Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hustings Part Two

Well, as I said last night, we had a great hustings meeting in Staines last night. There was an excellent turnout, and a broad range of questions. We were asked about everything from Education, to Trident, Government support for Faith Groups, and Immigration. We were well tested on our respective parties policies, and also on issues that are traditionally left to individual MPs to make personal decisions on. The audience were keen to hold us to account, and talking to many people afterwards, they said it had been helpful for them to hear us live, and it would inform their voting intentions considerably. Facing a large audience is a good test of a prospective MPs mettle. It is amazing how quickly the microphone seems to reach you as you gather your thoughts (very quickly!) to give your answer. When a question comes out of left field, suddenly even the keenest of candidates looks at the mic as if it was on fire! We have another hustings event tomorrow night at Kempton Park, and it will be interesting to see how that goes now we have heard each others answers to a lot of questions!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hustings Part One

I have just got back from tonight's hustings meeting in Staines. I am going to get some shut eye so will not do a post on the whole thing tonight, but I can say that I had a really good time and the questions were excellent. The audience were great, and I can't wait till Friday in Sunbury!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Sofa Politics

Tonight I was invited into a family home to discuss the election and answer some questions. It was almost a warm-up for tomorrow night's hustings in Staines! I was asked about the economy, environment (including Runway Three), hung parliaments and schools. They had clearly discussed all these at great length among themselves, and grabbed the opportunity to get a candidate in the flesh to elaborate on their policies. It is a feature of this election that the majority of people really are engaged in it, and want to know what we all stand for. They have strong opinions that they want to share, and are taking a lot of care exploring what the parties have to offer. I am very hopeful that there will be a better turnout than in 2005, which I would have thought scarcely possible 12 months ago. In case you're wondering, I was assured I had the support of all the family on May 6th. If only I could get to every living room in Spelthorne!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Ransom Demand

Today the country heard a ransom demand. It was badly disguised as a plea for help, but it was a ransom none the less. David Cameron told voters to 'vote for him or else'. All other options are doom and destruction apparently. But what he believes would be acceptable is a Conservative party that would cut taxes only for the rich, fail to reform the banking system, leave the broken political system unchanged and threaten the recovery with big cuts this year. A vote for them is not change. It is a vote for the same old party that is even now being told by their own leader of Kent County Council, the man running the biggest education authority in the country, that Tory education policy would see cuts for normal state schools. The change in this election is a vote for the Lib Dems. One of the questions YouGov asked in a poll last week was: "if you thought the Lib Dems could win, how would you vote?" The answer: 49% said Liberal Democrat. Funnily enough The Sun failed to use that figure in its editorial. The Lib Dems are winning in constituencies across the UK. There can be change, with a vote for us.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Today Nick Clegg spoke to Andrew Marr on the BBC. One of the inevitable subjects was about a hung Parliament and what the Lib Dem position would be. Quite rightly we have said it is for the British people to decide, not us. Nick has spoken before about working with whoever has the strongest mandate. The trouble is, we have a voting system so unfair, that it is possible for Labour to get less votes than either us or the Tories, but still end up with the most seats. This is clearly madness, and utterly undemocratic. Even senior Labour figures have had the good grace to look embarrased by this. But sadly, both of the two old parties, the Tories and Labour, have perpetuated this ridiculous system. They both talk about reforming politics, but only want to tinker around the edges. Let's get a system that delivers a democratic result!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Policing Pledge

I have just signed up to the 'Real Policing Pledge'. This asks candidates to sign up to:

Commit to the office of constable as the bedrock of modern policing
Maintain the number of warranted police constables in England and Wales
Ensure that all constables are adequately trained to do their jobs
Commit to maintain an effective ratio of constables to support staff on community policing teams
Honour the PNB (Police Negotiating Board)

I think it is vital that we have an effective police force that feels that it gets support as well as criticism from politicians, so I am more than happy to back the pledge.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Get Out...

