A pause for breath in the General Election campaign

One full day to go in the run up to most interesting general election I can recall. The promises and bribes from every political party will continue throughout the day, liberally spread with exaggerations, distortions and sins of omission from all sides. In the background though, the party apparatchiks and spin docators will be busy preparing their Defcon scenarios of who will ally with whom and putting together their negotiation strategies for Friday morning and the next couple of weeks. Those who are still interested are going to learn a lot about The Cabinet Manual, the guide to how the UK government operates. (Here is a handy link to it if you have no life or find sleeping difficult )

It may be a surprise to all those candidates, agents, party workers and journalists in the”bubble” but there are still many people who are just getting on with their daily lives and not really paying attention. Labour has worked the hardest to create some contact with the disinterested with some remarkable vote catching ploys:

1. Try to the catch the yoof vote by engaging with a serial philandering, attention-seeking, wannabe anarchic smackhead who your own shadow chancellor had described as a “pound shop Ben Elton”. This was seen as a bad move until Russell came out with a rather mixed message of support for Labour ( But not for the beleaguered 45 labour MP’s in Scotland ) but all a bit late as it was now past the time for  those zillions of his Twitter followers (who had followed his earlier advice not to vote) to get registered to use their stubby crayons,

Russell meets Ed :

2. Get all biblical and bring real gravity to your election promises by actualising the overused phrase “set in stone”. Commission an eight foot slab of limestone engraved with six commandments. Invite press and stand in front of it, ignore everyone who instantly christens it the “Edstone”

Stone

But then forget to make your own vice chair of the election campaign aware of the real meaning of such an action as Lucy Powell car crashed again Asked on BBC 5 live if carving them in stone made them more believable, Ms Powell, Labour candidate for Manchester Central said: “I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the fact that he’s carved them into stone means, you know, means that he will absolutely, you know, not going to break them or anything like that.”

Not that the other parties have failed to make us laugh. In the interests of balance, a pair of Tory candidates for Southend tried to catch peoples eye on their leaflets by making election days more interesting:

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Never a party to be outdone in the controversy stakes, UKIP have suspended their Hampshire candidate Robert Blay after he was caught on Video making less than charitable remarks about the opposing Conservative candidate, Ranil Jayawardena:

” If this lad turns up to be our prime minister I will personally put a bullet in him. That’s how strong I feel about it,” he told the Daily Mirror’s undercover reporter.

“I won’t have this fucker as our prime minister. I absolutely loathe him.”

“But I’ve always said in my constituency you could put a monkey out there with a blue rosette on and it would win.”

He accused his rival’s father of having come to Britain from Sri Lanka and “ponced off us … like all the East Europeans are”.

One final thought, if it comes to expedient coalitions with parties who want to break up the UK, then Cameron should consider an immediate one with the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Push through a single policy of instant full devolution for Scotland and Wales and then enjoy an English majority for the Tories of at least 50 seats over both Labour and the Lib Dems. Be careful what you wish for.

Posted in Comment, General election 2015, Hazel Grove | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who I am voting for in Hazel Grove 2015

We are now in the last few days of this election campaign, and it is “make your mind up” time. For Labour, here in Hazel Grove, we have Michael Taylor. A hundred times out of a hundred, if it was just about you Michael ( sorry to use your slogan ) you would get my vote. But it’s not about Michael with his eminently sensible and implementable ideas about business and local problems, with his life and commercial experience and his honesty, passion and commitment.

It is Ed Miliband, it’s Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, it’s the dead-eyed fembots of Rachel Reeves, Lucy Powell and Harriet Harman, it’s Chuka “Look” Umuna and Andy “What Mid Staffs?” Burnham and all the rest of the left-leaning professional socialists in thrall to Len McCluskey of Unite and Dave Prentiss of UNISON. with their divisive dinosaur politics left over from the Sixties and Seventies. In any event, they can only come to power with the assistance of the SNP, behind whose obvious separatist ambitions lurk yet even more extreme socialist policies.

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My vote was never going to be for Lisa Smart of the Liberal Democrats, sent into our constituency with a sense of entitlement, supported by the resources of the local party probably still funded by us, the taking us for fools with the pretence that she is local and the dubious list of LIbDem achievements that include a few bits of extra playground equipment and moving one train from Marple to Rose Hill and pretending, like the Halifax Building Society, that we’re getting extra.

