A lot of people aren’t keen on this role at all. I, actually, am one of them. I’d rather that we weren’t politicising the police forces of England and Wales, and spending a fortune in order to do it. However, not voting won’t stop that from happening, and it won’t lead to a positive situation.
Tomorrow we will have a Police Commissioner, even if only 1% of the registered electorate vote. In many cases, a low turnout will allow someone not at all right for the job to win. The opportunity that you have today is to vote for whoever you feel would be best for the role of the candidates before you.
I’ve already declared how I will be voting. My first preference will be Tim Starkey (Lab) and my second preference John Howson (Lib Dem). I’d urge, naturally, everyone to vote for Tim because he’d make a great Police Commissioner, and would focus on keeping policing numbers and standards up in the Thames Valley, rather than just enacting Tory cuts.
If you haven’t managed to see his leaflet yet (and I know that’s a lot of people — Thames Valley is big, and although I and others have been working hard, we’re a long way off covering the whole area), then here you are you lucky people!
But whatever you do, whoever you vote for, do go out and vote!
Subsequent to my last blog, below you can read Pat McDonald’s election leaflet for today’s by-election in the Pinkneys Green ward of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
So I finally have a copy of the Conservative leaflet for Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe (thanks to the generosity and sense of fair play of Cllr Halsall himself), and can thus make my response to it.
At last year’s by-election there were five candidates, and so plenty of rival literature for me to blog about. This year only the three main parties are fielding candidates, and if my suspicions that the Lib Dems are focusing their attentions and resources elsewhere are true then this could be the only leaflet (other than my own) that residents see.
So on that note, what does it say?
The first page has the usual ode to [insert local area here], which to be honest is more or less universally unobjectionable. An interesting addition is a vote of confidence from Theresa May, who “looks forward to working with him over the next four years“. I imagine she’d look forward less to working with me, but given her apparent failure to grasp elementary timekeeping, I might choose to take that as a compliment.
John is also described as “the LOCAL & EXPERIENCED choice”. Which presumably is a shot at my age. I’ll grant that he is more “experienced” than I am, but I’d dispute that age necessarily makes a better councillor. I’d counter that what the council needs is an injection of radical new ideas, that are a bit more grounded in common sense and reality than what the council has been producing lately.
Inside, we’re treated the usual (possibly obligatory?) refrain about how poor Wokingham is. This is the Tories’ first, last and only line of defence against criticism. They have to sell off the libraries/sell off social care/stealth tax residents/treat voters like mugs, because they’re the worst funded local authority in the world. I won’t take up words here dispelling that particular myth, but suffice it to say it isn’t quite as simple as that.
Moving forward, John has identified three key areas where he intends to focus his efforts if re-elected:
- Roads and traffic: John has correctly identified parking as a problem, especially around the centre of the village. This has been a problem since before I moved to Wargrave, and boils down to two simple facts: too many cars, not enough space to park them. There isn’t a quick or easy fix to this one. Restrict parking, and whilst making residents happy you make local businesses unhappy. Leave it unrestricted, and residents have to compete with customers for parking space. This one is going to run and run.
- Green belt and planning: John is concerned with the preservation of green-belt land around the village(s). This is a pleasant, rural area, and I imagine a lot of people would agree. I tend to be somewhere in the middle of the “build” and “don’t build” camps. I accept that there is a need for increased housing provision across the borough, but would rather not see my favourite views and walking routes paved over. Of course, what John doesn’t mention is that it’s actually the Conservative-led national government’s planning reforms that are threatening green belt land. Don’t just take it from me; that’s the opinion of the Daily Telegraph.
- Wargrave library: I’ll admit, this made me giggle. “The Conservatives are committed to the Library service by improving the efficiency of service delivery whilst maintaining and bettering what is offered.” Oh really? Then why are you selling it off? And why, John, are you failing to address the concerns over privatisation, by offering only a bland, manufactured non-statement?
Have you noticed what’s missing though? For the last couple of months, the local press has been alive with the complaints of residents that the new waste scheme is unfit for purpose. I’ve written plenty on this, and have conversed with John himself on the matter by email. But all his leaflet has to say on the matter is that if elected he will:
“Address the concerns of the new waste collection scheme“
And that’s it. How, John? I’ve quite clearly laid out what I think the council should do. The scheme hasn’t just had teething problems, it has been conceptually flawed from the start. People on the doorstep are angry that this has been sprung on them and that no one is listening to their complaints. This won’t address anyone’s concerns- though I confess it’s a little better than a certain Winnersh candidate’s adamant insistence that the scheme is perfect.
As I’ve said before, I like John Halsall. He is a very nice man, and every time I have had occasion to converse with him he has been polite and a joy to talk to. Sadly, though, this election comes down to policy. I strongly suspect that John himself is displeased with the waste scheme, and the library plans, and a host of other WBC policies. But he’s been left no choice but to try to defend them.
Cllr John Halsall represents the status quo. I can’t promise that I will be able to right all the wrongs in Remenham, Wargave and Ruscombe, because I won’t. But I am the candidate for change, and a change is very definitely what is needed.
We’re less than three weeks away from polling day, and this morning I started on the campaign trail proper. Across the village of Wargrave, my election leaflet is going out through letterboxes to reach the residents and voters for whose support I am appealing on May 3rd.
