Arbury Election Candidates 2008

Shapour Meftah, conservative candidate for Arbury at the City Council Elections posted a leaflet to my house today, and as he was still on the street by the time I’d read it I went out to ask him some questions. I started with asking why he wants to scrap the “expensive area committee meetings”, he looked confused and said he didn’t know anything about that, I had his leaflet in my hand so was able to point out the bullet point. He first said – “ah no that’s all national stuff on that side, I don’t know anything about it, and don’t support it”. I pointed out that things like upgrading the A14, the guided bus and congestion charging were not national issues and he explained that he had neither written or read that side of the leaflet – it was city wide content he said, he’d only written the bland few words under his photo on the front of the leaflet. I asked how the guided bus was to improve public transport for the people of Arbury – he said it wasn’t, and I asked how the conservatives could be credibly opposing the congestion charge when it was the conservatives on the county council pushing it on the city. He then asked, in a manner suggesting I must be, if I was a member of the Liberal or Labour Parties, I told him I wasn’t. I asked why he was standing as a Conservative if he didn’t support the policies on the back page of his own leaflet to which he said: “everybody does it”. He went on to talk about the 10% lower rate of income tax (The Conservatives nationally had committed to reinstate it earlier that day), though he appeared confused suggesting that would raise more money for local government to spend, when it wouldn’t to re-introduce it would result in a reduction in the tax take.

Later Mike Todd-Jones the labour candidate knocked the door and appeared much more coherent. I explained that I opposed ID cards and their associated database, and many other national labour policies I wouldn’t want to vote Labour. He said he agreed with me didn’t support the Labour government wholeheartedly either. I showed him the Conservative’s leaflet and he suggested the bit about scrapping area committees had come from a Labour suggestion to take planning decisions away from them and generally improve them. I gave him my suggestions for identifying the council officers present, not delegating spending improvements such as penny ferry to officers guided by limited consultation, and setting a fixed time for the policing element of the meeting which would mean the police would advertise the meetings. He agreed all those were good ideas. When I asked about planning, and the fact that Labour Cllr Downham had refused to participate in planning decisions saying simply: “I don’t do planing”, he said he would do the same if elected. I told him I wasn’t happy with that, and he explained it was a protest against the fact that councillors can’t get involved in campaigning for or against, or responding to consultations on planning applications they are then asked to vote on. I agree that’s a crazy state of affairs. I suggested that if he was to abstain to make a point he should make sure he explains why he is abstaining, and he gave me a commitment to do just that. He also said that he will judge each case as it arises and might well vote on a particular application if he judges that’s the best way to serve the community.

I’m still waiting to see if Cllr James comes to the door (he said last time when he came on behalf of Cllr Levy the Liberals thought it was impossible for the candidate to canvas the whole ward), but as I expect others do I have a good idea of what Cllr James offers in any case – he sees himself as a specialised councillor dealing with council housing and occasionally forays into a few street repairs. He doesn’t appear to think anything more substantive is possible, his views on policing, congestion, and the growth of the city aren’t really consistent.

Update – Results

  • Mike Todd-Jones (Labour and Co-operative) 941 (Elected)
  • Tim Hawke (English Democrats) 161
  • Rhodri James (Liberal Democrat) 908
  • Shapour Meftah (Conservative) 468
  • Catherine Terry (Green) 187


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