#MattforRWR

Five reasons not to vote Conservative today (or why Eric Pickles is wrong)


Nope, sorry Eric! Wrong on all five counts!

I wasn’t going to do any more election blogging, but when I saw Eric Pickles “5 Reasons to vote Conservative today” post on ConservativeHome, I just couldn’t help myself. Here are each of Eric’s points in turn, why he is wrong, and why you shouldn’t vote Conservative in the borough of Wokingham today.

1) Conservatives deliver better quality, better value local services… More Conservative councils have frozen council tax this year than Labour councils.

Yes, Wokingham have frozen council tax. But that freeze was made possible by a one-off grant from central government. This will almost certainly not be repeated next year, which means that council tax will have to go up by at least 2.5%- just for funding to stay at the same level.

And that’s even before we get to the massive stealth tax that the council introduced under the guise of a new rubbish scheme.

2) Conservative councils have been at the forefront of the transparency agenda, opening up their books and finances to public scrutiny.

Transparency my foot. Do you remember the budget? Do you remember how the council executive only released it the statutory week before the vote, whereas other authorities had released it months earlier for scrutiny by residents and opposition parties? And maybe you remember that it was simply voted through, with a minimum of debate, and no opportunity for proper examination.

Judging from this, the Conservatives were going all out to make sure there was no public scrutiny of how they were spending public money.

3) Councils account for a quarter of all public spending, and need to do their bit to help pay off Labour’s deficit.

This doesn’t play too well next to council leader Cllr David Lee’s near-constant bleatings about being the worst funded council in the country. If we’re supposed to be cutting back even harder, why does he always seem to be begging for more money? Also, the notion of there being no money left sits ill next to Eric Pickles’ slush funds for weekly bin collections and short-term tax giveaways- all of which seem calculated to give the Tories something to crow about at election time, having achieved nothing all year long.

Don’t believe the lies.

4) Conservative councils are cutting municipal non-jobs like town hall ‘pilgrims’ and waste like town hall pravadas.

I’m not sure who exactly Wokingham have been cutting, but they don’t seem to have been left with a particularly brilliant crop. The local government officers in charge of the bins, in particular, don’t seem to have covered themselves in glory of late.

And as for these “town hall pravadas” (I can only presume he means “pravda”, a reference to the newspaper of the Soviet Union), one of the biggest complaints about the new rubbish scheme was that nobody knew it was coming. People didn’t know there was a new scheme, and they didn’t know their collection day had changed.

I guess we can thank the Tories for that, then.

5) This Government is devolving significant new powers to local councils…Conservatives can be trusted to use these powers well.

You’ve got to be kidding me? Trust them? I don’t trust them with the powers they’ve got at the moment. So far, Wokingham Conservatives have:

  • Introduced a completely unworkable bin scheme as a cover for a stealth tax.
  • Launched a plan to sell off the libraries, without asking anyone.
  • Closed all of the public toilets in the borough.
  • Threatened to close and sell off care homes.
  • Wasted £90,000 on a PR exercise, and God knows how much in the end on the regeneration of Wokingham Town Centre.
  • Ignored the views of residents at every turn.

Would you trust them with more power. I wouldn’t.

Please, don’t vote Conservative today. Send a message that Wokingham deserves better, that it deserves a council that will listen to it, and act in its best interests.

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An Election Day Letter to the People of Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe


Dear residents

Today is the day; election day. And the polls are now open, the ballot papers are now read, and I sincerely hope that somewhen in the next fifteen hours you will all be making your way to the polling station to cast your votes.

I have spent the last few weeks working hard, talking to you and distributing leaflets, and offering my policies and stances on the local issues that matter to you. I sadly haven’t managed to speak to all of you, but most of you will by now have seen my leaflet. And if you haven’t, and would still like to, I have made it available online here.

I wanted to take this last opportunity to simply remind you of the importance of your ballot paper. When you stand in the polling booth, you will hold in your hands the power to influence the course that your local government takes. And it is your local government. I know it hasn’t always felt like that, I know that the council haven’t listened to your views, your concerns, your opinions.

But the ballot box is the one thing they cannot ignore.

I have laid out the changes I would make, and how I would conduct myself differently if elected as your councillor. I would put your views and interests first, and I would push the council to consult more and listen more.

The disaster that has been the new rubbish scheme has shown what happens when council stagnates. There is no meaningful debate of ideas, and the assumption that those in power are right presides. The new scheme has been proved ill thought out from the start, and the Conservatives must accept blame for it.

