Sunday, 28 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
Friday, 12 December 2008
Eight million Christmas trees will be bought
this year in the UK, generating over 160,000
tonnes of additional rubbish, that ’s 400 times
the weight of a full Jumbo Jet !
CHRISTMAS TREE RECYCLING
To arrange a Christmas tree* collection for recycling in Southport, please contact Sefton Plus on 0845 140 0845. This is a limited service so book early to avoid disappointment .
First come, First Served!
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
The most explosive contribution came towards the end of our meeting when a regularl attender of the Area Committee suggested that the Council should buy Woolworths. Les told him straight forwardly that the suggestion was 'bonkers'. I was a little shaken as I thought he had been reading the back page of Liberator and stumbled upon Lord Bonkers diary
Monday, 8 December 2008
The builder at the centre of a party political broadcast row yesterday blamed the Tories for "embarrassing him". Shane Prescott was shown by the Tories blaming Labour for the recession, but hours later it emerged he had gone bust in 2006 - at the height of the boom.
The Mirror reports at the end of its story:
"Mr Prescott, who is now running a new firm, was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Joanne said: " We are not the typical back street family."
Well if they lived in Cambridge Ward I think we can agree with with Joanne. But an interesting quote from her nevertheless.
Sunday, 7 December 2008
First of all the story broken on Mike Smithson Political Bettting website:
If they’re going to do the whole Joe the Plumber/Sarah Palin thing can they please replace Osborne with Nadine Dorries.No need to worry about the economy when you can see the end of days.
Their best plan would have been to check with us –Sefton Tories do have a reputation in some quarters for serial incompetence! Just consider very recent events;
firstly the take David Cameron to Southport Market to have his photo taken to celebrate a decision the council hasn't taken and to welcome spending no one has agreed to
then their was the planning committee when they tried to run a populist campaign against the placing of a phone mast –almost literally egg on face –as they had led the residents to understand that the mast couldn’t go out of harms way in the local cemetery as most folk wanted only to find the representative of the company contradict them
then there was Tory Cllr Tom Glover taking it upon himself to withdraw an objection to a traffic management scheme which was made by a local resident only for it to become apparent that he had got the wrong end of the stick (again) doh!
It goes on, and one and on and on...........Did I tell you the one where they drummed their own former leader out of their party, or their attempt to deselect one of their most successful councillor for ‘having a loud voice (apparently that is Sefton Tory speak for daring to dissent in private-it must of been in private because we knew nothing about it)
Thursday, 4 December 2008
All this raises the genuine difficulties challenge for those involved in local government. Sometimes life gets too cosy & consensual and the culture is against asking the difficult question or robustly challenging the confident reassurances of officers-many of those are very,very nice people.
Monday, 1 December 2008
Saturday, 29 November 2008
In Britain the tradition of leaking ‘secret documents’ in the public interest is an old and in many cases an honourable one. Churchill in his wilderness years had a Foreign Office mole who fed him all sorts much to the intense anger of the Conservative Government of Halifax and Chamberlain. Gordon Brown had a fun time with the fag end of the last Tory administration with leaked documents.
I remember a junior civil servant, Sarah Tisdale who embarrassed the Conservative Government (and Hestletine in particular) in 1983 by leaking documents. It was held in court the the information she leaked did not compromise national security but the Guardian was forced to release the documents and to this day the then editor Peter Preston says he feels guilty about the incident
The Tories pursued this young women and she got a six month jail sentence not because she leaked sensitive documents but because 'if she was capable of leaking those documents what else might she leak?'! Damian Green should ponder on these things. One of the Tory Law officers at the time was Sir Ian Percival MP for Southport
The Young Liberals went on to elect her as an honorary Vice President which no doubt soften the blow of being sacked, prosecuted and imprisoned under the Official Secrets Act. If my memory serves me correctly I was the returning officer that year.
For many years members had subverted the processes by electing surreal candidates. I well remember the success that Aileen Simpkin’s Landlady’s cat enjoyed over a number of years-she went on to be a senior civil servant (Aileen, not the cat). So it was agreed that we would tighten up the rules about nominating Vice Presidents and I had to tell the conference that nominations would only be accepted for candidates that were ‘real human and alive’ Regrettably that did not solve the problem as I was called to rule whether the ‘wart on Clement Freud’s left buttock’ qualified. It was decided that it did not-despite the protestation of one lass who claimed to be an eye witness.
