Communicate better, Lib Dem troll tells blogger

Earlier today I reacted to a snide tweet from a Lib Dem campaigner in a way that has left me uneasy. Mark Valladeres, who tweets as @HonLadyMark because his wife is Baroness Scott of Needham Market, accused me of poor communication skills, and I bit. Hard.

Now all political campaigners will tell you about how patronising Lib Dems have sneered at them, and in this age of social media it is all too easy to let it bother you. I usually don’t, but that is no excuse.

Mr Valladeres suggests that I learn to communicate better, after his Lib Dem colleague, my successor as a County Councillor, Caroline Page, warped the phrasing of a tweet to suggest that I believed news should be faked. As someone who takes the power of the media and the dedication the majority of journalists give to balance very seriously, I was pretty insulted by that. Councillor Page has form for deliberately misrepresenting me, so I snipped back at her.

Mr Valladeres’ intervention shouldn’t have rattled me, but as someone who made a living communicating, I objected to being told that Lib Dem lies were my own fault.

Now it is no secret that I have a very low opinion of Liberal Democrat activists, especially those in Woodbridge. Their behaviour during my 2004 by-election victory confirmed to me that they are the dirtiest and most hypocritical of campaigners, bending electoral law to the very edge, and indeed in one case breaking it, though this was never proven.

Among their many misdeeds during that election were telephone calls to Tory supporters suggesting that a 24 year old candidate was simply too young to be able to comprehend the complexity of Council business – a suggestion that was proven hypocritical by the first Lib Dem County Councillor to welcome me to the Council once I was elected, with the words “It’s so nice to have some young people on the Council.” They were, I recollect, spoken by Cllr Ros Scott. I’ve never forgotten the hypocrisy.

Another misdeed was when a former Lib Dem Town Councillor encountered one of my more senior leafleters on polling day. Lying through his teeth, he told this elderly gentleman that he was breaking the law by leafleting on polling day, and that if he didn’t throw his leaflets in the bin, he would call the police and have him arrested. Disgusting and disgraceful behaviour towards a man in his eighties who was upset and frightened by the incident. It is, of course, completely legal to deliver leaflets on polling day, and all political parties do so.

The same former Lib Dem Town Councillor was himself later seen wandering around the High School with a camera, attempting to take photographs of the polling station. Quite why was never clear.

These are merely three incidents from one election campaign. I fought six election campaigns in Woodbridge, five as a Tory (one as an Independent when I was just 21). In every single one of those election campaigns, the Lib Dems lied, cheated and claimed credit for someone elses achievements. None of this will surprise anyone who has ever been involved in an election campaign against the dirtiest party of them all. They even put in their campaign manual to “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly“.

So in conclusion, I shouldn’t have told Mr Valladeres to “Bog Off” or called him patronising. I shouldn’t let their sneering attitude, or snide reference to long past events, get to me. After all, having campaigned hard for Brexit, and seen the Lib Dem Remain Fanatics lose 375 deposits in the latest General Election, I should console myself with the knowledge that at least the rest of the country sees them for what they are – shameless, wicked, malicious, nasty, and losers.

 

Suffolk’s plans will destroy democratic accountability

The Leader of Suffolk County Council, Colin Noble, is thought to be the intellectual thinker behind the plans

The Leader of Suffolk County Council, Colin Noble, is thought to be the intellectual thinker behind the plans

Suffolk County Council is planning to put forward a scheme for a devolution pilot to the DCLG by 17th September. And what a dogs’ dinner is being proposed!

The proposals will see some functions of Government devolved to local control here in Suffolk – powers like DWP benefits, the NHS, and other functions of central Government – but will also see functions already in local control re-organised.

My understanding of what is being proposed is that, far from being a decentralisation, this will be quite a radical rethink of how local government is organised, all under a board made up of the Suffolk leaders group.

Different local authorities take control of different areas of service delivery – so Ipswich might take all benefits, including DWP responsibility for Universal Credit, while West Suffolk Councils might take responsibility for environment services and waste, or Waveney might take responsibility for housing – across the entire county.

All of this will be co-ordinated by a board of councillors, the PCC, the NHS and other partners.

