Monthly Archives: April 2010

One week to go

Last night we had the final leaders’ debate. Postal votes are being cast, and there are now 6 days to go for this country to decide how it wishes to be governed for the next 5 years.

On the one hand we have a tired, clapped out, failed and discredited Labour administration led by a Prime Minister who as good as admitted defeat last night when he said that in a few days’ time David Cameron could be in his job.

On the other hand we have two options for change: the Conservatives who seek an outright majority to carry out their programme of change, and the Liberal Democrats who want to hold the balance of power so that they can foist proportional representation on the country. Proportional representation – it sounds so fair and reasonable, doesn’t it? After all, who would vote for disproportional representation? But the truth is that PR would give the Lib Dems a permanent right of blackmail over any other party which had secured more votes than them. It would lead to shabby deals in smoke-filled rooms (well, maybe not smoke filled any more following the ban). Is that what the public wants? I doubt it. The public wants to elect a government that will do as it promised during the election campaign, and it wants the right to chuck them out if they break their promises or their policies turn out to be wrong.

All Conservative candidates, from David Cameron to Dominic Raab to the candidates for Elmbridge Borough Council are promising to be honest with the electorate, to do their best and to accept the verdict of the public if their policies fail. The Labour party have had their chance, and have failed. The Liberals want to be king-makers and the Residents Assocations locally merely peddle lies and misinformation in their campaign literature.

On 6th May, please vote for your Conservative candidates. We will not let you down.

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USA

I have been interested in the USA and in particular its politics for many years. The interest probably started at school where US politics formed one half of the syllabus for Poltics A-level. I’ve visited the country many times and have many friends over there. However, until a recent family trip to Disney World I had not been across the pond for 6 years, and the country has changed a lot in the meantime. Three things in particular stood out: the problem with obesity, the healthcare debate and the question of America’s place in the world. Today, I’m going to talk about fatness.

Even for an American, a trip to Disney World is not a cheap holiday. The vast majority of Americans who go to Disney World are hard working middle class families. Some will go regularly, some will have saved up for years. But the visitors are not impoverished or poorly educated. Most were professional people and from the Eastern side of the country (there’s Disney Land in California for the Westerners).

According to USA Today, one half of all American children are either overweight or obese. I would agree, from my own recent observations. For adult Americans, the clear majority could do with losing a few pounds. Now I know that we are not a nation of stick insects either, but the real difference here is that obesity is closely linked with poor education and poor diet. The proportion of overweight people in the UK is high in Glasgow, west & south Yorkshire and other places where there are pockets of deprivation. It’s no coincidence that Jamie Oliver took his school dinner crusade to Rotherham.

The difference is that in the US the obesity problem is apparently prevalent amongst the educated middle classes. And the size of some of them was quite extraordinary. In order to accommodate these people in their amusement parks the Disney Corporation provides a fleet of battery powered wheelchairs. Consequently, there is little incentive to exercise while you are there. Nor can Disney be criticised for the quality of food on offer. Yes, you could eat burgers and chips every day if you desired but there are plenty of healthier options available. The scale of obesity had never struck me on previous trips and therefore I can only assume that the problem has escalated considerably in recent years. The middle classes must know about healthy eating, but they seemingly choose to ignore the advice of their own medical professionals.

For President Obama, and indeed for any administration, this poses a problem, as the fat middle aged of today will become the morbidly obese elderly of tomorrow who will place more and more demands on the US healthcare system. Rightly or wrongly the current president has tried to address the provision of healthcare and I will look at that in my next post on the subject.

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Cobham’s toilets (again)

Good news! The men’s public toilet in Cobham has been re-opened and repaired after several weeks of closure following vandalism. The timing is excellent with Carter’s steam fair currently drawing crowds to Leg o’Mutton field.

This is largely down to the hard work of retiring Cobham councillor David Tipping who deserves huge praise for dogged lobbying of the Elmbridge BC cabinet. Sometimes a hard-working councillor is faced with suggestions of disloyalty when he takes a stand against his own side. Anyone who knows and admires David as I do fully supported his stance. There is no disloyalty in plain speaking, and indeed praise is also due to Roy Taylor and Jan Fuller for agreeing to re-open the facility.

Of course, these toilets will not remain open forever. It is an agreed policy of Elmbridge BC to close them once satisfactory alternative facilities are available. Such facilities are not yet available in Cobham. There are not enough local shops signed up to the replacement scheme and the automated toilet opposite Waitrose is simply not attractive to the public. The ideal situation would be for Cobham businesses to buy the facility from EBC, smarten them up and then charge, say, 20p per visit, rather like the public toilets at Waterloo Station.

Of course this may be wishful thinking, but I remain hopeful.

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Debates 2

Watched the whole debate last night and I would score it (out of 10) Cameron 8, Clegg 8, Brown 7. Improvements for Cameron and Brown and Clegg still performed well but did not repeat last week’s efforts. Still, he should have had a torrid evening as he was there for the taking on his nuclear policy and on his and his party’s fondness for all things European. Gordon Brown probably landed the best punch on Clegg over Trident: “get real Nick!”. Sadly Cameron missed the open goal of the European issue where all polls show the Conservatives are most trusted. 

Next week I very much hope Cameron focuses on two key issues. Firstly he needs to advertise our best policy – free schools. He should have pushed this harder last week and missed the chance. I am convinced it’s a vote winner. Secondly he needs to bang home the point I made in my last post that if the country wants change – and I believe that it does – then the only answer is to vote Conservative. Even though the topic for next week’s debate is the economy I would not, if I were Cameron, spend the entire debate talking about finances. The country has made up its mind that the country’s finances are in a dreadful state and Gordon Brown will not be able to wriggle off that hook. However he will debate this point well as it is his area of “expertise”. Cameron needs to use the time to pull the debate onto other issues.

Having said all that Cameron’s style was vastly improved. He looked at the camera, and he clearly communicated the fact that he is ready to become Prime Minister. On that score he outshone Nick Clegg and was more attractive than Gordon Brown. Cameron did what he needed to do last night, and in the words of the BBC’s Nick Robinson, it’s “game on” for the next 2 weeks.

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Vote Clegg get Brown

All the current opinion polls show that the majority of the public does not want another 5 years of Gordon Brown. It is therefore ironic that the current popularity of the LibDems and Nick Clegg risks doing just that – giving Gordon Brown another 5 years.

Enter the current opinion poll figures into any result predicting engine (see http://www.electoralcalculus.com for an example) and you come up with the same result. Brown, with the fewest votes, has the most MPs. Cameron, despite having the most votes, comes 2nd, not far behind and Clegg holds the balance of power. Will he support a Cameron government? In a parallel universe maybe but not in reality. He will support the party leader who “love-bombed” him in the leader’s debate (remember all those “I agree with Nick”s coming from Gordon Brown?) and who has promised a referendum on proportional representation at Westminster. That means a Lib-Lab pact, and those of us who remember the 1970s won’t be breaking out the champagne at the thought of another one of those.

So the message is clear. If you want a change of government you have to vote for the Conservative candidate. That means Dominic Raab here in Esher & Walton, and Anne Milton in Guildford (I was out on the streets canvassing there today). Anything else – Liberals, UKIP, BNP, whatever, is a vote for Gordon Brown.

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Debates

As I posted yesterday, I missed watching the debates live but then stayed up far too late watching the debrief on just about every news channel. It seems to be the common view that Nick Clegg was the best performer and that Gordon Brown trailed in third.

Depressingly, each party is now claiming their man won. This is patent nonsense and does nothing to improve the image of politicians as people reasonably in touch with reality. We should accept Nick Clegg was the best performer on the night, congratulate him and move on to the next debate. Being the best performer in one debate does not mean that you are necessarily the best Prime Ministerial candidate or that you have the right policies.

Nick Clegg had the huge advantage of being able for the first time to play with the big boys. PMQs is a Cameron v Brown event where Clegg is a bit part player. Last night he was an equal. Of course that is going to impress people – he has the advantage of novelty. The real challenge for him will be to sustain his achievement last night over all 3 debates. The more exposure he gets, the more likely it is that people will look beyond the novelty to the substance. That is good for the Conservatives as the Liberal have for many years played an entirely different game in different constituencies depending on whether their nearest challengers are the Conservatives or Labour. They have got away with it precisely because their leader has stayed in the shadows cast by the leaders of the two main parties. Clegg will not be able to portray his party as left of Labour and right of Labour at the same time in public glare offered by the debates.

It has been suggested in some quarters that David Cameron may now be regretting having pushed for these debates. By the third debate, I doubt they will be saying that any more.

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Elections

Busy time ahead, and I’m going to try to increase the regularity of posts in the next three weeks. I have just got back from a trip to the US – hence the recent radio silence – and I’m going to put a few thoughts on US politics on this site in the weeks to come. Many of the people I met over there were only too willing to discuss the state of the NHS with a Brit given that Obama’s health care package has just been signed into law in America.

First debate between the party leaders tomorrow, and our Group Leader has called a meeting. Wonder if he can get us a telly….

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