Friday, March 5

Polls slumping amid Ashcroft revelations

What a pig's ear. That's one way of summing up the way things look right now, with Labour gaining ground and the polls showing a bigger and bigger mountain to climb if David Cameron ever thinks the party's going to govern.

Spring conference should have been a rallying call, with policies people could relate to. But instead of arming candidates for the final battle with the weapons they need to win it, we're in the doldrums.

Hung Parliament might be the best Conservatives could hope for, if yet more polls are to be believed. The telling line is in today's Independent:

The party faces the daunting challenge of capturing 117 seats to achieve a majority of just one – a task described by a shadow cabinet member as a "mountain to climb".

Brown seems to be made of Teflon at the moment. Not even the Iraq inquiry is denting Labour's steady climb back up the ratings.

Ashcroft won't be Cameron's Waterloo. Would Wellington had beaten Napoleon if he hadn't revealed his battle plan to the rank and file beforehand..?

Sunday, February 21

Heading for a hung Parliament, says Hezza

Michael Hesseltine's apprently told senior colleagues we're heading for a hung Parliament.

It comes after yet another poll shows the Conservatives losing ground and Labour starting to gain it, with the lead down to six points.

Lord Tebbit, writing in today's Telegraph, has these cheery words:

Whoever walks into No 10 after the election will face a desk overflowing with more and worse problems than any incoming Prime Minister since Winston Churchill in 1940. Certainly Margaret Thatcher faced a trades union movement led by insurrectionists who had already brought down Edward Heath and Jim Callaghan, and an economy in terrible trouble – but the troubles facing the country today are both wider and deeper than in 1979. That is not all: Margaret Thatcher had a far stronger Parliamentary Party and a far stronger Party in the country than David Cameron.
Hmm, a far stronger party in the country..? What might have weakened the party in rural Norfolk again..?

Forcing Cameron cuties onto the shires might turn out to be the least of David Cameron's worries if he becomes Prime Minister.

Lord Tebbit says:

In short, if he becomes Prime Minister, David Cameron will have more to worry about than whether he imposed enough Cameron Cuties on the demoralised remains of the Tory grass roots supporters. Perhaps the most corrosively poisonous inheritance facing the next Government will be the crisis of trust between the British people and the new political class which seems destined to dominate Parliament.
A few more MPs standing for seats where they are known and respected members of the community might help.

Sunday, February 14

Climate change ain't what it used to be

So they're now saying the climate change thing might not be happening after all and there's been no "statistically significant" increase in temperatures since 1995..?

A whole industry has grown up on both sides of this debate. They're using it to justify everything from tax increases to all kinds of changes in the way we live.

Be nice to know who's really right. Just for a change.

Wednesday, February 10

Norfolk stays local after Labour bottles unitary

Communities and councils across Norfolk were up in arms about a single unitary council governing services across the county. And the Tories said they'd overturn it anyway if, sorry when, they win the election.

So today Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton decided it was a no-brainer and ruled it out anyway.

"Across Norfolk we listened carefully to the views of interested councils, MPs and other stakeholders and the option of a unitary structure for the whole of Norfolk did not have sufficient support from key councils," she said.

"As a result the Government had no option but to rule out a unitary auithority for the whole of Norfolk, as it could not succeed without local support."

Turnip Taliban hearts were warmed by the Keep Norfolk Local campaign, run by five district councils. They hit the nail on the head and refused to give up.

Nick Daubney, leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council, said the decision was "a total vindication" of their stance.

"The Secretary of State's decision informs our view that the Boundary Committee consistently failed to listen to the people of Norfolk, who have overwhelmingly backed the retention of their local council," he said.

Notwithstanding the damage thousands of job losses would do to the local economy, the so-called financial savings were nothing more than a red herring - you wouldn't get your bins emptied more often, there wouldn't be more money to spend on gritting the roads and your council tax would not have gone down had this gone through, make no mistake about that.

Meanwhile, Norwich City Council has also been given the go-ahead to run services in the city as a unitary council.

