In memory of…

Arthur Tennant was a good friend and collegue in the party who passed away last week. He was one of the first people that Jude and I got to know when we moved into Up Holland. It must have taken Jude a couple of months before she could understand his broad Wigan accent (what with her being a brummie).

I’ll remember him most for his friendship, the times that we would talk and he’d tell me about Up Holland, his times in the Parish Council and the characters that he met along the way.

He was always active in the party, right through to the end. We had the election “committee rooms” at his house the other Thursday, and as always it was an open and happy place for party workers to come, have a cup of tea and a chat and then get on with the job.

He constantly campaigned, in recent years on behalf of the elderly, particularly over transport. Consequently, he was a thorn in many people’s side – but for all the right reasons. He would come to the Parish Council and rightly demand answers from the local service providers, and often would get results.

He deserved all the plaudits that he received in the past few months. Up Holland’s first “Honorary Citizen”, a letter from the Prime Minister and a lovely reception for him a the Parish Council.  

I’ll miss him.

No change in council leadership

It was fun while it lasted, but the rumours came to nought. It seems that Geoff Roberts continues as the council leader and Ian Grant as deputy – the Aughton Park mafia!

With the elections over and the leadership sorted for the next 12 months, it’s time to get back down to the proper work of the council again. The Council AGM is on Wednesday, which unfortunately I’ll miss – but the first proper meeting will be a few weeks after. That will be when we see if the agenda has altered for the controlling group.

I’m confident that the Labour group will be moving forward this year, and I hope, to some gains in next year’s elections.

Local Tories – Thatchers youth

The Advertiser has this piece about the possible leadership challenges in the Tory group, which quotes Geoff Roberts (possibly, still their leader) as saying:

“I’m a little concerned at the somewhat radical view of the younger members because that is not the Conservative Party. That happened under Margaret Thatcher and we ultimately paid the price.

Interesting that their own leader is tarring them with the Thatcher brush.

The Labour councillors see the extreme right-wing views of the local Tories week in and week out, but it generally doesn’t surface in public. Perhaps, with new leadership and a new direction it’ll become clear. These guys are not the cuddly, tree-hugging kind that the national party would like to promote – and nor is Cameron, for that matter.

Blair on YouTube. Sorry, but I think this is neat

I’m bound to get some criticism for this, but I’ve just been watching Blair’s message to Sarkozy on YouTube. It’s neat. The whole Downing Street channel is a good idea.

Yeah yeah, this technology and YouTube have been around for ages, and yes, Cameron has been doing it for ever and, yawn, the Labour Party has their own channel too. That’s not the point. The Cameron and Labour channels are purely political and are therefore dull, clunky and don’t engage.

The Downing Street channel, being launched just as Blair leaves, is a chance to try a different way of engaging with the electorate. Am I pleased that a Labour Prime Minister is congratulating a French right-wing President? No, not really, but Blair long ago gave up doing the party politically correct thing. However, I am pleased that they’re finally using sites like YouTube at a level which is slightly above the usual brick-throwing political stuff which turns people off.

It’s possible that no-one will actually watch it, but it’s a start.

(perhaps I need a John McDonnell clip to balance things up! I’ll look for an appropriate one here!)

Rosie’s site

I’ve added Rosie Cooper’s website to the blogroll on the right. I realised that I’d only mentioned District Councillors, and Rosie and the County Councillors deserve a mention. If there are any other west lancashire politics related websites I’ll happily namecheck them here – so long as they’re not bashing Labour (too much!)

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Updated: 7/5/07:

County councillor sites:

Added to the blogroll.

Local Tory website

Derby Councillor, Adrian Owens, has been dipping a toe into the online world. His website has all sorts of fascinating facts and press releases about what he’s been up to.

Nothing much there about the council which he is a leading figure on. Instead it’s all directed at the County Council and the Government. Something tells me that his sights locally are set higher than just being the leader of West Lancs District Council.

It’s really just a collection of press releases, but that’s ok – at least he’s posting them on the web. To my knowledge that brings the count to three councillors with personal websites: myself, Paul Cotterill (an online version of the Bickerstaffe Record) and Adrian Owens.

What with these, and the Advertiser’s successful “Battle for West Lancashire” blog, we could be starting to see the evolution of a genuine online political space in West Lancs.

Adrian should have the courage of his convictions and change his site from a noticeboard of press releases to a more open blog style. Of course, openness and Tories tend not to go hand in hand in West Lancs.

What happened to my rosette on Thursday??

Found my rosette on the floor in the kitchen on Thursday… a bit crumpled and un-wearable. Amazing what you find when you check the pictures on your camera.
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Lily’s spots are due to a bout of chickenpox at the start of last week, just before the election. Timing, as ever, was perfect.

Election results – Bumping along the bottom

The results from Thursday’s election suggest that Labour, locally, hasn’t moved in the past twelve months. One good councillor, with a strong personal vote (in Wrightington) stood down, and we gained another good councillor with a strong personal vote in Bickerstaffe.