And since I have placed a not-inconsiderable emphasis on the internet and digital campaigning, I would be amiss if I did not make that literature available online. So here it is, in downloadable PDF form for any who are interested:
[UPDATE: It seems that scribd isn’t working too well for everyone at the moment. Since this is way past the extent of my technical skills, I’m going to compromise. You can find the PDF hosted directly here, instead.]
I’ve also put it up on ElectionLeaflets.org, as I did for the by-election last year. Neither Messrs Halsall or Alder have yet put anything up there, and I haven’t seen any literature from them either. It’s entirely possible that I’ll be skipped by their deliverers, but if any Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe residents have received Lib Dem or Tory leaflets and feel like sharing them with me… Well, I’d be very grateful!
One more day to go, and I’m starting to feel a little pinch of nervousness in my stomach. It seems silly, given the unlikeliness of me winning. But I’m wondering if the Lib Dems aren’t starting to get a little worried.
I’m the first Labour candidate in a long while to actually campaign this ward. The first non-paper candidate in a while. Previously the ward has been a safe Tory seat, with the Lib Dems in clear second place and no one else in sight. This is something that the Lib Dems seem oddly proud of, though as I say since no Labour candidate has properly campaigned here before it isn’t exactly a fair measure.
But for the last few weeks I’ve been working the pavement hard. I’m at a disadvantage from the start, really, since I have less money to throw into a campaign, and a smaller pool of volunteers to draw from (though the local party members have risen admirably to my aid, and I’m proud to count myself amongst their number). So I’ve only been able to produce one leaflet, and have had to (largely) distribute it myself.
The Tories seem only to feel the need to put out one leaflet, and honestly when one looks at the electoral history of the ward, it seems understandable. The interesting thing, however, is the Lib Dems. On the face of it, they’ve put out three leaflets: one a few weeks before the date of the by-election was announced, another around the same time as I started canvassing, and then a third last night. Except, in reality, they seem to be the self-same leaflet.
They’ve moved things around, changed fonts, changed the format. But at its core, it contains largely the same information. There seems to be no new revelation which prompts another sheet, other than to maintain some sort of endless barrage. And I do wish that their canvassers would actually put leaflets all the way through letterboxes, and not leave them hanging halfway out. I suspect a lot of local residents would agree with me there.
But having damned them for putting out the same leaflet three times, there are a few minor changes, and I think they’re very telling. Firstly, the latest leaflet has a section about the reasons behind the by-election. This is on the front of my leaflet, and has been my primary line of attack against the Tories. Cllr Stretton resigned in a manner which showed utter disrespect for the people who voted for her, and showed she was thinking almost solely about her own political career. And yet this is the first I’ve seen from the Lib Dems mentioning. Maybe I’m gaining some traction with it. Maybe they’re worried they’re loosing ground on it.
Secondly, there’s a slight change in their “two-horse race” spiel. It featured on their last leaflet, saying:
“Lib Dems v Conseravtives – that’s the political battle in Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe and across the Wokingham Borough. The Conservatives control the council and the Lib Dems are the only opposition; there are no councillors from any other party, nor any independent councillors.”
The latest leaflet says:
“The Conservatives run the council. The Liberal Democrats are the only opposition and there are no other councillors. In Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe Labour have come bottom in the last 3 local elections, averaging less than 5% of the vote.”
Notice the change of tack from a general attack on the chances of other parties, to a specific attack on my chances as Labour candidate? Interesting, isn’t it. In the previous leaflet, they were confident of their status as the only opposition. Now they seem to feel threatened by my campaign.
Everything they say is true. Labour have come bottom the last three times, with around 5% of the vote. But as I said above, there was no real campaign. And as for this two-horse race, is that all residents want? The Lib Dems, like the Tories, seem to discount the fact that such positions are only decided by the voters. Of course Labour can win here. All it takes is for people to go out tomorrow and vote for me.
This, I think, is what the Liberal Democrats are realising. I think they’re noticing a new challenger, who might be able to take up ground they have systematically failed to. I think they’re getting a bit worried.
So, as the title may indicate, today has been quite busy.
For the most part, it’s been themed around seeking out and applying for jobs, internships and other opportunities. So plenty of filling out application forms and writing cover letters. Not interesting, but necessary. I’ll let you all know if anything comes of it.
But the bulk of my exertion today has come this evening. Yes, my leaflets have finally been printed, all thousand or so of them. I’m largely pleased with them, though the copier has slightly warped the left edge of the front page. It’s still readable, it’s just that the first letter on each line is a little warped.
So my evening was spent folding these lovely leaflets into three (whilst watching Warrington Wolves make difficult work of beating Huddersfield Giants), ready to take out tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. I’m not just going to be putting the leaflets through letterboxes, I’m going to be knocking doors and talking to people. In true-blue Berkshire. But my theory is that people here are tired of no one asking their views, no one caring what they think. My theory is that there is only a Conservative majority out of apathy, and people are itching for a chance.
So maybe I’ll get a favourable reception. At any rate, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been dominating the online and media campaign (largely because I’m the only candidate who seems capable of using the internet), but the Tories and Lib Dems have already had leaflets out. I’m hoping to go a step further by actually engaging people, regardless of the reception I may get, in order to actually hear what they have to say.
Also, at this stage I’d have to say that it seems the UKIP and Green candidates are merely paper candidates. I’d be surprised if either of them got more than a handful of votes. But hey, I’ve been wrong before!
And if you can’t wait to see my leaflet, or if you’re not in the area but are curious, here’s a pdf version of it for your enjoyment!