Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Review: Too Nice to be a Tory by Jo-Anne Nagler

This is an intensely human and funny political autobiography. You don't have to be either a Conservative or a political anorak to enjoy this excellent book.

Unfortunately many of the people who would both enjoy and learn something from this book are likely to be put off by the subject matter. They should not be.

Jo-Anne Nadler is a witty, charming and intelligent young woman of the late 20th and early 21st century who is normal in every respect except one - an interest in politics which has led her to work both as a Conservative party staffer and as a political journalist.

"Too Nice to be a Tory" tells the story of Jo-Anne's her life in politics and the media through the Thatcher, Major, and Blair years up to the election of Michael Howard as Conservative leader. But it talks about it in down-to-earth normal terms rather than political platitudes. This is one of the most human books about politics which I have ever read.

Jo-Anne's political views do come through in the book - for example, she gives one of the best explanations I have ever read of why the infamous out-of-context quote from Mrs Thatcher that "There is no such thing as society" is a travesty of what Mrs T was actually saying. But the political perspective does not dominate.

A healthy attitude to politics ought to find a happy medium between the extremes of Pravda-like subservience ("Prime Minister, would you like to explain your wonderful policies") and Paxman like cynicism (e.g. assuming everyone involved in politics is a lying scoundrel).

The truth is that there are some scoundrels in politics but also plenty of people in all mainstream parties who are honest, decent, and otherwise normal. And it would be good for Britain if more people were involved. This is an account of what life was like for one normal person involved in politics, and it is intensely funny, moving, and readable.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Proposed A&E Guidance: Department of Health response

The Department of Health has admitted that a consultation document exists proposing the adoption of guidance that A&E catchment areas should be much larger.

However, they claim that this document has been "wrongly interpreted" by the trusts in Surrey which referred to the recommended catchment areas as national guidance. They state that there is "no such official guidance" from the department.

The Department of Health spokesman admitted that the recommendations were taken from a report by the Royal College of Surgeons supported by Sir George Alberti, the former director of emergency care. He recently recommended the closure of an A&E department in north London. The remaining two A&Es serving the area will be left with catchment populations of 450,000 each.

While I am pleased to learn that the NHS trusts who were quoting this target as national government guidance appear to have misunderstood the status of the report, I make no apology whatsoever for raising the issue.

If people make a fuss now while this is only a draft recommendation in a consultation document, we have a chance of stopping the proposals before they do become official guidance.

I will post the Department of Health response in full on my Hospitals Campaign Blog so that readers can judge for themselves.

New national A&E guidance could be disastrous for Cumbria

I am deeply alarmed at suggestions that at least some some health authorities have been advised that the catchment area for NHS Accident and Emergency Units should be between 450,000 and half a millon people.

If applied in areas like Cumbria the impact of such a policy would be quite disastrous.

More details are given on my Hospitals Campaign blog: see link at right.

7,000 need a dentist - and that's the good news

What does this say about Blair's Britain ?

On the day we finally learn for certain who Tony Blair's successor as Prime Minister will be, there is a story in the local press that 7,000 people in West Cumbria are waiting for a dentist. They are told that if you want to get one, you have a much better chance if you are willing to travel 40 miles over poor roads to Carlisle or Penrith for treatment.

And this is supposed to be good news as it indicates that the problem is getting better - at one stage there were more than 26,000 people in West Cumbria on the waiting list for a dentist.

All this eight years after Tony Blair promised in 1999 that, within five years, everyone in Britain would have access to an NHS dentist.

I do not decry the efforts the Cumbria NHS Primary Care Trust has made to improve the situation. Nevertheless the fact that a story of how only 7,000 people are waiting for a dentist can be seen as good news is an absolute indictment of the way that a government elected to improve public services has failed to do so.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Innocent until proven guilty ?