To move forward in West Lancs, we need to see a bigger swing than 0.38%. Given that Skelmersdale North was a 30% swing back to Labour (from an independent) that wipes out that tiny increase.

It took a long time for the local party to get over losing control in 2002. Indeed, I think that some haven’t still got over it, and we’re still struggling with that.

I believe that it is for the Labour group to vocalise the dissatisfaction across West Lancs about how the Tories are running the Council. Their incompetence implementing changes to the recycling. Their Aughton-centric view of the world, and their arrogant assumption that what they do is “excellent”.

Labour in West Lancs has to reach out: be a voice, and fight for those who are let down by this council; for all those who deserve better.

Tories in West Lancs will be delighted with the result from last Thursday. Immediately after the election (about 3am on Friday morning), I wrote that we hadn’t reached rock bottom. In a more optimistic view after a couple of sleeps, I’m hoping that we hit it last year – and that this year just represents us bumping along the bottom.

Things should start to improve for Labour, but it will requre a positive shift in how the Labour group is perceived, or for people to realise the arrogance and increasing nastiness of the governing Tory council. Or perhaps both.

Personally, I think that only a Labour controlled council will deliver for all residents of West Lancs. I will do what I can within the group to build a strong effective team, and will continue to work hard in Moorside ward.

If we continue as we have over the past year, things could get worse. We could lose seats in Up Holland, and perhaps in Skelmersdale. However, I am certain that Maggie Skilling is a well known, well liked councillor in Up Holland and we won’t have the same problems that we had this year. Cynthia Dereli is a brilliant councillor in Burscough, and I’m sure that the people in her ward recognise that.

I am, generally, optimistic. Labour has the more positive view of West Lancs and what it can be. Cameron’s Tories prefer to keep us in the dark, providing second rate services and refusing to allow scrutiny. It is for our local Labour leaders to step up and take on the local Conservatives and I hope that it will happen over the next twelve months. Otherwise, we’re in opposition until at least 2012.

Election results – a reality check

Just got back from the count – not a great night for Labour in West Lancs. I overhead someone say that we’d “turned the corner” which, with a net loss of one seat, is perhaps over-egging the result a bit.

Paul Cotterill did brilliantly in Bickerstaffe and showed how hard work over a long period of time can win seats. More disappointing to lose Scott and Wrightington. Particularly since the Scott loss means that we don’t have any more councillors in Ormskirk any more.

Over the whole district, I calculate that there has been a marginal (0.38%) swing to Labour. However, it’s not large enough to win seats. In fact ignoring the large swing in Skelmersdale North (a swing from Ind to Lab after Joan Morrison didn’t stand0), the two largest swings for Labour in the district were in Bickerstaffe and Knowsley (7.19% and 7.77% respectively).

We’ve not yet hit rock bottom – we held on to Up Holland and we now have two councillors outside of Skelmersdale / Up Holland, but there is a lot of work to be done for people to accept us as an acceptable opposition, and possible future controlling group. That seems a long way off tonight. Anyone who says the way back is easy, or that we’ve even turned the corner, needs a reality check.

Scarisbrick 2007 and Skelmersdale North 2004

Speculation around that there might be an upset in Scarisbrick. I’m willing to bet that we won’t see any surprises there – I expect the Conservative candidate to win there by a healthy majority.

Some have cited the Skelmersdale North election a couple of years ago when an independent stood against the, then Labour group leader, Alan Bullen. There was very nearly a shock that year with the independent coming close to beating the incumbent.

However, back then there was a strong independent campaign with many “pseudo-anonymous” leaflets going out. These attacked our candidate but didn’t go so far as to suggest voting for anyone else. The imprint cryptically had the Conservative’s HQ address, but nothing else. In the eyes of election law, they could get away with it because it didn’t explicitly suggest voting for someone, just not to vote Labour. In fact, at the time I called the Conservative agent to double check that they had put the leaflet out, which he confirmed.

After the count, the Tories went all coy and said that they should have withdrawn their candidate, as if that were the only way to help someone. The reality is that the Tories were in there and fighting hard for the independent.

The situation in Scarisbrick is much less clear, and the impact of an upset far less than Skem North would have been in 2004. We’ve seen already that Mrs Edwards will vote with the Conservatives as an independent – she did it on a number of occasions at the last full council. There is virtually no way that Labour can “come through the middle”, since we only get around 200 votes, while the Conservatives last polled around 800. We would have to more than double our vote and the Tories would have to split equally between the candidates.

It just won’t happen. I expect that Scarisbrick will be a damp squib tomorrow night. Another new face on the Tory benches, and if the trend from the last couple of years continues, a further lurch to the right.

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Updated 7th May: As I suggested above, there was no great surprise in Scarisbrick. Mrs Edwards came a respectable 2nd place with 292 votes behind the Tory with 614 and (relatively) just ahead of the Labour paper candidate with 158. From the reaction at the count, it’s fair to say that the Tories had no idea how things would go. There was a massive crowd around the table and many worried faces (very briefly).