Lord Ashcroft tried to buy victory for the Tories

Anyone who has seen the news over the past 24 hours cannot have missed the uproar surrounding Lord Ashcroft’s donations to the Conservative Party and the fact that he lives abroad and pays no tax on his UK business interests.

The following quote on why he became a Conservative donor says it all, Ashcroft says that, ‘it was because of my admiration for the policies of Margaret Thatcher.’

We in Blackburn remember the policies of Margaret Thatcher very well – high unemployment and lack of investment – all of which saw our town stagnate during the 1980s.

Lord Ashcroft has since ploughed £5 million into the Tory Party.  Effectively helping them to try and buy victory in many marginal seats such as Rossendale and Darwen.

I think it’s about time we brought in a cap on donations – otherwise how can we possibly have fair politics.  The current situation is effectively allowing a politics of ‘he/she who shouts loudest wins because he’s/she’s got the most money’.

And where does Mr Cameron, the Conservative Leader stand on this issue? – no comment – even though one of his former Tory colleagues, Sir Anthony Grant has said,  “We want to detach ourselves from this notion that people only have to give money and then they can waltz into what is, after all, part of the legislature.”

The Tories are quite simply insulting the intelligence of the voters.  Is this the kind of Party you think is fit to run the Country? I don’t think so!

Pratt’s cynical response to Brown bullying allegations

Am I the only one who can see this through Christine Pratt’s cynical comments on the Gordon Brown bullying allegations? I suspect not.

No one condones bullying of any form and if there have been any cases at Number 10 then these should be investigated. However Mrs Pratt’s outburst appears very conveniently timed given the Conservative Party’s increasing inability to persuade voters to leave Labour.

With the gap in the polls down to 6% on Sunday 21st February it is clear that people are now thinking more seriously about who is most fit to run the country. Gordon Brown’s efforts on the economy have been widely backed – even unemployment has failed to climb as high as predicted (remember that in each of the last two recessions – both under the Tories – unemployment rose to over 3 million).

So lo and behold as the Tories fail to win the political argument they come along with the usual character assassination stuff! Remember the ‘demon eyes’ campaign against Blair in 1997 – yes, we’ve been here before.

The Patrons of Christine Pratt’s charity are former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe and current Tory Councillor Mary O’Connor. It has been stated that a number of Conservative MPs have called Mrs Pratt offering their support. All sounds a bit too suspicious to me.

Professor Cary Cooper who was on the Board of the National Bullying Helpline has resigned following Mrs Pratt’s comments. This eminent academic is clear that in naming the employer involved in the allegations a confidentiality has been breached.

I think it’s time we had some proper debate about the issues that really matter!

The moment we flinch from confronting BNP lies is the moment they have won

Jack Straw has caused a little controversy and certainly a great deal of attention for his decision to appear on tonight’s Question Time, which will also feature Nick Griffin.

I for one support Jack’s decision wholeheartedly. The British National Party need to be challenged. From the same ideological cesspit as the Nazis and the National Front, the BNP are no different from any other far-right organisation and have spent the last few years peddling fear and racial hatred and encouraging ideas that peoples are different and unequal.

These parties have always had a clear tactic – exploit an unhappiness or wrong in society and then find a racial scapegoat. In the 1920s and 30s Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s depression and poverty. Today the BNP have found a new scapegoat – the Muslim community. They prey on deprived areas where unemployment is high, and say “it’s their fault – they are taking your jobs and money”. Yet the evidence does not back this up. The moment we flinch from confronting the lies told by the BNP is the moment they have won.

Blackburn Labour Party have never been frightened of standing up to far-right thugs. As a councillor I represent Mill Hill ward, where the BNP secured their first – and hopefully last – victory on Blackburn with Darwen Council. Did we run away? No. We argued back on the doorstep, in the pubs and in the public meetings. And now we’ve forced them out.

Jack Straw himself has always been at the forefront when it comes to standing up to Nazis and tackling the lies they have told. He is the only Member of Parliament who holds regular open air meetings in the town centre, where any member of the public can question him on any issue – no matter how unpleasant or controversial. And Jack has been there in the communities where the BNP have tried to cause division.

Nationally the BNP are getting too much of a free run to say what they want and behave like some kind of oppressed group. The people of Mill Hill soon worked out that the BNP had no answers to today’s social and economic problems. With persistent challenge to them nationally we will get that message across and make sure that they are never elected to the European Parliament (or any other body for that matter) again.

I back Jack Straw for his decision to go on Question Time tonight. It’s time for Labour to take the fight to Griffin and the BNP!

Radio 4 attend latest town centre meeting with Jack Straw

There was a great turnout at Jack Straw’s latest “shoutabout” meeting on King William Street today. Some really interesting questions from shoppers, which was excellent as Radio 4’s Paddy O’Connell was there recording a piece for Broadcasting House. You can catch the programme at 9:00am tomorrow morning – or later on BBC iPlayer if you fancy a lie in.

The open air meeting followed on from a really productive campaign planning session, where we fleshed out plenty of new ideas for the coming general and local election campaigns. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with what we’re doing over the next few months – so watch this space!

Does Michael Law-Riding know anything about Blackburn?

Griffin Park School: not a Grade II listed Victorian mansion!

You’ve got to laugh sometimes when you’re at the Council meeting. The answers that members of the ruling coalition give to those tabled by Labour members vary from complete avoidance to the utterly bizarre. More than once I’ve been on the end of Exec members trying to dodge questions – usually Salim Lorgat, Executive Member for Housing; however, last week’s meeting beats them all.

Under the report for Culture, Leisure and Sport like my fellow ward Councillors in Mill Hill, Malcolm Doherty and Jim Smith, I was keen to comment on the success of last years’ Mill Hill Festival and how many people believe that Arts in the Park should be brought back. This was supported by many other Councillors.
Following on from this question I asked about the future of Griffin Lodge, a Grade II listed building situated in the middle of Griffin Park which the Council owns and which has been vacant and semi-derelict for the past four years. The listed building’s use has been under review and it is the subject of repeated and worsening vandalism.

In spite of the fact that this large Victorian mansion used to be occupied by the County Museum Service restoration department, when asked the question about its future Cllr Law-Riding – who is standing to be Blackburn’s next MP – confused the listed building with Griffin Park School.
Bizarrely – and to the chuckles of everyone in the Council chamber – he stated that he thought ‘it is an issue for the Executive Member for Childrens Services’. Later in the evening Cllr Thayne (Childrens Services) took some pleasure in batting the issue back, having been advised by his officer that it is nothing to do with his portfolio.

It’s nice to know that Cllr Law-Riding has a grip of his department!