Two news stories in the last few days, one in the national and international media, one local to West Cumbria, have illustrated that the more serious a crime which is being investigated, and the greater the threat which someone may pose to vulnerable people, the more important it becomes to avoid destroying the lives of the innocent by broadcasting accusations which may be false.

I have two small children. Like, I would imagine, every parent in the country I have been following with horror the story of the little girl who has disappeared in Portugal. It's a cliche that what has happened to the McCann family is every parent's nightmare, but it is true nonetheless.

And closer to home, I shuddered like every parent in Whitehaven when I learned that a convicted paedophile who has been released after serving his prison sentence for serial crimes against children was housed within yards of a school and a park.

The safety and security of my children is the most important consideration in my life. Neither I nor any other parent can be fully objective when a threat to our children is involved. That makes it all the more important to ensure that we keep our concerns within the law and do not take action which could rebound against innocent people.

Within hours of the local press revealing where convicted child-abuser Vince Graham was living, he handed back his keys to Copeland Homes and moved. Mercifully he had the sense not to go on the run: Cumbria police know where he is and are monitoring him closely.

Knowledge that that Graham had moved quickly spread round the borough. Unfortunately this had dire consequences for a totally innocent person who moved into Kirkland at about the same time. One of his new neighbours, doubtless acting with good intentions - and we all know which road is paved with those - put two and two together and made five.

Cumbria police have confirmed that Graham is NOT living in Kirkland and a man who recently moved there has no connection with him.

Detective Inspector Walker said "The gentleman at Kirkland has no connection whatsoever to Graham or any members of his family, and he has had a bit of stick so it is worth clearing up. I can say categorically that he has no offending history whatsoever and is of no risk to anyone in the village."

It is not that long ago that a doctor was attacked by a mob of cretins who didn't understand the difference between a paediatrician and a paedophile. Let's be very careful to avoid making any similar mistakes.

Similarly, I am very concerned at the way the media have broadcast details of people who are being investigated by the police in Portugal who are trying to rescue Madeleine McCann. The police have a duty to follow up any lead, no matter how flimsy which might lead them to rescue the missing girl, But it is grossly irresponsible for the British and international media to write up the names and details of people who feature in that investigation in a way which may give the impression, possibly a totally false one, that there is significant evidence against those individuals.

Differences between UK and Portugese law, police practice and jurisdiction, have not helped matters. The first priority for now must be to make every effort to secure the little girl's safe return: it is also important to ensure that the guilty are brought to justice but the innocent do not have their lives ruined. The media should remember that they, and not just the courts, have a moral duty to avoid causing miscarriages of justice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Brown Bounce, Blair Bounce or Dead-Cat Bounce ?

I am not one of those who argue that opinion polls are worthless, but I do think that newspaper headlines based on them have to be taken with not just a pinch, but a bucketful, of salt.

You can usually find something in the small print of almost any poll which either in isolation or by comparison with the previous poll in the sane series can be used to spin any message you want to try to justify.

This morning's Times headline is a classic example - it refers to a "bounce for Brown" and says that the prospect of a new man at Number 10 has given the chancellor a "poll boost."

Is Conservative support down in this poll ? No.

Is there a significant drop in the Conservative lead when people are asked how they would vote in a general election (with Cameron and Brown as party leaders) ? No, Cameron still has a lead of 10%, compared with 11% last month.

As it is based on a survey of 1,504 people. this change is not statistically significant. A 10% lead for David Cameron, is however, statistically significant on a sample of that size.

And the "justification" in the text for the deadline? When interviewees were asked to rate leaders on a scale of 0 to 10, Brown came out 0.05 points ahead of David Cameron. Again, this is not statistically significant.

So The Times ignored evidence from their survey which gave good news for Cameron and was statistically signifcant, and printed a headline favourable to Brown based on tiny margins for him which were not statistically significant.

Whoever wrote this rubbish did not deserve to pass a statistics GCSE.