I humbly ask you, today, for your trust, your support and your vote. Throughout this campaign I have tried my utmost to maintain an atmosphere of honesty (I was not afraid to hold my hands up when I got things wrong) and keep the focus on local issues that are within the ambit of the local authority. This is what I would strive to maintain in office.

With that said, I invite you to examine my policies once more. Besides my leaflet, I have made my own views and policies fully available on this blog, and you can read through those blogs here.

I thank you for the time you have invested in reading this, and all of the thousands of other words I have written.

Matthew S. Dent

Labour and Co-operative Party candidate

Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe

Tories and Libraries


The local Conservatives have axed the money put aside for Twyford's new library without a second thought. What do you think they'll do when privatising Wargrave's library?

Last November, when a popular petition forced Wokingham Borough Council to debate the planned privatisation (or “outsourcing” if you prefer, Cllr Keith Baker) of the libraries, we were assured by Cllr UllaKarin Clark that she and her fellow Conservatives cared deeply for the borough’s libraries. My opponent tomorrow in Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe, Cllr John Halsall, has said in his election literature that “The Conservatives are commited to the Library service…

But actions always speak louder than words, and on the libraries the Tories’ actions expose and drown out their misleading rhetoric.

From the shambolic performance in the aforementioned debate, where Tory councillor after Tory councillor stood up to lambast and insult the poor foolish people who had signed the petition, to the present situation it has been clear that they don’t care about the library service. They talk the talk when it comes to elections, but between them they utterly fail to walk the walk.

The plans to sell off the libraries was introduced last year, a few days after local elections. There was no discussion of them in election debates, and there was no consultation with the public. It was decided in secret and behind closed doors that they would open for tendering, and then they could complain that their hands were tied and they couldn’t talk about it whilst offers were being made- conveniently forgetting to mention that it could have been discussed before.

And now, as we approach another election, the council have quietly axed £1.3m that was earmarked for a new library in Twyford. At the moment, Twyford library is in a port-a-cabin, and has been for years. The plan, once upon a time, was to put a new library in the unit which the council ended up leasing to Tesco instead. This spectacularly ill-judged decision left to what is probably the best piece of vandalism I’ve ever heard about (and which I in no way endorse, support or excuse).

Finding an alternative venue would have been a pain, but not unachievable. But without the money that had been put aside for it, the dreams of a new library have gotten a lot more distant.

I know this is outside of my patch- though not by much- but my point is this: if the Tories can gleefully axe longstanding plans for a new Twyford library, what will they be prepared to do with Wargrave’s? We’ve been promised that our libraries will be safe under the privatisation plan, but bearing in mind that we heard nothing about it until after the last elections I’m wondering what nasty surprises are going to appear when the tendering process is complete.

Whoever you’re planning on voting for tomorrow, remember this: you won’t get another chance to vote for your local representatives until 2014 at the earliest. By then it will be too late, and whatever plans the Conservatives are keeping under their hats will already be in place. Everyone is pledging to protect the libraries, but there is one party you cannot trust to put the good of the library service ahead of  base profit: the Tories.

Not Fit for Purpose


Cllr Gary Cowan and council waste boss Peter Baveystock proudly show off their new stealth tax wheeze- the green waste bins.

We’re on the eve of the local elections now, and as it’s almost alarming that it’s here so quickly. This has been an exciting election campaign, charged by the fact that people have a fair amount that they want to discuss with the candidates who come to talk to them.

By far the most popular subject is the new rubbish scheme, and I’m afraid the vast, overwhelming majority has not been positive. On the whole, single people and couples without children have no real problem with the scheme, whilst families with children are finding it impractical and unmanageable.

What’s become clear is that this is not simply teething problems. Yes, the execution has been awful. Bags the wrong size have been distributed, they have been carelessly left on doorsteps and stolen, and more than a month into the scheme there are still residents who haven’t received bags.

But the problems with the scheme run deeper than that. I have found myself largely focusing on the blue bags, but the green waste scheme is just as flawed. What was previously a free service now costs £60 (per year) for a brown bin or £1 each for individual compostable bin bags. 5,000 have reportedly signed up for the bins, which is much less than the council expected and has resulted in them halving the number of bins that they’ve ordered- from 10,000 to 20,000.

