Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Gift Horse for UKIP

My frustration at UKIPs ability to miss opportunities right in front of them will not have escaped readers attention.  I'm not an out and out UKIP advocate - far from it.  What I'm lamenting is that everything is ripe for them to harvest and wake up the  three party inertia that grips this country and they're missing it each and every time.

One of their mistakes (in my humble opinion) is they're trying to make a big noise nationally which they're really going to struggle with that for all sorts of reasons.  Their best chance is local.  They need to wake up and organise their local network and presence - and quickly.  It doesn't have to be about politics in the classical sense.  They have to start by getting in the hearts and minds of local people by getting involved in their everyday lives and struggles.

Right now there's an advantage just waiting for them to pounce on.  It's actually there for anyone who wants it but as UKIP seem to be missing obvious sitters I'm going to make the suggestion to them, here on this page.  It's not rocket science.  In fact it's really small beer, but it's a start.

So here it is.

The horse meat scandal has taken on a life of it's own.  To the average man and woman in the street the detail is of little importance right now. Precisely who has done it they're not much bothered about, especially with (as Richard North is pointing out) the mainstream media is playing chase on this and reporting off the cuff thoughts as though they were fact.  

What's bothering the average man and woman right now is that they just don't know who they can trust to sell them beef that has no other meat but beef in it.  The effect is that some people are foregoing supermarket beef and looking more locally to places like the butchers (if they still have one).

Maybe it might help them to establish their local credentials if local UKIP representatives mounted campaigns in their local towns and villages to promote the local butchers.  They can come up with poster slogans for butchers to put in their windows extolling the virtues of buying local beef.  They could be clever and find ways to make a political angle out of it.  Maybe something along the lines of "there's a downturn on and whilst they're fighting for the own careers and interests, where here fighting for your food security and your community businesses".  I'm sure there's a big letter campaign somewhere in there too.  I'm sure the local news media might also be interested somehow.  They're always looking to get the national and international news hooked to the local agenda and this is a damn sight more relevant than the type of stories about broken fences that the council haven't fixed for a decade. I'm sure some wag can even think of some very clever link between 100% beef and politics.

Sometimes it's the little things that can make the difference.

Of course they could always look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

So turn on them

The Telegraph is carrying a story (at least on its website) about how much grassroots Tories feel betrayed by Cameron with their focus on gay marriage.  I understand they have composed an angry letter which has been handed in to Number 10.  In particular I noted this comment:

One said grassroots members had been left “angry, disillusioned and deeply puzzled” over the “sudden” introduction of the proposals, as another said life-long supporters no longer felt “at home” in the Conservative Party. 

This post isn't about gay marriage but about the general dysfunctional relationship those in Westminster have with their grassroots "supporters".

Might I suggest to those grassroots Tories that Cameron and his ilk could not give a toss about your angry letter.  One only has to visit, my blogging friend over at Witterings from Witney to note how disinterested they are in viewpoints from their constituents and constituencies.  A letter is something they can simply ignore.  If they genuinely want a change in that relationship they have to deliver a message that cannot be ignored, one with real consequences.  What those grassroots conservatives might not have realised though is that they do have their fingers on a number of pressure points with regards to the MPs they have supported.

It all rests in the fact that local constituency is the place where the power shifts from the MP to the electorate and that the MP needs to crawl to the local voters in however a disingenuous fashion they do it in order to be returned to the trough.

I would say that rather than deliver a letter which will be filed under B1N, the local grassroots conservatives could consider delivering a metaphorical kick in the nuts to the party, their MP and his or her agent if they wanted to put on a show of power.

They could if they chose, write to the MPs PA and their agent and inform them, that because of their consistent failure to  fulfil their election promises, their standpoint on a number of issues that run counter to grassroots Conservatives and their wilful refusal to take on board those who have supported them, they will refuse to support all promotional activity within the local constituency, until such time that as MPs they recognise the MPs responsibility to the local party and the electorate.  Personally I would prefer the electorate only but it's a start.

