Day 159 – Martin Bell’s visit

One member of SMS was at Apu Bagchi’s event last night to hear Martin Bell speak on behalf of the leading Independent candidate. Martin described himself as “just an old bloke who wants to make a difference” or something similar – well, hopefully he has made a difference to Apu’s campaign.

Starting as a 66-1 outsider, odds on Apu have now shortened to 8-1 or less, and, talking to people outside SMS (which we do occasionally), momentum is being carried into the final ten days of the Mayoral campaign by someone who would carry cross-party respect.

Martin’s support has obviously helped put Apu in the public eye. But Apu’s surge in the polls is more than that. It is a sign that the voting public are disaffected with party politics.

Steve Lowe (in the BoS) and others have said before that Bedford needed Frank Branston as Mayor precisely because he was genuinely and obviously his own man – a true Independent.

Apu Bagchi is not another Frank Branston – nobody is – but he is most certainly Independent, and experienced enough to be the calming hand on the tiller.

And Apu’s stance on schools? Don’t be silly – of course he wouldn’t embark on an expensive and unnecessary reorganisation when massive public spending cuts are just around the corner.

10 Responses to Day 159 – Martin Bell’s visit

  1. Michael Headley says:

    Before SMS gets too excited about endorsing Independents, let’s remember that Apu was a senior Labour party member for many years and the other Independent had previously been Tory group leader. Apu last stood for Mayor under the Labour banner.

    In my opinion the SMS blog is at its best when it challenges all the candidates on the 2 tier issue and informs residents of their responses. Starting to endorse other aspects of their campaigns risks losing the independence of this blog and alienating people to the core educational arguments promoted here.

    When this election is over SMS will need to work with politicians of all parties who support the retention of the 3 tier system.

  2. KDev says:

    Michael, an apposite reminder of the power that even local politicians can exercise. Remember Clr Drinkwater who was going to force 2-tier on Bedford and Kempston without any participation by the old County Councillors! The message (not as far as I know from Lib-Dems) used in the last year to anyone trying to prevent the disaster of school reorganisation on our children and grandchildren was – “back 2-tier, it’s a done deal, or we may have our revenge”. That is why SMS got together.
    What a great pity the Liberal Democrats “unanimously” selected Dave Hodgson as your candidate for Mayor. If it were not for his long held opinion / belief in forcing through the change to 2-tier I would be on the streets canvassing for you instead of against you. His statements make it clear that he bases his whole belief on the necessity to change John Bunyan Upper School and the support it needs to become an Academy. Sorry, but it flies in the face of massive evidence against any change to 2-tier schooling in Bedford Borough. The elected Mayor has great patronage and I cannot take the chance that Dave Hodgson may not pursue his policy against all of the evidence and I would not trust a politician who has held such a strong belief changing his mind to get elected.
    Read the blog by Henry a few days ago and the “agony” of have to face voting Tory to prevent damage to his grandchildren against all his beliefs and background. You begin to understand that for many Bedford voters the threat of Dave Hodgson’s or James Valentine’s policies towards our schools is overriding even very deep party loyalty. We all have 2 votes and for me this is about stopping the two proponents of school structure change from exercising any power over Bedford Borough. I hope that SMS will go on endorsing the two most plausible mayoral candidates (Parvez Akhtar and Apu Bagchi)who will stop the threat of restructuring. This is not about party politics it is about the threat to our children’s future.

  3. JamesD says:

    According to the press and the bookies we have a 3 horse race for Mayor of Bedford Borough. Unfortunately for the Lib-Dem party their candidate is a rabid supporter of the crazy proposal to force our schools to change to 2-tier. If Michael Headley had been their candidate what a difference it may have made. Now Apu Bagchi and Parvez Akhtar clearly support our 3-tier system, remember twice the national average increase in good GCSE results this year.
    There is no educational evidence for change; there is no financial sense in change. There is only the self-interest of Bedford’s education elite and the exercise of power by the unelected council officers still pursuing this doomed policy. The Lib-Dem party have been expert at using local issues to gain power, but not it appears in this case.

    • William says:


      Is it just me but how can you say that Parvez Akhtar clearly supports the 3 tier system – when has he said that?? He has said time and time agian that he will listen to parents – He has not said he will try and stop the move unlike Apu.

      BTW did any one see Parvez speak at the conservative party confrence, very poor performance!

  4. PeterP says:

    From a Suffolk perspective, I have to say that the Lib Dems have a rather peculiar stance on this issue. The Suffolk SOR had a Tory majority representation, Church reps, and, as I recall, a Labour and a Lib Dem apiece.
    When it came down to the 2007 full council vote, the Lib Dem SOR committee member voted with the Tories for 2-tier. When I asked the Lib Dem county leader the question of why I should vote for them in the County elections of 2008 in light of this Councillor’s vote and views, I was shot some line about how they were all pro 3-tier, and the aberrant Councillor (who apparently used to be a teacher, and I can imagine the Primary/Secondary lobbying for 2-tier she got)wasn’t too happy about the way it was now turning out in Suffolk. “A bit late now” was my reply, plus a no-vote for that party.

