Archive for the ‘tories’ tag
Last night whilst perusing the interweb I was sent a link to the A Barristers Wife blog and promptly spent the best part of the next hour fully taking in all the content on said blog. I won’t lie when I say it was an eye-opening read however it is one that doesn’t surprise me.
The blog is (unsurprisingly considering the title) the blog of the wife of a Legal Aid lawyer. She is writing about some of the cases that her husband has dealt with and why it is vital that changes to the Legal Aid system as proposed by Chris Grayling do not succeed.
The first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing him. It seemed a pretty open and shut case until it came out in court that the young boy in fact called both his dad and his stepdad daddy and that he hadn’t seen his real dad in over a year (because of the charges) and wanted to see him and cried. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a kid who had been abused by this man. The lawyer had worked out that it was in fact the stepfather who was the abuser.
Had the lawyer not taken the case diligently and not strong-armed his client into accepting a guilty plea (because the evidence on paper was pretty clear cut) then a completely innocent man would have rotted away in prison only to leave the real abuser still in control of the young boy.
As an aside here I have been the foreman on a jury in a very similar case. The similarities are uncanny and we fund the defendant not guilty due to essentially we didn’t trust the mother’s account of what happened. Her behaviour didn’t add up to us and that was the key. It is strange that evidence counts for so much but behaviour of witnesses do have a real impact. In the other case I sat on during my spell as a juror we didn’t trust the account of the two alleged victims in a GBH case because of the elaborate way they acted in court.
Anyway back to the case in hand. I continued to read the blog.
Next Exhibit B – the “murderer”. This case was a major national case including a Crimewatch reconstruction. The defendant spent over a year on remand awaiting his trial. The lawyer had to spend two weeks (unpaid) to read through all the background information and on the tenth day found the nugget that showed his client could not have been the murderer. In fact in time the Crown’s own evidence would prove he was incapable of being at the murder scene at the time. If we see the proposed changes of legal aid go through then we’ll get to a state where lawyers are just in the business for profit and not to act in the best interests of their client.
At the end of the piece she writes a summary of ‘Why this story should matter to you’ and if you haven’t clicked on the above link (which I would thoroughly recommend) then here is the summary reproduced in full:
Police & CPS procedure – it is clear that the officer in charge of the case had not done what my husband had done, and sat down and read everything. Evidence is collated and summarised in reports, which are passed up and up through the police rank structure. By the time it gets to the top it is a case of “Chinese whispers”. What the top guy reads is not always an accurate reflection of the evidence.
Performance targets – it is unrealistic to expect the police and prosecution to read all of the evidence in every case under the current system. It certainly won’t be possible, even for the defence, under the proposed system. The allocated defence lawyer will be working to targets, working for profit. He won’t have the time to take two weeks out to find the golden nugget. He’ll take a quick look at the evidence, see that it looks pretty damning, and advise the client to plead guilty.
The real scumbag criminal got away with it – as far as we know the real murderer is still at large. The proposed system will lead to more of this. Because if lawyers are to be paid the same whether clients go to trial or not, there will be less trials. Less trials mean less opportunity for upcoming solicitors and barristers to cut their teeth. Less practice on the more simple cases will lead to less proficiency on the complex ones. This will hold for both the defence AND the prosecution. The end result more innocent people going to prison, more guilty people getting away, quite literally, with murder.
It could happen to you – Exhibit B got picked up for this because he had happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The Crown’s own evidence showed he could not have been at the murder scene at the right time. He served over a year in prison on remand waiting for trial for something he didn’t do. I’ll spare you the details of what happened to him while he was there. And even though he was found not guilty, mud sticks. He was a young man, just starting out. His life was ruined.
Innocence is not interesting – there was a journalist in court for Exhibit B’s trial. Every day there were articles in the local and national papers saying what a nasty piece of work he was. Once the case was thrown out my husband collared the journalist and demanded that he write the story up, listing the points as the judge had directed the jury. Guess what? He didn’t do it. No wonder the public always believe people are guilty until proven innocent.
Innocence is not interesting. Arguably one of the most damning indictments of modern society and she is right. Do we care about people who are falsely accused? Do we heck. The only time we do is if it happens to us or someone that we know. Until that point in general we couldn’t care less and that is something that saddens me. I’m proud to say that I don’t sit alongside those people and think innocence should be as big a news story as guilt. If a defendant is found guilty of a serious crime it will be front page of the local papers but if the same person is found innocent then it’s a snippet on page 17. That isn’t fair but not only that, it isn’t right.
Next up we have Exhibit A – the “child pornographer”. A tale that starts with a granddad’s computer going wrong and taking it somewhere to be fixed. On the computer were images of naked children and the computer repairer called in the police who then arrested the granddad and charged him with possession of level 1 child pornography. Until the trial no-one (including the CPS barrister nor the defence) had seen the photos and the defence lawyer would not advice his client to enter a guilty plea until he had seen the photos. They were eventually granted access to the photos and the CPS barrister upon seeing them offered no evidence and the case was closed.
The whole incident came about because someone pointed a finger (which in this day and age is pretty standard and we all want to be vigilant on these issues) but instead of the police going to see the accused and going through the case properly they just went for it. It turns out the children were his grandchildren and they had come over one day and had forgotten their bathers so were playing in a paddling pool and shooting water pistols naked. A perfectly innocent explanation and one that could have been nipped in the bud before any serious cost to the public purse. Instead police hours, CPS hours, legal aid hours, the court’s time and costs were all incurred when there was never any need for any of it.
On another blog we see the blog post So you’re a football fan, and think the legal aid cuts won’t affect you? which tells of a common tale that could happen to anyone. As a matter of fact a very similar thing happened to me in my teens and it was only the fact that the copper’s colleague really couldn’t be bothered that I wasn’t arrested.
