Saturday, 21 August 2010

It's been a while...

Well, after a hiatus which was forced mainly through working a lot since the election I thought I would return to the blogsphere. I won't bother recapping what happened at the election - there were some surprises...but you know all about that.

So what inspired me to return, well it's our friends up at County Hall who, despite many of them being on their summer holidays, have continued to make regular appearances in the local press. Not least Kevin "Moneybags" Lavery along with former corporate director Peter Lewis and new children's services director Trevor Doughty. Firstly our man from the north, Mr Lavery, found himself in the Sunday Times no less, due to his fat pay packet which placed him in the top 30 chief execs of local councils in the country - and at £238,000 it's obscenely high. Now, when Dave entered Number 10 in May one of the first things he did was to take a 5% pay cut - clever Dave, leading by some kind of example and showing that everyone would be affected by the cuts that the coalition is making. Admittedly on his £145,000 salary he is still earning far more than most of us can ever dream of making in a year and he has a rent-free bolthole in Downing Street, but all the same he did take a cut.

Would our Kev follow suit? Don't be daft - when a member of the public asked such a question of the council's cabinet recently leader Alec Robertson answered with a blank "No". Just a few weeks later Kev and Alec appeared together to announce that the council would be shedding 2,000 jobs over the next four years....perhaps if Kev would just agree to reduce his salary to the level of Mr Cameron that would save the council almost £100k a year - I'm sure that would ensure the safety of at least 4-5 jobs. Let's get the other corporate directors to drop from their current salaries of around £140k each to, say, £100k and we would save around another £240k - possibly between 10 and 12 jobs saved.

Will this happen, highly unlikely, we're more likely to see our library service sliced, our rubbish collections turned fortnightly and leisure centres hived off to the private sector.

As for Mr Lewis, mystery still surrounds his £78k pay-off earlier this year, although if the rumours which are said to be flying around County Hall are to be believed that pay-off is completely unjustified. And despite the fact that that £78k has come from public funds both Mr Lavery and Mr Robertson seem very reluctant to give any further explanation.

Then there is Mr Doughty, another character at County Hall who was delighted to announce his appointment when he arrived on a cushy £140k but when it was revealed that he had received a pay-off of more than £140k from his previous employers in Northumberland he suddenly came over all shy.

It would seem that while Mr Cameron and his Government is trying to cut the amount of wastage going on in Whitehall they would do well to turn their attention to what is going in town halls and the gravy train that officials are continuing to enjoy a joyride.

Monday, 3 May 2010

St Austell & Newquay - a difficult choice

I was reading the interesting blogpost from Cornish Zetetist about the choice facing voters in St Austell & Newquay on Thursday where it is argued that voters have the chance to vote for something truly different by choosing Mebyon Kernow.

While I agree there is something which I am sure will be in the minds of many voters who are considering putting a cross against Dick Cole for the first time - it would take a very large shift in the vote to give Dick Cole enough to be elected and it would appear to be too large a shift to make it possible.

And that is where the problem lies - for those who may be considering switching their allegiance from Lib Dem or Labour to MK there will be a fear that by doing so they could let the Conservative party in through the back door - something, I'm sure, supporters of Lib Dem, Lab and MK would not want to see.

So there is an argument for those wavering over their decision - who also do not want to see a Tory victory - to support the Lib Dems in this constituency. There is a loyal core of support for the Lib Dems in the St Austell and clay areas thanks to Matthew Taylor's long stint as MP and by ensuring Stephen Gilbert is elected it would mean that the door is closed to the Tories.

Having said all that there has been a surge in support for Dick Cole and MK (see how the odds have been slashed by the bookmakers) and he has always had a good deal of support from a lot of people in the clay areas as well as support from people in both St Austell and Newquay - but in terms of the general election he is still a relative outsider.

There could be a lot of people in this constituency on Thursday who find themselves weighing up a decision from the heart with a decision from the head.

posters, posters, posters

Driving around Cornwall at the moment you'd have to blind not to realise that there's an election going on. Everywhere you look there are orange, blue, red and white posters all over the place. Now other than littering our countryside (particularly the Tory ones which appear to mostly be encouraging sheep to vote) what purpose do they serve?

I mean, does anyone honestly make their decision on who to vote for depending on how many posters there are for that candidate in their particular neighbourhood? I would have hoped that that kind of mentality would be left to the sheep...(maybe the Tories have got the right idea then?!)

No, it would seem that it is just a form of willy-waving for election candidates - who can get the biggest posters up and in the most areas.

I just hope that all the parties are responsible enough to collect them all up afterwards and recycle them....

