I’ve discussed before the voting pattern of Colchester’s ‘independent-minded’ MP, Will Quince, but it seems I owe him an apology. You see, I was assuming that he meant he’d come to his decision independently instead of doing what the Tory whips told him to do, when what’s now clear to me is that ‘independent-minded’ is actually a euphemism he uses for ‘psychic’. Yes, it turns out that Will can see the future and makes his decisions based on that.
You want evidence? Well, on Wednesday evening, he said this when asked what side he was on in the EU debate:
@cpmcgonagle@IsabelHardman I will reach a decision and draft my reasoning as soon as the final deal has been agreed and I have read it.
“I will reach a decision and draft my reasoning as soon as the final deal has been agreed and I have read it” is pretty unequivocal, I think. He wants to make his decision once a deal has been agreed and he’s had a chance to read it, which sounds fair and reasonable.
Suddenly, while David Cameron is still locked in negotiations with no final deal in sight, Will makes his decision. The only possible explanation must be that using his psychic – sorry, ‘independent-minded’ – powers, Will has looked into the future to see the deal that Cameron will agree and decided he doesn’t approve of it. That’s the only logical explanation for his sudden change in stance because I refuse to believe that he’d decided all along that he was going to back the Leave side and was just waiting for an opportune time to reveal it. That would mean he’d consistently not told the truth to people when he said he hadn’t made his mind up and was waiting to see the deal, which surely couldn’t be true. No, the only logical response must be that he has a talent to see the future which he’s scared to disclose to the world in case it hates and fears him.
It’s time to be brave, Will, and admit your psychic talents to the world. Otherwise, people might just start to think your promises to vote on anything other than purely partisan political considerations aren’t worth anything.
Unfortunately, another commitment elsewhere means I can’t attend Martin Hunt‘s funeral and memorial today, but as his family have requested donations to St Helena Hospice in lieu of flowers, I wanted to mention something I’ll be doing in memory of him in a couple of months.
St Helena Hospice are staging a Pier To Pier walk on the Essex coast in April, on a route between Clacton and Walton piers. I’m intending to do the full fourteen mile there and back walk (not sure which one I’ll be starting and finishing at) so this is fair warning that I will be asking for sponsorship and donations as the time comes near, and every bit of support will be appreciated. It’s not on the scale of my previous charity walking challenge, but this is one to fill a day rather than an entire summer.
In the meantime, please think of Martin’s family today.
I’d known Martin for around ten years, going back to when I was first a candidate for the council. I can remember him at a meeting where we were discussing our potential election manifesto and he was criticising it from two grounds that defined his career. First, there were the strong liberal principles that drove his politics, and second, the desire for clear and understandable language that came from his career as a journalist and sub-editor. He could sometimes be annoying in the way he’d speak up for one or both of those values, but he’d rarely be wrong when he did.
Martin was both the first and last Liberal Democrat group leader I served under during my time on the Council, taking over the role in 2007 when the group was at a low ebb, having shrunk down to just 19 councillors. Thanks to his leadership, we were able to refocus ourselves and make the gains at the next set of council elections which allowed us to move from opposition back into power. I think he was as surprised as anyone that we did make those gains, and he hadn’t considered that we might move into power after his first set of elections as leader.
It was coming into power which gave Martin the responsibility of completing the Firstsite project, the problems with which had provided some of the reasons for us winning so many council seats. It seems odd to remember it now, but when we came into power, the prospect of Firstsite being completed and opened seemed very remote. It’s a tribute to Martin’s tenacity and diplomacy that he was able to negotiate between the many funders, builders, project managers, architects and others to get work on the building restarted and then to see it through to completion and opening. It’s rare for councillors to leave behind lasting physical reminders of their time in office, but Martin has two of his. As well as Firstsite, he was also – before I lived in Colchester – chair of the committee that built Leisure World, an experience that helped him with getting Firstsite completed twenty years later.
Throughout our time on the council, Martin’s experience and knowledge made him a great source of advice and wisdom to be and others. His twenty-nine years as a councillor meant he had great experience of what had happened before, but he also understood that things changed and moved on in local government, as in everything else, and he understood the importance of learning from the past while not believing it was a golden age that should be repeated uncritically.
One thing obvious to anyone who knew Martin was how much he loved his family, and my thoughts are with them as they deal with his death. He would speak of them often, with an obvious pride for all they accomplished and a delight at getting to be a grandfather. Family business was always much more important to him than Council business, and I recall several meetings ending very promptly in order for him to be with them.
Accepting the fact of any death is always a long and hard process, and I still can’t quite believe that Martin won’t be with us any more. I’ll remember so many thing about him, from his ability to be heard with respect from all sides in the council chamber to the fact that he and Nick Cope made up what must be one of the tallest ward teams in council history, but most of all I’ll remember that he was an excellent person, and we’re all worse off without him.
With the weather forecasts all predicting lots of rain and then the cold of winter to come in the next few days, yesterday seemed like the last chance to have a decent long walk this year, so I took the opportunity to head out on the Essex Way. The Way skirts around the outskirts of Colchester so I decided to walk out to West Bergholt and pick it up there, then head along it through the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale.
The walk out to Bergholt is one I’ve done a few times. It’s relatively easy to do from the centre of town, and gets you out into the countryside quite quickly, taking advantage of the open space around Cymbeline Meadows. The main path from there takes you out past the farm at Lexden Lodge, then around a bit of the golf course and over the railway at Bakers Lane. The only problem with the countryside feel here is the ever-present roaring of the A12 which you pass under a little way after Bakers Lane, marked by the Pringles can-topped fence. I’m not quite sure if this is just creative litter disposal or the beginnings of some outside art, but they look interesting and the earliest ones have clearly been there for a while.
Leaving the A12 behind, the path continues across the golf course where I managed to get a little lost and so almost get hit by a ball flying over a hill. I soon managed to find the correct path and avoid any more inadvertent golfist attacks, plunging back into the undergrowth and the first bit of the path that was both boggy and strewn with branches blown down in the high winds earlier of the week. It’s still easily passable, and only a short cut through that leads out to the bottom of a lane that gradually widens as you head into West Bergholt and get to join the Essex Way properly.
One of the good things about the Essex Way is that it’s pretty well waymarked and the red-on-white waymarkers are quite easy to spot so it’s hard to get lost on it. It also helps that it’s in a lot of open countryside so the paths tend to be straight and easy to find too. It cuts through West Bergholt than out past Armoury Farm, over fields and around an orchard to take you into Great Horkesley where it follows the roads for a bit before heading onto country lanes again. This isn’t the most interesting part as you’re just walking along the A134 and then another road for a while, but it passes quickly and there aren’t really any other ways to get from one side of Horkesley to the other without using the road.
There were a couple of interesting sights around the edge of Great Horkesley, as the path left the road and headed into the countryside. First up, there was a paddock with some alpacas (I think, though they could be llamas) that watched me curiously as I walked past. Unlike other farm animals they didn’t either run away at the sight of a human or flock to the fence to greet me in expectation of food, just stood still and kept an eye on me until I was gone.
Then just past them there was a rather large tree that had fallen down, almost completely blocking the lane. There was just about enough space for me to squeeze under it (shorter and more flexible people would have found it no trouble) but there definitely wouldn’t be any vehicles getting through there. There wasn’t anyone there, so there didn’t seem any immediate urgency to remove it, but I expect it’ll be gone by now. However, if you want to go and see for yourself (or just be stared at by alpacas) it was around here.
After that, it was out across more fields, surrounded by the scent of the onions that were growing in them. This was one of the most open and exposed parts of the walk, so it’s naturally the time the weather chose to go very grey and windy though the rain held off. Luckily the open fields did have a small wood in them to shelter from the wind in and have a cup of tea while sitting on another fallen tree, thought this one looked like it had been like that much longer.
From there, I roughly followed the path of the way (with a few shortcuts, as it does tend to meander in some places) through Boxted and Langham, and got to see the remains of a tree by the road that looked like the remains of a giant frozen in the middle of some ancient rave. You can find it just outside Boxted, near the interestingly named Wet Lane. It’s on one of the short cuts I took to shorten the route a little from one of the way’s meanders so you’ll have to leave the Way it, but this is one part where that are plenty of other interesting paths around and they all tend to intersect each other eventually.
I didn’t follow the Essex Way all the way into Dedham as I’ve walked around there a few times and find the Suffolk side of the river to be a nicer walk than the Essex side. I left the Way and crossed the Stour at Stratford St Mary, then managed to initially take the wrong path and found myself wandering in thick undergrowth for a while before getting back to the road and carrying on down to the right one. For future reference: the path under the A12 is a few hundred metres south of Stratford St Mary, at the second footpath sign, not the first one.
The path on the Suffolk side of the Stour is right next to the river, while the one on the Essex side (at least to the west of Dedham) is further away in the fields for most of its length. Yesterday was probably the quietest I’ve ever seen it – I think I only saw one other person in that stretch – and the sound of the A12 soon fades away as you’re walking along. I did spot this strange Roman-styled folly by the river which appears to just be somewhere for people on the other side to sit and watch the river, but please let me know in the comments if it has some other purpose.
Just after to that there’s the Dedham lock and weir which I crossed over and then followed the road into the village. I had thought about carrying on down the river (on the Essex side this time) to Flatford Mill, then on to Manningtree to get a train home but my legs were pretty tired by this point after fourteen occasionally muddy miles, and I realised that not only was the bus to Colchester from Dedham due soon but that it also stopped at the bottom of my road. By that point in the day, the idea of a very short walk home was too good an idea to pass up.
I should probably write up more walks on here as not only is it motivation for me to get out more, I do get quite a few visitors from Google looking for information on walks in and around Colchester. Maybe that should be my niche…
It’s a long post that meanders around making digs at the EU, claims that the content of the motion wasn’t deliverable and praise for the minister involved, and it all sounds like a reasoned and well-meaning way to explain his vote, until you look at the actual motion he voted against. It reads:
“(1) Within three months of the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement on his strategy to negotiate with the European Union institutions an exemption from value added tax for women’s sanitary protection products.
(2) A Minister of the Crown must lay before Parliament a report on progress at achieving an exemption from value added tax for women’s sanitary protection products within European Union law by 1 April 2016.”
That’s it (you can see it here). It doesn’t mandate any actual change in Britain’s laws, but merely asks that the Chancellor explain his strategy for negotiating an exemption and for a minister to make a statement on it sometime in the next six months. So, when Quince writes:
However, this amendment was not deliverable. Parliament cannot make the change on its own. We need all EU states to agree to this change. Why vote for something that is non-deliverable? I think it diminishes respect for Parliamentary votes.
He’s either misunderstood or is misrepresenting the content of the motion he voted against. The motion doesn’t ask Parliament to make the change, it merely requests that the Chancellor include the issue in his negotiations with the EU and report back to Parliament on how that negotiation is progressing. He then tells us:
In responding to the amendment, the Finance Minister (David Gauke MP) made it clear to the House of Commons that he would be taking this issue to the European Commission and other member states to make the case for zero rating. When we have the same goal, why tie the hands of our Ministers and restrict their ability to achieve what we are all aiming for?
He doesn’t bother to explain how the motion would have tied the hands of any ministers, unless he believes that the basic level of accountability involved in telling Parliament how things are going is a hugely onerous burden. Indeed, if the Minister really is sincere in saying that he’ll be making the case, why were the Government whipping their MPs to vote against this motion which merely asks them to do what they’re already doing?
It seems our MP has yet again forgotten that being “independent-minded” doesn’t mean anything unless you’re prepared to act on it, not do as you’re told then try to explain you way out of it when you’re called on it. But he got to be on TV behind David Cameron again this week, so I’m sure he’s happy.
Back during the General Election our then Conservative candidate said this to the local paper:
Which of your parties specific policies do you LEAST agree with?
Will Quince (CONSERVATIVE): “I PLEDGE to be an independent-minded MP and will always put my constituents first. If that means voting against my party, then so be it. There will always be difficult decisions to take but I will never forget that the people of Colchester are my boss.”
As I noted at the time, this was a prime example of not actually answering the question. Rather than actually mentioning Tory policies he disagrees with (of which I’m not convinced there are any), there’s instead a pledge without substance to be ‘independent-minded’.
That was just the first vote on them, though. He had another chance yesterday to show how much this will affect his constituents by backing a vote to reverse that decision. Surely our ‘independent-minded’ MP would use this chance to stand up for the 9,100 children in Colchester families who’d be affected by these cuts? You’d think so…but he voted against the motion to reverse the cuts.
Maybe his fiercely independent mind has led him to believe that tax credit cuts are a good idea, no matter how much it will affect people in Colchester? Perhaps his voting record will show this was a rare outbreak of loyalty to the Government? Let’s check his voting record which shows that our ‘independent-minded’ MP has voted against the Governmnent a precise total of 0 times. The most commonly used word on that page is ‘loyal’ and ‘rebel’ is not to be seen at all.
It’s even more obvious now than it was in April that calling himself ‘independent-minded’ while refusing to identify a single area in which he disagrees with his party was a piece of misdirection. Far from showing any independence, his voting record reveals that he’s just lobby fodder for the whips, doing as he’s told and nodding through whatever they want, regardless of what might be good or bad for his constituents. Still, he gets to sit behind David Cameron and nod enthusiastically sometimes, so what does he care?
A couple of months ago, I told you about the members of my family who were walking 100km in a day for charity, and thanks to those of you who supported them on that. Now, inspired by seeing them do it, my partner Karen is giving it a go herself and will be doing the London to Cambridge Challenge at the end of August to raise money for DEC’s work in Nepal following the earthquake. If you’ve got a spare few quid, you can sponsor her here, and every donation will be very gratefully received as she works towards her target.
As well as through JustGiving, those of you in and around Colchester have another option to help her out. Karen runs Colchester Acupuncture in the town centre and one of the services she offers there is the traditional Chinese Tui Na massage. So, to raise more for charity, she’s offering half-hour taster Tui Na taster sessions for a donation of £5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous!) at her treatment room in Trinity Street.
So, please help out with a donation if you can – and if you’re in the area, come along and try a massage. Click on the image below or visit her website for more information.
…it’s make your mind up time. Polling stations open around 12 hours after I’m writing this, and close 15 hours after that. Then Britain gets to make its real decision: BBC, ITV or Channel 4 for the election night coverage. Or you could even go for Sky News, the informational equivalent of a spoiled ballot paper.
But before then, there is another decision to be made, and here’s my view of the candidates in Colchester:
One can’t really say much about Ken Scrimshaw of the Christian People’s Alliance as he’s been nowhere to be seen for the past several weeks. As far as I’m aware, he’s not been at any of the hustings, and his knuckles have not rapped at my door or his leaflet landed upon my mat. However, from what I have seen of him and his party, I’m quite confident in saying that voting for someone who regards the Bible as infallible truth is not something I’m likely to do anytime in the near future.
Likewise, as I believe that being in the European Union is a positive for this country and immigration brings massive benefits to this country, there’s no chance of me voting for UKIP’s John Pitts. However, in a spirit of generosity I will say that I agree with Nigel Farage that we need electoral reform and the poisonous air a lot of our elections are carried out in is a result of the ridiculous electoral system we currently use. Beyond that, though, we have very little in common.
Green Party candidate Mark Goacher has impressed me during this campaign. He’s a thoughtful and intelligent man and at the hustings events I’ve seen, he’s engaged with the questions and given honest answers, not merely what people have wanted to hear. Unfortunately, while the Greens do have some very good policies, they also have some incredibly bad ones, to the point where I wonder if they have an overall aim of trying to balance their policy offering between eminently sensible and complete woo. Mark deserves to be congratulated on having a good election campaign, and I think his party’s best days are ahead of it, but for now I couldn’t justify voting for him.
During this election, my impression of Ed Miliband has improved to the point that I think he’s perfectly capable of being a good Prime Minister. He’s an obviously intelligent man who’s thought through issues in some depth and shows remarkable calm and resilience in the face of the attacks he’s undergone over the past four and a half years. If I was living in a different constituency where Labour could defeat the Tories, I would consider tactically voting for them (as I did in 1992). However, Colchester’s not that sort of constituency and Jordan Newell definitely isn’t that candidate. An on-message neo-Blairite robot is not the type of Labour candidate I would consider voting for.
In contrast to Ed Miliband, my opinion of David Cameron has fallen during this campaign. He’s run a campaign based on fear, lies and division, preferring to risk tearing the country and the continent apart if it means he gets to cling to power. Will Quince, his candidate in Colchester would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Cameron’s dangerous policies, be it cutting billions from support for the worst off in society, risking our economy with an ill-conceived plan for an EU referendum or being prepared to discard our human rights. He wins the award for the most disingenuous bit of politico-speak I’ve seen in Colchester this election:
Which of your parties specific policies do you LEAST agree with?
I pledge to be an independent-minded MP and will always put my constituents first. If that means voting against my party, then so be it. There will always be difficult decisions to take but I will never forget that the people of Colchester are my boss.
For all the fine words about being ‘independent-minded’, he neglects to mention any issues he might be independent about or even mildly disagree with his party on. You can judge a man by the company he keeps, and whether it’s the glee with which the members of Colchester’s Tory group have suggested sacking hundreds of Council staff or the negative campaigning and dog-whistle politics of his party, both locally and nationally, it’s clear that the Tories remain the nasty party, and sending another Tory MP to Parliament would be a bad thing for both our town and our country.
Which leaves us with Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester for 18 years and a man you may or may not be surprised to learn I’ve had many arguments with during my eight years as a councillor, but who I will still be voting for tomorrow. I don’t agree with Bob on everything, and over the past few years, I’ve disagreed with many of the things he and other Liberal Democrats in Parliament have voted for. However, no matter how much we like to talk about Doctor Who within the party, we don’t possess time travel and we can’t go back and do it all again with knowledge of how it will all turn out, but we can do the best to make the future a better place. I don’t agree with Bob with Bob on everything but I trust him to represent Colchester in Parliament far better than any of the other candidates. He’ll continue to infuriate me on a regular basis, but I would far rather be infuriated by him than by any of the other options. The Liberal Democrat manifesto (and party leadership) may have plunged down the road to centrist managerialism, but it still contains more good idea than any of the others and a heart and humanity that are sorely lacking in most of the other parties.
Aside from telling you how I’m intending to vote here, I’m not going to make any recommendations or endorsements, though I would ask you to sign this petition for electoral reform so the issue doesn’t get forgotten about as soon as the election’s done. I have been looking through some of 2010 election blogging and found this that I write about who or what to vote for, which I think stands the test of time:
You have a choice today when you go to vote. It’s a simple one: do you choose hope or fear? Do you vote because you’re scared of what the Daily Mail predicts, scared of all those nasty foreign people, scared of changing things that people say have worked for them for so long, scared of your neighbours, scared of those young people with nothing to do, scared of everything somehow going wrong unless the media’s designated strong government in waiting is allowed absolute power to tell you they’re dealing with all these problems while spending your money on finding new ways to terrify you? Or do you choose something else?
And so that brings 38 days of election blogging to an end, which has felt like a particularly nasty route march at times, but has generally been fun and interesting to do again. Now I get to shift to results blogging, then interminable government-formation negotiation blogging until we finally find ourselves with a new Government and I can get on with boring you about my Masters dissertation. I’d like to thank all of you who’ve been reading these posts, all the parties who are standing, especially those who were my minor party of the day, and all the people who’ve uploaded things to Election Leaflets to allow me to point and laugh at them. Please make sure you get out and vote tomorrow, even if it’s just to spoil your ballot paper, and let’s just hope we don’t have to do it all again later this year.