Campaigning in the Rain

The Newalls Rise street party was a welcome break from pavement politics, and a fantastic day.

It’s been a few days now, since I’ve updated my blog, but they’ve been a busy few days.

Pavement politics has been in full swing, and I’ve now door-knocked most of Wargrave, and a good part of Ruscombe, and leafleted a lot more. Some areas of Wargrave, and of Remenham, won’t have had a leaflet through their door yet. I’m working to remedy that in the next few days, but if you haven’t had one yet and want to give it a read, you can do so here.

Thanks is owed to a few people, starting with Brian Scott, who has twice run leaflets around to me on weekday evenings so that I can get them out through letterboxes. Also, to Roy Mantel, Nigel Smith, and Spike Humphreys (especially Spike, who joined me for a morning door-knocking in Ruscombe in the pouring rain). Also to my gorgeous Ashleigh, who helped me leaflet all across Ruscombe today.

There’s been a fair amount of walking through the rain, but it hasn’t all been so arduous. Saturday saw the Newalls Rise street party! It started off looking questionable in the rain, but thanks to 1st Twyford Scouts, we got hold of a marquee, and a day of barbequed food and karaoke ensued. A great time was unquestionably had by all, and I can only apologise to neighbouring streets for our loud, often-questionable quality singing until midnight.

But back to the campaign, having spoken to an awful lot of people about an awful lot of things, I’ve been staggered at the positive reception I’ve been getting. There is a lot of anger at the Conservatives both nationally and locally, and a lot of feeling that ordinary people are ignored by the council. I think there’s some truth to that. Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe is on the outer edge of the Borough, and is a safe Tory seat. The Tories don’t feel it matters what happens here. They’ve failed to disown Cllr Stretton’s actions (the current party line being that she moved to Maidenhead and resigned because she has elderly parents, which really is neither here nor their).

I hope that every resident will go out and vote on Thursday, whether they vote for me or not. Democracy is important, and this is the chance to have a say on what’s going on locally at the moment. I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s happy about what the Tories are doing to the libraries. I’m offering an opportunity to reject moves towards privatisation.

And I hope that people will consider their vote, and not simply vote Conservative because that’s what they’ve “always done”. I hope people will read my campaign literature, and think about the issues. I don’t think anyone is completely happy with how the council are doing things, or how they are being represented. I ask you to think about who will work harder for you: another Tory careerist in a safe seat, or a Labour councillor in a generally quite Conservative area?

The Elephant in the Room

At the start of this academic year, I bought myself a clock radio, so I could wake up to the radio rather than whatever annoying noise my phone conjures up. Now, in Brighton I can’t get Absolute Radio. I personally cannot stand Chris Evans. So with Absolute and Radio 2 ruled out, I plumped for Radio 4. I quite like the Today programme, and John Humphrys’ voice isn’t an unpleasant thing to wake up to. (Quiet!)

This might seem an odd way to begin a blog entry, but it leads into something more substantial now. This morning I was half awake, listening to a bit about how dire Ireland’s economic state is at the moment, and how it looks like the EU is going to have to bail them out.

I wanted to use a picture of an elephant painted with the Irish flag, on fire, but unfortunately my lack of photoshop skills and the internet's lack of imagination has meant that I can only go with this particularly idiotic picture of Osborne.

Now, I might have missed a bit, as I was still waking up, but nowhere did I hear any parallels drawn between the Irish situation and our own. They suffered in the recession. So did we. They gained a large deficit as a result of bailing themselves out of the recession. So did we. They ended up with a Coalition. So did we. They set out on a program of radical cuts. We have just begun a near identical program.

And here’s the problem. Before the election, back when he was Shadow Chancellor, rather than axe-wielder-in-chief, George Osborne wrote an article in the Times newspaper about Ireland. You can read the article for yourself, but it contains the key quote.

I’m not an Osborne fan. I think he’s a moron, and I wouldn’t trust him with my pocket change, let alone the Treasury. But still, I’d have a lot more respect for him if he could let go of his damned cutcutcut obsession and looked at the bloody facts. It’s particularly galling when he himself laid out the sensible advice back in 2006.