Now I do not know how I’d have reacted as a what 14/15/16 year-old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) but the context was it was a school INSET day so we were walking through town towards Seaclose Park to play a bit of football. I was saying to the guys something along the lines of ‘I bet we get pulled over by the police asking us why we aren’t in school’ and literally as I said that a cop car drives past eyeballing us. I point and laugh and say to the guys ‘just like that’ and then about 30 seconds later the car has swung around the block and young copper wants to talk to me/arrest me. Older copper (the driver) just stood there leaning on the car and I saw him just shake his head of the younger officer and so I was told to go away. He said I had sworn at him. I knew I hadn’t. However it was effectively my word against his so I’m hypothesising that the advice given to me would’ve been to accept a caution and not taken it to trial had he in fact done what he wanted to do and arrested me.
Of course it didn’t come to that and it was one rather small run-in with the law but I’m not going to lie. Even that incident affected me for quite a while and even years later it would blindside me and I’d think about it. Essentially it was one coppers decision that he couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork that stopped me potentially having a criminal record. How insane is that?
If the proposed changes to legal aid come in and the emphasis changing from putting the clients best interests first towards providing the best value for money and creating profit for the legal aid accredited companies then something has gone seriously wrong in our justice system. Seriously wrong. The cheapest contract is not always the best. I could say that I could school a whole school for £50 a night but that doesn’t mean I could clean it to a level that they expect and the same goes for lawyers.
We can all find ourselves in legal strife through no fault of our own. It can happen to any of us and that is what is so vital about not only the ability to have legal aid but also quality legal aid. Not all defendants are criminal scumbags and until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers they should be allowed the best possible representation from a diligent lawyer who puts the best interest of their client ahead of their own personal views or profit.
If you believe that everyone has the right to a good level of defence when they are only accused of a crime then you can sign the petition here. I did so last night. I would implore you to do so and if this blog post hasn’t convinced you then please read all the pieces that I have linked to. The right to a good standard of defence and advice is something that we all deserve but because of the way the media like to portray all accused as guilty scumbags until proved otherwise and the way society in the main has moved from innocent until proven guilty to suspicious presumed guilty until proven otherwise then it is all the more important that we defend quality legal aid for all who need it. I don’t use libraries but I can see many people that do and therefore don’t mind my taxes being used to keep them open. The same goes for quality legal aid.
My blood is boiling folks. There is one thing that I hold dear and that is that we are all created equal. One human life is of the same value as the next. So if I get murdered the person who killed me should get the same sentence as if they killed anyone else in exactly the same way. Now of course not all murders are equal, some are premeditated, some involve sexual crimes, some include torture before killing their victims but if I am killed in exactly the same way as another person then I’d expect sentencing to be the same.
Theresa May today outlined new proposals that will mean any police officer or prison officer slain would see the perpetrator given mandatory whole life sentences. This is because we ask them to put themselves in harms way to ensure that society are safe. However last I saw Army, Navy and Royal Air Force personnel did exactly the same. What about the coastguard who risk their lives to safe others? What about the Fire Brigade? Are we seriously saying that one section of society deserve more retribution than others?
What about when police officers kill members of the general public? Do these people deserve less time in jail and the opportunity of being free one day? Isn’t that kinda mad?
I am not a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ person. In fact I am quite the opposite. I believe there is a better way to deal with criminals but when it comes to serious crimes such as murder and rape then prison very much has its place. However mandatory life terms for a crime against one section of society to me seems wholly wrong and only goes to show that we are not all equal. All crimes are not equal. That is why we have judges who have leeway to use their judgement to decide on how long a guilty person should spend inside. Mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account.
This policy seems to me to smell strongly of the Home Secretary trying to get the police back onside and trying to sound strong on crime. That is what everyone seems to want. Labour have welcomed this policy and I don’t know what the Liberal Democrats think but I’d be disappointed if they are happy to say that one persons life is worth more than another’s. It goes against our very principles of equality.
Should people that kill police officers and prison officers face heavy sentences? Darn tootin’ they do but you know what – so does anyone who takes another human life deliberately. Whether that person is a police officer, a member of our armed forces, a teacher, a student, a homeless person or whoever. Taking another human life is a despicable act but you won’t convince me that killing one person is less reprehensible than killing another.
Local election campaigns are in full swing across the country (although not here in Southend-on-Sea) and there is only one story that seems to be coming out. This story isn’t about whether Labour will make gains against the Tories. The story isn’t about whether the Lib Dems will stop the hemorrhaging of votes/councillors. The story isn’t about whether the austerity will hurt the Tories. The only story I keep reading about is the surge of the UK Independence Party and what this means for the future.
I must admit my gut feeling is that UKIP will be like a fast burning love affair. They will burn oh so bright but they will not burn for a long time. The fact of the matter is there are a significant number of people who don’t like nor trust politicians. The whole expenses scandal has left politicians looking up at journalists in the respected by stakes, which is not a good place to be. Heck divorce lawyers are more respected than politicians at the moment. UKIP are promising a breath of fresh air and to put Great Britain first and not to kowtow to Brussels and the EU. It isn’t like the UKIP leader has taken (to 2009) around £2million in tax payers money from the EU in expenses. Oh wait…
They are basically scratching the itch of those who are disenchanted with modern politics. They are different they say. The system is crooked they say. Nigel Farage has seen a stronger eye on his party in recent days as it has come out that they have struggled to vet their candidates. Some of them seem to be less than desirable and certainly not the type of people you’d want in any position of power. The main issue is a lot of people vote for the party and not the candidate so if you don’t vet properly then you may find you have councillors representing the party who don’t truly reflect the views of the party.
The UKIP leader is not happy with all of this, ‘Have you met the cretins we have in Westminster? Do you think we can be worse than that?’ exclaims the 49 year-old. On one hand he has a point that all parties have the odd person who deep down you aren’t sure truly reflects the parties values and you get a sense they aren’t being their true self. When it comes to UKIP though who knows?
