running as soon as we're back in England to get everything else sorted as well, but not all that time will be as busy as the next fortnight will be!

We've now checked with the vicar, Vital Statistics Alberta and the Immigration and Nationalities Directorate, to confirm that we can get married by standard publication of banns. That's good news, as it means that Corissa won't need a Certificate of Approval for Marriage, as she would for a civil wedding. That would have involved completing a 10 page form with accompanying explanatory notes, paying £295, sending off our passports and waiting for up to 70 working days while they sit on the forms! I'm very glad we chose an Anglican wedding now!

We've now booked our honeymoon and wedding transport, and I've chosen my wedding ring. We're going to look for Corissa's in Canada before we make our mind up completely, but have probably chosen for her as well. We're meeting with the photographer next Sunday as well. I'm hoping to be sorted with suit hire before we go to Canada and we'll be finalising the wedding list while we are out there as well. Hopefully we're on top of everything. I really want to be sure that the day itself will run smoothly so that we can enjoy it as much as possible!

Folkestone's weekend in the sun

It wasn't quite wall to wall sunshine over the weekend - yesterday started and ended with thunderstorms - but all in all it was pretty good weather for the Harbour Festival and Charivari Day. Both events were well attended and congratulations are due the organisers of both events. The two didn't actually clash as they could, complementing one another rather well generally. Given the wet weather we've had this summer, it may actually have been a stroke of genius arranging the two on the same weekend - probably the sunniest of the summer so far!

End of the era of Labour Spin? Not in Ealing Southall!

Can the Ealing Southall by-election get any dirtier? Most of the mud seems to have been flung by the Labour campaign, managed by Tom Watson and this weekend was no exception. This time, Labour are claiming that the Conservative candidate, Tony Lit, was a Labour donor until a month ago. The claim is based on him having been on the Sunrise Radio table at a fundraising dinner for the Asian Business community, where tables were priced at £4,800 each.

However, does attending a dinner, which is clearly a good networking event, really constitute being a Labour donor? I certainly know of local businessmen in Folkestone, including a former boss of mine, who attended Conservative business dinners which contributed to Conservative fundraising who would never in a month of Sundays vote Conservative. Indeed, one was even a member of an anarchist goth-punk band with a strong left wing bias.

It seems to me that the revelations about Tony Lit's attendence tells us a lot more about Labour than anyone else. Supporters and donors certainly can't trust them with their anonymity but should we trust Labour with anything else? It would seem not.

Public Private Partnership - Failing together

Metronet, the larger of two pivate consortia maintaining the London Underground under the PPP deal signed 7 years ago, looks set to fall into administration. The news follows a refusal to meet the group's demand for almost £1 billion from public funds. The failure of the PPP deal transfers the risk back to the taxpayer, meaning that we, and Londoners in particular, will now need to find the money to put maintenance back on track.

The news won't be a complete surprise. Many, including both London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Conservative challenger Steve Norris recognised the failings of the deal before it was signed. Sadly, the Treasury, lead by then Chancellor and now PM Gordon Brown, was not prepared to take heed of the warnings.

The move brings home the real problems and dangers of Public Private Partnerships, which have been used to hide debts off the national balance sheet in recent years. I don't know the extent of the taxpayers' liability today, but it certainly runs into at least twelve figures - not a sum to be sniffed at. In many cases, the PPP schemes have been given the go-ahead purely because they enable costs to be hidden off balance sheet, rather then because they were the best way of funding the scheme. The fact that the liabilities can so easily be transferred back to the taxpayer demonstrates how important it is that PPP liabilities are recorded on government balance sheets as a form of debts. When it comes down to it, many PPP schemes differ little from mortgages any way and repayments on the existing schemes are often at uncompetitive interest rates - one of the reasons that the NHS is on its knees despite record "investment." For investment, read massive sums of taxpayers' money being thrown at a problem in the hope that some of it might actually make the problem go away.

The second problem that needs to be resolved is in the business practices themselves. The theory of PPP is that it will bring private sector expertise and management skills into the public sector. There is little sign of that happening, with the private firms seeming to embrace (often unwillingly) failed public sector practices.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Nepal hit by landslide

I'm sure that the large Ghurka and Nepalese community in Cheriton must be particularly concerned for friends and relatives who may have been affected by a massive landslide in Nepal. The BBC reports that at least 21 have been killed in the incident near Gwalichour, north west of Kathmandu. I'm sure that all of our thoughts are with the families of those affected at this time.

