Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Scraping the Barrel

One news story which hasn't received much attention was Saturday's release by Cllr. Charles Johnson. the Tories Spokesman on Resources on the Council and Chariman of South Durham Conservatives, tucked away on page 9 of Saturday's Echo.

After all the razzamatazz about the "Tory Women" selected to fight certain key seats, it would appear that the Conservatives are having as much trouble as ever finding candidates. According to the article, the Tories have once again had to resort to advertising in "a local magazine" (West End News?) for candidates. Worse, Charles can only promise that they are planning to stand "at least one candidate in each of Darlington's wards."

I would have thought a party hungry for power would have been contesting all 53 seats next May - Labour certainly will. The Tories have been quite effective in making a lot of noise lately, but it would seem they don't have the troops to match the propaganda.


Mike Barker said...

Welcome back, Nick. No comments about Tesco, yet?
One of the reasons the Tories are having problems attracting candidates for the local elections (apart from their lack of credibility and leadership locally) is a general problem throughout the country: an unfortunate increase in apathy and a feeling of powerlessness among ordinary people that they can actually achieve anything or that getting involved in party politics is a useful occupation.
Too big a topic to cover here and now, but people are fed up with political posturing and points scoring (something I know you never do, Nick). And in Darlington there is a widespread feeling of despair at what your party's leadership has done to the town.
I do hope that the upsurge in popular feeling over the Tesco issue, and the evidence that people can influence Council decisions if they are determined enough, will convince more people to get involved in party politics locally, but I won't hold my breath.
One puzzle: why, if the Tories want to win control of the Council, are they fighting three of the Lib Dems target wards? Everyone knows where we're fighting hardest: look out for Focus. So why are the Tories concentrating on Pierremont and Harrowgate Hill, where they'll have a tough fight to avoid finishing third? Hurworth is obvious, they want it back, though they're not going to get it: but why put so much effort into the other two? No candidates anywhere else, we presume.

ian holme said...

Hi Nick,
Delighted to hear Labour will be contesting Hurworth in May.
Just wondering if your candidate will once again decide to go on holiday for the duration of the campaign, fail to distribute ANY literature or knock on any doors, as was done at the bye-election.

Putting forward a candidate in name only was pretty pathetic. Putting forward the wife of Chris McEwan, the man behind the closure of the school was downright insulting to the people of Hurworth.
For that reason alone I am aware of a number of lifelong labour voters who will never again vote labour at local level.
Remember, it was only a few short years ago that the tories and labour tied in hurworth, with the winner decided on the toss of a coin.
Think it will be a very long time before you will be in that position again.

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks for your comments Mike and Ian.

I'll start with Mike first - and this could take some time.... :)

(1) It's easy to ascribe some great malaise amongst the public for a lack of willing and able candidates at election time - especially when you think you can finger Labour for this, locally or nationally.

In fact the Tories have had problems finding candidates for at least the last two local elections. At the same time, Labour does not experience the same problem, always fielding a full slate. As always, the most obvious solution is usually the best - the Tories are indeed elderly and getting thinner on the ground by the year. A smattering of ambitious 40 and 50 somethings this year can't hide the cracks, as Charles Johnson's press article makes clear.

(2) When you allege that somehow there's a sense of "despair" in Darlington over our leadership - (which I think is a wild generalisation, by the way) I think you have to consider whether the weakness of both the Tories and LibDems might be a factor too. The Tories haven't been an effective opposition in Darlington for over 10 years now, and are only now showing signs of stirring.

I had a lot of respect for Ken and Sue Walker when they were LibDem Councillors for North Road, but there has for many years been an impression that the LibDems' interest in politics began and ended at the borders on North Road ward. For sure you have a new Councillor now in Hurworth, but (the Hurworth School debate aside), Steve Jones, Fred Lawton and Martin Swainston have all too often resembled three wise monkeys at Full Council, blinking whilst important business was approved.

(3) Forgive me for not trying to second-guess the Tories' electoral strategy for the May 2007 elections - that could drive me mad! As the incumbent party of course, everyone knows our strategy which is to hold on to every seat we hold at present.

Allow me to return to a well-worn theme, however, if I analyse your comment "Everyone knows where we're fighting hardest: look out for Focus." I've commented before on how LibDems don't work all year round for residents in most wards where they mount a challenge, but instead opportunistically send out a flurry of leaflets a few months before a local election pretending that they've been around for ever.

That's why I had to smile when you said that Pierremont is one of your target wards. As far as I know (by all means correct me if I'm wrong) the last time a Focus went out in Pierremont was just after the last local elections in 2003. Don't be surprised therefore if residents are a bit cynical when the standard Focus grumble sheet drops through people's letter boxes there less than 6 months before the local elections.

For all that the Tory candidates, as far as I can see, are a strange, strange bunch, you can probably understand why this is a Tory target, given their history in the ward.

(4) Finally, Mike, forgive me but it rather does grate when LibDems adopt a 'holier than thou' attitude and you take a sideswipe at me for "political points scoring and posturing". The LibDems locally and nationally get 'down and dirty' with the best of them - I've seen the material you and the Tories have put out against each other in Hurworth, and some of it isn't pleasant. Your latest North Road leaflet has a go at Bill Holmes in person.

At an early age I came to realise that the LibDems don't offer a "different kind of politics" but rather the same old politics carefully rebranded. The reason you're still the third party in Britain is because you can't fool all of the people all of the time.


I do think Labour's choice of Amanda McEwan was unfairly maligned in the village. After all, Amanda was one of our candidates in Hurworth in the 2003 local elections, so she was an obvious choice for the by-election. As for the lack of material - well all the parties have to prioritise on the basis of their expectations. It was important to stand a candidate so those who wanted to vote Labour had a chance to do so.

Mike Barker said...

The Lib Dems in North Road ward had every reason to be critical of Bill Holmes, since the committee of the Friends of North Park (chaired by Lib Dem Councillor Steve Jones) has worked long and hard to get funding for improvements to the Park. Cllr Holmes was then promoted to the press (by you leaking the news to the Echo, I believe, Nick) as the man responsible, when in fact it was an all round effort by the committee as a whole. I don't think you actually did your man any favours there, Nick: people in the ward who know what's going on, know full well your man was falsely putting himself up as the man who obtained the funds. It was an underhand piece of work Nick: leaking news is one thing, leaking news to falsely promote your man above the committee verges on lying (a word you are happy to throw about when it suits you, Nick).

Darlington Councillor said...

Hard words, Mike. Lets get the facts straight.

(1) Bill Holmes has worked with the Friends of North Park for improvements in the area.

(2) The money to upgrade facilities was secured as part of the Labour Council's Local Area Agreement with the Government to draw in resources to assist young people. I'm not sure where any LibDem leaflet has made that clear.

(3) Bill has been pressing for action in North Park, and has asked officers how this might assist North Park. As the Northern Echo article made clear, Bill has a long affinity with North Park, going back to his childhood.

(4) Bill's press release paid fulsome tribute to the work undertaken by the Friends in their campaigning efforts to secure funding. He has acted entirely hounourably in this matter.

(5) I was disappointed but not surprised by the tone of the most recent LibDem Focus in North Road. You may want to consider what is for you an unpaletable truth, that Labour is working for residents in the ward.