Political Scrapbook

An update – James Duddridge and the Halifax surgery

james duddridge halifax surgery

Well, it’s certainly been an odd week. I started out blogging a photograph I took on my phone at the weekend, and ended up at twenty to seven this morning on BBC Essex talking to James Whale. It even reached LabourList, my old haunt at Political Scrapbook, and even the BBC News website.

Hardly your average week.

James Duddridge’s “Halifax customers only” community surgery seems, at first glance, like a fairly trivial issue. But really it goes to the heart of the idea of representation. With concerns about corporate and large scale lobbying diluting the access of voters to their MPs, Mr Duddridge putting himself in a position where he seems to be turning his representation into a service for sale to corporations looks about as wise and well informed as Grant Shapps’ latest Twitter campaign.

Read on…

Labour Conference 2012 – A Summary


So conference is over. I’ve been home for a weekend, eating at regular times and not rushing all around Manchester to various fringe events. I am very much into the “comedown” stage of post-conference life. So what were the highlights? I’ve had a few days’ distance to think about this, and I’ve begun to put together a bit of a “best of” list:

  • That speech. Yes, Ed Miliband’s leader’s speech. Undoubtedly the highlight of the week, and despite the scepticism of certain quarters, we could well see this as the turning point moment in his leadership. He was calm and confident, relaxed and likeable, and managed to do the whole thing without any notes. It was spectacular to behold.
  • The emergence of a clear theme for Labour, as we head towards the next election. “One Nation” is not a new idea, but it is coherent and effective, and a clear counterpoint to the fractured and divided society that the Tories’ are creating in done sort of cynical divide-and-conquer strategy. It’s the clearest and most optimistic idea I’ve heard from Ed, and addresses my prior criticisms of the “predistribution” idea by couching it in understandable language.
  • Meeting so many people who I have only known through a broadband connection. Around the converge in general, but also at the excellent Political Scrapbook tweetup. I don’t want to start listing names, as someone will doubtless get lost in the cloud which obscures my memory, but you are all awesome, and it was a particular joy to meet and endlessly discuss politics with Cllr Julian Ware-Lane. As For the tweetup, I remember as a particular highlight Tom Watson (yes, that Tom Watson) explaining to me the behind-the-scenes panicking at Labour HQ at the idea of Ed doing his speech without Autocue or notes. Apparently the scourge of Murdoch quelled the chaos, and told the Labour leader not to take any notice of it. Let Ed be Ed indeed.
  • The sense of optimism. The Guardian rather unfairly described the atmosphere as flat, but my presiding sense was one of optimism. Living in an almost homogeneously blue bloc in the south east is disheartening sometimes, but meeting and talking to so many activists with so many stories from all across the country was encouraging. I feel utterly reinvigorated.

So where now? Well, in the long term, 2015 and a Labour government. But in the immediate term, there’s a by-election in Pinkneys Green ward in a few weeks, and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections soon after. Let’s start there. I’ll look for you all on the campaign battle-lines, comrades.

Political Scrapbook Tweetup – Labour Conference 2012’s Premier Fringe Event

If you’re not going to be at the Political Scrapbook tweetup tonight, you’re going to need a very good excuse.

Despite what the conference magazine and app say, it is NOT at the Town Hall, but at the Sandinista Bar, from 7:30pm until everyone has staggered back to their hotel rooms.

Sadly, we have no new Scrapbook t-shirts, despite my suggestion of an “Andrew Mitchell called me a f**king pleb, and all I got was this f**king t-shirt” version.

We also have Tom Watson DJ-ing, and after his rendition of the Kaiser Chief’s “Ruby” at LabourLists fundraiser we can be sure it’ll be something to talk about! And if you see me there, come up and say hello! I don’t bite (much).

The Whys and Wherefores of Blogging

Last week I was lucky enough to be at a London pub for goodbye drinks for Alex Hern, departing Left Foot Forward for pastures new- quite literally, at the New Statesman. It was a veritable who’s-who of UK left wing political blogging. Daniel Elton, Alex’s boss, led the toasts, and whilst I can’t remember all of what he said, it included something to the gist of:

“…we don’t do it for money, we don’t do it for fame, we don’t do it for glory, we do it for love and because we have something to say…”

(Apologies to Dan- that is almost certainly a horrific mangling of what was genuinely a good toast)

As an explanation for political bloggers, of the more professional strain such as Left Foot Forward and Political Scrapbook, it works perfectly, but it’s gotten me to thinking why it is that I pour so much time, effort and typing into this blog.