Turnips will find it hard to get too worked up about this, bearing in mind the Tory pledge to scrap any unitaries in the pipeline.

The county council has already said it plans to mount a legal challenge.

Wonder what this ill-fated exercise has already cost taxpayers, with all the miilions spent on preserving the status quo.

Sunday, February 7

Will Gordon catch Dave on the hop..?

More see-sawing in the opinion polls, with pundits calling Dave's U-turn on cuts a wobble. The Telegraph reckons Brown could now call an election in April, with the polls pointing to a hung parliament if he does.

That means the Lib Dems would effectively hold the whip hand, unless they manage to implode between now and polling day.

There's little between the two main parties, with both toeing the line that cuts are needed but not so harsh they harm recovery.

Brown looks a lot more confident. He seems to soak up the punishment like a sponge and keep on troshin'.

Dave's not currently buttering many parsnips. But most of rural Norfolk will still vote Tory, because that's what rural Norfolk does.

Thursday, February 4

Taking the pea out of Norfolk's economy

News that farmers in Norfolk and Suffolk are set to lose £5m after Bird's Eye cancels their contracts to supply peas is a bitter blow.

It clearly highlights the risks of having your economic eggs in too few baskets.

Sugar beet growers are also under growing pressure, with spiralling fuel prices upping the cost of transporting beet to Wissington or Cantley.

Let's hope they're not next. Because there's a limit to how many campsites and golf courses the Norfolk countryside can sustain.

Tuesday, February 2

Benchmarks for Britain, not for Norfolk

Eight Benchmarks for Britain is apparently the keystone of Conservative policy where the economy's concerned.

Search it for the word rural and it comes back with "0 documents and 0 instances".

Here are a few soundbites:
"We will safeguard Britain’s energy security and reduce our exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices by ensuring that we have a diverse range of electricity generating capacity and a resilient energy infrastructure."
No mention of how this government in waiting plans to tackle the volatile fuel prices most people in rural Norfolk notice every time they fill their car up, in the county where pump prices are some of the highest outside London.
"We will increase the proportion of tax revenues accounted for by environmental taxes, but any additional revenues from new green taxes that are principally designed to change behaviour will be used to reduce the burden of taxation elsewhere."
This is what the fuel duty escalator was all about when the Major Government launched it. Instead of becoming an environmental tax, it's become a tax on living in the countryside.
"We will protect health spending in real terms and honour our commitments on international aid, but the plan will include cuts in many other departmental budgets, as well as a one year public sector pay freeze in 2011 excluding the one million lowest paid workers, bringing forward the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66 to no earlier than 2016 for men and 2020 for women."
So we're all going to have to go on working longer to pay for Labour in the long run - especially if we're unlucky enough to live in rural Norfolk.

Eye in sky targets rural crime

Does the fight against rural crime really need squadrons of drones - un-manned spy planes equipped with surveillance cameras, to go with all the other cameras which watch us as we go about our daily business, which somehow don't seem to be turning the tide against crime despite the zillions spent on them.

CCTV in town centres is widely believed to have done nothing more than displace crime from urban to rural areas.

Who's going to end up paying the bill for this latest pilot (sic) scheme, reported in the Guardian..? The likes of you and me, no doubt.

Richard Littlejohn has some more colourful views.

Un-manned aircraft will doubtless strike a chord with Norfolk police. If nothing else, they'll go with all the un-manned police stations across the county.

How about something even more radical - like spending the money on extra coppers..?

Sunday, January 31

Stiff opposition for Yarmouth Tories

Great Yarmouth's reckoned to be a pivotal seat in the scheme of things - if the Tories win there and the swing required is repeated nationally, they'll win with a majority.

Local candidate Brandon Lewis is clearly expecting some stiff opposition, according to this blog snippet:Brandon says his blog was hacked:
"My Blog has been hacked into and spam has been put on it, apologies to anyone who has had tweets (they are linked to my Blog) or odd Blog entries about IT.

"It looks like the only way to solve this will be to close my Blog, apologies and if we can end this problem without shutting the Blog down we will."
Whoever can be behind it..?

