Former Tory minister quits party and lavishes praise on Starmer

A former Conservative minister has quit the party, claiming it is dominated by “ideology and self-obsession”, and has instead thrown her support behind Keir Starmer.

Aubrey Allegretti 

Claire Perry O’Neill, who was part of Theresa May’s cabinet and was briefly retained by Boris Johnson to help run preparations for the Cop26 summit, praised the Labour leader’s “sober, fact-driven, competent political leadership”.

Perry O’Neill, who was a Tory MP from 2010 to 2019, said she liked and admired the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt. But in an article, she said the pair had become too beholden to inter-party factions to “deliver the big changes we need in a fact-based, competent way”.

“I spend most of my time now working in the private sector and this is not the way to build back confidence and deliver investment, especially in the crucial energy sector,” Perry O’Neill wrote in the Times.

Since leaving the government, she has held senior advisory positions – including at the consultancy firm McKinsey & Co, as well as Scottish Power. Perry O’Neill said she had quit the Conservatives earlier this month.

“My former party’s often cavalier approach to business and academia coupled with a post-Brexit reluctance to strategically engage with our European neighbours has damaged our ability to deliver the energy system we need,” she said.

However, Perry O’Neill lavished praise on Starmer. She said Labour had put “energy at the top of their proposed new government inbox”, and applauded its ambitions for green technologies and a national low-carbon wealth fund.

She added: “Even more important is their proposed focus on a new way of governing, focused on measurable outcomes not short-term shout-outs.

“Building a low-carbon, secure, affordable energy system for the UK is an immense challenge that needs sober, fact-driven, competent political leadership. I sense that is exactly what we will get should Labour win the next general election.”

The move risks undermining Sunak’s attempt to cast himself as the leader of a united party.

Starmer addressed Labour MPs in a private meeting to kick off the party’s 2023 strategy on Monday night, saying the year would be spent “setting out the plan” for Labour in government.

He said of the two speeches given last week – by Starmer and Sunak – there were “competing visions for Britain … the prime minister setting the bar so low for his promises to the country that he could hardly fail to flop over it”.

Starmer insisted Labour was the party of hope, change and optimism – and had a “proper plan to make all that change happen”, referencing a pledge for further devolution, as well as policies on jobs, skills and the NHS workforce.

He said the prize at the end was “massive” – a chance to “add ‘24 to ‘45 and ‘97 in the history books”.

Conservative leaves party over ‘damaging’ proposals

The nasty party in action, as the Plymouth Conservatives lose another councillor!  – Owl

Amber Edwards

A Plymouth Conservative councillor and former council leader has resigned from the Conservative group. Patrick Nicholson will be seeking re-election to Plymouth City Council on May 4th 2023 as an independent when the Conservative’s proposed Council budget for 2023/24 is published, and following his de-selection by the Plymouth-wide Conservative approval panel.

Councillor Nicholson was first elected in 1992 and has served the Plympton St Mary ward throughout his time on the city council. He also served as the youngest city council leader in 2000 and as the youngest-ever Lord Mayor of Plymouth in 2005.

Cllr Nicholson was deputy leader of the council and of the Conservative group until March 2022 when, along with then council leader Cllr Nick Kelly and other cabinet colleagues, he stood down.

Cllr Nicholson said: “With the publication of the Conservative council budget with damaging proposals for district centre car parking charges, cuts to ward councillors’ community grants, potential cuts affecting important Plympton and Plymouth facilities such as swimming pools and community venues like Harewood House. I cannot and will not support the budget in its current form as it will damage my Plympton St Mary Ward residents.

“I am also appalled and disgusted with the treatment I have received by the current chairs of the three Conservative associations in Plymouth since last August when I submitted my application to stand again as a Conservative candidate, by de-selecting me as the Plympton St. Mary Ward Conservative Candidate.

“Along with the leader of the Conservative group Cllr Richard Bingley, many of these individuals have been Labour and UKIP Party members whilst over the last 30 years I have diligently sought to represent the residents of the Plympton St Mary Ward. I am confirming my intention to stand for re-election as an independent candidate in the forthcoming Plymouth City Council Elections in May.”

In order to campaign for his re-election Cllr Nicholson has tendered his immediate resignation from the Conservative group and will join the Independent Alliance Group of Independent Councillors to freely speak up for the Plympton and Plymouth issues that he is passionate about.

These include the unnecessary loss of trees in Armada Way and the impending council budget-setting meeting in February which is likely to see the introduction of car parking charges in the city’s district shopping centres like Ridgeway, Chaddlewood and Estover, as well as the potential closure of community facilities like Plympton’s Harewood House and the Plympton Swimming Pool.

Cllr Nicholson. said: “Over my long council service I have always put my Plympton St Mary Ward residents first and so my constituents should have the final choice of re-electing me or choosing a successor”.

Plans for Great South West region taken to parliament

In September 2017 Owl reported: We’ve had the Heart of the South West LEP! We’ve had the “Golden Triangle” LEP (Exeter, Plymouth, Torquay).We”ve even had the “Golden Quadrangle” LEP (Owl’s suggestion for adding in Cornwall or Dorset). NOW we have the “Golden Pentangle” (adding in Cornwall AND Dorset), yet ANOTHER unelected, unaccountable and non-transparent quango: The Great South West, the LEP for LEPs

Oh and who is the power behind the GSW economic strategy? None other than Pennon, the South West’s biggest employer and parent company of South West Water. So profit before investment – just what we need in the region! – Owl

Darren Slade

A DRIVE to promote Dorset as part of a “powerhouse” brand called the Great South West will share its vision of the future at the Houses of Parliament today [10 Jan]

The Great South West Partnership wants the name to sit alongside the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and the Western Gateway as part of efforts to grow the UK economy.

