All posts tagged 'EU'

Is the Rochester and Strood by-election pendulum swinging away from the Conservatives?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, October 31 2014

It is almost impossible to discern which way the political wind is blowing in the Rochester and Strood by-election but if you are to believe what some commentators are saying, the Conservatives are bracing themselves for a loss.

I don't necessarily subscribe to that view but there is no avoiding that the convergence of various issues is not offering the party a particularly propitious backdrop to its campaign.

The by-election is being dominated by the twin issues of immigration and the UK's membership of EU as much as anything else.

So, to say it was unhelpful to have been ambushed by the EU demanding an extra £1.7bn is something of an under-statement. The fact that the Prime Minister had to truncate a campaign visit to Rochester because he was still in Brussels at a press conference last Friday only served to underline the seriousness of the issue.

Of course, it is possible this could play to the Conservatives if the PM manages to negotiate a reduction but for many, the demand for the money is another illustration of the suspicion  we put in rather more than we get out, which plays to Ukip's appeal.

On immigration, Conservative spirits would not have been helped by the comments made by the Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchard, who gave evidence to the Home Affairs select committee this week.

In fairly blunt remarks, she told MPs the reason so many migrants were gathered at the French town was because the UK was seen as "El Dorado" and there were jobs to be filled and benefits to be claimed.

This was followed by a set of figures suggesting that there was a growing backlog of asylum seeker claims and 50,000 asylum seekers were "lost" - exactly the kind of thing Ukip laps up to suggest that the governemnt has and is losing control over its borders.

Finally, it seems the government is preparing for a revolt by Conservative backbenchers over the European Arrest Warrant, with MPs believing that it hands other countries too much power to detain UK citizens.

In 2012, the Dover MP Charlie Elphicke organised a letter to the Daily Telegraph signed by more than 100 MPs which outlined their concerns over the EU Commission's ambitions for "a pan-European code of Euro Crimes" - and "deep concerns" over the EAW.

Among the signatories were eight Conservative Kent MPs but I rather suspect they will be brought round to support the government when a vote is held.

With all these issues heaping pressure on the Conservatives, perhaps the question is not so much whether it can win but whether Ukip can lose.

________________________________________________________________________________

A chirpy Ed Balls followed his leader down to Rochester to rally support ahead of November 20 but it does seem that their objective is not outright victory but not to lose so badly that it undermines their prospects in Kent at the general election

It is a measure of the changing political landscape that it has almost been forgotten Kent has, over the last four elections, been a battle between Labour and the Conservatives rather than a contest between Ukip and the Conservatives.

But Ukip's growing appeal is drawing support away from Labour as much as it is from the Conservatives. Yet the party knows that to form a government, it will have to win seats in Kent - it is not enough to base your strategy around general national poll ratings which put you marginally ahead of the Conservatives.

It seems the party has one eye on next May but it does seem curious it has allowed the impression to form the contest is a two-way battle between the Conservatives and Ukip while it plays for a decent third place.

Tony Blair recognised the secret to the party's success over his three terms was to ensure it won over "middle England" voters who are now peeling off to Ukip in large numbers.  Ed Miliband seems to be concentrating on shoring up its core supporters, a more defensive strategy.

Perhaps there is some consolation in the fact that a new poll out today puts the NHS as top among voters' concerns in Rochester and Strood - one issue that Labour is strong on.

____________________________________________________________________________

If you want an indication of how difficult it is to read this by-election, take a confrontation that William Hague and Kelly Tolhurst had with a disgruntled former Conservative voter in a walkabout in Rochester.

Donna Ripley confronted the pair to demand why a "mega" mosque in Gillingham had been given planning permission and asked whether "this was the way you want England to go?"

She was rather underwhelmed by the reply.

So, would she be voting Ukip? Not at all. "I think they are racist and bigoted."

 


 

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories:

Politicians in high visibility jackets and chatting about boilers? There must be an election looming

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 2 2014

Here is my round-up of the top political stories of the week in Kent and Medway. 

1.  If  you haven't seen a politician for a while - get ready. One could be on your doorstep soon. The European election is just around the corner and the May 22 poll - with the results on May 25 - looks like being marginally more exciting than perhaps it has been in the past. Chancellor George Osborne was first out of the gate, with a visit to Ebbsfleet where his much treasured 'garden city' project will be.  At the moment, there's not much to see except a muddy quarry but the Chancellor was whisked away for a tour of the field, resplendent in a high-visibilty jacket, boots and a had hat. Mind you, Dartford MP Gareth Johnson had by far the best jacket, replete with so many fourescent strips, he could be seen from space.