Friday, January 29

Poll points to hung parliament, while Dave dithers in Davos

Turnips will draw little heart from the latest Ipsos-Mori poll shows an 8% lead, with Labour gaining and the Townies and Lib Dems both losing ground.

Heading into hung parliament territory, according to a brief post on ConservativeHome.

Scary stuff if it means a deal with the Liberals.

Guido Fawkes makes an interesting observation over Cameron's insistence his chat with media movers and shakers in Davos was off-record:

"At best it is evidence of the contempt in which the public is held by the political elite, at worst it is an admission that Cameron’s private views are different from his public positions."

And we know all about that contempt up here in Talibland, don't we.

So is May 6th Election Day..?

So Thursday, May 6th looks like being election day, if you believe the Daily Mail.

An interesting bun fight all round in Turnip Talibland, with the South West Norfolk count taking place the following day at King's Lynn Corn Exchange, running parallel with the North West Norfolk count.

Interaction between the two Tory candidates and their respective supporters could well be interesting to observe.

Saturday, January 23

Norfolk Unitary Council - the end of the road

Looks like shadow local government minister Bob Neil's fired the final salvo in the long-running debate over whether Norfolk would be better served by a single unitary council.

"The Government looks set to announce that it will abolish entire tiers of local government in Conservative-controlled Devon, Suffolk and Norfolk: not because it is the right thing to do, but to try and create division amongst Conservatives in the run-up to a general election and erode our local government base, which is obviously something they have conspicuously failed to do through the ballot box in the last thirteen years. There is no other explanation behind this devious plan as there is certainly no public demand for unitary government in these counties."

Many will have suspected the same all along. Mr Neil goes on to give an assurance which will see many heaving a sigh of relief today:

"But today I can go further and say that because this round of restructuring is so contrary to our desire to give more power to local communities any incoming Conservative Government will revoke any legislation and stop the entire process straight away."
So that's that then. Well, let's hope so. All the Tories have to do now is win the election.

Full post here.

Thursday, January 21

What's the story, moaning Tory..?

Iain Dale bemoans the lack of live election counts on his blog. As far as Norfolk's concerned, just North Norfolk and Norwich South plan to begin the count after the polls close - though many elsewhere have yet to declare their intentions, according to the official list.

"The longer a count is delayed, the more opportunity there is for mischief," he says. "Local authority chief executives, who double as returning officers get paid a handsome bonus for conducting elections. I seem to remember it is in the region of £10,000. They should get off their fat arses and sort this, before it is sorted for them."

Having a pop at the civil servants might seem fair enough. But the reason counts are being delayed is to save money.

Didn't the majority of politicos responding to a survey on the likely outcome of a new Tory administration's first 100 days on conservativehome plump for an emergency budget..?

And aren't we missing the issue which is dividing the grass-roots - ie will there/won't there be elections for a single unitary authority for Norfolk included in the mix..?

Maybe that's why Yarmouth's returning officer says they'll count on the night if there aren't also local elections.

Sunday, January 17

Massive election news for Norfolk, perhaps

Conservative high command has given its strongest commitment yet that a David Cameron-led government would torpedo any council overhaul in Norfolk and Suffolk, according to the EDP.

This is welcome news if true. While there will be those who mourn the "millions poured down the drain", the proposed single unitary authority would cost us far more in terms of lost local democracy and dwindling resources chanelled towards Norwich and King's Lynn.

"Shadow local government minister Bob Neill said the Tories would give a manifesto commitment to overturn any plans to replace the current set-up of seven districts and the county council with a unitary structure - even if the government went with plans to elect a new unitary authority in May," the EDP report goes on.

"The move raises the strange prospect for democracy that voters would go to the polls to elect a new council which could be immediately scrapped."

Far stranger than this would be the potential bun fight with Tories fighting Tories. Standing back and watching the current stand-off over the local government review from a distance, it's already clear that it's caused some deep divisions.

Returning power to local communities and "smaller government" do niot mean creating some super-monolith to rule Norfolk.