And whenever you see a survey, political or otherwise, quoted in the papers, always look at the small print!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Simon Jenkins on the Lib/Dems

Simon Jenkins wrote the following piece in The Guardian yesterday.

I disagree with him on only one point - he refers to the Liberal Democrats as nice. Now, some of the Lib/Dems I have met are nice, but like all parties they have their share of MPs, councillors, and activists who are anything but nice. The rudest and most offensive councillor I ever met was a Lib/Dem, who once started throwing gratuitous insults around at a funeral.

As Simon Jenkins points out, when Proportional Representation or a close result creates a hung parliament or council, the Lib/Dems are often all over the place trying to decide what to do.

This appears to have surprised some people in Scotland and Wales, but it should not have surprised anyone who has had the misfortune to serve on or closely observe a hung council in which the Lib/Dems held the balance of power.

The Borough of Copeland is now a Lib/Dem-free-zone at all local levels above parish council - this year they only managed to put up three candidates for 51 borough council seats, none of whom came near to being elected.

Anyway, here is Simon Jenkins' article.

Nice but hopeless, the Lib Dems should call it a day

This lamentable party cannot even master the electoral system to which it has hitched its wagon. Surely it's time to disband.

(Simon Jenkins, Wednesday May 9, 2007 The Guardian)

What are Liberal Democrats for? They are the flotsam of 20th-century politics drifting on into the 21st, coagulated from ancient clubs, cabals, splits and defections from other parties. Not since the 19th century have they cohered round any great interest. They represent no mass movement, no breaking of the political mould. Ask a Liberal Democrat what he or she is for and you get only a susurration of platitudes. Yet thanks to proportional representation this party gets to choose the governments of Scotland and Wales. It is Nero for a day.

Westminster commentators have always given the Lib Dems a free pass, as over cash for honours, because they are both hopeless and nice. Most parties that have won no power for almost a century and are a political subsidiary of another party, New Labour, would disband. But Britain's patronage state keeps the Lib Dems going, that and the hope that their one distinctive, self-interested policy, proportional representation, might give them blocking power at Westminster.

When Charles Kennedy resisted the temptation - some might say golden opportunity - to take his party left of New Labour early in this decade, he ensured his would never be a ruling party but, at best, king-makers of coalition. Yet what sort of coalition? Local leaders gave no indication before the election which other parties they might prefer. A Lib Dem vote was a blind vote, a diluted other-party vote to be realised only after the election.

In Scotland the Lib Dem leader, Nicol Stephen, has decided it would be inappropriate to maintain Labour in power yet has told Alex Salmond's nationalists he will not coalesce with him. He cannot tolerate a referendum on independence. That the party of Irish home rule should reject so liberal a proposal as territorial self-determination is odd. Nor was Salmond demanding support for independence, merely for a vote on it. Under PR there is a majoritarian argument against almost any controversial decision. So what do the Lib Dems fear? Instead they have exchanged responsibility without power for power without responsibility, and are retiring to carp from the backbenches. They will smoke potency but not inhale.

In Wales the party is in equal confusion. Confronted with the predicted scenario of backing a Labour-led coalition or going into a "rainbow coalition", it is undecided. The party leader, Mike German, declared at the weekend: "I am not going to engage in megaphone negotiations". He wants to keep his options open. But to whom do his options belong? Surely a democrat shares his options with his voters.

The party has duly split. German has been told to resign by one of his senior colleagues, form a coalition with Labour by another and not to do so by a third. There is no great policy at stake. There is certainly no prospect of stability. As the established church of old Labour crumbles across Wales, its nonconformist rivals are apeing their forebears. They are setting up feuding chapels in every corner of the Welsh political village.

Coalition, the natural consequence of PR, removes the outcome of an election from the hustings to the private deal of corridors, cabals and careerism. In the case of the Lib Dems, students of really bad government should read an account of the shortlived 1977 Lib-Lab pact. Again before the 1997 election, Paddy Ashdown and Roy Jenkins held secret meetings with Tony Blair on the shape of a coalition should parliament be hung. This included an offer by Blair of cabinet posts to Lib Dems. None of this selling the party down the river for top jobs was revealed to the electorate.

Lib Dems claim a bizarre interpretation of democracy, that the share of votes should be reflected in a share in power. This confuses quite different concepts: executive government and assembly representation. The first requires a coherent team, a declared programme and some mechanism to account for its delivery to the electorate. To this end, France and the US directly elect presidents, governors and mayors. They are checked by a second concept, that of a separately elected assembly, in which PR is both fair and just.

Forcing executive power to be shared with political rivals in a coalition makes it diluted, unstable and unaccountable. Indeed, the purer the proportionality the more unstable it tends to be, as in Israel. Power sharing rarely engenders harmony. The invocation of "history" to hallow yesterday's fourth attempt at power sharing in Northern Ireland was naive. It cannot last. It suppresses opposition and pretends consensus. The new Stormont regime, its mouth stuffed with money, will never withstand a real delegation of political and fiscal power. Such coalitions seem to work only when, as with English local councils, there is no power to be shared.

It is a tragedy that in Scotland and Wales the executive is chosen from the parliament, as at Westminster, but from one composed by PR, thus virtually ensuring rolling coalitions. This was instead of the London option of a separate executive and assembly, which is the constitutional basis of devolved government almost everywhere. Scotland and Wales should have had directly elected first ministers, with proportionately elected assemblies to check them. This would have met the requirement for a strong government in Edinburgh and Cardiff and for proportional representation in the balancing parliament/assembly.

Instead we have Lib Dem members flying about like £10 notes thrown into the wind. They carry no content, no programme, no sense of direction. They merely confer on the holder a golden share to hire or fire the electoral blocks of Labour and nationalism.

There is no perfect form of democracy. But since cowardice and indecision are its besetting sins, a constitution that empowers a stable cabinet subject to an external check - a separately elected assembly - is preferable to one that internalises that check within a rolling coalition, where it is vulnerable to the whim of minority parties.

The Lib Dems are proving that they cannot work a system to which they have hitched their wagon for half a century. There is much talk that the next general election may yield a quirk rare under the first-past-the-post system of a hung parliament, with the Lib Dems again as king-makers. On the basis of 1977, 1997 and now 2007, it will mean not democracy but chaos. It is surely time for the Lib Dems to fold their tent and go.

Government of the living dead

I did like David Cameron's phrase that Britain is currently being presided over by a government of the "living dead."

The Prime Minister has said for a year that he is going and has finally set that change in motion

It is clear that much of the rest of the cabinet has either decided to jump before being sacked, or is likely to be moved or sacked when Brown takes over. As David Cameron said,

“We’ve got a Home Secretary splitting his Department in two when he’s already resigned….a Foreign Secretary negotiating a European Treaty she won’t be around to ratify…and a Prime Minister who, even after last weeks drubbing, simply doesn’t understand that it’s over.

“Everyone knows who the next Labour leader is. So why does the country have to put up with seven weeks of paralysis?”

Mr Cameron also referred to speculation that Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt faces the chop, and scoffed at the way the new Justice Minister Lord Falconer has been publicly “pleading for his job.”

As he said: “This is the Government of the living dead.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Final summary of local election results

Over the UK as a whole the total changes of seats in the local elections were:

Conservatives UP 911 councillors

Labour DOWN 504 councillors

Lib Dems DOWN 246 councillors

In Copeland compared with when the seats were last contested (including last year's by-elections) the results were:

Conservatives 19 (up three seats)
Labour 31 (down one seat from 2003 position plus Cleator Moor by-election gain)
Lib/Dems nil (compared with 2003)
Independent 1 (Several independents did not seek re-election)

In Allerdale Labour lost their leader for the second election in a row - and this time they lost the deputy leader as well. At this rate I wonder if they will have trouble finding candidates to take the job of Labour leader in Allerdale !

