Five challenges for Broxtowe’s Conservatives

Hi all,

I’ve now responded individually to all the (over 300) readers who sent kind messages after the election, and I’d like to move on to what happens next in Broxtowe. The time for congratulations and regrets has now passed: let’s look forward.

Specifically, a number of promises were made by Broxtowe’s Conservatives before and during the election campaign. This piece is to enquire politely whether they intend to keep them. Note that Broxtowe now has an entirely Conservative-led leadership, with a Conservative Government, an MP sitting in the Cabinet and a council with an overall Conservative majority. This might not be what everyone wanted, but it does mean that no bucks can be passed, and one of the jobs of opposition is to ensure that promises are not quietly forgotten. So, five challenges for Ms Soubry and the council to conisder:

  1. The Green Belt – will they build on it?

The former Labour-LibDem council adopted the Core Strategy, which envisages building on the Green Belt at Field Farm and Toton and other smaller sites, because they said that the Government required them to build more homes in the next 5 years than could otherwise be accommodated. This was intensively criticised by Anna Soubry and Conservatives councillors, who said:

* It was not true that the Government was requiring so much housing: the council should propose a lower figure.

* Even if the higher figure was taken, there were brownfield sites available instead.

* It was deplorable that Labour and LibDem councillors had welcomed the failure of a legal challenge to the Core Strategy.

Now there is a Tory majority on the council, they don’t need a legal challenge. They can simply tear up the Core Strategy and replace it with their own. If the Government proves to require more housing than they claimed, the remedy is potentially at hand – Ms Soubry can use her Cabinet influence to get it revised.

Will this happen? Or will they simply let building go ahead anyway and let down everyone who believed the rhetoric about the Green Belt?

  1. Council funding – will it be revised?

Broxtowe’s settlement this year was the worst in Britain, with a reduction of £800,000 in central funding. Ms Soubry expressed concern about this, and said she was writing to the Department of Community and Local Government to query it. Has she had a reply? What did it say? Will a reduction be made?

Alternatively, can we manage without the money? In the hustings debates, Ms Soubry noted that the Lab-Lib council had been able to maintain all services without compulsory redundancies. Will this continue under the Conservatives?

  1. Tram enquiry and compensation – will they happen?

Conservatives have pressed for more compensation for residents and businesses affected by the tram development. Will this be forthcoming, and from where? The contractors are potentially liable to heavy fines for the delays, but they have counter-claims and the process may go to a lengthy court action. However, primary funding for the project is from the Government, and Ms Soubry has asked the Treasury to review the funding process. Will she persuade the Treasury to provide any funding for more compensation? She has also urged the now Conservative-dominated Transport Select Committee to institute an enquiry into the project. Will this happen?

  1. HS2 – what are the implications?

An election issue was the £50 billion HS2 project, for which Ms Soubry expressed great enthusiasm: she believes it will unleash a wave of valuable investment in Toton and Stapleford without serious disruption. During the coming Parliament, decisions will be made on the details of the route (directly affecting Toton, Stapleford, Trowell, Strelley and Nuthall, and indirectly affecting everywhere else), including rules for compensation and assistance as well as the expected duration of works. When will these be available?

  1. Open-cast mining – will the relief exit to the M1 be approved?

After the Government approved the Shortwood Farm open-cast mine next to the Trowell service area for the M1, I organised a petition asking the Government to relax its rule banning exit to the M1 for local businesses through the service area. This would avoid the construction vehicles and coal lorries having to wind their way “inland” towards Balloon Woods before doubling back to the M1, with the consequential impact on the environment and congestion. The only negative impact would be that travellers pausing in the service area to fill up with petrol or have a meal would see some coal lorries rolling past and perhaps encounter delays of a minute or two as they leave – surely a minor inconvenience to the passing trade. Ms Soubry asked the Transport Minister to the site to see the issue directly. What decisions have been made, if any?

