Month: November 2006

Is Winchester a lost cause?

If the so called political ‘experts’ are to be believed then the Liberal Democrats might as well give up trying to hold Winchester, thanks to the Oaten effect. The latest debate comes as a result of the Liberal Democrats apparently trying to get Sandi Toksvig selected for Meon Valley – the seat that is largely in the current Winchester seat but also taking in bits of (I think) East Hampshire and Havant – on the basis that only a popular celebrity can now hold it.

Despite being an eternal pessimist, I don’t see Winchester as a lost cause at all. Indeed, I think the party must stand a pretty good chance of holding the seat.

  • The new Winchester seat has a notional majority of more than 7,000. By any reckoning that is a pretty decent majority, and unless there is a huge swing from Lib Dem to Tory at the next election, (which there doesn’t seem to be any sign of yet), then the seat should be safe. The bits of the constituency lost to Meon Valley are fairly Tory, and the bit gained from Romsey – Chandler’s Ford – is quite Liberal Democrat.
  • Mark Oaten may have embarassed himself and his family, but that doesn’t stop him from having been a very popular and hardworking MP. Even those who do not approve of what he did, cannot take that away from him, and will not necessarily turn against the party.
  • The often cited proof of Winchester turning away from the Liberal Democrats is the Tories gaining the local council this May. However this doesn’t prove anything. The Liberal Democrats on Winchester Council have been losing seats to the Conservatives for the last few years. Indeed they lost more of those seats before the Oaten affair, than afterwards, it is simply that 2006 was the year when the council finally tipped from No Overall Control to Conservative. Indeed with the Tories running the council, it could be a distinct help to the local Lib Dems who will no longer be held to blame for what the council does.
  • My understanding of the situation in Winchester is that after the Oaten affair the local party suffered in the local elections from the uncertainty of his future and the continuing publicity surrounding what he did in magazines like Hello. It also meant that Oaten, who had always taken a leading role in running local campaigns, was not able to perform his usual role. With that issue now settled they are in a good position to put together a new campaign team with the determination to hold the seat.
  • Due to selection rules, and the fact that I don’t know the full list, I won’t go in to who is on the short list for Winchester, but the names I’ve been told about are very strong candidates. Any of these people would be an excellent candidate and would be determined to win the seat.
  • Winchester also has the profile of what has become a typical Lib Dem seat. It is affluent, but still contains areas that are not rich. It has a student population, that is currently growing. It’s population is quite liberal in its attitudes and is a fairly compact urban seat. OK, so the party has many seats not like this, but Winchester sits quite naturally alongside the likes of Cheltenham, Cambridge, Oxford West & Abingdon, Bath and so on, all of them now fairly solid LibDem constituencies.

OK, I accept that this is partly gut feeling and partly fact, but whatever way you look at it, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats are very much in with a chance of holding Winchester. Indeed, I would say it was a strong likelihood. This isn’t just to spin the party’s chances, as I don’t believe in using this website as a promotional tool for the party. But I am getting increasingly fed up with so called experts saying that because of Mark Oaten, the Lib Dems have no chance of holding Winchester next time around.

What those who promote the cause of Sandi Toksvig also don’t understand is that the Liberal Democrats have very rigorous procedures on approving and selecting candidate. The party’s hierarchy cannot simply override the usual rules to ensure a particular candidate is picked, except perhaps in a by-election. Whilst Sandi Toksvig may make a very good candidate, she needs to go through the same procedure as anyone else. Indeed, knowing what the Liberal Democrats are like, party members are more likely to reject someone if they think the leadership is interfering rather than select them.

IAIN DALE: Sandi Toksvig to stand in Meon Valley?

Thinking the unthinkable

Just by raising questions about the way that paedophiles are treated was going to cause problems for Terry Grange – Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police. Anyone in that position who is seen to be advocating that ‘paedophiles’ should be treated more leniently is asking for trouble.

But as much as it may be unpopular to say it, he has a point in some of what he says. Not because paedophiles should be treated more lightly but because the whole definition of what one is is in my view wrong.

