East Chesterton County Council By-Election 2010


Tuesday, September 14th, 2010. 12:58pm


Candidates in the East Chesterton Cambridgeshire County Council By-Election 2010

Candidates in the East Chesterton By-Election

On Thursday the 16th of September 2010 there will be a by-election in East Chesterton for the County Council seat left vacant by the resignation of Liberal Democrat Siep Wijsenbeek who had only been a councillor since June 2009.

East Chesterton is a ward which has inflicted a series of terrible Liberal Democrat councillors on the city, many of whom have not lasted very long. Mr Wijsenbeek is just the latest East Chesteron Liberal Democrats to have disappeared recently (I’m not sure he really ever appeared in the first place). Just before the June 2009 elections City Councillor Marian Holness stepped down and earlier this year one of the East Chesterton Liberal Democrats, Cllr Liddle, moved out to Woodditton but didn’t promptly resign from her council seat (she never spoke at any of the full council meetings I witnessed and was often absent from North Area committee meetings).

The candidates in the by-election (clockwise from top left in the image) are:

  • Matthew Thomas Bradney, Conservative
  • Peter Burkinshaw, UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  • Peter Harry Pope, Green Party
  • Anna Gordon, Cambridge Socialists
  • Gerri Bird, Labour
  • Ian Geoffrey Manning, Liberal Democrat

The first I knew of the election was a re-posting of a City Council press release on cam.misc by Cllr Colin Rosenstiel. I scrape the Cambridge City Council news webpages regularly and only obtained a copy of the election announcement on the 26th of August after the nomination period closed on the 19th. I did not notice any publicity surrounding the call for nominations either in the ward, or in the local media. Quite how anyone considering standing would be expected to find out about the by-election I do not know. I expect this might have something to do with the fact all those standing are party members.

It is excellent to see such a full set of candidates; it’s something which doesn’t always happen elsewhere in the country. At least some of the the 1% or so of the city’s population who are members of political parties were able to find out what was going on and have taken some interest.

Secrecy in East Chesterton

East Chesterton is an unusual part of the Cambridge in that often public civic decisions which affect the area are made behind closed doors. The local ward based policing meetings are run, not by the police as elsewhere, but by a friend of Cllr Blair, Lil Speed, who personally decides who is allowed to attend (I am expressly not invited). Another example of civic secrecy in the ward arose when instead of debating local issues such as parking restrictions in the Church Street area recently Cllr Blair ran a secret meeting to discuss the plans. Councillors also attend meetings of the Old Chesterton Residents Association (which doesn’t meet in public) and even at one point tried to give that body the final say on plans for refurbishing the Penny Ferry car park. These are just examples of a persistent and very localised trend.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Ian Manning has supported this “engaging with a select group” approach while writing in the comments on one of my articles and I suspect that approach is what he is alluding to when he said in the press release announcing his candidacy:

I’m a firm believer that if you get everyone in a room talking then you can sort out a problem.

I think that the East Chesterton election is to a large extent a referendum on Liberal Democrat secrecy; and a vote for Ian Manning would be a vote for the status quo to continue.

The latest Liberal Democrat Cambridgeshire County Council manifesto I can find was published in 2008, it makes none of the commitments to openness and transparency contained with in the Lib Dem’s City Council manifesto.

Matt Bradney

I think Mr Bradney’s candidature in this election is ludicrous.

During much of the time I have been observing the North Area Committee the residents of East Chesterton, through their elected representatives, had been clamouring for Mr Bradney to attend a meeting in his then capacity as County Council Cabinet member for transport but Mr Bradney repeatedly declined the invitations. For him now to be asking those he refused to meet and engage with to elect him is surely never going to wash. East Chesterton residents wanted to ask about buses, the effect of the guided bus on the area, and the proposals for the new Chesterton Station, but Mr Bradney remained aloof.

Cambridge News Article on Mr Bradney’s refusal to visit the North Area Committee.

Mr Bradney found plenty of time to come into Cambridge to do television interviews on the guided bus and new house building in the region, but didn’t want to meet the elected representatives of those living in the north of the city, or members of the public who wanted to ask him about changes to local busses.

Mr Bradney is also one of the key individuals who has been responsible for the guided bus; widely regarded as a badly mismanaged project and a complete waste of money. East Chesterton, and the north of the Cambridge in general is an area which will be negatively impacted by the new busses, if they ever run, with no benefits being brought to the area.

In his favour Mr Bradney has a campaign blog; however it is light on content. The campaign has also prompted him to start tweeting so he may be more accessible to city residents if he is re-elected than he was as a cabinet member.

Peter Burkinshaw

Mr Burkinshaw was a candidate for the Cambridge seat in the general election. He was the only candidate to be clearly and unequivocally in favour of renewing our nuclear power stations but that was , I think, the only policy which I agreed with him on, and that’s not something he can reasonably be expected to pursue effectively within the County Council.