Let’s look at the money in this for a moment. With 5,000 bins sold at £60 each, the council have already received £300,000. Now, if we take away the cost to the council for each bin (which, after the local budget, we now know is a mere £25) and we get £175,000 profit. An extra £175k to plug the gap in finances created by a smoke-and-mirrors council tax freeze, by paying for a service which was previously paid for by that same council tax. 2,000 bags have been reportedly sold, so that’s £2,000 minus the 15p-per-bag cost to the council: £1,700. So that’s £176,700 made out of the scheme in the first month alone.

And this is just the first year. The charge is annual, but the bins are (I believe) for life. So whilst the first month of the scheme this year has raised £175k, if the same people renew their participation in the scheme next year the council will make the full £300k as profit. I defy anyone to explain to me how this isn’t a stealth tax.

Aside from that, there are the bin bags themselves. “Compostable” might work well as a buzz word, but as Jonny Vaughan pointed out you’re still creating something to be instantly disposed of. And given that they’re compostable, they will fall apart readily. I wonder what all this rain has been doing to them…

Finally, I’ll close with something else I’ve found. Three Mile Cross Info (a blog belonging to a resident of Three Mile Cross village) has posted a letter from the council, which seems to indicate that they are rethinking the legality (questionable at best) of the scheme.

…we have agreed that there will be a review of the collection services in the next few weeks and until then our contractors have been told to accept refuse in any form of plastic bag.

A review, in the next few weeks. Conveniently, just after the election. So here’s where your vote tomorrow counts. If Conservative candidates are returned on mass across the borough, the council will descend back below the parapets to ignore you all until 2014. The only way of smoking them out and making them listen is to hit them where it hurts: and elect non-Tory candidates.

Do not underestimate how much your vote tomorrow will count.

Why Not to Trust Tory Promises


The Conservatives have broken so many promises, in Wokingham and nationally; how can they be trusted now?

As 3rd May, polling day in the local elections, draws every closer, reasons not to trust the promises that the Conservatives make seem paramount. Just how many of them have they broken? They must be competing with Nick Clegg about now.

So far, we’ve seen:

  • A massive, widescale reform of the NHS, despite a promise that there would be no more top-down reforms.
  • An attempt to sell off the country’s forests to the highest bidder, having promising to care better for the countryside.
  • Despite pr0mising to fix the economy and cut the deficit, they’re borrowing more and the country is back in recession.
  • A promise to be the “greenest government ever” met by…well, nothing.
  • Scrapping EMA for poorer students, despite promises not to before the election from both David Cameron and Michael Gove.

And those are just the ones off the top of my head.

Additionally, those who read the Conservatives’ 2010 manifesto might remember this line:

…we will not allow the poorest people in Britain to pay an unfair price for the mistakes of some of the richest.

And yet since being in government, they have hiked VAT (which hits the poorest hardest), and increased tax on pensioners to fund a tax break for millionaires. That seems like a broken promise to me.

Of course, this being a local election local issues will be rightfully taking centre stage. But to think that the Conservatives in Wokingham borough are more trustworthy would be a mistake.

This blog, from November 2010, by local resident Richard Peat shows up just how conniving they are. Essentially, they promised in advance of the 2010 general election that a Tory government would reduce housing quotas, allowing the council to reduce the number that they would be building. The Tories got votes, as a result, in both national and local elections, and unsurprisingly the quota reduction didn’t happen.

So essentially, they lied in order to win votes at election time. Not exactly shocking, you may be tempted to think.

Look, also, at the library privatisation plan. It was announced last May, conspicuously just after a local election in which a third of councillors faced the public vote. So you’d expect it to have been a major issue in the campaign for that election.

But you’d be wrong. No mention was made, and the idea was not put to the public. A cynic might suggest that this was because the Conservatives knew it would be a vote loser, and decided that it was easier for them to subvert the democratic process and do it in secret. But I’ll let you make up your own mind.

My point is this: the Conservatives cannot be trusted to stand by their campaign pledges. They promise that they’ll iron out the “teething problems” with the new rubbish collection scheme, but you weren’t asked or consulted with about it. They promise the libraries are safe, but they’ve broken their promises many times before. And how can we know that Monday 7th May won’t see the announcement of some new policy we’ve heard nothing about before?

The Sincerest Form of Flattery


Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, so I'm taking John Halsall's apparent conversion to my position as a massive compliment.

[UPDATE: Subsequently to publishing this blog, I have discovered that the premise of this blog is based upon a mistake in the Henley Standard article. As a result, I have published this correction of my own claims]

This week’s Henley Standard (published yesterday) contains a “Local Elections 2012” page, in which they give an overview of the candidates standing for election in the areas they cover. Since this includes Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe, there are profiles of myself, Cllr Halsall and the Liberal Democrat candidate Martin Alder.