Broken society and other Cameronisms

So I have just seen the latest election broadcast from the Conservative Party - of interest partly because some of it was filmed in Newquay.

As I watched it I wondered about some of the grand statements that Cameron has been coming out with in this campaign. One of the main things seems to be his "big society" idea and his claims that our society is "broken". Now, I would have thought that for society to be "broken" we would have some kind of chaos and disorder in evidence - the only chaos I can remember in recent memory has been the protests over banks (institutions which are clearly supported by the Tories) and the protests over the war in Iraq (again, something supported by the Tories). So is society really broken? If it is I would like to see the evidence.

Then we have the continued utterances of "change" being possible under the Tories. According to Cameron in that broadcast this "change" can only happen if we all work together - which is funny because I have been reading a lot over the past couple of weeks about Cameron's warnings over the possibility of a hung Parliament, something which would mean that political parties would have to work together.....

As part of Cameron's "big society" he wants more voluntary work, he wants 16-year-olds to carry out national community service - I would be interested to find out just how much voluntary work Mr Cameron and his entire shadow cabinet have ever done in their lives...

It's also interesting that while Mr Cameron is keen to foist this national voluntary service onto the nation's 16-year-olds he is not so keen to lower the age of voting to 16 - funny that.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


As I have previously mentioned I am in the St Austell and Newquay area and as yet have not fully decided which way I will be voting next Thursday. This is partly because it still isn't totally clear what the candidates are standing for. This isn't the same for all candidates - I have read through the MK ten key points which seem well thought out and explained. I have read through the Lib Dem document for Cornwall which again seems to be well tailored for the county. As for the rest? Haven't got a clue.

So I thought one way of finding out would be to listen to the various hustings which have been held locally with our candidates. First up was the Radio St Austell Bay event up at the rugby club - this was a prime opportunity for all the candidates to speak in front of a live audience and also to those listening in and around St Austell (and wider on the station's website). Yet not all the candidates were there - namely Caroline Righton the Conservative candidate. Apparently she was "too busy" and the statement which was read out explaining her absence was pretty pathetic. So I was still none the wiser about the Tory party's plans for St Austell and Newquay. I did get to hear some well spoken and reasoned statements from MK candidate Dick Cole and Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert - as for the UKIP, Labour and BNP candidates? I think the less said about them the better.

Next up was a live debate broadcast on the BBC News Channel from Newquay - again we had five of the six candidates on the panel, Caroline graced them with her presence and this time it was the BNP who missed out. Strangely there was no explanation at all as to why he wasn't there....As for the debate, well Mr Cole and Mr Gilbert gave much the same answers as I had heard previously from the radio debate while Mrs Righton seemed to have a problem understanding what was actually being asked at some points. One question (which bizarrely came from former UKIP MEP Graham Booth - a plant perhaps?) had to be repeated 3 times before she actually got around to giving an answer. But then the Tories don't seem that keen to talk about cuts. One thing I did notice about this debate was that Mrs Righton adopted what must be her "TV voice" - maybe she felt that the BBC were more worthy of her presence than the local radio as she is hoping for a job after this campaign? I have to say though, that for someone who has had a career in broadcasting she was not very convincing.

One other point about these debates is just how poor the Labour candidate is - in the radio debate when asked about pensions he thought it would be a good idea to ask how much the pensioner would like to have?! Then in the TV debate he declared that he wouldn't make any cuts at all to help decrease the deficit!? Where did they get this guy from? Or did he win the chance to stand for election as a Labour candidate as a booby prize in a tombola?

So on the basis of the debates I have heard so far in St Austell and Newquay I think the plaudits go to the men in black and yellow.

And no, I'm still not sure what Mrs Righton stands for or what she hopes to do.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The electronic election

So the starting pistol has been fired and we can now look forward to four weeks of electioneering from all sides of the political spectrum. One area most under scrutiny this time appears to be the effect that the internet will have on this election. With more and more people blogging and Tweeting it seems that an extra dimension has been added to election campaigning and comment.

However, just two days into the election campaign I can't be the only one who is sick of seeing endless tweets from parliamentary candidates and Cornwall councillors telling us again and again how they have knocked on so many doors and how they are getting fit or sore feet from doing so. I would imagine that they will end up having RSI from tweeting the same messages time and time again. It would also appear that every single one of them, no matter which party they are campaigning for, is getting the same response apparently they are getting "great support" and people saying that they want "change". Surely they can't all be getting encouraging messages on every doorstep they are knocking (or intruding ) on?