Mr Burkinshaw has stood for election in East Chesterton before, in 2009, during that campaign the Cambridge Cycling Campaign asked him about cycling provision. He responded:

Provision for cyclists is already adequate. Please remember that motorists are the people who pay to use the roads whereas cyclists are “freeloaders”. They are entitled to use the roads but not disproportionately.

If everyone cycled, as you suggest, there would be no roads to ride on.

Questions I would like addressed:

Policing

What are the candidate’s views on policing, particularly on Fen Road? Mr Bradney has tweeted to say “We need far more policing and a much better safety strategy for the area”. I think that needs some more detail.

Personally I think the area needs fewer PCSOs, who are in abundance at 9am on weekday mornings, and for them to be replaced with real police officers working around the clock. More policing will not solve the area’s problems if the police continue to focus on anti-social behaviour, rather than criminality. If the police continue to abuse the new labour anti-social behaviour laws to by-pass due-process and deny those accused of offences a right to a fair trial then the police-public relationship in the area will continue to deteriorate.

I would like to see the candidates comment on my article: “Councillors Approve Police Seizure of Cars Which Avoid Speed Humps“.

I think the area’s the ward based policing meetings ought be run by the police or council, and they should feed suggestions for priorities to the North Area Committee. I’d like to know what the candidates think of that.

Will the candidates attend the North Area Committee regularly and will they participate in setting police priorities? (Generally county councillors have a terrible attendance record at these meetings, and many LibDems are reluctant to play an active role in setting police priorities or overseeing the work of the police).

How Long has Mr Manning been a Lib Dem?

In January this year Mr Manning was particularly scathing about Liberal Democrat planning policy how long has he been a party member what does he now think of the party’s policies on :

  • Planning
  • Transparency

Many poor LibDems appear to have been recruited in desperation when the party has been struggling to find a candidate.

Education

I think Education is one of the most important things the County Council does, its an area where I largely support the Liberal Democrat county council manifesto. I would like to know the candidate’s views on strengthening the connections between schools and all those living in the local area. I think this is an area where the Conservatives running the county council are performing poorly. (more).

A particular area which needs addressing in East Chesterton is the number of those aged 16-18 who are not in full time education, work or training. More data needs to be collected on the number of teenagers who are only formally occupied for a few hours a week and help directed to them to assist them to find a role in society.

Clearly there are many many other important areas, particularly transport, the building of new homes in the region which it would be desirable to know the candidate’s views on. I’m not an East Chesterton resident but if I was I think I would be struggling to find enough information on which to base a voting decision. Additional links I have found include a profile of Gerri Bird and a rather vacuous election statement from socialist Anna Gordon both written for a previous election when they were standing for the city council. If they can’t even refresh their online materials for the new campaign how effective will they be as councillors?

Anna Gordon is clearly against public sector cuts, but neither she, or the Cambridge Socialist manifesto makes an argument for any alternative. The question of who pays is never addressed in relation this or any of the other policies promoted, so essentially the argument appears to be we ought all get poorer as a nation- but that’s OK if we all get poorer together equally (despite it inevitably leading to us not being able to afford the quality of healthcare, education etc. we can now).

Campaign Snippets

  • There has been little physical indication of the election in the ward during the campaign. Latterly though a Lib Dem orange diamond sign has appeared in a garden of a house on the Old Chesterton Road.
  • In a twitter exchange MP Julian Huppert was happy to allow Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council to take the credit for fixing potholes on Green End Road despite the highways being the responsibility of the Conservative run County Council.
  • However MP Julian Huppert managed to spend a couple of days during the long Parliamentary recess to campaign in the ward. I was surprised to see Mr Huppert supporting Ian Manning so actively due to Mr Manning’s strong anti-transparany and in my view anti-democratic views.
  • Mr Bradney started his campaign by having one of his Conservative Colleagues make a bunch of reports on FixMyStreet
  • Mr Bradney’s second tweet of the East Chesterton campaign reads: “Canvassing is such fun. Had a guy call me a scum bag and try to grab my rosette… and I’m the scum bag?”. (During election campaigns only candidates (and polling agents) are (legally?) allowed to wear rosettes.)
  • Ian Manning has also joined twitter but he hasn’t yet tweeted and I’m his only follower and the only person he’s following is Mr Bradney.
  • According to her Twitter feed East Chesterton councillor Liberal Democrat Clare Blare was in Sharm El Sheik during the initial period of the campaign, so well out the way.

48 comments/updates on “East Chesterton County Council By-Election 2010

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Mr Manning has been in touch with me to say:

    Probably worth telling you at the moment I don’t really use twitter for anything other than following other people. If elected, my intention would be, if there is enough interest, to use it in the same way Julian has done, ie to get feedback from the electorate.

  2. Andrew Bower

    I agree that it’s poor that the city council did not announce the election via its website (as well as, presumably, via a statutory notice at the Guildhall). I did blog on the vacancy the same day, though: http://cherryhintonroad.blogspot.com/2010/08/east-chesterton-councillor-resigns.html

    Matt didn’t start his campaign by having anyone on his team make a bunch of reports to fix my street – there wasn’t a selected candidate by then – and nor was it passed off as being done by Matt.

