It is with sadness that I report to those who haven't heard that Robert Chambers who ran the mutleythedog website passed away suddenly in the early hours of Friday 21 May. A webpage has been set up where his many online and offline friends have left suitable tributes to the man. Robert certainly knew satire and had a genius for making serious points via wacky fantasies.
I was fortunate enough to meet him offline as well as online. One evening in early March 2007 he came to visit Prague on some EU quango conference. My recollection of our conversation remains vivid. Not only did he provide political and blogging inspiration, but his demeanour taught me a few things about how to engage with other people.
We both had lots of fun on our blogs embellishing our adventures. I have tagged blogposts that involved Mutley which included a few days in July 2007 when he took on a pro-European alter-ego in my absence to wind up some of my regular site visitors. My favourites were Mutley the Dog's Night Out in Prague and a provocative post on a United Europe (see the comments!).
Now that I am a Conservative constituency chairman, I look back on those more carefree blogging days with fondness and won't forget Robert's support. A true libertarian, he didn't live his life like a dress rehearsal, yet exuded a natural kindness. God bless and RIP.
24 May 2010
09 May 2010
St Paul's in the Jewellery Quarter is one of the most picturesque polling stations in Birmingham. Serving the north of the Ladywood ward, it is also a polling station where the Conservatives do relatively well. However, the number of voters it serves is crazy. Latest information suggests it has 3,008 voters. For comparison the polling station with the second highest number of voters in the ward has an electorate of 2,117.
This large electorate has been a source of frustration for some time. It means some voters have quite a trek to place their cross and I believe that other Conservative politicians in the city have made representations to have further polling stations made available in Ladywood ward. On Thursday, we experienced another unfortunate consequence of the current arrangements. Having popped in in the morning I arrived at the polling station at about 6pm and already the queues were growing. At this stage, it was just inside the church, but within a short time, it extended into the street as my photo shows. On the one hand, it is a sign of higher turnout, but when I saw people in the slow-moving queue giving up on the democratic process I had to go into the station to let the two staff manning the station know that the queue now extended well outside the church and that people were walking away. I told them that anything they could do to speed up would be appreciated.
Obviously, I left to prepare for the count, but I did send texts to friends I know in the Jewellery Quarter asking whether they had voted and to get a move on. Next sign of a problem was when a friend sent me a text at 10.10 saying 'still voting now'. It is reported that 100 people were turned away from the polling station at around 10 O'Clock some of whom had turned up as early as nine. And you can add on the people who left the queue or decided not to vote based on the queue to the numbers who were disenfranchised.
If any of my readers can shed more light on the matter, I suggest checking out this statement from Birmingham Council. The action that needs to be taken now is obvious. Have another polling station in the Jewellery Quarter to relieve the potential bottlenecks and put more voters within easy access of polling stations. I would suggest the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
08 May 2010
Here are the 5 things that pleased me the most (bearing in mind that Brown's hold on Downing Street whilst precarious is not yet gone).
1. Expenses Villains Paying The Price
Jacqui Smith getting the boot from Redditch was my favourite moment. I take the view that she had a cheek even standing, so seeing her go down on a swing over 9% was gratifying. Honourable mentions to Shaheed Malik (Dewsbury) and Ann Keen (Dewsbury) who were also deposed.
2. Increasing Vote Share In Ladywood
The challenges we faced were huge. For a start, we risked being squeezed as the third runner in a two-horse race and only picked our Parliamentary candidate in February. Put this into the context of national voting patterns showing that Labour shored up their vote in the inner cities (flip-side of winning the immigration debate?) our candidate's performance was excellent.
3. Warwickshire North
Dan Byles took Warwickshire North with a majority of 54! I got to know Dan when I was working in his constituency. I know that the incumbent put up a big fight to keep Dan out, but Dan fought a smashing campaign and will be a great advocate for his area.
4. Weoley Castle
On the Tuesday of the election I spent a full day in Weoley Castle ward which was won by just 150 votes. Unfortunately, we lost three Conservative councillors in Birmingham in similar wards, so the extra effort and campaigning that Peter, Adrian and Eddie have done in Weoley was crucial.
5. Other Local Wins
Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South-West), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), and Margot James (Stourbridge) were all confident of winning and did so. I expect them to be MPs for a long time and to do great things to promote the Conservative cause in the West Midlands.