Over and above the local candidate, Lib Dem policies  are too left leaning. I almost bought the  “A heart for Conservative, A head for Labour” line but it is outweighed by, in my view, the single biggest failing of Clegg and the Lib Dem MPs in not defending their decisons. They failed to press home to their supporters old and new, that, yes,  they had compromised , even u-turned on tuition fees but it was a price paid for all the other elements of their manifesto that they did get into law. Such as the large rise in personal allowances which took many poorer people out of tax and went some way to restoring a reason to work rather than claim benefits. They got things done, something no Liberal politicans had done for almost a hundred years. Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, Clegg should have been their message.

So I am left with UKIP and the Conservatives. I think Farage, unencumbered by political correctness or party ideology,  speaks a lot of sense on many issues, I do feel that we have allowed immigration to go too far unchecked, if for no other reason of the financial pressures on education , health, housing and other infrastructure that dramatic increases in population bring. I also, personally, do not enjoy feeling a stranger in my own country. I feel that in London, and in many parts of Manchester. A visit to Longsight market these days would help you understand. I also broadly agree with the UKIP message that Europe should just be a trading partner not a maker of laws.

So I come to the Conservatives. And after many ifs and buts, this comes down to one thing, the campaign message from Bill Clinton’s Democrats in 1992:

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Whatever your political views, we currently live in a capitalist country. We must have a successful economy because everything else that you need stems from it. Health care, benefits, capital investment in infrastructure, the ability to support a larger population. So who is best to deliver an improved economy ? The Tories have tried and succeeded to an extent. They have not met all their commitments but they have demonstrably avoided the armageddon that Labour predicted.  Another good call from Ed Balls?  Inflation, unemployment, growth: all the indicators are right. On the other hand, Labour are almost idealogically opposed to making the decisions that will continue this recovery.

They also know they are weak in this area, that’s why their campaign has majored on the behemoth that is the NHS , sorry our NHS, and spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about its fate if the Conservatives were to retain power. I simply don’t believe this. The NHS is so big and complex that it could be a country on its own. The reality is that the politicians of any persuasion are too prone to meddling with it to suit their own agendas.

So my vote will be for William Wragg, Conservative.

Posted in Comment, General election 2015, Hazel Grove, Marple, Mellor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The reading, writing and ‘rithmetic of election campaigns

Education is a key “issue” for all the parties, many of our Hazel Grove candidates are emphasising it, locally they can’t keep away from Stockport college. Nick Clegg has made it a “Red Line” issue on any future coalition deals.

To begin with reading: I have never known so many leaflets come through the door. I have had two personal letters from David Cameron, several Conservative leaflets, lots of LibDem pseudo-newspapers providing me with no end of macro and micro detail of their achievements. I had never heard of the Tram Train from Marple to Stockport until Lisa Smart told me she was backing it. Also we should be grateful for her decisive intervention into the installation of some new playground equipment in two local parks. As I write , both the Greens and UKIP have got their delivery ants up the hill to push more recyclables through the letterbox.

Moving on to writing: the UKIP candidate in Frome, Somerset had his leaflet marked by a local teacher. They are now denying it was a UKIP leaflet and say it was a malicious opponent distributing it. Whatever, it is still very funny:

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What about ‘rithmetic or numeracy? One of the aspects of my series of interviews with the local candidates that most surprised me ( and disappointed me too to be honest ) was the lack of knowledge of the actual figures involved in key parts of our economy. Everyone loves to hold forth on this percentage and that increase but it would appear they don’t know the basics. And these are the candidates. What about the electorate? In 8 days time some 30 million people will post their vote and I would be surprised if 1% or 300,000 have any inkling of the basic numbers.

In round numbers in 2015 we will spend in excess of £740 billion and we receive £670 billion, and that is after significant cuts in spending and considerable growth in receipts. We are still overdrawn annually by some £70 billion and that must be added to the national debt and be financed by interest payments. If you think that is bad , then it worth remembering that in 2010 ( the last year of the Labour government ) receipts were £120 billion less and consequently the “overdraft” was £190 billion.

David Cameron has been recently mocked on Facebook, with this image doing the rounds (probably the work of  a spotty 17 year old with a sizeable plumbing fitting inserted in his earlobe.)

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Whats wrong with this ? Try some simple multiplication. Lets forget the billions and trillions because that is obviously too confusing. What do you get if you double 9?  It’s not 14 is it? It would be 18, so this only works if it read £1.8 Trillion.

So tell me again , just so I understand, why are Labour supporters incapable of simple arithmetic commenting on who is best qualified to run our complex economy?