However this blog isn’t about that. It is about the talk over the possibility of more PM TV Debates in 2015. Stories in the press over the weekend have linked Labour to the Tories in wanting to keep out UKIP. Remember Labour do not want the Lib Dems in because they formed a coalition with the Tories so think any Lib Dem leader should share a platform with the Tories and Labour’s deputies because that is as high as they could ever be. Gotta love Labour’s stance on that. So in Labour’s eyes any debate would be two-way between them and the Tories. The Tories are happy for three-way with the Lib Dems also involved. We don’t know the Lib Dem view as yet.
My view though is extremely simplistic. If a party is putting up enough candidates to form a government then their leader should be invited to join the other leaders in these debates. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and others were unhappy about being left out last time but none of them were fielding enough candidates to form a government and their leader could never be Prime Minister so their place in any ‘Prime Ministerial Debate’ did seem relatively pointless. The likelihood though is that UKIP will be putting up enough candidates across the country and in the interest of democracy they deserve the to share that platform in my eyes.
We saw last time that Nick Clegg’s profile rose dramatically throughout the process last year and at one point, in one Sunday poll the Lib Dems actually led. As we all know though that extra exposure translated to over a million more votes but actually fewer MPs. It also led to far more scrutiny in the right-wing media as they went to town on the Lib Dems and on Nick Clegg in particular. This worked to some degree and should Nigel Farage and his party get the same exposure they would be subject to the same level of scrutiny.
My feelings on UKIP are pretty clear but I also believe in fairness and equality (good liberal traits there) and if UKIP are in a position where they could feasibility (no matter how unlikely) form a government if everything went right for them on polling day in 2015 then they deserve the right to share that platform. It is up to the other parties and particularly their leaders to show UKIP for what they are and to get the public to vote for them and not Nigel Farage’s lot.
The thing is we all know that the moment UKIP get any power (either at local or national level) the public will quickly realise what they have done. At a local level voting UKIP will not change anything to do with the EU or tax rates or immigration which is basically what UKIP are all about. So a vote for UKIP locally on Thursday is basically saying, ‘we hate them all and even though they can’t follow through with their primary objectives in local governments we’ll vote for them as a symbol of our anger towards national issues.’ When it comes to national issues though their rhetoric of being anti-EU and anti-foreigners is actually something they could act on.
UKIP are unlikely to ever have a Prime Minister, they are unlikely to ever be in a position to form a coalition but as they say – you never know. UKIP’s core support is with the older generation – a YouGov poll in February found that only 15% of UKIP support comes from those under 40 – the fact is the older generation are more likely to vote.
For me I don’t see UKIP as a viable party and are just a protest against the status quo and the current financial climate. The moment the economy pulls itself out of its funk and the countries finances are balanced then the need for a protest party will dissipate. This will happen but it won’t happen before 2015. So let UKIP play with the established parties and give them the opportunities that they deserve. I just hope they shoot themselves in the foot when they are under a serious national spotlight. It is easy to protest when their are few repercussions but when it comes to a General Election protests are harder because actions (and votes) have consequences.
Tax. We don’t like tax. We do like public services. The two of them go hand-in-hand so to get public services we pay tax. That is just the way of the world. Most of us have reconciled with that but then of course the debate is about who pays what and what do they pay for?
Well today the following image show up in my Facebook feed…
’340,000 New mums to lose £180 thanks to David Cameron’s Mummy Tax’
Mummy Tax. Are you (expletive) kidding me? Just calling anything that just screams political spin of the likes Shane Warne would deliver should he ever turn over his arm in the political arena. The message along with the photo was thus, ‘David Cameron is prioritising a massive tax cut for millionaires over new mums and hard working families.’ So it is essentially a dig at the 45p tax rate for higher earners. However what the ‘Mummy Tax’ actually is hasn’t been explained on this image or the text provided but we’ll get to that later.
One thing I do know is that under this government (which isn’t Labour) the amount a person can earn tax free will have risen to £10,000 a year. This according to the people who do the math (or maths if you are one of those who don’t like the american terminology – I just think ‘do the math’ scans better) means that people will save £705 a year on tax. Now as far as I’m aware £705 is more than £180 but I am happy to concede that we are talking about two very different things.
Now this ‘Mummy Tax’ is of course related to the benefits freeze at 1% instead of inline with inflation. This new image or the text to go with it actually doesn’t explain that at all. I just Googled ‘Mummy Tax’ and a few notes popped up including that Labour had dubbed this part of the budget as that. Nice slogan. The ‘Bedroom Tax’ worked well for Labour but the ‘Mummy Tax’ if it stuck would be an absolute winner. The issue is it hasn’t stuck as yet but they are trying.
In an article on Sky News about it single mum-to-be Helen Mockridge had a pretty clear suggestion for a better way to reduce the deficit and I think this is what Labour are trying to get people to think.
“Taxing really rich people, obviously, that’s where the money should come from.
“For me it’s a real no-brainer and it makes me really angry that certain parts of society are very, very wealthy and the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger.
“That’s where the money should be coming from, not from single mothers or the disabled or any other vulnerable group.”
It is a viewpoint that a lot of people have but let us look at the realities of the situation. I’ll use myself as an example.
If I was ‘really rich’ then if I was going to get taxed to high heaven to help reduce the deficit then I wouldn’t live in the UK – and you know what – neither would you. If I was super rich and they put up the tax rate to beyond 50% then I’d look at it and think ‘really is living in the UK really worth paying x amount of millions extra in tax?’ and I know exactly what I’d say. See this is the problem with having a higher tax band at a vast level.
