Ealing Southall By-election

What has Labour done for Southall?

Nirpal DhaliwalSelf-proclaimed Southall boy and Evening Standard columnist Nirpal Dhaliwal was writing in the Sunday Times today about the Ealing Southall by-election.

According to Dhaliwal, who usually writes about his infidelity and wider social mores rather than political matters, “The Tories offered no solutions to Southall’s problems”. He went on to quote a well known political commentator from Southall:

I spoke to Parag Bhargava, who manages a Southall marriage bureau, who told me the area needs a Tube link to ease the traffic congestion that is affecting local businesses, and that more facilities are needed for young people who are increasingly caught up in antisocial behaviour.

The other issues the town faces, he told me, are the rising number of Asian women who can’t find a husband, as young men opt for a social life and one-night stands, and the fact Sikh women generally prefer Sikh men who don’t wear turbans, causing a glut of turbaned bachelors. If Tony Lit had offered solutions to any of this he’d be sitting in Westminster tomorrow, said Bhargava. Cameron’s new look Tories have a lot to learn.

I suspect that Dhaliwal has a lot to learn. Southall is already on the train network and extending the tube out there would be prohibitively expensive. The Crossrail project, which has been in the drawing board since before Labour came to power is still not beyond the planning stage. Our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, spent 10 years as Chancellor not building Crossrail. The surest way to bring prosperity to Southall would be to connect it to the City of London with Crossrail. Belatedly the London Mayor has realised that he should focus effort on making Crossrail happen and not waste his political capital and a whole heap of cash on the West London Tram. When will Brown get behind it? Dhaliwal should stick to his knitting.

Ealing Southall By-election

Tory vote share holds up

Having only had 3 hours sleep I am still somewhat grumpy this morning. My gloom was raised somewhat by looking at the vote share last night compared with the general election in 2005.

Ealing Southall vote share 2007With a lower turnout Labour are the big losers losing 7 points. The LibDems are the big gainers picking up 3 points as did Others. The Tories are small gainers, having picked up 1 point.

The Tory vote share went up! It was only marginal and it doesn’t feel great but the numbers look better than they might have this morning. For all the reported mistakes made by the Tory campaign over the last three weeks we managed to stop the LibDems creating momentum.

Hidden in the Others figure above is a very poor result for the Greens. Vote share down from 4.6% to 3.1%.

Ealing Southall By-election

Curate’s egg

As an Ealing councillor I am pleased this morning that we held on to our Cleveland seat yesterday and increased our majority from 88 to 231. Well done to Greg Stafford and welcome to the Conservative group on Ealing council which is now 42 strong.

The Ealing Southall by-election was not such a pretty picture. Virendra Sharma was elected with 15,188 votes. The LibDems were second with 10,118 and Tony Lit came in 3rd on 8,230. This was a poor result for Labour with their majority cut drastically. In the long run the weakness of their candidate will become a huge issue for them. The guy is Piara Khabra II. Although in theory we had less votes than the general election the turn out was lower so we probably have not lost vote share. I am sure someone else will have done the maths by the morning. Now is not the time. It is clear the the LibDems did gain vote share and they have every reason to be pleased with themselves. Optimistic Tories will observe that by saving Ming Campbell’s bacon Nigel Bakhai has screwed the LibDems, who might be quite dangerous without him.

This by-election has given me two new topics to blog about. One will be how rubbish our new MP is. If you google Sharma you come up with nothing except he is a councillor, with a pretty atrocious attendance record, and a candidate and now MP. He is a man without distinction or opinion. Tonight at the count he had to be told to stand up for the cameras. He duly did as he was told. No doubt he will carry on doing what he is told in the tradition of Khabra. The second topic will be outlining what awful liars the LibDems have been during this campaign. I will be going though their leaflets and exposing the porkie pies.

Ealing Southall By-election

Who to vote for in this by-election

The Ealing Today forum is a lively and often thoughtful local discussion forum that is often contributed to by local councillors in Ealing.

Leon Markham kicked off a thread yesterday morning entitled “Who to vote for in this by-election”. I tend to stick to local issues on this blog and a few detailed issues that interest me. Here is my answer to a big question for a change:

By-elections do bring out the worst in political parties and I think that all three main parties have made mistakes over the last few weeks. The Labour party had the right to call the by-elections as it was their MPs who were incumbents so they have chosen the shortest possible timetable and thus helped to ensure a frenetic campaign. I suspect that we will all be glad when the avalanche of paper stops coming through the door on Thursday. I have had roughly 50 leaflets.

You have got three capable councillors in Northfield but being an MP is quite a different game and you have to hand it to Tony Lit that he has had the chutzpah to put himself forward for such a high profile campaign. If I had any ambitions to be an MP, I would not want to go through what he has gone through over the last three weeks. I don’t think that Tony Lit will bring great intellectual rigour to the Conservative party or strong policy ideas but he is someone with a good business brain who will ask awkward questions. The team needs a range of skills. Tony’s will be a useful addition to the mix.

For me the voting decision is simple. You have to go with the three main parties in spite of their failings. I am happy that the Greens are influential in our politics but they do not have a programme for government and are not a serious party in my view.

As an ex-(very)Young Liberal I have always had some sympathy with the SDP and the Liberal Democrats. Unfortunately, they often take positions that are unrealistic. Too often they think the state can fix things if only it is given enough cash. Wrong. We will never have a LibDem government. So for me it comes down to the choice we have had in British politics for the last 100 years. Labour or Conservative.

The modern Labour party is unrecognisable from that pre-1992 when John Major got the largest popular vote of any Prime Minister in history. A tribute to the Blair-Brown duopoly that has dominated British politics for 10 years. That project has had its day and the alternative is being created by David Cameron and a Tory party that is intent on change and intent on re-gaining power. Iain Duncan Smith’s Commission on Social Justice has shown that the new Conservative party will be as different from its predecessor as the new Labour party.

At some point in the next few years most British people will agree with this analysis and we will have a Conservative government. Ealing Southall is just a side show. A very entertaining one all the same. All we can do is send a signal. Do we believe in the Blair-Brown project or is it time for change?

Not only is it a duty to vote. It is a duty to choose too. Life is full of hard choices. Voting is one of them.

Ealing Southall By-election

That cheque

That cheque

I spent the weekend in sunny Worthing visiting my parents so haven’t had the chance to comment on the toast dropping revelation that Tony Lit is a Labour donor. I read about it in my Dad’s Sunday Telegraph . Further examination though reveals that his company paid for a table at a Labour event that was aimed at Asian business people. He had been to a similar Conservative event a week before that. We knew Lit was a businessman – that is what we liked about him. Often business people think it is in the interests of their company to keep in with politicians and political parties. Fact of life.

The scanned image of the cheque made out to the Labour party gives us a clue as to what is behind this non-story. The Labour party are clearly windy about the Ealing Southall by-election so have leapt on this story. Whilst it might make a few Telegraph readers huff and puff over their cornflakes it is unlikely to ruffle many feathers in the constituency.

I suspect that this will backfire on Labour’s drive to restore its shaky finances. Whilst political donations should be public who would be a Labour donor? Whilst someone has obscured the sorting numbers on the bottom of the cheque most donors would be horrified to see an organisation they had supported revealing their banker and account name to the public along with the signature of one of their authorised signatories.

Ealing Southall By-election

Scaredy cat Brown

Much was made in the press of Brown’s cowardice whenever things got difficult for Blair. Some took to calling him Macavity Brown after TS Eliot’s Macavity, the cat who wasn’t there. During the Ealing Southall by-election Ming Campbell has visited the constituency four times. He has no choice. Without a good result here he is finished. David Cameron visited for the third time yesterday. He is able to relax and enjoy sticking it to both Labour and the LibDems. Coming from third place in a seat which was hitherto not a natural Tory area means that the only way is up. Like Campbell Brown has much to lose too. A bad result in Ealing Southall will mark an early end to his honeymoon if his gaffe prone foreign policy team haven’t already achieved that. Is he in Ealing Southall flying the flag? No. Too busy. Too scared.

Great coverage today for the Tories in the Telegraph, Independent and Guardian (who managed to get the result in the Hounslow by-election on Thursday wrong – it was in fact a Tory hold).

Ealing Southall By-election

Cameron back in Ealing for the third time

David Cameron visited Ealing Southall for the third time today in support of Tony Lit’s by-election campaign, click to enlarge cutting from the Evening Standard below:

David Cameron's third visit to Ealing

From the red and brown sauce bottles in the background Cameron had clearly just popped in for a bacon sarnie.

Ealing Southall By-election

Southall’s blue revolution

The two main local papers took different approaches to the by-election this morning. The free Ealing Times used their whole front page for this piece, click to enlarge cutting from the Ealing Times below:

Southall's blue revolution

Although the Ealing & Acton Gazette pointed to their election coverage inside their front page carried a human interest story.

On pages 4 and 5 they covered the defections and the supposed communal nature of some of these. The rest of the spread is given over to lengthy statements from the main six candidates.

Their editorial says:

No election is without its drama, but the Ealing Southall by-election seems to have thrown up another tale of betrayal or defection every day.

One of the most interesting things about the fierce campaigning around the Broadway is the way Labour are having to fight for support – without Gurcharan Singh they can no longer rely on his block vote, although insiders say they wish local Conservatives luck handling him.

David Cameron says his new brand of conservatism is the natural home of British Asian people

The result of next Thursday’s election will also be seen as a measure of the degree to which Labour has lost its traditional connection with ethnic minorities.

Ealing Southall By-election

LibDems talking garbage

LibDems up to their necks in garbageThe lovely picture, left, of the LibDem by-election candidate and two of their MPs up to their necks in garbage accompanied an equally crap press release yesterday talking about the local council’s re-cycling record. I don’t know why these people think that talking rubbish is good politics.

They say:

Local campaigner Nigel Bakhai has revealed that Conservative-controlled Ealing Council recycled less than 20% of the borough’s household waste in 2006.

The Council’s recycling rate is 10 percentage points below its own target, and significantly below the figure achieved by neighbouring boroughs.

Local campaigner Nigel Bakhai said: “The Conservatives on Ealing Council have a shameful record on recycling – the Council failed to meet its target by a huge margin.

Ealing council’s own figure for 2005/6 was 19%. So, yes, “less than 20%”. But this was the financial year ending 31st March 2006 more than a month before the local election in May 2006 that saw the new Conservative administration elected. Re-cycling went up to 25% in the next year. So with less than a year to work with the new administration increased the re-cycling rate by a third. This was achieved by:

  • the completion of the food waste roll out
  • the introduction of free pink sacks in October 2006
  • the introduction of cardboard collections in November 2006.

The facts were published on the council’s website on 5th June. This information was produced and published by local government officers whose job it is to steer clear of party political pronouncements. Ask yourself – in this case do you trust a LibDem press release or a council one?

The LibDims did not notice that 30% is the target we have set ourselves for next year and we are aiming to increase re-cycling to 38%, or double the rate we inherited, by the end of our first administration.

Clearly in talking down the Tories the LibDems think that the Tory campaign is the one to beat. They are right!

Ealing Southall By-election

The Times expects more defections

Although the Times today did not catch up with the hokey-cokey Noori story in time they say:

Labour faces further defections from its campaign to hold a stronghold seat in a by-election, amid signs of fracturing of support for the party among ethnic minority voters.