Another line in the EDP report leaps out: "The committee has been swayed by the case, ironically put forward by Norfolk County Council, that the new council could save £25m a year by cutting red tape and duplication alone while also giving more power to grassroots communities and parish councils."

What's so ironic about a load of County Hall officials looking to dump a few country Tories in places like King's Lynn, Cromer and Dereham so they can control the way the cake gets carved..?

Monday, January 11

Election counts postponed to save council cash

Looks like the election - when a date finally materialises - could have a delayed count to save councils cash. We predict this could get intertesting in Norfolk. Story here.

Wednesday, January 6

You can't be sued for gritting the path outside your house, despite claims to the contrary

Interesting urban myth doing the rounds that you can be sued if you salt the path outside your house if someone slips over on it.

Not the case, according to Norfolk County Council:

"Residents and businesses can help improve local footways by sweeping the snow outside their home or business into the gutter before it compacts into ice, and using any nearby grit bins.

"If you do decide to do this, you wouldn't be liable if an accident happened outside your property unless it was proved that you didn't take reasonable care. For instance you wouldn't be liable if you only partially cleared the snow (given that you have no duty to do it at all) but only if you made the situation worse e.g. by pouring hot water on the snow, which then freezes."

Sunday, January 3

What lies ahead in Year for Change..?

So YEAR FOR CHANGE is the Conservative Party's best shot when it comes to kicking off an election campaign, with less than six months until Britain gets the chance to boot out Brown.

Alistair Campbell's blog carries an interesting appraisal: "There is nothing on it to say it is an ad for the Tories, and I can hear now the discussion among the ad execs and the party strategists that led to it. 'We need a teaser, something that just whets the appetitite for the big campaign to come.' 'People don't like politics and politicians, so we need something that is pro-Tory but non-political.' 'The brand is change - popular. Not Tories - not popular. That has to come next.' Yeah right."

People are crying out for change, so in a stating the bleeding obvious kind of way, the Townie Tory ad execs are bang on-message.

But out in the real world, people want to know what changes they're going to get and what difference they're going to make to their lives.

How will smaller government work..? What firm measures will need to be taken on the economy..?

It doesn't seem a lot to ask, you might well think, bearing in mind the mess the country's in.

Then again it doesn't take a strategy genius to work out why firm policies seem a little thin on the ground at the moment.

Ken Clarke's gone on record today about tax increases, more or less admitting the VAT increase is a reality. There's no two ways about it, the country's teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and the money's got to come from somewhere.

Promising there'll be no cuts in the NHS means there'll have to be cuts elsewhere or an increased tax grab.

You can understand the Townie's reticence when it comes to fiscal policy. Admitting a raft of tax increases now would leave an open goal for a Labour's Tax Bombshell style counter attack, akin to the one which sunk Kinnock in 1992 - despite the pollsters believing John Major was cruising for a bruising.

Whichever party gets elected will have so little wriggle room on the economy that tax increases of one kind or another are inevitable.

Rather than shy away from the hard truth, shouldn't a government in waiting kick off a YEAR FOR CHANGE by coming clean on just how bad things are and what it's going to do to change them if it gets elected..?

Townie Tory strategist unmasked

Tory frontbencher: "This guy clearly does not have anything better to do.

"What does he think we do? Does he think we sit on our hands waiting to read emails from a ten-year-old who has just discovered Conservatism, on a £200,000 salary in some farmhouse with a wife who works for Google?"

Withering critique of party strategist Steve Hilton in today's Mail on Sunday.

Enough to strike a chord with any self-respecting member of the Turnip Taliban.

Friday, January 1

More petrol price rise misery on the way

VAT was meant to go back up from 15 to 17.5 per cent overnight. So how come some garages in Norfolk are already charging £1.15 a litre.

Tax is going to go up at least a couple more pence a litre in April. And there are rumours VAT will go up to 20 per cent in an autumn emergency budget doing the rounds in the City, according to a city second-homer type we're on nodding terms with at the Turnip Arms.

Gin and tonics all round. Some year 2010's going to be - we can feel it in our water.