...and vote! Some people are already casting postal votes, others have just over 12 days to wait before they can cast their ballot. It's worth remembering that we have fought wars, vested interests, discrimination and ourselves over the right to self determination. Democracy was born thousands of years ago, and is still not perfectly modelled by any means, but it does give each of us a voice (unless you are insane, under 18, in prison, serving in the armed forces abroad or the Queen!) It seems to me that after falling turnout for the last few General Elections, something has fired people up about this election to get more people out to vote. A lot of those I have met locally who did not vote last time have said they will this year. Whilst some will not in the end, I think we will see more people casting a vote in 2010. There are certainly more candidates standing than ever before in any GE. Over 4000 people nationwide have put their money where their mouth is and been nominated. That too is good for democracy. All we need now is a fully elected second chamber, a fair proportional voting system, fixed term Parliaments, the right to sack corrupt MPs and caps on funding for political parties and we'll be sorted.....

Thursday, 22 April 2010

First Bell

Just a quick post on today's campaigning. The very first door I knocked on there was a man who was probably in his mid 70s. I asked him if he had any questions for me about the campaign, and he said no, he knew who he was voting for and it was the Lib Dems. I asked if this was a change in his usual vote and he said he had voted Tory all his life, but he felt they had let him down and he wanted change. I speculatively asked if he wanted a poster for his window. It's already up!

Ding Ding Round Two

So, the second debate has finished, and the spinmeisters are all talking up their man. Of the polls I have seen so far, 3 have given the verdict to Nick Clegg and one to Cameron. It was a closer affair tonight, but despite the backlash from some newspapers today, and the changed tactics of the other two leaders, Nick made his case again, based on policy and substance. It was an excellent performance, especially considering how much higher the stakes and the expectations. The polls over the next few days will give us more of a flavour of whether anything has changed after tonight, but I think the big change has already happened - people believe the Lib Dems can win. Now that the other two have failed to land a big blow on Nick tonight, I think that's how it will stay. We have a real chance across the UK now, and a real chance in Spelthorne.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Class Debate

I'm not talking about background, but about class sizes at schools. Today we focussed on our education policy. One of our four key pledges for the next Parliament is that we will invest an extra £2.5bn in schools through a Pupil Premium that will raise funding for the poorest pupils to private school levels. The money will be targeted at schools taking on children who need more help, but will benefit every child in every school. The cash can be used to cut class sizes and provide one-to-one tuition or catch-up classes, ensuring every child gets the individual attention they need. An average primary school could cut class sizes to 20. An average secondary school could see classes of just 16. We want to give children the best possible start, whatever their background or circumstances. Until we put this essential building block in place, we can't begin to tackle other issues in our society properly. That's why it is right at the top of our priority list. Shortwood Infant School has been threatened with closure for having small class sizes. We believe all schools should be like this.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Dear Mr Chapman

One of the things that is characterising this election is the electronic communication that candidates are getting. Pressure groups, campaigns, and charities are all geared up with online pledges and commitments they want candidates to make. They also invite their supporters to send an email via their website, and it routes the message by postcode to all the candidates they have details of. I can tell you that the amount that come through every day is staggering. Everything from Macmillan Cancer Care to CAMRA have set up this system, and it is a fascinating insight into what matters to people in Spelthorne. I am trying to reply to them all. I don't want to set up stock replies for recurring issues, so I have been emailing people individually. And yes it really is me sending them in person. At the time of writing this I have just over 100 outstanding emails. I hope you'll understand that as it's gone 11pm I won't get them all done tonight. Better get on with it then!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Subjected To Scrutiny

All day I have heard quotes from Labour and Tory politicians and spin doctors. It's the same in the Daily Mail and Telegraph. "Now the voters will be subjecting the Lib Dem manifesto to much more scrutiny...." I don't know whether to laugh or just be bemused. They all make it sound like somehow we have written a manifesto that we hoped no-one would look at. That it contains terrible secrets that mortal man could not comprehend. What it really contains are a comprehensive set of policies that have been well considered and fully costed. They are a blueprint for a fairer and free society. We detail how we would start to tackle the deficit, with a clarity the old parties have avoided. We have told the truth about where we would cut spending. We've set out what we believe we should invest more resources in, like smaller class sizes, and a tax cut for working families, paid for by the better off. We have set out proposals to reform our rotten politics for good. These are things we believe will change Britain for the better, and we are enormously proud of them. So, please, feel free to conduct the scrutiny that the other parties think you should:

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Eco Warriors

As the team was grabbing a spot of lunch yesterday, I went to Shepperton village hall to look at the County Council presentation on the proposed eco park at Charlton. They had the presentation boards up and helpful staff on hand to tell you more, but one thing was missing - detail. The ruling Tory group on the County Council had for years been pressing ahead with plans for an incinerator, in the teeth of Lib Dem opposition, and seemed certain to try and foist that inappropriate solution on Surrey residents regardless. The last minute u-turn came as a surprise to many, but what it has meant is that they are now dashing out proposals without the background information to support the plan. Air quality and transport are two key areas that they have yet to conduct a study on. The building plans themselves are 'conceptual'. In fact the whole thing still feels like if you read closely you will see the words Lambert & Butler somewhere. In the rush to avoid the costs of landfill taxes which go up heavily year on year, the council is having to run before it can walk with this proposal, which means the risk of bad decision making is high. It didn't need to be like this. I was promised yesterday that they will be back for another exhibition in the summer with a lot more detail, and I would urge everyone to go and take a view.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Out In The Sunshine

What a lovely, sunny day. Not a cloud (or a plane) in the sky. Birds were singing, flowers were blooming, and everyone had a smile and a wave for the people with yellow rosettes.... Well, not quite everyone, but it really was a fantastic day to go out talking to voters. Even as we made our way from road to road, we had shouts of support from two cyclists, a lady on a horse, a charity bag deliverer and a man in a car. On the doorsteps we got the same reaction. Former Tory and Labour supporters saying it was time for a change, and pledging their support. We gave out posters to many. The last few days have been extraordinary. Since the leaders debate we have had requests for posters and boards, new members, and the mood seems the same wherever you are in Spelthorne. We knew we already had momentum, and have had for a few years. Gains in seats on the borough and county council in elections in 2007 and 2009 showed us we had made huge strides forward. It feels like we are on the cusp of another one in the General Election.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Poll Shift

Tonight we have had the second poll showing a massive vote shift to the Lib Dems since last night's leaders debate. YouGov, who have been conducting daily polls, have Labour on just 28%, Lib Dems on 30% and the Tories on only 33%. It is the best poll result for us for a long time, and the worst for the Tories in at least as long. I know from speaking to colleagues across the region that the response has been the same - people asking for posters, joining the party, and showing their support. We are going to be taking the message across Spelthorne over the next three weeks. What seems to have happened is that people have been given a glimpse of what the alternative really is. The cycle of Labour and Tory can be broken. Vote Lib Dem.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Clegg Wins First Debate

Television and electoral history in the UK was made tonight as we finally got a leaders debate, with two more to come. The general wisdom was that Nick Clegg had the most to gain, and David Cameron the most to lose. And so it proved. Nick started slowly in my opinion with his opening statement, and that whole section was a little stilted for the three men. Once they all got into their stride, it warmed up nicely. Gordon Brown really needs to stop using a crowbar to get his rehearsed gags in as it looks horribly unnatural. Cameron and Clegg both did a better job of getting their theme across. Some signs of the rehearsals of all of them were evident in parts, and those rough edges should wear off in the next two debates. But tonight belonged to Nick. He grew in confidence, answered the questions most directly, and was able to distance himself from the covert overtures of Cameron, and the rather gushing wooing from Brown. There are still two more debates to go, and the trick is going to be how Nick evolves his style and message, as the other two will be ready if it's more of the same. Meantime, the rest of us can get back to talking to local voters and listening to what they want in Spelthorne.