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Changeover weekend

This morning's post contained both the first envelope from Copeland council addressed to me as Councillor Whiteside and what I presume will be the last one from St Albans council addressed the same way.

A little known fact is that councillors who do not stand for re-election or who are defeated do not formally step down until four days after the election. I presume this was written into the law so that councils can continue to operate, especially if there is a big change, during the period before newly-elected councillors can sign the necessary paperwork to be allowed to start work.

So technically my last day as a St Albans Councillor is Bank Holiday Monday and over this long weekend I am a councillor for two areas three hundred miles apart. But only technically.

I spoke on the phone to my successor as councillor for Sandridge and Jersey Farm, Frances Leonard, to congratulate her on her crushing victory over the Liberal Democrats, and we have agreed that I will pass over the remaining items of casework so she can take them up.

I am sure Frances will do an excellent job.

Two sets of thanks: first of all looking backwards.

I would like to thank all those who suported, helped or worked with me for 16 of the past 20 years as a St Albans City and District Councillor, especially the electors of Sandridge and Jersey Farm, successive officers of Jersey Farm Residents Association and officers and members of Sandridge Parish Council. Also officers of St Albans Council, particularly those for whom I generated large amounts of work, including the Development Control and Enforcement teams, the Planning Policy team, Committee Administrators and the Legal team. A special word for the Conservation and Design team - I know we often disagreed but I respect your dedication, hard work and professionalism. Last but not least, colleagues in Hitchin and Harpenden Conservative Association, St Albans Conservative Association, and the Conservative Group on St Albans City and District Council.

And looking forward ...

I am writing my thank you letters this weekend to all those who helped in my campaign in Bransty and the other parts of the Copeland campaign where I had an input. But I would like to repeat here the thanks I expressed in my last post to all those who voted for me and for my Conservative colleagues in Bransty; and I would like to thank all those who helped in any way in the Conservative effort in the new Copeland constituency.

My wife Brigid has asked me to thank all those who voted for her in Harbour ward, where whe came within 145 votes of being elected (which for a Conservative candidate in that ward is a tremendous performance.)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Copeland Election Results

I'd like to thank all those residents of Bransty ward who took the trouble to vote yesterday, and particularly those who voted for me and for my Conservative colleagues Allan Mossop and Alex Carroll.

The Bransty result was:

Chris Whiteside (Conservative) 651 (elected)
Allan Mossop (Conservative) 636 (elected)
Alex Carroll (Conservative) 617 (elected)
Jim Hewitson (Labour) 508
Les Hanley (Labour) 453
Jeanette Williams (Labour) 435

Smallest Conservative majority: 109

Two of the three seats in the ward were previously Labour held so this represents a gain of two seats.

Overall on Copeland council Conservatives made three gains and no losses, taking two seats from Labour and one from an Independent who had been elected in 2003 as a Lib/Dem.

Labour lost two seats to the Conservatives and gained one seat which had been held by an independent who did not seek re-election, a net loss of one seat.

The composition of the council, and change comparing each seat with the result when it was last elected, is

Labour: 31 (down one)

Conservatives: 19 (up three)

Independent: 1 (down one)

Lib/Dems: Nil (down one)

You would think something as apparently simple as who has made gains and losses would be straightforward and uncontroversial. Unfortunately not: Labour and the press are suggesting, wrongly in my view, that Labour have held steady rather than going backwards. So let me explain the basis for my statement that they have had a net loss of one seat.

Half a dozen councillors had resigned from the council since the 2003 election. Two had resigned from the parties under whose banner they were originally elected. For comparison purposes I put the three seats where by-elections were held in spring 2006 in the column for the parties who won the by-elections. I put the seats which were vacant as of yesterday into the column for the parties which won them in 2003. I considered Haverigg to be a Lib/Dem seat on the basis that they won it in 2003 although the incumbent councillor had resigned from the party and stood yesterday as an independent.

