I have written to David Amess on the subject of Lord Freud

Dear Mr David Amess MP

I am writing to ask whether you agree with the comments of Lord Freud, your government’s Minister for Welfare Reform.

Lord David Freud, talking amongst friends at Conservative Party Conference, said he thought there was “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage”.

In my view, Lord Freud’s remarks were completely unacceptable, and it is also unacceptable that someone with these views remains in charge of such an important post in your government.

This is not just my view, but also that of Ester McVey, your government’s Minister of State for Employment, who said, “those words will haunt him. I cannot justify those words, they were wrong.”

It seems, however, that David Cameron does not agree. He did not speak to Lord Freud personally and yet gave him a clean bill of health to allow him to keep his post.

It is incredible to believe that, while leading disability charities have said that Lord Freud’s comments were offensive and shocking and called on him to reflect on his position, the leader of your party is seeking to duck the issue. This is a lack of moral leadership at best. It is unclear how far a member of your government or party would have to go in offending disabled people in order to lose their job, when in many other walks of life the comments by Lord Freud would have led to a resignation.

Can I ask you whether you agree with Lord Freud’s statement that there is “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage” and that some should work for as little as £2 per hour?

If you do not, will you ensure you vote in favour of a vote of no confidence in Lord Freud on 29 October?

If you do agree that Lord Freud’s views should be government policy and that he should remain in post, you must urgently justify these views to the people of Southend West.

By supporting a vote of no confidence, you have the chance to show that compassion is not yet completely dead in David Cameron’s Conservatives.

If you cannot support this vote and in turn back such heartlessness comments, you will show that David Cameron’s Conservatives cannot stand for the majority in Britain today.

Yours,

Cllr Julian Ware-Lane
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Southend West

David Cameron’s government: some disabled people are “not worth the full wage”

freud http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/david-camerons-government-some-disabled-people-are-not-worth-the-full-wage

Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran

The Conservatives in the east of Southend-on-Sea have selected their candidates for May 2015 local elections. This has been announced in Tony Cox’s blog.

The first thing that jumps out at one is their choice for St Luke’s. It is odd for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious, is that James Cottis is on Rochford Parish Council – and there must be the potential for a conflict of interest aside from the fact of his living outside of the borough. I wonder whether Cllr Cottis has finally realised he cannot get back on Rochford District Council (he lost his seat in May). The Conservatives came third in St Luke’s earlier this year with 22.3% of the vote, and that was with a defending Cllr Carr. It seems to this correspondent that a new to the area James will likely see the Conservatives drift further from the winning post. I can only assume that he hopes for a better prospect in 2016.

Former Labour councillor Denis Garne is to try again in Victoria. He came third there this year, with 15.9% in this town centre ward. I wonder why he has not tried for Kursaal, a ward he once represented when still in Labour colours.

Unsurprisingly the three defending councillors have been re-selected, and two of them will have a desperate fight on their hands to retain their seats. UKIP may have thrown Cllr Jarvis a lifeline in West Shoebury when they failed to select James Moyies as their Parliamentary Candidate. Jonathan Garston must be wondering whether his will be the third and final Tory scalp claimed by Labour in Milton. Wakering resident Cllr Holland must also be wondering who the Independent Group will select to challenge her, they having claimed a Tory scalp in the ward already this year.

Roger Hadley will be hoping that the obvious disharmony amongst the Shoebury Independent councillors continues – for unless they can bury their differences Roger’s chances significantly improve.

Whilst the Conservative vote is bound to go up in a General Election year, so will most other parties. They will be hoping for gains, but I think that no overall change would be a remarkable result for them. The Conservative are clearly out of favour in the east of the borough and it is not far-fetched to envisage another blank on May 7th. I expect they will have a couple of successes to celebrate, and I think that Duddridge remains the favourite in the General Election. However, it is clear that there are no safe seats for them in here at the moment, and Ian Gilbert’s strong and motivated team will push the Tories all the way.