Or have we now reached a stage where those campaigning on the streets have achieved status among the public akin to that afforded to Jehovah's Witnesses or Kleeneze representatives? Rather than listening to what those knocking on their doors are saying are we now in a position where people will just nod their head, take a leaflet and say they will support them in full knowledge that they have no intention to and would rather get back to sitting on the sofa for EastEnders?

It might also be interesting to know if recycling collections have seen an increase in the amount of paper being put out over the next four weeks....

Monday, 5 April 2010

Good support or sour grapes?

UPDATE: A message posted below this blog suggests I was incorrect about Tim Jones losing out to Steve Gilbert and that he actually stood down before selection was made. As such I will withdraw the blog as I don't want to be responsible for posting incorrect information. Many thanks to Steve Double for pointing this out.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Being based St Austell way I am only too aware of the plans to build an eco-town in and around the town - except this isn't an eco-town is it? It's a spread out series of developments which appear to just be a licence to print money for wealthy developers.

Don't get me wrong, if this was really a step towards creating a sustainable, environmentally friendly development which would provide homes and jobs for those that need them I would be all for it. But it isn't. There will be some affordable housing, although you can almost guarantee that less than 40% will be affordable and even then it is "affordable" in the sense that anyone on an average salary in Cornwall would never have a hope in hell of buying one.

Again there will be housing which will be environmentally friendly, but will it really be at the forefront of the techniques and technology available? The homes at the top of the range might be but I bet not all of them are.

Then there is the issue of funding - we have already seen that govt funding provided to launch some initial projects has not exactly gone to the areas where these developments will be - in fact most of it has been ploughed into St Austell town centre. Yes, it needs all the help it can get, despite having a shiny new £75m shopping centre, but surely that money would be better spent, or saved, to provide the infrastructure which will be needed to support the new development? A community cafe in the town run by Eden might be great, but who will really benefit from that? Some of the shops in the town maybe, but it will really be just another chance for Eden to do a bit of self-promotion.

We also have to look at the credentials of Orascom, the Egyptian firm which is working on this with Eden, Imerys and Cornwall Council (although it's still unclear how much influence CC will have in all this). Take a look at their website and they specialise in luxury developments mainly in the Middle East. One of the sites for the eco-town is at Nanpean, need I say anymore? From the comments I've seen so far from Orascom it would appear that it is a marina at Par that most interests them...

There have been comments from St Austell members of Cornwall Council who say they haven't been consulted on the initial projects - that looks set to change, but it makes you wonder who decided what the initial projects would be. Was it officers? Was it Orascom? Imerys? Eden? Whoever it was, it doesn't seem the best way of allocating public money.

Ignoring the opposition....

Like many I am still undecided about where my little cross will go on the ballot paper come May 6 (or whenever the general election might be) but one thing that is sure to turn me off a candidate is anything which suggests a candidate might be completely arrogant. This election it would appear that certain candidates are actually proud of what I would consider to be a hindrance.

I have mentioned here before that I am fed up of the blustering statements which have been spouted by candidates. But looking at those leaflets which have piled through my door from the Conservatives and the Lib Dems there is one thing in common - they both seem to think that this is a two horse race and they are the only runners.

Now, let's consider this for a moment, living in the St Austell & Newquay constituency, I'm fairly sure that if I suggested to Stephen "call me Steve" Gilbert that the race for No 10 was a two horse race between Cameron and Brown he would presumably protest that his leader Nick Clegg is also in the running.

Would seem that it is one rule nationally and another locally with his literature proudly claiming that this is a straight battle between himself and his Tory rival Caroline Righton (and she does the same vise versa). Apparently the others, Mebyon Kernow, Labour, UKIP and Green included, are out of the running.

Now, from my amateur perspective I consider that the St Austell & Newquay seat will be a close run thing, however I see it as a three-way battle. Yes there are a lot of loyal Lib Dem supporters who will be voting for Steve and yes there are a lot of Conservative voters out there keen to see Caroline elected. But I can also see that there are a lot of people who know Dick Cole very well, have seen how he has worked well as a councillor both at Restormel and County Hall and will be giving their vote to MK. Then there are those who are unsure where to go - with the MPs expenses scandal still fresh in the mind it is unlikely that they are going to choose one of the big three. So why not MK? They're local, they have a respected candidate and they have not go their snouts in the trough. I think that is probably the more viable option than going for the one issue party that is UKIP. Or for that matter the Green Party or (shudder) the BNP.

I would suggest that the Lib Dems and Tories write MK (and others) off at their peril. I am still as yet undecided - but there is nothing like a Lib Dem or a Tory leaflet to push me in one direction....

