A big part of the job of being an MP involves cooperating and liaising with your local Councillors. These men and women do a hugely important job representing their residents and running Richmond borough. Without their energy and competence, my job would be a great deal more difficult.
With the 2014 Council elections now less than a year way, I am writing to ask you whether you have ever considered running as a Conservative council candidate? The Richmond Borough Conservatives would like to hear from committed local people who are interested in standing for election across the borough.
You don't need any political experience. We are looking for people who have an affinity with local Conservative ideals and who love their local community and want to serve their neighbours on the council.
I wrote a piece for the New Statesman yesterday asking what the word 'largest' means, when Andrew Stunnell says that we will talk to the largest party after the next general election first if a coalition is necessary/a possibility. Do we mean 'most seats' or 'largest share of the vote' as a split of something like 34% Labour, 36% Tories would make Labour largest in seats, but not vote share.
By common consensus, I think its understood that by largest we mean 'seats' as this is the most likely party to form a government. But I'd like to pose a slightly different question - as a party that wishes to replace FPTP with PR, shouldn't we automatically talk to the party who have the largest share of vote before anyone else?
Now of course, for us to have to make this call, requires a fairly unique set of circumstances to come about. But as Labour's poll numbers slip, the economy improves, our support in incumbent seats solidifies and potentially some of that UKIP support goes back to the Tories for a general election - it could all fall into place.
This then begs another question; already the current coalition government is increasingly fractious; some of the key Tory election promises, most obviously a referendum on the EU, are not on our agenda (I'm not sure it shouldn't be, I'm not afraid of a referendum, but that's a whole different story...) - could we actually do a deal with the Tories? As things stand, I can't really imagine it - not least because would the Tory back benches really wear it?
I keep reading speculation about who will be UKIP's first MP - from very well respected commentators as well. Cathy Newman was up to it again in The Telegraph today, suggesting it may well be Nadine Dorries... "Now the Tory high command is in the crazy position of being held to ransom by a backbencher - terrified of the prospect that UKIP might claim its first Commons scalp." ...and of course there is frequent speculation that Nigel Frage - who of course was UKIPs first ever by election candidate, in Eastleigh in 1994, could 'take the title' of first UKIP MP. But actually he can't; nor can Nadine, nor can Diane James, nor can Neil Hamilton. They can only be second. Because there has already been a UKIP MP. Bob Spink, A Tory MP, defected to UKIP in April 2008. Now, it wasn't a happy state of affairs. He left UKIP in November 2008 having disagreed with the leadership on a number of issues, and continued to sit as an Independent before losing at the 2010 General Election. I believe he even disputes if he took the UKIP whip now. But none the less, he maintains the record of being the first UKIP MP. But sadly (for him at least) he appears to be something of a forgotten man of politics.
I was all set for a bit of spleen venting this morning when I woke up to be greeted with the South Shields by-election result. And let’s not pretend that any result in which your vote share drops by 13 percentage points, you’re beaten into seventh by (among others) the BNP, your coalition partner loses masses of support to the new girl in town and still loses less of its share of the vote than you do,andyou finish just 155 votes ahead of the Monster Raving Loony Party, is nothing less than appalling. South Shields was a terrible result for the Lib Dems by any measure.
But actually, I can’t quite bring myself to give it both barrels. Because whisper it gently, but so far, the other council election results indicate the green shoots of recovery in the Lib Dems' support.
Now, those green shoots may have a certain straw-like quality as I clutch at them but so far, we seem set to lose only around half the number of seats suggested by the Rallings and Thrasher forecasts. And more to the point, we’re doing well in areas that reflect where we hold Parliamentary seats – taking around 33 per cent of the vote (to the Tories' 31 per cent and UKIP's 22 per cent). Given the party looks set to adopt a ‘keep what we’ve got’ strategy for 2015, we look on track to achieve just that. And so far we’re taking around 16 per cent of the overall vote, which, given recent polls, many in the party would bite your hand off to achieve.
Plus there’s more good news for the Lib Dems - the success of UKIP. If UKIP were to take 25 per cent of the vote across the country in a general election, the chances are they’d take… 0 seats. The lowest winning vote share in 2010 was 29.4 per cent, higher than UKIP has ever achieved in a Westminster poll. Which says two things if you’re a Lib Dem. Firstly, UKIP (not a party which we have much in common with) may reduce the Tory vote, helping us to beat them, but are unlikely to win themselves. And were UKIP and the Lib Dems to jointly achieve 40 per cent in a general election and end up with a handful of seats, the pressure to reopen the electoral reform debate would be almost irresistible…
There are plenty of results still to come in yet and lots of opportunities for it all to go pear shaped. And even if it doesn’t, losing another swathe of council seats to a party that bets the house on the grassroots ground machine is no laughing matter.
But so far things are looking ok. Though I won't be wearing orange if I’m in South Shields any time soon.
The problem was fairly neatly illustrated on 10 O'clock Live last night, when Janet Street Porter berated the 'Eton educated Ian Duncan Smith' for encouraging pensioners who didn't need their benefits to give them back. Her suggestion was how dare this posh bloke tell us we need to give our money back.
Now there's no denying IDS is posh; but he didn't go to Eton. he didn't go to public school at all. He went to a RC Comprehensive in Solihull.
But therein lies the problem for the Tories. The posh boy public school not-one-of-us narrative has stuck. And the 'one of us' Tory voters who so venerated Mrs Thatcher, (Basildon man et al) are searching for a new home - and have found one in UKIP.