Here are the Conservative candidates for the 7th May 2015 local elections in the east of the Borough of Southend-on-Sea:

Kursaal – Alex Bright
Milton – Cllr Jonathan Garston
Shoeburyness – Roger Hadley
Southchurch – Cllr Ann Holland
St Luke’s – James Cottis
Thorpe – Jon Bacon
Victoria – Denis Garne
West Shoebury – Cllr Derek Jarvis

The West Leigh Question

The view from Nelson Street is always going to be tarnished with a blue-tinted hue, its correspondent unable wash away his prejudices. Last Thursday Mr Holdcroft gave forth the view that it was ‘A bad week for Labour‘. (I await his verdict on this week and whether it has been a good one for the Conservative Party.)

In amongst his attack on Labour his gives his opinion on the West Lothian question (a question originally asked by a Labour MP). He writes: that the principle of English votes for English laws was fair.

I get a strong whiff of hypocrisy here. Nigel lives in Castle Point, and yet was unabashed in leading Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. He even voted on measures that clearly would have no impact on him. For instance, as a Castle Point resident he would be paying his Council Tax to Kiln Road, yet was able to write and vote for a budget affecting every resident in Southend-on-Sea.

Three of the last four Conservative leaders in Southend have been strangers: Charles Latham was also a Castle Point resident, and Anna Waite lived in Barling. Only Murray Foster lived in Southend, and his reign was mercifully short.

The Tories in Southend like to import their talent. We still have Barling Parish councillor Adam Jones in the chamber (although he is not seeking re-election), and Wakering resident Anne Holland is her party’s deputy leader. In case their quota of foreigners drops they have selected James Cottis, who was a Rochford District councillor until ejected by the electorate in May (and he still is a parish councillor in Rochford).

If you think that only those affected should vote on issues then surely this applies every bit as much at local authority level. There is no credibility in insisting that those in Parliament should only vote on issues affecting their constituents if you are unaffected by what you vote for in the council chamber.

For the record I am unconcerned by the fact that Scottish MPs vote on laws affecting England only; as I am unconcerned by MPs representing rural constituencies voting for matters affecting urbanites, or inland MPs voting on coastal issues. I live in Blenheim Park ward and represent Milton ward, and yet vote on issues affecting other wards.

I support regional authorities, and in terms of size Northern ireland, Scotland and Wales are the equivalent of English regions. I would have regions and unitaries, and scrap counties and districts. However, I should also add that I am prepared hear all sides on this issue and am prepared to compromise – it is not a matter of principle for me.

Just another greedy bastard

I was called yesterday evening by a reporter seeking my views on yet another story about a Member of Parliament and their expenses. I spoke for a few minutes, but mindful that I am never quoted in full I have decided to elaborate a little here.

I can recall canvassing session right through the expenses scandal in the long run-in to the last General Election. I recall one conversation with a Benfleet resident where I was accused of being a liar and a cheat immediately after I had announced who I was. Liars, cheats, greedy bastards – I have been lumped in with them all. I am also told that I am only in politics for what I can get for myself, that I will promise one thing and do another.

Now, I am far from perfect but am invariably taken aback when called a liar and a cheat by someone whose familiarity with me can be counted in seconds.

Sometimes the conversation moves onto friendlier climes, sometimes no matter how much I protest I cannot convince that my motives are honourable. Somehow the idea of a political class mostly populated by scoundrels has become fixed in some people’s minds. And this is why I get upset with another tale of ill-advised expenses claims.

Politicians must be able to claim expenses, and these expenses should be provable as being incurred whilst doing the job, and be backed up by receipts. I cannot imagine anyone arguing with that. The problem is, no system is fool-proof, and anyone determined enough will be able to benefit when benefit should not be sought.