The partnership recently held its first board meeting to discuss plans to build on the region’s natural capital, develop a clean, digital economy and tackle climate change.

It will host a parliamentary reception at the House of Lords today to showcase the Great South West prospectus and its vision for the future.

Karl Tucker, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “The Great South West is united by the idea that by working together, we can achieve more. It was therefore fantastic to come together with our partners to define our ambitions as a region, and set out our plan for becoming the country’s Natural Powerhouse.

“We are looking forward to the region’s green and blue opportunity being presented in Parliament, as part of our efforts to gain government support for the Great South West.”

Cecilia Bufton, chair of Dorset LEP, said: “I’m delighted that the Great South West Partnership is up and running, developing pan-regional activities in areas of our common interest. Thanks to the determination of many over the past five years, it is great to see the Great South West campaign move forward with such ambition.”

The partnership aims to unlock the region’s potential to be a world leader in clean growth. It wants organisations across the region to work together on business support, trade and investment, net zero, sustainable transport, clean energy, rural productivity and tourism.

It aims to make the south west the first net zero region, improving connectivity and supporting technologies that will help generate prosperity.

The partnership is made up of businesses, universities, LEPs and local authorities, including Dorset Council, BCP Council and Dorset LEP.

At their first meeting, the partnership agreed four initial funding awards:

  • to support the high value manufacturing sector;
  • to work with the Department for International Trade to deliver a regional trade and investment hub;
  • to deliver a carbon emissions study;
  • and to support the South West Social Mobility Commission.

Appledore – Cruise ship plan to tackle housing crisis

Plans to tackle the housing crisis in part of Devon being putting refugees or homeless people on cruise ships will be explored. Torridge District Council voted to look into the feasibility of leasing or renting a vessel to accommodate emergency or other housing list people.

Lewis Clarke

Torridge District Council had previously declared that they were committed to tackling the housing crisis in the area. Previous ideas included the possible use of modular housing units, evaluating options to reduce the number of empty homes, and bringing forward schemes in partnership with local social housing providers

But at the full council meeting at the end of December, proposals to accommodate refugees or homeless people on cruise ships in Devon were discussed. Councillors voted ‘overwhelmingly’ in support of the motion put forward by Cllr David Brenton.

His motion said: “With the large numbers of cruise ships being scrapped or laid up due to a fall in demand following Covid. I propose that TDC explore the feasibility of forming a partnership with our neighboring authorities i.e North Devon and Exeter etc, with a view to leasing or renting a vessel to accommodate emergency or other housing list people.

“Cruise ships have a high standard of habitation and self-contained servicing and a suitable craft which would fit into Middle Dock could provide a quick solution for some of our desperate citizens needing housing.”

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Brenton added: “We live in radical times which call for radical measures to alleviate them. We do need to look at what’s coming our way and it’s about to hit the fan. It’s getting quite serious now over the question of accommodation.

“The very fact that our Home Secretary – who I try not to listen to very often, if at all – did mention it in one of her speeches about cruise ships being used for accommodation. I then heard it from the Scottish National Party housing minister, also talking about it.

“It is feasible I believe. They are scrapping perfectly good accommodation because there is no demand for it. We are in a unique position where we own Middle Dock which has got a good birthing situation there, despite over the years the shipyard had bought out some vast vessels to park alongside there.

“This clearly needs a lot of work to be done alongside this. It may be an ideal thing for an intern or apprentice to do some homework on this, but also to contact our neighbouring authorities.

“I have spoken to the housing officer at Exeter City Council who expressed an interest, but not in writing yet. I would also like you to have somebody look into this as a possibility.

“Bear in mind that the Ukrainian refugees are coming to the end of their period of being with host families and there are those who would like to find a place to live, and that will not be easy. We have AirB&B and all sorts of things conspiring to stop people getting accommodation, so we need to consider any possibility.”

Cllr Rachel Clarke added: “The idea in principle is very good. My concern is that when you put lots of people in tight accommodation like that, you’ve got to think of diseases and illnesses which could happen. Do we have the right infrastructure for doctors and nurses which we have a major problem with?

“It needs a lot of work and you’ve got to spread it out as there are other things, such as alcohol or drug issues. It’s not an easy fix. We’ve just got to think it through properly.”

Cllr Simon Newton said: “Scotland have been using cruise ships to accommodate Ukrainian refugees as they came over, initially as a holding centre and then when they could be found permanent accommodation, they could then move out. The difference there and going along the line of what Cllr Clarke has just said was that a single focus group who were socially going to mix well and easily together. While they came with many traumas they were unlikely to create other issues, whereas there are quite clearly many other issues.

“The idea is a good one, it’s thinking out of the box, and from my background, we’ve used this type of accommodation around the world many times in the past. You can sail up an instant hotel and accommodate people on it.

“Where you put it, and how you do it, is a completely different game. But the idea of thinking out of the box is completely worthy.”

Cllr Peter Christie added: “When I saw this first, I suspect I had the same feeling as many of us that this was slightly crackers. Having said that, I think it is worth looking at.

“I used to be in the merchant navy, and the big problem with ships is maintenance. I think we need to approach the harbourmaster, Appledore Shipyard, and ask them about this. It could be an ongoing cost that is so high it would rule it out, but by all means let’s look at it.”