These questions are derived directly from pre-election promises and hints. I think the rhetoric was, to be frank, somewhat misleading. But the election result allows us to test that objectively and hold the Conservative Party and its promises to account in the coming period. Let’s see what actually happens.

 

Best regards

Nick

PS A special welcome to the wave of new members who have joined Broxtowe Labour Party – part of the huge surge of 30,000 people who have joined nationally since May 7. To hold the Government, MP and Council effectively to account, this new surge of enthusiasm is hugely helpful. If you’ve not yet joined, you’ll be more than welcome too!

 

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Broxtowe local election news

Hi all,

Thanks for all the warm personal messages, which I’m responding to gradually. Just a quick update as promised, on the Broxtowe borough council elections. The count is not quite finished, as it was disrupted by two mislaid boxes and at least two miscounts requiring exhaustive repeats, one of which is still going on and will be resumed on Monday.

The results are shown by ward here:

http://elections.broxtowe.gov.uk/

Headlines:

  • The Conservatives took overall control, mainly by sweeping the board in Bramcote and Stapleford Southeast at the expense of the LibDems, as well as picking up seats in Kimberley and Stapleford North from Labour.
  • Labour did very well in Beeston, easily retaining all but one seat and coming very close in Chilwell, but only retained one seat in Kimberley (which candidate got it will be determined by the recount on Monday, as will the town council) and lost a seat in Stapleford North.
  • The LibDems were almost wiped out, retaining Beeston North (where Steve Carr was joined by his wife Barbara) and the immensely popular Ken Rigby.
  • All the Conservative candidates from the notoriously belligerent Tram Rant Room did badly – in fact it’s quite striking that the party made no progress in the areas worst affected by the tramworks: people are utterly fed up with the disruption but didn’t necessarily blame well-liked local councillors as the Conservatives had hoped.
  • Independent Richard Macrae swept to an easy win in Stapleford North; other independents did less well.
  • UKIP and the Greens took a fair number of votes from other parties, but without coming close to winning any seats.

Best wishes

Nick

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Congratulations to Anna Soubry / Thanks to everyone / Next steps

Hi all,

First, as you’ll generally be aware, Anna Soubry was re-elected with a good majority:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E14000607

My vote was much the same as last time, but the Conservative and UKIP votes shot up while the LibDem vote fell heavily. It’s an excellent result for Ms Soubry and I’d like to congratulate her and wish her another enjoyable and satisfying time in office. I’d also like to congratulate everyone who took part, giving us a turnout rate of 74.7% – one of the highest in Britain.

I’d also like to thank all those who supported me, and in particular my tireless campaign team and many friends who helped me so much. It’s invidious to pick out anyone, since there are dozens of you – you know who you are! I’d nonetheless give a special mention to David Jenkins, who has been my election agent ever since 1997 and has provided a much-needed element of precision and care to my sometimes slightly disorganised campaigns. But really thank you to everyone – with extremely rare exceptions, you’ve all been courteous and friendly even given extreme provocation over the years. Broxtowe is a great place full of really nice people, and it’s been a pleasure to work for and with you in various ways.

What next? A few practical points:

* I’ll email again later with the Borough Council results – I’ll be at the count in a few hours to support the Labour candidates who I’ve worked with all these years.