Most ‘Really rich’ people are happy to pay a fair amount but the moment they believe they are being unjustly targeted then they will up sticks and leave. When that happens they pay no tax to the UK government and no tax is not going to help with the debt. I remember a local Labour councillor telling me that he preferred the government collecting less taxation as long as the rich really got screwed as it was an ideological matter and not actually about the money collected. I couldn’t disagree more.
Tax is about money and about everyone paying a fair amount towards public services. The issue about these ‘really rich’ people is most of them have a choice about whether to live in the UK or not. So the government has to decide at what level will they get more of these people to live in the country and generate the most income. It is a balance and it isn’t easy. The best level for the higher rate tax band is whatever percentage generates the most income. The more the higher band collects then the less is needed from the lower bands. It seems like pretty straightforward economic sense to me.
So to lump the ‘tax cut for millionaires’ aka the reduction in the higher rate of Income Tax to 45% from 50% in with the Labour dubbed ‘Mummy Tax’ and say essentially that the government are getting the money from New Mums that they aren’t getting from millionaires is a lie. If the math (I did it again) is right then 340,000 (New Mums) x £180 is £61.2million a year saved by the government. Are the ‘really rich’ people contributing more than £61.2million to the government’s coffers? I think they are.
In PMQs when this first came about these were the figures the PM went with, At the 50p tax rate there were 6,000 people paying tax raising £6.7bn in taxes. The previous year when the 40p tax rate was in place 16,000 people were paying on that tax rate and they brought in £13.7bn in tax revenue for the Treasury. So more people paying less actually led to £7bn more money being raised.
This has been long and rambly (like most of my posts) but really linking the cap in benefits to the tax cut for millionaires is just bollocks. Also dubbing the benefits freeze at 1% as the ‘Mummy Tax’ just makes me want to vomit. If the reduction of the 50p tax rate to 45p brings in more money than at 50p then what will Labour say? All they can say is either ‘well played government, you’ve done a good job there’ or ‘we don’t care – tax the rich bastards as much as possible even if it means less money – we only care about making it clear we hate the rich,’ they can only go one of those two ways.
We shall see as they say but I’m pretty sure I know which they will go. Labour’s front bench doesn’t scream out, ‘we want to deal with the financial issues in the best way possible’ and instead you always get the sense their attitude is, ‘what can we do to make it seem like the Tories love the rich and hate the poor and in turn make us more electable?’
Head. Desk. Bang.
Immigration is one of the biggest issues facing our country today. Not because it actually is but more because that is what the media is telling us. Ten years ago immigration was a footnote when questioning the public about what they wanted the government to sort out. These days it has become a bigger talking point on the doorstep than everything bar the economy. Yes even the NHS and Education are less of a talking point than immigration. So why the sea change?
Basically the economy has gone down the tubes and someone has to be to blame and it can’t all be the bankers fault, can it? We have gone from one of the most tolerant societies to one that openly talks about immigration in a bad light. The media whip up a firestorm with stories such as the benefits cheats who get to live in mansions at the tax payers expense but the stories about the hard working people who come over here, pay taxes and enrich our culturally diverse society don’t seem to get as many inches in the written media for some reason?
If I’m awake in time I often leave BBC1 on in the mornings (because Homer Under The Hammer is fantastic) and there is a show called ‘Saints & Scroungers) and practically every single scrounger is a foreign national who shouldn’t be living here. Am I to believe that these people account for more benefits being illegally received than born and bred Brits? Yeah. Right…
The argument I often hear is, ‘well I was born and bred here and they weren’t so why should my taxes pay for their benefits.’ On the face of it a fair point of view but when you dig deeper they don’t just chastise those who don’t work and claim benefits, they chastise those who have jobs as well because they are doing jobs that born and bred Brits could do. I ask them what they think about Brits moving abroad and they don’t have a problem with it. So Brits moving abroad and working is fine but others coming to the UK and doing the same isn’t. I bash my head against a brick wall sometimes.
Angry voices are swelling about immigration and you hear that people want the government of the day – whoever they are – to be tough on immigration. One of my main issues is the loudest voices want the government of the day to be tough on everything. Being tough is the way forward they say but it isn’t however a political party can never be shown to be anything other than tough otherwise they’ll be torn apart in the media. Being tough on crime is one of the main ones and yet locking everyone up and throwing away the key doesn’t actually solve all the problems. The penal system isn’t just about punishment but also about rehabilitation but you can’t say that out loud without sounding soft in the eyes of many.
This leads me to the immigration issue. The country and the economy will prosper if we are open for business. That means foreign companies investing in the UK and it also means skilled nationals from other countries coming here and working. It also means foreign nationals coming to the UK to learn and get educated.
On a society front I hear people argue that they feel more uneasy being around foreigners instead of UK nationals. Personally I have never felt this is the case. It is akin to people saying that foreigners are more criminal than people in this country and that just doesn’t wash with me. We are all human beings when it comes down to it and yes there are bad people in this country who are not helping our economy or society but you know what – the majority of those people are British. Should we tolerant these people and persecute the others just because they were born here? Does being born somewhere give you the right to be treated differently to another person when that is the only difference between the way you are acting? I think not.
The reason I am discussing this today is simple. Nick Clegg spoke today on this issue and the headline is about looking into the feasibility of visitors from certain countries having to pay a bond that they would collect on their way out of the UK once their visa was up. It is a pretty dumb policy in my opinion but they are just looking into it, just like the previous Labour government did twice and the coalition has already looked into. If civil servants think it is feasible then a pilot will be run.
Now that is the headline that was on the news and is in all the online editions of the written media. It doesn’t come across well but the speech wasn’t just about that. A very interesting part was about exit checks and the way they had been scaled down by the previous government. To me it just seems logical that you count and check people in and then check them on the way out as well. Isn’t that just good practice so you know who is where?
