All posts tagged 'Boris-Johnson'

Down to the wire: the battle for South Thanet

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, April 27 2015

With less than two weeks to go, the outcome of the battle for South Thanet looks as unpredictable as ever, with opinion polls swinging this way and that way. About all that anyone can say with any authority is that it genuinely looks like a bona fide cliffhanger, with the three main parties all still in contention to claim the spoils on May 7.

Here's my assessment of the main contenders and  how they could win - or lose:


After what appeared to be a wobble in its campaign and a dip in its poll rating, the party believes it has recently recovered the momentum it seemed to have lost.

The turning point came a week ago when Nigel Farage held three public meetings in a day and seemed to sense that the response at those meetings had put it back on track. It was also bouyed by the recent Survation poll - commissioned by one of its donors - which gave it a significant lead over the Tories and contrasted with the earlier one by ComRes which had given the Conservatives a narrow lead.

Such was the relief at the Survation poll the leader celebrated in some style with an impromptu party on St George's Day at a Ramsgate pub during which Mr Farage serenaded activists with a rendition of "New York, New York." It won't have been pleased by this weekend's events in which members of a far-right group ambushed Labour activists as they canvassed in Broadstairs.

The party's prospects continue to be helped by the fact that neither the Conservatives nor Labour have been able to establish a decisive lead over the other. This has the potential to split the vote among the anti-Farage coalition. Even if there was a clear alternative frontrunner, it would be hard to conceive that Labour supporters would bring themselves to put a cross against the Conservatives in the ballot box and vice versa.

The danger is that Farage - on his own admission - is a Marmite politician and his name on the ballot paper is as much a hindrance as it is an asset. On the other hand, party strategists believe that there are a reasonably significant number of voters who are "secret" supporters who disguise their intentions when contacted by olling organisations.


The party is continuing to emphasise that in candidate Will Scobie, voters have the opportunity to choose a genuinely 'local' candidate who has the area's interests at heart rather than someone who has been parachuted in and has other motives (ie Nigel Farage and, to a lesser extent Craig Mackinlay).

It has some traction: generally voters are not that keen on "outsiders" with ambitions in other directions, however much they might protest that if elected they will put the constituency first. You can say a lot of things about Labour's candidate but he has unimpeachable local connections. The question is whether that in itself is enough to carry him over the finish line in first place.

On one of the key local issues, the fate of Manston Airport, he is not taking sides - arguing that to do so without all the facts would not be responsible and saying he does not want to over promise and under deliver, which is his preferred soundbite. His campaign team certainly think they are in with as good a shout as any of its rivals and has - contrary to some reports - has  received some fairly sizeable donations for its fighting fund.

Despite better poll ratings, one factor that remains awkward for the local campaign is the extent to which voters feel Ed Miliband is not Prime Ministerial material. And it remains a mystery why Labour has not been love-bombing the constituency with VIP visits.

South Thanet is not an official target seat  - or at least wasn't when the party drew up its target list - but if the feeling was that Labour can steal the seat from Ukip surely the national party would want to associate itself very publicly with what would be a major electoral coup? 

The party feels that in selecting a former member of UKIP the party has made a misjudgement. The argument goes that had Laura Sandys remained as the Conservative candidate, it would have been more difficult to win over centre-left Conservatives. As it is, it has appealed for tactical voting from supporters of other parties to block UKIP. This kind of appeal tends to be made when parties recognise that they are less likely to win under their own steam.


The word from the Conservative camp is that it is they, rather than Labour, that are to be considered as the chief rival to Ukip.Indeed, recent election leaflets have said as much, cheekily suggesting that Labour has given up on the seat and it is a straight two-way fight between the two.

Saying it enough times won't make it a reality of course. The party campaign has recently gone up a notch perhaps in the realisation that it has to do more than simply posit itself as the sensible - and only - alternative to Ukip. Anyone travelling down to Thanet can't help but have noticed billboards featuring large images of Craig Mackinlay - a sign that he possibly lacks the recognition factor of the others.

In choosing a former Ukip member (and for a brief period, its leader) Craig Mackinlay, the party clearly hoped that it would be able to neutralise Nigel Farage but I don't sense that it has. In fact, what is interesting is that the debate over the EU has not proved half as contentious as might have been expected.

In relation to the key issue of Manston Airport, there is barely a cigarette paper (or boarding pass) between it and Ukip. Still, insiders insist that the campaign is going well and the response on the doorsteps is positive.


If you want to spread a little political stardust around your campaign, Boris Johnson would be pretty much top of the list. So, it was quite a coup by South Thanet Conservatives to get him down for a visit.