* I don’t expect to be standing for Parliament again – unless something unexpected arises, I think it makes sense to focus on my job as Director of Policy of Cruelty Free International, the organisation that works to phase out experiments on animals around the world.
* In the longer term, I plan to split this blog into a forum for political discussion in general (rather than Broxtowe in particular), which I’ll continue to write and you may be interested in following, and a Broxtowe Labour blog, which you may like as one that gives an active counter-balance to Ms Soubry’s blog. I’ll think that over and get back to you in a while. My discussion blog will be less frequent and free from any sense of party discipline or discretion – if I differ from the party as a private individual over something, so what?* Politically, it’s be time to think about the next generation of progressive Broxtowe politicians, and I’d like to invite you to consider joining Broxtowe Labour Party to help. For all the congratulations above, Ms Soubry is going to need to be challenged by an active local alternative as she attempts to deliver the many promises that she and her party have made. Both the LibDem and Green parties are not serious alternatives in the Broxtowe context and in my opinion (I don’t need to be tactful any more…) simply divide the progressive vote. In particular, it was bizarre to see the Greens standing against me, given that I was a pro-renewability, anti-Trident, anti-TTIP, anti-privatisation candidate and they were helping deliver the election of an MP who disagrees with all of that. Don’t just sit around mourning the result – do something about it! To join, see http://www.broxtowelabour.com/ .There are a great many touching texts and emails which I very much appreciate and need to reply to – I will need a few days to give them a proper response, but thank you all very much for decades of friendship and intelligent discussion.
All the best!Nick

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Vote Nick Palmer on Thursday – a final message before we decide

Hello all,

This will be my final general email before the election. I‘d like to round off the campaign with two parallel appeals for your support for me and the Labour team, national and local. They are, I know, longer than most modern communications experts recommend, but we live in a complex world which is over-simplified by sound-bite politics. If you are not quite sure how to vote, please read it through before you finally decide.

  1. The national scene

Nationally, the fundamental fact of the campaign, barely examined by the media, is the scale of the cuts that are about to be imposed if the Conservatives win and the need for a responsible and balanced alternative. A few key facts:

  • Conservatives cuts to “unprotected” departmental spending (e.g. education, policing and support for local services) come to £30 billion over the period, or 15.3% of the entire Budget (Institute of Financial Studies briefing note BN170, page 20). Virtually no detail has been given for these, but it appears that there will be major cuts to child benefit and disability benefit as well as falling support for schools and an accelerating decline in police numbers.
  • By comparison, Labour’s projected cuts to unprotected spending amount to £1.2 billion (page 29, same report). The reason for the difference is that Labour would balance the books 1-2 years later and would not seek to eliminate borrowing for investment.
  • In particular, the NHS locally faces a quite extraordinary crisis. Nottingham University Hospital is projected to make a loss of £42,700,000 by 2015/16, the fourth highest deficit in Britain. The NHS Trust Development Authority observes that deficits like these “call into question the sustainability of a number of services”

Labour is not offering taxpayer subsidies for Housing Association associations to buy their houses. Or tax cuts on higher earnings. Or the other electoral bribes that have suddenly appeared in the Conservative manifesto.

Our priority is to manage the economy sensibly while protecting public services and ordinary people. Isn’t that closer to your priorities too?

  1. The Broxtowe dimension

Locally, I’d like to offer a fundamental change of style.

First, I want to be less confrontational than Ms Soubry – you will not see me shouting abuse at Prime Minister’s Questions or constantly attacking people in other parties. This is an election, so I need to state our differences, but normally I believe politicians should work together for our community, and confrontation and aggression should be the rare exception, not the rule. I think that most Broxtowe constituents of all parties agree.

Second, I will be responsive. Normally, I reply to enquiries within 72 hours – substantively and personally. This matters, as the basis of trust in the political system. Let me give two examples of the current problem.

First, a constituent whose 79-year-old husband had had serious deficiencies in treatment relating to the interface between public and private health writes:

“In total desperation, needing someone to believe in, we made an appointment to see our MP, Anna Soubry – she was “appalled” and “disgusted” and she would look into it immediately. Three months later – nothing. Contacted her office – received profuse apologies from her assistant Andrew, who said he would deal with it immediately – that was over a year ago – heard nothing.”

The constituent feels effectively unrepresented. How can that be right? It might be understandable if this was an isolated incident. But I’ve been repeatedly told over the last five years that letters to the MP often fail to elicit any interest or even a meaningful reply. There is nothing wrong with being on television and making speeches, but the fundamental willingness of MPs to discuss constituents’ concerns is the bedrock of our system of constituency representation.