When I started it, nearly two years ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I started it because I liked writing, because I thought I might have something to say, and (if I’m honest) because everyone else was doing it. At the time I was starting out writing seriously, submitting and hoping to hit the jackpot and get published. The blog was as much a record as that and my life as anything terribly profound.

It’s changed quite a bit since then. For one thing, I had my first publication. And, as the 2010 general election came around, I had something of a political awakening. My views crystalised, and I joined the Labour party and started spouting off political views. Since then, I’ve been walking the tightrope between politics, writing and general life in my posts. I’m not sure if it’s been good, bad or what, but I’ve kept it going, which I’m reasonably proud of.

But what of now? Anyone reading through my recent posts would notice a clear theme: local politics in Wokingham. A large motivation of this has been coming home after university and getting stuck into politics. Also my standing for the local council. As well as this, though, I’ve been trying to provoke more of a debate. Coming from rowdy Brighton to quieter Berkshire was something of a culture shock, and the lack of political discussion did alarm me.

Since the new year, and my increasing focus on local issues, the views of my blog have leapt skyward, showing that there is clearly an interest in the borough. Bins, libraries, council tax and public loos might seem awfully humdrum, but they’re issues which affect people on a day to day basis.

So here’s to the future- both Alex’s and this blog’s. I’ll be going on as I’ve started, and I aim to hold the council to account as best I can. As long as I’m active in Wokinham’s political sphere, I’ll be blogging about it and calling the council out on their nonsense. And, naturally, I will still be knocking out short stories when the urge takes me.

Here’s to more bins, more libraries, maybe not more council tax, but an upsurge of public toilets! (And, fingers crossed, a few more short story publications).

Out with the old…

So there goes 2011. Another year behind us, with all the experiences it brought. Honestly, I’m not sure where it all went.

But a lot has happened in the life of me, the vast majority of which has gone recorded in this blog. Looking back, I’m not sure where to start…

  • I finished university. Yep, after three long years of study, I finished my exams and in July graduated with an LLB from the University of Sussex. I’m as surprised as anyone, to be honest. But I even managed to cross the hall and receive my degree without tripping over. I have video evidence!
  • Having, at the beginning of the year only dreamed of it, I ended up standing for election this summer. Following the conservative incumbent’s resignation a mere five days after the local elections in May, I stood as Labour candidate for the ward of Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe. And despite the staunch blue shade of the local politics, I managed to poll well and come a not-too-distant third.
  • I’ve been writing, as always. I’ve only had the one story acceptance this year, sadly, but I put that mostly down to the need to focus on university for the first half of the year. One 2011’s highlights was definitely taking part in the excellent Halloween Shorts project, alongside my fellow writers Jennifer Williams, Kev Clarke and Andrew Reid.
  • For the last few months I’ve been volunteering, part-time, for the political blog Political Scrapbook. I’ve learnt a lot from it, and had the pleasure of working with a whole host of great people. Hopefully, the new year will herald the arrival of a “proper job” of some form.
  • I’ve also been volunteering with the local Scout group. Honestly, this was always likely to happen. I was a Scout as a child, my mother is a Cub leader, and the path towards the leader’s uniform has already been tread by my brother. But it’s a great experience, and hopefully I can make the difference in the lives of the lads I’m working with that my leaders made to me.
  • I have, after much procrastination, joined the British Fantasy Society. This was only a week ago, so not much has yet come of it, but I’m excited and inspired. And, of course, looking forward to my first FantasyCon, in September next year!
  • And finally, yesterday marked the end of a third year spent with my wonderful Ashleigh! We celebrated by spending the day in London, at the Saatchi Gallery and Forbidden Planet (of course!), followed by a beautiful meal at Manna vegetarian restaurant. I know it’s a cliché, but I couldn’t be happier.

So that’s the highlights of my personal year. I could have done a political rundown, or a writing run down, but there are other people doing that. For today, I want this to be a record of my year, of what I’ve managed, what I’ve tried, and where I stand on the cusp on 2012. I’ll start looking forwards tomorrow.