Thank you!

Hi all,

This is a collective interim reply to your comments, as I’m completely overwhelmed by the response. Approaching 400 emails have come in, 98% of them urging me to put my name forward for consideration, and in many cases promising practical help – canvassing, leafleting, donating – to give us a real chance.

I’ve been responding individually, but the new emails are outpacing the speed of replies, so here’s an interim answer for everyone:

  1. Yes, I’ll put my name forward!
  2. I’m aware of several excellent other candidates applying. In particular, my old friend Greg Marshall, a prominent Beeston councillor with great credentials, has put his name in. I will be glad to support any of them if they’re selected. I’ll write more when we know which of us it is.
  3. The decision is expected Thursday night or Friday morning. In view of the short timescale, the decision will be made by the national and regional party, and what we are doing here is making sure that they have a good choice.

If you simply replied “yes, please go for it!” (or in half a dozen cases,“no, don’t!”),  thank you very much for the input, whichever choice you indicated. Please forgive me for not writing back to say that individually.

If you asked a question or raised an issue to discuss, I will reply, but please give me a few days to work through the list so that I can reply substantively – one of the differences from some politicians which I try to ensure is that everyone who asks a civil question gets a civil, personal, thoughtful answer, but hundreds of thoughtful answers don’t write themselves instantly!

Best wishes

 

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

The General Election

Hi all,

I’ve been asked by Labour whether I’d like to be considered as our candidate for Broxtowe. I need to decide by this weekend, so I thought I’d consult you. 10% of the homes in Broxtowe get my emails, so it’s a good sample.

As most of you know, I was Broxtowe’s MP from 1997 to 2010, when Anna Soubry won by a tiny majority. We had a consistently better result for Labour than nationally – in 1992 and 2010, the national result was very similar, but in Broxtowe the Conservatives won by 16% in 1992 and just 0.7% in 2010. In 2015, I stood again, and this time the Tory majority was bigger:

Anna Soubry (Con) 45.2%

Nick Palmer (Lab) 37.2%

Frank Dunne (UKIP) 10.6%

Stan Heptinstall (LibDem) 4.0%

David Kirwan (Green) 2.9%

It’s common that MPs do best when they first stand for re-election (the so-called “incumbency bonus“, which wears off over time). Whoever is Labour’s candidate will need to avoid the slippage in national polls, gain floating voters and win over as many as possible of those who voted for LibDems and Greens last time: if there ever was a seat where it was clear that Labour is the only credible challenger to the Conservatives, it’s Broxtowe.

I’ve spent the last few years working for an animal welfare organisation in London. It’s been a lot of fun and rewarding for the animals (I visited 25 countries to lobby Governments and MPs in three years, effecting policy change from the EU, China and Korea to Brazil), but since November I’ve been back in Nottingham, working as a freelance translator, lecturer and political consultant. I’m currently living just outside Broxtowe, a few minutes from Nuthall Island.

There are two aspects to consider: the national scene and the local campaign.

  1. The national scene

If the polls are correct, the Tories are heading for a gargantuan victory, which would enable them to put through anything they wanted – ostensibly for Brexit, but in reality in every other policy area too. That’s unhealthy for democracy, for Britain and even for the Conservatives. They would get a blank cheque for whatever Brexit deal May chooses to recommend, plus any number of other policies that are getting minimal attention because of the media focus on Brexit:

The NHS and social care: waiting lists are soaring, social care options are shrinking, and the Government seems unwilling to tackle either

Education: the obsession with grammar schools is obscuring neglect of other schools across the country. The problem isn’t the 15% of pupils who get into a great school. It’s the 85% who don’t, and find government cuts piling up.

Environment: the haze of fine words has dissolved into a willingness to let developers roll over local opinion. (Remember the promise to stop Field Farm?)

Specifically on Brexit, it is clearly right that any Government should attempt to reach a good deal based on the referendum result. But equally we should not enter negotiations on the basis of “We don’t care how bad the deal is, we’ll take it anyway” – quite apart from anything else, it’s a rubbish negotiating strategy. We need to give Parliament a genuine say in two years’ time of whether to accept the deal or not. A huge Tory majority will not offer genuine challenge.

  1. The local scene

To be fair to Anna Soubry, she is often critical of the Government, and I think she is genuinely liberal on social issues such as gay marriage. But she is making the same mistake that I made in my early years in Parliament: when push comes to shove, loyalty kicks in and she virtually always votes with the Government or abstains.

I came to see that it’s an approach which ultimately does nobody any favours: not Britain, not the party, and certainly not Broxtowe. What Parliament needs is strong, independent-minded MPs on both sides of the House who consult constituents and then are willing to vote for what they believe is best for Britain.

The question is whether I should put my name forward (clearly there will be other strong candidates too). Let’s identify some downsides. I’m 67. I’ve lost twice. I’ve been largely out of Broxtowe politics for the last two years.

And some upsides. We need a credible candidate who can appeal across traditional party lines: it’s something I’ve always done. We need someone who’s hard-working, experienced, not unreasonably partisan but willing to be frank when Government policy goes wrong. I think I tick most of those boxes.

