Monday, 30 November 2015

Windsor and Maidenhead Combined Christmas Social





Both Windsor and Maidenhead Constituency Labour Parties will be having their Christmas Social together at Saint Lukes Church Hall, Maidenhead on Saturday the 5th December at 8pm. 
It will be a good opportunity to chew over the events of a very busy year, meet new members and chat about our plans for next year but it's ok if you just want to eat, drink and be merry too!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Queen's Speech - Liberal Conservatives cover your ears

Imagine that you heard that a left-wing South American government had announced the following plans:
I'm sure my Conservative friends would be talking ruefully of the perils of socialist dictators.

Except that these policies, ladies and gentlemen, are the highlights from today's Queen's Speech. A dark day indeed for the Conservative party's more liberal and libertarian members.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

We need a positive case for the EU

The Labour Party now supports an EU referendum. It's perhaps symbolically important, but is effectively a pointless position: the referendum will happen as the Conservatives have a majority and it was a manifesto commitment. The task now is to build the case for continued membership.

There are legitimate complaints about the EU that need to be aired and recognised (although I would not consider protection of human rights and freedom of movement among them).

  • As with any bureaucracy, it likes to increasingly creep in to areas where it previously had no mandate. When it meets a new issue its first instinct is to standardise and harmonise. It rarely follows the principle of subsidiarity, and  gives little thought to individual country preferences and cultures (see the 2013 olive oil shenanigans for an example). 
  • The EU also has an insidious drive towards making us Europeans first, and national citizens second. National borders are often an arbitrary construct, but a shared sense of identity is important for communities, and institutions should not be trying to artificially shape that - particularly when they have such an obvious self-interest in doing so. 
  • As an example, the pan-European research programme (current iteration is FP7) is more about fostering cross-border collaboration as part of being 'Europeans' than it is about research excellence or economic growth.
  • The Common Agricultural Policy, despite reform, still exists, and continues to interfere in the global food production market to the detriment of third world farmers. 
  • The EU's civil servants and MEPs are paid way too much, and there are too many of them - the growth of the bureaucracy and political elite has been extraordinary. There are also too many directorates - 27, one for each member to be head of (literally). 27 cabinet members is too many, particularly given the obvious overlap between the areas of responsibility. 
  • Having to relocate the entire Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg every month is mind-numbingly stupid - an example of Conquest's Third Law
However, the EU adds a lot of value. 
  • As a trading block it is critically important - and it is naive to think we could still influence the shape of that without being members of the club. 
  • Things I know about, like telecoms, benefit from EU involvement - roaming charges, for example, can only be dealt with at an EU level. 
  • It provides protection for human rights against the actions of/abuse by government. Those that complain about the HRA and ECHR would probably end up complaining about any British Bill of Rights too, once judges began to interpret it - they just don't like the limit that inalienable human rights place on the actions of government. (Repudiation of the ECHR is also a very complex issue.) 
  • Freedom of movement provides tremendous value through the contribution of migrant workers to the economy.

The EU needs to move back towards its trading block roots, and be less about consumer protection, welfare, and other social issues. These should be the realm of domestic governments. Its budget needs to start shrinking, and our MEPs and European Parliament need to cost us less.

However, although it needs reform, the EU is not broken such that it does the UK more harm than good. The easy thing to do is to wash our hands of it. The right thing to do is to drive reform of it.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Labour needs a real choice - Burnham v Cooper is not that

Reports today that both Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have the backing of over 100 MPs are rather concerning for ordinary Labour Party members. The members need to have a choice, and that should include MPs with no link to the previous government. Burnham v Cooper does not provide that.

Unite also need to think about their approach. They wield significant influence but are at risk of overplaying their hand. Having a party leader that does their bidding is short-sighted. They can have full influence over a party leader that will never be Prime Minister, or some but limited influence with the party of a future Prime Minister.

100% of nothing is still nothing, after all.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Perhaps next time it should be 'Peter ASHEARMAN'

Actually, standing in Eton Wick, this matters a bit less - it's a single seat ward with therefore significantly fewer candidates than other wards in Windsor and Maidenhead. Nevertheless, the recent local election results highlight how alphabetical listing impacts vote share.