If you want a basic primer on all this read this link to a document produced by the Office of Budget Responsibility, don’t rely on Facebook for facts.

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Hazel Grove attracts the political big guns

There is no fixed definition of a marginal seat in UK politics although it is generally acccepted that the key seats that could be viewed as marginal are the 192 UK constituencies that have a 10% majority or less and therefore would require a 5% swing one way or t’other to produce a change.

Hazel Grove in 2010 produced a 15% majority for Stunnell ( LibDem) over the alliterative Annersley Abercorn ( Conservative ) but there are still elements of this election which suggest it may be more marginal than the numbers suggest. In any event the Tory and Lib Dem strategists obviously think so due to the disproportionate numbers of big players that have hit town.

So far for the Lib Dems , we have had two visits from Nick Clegg and one from Danny Alexander ( Well, nearly, he probably had to drive through the constituency to find his leader in a deserted pub car park on Werneth Low ) and Miriam Clegg girl guiding.

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Nick Clegg in Romiley – ” Cant you get a Pole to do this?”

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Hola Chicas! No estoy su representiva, pero estoy muy guapa!

The Conservatives are obviously targetting here with an early foray from Boris Johnson, two visits from David Cameron, one from Education secretary Nicky Morgan and a pep talk for Marple’s burgeoning Bullingdon club boys in the Ring of Bells.

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Bojo in Marple: No thank you , I dont want to taste your furry sandwich

David Cameron in pumped up mode

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Roll your sleeves up and get some leaflets out!

 

Nicky Morgan ( on the left , or the right I should say )

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How do you wear a hard hat?

 

George Osborne in the Ring of Bells, Marple.

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Get the jagerbombs in! I need a shot !

 

The other parties seem to be leaving their candidates to fend for themselves, although this may not be the case as the more perceptive may have noticed the following:

Ed Miliband eating a sandwich in the Golden Plate in Marple:

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Ed Balls coming on as a substitute for Real Offerton last Sunday:

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Is my gut offside?

 

Nigel Farage in a Newsagent in Bredbury ( Is the shopkeeper indicating the number of UKIP seats? ):

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Do you have a copy of the UKIP manifesto on your top shelf?

 

Natalie Bennett of the Green party possibly seen in Etherow Park:

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Too whit too whoo

 

In any event, most of these visits are remarkably stage managed, as observed by Manchester Evening News journalist, Jennifer Williams,  in this Spectator article here

No one from the great unwashed has any idea of when these big names are descending upon us. The texts to the party faithful go out, the battle bus appears , the visit done with a chosen and partisan few and the bus leaves before anything embarrassing happens. Another bit of fluff for the TV or National newspaper and all encounters with “Bigoted Women” carefully kept off the Red top front pages or Six o’clock news.

Posted in Comment, General election 2015, Hazel Grove, Marple, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Darran Palmer, UKIP candidate for Hazel Grove

Following the interviews with Michael Taylor for Labour , Lisa Smart for the Liberal Democrats, and William Wragg for the Conservatives here are Darran Palmer’s UKIP answers to the same questions:

darranpalmer

Could you give me a one minute biography?

My name is Darran Palmer, I am the UKIP candidate. I am 32 years old and I was born in Stepping Hill Hospital. I have lived all my life in Marple and Bredbury. I was educated at Marple Primary and Secondary Schools and then the Ridge college. After working in the college library, I worked for  the Co-op bank, where I qualified as a financial advisor  but the business suffered after the crash. I then set up a retail business in my hobby area of gaming and I now run an event business for table top strategy and wargames. Some 18 months ago, watching the news, I decided to get involved with UKIP as I did not like the way the country was going. I wanted to change things. I Became active and was asked to stand as a candidate

What do you think are the three most important issues for the country?

The NHS: it  seems to be in a long crisis which started under Labour and continued under the Coalition. Staff are under more and more pressure with targets. We are not training anyone up. We needed people to come in and work for the NHS which brings me to my next point.

Immigration: it can be a good thing but it needs controlling. We have an open door to half a billion people. We want doctors, nurses and engineers. We don’t want the low skilled, unemployed and even criminals.

The EU: It’s straining our resources, if you look at how much we pay in we don’t seem to get anything back. It is now too political and no longer just a trading group. We want to trade with Europe but we don’t want to be ruled by Europe. Our laws shouldn’t be made by Europe

Who would most people regard as the Stockport’s greatest ever sportsman?

Fred Perry, probably.

Who would you vote for in this constituency if not yourself?