All this happened in the days before the Freedom of Information Act when government’s routinely covered up things just because they were embarrassing. Sadly the version of Freedom of Information enacted by New Labour was predictably pusillanimous and the practice of getting around the act is alive and well in local and central government. Clement Freud did energetically promote a far superior version of the Act as a Private Member’s Bill, sadly it failed.
There was another famous leak about the same time -Clive Ponting. He leaked stuff about the sinking of the Belgrano in the Falklands War much to Thatcher's fury. Amazing -despite the firm direction of the Judge- the jury acquitted him. He expected to go to goal instead he wrote a book and became a minor celebrity. I remember attending some reception or other at the time when he was the guest. Dr Owen was also there (this was the time of the Alliance). What ever words came out of his mouth it seemed to me his body language shouted louder that he was most uncomfortable-confirmation if ever we needed it that he was an unreliable partner.
Yesterday, it is reported that, nine anti terrorist police officers raided the home and offices of Damian Green the Tory Immigration spokesman. I hold no brief for the immigration policy adopted by Green. He clearly has a mole of his own in the civil service who has alerted him to much embarrassing ammunition. None of it threats national security.
Nick Clegg deals with the wider issues in an article this Sunday. Let us hope that Green and his mole are dealt with better than they dealt with the young clerk Sarah Tidsdall when they were in power.
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Now I don’t want to press the analogy too far but I did get to pondering whether Sefton was about to enter an ungovernable phase. I’m not suggesting the abdicating King will go mad or that the failure to divide the power between the three legitimate parties would result in war and bloodshed (in last nights production we had video images of battles projected and commandos with sub machine guns stalking the theatre) but just as Regan and Gonderil ganged up against their sister Cordelia, I did wonder whether Labour and Tories would make common cause at the cabinet this morning. (I’ll allow you decide which is Regan (now there’s a name to conjure with), who helped gauge out the Earl of Gloucester’s eyes because she thought he had leaked some information)
To put the matter in context I should say that the big issue before us at present is the setting of the council tax. In truth there is very little room for manoeuvre. The government has declared that they will ‘cap’ council tax rises at 5%. (Yes this is the Labour Party that ranted and raved about the last Tory Government capping local government spending). Now if we break that down a bit we know that the bodies like the police, fire, waste disposal etc have already agree to rises equal to about 2%, which means Sefton cannot agree to spending which would result in a rise of more than 3%. Broadly, with good will, that is achievable. The question is whether there is goodwill.
Last year the three parties on our council had reviewed the departments’ proposals for savings and jointly agreed a fair number. Indeed by November we had gone over the matter three times and made substantial progress on each occasion. I am not suggesting that we all agreed on everything, we did not. Much of the ill will that exists in the council today stems from our group’s decision to support a proposal from the Chief Exec to cull a number of senior posts.
This suggestion arose because the council had agreed to establish a separate company-New Direction-to be a Social Services provider and set up a Housing Association-One Vision-to look after our housing stock. These were unanimous decisions of the council. It followed that these two independent bodies were no tied in to using the councils central services-lawyers, HR, estates etc and may well seek them elsewhere for less money. The situation was compounded because the councils ‘vision’ document Sefton 2010 had gone on to propose seeking partners to deliver a range of council services including finance and technical services. The council has adopted that policy-again unanimously. The consequence of those policies is that we needed to slim down further the central bureaucracy of the council.
I now come to the point where WW3 broke out. Normally you can rely on a good Tory to cut bureaucrats jobs-especially when the Chief Exec is telling them that the posts are superfluous. In fact the usual problem is restraining them cutting posts too enthusiastically. Not on this occasion. This led to an ugly council meeting when the Labour and Tories thought they had made the Chief Exec redundant (equivalent to gauging out Gloucester’s eyes?). When after much legal too-ing and fro-ing the whole thing was deemed illegal Labour and Tories ganged up to prevent the reduction of high paid staff. There was much bad blood and many accusations of information being leaked to the media. In fact a quiet and calm consideration of the situation would have quickly revealed that most of the information was already in the public domain and the rest could easily be deduced by anyone with an ounce experience. In truth, from our side if we were to have leaked a document the key one we would have chosen would have been the QC’s opinion about the illegality of the Labour and Tory joint decision to make the CEO redundant. It is dynamite revealing as it does the full depth of their incompetence and several other things I am constrained in writing about.
Now I am not surprised at Bootle Labour party taking that decision. Unlike the Labour government and Labour controlled councils who regularly recognize the economic reality and make people redundant when the need for their jobs disappears, our lot cling longingly to the Labour mantra from the years of their national irrelevance; ‘no redundancies here’.
