PFI, Defrauding taxpayers an open letter

Dear Sir,

Having l articles on benefit fraudsters such as Sandra Edwards who defrauded taxpayers of £11,000 is all very well, but there are bigger fish who have cost the exchequer multiples of £11,000.

The national media of the last week has highlighted the huge waste of public money in a number of projects by the Labour Government. In ascending order we had the £500 million wasted on the reorganisation of the national call centres in the fire service. But this is peanuts compared to the £12 billion lost on the national computer scheme for the NHS, the folly of which has been known about for nearly a decade. But top of the heap of malfeasance and waste is the Private Finance Initiative started under the Tories but fully exploited by Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The cost of new NHS private- financed schemes will stay with future generations of taxpayers up to 2049. Hospitals that would have cost £11 billion under the old Treasury arrangements of financing public projects such as hospitals will now cost £75 billion. An absolute disgrace which dwarfs the £11,000 stolen by Edwards. If Edwards deserves jail what fate should be in store for the politicians and civil servants that sanctioned this grand larceny?

Of course there are other projects funded through PFI including City schools. I hear horror stories of local schools been charged astronomic amounts for even minor repairs or maintenance. The whole PFI sorry saga requires more scrutiny then it has so far generated.

Bill Cawley

Watershed Moment For Labour

On Tuesday I watched Ed Miliband deliver his maiden speech as the new Labour Party leader at the party’s annual conference.

Elected with the wafer thin margin of 1.3% of the votes cast, pipping David his brother to the post, for most of the contest the clear favourite of the five candidates to seize the prize, Ed spoke confidently, relaxedly and coherently.

For the first time for more than a decade Labour rank and file heard a leader who said what he means and spoke about concerns close to their hearts. While reciting some of the major achievements of the thirteen years of the Blair/Brown duopoly, he made it clear that he recognised that there had been major policy mistakes.

Significantly, he apologised for the Iraq war. That one act along will commend his leadership to hundreds of thousands of people who deserted Labour as a result of the illconceived and illegal invasion of Iraq. That and his clear recognition that the Blair/Brown leadership lost its way, particularly in failing to recognise the socially corrosive effect of the widening wealth gap.

That Ed Miliband does not condone heaping the multi-billion pound cost of the debauched banking debacle on to ordinary working people who carry not the faintest slither of responsibility for the burden heaped on the national debt, will awaken a faith in the Labour party to represent the interests of ordinary people.

That together with his clear recognition of the importance of local government must give us all hope that we shall be seeing principled and persistent opposition to Tory-Lib Dem cuts, which are ideologically driven and totally divorced from economic reality.

This all goes to underline the problem facing the City Council’s coalition. I said at the time that the Labour Group, with 27 of the 60 seats in the Council chamber should have had the courage to form an administration on their own rather than carry on with the pre-May election support of the Tory, Lib-Dem and City Independents groups. It would have been virtually inconceivable for Labour to have lost a vote in Full Council.

As it is, they now face the October decimation of local government spending by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition government with the enemy within their administration! It’s not too late. Labour should seize their chance, jettison the ToryDem cutters and City Independent ditherers and come out with a coherent, cogent case for protecting vital public services for the city.

We Are Now Officially A Con-Dem Nation

Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a very dignified exit from No 10 Downing Street last night as it came apparent that David Cameron’s Conservatives were about to enter into a hard coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

Gordon Brown spoke passionately from the heart and conceded that he had failed to engage the nation during their Election Campaign and that he had his frailties.

As he walked down Downing Street with his wife Sarah and their two boys towards the official cars that would take him first to see the Queen to tender his resignation and then away to the airport to board a plane to Scotland and out of the political front-line, for good.

Enter stage left, David Cameron who had been asked to form a government by the queen, who arrived at No 10 Downing Street to a mixture of cheers, jeers and boos.

Mr Cameron, our new Prime Minister, the first Conservative to hold the office since 1997, announced that he would form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Some of the Liberal Democrats were scathing last night about the Labour Party’s lack of commitment to the talks between their two parties. Labour negotiators were accused of wanting to go into opposition. As a result the Lib Dems were pushed toward the Conservatives.

News circulated last night that the Liberal Democrats had driven a hard bargain. Nick Clegg was named as Deputy Prime Minister. Four other senior Lib Dems are to take up seats in the coalition cabinet. It will be the first time in 70 years that they will hold positions of real power in the government.

Predictions so far suggest that the key Cabinet positions will go to:

George Osborne [Conservative] – Chancellor
William Hague [Conservative] – Foreign Secretary
Liam Fox [Conservative] – Defence Secretary
Andrew Lansley [Conservative] – Health Secretary.
Danny Alexander [Liberal Democrats] – Scottish Secretary
Chris Huhne [Liberal Democrats] – Enery/Climate Change Secretary.
Vince Cable [Liberal Democrat] – Business/Banking Secretary.
Theresa May [Conservative] – Home Secretary
Ken Clarke [Conservative] – Justice Secretary

The coalition policy is taking shape. The BBC is reporting that the key points from the manifestos that will form the government programme are:

* There will be a “significant acceleration” of efforts to reduce the budget deficit – including £6bn of spending reductions this year. An emergency Budget will take place within 50 days
* Plans for five-year, fixed-term parliaments, meaning the next election would not take place until May 2015
* The Lib Dems have agreed to drop plans for a “mansion tax” on properties costing more than £2m, while the Conservatives have ditched their pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m
* The new administration will scrap part of Labour’s planned rise in National Insurance and will work towards raising income tax thresholds for lower earners
* A pledge to have a referendum on any further transfer of powers to the EU and a commitment from the Lib Dems not to adopt the euro for the lifetime of the next Parliament
* The Lib Dems have agreed to Tory proposals for a cap on non-EU migration
* The Conservatives will recognise marriage in the tax system, but Lib Dems will abstain in Commons vote
* The Lib Dems will drop opposition to a replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles but the programme will be scrutinised for value for money
* There will be a referendum on moving to the Alternative Vote system and enhanced “pupil premium” for deprived children as Lib Dems demanded

The Labour party are now contemplating life without Gordon Brown. They have elected for a period in opposition to allow them to regroup and rebuild. There are some very difficult decisions and cuts to come in the not to distant future. The Labour Party have obviously reached the conclusion that it is better for the Tories to preside over such matters.

Opposition may well be the position the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City council take, even with 26 councillors. It is unlikely that Labour and the Conservatives enter into a coalition locally as both respective parties executives are likely to be against such a move.

Nationally The Labour Party are about to embark on a difficult journey. They are about to elect a new leader.

Alan Johnson will not contest it as he has come out in support of David Miliband.

The other key candidates are, Ed Balls, John Cruddas, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw and Andy Burnham.

The party’s NEC will meet in the not to distant future to agree the timetable, process and procedures for electing a new leader.

Whither the left?

To quote from an Ancient Chinese General

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected”.

I think that out of the wreckage of the New Labour experiment I think that people on the left should not be too downcast. I think that this represents a great opportunity. I also think that Brown in the last few days has played a blinder and has made the prospect of a Labour Government very likely in the not too distant future. Personally I think to get through the terrible disaster of the last few years with over 250 seats with a rejuvenated local government base is not a bad spring board.

As for the Lib Dems I think that there position is an extremely difficult one. I feel that they are open to attack not the least from the party that I am a member of the Greens.

It is considered to be a Chinese curse to live in interesting times. I don’t think so.

Brown To Step Down!

Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party Gordon Brown has announced that he is to step down.

He is to ask the Labour Party to initiate the process for a leadership election and confirmed he will not stand or intervene.

The news comes following a request by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg for talks between the two parties.

Mr Brown said that a hung parliament suggested that there was no one leader or party that had the support to govern alone.

Speaking outside No10 Downing Street, he said:

“The reason that we have a hung parliament is that no single party or single leader was able to win support.

“As leader of my party I must accept that that is a judgement on me,”

“I therefore intend to ask the Labour Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election.

“I would hope that it would be completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour Party conference.

“I will play no part in that contest, I will back no individual candidate.”

Negotiators from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will now hold talks on whether the two parties cam come to an agreement.