“[Ireland] have much to teach us, if only we are willing to learn.”

And right you were, George. They taught us that sudden, drastic cuts when the economy is still unstable are a bad idea, and can result in a plunge back into recession. Not the lesson that he imagined they would teach us, granted, but important nonetheless. And yet despite eschewing the benefits of paying attention to Ireland and learning from their blunders, he seems not to be willing to learn himself.

It’s not surprising, of course. The Coalition government have set out on a program of economically-destructive cuts, and damn it they’re going to carry it out. That’s ideology. That’s politics. Any climbdown now would be tantamount to the lumbering mutant creature shooting itself in the face. But why are the rest of us not shouting louder about this?

Alan Johnson pointed out Osborne’s raging hypocrisy re: banking regulation, back when the CSR was delivered. But no one is waving Ireland around as an example of him ignoring the red lights and warning signs. Is there some reason for this? Is Ireland a no-go area for some reason?

Whatever, some brave MP (from either side of the House) needs to table a question to ask Osborne- or that Tory-apologist Danny Alexander- to explain why they are now ignoring the Irish lessons which they were so adamant we should learn from.

The (Tory)pion and the Fox [Political Flash Fiction]

The (Tory)pion and the Fox

By Matthew S. Dent

The Scorpion (right) and the Fox (left)

There is an ancient fable, told as a warning against excessive foolishness or trust. It tells that there was once a Liberal Democrat fox, called Nick, who lived on the opposition bank, of the river Parliament. One day he heard someone calling his name.

Turning around, he saw a gathering of Tory scorpions. ‘Nick,’ they said. ‘Nick, please help us.’

‘Help you?’ he asked, suspicious. All foxes knew that scorpions were not to be trusted- especially Tory scorpions.

‘We need to get to the other side of the river,’ the lead scorpion, called Dave, explained. ‘We need to get to the government bank, but there aren’t enough of us to get across.’

Nick looked over at the other bank. It was green and fertile, with food a plenty, and many comfortable places to sleep in the sun. Although he had always lived on the opposition bank, he had never stopped dreaming of one day making it to the government bank.

‘But I’m just a fox,’ he said. ‘There are too many obstacles. I could never manage to land on the other side.’

‘We’ll help you,’ one of the scorpions, George, whispered to him. ‘If you take us across, we will let you stay.’

Nick considered this carefully. It was very tempting. No fox had set foot on the government bank in almost a hundred years. But he was still suspicious.

‘You’re scorpions,’ he said. ‘And Tories. Everyone knows what you’re like. You’ll sting me. and cut public services, lower taxes for the rich and neglect the poor.’

‘No!’ Dave said, with a chuckle. ‘Why would we do that? We haven’t been on the other bank for thirteen years, because we did that. If we did it again, we’d drown too. Why would we do that?’

Nick thought on this long and hard. He considered it for several days, talking to the other animals, while the Tory scorpions grew impatient. Eventually he returned to them with the other foxes, to give them an answer.

‘Alright,’ he said. ‘We’ll carry you across on our backs. But we want our pick of the best sleeping spots on the other side.’

‘Certainly!’ Dave agreed, delighted.

So the foxes began swimming across the river, with the Tory scorpions on their backs. The water was cold, and turgid. It took all of the foxes’ efforts to get across. But as they drew away from the opposition bank, and towards the government bank, the scorpions stung the foxes, on whose backs they rode.

‘But why?’ Nick asked. The Tories were slashing public spending, raising VAT, continuing Trident, cancelling essential economic projects, politicising the police and destroying the education system.

As the water over his mouth and nose, he pleaded, ‘Why? You’ve drowned yourself too.’

Next to him, Vince Cable was sinking fast, as George stung him again and again.

‘Why?’ Dave laughed. ‘I’m a Tory. It’s in my nature.’

Is it an ancient fable? Perhaps not. But it might be one day. Wake up, Nick.