The argument that Labour are level pegging is based on the fact that they won the same number of seats yesterday as in 2003. However, Labour were quite happy to register a gain when they won a formerly independent seat in the the Cleator Moor by election in 2006. At that stage their tally of seats won when last contested went up from 31 seats to 32.

If you credit them the Cleator Moor gain in 2006 they cannot claim it again to offset their losses in Bransty in 2007. They can however claim the other normally safe Labour seat which has come back to them when an independent stepped down yesterday, which is Frizington.

Hence Labour's net position is lost two in Bransty to the Conservatives, gained one in Frizington from Independent, a net loss of one seat.

I am pleased with the advance made by the Conservatives in this year's Copeland elections for three reasons. First, we gained three seats: second, the Conservatives were the only party in Copeland who contested every ward in Copeland. Third, in almost every ward where we had taken part in a contested election in 2003 the Conservative share of the vote was significantly higher this year.

Copeland was one of many councils in the North of Enlgand where the Conservatives made good progress. We now control 20 councils in the North, and more councils in both the North West and Yorkshire than Labour.

Councils we’ve gained:

* East Riding of Yorkshire for the first time ever, making 18 gains and taking the Lib Dem and Labour leaders’ seats.
* South Ribble for the first time since 1995, gaining 24 seats.
* Chester for the first time since 1986, gaining 7 seats.
* Blackpool, gaining 13 seats – 12 from Labour, 1 from the Lib Dems. We last controlled Blackpool in 1987.

Conservatives have now made net gains of over 130 seats in the North. If people were to vote in Bury and Bolton in a General Election as they did yesterday, we would win the three Parliamentary seats needed to win a General Election (Bolton NE, Bury North and Bolton West). We would also have won Barrow.

Nationally, the Conservatives are estimated to have gained the equivalent of over 40 per cent of the vote. We have now gained over 800 seats and now control 23 more councils. Conservatives now control 205 councils – more than three times Labour (46) and the Libs Dems (27) combined.

Labour have been removed entirely from 89 council chambers at the last count- that is the number of councils where they have no councillors at all. And the Lib Dems are heading for their worst loss of councillors for a decade.

Apart from those mentioned above, councils in the North of England where we have made net gains include:

Allerdale (+1), Alnwick (+7), Barrow-in-Furness (+2), Blackburn with Darwen (+2), Bolton (+1), Burnley (+1), Bury (+1), Castle Morpeth (+2), Chester-le-Street (+1), Chorley (+1), Copeland (+3), Crewe and Nantwich (+3), Darlington (+5), Eden (+4), Ellesmere Port and Neston (+3), Fylde (+1), Hambleton (+2), Lancaster (+1), Macclesfield (+2), Oldham (+2), Pendle (+1), Preston (+2), Rotherham (+1), Richmondshire (+6) Salford (+2), Stockton on Tees (+1), Sunderland (+3), Teesdale (+1), Vale Royal (+3), West Lancashire (+1) Wigan (+1), Wyre (+11) and York (+8).

Results in the Copeland wards other than Bransty were:

Arlecdon: Independent hold (One seat)

Graham Sunderland, Independent 241; (re-elected)
Marie Simpson, Conservative 106
Cam Ross, Labour 99;

Beckermet: Conservative hold (Two seats)

Yvonne Clarkson, Conservative 604; (re-elected)
John Jackson, Conservative 579; (re-elected)
John Woolley, Labour 255;

Cleator Moor North: (three seats)

Bill Southward, Labour 525; (re-elected)
Joan Hully, Labour 540; (re-elected)
Hugh Branney, Labour 499; (re-elected)
Doreen Platt, Conservative 217

(Cleator Moor North is a Labour hold or one net gain from Independent depending on whether you compare with 2003 or with the position after the 2006 by-election.)