It is rumoured that Mr Brown would himself have been a barrier to any agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems.

There had been some calls from Labour MPs for Gordon Brown to step down following the party’s performance at the General Election.

Bigotgate Hot air or Hot Poker?

I was a little busy yesterday and amazingly managed to miss the whole bigotGate thing until after I had gotten home, I checked my twitter to find out what it was all about. It didn’t take me long to come to my conclusion about the whole thing. Utter garbage! I think that the whole reportage of the incident is a complete disgrace.

The first questions I asked myself was " Was the Interview over"? To my mind yes the interview was over, so who’ever’s mic it was was deceitful by continuing to record. In short they were looking for dirt. Mr Brown was in the Car, in his private zone, talking to one of his aides. So this was his private comment. Isn’t he allowed an opinion? The second question I asked myself was was the comment justified? Here is an edited transcript from the Daily Mail.

Upon reading the transcript, The answer to my question is no. That said, the PM is probably fed up to the high teeth of peoples perceptions over immigration. It seems that a great many people forget their right to go and live and work in the E.U but resent other E.U citizens who exercise the same right. Immigration is a hot issue, but it’s certainly over-hyped. Anyone would think we had 30 million immigrants in the country.

In conversation he answered Mrs Duffy well, and continued on to other subjects. His comments in the car are, in my opinion his own and not to be in the public domain. I think Mr Brown was wrong in his summary of Mrs Duffy, she seemed like a normal voter, but just ask yourself how many times you have met someone and judged them, only later to discover that you were a bit hasty with your first impression? It happens to us all.

Mr Brown has to be commended for standing up and saying sorry. My message to the rest of the world is simply that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Get over it and move on..this election has to be decided on policy and not image.

The Leaders Debate – Part 2

Last night saw the second of 3 televised Leaders Debates. This one was very different to the last!

There was no ‘I agree with Nick’ this time, the mood was altogether more competitive.

Sky TV hosted the debate moderated by the excellent Adam Boulton and seemed to be a much more professional production. It focused on Foreign affairs and then more general issues.

Gordon Brown told us that if it was all based on style with no substance then we must count him out.

David Cameron attempted to be more compassionate and sincere and tried the Clegg trick of looking into the camera in an attempt to talk to each of then audience personally.

Nick Cleeg tried to build on the ground that he made up during his polished performance in the first debate. It was telling that neither of the other two leaders landed a telling blow on Clegg.

The polls put the winners as either marginally Clegg, or marginally Cameron, or have the two tied.

Brown is doing better than most people thought he would but is constantly third in the polls.

Just how much the public are swayed by these debates remains to be seen and will be confirmed on 6th May. For us the general public it is compulsive viewing and an example of the tactical warfare involved in modern day politics.

So, who floated your political boat during last nights installment?

Which of the Party leader policies best represented your views and why?

Over to you….

The Leaders Debate Part 1 – The Winners & Losers

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has topped the polls following his performance on last nights first of three live television debates.

Clegg gave an assured, polished and stylish performance according to the polls.

Conservative Leader David Cameron came second in the majority of polls, but did not perform as well has he had been tipped to.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was concise and methodical in his answers and performed above his expected level.

What matters however, is what you thought of the debate. Who won it for you? Who was the stand out performer?

Last nights debate featured home issues such as immigration, the NHS, education, law and order, the economy and the armed forces. Who ticked all,or most of the boxes for you?

David Cameron was tipped to be the star of the show with most to gain. Did he capitalise on his opportunity?

The Liberal Democrats set out to prove that they are the only real viable alternative to Labour and the Conservatives and that a vote for them is not a wasted vote. Did they pull it off? Did any of you change your minds who to vote for?

Over to you…

At last the 1964 Show

I have been out leafleting for Charlotte Atkins in the highly marginal Staffordshire Moorlands seat and managed to have a chat with her after I have finished my perambulations around the Haregate Estate.

Now I have been involved in elections since 1964 and I have taken a serious and sometimes senior role in elections since 1979 in many different constituencies. I knew, for example, in 1987 that although Labour ran a very professional campaign but that we stood little chance and on Election Day I was in Putney helping Peter Hain with his doomed attempt to wrestle the seat from David Mellor. Incidentally it’s the only time I canvassed with a celebrity when a group of us were canvassing the Roehampton estate in the company of Julie Christie.

In 1983 no one was under an illusion that we faced a white out as we helped Mark Fisher to his first win in Stoke Central

So I guess I have an antenna for these sort of things. I was talking to Charlotte and I sense and she agreed with me that I don’t sense anything seismic going on unlike, for example, 1997.

Over the time I have met occasional instances of anger such as being hit over the back by a walking stick wielding OAP in Worcester in 87. And the time in 1992 when a woman was determined to thrust the Labour leaflet back at me during a blizzard in the appropriately named Winter Hill area of Bolton West. In doing so she slipped arse over tip in the snow and I, gallant as ever, helped to her feet. Carpet slippers don’t have the best traction in the ice.

I have not sensed the anger now.

People are determined to draw parallels with 1992 and if there is anything to be said of the connection it is the sin of over-confidence. In that election I switched between helping out between Bolton West and Chorley and it was in the later town that I settled on the day as the bigger swing was needed to take it from the Tory MP Den Dover. Labour people in Chorley were convinced that they had it in the bag and they stopped work at least two hours before the polling stations closed.

The result as the Tory Dover on with a reduced majority down to about 4,000 from 10,000 and his nearby colleague Tom Sackville also scraped home with a tiny majority in the Bolton seat.

People thought they could walk it in Chorley and Bolton for Labour 18 years ago. I detect a little of the same of local Tories in Leek. The Tory Candidate Karen Bradley although nominated in the summer of 06 has kept a very low profile. Its probable that they think the seat ill fall into their lap as if the 05 election had been fought on the present boundaries with Kidsgove out and Endon and Stanley in then the Tories would have had a notional majority of around 1,000.

Now having read the Dominic Sandbrook book White Heat I’m drawn to the parallels with the1964 election which coincidentally as the first one I worked in delivering leaflets in Old Mill St in Stoke. I was 9.

The opposition had a charismatic and 40 something leader in Harold Wilson fighting a tiring Government, which had been in power for 13 years the same amount of time, that New Labour has been in power now. The previous year the Government has been beset by scandal with the Profumo Affair and the Prime Minister was an unelected Scot. Although there is somewhat of a difference in origin and temperament between the 14th Earl of Home and Gordon Brown with the former being rather well liked for his modesty and kindness. The Labour Opposition steadily saw their poll lead erode and by the time the election was called for October 1964 the lead was down to single figures.

There are differences as ell. The economy was in a stronger position then rather than now. Wilson was regarded as representing the new meritocracy as a northern based grammar school boy while Cameron is a throw back to the political class than ruled Britain when Macmillan and Home were sat in Downing Street. Although both Wilson and Cameron both had as a campaign theme time for a change.

The outcome? This might be heartening for the Tories of North Staffs as the opposition won with a majority of 4 and in 1966 Wilson went back to the country for another mandate and won handsomely with a majority just short of 100.

For Labour there are also heartening signs obviously in 1964 the vast majority of the electorate voted either for labour or the Conservatives now the figure is around 60%. The minority parties such as UKIP, the nationalists, the Lib Dems, independents and hopefully Greens might lead to a different outcome.

Another point might be that this election could quite possible see a return to the politics of the 60s and 70s with government oscillating between Labour and Tory

Norsheen Bhatti welcomes the official announcement of May 6th General Election

The Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Stoke Central has welcomed the official announcement of the May 6th General Election.

Commenting on the announcement Norsheen Bhatti, said:

“Labour has let down local people in Stoke Central, they have been ignored and abandoned for far too long. This election is so vital for Stoke because its an election about choice: five more years of Gordon Brown and making things worse ““ or change with the Conservatives, who have the energy, leadership and values to get Stoke Central moving again.

I am fighting this election for the people of Stoke Central and its about giving them that reason, hope and optimism so that we can all live in a city that we are proud of.

I am also looking forward to the debates with my opponents in the weeks ahead and demonstrating to voters that only a Conservative government with Conservative values and policies will bring real solutions to the problems we face in Stoke Central.”