I have no issue with being ‘zero-tolerant on abuse’ as long as it doesn’t impinge on those who are wanting to do things legally and would benefit the economy and our society. I know Nick wants to sound tough on immigration and wants to be at the forefront of the debate but the issue now isn’t about actual immigration – it is about how to differentiate between all the main political parties on this issue. They all want to sound tougher and more outraged than the next party whereas in reality the best practical solution would be to sort out the management of the system and ensuring that we know who is here, for what purpose and for how long. If we know that then that is the majority of the battle won. The way I see it our biggest problem isn’t the amount of people who are here but that we don’t know who is here.
Whilst immigration is an issue – as I said earlier it is seen as such a large issue because those with the loudest voices have dictated it to be so. UKIP, the Tories and Labour all want to be seen as the hardest and toughest on immigration and that will play well with many. However there is plenty of room for a sane and reasonable approach to immigration and that is where I hope Nick and the Lib Dems go. If a political party could say (and more important achieve) a situation where they could effectively manage immigration to the point where the country was open to anyone with the skillset that was deemed needed and that students on education visas were free to come and study but with the important caveat that when their visas ended they had to either leave or apply again for either an extended or a different visa then that would be music to my – and a lot of other people’s ears.
Politicians need to remember that the loudest voices are not always the majority of voices. If you can put yourself in a position where the more reasoned voter could believe you could deliver something that made sense then you have a chance with these people. Not everyone votes on the strength of what the media tells them. In fact the truth is most vote based on their own opinions. Not everyone is extreme in their views on immigration so I’d like to see a political party talk to these people – and I for one would like that political party to be the Liberal Democrats.
Immigration is not bad. Uncontrolled immigration might be but the whole issue of immigration is a good thing for all countries around the globe. Finding a way to ensure our doors are flung wide open to the right people is far more important than ensuring the wrong people are finding a way in but we need a balance. If we can find a way to manage immigration – both the good and the bad – then we’ll be going someway to building a better society and economy. The biggest story in Nick’s speech wasn’t the bond issue but the fact we are building up our network of exit checks that the party has been calling for since 2004. Once we have a handle of who is where and who hasn’t left when they should have then we can start effectively managing the whole immigration system. It was a Labour mistake but it is one the Lib Dems are helping to fix.
When the markets opens the Tories were the favourites – one bookie even opened up with the party the 2/1 on favourites – which is quite strong. The incumbant MP was going to jail, he was a member of a political party that were languishing in the polls, the smaller coalition party were bearing the brunt of the voter rage of the government and the seat is in an area that has always been blue until the death of Stephen Milligan prompted a by-election at a time where John Major was overseeing a tough and deep recession and had a cabinet full of backstabbing bastards. This was a Blue gain and the chance to make Nick Clegg seriously squirm.
However very quickly the punters lumped on the Lib Dems and within hours most bookies had them both around evens and they weren’t sure which way to go. The Tories got in first with their candidate and on the face of it is seemed a swift and obvious choice but as the days have passed we have noticed one thing – it was a horrific one.
Eastleigh people clearly like the local Lib Dems as they hold every seat on the local council in the constituency. So to win they needed to appoint a candidate who was a soft Tory and not a hard line one. Someone prone to gaffes, speaking about how local schools aren’t good enough for her son, someone who wasn’t down with equal marriage and isn’t exactly keen on foreigners coming to the UK and working. This was a Tory candidate who was basically walking hand-in-hand skipping along with UKIP policies. Not exactly the best plan when you consider UKIP will be picking up the protest vote so instead of gaining disaffected Lib Dems she is busy fighting off disaffected Tories going to UKIP.
When you have an election where the majority are clearly broadly in a small political spectrum then you should put yourself in that political spectrum if you want to win. The Tories and the Lib Dems currently are in a pretty narrow field overall. Cameron is a soft Tory and Clegg is certainly not a natural left leaning Lib Dem leader so essentially if the candidates towed the national line it would come down to whether the Huhne mess and the general Lib Dem national malaise would be enough for the Tories to step in.
As we all know though the Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton is the only person in the narrow spectrum that the majority subscribe to. Soft liberals will not vote Tory next Thursday. They may vote Labour or one of the fringe parties or not bother voting but the soft Lib Dem vote will not go in any significant number to Maria Hutchings. So to win she has to establish herself as more credible than UKIP and try to tear down the Lib Dem vote to keep it at home or to send it to Labour or fringe candidates.
Can she do this? Yes but I can in theory become a Calvin Klein underwear model. Maria Hutchings is not a dynamic candidate that is engaging the public nor one who is generating positive press. I think the press over-inflate their influence but she just isn’t getting *any* positive play and her ground game is not what the Lib Dems or UKIP is. The Lib Dems know to win all they have to really do is keep the vote they had and maybe take a few soft Tory votes who are scared by the right-wingness of the Tory candidate and UKIP. UKIP know all they have to do is target anyone who is pissed off with everyone and swoop them up. When you see Boris Johnson knocking on doors and getting nowhere you know you have an issue.
The Tories could well win still in Eastleigh. Things can change but the general noise coming out is that they know they won’t. The thing is though that the Tories could and maybe should have won Eastleigh. The Chris Huhne trial and story has been knocking around for an awful long time now. Plenty of time to prepare, get on the streets, collect canvass data and have a candidate in place who was a soft Tory that could basically say, ‘look…you are pissed off with Nick Clegg and disappointed in Chris Huhne, why not vote for me and I can be that centerist candidate and not be a liar’ and victory was a far more realistic prospect.
Polling day is six days away and the more likely scenario now is the Tories fighting UKIP for second than fighting the Lib Dems for the win. If the polling does see UKIP get second place it will become possibly the biggest story of the by-election. UKIP’s strength against the Tories, the Tory collapse and the Lib Dem resilience would be the stories and in that order. Having a strong Lib Dem hold might just be the third biggest story of this election – who saw that coming?