I remember studying the problem of landslides in Nepal as part of my Geography A Level a few years ago. Apparently, massive deforestation in the Himalyan foothills, which are being used increasingly intensively for agriculture, is to blame. The problems extend beyond Nepals boundaries too. The material gets washed into rivers and on to India and Bangladesh. There is can fill up resevoirs needed for irrigation and drinking water, can block or even destroy hydro-electric dams and, in the worst cases, can raise the level of river beds in Bangladesh adding to that country's chronic flooding problems. There needs to be a concerted effort by regional governments and NGOs to tackle these problems, with international assistance where necessary, to avoid unnecessary loss of life and to improve intranational relations in the area.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Family at the heart of Conservative policy

It shouldn't need saying that the family will be at the heart of the next Conservative manifesto, but many on the right had come to doubt that David Cameron really is a Conservative. In fact, I think that he's been pretty sensible generally. That's not to say that I agree with him on everything and he hasn't always handled matters as well as I would have liked - Grammar schools immediately spring to mind - but the general thrux is heading in the right direction.

As the Conservatives begin to add some meat to the agenda for the next Conservative government, the news is looking better and better. The centre right press lapped up Iain Duncan Smith's proposals in his committee's report on Social Justice. The Sun, Mail, Express and Telegraph all rushed to support the report. The Lib Dems seemed less pleased - only one out of their 63 MPs bothered to turn up for last night's poverty debate, called by the Conservatives.

So what are the Poverty Debate and Social Justice Challenge all about? They're about delivering solutions to the problems caused by the breakdown of society and its associated crime, anti-social behaviour and exclusion. The need to support the traditional two parent family model is central to that aim. That's why the Conservatives are the only party that can deliver Social Justice. It may be an area of policy which the party has seemed to abandon in recent years, but there has actually been a long-standing tradition of action within the party - from aid to Ireland during the potato famine through abolishion of slavery to overseeing much of the introduction of the NHS, pensions and benefits for those in genuine need.

Sadly, the Liberal-Left are so blinkered by Political Correctness, that many of them cannot see that there is a problem, let alone put forward solutions. Even those who can see the problems so misunderstand them that their solutions can only make the problems worse. Often, we see them attempting to substitute government for families; something that can only lead to authoritarianism, erosion of freedom and compound the feeling of hopelessness. Read any article by Polly Toynbee or speech by Harriet Harman, the new Labour Party Deputy Leader, Chairman and Minister for Wimmin and Equality (a word which needs to be banned from politics)to see how wrong the Liberal-Left can be.

I'm not going to try to paraphrase the whole document - it runs to 6 volumes, so it will take a while to digest. I'll be trying to get my teeth into it over the coming weeks and months, while there's a real debate within the Conservative party and beyond about the future of Conservative policy in the areas of Social Justice. In the meantime, the you can get the general gist of the report from the overview or the full report from the poverty debate blog.

Louise Bagshawe in Ealing Southall

I'm sure that Louise must have been quite a site as she wobbled along with a sack full of leaflets. She's due to give birth within a fortnight!

So, if you haven't dropped by to lend Tony Lit a hand yet, what's your excuse?!

Ealing Southall - view from the ground

I spent a day up on the campaign trail in Ealing Southall, and I have to say that things were looking pretty good for Tony Lit from where I was standing. Not that I stood still for long with so much ground to cover leafletting Ealing Common ward.

In last years election, Ealing Common elected two Conservatives along with the only Lib Dem in the constituency. One of the failed Lib Dem candidates is also their candidate for the 19th July - he had previously stood in the last general election as well.

All in all, it should be the strongest area of the Lib Dem campaign and, given their reputation as by-election specialists, I'd expected to see them swarming all over the place with posters and garden signs all over the shop. I was wrong - only one house had a Lib Dem poster up, and there was no sign of any Lib Dem activity in the ward, apart from one rather forlorn leaflet in a recycling box! By contrast, it was the second Conservative delivery since Tony Lit's selection, with a third already being bagged up ready for delivery this week. There were also 5 Conservative tannoy cars covering the area. Admittedly, I was the only Conservative covering the ward at that particular time - although there were 70 YCs in total, most were in other wards.