They could offer the MP one final opportunity to fulfil the promises they made or face the consequences of such a refusal.

In coming up with these suggestions I'm minded of how an absent friend of mine who was once a prospective Labour candidate was not supported by the national party because the seat he was campaigning for was not a target seat.  I'm also minded of his tales of how they also tried to cut the sitting MP in another constituency off at the knees because he wouldn't submit to the party line on a number of issues by starving him of support activity at election time.  The approach is to effectively starve them of support activity.  Any MP who makes it to Parliament only really does so with an army of volunteers, publicity and money which turns into promotional activity within the constituency.  Those that get little or no support, effectively have no voice, and those that have no voice, get no votes

Suggestions could include:

  • A letter campaign to the local newspaper informing the public of their opposition to the local MPs position that includes their credentials as a grass roots conservative.  This could also include other PR activity.  I can imagine that a mainstream media looking to stick it to the Tories are more likely to cover such a rebellion than not.
  • All support activity for the local MP surgery will cease.  This could even be as petty as refusing to unlock the office on the day in question and turning the heating or the lighting on.  No printing will be done, no photocopying will be done, no lists of who who the MP is due will be printed and no one from the local team will man reception.  In fact - sod it - let it be a free for all.  let the PA in Westminster sort it or the agent.
  • Refusing to photocopy or deliver any leaflets within the local constituency and a promise that come the election campaign the MP will find no support whatsoever for campaign activity.  There will be no leaflets delivered, no doors will be knocked on, no leaflets or posted printed or displayed to say the least.
  • Writing to all known funders of the MP confirming all of the above and ask said funders to consider their funding position given that there will be no local support from the local party returning the MP to Parliament whilst they hold the positions they do.
  • Confirmation that they will turn up to local hustings for those that still engage in this and ask the MP uncomfortable questions in full public view letting the audience know of their connections to the local Tory party.
  • Confirmation that where an opposition candidate declares a willingness to support key policies that they agree with, they will write in support of those and declaring their previous party affiliations.
To be honest there are probably more and these are just a few possible activities that could be employed to let the hogs in Westminster know they are no longer willing to be abused by those who have nothing but self interest coursing through their veins.  Whilst I have used the Tories as an example, grassroots supporters of any party could implement such a strategy in order to fire a shot across the bows of those who they have helped. 

A concerted effort of such a nature would likely hit the national news which would have its own effects.  Funders back winners and also avoid negative publicity.  If they felt their money was likely to head down the drain, I suspect they would give serious consideration to keeping their money tucked away elsewhere.

Of course such a strategy is risky because those activists will have to face up to some real questions of what matters the most - the principles of democracy or outdated tribal loyalty.  Many I suspect will stick to tribal loyalty because the consequences to them are too painful.  This is notwithstanding the fact that their loyalty exists in something that has parallels with abusive relationships where one party does all the giving and the other party repeatedly betrays their partner. 

It might or it might not have the desired effect, but I suspect some MPs would come to heel when they work out the potential risk to their place at the trough, especially those whose majority at the last election was, shall we say, less than robust.  Some might fall because of their intransigence.

Better still it might give an independent promising to be a genuine representative of the electorate more of a level playing field.

As David would say - "just asking"

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Was Mackenzie Right?

Cross posted from Restoring Nottingham

Back in early December, the very outspoken Kelvin Mackenzie wrote a piece for the Telegraph about the notion of the South "carrying the rest of the country" from an economic perspective.


Unsurprisingly the comments section directed lots of flak MacKenzie's way, most of it justifiable.  My first reaction was probably included a few swear words as well. Part of that was due to my recollection as a youngster that every time something was being developed to move the country forward, the viewpoint was that "it has to be in London / South because everything else is here" - a logic that used to make me very angry.  The other part was his ignorance of the fact that the UK had grown to its lofty position in the world because of its industrial and military dominance over the preceding centuries, most of which had been sourced from across the breadth of Britain in the lives and labours.