( Laughs) The Monster Raving Loony Party if they were standing here. In all honesty I would just probably spoil the ballot paper.

What do you think are the most important issues for the people of Hazel Grove?

Stepping Hill, it was recently the worst hospital in the country for waiting times. Care of the aged, being left to Stepping Hill to care for rather than under local authority care. One of UKIP’s policies is to merge health and social care. Care should be put ahead of the budget considerations of either the NHS or the local authority.

Traffic. Over last 15 to 20 years the Stockport Lib Dem council seems to have had a policy of installing traffic lights everywhere. Roundabouts would help the traffic. The bypass ( SEMMS the link from the airport to the M60 via Hazel Grove and Bredbury ) I cant see how an east-west road solves north-south traffic issues. A lot of residents don’t want it, it should be put to a public vote rather than be simply what a few councillors want.

With which policy of your own party do you most disagree with and why?

Of UKIP’s green policies, probably our energy policy on fracking. I am not in favour of fracking . I am favour of looking at renewable options before using fossil fuels. However we need to look at ways of storing energy generated by renewable methods such as wind and solar because its very expensive.

What is your position on HS2?

Completely against it. From Stockport , I can get to London in under 2 hours, reducing it down to an hour costs too much money that benefits only a few people. The £70 Billion could be spent on other things that are more important.

Do you have a political hero or role model?

Winston Churchill, because of how he dealt with the pressures of a crisis and he had the courage to warn about Hitler beforehand and he was ridiculed for it.

Ed Miliband wanted to weaponise the NHS , perhaps he was confused between Health and Defence. Could you tell me how much the UK spends annually in those 2 areas?

The NHS, I believe its 96 Billion. On Defence , Its less than 2% og GDP because we want to get it back to 2%. GDP is £1.5 trillion.

What is Bullock Smithy or the Bullock Smithy?

Hazel Grove, it’s the original name of the village now known as Hazel Grove, also the pub on the corner of Torkington Road and the A6.

What will you do if you don’t get elected?

Continue working as I am self employed.

Continue campaigning as a private citizen for certain local issues such as damaged kerb-stones and road traffic monitoring on Church lane in Marple.

( These questions were put to Darran Palmer in person and with no prior notice, his answers are reproduced faithfully here without comment. )

Posted in Comment, General election 2015, Hazel Grove, Marple, Politics, Stockport | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

William Wragg, Conservative candidate for Hazel Grove

Following the interviews with Michael Taylor for Labour and Lisa Smart for the Liberal Democrats, here are William Wragg’s Conservative answers to the same questions:

williamwragg

Could you give me a one minute biography?

My name is William Wragg, I am 27 years old (but aging rapidly doing this) and I am the Conservative candidate for Hazel Grove. Selected two years ago, I am currently a Conservative councillor for the Hazel Grove ward on Stockport council. My background is as a primary school teacher before which I provided learning support for special needs. I studied History at Manchester University, I was born in Stepping Hill Hospital, I attended local schools and I am also a governor of my old primary school, Hazel Grove Primary.

What do you think are the three most important issues for the country?

Firstly the economy, people’s individual job security, ensuring rising living standards.

Secondly I believe that nationally people want to know that there is a strong capable government prepared to make tough decisions about deficit reduction in order to keep mortgage rates low and allow the economy to continue to thrive.

Drawing on my background in education, I believe people want to know that there is going to be a better future for next generations, with increased school qualifications,apprenticeships and opportunities for their children

Who would most people regard as the Stockport’s greatest ever sportsman?

It would be Fred Perry, although Rebecca Adlington is now living in Romiley

Who would you vote for in this constituency if not yourself?

Goodness me, that’s a tough question. On a personal level and not on a party political basis, it would be Michael Taylor. I disagree with his politics but have a lot of respect for him personally

What do you think are the most important issues for the people of Hazel Grove?

Hazel Grove, although a single constituency, has a number of centres. All our district centres have distinct challenges. There are different issues for each local centre: the redevelopment of Marple, traffic congestion in Bredbury are two examples. Free parking, primary school places, infrastructure, getting rid of pacer trains etc all matter and I will continue to campaign on these issues.

With which policy of your own party do you most disagree with and why?

On a personal note, I would vote against the Repeal of the Fox Hunting ban

What is your position on HS2?

I am broadly supportive. I like the idea of HS3 more, the idea of  linking Liverpool , Manchester and Leeds. We should also be building HS2 from the north southwards first. Perhaps that could the policy area I disagree with more: Where we start HS2 from.

Do you have a political hero or role model?