I have analysed the RBWM results for those parties without incumbent councillors, who have a name recognition value, and found that out of 63 votes where more than one candidate for a party was on the ballot, on 50 occasions those higher up the ballot secured more votes. Furthermore, on average:

  • The first candidate on the list received 13% more votes than the second;
  • The second candidate on the list received 14% more votes than the third;
  • The first candidate received 27% more votes than the third on the list.

This is not a new phenomenon.


In future elections RBWM, and all other local authorities for that matter, should implement randomised ordering on ballots to address this bias.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Black Spider lobbyist

Clarence House has said that today's publication of Prince Charles' letters to ministers would 'only inhibit' the prince's ability to express his thoughts in the future.

As a parliamentary democracy with a ceremonial monarch, we can only hope.

Javid opens with an attack on workers' rights

An interesting approach to being on the side of working people - Sajid Javid's first act as Business Secretary is to make strike action affecting key public services more difficult, by requiring 40% of eligible union members to vote in favour.

Unions need to change, and often have a legitimacy gap when balloting over strike action. However, 40% is a ridiculously high bar to be set (ignoring whether a bar should be set at all, which I feel it should not).

As a comparison, I have just analysed 42 constituencies where Conservatives won last week (all those beginning with A or B, so Aberconwy through to Bury St Edmonds). Of those 42, just 4 had 40% or more of their electorate vote for the winning MP - less than 10%.

Given that these MPs are likely to seriously affect key public services, I look forward to 38 of them standing down at the earliest opportunity and contesting by-elections until they achieve the 40% threshold needed for legitimacy.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Is the case for electoral reform now unanswerable?

Unfortunately this is a QTWTAIN (Question To Which The Answer Is No, for those who aren't John Rentoul readers). However, as with the presence of the SDP in the 80s and the Lib Dems through the 90s and 00s, there is again a legitimacy gap between the intention of voters and the make-up of our Parliament.

Janan Ganesh in the FT (a former university classmate of this writer) makes an important point (part paywall) when he says that we do not yet know what the electorate meant with the General Election result. I would go further. I think it is impossible to know what any electorate really means as long as First-Past-The-Post is the voting system.

We in Labour are as guilty as the rest when we rely on tactical calls in specific constituencies. 'Can't win here' leaflets are a regular campaign feature, telling people to not waste their vote on those they actually want to see returned to Parliament. 

These calls work. A Green-supporting friend of mine voted for them for the first time this election. He was bored of forever compromising with his vote, only to see his mis-cast cross claimed as a 'mandate from the people'.

My issue is this: no clear or obvious mandate can exist when so many are already casting second or third preference votes. Politicians cannot both ask people to negate their first choice in favour of influencing the outcome, and then claim this vote as proof of their true belief. There may well be a majority in favour of conservatism - particularly if Conservative and UKIP vote shares are added - but this electoral system will never tell us. An electoral system that encourages people not to reveal their true preference will always lack legitimacy.

Furthermore, this barrier to entry to new parties prevents the one thing - competition - that would actually provide a feedback loop to the two national parties. They will never truly change, as they are institutionally protected in their electoral duopoly.

The constituency-MP link is important, and this can be retained with, for example, AMS, STV, or AV+. However, I would make a further point. I am a Labour Party member (and unsuccessful council candidate) in Windsor. My MP is a Conservative, Adam Afriyie. I do not feel represented by him. Indeed, in three sentences when we met for the first time last Thursday (outside the Eton Wick polling station) he was deliberately antagonistic towards me as the Labour Party candidate. I would not trust him with a sensitive issue, and this is not unreasonable for those involved in street-level politics. 

It would be better to have a choice of representative, perhaps from a multi-member constituency, so that I may choose a politician that I feel comfortable with representing me. The vast majority of MPs, lest we forget, are elected by a minority of their constituents. They may say they will represent all, but that does not mean that all would wish to be so represented.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

GENERAL ELECTION RESULT 2015



Some good news in a difficult result Nationally.

In WINDSOR Fiona Dent won second place in the General Election: The first time ever that a Labour Candidate came second in this constituency!

Tories came first, UKIP third, LibDems fourth and Greens fifth.

Well done to the whole Labour team!
More importantly....
THANK YOU to all the people of Windsor who put their trust in Fiona.
We will continue to champion your interests and to fight for fairness across Windsor.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

LABOUR CANDIDATES FOR ROYAL BOROUGH OF WINDSOR & MAIDENHEAD COUNCIL: To see OUR MANIFESTO, scroll down.