The big question is; why did the Tories go along with Labour? We have never had an explanation. Cllr Porter promised us one but it never materialized. We found that strange as she usually finds no difficulty getting her views into print. Maybe they are embarrassed? The most popular suggestion is that the Tory leadership makes decisions on the basis of personality-who they like or who they don’t like. It is beyond me and I’ve never been offered a rational explanation.
Anyway back to the budget process this year. Labour has not engaged. Their Leader Peter Dowd will deny that with all the bluster and annoyance that he can muster. But the facts remain he has the same opportunity as everyone else to seek briefings from officers. He has received the same paper work. He maybe personally unavailable but he has colleagues who, one assumes, have the confidence of the Labour group. Then today we had an amazing performance which fooled no one. He picked on individual savings and tried to explain why it wouldn’t work. Please bear in mind that way are doing he easy bit at present. These are not ‘tough cuts’ like the one being proposed by the Labour Party in the Wirral or Salford. The funny bit-and we all tried not to laugh- was when he tried to justify his reluctance to engage by drawing our attention to that particular budget line which he claimed could not be implemented until it had been subjected to consultation. Yes, but unless we have a proposal how do we meaningfully consult? The truth was starkly obvious. The budget decisions required to limit the council tax rise to the level demanded by the Labour Government frightens the Bootle Labour councillors. How on earth are they going to cope next year when their government has made it clear that they expect the council tax rise to be ‘substantially’ lower than this year?
Anyway we did not become ungovernable today. Common sense prevailed and the Tories and us signed up for a number of ‘uncontroversial’ savings. I think at this time with the credit crunch and a recession frightening many people-especially many elderly folk living on fixed incomes- we have a responsibility to keep the tax as low as we credibly can. If we can do that without the political carnage so graphically portrayed in the final scene of last night’s King Lear, we will have done well.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Let us get rid of Ms Toynbe first. What an escape we had when her rump-the continuing SDP-refused to join the new merged party. I've often thought that amongst the very many good days work that Chris Rennard has done his efforts in the Bootle by election which finally finished them off (coming behind the Monster Raving Loony Party) must be amongst the most satisfying.
She has purred and coo-ed over Gordon Brown's economic package seemingly bewitched by the introduction of a higher rate of tax. It doesn't matter to her that most folk earning over£150k can well afford the sort of accountant that can ensure that their income avoids that tax (Vince has explain that point several times. But them none as deaf as those that are besotted. This tax package is not a redistributive one in substance it is just dressed up that way and she is duped. The money raised by the new higher rate-even if you accept the Treasury's optimistic estimate is piffling irrelevant. If you want to redistribute wealth-and it is one of the key failures of the Blair/Brown era that they haven't there are far easier ways of doing it. Instead the likes of Toynbe and Brown delight in the complicated dignity stripping rouses like the tax credits.They have cost mega bucks to administer and they have been administered chaotically. Lots of people-especially pensioners have failed to claim. their problem is that they think folk ought to be grateful to the State and fit in with any daft plan that they dream up for someone elses good.
The second and more substantial issue is the failure to look to investment in green technologies as a key part of the recovery plan. I am not alone in identifying that especially at it appears that it is to form a central part of Obama's approach. Marl Lynas wrote a piece in the Guardian this morning and although I would not agree with every bit of its 'direction of travel' (as the Audit Commission delights to say) is correct.
This would have been the moment to invest in environmentally friendly transport, high speed trains, doing up the rail infra structure(Burcough Curves etc) introducing electric cars with on street servicing etc. All we get is a pathetic 'up to 200 new carriages' compare that with £700billion on roads.
As Lynas remarks:
'There's also some capital spending on energy efficiency – but here the striking thing is just how unimaginative and anaemic the current targets are. An enormous 60,000 houses will get better insulation. We need to be talking levels of ambition to orders of magnitude greater than this – with 24m households in the UK, the government is only going to be making 0.25% of them more efficient. I doubt the penguins will notice.'
I hope that puts the following-the email I got from Tony- in context:
'Rarely, do I get hot under the collar about political issues but to see the pathetic response of the yar boo Tories to our national and indeed international financial crisis makes my blood boil. How come when Vince Cable can speak common sense on the crisis day in day out the Tory leadership can mutter little more than incomprehensible nonsense? The fact that Vince has predicted virtually every turn in this crisis and has gained considerable independent support in the process shows how feeble the Tories have become.