Cleator Moor South: Labour Hold (two seats)

David Banks, Labour 365; (re-elected)
Cath Geil, Labour 386; (re-elected)
Joyce Morris, Conservative 148;

Distington: (Three seats)

Brian Dixon, Labour 495; (re-elected)
John Bowman, Labour 465; (elected)
Willis Metherell, Labour 523; (re-elected)
Frank Hollowell, Liberal 357;
Victoria Vincent, Conservative 229

This should probably be seen as a Labour hold: one seat was vacant where a Labour councillor elected in 2003 resigned first from the party (after suggesting that Tony Blair should be invited to come to Copeland to take part in the "biggest liar" competition) and then from the council.

Egremont North: Labour hold (three seats)

Elaine Woodburn, Labour 740; (re-elected)
Margaret Woodburn, Labour 724; (re-elected)
Sam Mateer, Labour 724; (re-elected)
Mary Holmes, Conservative 241;
Kenneth Kirkby, Conservative 273;
John Brown, Conservative 186

Egremont South: Labour hold (three seats)

Michael McVeigh, Labour 667; (re-elected)
Peter Watson, Labour 618 (re-elected)
Connie Watson, Labour 580; (re-elected)
John Holmes, Conservative 488;
John Coyles, Conservative 488;
Jean Lewthwaite, Conservative 465;

Ennerdale: Conservative hold ( one seat)

Bob Salkeld, Conservative 204; (re-elected)
Mike Minogue, Liberal 86;
Mary Ross, Labour 60;

Frizington: Labour net gain of one seat from Independent (Two seats in total)

Peter Connolly, Labour 377; (re-elected)
Tim Knowles, Labour 343; (elected)
Ken Simpson, Conservative 238;

Gosforth: Conservative hold (one seat)

Alan Jacob, Conservative 328; (re-elected)
Christina Cornall, Labour 134;

Harbour: Labour hold (three seats)

John Kane, Labour 656; (elected)
Anne Bradshaw, Labour 574; (re-elected)
Henry Wormstrup, Labour 556; (re-elected)
Brigid Whiteside, Conservative 412;
Andrew Welsh, Conservative 403;
Graham Roberts, Conservative 385;

Haverigg: Conservative Gain (one seat)

Douglas Wilson, Conservative 228; (elected)
Margaret Barnes, Independent 180;
Carl Carter, Labour 147;

Hensingham: Labour hold (three seats)

Geoffrey Garrity, Labour 562; (re-elected)
Margarita Docherty, Labour 454; (re-elected)
Norman Williams, Labour 501; (re-elected)
Martyn Barnes, Conservative 338;
Marcus Swift, Conservative 298;

Hillcrest: Conservative hold (two seats)

Alistair Norwood, Conservative 468; (re-elected)
Andrew Wonnacott, Conservative 422; (re-elected)
Calvin Jones, Labour 265;

Holborn Hill, Millom: Conservative and Labour each hold one seat (two seat total)

Frederick Gleaves, Conservative 396; (re-elected)
John Park, Labour 305; (re-elected)
Roland Woodward, Labour 281;
Rowena Pitt, Conservative 273;
Jane Micklethwaite, Liberal 130;
Neil Wilson, Independent 130;

Kells: Labour hold (two seats)

George Clements, Labour 273; (re-elected)
Alan Holliday, Labour 241; (re-elected)
Dorothy Gray, Conservative 121;

Mirehouse: Labour hold (three seats)

Anne Faichney, Labour 648; (re-elected)
Eddie Brennan, Labour 516; (re-elected)
Paul Whalley, Labour 462; (elected)
Dorothy Wonnacott, Conservative 150;
George Higgins, Conservative 141;
Leah Higgins, Conservative 135;

Moresby: Labour hold (one seat)

Geoff Blackwell, Labour 200; (re-elected)
Gareth Maley, Conservative 168;

Newtown, Millom: Conservative hold (three seats)