Of course plenty can change but the Lib Dem campaign is holding up and confidence is there. The UKIP campaign is strengthening and they are sniffing giving the Tories a real real scare and the Tories are floundering. Labour were never going to be a significant runner and a fourth place would not be embarrassing for Ed Miliband in the slightest. If they were to get in the mix with UKIP and the Tories it might actually be a very good night for the party.
Still all to play for but the Lib Dems have run (so far) a very good campaign. The Tories seem to have stumbled without a clear plan (despite plenty of feet on the ground) and UKIP are picking up on that general anti-establishment feeling that is encompassing the nation.
Whatever happens next Thursday I can see several very interesting storylines…
Eastleigh Tory candidate Maria Hutchings doesn’t ‘care about refugees’ and isn’t a fan of aids intervention & prevention in Africa
Maria Hutchings might be an MP in three weeks. She has unsurprisingly been unveiled as the Conservative candidate for the vacant parliamentary seat in Eastleigh following the resignation of future Her Majesty’s Pleasure tenant Chris Huhne on Monday. The story of Maria Hutchings though is rather an interesting one, from life-long Labour supporter to the Tory A-List along with the likes of Louise Bagshawe, Zac Goldsmith and former Coronation Street Star Adam Rickett to a spot in a very winnable seat all within two years. So what do we know about Maria Hutchings and more importantly her back story and motives for getting involved in politics?
Well she first came to prominence in 2005 when she confronted the then Prime Minister Tony Blair about the possible closure of Cedar Hall School in Thundersley in Essex. In its own words, ‘Cedar Hall School is an innovative and forward looking all age (5-16) Essex LEA School, which provides education for pupils who primarily experience global moderate learning difficulties, but who may experience speech, language, emotional, behavioural or autistic spectrum secondary disabilities.’ Mrs Hutchings you see has a son who suffers from autism and she was worried that the school would be shut.
The thing is the school wasn’t in danger of being closed by the Tory run County Council – and more importantly – it never was. ‘I had to find a way to help my son’ she vowed but helping her son didn’t require her confront the PM over anything because the school was never closing. So she was basically attacking the Prime Minister on a personal issue that was about something that was never even proposed. Sounds a bit strange to me but I will concede that I am not a parent and if you are then you might not think as logically when something may affect one of your offspring.
Speaking after meeting Tony Blair after confronting him in 2005 she said:
“Tony Blair was very, very attentive. He listened to everything we had to say. We are going to meet him again.
“He said to me that he knew something about autism. He felt sorry for what we had to go through. He said that he would be looking into all this personally.
“Tony Blair has been looking out of the country at wars and issues abroad – Aids, Africa, Afghanistan and wars in Iraq – so Middle Englanders are the forgotten ones.
“The people who have to pay the taxes that keep the country going – we want our share for our families and our children.”
So she was seemingly pleased with what he said but she wasn’t happy that he was working on things like Aids in Africa, I mean who would care about trying to stop the alarming rate of Aids in Africa? Her assertions that Middle England are the forgotten ones when talking about African children in the same sentence is the biggest load of bull I have read in a long, long time. I know we all like to care about ourselves first and foremost but who really are forgotten more – Middle England or African children?
Look Tony Blair did lots of good and some bad. His bad points were pretty out there but to say things like he was looking at situations like the dire one in Africa regarding the spread of aids and say that Middle England was suffering because of it is pretty out there and something that I personally just cannot get my head round.
Anyway three weeks later – after having described herself as a lifelong Labour Supporter she was at the Tory Spring Conference speaking thanks to a personal invite from then Tory leader Michael Howard. Commentators at the same rumbled about Mrs Hutchings being used by Howard and the Tories but she refuted these claims, “I feel disgusted that you should think that I’m here as a political pawn,” she proclaimed. So within a month of being a lifelong Labour supporter, being told that the Prime Minister of the nation was looking into her case personally (the one where the school was never under any threat of closure no less) she was at the spring conference of another party saying she wasn’t being used as a political pawn by them.
This as we know turned out be true as it was her using the Conservative party. Considering she was a ‘non-political housewife’ (who had canvassed for Labour since the age of 14 – but remember she was ‘non-political’) she seemed to be getting a taste for this politics lark and the next year she found herself on the Conservative A-List of candidates. Not bad for someone who was non-political.
The next year she was selected to be the Conservative PPC for Eastleigh, one of the top Tory target seats. Eastleigh had been Tory for donkey’s years until the Lib Dems stole it in a by-election in 1994 and had held it ever since but not ever comfortably. The MP she would be up against was Chris Huhne who had taken over the seat in 2005 with a majority of 568. She put her house up for sale in Benfleet, Essex and moved to Eastleigh to start her campaign. The fact that this all started about a campaign for her local school and she moved away from the area and the school is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. It was a great parachute choice by the Tories – bringing in a woman into a very winnable seat. It backfired though as she was unable to take it in 2010 which was a considerable disappointment for the Tory party.
However after 831 words I still haven’t gotten to the quote that really bugged me. Yes even more than her proclaiming that Middle England is more forgotten than the issue of Aids in Africa, which is in all honesty a reprehensible thing to say. Middle England isn’t even as forgotten as lower-income England yet alone the tens of thousands of children who die every single year in Africa due to Aids but heck some people in my opinion don’t live in the real world.
She went on to say this in 2005, ‘I don’t care about refugees. I care about my little boy and I want the treatment he deserves.’ The second part of her statement is fine but you aren’t straitjacketed into caring about just your boy or refugees – you can actually care about them both. Yes there are refugees that abuse the system but there are parents and English people who abuse the system too.
In the 2011 Census 119,964 people described themselves or were described as at least one of English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British. This means that 5,235 people in the borough identify themselves non British. Some of these people would identify themselves as refugees but would she care about these potential constituents? You have to wonder. Just bluntly saying you don’t care about certain sections of society – fellow human beings – to me comes across as callous and full of snobbery. Many refugees have come to this country and helped make it the great multi-cultural nation that it is but she doesn’t care about that – she cares about her little boy and seemingly in her opinion you can’t care for both.