The last major crisis that we faced was going to Tony Blair's War in Iraq. All the Tories could do then was whimper in the background and vote for war whilst Ming Campbell stood up for the truth.
Politics can at times be rather dishonourable but at least we can say that our leaders have the courage to speak the truth at times when decent leadership or indeed opposition is in short supply'
This is the BBC package Tony was referring to:
Cable derides 'fig leaf' tax cuts
The government's plans to boost the economy by cutting VAT and to raise taxes on high earners are a "very limited, fig leaf", says Vince Cable.
The Lib Dem Treasury spokesman said he failed to see how a temporary reduction in VAT from 17.5% to 15% would give the economy a "major stimulus".
Full story here
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
'Citizens Advice Sefton has seen a sharp increase in the number of people seeking help for problems of poverty, housing insecurity and debt.
Over the six months from April to September 2008, 4,034 people asked Citizen’s Advice Sefton for help with 10,960 problems. 64% of these problems were concerned with just two of the sixteen categories of problem the CAB can help with: debt and welfare benefits. There has been a discernable increase in the number of people seeking help to deal with creditors seeking charging orders, statutory demands and orders for sale. Charging orders for debts of over £5,000 put people at real risk of homelessness as these debts accrue 8% statutory interest which eats away at equity in the home at the same time that property values are falling.
Pauline Killen, Chief Executive of Sefton Citizens Advice, says: “In the present economic climate we have noted that there is a worrying trend for creditors to try to obtain a County Court Judgment swiftly followed by a Charging Order. In some circumstances a Charging Order can carry contractual interest, for example if interest runs on the underlying judgment. This can result in a relatively low debt mounting up with the Charging Order and spiralling to a large debt. Once a Charging Order has been obtained, the creditor can ask for an Order for Sale and repossess the home. Our experience shows that most people do not realise that unsecured credit, if unpaid, can be converted through the courts to secured credit, ultimately putting their homes at risk. It is essential to get advice regarding debt at an early stage, so that court action can be averted or subsequently defended.”
In the past six months, Citizens Advice Sefton has noted a 33% increase in problems related to rent arrears with housing associations and a 77% increase in problems related to rent arrears with private landlords. There has been an 87% rise in advice related to County Court and High Court proceedings, and a 50% increase in problems with mortgages and secured loans. Bankruptcy applications dealt with by the Citizens Advice Legal Help Unit have increased by 63% over the past 12 months. The unit has also seen the level of housing debt increase by 87% and the level of priority debt increase by 50%.
Enquiries about separation and divorce increased by 85% over the same six month period. It is perhaps worth considering how many of these enquiries are related to the stresses caused by the problems of housing insecurity, poverty and debt.
To speak to Citizens Advice Sefton, telephone (0151) 928 2029 or visit http://www.seftoncab.org.uk/
article from Sefton CVS Bulletin
'The Chancellor’s pledges to pensioners is a repeat. It was originally promised that pension credit would rise to £130 as long ago as 2007. Pensioners have known about this rise for two years and are now being told to wait another five months. The announcement on the increase of the basic state pensions was deceptive to say the least. The Government promised to increase it by inflation four years ago.
“Alistair Darling’s ‘grand gesture’ is insulting to pensioners. It offers nothing extra today, just what they were already expecting. Pensioners have been hit the hardest by the spiralling cost of food and fuel - they must feel very let down today.”
Monday, 24 November 2008
For a while in the early 80's a lass who escaped from Uganda worked with me Christine Kiboke Musoke . If my memory serves me well her father was a supporter of Milton Obote and when Amin came to power(another UK foreign policy cock up) they had to leave quickly. Years later Christine needed a passport to replace the rather hastily compiled documents she had used to get out of Uganda and she was greatly assisted by a young solicitor who is now an eminent Southport legal bigwig
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Saturday, 22 November 2008
Afterwards many of us went afterwards to the Southport Kidney Fund fair at Lord St West where Joan Coleman presided. Joan is amazing. I have good reason to know how effective Joan is, she chaired Southport Liberal association in the early 1980's.During her involvement with the Kidney Fund they have raised their profile in the town and been effective lobbiests It was good to see such a good turn out at the fair.
Anyway back to Dukes Ward. For regular readers this is the epicentre of the bloody and fratricidal battle within the Conservative Party. Those wanting to know more should click on the 'label' Tory squabbles at the foot of the page. I warn you reading about the way they treat each other is not for the faint hearted!