Radio Shortwood

I'm glad BBC Radio Surrey are still following the save Shortwood Infant School campaign. They played clips from all 3 main candidates and spoke to one of the organisers of the campaign, which highlights that this has captured the imagination of the press, just like it has driven local people to act to save their much loved school. They edited what I said about the school itself and concentrated on the policy statement, but the message came across that I think this school must be saved. The commentary was about the politics and how that comes into these things at election time. It's great that they have that political support, but it's worth remembering that ultimately it is the drive, commitment and determination of local people, parents, staff and governors that has made this campaign such a high profile, positive call to keep the school open. They are amazing. I hope that the council now make the right decision and keep it open. Save Shortwood!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Today Nick Clegg launched our manifesto. Inside you will find the only fully costed and detailed manifesto of the General Election. Lib Dems have put together a programme for a fairer Britain, with less tax for the less well of, paid for by the better off. It commits us to investment in smaller classes for children, and it spells out how we would reform politics from top to bottom. We have been honest with the British people about how we would tackle the crippling deficit Gordon Brown has handed us. We have set out those things we think are priorities, and those which are not and we cannot afford in these difficult times for the public finances, like the hugely expensive replacement for Trident. We want a fairer Britain, built on a sustainable economy, where the banks are kept in check, and we invest in green technology. We have optimism for the future, and have a vision of a better Britain. We will deliver our promises.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Show Me The Money

I was astonished by the Tory manifesto launch today, and by the content. I'll move swiftly beyond the comparison between an old power station that generates no power and a Tory get the idea. What was bizarre was that they have remarkably little on the economy, and no clear idea of how they are going to pay for their promises. There's precious little on the debt our country has been saddled with by Labour, and ducks the issue of spending cuts and taxes. Surely they don't believe the public think that the fantasy land where everything will be OK in the end is real? I am optimistic about our future, but I think it is right to be honest about the tough journey we will have to take to get to a better future. The Tories think they can win an election without being straight with the British people. I don't believe the British people will take that idea very well at all.

Monday, 12 April 2010

And Another Thing....

Everyone was in a conversational mood tonight. Some people said they couldn't remember if they had ever had a politician knock on their door, and they were glad I had. They certainly had plenty to get off their collective chests. A lot of people are fired up in this election. Some are still steaming mad about the expenses scandal. Others are equally upset at the state of the economy. One thing that this has done is make them question their traditional allegiances. More than ever before I am getting Lib Dem policy repeated back to me as an example of why they are thinking of switching to us. One guy said he had never voted before, but wanted to finally get down the polling booth and had decided to vote Lib Dem. Today I think the economy was topic of choice followed by climate change. Each time is different, and the topics show only modest regard to the top media story of the day. Nobody mentioned Labour's manifesto launch. Big impact then.....

Legal Aid

Today we got the news that the three Labour MPs up in court for alleged abuses of the expenses system have applied for legal aid. And got it. All three of them. I can't really begin to describe how I feel about this ridiculous state of affairs, except to say that the world sometimes goes utterly mad. Oh, and they have no shame whatsoever.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Is It That Time Already?

Already we have reached the end of the first week proper of the campaign. We have been out in every part of Spelthorne, and have found support right across the constituency. On the national campaign trail, the Lib Dems have been getting better coverage now that the election has been called. This week I have had many positive comments from people about Nick Clegg. With the leaders' debates to come, there is a real sense that we will get a significant boost from these, as we did when Vince Cable appeared on the C4 Chancellors' debate. With our priorities like fairer taxes which raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 before you pay anything, smaller class sizes for primary schools and investment in pupils, a sustainable economy, and clearing up the political system from top to bottom, we have a distinct message. The full manifesto is out this week. One week in, and it feels like we have continued our momentum in Spelthorne from the last two local elections, where we made gains on the borough council and the county council. With the Labour vote collapsed locally, we are enjoying being the challengers to the Tories this time. Week two here we come!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Crafty Lunch Break

Part of today's activities was lunch at the craft fair in Shepperton. Former Lib Dem Councillor Joan Ponton has run this for many years, and it is still going strong. After we had enjoyed our tea and rolls (and some cake for one or two!), I had a walk round the stalls, and talked about the many different skills employed in the crafts on offer. I confess to buying a lovely knitted cardigan for my daughter, and some other bits and pieces. The standard of work on show was impressive. Even though I was steering clear of chatting politics, many people there wanted to ask questions about the election, and it was a nice relaxed atmosphere to have a natter about the campaign. Having walked away with some kind words and great purchases, I'll certainly be back next time!