Saturday, 13 March 2010

nothing changes...

So last time I wrote I was lamenting the fact that we have heard precious little about what actual policies our PPCs are putting forward. Yet it seems they are all still reluctant to do that as the subject has turned now to the matter of election funding. Yes, it's a scandal that Lord Ashcroft has been bankrolling the Tories to the tune of millions and yes I'm sure some of that money has found its way into Cornwall to help the candidates here if not directly but through all those lovely glossy leaflets which show no sign of stopping or the giant billboards which have sprung up around Cornwall featuring "ordinary" people saying they have never voted Tory but why they will now.

However to the average man on the street I'm not entirely sure that this is a key issue - they simply don't care. Speak to most people and while they will agree that it's not right they are also not so daft that a few glossy leaflets are going to dictate how they vote. In fact because of the MPs' expenses scandal of last year most people have heard about Ashcroft and just shrugged their shoulders - it doesn't surprise them that such practices exist. This is particularly the case in Cornwall where many see Westminster as a far away land which has little or nothing to do with them.

If anything it has just shown how out of touch with the general public the main political parties are - rather than stamping their feet and shouting about how unfair it is they would be better off telling us how they would stop it and then tell us something, just something, about what they will do to help Cornwall.

As I said before there is a black hole in the information being put forward by most of the candidates, hopefully once the election is declared we might see something tangible but for now the silence is deafening.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Can you say that more clearly please?

So, the election campaign is full swing - well it is here in Cornwall if the amount of leaflets that are dropping through my letterbox on a daily basis are any indication. They range from the glossy affairs which appear from the Tories all with Dave grinning out in that weird, slightly creepy fashion that he adopts to the faux newspapers which appear from the Lib Dems and look more like a school newspaper project.

However, while they might come in slightly different forms there is something which does unite them - none of them actually tell me in any kind of substance what the candidates are going to do for the constituency that I live in or Cornwall as a whole.

Living in the St Austell and Newquay constituency I have had countless leaflets from Caroline Righton and Stephen Gilbert - and all they seem to want to tell me is how they were born in the county (Stephen) or that they wish they had been born in the county and love it so much (Caroline). Oh and they also both seem keen to tell me that I need to vote for one of them as voting for anyone else would be a waste of time....

And, of course, each leaflet has to have at least 20 pictures of the candidates themselves, in Caroline's case either with Dave or with one of the Tory shadow ministers of whom there appear to be a small army, even shadowing ministers who don't exist...

Admittedly I haven't seen any leaflets from any other parties yet, but I sincerely hope that when they do start to send me any literature they remember to include something in them which resembles some kind of policy should they be elected.

I realise that politics in this country appears to be turning evermore into a popularity contest with elections in the future more likely to resemble an episode of Britain's Got Talent - but for some of us there is no surer way of ensuring our support than actually telling us what you plan to do.

The only issue either the Tories or Lib Dems appear to actually talk about is the incinerator but even then they don't appear to have any practical alternative to offer and just seem to be bleating on about it because they realise that opposing it here is one way of guaranteeing at least some votes.

It's a massive black hole out there at the moment - the lack of detail and information is astonishing.

Another blog?

I know, I know - "not another blog looking at Cornish politics?!" I hear you cry. Well, hopefully this one can be a little bit different. There are a few out there already, but none of them really speak to me or the many others out there like me. They are either penned by councillors or parliamentary candidates who wear their party colours prominently on their sleeves or they are written by random people who claim they are independent but can also be seen to be clearly setting out their stall for which side of the fence they are standing on.

Then there are the rabid folk who inhabit the many message boards and forums of the internet crowing on endlessly about the merits of an independent Cornwall based on medieval law and arguing themselves into ever decreasing circles until they begin to resemble a hyperactive puppy who has just discovered his tail.

So what will I be blogging about - everything and anything that catches my eye here in Cornwall, but mainly the goings on at Cornwall Council as well as anything involving our MPs, MEPs or the aforementioned Parliamentary candidates.

Feel free to comment on any of my posts - whether you agree or disagree I am open to all opinions.

I am not a member of any political party - heck I haven't even decided which way I will vote in the forthcoming General Election - although I'm reasonably sure who I won't be voting for.

Yes I'm writing anonymously, but does it really matter? I want to write form the perspective of the man on the street in Cornwall - the ones who are paying their taxes and asking what they are getting from them, the ones who are filling their ever expanding recycling bags with leaflets from parties of all colours and the ones who shake their heads in disappointment.

Let me know what you think.