    I’m not sure why you say Matt’s blog is light on content – I’m not aware of many more prolific politic blogs in the city, of which this august site is one, of course.

    From what I have seen of Matt during this campaign he would make a highly competent councillor and do his best to represent his constituents.

  3. Sarah Whitebread

    Hi Richard,
    I think you should add 2009 to the end of the first paragraph here because at the moment it implies he was elected this year.

    I know the last thing you would want to do would be to imply something incorrect about the lib dems in this way ;)

    Thanks,

    Sarah

  4. Dan from Cambridge

    It’s interesting that LibDem Cllr. Whitebread calls you out on the 2009 note, but not on the secrecy of East Chesterton policing meetings… !

  5. Matt Bradney

    Richard, I read your blog with much interest. I didn’t refuse to attend the North Area Committee, no alternative dates were given to me, and you will see that my response in the Newspaper was:

    Cllr Bradney rejected the accusations as “political point-scoring”.

    “I have never ducked a question in my life,” he said.

    “This is not about people or the issues – it’s about cheap political point-scoring.

    “I have the whole of Cambridgeshire to cover and a lot of things in my brief as a cabinet member.

    “I also have a family and I can’t attend every single public meeting that I am invited to.

    “I’ve made lots of public statements on this issue and ultimately it’s a commercial decision. The buses will be able to stop on Histon Road and Milton Road.

    “However, the guided busway must be a fast reliable service into Cambridge and it needs to build up this reputation.

    “There will be a stop at Orchard Park, but it needs to be known as a quick service if it is to become a success.”

    To say they were clamouring for me to attend is simply not true. I was only invited to one North Area Committee, to my recolection and it clashed with something else. I stand by my comments in the Newspaper. I have never ducked a question and if possible I will always attend meetings. I went to several very difficult meetings about the Guided Bus and only did interviews when asked to. My portfolio was absolutely huge, I was dealing with all transport issues, Guided Bus, Housing (which in itself was a massive thing).

    During that time I attended several large public meetings, which were about difficult subjects, including the Busway. Yes I was lead member with the Guided Bus in my portfolio for 14 months. I still believe when it is finished and running it will be a benefit to many residents in Cambridgeshire, lets not forget the excellent cycling links constructed alongside (when they have got the parts sorted that are under water, that is). If the train line had been re-opened there would have been no benefits to the residents of East Chesterton either. The main benefit will be less cars using the roads, thus reducing CO2 and congestion. If we ever get the financing for the Train Station at Chesterton the Busway will connect up to it, giving us a very good integrated transport solution.

    My blog post on bus stops talks about this, here it is http://bit.ly/cOVqAw I was never for cutting Bus Stops on Milton Road, and would like to see the Park and Ride or the Guided Bus stop on Milton Road. I use the bus network and I have sat at bus stops and had dozens of Park and Ride buses go past me, so I fully understand and support the point. Having had public transport in my portfolio, the location and the use of Bus Stops is a commercial decision taken by the operator. I would certainly be trying very hard to convince Stagecoach that they should re-introduce the bus stop outside the Golden Hind, but it will remain their decision.

    The School issue is a good point. Having got teenage Children the plight of the youth is very important to me.I spent a short period on Children and Young Peoples Scrutiny Committee at County. I am also very pleased that the new Shirley School is being built, it will indeed be imperative that the new school works hard to move closer to the community.

    As for building new homes. I have made my views very clear before. There is a need for more housing but I am absolutely against the over development of Cambridge, there has been, and continues to be significant growth in the last few years, and I feel Cambridge is starting to lose it’s unique feel. I am supportive of building Northstowe, in the sense that it will provide many much needed houses for the area. The plans I have seen so far, I am not so supportive of.

    Policing is on the top of everybody’s agenda at the moment. And yes I would attend policing meetings and help set the priorities, just like I did in the Histon ward, and the meetings hsould indeed be run by the Police, like they are in Histon and elsewhere. I feel we need to look at how the police is functioning. People feel safer when there are bobbies walking about, and this is what is needed.
    Richard, I spend more hours in Cambridge than I do anywhere else, awake that is. No I don’t sleep in Cambridge, but as my business is there I know and see an awful lot of the City. With my business being so close to East Chesterton I know lots and lots of local residents.

  6. Cllr Andy Pellew

    Hi Richard,

    It always seems odd to me that you seem so keen to hold the City Council (Lib-Dem Controlled) to account but seem to give the County Council (Conservative Controlled) a pass when it comes to secrecy.

    Especially when you consider the City Council holds most of it’s public meetings in the evening when you can attend (and often do) whereas the County Council holds most of it’s public meetings during the day which you *could* attend but probably can’t get away work to do.

    I don’t, for example, ever recall you attending a Full Council meeting of the County Council.

    The City Council then publishes it’s minutes and agendas on it’s website for all to see. So does the County Council – it just adds NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW tags to prevent search engines like Google and Bing from indexing it so unless you know the date of the meeting where a discussion was held you have no way of finding the record of the discussion on their website).

