Monthly Archives: February 2010

All to play for

Recent opinion polls strongly suggest that Labour is eating into the Conservative lead in the polls and that the next General Election is going to be very close.

Journalists of course have a vested interest in portraying the contest as a close one as this means that they have an easy story to write pieces on for weeks and weeks. Politicians also prefer it that way, surprisingly, as it tends to persuade their supporters to work for the party. And of course members of the public, who don’t in general live and breathe politics, are more likely to vote of they think that their choice might actually make a difference to the final result.

However the polls really should not be this close. We have a demoralised government, at the end of its third term, which has completely run out of ideas and which has descended, as all fag-end governments do, into factional in-fighting. The Prime Minister has been revealed (as if it came as any surprise!) as a bad-tempered bully who allows his supporters to brief against his colleagues and friends when they become a liability. The public wants to see some change.

The Conservative Party’s Spring Conference is taking place in Brighton this weekend. For Conservatives, holding a conference in this city is significant on a number of fronts. Firstly, it reminds us of the IRA attack which could have killed the whole of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet. Secondly, we remember the time when a Mayor of Brighton, attending a previous conference supposedly to welcome us to his town, used his “welcome” speech to launch a vicious partisan diatribe against the then Government. We vowed not to return. But return we eventually did, to a city (it became a city quite recently) which has changed a lot since then. Brighton is now the gay capital of Britain – and the fact that the Conservatives are now completely relaxed about homosexuality has not gone unnoticed, it seems. The pink pound may well vote blue this time. Brighton is also unusual in that is contains the only Parliamentary seat in England where the Greens have a fighting chance.

Now is the time for us to set out a compelling vision of where we wish to take the country, and to give the people of Britain positive reasons to vote for us rather than negative reasons not to vote Labour. If we fail, we risk a hung parliament. That in my opinion would be a disaster for the country, a point which I will develop in a future post.

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Zero

Providing the proposal is approved at Full Council next Wednesday, Elmbridge Borough Council will not be increasing its part of the Council Tax for the forthcoming year.

Given that inflation has suddenly jumped to 3.5% according to the latest figures, this freeze amounts in fact to a healthy cut in real terms. That should be welcome to many families, particularly at the lower end of the income bracket, who have been finding it hard to make ends meet lately.

What encourages me the most however is that this freeze has been achieved without any real reduction in the services provided to the general public. Efficiency savings have been made, and a number of staff posts at the Council have not been filled upon the retirement of the current post holders. That is in accordance with the views of our local council tax payers, who are rightly concerned that public bodies should make the same savings that private enterprises have to make. Elmbridge is now one of the leanest local authorities in England, and its first class staff work very hard to deliver quality services for local people.

The challenge for the new administration at Surrey CC is to emulate this success. The previous ruling group were complacent and, if the verdict of the outgoing Chief Executive is correct, barely competent. I hope the new team – which has a large number of fresh faces – can sort out the problems with which they were left.

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