Monday, July 27, 2009

What message have people of Norwich North sent?

Having had time for reflection, the people of Norwich North have sent complex messages to all parties complex messages. This first in series of postings concerns Ian Gibson.

Despite high profile campaign from several parties and media, only 45% of people bothered to vote. This election was about differential turnout. I was telling in Mile Cross and the low turnout there spoke volumes. But why not vote- are people disillusioned with politics as a whole or loyalty to Ian Gibson?

Having lived in the constituency myself, I can testify that Gibson was a good constituency MP. He may have done the wrong thing in terms of the property issue but other MPs have done much worse. I think it was more to do with Labour wanting to look tougher than Cameron so removed the whip from this frequent thorn in their side. So good result all round for Labour-until Gibson resigns to force by-election. Once again Labour party leadership underestimated his principles. He could easily have followed the example set by series of other (mainly Tory) MPs who announce they will not be restanding at next election thereby getting another year's pay and generous pay-off. He had a strong personal vote which appears to have stayed at home.

On one level, the by-election was a victory for the Conservatives but a somewhat hollow one-failing to really create a bandwagon of enthusiasm for David Cameron's revamped party-not reaching the heights of New labour in 1997 but maybe sleepwalking towards victory. I still think that is far from certain but Labour do have to take action soon-time for proper political reform and a referendum for PR me thinks.

Chloe Smith has spoken alot about accountability-I am sure the electorate will respond to her record accordingly. She would do well to hold this seat post boundary changes and the loss of apparent Tory leaning areas to the new Broadland seat. maybe she should have fought SW Norfolk after all.

For the Lib Dems, second place would have been nice but avoided getting completely squeezed and saw off UKIP and the Greens. I still feel that April Pond was left in a difficult situation when it emerged that the party had made approaches Martin Bell and Peter Franzen to stand. I still hope this was not true but have seen no convincing denial. Certainly neither made any effort to endorse the party in the campaign with Bell publicly backing Craig Murray who deserves credit for his own campaign and result.

UKIP will be pleased, benefiting from proximity to EP elections where they polled well in Norfolk. The Greens must be devastated and made no inroads in the Broadland end of the seat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is this the most desperate political spin of the year?

"Was this a poor result for us- yes it was, but everybody lost bar Chloe Smith, and even she cannot go to take her seat until October."

Andrew Withers, UK Libertarian Party responding to party achieving 36 votes 0.01% and 11th place in Norwich North by-election
more of that at:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Norwich North by-election result

Here is the result but what does it mean for politics, parties, policies and people?

At the By Election in Norwich North on 23rd July 2009, 34379 votes were cast (approximately 45% of the total number of eligible voters) with the following result:

39.5% Chloe Smith (Conservative): 13591 votes (+6.3%).

18.2% Chris Ostrowski (Labour): 6243 votes (-26.7%).

14% April Pond (Liberal Democrat): 4803 votes (-2.2%).

11.8% Glenn Tingle (UK Independence Party): 4068 votes (+9.4%).

9.7% Rupert Read (Green Party): 3350 votes (+7%).

2.8% Craig Murray (Put An Honest Man into Parliament): 953 votes.

2.7% Robert West (British National Party): 941 votes.

0.5% Bill Holden (Independent Candidate): 166 votes (-0.2%).

0.4% Laud Howling (Official Monster Raving Loony Party): 144 votes.

0.2% Anne Fryatt (None of The Above Party): 59 votes.

0.1% Thomas Burridge (Libertarian Party): 36 votes.

0.1% Peter Baggs (Independent Candidate): 23 votes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Secularists attempt to drive faith from politics

Over at Conservative Home, Tim Montgomerie brings news of The National Secular Society's latest unwarranted attack on the participation of people from religious faith prespectives in politics.

This time the target is David Kerr, SNP Candidate in the forthcoming Glasgow East by-election. He has been open about his membership of Opus Dei and rightly tells the Scotsman (190709)that it is "preposterous and deeply prejudiced" to argue that somebody of his religious beliefs should be "debarred" from running for public office.