CANDIDATES FOR ROYAL BOROUGH OF WINDSOR AND MAIDENHEAD COUNCIL:



Laura Binnie - PARK WARD.  
I am married with three children and work as a Geoscience Technologist for an International Oil Company. I help out at my local church and enjoy walking my dog in Windsor's beautiful Great Park. I strongly believe that Labour are the only party that can protect and improve the NHS. 




Peter Shearman: Eton Wick.


A local resident, I moved to Eton Wick in 2012 with my wife and two young children.

I believe communities are best served when they are represented by one of their own. I'm standing for the Labour Party at it is the only party that can make our care services and professionals feel valued and respected for the extraordinary work they do.




Yvonne Olney : CASTLE WITHOUT. 
I am married with 2 grown up children and work for an energy company as a Finance Manager. I love running  and am currently training for the London Marathon.  The Labour party is the only party to have a clear commitment to banning zero hour contracts.




Fiona Dent: CASTLE WITHOUT.

My career to date has been spent in running cutting edge initiatives for Central Government and ensuring good quality local public services to improve our quality of life. If elected I will hold the Council Leadership to account and make sure that Castle Without residents have a clear voice and influence in Council decisions.
For my Parliamentary website please go to
www.fionadentlabour.com 




Michelle Boundy: CASTLE WITHOUT.

I believe getting a fair deal in your money matters is a basic right - without this, people cannot feel included in their community. I have a long history of working with credit unions and I currently work for the financial ombudsman service. I am standing as a Labour party candidate because I believe they are the only party working to create a society that's fair for everyone.



Tony Mathews: Clewer North

Tony Matthews – I am a retired BBC-TV Producer. Have lived in Windsor since 1964. Until April 2014 I was Chair and founder Trustee of Windsor & Maidenhead Crossroads (Caring for Carers) for 22 years Now I’m a writer and beekeeper. I have written several plays about Windsor’s local history, performed by local people




Spike Humphrey: SUNNINGHILL & SOUTH ASCOT.


I moved to Sunninghill and then Ascot with my family 9 years ago, brought here by my work as a marketing manager.
I am keenly involved in the local community, in several areas including as a Parent Governor at Charters School, a Parish Councillor, a ‘virtual’ member of my local GP’s patient participation group, and I represent all the Windsor parishes on the Royal Borough’s Crime & Disorder overview & scrutiny panel.  I’m a leading member of the Save Heatherwood Hospital campaign (which succeeded in saving the hospital, and is now continuing to campaign for the right services to be provided there) and part of the team which promoted a Yes vote in the Neighbourhood Plan referendum – achieving 91% in favour.
As an economist by training, I am concerned about the cynical way in which the Coalition has returned to the bad old days of manipulating the economy.  They apparently aimed to generate a ‘feel good factor’ just in time for the general election, but the basis for the economic growth is very shallow indeed, and is the exact opposite of a long term plan which they claim to have.  More locally, I see a similar electioneering cynicism by current councillors, who claim to be cutting out ‘waste’ – but are actually cutting out the people who do the work, and so degrading the services we all rely on.




Jenny Ward: Datchet

Jenny is a long term resident of Datchet and is now retired. In the past, she worked locally for an international magazine and for the NHS. She has served as a school governor and is a member of Unison. Currently, she is the Chair of the Windsor Consituency Labour Party.




Peter Ward: Horton and Wraysbury

Peter has lived in the locality for many years and has been a member of the Labour Party for over 30 years. He works for the NHS and is a member of Unison.



Janet Campbell - Clewer East
Janet is married to David and has lived in Windsor since 2014. She is originally from a large family in Northampton. Her interests are reading, embroidery, cooking and socialising. She joined the Labour Party to help the poor and unemployed, end unfair sanctions on people looking for work, protect the NHS from privatisation and to end the bedroom tax.



Anne Brindle - Sunningdale
I am a former journalist who is married and has lived in Sunningdale for eight years. I now work in a local library and passionately believe that having access to good local services is vital to creating a strong and fair community for everyone.

Roy Reeves - Old Windsor
Roy is recently retired but was gardner to the Queen for very many years. He was also a GMB representative through his working life.

