Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Catching Up & More LibDem Hypocrisy

Apologies for the fact that I haven't posted anything for a few days. No excuses. Here goes for a quick catch up.

SUNDAY: Spoke at Cromer Conservative do at lunchtime. Good event. Nice people, including a very nice young blonde lady who wants to stand for the Council. I'm delighted we are getting so many more young people involved.

MONDAY: A day at work.

TUESDAY: A day in London. Morning with the accountant, lunch at the Conservative Womens' Conference, afternoon at the dentist, evening at the Conservative History Group. Funny thing happened at the dentist. I told her I was now a Conservative Candidate and lived in a little village that no one outside North Norfolk has heard of. The dental assistant asked what is was called, so I said 'Swanton Abbott'. Turned out she went to school there as a child. Small world.

TODAY: Another day at work. Sent out a press release today on yet another example of LibDem hypocrisy on the Council. It is the policy of the LibDem controlled Council to transfer Council Houses to the tenants after a vote. Last week LibDem Holt District Councillor Ron Stone (Holt) was pictured handing a petition to Norman
Lamb calling for his own District Council to face a Judicial Review over
the transfer of Council homes to their tenants. Norman Lamb was pictured
accepting the petition.

Today in the House of Commons LibDem Party Chairman Simon Hughes made
clear that the Liberal Democrats national policy is to oppose such
transfers. His comments came in a question to the Prime Minister at
Question Time.

I said in my release: "I have today written to Norman Lamb asking for his
views on the transfer. Does he support his own local Party who want to
transfer the houses, or does he accept LibDem national policy which is
to oppose such transfers, and if so, is he going to support Councillor
Stone's petition? Mr Lamb is used to straddling both sides of a fence.
Perhaps he would like to tell the people of North Norfolk which side he
is going to come down on. People are fed up with politicians who try to
be all things to all men."

TOMORROW: A day in Cromer.


Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

I hope you will forgive me for checking, but you are have a bit of a record of not getting basic facts right before you make pronouncements. This is what Simon Hughes said yesterday, direct from Hansard:

"Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD): The Prime Minister often, and rightly, stresses the importance of giving choice to people in their use of public services. Why then does he not accept Labour party policy and the views of thousands of people among the 2.5 million council tenants in England, including nearly 50,000 in my borough, who want to remain as council tenants yet still have the same right to investment in decent homes as people whose homes are transferred to other management, private finance, or alternative management systems?"

Clearly, this bears no similarity to the views you ascribe to Mr Hughes in your post. He is clearly not saying he opposes transfers but that the financial incentives should not be skewed in favour of transfers (as it hits residents like his constituents who decide against stock transfer).

As I understand Lib Dem policy (and I think it may be Conservative policy too but you are best placed to comment) it is that tenants should have the right to choose whether or not to transfer stock out of local authority control, but that there is no need to skew the decision with financial incentives.

The District Council can hardly be blamed for putting the choice to residents, and residents can hardly be blamed for voting for transfer.

As I understand it from the EDP articles, Ron Stone is personally against the particular stock transfer in North Norfolk because he has suspicions that council officers (rather than his fellow councillors) have mislead the council on the value of the stock. Norman Lamb has, I understand, pushed the council officers to explain the basis for the valuation in the light of constituents' concerns (in the form of Ron Stone's petition).

I would have thought this is entirely appropriate for an MP faced with a dispute between residents and council officers - raising the concerns and pushing for answers and evidence. What would you have done in the circumstances? Ignore the residents' concerns or accuse the council officers without clear evidence? The logic of your position impels you to do one or the other - and neither is sensible.

The issue of whether or not council officers misled the public has no bearing whatsoever on national policy and presumably Norman Lamb supports his party's policy (which seems a sensible policy to me and may even be in line with your own).

Your press release, Iain, is absolutely disgraceful. It misrepresents Simon Hughes' comments, misrepresents Norman Lamb's views and misrepresents Ron Stone's position. Whether this is by design to mislead the electorate or whether it is merely another example of failing to check your facts is not for me to say.

Iain Dale said...

What a load of absolute tripe. I heard what Simon Hughes said and it was diametrically opposed to what the LibDem Council is doing. You know that. I know that. So is Ron Stone. All I am asking is, what are the views of our MP?

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure what James in on about. I've now read the Hansard extract and both Tory and LibDem policies. It seems Iain Dale has a good point here. I know James that you try to defend the Libs at all costs, but I think you're trying to stretch it a bit far here.

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

I disagree, Anonymous. I am defending the Libs, certainly, but I think Iain should be clearer about what his point is and should make it without misrepresenting others.

What Simon Hughes said, as you will know having read Hansard, is exactly as I quoted above (nothing more, nothing less).

Let's go through this simply:

1. Simon Hughes says financial incentives should not be skewed artificially to get tenants to support stock transfers. This is harming his constituents as they have voted against transfer. He does not say, as Iain alleges, that he opposes all stock transfers.

2. Lib Dem policy (an I think Conservative policy too - interestingly, Iain doesn't feel the need to get off his own fence by confirming this) is to allow tenants to vote on stock transfer but not to skew the decision artificially in favour of a "yes" vote. Plainly, the appropriate decision may vary from district to district (based on local preference, the age, condition and quantity of stock and so on). Incidentally, it is hard to imagine two areas where local circumstances are more different than inner-city Southwark and rural North Norfolk. I do not know whether Norman Lamb (or Iain) expressed a view either way on the decision North Norfolk tenants should take - I would not blame either of them for failing to do so as I suspect neither is a council tenant.

3. Iain gives absolutely no evidence that either Simon Hughes or Norman Lamb depart from Lib Dem policy. He merely offers insinuation and groundless assertion dressed up as fact. There is nothing in Simon Hughes' comments nor in Norman Lamb's accepting a petition that suggests otherwise. It takes a fanciful imaginative leap to believe, as Iain apparently does, that there is.

4. Ron Stone's concern is an entirely separate one. He believes that council officers are not getting a fair price for the stock, are misleading the public and short-changing taxpayers.

5. Norman Lamb is right to listen to Ron Stone's concerns (and those of other residents) about the actions of council officers. He is also right to invite council officers to explain their position before judging whether the criticisms have any validity. Iain doesn't say whether he thinks Norman Lamb is right or wrong on this - again it is Iain sitting on his own fence.

6. Regardless of whether Ron Stone's concerns are justified, it has nothing to do with national party policy. If the council officers have misled people that is plainly wrong and serious accusations like that need to be investigated - surely everyone agrees on that point. It would also call into serious question whether the vote on stock transfer was valid. But how on earth does that have anything to do with a national policy on letting tenants decide whether to transfer stock? Iain does not appear to feel the need to explain the link.

I obviously cannot speak for Norman Lamb, but from all I have seen his position is clear: Stock transfer decisions should be made by tenants votes in the context of a level financial playing field. Tenants may decide differently in different localities and there is nothing wrong with that. If the vote in North Norfolk was valid, the transfer should go ahead. If Ron Stone's concerns are correct, however, the vote was based on seriously inaccurate information and is of questionable validity. Such accusations should be investigated thoroughly - but if they are not in fact justified the vote should stand. All crystal clear with no fences being sat on. I wonder whether Iain agrees with this approach or not - perhaps he would like to get off the fence.

Iain Dale said...

Methinks he doth protest too much. I'm on the fence am I? Ha ha. James, you do make me laugh sometimes.

Anonymous said...

If you're not on the fence, Iain ...

Are you for or against the transfer?

Do you agree or disagree that Labour are stacking the system in favour of a sell-off?

Do you think politicians should always toe the national party line regardless of local circumstances?