Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Nice to see the Labour Party join up with the Lib Dems in what many would normally regard as the more natural coalition.  Today Ed Miliband joined with the upper echelons of the Lib Dems and Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, to promote the case for the Alternative Vote.
Whilst Nick Clegg was absent from the stand, evidently on a trade visit to Mexico, rumours have done the rounds in Westminster that Miliband would only appear if Nick didn’t.  Not normally one to attack the Labour party, given my left of centre leanings, I can’t help but feel this was rather an immature response, if there is any truth in the allegation. 
Nevertheless whether Miliband  (“the tragedy for progressive politics historically has been that the division on the centre and the left has handed a united right victory after victory”) and Clegg are friends or not – it’s great to see the two Party’s working together in the Country’s common interest.  Saying ‘Yes’ on 5th May is vital if we are to move away from the practise of first past the post which repeatedly fails to reflect the views of the majority ie one can win with less than 50% of the overall vote.
In an article he wrote for The Guardian in May last year, leading campaigner Peter Tatchell explained “every government since the 1950s has taken power based on less than 50% of the popular vote. None has won majority public support at the ballot box”.  Tatchell went on to say “Thanks to the unfair voting system, the anti-Tory majority have frequently ended up with a minority of MPs”.
It is no surprise therefore that the landed gentry of our current times, including Conservative MPs like Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex), object to voting reform.  They know that if the new system is introduced they will have to work harder, and represent all their constituents (and not just the privileged few) if they are to have any chance of retaining their seat going forward.
So on May 5th go out there and vote!  Vote ‘Yes’ to AV; a fairer way to reflect the views of the electorate.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Today's March

It is fantastic that we all live in a democratic state where freedom of speech is permitted and healthy debate encouraged between people holding differing views.  What a shame therefore that some people feel that they only way they can get their voice heard is to undertake anarchic action.  Staging a sit in at Fortnum and Masons, throwing light bulbs filled with ammonia at the police and generally causing mayhem has no place in our society.

Whether Lib Dem, Labour, Tory or Green, there is no excuse for this type of behaviour that undermines the essential infrastructure that keeps our society together.  We will never all agree on an issue but the way to deal with disagreement is by sensible consultation, compromise and acceptance that democracy allows people to have different priorities in life but who can still live side by side with each other.

Anarchy undermines the fibre that keeps society cohesive and no responsible citizen should support or participate in actions that could promote this.  The coalition have a tough job - cuts have to be made unfortunately and some will sadly suffer.  Lets look at constructive ways to lessen the impact and help those most affected instead.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fantastic News for Alarm Clock Britain!

Using Nick Clegg’s description of those hard working individual on a mediocre salary, never more than one pay cheque away from an overdraft, the Lib Dems in coalition have secured a fantastic tax concession for ‘alarm clock’ workers in Britain.

From 6th April this year, the threshold for which basic rate tax is collected will rise to £7,475 (from the current £6,475) meaning that in West Sussex alone 1,750 people will no longer pay any income tax at all whilst a further 58,300 will pay £200 a year less!
As the concession is restricted, unlike tax breaks introduced by previous administrations, this one really is designed to benefit those on low or average incomes; putting money back into the pocket millions of workers across the Country as a whole.
This was of course centre-piece to the Lib Dem General Election manifesto and credit must be given to Nick and the team for persuading the Tories, not traditionally a party to look after the interests of the less well off, to go along with this!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Nick & Tony - In Conversation!

Local Campaigner and prospective Lib Dem Councillor for Herontye ward, Tony Joannou-Coetzee, recently met up with the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, at the Party’s Spring Conference in Sheffield.

It was clear during this event that Nick supports the work of Lib Dem councils up and down the Country and is aware of the issues that face communities in their daily lives.  Indeed he made the comparison between two north-west cities; Sheffield and Manchester citing how the former, run by a Lib Dem authority, had achieved far greater success in managing the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review than their Lancastrian neighbours led by a Labour local administration.
In Sheffield there will, unfortunately, be 270 jobs but this is a far cry from the loss of 2,000 positions (17% of the workforce) in Manchester.  Clearly a Lib Dem run council is much more likely to be able to protect jobs and front line services in these times of austerity.
Back to East Grinstead, Nick was particularly interested in the ward Tony is standing in and enquired as to how these were going.  It is refreshing that the Deputy Prime Minister can show a positive interest in our town and it is the same ‘man of the people’ type of approach that Tony will adopt if he is returned as one of your two Lib Dem District Councillors on 6th May.
Dame Shirley Williams definition of what it is to be a Lib Dem sums up Tony’s style of politics succinctly – “somewhat left of centre, in favour of public services, not against the market but see(ing) the market as being there to run part of the scene but not all of it.  And above all, people who are extremely conscious of inequalities in society”.