    Don’t get we wrong; I’m not defending one type of secrecy over another but to me secrecy at the County level is a much larger issue.

    Andy Pellew

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    I regularly attend City Council meetings during the day. Many of the scrutiny committees are held during the day as are planning and licensing meetings. While I think a mixture of daytime and evening meetings is desirable I think the LibDem passion for decision making very late at night often approaching midnight at full council and area committees with large numbers of planning applications is not conducive to good decision making.

    Any bias in the volume of my content giving greater coverage to matters debated within the City Council rather than the County Council has nothing at all to do with which party is in power in each council.

    I have attended meetings in the County Council Chamber. The public gallery is very high up and utterly removed from the floor of the chamber. I find it very difficult to follow what is going on from up there. City Council meetings are much more accessible to members of the public. (Meeting papers are provided, at full council leaflets with councillors photos and a map of where they are sitting are offered, councillors’ names are made clear at committees etc.)

    Last year I observed the Liberal Democrat budget speeches in both the City and County councils and wrote an article comparing them:

    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/liberal-democrat-inconsistency-in-cambridge.html

    I have also observed the Traffic Area Joint Committee quite a number of times and have written a number of articles about what has been discussed there.

    When I attend area committees in the city I often hope to hear from County Councillors, but often they don’t bother turning up.

    I regularly write about matters which the County Council has more influence over than the City Council eg. Education, Health and Policing, New House Building, Transport.

    If councillors were to tip me off (perhaps via their blogs) that there was likely to be an interesting debate then I might well attend. Ideally I’d just read, and perhaps comment on, their own articles on what happened though.

    Until very recently the City Council published all its reports in PDFs, many of which were only accessible from links within other PDFs, this was just as bad for search engines as the County’s approach and worse – it also affected humans.

    The County Council is much better in my view at making it easy for me and others to follow what is being done without attending in person than the City is. Conservatives at the County Council publish decision notices for example so I don’t have to go to a meeting to find out what was decided in a timely manner. Secretive LibDems running the City Council don’t formally tell residents what they’ve done until many weeks, sometimes months, after making a decision even where there is massive public interest. The vast majority of City Council meetings I attend have no professional press present.

    Another reason I attend City Council meetings is that there is often a chance to hear from members of the public using the public speaking opportunities to ask questions. Typically these produce the most interesting and revealing exchanges.

  8. Amanda Taylor

    The last three bullet points of your post were hilarious — I hope they were intended to be.

    Where is the law that says no one but a candidate or agent may wear a rosette during an electon campaign? What is the penalty, a bucket of water thrown out of the window?

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    Google suggests that if the law exists at all it only applies to polling stations and the area around them.

    The rules on campaigning around polling stations have been substantially relaxed in recent years. My local LibDem candidates now regularly can be found right outside my polling station.

  10. Andrew Bower

    Richard, you should have seen the huge throngs of Labour and Respect activists hanging around the polling stations for the Shadwell by-election in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 2007: the police had their hands full.

  11. Ian Manning

    Good to see you writing about this by election Richard (although I’m surprised you never replied to my emails about it!).

    A few points:

    “I would like to see the candidates comment on my article: “Councillors Approve Police Seizure of Cars Which Avoid Speed Humps“. ”

    My opinion on this boils down to being similar to yours in the sense that there should be an appeals process.

    “Mr Manning’s strong anti-transparany and in my view anti-democratic views” (sic)

    I am not anti-transparency: my record in setting up and running my local residents’ association where everyone living at VIE is automatically a member and has access to our website is proof of this.

    The meeting in question wasn’t secret – you just weren’t invited as you weren’t a local resident.

    Happy to chat you about this whole issue sometime: I’d happily share my experiences with you.

    “Will the candidates attend the North Area Committee regularly and will they participate in setting police priorities? (Generally county councillors have a terrible attendance record at these meetings, and many LibDems are reluctant to play an active role in setting police priorities or overseeing the work of the police). ”

    I’m disappointed you haven’t mentioned my local record, and my regular attendance of North Area Committee meetings – though I guess you do mention your blog article about my questions at one.

    Which brings me to:

    “In January this year Mr Manning was particularly scathing about Liberal Democrat planning policy how long has he been a party member what does he now think of the party’s policies on :”

    On transparency I think the lib dems are very good – Area Committees are well attended by councillors for example.

    Most meetings are public, and those that aren’t are attended by journalists normally (eg http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cambridge/Residents-of-new-estate-fear-building-site-misery.htm )

    Planning is something the city has got better and better at: our development was seriously hampered by the Conservative Controlled County Council not spending S106 money for a long time, not by City Council Planning. City ward councillors supported my efforts to improve things.

    Something I and others lobbied for successfully.

    You don’t mention my personal involvement with the Chesterton Community Association – maybe you weren’t aware though?

    Could you clarify this statement: “Many poor LibDems appear to have been recruited in desperation when the party has been struggling to find a candidate.”