Shoe Leather

After the demo this morning in Lower Sunbury, it was off to Ashford for some doorstep politics. It is noticeable at this election that people are more clued up and ready to ask the tough questions than I have known at previous elections. The level of engagement is great, and candidates certainly need to have concrete policies to hand and not just bland statements. As the Lib Dems have a raft of policies for me to call on, and clear priorities that we want delivered by a new Parliament, it is fantastic to share and debate them with voters. I had many great chats today about issues ranging from the economy, tax, Runway Three, education and crime.The running theme is that many voters are choosing us in Spelthorne for the first time, and the message is that our national campaign and local hard work are paying off. There is still a long way to go, but we are clearly having a very positive impact.

Demonstrators Pack The Avenue

There was a brilliant turnout for the demonstration against the London Irish development proposals in The Avenue today. Several hundred Lower Sunbury residents showed exactly how they felt about a plan that is quite simply not welcomed by the majority of people locally. The demo was very good natured, and was a first for many of the residents I spoke to. It is they who would have to cope with the consequences of the development, and they who should be listened to. I hope that the councillors on the planning committee understand the strength of feeling here and reject the plans when they convene at Kempton Park on the 27th of this month.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Super Saturday

It looks like it's going to be a good weather day for campaigning tomorrow. We have a very full diary, and I hope we can make a big impact across Spelthorne. From the feedback we've had over the last few days, I know the local and national Lib Dem campaigns are appealing to a broad range of voters. Tomorrow will be a good gauge of what people think right around the constituency. Can't wait!

Bank Charges

Nick Clegg outlined the measures we would take to sort out unfair bank charges. It would mean a real difference to people in Spelthorne. Nick said “A Liberal Democrat government will legislate to ensure that no bank can charge its customers unfairly for going over their limit or bouncing a cheque. Banks should, of course, be able to pass on the costs they incur in dealing with these problems. But they should not be able to profiteer from customers making small mistakes. We will outlaw unfair charges from now on. Bank bosses should look to their consciences and give back the money they took from their customers in unfair charges. It can’t be right that someone who buys just a few items can end up being charged hundreds of pounds in unfair fees. I believe bank bosses have a moral obligation to pay that money back. If they had a shred of moral decency, they would never have imposed these charges and they would never have refused to pay them back. Together Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS have given out more than £7bn in bonuses in the last year alone. How can they refuse to return a few hundred pounds they wrongly took from people struggling to make ends meet from week to week?”

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Washed Up

The process of sorting out what legislation will still be passed after an election is called is called the 'wash up'. Basically the parties horse trade to agree what can and cannot get through. Despite claims from Labour and the Tories that they want to clean up and reform politics, they have chucked out some of the straightforward reforms that were due to be debated.
The Lib Dems said the two main parties had been in cahoots to dilute proposed reform of the House of Lords. Measures permitting peers to resign or be expelled and the repeal of restrictions on demonstrations outside Parliament were dropped, in addition to commitments to hold a referendum on the voting system and to phase out the remaining hereditary peers. Our retiring Justice spokesman David Howarth, who I campaigned alongside in 2005, said "The process of 'wash-up' is now washed up. The way in which the two front benches of the larger parties colluded and then got it wrong and ended up with this disaster is something they need to reflect on." Once more, after blocking Lib Dem attempts at many reforms from banning lobbying to making expenses transparent, we can see that the two old parties want to keep the cosy system and have no commitment to reform. Lib Dems will clean up our political system, and only us.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Knocking On Doors

Today we were out in Staines knocking on doors. During the election, you will hear countless politicians talking about what they heard 'on the doorstep'. I may even say it myself along the way. That's because there really is no substitute for hearing what local people think about the issues that matter to them. I was fortunate enough to have one of our Lib Dem MEPs for our area, Sharon Bowles, with us today. For those of you who don't yet know, Sharon is the Chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee. Sounds dull? Well, it's actually a very powerful position. Sharon is using the post to tackle parts of the world economic crisis. One of the key things she is doing right now? Tackling banker bonuses on a European wide scale. Watch this space, because it looks like her intervention may just bring them to book! So you can imagine I was delighted that she came to talk to residents today. We covered everything from Runway Three to, of course, the economy. Sharon was great, and people appreciated having their MEP face to face and happy to take up their concerns. We're having a great start to the campaign proper!

