To a recent correspondent …

Owl has received a communication which is not being published. However, Owl gives the correspondent the following information:

Owl is NOT Cassandra.
Owl has no Twitter account, although the blog posts DO get an automatic Facebook and Twitter link, nothing else.
The phrase “I know where you live” feels just a tiny bit threatening.

Another Devon Tory MP with his snout in the trough

This man appears to have army experience but no business experience – what exactly does he do for £350 per hour?

“… A company that marketed a failed bond scheme that lost savers £236m has been funding an MP’s private salary.

Johnny Mercer receives £85,000 from Crucial Academy, a company ultimately funded by Surge Financial Limited.

Surge Financial Limited took 25% commission for marketing bonds by London Capital and Finance (LCF), which is now in administration.

Mr Mercer – who is facing calls from investors to quit as an MP – said he had done nothing wrong.

The Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View is a non-executive director of Crucial Academy, which trains military veterans and aims to find them employment.

Mr Mercer, himself a former Army officer, is contracted to work 20 hours per month, a rate of more than £350 per hour.

The basic annual salary for an MP is £79,468, and they also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office.

According to Mr Mercer’s register of members’ interests, his only other regular income is the £85,000 per year from Crucial Academy. …”

“Why I’ve joined a new group of MPs trying to fix Britain’s futile adversarial politics”

Could you see Swire or Parish doing this for the sake of our district and our country? No. Could you see Claire Wright doing this? Yes.

“… A few weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in joining the More United Network. One call with its leadership team and I was sold. The idea is simple really, a new platform for MPs who are willing, where possible, to work cross-party in the national interest, regardless of which party is in power.

I know it’s a cliche, but becoming a dad completely changed how I viewed the world. My outlook was different, less selfish and short termist. I began thinking more about the sort of country I wanted my kids to grow up in. And I could either be the guy who sits round the dinner table or down the pub putting the world to rights, or I could get out there and fight for the things I believe in. So that’s what I did, and two years later I was elected to parliament.

Most MPs enter politics for reasons like this, having been inspired by something or someone in their lives to make a positive difference. And going to work surrounded by a group of people with an immense breadth and depth of knowledge and experience means there’s always something to learn, and areas where common cause can be found.

What many people don’t know is that some of the best work in parliament happens in the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), where MPs with a shared interest join forces to push for change. Sadly, this sort of positive cross-party cooperation doesn’t often make the headlines.

On the whole, MPs tend to agree on the destination we want to arrive at. We all want to make sure our NHS is at its best, that we’re giving our kids the best start in life and an excellent education so they can fulfil their potential, that people can achieve the dream of home ownership, that our high streets thrive, our environment is protected, and that we have the right transport and digital infrastructure in place.

What is true is that we don’t always agree on the path to get there. That is no bad thing either, we need a battle of ideas, and no side has a monopoly on good ones.

This is what the More United MP Network hopes to achieve; bringing people together in a space that allows consensual politics to flourish so we can find solutions. Seeking out differences and grievances just for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone.

Outside the Westminster circus, real life and real issues are affecting my constituents. Too many feel the deck is stacked against them. It is that pervasive sense of unfairness that threatens social cohesion, and has seen people lurching to populists on the left and right in search of scapegoats and easy answers.

It’s the job of serious MPs to tell it straight – that there is no silver bullet or magical solution to all the issues facing us as a nation. That whilst of course at times our political differences will be too big to bridge, where we can work together to make your lives better, we should.

And when it comes to those of us in the More United Network, we will.”

Mrs Russell (Tory candidate Seaton) responds again


Mrs Russell responds again – however some points in her response have never been brought up by Owl, only by commentators on her original response. Much is repeated. And once again she confuses East Devon Watch with East Devon Alliance – two totally different entities (though EDW DOES have a predisposition to the aims of EDA and independents it is NOT a mouthpiece of that group). Owl reports what it wants and takes no direction from any party or person. Should another party or group take control of EDDC rest assured it will be scrutinised as closely as the current ruling party.

Her comments on the closure of the local community hospitals is particularly interesting.

“Thanks for your comments – despite what is continually misreported – I do live locally – my only owned property is in Seaton which I have just finished doing up. My daughter is at school in Axminster where I am a local school governor, another daughter works in Colyford, one about to go to university (admittedly up north) and I still have children (grown up ) who live in Sussex. If you are aware of the electoral system you will know that County elections do not run concurrently with Town and District – I am therefore mid term as a County Councillor and you are correct I have no intention of abandoning the electorate who voted me in midway through a term – that would demonstrate that I was more a fair weather councillor than a committed one – what’s more I have made no secret of that with the electorate on the doorstep. I am not hundreds of miles away – it is precisely 170 miles to my division – most certainly a long journey. But from my division it is 100 mile round trip to County Hall in West Sussex anyway- so I am used to driving lots and lots of miles. My attendance is the high and meetings clash on occasion when you are busy but rest assured if elected I will ensure I fulfil both my local and strategic role at EDDC.

With regards ‘no understanding of local issues’ – firstly I have not received any biased briefings from the local Tory party. I am an experienced Councillor and I can see the issues you face – the challenges of local economic development and the impact in one part of the town (upper end of Queen St particularly which is roughly 5 minutes from my home) as an example – we are facing them too in the south east and the same problems if not already here are headed this way. I know the focal point of the entire EDA campaign is the hospital -yet surprisingly the conversations I have had on the doorstep with voters have not included any mention of the hospital by them. Secondly, it is disingenuous to say that EDDC refused to obtain the hospital as a community asset – when actually a hospital does not meet legislative criteria i.e. for the social wellbeing of the community. The ACV law relates to buildings such as village pubs and shops – not hospitals. Finally if the NHS do not want to sell it, how can the District Council ever hope to acquire it?