    Is that directed at me?

    Final thing I’d like to say, is that I’ve spent the vast majority of my time this by election talking to people and/or delivering messages direct to voters, so I think all the electorate have had a good chance to talk to me/phone me/email me – and I have had quite a few takers. Certainly, in terms of enfranchisement I think East Chesterton has done very well from the Liberal Democrat team.

  12. Richard Taylor Article author

    The only email I have from Mr Manning regarding this election is the one in which he let me know his Twitter strategy, which I posted above.

    Mr Manning notably has not said which way he would vote on renewing the police priority which is resulting in the inappropriate use of anti-social behaviour laws on Fen Road (instead of dealing with criminality). I suspect many of the LibDems who voted for the police action would like to see an appeals process, but they voted for it regardless. As Mr Manning has now made this comment during the election I would expect to see him vote against the renewal of the current priority should he get elected. I don’t think the introduction of an appeals process against the S.59 orders/warnings is the ideal route, as I would prefer the option to go to court be offered for those not willing to accept this kind of summary justice which can be administered by PCSOs.

    More: http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/seizure-cars-speed-humps.html

    The secret meeting on parking regulations on Church Street and nearby streets was not open to all local residents. It was open to selected invitees only. It’s existence was secret in that when given the opportunity to confirm its existence at a public council meeting Cllr Blair failed to do so.

    See: http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/cycling-parking-church-street-chesterton.html

    I’m not sure if “most” City Council meetings are open to the public; but many key meetings are not on the public calendar and it is not clear if they are open to the public. The Ranger Steering Group is one I have been campaigning for access to, there are also secret councillor briefings, rumoured weekly meetings of the Executive, and I think it is particularly bad that meetings between the council and the university are conducted behind closed doors.

    I am happy to clarify my comment on poor Lib Dems – I regularly point out that many Lib Dems do nothing, don’t speak at council meetings and simply act as the local equivalent of back bench lobby fodder. They look to their leader to see when to put their hands up and do as they’re told.

    On attendance – I think Lib Dem County Councillors have a terrible attendance record at area committees. None were present at the South Area committee I attended last week; in the last year there’s only been one or two out of four attending the North Area Committee.

    While I think it is excellent that Mr Manning has engaged with the discussion here; he still hasn’t told us how long he’s been a Lib Dem.

  13. Richard Taylor Article author

    Liberal Democrat Ian Manning won the election; he now has a mandate to continue the practice of making decisions about the ward behind closed doors.

    My local County Councillor Rupert Moss-Eccardt wrote to me, responding to the comment I made above about trying to observe the County Council.

    I notice that you (and many others before you) have found the experience
    from the Public Gallery less than inspiring.

    I should like to invite you to be a guest of mine at the next convenient Council meeting so you can sit down in the chamber.

    I have spoken to Cllr Moss-Eccardt and accepted his offer. When we spoke Cllr Moss-Eccardt also let me know he has sold his house in Arbury and will resign soon when he completes his move to Queen Adelaide, Ely. To save public money it sounds as if he will resign so the resultant by-election can be held at the same time as other planned elections

  14. Ian Manning

    Richard, any chance you could set your site to email when replies are made to posts? I’ve only just seen this….

    “Liberal Democrat Ian Manning won the election; he now has a mandate to continue the practice of making decisions about the ward behind closed doors. ”

    I have a mandate to represent the residents of East Chesterton on the County Council.

    “While I think it is excellent that Mr Manning has engaged with the discussion here; he still hasn’t told us how long he’s been a Lib Dem.”

    Sorry I hadn’t actually seen this – I joined the party in April this year (can’t recall exact date without looking it up)

    In terms of your statement about which way i now “should” vote, I don’t follow your logic, could you expand a little how you reach that opinion?

  15. Ed Carlsson Browne

    I know the election was a while back, but I’m confused that you think putting material online whilst a candidate has a direct connection to how useful people are as councillors.

    Most of East Chesterton does not get its information about local politics from the internet. Leaflets are much more relevant as a method of contact and as you aren’t an East Chesterton resident, it’s not surprising you didn’t see much from the parties.

    Similarly, the party boards mostly just inform voters of which party activists have the best gardens on major streets. Sadly this isn’t Labour in East Chesterton…

    Ian, are you still continuing with that bus campaign? Only I saw a lot in Lib Dem leaflets about that survey you were running, but never actually saw that survey nor found anybody who had. It’s a good campaign for your lot and I know for a fact there are several other small issues you’d pick up if you put the survey about a little more.

  16. Richard Taylor Article author

    Ian,

    I’ve never said which way you “should” vote though if you were to vote for the continued use of S.59 orders on Fen Road in their current manner having made clear that you would like to see an appeals process then I think you would be going against something you said during the election campaign.

  17. Richard Taylor Article author

    Ed,

    I know from the viewing statistics on this article, and the search terms being used during this and previous elections that many people do search the internet for more information on their candidates before voting.

    I agree you have to do more proactive and pushy to communicate during elections than simply putting your views online; but making material available online is a very good start because it gets it “out there” it means it is accessible if someone wants to find it.

    As it turns out, despite claiming to model himself on prolific twitter Julian Huppert it turns out Ian Manning has not yet tweeted since the election (http://twitter.com/IanGManning), there at least his performance during the campaign was a good indicator of his performance to-date as a councillor.

  18. Ed Carlsson Browne

    Sure, people do search the internet for information on candidates.

    Neverthless, I’d just argue that:

    1) It’s nevertheless a relatively small section of the population that does this, that isn’t necessarily representative of the wider electorate, let alone part of the likely voter pool of all parties – and whereas a councillor needs to represent all their constituents, a candidate needs to prioritise reaching his or her target voters in order to get elected;
    2) Even these voters don’t necessarily need to use the internet to find out information – an active campaign should be knocking on doors, finding these voters and letting them put their questions to the candidate;
    3) Leaflets aren’t perfect, but you can get a fair idea of values, approaches and priorities of a candidate from reading a good one;
    3) The information every voter wants is different and when we’re dealing with voters going online to find out information it’s even more different and varied. You could easily find yourself having to provide prohibitively large amounts of information to satisfy queries (admittedly less so in East Chesterton than in, for example, Romsey, of course) and
    4) None of the parties had very much time to prepare for the by-election, with the possible exception of the Lib Dems (who just happened to put out a Focus with Ian Manning running a campaign on a county council issue a few weeks before the campaign was announced). In six weeks there’s a lot of voter contact that needs doing and the quickest and most effective way to do that is by leafletting and door-knocking.

    Online campaigning has its place and had we had the time we’d have liked to have done more, but I’d argue it’s more suited to a) those already in elected office and wanting to maintain strong channels of contact with their constituents and b) communities which are overwhelmingly online, technologically literate and rarely to be found at home.

    I’d argue that neither of those criteria were really met by East Chesterton and hence the reason for the lack of online campaigning was that it was not an effective way of making contact with residents.

  19. Richard Taylor Article author

    Ed,

    I think we agree that online campaigning is just one of many ways those seeking to get elected have open to them to communicate with electors.

    I think you are grossly underestimating the residents of East Chesterton though if you think they are not “overwhelmingly online, technologically literate”. Both East Chesterton, and Kings Hedges are areas with large populations of smart and engaged individuals; many of those working in the city’s universities and on the science park live in the north of the city.

    If you’re seeking to defend the Labour party’s lack of online engagement by saying the technologically literate aren’t your target voters I think that does more to highlight problems with the Labour party than it does to say anything about the applicability of online campaigning to East Chesterton.

    With a turnout of only 30.5% the resounding winner in East Chesterton was “none of the above”. Mr Manning won with the support of just 12% of those registered to vote. There appear to be many people in the ward who are not impressed by the offering of any of the party members who stood in the election.

    Ed Carlsson Browne is a Labour party activist who has been a the party’s candidate in Romsey.

  20. Ian Manning

    Hi Ed

    Yes, we are continuing with the bus campaign, wrapped up in the wider attenpts to lobby renegotiation of the stagecoach contract (up for renewal soon). Once we have an update I’ll let you know if you like (I can’t see an email for you there, if you email me it I’ll happily keep you up to date).

    I find the posterboard comment a little petty though Ed – it sort of implies that we don’t have support in East Chesterton, which is unfair and incorrect.

    In terms of both your and Richards comments about online versus leafletting, I think you are both mostly right:

    Richard, I don’t know if you have taken part in an election campaign for a party, but leafletting is definitely the most effetcive short term strategy, following that up with online / advertsing if possible. Even with my residents association we regularly have to produce paper leaflets: though far far far less than many other RAs I know of.

    I agree with you Richard that there are large sections of East Chesterton that are “technologically literate”; however there are also many sections which aren’t. One of my promient local community supporters never goes online for example.

  21. Ian Manning

    Richard, in response to this:

    “As it turns out, despite claiming to model himself on prolific twitter Julian Huppert it turns out Ian Manning has not yet tweeted since the election (http://twitter.com/IanGManning), there at least his performance during the campaign was a good indicator of his performance to-date as a councillor.”

    I think you’ll find the correct term is tweeter, but one wouldn’t want to be pedantic.

    You’ll note my comment re: twitter was “If elected, my intention would be, if there is enough interest, to use it in the same way Julian has done, ie to get feedback from the electorate. ”

    Which is different from saying something like “Once I’m elected I’ll update twitter roughly once every five minutes”.

    At the moment I’m only being followed by party activists, so there isn’t anyone to get feedback from.

    Currently I have directed nmost of my energies in attending meetings (2 so far), going through all the relevant pieces of registration I have to sort with the council, and going to see a number of constituents that have written to me. On top of that there is a learning process as both being part of the county group, and a member of county itself.

    Would you rather I do all those things, or tweet about them?

    Further, please could you clarify why you asked how long I have been a lib dem member?

    Could you clarify whether you will add an email alert on replies to your site?

