Monday, April 30, 2007


Three (things to compare Lib Dems and Labour in Prestwich)

1) The Retreat - The Retreat art feature was built when Labour controlled both the Council and Prestwich Area Board. It fell into disrepair on their watch, and the people of Prestwich said they wanted rid of it. Now, Lib Dems control Prestwich Area Board, and after a campaign of pressure led by us through our Focus newsletters, action will be taken in the coming months to knock it down and replace it with something better.

Labour did nothing - Lib Dems took action.

2) Prestwich Arts College - Labour Councillors in St Mary's wanted to close our popular and successful local school. The Lib Dems were the only party to campaign to stop the closure. The only party. I joined fellow local Lib Dems at meetings and protest marches across the Borough, and they worked. Prestwich Arts College remains open.

Labour wanted to close your school - Lib Dems stopped the closure.

3) Recycling - Labour claim to be the party of the environment, but were happy to leave most of Prestwich (and 28,000 homes across Bury) without blue recycling bins for up to three years. Lib Dems insisted that this policy was reversed, and lobbied hard for blue bins for everyone. Labour caved in, and by the SUmmer every house in Bury will have one.

Labour did nothing - Lib Dems took action.

So the choice is clear for Thursday - more Labour closures and hesitation and mis-management, or a Lib Dem team that consistently gets things done for Prestwich, all year round.


Sunday, April 29, 2007


Four (more years of neglect for Prestwich?)

Remember that on Thursday we are electing a councillor to represent St Mary's for four years. So consider what has happened in St Mary's in the last four years...

- The Retreat has been built, at huge cost, and left to decline into a fenced-off mess.

- The number of Police officers on the beat has declined. How many do you see on the streets now?

- Prestwich Precinct has continued to decline, with empty retail units and a huge block of flats rather than prospering businesses.

- Traffic has ground to a halt through the village, as the numerous sets of traffic lights and the needless parking bays have forced cars into a bottleneck.

- Our local youngsters have been scared that their popular local school will close, after Labour threatened to shut it.

Until last year, ALL THREE councillors in St Mary's were Labour councillors. And the Council itself was run by Labour. The Conservatives have been nowehre to be seen or heard.

Lib Dems have been campaiging to stop Prestwich's decline for years. Last year, for the first time, you put your faith in us and elected Cllr Donal O'Hanlon to be your Lib Dem represtentative.It has been a privilege for me to ork with im this year. Compare Labour's record of inaction and decline to what Cllr O'Hanlon and I have achieved in JUST ONE YEAR.

- Lib Dem controlled Prestwich Area Board has forced action on The Retreat. It will soon be knocked down and replaced.

- Lib Dems were the onl party to campaign to save Prestwich Arts College. The campaign worked, and the school was saved.

- Lib Dems secured traffic flow improvements by making sure the traffic lights were sequenced properly, and removing excess parking bays on Bury New Road. We continue to work with local people to find alternative parking arrangements.

- Lib Dems have secured a blue recycling bin for 28,000 homes left without one by Labour. If your's hasn't arrived yet, it will arrive before the summer.

So remember, Lib Dems work for Prestwich all year round. We have achieved more in one year than Labour have done in four. On Thursday we elect a Councillor to join Cllr O'Hanlon for another four years. So ask the question - who can you trust to stand up for Prestwich?


Saturday, April 28, 2007


Five (Labour Let-downs this year)

Labour have let St Mary's badly down this year. Lib Dems act on behalf of local people all ear round. Compare our action on Prestwich Arts College, The Retreat and Blue Recycling Bins to Labour's record of letting local people down:

1) Labour have continued their programme of closing down old people's homes in Bury, including Claremont in St Mary's ward. The Lib Dems have steadfastly opposed this programme, and have supported our vulnerable elderly residents when they've faced having to move from the homes they love.

2) Post office closures - Labour have supported Post Office closures, 9 out of 20 of the Post Offices in Bury South (including in Prestwich). Lib Dems value local post offices and are campaigning up and down the land to preserve these vital local facilities, including here in St Mary's.

3) The Re:D Centre in Bury. Lib Dems campaigned hard to stop the closure forced by Labour's funding cuts. In the end, only legal action stopped Labour's plans.

4) Police cuts - labour plan to cut 216 police officers from the Greater Manchester force, at a time when anti-social behaviour is on the rise, with vandalism, illegal motorbikes and muggings worrying us all. Lib Dems propose more police officers on the beat, paid for by abandoning Labour's ill-conceived and expensive plans for ID cards.

5) Tulle Court - Labour's man on the Planning Committee, Cllr Grime from St Mary's, backed developers plans, against the wishes of local people who fear traffic and privacy problems. He even prevented the Lib Dems from speaking up for residents in the Planning meeting! Is this the type of support for local people we want in St Mary's? Lib Dems have worked with residents throughout to try and come up with a solution that residents are happy with.

Only five days until the election in St Mary's, and it's a two horse race between the Lib Dems and Labour - canvass returns and previous results tell us that the Conservatives can't win here (they haven't won an election in Prestwich since 1992!). Ask yourelf the important question - who can you trust to stand up for Prestwich?


Friday, April 27, 2007



The final weekend of the campaign is nearly upon us, and thanks to the twin effects of el-nino and global warming, it’s going to be a fine one. Short term gain (perfect weather for leafleting) but long term pain (what’s that crashing sound? Oh, an iceberg melting… Are anyone else’s feet getting wet?) I feel.

This weekend sees the next Election Focus deliveries, as we continue talking to the people of Prestwich about the issues that matter to them. As we’ve canvassed these last weeks, several issues have been brought up again and again:

- The Retreat – How have Labour got away with allowing it to be barricaded for so long? It is a disgrace, an eyesore, and local people are fed up with it. They’re happy that it is at long last going to come down thanks to the Lib Dem controlled Prestwich Area Board

- Closing Public Services – There has been a huge tide of anger that Labour are still standing idly by whilst threats loom to close down our hospitals and post offices. Lib Dems have campaigned to save both, hot on the heels of our successful campaign to save Prestwich Arts College last year. Another disastrous Labour plan which ignored local wishes.

- Action and Service all year round. Lib Dems keep in touch all through the year. Focus leaflets every 4-6 weeks to every house in St Mary’s. don’t be fooled by Labour’s efforts in the past couple of weeks. A single glossy leaflet and a scrap of A4 paper through the door doesn’t make up for 11 months of silence. Cllr Donal O’Hanlon and I have worked all year on big issues like the ones above, and the little things that really matter to local people like street-lights, missing bins and broken pavements. Labour raise taxes and cut services, but we are there to help all year round.

There’s under a week until polling day now. If you want to discuss any of the issues in this election, please get in touch.




It is slightly strange to go canvassing on my own street - I don't know what to expect, and somehow anything other than a definite "yes" from a near neighbour feels more like a personal sleight than anything else. Why I should think that geographical proximity to my house should alter voting intentions is something that I can't quite put my finger on... But the feeling is there all the same.

Having said that, I am never happy with canvassing. Even though I get to meet lots of lovely people and talk the issues through, and even though the response has been very positive on every night we've been out, nothing would be good enough to make me go home feeling truly happy. I still want 500 definite supporters identified every night, a procession of followers getting bigger at every door, me playing a flute and leading a band of merry men through the streets, bunting, trumpets, fireworks, dancing, elephants balancing on beachballs, lions roaring, and the elections cancelled in favour of a million man march on Downing Street demanding the replacement of the monarchy and government with my immediate installation as President-for-Life.

But that's pretty unlikely to happen, I have to say. And I think I'd be a little uncomfortable if it did. And so, instead, I have to ride the emotional roller-coaster that is finding that the occasional near neighbour remains undecided...


Thursday, April 26, 2007



Apologies again for the odd posting times for blogs of late. I am waging an ongoing battle with the people at Orange Broadband who seem singularly incapable of fixing whatever intermittent problem it is that causes my phone to work but my modem to not. And their Indian call centre isn't helping the problem. The lines are faint, there is a satellite delay, and the poor staff on the other end are clearly reading a script that leaves absolutely no room for variance even if what they're asking me to do is absolutely impossible. "Once you have completed all the troubleshooting steps I will be able to assist you by employing our engineers..." she tells me over and over again, like some kind of deranged robot.

I must say I am very disappointed with Orange's customer services, especially the decades-long and utterly bewildering cavalcade of menu-options delivered in the same female voice that tells me how many voicemail messages I've got on my mobile - a voice that is both soothing and utterly INFURIATINGLY SLOW at the same time. And unfortunately, unlike their mobile phone operation, I can't end the call by bagging an extra 500 free texts off the guy in their call centre. I instead end the call wanting to throw my incapable modem through the window. We shall see if it lets me post things from home again ever...


Another day on the campaign trail yesterday, another ominous-looking sky which, after debating all day, decided not to empty itself directly onto my head when out canvassing. Now we're in the final stretch of campaigning, there's only a week until election day and the pace is really hotting up.

I have been talking to some people on my Facebook campaign site about the elections, and a number of them have said how our policy of keeping in touch with local people throughout the year has been a real driver for them to give us their votes this year. Our Focus leaflets are delivered to every house in the ward approximately every six weeks, and the vast majority are delivered by hand by us. Not only does this allow us to keep in touch with people and let them know what we've been doing on their behalf, but it also allows us to really get to know every inch of the ward. I doubt there's a street in St Mary's that I haven't leafleted or canvassed over the last twelve months, and it's great to be able to get around to pretty much every home.

The opposition may send out glossy leaflets at election time, but ask yourself, when was the last time you heard from them? Probably last time there was an election!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007



Monday night was our first experience of the year of canvassing in the rain. I forgot my umbrella and had to borrow one from Cllr D'Albert, but managed to acquire one that was completely beyond control, which couldn't be tamed no matter how hard I tried. Thus I abandoned the early policy of trying to handle it, a clipboard, some leaflets, and myself all in one go, and decided to drip onto people's doorsteps instead.

Some interesting issues as we canvassed the Agecroft Road West area. A big topic at the moment around there is obviously the proposed Children's Centre at Butterstile Primary School (where I am also a governor), with a lot of local people unsure about the plans and angry that they haven't been consulted. Let me be clear on this - the Children's Centre has not received planning permission, and local residents will be consulted as part of the planning process. The reason that there has been scant consultation yet on this is because the process is at a very early stage. When it comes to the planning decision, I will be liaising with residents to make sure that we come to a solution where everyone is happy. It isn't a done deal by any stretch of the imagination, and there are a number of issues which will be given urgent attention when the time comes - including increased traffic and parking problems. There is no way local Lib Dems will allow this to go through on the nod, and to be honest I don't think anyone involved in the proposals wants that either.

The rain held off last night, and we got some good canvassing done before the United match, which I watched whilst stuffing envelopes with election Focus leaflets. I know "luxury" apartments get a bad press for a number of reasons (their architectural dullness, their ubiquity, their outrageously high prices, their lack of parking etc etc), and I am sceptical of them like a lot of people are - but one reason that I don't hear very often why they should be carefully considered before being built is because they're an absolute pain to leaflet! all these sensor-fobs and security doors mean we have to use the Royal Mail, which means stuffing and stamps! Not good at all!


PS - this post should have gone up last night, but my internet is playing up again!

Monday, April 23, 2007



The rain has returned to Prestwich today, but I’m hoping it won’t prevent us from going out canvassing and meeting more local people on doorsteps and out on the street. One advantage of canvassing over leafleting is that people, by and large, don’t melt into goo when it rains.

