Friday, February 26, 2010

Back to school

Today I visited Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne to meet a group of GCSE Citizenship students. I was quite nervous about this, as young people are much more politically aware than when I was at school, and expected (correctly) some tough questioning. However it was a real pleasure to discuss politics with these students, to hear their questions, to ask some myself, and to listen to their views and concerns.

The main issues raised were mostly local – how there is nothing to do in Sittingbourne, freedom passes on the buses, how teenagers are viewed with mistrust and suspicion, and how they feel their voices and opinions are ignored or not heard by the Council. They, rightly, feel it takes years for anything to change (such as the ’20-year’ transport plan and the long awaited town centre regeneration plan).

The best quote: all those present said they would vote if they could. When asked why they thought half of adults don’t vote, one bright young man said: ‘Adults don’t vote because they don’t do anything, they never go out, they just like to sit on the sofa and moan!’

Overall, the session was a real joy. I would encourage all parliamentary candidates to visit schools and talk to young people. I found it a real eye-opener and it has given me much food for thought.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Right question - wrong answer

I received an email asking me what did I think of Gordon Brown’s alternative vote suggestion? Well, it’s a shame that it has taken 13 years and almost certain defeat for Labour to suddenly realise that there is something wrong with the electoral system but this is not the answer.

Because the Liberal Democrats are, unfortunately, unlikely to form an administration and the Conservative party have opposed all constitutional reforms for nearly 200 years (see my blog entry of 30 June 2009) then the Labour party are one of our few hopes for reform in this direction.

My objection is that Alternative Vote does not remove safe seats. Half of parliamentary seats have had the same party represent them for over 40 years. Many of the MPs caught in the expenses scandal were in these safe seats with over 50% of the votes and thus it would have made little difference.

My parents live in the new constituency of Meon Valley in true blue East Hampshire. Question Time viewers will have seen angry Teeside steelworkers who will return Labour MPs regardless. Under AV, these seats will still be the same colour. Meanwhile I live in a marginal – so my vote is more important because I don’t know which party will win the seat.

All votes should be equal. Voters should be able to choose between candidates of the same party – hence choosing the individual rather than the party – so the best and fairest way is using multi-member constituencies via Single Transferable Voting. Then there would be no such thing as safe seats – every individual MP would have to work much harder to get your vote.

So it’s no to Alternative Vote. We will only get one chance to change the electoral system so let’s get it right.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In the Diary

So how does the diary look today?

Friday 19 February
Meet Rachel, a road safety campaigner, to discuss a council report

Saturday 20 February
Deliver leaflets – not sure where yet

Sunday 21 February
Have photographs taken for literature around constituency and alongside councillors and council candidates

Monday 22 February
Attend parliamentary candidate’s all-party environmental briefing at the House of Commons

Tuesday 23 February
Meeting with campaign manager to update latest literature

Wednesday 24 February
Continue to draft local policy documents and catch up on party correspondence

Thursday 25 February
Attend strategy group meeting of local party executive

Friday 26 February
Meet group of GCSE Citizenship students at local school

Weekend 27-28 February
Probably more leafleting – hopefully some canvassing – weather permitting

Tuesday 2 March
Attend Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum

Saturday 6 March
Co-host fund-raising wine and wisdom night

To be arranged:
Meeting with local group to discuss pension campaign
Attend candidates’ debate arranged by Swale Friends of the Earth
Contact county council on behalf of resident regarding road signage issue
Catch up on emails from various lobbying organisations

Oh, and I have a job as an office manager, which I will try to squeeze in.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Championing the ordinary people of Sittingbourne and Sheppey

Last week I made my debut on the web site of Derek Wyatt MP.

‘Keith Nevols is the Lib Dem candidate for the next election; as yet he has no web site or iPhone application. He lives locally and this is his first attempt to win a seat; he has never been a local councillor either’.

Brief and to the point. And indeed all true. Our MP is very proud of his iPhone application (it often appears in the local press) so his looking down on those who don’t have one is not surprising.

Yes, I have not been much involved in politics previously. My Conservative and Labour opponents are both very experienced local politicians. But when half of all MPs are moving on, many under a cloud, do we want to replace them with MORE politicians?

I am just an ordinary guy in the street. I live in a semi-detached in Milton Regis, I work in an office, I shop at Asda, I drink beer and I watch football. Yet I have received a large amount of correspondence from people (yes, Derek, Gordon, Angela. Ordinary people like me) who have lost faith with local and national politicians and want someone instead to look after their own interests.

I help if I can but I will be able to help even better if I am an MP. I hope the people of Sittingbourne and Sheppey will give me that chance.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Progress report: Sittingbourne and Sheppey

The campaign continues - my interviews were published in the local press and I am busy wrestling with new software to help produce some literature. I was also able to recruit an old university friend to the candidate ranks, have received more offers of help - most gratefully received - and have been invited to an environmental debate and to visit and address a school group. So lots to do.

The local news is that the BNP have, at last, put cards on the table, and will contest four seats in Kent - Dover, Folkestone, Ashford .. and Sittingbourne and Sheppey. This is a bit of an unknown factor but may hit UKIP's 'anti-politician, anti-Europe' vote. Still, I've never met a BNP person before so that should be interesting. With six of us now, the debates will get crowded.

For the Conservatives, Gordon Henderson himself continues to be very busy - but the rest of the Tories have vanished! There were rumours that they are not too eager to help him get into parliament, or perhaps they assume they will win the seat anyway so there's no point in bothering.

Labour, on the other hand, have been very active. I think their confidence has been boosted by the slight revival of the national party fortunes and by the presence of other candidates who may dilute the Tory vote. The problem for Labour is, someone might meet Angela Harrison, be very impressed, decide to vote for her - then they switch on the news, see Gordon Brown and co and that's the end of that!

Three months to go (or is it?)