Of course the notion of MacKenzie writing in the Telegraph was one designed to provoke uproar.  That there was any surprise in that was a surprise in itself.

I did however sit and wonder if he had a point or if he was right.  Strangely enough, to me, he is correct, but not in the way he probably thinks.  To me it's not the south that needs special treatment and needs to go it alone, but that the rest of the nation needs to look at itself and in many respects needs to mimic London and the south.  There needs, for me, to be a revolution in the regions so that they develop their own economic prosperity to move forward.

Notice the words "their own".  I'm not talking about waiting or expecting government to deign to drop one of it's bright ideas on us for a little special pot here or a little special business park here.  It often strikes me as tokenism and it still leaves our future in someone else's hands.  What I'm talking about is generating our own economic "revolution", here in Nottinghamshire.  I happen to think every other county should do likewise but the intention of this blog is to move Nottingham forward.

There are a few reasons for this and they are linked to each other.

The first is that it's just good sense.  If you spend any time over at the Witterings from Witney blog, you will see its owner, talk often about Switzerland.  If you haven't, go take a read.  In essence, the whole nation moves along through the exercise of democracy at local level.  Swiss Cantons are very important components of Switzerland.   As another commentator pointed out (and I can't find the link at the moment), this gives Switzerland a very powerful advantage. There is redundancy built into the system.  Because each region is taking care of its own affairs, a failure in one area does not impact the whole too much.

If Nottingham was its own top to bottom success story  it could better withstand a downturn not only inside a part of Nottinghamshire, but also a downturn in an area like London.  A Nottingham that was just one success story in a nation full of them would not only reduce the risk of a downturn in one area but would become another source of growth in an economy floundering around for growth right now.

The other reason can be found in many of those blogs I pointed you to in a previous post.  You'll see that most are talking often about the EU and right now the referendum. A key question for them is, if we vote to get out of the EU, what is the plan for afterwards?

They're right - you can't just vote to leave the EU and everything be hunky dory on day one of a free Britain.   You have to have a plan to survive and thrive in the aftermath.  With Labour saying you can't have a referendum and Dave saying he'll campaign to stay in, it seems they're not putting together a plan for thriving if we vote to leave (presuming of course we actually get a vote on it).  There have to be plans for both economic and democratic dimensions. If they won't plan for it, we have to (and would probably make a better job of it)

The democratic dimension is being worked on right certainly by some of the bloggers I mentioned in my previous post with their work on what is known as the Harrogate Agenda.  Economically both they and myself are trying to point out that our entire economic future is not tied to staying in the EU as our politicians and the press are trying to claim.  There are emerging economies out there and some real success stories and we could be engaging and trading with them to power our growth out of this recession.

Yes there's a recession on and right now it's biting in Nottingham, but we should not wait for the so called great and the good nor rely on other regions for our wealth and welfare.  We need a revolution for success right here in Nottinghamshire.  Don't wait for them.  Get started now

That however is down to each and every single one of us to power it.

Where's our political tonnage?

Last weekend I was down south with family & friends and visited a National Trust property in the area.  We walked around the lake swollen by rapidly melting.  Part way round the lake we came across a small whirlpool in the lake.  By way of idle chit chat, I asked one of our friends (a former merchant seaman) if such things actually occurred at sea or were they nothing more than tales told by romantic old salts.

"No they're real.  Caused by different currents in the sea".  Still not knowing anything about them, I joked something about steering well clear of them. 

My friends response was "No, when you're in 35000 tonnes of ship, you tend not to worry too much about them"

I could help but wonder as this nation finds itself in a maelstrom of mixed currents, where our 35000 tonnes of political courage is to steer us through it.  All we seem to have are 600 odd pieces of balsa wood currently trying to navigate it.