She claims to be a progressive and doesn’t believe in state control but in the same interview she calls herself a ‘pro-lifer’ and would reduce the abortion timeframe to ten weeks, which is as far as I’m aware is a point where many don’t even know they are pregnant and before the 12 weeks scan which is the first big hurdle to overcome. So the state shouldn’t get involved…unless it is an issue she feels passionately about and then the state should very much be involved. Yeah sound free-thinking logic there…
Politics to me isn’t just about policies it is about the people. I identify myself as a Liberal Democrat but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they do or what certain people in the party do or say. Some I would campaign for hard and some I wouldn’t. People have to pass the so called ‘sniff test’ to see if they are genuine.
For me Mrs Hutchings doesn’t seem to do that. She was always political, she used a TV show to get some infamy and not to further along the cause for her son’s school as she proclaimed, she flipped from Labour to the Tories in double quick time (something that I always struggle to understand – how you can be on one side of the political spectrum and move all the way across in one swift motion but that is another story). She was at the Tory spring conference within weeks of saying she was a Labour supporter and was put on their A-list of candidates and given one of their prime targets within a couple of years. It smacks to me that the whole thing was staged and planned – it may well not have been but that is how it looks to me now looking back at all the evidence.
I just don’t know what her motives are. Is she genuinely campaigning to get the ‘forgotten Middle England’ back on the front-burner and championing disability schools? Is she really a housewife who saw a problem and decided she wanted to help provide the solution to that problem? Or was this all one cold-calculated decision to make a name for herself and get into politics?
I know what my gut feeling is, we’ll see what the people of Eastleigh say on February 28th…
They say you’ll never find a poor bookie. Well as the books open on the Eastleigh by-election one thing is clear – they have no idea who’ll win this by-election. You can get both the Lib Dems and the Tories at odds-on and also odds against. It is a straight two-horse race as it just isn’t a Labour area and the big question we’ll see for the first time in this new political climate is the effect of UKIP on a Tory/LD marginal.
I wrote last year that UKIP could actually be the saviour of the Lib Dems in 2015. It sounds mad but a strong UKIP could work very much if the Lib Dems favour. The majority of Lib Dem seats in the south are very much in Tory/LD marginals. Heck most of the marginals that the Lib Dems are in are with the Tories in the south. Now I hypothesise that a strong UKIP will pick up more votes from the Tories than they do the Lib Dems. Yes there will be Lib Dem protest votes that disappear to UKIP but the question is will these be more or less than those votes from disaffected Tories?
It should be noted that in the pathetic Police and Crime Commissioner Elections that in the borough of Eastleigh (which isn’t strictly the constituency ward but is the majority of) that the Lib Dem candidate got the most votes with the independent candidate second, Tories third and Labour fourth. The council is made up of 40 Lib Dems and Four Tories. No other party is represented. In 2012 Eastleigh actually saw two LD gains. So this is an area where the Lib Dem vote is strong and is holding up.
Chris Huhne took over the seat in 2005 and just about held on but in 2010 he increased his 600 odd majority to just short of 4,000. The seat was a three-way marginal but Labour’s portion of the vote has dissipated since their high point in the 1997 massacre where they were still a good 5,000 short of winning in Eastleigh. Labour are not winning Eastleigh so don’t throw your money away. This is now a two-way marginal with UKIP being the interesting party to watch.
I don’t think Chris Huhne’s actions will hurt too much with the electorate. It won’t help for sure but if the Lib Dems put forward a good local candidate who speaks well and campaigns hard then they it shouldn’t be a huge issue. I don’t see the Huhne personal vote as a big one. Just watching VoxPops on the local news and the general consensus is that he was an idiot and they are very disappointed in him personally – but not disappointed in the party.
This is without a shadow of a doubt the first by-election that will actually show something of this parliament. I know George Galloway won in Bradford West but that was very much a protest vote against Labour and an excellent local campaign. If The Lib Dems lose Eastleigh then they might well be in real trouble in 2015 but if David Cameron can’t take Eastleigh then there will be a large section of his party that will think they can’t win an outright majority in 2015.
Labour should sit back and watch the carnage and basically work out their 2015 strategy in large based on this. This by-election will be the largest indicator that we’ll get to how the Lib Dem vote is holding up against the Tories and in turn how UKIP will influence these vital Tory/LD marginal. After this by-election we’ll know so much more but for now all we can do is speculate and watch the drama unfold. Oh and Phone Bank, Phone Bank, Phone Bank…
The problem with coalition politics is that everything is essentially a negotiation. No one party will get everything they want. For something one party wants they’ll have to give in to something the other party wants. It is pretty simple stuff but of course with there being a Tory for every five Lib Dems (give or take) in the coalition it could easily be argued that the Tories should get more than the Lib Dems. However they shouldn’t just get everything their own way…
Today the Lib Dems didn’t let the Tories rub their bellies whilst blowing raspberries on it and actually stood up against the Tories because of another piece of the electoral reform process got canned. The Lib Dems were willing to go along with boundary changes in exchange for a more elected House of Lords. They were losing on one front to gain on another. That is pretty much the basis of coalition politics. The Tory backbenchers decided they didn’t want this so killed the bill but still expected the Lib Dems to see through their part of the deal. They seem shocked and not just shocked – appalled – that they didn’t get their own way.
I won’t sit here and say this is a great day. I think boundary reform is important as everyone’s vote should be worth the same but also is ensuring that communities aren’t split up. For example locally in Southend there is no rhyme or reason why Leigh and West Leigh wards would be farmed off to Castlepoint for parliamentary elections. The people of Leigh and West Leigh consider themselves linked with Southend and always have done. Moving this boundary would just be about numbers and not just about communities and that isn’t the best way to be.