Would you like me to stand? And would you support me if I did?

Best wishes,

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | 7 Comments

PS

I’ve just heard that there is a gathering in Beeston Square on the Trump issue tomorrow which will be followed by a petition being presented at Ms Soubry’s office.I hope to go to it and to see some of you there. Details:

Demand that Theresa May revokes invite to Donald Trump for state visit

Posted in Broxtowe | 1 Comment

Do you think President Trump should be honoured by a State Visit?

Hi all,

There’s a petition which you might like to consider here, suggesting that President Trump should not be invited for a State Visit (as Mrs May has provisionally agreed). It’s nuanced in that it accepts that as head of Government it’s reasonable for him to come for discussions, during which one hopes he will hear alternative views, but that in view of his behaviour it’s inappropriate to single him out for the honour of a State Visit with all the pomp and ceremony given to special guests. If you’d like to sign it, it’s here:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

The petition has gained 400,000 signatures (0.5% of the entire British population) in less than a day.

The problem with the travel ban in particular is that it’s absurdly discriminatory and arbitrary – for example, it will prevent athlete Sir Mo Farah, a senior Conservative MP and a number of similarly harmless people from crossing the US border, even if they were already in transit. The feeble initial British Government response, that it was a matter for the US, now seems to be being belatedly adjusted, with a request that Brits might be exempted.

It’s still a bit early to be sure how Trump will turn out, but it’s rather possible that he will prove to be a disaster, and whatever our politics it’s sensible for Britain not to rush to embrace him too enthusiastically.

Best wishes

Nick

PS A number of you have asked me to post regular updates on my county election campaign. As that’s mainly of interest to friends and to people in or with relatives in Eastwood and might bore everyone else, I won’t be writing much about it on the general email list, but if you get Twitter and are interested, you can follow me at @NickforEastwood.

Posted in Broxtowe | 2 Comments

Conservative policies today: against the public interest

Hi all,

As you know, I’m being sparing in my comments at the moment, but I’d like to make a few specific criticisms of where Government and Broxtowe’s local representation is taking us.

  1. Local hardline policies

Loyalty to Conservative hard-liners is now consistently trumping the public interest. The Conservatives on the County Council voted solidly against Nottinghamshire being one of the counties asking for greater help for social care, even though there is an obvious crisis and plenty of Conservatives elsewhere are among those pressing for action. Instead, the Government is cutting corporation tax on dividends, which is clearly nice for shareholders but not an obvious priority, since we already have one of the lowest rates in the developed world and we really need companies to be investing, not paying out fat dividends.

Meanwhile, Anna Soubry manages in her latest email to write over 500 words on the current crisis in hospitals without addressing the basic issue that under Government policy the NHS is not seen as a sufficient priority. She suggests that more people should go to GPs (following Mrs May’s argument that GPs need to work harder), that it’s our own fault for being too fat (hardly a new phenomenon), that it’s because we’re living longer, and because “systems can be improved”. Sorry, Ms Soubry, the basic new problem is that the Government is not funding the service adequately.

Don’t take my word for it: this is what the people responsible say:

The BMA: “conditions in hospitals across the country are reaching a dangerous level”

The Royal College of Nursing: “NHS conditions are the worst ever”

The Royal College of Physicians:”The NHS is underfunded, under doctored and overstretched”.

We understand that Government funding is tight. But do we think that dividends or health are more important? Dividends, apparently.

Going to the local level, even with something as basic as allowing Stapleford to get a good supermarket is being blocked: the Conservative council won’t allow Aldi to go ahead until they get 10 houses built. Aldi is not a housebuilder so it’s not actually in their power to ensure that the houses are built quickly, but Ms Soubry blandly implies that it’s Aldi’s fault: “With some quick and clever thinking, Aldi can deliver both a great new store and 10 much needed homes. Time to get on with it!” I understand her instinct to be loyal to the Conservative council, however obstructionist, but surely the need for the entire Stapleford community should take first priority over a handful of new houses?

  1. The Brexit deal and national priorities

There is a fairly clear choice on how to do Brexit – in a limited way that removes us from the EU but keeps our access to the single market, or a zealot way that pulls us out at any cost. Hostage to the most militant Tory backbenchers, Ms May is adopting a set of policies that involves lower public spending, more cuts to corporation tax, reduced employment rights, lower environmental standards, slower wages growth, higher prices and later retirement. This is not in the national interest, and it doesn’t reflect either the small Tory majority in Parliament or a Brexit vote which was as close as 52-48.

The underlying problem here is that the Conservatives feel comfortable with their 10% polling lead and think they can indulge themselves with extreme policies and still win. Labour has a responsibility here to pull itself together, and the last few months have been an improvement on that front though there is still some way to go. But I’d also encourage voters not to create monolithic Conservative representation in the County elections in May: if we are governed by one party at national, county and borough level, we will simply not get sensible, balanced policies. I have an interest here, as I’m standing for Labour in Eastwood, but it’s a point that goes well beyond sheer party allegiance. One-party states do not work well, and we need local representation prepared to challenge the Government.

 

Best regards

 

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment