Old and Sad: Goodbye to all that

January 14, 2011

This is my final blog on the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. I’m looking forward to moving on from it, and blogging about other topics. In my notebook I have 14 (!) blog posts in various stages of stages of completion, as well as about half a dozen more I want to write and haven’t got round to starting yet. Now When the bloody thesis is written I can finish some of these.

In this post I just want to give a few worthy plugs and say a few quick thank-yous, which I hope will not stray into the self-indulgent territorry.

But first…

My earlier post was long enough without discussing the votes received by the other parties in last night’s result, but I think they merit a quick mention. The BNP lost their deposit, lost 1000 votes from May and came fifth behind UKIP, which can only be A Good Thing. For their part, UKIP gained 300 votes from their May performance, with most disgruntled Tories seemingly voting Lib Dem or staying at home.

In Labour/Lib Dem marginals the votes of the other left-wing parties are always going to be squeezed, and it proved the case yesterday for the Greens and the Pirate Party.

And now…

The first of our thanks and plugs I should give a quick mention to Loz Kaye and the Pirate Party. Loz seems a very decent chap, and the head of a party with an interesting set of issues. I hope we hear more from Loz and the Pirates over the coming years.

Richard Jones at the Saddleworth News deserves a massive pat on the back for his incredible by-election coverage. Anyone he did not interview was probably not worth interviewing, and for a one-man-band his workrate was exceptional. His daughter also become a minor celebrity in the course of the campaign.

Also, thanks to those who wrote the online hustings posts: four candidates, Jonathan Arnott as well as guest-bloggers Paul Cotterill, Simon Turner and Nick Thornsby. They were all interesting and informative, and popular to boot, so thank you all.

As always with political issues, discussions on Twitter are never dull. Andrea, Nick Watts and Ian Barker are three of the many tweeters who made discussing #oes very fun indeed. 

Of course, there is one final goodbye:

 Now that the by-election is over, it’s the official end of the Phil Woolas saga. No more stirring up of racial tensions, no more getting the white vote angry, no more seeing him on TV, no more of, well, all the horrible things he did and said.

Sadly, it won’t be an end to friends mentioning “Phil Woolas” to me merely to provoke a reaction, but I’m learning to cope with that thanks to numerous, extensive sessions with a whole battalion of therapists.

I’m now going to go with the pub, discuss the by-election a bit more, and then never write about Phil Woolas again. And I can’t tell you how good that feels.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Why you should vote Conservative in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 12, 2011

Last but not least in our online hustings is the case for voting Conservative in Oldham East and Saddleworth. This comes from Simon Turner, who is a member of the Conservative Party from Reading. Simon tweets here and he blogs here.

There are many reasons why to vote for the Conservative Party in the up-and-coming election. The clearest is that we are the most honourable and honest party; this by-election has been solely caused by the illegal activities of the last Labour candidate, who cared more for his own election then the social harmony of your constituency.

Another reason is that the Conservative Party is the only party able to deal with crime. Ken Clarke is busying himself to bring prison reform through a prison-based work system; making prisoners pay for both their crimes and their room and board whilst ending the shameful and waste of mass short prison sentences and removing the pointless and frequently broken ASBOS with the right of local communities to physically rid themselves of bad neighbours.

In addition to dealing with crime and making prisons work, the Conservative Party has also fought against the tyranny of terror by both fighting terrorists and fighting back an overly intrusive state that has overridden our traditional liberties with massive and overly expensive databases, as well as the imposition of the surveillance society alongside illegal surveillance orders. These try in vain to control our enemies but end up simply controlling the decent and law abiding citizens. Unlike some others, the Conservative Party will not sacrifice our diversity or our liberty in order to fail to curb terrorism, but we will fight and tackle extremism in all its forms wherever it may rear its hate-filled head.

It is also the Conservative Party that had saved and will continue to secure the private sector-led, manufacturing-led real recovery from the shameful overspend of the last regime and from the repercussion of the global collapse. We are doing this by localising power from distant costly QUANGOS and RDA to local development agencies, as well as decreasing business taxes and regulations. Indeed Mr. Cameron has been busy creating new trade connections with the new emerging market. It is a notable achievement of the Conservative-led government that we have lifted the poorest from paying tax and also are reforming wholly the welfare state to make work pay and talking to businesses to learn how to help them create jobs and to help them and help us out of this mess.