I have been interested to see some of the Labour leaflets being distributed in the last couple of days. I was hoping for a campaign based on issues and a record of the comparative achievements and ambitions of the two parties for Prestwich. Clearly Labour don’t feel the same way, but I don’t want to waste my time and your’s by rebutting their lies. If that's all they have to say after years and years in power, it is a shame for us all. I am proud of what Cllr O’Hanlon and I have achieved with the Liberal Democrats for St Mary’s:

- blue bins for every house in the coming year
- removal of parking bays on Bury New Road to improve traffic flow
- fighting to save Prestwich Arts College (and succeeding)
- fighting to save ward 30 at Fairfield
- securing movement on The Retreat after proper consultation
- fought for residents views to be heard about Tulle Court, whilst supporting the redevelopment
- championed the re-surfacing of local roads in greatest need like Spring Vale
- Secured more cleaning of the Longfield Centre
- Removed dangerous railings from St Ann’s Road
- Ended the fly-tipping problem on Buckley Lane
- Worked with the Police to catch the criminals responsible for lamp-post vandalism
- Helped countless residents with their problems throughout the year
- Kept in touch all year round with Focus leaflets.
- Not forgotten to work on "the little things" like fixing broken street-lights, pot-holes, missing bins etc.
- Always ALWAYS returning resident telephone calls and emails, and helping wherever we can.

We’ve achieved lots in just over a year, and I want to carry on achieving more for Prestwich. We have fought hard to make the Council listen to the voice of Prestwich – and it’s working. Let’s keep this going, and not take a backward step.

I have lived in and around Prestwich for almost my whole life, and my family have lived here for over fifty years. I have a deep affection for the area and I am proud to have called it my home for years. I am the only candidate in the election who actually lives in the ward! But more importantly, I am the only one working all year round for local people. I think our record speaks for itself.

Last year St Mary’s turned a corner, electing a Lib Dem councillor for the very first time. And I hope we’ve re-paid the faith of the voters by working hard and achieving lots in the last 12 months.

We’ve listened to residents and challenged the perceived wisdom from the council on numerous issues. It hasn’t been about opposing Council plans for the sake of it, it’s been about making sure plans aren’t rushed and that people are properly consulted. When we voted against plans to redevelop Tulle Court, it wasn’t because we were happy with the status quo, it was because the plans weren’t right for local people and we wanted them amended. Local residents had told us so when we asked them!

This is our philosophy. We don’t sit in the Town Hall formulating policies and then imposing them on angry local people. We talk to residents and try to give them what they want:
- Local people wanted a local school – we supported it and Labour opposed it. The school was saved after our campaign succeeded.
- Local people wanted action on The Retreat – we called for action, Labour did nothing. Now it’s being knocked down and replaced after our campaign succeeded.
- Local people wanted better recycling facilities. We proposed that they are provided now. Labour wanted to wait years. But now everyone will have a blue bin by the end of the year after our campaign succeeded.

And it continues. Only today I have written a letter to the Council on behalf of a group of residents opposed to parking restrictions on St Mary’s road. Labour want to stop people parking, but have gone for a gung-ho all-guns blazing solution that has angered local people. We want the problem fixed too, but through consultation, not mandatory restrictions. I hope to report that this campaign has been successful too, in the fullness of time.

In 2006 local people showed great faith in us. I ask for that faith to be shown once more this time so that I can carry on working hard for my local community. Judge us on our record of service and action all year round. We have kept our promises, and I promise that we’ll do the same in years to come.


Sunday, April 22, 2007


Use your postal vote!

Those local residents you elect to vote by post will be receiving their postal votes in the next few days. They can be returned any time up until polling day itself (although they have to ARRIVE by polling day, so if you fill it in late, make sure you hand it in in person at the polling station - don't post it on polling day). I have written to all postal voters explaning the reasons why a Lib Dem vote makes sense in these elections. I am excited avbout the potential to join Cllr Donal O'Hanlon on the Council and make a real difference to Prestwich. Donal has achieved a great deal this year - action on the Retreat, defeating the school closure proposals, securing blue recycing bins for all - and I have enjoyed being part of his team in St Mary's. For years Labour have let Prestwich down, but the Lib Dems have started to change things now, and I am excited by the prospect of joining Donal in the future. There'll be lots more about that in the coming days as the election gets closer, but for now, if you have a postal vote, don't forget to use it!



Busiest Weekend

This weekend has been the busiest of the campaign so far. With just over ten days to go until polling day the Bury Lib Dem team have been busy across Prestwich delivering Election Special number 3 to residents across town. There's been a fantastic response to our call for help from supporters, and there have been new faces helping out from far and wide, which is great news.

In the time I've been out I have also met lots of wonderful local people who have been giving their support to us. They've been volunteering to help leaflet, or put up a poster, or stuff some envelopes for us. Anything they do is gratefully received.

If you are yet to receive your Election Special number 3 leaflet, it will come in the next few days. And if you have any queries of questions on reading it, my number;s on the leaflet - just give me a call.



Technical Difficulties

Apologies for there having been no blogs for the last few days. My internet connection was broken, and the engineers at Orange Broadband were scratching their heads. THey appear to have stopped scratching and commenced the mending process, hence allowing me to resume blogging now. Hurrah.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


St Mary's Road

The Council are proposing to create a "No Waiting At Any Time" zone on both sides of St Mary's Road by the entrance to the park. This will prevent people from parking there to use the park, rather than in the official car park. However, there is a risk that people will simply park higher up St Mary's Road instead, and on Branksome Avenue.

I have written a letter to all residents in the vicinity, informing them of the proposals and asking for their views. The letter will be distributed in the next few days. Unfortunately the time allowed for objections is very limited, and the Council requires them back with the Borough Solicitor at the Town Hall by next Thursday (26th April) at the latest. So if you have any concerns about the proposals, contact the Council and raise them, or I will raise them on your behalf.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Lowther Road / Hilton Lane Junction updates

A number of local residents have asked us to look into the safety of Lowther Road, where the road narrows towards St Ann's Road. After talking to the Council, they have agreed to install some yellow-backed safety signs advising drivers of the narrowing road. They will also encourage slower speeds and hopefully lower the risk of accidents at that spot. So that is good news. The signs should be installed in the next 6-8 weeks.

Also today, the Council got in touch with us regarding the Hilton Lane / Bury New Road / Schole Lane junction. SOme time ago we presented them with a petition signed by nearly 500 local people concerned about junction safety and calling for pedestiran facilities. The Council today got back to us to tell us that Greater Manchester Urban Traffic Control Unit (GMUTC) have already been requested to investigate the feasibility of providing pedestrian facilities at this junction. GMUTC are based in Manchester and maintain and operate the traffic signals in the borough on the Council’s behalf.

GMUTC have already completed modelling work for the feasibility of introducing pedestrian facilities at the junction and are currently involved with detailed design work to assess the potential costs required to introduce such a scheme. Once this work has been completed then the Council will be able to evaluate whether the work required to provide push button pedestrian facilities at this junction could be funded in the short term or whether it looks more like a medium to long term proposition due to the monies required.

So, perhaps some success here too.

Which just goes to show, given time and effort problems can be sorted. It makes me proud to have been involved so far, and I will keep on working to ensure that the improvements continue and are put in place.


Monday, April 16, 2007


Metrolink Update

It seems that our questions to Council and the Area Board have paid off, as the communications campaign for the Metrolink closure has begun in earnest today. I have been informed that commuters were given information on the closures at Met stops this morning, and that further information is available from Travel Shops. The website is also a good place for news, and this too has been updated with a bit more on the closures. It’s great news that the track is being replaced – it’s long overdue – and I hope that the experience for passengers will be similarly upgraded. At the moment the quality of the ride is abysmal, reliability is patchy, and there are safety concerns on trams and platforms. And of course, the entire experience is very expensive. The track upgrade needs to be just the first stage of improvements to rolling stock, ticket machines, safety and stations. Public transport needs to move from being the only choice for car-less commuters, to being the first choice for everyone.



Office moves and activities elsewhere

A return to work this morning, and the new office-layout that sees twenty of us squeezed into a space fit for about eight, and where twelve were before. Such are the joys of working in the public sector.

I have lost the view from my desk – one which had me staring at the Welsh hills on a clear day, with a panorama of Manchester on the way. In its place I have a pillar and a view of a concrete brutalist hotel. Our desks have also shrunk to accommodate the new people. Where once I could have strewn papers from one wall to the other, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t interfere with anyone, now I am hemmed in. Oh, the injustice.

Such stresses, combined with the ongoing saga of my inability to sell my flat, could make the prospect of relentless campaigning somewhat less appealing. However, I really do enjoy it, and the more people I speak to on the doorstep and on the street, the more I know that our message seems to be getting through.

Canvassing again tonight sees us out in Prestwich meeting more people ahead of polling day (now just 17 days away!). In addition to that, I am going to see a couple of residents we met last week about their issues, and informing them of the progress we’ve made since. Topics range from traffic calming to disabled parking to litter, and I can update the blog about it tomorrow too!


Sunday, April 15, 2007


Please leave a number!

The last few weeks have seen a surge of case-work as the campaign has got going properly. This is great news, as it gives me the chance to talk to more people and listen to their concerns.

Unfortunately I am often out during the day, at work or wherever. And I come home to messages on the answer-machine. But sometimes I can't respond because the caller hasn't left their number! This is really frustrating because I always ring back where I can, literally 100% of the time even if I know I can do nothing about the issue. But obviously I can't where there is no number!

So if you want to ring me, please do. But please remember to leave your number so that I can get back in touch with you. I love speaking to local people, and it's really frustrating when I know I can help them., I just don't know how to contact them!



The Great Neil Hamilton Mystery

Getting cards from strangers at birthday and Christmas time is one of the hazards of making friends, I suppose. At least with my leaflets there's no danger that they can ask for my address and promise to "keep in touch" after a heady holiday romance, only to disappoint and never be heard of again.

On occasion I get cards from people who I barely remember, or ones where the signature is so indecipherable that it's illegible. But yesterday I received a card that kept me guessing for a good while...

It was addressed to me at my mum's house (where I haven't lived full time for 8 years), and was signed, in very large handwritten letters "Richard!! Happy Birthday!! Best Wishes..." and then the signature looked exactly like "Christine (Hamilton)" followed by, underneath, in a different colourned pen, a signature that looked remarkably like "Neil Hamilton."

I have never met Christine or Neil Hamilton. And disgraced ex-Conservative ministers and their wives aren't likely to be following my campaign closely.

So why have they sent me a birthday card, I thought? Also, why has Christine put "Hamilton" in brackets, as if I should know who she was? "Oh, THAT Christine..."

And why did they swap pens? Why was it sent to my mum's house? And what the hell is going on in general?? Why have I got a birthday card from Neil Hamilton????!!!

Is this some coded way of saying that I am perceived to be riddled in sleaze? Is the card actually from Martin Bell as a way of announcing his intention to run against me?

I pondered this thought for a while, and rang my mum.

"Oh yeah," she said, casually. "It really is from them."

It turns out that my Mum's partner met them at a conference and, knowing I have a developing thing for political autographs, asked them for their's. It doesn't quite rank alongside Lloyd George (my current target), but still, one more for the collection. Two more, I suppose.

He didn't tell me about his meeting, preferring instead to have me receive a birthday card from two famous strangers... But the mystery was a fun one to solve, and it was a very kind gesture. And Mr and Mrs Hamilton, if you're reading, thanks for the card!



21 + 5

Yesterday was my birthday. It was also fellow Prestwich Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Garner's birthday, and I am feeling slightly guilty that whereas I slunked off for some fun after 4 hours of leafleting, I am informed by those in the know that he actually worked on the campaign for 47 hours yesterday.

Still, I did get out and deliver the first batch of the new campaign leaflet for a good proportion of the day, part of a pretty sizeable team again. And now that leaflets are going out with more and more frequency, I am getting stopped in the street more by local people, which gives me a great opportunitry to talk to them about the issues that matter to them. It happened a few times yesterday, which gives me plenty to discuss with the Council on Monday.

The birthday celebrations themselves were pretty low-key. No marquees in Heaton Park / troupes of performing acrobats etc. And I believe that Prince William and Kate Middleton had an argument midweek about whether or not to come out with us in celebration. Must've been a pretty big one...