Former Southend councillor Peter Bone MP has called for all the Lib Dems who voted against this bill to cross the floor and collapse the coalition. I wonder if he wants the Tories who voted against it to leave the Tory party as well? I suspect he doesn’t. He knows that collapsing the coalition would lead to a General Election and the Tories not having power any more. So he is basically saying that he would prefer not to have any power than share power. An interesting position.
The thing is it is on days like these when the Lib Dems stand up and follow through with what they’ve said they’ll do you see that they couldn’t win either way. If they had voted with the Tories then everyone would have just called them Tory stooges. If they voted like they did against the Tories then people say they did so out of spite. People don’t care about the actual deal of House of Lords Reform for boundary changes (I know there was never a ‘formal’ deal on this but everyone knew it was either both or neither). People will just see what they want to see and if they see the Lib Dems as bad they’ll find a way to justify that position.
One day we’ll get to a point where people understand how coalition politics works, the Tories clearly aren’t there yet. They knew they were going to lose this vote but they still went ahead with it as they wanted to make the Lib Dems look bad. That was their plan all along. The thing is the Lib Dems are getting used to it and like most things they do if people ignore the headlines and who screams the loudest and actually listen to their explanations the hostility will not be as fierce.
Is today a good day for democracy in the UK? Maybe, maybe not. However when the Tory backbenchers and Labour decided to gang up to ensure that House of Lords Reform was very much kicked into the long grass then that probably wasn’t a good day either.
Boundaries need to be reformed but communities must not be split up. The Lords needs to be reformed. It is a shame that neither of these will happen in this parliament but it isn’t solely at the feet of the Lib Dems. There is plenty of blame to go around and all three of the parties deserve a large dollop of it at their feet.
Labour are targeting a measly 16 Lib Dem seats in 2015 but keep saying the Lib Dems are dead. Something doesn’t add up…
Back in the day I went to school. 190 days a year. Lots of boring lessons. The odd interesting one as well. One lesson I did was maths. I was actually pretty good at it. Always in the top set and without sounding big headed always at the top of the top set. Maths wise I was always smart and basic number was my forte. I just nailed it.
So when I read today that Labour are targeting 106 seats for gains in 2015 but only 16 of them were Lib Dem I was a bit perplexed. Now you see I know Labour don’t need the Lib Dems to wither and die to gain power but I do know that all I read and hear is about how the Lib Dems are dead an as electable force. The two groups of people saying this are UKIP and Labour activists.
In 2015 – they say – the Lib Dems will cease to be and be wiped out. I have heard it so many times so surely if this was the case then Labour would be targeting every single Lib Dem seat because the Lib Dem vote is going to vanish into thin air? I mean there are 57 seats up for grabs – essentially free seats because no-one will vote Lib Dem any more so they’ll obviously vote for someone?
Here is the Labour target list with the Lib Dem seats bolded:
1 North Warwickshire
4 Cardiff North
6 Norwich South
7 Stockton South
9 Lancaster & Fleetwood
10 Bradford East
11 Amber Valley
13 Wolverhampton SW
14 Marcambe & Lunesdale
17 Weaver Vale
19 Brighton Pavillion
20 Plymouth Sutton & Devonport
22 Warrington South
23 Brent Central
25 Brighton Kemptown
27 Brentford & Isleworth
29 Enfield North
30 Hastings & Rye
31 Manchester Withington
34 Dundee East
35 East Dunbartonshire
36 Halesowen & Rowley Regis
39 Northampton North
40 Bury North
43 Blackpool North & Cleveleys
44 City of Chester
46 Croydon Central
49 Wirral West
50 Cannock Chase
52 Harrow East
53 Warwick & Leamington
54 Birmingham Yardley
55 South Swindon
56 Ealing Central & Acton
59 Elmet & Rithwell
60 Edinburgh West
62 Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
63 Vale of Glamorgan
64 Argyll & Bute
65 Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale
66 Carmarthen East & Dinefwr
67 Norwich North
68 High Peak
69 Milton Keynes South
70 Rossendale & Darwen
72 North East Somerset
73 Great Yarmouth
74 Dudley South
76 Colne Valley
77 South Ribble
83 Ilford North
84 Preseli Pembrokeshire
85 Brigg & Goole
86 Crewe & Nantwich
87 Bristol NW
89 Finchley & Golders Green
90 Calder Valley
93 Hornsey & Wood Green
94 Reading West
97 Cardiff Central
98 South Basildon & East Thurrock
101 Chatham & Aylesford
102 North Swindon
104 Bermondsey & Old Southwark
105 Bristol West
106 Leeds NW
Now of course Labour could be saying the other 41 seats will go from the Lib Dems to the Tories but they obviously don’t want that because if the Tories take the rest of the Lib Dem seats then the likelihood of a Labour majority is virtually wiped out. There are other parties as well all know and maybe Labour think that the Doctors against the Coalition will sweep in and take a plethora of seats. That is a possible scenario but so is a scenario where I score the winning goal for Portsmouth in an FA Cup Final.
So after the publishing of this list I would like to see Labour activists stopping with their dull and repetitive rhetoric that the Lib Dems are essentially a dead party walking towards 2015. If Labour truly believed that then they would be targeting every single Lib Dem seat.
It should also be noted that not one of the target seats is where the incumbent is a Liberal Democrat member of the Cabinet. So they are not targeting Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Michael Moore nor Edward Davey. The highest ranked Lib Dem they are attacking is Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire. If the Lib Dems were hated so much then surely their best known faces will be the ones to fall as they face a backlash about being in cabinet.
So either Labour don’t actually think the Lib Dems are dead or their activists are lying not only to everyone but more importantly too themselves. I’m not saying Labour can’t take all 16 target seats but if the Lib Dems were truly dead then there are a lot more than 16 that Labour should be targeting.