I live closer to London (and therefore Parliament) than does the MP for Rochford and Southend East, and if I am lucky enough to succeed next May I will almost certainly have some overnight stays in London. However, I will be using cheap hotels, and not using the MP expenses system to acquire a property portfolio. As Matt Dent has pointed out, James Duddridge takes delight in punishing those on benefits, helping to introduce the odious concept of under-occupancy (a per pro the bedroom tax), and yet cannot help but use the expenses rules to enrich himself (expenses which, like housing benefit etc., are ultimately paid for by the tax-payer). I profoundly disagree with Duddridge over the bedroom tax, but would at least respect his position if he was consistent in his objections to taxes being used to provide properties larger than what is really required. If one of my terminally ill residents has one bedroom too many, then owning three homes and still claiming for rent on another is surely wrong.

I do not doubt that this will be mentioned when I next venture onto doorsteps – how can it not be? I care little for Mr Duddridge’s personal reputation, but I care a lot about the reputation of politicians in general. I have even defended Conservative politicians on the doorstep, because despite Duddridge (and Hanningfield) I still believe that most are in this game for the right reasons (even if they are misguided). I want Ian Gilbert to beat Duddridge because he will be a better MP for Rochford and Southend East, because he wants to look after the vulnerable, build more social housing, and do something about the cost of living crisis. He should not be chosen just because he is less greedy. Politics should be about the battle of ideas, not an arena for self-enrichment.

Tony Blair put it thus: “Some may belittle politics but we know, who are engaged in it that it is where people stand tall. And although I know it has its many harsh contentions it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. And if it is on occasions the place of low skulduggery it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes”. At least, this is how it should be.

“Crisis, what crisis” I can imagine the hapless Duddridge saying, because he is clearly not in it with the rest of us. I hope, though, that he realises that he has made the job for the rest of us a little bit harder.

As for the greedy bastard in the title of this post, well it must be me because I am a politician.

Westborough intouch Autumn 2014 – as delivered in Prittlewell

AmessInTouchWestboroughI picked this odd beast up in Prittlewell ward. Aside from questions as to whether Westborough Tories understand where their ward begins and ends, I find this a somewhat amateurish effort. (It is also dated Autumn 2014 – Summer may be near to ending, but it is still with us.) It looks like it was created in Word and printed on a standard computer printer. Perhaps this was the effect Westborough’s Conservatives were after.

This newsletter has a proliferation of font types and oddly worded headlines. What does ‘STOP! the fortnightly waste collection’ mean? – Westborough enjoys a weekly collection in common with the rest of the borough. This is either scaremongering or stupidity – take your pick; either way it is wrong.

The reverse includes three photographs of places outside of the ward (and one not even in Mr Amess’s constituency) – not one picture of Westborough in the whole thing.

Mr Amess’s letter manages to be factually inaccurate in relating the results of May’s elections. He describes it as if all fifty-one council seats were being contested, whereas the truth is that only eighteen contests were staged. They won four out of eighteen, are far less impressive ratio than nineteen out of fifty-one.

It contains little in the way of real news, and certainly no celebration of all that the MP has done in Parliament. If I was an MP I would be reporting back on what my Government was doing to make lives in Westborough better. That Mr Amess does not refer to his Government speaks volumes in itself. Of course, he raises questions on such topics as the EU, immigration, and the benefits system – and not one mention of education, employment, the cost of living, workers’ rights, public services, etc.

Natural renewal – come again?

The Conservatives electoral failure in recent years in Southend-on-Sea has many causes, not least of which is their lazy complacency. They have lost in places that were once considered rock-solid strongholds of Conservatism.

Sometimes you get a glimpse of Conservative thinking vis-a-vis elections and the electorate. Cllr Mark Flewitt’s gloriously awful blog now includes an item entitled Echo Headline is wrong…..

Herein is this: “… until the natural renewal election of 2015.

Natural renewal? Er, excuse me, is that not rather taking the St Laurence electorate for granted? There will be an election in St Laurence ward in May 2015, but it is no natural renewal process. It is a time for St Laurence voters to pass judgement over their councillors and the council. It should be noted that earlier this year they showed what they thought by comprehensively rejecting the Conservative Party’s offering.

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