I really can't say very much about Labour. They had put a few leaflets in hallways of flats and no-one seemed to be picking them up, but it's not a good Labour area, so that's not necessarily a good indicator.

One thing that I did note was that some people who let me in to their blocks to deliver did so on the condition that I was a Conservative! After I declared my affiliation, no-one objected at all, and one even offered to give me the combination to the gated community for future reference!

I was surprised by the size of the Polish community in the ward - I began to wonder whether anyone actually lives in Poland any more?! I suppose that explains why one of the Conservative Councillors, who is Polish, holds Polish surgeries. At one block of flats in Hamilton Road, I hit upon a bit of a language barrier. As I counted out leaflets to post through the letterbox, someone called out in Polish. I assumed he was speaking to someone inside, so happily continued to post them through. Quickly, the door flung open and a main in overalls wielding a paint brush shouted at me and gestured a painting motion. Apparently, his original call had meant something along the lines of "Don't post anything through the letterbox, I'm painting it," in Polish. He seemed annoyed that I hadn't made the effort to learn his language - perhaps no-one has told him that London isn't actually in Poland!

Defection update: Colchester turns blue

Well the defection bandwagon is well and truly in swing at the moment. In the last couple of weeks there have been defections in all directions, although most have been to the Conservatives. Of course we all know of one group of people who can't resist a bandwagon once it starts rolling. That's right - the always good for a laugh Lib Dems!

In Colchester, both Berechurch ward councillors have decided to join the Conservative group. The father and son team - Cllrs Terry and Craig Sutton - have given the Conservatives their first majority in Colchester in 20 years. Previously, the council had been run my a Conservative minority.

Cllr Terry Sutton said that the reason for the defection was that he recognised that only the Conservatives had a positive vision for the borough. In recent years, relations within the Lib Dems have been deteriorating, apparently. That seems to be the story across large chunks of the country! The final straw seems to have been the local Lib Dem MP saying that the new Colchester Utd football stadium would be the "worst" in the country. That in itself seems to have been a pathetic attempt at point scoring, as the Conservative council has provided much of the finance.

Hat tip: ConservativeHome; initial report East Anglian Daily Times

It's interesting to see that Colchester Council have already updated their website to show the two new Conservative Councillors. I wonder when Ealing will update their site? For that matter, I see that Cllr Susan Ashworth, Shepway representative for New Romney Coast, is still listed as a Lib Dem on the council's website. I wonder what's going on there - it was the Lib Dems who announced that she was defecting to Conservative, so I don't know whether she officially has crossed over yet. I would have thought that the Lib Dems would have withdrawn the whip at least though!

Hokey Cokey Ealing Southall style

Labour Conservative Labour Councillor Mrs Zahida Abbas Noori seems to be leading Ealing Labour in some sort of Hokey Cokey. Last night, she and the Conservatives released a statement announcing that she was the sixth Labour councillor in the constituency to defect to Conservative in two days. The move meant that she would be rejoining her two colleagues in Southall Broadway ward, who had already crossed the floor in support of Tony Lit. However, after the news had been reported by Iain Dale and The Times, amongst others, Cllr Noori had a change of heart. She has now decided to remain within the Labour group.

Whichever party Cllr Noori decides to support in the end, one thing is absolutely clear. She, along with many of her colleagues, is unhappy with the Labour party. It seems that the Labour candidate for the by-election, Cllr Virendra Sharma is proving to be a rather divisive figure. The five original defectors were mostly (thanks Steve) Sikhs, suggesting that the Sikh community, which makes up more than a quarter of the vote, is not as united behind the Labour candidate as Ealing Southall Labour are claiming. Cllr Noori is a Muslim, and her support is clearly far from unwaivering, while the Times report also indicates that other high profile defections are iminent, citing a Hindu in particular.

For the record, it should be noted that Cllr Noori has denied she ever intended defecting. Intriguingly, Iain Dale says that she signed the press release which he received. Given that other well respected jouralists also picked up the story, it is hard to believe that they all simultaneously invented the same story!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dead Earth

What do you get when you cross 150 media-whoring liberal-leaning performance artists and the Green Crusade?

74,500 tonnes of carbon emissions and 1,025 tonnes of landfill waste, according to the Daily Mail.

Live Earth's Eco-tainment has proved itself to be a joke that's unlikely to make anyone laugh. Thanks Mr Gore; now can you see why America elected Bush?