This is the first sign of direct campaigning from Martin, which is strange for a candidate who put out three leaflets at last summer’ by election. But since it’s been confirmed to me by a neutral resident this week that the Lib Dems haven’t even distributed a leaflet this time, I’m pretty confident that this is part of a strategic concentration of resources.

But it’s Cllr Halsall’s bio that interests me. It’s nothing particularly new or ground-breaking, but there is one line which particularly grabbed my attention:

Both [the bins problem and the libraries issue] show a dangerous disconnect between the council leaders and ordinary people.

Which sounds…familiar. Very familiar, in fact. And looking back through the archives on this very site, I come across this line, from the blog where I declared my candidacy back on April 6th:

At the moment, the Conservative elite who rule Wokingham seem completely disconnected from residents.

In fact, the fact that the council leadership isn’t listening has been the central point of my campaign. Time and again I’ve pointed out serious failings that stem from this simple truth. From the libraries, to the disaster that is the new bin scheme, to the borough’s development “plan”, the message has been clear: the Conservatives don’t care what you think. And it’s very odd to hear my songs sung by others.

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, so I’m taking John Halsall’s apparent conversion to my position as a massive compliment.

John is a very smart man. I would never seek to deny that, and surely anyone who has spoken to him will recognise it. He’s clearly been knocking on doors, and been hearing the same views from residents as I have. He recognises that his party has a poor record for competence at the moment, both nationally and locally, and that clinging to indefensible positions will only lose him votes and support.

But this doesn’t escape the fact that John is a Conservative councillor and the Conservative candidate. He may well disagree with the actions of the leadership, and think that there is a disconnect. But he is an agent of that leadership, and his power to hold it to account is somewhere between slim and nil.

Re-electing John will send no message to council leaders to whom your votes matter and your voices don’t. Nice man though he undoubtedly is, John Halsall is not a credible candidate for change. But I am. If you want your council to change the way it operates, and to start to ask you what you think of its plans, then vote for me on May 3rd.

Vote for the original, not the tribute band.

T Minus One Week


Only a week left, until the polling stations open for voters.

This time next week, the polls will be open and ballot papers will be being filled out. Candidates and activists will be scurrying around, and voters will be wandering to their polling station. So as the home stretch looms before us, I thought I’d lay out a few points that have become clear through the campaign.

  • God hates canvassers. This might seem trite, but the weather has been almost singularly appalling. I’ve lost count of the number of leaflet drops and door knocking sessions that have been conducted in the rain. I’ve already blogged about this, but it’s left the whole campaign feeling a bit…soggy. Not to mention leaving me scornful of any concept of “drought”.
  • Some people think that rubbish collection is not an issue. Others disagree. I’m clearly in the latter camp, to avoid any doubt. Actually, most of the people I’ve encountered who think discussion of the bins is a silly issue have been the smaller households. For the most part larger households (three, four people) and those with children have been giving the same complaint: the 80 bags provided simply aren’t enough to last a year.
  • The local issue is king. I’m actually really pleased about this. Whilst there are numerous complaints about the cuts or the NHS reforms, and the occasional “It’s all Labour’s fault!“, most people have wanted to talk about local problems. Whether this is the bins, the libraries, the toilets, the schools or the parking, people want to talk about the things they think need improving- and it’s nice not to have to say “I’m sorry, that’s not something the council can change“.
  • People want a change. By and large, people are not happy with the status quo. That’s not to say that they’re flocking to my banner yet, but they are certainly sceptical of the lines being fed to them by the Conservatives. Neither nationally nor locally do the Tories exude an air of confidence, and the smell of uncertainty is beginning to foul into a stench of incompetence. Whether or not I can convince people of the change I can offer is another matter, though.
  • Mark Ashwell’s use of Twitter confuses more people than it impresses. The Tory candidate for Winnersh is something of a political curiousity, but his Twitter account has me stumped. I’m afraid when I can understand what he’s saying he seems hopelessly naive and bland, and that comprehension is a rarity. It’s even spawned an equally bizarre anti- account. And now he seems to be blocking anyone who questions him (not even disagrees- questions). Sad, undemocratic, and actually showing that he would fit in well with the council administration:
  • People don’t trust politics. Regardless of what colour rosette you’re wearing, the fact is that people aren’t quick to believe what anyone asking for their vote says. You can argue as to where the blame for this lies (Labour: “You crashed the economy!”; the Tories “You were supposed to fix the economy, not sell off the NHS!”; or the Lib Dems “Tuition fees”.) but the truth is the truth. I’ve been very careful not to promise things I can’t deliver: I know Labour cannot win a majority and take control of the council. But I’ve laid out what I stand for and what I will work towards, and I’d resign before abandoning those principles.