Ahamed Mashood - Old Windsor
Mulle Price - Clewer South
Mark Olney - Ascot and Cheapside
Biographies and photos of these candidates will be uploaded shortly


LOCAL LABOUR MANIFESTO RBWM

FAIR TREATMENT FOR THE VULNERABLE AND THE PEOPLE WHO CARE FOR THEM: Labour will make Children’s Services and Adult Services fit for purpose.

HOUSING:
We commit to the building of affordable rented housing which will be owned and run by the council for the people of the Royal Borough.  Local residents will be given first priority in the allocation of these new homes.

APPRENTICESHIPS/HIGHER EDUCATION:
Labour will work with RBWM’s Further Education colleges and local employers to significantly raise the numer of of quality apprenticeships for local people. We will also look for ways to support local people as they go through Further Education.

BUSINESS RATES: 
We will apply fairer business rates for local businesses.

TRANSPORT: 
We will support the development of more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly transport systems.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Another tax cut for the wealthy

The Conservatives are once again displaying their party-of-the-rich credentials. Only a few days removed from defending the hereditary principle for non-doms, the Prime Minster has now committed £1bn for an inheritance tax cut for 10% of estates.

This is the government that scrapped Child Trust Funds, closed SureStart centres, and cut child benefit, while slashing the top rate of tax for high earners, giving wealthy pensioners a state handout through Pensioner Bonds, and now promising £1bn for an inheritance tax cut for children of the asset-rich. Their priorities are clear. The wealthy get state backing and handouts, the poor get cuts and labels.

The next time you hear the Prime Minister talk about creating a fair society for future generations, think of his record, and ask whether his actions represent the type of 'fairness' you want for the country.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Take from the young, give to the elderly - good politics, but terrible leadership

The Prime Minister is continuing his elderly voter giveaway ahead of the election. This may be good politics, but it is terrible leadership. The UK should expect more from its Prime Minster than simple Tammany Hall politics.

I've previously blogged about Osborne's pensioner giveaway, signing us up to £500m more in interest payments on our national debt than the market required. This was in effect paid for by scrapping Child Trust Funds. Money taken away from the young, and given to the elderly.

Now we have a commitment to no means testing of pensioner benefits. So the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, and TV licences will continue to be funded for those on final salary pension schemes, with a Jag in the driveway and a Sky Sports subscription.

For comparison, this is the government that scrapped the means-tested Education Maintenance Allowance for those aged 16-19, introduced a decidedly cack-handed means testing of child benefit, and withdrew funding from SureStart.

Many commentators suggest that policy choices such as this reflect the fact that the elderly turn out to vote and the young do not. Many even fawningly applaud the leaders for smart 'politics'. However, many of the young people affected by cuts cannot vote. They are the under 18s, and they need leaders to have a view beyond the next election cycle.

This is why it is terrible leadership. It is pandering to those that can vote, at the expense of those who cannot. 

The young need political leaders to stand up for them, protect them, and invest in their future. They are not enfranchised to do this themselves. Cameron and Osborne have instead decided that power itself is more important than what you do with it, and are mortgaging their future to buy off voting pensioners this May.

I'm reminded of a Mr Burns quote from the Simpsons, at a time when there was a power shortage in Springfield,
"We've syphoned extra power off from the orphanage. Who are they going to complain to? Their parents?"

Monday, 16 February 2015

Windsor Labour Annual General Meeting 19-2-2015 8pm

Labour Party Members are warmly invited to the Windsor Labour Annual General Meeting on Thursday 19th February 2015. 
It will be held at Clewer Lodge, Mill lane, Windsor SL4 5JG at 8pm 


DIRECTIONS:
Drive into Mill lane, passing the Swan Pub on your left.
200 meters further on you will see a small Church like building on your right, that is Clewer Lodge.


As usual the AGM business will be concluded in an efficient and timely way then we will move on to discussing the election campaigns and other exciting developments!


Sunday, 25 January 2015

PEOPLE'S MARCH TO SUPPORT THE NHS


COME AND JOIN OUR ‘PEOPLE’S MARCH’ TO SUPPORT NHS STAFF ON 29TH JANUARY 2015
SUSPENDED
DO NOT GO TO HEATHERWOOD HOSPITAL ON THURSDAY



On the Thursday 29th January 2015 many NHS staff will be striking, they are simply asking for a small payrise to help them pay the bills and to stop their colleagues leaving nursing and other health professions to go to better paid, less stressful jobs.