Hat tip: The Difference

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ealing Southall - Tories pick up new defectors

In an amazing coup, five Labour councillors in Ealing Southall have defected to Conservative and announced that they are backing Tony Lit in this month's by-election. The move means that the majority of councillors in Ealing Southall are Conservative - which must be an historic first.

The defectors come from across the constituency, with most representing the traditional Labour heartlands at the Southall end of the ward. At the same time, a previously declared Independent candidate for the by-election has announced his withdrawal in support of Tony Lit. A further independent candidate, who is already a member of the Labour party, has announced that he will not now stand against the official Labour candidate.

Further details are available on Conservativehome and the BBC.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Only the Conservatives can defeat Labour

Independent media pundits are saying that the it is the Conservatives who pose the greatest threat to Labour in this month's Ealing Southall by-election. Here's some of the recent comments:
In Ealing Southall in particular, the Tories are expected to improve their position vastly... Tony Lit, a popular Asian radio station boss...could even win in this seat... Melissa Kite, Telegraph, 1/7/07

In the 2006 local elections in this seat, the Lib Dems came a bad third... [The Conservatives are] only between five and seven percent behind Labour in the wards that make up Ealing Southall... Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard

The Tories seem to be on a roll, the public feels they are largely doing well and the reds are still nursing their sores and are distracted in Southall. Voice of Ealing Gazette, 4/5/07

Conservatives pick up defections in Ealing Southall merry-go-round

Two lifelong members of the Labour Party in Ealing Southall have decided to give up their 40-year-old memberships and join the Conservative Party. They are backing Tony Lit to win the Ealing Southall by-election on 19th July.

Ealing Southall has been a Labour stronghold for decades, but this by-eletion is looking wide open. In last year's local elections, the Conservatives took nearly as many seats as Labour in the constituency at the same time as taking control of Ealing Borough Council from Labour. The Lib Dems have only one councillor in the ward.

These are not the only defections in the constituency. The former Deputy Chairman of the Constituency Conservative Association defected to Lib Dem after failing to be selected as the Conservative candidate, and Tony Lit himself only joined the Conservative Party last month! The Labour selection was the most controversial, given that Piara Khabra, the former Labour MP, had backed a woman for the seat, but the final selection was between two men.

Lib Dem Kennedy - Do as I say, not as I do

Charles Kennedy was caught flouting the smoking ban aboard a train from Paddington to Plymouth this morning. According to the BBC, the Lib Dem MP and former party leader was "refusing to stop" smoking, arguing that he was smoking out the window! Reputedly, there was a confrontation between the Scottish MP and the train staff, which resulted in the train manager calling the Transport Police, who were waiting for him at his destination. The incident was "resolved informally." I assume that the police will be doing their duty and reporting his actions to the smoke enforcement officer of the local council, so that they can issue a fine.

This could have been upheld as proof that the Lib Dems really are the true libertarian party, but for one minor detail. The excellent Public Whip website shows that Charles Kennedy is "77.3% in favour of a smoking ban", having voted in favour of all additional restrictions when he was present to vote.

Kennedy has previously vowed to quit smoking. He was ousted as leader of the Lib Dems after finally coming clean about his long-denied drinking problem. It is not clear whether Kennedy had been drinking prior to this morning's incident.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day to anyone reading this from the States!

Why would a Brit be marking the day that the 13 Colonies declared independence from the UK? In part, I'm envious that you managed to get away from any links with the European Union - probably the worst thing to happen to Great Britain in its 300 year history.

However, more important is this extract from a book that my Great Grandfather gave to me. It is a book about the Kings and Queens of England, printed shortly after the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901.

George III. In the eighteenth century there were born two boys, both of whom were christened George, in the lands ruled by the English Kings. One was born of German parents; he married a German wife, and all his life he was German in his ideas. He was George, the grandson of George II, who came to the British throne in 1760. The other boy was born in the British colonies in America. He was of good English family, he had a good English education he became a gallant officer in the British army, and he was all his life full of the English ideas of liberty, independence and self-government. The name of this George was Washington. He was the greatest Englishman born in the eighteenth century, and he was not the less an Englishman because he was born in the British colonies of America.

The two boys grew up to be men. The German George was King of Britain; the English George was one of his loyal American subjects. The King, who was obstinate and proud, and who had Ministers who were false to English ideas of liberty, said that they would compel the American colonists to pay taxes without asking their consent. Now, to make a man pay taxes without his leave is tyranny. The German George said he would make the American pay. Britain was strong. The American colonists were only a handful of wretched farmers. He would send his army and make them pay. But the Enlgish George, whom we know as Washington, and most of the other British subjects in the American colonies, said that they were too true to English liberty to pay taxes to which they had not consented. So when the King sent them taxed tea, they threw the tea into Boston Harbour, and when he sent his soldiers they stood up against them and fought them. At first they were beaten. But they were true English, these American English; they did not know when they were beaten. They went on fighting against all the King's armies, and often defeated them.

Then the German King George sent over to Germany and brought German troops to fight against the Americans, who had only asked to live free as their English ancestors had done, to make their own laws and levt their own taxes.

The English in England obeyed their stubborn King George, although all their ablest and wisest statesmen - Chatham, Pitt, Fox and Burke - were opposed to the war. At last the German George was beaten, and the English principles triumphed when George Washington became first President of the American Republic. But we lost America and America lost Britain.

So there you have it. Clearly, it was all the Germans' fault, as usual in these matters! Today, thankfully Britain and America remain close allies, and America continues to hold dear the English ideas of liberty, independence and self-government. The anti-American sections of British society would do well to remember that.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Conservative Shadow Cabinet unveiled

The full Shadow Cabinet after the re-shuffle is:

David Cameron
Leader of the Conservative Party

William Hague
Shadow Foreign Secretary

George Osborne
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
General Election Campaign Coordinator

David Davis
Shadow Home Secretary

Liam Fox
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Lord Strathclyde
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords

Caroline Spelman
Chairman of the Conservative Party

Philip Hammond
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Francis Maude
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Andrew Lansley
Shadow Secretary of State for Health

David Willetts
Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

Peter Ainsworth
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Andrew Mitchell
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Alan Duncan
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory reform

Theresa May
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Oliver Letwin
Chairman of the Policy Review and Chairman of the Conservative Research Department

Chris Grayling
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Cheryl Gillan
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

David Mundell
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Theresa Villiers
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones
Shadow Security Minister and National Security Adviser to the Leader of the Opposition

Eric Pickles
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Michael Gove
Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Sayeeda Warsi
Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion

Nick Herbert
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Owen Paterson
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Jeremy Hunt
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Patrick McLoughlin
Opposition Chief Whip

Baroness Anelay of St Johns will replace Lord Cope of Berkeley as Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords when he retires on the 27th July 2007

Attending Shadow Cabinet:

Grant Shapps – Shadow Housing Minister
David Lidington – Shadow Foreign Office Minister.

Monday, July 02, 2007

300 up!

I've just posted my 300th post since I created this blog in 2004. That means that I've posted at a rate of approximately 2 pieces a week for the past three years. That doesn't really paint a true picture, as I did not post regularly at first. Initially, I used this more as a pointer to find my contact details rather than as a true blog. These days I post much more frequently, more than once a day on average.

The number of you visiting my blog has also increased dramatically, especially over the past 4 months. I've also seen a dramatic increase in traffic from Canada since I started posting more about politics over there. Canada now vies for second place in the international visitor league table, with the USA also a source of considerable traffic. Beyond that, Ireland, France and Germany are all permanent fixtures in my hitlist and there are always a few visits from other countries around the world. I often wonder what would draw people from the far flung corners of our planet to read a blog which focuses on sunny Folkestone!

I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to comment on my blog, or contact me by email or phone. The vast majority of you have been complimentary, and I'm far too thick skinned to be worried about the rest!

Graham Robb for Sedgefield

Graham Robb, a businessman from the North East of England who lead the successful campaign against the Lib-Lab North East Regional Assembley, has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Sedgefield. The by-election has been called following the resignation of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister. Graham launched his campaign with William Hague, the former Conservative leader who has been tasked with leading the party's renaissance in the North. There are two videos from the launch. The first is William Hague's introduction and the second features Graham Robb setting out his vision for a Sedgefield of free enterprise.

Graham will have his work cut out for him as Sedgefield is amongst the safest Labour seats in the country. However, the Conservatives came second in the seat, so it's hard to see how the Lib Dems will be able to claim it's a two horse race between them and Labour! They'll probably rely on local election results, ignoring the fact that the parliamentary constituency of Sedgefield is quite different from the council area of the same name! By-elections are never predictable, so a strong candidate like Graham could win with an equally strong campaign behind him.

Sedgefield Conservatives also have a website, which will presumably become the hum of the online campaign.

Graham Robb also has a campaigning presence on Myspace.

And the new Conservative campaigning website has a Sedgefield section at

So far, neither Labour nor the Lib Dems seem to have selected. It's good to see the Conservative machinery looking in much better form that in recent years and finally seeming able to steel a march on our rivals.

Tony Lit and David Cameron campaigning in Ealing Southall

Tony Lit's campaign in Ealing Southall has got off to a running start. David Cameron joined him on the campaign trail before any other candidates had even been declared. Tony's campaign site is also up and running on

Why not join the Ealing Southall Conservative campaign team? The campaign is being headed by Grant Shapps MP with the assistance of Kate Vaughan, who can be contacted on or by phone on 020 8 571 571 2 and the campaign centre is at Unit 11, Windmill Place Business Centre, Windmill Lane, UB2 4NJ.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day! Folkestone will be marking Canada Day tomorrow, so that school children can be included as usual. Every year since the end of the First World War, Folkestone has marked the day with a memorial service held at the Canadian War Cemetary, which is in North Road, Folkestone. It marks the death of many Canadians defending Britain and Europe against German aggression during the first world war, and has since been altered to mark the Canadian contribution to the second world war.

Folkestone has had a strong connection with Canada ever since their troop marched down the Slope Road (now renamed the Road of Remembrance) to the harbour and sailed to the front line in France and Belgium. Every year, a Canadian delegation including senior military and diplomatic figures visits the town. I met the ambassador a couple of years ago, and once the Prime Minister of Canada even attended.

Of course, in Canada the day is more of a celebration, marked by a national holiday (tomorrow in lieu of today) and usually alcohol, I understand. I'm sure that's at least as much fun as Folkestone's celebrations!

Latest score: 35-9

In the wake of May's stunning landslide that saw the Conservatives win an amazing 34 of the 46 council seats in Shepway, it didn't seem that things could get much better.

Step forward Cllr Sue Ashworth, Lib Dem representative for New Romney Coastal. The Lib Dems considered Sue to be quite a catch at the last election, highlighting her candidacy above all others on their website:

With only the Liberal Democrats amongst the main parties opposing the proposed
expansion at Lydd Airport, many people are switching to back to Lib Dems this
time across the Marsh seats - including one of our candidates in New Romney
Coast, Sue Ashworth, wife of current Tory Councillor Simon Ashworth!

For some reason, it seems that much of the local Lib Dem leadership wants to see their divisive group leader, Cllr Lynne Beaumont, to be their parliamentary candidate. At least that's something that the Lib Dems and Tories can agree on then!

The Lib Dems had hoped that the election would draw a line after a rash of splits in the party, which has seen the loss of no fewer than 24 councillors* through defections and resignations. In addition, a former Lib Dem chairman of Shepway District Council has been elected as a Conservative county and district councillor and their Parliamentary Candidate has stepped aside against his will and he and another finalist in the Folkestone & Hythe seletion have reportedly resigned from the central list of approved candidates (Folkestone Herald report).

The composition of Shepway District Council will be as follows:
Conservative 35
Lib Dem 9
People First 2

*Resignations break down as follows. 22 District Councillors: To Conservative Stan Hayward (also Hythe Town Council), Sue Ashworth; To Green Wendy Harris (also Hythe Town Council); To Shepway Independents David Callaghan; To Independent Tony Baker, Peter Smith and Christena Smith (who "suspended" their membership due to fraud allegations and sought re-election with no party affiliation bu no Lib Dem opponents); To People First Linda Cufley (also KCC), Trevor Buss, Peter Gane (also FTC; defected back to Lib Dem), Gary George, Janet Andrews, Kim Culshaw, Richard Green (also sat as Independent and Green before resigning as a councillor, then standing for People First again in May), Paul Marsh (also FTC), Brian Copping (also KCC), Terry Preston, Shirley Maile, Carol Crees; resigned as councillors Gill Jenkins (due to husband's benefits fraud using forms bearing her signature), John Hughes; Tessa Caruana (who waited until after she had stood down from the council in May's elections before publicly resigning from the party). In addition two Hythe Town Councillors became Independents, bringing the total to 24 individuals holding 31 elected positions.