I do not always promise to agree with you, but I will always listen and respond.

The second example, to show the difference, is a letter sent for publication to the Beeston Express – the author sent me a copy in case there wasn’t room for it. He wrote:

Dear Editor,

I am not a supporter of any political party, but I would like to relate my excellent experience of communicating with Dr Nick Palmer on a number of occasions when he was last MP for Broxtowe. He responded to my e-mails with extraordinary promptness and sent personal, not stock, replies. I could see that he had read and understood my communications, showed interest in them, and tried to be as helpful as he could. He passed on my viewpoint to government departments, although I am sure he didn’t agree with everything I said. He dealt with me honestly, without making promises he could not fulfill. 

I wish I didn’t have to add this, but when I e-mailed Anna Soubry as MP, all I received was an immediate auto-acknowledgement, followed many weeks later by an uninterested, stock reply.

My experience shows that if we want an approachable, honest and open MP, interested in what the ordinary individual has to say, accessible and willing to help that constituent, then Dr Nick Palmer is the clear choice.

Regards,

Dr Zahid Aziz

To conclude, this is the message that I sent to postal voters two weeks ago.

  • The country needs change to a government which balances responsibility with genuine concern for ordinary people. As a progressive idealist from a practical business background, I should like to contribute to making it a success.
  • The current Government’s priorities are wrong. From subsidies to gut the housing association sector to tax benefits for millionaire homes, there is no sense that their priorities reflect most people’s concerns, and Broxtowe has had the worst cut in Government support in the whole of Britain.
  • Every one of us will one day need the NHS and the care system, yet the system is being allowed to slide down into a semi-privatised mess with spiralling waiting times. We need to provide better care services in Beeston, Stapleford, Kimberley and the surrounding areas: it is dangerous to pile more pressure onto the QMC.
  • My other priorities locally are: high-quality education, adequate policing, local funding to allow roads and local services to be protected and a dynamic commitment to building a thriving community after the end of the tram works.
  • I have fought for people in Broxtowe for the last 18 years: there isn’t a road in the constituency that I haven’t walked. I know our community and its needs, and protecting and enhancing it will be my primary goal.
  • I want to bring us back constructive politics. If the Parliament has no overall majority, MPs who are willing to work across party will be needed. Let’s set an example to be proud of.

Positive politics in Broxtowe again. Please help me deliver it with your vote on Thursday.

Thank you and best wishes,

Nick

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How to help on polling day

Hi all –

I’ll post a final summary on Tuesday of the reasons why I’d like to ask for your support. But in the meantime, we’re of course busy planning for Thursday, and I expect it to be the largest polling day campaign that Broxtowe has ever seen. We have five separate campaign offices in different parts of the constituency and will be working flat out. You can help, if you’d like to.

The challenge for candidates on polling day is that although tens of thousands of voters have promised support, experience for all parties shows that in real life around 20-30% don’t actually vote. Sometimes this is inevitable – a family crisis, an unexpected journey abroad, even a death. But often it’s just a question of priorities – perhaps it’s raining, perhaps there’s something else they especially want to do. They don’t get round to it, even though polls are open from 7am to 10pm and it only takes 10 minutes or so.

But what we do on Thursday will decide whether you’re represented by Ms Soubry or by me for the next 5 years, and the result is generally agreed to be a toss-up. It’s worth voting, and it’s worth encouraging others. What we do during election day is gently remind people (by phone or by visiting) who’ve promised support to go and do it.

If you would like to help with that, please let me know your name, address, and probable time during the day that you can help (help the previous evening would be useful too), and I’ll point you to your nearest campaign HQ in the constituency (or you can just go directly to the main HQ at 3 City Road, Beeston). It’s not challenging work (you’re talking to supporters all day), and the result will be the reward.

We’ve been preparing for this for five years. It’ll be good fun – do join in!

All good wishes,

Nick

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