Unsuprisingly, the NSS disagree and claim that "The concern for voters would be that such a person would have their allegiance to the Church and not to the SNP. It is one thing to bring your religious beliefs to politics, but it is another to bring the dogmas of a right-wing Catholic organisation. That would be the worry for voters."

It is people of faith who are at the forefront social reform remaining significant drivers of community cohesion and social capital. The NSS should be doing likewise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Statement from the Norfolk Church Leaders re the Norwich North by-election on July 23rd

The following statement was released today by Church Leaders in Norwich

Prior to the European and County Council elections on June 4th we issued the attached statement. We reiterate those same concerns in the context of the Norwich North by-election on July 23rd.

It is important for us to do so since the British National Party candidate styles himself as ‘Revd’ and is often to be seen dressed as a clergyman. He belongs to no known denomination and voters should not be mislead by his adoption of clerical dress. The policies he promotes are not shared by any of the Churches we serve and are contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. There we read that in Christ ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female’ (Galatians 3.28).

Christians in Norfolk and Norwich have had a long tradition of welcoming the stranger. We pray that this generous instinct may continue to be celebrated here.

The Rt. Revd. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich (Church of England)
The Rt. Revd. Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia (Roman Catholic)
The Revd. Graham Thompson, East Anglia District (Methodist Church)
The Revd. Richard Lewis, Regional Minister, Norfolk (Baptist Union)
The Revd. Paul Whittle, Moderator Eastern Province (United Reformed Church)
John Myhill (Society of Friends)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Norwich North by-election-the question the BNP refuse to answer

Thursday will see the long-awaited by-election in Norwich North following the resignation of popular maverick MP, Ian Gibson. Despite, its unprediactable nature, the campaign momentum seems to be heading for a Tory v Liberal Democrat, April Pond finale. Labour seem well out of the race yet their is still not massive enthusiasm for the Tories in a seat they would have been expecting to win in the next General Election anyway.Despite their previous predictions, there is no evidence that the Green bandwagon is really rolling. I suspect that this will be the story of the by-election, at a time when all parties attempt to manage expectations.

One thing that is clear is that the BNP are far from gaining ground. So before he slopes off after defear, I join calls from Ekklesia and other faith-based groups and individuals for the BNP candidate, Robert West (from outside the county let alone the city to finally answer the question so far avoided by him and cronies: Exactly where does he get his "Rev" title from?

I know of no Church in the UK that doesn't condemn the racist party. It was suggested by The Times a while ago that he might belong to the Apostlic Church. However, the Apostolic Church expressed no knowledge of West.

A spokesperson for the church told Ekklesia: "If this person has had any association with The Apostolic Church in the past the only means by which he can maintain either his membership or office is by attending one of our churches. If he were an active member of the Church his views would not be accepted by the Church and disciplinary action would be undertaken by the Church which strongly distances itself from views such as these."

Will any church come forward to claim him? Or is this another example of BNP deception? Is his "Rev" status somehow derived from the Christian Council of Britain? And if so, who ordained him if it only has a membership of one?

Norwich has a notable history of welcoming people fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe, sometimes on religious grounds-for example it has been home to one of the earliest Muslim communities in the nation. Christian teaching is clear that hospitality and living together with mutual respect remain the foundation of a civilised society. All human beings are created equally in the image of God. That is why racism is a sin. Christ calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves and in this forthcoming by-election, it is right to be vigilant about any party or individual candidate seeking to use people’s fears for their own well-being to stir racial or religious hatred.

At a time when many people are anxious about their jobs, finances and future, we pray that the best and most generous traditions of our national life will guide all voters on July 23rd and that people from faith perspectives not only vote but do so with an attitude of hope not hate.

Thanks to Ekklesia and many others for keeping this issue live and attempting to keep candidates to account.

End Vulture Culture Now

Picture shows Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg pledging his support to the Jubilee Debt Campaign to "End Vulture Culture", whilst attending the Glastonbury Festival earlier this month.