I support the NHS and believe that the staff should be paid better than they are; so to support the staff I will be marching from Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot to King Edwards Hospital in Windsor on the morning of the 29th. A distance of just over 6 miles.

You don’t have to be a walker to support ‘The People’s March:’ You can come along to Heatherwood Hospital simply to take part in the rally at 9am or you could join at King Edwards Hospital to welcome us there, we expect to arrive at 12 noon.  

The route follows a main road that runs right through the heart of beautiful Windsor Great Park and it will be mostly down hill. The views are lovely as you walk over the brow of the hill and look down over the park and Windsor and lots of passing traffice will see us.

9am: Meet at 9am at Heatherwood Hospital: If you are arriving by train, The hospital is a 20 minute walk from Ascot Station on the Reading/Waterloo line. Please allow time for this. MAP. 

9am to 9.30am: Opportunity to display banners and flags, press photos etc. I will be there but please congregate on the pavement outside the entrance where passing traffic can see you and make sure pedestrians can pass if they need to. 

9.20 am: Rally and speech at Heatherwood in support of NHS staff.

9.30am: Start the march; we will follow the main road for 6 miles down to Windsor and King Edwards Hospital. MAP.

12 - 12.30  We will be met by UNISON pickets and will rally in support of NHS staff. Some people may leave us here but others may join.

All being well we will march through the town ending at the Mainline Windsor and Eton station on the Reading/Waterloo line. MAP. Brief rally to thank everybody at our stop point then we will disband.  

If you let me know you are coming I will try to provide a high visability waistcoat for you. Wear trainers or your favourite walking shoes or boots. We are planning to walk on concrete and short grass so comfort is more important than high tech’ boots. Plenty of warm layers and a rain proof layer just in case! A small day back pack is a good idea for your spare layers/gloves/chocolate etc.

Thames Valley Police are aware of the march and want us to keep ourselves as safe as possible. We will walk 2 abreast for the march and those who want to, can carry banners or flags. About half the route has a pavement and half not: On the section that has no pavement we will still walk 2 abreast but one will be on the grass verge and one right on the edge of the road facing the oncoming traffic on the right hand side (so that we can see the cars that pass closest to us). High vis’ jackets and banners will make us very visible to traffic. I have checked the route and this is the best option.

There is nothing like a bit of positive action and a walk in the park to boost our morale as we get going on the 2015 campaign to save the NHS from underfunding, from break up and from privatisation. Please support me with this day of action; for more info and offers of support my email is fionadentlabour@btinternet.com  Remember you don’t have to be a Labour supporter to come long and support your NHS staff: you can keep track of my campaigning at www.facebook.com/fionadentlabour and www.fionadentlabour.com My number is 07824953354 if pickets, supporters or press want to contact me. Also I will be contacting the press separately. HOPE TO SEE YOU ON THE 29TH!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Osborne's pensioner giveaway, paid for by the children of the UK

Over the weekend George Osborne celebrated the initial success of his Pensioner Bond giveaway. Over 10% of the £10bn allocation for the bond, which returns 4% p.a. over three years, has already been taken up. But while this may be clever electoral politics, it is a bad policy by any other measure.

This is a redistributive policy that gives money to wealthy pensioners, paid for by the rest of us in the form of above-market debt interest payments. That cost is estimated at £300m a year more interest than if we had borrowed £10bn from the gilt market. The hypocrisy of this from a Chancellor committed to cutting the deficit is clear for all to see - even the Taxpayers Alliance have lined up to criticise the policy.

For a comparison, one of the coalition’s first acts was to scrap Labour’s Child Trust Funds. These funds were given to a parent on behalf of every child at birth, maturing on the child’s 18th birthday. They were modest, but intended to encourage saving by the family for the child’s future.

Scrapping these funds saved £320m a year in 2010 and 2011.

In effect the coalition took money away from every child in this country, including the most deprived, and redistributed it to wealthy pensioners in a pre-Election giveaway.

Another insight into the Conservative’s priorities for this country.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Local Council fails the electorate.


On the first working day of the new year I phoned RBWM to ask how many registered electors there are in Windsor and they were clearly in the midst of working frenetically to solve their problems with the switch over to the new system.
I felt sorry for the staff I spoke to but I am worried that many people, particularly young adults, will lose their vote in this fiasco.
Fiona Dent
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Windsor Constituency.

Here the Windsor Express takes up the story.
CLICK on the article.