Most Conservatives would probably say Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill at this point, but, as a student of history  and the Conservative party, I would probably plump for Benjamin Disraeli from the 19th Century

Ed Miliband wanted to weaponise the NHS , perhaps he was confused between Health and Defence. Could you tell me how much the UK spends annually in those 2 areas?

If I guessed it , I might be wrong. But if pressed, about £40 Billion on defence, not sure about the size of the Health budget. Although I could say that under this government NHS spending has gone up in real terms.

What is Bullock Smithy or the Bullock Smithy?

This was the original name for Hazel Grove, the actual smithy was where the Bullock Smithy/Bulls head pub is now. Changed in the 1830’s from Bullock Smithy to Hazel Grove. John Wesley, the father of Methodism, famously referred to Bullock Smithy as “… one of the most famous villages in the county for all manner of wickedness.” and he also said that the view from Mellor was “paradise” which gives you an idea on how varied the constituency is!

What will you do if you don’t get elected?

I would be bitterly disappointed, I have never stood for election in any other area. The one thing you can record is that on May 8th after the election I will not be going anywhere else.

( These questions were put to William Wragg in person and with no prior notice, his answers are reproduced faithfully here without comment )

Tomorrow Darran Palmer, UKIP

Posted in Comment, General election 2015, Hazel Grove, Marple, Politics, Stockport | Tagged | 3 Comments

Lisa Smart, Liberal Democrat candidate for Hazel Grove

Following yesterday’ interview with Michael Taylor for Labour. Here are Lisa Smart’s Liberal Democrat answers to the same questions: lisasmart535

Could you give me a one minute biography?

I am 35, I live in Romiley, I am director of Stockport Credit Union, a trustee of the New Horizon canal boat and a primary school governor. Born and brought up in Lancashire, I read Maths at Durham University. I moved to London 10 years ago as many people do in their 20’s. I gained great experience working in international business, and then running a charity: Girls to Zambia. I got into politics when I found myself shouting at the telly. One evening I thought this was not good and needed to do something about it. So I joined the Liberal Democrats.

What do you think are the three most important issues for the country?

Firstly education, I am a firm believer if we get education right everything else follows, I am passionate about being a school governor. I think the second issue is the NHS and what we want from it and how we fund it and the third issue is our place in the world, our relationship with other countries. How we conduct ourselves with countries both who we are friendly with and those who are not behaving in a way we would agree with.

Who would most people regard as the Stockport’s greatest ever sportsman?

Most would say probably Fred Perry but you could also mention Sarah Storey and Rebecca Adlington who also now lives in Romiley.

Who would you vote for in this constituency if not yourself?

I really don’t know, I have always voted Liberal Democrat.

What do you think are the most important issues for the people of Hazel Grove?

  1. NHS services locally, I am leading a campaign to get specialist status for stepping hill and secure extra funding asnd extra resources for the hospital means a lot for local people.

  2. The Hazel Grove bypass,the final bit from Hazel Grove to Bredbury. Reducing the traffic on Bents Lane and Otterspool Road and get quarry lorries off residential roads.

  3. Education and schools, every child deserves to be taught by a qualified teacher

With which policy of your own party do you most disagree with and why?

Trident. Our party policy on Trident is a very sensible pragmatic step down the nuclear ladder from 4 to 3 submarines. I personally believe its an outdated cold war relic and we are never going to use it. £100 billion would be better spent on schools, hospitals and building new homes.

What is your position on HS2?

Enormously in favour. For capacity reasons rather than the journey time savings. The West Coast trains are always full. Freight capacity is also just as important.

Do you have a political hero or role model?

Shirley Williams. She is my absolute role model, I agree with a great deal with her policy views.

Ed Miliband wanted to weaponise the NHS , perhaps he was confused between Health and Defence. Could you tell me how much the UK spends annually in those 2 areas?

If you want exact figures, I can’t. I could make it up but I won’t. I know the head of NHS England has said we need to spend an extra £8 billion a year on the NHS by the end of the next parliament.

What is Bullock Smithy or the Bullock Smithy?

A Pub in Hazel Grove and wasn’t it also an alternative name for the constituency?

What will you do if you don’t get elected?

First go on holiday for a couple of weeks, then get a job probably running a charity if possible.

( These questions were put to Lisa Smart in person and with no prior notice, her answers are reproduced faithfully here without comment )

Tomorrow William Wragg, Conservative

Posted in Comment, General election 2015, Hazel Grove, Politics, Stockport | 1 Comment