Put it this way. Is it right for a 16 year old who has sex with a 15 year old to be classed as a paedophile and sex offender for the rest of their life? In these circumstances this could be two people who potentially are boyfriend and girlfriend, and whilst I wouldn’t advocate having sex when you are very young, many people do.

This is a completely different sort of crime from a case where someone deliberately has sex with someone much younger than them simply because of a sexual attraction towards children. But by putting them all in to the same bracket, it not only ruins the life of someone who may have made a mistake when they were young but I think it almost lessens the impact of the label: paedophile.

Someone who has sex with someone who is only marginally underage deserves to be punished in some way, but they do not deserve to be classed as a paedophile and added to the sex offenders register. Someone who chooses to have sex with someone specifically because they get turned on by the idea that they are a child deserves to be put in prison for a long time and should be on the sex offenders register. Indeed I would argue that if someone is still deemed to be such a danger that they have to be kept on a sex offenders register, then they shouldn’t be let out of prison in the first place.

Earlier this year, when the Government was in trouble for not knowing the whereabouts of a number of sex offenders, it became clear then that some of these supposedly dangerous people fell in to the former category. One was a school teacher who had a relationship with a pupil – OK, not something I would advocate as a positive – but it then emerged that the teacher was not that much older than the pupil and the couple then went on to be married for many years. It is this sort of case where the people involved should be prosecuted, but do not deserve to be stigmatised for life.

What I am arguing is for the separation of two crimes. One of which is still a crime but deserves a less severe punishment, and another one which should quite rightly be treated as a very serious criminal act.

BBC NEWS: Chief defends underage sex remark

Save Tinsley Cooling Towers

Tinsley Cooling Towers, SheffieldThere is now a place where you can sign an online petition to save Tinsley’s cooling towers. So if you want to help save this important landmark, then make sure you sign. The campaign has now had support from Anthony Gormley and Jarvis Cocker, as well as many other prominent Sheffielders and non-Sheffielders.

PETITION ONLINE: Save the Landmark Tinsley Cooling Towers

Currie gets Haw bashing

Following yesterday’s post, I have now found copies of the articles about Edwina Currie’s “bar brawl” with Doug Haw, which I appear to have faithfully stored away. I suppose it wasn’t often that Staffordshire University appeared on the front page of two national newspapers (both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph covered the stories).

Both articles are readable if you click on the thumbnail and then again until they are a reasonable size.

First the story from the Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel of 7th October 1995. This article does at least get his name right.


and then from the Daily Mail of the same date:


History of the “Granny Beating Labour councillor”

It isn’t often that I can add more to a story on Guido Fawkes’ blog. But after spotting one story I had to.

It has been reported that Doug Haw, a former East Staffordshire Labour councillor and agent to South Derbyshire MP Mark Todd, has been sent to jail for assaulting his elderly neighbour. Given the likelihood of there being two Doug Haw’s active in Labour in South Derbyshire this must be the same one who was Welfare Officer (yes really) of Staffordshire University Student Union when I was a student there.

His previous brush with fame seems to be largely invisible now thanks to the lack of internet use back then. But he reached the front page of a couple of national newspapers back in 1995/6 when he tried to start a fight at university with Edwina Currie, who was then his home MP.

The fight started when Edwina Currie was invited to the student union fresher’s fayre by the university’s Conservative society. She spent a bit of time at the student union handing out stickers and chatting to students. That was when she was approached by Doug Haw who tried to get her kicked out. I don’t remember the exact details, but what then ensued was basically a cat fight with Doug and Edwina trying to put stickers on each other and shouting at each other. But it got to a sufficiently alarming level for the police to be called. Edwina Currie had left before the police arrived, but it does give an intriguing background to the latest story, and it provided enough amusements for newspapers to report it at the time.

COUNCILLORS UK: Jail after attack on woman, 83

GUIDO FAWKES’ BLOG: Granny-Beater Labour councillor

Finally. Apologies for the long break in posting, but my laptop has not worked properly for around two months and so the opportunities to post are severely limited. Today however I just had to post something.