Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vote Bower this Thursday!

It feels like an age since I resigned from the Council - I've only had a very limited role in the by-election planning, but know the huge amount of effort being put in by the Conservatives, as I currently share a house with the Conservative candidate! I would like to share my thoughts on the campaign.

There are only two serious parties contesting this election - the Conservatives and Labour.

The Green party leaflet I read made me amused and cross in equal measure - amused at the (frankly actionable) libel that I had abandoned my belief in small government, and had resigned because I opposed coalition attempts to bring the budget deficit under control. Angered at the suggestion they alone were fighting on issues like protection of grass verges, and the implication that they somehow support police enforcement of speed limits. At East Area committee, the Green party leader fought all the way to _stop_ the police enforcing speed limits, describing it as a scandalous waste of resources.

Local Conservatives disagree with the Greens on that issue - but you would never guess the Greens position from their leaflet in this campaign. For the record, I have never seen any evidence of actual Green party campaigning on the ground in Coleridge on any local issue.

When it comes to the Lib Dems, Coleridge residents really need to know what policies they stand for in Cambridge - the more you learn about them, the less reason people in Coleridge would have to vote for them. They support development on the airport, which would result in massive increases in traffic in Coleridge, that they would like to see mitigated by the introduction of a punitive congestion charge designed to force Coleridge residents out of their cars, regardless of the suitability of any alternatives.

As if that wasn't enough, they oppose the upgrade to the A14 as well - which could have been a key reason why the government couldn't support the plans - thanks a lot Mr Huppert... As the people responsible for local planning in Cambridge at the Guildhall, it is their policies that result in poor quality new buildings, garden grabbing, lack of open space on new developments, lack of car parking and poor local transport networks. Finally, they made the disastrous decision to sell Tiverton House to the highest bidder, despite our warnings appeals beforehand of the chaos that would follow.

The Lib Dems normally pop up in by-elections, bring in resources from miles around and claim that a candidate you never heard of before the campaign is the hardest working local campaigner ever. They really don't deserve residents support in Coleridge.

UKIP will likely again be pulling up the rear - appealing to Conservative voters, who like the Conservative candidate hate the waste, corruption and lack of accountability of the EU, but as in previous elections, UKIP's only possible contribution in this election will be to help Labour get elected to the City Council (where, trust me, very few of the decisions at all have an EU aspect...)

And so to Labour...

Labour got the public finances into a mess, planned for huge cuts before the general election without telling us where the axe would fall, and now they still have no plan, whilst claiming to oppose pretty much every attempt to reduce the deficit. This is nationally, but parties do matter in local government - it gives you some idea how your Councillor is going to represent you, particularly when the Labour candidate appears to be a Labour activist first and foremost. When the difficult decisions are being made at our local Councils, they need proper scrutiny from Councillors who are working from the basis that cuts to public spending are necessary, and it is about making difficult choices. I fear the approach of another Labour councillor, if elected on Thursday, will be to oppose every measure to reduce spending to make political capital, and avoid real Councillor scrutiny of decisions when it is most needed.

I very much enjoyed working with the Labour Councillors in Coleridge - some you saw more than others in the ward, and we obviously disagreed at a policy level at the Council on many an occasion (like when they voted in favour of introducing congestion charging!). But they were clearly committed to local, community politics, and being good local representatives. It may well have been a democratic choice (albeit new Labour style democracy), but I can't help feeling the some in the Coleridge Labour team may be disappointed with the candidate they ended up with. A contoversial student politician, studying in Cambridge on a relatively short term course, and living in the City Centre, who seems to see politics as a tribal battle of ideas, and not the role that local Councillors are most involved in - that is standing up for local residents in the ward you represent, and trying to get the Councils of whatever political persuasion to get action on the local issues.

One of the reasons why I decided to resign mid year, rather than wait until the local elections next May is that I think it is really important that residents have active Councillors looking out for their interests - I simply couldn't have remained in office knowing I wasn't giving my best.

Andy Bower is by far the best candidate at this election to make sure this work continues, and Coleridge residents concerns are put to the top of the pile at both the City Council and the County Council. It made an immense difference to the vigour with with Coleridge interests were represented having Councillors from two different parties elected for the ward.

Andy has played a very active role in Conservative campaigning in Coleridge over the last three years - he knows the issues, and has been persuasive in moving them forward, with myself, and at the County Council.

Cambridge City needs a Conservative voice - to stand up for lower taxes, smaller, better run government, development of Cambridge with the consent of local residents - that makes sure we have enough transport of all types, and preserves and enhances the quality of the City - in short it needs someone like Andy Bower.

He is the only candidate in this election with a track record of action in Coleridge - I would urge residents of all partys and none to support Andy this Thursday.


County Councillor Tariq Sadiq (Coleridge, Labour) said...

Firstly, commiserations to Andy Bower on Thursday’s election result, and thanks Chris for your work on local issues, particularly in your first year.

Thanks Chris also for highlighting the distortions in the rather ridiculous and misleading Coleridge by-election leaflet put out by the Greens. I would however like to correct just one of the distortions in your own response which Coleridge Conservatives have put out repeatedly knowing it to be untrue - the idea that I voted for Congestion Charging, when you know that I and other Labour Councillors consistently opposed it and, working with Labour colleagues, we defeated a bad scheme.

My full response is on our blog at

Andrew Bower said...


Thanks for your commiserations. You and George were both magnanimous in victory and it is great that we are able to have such civilised close fights in Coleridge.

However, this constant sniping that we are taking credit for your work is getting a bit silly. Just because you wish we weren't working and achieving results on some of the same issues as you doesn't mean we aren't. As we have written before, when two parties are working hard in the same ward it is inevitable that they will end up working on many of the same issues and this is good for voters.

As for the supposed slights, a bit of self awareness from Coleridge Labour would help (Tawrie blue bird, two story tories, and less overt messages about my localness in earlier elections...) We didn't moan about these at the time - it's part of the knockabout of local politics, and importantly, there is always some subjectivity in judging these things.

On congestion charging, you campaigned against what you called a 'Tory congestion charge' but you voted precisely the same way as the Conservative group and gave the same reasons. They too made it clear that they didn't want a congestion charge but needed to have it in at that stage to trigger the Labour govermnent's bribe.

You secured election on the basis that you were opposed to something the county Conservatives wanted to do. Yet I pledged to vote against the scheme and would have done, as five other Conservatives did. It really is that simple.

Chris Howell said...


You can't be serious - unless I'm missing a basic fact, when it came to the vote at the County Council you voted in favour of a TIF bid that included plans for congestion charging for Cambridge, having just been elected in the local elections claiming to be opposed to congestion charging - it would be negligent for local Conservatives not to point this out.

To quickly re-run the whole debate, the County Council was put in a huge dilemma by the previous Labour government. In a policy that is I understand still supported by Labour locally, the former government tried to force Councils to build thousands of houses regardless of local opinion with their top down housing targets, then told the County Council that it would only provide funding for the transport to support this housing through the TIF bid scheme. The former government made it a clear condition of the TIF scheme that the Council had to propose congestion charging as part of the plans. Typical of the bullying way Labour did government - thankfully this approach has now been consigned to history.

The last County Council elections in Coleridge had the surreal situation where Coleridge Conservatives were campaigning in opposition to the Conservative County Council's possible policy of pursuing a TIF bid including congestion charging as we were totally opposed to congestion charging on principle, and as much as we understood why the County Council took the position it did in the face of the crude attempts by the government to blackmail Councils into introducing congestion charging, if Andy had been elected he made it clear he would have voted against any plans including congestion charging. This may not have been a successful campaign in terms of getting Andy elected, and was always going to be a difficult point to get across as we were disagreeing with out County colleagues, but it was principled and honest.

You on the other hand campaigned at the County Council elections on a platform of claiming to oppose congestion charging, saying it was nothing to do with pressure from government, and was all the County Council's idea (thus trying to association support for congestion charging with Coleridge Conservatives - that really was unreasonable) - the electorate to a large extent clearly believed you. But within months of being elected to the County Council, you then voted in favour of the TIF bid proposed by the Conservative leadership of the County Council that included congestion charging at some point further down the line. It simply won't wash to claim that the TIF bid you voted in favour of was completely different to the tentative plans proposed prior to the election - they both included plans to introduce congestion charging. The whole Manchester congestion charging debate may have passed you by, and you may have convinced yourself that the position you took when voting in the Council chamber was somehow consistent with your position during the election, but you certainly haven't convinced me that we aren't absolutely spot on to say you voted in favour of congestion charging.