2. Following hard on George's heels was his chief tormentor the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who popped down to Medway to rally support  among Labour activists and in doing so, enjoyed a lengthy conversation about boilers - possibly too lengthy -  and seemed very impressed by the variety of cakes his guests offered. For once, Ed had UKIP in his sights rather more than the Conservatives, although he contrived to get the key "cost of living" phrase in several times. David Axelrod would have been impressed. 

3. Talking of UKIP....you can't keep Nigel Farage out of Kent that long and although he wasn't physically in the county, his decision not to stand in the Newark by-election, resurrected speculation that he had a county constituency in his sights - either Thanet South or Folkestone and Hythe and the fact that you can't go very far in Folkestone without seeing a UKIP billboard may be a tantalising clue. But UKIP was a bt miffed when some wag put alternative slogans on them  of a satirical nature. And Nigel passed another political right of passage when he was egged by a protestor on a visit.

4. Crime commissioner Ann Barnes had a spot of bother over the costs of an office relocation to Kent Police HQ in Maidstone. At £150,000 it seemed rather a lot, especiallly as, until a national newspaper started asking questions, no-one had appeared to have known about the expenditure. Still,  she fought back and just about managed to rebut the claims - among them a suggestion from an "anonymous" source that she was a bit of a Diva. Still, if it was supposed to be a good news story because of the long-term savings, it seems odd that the commisioner was not shouting about it from the rooftops.

5. And finally, there was news that the government was to crackdown on betting shops in town centres by unveiling new powers to councils that would allow them to block bookies from opening. For once, there seemed to be cross-party support for the policy. Political harmony during the run-up to an election? I'm feeling rather queasy...

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Politics | Precept

Inhalers, pollution and a council tax shock: The week in Kent Politics

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, April 4 2014

Here's my pick of the week's top political news in the county:

1. As a toxic cloud hung over much of the county and we were advised to stay indoors, the Liberal Democrat minister for climate change Ed Davey gamely paid a visit to one of the county's most polluted roads in Maidstone - where he was pictured enthusiastically drawing on an inhaler and blowing his nose. No, it wasn't a PR set-up despite some being a little sceptical about his inhaling technique. His prognosis on more days of heavily polluted air?  "We will just have to get used to it," he said. 

2. The question of whether  Manston Airport could survive continued to dominate the headlines. There were more twists and turns as it emerged that an unidentified consortium had withdrawn its offer to take over the airport, seeming to signal another major setback. But unions representing the 150 staff under threat revealed that they had put forward plans to safeguard its future. Meanwhile, the two Thanet MPs secured a commitment from the Kent MP and business minister Michael Fallon to throw his weight behind a task force dedicated to saving Manston as an airport. But behind the scenes, speculation continued that the site could eventually be sold for housing development.

3. Council tax bills are rising - and there is a sting in the tail as thousands of the poorest households discovered this week they were being asked to pay a greater contribution than last year. Councils blamed the government; the government said it was all down to cutting the welfare bill and charities warned the increases  would tip more people into poverty.

4. It was round two in the European "hokey cokey" debate with Farage and Clegg squaring up over whether we should be in or out. Neither delivered a knockout blow but the post-debate polls made rather grisly reading for the Liberal Democrat leader who - despite getting some credit for initiating the debate - might now be regretting the whole idea.

Meanwhile, UKIP sources revealed that the UKIP election campaign would wind up with a huge rally in Thanet just days before polling day. Let's hope they don't do a Labour-style Sheffield rally....

5. And finally, there was the shock news that Kent could be at the sharp end of another migrant influx - this time from Scotland if it voted for independence. It was claimed KCC had prepared contingency plans to deal with a new migrant wave of Scots, drawn by the supposedly better climatic conditions for "growing" haggis in the Garden of England. Suspicions about the credibility of the story quickly grew however when the date was spotted....

 

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories:

The Friday Five: the top political news stories of the week

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, March 28 2014

This week's political round-up features Disneyland, more on the Manston airport saga and yet another setback for the Kent grammar school plan....

1. There have been plenty more twists and turns in the tale of Manston Airport. After last week's announcement that the owner Ann Gloag was consutling on closure, there seemed to be fresh hope when Thanet North MP  Roger Gale announced he had been in touch with a potential buyer.

But the consortium said to be interested in taking over the airport was shrouded in secrecy and it was unclear if the owner was interested in selling. Meanwhile, Saudi Cargo said it would suspend its operations from next week and KLM followed suit, saying it was not taking bookings beyond April 10. Meanwhile, KCC and Thanet council announced the creation of a task force dedicated to keeping Manston going. To coin a phrase, everything is up in the air...

2.  Councillors in Gravesham were in a spot of hot water over their plans to take a trip to Disneyland and other theme parks in Florida at taxpayers' expense. The reason?

The "fact finding" trip was planned so councillors and six officers could  examine how a theme park operated so they could better manage the planning process for the huge Paramount scheme expected to be built in north Kent. Inevitably, the council was forced on the defensive, saying that the council would be dealing with a scheme of "global significance". For some reason, that justification for the £15,500 trip failed to impress many....

3. There was yet another setback for Kent's grammar school annex plan with the news that governors of the Weald of Kent Girls Grammar had decided against going co-ed - a move that would have paved the way for it to become the sponsor school for the Sevenoaks satellite. Campaigners seeemd resigned to the possibility that this development might signal the end of the road for the project.

4. Canterbury must rank as one of Kent's most congested places so there was some potentially good news for long-suffering motorists and others with the announcement of a £53m package of road improvement schemes. The city council said the schemes represented the biggest shake-ups in the road network since the 1970s. 

5. Finally, there was a political spat over at County Hall in the wake of a backbench report that suggested that Kent could benefit to the tune of £100m from the EU in the next six years. The opposition UKIP group were distinctly unimpressed but the largely positivie report was welcomed by an unusual alliance of the Tory group, Labour and the Lib Dems. Mind you, they may have some trouble selling that on the doorstep in the run-up to the Euro election in May.

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Margate | Mayoralty | Precept

Are Kent Conservative backbenchers feeling UKIP nipping at their heels?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, May 16 2013

Unlike many, politicians have to re-apply for their jobs every four or five years and the decision about whether they should be re-appointed is in the hands of voters.

And voters can be rather unpredictable and prone to switch allegiances, as the recent county council election showed rather dramatically.

So, we should not be surprised that a number of Conservative backbenchers in the county voted last night for the 'rebel' amendment on the Queen's Speech.

There is nothing like a bruising mid-term electoral lashing to concentrate the mind and the Kent MPs who backed the amendment no doubt had given careful consideration to the dramatic UKIP surge in the county council election.

So, this was a convenient way of sending a message to the electorate that they are as sceptical about Europe as any UKIP candidate who might be on the ballot paper in 2015.

Their decision to blow a raspberry at Mr Cameron will prove particularly helpful in election literature to post through doors in a couple of years.

Conservative backbenchers in Kent know that the issue of Europe is not going to go away. Those who knocked on doorsteps during the recent election campaign found that Britain's membership of the EU and immigration were often not far from voters' thoughts.

While UKIP is unlikely to win Parliamentary seats at the next election, that is not the point. It is whether UKIP will cost them votes in sufficient numbers to lose them their seats.

Marginal seats like those in the Medway Towns, north Kent and Thanet have switched between Labour and the Conservatives over recent years and if there is one thing that current MPs fear it is that a split in the vote for the right will allow Labour back in.

Whether UKIP's surge will be durable is, of course, open to question.

But if the results of the recent election showed anything, it is that voters are deeply cynical about commitments made for some time in the future - and particularly cynical about promises to do things after the election.

MPs who backed the rebel EU amendment understood this. It might be considered gesture politics but it is inconceivable that they did not make a calculated decision that it was worth putting a marker down now - even if the election is two years away.

 

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Precept

This week's EU ruling is nonsense

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, March 3 2011

In the weird Alice in Wonderland world of European justice, good drivers who happen to be women will not be rewarded for their ability to steer away from trouble.

Men, especially young ones, who steer into trouble stand to be rewarded Men who are set to die at a younger age than women will now suffer plunging annuity rates.

Although women should benefit from sex equality, fourth fifths of annuities are bought by men. Male pensioners are already penalised in so many ways and this is another blow to their ability to financially survive old age.

All this in the name of European justice. This week’s ruling on a claim by an obscure Belgian consumer group that gender equality should be applied to insurance is nonsense. It undermines the whole basis of risk assessment. It also removes the need for actuaries. Who needs risk forecasts when you treat everyone the same?

The ruling opens the way for younger people to claim they are victims of age discrimination because of high insurance premiums. Older drivers with an immaculate record could then find themselves facing premium hikes to fund the costly accidents of the young.

Will Saga be outlawed for serving the over-50s market? Will young people’s holiday companies be forced to accept pensioners on their camping expeditions?

And as Kent-based insurance expert Danny Cooper rightly asks, is it fair that people living in London should pay higher premiums than those in Cornwall?

Bizarrely, there seems no right of appeal against this ridiculous judgment. Its likely introduction at the end of 2012 will penalise the best and reward the worst. How’s that for common sense, logic and fairness?

The whole thing brings the European concept into disrepute and gives further ammunition to those groups who are calling for the UK to get out of the EU.

Tags: , , ,
Categories:

Got a bee in your bonnet?

Bloggy BeeIf you have a voice, and would like it to be heard, why not consider writing a blog for our site?

Click here to send us a message and let us know!

Welcome to our blogs!

Our Blogs

Tag cloud

Topics of Conversation