Re a Linked in Profile? I do not use Linked in – only Twitter and Facebook. But my life has been in Construction but I am not known for being a greedy person – being the only councillor who did not take her entitlement to the small allowance for East Grinstead Town Council and a regular donator to community initiative funding applications via the Crowdfunding mechanism we have in West Sussex (similar to the one in Devon) and other charities may give some indicator to the contrary here.7

Re my ‘singling out’ of the EDA – in actual fact the EDA have gone to great lengths to try to smeer and dish up dirt on me not to mention the reference on this blog to myself being the ‘Hermione Grainger of local politics with far right links’. One EDA member has gone to the extreme lengths of contacting my local parish council and the County Council – to ensure that I am compliant in attendance and claims of expenses which of course has been clarified. With regards the East Devon Watch as it appears to solely promote positively the EDA candidates and is negative towards others, you will have to forgive me if I tend to think there is a strong connection there.

To suggest I have far right links because a logo has appeared on the ‘likes’ of my Facebook page is a joke. If you could find I had real links to the far right (i.e. membership to a far right organisation) that would be a different matter – but of course you won’t. The simple fact is – like a lot of people in Seaton and in the country – I voted to leave the EU and that’s all there is to it, but for the record I am also of Cornish and Irish descent, grew up in London, lived in Sussex and now live in the West Country.

In terms of my commitment as a Councillor – if one were to really get into the fabric of where I am still currently representing, they would see the results I get for the community – including most recently saving an elderly day care centre from closure – hailed as the deal of the century by many as not only did it save the day care from closure, it enabled other community groups to remain in situ, found a new home for the local Age UK and freed up a delapidated old building for the District Council to turn into social housing.

In terms of challenging me to do the things mentioned in the final paragraph – most of it I have already answered. I have had discussions on the doorstep with residents who quite understand my need to fulfil my final commitments for the remainder of the term in West Sussex – as I would do in East Devon if the situation was reversed. Councillors should not ‘distance’ themselves from a commitment just because their lives have changed. If I was not intending to cut links with West Sussex I would have re-stood as a Parish Cllr in Sussex – but as you will note I did not. I have already stated publicly that if I get elected I will work hard to deliver the towns ambitions and needs so there is little else I can add to this discussion. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and if elected the town will not be disappointed.

Always happy to meet in person to discuss concerns and views irrespective of the outcome next week.”

English ‘democracy deserts’ would be eradicated with proportional representation

“England is facing “democracy deserts” in next week’s local elections with 148 seats going totally uncontested, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

The seats in the elections on Thursday next week where only one person is standing are spread across 47 councils in the country, the pressure group’s research said.

Of these the Conservatives will gain 137, Liberal Democrats will get five, four will go to independent candidates and Labour will get two.

The society also highlighted parties or independent candidates have also been guaranteed an additional 152 seats through multi-member wards going ‘under contested’ – where a lack of competition means that at least one seat in the ward is guaranteed for a particular party.

There are around 580,000 potential voters in these types of wards, and a further 270,000 voters who are in areas that will see no electoral challenge at all.

About 850,000 voters will be affected by the 300 uncontested or under contested seats, the group added.

The East Midlands has the highest number of uncontested seats, followed by the East of England, West Midlands and the South East, the research said.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the ERS, said: “Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet around 270,000 are being denied the chance to exercise their most basic democratic right and have their say on who represents them. Clearly something is not right, with voters going totally unheard.

“Large parts of England are at risk of becoming ‘democracy deserts’, with seats going uncontested and residents having no say who represents them.”

Hughes noted Scotland has almost entirely eradicated “the scourge of uncontested seats” since introducing proportional voting in 2007.

This method, where voters rank their preferred representatives as opposed to selecting one candidate, could bring an end to what the ERS calls “rotten boroughs”.

“It’s time we brought the era of rotten boroughs to a close, by scrapping the broken first-past-the-post system in England and ensuring there is always real competition. A more proportional system would end the crisis of local ‘one party states’ and open up our politics at last,” he added. “

Less tax, many fewer services – lowest investment in public services in EU

Spending on public services in Britain would be higher by £2,500 per person each year if the government matched comparable European levels of funding, an analysis shows today.

The Institute for Public Policy Research found that Britain spends about 40 per cent of GDP on public services, down from 47 per cent in 2010. European spending has also fallen, but comparable EU countries still spend an average of 48 per cent of their GDP on areas such as health, education and welfare, the think tank said.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden were classed as the comparable countries.

Britain’s tax burden is also lower than the European average. Employee taxes amount to about 11.6 per cent of average income in the UK, compared with 15.4 per cent in the EU.

The total burden of taxation in Britain is 33.3 per cent compared with 41.8 per cent. The figures, from the left-wing think tank, are likely to be seized on by Labour as evidence that its plan to increase taxes to support greater public spending is not as radical as Conservative critics would claim.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, senior research fellow at the institute, said that its report showed that after years of austerity there was now a need to increase public sector spending. “Our neighbours have consistently invested more in welfare and public services and consistently deliver better social outcomes than us,” he said. “We need a fundamental shift in our approach to investment in this country to deliver high-quality social and childcare, a life-long education system, 21st-century healthcare and a properly funded benefits system. Ending austerity must be more than a political soundbite.”

The report also highlighted international rankings by the OECD that it said showed that Britain was lagging behind comparable European countries in social outcomes. These showed that out of 11 countries the UK was ranked ninth for life expectancy and eighth for child poverty.

The group said that since 2010 life expectancy in the UK, which had consistently risen over the previous century, had stopped rising. It added that health inequalities were also significant, with the poorest in society living 8.4 years less than the richest.

The UK did, however, have the second lowest levels of long-term unemployment and lower levels of insecure employment than most of the other countries surveyed.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)