Friday, 26 May 2017

An Address of Convenience

The following letter appears in the latest edition of the Lanchester Village Voice:

Many people want to know if an election candidate is local. However political parties have their own agenda. The Conservative party candidate in the forthcoming General Election comes from Hastings on the south coast. I do not take issue with this as it is clear to the electorate.

However the Labour candidate was a councillor in Cramlington until she was defeated on May 4th. Her home was given as Oxford Avenue, Cramlington. I understand that she has now declared on her election submission she lives in Lanchester in a property that appears to be a flat over a shop.

I recall the UKIP leader being hauled over the coals for using an address of convenience in a recent by-election. It appears to me the Labour candidate is playing the same game in order to get a local address on the ballot paper.

Name and address withheld on request

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Grown-Up Candidate

I am delighted that their campaign has transformed the Durham Teaching Assistants from political novices into dedicated activists. But I do not resile from my criticism that they have allowed themselves to become overly dependent on gurus and mentors who were, in reality, barely more experienced at proper politics than they themselves were.

As a result, due to the failure to declare explicitly for the re-election of all non-Labour members of Durham County Council, and for the defeat of all Labour candidates without exception, that party has managed to retain overall control of that authority. Therefore, it is necessary to punish Labour in County Durham by other means, namely by re-electing Grahame Morris while defeating all other Labour candidates in this county at the forthcoming General Election.

One of those candidates walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally, a Rally that had given a standing ovation to the two non-Labour Councillors for Consett North, both of whom have since been re-elected, and one of whom is now that walker out's Liberal Democrat opponent for Parliament. But she, Laura Pidcock, is exceptionally close to the gurus and mentors who think that a quarter-century of demonstrating and newspaper-vending on the streets, noble and important in themselves but hardly the be all and end all of grown-up politics, is in itself enough to qualify them as seasoned politicians.

Therefore, there are those among the TAs who even appear to be supporting Pidcock against Owen Temple, who is, with Alex Watson (one of my own Campaign Patrons), one of the two County Councillors to have done the most for them, as they rapturously acknowledged at their own Solidarity Rally. Seated right next to Owen and Alex, I participated fully in that rapture. While disagreeing with almost everything in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, while agreeing with almost everything in the Labour manifesto, and while aching for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister, I am proud to be a mere fortnight away from voting for Owen to serve as my MP.

But then, my formative and ongoing political experiences have been and are as a Parish Councillor, as a governor of two schools, around even if never quite on the old Derwentside District Council, as a member of the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner's Community Panel, and as a governor of the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. I have no background in, nor have I the slightest affinity with, that which Lenin called "an infantile disorder".

Hence, one of my Campaign Patrons served for many years as the Leader of the Derwentside District Council of which he always said that I ought to have been a member (but my Branch preferred pure blood Aryan pretty boys who knew about football and pop music, no matter how unelectable they were), chairing the North East Regional Assembly and earning himself the OBE. While my other Campaign Patron was first elected to Parliament 30 years ago, has been the MP for four constituencies in three cities, is on course to add a fifth seat in a fourth city, and is one of the most immediately recognisable politicians in the English-speaking and several other worlds.

As a grown-up, backed by grown-ups, I am telling you that Owen Temple is the grown-up candidate in North West Durham, and the only true friend of the Teaching Assistants on the ballot paper here.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Never Mind The Pidcocks

I promised Blessed Ronan Dodds that I would light a candle at his altar by using that headline. I have now done so.

I have never said that Laura Pidcock ought not to become the Member of Parliament for anywhere, ever, by any means. But she ought not to become the Member of Parliament for North West Durham, in 2017, by decree of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and by use of an all-women shortlist.

There is no serious doubt that, even were she to be elected, then the Constituency Labour Party, left-wing though it now is, would deselect her for the Marxist, radical feminist, and zealously anti-Catholic views that would have been moderated and modified by 10 years in one or more middle-ranking positions.

Furthermore, she walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when a speaker from this constituency rightly called for a vote against all Labour candidates at what were then the forthcoming elections to Durham County Council. Had that strategy been properly adopted and applied, then Labour would have lost control of that council, and the need to punish that party would therefore no longer obtain.

As it is, however, it remains absolutely imperative, both to re-elect Grahame Morris at Easington, and to defeat all other Labour parliamentary candidates in County Durham. Here in North West Durham, we have the privilege of being able to vote for Owen Temple, who is, with Alex Watson, one of the two members of Durham County Council to have done the most for the Teaching Assistants, and the only parliamentary candidate to have had an address in this constituency on the day that this General Election was called.

I write this as one who longs for Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister, who agrees with almost everything in the Labour manifesto, and who agrees with almost nothing in that of Owen's party, the Liberal Democrats. But here we are. And people quite close to Corbyn, people who stopped the TAs from fully pursuing the correct approach to the local elections, people who are also very close to Pidcock, are very largely to blame for the fact that here we are.

Friday, 19 May 2017

In Order To Administer The Punishment

Oh, how I had longed to vote Labour this time, to vote for almost all of this manifesto, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. How I still do long to vote Labour this time, to vote for almost all of this manifesto, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. But there is no way that I can do it.

There is the manner of the Labour candidate's selection; even if she won, then she would almost certainly be deselected during the next Parliament, due to the unrepresentative nature of what are not yet her fully formed opinions. There is the fact that she walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when it called for a vote against all Labour candidates at what were then the forthcoming local elections. And there is the fact that, due to the failure to take that excellent strategy and run with it, Labour did not, after all, lose overall control of Durham County Council this month.

Thus, it remains unpunished, both for the abuse of the Teaching Assistants as such, and for the long list of offences of which that abuse stands as a symbol, a list that now includes my own impending show trial, which is a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths", and which calls seriously into question any pretence of the Crown Prosecution Service to political independence or impartiality.

Therefore, in order to administer the punishment that ought to have been administered on 4th May, it will be necessary on 8th June to defeat all of Labour's parliamentary candidates in County Durham apart from Grahame Morris. Here in North West Durham, we have the benefit of being able to vote for Owen Temple, who with Alex Watson is one of the two County Councillors to have done the most in support of the Teaching Assistants, and who is the only candidate to have been living in this constituency on the day that the General Election was called.

Am I a Lib Dem? Not remotely. But Owen is head and shoulders above the other candidates here. Demographically, this should never have been a safe Labour seat. The shock of losing it would be good for the local Labour Party, and making this a seat that had to be fought, as it always should have been, would be good for the constituency.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

I Shall Be Voting For Owen Temple

The Labour manifesto is almost entirely the one for which I have been waiting since I was a teenager. The Liberal Democrat manifesto would serve as a pretty good compendium of everything that I was against politically. Everything from re-running the referendum (although I think that that might happen whoever won) to legalising cannabis (against which I have been arguing for 20 years, against the people who have controlled the Conservative Party for most of that period).

Here in North West Durham, however, the Conservative candidate, Sally-Ann Hart, resides in Sussex, while the Labour candidate, Laura Pidcock, somehow acquired an address in Lanchester during the week between her loss of her seat on Northumberland County Council and the close of nominations for this election. Ms Pidcock was imposed, using an all-women shortlist, by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, with no local involvement whatever.

On the same day as she was losing her seat in Northumberland, the Liberal Democrat, Councillor Owen Temple, was once again topping the poll at Consett North. The Green candidate lives in Durham City, while the UKIP candidate lives in Bishop Auckland.

One may or may not agree with the Liberal Democrats about Brexit or any other issue. But voting is for individual candidates. Councillor Temple is a champion of the Teaching Assistants, of whom Ms Pidcock is at best a lukewarm supporter or a fair-weather friend, and of a wide range of other local community concerns, most of which would be unknown to the other candidates.

He offers Labour voters a chance to return the contempt that the Labour Party has shown them by treating this seat as a consolation prize for Laura Pidcock, whose own MP has not retired as expected. He offers everyone else the chance to take this seat out of the hands of the Labour Party, including the chance for Conservative voters to return the contempt that their party has shown them by yet again failing to field a local candidate.

And the failure to remove Labour from overall control of Durham County Council means that it still needs to be punished for its mismanagement of that authority, which means that all of its parliamentary candidates here apart from Grahame Morris need to be defeated this time.

Therefore, I shall be voting for Owen Temple.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Fight Hard To Win

Yes, I have waited my entire adult life for this Labour manifesto. Yes, I do want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister instead of Theresa May, and I question the credibility of anyone who will not say that while professing to oppose British intervention on the Islamist side in Syria. And no, I am not at all impressed at, by or with the manifesto that has today been published by the Liberal Democrats. But we elect individual Members of Parliament in this country.

