Personal notes; and that battle bus!

Hi all,

Many of you are personal friends as well as politically interested, so you may like to know of some changes in my direction. Up to now, I’ve been working as Director of Policy for Cruelty Free International, a leading animal welfare campaign and as part of the commitment to them I’ve taken a step back from most things political since last year, partly because the role involved working with all parties.

But I’ve come to feel that I wanted to get involved again, and also to do a wider range of work. So as of yesterday I’ve stepped down from the job and I’m now freelance, with a variety of projects for Cruelty Free as well as other things, not only about animal welfare. This also frees me politically and I’m going to return to the arena more actively in various ways. An immediate activity in that context is that I’ve been asked by Jeremy Corbyn and Kerry McCarthy (shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA, which includes animal welfare) to prepare a much more substantial package of animal welfare measures than any major party has had up to now, ranging from breeding practices to slaughterhouses to proper enforcement of the Hunting Act to handling of prosecutions for cruelty. I’m consulting a wide range of groups and expecting to put it to the party conference in September. Input welcome!

This also means that I’m considering putting my name forward for Parliamentary selections again in due course, though no doubt that’s some way off. In the meantime I hope to help out wherever I can: the current Government seems to me frankly past its sell-by date, and I hope to contribute to the job of developing Labour’s programme as a coherent and reasonable alternative – not only in the animal welfare field. It’s particularly important that we have a convincing economic programme, and as I’ve worked in senior management in the pharmaceutical industry and have run two successful small businesses of my own I have ideas to contribute. More on this in the future.

Meanwhile, the police are actively pursuing the issue of possible breaches of the election spending limits here and elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned. You can see the story here:

Which Notts MP is facing questions over election expenses fraud?

Which Notts MP is facing questions over election ex…

Accusations of election expenses fraud have been rearing their heads again this week – and another Nottinghamshire MP is facing questions. Our Political Corre…

View on www.nottinghampos… Preview by Yahoo

Essentially, as I understand it, the Conservatives ferried campaigners around the country in a battle bus, paying for their stays in hotels and presenting them as campaigning for local candidates on local issues, but failing to declare the considerable expenses either as local or national. They have said that this was an administrative error but they now argue the spending should be counted as national, which would mean that the criminal offence of overrunning the local spending limits would not apply. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t comment on that point of law – it’s up to the police and prosecuting authorities to decide.

Conservatives, however, are now tweeting that Labour also had a battle bus which brought campaigners in, implying that it’s much the same thing. That is something that I do know about and it is a distraction from the actual issue of declaring funding of hotel costs. When volunteers came in to the constituency to help – typically coming out from Nottingham – we had a minibus to take them to the specific streets where we were canvassing. In the evening, the volunteers pushed off – presumably to go home. Nobody that I know of stayed in any hotel, and my campaign paid zero accommodation costs for them, so the issue that the police are investigating is unrelated. It is a mistake – to be charitable, perhaps a misunderstanding by Conservatives, who can’t be expected to be familiar with detailed Labour campaign organisation – to try to suggest that this is comparable.

 

Best regards

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

Broxtowe votes Labour in the PCC election

Hi all,

As usual, apologies for the long gap since my last update: it’s been a busy period for me for non-political reasons. For the same reason, I’ll just write briefly this time.

With the media utterly focused on London and Scotland, it’s worth noting that Labour won the Police Commissioner election in Nottinghamshire and specifically in Broxtowe, by a 1000-vote margin. Congratulations to everyone in the local party for working so hard to achieve this success, and to Paddy Tipping for his huge victory.

The overall position remains difficult to read, with all the major parties suffering from internal dissent – I suspect that the party that sorts itself out first will get a lasting edge. In the meantime, we have the European referendum to look forward to. As you know, I support membership (because I think it’s unwise to detach ourselves from the European community) and it seems to me that the Leave cam paign is suffering from a lack of coherent message: exactly what would they like us to do if we left? Half seem keen on immediately joining EFTA, which would retain free movement precisely as it is now; the other half want to pull out altogether and adopt a detached role which they’ve compared with Canada and Albania. Prominent supporters of Leave include Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen: it’s reasonable to suggest that none of these inspire much confidence as serious and responsibl figures.

The police are now investigating the curious spending declaration on the Tory battle bus last year in Broxtowe and at least 7 other constituencies. As I understand it, the campaigners on the bus had their accommodation paid in each marginal that they visited, but presented themselves as campaiging for the local candidates. The question is whether that should have been declared within the constituency spending limit or was merely a “national& quot; expeniture, like a newspaper advert. If it should have been declared as local, then the spending limit was overshot, which would be a serious offence. In fact, I’m told that it wasn’t declared either as local or national spending, until the Conservatives belatedly declared it as national. I have an obvious axe to grind so I won’t express an opinion, except to say that we really need electoral spending rules that are easily understood and actually work in limit spending – otherwise we will end up with the Trump scenario of the richest candidate steamrolling opponents.

Best regards

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

Meeting postponed/campaign spending controversy

Hi all,

First, apologies – I need to cancel the discussion of Europe on Sunday: I hope to return to the issue at a later date.

Various constituents have asked about the Daily Mirror story alleging possible illegal spending by the Conservatives to win support in the General Election – for those who missed the story, it’s here.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-mps-broke-election-laws-7467576

It’s not in dispute that the Conservatives made up for the shortage of local campaigners by bussing in a large team to a candidate should be counted as local spending or national spending. If the former, then the series of marginal seats. The question is whether the payment of hotel expenses for people on a national bus who say they’re campaigning for a local spending limit has potentially been breached in a number of constituencies. If the latter, then the law needs to be looked at again, since it would be an obvious gap.

The reason this matters is that the spending limits are the only that we are able to avoid the US situation developing, in which only the very rich or people with very rich friends can normally compete. The Conservative Party has a very substantial advantage in financial resources, which they are currently reinforcing by changing the law to reduce Labour’s income from trade unions, as well as reducing the money paid to all Opposition parties for policy research..

Personally, I’d like to see much lower spending limits at a national level, balanced by an opportunity for each party to present its programme on TV in some detail. That’s how they do it in Denmark – each party gets half an hour to put its ideas forward, followed by 45 minutes of searching questions on the details by a panel of independent experts. The larger parties don’t get more time (though their broadcasts are closer to election day): it’s their responsibility to see that their ideas stand up to scrutiny without getting special treatment. In these days of Euro-debate, it’s worth noting that other countries sometimes do things better!

Best wishes

 

Nick

 

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

Europe, politics and everything – special eat’n’debate next Sunday

Hi all,
It’s nearly a year since the election, and I thought it might be interesting to catch up! So I’d like to invite you to a one-off “eat’n’debate” next Sunday March 13 at 1pm the Sheng Hua Chinese restaurant, 136A High Road, Beeston NG9 2LN with two main themes:

  • The European referendum: what should be the key issues as we decide?
  • The political outlook: with the Government and Opposition both soul-searching, what’s the way forward?

The arrangement will be the same as when I used to do this regularly – participation is £20, for which you get a good buffet meal and up to two hours of stimulating, friendly discussion. (Drinks are I think extra.) £10 goes to the restaurant, and £10 to Broxtowe Labour Party to help in the work to present a constructive alternative to Government, MP and Council! You don’t need to agree with me on anything – come and debate freely. My only request is that you debate politely and respect the others’ right to have their own views – it’s what makes these events interesting.

PLEASE CONFIRM if you’d like to come, so we can prepare the right number of places. No need to pay in advance.
Best wishes

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

Head vs heart – the animal experiments debate

Hi all,

As many of you know, I’ve been working as Director of Policy for Cruelty Free International since I lost the seat in 2010. My recent blog on the issue of animal testing has attracted a lot of attention, so I thought some of you might be interested too.

https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/blog/are-animal-experiments-head-vs-heart-choice

This isn’t a party matter, and I regularly talk to people across parties about it – I arranged a meeting in the Commons last week with prominent Conservatives, Labour and SNP participants. It’s an interesting job, which has taken me to 25 countries over the last few years as we work to change the laws around the world to reduce animal suffering. We’re making steady progress!

Best regards

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment