Day 138 – The Morning After

What a show the Conservatives put on at Dame Alice Harpur last night ! The audience (of 700+?) queued for miles (almost literally) as the security checks were very tight, although they didn’t seem to mind whether you were carrying any guns or drugs, as long as your name was on the electoral register. Maybe identity cards would have helped…or,err…maybe not…

The surprise guest (Mr.Pickles) and the Chairman then did an impromptu double act on Conservative Party policies under David Cameron for an hour and a half with a style that was very “Eric and Ernie”, in fact Eric Pickles might even have won the nomination at the end if his name had been on the ballot paper. More than one stomach grumbled, and those grumbles moved vertically as the evening wore on…oh well, the best laid plans…democracy in action and all that…

But at last we were off, with a shortened time slot of 5 mins standard questioning from the Chair and 5 mins from the audience, and what fun was had seeing how the prospective mayoral candidates dealt with one standard question in particular: “Three tier or Two tier”?

And these were our impressions of their answers:

Parvez Akhtar: We need to look at it carefully and consider all the evidence. Oh alright, if you insist on a straight answer, I tend to support the three tier side….(wow, a considered but straight answer. How impressive !)

Tom Wootton: I’m a traditionalist. Three tier through and through…(good man)

Nicky Attenborough: How could I possibly comment when the official report hasn’t been published? I don’t know anything about this yet. Once I am elected, I’ll tell you what I think…(methinks she has been well trained by the bureaucrats in Borough Hall – going native they called it in Yes Minister)

Jason Reddy: If the finance is there, then we’ll be able to make a decision…(well, that one’s easy then Jason, because the money isn’t there for the lower-primary change, even if we do get £340M for secondary schools)…and what decision do you personally support? (not that it matters much now…)

And the result? Parvez by a country mile with over 50% of the votes in the first round. There were then quite a few grumbles from the party faithful about procedure and the fact their selection procedure had been “hijacked” by outsiders (ie real and not necessarily Tory voters willing to give up an evening of their time), but to be honest, Parvez was by far the best candidate overall.

The next task of course will be to ensure that the schools debate becomes the main focus of this Mayoral campaign. If any of the other candidates try the Nicky Attenborough approach (she was heckled and not by SMS it must be said), they may get laughed at openly….by the electorate on polling day.

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9 Responses to Day 138 – The Morning After

  1. PeterP says:

    Good old finance yet again.

    You might like this from today’s (Tuesday 15/9) East Anglian Daily Times re Suffolk middles!

    http://www.eadt.co.uk/content/eadt/news/story.aspx?brand=EADOnline&category=News&tBrand=EADOnline&tCategory=News&itemid=IPED14%20Sep%202009%2021%3A06%3A10%3A970

  2. savemiddleschools says:

    Thank you – I will blog it for all to see tomorrow – what a mess !

  3. Martin Hamilton says:

    Apart from the issue of whether the candidates as future mayor would take a pay cut, the only issue of any substance was two-tier, three tier. It was very refreshing to have the candidates pressed on the matter by the chairman and for Nicky Attenborough to say she did not have an opinion on the matter after all her time on the council was, I am afraid disingenuous.

  4. PeterP says:

    Another thing I should have mentioned about Suffolk and funding. A change planned (but not flagged up in the Review before it was voted on) is for 6th Form education to be taken from the 3 secondaries in Lowestoft to a new 6th Form centre; to be built as an adjunct to Lowestoft College.

    This depends upon funding from LSC (not BSF or anything connected with schools per se) and there is now some doubt about whether THAT money will be available to complete the work by 2011 when 6th formers are due to start there.

    The point behind this is that all of these projects for reorganisation are tortuously interlinked, dependent on the components coming together right, and predicated on very large sums of funding from central government-at a time when cuts are openly spoken about. It’s ironic that in Suffolk, which has an enormous Tory majority, they were prepared to embark on a wild goose chase funded by “faery gold” from a Labour government they loathe and distrust!

    The real pity is that, contrary to all the assertions about raised standards, present and future pupils at all stages of the system are likely to be seriously and adversely affected by the changes.

  5. Ed Thomas says:

    Well done to Tom Wootton, straight talking, no waffle and a firm three-tier supporter. He was certainly right, there are fine middle schools in Bedford Borough. However, I fear for Nicky Attenborough, the fence she is sitting on, with the rest of the indecisive councillors and proposed candidates is carrying a very heavy load. I hope the grey suits have carried out a risk assessment, those splinters can be very nasty! At least we have Bob and the team to fix any damage! ED

  6. SB says:

    Oh my word!
    I don’t know whether to comment on the Tory Party hustings, which I attended myself last night, or on the very scary item about Suffolk (thank you Peter P)
    So I’ll comment on both.

    What a very frightening but completely realistic view of what could be in store for us here. Only difference would be how many more people would be saying I told you so in Bedford Borough, several years down the line and with greater knowledge about the financial state of the country than our unfortunate neighbours in Suffolk would have had when they started.

    The Tory hustings were fascinating and I (not a habitual Tory voter by any means, but motivated by the need to find a mayoral candidate who cares about our 3-tier system) congratulate them on the very democratic manner in which they decided to select their candidate. It was indeed good to hear them all asked that all-important question and to know where they stood (or not as the case may be)

    Yes indeed Mrs Attenborough, we should be informed by the results of the consultation before making a decision. How informative it would be therefore for all the mayoral candidates to be in a position to see those results, not to mention the voting public.

    As I understand the rules of purdah surrounding a local election of this kind, there are no hard and fast rules about the issuing of the results of a consultation that is already underway and closed to further comments. You’re just not allowed to launch a new one. It is at the council’s discretion whether they do or do not wait to publish until after an election. As it doesn’t seem to be a party political issue, ie both the major parties represented on the Borough Council seem to be undecided amongst themselves, there could hardly be a risk of influencing the election result along party lines (the reason for having purdah rules in the first place as I understand it)

    Let’s get all the cards on the table and let’s hear what all the candidates really think. All credit to those prepared to commit themselves to a clear view. It’s not as though all the arguments haven’t been put forward for both sides over the past months and one would expect anyone in, or aspiring to be in, a position of responsibility to have done their homework by now.

    I for one won’t be voting for a candidate still sitting on the fence come 15th October.

  7. savemiddleschools says:

    Well said SB, and this may be a blog in its own right very soon…

  8. DH says:

    I waded thru the new report from the IOD and the Taxpayers Alliance which suggests how to save the necessary 50 billion pounds from public spending , and noticed that the 3rd target on their list was abolishing the BSF scheme. I quote from their report:-
    “The National Audit Office and House of Commons Public Accounts Committee have both concluded recently that poor planning makes the BSF timeline untenable, and that the Department (along with Partnerships for Schools) has
    wasted money on consultants and extravagant pay.66 The value for money of the public-private approach has been brought into question, with poor tendering and commercial procedures identified. In short, BSF has so far been a poorly managed programme.Renewing educational infrastructure is important. But the BSF programme is in danger of following the pattern of other poorly structured public-private initiatives, with a significant future liability for taxpayers in return for far less than originally promised.”

  9. bobby says:

    Having seen “Mr Pickles” on Question Time, i thought he was alright. However, Monday night i thought he was rude, condescending and arogant… it was a mistake to assume the audience were all stanch Tories – because they definitely were not!

    I’d thought of voting Tory – but this first hand experience of one of their key men has put me off for life. Mr Pickles, the way you handled some of those questions and questioners lost you voters on Monday…

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