Watch Out For That Tree!

For the first time today I had a press photographer hopping backwards up the road in front of me, trying to get a shot of me campaigning in Staines. I can assure you that it is nigh on impossible to march purposefully up the road looking photogenic when all you can think is 'don't fall over that wall' or 'watch out for that tree!' Fortunately the member of the paparazzi (can I call him that when we were properly introduced and had a good chat about football?) was very nimble and had clearly developed a sixth sense for these things. Hopefuly that means he got a decent shot!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Telegraph

I was namechecked today in the Telegraph, who have run a piece on the London Irish proposals. They have listed me alongside the only other people opposed to the move. That is the residents association and the two local pressure groups. That would be local people then. It's a shame that they feel that the views of the RFU are more important than the views of the residents who will have to live with the consequences of over development if it is approved. I'll stick with the residents thanks!

And Away We Go

Finally we have an official date for the General Election on May 6th. Although the starting gun has been fired, some of us have been campaigning for a long time for this. I was selected 2 years ago, and have been campaigning here solidly since. Some of my opponents have been here rather less time, as in those 2 years I have seen the Tory MP step down due to the expenses scandal, and the Labour candidate simply disappear. Their replacements have barely had a sniff of what has been going on in Spelthorne and have had a lot of catching up to do. In terms of the big policy themes, we have been clear that we want fairer taxes, putting £700 in the pocket of the average worker. We want a fair start for children, investing in early years education. We want a sustainable economy, built on solid foundations and with the future of environment at its heart. We want to clean up politics, and reform the system from top to bottom. Politicians must be more accountable to the people. Over the next 30 days I will be taking this message with my colleagues across Spelthorne. I have campaigned in every corner of the constituency, and found support wherever I have been. So off we go, into the heat of a General Election campaign, with a great message and huge optimism about our chances of a fantastic result!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Sunday

I've sloped off to spend a day with the family today, and have been out with my daughter, partner and in-laws for an afternoon at an RSPB bird sanctuary. As members, it's great to go to one of their excellent sites and spend a few hours in the fresh air, arguing about what the bird actually was that you just saw. For the record we saw a Wheatear, some Swallows, Sand Martins, a Chiff Chaff and a host of others. It was good to relax a for a little while, but already I am back at the PC responding to emails and getting ready for next week. Still, it was a great afternoon!

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Lib Dems started a tongue in cheek campaign this week about the two old parties. Amalgamating the two, we have the Labservatives. As they have done a pretty good job of looking and sounding the same - tired and short of ideas - this is a fun way of raising a serious issue. For 65 years the government of our country has been handed from Labour to the Conservatives and back again like a game of pass the parcel. Red-blue, blue-red politics – and look what it has got us: corrupt politics, recession, inequality , time and again. They just take turns at making the same mistakes. It has to end. It’s the same story wherever you look: together David Cameron and Gordon Brown have blocked political reform, including our plan to allow people to sack corrupt MPs. The Labservatives compete to sound tough on crime instead of doing what works to actually catch criminals and stop them committing more crimes. And the Labservatives have made UK foreign policy subservient to the interests of the United States, from the illegal invasion of Iraq to the decision to waste £100bn on replacing, like for like, the cold war era Trident nuclear submarines. Only a vote for the Liberal Democrats will move us to a point where we can break up the old status quo and deliver fresh, exciting politics for a new century. To bring real change for the better vote Lib Dem!

From Russia With Love

Looking at the visitor data for this blog, it is apparent that I now have a regular visitor from Moscow. I have others from around the world, and I think I know who most of them are. My Muscovite regular is a mystery though, as I don't know anyone there at the moment, unless the person I know from Kazakhstan is staying there. So, whoever you are, pryvet!