What I am about to say would never have been necessary if anyone had listened to me, instead of to people who had spent their political lives on the fringes, or in other parts of the country, or both, rather than as the Secretary of Derwentside District Labour Party, as a long-serving Lanchester Parish Councillor, as a governor for a cumulative 16 years of two schools in Lanchester (one of them serving almost the entire Derwentside area), as a subagent who had secured Labour an overall majority of the total vote on a four-way split in what was then still a traditionally Conservative ward, and now as a governor of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

I told them that it was not only reasonable, but morally and politically obligatory, to call for the election of no Labour candidate whatever to Durham County Council on 4th May. And then, what? A Cabinet position for every non-Labour Group and for those of no Group, with the numbers made up based on their relative size. The same for Scrutiny Chairs, obviously never mirroring the portfolios of their respective partisans. And representation on each committee and subcommittee in proportion to their numbers on the authority as a whole.

If they had paid any attention and run with "Anyone But Labour", then Labour would have lost control of Durham County Council, as very nearly happened, and we would now be dealing with whatever had come after that, made up as it would have been of our stalwart friends and allies. In which case, it would have been possible to advocate a Labour vote without complication at the forthcoming General Election.

Instead, though, with the Labour Party in County Durham still unpunished, and with my impending show trial (a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths") to add to its long list of offences, Grahame Morris is the only Labour parliamentary candidate who deserves a vote. Indeed, he more than richly deserves it.

There is no reason to begrudge the Conservatives their victories at Bishop Auckland and at Sedgefield. What would they make any worse? They are as welcome to those seats as they are to the ones that they are also going to take from the SNP, which deserves to lose to "the TOR-ies!" as surely as does the Labour Party in County Durham.

In City of Durham, and in North Durham, make a judgement based on your local knowledge. Here in North West Durham, consider that only Owen Temple had an address in this constituency two weeks ago, and that he is tied with Alex Watson as the County Councillor who has done the most for the Teaching Assistants.

Is there still a Constituency Labour Party here in North West Durham? If so, then what is it for? What is the point of a CLP that had no say whatever on the selection of the parliamentary candidate? The one whom the Labour Party has imposed here clearly intends to stay for 35 years. The CLP nominated Ed Miliband in 2010, Andy Burnham is 2015, and Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. But there is Left and there is Left. Even were she to be elected, then Laura Pidcock's Marxism, her radical feminism, and her anti-Catholic zealotry would be the road to deselection before 2022. After all, the CLP was never asked whether it wanted her in the first place.

North West Durham is a well-known psephological anomaly that has baffled the boffins for most of its history. Nothing about it suggests a safe Labour seat apart from the fact that it is one, or that it has been one, more or less, up to know. It really ought not to be one, and it is regularly pointed out as an oddity. People who grew up Amish mostly think that the Amish are normal. But they are not.

This ought to be a seat that all three parties felt the need to fight hard to win, not one that a single party could give as a coming out present to a debutante. A debutante, moreover, who walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally because a speaker, from this constituency, had dared to propose exactly the right electoral approach.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rye, Indeed

In a reversion to the historical norm, the Conservatives came second here in North West Durham in 2015. But their candidate this time, one Sally-Ann Hart, is listed as having her "address in the Hastings and Rye constituency". They are always from the South. None of them has even pretended to live here since Theresa May in 1992, and she did in fact spend a lot of time here. She is well-remembered. Meanwhile, Princess Pidcock has apparently managed to acquire a residence in Lanchester at less than a month's notice. Not bad for a 29-year-old charity worker.

I want the railways and the Royal Mail back in public ownership. I want an extra six billion pounds per year for the NHS, and an extra £1.6 billion for social care. I want 100,000 new council houses each year, with the offer of homes to thousands of rough sleepers, and with a cap on private rents. I want an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. And I want to be sure that Britain will not intervene on the Islamist side in the Syrian Civil War.

In this country, however, we vote for individual candidates.

For whom am I going to vote? If my Campaign Patron, Councillor Alex Watson OBE, endorses anyone, and if I do not say otherwise, then I agree with him. Beyond that, know only that I will vote. To the best of my knowledge, I am the first declared candidate in the country for the 2022 General Election. Already organising, already campaigning, and already fundraising.