Friday, 21 November 2008
One of the difficult things about setting a sensible budget in Sefton is the '1960's ' old Labour attitude you adopt every time there is a possibility of reducing the bureaucracy.' No job losses' you cry-even if the purpose for the job has disappeared. And so the hard pressed tax payer land up with a bigger bill than necessary. I suppose we should not be surprised. The Labour Party in Sefton has by far the smallest popular vote and is now marooned in Bootle and is not convincing challenging for any seats. Gone are the days when Labour showed signs of breaking out of their enclave. I thought it would be instructive to reflect on how Labour in power acts when faced with a budget crisis. We have evidence of how your beloved Labour Government behave-hundreds and hundreds of NHS staff including nurses have been made redundant and so clearly they don't have the same policy as you. Now we have news from Labour controlled Salford:
11,300 council staff in redundancy shock
Neal Keeling 18/11/2008
ALL 11,300 of Salford council's workforce have been invited to apply for voluntary redundancy as the city struggles with a £15m budget deficit. The council also plans to cut the wages of around 860 staff by up to £4,000.The pay cuts, which range from £50 to £4,000, are the result of a review to ensure the authority is not breaking equal pay rules.But 90 per cent of council staff will have an increase in their wages or they will stay the same.
Salford is the third Greater Manchester council to reveal its pay and grading review to establish new salary scales under legislation designed to provide equality in jobs where women were traditionally underpaid.Council leader John Merry said: "We have made strenuous efforts to minimise the number of people that will lose out. The unions have always accepted that there will be winners and losers."
Norman Owen, leader of Salford's Liberal Democrats, said: "The negotiations over this have been going on for years. It is unfortunate the cuts should happen at the time of a credit crunch."The wage cuts will not be implemented until October, 2009.All workers have received letters inviting them to take voluntary redundancy as part of an efficiency drive recommended by consultants.In March this year, the M.E.N. revealed KMPG experts for audit, tax, and advisory services had been paid £158,000 to advise how the council could save money.
They suggested 279 jobs could be saved over the next three years in a review which identified ways of saving, which ranged from not filling vacant posts to reducing the number of newspapers delivered to the finance department.The council has adopted the plan - called Think Efficiency - and intends to save £20m over the next three years, and £12m a year after that.The reduction in jobs would be through voluntary redundancies and early retirements. The council insists there will be no impact on frontline services.
Coun Bill Hinds, the city's finance spokesman, said: "The council is responsible for spending council taxpayers' money efficiently, so we have taken a look at how things can be improved."We have identified real efficiencies. The intention is to deliver savings of £20m over the next three years and significant savings each year after that. "This is not about making savings to balance the books, it is a strategic review of how we can get better value from economies of scale."
Sadly we fear that you would rather sit on the side lines blustering and protesting against things that you know you would do if you were in power. I guess you also know that many of the things you hate most are done by councils at the behest of your government.
Your predicessor Dave Martin understood very clearly the need to be involved responsibilby in the budget process. He worked hard to protect his electors.
I will comment on this later, but I draw your attention to the fact that someone has leaked the detailed figures. We have endured a lot of sanctimonious and unfounded criticism from Cllr Mrs Parry about confidential papers being 'leaked' She has made false accusations naming obviously innocent people. Now I wonder if she'll attack the leaker of these documents so roundly. I predict not. Mrs Parry is only worried about such things when the resulting publicity leaves her with a 'red face'.
Interestingly every journalist, politician and officer I have spoken to have all identified the same individual. Reading the article you may well be able to take an educated guess. I know that no Lib Dem was involved because the list in that form was only seen by two of us and we are both 'clean'. Ah well.
Anyway Tony has written to the Visiter with the following reply:
I was just a little taken aback by the comments of the Conservative and Labour Party Leaders on Sefton Council regarding the need for the Council to make £5m+ budget savings.Anyone who knows me realises that I always work to find a common way forward, I am in no way 'difficult to work with'. Neither do I bounce things on the other political parties.
With regard to the budget I have since the first Leaders’ meeting with Sefton Finance Director, some weeks ago, made my views clear and have asked the other Leaders to comment on them. The aim of such an approach has been to find areas on common agreement in the budgetary process. The fact that I have not had much in terms of responses to date has been a little disappointing.
As for my 'throwing money down the drain on bureaucracy' I would remind the other parties that it was my Group who pushed for greater savings by reducing the number of senior officer posts last year. My agenda is a cost efficient Sefton Council that carefully uses every penny of Council tax payers money.
I am still determined to try to make progress no matter how difficult that may be politically. Every penny that we save now will make the need for greater savings in 2009 less likely. Please no dithering, let's get on with putting Sefton Council on a level footing without delay.