Essentially it will be about increasing partnership working, and I’m fairly sure the entire project is about sorting out SCC’s substantial budget problem with Public Health – by essentially merging it with Social Care and the NHS.

So there will be little decentralisation here in Suffolk; while we will get powers from Whitehall, the public will be forced to try and work out which service is provided by which council. Given the public already struggle to know the difference between IBC and SCC, this will merely make it much harder – and makes the argument for a unitary council much more obvious. It will not have gone unnoticed in Endeavour House that anything that ties Ipswich into a cross county organisation, presented to the public as Suffolk Public Services, will make the argument for unitary Suffolk much more popular here in Ipswich down the line.

However there is clearly a huge deficit in democratic accountability in this scheme. As a member of the public, if you have a problem with local authority services at the moment, you can contact your local councillor and they will (sometimes) help you. You have to choose between two types of councillor here in Ipswich, and three types of councillor elsewhere in Suffolk – County, District/Borough, and Town/Parish.

But if this plan is introduced, and Waveney is suddenly in charge of delivering the tourist service, and a hotelier in Ipswich has a problem with something, who does the hotelier go to? A local councillor in Ipswich is unlikely to be able to do anything about service delivery from Waveney council. If Ipswich Borough Council passed a motion in Full Council on tourism, what method would there be to ensure Waveney carried it out? This democratic deficit is significant and must be made very clear to Suffolk Public Sector Leaders, who apparently all seem to be going along with this scheme.

Who is in charge of what is yet to be decided by the councillors in charge of negotiating this – or by the officers who are advising them. My central concern remains the democratic deficit and I am reminded that without strong and clear leadership from councillors, officers have much more power. This proposed reorganisation will clearly make officers much more powerful. The reasons councillors want to do it are much more opaque.

UKIP leaflet pledges councillor would introduce Australian immigration system

UKIP-leaflets

I received a UKIP leaflet through my door this week, and it confused me, so I asked if they could clarify some things for me.

“I note the leaflet is your Borough Council election leaflet. I therefore wondered if you could explain to me which department of the Borough Council will be responsible for providing an Australian-style, points based migration system to slash the volume of immigration and end the undercutting of wages of British working people, your top pledge to Sprites Ward residents.

“Perhaps you could also explain to me how much Ipswich Borough Council spends on Foreign Aid.

“I’d hope that you would be able to explain to me which department of the Borough council is responsible for NHS spending, and which department can guarantee armed forces veterans jobs in the border force, prison service or police?

“I note on the “local issues” you are campaigning on, you suggest that IBC has offered to sell the land to SCC at a discount. I was at the meeting when the offer was made, but I have checked my notes and find no suggestion that it would be at a discount. Indeed IBC has a legal duty to obtain the best value for the land possible, so it would be at it’s full value.

“I also note that the issue with parking is not a Borough Council issue but one instead for Suffolk County Council. Your push for a “unitary Ipswich” is commendable, but again not something the Borough Council can do on its own, it needs the County Council to agree and the Government to put forward the legislation. Your third local issue is again a transport issue, which is the purview of the County Council.

“I am also concerned about your fourth and final local issue – the only one on the entire leaflet that deals with something that the Borough Council actually has responsibility for. You say you would “put Ipswich council tenants first, above all others.” Does this mean that I, as a council tax payer but private tenant, would be discriminated against in the provision of all services throughout the council if you get your way? Why should council tenants get preferential treatment? What sort of preferential treatment would they get? Would roads with council tenants on them get swept more often? Would they be given discounts at IBC owned leisure facilities? How would this be funded?

Dear Reader, you may have concluded that I am distinctly unimpressed with this leaflet, which promises many things that are nothing to do with the Borough Council. Indeed I might have suggested that the UKIP candidate, who is also Constituency Chairman, could do some research into what the Borough Council actually does before next year’s IBC elections.

But don’t let that fool you. Thousands of people will have read that leaflet and be completely unaware that the Borough Council has no responsibility for Immigration or for employing people in the Prison Service. It is utterly dishonourable to stand for election based on pledges that you cannot hope to fulfil. It is precisely the sort of thing that got Nick Clegg into deep trouble with the student voters over tuition fees. Surely we should all expect better from those who seek to lead our town, district or country?