Romping round Ramsgate at a pace that suggested he'd swallowed a large number of Smarties, the Mayor of London spent a good hour in a melee of camera crews, selfie sticks and Ukip activists trying - allegedly - to burst Tory balloons.

Did it cut through with voters? Who knows.

But his exuberance and energy - along with him repeating ad infinitum the phrase that candidate Craig Mackinlay had a five-point plan - did rather underline that outspoken politicians unafraid of speaking their mind for fear of making some dreadful gaffe are rather thin on the ground these days.







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The Friday Five - a round-up the week's top political stories in Kent

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, September 5 2014

The Mayor of London considered it a dream but others saw it as nightmare. But it was Boris who woke up in a cold sweat this week when Sir Howard Davies finally sunk his grand plans for a Thames Estuary airport.

In a conclusive demolition of the scheme, the Commission said it was too costly, too environmentally damaging and too disruptive. Boris reacted in characteristically forthright fashion. "In one myopic stroke, the Commission has set the debate back by half a century," he railed. But for all his fluster, the scheme looks dead and buried. Unless BoJo becomes Prime Minister.


There was not much evidence of entente cordiale as migrants gathered at Calais resorted to increasingly desperate attempts to cross to the UK. The Mayor of Calais threatened to blockade the port - a threat that didn't go down terribly well with Kent MPs or ministers. UKIP leader Nigel Farage remained uncharacteristially quiet...


It was described by its creator as a "abstracted diagrammatic river...and a calligraphic motif simultaneously embedded in and separate from the surrounding streetscape." But the £100,000 concrete "flume" - an artistic feature of the divisive shared space road scheme in Ashford is falling apart and is to be ripped up. And who is to pay for it? Have a wild guess...


After the defection of Douglas Carswell from the Conservatives to UKIP, the spotlight shone on other likely suspects who might follow suit. The Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless was the subject of this speculation but killed it off swiftly while Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson revealed he had been contacted by someone asking if he would like to consider joining. No, he said.


Still, the UKIP bandwagon keeps rolling on although I doubt very much that Mr Cameron will be quaking in his boots just yet to learn that the Conservatives have lost a by-election in Folkestone.

Congratulations to David Callahan, though, who took the seat from the Conservatives with 27.9% of the vote, six points ahead of Tory candidate Rodica Wheeler with 21.7%.


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Categories: Precept | Relationships

Not grounded - but not cleared for take-off either

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, December 17 2013

It is being seen as a sop to Mayor of London Boris Johnson and a political fudge. But while Sir Howard Davies has left the door ajar to a new hub airport in north Kent, perhaps it is only so the door can eventually be closed completely.

Opponents will no doubt argue that there already is plenty of evidence that the scheme is a non-starter and the report published today touches on them - the prohibitive costs, the environmental impact and the need for huge investment in the transport infrastructure.

So why hasn't the government appointed commission decided that it is, as opponents are fond of saying, all "pie in the sky?"

One explanation might be that the commission wants to be absolutely certain that the Thames Estuary option should be ruled out and in opting for a closer analysis of the pros and cons, is determined deliver such a definitive and comprehensive case against it that the debate is ended once and for all.

It does, of course, offer Boris Johnson and others to renew the argument in favour but it is hard to see how they can produce more compelling evidence to support the case.

Sir Howard has acknowledged that the hurdles are far higher for the Isle of Grain than the options shortlisted for Heathrow and Gatwick.

It would take some fairly creative arithmetic to reduce these costs. And what additional evidence could be produced to mitigate the well-documented environmental impact?

Perhaps the highest hurdle for the Kent option is that it would require a major investment in the existing transport infrastructure - adding to the colossal financial impact on the taxpayer.

In such circumstances, it is hard to see how it could become a more viable contender when subjected to the close analysis that the Davies Commission has indicated.

Yes, the decision to keep the scheme in the mix is frustrating.

But at the end of next year, the "uncertainties and challenges" that Sir Howard says surround the Kent proposal are unlikely to be overcome in a way that would allow him to add it to the shortlisted options for Heathrow and Gatwick announced today.



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We should have left Boris dangling from his wire

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 24 2012

by Peter Cook

The enduring image I shall retain from the Olympics is that of the buffoon Boris Johnson dangling from a rope attached to a zip wire.

Why on earth did anyone take the trouble to get him down?

If I was an entrepreneur, I would have dangling Boris toys made for traders to sell in the street markets of Old London Town. “Roll up, roll up. Get yer mayor on a string.”

They could be constructed like those toy clowns where you pull a string and both arms and legs fly out and up as if they were doing star jumps. Consideration would have to be given as to where the string should be attached.

I was dismayed to hear that Boris got a cheer from the crowd during that interminable closing ceremony. I do hope the cheers were ironic.

Now he wants the success of Team GB to be somehow harnessed to the economy, to get Britain going again. It isn’t going to happen.

The Olympics was a great party. There were lots of games and some people won prizes. But have you ever been to a party that ended up with people saying: “Right we’ve had a smashing time, now let’s get back to work and get that old economy moving?”

Of course not. And how is Boris going to get the country going again?

By supporting deeply discredited City institutions that in large part are responsible for wrecking the economy in the first place.

And by building a floating airport in the Thames Estuary that would cost unimaginable sums of money, and that nobody really wants.


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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

World smiles as Boris is left dangling

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, August 7 2012

Poor Boris, you’ve got to laugh.

There he is, enjoying a day out and grabs the opportunity for a trip down a zipwire. “It’ll make great pictures,” he thought, “and show everyone what a fun guy I am.”

Or maybe he was thinking about the airport he wants to build on our doorstep, and thought that taking flight would help him .

Well, it certainly had us laughing when the London Mayor was left hanging in mid air after the zipwire got stuck.

Not only is the video clip a YouTube sensation, but now a whole series of spoof pictures have emerged with Boris “dangling”.

Pictures of him strapped into a harness and wearing a crash helmet are now all over the internet, riding the zipwire into a shark’s mouth, over the dome at Greenwich, lost in space, stuck in a giraffe’s mouth, bouncing in a doorway like a baby, making a guest appearance in the Olympic opening ceremony, hanging like a charm from a rear view mirror, or being used as a game of conkers for the kids.

It may not have been quite the publicity he was after, but it could be worse and let’s face it, we’ve all found ourselves in embarrassing situations.

I once got myself stuck in a £150 cocktail dress in a ladies’ changing room. I don’t even know why I was trying it on; I couldn’t afford it and certainly wasn’t going anywhere where I’d need to wear it.

It was a bit of a whim. It was there, it was beautiful, I just wanted to see what it looked like on.

But after five minutes of trying to undo the zip, I had to call for an assistant. She tried, and failed, to unzip it, as did her colleague.

They called their manager. After 15 minutes of huffing and puffing, the manager admitted the zip had stuck on other dresses, and she was going to have to cut me out.

It didn’t put me off shopping, but it could explain why I get clammy whenever I go into a changing room.

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Cleared for take off? Not quite but maybe Thames Estuary airport is not so much pie in the sky

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, January 18 2012

THERE will be considerable dismay in some quarters that the Prime Minister appears to have agreed that the idea of an airport in the Thames Estuary should be fully investigated.

Government to consult on Boris Island airport scheme>>>

But there ought not to be surprise - even if opponents will throw back at him his declaration more than a year ago that the government had 'no plans' to build such an airport. A similar commitment was given to the Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless by new transport secretary Justine Greening in precisely the same terms.

But it was George Osborne who paved the way for the idea of examining the scheme in November when he announced the government would 'explore all the options' for tackling the problems around aviation capacity.

Even so, today's news will be seen as a U-turn and a politically awkward one given the deep hostility among his own MPs in Kent.

It is worth pointing out that there has never been any likelihood the government itself would 'build' an airport - that would be for private investment consortiums.

Some will see it as a shot in the arm for Boris Johnson's campaign to be re-elected as London Mayor although I've never been persuaded that aviation capacity is something that preoccupies London voters as much as issues like tube fares or crime.

Politically, Mr Cameron will have to confront the fact that among the county's Conservative MPs, there is universal opposition. The Conservative controlled Medway Council remains wholly unconvinced - although there have been recent hints that Kent County Council may not be quite as implacably opposed as it once might have been. 

He may also be seen as having performed an about-turn and of betraying those who took him at his word that the government was not interested in the idea. Never an ideal position for a PM or for backbenchers who, in some cases, have marginal seats to defend in 2015.

What has changed? Underlying the news appears to be the feeling that aside from addressing the problem of capacity, a new airport would deliver a huge jobs boost and regenerate a part of the south east in a way no other project could conceivably get close to.

Perhaps it is no coincidence the news has come out on the day that unemployment figures have shown another rise in both Kent and Medway.

Those arguments will inevitably have to be balanced against the fact that an airport would have huge environmental consequences.

One thing is clear from today's news. Whatever one thinks of the idea, it can no longer be dismissed as 'pie in the sky.'





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Categories: Precept

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