    I’m ineluctably drawn to 3 conclusions;viz:-
    1) There is a ragbag of often misinformed views amongst would-be politicians and those in office, of any party. These then “inform” their decisions.
    2) An enormous amount of lobbying takes place, which is designed to flatter certain egos and which is unrelated to anything as prosaic as facts.
    3) As has been noted elsewhere in this blog, the trump and get-out card to justify all this is the “sincere belief” one. This also excuses turning a blind eye to hard evidence and convincing ones self that the 2-tier evidence has merit, when anyone can see it’s rubbish.

  5. Paul Stonebridge says:

    As the blog seems to have come close to endorsing a candidate, i thought that I would enter the fray as an SMS campaigner who is also a Conservative!

    1) Parvez Akhtar is the clear favourite in this election. The 18,000+ people of the Borough that voted Conservative as recently as June are evidence of that. The Lib Dems trailed in second. The Lib Dems like nothing more than to indulge in mischevious misinformation during elections about “winning here” and being “in first place”. The electoral facts speak for themselves. Parvez is the clear favourite. A vote for any other candidate could allow the Lib Dem candidate in the back door so that shortly after, he can vote to close the front door of Middle Schools.

    2 When Bedford’s public chose Parvez as the Conservative candidate at the open primary, they chose a 3 tier supporter. When the Lib Dems chose their candidate behind closed doors in a smoke filled room, they chose a 2 tier supporter who has shown a complete disregard and contempt for the views of the 9000+ residents that signed the SMS petition!

    3) Apu Bagchi cannot win this election. There is absolutely no evidence of “momentum”. In the June elections, the Independents came a very poor fourth!It was not too many years ago that Bagchi was a Labour councillor and the Labour Party candidate in this election, like the Lib Dem candidate, wants to close Middle Schools.

    4) In this election, electors have 2 votes – a first choice and a second choice. At the last Mayoral election, the 2nd preference votes decided the contest. It is not just the 1st preference that is important. Both votes should be cast with care and thought about how to save Middle Schools(amongst other things!)

    5) “Cross party respect for Independents?” Seems very unlikely. One Independent is an ex-Labour Councillor and the other is an ex Conservative Councillor. Apu Bagchi has been on the Council for years and, like the Lib Dem candidate, they are part of the current Council “establishment”. Parvez Akhtar does not carry that baggage. He, like Frank Branston when he was first elected, has never served on the Council and offers a fresh start.

    If a generation of Bedford Borough’s children are to receive the education to which they are entitled without the enormous risks of reorganisation, a vote for Parvez is the only way to achieve it.

    • William says:


      As per my earlier post.

      Can you show me and everyone else where Parvez has said that he will do all he can to stop the school decision taking place is is 100% supporting 3 tier education in Bedford Borough……. I dont think you can because he hasn’t done this, he has said that he will make sure parents voices are heard and listned to – What if the parents say 2 tier, he will have to support that.

      • William says:

        oh and as per your point 1 – There is no need to worry on this point no one is going to vote for Mr Hodgson due to his ongoing aragrance towards the electorate on a number of issues!

  6. bobby says:

    Oh its all got a bit heated on here – that never happens 😉

    I would like to point out that the ‘unanimous’ selection of Dave Hodgson may well have been anything but…. i know a number of people who also could have put their hats in the ring were on holiday during that time….. I think Cllr Headley was one of them!! Great shame he talks common sense.

    PS lots of respect Cllr Headley for breaking the story about school budgets being used to fund the change… I think someone who has the big picture and is not scared to speak out… However, i don’t appreciate the way Mr Hodgson speaks – or his apparent small minded view – and will certainly not vote for him

  7. Paul Stonebridge says:

    Hi William

    All of Parvez’s comments have been in favour of 3 tier. He has produced literature in which that is clear, including a photo of himself beside the Alban “save our school” banner. If that is not a clear endorsement of the 3 tier cause then I do not know what is! He has given press interviews in which he has been very clear.

    He has said that he wants to be a listening Mayor. This is not a negative as seems to be suggested. The last Mayor was not a listening Mayor. He (and others) made up thier mind in favour of 2 tier and produced an entirely biased consultation document. Hodgson shows a similar disregard for the views of parents.

    This contest is between Parvez and Hodgson. If pro 3 tier voters support Bagchi and he comes third he will be eliminated on the first round of voting and there is a risk that there will then be a nightMayor scenario in which Hodgson creeps in.

    In my view, the only way in which to avoid that is to vote for Parvez as a first preference as any other possibilities may result in the worst of all worlds – a Lib Dem Mayor who wants to see Middle Schools closed

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