Francis Heathcote, Conservative 722; (re-elected)
Raymond Cole, Conservative 718; (re-elected)
Robin Pitt, Conservative 475; (elected)
Anthony Gilmore, Labour 341;

Sandwith: Labour hold (two seats)

Jim Prince, Labour 202; (re-elected)
Peter Tyson, Labour 243; (re-elected)
David Gray, Conservative 147;

Seascale: Conservative hold (two seats)

Eileen Eastwood, Conservative 738; (re-elected)
David Moore, Conservative 798; (re-elected)
Les Tulley, Labour 233;

St Bees: Conservative hold (one seat)

Norman Clarkson, Conservative 390; (re-elected)
Esther Clements, Labour 141

In addition to the above Copeland Borough council elections, the people elected as parish councillors included.

Lowca: John Crawford, Brian Ennis, David Gale, Frank Hollowell, Thomas Milligan, Keith Moore, Catherine Oliver, Kirstine Skinner, Elizabeth Walker

Millom Haverigg: Janice Brown, Joan Hobbs, Douglas Wilson

Millom Holborn Hill: Irene Ashburner, Frederick Gleaves, Kenneth Hoskin, Neil Houston, John Park

Waberthwaite: Pamela Beckwith, Alan Clegg, Alistair Hadwin, Norman Southward, Michael Steele, James Thornton, John Varden, Eric Wilson

Copeland elections: count is tomorrow (Friday) morning

Spent today campaigning hard in the Copeland Borough Council elections.

I have spent local election day, usually the first Thursday in May, campaigning every year since 1979. And every year from 1985 to last year I then spent that evening at an election count.

Copeland Council is not counting the elections here until tomorrow morning and it felt extremely strange to finish the election and go home instead of heading straight to the count.

We shall have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out what has happened. But one thing which is already clear is that turnouts are down and are disappointing, despite the superb weather which we enjoyed all day.

There are a number of possible explanations for the lower turnout, of which the most obvious is that four years ago was an all-postal election.

There are a number of other factors which may need looking into. All will have to be considered in the cold light of day when we see the full results.

Well under half those eligible to vote in Copeland chose to do so. Members of all political parties need to reflect on why we are failing to engage with so many of the voters we aspire to represent that most of them did not think it was worth casting a ballot for anyone.

I will be interested in any constructive comments any reader may have about how we can make politics something which more people want to be involved in. Offensive or insulting posts or silly point-scoring, especially from people who do not have the guts to give their real name and surname, will be deleted out of hand.

Sandridge Election Result

I am delighted to report that the Frances Leonard has held Sandridge and Jersey Farm, which I must now describe as my former council ward in St Albans, by 854 votes against the Lib Dems 329.

I am sure Frances will be an excellent councillor and I wish her well.

My thanks to all those who helped and supported me as I represented the area for 16 of the past 20 years.

Other news sent through to me from friends and former colleagues in St Albans includes that the Conservatives have gained Redbourn ward from the Lib/Dems.

One more gain and that council goes to No Overall Control.

Postscript added Friday morning: The Conservatives also gained Harpenden East from the Lib/Dems which puts the council back in a situation where the Lib/Dems have 29 seats and the other parties put together have 29 seats.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bad news and worse news

I am indebted to the North West regional office of Conservative Campaign HQ for the following story ...

A Labour ministerial advisor arrives at a campaign meeting at Labour HQ. She sees that everyone is looking very depressed.

"Whatever is the matter?" she asks.

"We've had some terrible news and some worse news." replies one of the people at the meeting.

"Well, let's start with the terrible news - what's that?"

"Pakistan has just tested a nuclear weapon at their underground facility, and then India have let off a nuclear weapon at their facility:" comes the reply. "And China has warned both of them that their actions could set off a regional war which might go nuclear."

"My word. Whatever is the even worse news?"

"Tony has just said he'll announce next week that he's staying as PM until the end of the year."