    Finally, I think I understand your opinion why I should vote a certain way, and will take it on board. It will of course, depend on the circumstances surrounding any vote, and the current status of the piece of legislation/order.

  22. Ian Manning

    Ed, sorry one other thing – I’d be grateful if you could let me know where you live (even just a street name) as we didn attempt to distribute the survey across the whole ward.

    What with our party conference being just after the by election we’re still catching up on sifting through all the data – watch this space (well, not *this* space necessarily, but you know what I mean!!).

  23. Ian Manning

    Just clarification on my typo here: “Ed, sorry one other thing – I’d be grateful if you could let me know where you live (even just a street name) as we didn attempt to distribute the survey across the whole ward.”

    Should read “DID” not “didn”!

  24. Phil Rodgers

    Rather belatedly, I note that the original article complains “I scrape the Cambridge City Council news webpages regularly and only obtained a copy of the election announcement on the 26th of August after the nomination period closed on the 19th. I did not notice any publicity surrounding the call for nominations either in the ward, or in the local media. Quite how anyone considering standing would be expected to find out about the by-election I do not know.”

    Here is the press release announcing the by-election on the City Council website, dated 11 August: http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/news-releases/2010/august/by-election-in-east-chesterton.en

    Here is an article from the Cambridge News website about the by-election, dated August 13: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cambridge/Date-set-for-by-election-after-councillor-resigns.htm

    As you may be aware, there is another local by-election coming up on November 4th, this time for a city council seat in Coleridge ward:

    http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/news-releases/2010/september/city-council-by-election-in-coleridge.en

    Nominations close on Friday 8 October.

  25. Richard Taylor Article author

    Mr Manning has written to me to ask why I’ve not responded to this thread.

    I don’t think there’s much need to expressly point out that waiting for followers before starting to tweet isn’t a policy which is going to get anywhere.

    There is a comments RSS feed on every article; these can be used by various online services and bits of software to generate alerts.

    There is no particular reason for wanting to know a when Mr Manning became a Liberal Democrat; though it is interesting to see he became a member after the secret meeting to discuss the Church Street parking / Arbury Park to Riverside cycle route.

  26. Ian Manning

    I would again like to state my question was about email alerts, not about other means. please can you confirm whether you intend to implement this or not?

    If not, please could you provide some clear documentation on how best to follow your site?

    Thank you Richard for recognising my ability to be politically neutral, and the politial neutrailty of the invitees of the not secret meeting. I am glad to see you now recognise it wasn’t secret.

    It was good to meet you at North Area Committee tonight Richard, so I look forward to reading your write up of same.

  27. Richard Taylor Article author

    Mr Manning writes:

    Thank you Richard for recognising my ability to be politically neutral, and the politial neutrailty of the invitees of the not secret meeting. I am glad to see you now recognise it wasn’t secret.

    I’ve not done any of those things.

  28. David Sparks

    @Ian

    If Richard was going to implement email alerts then he surely would have already – this site has been going for some time now.

    I’m sure would not be a *massive* load on the server he uses for this site, but given that he implements feeds throughout and they are a very common way to track changes on sites across the internet, it seems unlikely he’d want to.

    Also, although not a massive load, emailing everyone out whenever there is a change or comments would take up server resources.

    (aside: Richard jump in any time to correct if you wish)

    To use the feeds:
    1. Look above the ’33 comments’ byline in this article.
    2. See the ‘Posted at 12:58 pm. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Post a comment or leave a trackback. ” text?
    3. Then click RSS Feed.
    4. If you don’t know what to do with this, then perhaps try this link to explain “how to use Rss feeds” – http://bit.ly/bkSnKQ
    5. Repeat with any article you want to follow.

    Not so hard really is it?

    Repeating the same question over and over (vis-a-vis emails), especially after having had explained to you that RSS feeds are available, just serves to antagonise. I’m sure you didn’t mean to do that, did you?

    Oh, and this is my first comment on this blog Richard – been following for quite some time, and whilst I don’t agree with a fair bit of what you say generally, and some of the conclusions you make, I find it really useful – so thanks :)

  29. Ian Manning

    David, yes, rss is relatively easy to set up and follow: I’m trying to highlight to Richard that it isn’t easy for everyone.

    In terms of repeating the same question, I am merely subjecting Richard to the same sort of cross examination he (quite correctly) subjects us to, as he didn’t answer my question. If he gets annoyed/upset by it I’m sure he’ll tell me! :)

  30. Dan from Cambridge

    Ian, I’m not sure that anyone would see this as ‘cross examining’ Richard, rather more like ‘trolling’ him. Also – you are now democratically accountable, last time I checked Richard wasn’t.

    And you write (RE Twitter) “At the moment I’m only being followed by party activists,” Richard and I are following you, and I at least resent being called a lib dem party activist ;-)

  31. Edward

    Ian – I’ve actually just moved out of the ward, although whilst I was there I lived fifty yards from a bus stop.

    I asked because your literature appeared to suggest, to my recollection, that you had ALREADY distributed the consultation to 4000 homes. As this is roughly the same number of houses as there are in East Chesterton, I put two and two together and may have got five.

  32. Ian Manning

    Dan: “Ian, I’m not sure that anyone would see this as ‘cross examining’ Richard, rather more like ‘trolling’ him. Also – you are now democratically accountable, last time I checked Richard wasn’t.”

    All the more reason to hold him to account for his views!

  33. John Lawton

    @Ian Manning: “All the more reason to hold him to account for his views!”

    Please explain to me why should this be? Richard is certainly able to influence by publishing his and others opinions, but you are in a position in the administration to actually effect change. Which is more important and which of you should be held accountable to the public?

  34. Ian Manning

    John, my point is that there is a clear, democratic process for holding me to account – ie the electoral system. I am also accountable in a number of other ways (Local Government Ombudsman, not to mention the plethora of laws/guidelines covering members code of conduct, as well as those giverning political parties).

    This process and it’s safeguards do not apply to richard, and therefore it is all the more important that his output is monitored, esp given his recent actions in videoing meetings and putting them on youtube.

    I note that Richard himself hasn’t contacted me to say he regards my responses on his site as inappropriate or otherwise negative. Debate should be encouraged (which Richard does d for the most part) not supressed!

  35. John Lawton

    I don’t see that the electoral process achieves what you say at all, which is to hold you to account, it is quite inadequate for that. What percentage of the electorate voted for you?

    I recall the maxim ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time’,

    This means you can get elected, you just need to fool the majority of voters. No personal implication here.. My point is that Richard is not in Government, and you are.

    IMO, what I call democracy is not about elections, it is much more than that, and we don’t have enough of it in this country. Richard does a great service for democracy by opening up the machinations of government to scrutiny. He gives his views, which are intelligently thought out, and which you have the opportunity to respond to. He also gets results. Ian, we will see how well you do in government!

  36. Ian Manning

    It is simple, if people don’t vote for me, or vote more for someone else, I don’t get elected.

    “He also gets results. Ian, we will see how well you do in government!”

    Thanks – but I’m not quite far down that road yet!

    If you want results, I’d be happy to keep you up to date – just email me at manning dot ian at gmail dot com and I’ll detail what I have already achieved.

  37. John Lawton

    Ian, thanks for the offer using email, but I would have thought a Blog would be better suited for news. You can also tell us here if the issue you are involved with crops up!

  38. Dan Ratcliffe

    Though I have to admit to being partisan to some extent, and also not dismissive of some of the more worrying reports I hear about Richard, at the end of the day – come on! I can’t believe there is any elected official posting on Richard’s blog complaining about what he does in this manner. When I have spoken to Lib Dem council exec members, not to mention party agents for many parties and elections, I hear ridiculous stories.

    I assume the only reason I hear them in private is because they can’t prove any of them and wouldn’t dare accuse Richard on his own site – where he could quite rightly take them to court for their accusations.

    Richard, nothing personal, I do find it odd that you are so interested in local democracy. However, I also find it refreshing and honestly feel you provide a service. The Lib Dem exec and their supporters (I am referring specifically to Lil Speed here, and am happy to retract that comment if Lil will comment on the record that she has no links to or support for the ConDems) are terrified of local democracy being filmed. Any citizen should be asking serious questions about a Lib Dem council – supposedly the guardians of civil liberties and open government – terrified of being observed by the public. Lets be honest, the Cambridge Lib Dems are lazy and arrogant, and the only reason they’re opposed to you, Richard, publicising their discussions is based on their self-awareness when it comes to the banality of their contribution to public life in Cambridge.

  39. Edward

    Lil Speed was featured in Lib Dem literature for the East Chesterton by-election, and I’m reliably informed she was also telling on the day, so I think it’s fair to say she’s currently a supporter of them.

    As regards the main point, I don’t really see why Richard needs to be held accountable. He holds no position of responsibility. He runs a blog that seems to be read mostly by people nearly as obsessed about local government as he is, and many of us are political activists with fairly strong views on particular issues already. He’s not influencing thousands with factually false arguments, so I don’t see the need for accountability.

    Especially as it’s a personal blog, putting forward his own particular views. Unless he states something untrue or libellous there is nobody he needs to be accountable to but himself. Everybody else will keep reading as long as they feel it’s worthwhile to do so, and that’s no bad form of accountability.

  40. Ian Manning

    Dan:

    “Lets be honest, the Cambridge Lib Dems are lazy and arrogant, and the only reason they’re opposed to you, Richard, publicising their discussions is based on their self-awareness when it comes to the banality of their contribution to public life in Cambridge.”

    This is just offensive, and I’m surprised you post it based on your earlier comments which (although I don’t agree with all of them) seem rational and well argued. :(

  41. Dan from Cambridge

    Hi Ian, just to clarify

    (me : following you on Twitter) != (is not) Dan Ratcliffe

    I have no beef with the lib dems compared with anyone else – I’m a political inactivist, it’s Cambridge that I care about!

    Dan

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