The day has crept up on me because of the campaign, and I had managed to organise precisely nothing. So Tam and I went to see a film which I quite fancied, called The Lives of Others. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film this year, and has just been released over here. It isn't particularly light-hearted birthday fare, but in terms of drama it is very impressive. Well-written, excellently acted, and with a plot that keeps audiences interested until the very end. I think there is a dearth of good thrillers at the pictures at the moment - especially ones with a bit of historical intrigue about them like this one - so I thoroughly recommend it. Not that I am in an way a knowledgeable film critic. I just know what I like.

After the film we went for tea. I had given Tam a choice of restaurants I'd like to be treated to, and she'd booked for us, so it was a surprise until we got there. We chose Simply Heathcote's, which was the one on the list I hadn't been to before. It was exquisite. Genuinely lovely food, and great service as well. And thankfully it wasn't the type of place where I can order enough food to severely damge my internal organs, so I managed to walk out with ease, rather than roll out with a grimace and a groan.

So all in all a cracking birthday! Back on the leaflet trail today...


Friday, April 13, 2007


Birthday weekend

This weekend there is lots of leafleting to do - but it is also my birthday so I am skiving off tomorrow evening and going out with Tamsin for dinner. I don't know where (it's a surprise) but I expect to roll outside afterwards suitably stuffed. I shall update as to presents and cards on Sunday, but there may not be a post tomorrow!

Today, other than packing more crates at work, there was a gathering of many of our supporters and activists prior to leafleting across Prestwich. It was great to see such a big turn out in support of the campaign, and it's nice to note that nobody's energies seem to be flagging despite the effort involved!


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Cases and Boxes

As well as the canvassing in the evening, I attended to some case work today, having picked up a number of issues when speaking to people over the last few days. The pathway by the motorway at the back of Stanley Avenue North (connecting it to Bury Old Road) is strewn with litter, and I have asked the Council to take a look at that. I have also made some enquiries today about a Home Improvement Grant for a local resident - the Council is obviously strapped for cash, but there are procedures in place to make sure that those in greatest need are given the greatest help. And in addition, I talked to the Council's Disability Service this morning, who were very helpful in answering a query I have regarding disabled parking facilities on the streets outside private homes. We had a conversation with a resident about this last night when canvassing, and I said I'd look into it. Apparently the criteria are very strict (which is understandable), but the waiting list for an assessment stands at 32 weeks! So if the resident concerned submitted an application for assessment today, the assessment wouldn't take place until the end of November! I don't know the ins-and-outs of the situation, but that seems a very long time to me. The staff were so helpful on the phone, it's a shame that budgets won't stretch to allow them to help so readily in person.

Aside from canvassing and casework, my working day was spent packing things into boxes. We are having an office move, and it turns out that the grand total of all my efforts in work over the last three years can be placed with room to spare inside two medium sized crates. Which is fairly distressing. But not half as distressing as what awaits me on Monday, when I march into the unknown of a new office layout, lots of new people, and the unending nightmare of having to unpack my crates and stare depressed at the contents within.




Chris Davies MEP joins us canvassing

Tonight we were joined on the campaign trail in Rainsough by Chris Davies MEP, one of the Liberal Democrat Members of the European Parliament for the North West. Chris has been a great help to many local parties over the years, including our own here in Bury South, and tonight was no exception as he helped us canvass in support of my St Mary's campaign. Having a "dignitary" along with us didn't stop us from meeting the usual high numbers of great people on the doorstep, and as ever the response was very positive from a great number of local people.

We paused to talk about the Lib Dem Blue Bin Budget with one resident, as pictured above. The Lib Dems attached an amendment to the Council's budget meaning that every home in Bury will have access to a blue bin in the coming year - 28,000 extra blue bins for Bury. Chris Davies is the Lib Dem spokesman on the environment in the European Parliament, and it's great to have his support on this crucial issue.

We had a large number of canvassers out tonight - part of what sees to be a growing band, and we covered a huge deal of ground meeting lots of great local people and talking the issues through with them. My thanks to everyone who helped out tonight, and all the residents who gave us some of their time too!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Metrolink news update

Some news from GMPTE today about the Metrolink track renewals. I think we're all of one mind that the tracks need replacing, but how Metrolink, GMPTE and the Bury Labour Council are going about informing residents is very shoddy. HEre's what the website says:

"Metrolink bus replacement services

Replacement buses will run throughout the upgrade. Some buses will call at all Metrolink stops and others will only call at limited stops to provide a faster service to and from Manchester City Centre.

Replacement services from Bury, starting on 29 May, will generally start before 05:45 am, Monday to Saturday and 07:00 am on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Replacement services from Altrincham, starting on 2 July, will generally start from 05:30 am Monday to Saturday and 06:35 am on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Services in the opposite direction will follow a similar timetable.

Depending on the route and time of day, journey times will be between approximately 40 minutes and an hour for the trip between the city centre and Bury or Altrincham.

Detailed service information will be available before work starts and this will include details on where to catch buses."

This limited information is an improvement on what was there before. But it is still far too little to enable local people to make an informed choice about working and travel arangements. No mention of price, likely frequency of direct services to and from Prestwich, or other variations on route. Nothing on freqency of services at all in fact. How often will the buses go, and from where?

I know it says that detailed information will come nearer the time, but the closure is now only a few weeks away. Come on GMPTE! Sort it out!

I have asked on a number of occasions for more information, but none has been forthcoming. Again it seems like the people of Prestwich are being considered as an afterthought, and it just isn't good enough.

I will keep pressing for more info.



Groundhog Blog

The sunshine has returned to greet us as canvassing replaces leafleting as the main event of the campaign today. Unfortunately, the return of the sun was accompanied by my return to work. Even though I had managed to secure an extra day off, the desolate shuffle office-wards this morning was made only slightly more bearable with the thought that being ensconced there all day at least made me safe from the leaflets in need of urgent distribution.

This blog is becoming somewhat repetitious of late, I think. This is simply because my life is going the same way. These heady days of solid campaigning mean that there really is very little to report other than leafleting, canvassing, working and sleeping. It’s like Groundhog Day, but with elections. And the pace will only hot up between now and May 3rd…


Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Home Office Watch

I've taken some time over the last few days to look over the new Home Office Watch website, which chronicles some of the shambolic legislation and mismanagement of the Home Office by the Labour government. Barely a day goes by without the news reporting on another unnecessary law / costly mistake / piece of spin from the Department which is at long last to be split up soon. And here is a repository of the whole lot so that everyone can see the full picture and consider solutions in the round. Take a look!


Monday, April 09, 2007


Films and golf and dreams

It seems to have got a bit cloudier today, just in time for the return to work tomorrow. I suppose the sun gets tired of shining just as we get tired of leafleting. However, the sun gets time off, whereas we don't. Such are the advantages of being a celestial body, I suppose.

The problem with all this leafleting is that it does leave me very tired in the evenings. Last night there wasn't much alternative but to stay in, given that it was Easter and everywhere was closed. However, I did manage to veg out in front of the TV for a change, and saw a great film that I've just bought on DVD. I saw it at the cinema years ago, and it was on offer so I thought, "why not?" The answer to my question arrived halfway through the film, when for some reason the disc decided that it too wanted an Easter holiday, and refused to play any more. It began jumping around and going all fuzzy, before causing my DVD player to give up on itself entirely. After some analysis of the disc and an interesting move involving a cloth and a wiping motion, we returned to some semblance of noormlaity, but throughout the remainder of the movie it was like watching the film behind an invasion of on-screen ants crawling all over the place.

No such worries with the golf, which kept me entertained until midnight, when I wandered off to bed and DREAMED ABOUT LEAFLETS. Which disturbed me greatly. More of the same today no doubt, as we crack on with more.

Enjoy the Banck Holiday.


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Leaflets and eggs

Many, many thanks to the hard-working colleagues and friends from the Lib Dems who have given so much of their time this weekend to help with the campaign. We have achieved a great deal over the last few days, leafleting virtually the entire ward. In addition, our canvassing is going very well, and we have identified lots of supporters willing to help with the campaign in many ways.

Today we are still taking advantage of the glorious weather and will be out talking to local people and distributing more election Focus leaflets. On my rounds I have also noticed leaflets from Labour and the Conservatives, which is a novelty and clearly a sign that the election campaign is in full swing!

So I'll be back out on the trail this afternoon, and hopefully I'll see lots of local people out in the garden enjoying the sunshine. Happy Easter to everyone - I have only had one egg so far today (courtesy of Cllr Ann Garner), so things are looking up diet-wise. It may all go to pot later though. In fact, I suspect that it very probably will...


Saturday, April 07, 2007


Pink Chicken

Yesterday was a fine day. As well as leafleting a substantial part of St Mary's as a group, I myself spent much of the day with friends enjoying the sunshine.

A couple of people had got over-excited at the appearance of the sun, and organised barbecues, to which I was invited. I enjoy playing potentially lethal games involving barely-cooked meat, so I ate lots at both of these occasions. Sadly however, although the sun did shine, it wasn't long before everyone present remembered that it was April and it was Manchester, and it was freezing. There's something not entirely necessary about standing shivering in a back garden looking at coals when central heating and ovens and sofas were invented by kind people just to avoid this kind of thing.

Today there's lot more leafleting of course, as we look to cover more of St Mary's with the first election Focus. So if you're out in the sunshine enjoying the day, look out for us!


Friday, April 06, 2007


Sun-shiny day

Great weather outside for the bank holiday, which is fabulous news for all concerned I think. Especially those of us whose hundreds of leaflets get ruined when it rains. Today we have begun leafleting St Mary's with the first official election Focus, as well as a letter from me to local people explaining why I'm running.

The letter won't be full of surprises to readers of the blog - issues like Labour's failure on Prestwich Arts College, the Retreat, traffic problems etc have made me see that they are failing in Prestwich. And I've been talking about them on here for months.

The Lib Dems were the only party to campaign to keep Prestwich Arts College open. We were the only party to force movement on the Retreat, and we have kept the pressure on to improve traffic. And it's working. PAC is no longer threatened with closure. Most of the barriers on the Retreat have been taken down, and the rest will soon follow when it is renovated. And the traffic lights through Prestwich Village are now properly synchronised at last.

We listened to residents and fought their corner over Tulle Court. Labour did the opposite. We campaigned to stop the closure of ward 30 at Fairfield. The closure was a Labour government plan! And as for the Conservatives... They were a distant third here last time, and have barely come up with a policy since. Voting for them won't change a thing in St Mary's.

So if you get a letter through the door during this sunny weekend, give it a read and see what you think. If you have any questions then drop me a line and I'll try to answer them. Hopefully the letter will say more about why I'm standing with the Lib Dems here, and help you make a more informed choice on election day on May 3rd.

In the meantime, I'm off out to enjoy the sunshine!


Thursday, April 05, 2007


Canvass Catastrophes

A couple of canvassing "faux pas" have occurred in the last couple of nights which have provided amusement to my colleagues, and may do the same to you.

Last night I was asked how old I was by one resident. I answered honestly that I was 25. As I said this I realised that she might consider this a bit young, so I thought about making her feel more comfortable by making myself sound older. In a fit of worry I said "...but I'll be 26 in a couple of weeks!" Whilst true, I think I only succeeded in making myself sound like Adrian Mole ("I am 13 and three quarters!") or some other kind of child counting down the weeks til he's that much closer to being a real grown up.

Much mirth was had at my expense after that. I almost went and told my mum!

And then tonight, I had my first "celebrity canvass." I won't reveal the name of the celebrity concerned, but I think I probably managed to end any hope of him voting our way on May 3rd. He isn't Hollywood A-list, but is seen on TV reasonably regularly. When he answered the door I thought "ooh, I recognise this person... Where on Earth from?" Unfortunately whilst thinking this thought I failed to speak, and left him standing there bemused for a few seconds. After enquiring as to his voting intentions, I apologised for the earlier pause, saying "I thought I recognised you from somewhere, but I couldn't put my finger on it..." Then I walked away. And THEN I realised exactly where I knew him from. It wasn't from work or from school, but from the TV. So essentially what my fumbling explanation said to him was "you may think you're famous, but frankly all I know is that I've seen you once maybe, somewhere. Your achievements are miniscule, and whilst you may consider yourself a TV personality, you have about as much fame as the guy I see daily wandering out of the newsagents." Which of course is a horrible thing to have unintentionally said. I almost went back and explained my admiration for his body of work. But thought better of it.

Again, when I mentioned this to my colleagues, there was laughter aimed at me.

Such have been the joys of my last couple of days.

If it wasn't for the fact that 99% of the time I am normal and the local people are brilliant, I don't think I'd go back every day!



Four days off? Not on my watch!

So the working week has come to an end, and the Easter break is upon us. Happy Easter to all those celebrating it, and I hope that everyone has an enjoyable long weekend.

A large part of mine will be spent with fellow Liberal Democrats in Prestwich as the campaign gathers momentum. It’s a crucial stage now, as we take advantage of the extra days off work to get on with leafleting and canvassing. I have lobbied long and hard for the Easter weekend to be lengthened into the “Easter Month” and take in all of the time between now and the election, but sadly I have been rebuffed by the powers that be.

So I’ll be out delivering leaflet and talking to potential voters across Prestwich in the next few days. We also have Liberal Democrat posters to go in house and car windows, and stake-boards for walls and gardens available now, so if you’re interested, please get in touch. There are Richard Baum posters for St Mary’s, as well as Steve Wright for Sedgley and Wilf Davison for Holyrood in Prestwich, and these too are available. If you are interested in displaying your support, please get in touch. I’ve never been a huge fan of my surname, and now lots of versions of it will be plastered across the ward on people’s houses. It’s an ego-boost sure, but, as I was reminded so often in the primary school playground, I just wish it didn’t look quite so much like the word “bum...”


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Razorlight, Sunshine and Canvassing

Last night I took some time out from the campaign to go and see Razorlight at the MEN Arena. I think I need to reconsider my career choices and try to make it in the “rock star” game. Any group of people who can get 20,000 others to pay £25 each to watch them for an hour have my respect. Yes, they put on a good show while it lasted, but given that they didn’t emerge on stage until 21.35, leaving again at 22.40 seemed a bit cheeky. All that separates me from them though is musical talent, charisma and some band mates. Maybe once the campaign is over I will try to get somewhere in making that up…

Tonight I am casting aside rock-star envy and am back out canvassing in St Mary’s, identifying our supporters and speaking to local people. It looks like a fine evening out, so at least I won’t have to contend with wind and rain. Maybe the summer’s evening will also mean that people won’t be settling down all snug and warm in front of the TV at the precise moment that I knock on their door. This seems to happen quite frequently, and sometimes I see through the window the chaos I cause as cushions are strewn over floors, cats are slung from laps, and TV dinners are flung out into the middle of rooms when people get up to answer the door. To these people (and cats) I can only apologise for the disruption, but promise that it will hopefully be worth it in the long-run!

Today the nominations for the local elections closed and the polling notices for Bury were released. The three candidates in St Mary’s ward are Richard Baum for the Liberal Democrats Focus Team (that’s me), Keith Grime for the Labour Party, and Stephen Morris for the Conservative Party. No matter which of us wins, I hope it’s a campaign free of the negativity of past years, and one that is fought fairly and based on issues that matter to the people of the ward. That’s what this blog is about, and I think it will serve to make this year’s campaign the first ever where there are daily updates for voters and a real opportunity to communicate with a candidate. I will answer any questions people have, and look forward to talking to as many of you on this site and my Facebook campaign page as possible.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


National Local Campaigning!

Bury Lib Dems are busy across the Borough with the Local Election campaign, and today the national party officially launched the campaign across the country. Election day is now only a month away, and whilst the focus of this blog is on St Mary’s Ward and Prestwich, Sir Ming Campbell and the Lib Dems today gave us all some fantastic reminders of the successes that Liberal Democrats in town halls up and down England have enjoyed.

Liberal Democrat Councils nationwide are putting in place practical measures to cut crime and tackle the issue of climate change while giving power back to local communities.For instance, in Liverpool the Liberal Democrat council has slashed domestic burglary by 24%. In Newcastle the Liberal Democrat council has cut violent crime by 12%, after it doubled under Labour's control. In Islington, a Liberal Democrat council has reduced anti-social behaviour through the innovative use of anti-social behaviour contracts. The Lib Dems crime policy is working in communities across the land. It can work in Prestwich too.

The Liberal Democrat Green Tax Switch proposals would move the burden of national tax away from people and towards pollution. The money raised would then be used to cut national income tax for millions of low and middle income earners. At a local level, Liberal Democrats are coming good on their green promises and working for a better environment for local people. Waverley Council has increased recycling rates from 14% under the Conservatives to 40% under the Liberal Democrats. Cornwall County Council has formed a Sustainable Energy Partnership, which has set challenging targets for renewable energy. Richmond upon Thames has implemented groundbreaking parking charges to ensure that residents in controlled parking zones pay for their permits based on the CO2 emissions of their vehicles. And of course right here in Bury, the Blue Bin Budget proposal put forward by the Liberal Democrats means that 28,000 homes in the Borough will receive recycling bins years ahead of schedule.

Tony Blair's Labour Government is the most centralising and authoritarian government of the modern era. Liberal Democrats champion local governance and want to restore power to local people. David Cameron’s Conservative’s seem to have learnt all the wrong lessons about soundbites and spin from Mr Blair. They have no credible policies for communities. We are clear where we stand on crime, the environment, and community governance for local people all over the country, including Bury.

Yet more good reasons to vote Liberal Democrat on May 3rd.


Monday, April 02, 2007


St Ann's Road junction to be made safer - but Metrolink closure means delays

After concern from a number of local residents, I have been speaking to the Council about the future of the junction of St Ann’s Road and Bury New Road. This is a very odd junction, with a pedestrian crossing and a set of traffic lights for cars very close to one another. Often the two sets of lights aren’t synchronised, meaning that cars often unintentionally run through red lights thinking that both sets have changed when in fact only one set has.

I conveyed the concerns of St Mary’s Lib Dems and the residents who had contacted me, and today received a very positive response from the Council. Following our intervention, they have put improvements to the junction on their list of work for the year, and intend to replace the current arrangements with a single combined car/pedestrian crossing. This will make the entire junction simpler and safer.

Work will commence after the Summer. Before then, there are scheduled to be no road works on Bury New Road through Prestwich, as part of the mitigating measures in place to compensate for the closure of the Metrolink track. On this closure issue, we are still none the wiser – still no response from GMPTE on the precise alternative arrangements in place, and still no more comfort for residents likely to be affected. GMPTE and Bury's Labour council assured residents that full plans would be communicated "nearer to the time of the closure." The closure is now only a month away, so how close to the time were they thinking?! As soon as I get information I will share it on the blog. But until then we are all in the dark.



Passover Bin Collection is Welcome

I know that Bury Labour sometimes come in for criticism on my blog, but I like to think that I only offer criticism where I think it is merited and where the Lib Dems have alternative policies that I think are better. I also like to think that when Labour do good things, I’ll let people know about them as well.

So I’d like to congratulate Ivan Lewis MP on making sure once again that many local people, particularly in Sedgley ward, have been offered the chance of an additional bin collection this week due to the extra waste generated in the pre-Passover clean-up. This initiative is very helpful to members of the Jewish community locally at this important time, and can make the streets look a lot cleaner! The extra collection is something I fully support, and it’s a good sign of close working between community politicians and the community itself. So well done.




I was back in work today, delighted by the thought of two four-day weeks in succession courtesy of the Easter bank holidays. Like many people, this weekend will be my first time off since Christmas, and the added activities of the campaign will make time off from work all the more appreciated. It will of course not be a holiday entirely, since the campaign doesn’t wait around for bank holiday weekends! It will simply be a double-length excuse to go out leafleting and canvassing!

And it is these two activities which have pre-occupied us today. With leaflets to distribute and canvass data to collect, it was great to see so many people out helping with the campaign today. Now that the nights are lighter and the weather is nicer (temporarily, at least), at least we can go out in relative safety without fear of tripping up and slipping over and falling down in the dark. Having said that, the vicious dogs of Prestwich with their growls and sharp teeth seem to be angered by the mild temperatures as much as we are all grateful for them. They don't like canvassers any more than they like leafleters, as it turns out. Which is a shame because on the whole I like them.

Canvassing is always a bit of a disappointment to me. The need to cover as many houses as possible in as short a time as possible always seems like a missed opportunity. If someone on the doorstep tells me they’ll definitely vote for me, I’d love to chat to them for hours about how we could work together to make Prestwich (and not just Prestwich, the world!) a better place. Similarly, if someone tells me that they aren’t voting for me, I want to talk the issues through there as well and listen to their concerns. Maybe we can change each other’s minds! Sadly, until we get hundreds of volunteers, my missionary work will have to wait. And I suppose once we’ve got the information from the voters, we can convince them either way through Focuses and other leaflets, so all is not lost.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


Campaigning Today - and Happy Pesach to Jewish readers.

The weekend's leafleting continues. Yesterday there were lots of us out, distributing to a fiar proportion of Sedgley. The weekends are always busy, and yesterday was no exception. Although leafelting is at 12 and 5, the campaigning doesn't end there. Our campaign HQ is continually noisy with the sound of leaflets printing, being folded and sorted. There are also enveloped that need stuffing (90 minutes of that from me yesterday had various bits of me acheing that were pretty unpleasant) and lots of other tasks that need doing as well.

Today we'll be out twice again, at 12 and 5, with lots more of Sedgley to do. But we won't be the hardest working people in the ward today I'm sure, as it is the first day of Pesach (Passover) tomorrow, and local Jewish esidents are preparing for that. I hope the preparations go well for that, and that Pesach is enjoyable and successful for all those celebrating it.



Campaigning - 18th Century Style

I am full of Chinese food, which is a concern given the time (10.15am on Sunday). However, rest assured that this isn't a desperate reaction to being covered in leaflet ink day-in and dayout, meaning that I've taken to eating my dinner in the morning. Instead it is merely a hangover from last night's oriental glutton-fest at Pacific in Manchester. Whilst there, Tamsin and I devoured enough tasty food to keep us full for a fortnight, then toppled out of the door towards the cinema.

We decided on seeing Amazing Grace, the tale of William Wilberforce's 20 year struggle to abolish the slave trade. Although it was clearly made on a limited budget, with no massive star names (maybe Michael Gambon excepting - who himself seems more at home on Top Gear these days), it was a remarkably affecting film. The flicking backwards and forwards between Wilberforce's early and later efforts to defeat the slavers was a little cumbersome, but all in all I thought that the atmosphere of the times and the vitriol of those opposed to abolition was expertly portrayed. I'd recommend the film certainly. It hammers home the horrors of slavery, whilst giving a warm portrayal of a man so dedicated to a noble cause and so often overlooked as the hero he was.

I was also interested in the portayal of William Pitt, Wilberforce's friend and supporter, who assumed the office of Prime Minister at a young age and held it for many years. For me, it was the parliamentary debates and the political context of the times that kept my interest, moreso perhaps than the issue of slavery itself - the mad King, the French revolution, the beginnings of industrial revolution. And a nation being led by such a young man, portrayed as idealistic but compromised by outside forces and perhaps a more complicated world than he imagined at first. I know it might be glib to say it, and I know that Pitt on the screen bore little resemblance to Pitt in reality, but I couldn't help but compare his character to our own Mr Blair - a young leader full of promise at first, wearied by the end by the knowledge that much of what he wanted could not be achieved, and distracted by wars he didn't expect or want.

Tamsin said at the start that I'd end up wanting to buy a book about Wilberforce, and I think she's partly right. When I go to town later I will be looking for one about Pitt certainly, to read more on how he managed to hold a country together in such remarkable times. Maybe there are lessons there for today.


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