So there’s seven days left to campaign, which is plenty of time to win hearts and minds. If you want to get in touch with me, then please leave a comment below (or use the contact form if you’d prefer privacy) and I’d be happy to discuss any issue you like.

Wokyrubbish – Dull, but Important


The Wokingham bin bags disaster might not be as exciting as national political issues, but it's symptomatic of the problems at the heart of our local government.

I posted the below comment on a Wokingham Times story entitled “Rubbish a big issue in election campaigning“, in response to comments to the extent that the problems surrounding the new rubbish scheme were insignificant, and a silly thing to campaign on.

I’m sorry, but my experience from the doorsteps is that far from a minority, Damiano’s views [that the council’s actions show a disdain for the voting public] represent majority of public opinion.

I understand (and, to be honest, agree with) views that bin bags are a pretty dull subject, but the fact is that they are causing a lot of annoyance and inconvenience to a lot of residents. Local politics often isn’t the grand issues of its national counterpart, but rather the problems that impact people’s everyday lives. I am actually glad that this election is so focused on local matters.

Also, this isn’t simply teething troubles. The problems aren’t confined to the scheme’s execution (which has, inarguably, been woeful), but rather with the concept at its heart. The Tory claims of a council tax freeze sit ill with the stealth taxes they’re implementing. And the fact that they have done it without consultation with the public shows a dangerous aloofness.

The bins are a problem. But they are symptomatic of a bigger problem at the heart of the Conservative council administration.

My Response to Cllr John Halsall


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?

[Here’s a slightly lower-tech download link, if Scribd isn’t working for you, or a link to the leaflet on ElectionLeaflets.org if you’d prefer not to download]

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.

A Note on Polite Politics


Politics should be about policy, not personality.

It seems a simple enough idea, and if you asked most people directly I’m pretty sure most would agree. But sadly, it seems far too easy for personality to take centre stage, and political debate to dissolve into playground-style name-calling. Style-over-substance politics seems to have been with us for a while, but the last general election exemplifies it.

Witness the (nominal) victor, Mr David Cameron. Undeniably slicker than any of his opponents, he was excellent with PR. But now, as Prime Minister, he has to walk the walk not just talk the talk. And the shambles of his time in government speaks volumes as to that.

I think the same principle holds in local government. By and large, despite sensationalist headlines in the Daily Mail about fat cat councillors, I don’t believe anyone gets involved in local politics for their own enrichment. My motivations are purely that I disagree with how Wokingham is being run, and I want to do my bit to make it a better place. I would be extraordinarily surprised if the same wasn’t true of my Lib Dem opponent Martin Alder. And whilst I wouldn’t want to brand him with the first part of that statement to him, I’m sure the second part holds true of the Conservative incumbent John Halsall.

I’ve never actually met Martin, and honestly given the silence from him and his party in this campaign I don’t anticipate I will cross blades with him in any significant way. But John I have met and interacted with, and I can tell you here and now that he is a very nice man.

That should not be misconstrued. I disagree fundamentally with his policies, his politics and his ideology. But to take a footballing metaphor, I believe we should always aim to play the ball and not the man.

I can’t read minds, so I don’t know how far he agrees with the council, but I suspect and sympathise that sometimes he will be left defending policies he feels are flawed. I do maintain that he is doing his utmost to make Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe a better place as he sees it. He isn’t bad, he’s just wrong.

As an example, I present an email that appeared in my inbox last night. I had earlier posted a blog in which I asked anyone with a copy of John’s leaflet to send me a picture. When I opened the email, I was confronted with this:

Dear Matthew

Please find enclosed as requested

kind regards

John Halsall

Yes, he had emailed me a PDF copy of his own leaflet. Bravo, sir. I’ve read through it, and there is plenty for me to disagree with, argue with and dispute in it (and I will, in a blog later this evening). But he was more than happy to share it with me, to widen the scope of debate when he could easily have just left me in the dark.

Whilst I do not and can not agree with the policies he espouses, I have a great deal of respect for the man himself. If there were more men like him in the Wokingham Conservative Party, men willing to encourage open debate of policy and issue, then our local politics would be a more vibrant and engaging scene.