One of the shadier aspects of international finance has been the role of companies known as ‘vulture funds’. Vulture fund is a name given to a private company that seeks to scavenge profit from some of the world's poorest and heavily indebted countries by buying up ‘bad’ debt at a cheap price, then trying to recover the full amount, often by suing through the courts. At least 54 companies, many based in tax havens, are known to have taken legal action against 12 of the world's poorest countries in recent years, for claims amounting to $1.5 billion. This means money released by debt relief is going into the pockets of a few wealthy investors, not spent on much needed health and education.

So far 155 MPs (including 43 Liberal Democrats) have signed the all-party Early Day Motion (EDM 1440)in the name of Sally Keeble MP.

More information available via:

Photograph from Jubilee Debt Campaign with thanks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ill-thought out Tory plans would make things even worse for world's poorest people

Aid agencies have attacked a 'Green Paper' on International Development issued by the Conservative Party yesterday, with some saying it could increase the dependency on aid of the world's poor.

Entitled 'One World Conservatism' it was branded a "disappointment" by one agency, said to have "glaring omissions" and "blind spots" by others while one even said it risked worsening the impact of the financial crisis on the world's poor.

"This green paper is a disappointment for anyone looking for fresh thinking in response to the financial crisis. Instead of questioning the policies that have led to the crisis, the Conservatives risk worsening its impact for the world's poor" said Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

"More liberalised trade, more privatisation, more multinational corporations and more exposure to volatile capital markets - the very steps that have caused the worst economic crisis in a generation. The millions of people reeling from the effects of this crisis do not want more of the same."

"The paper speaks of capitalism as Britain's 'gift to the world'. Given the problems which the unregulated global economy has recently subjected the world to, many countries might prefer to be removed from the Christmas list."
The aid agency Tearfund pointed to the report's failure to address the role of faith groups.

It comes after the Government promised to double development funding for those working from a faith basis in international development.

Tearfund Advocacy Director Paul Cook said: "It is astonishing to see a debate on international development without any recognition of the role of faith communities in the field.

"In Tearfund’s experience of working for more than 40 years through local churches in the poorest parts of the world, it is facile to consider that it is possible to address need at a local level without engaging local faith-based organisations."
The agency also said it wanted more policy detail in the paper’s reference to climate change. "This is not just an add-on to international development; environmental sustainability is fundamental to addressing issues of food security, agriculture, land and water resource management and disaster risk reduction" Cook said.

Christian Aid also pointed to what it called a number of "blind spots" in the paper.
Melanie Ward, Christian Aid’s Senior UK Political Adviser said: "While the Conservatives now officially share our vision of a world free from the scourge of poverty, we believe that the party’s plan for realising it currently lacks some vital steps. To build a better world, we must tackle the fundamental causes of poverty, including huge existing inequalities of wealth and power. The Conservatives need to address their blind spots and explain how they would do this."

Christian Aid issued a statement saying that the Conservatives had "not yet fully articulated their understanding of what causes and sustains poverty." They warned of "a risk that short-term, micro projects get undue support because they are easier to evaluate than large-scale, long-term work for social change."

It also called on the party to expand its ideas for mitigation - what needs to be done to prevent further climate change - and to set out a vision of how poor countries can continue to develop in a low-carbon future.
The agency also said it was concerned about the proposal to issue aid vouchers to individuals in poor countries. "This may exacerbate aid dependency and undermine the development of basic services such as health and education" it said. "Vouchers would break the link between citizens and the state and effectively remove governments’ responsibility to provide services for their citizens. Vouchers will, in the long term, jeopardise development."

It descibed as "deeply worrying" the idea that the budget of the Department for International Development (DFID) could be diverted to support the priorities of other departments, such as the Ministry of Defence.

Most agencies welcomed the report's call for accountability and transparency in the delivery of aid. But they also warned that using aid money to support private schools and healthcare throughout Africa would not make developing country governments more accountable to their people but instead could weaken them even further.

Christian Aid said that the Tories should now accept that ideas of transparency should apply to tax revenue as well as to aid.

This article taken from Ekklesia 140709