There are many, many other reason to vote for the Conservative Party; we are the only party opposed to the takeover of Britain by the EU, we are the only party without a particle and merciful immigration policy and we are the only party with an active and trade-orientated foreign policy and the party of peace ending the wasteful war in Afghanistan.

In the end you should vote for the Conservative Party because together we will remake Britain, we will make it strong and fair and free once again.

Why you should vote Labour in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 12, 2011

It’s the final day of online hustings for Old and Sad, with just one day before voting begins. Our first article is by Paul Cotterill, Labour councillor for Bickerstaffe Ward, West Lancashire. Paul blogs here at the Bickerstaffe Record.

Let’s clear the decks first.

This is not a post about why the election has been called for 13th January. In the time I’ve spent on the doorstep during the campaign, not a single voter has mentioned this to me as a factor in their decision-making about which way to vote.  Indeed, the only person to refer to the legal case at all did so in terms of how infuriating they found it that the LibDem literature focused on it so much at the expense of anything substantive about politics. 

While it’s understandable why the LibDems should the pushing the point, they are either too caught up in their own bubble-of-self-importance to notice that who said what about their candidate is irrelevant to most people, or they’ve not got much else to say.  Or both.

Nor is this a post that seeks to persuade people to vote Labour as a way of punishing the LibDems nationally for the way the party has betrayed the country in the last nine months.   There’s hectares of coverage of that, and that’s why national polls show support has fallen to single figures.  It doesn’t need me to spell it out.

No, this is a post about why the Labour party, as represented in the person of candidate Debbie Abrahams, is best suited to serve the people of Oldham East & Saddleworth.

This election is held at a time when the Conservative-led government is wreaking havoc on our essential public services, and creating an environment in which Oldham is likely to suffer from years of unnecessary social and economic pain.

In these circumstances, the people of this constituency needs an MP who, pending its return of sensible national government, can best mitigate the effects of the government destruction agenda.

The person most suited to this task is Debbie Abrahams.

Both Debbie’s political instincts as a socialist and her professional background in public health mean that she has a sound understanding of how public, voluntary and private organizations can come together to maintain and create sustainable employment in the area even in the face of the government’s economic butchery. 

In circumstances such as these the job of a good local MP is to ensure effective co-ordination of efforts, and the job of a good Labour MP is to ensure that all this happens with equity in mind. The clear purpose of the government is to divide those who have from those who have not; Debbie’s job, working alongside her colleague from Oldham West, Michael Meacher, will be to ensure that a local, town and borough level, regeneration and renewal efforts continue to be pursued in way which meets, as far as possible in the circumstances, the kind of benchmark tests she herself has helped establish through her well-regarded work on Health Impact Assessment.

Just as importantly, Debbie is the only candidate with experience of NHS governance, from her time as Chair of Rochdale Primary Care Trust.  The government is making what is now largely recognized, even by the few Tory MPs who understand the NHS, massively destructive changes to the NHS.  These include the abolition of PCTs and the transfer of commissioning powers to GPs who may neither want nor can cope with them, and who may therefore simply hand over these powers to unaccountable private firms.  In the face of this backdoor privatization, and the knock on effect this will have for community and public health  measures (often undertaken by the voluntary sector), having Debbie in place as the MP – to lead on the development of coherent local alternatives  – is absolutely vital to everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, in the constituency.

This is the case for Debbie Abrahams.  No doubt other candidates have some attributes of their own, but it is Debbie’s particular background, experience and political commitment to public health and social and economic cohesion which make her, by a margin, the best choice for Oldham East & Saddleworth. 

And I don’t say this lightly.  I’m brilliant, and even I lost out to her in the Labour PPC selection.  So she must be good.

Why you should vote UKIP in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 11, 2011

Our next article in our online hustings puts forward the case for Paul Nuttall and the UK Independence Party. It’s written by Jonathan Arnott, UKIP’s General Secretary.

People in Oldham East & Saddleworth deserve an honest, hard-working MP who will work hard and stand up for local people.  It isn’t easy for the average voter to choose who to vote for in this by-election given that all three of Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives have provable recent track records of lies or broken promises to voters.

As UKIP’s candidate, Paul Nuttall MEP, recently wrote: “Labour’s lies caused this by-election in the first place, the Lib Dems’ recent lies over tuition fees have been all over the news and the Conservatives’ broken promises on the European Union send out a clear message that none of them can be trusted.”

Paul Nuttall is a candidate who takes a different approach.  Representing Oldham in the European Parliament, he doesn’t fear confronting those who, in the name of the ‘European project’, seek to take more and more power away from our elected Westminster Parliament and give it to Brussels bureaucrats.

As your MP, he would be able to stand up for issues that matter to local people.  On the economy, people are rightly terrified of the Coalition’s cuts.  Paul understands that Labour’s overspending couldn’t be allowed to continue forever – but where is the sheer determination to make sure that front-line services are protected?  Where is the genuine commitment to make sure that the most vulnerable people don’t have their support cut?

Paul and UKIP have said for years that as a society we need to reward hard work – and increase the tax threshold so that no-one pays tax on minimum wage.  People must always be better off working than they would be on benefits – how sad it is when someone remains on long-term benefits because society has made it impossible for them to afford to take a job!  We could use the money saved by leaving the European Union, scrapping PFI and slashing quangos to help working people and make our economy competitive enough to recover.

Paul has also been campaigning on immigration and crime.  We have to face up to the fact that the UK is already overcrowded, and pressures on housing and infrastructure can’t allow our population to keep increasing by 400,000 a year.  Again, the ‘traditional’ parties cannot do anything about it because they support membership of the EU – and therefore, giving half a billion people the right to settle in the UK with no questions asked.  For an overcrowded island that’s just not sustainable.

We have to send a message out that crime doesn’t pay to protect the safety of people in Oldham and Saddleworth.  That’s why Paul is passionately opposed to ‘votes for prisoners’ – UKIP are passionately pro-civil liberties but those who commit crime must accept temporary suspension of some of those liberties.

So if the LibLabCon’s track record doesn’t suit you, then please don’t stay at home on Thursday.  It’s clear that Paul Nuttall would make an excellent MP; so if you agree with us please vote for Paul Nuttall and UKIP on Thursday!

Why you should vote Liberal Democrat in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 11, 2011

The start of the second day of our online hustings. This article on why you should vote for Elwyn Watkins and the Liberal Democrats comes from Nick Thornsby, winner of Lib Dem Voice’s Best New Blog 2010.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election is many things, but one thing it isn’t – or shouldn’t be at any rate – is merely a referendum on the government.
The media and the Labour party will try and tell you otherwise, for obvious reasons. The media, because framing the election in this way allows them to write endless stories before, during and after about ‘what the by-election means for the coalition’.
And the Labour party because, well, what else have they got to say?
One thing this by-election certainly is, is the voters’ chance to take part in the free and fair election they were denied in May thanks to the lies told by Phil Woolas about his Liberal Democrat opponent.
Were it not for Elwyn Watkins, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Phil Woolas’s lying and stirring-up of racial tension would have gone completely unpunished – it would have been five years before the voters of Oldham and Saddleworth got to have their say again.
Now, like Elwyn, the people of Oldham and Saddleworth have the opportunity to take a stand. They can say that they are angry about having been told outright lies in May. They can decide that they deserve better.
They have to ask: Will voting for the Labour candidate really do that?
There are two more reasons that Oldham and Saddleworth voters should vote Liberal Democrat on Thursday 13th January.
Firstly, a vote for Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins is a vote for a hard-working, straight-talking MP who is not simply in politics to be part of a cosy Westminister club. He has years of experience as a Councillor, and knows the constituency well.
And secondly because, in short, more Liberal Democrat MPs means more Liberal Democrat policies. The coalition is already implementing dozens of Liberal Democrat policies from our May manifesto, including raising the income tax threshold, reforming our politics and investing in education, yet we only have 57 MPs out of 650. Every extra Liberal Democrat MP means Nick Clegg has more leverage to implement more Liberal Democrat policies.

So, if Oldham and Saddleworth residents think Elwyn Watkins was right to stand up to Phil Woolas; if they believe that Oldham and Saddleworth deserves better; if they want an MP who will fight for the area in Parliament; and if they want more Liberal Democrat policies implemented to improve Britain, then voting Liberal Democrat on Thursday 13th May is their only choice.

Why you should vote Green in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 10, 2011

Our third and final hustings post of today comes from Peter Allen, the Green Party candidate.

I am employed as an Advice Worker in Manchester and every day I see the misery and worry caused by the Government cuts and by unemployment.

The Green Party has a fully costed set of policies which do not involve cuts in public services. We would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy, recycling and upgrading the housing stock. We would reduce the obscene level of inequality that blights our society. The Coalition Government are proposing vicious cuts in public spending which will hit the poorest hardest and will do lasting damage to our public services. Their policies will deepen the recession and increase unemployment .* The alternative presented by the Green Party, paid for by increasing taxation of the rich , clamping down on tax  avoidance and evasion , and withdrawing British troops from Afghanistan, is needed more than ever.

I have been inspired  by the ongoing protests by students against the proposed rise in tuition fees and the abolition of EMA. Only the Green Party is prepared to defund and fund the principle of free higher education and to properly support young people and their parents through an increase in Child Benefit.

The voters of Oldham East and Saddleworth are the first to have the opportunity to express an opinion about this government at the ballot box. I am asking people to reject their divisive and damaging policies  and support instead the Green Party’s commitment to a more equal, just and sustainable society.

*A paper cowritten by Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas  concludes that cutting the job of an average paid public sector worker (paid £25,000 per year) might save as little as £2,000 per year once taxation lost and benefits paid out are taken into account.Moreover the reduced spending power of such a  redundant worker would threaten the security of private sector employment in the economy.

See here.

Why you should vote for the Pirate Party in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 10, 2011

Our second post from the online hustings. This time is Loz Kaye, Pirate Party Candidate in Oldham East and head of the Pirate Party, writing about why we should vote Pirate on Thursday.

Like many, I have grown fed up with the mainstream parties. Whether it is expenses scandals or broken manifesto pledges, it is time for a new voice for change. Perhaps above all it is the breaking of election law that has brought about this election that proves the point.

Pirate Party UK is a new party that believes politics needs to change for the 21st century. We stand for freedom on the Internet, civil liberties, an end to needless surveillance – and I have a credible alternative to the coalition cuts that will hit Oldham so hard.

We want to unlock new opportunities by helping our creative, scientific and digital industries. However the government has plans that mean your online use can be monitored in the name of fighting so called ‘Internet piracy’, and your Internet Service Provider will have to pay for the privilege. 

The fact that you are reading this on a blog shows the value of free access on the Internet, and how it is becoming an important part of democratic debate. However the government has signalled an end to ‘net neutrality’’ – your ISP could relegate certain sites to a web slow lane if they don’t stump up cash. We could see a British Internet for some where Sky content speeds to you, but the BBC crawls along.

We want to end patents on drug treatments to save money and lives. The ending of the patent system would free up 4.5 billion pounds from the NHS on our reckoning, leaving money to reinvest in new research as well as other vital areas such as education.

Many in the borough are worried about cuts to the Police. Yet just last year £500 million was spent on CCTV by the government alone – enough for 10,000 officers. Instead of treating us all like criminals, we should be focusing resources on where they are really needed.

As a teacher in Higher Education I am hugely worried about the effect of government cuts to Universities and hikes in tuition fees. I campaigned against raising of fees last year and unlike the LibDems I stand by the promises I made then. The broken promises will deter people from poorer backgrounds seeking higher education, wasting the talent this country sorely needs. 

The scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme has hit the constituency hard, but much needed improvements could be financed by cracking down on corporate tax avoidance.

By-elections give voters a chance to get the attention of Westminster in a way that gets lost during a General Election. Every single vote for me is a valuable signal that it is time to do politics differently and that we are ready to reclaim our rights. If an MP from one of the ‘big three’ parties is returned they will disappear in to the anonymous ranks of their party, whereas I would be the strong independent voice that Oldham East and Saddleworth deserves.


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