Tony is standing alongside existing Lib Dem Councillor Chris Jerry and many of you will already be aware of the tremendous work that Chris has done for Herontye over the past 4 years.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

In Government; On Your Side!

The strap line for the Liberal Democrat's in conference in Sheffield and how accurately that sums up the Party.....

Nick was totally engaging this weekend - comments like "I genuinely think what you do in local government is remarkable" went down well with the Party faithful including first time campaigners including me.

Despite running the gauntlet of several hundred protesters, who misguidedly ranted "sham on you for turning blue" (my goodness how little they know me!), as delegates entered Sheffield City Hall, the mood was up beat and in typical Liberal fashion, open debate was positively encouraged.

Issues raised were wide and varied and included a discussion on the (lack of) effectiveness of short term custodial sentences for youth offenders; restorative justice winning the day. Party distinctiveness, fighting elections as part of a coalition were also considered along with tuition fees and how the p;arty needs to position itself as a separate,and distinct, entity to the Tories.

However it was the Q&A session with Nick which was the most energising event of the weekend (although acknowledgement of the newly elected and charismatic Party President, Tim Farron, must be made).  With a smooth diplomacy, Nick came across as a warm 'man of the people' type of guy.  Indeed he even had time to ask me personally "how is it going?". It is clear that despite going into coalition with "the other lot", Nick and the other Lib Dem MPs have had a positive impact at keeping the right wing elements of the Conservative party at bay.

Pupil premiums, taking thousands out of paying tax, abandoning the recommissioning of Trident, abolition of ID cards, triple lock pension guarantees are several of the successes that the Lib Dems have helped introduce which probably would not have happened had the Tories had an overall majority last May.

On tutition fees Nick was candidly honest; "we were stuffed" but he did explain that had they gone into coalition with Labour then fees would also have gone up.  Both party's had recommended an increase previously.  Interestingly Nick mentioned that in recent days the National Union of Students have acknowledged that students will actually be better off under the new system than the one it will replace.......where is Aaron Porter now?

More to come but wow.....what a party, what a leader and what a chance the Lib Dems have to positively influence national and local policy - in Government; On Your Side!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Positive Spin - Public Share Ownership

Following the disasterous showing in the Barnsley by-election, it is encouraging to see prominent Lib Dems supporting a radical scheme which could see up to 46 million UK residents owning shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds banking groups. 

The idea would be that each person on the electoral role would receive shares, which based upon current market conditions could be up to £1,000 in value.  Then the Government would set a floor price and it would only be at a value above this that these give-away shares could be sold with individuals retaining any profit made (subject to usual trader fees) over their starting value.

The proposals supported by Stephen Williams, Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, are likely to go down well with the public and put an end to the popular culture of 'banker-bashing'.  Seeing a return on their investment, via an injection of public money, and preventing shareholders from directly benefiting from the current position certainly provides a positive spin on things.  Indeed as Stephen says "this plan would recoup the public's investment and allow the taxpayer to get the benefit from any increased value in the banks."

Whether or not this becomes Government policy it is important that great initiatives like this, which are supported by prominent members of the party, are communicated back to a sceptical electorate to demonstrate that coalition or not, we are still the party of fairness!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Campaigning in Herontye Ward - East Grinstead

Spent a very encouraging Saturday morning canvassing in my ward with six other Lib Dem colleagues.  Whilst the Coalition continues to be battered by the right and left winged press who, following Barnsley, have started writing the Party’s obituary, the feeling on the doorsteps is much more upbeat!

Members of the public were happy to engage and some key issues, affecting the local community, were discussed.  Pot holes, the lack of cycle racks in the town centre and inadequate toilet facilities (recently addressed and resolved by the Lib Dem Town Council) were common themes.  It was apparent that the people of Herontye ward care about their community and the town and, if elected in May, I will be honoured to serve and represent them.