Cllr. Tony Robertson
Lib Dem Leader of Sefton Council
Thursday, 20 November 2008
The NHS paid out £13m more in clinical negligence cases last year than the year before, Government figures have revealed.
The figures, placed in the House of Commons Library, show a dramatic increase in each of the last five years.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said:
“This is a massive challenge for the NHS.
“We are living in an increasingly litigious society. These payouts are taking money away from patient care.
“There must be a focus on establishing systems that keep patients safe and prevent negligence happening in the first place.
“The Government must re-examine the system to ensure that compensation goes to those who have genuinely suffered, but prevents the risk of a compensation bandwagon developing.”
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
A couple of thoughts -how do you hold politician to account when they break the law with such terrible consequences and why has this issue died down in the UK when it is still alive in the US.
Keynes wrote a devastating little book in the aftermath of WW1 -The Economic Consequences of the Peace. The Liberal Party 1928 'Yellow Book' the detailed economic programme that Lloyd George adopted under Keynes's influence contains a section on the Economic Consequences of the War. Observing the US Presidential election it is clear that the economic impact of the Iraq War was central to the political debate. In the UK the impact on funding that illegal War has scarcely been addressed and yet the cost in lives and equipment is staggering and has surely had an impact on our present predicament. Let us hope that any public enquiry that now results from Lord Bigham's pronouncement includes the economic as well as the legal and 'intelligence' issues.
One or two things must be acknowledged from the beginning. Firstly you could be faced with a candidate like Sarah Palin but without the intellect or her grasp of foreign affairs and still loose. Equally, as Sir Ron Watson observed recently, there are some people who sit by the windows waiting for a passing bandwagon to jump on, sort Poujardism without the restraint of principle and if you are faced with one of those you may still loose. So let us accept what the Hebrew Bible says that ‘the race is not to the swift nor yet the battle to the brave....but that time and chance happeneth to all things’
I think that there is much common ground in how we should approach the task. The big issue in politics is-and almost always is-the economy. For the first time in 70years Lib Dems are ‘in front of the curve’ on this the main issue. The man in the Daily Telegraph summed it up:
‘Mr Cable is having a good war. Unlike just about everyone else, he has the ability to see what is coming next, and other commanders are left struggling to explain why they are only saying now what Mr Cable pointed out some time ago.’
It is rare for us to be holding the Ace of Trumps and we must make as much of it as we can. The polls always show that people would vote for us if they thought we might win. That is not a problem for us in Southport we have won 4 out of the last 5 General Elections. All our campaigning has won us an electorate prepared to consider what we have to say.
It is always a temptation when you are ‘close up’ in politics or indeed any other activity to imagine that the detail you are aware off is known to a wider audience. It is also a mistake to assume that the wider audience care. Nevertheless the caliber of candidates matters. It is of course true that the party label can effectively obscure candidate’s deficiencies. But a campaign should be like a refiner’s fire revealing the true worth of a candidate. Sarah Palin demonstrated that. The base vote was delighted they had someone who shared their gut instincts but it soon become apparent that the rest of the electorate wanted more than an ideological bedfellow. I remember listening to one US voter explaining how in the past she had voted Bush but she felt she had been let down and was choosing ‘competence’ over ‘faith’ this time.
There are candidates who are suited to a particular time. I guess many Lib Dems voted for Ming Campbell as leader in the belief that there was to be an early General Election and that therefore issues about his age would not come to the fore. After Brown delayed the Tory press mercilessly went after the issue of Ming’s age. It stands to reason that political parties of all stripes who were rushing to put someone in place for the expected Gen Election last year made similar calculations about candidates and as the time passes the candidates vulnerabilities becomes more obvious
Candidates can self destruct. They can become obsessed with minor issues that do not resonate with the electorate at large. In the media age if they can come across as cold, aloof or unfriendly that is a handicap. (I guess Gordon Brown’s failure to believably express empathy over babyP caused him real problem last week-more here .Tony Blair would have effectively dealt with that and Cameron would not have come back for more. Labour backbenchers would not have barracked the Tories because Blair would have set a tone which stopped it happening.)
We are no entering an election period- it could come in the Spring of 2009. There are no policy big surprises to come, our challenge is to put those messages across in a way that connects with the electorate. We have a good message and an electorate that is at least prepared to listen, We must stick to the central theme and not pander to noisy lobbies. For 90% of the electorate the economy is the main issue and 90% of our campaign should reflect.