Was “smug” Swire responsible for the Seaton/Sidmouth switch?

Owl says: we all know he is a pal of Jeremy Hunt.

Seaton County Councillor Martin Shaw (Independent East Devon Alliance) Facebook page:

“Was Hugo Swire behind the Seaton-Sidmouth switch? A smug Swire told BBC’s Sunday Politics this morning that East Devon had more community hospitals than western Devon and than the national average. He failed to mention that it has many more over-85s too. He backed the NEW Devon CCG’s plans to replace community hospital beds with care at home, and said we must ’embrace change’.

Swire knows that beds in Exmouth and Sidmouth, in his constituency, are safe from closure. So he is happy to write off Seaton (which he no longer represents after boundary changes a few years back) and Honiton.
Swire’s self-satisfied comments raise the question of whether he played any role in the CCG’s bizarre, unexplained, last-minute switch of 24 beds from Seaton to Sidmouth. Clearly had the CCG stuck with its original preferred option of closing beds in Sidmouth, they would have given Claire Wright a huge issue – which might well have seen her taking Swire’s seat in the general election.

Readers will recall that during the consultation, Swire was already saying that if beds had to go, they should stay in Sidmouth. Did Sir Hugo, or Tories acting on his behalf, lobby the CCG? How did the CCG respond?
Swire’s colleague Neil Parish MP told me and other Seaton councillors that the decision ‘smells’. Whose smell was it?

I appeared on the same edition of Sunday Politics as Swire, but was not in the studio to respond to him. Here I am being interviewed! (YOU WILL BE ABLE WATCH THE FULL PROGRAMME ON BBC iPLAYER SOON.)”

STPs may not be introduced till after Brexit – but are ‘Success Regimes’ similarly doomed or not?

Owl has had to resort to CAPITALS it is so mad!







What Hunt said yesterday:

“Given the result of the latest general election and with the negotiations around Brexit due to start later this month, it is now unlikely that the government will be able to introduce legislation for sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) in the next few years – if at all.

Speaking at NHS Confederation yesterday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt argued that the legislative landscape has changed after a hung Parliament was declared last week. Because of this, it is unrealistic to expect the government to enact legislative health changes before the Brexit process is finished.

“We said [in our manifesto] that we would legislate to give STPs a statutory underpinning if that was felt to be necessary,” he said. “To be clear, we’re expecting to be in power until 2022 and deliver a stable government to make that possible.

“But obviously, the legislative landscape has changed, and that means that legislation of this nature is only going to be possible if there is a consensus across all political parties that it’s necessary. I don’t think that is in any way impossible, but it’s realistically not something we would do while the Brexit process was carrying on.”

Post-Brexit, he added, the government will have “a lot better understanding” of the legislative changes required by STPs. But even then, changing the law would require cross-party support – a much greater challenge now that the Conservatives no longer hold the majority in the House of Commons.

Responding to audience questions after his keynote speech, Hunt – who survived Theresa May’s recent political reshuffle – also hinted that the NHS could be in line to receive some more transformation funding.

Asked by a West Hampshire GP about the possibility of supporting transformation with ringfenced investment in order to enable new models of care elsewhere in the country, the health secretary argued “that is what the STP plans are about”.

But the biggest risk to pouring in more capital funding, he noted, is “if we don’t maintain the financial rigour and discipline that we started to see coming back into the system in the last year”.

“That was really what slowed down this process in the 2015-16 financial year, when we would’ve liked to put a lot more money into transformation,” the health secretary said. “But I think now we’re in a much, much better position to do that. We absolutely want to make sure that money is not an impediment to the rolling out of the STPs, because they are central to our vision.”

In fact, the recent NHS response to the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester, which saw staff working around the clock to cope with the unexpected demand, is a “very good reason for exactly what we’re trying to achieve with the STP process”, Hunt argued.

“The interesting lesson for me about the response in Manchester was how joined-up it was as a result of the terrific progress, under Jon Rouse’s leadership, that trusts have made in coming together as part of their STP,” he added. “I think they’ve probably gone further and faster than anywhere else in the country. I know it’s not been easy to do that, but it was extremely streamlined and effective.”

He also suggested that the government would be prepared to boost the region’s cash pot “if there are specific aspects of the response to those terrible events where there have been unexpected costs that the NHS incurred that wouldn’t be part of its normal response to emergency situations”.

STPs need local support
Asked by another audience member to explain the importance of bringing all local communities together into designing and delivering change, Hunt emphasised that the reasoning behind STPs is to bring about “fantastically beneficial” changes for patients.

“It’s a transformation that is wholly positive for the public,” the secretary of state said. “But people are passionate about their NHS and they obviously worry about any change that happens, and that’s why we have a responsibility to communicate that change. And that change is usually best not communicated by politicians, but by clinicians, because frankly you guys are trusted a lot more than we are.

“That’s why I think it’s really important to have that local engagement, and that’s why, when it comes to the big transformation plans, Simon Stevens and I are supporting them with every fibre in our bodies at a national level.
“But at a local level, we need you to be making the arguments. The evidence is that when you do that, even with potentially controversial changes, it’s quite possible to win the case to do them. But it does involve a lot of local engagement and I think that’s going to be one of the central challenges for the next few years.”


Could this be our next Prime Minister? Please, NO!

Anyone who voted Conservative in East Devon but who might be wobbling nos, PLEASE read this and do your research on the ONLY alternative – Claire Wright. And ask yourself – is this better or worse than Diane Abbott forgetting a couple of numbers.

“It must have seemed a good idea at the time. A 15-minute light grilling on the morning BBC sofa with whichever stand-in presenter the corporation had dredged up to fill the void left by Andrew Marr, still recovering from a stroke. Nothing that an old hand like Boris Johnson need fear.

Tousle the hair a little, some self-deprecation and a bit of a plug for the BBC TV documentary on Monday to remind the Tory backbenchers that if the ball ever popped out of the scrum, he would be on hand to take it, almost accidentally, over the line. A spot of liberal differentiation from his school chum David Cameron on the benefits of migrants might provide with him an entry to the likely story of the day, the prime minister’s imminent speech on migrants and access to social housing. But after the 15 minutes of chilling inquisition by the softly spoken Eddie Mair, Johnson’s reputation had taken a severe pounding. Indeed, it was probably the worst interview the mayor has ever conducted.

It was inevitably described as a car crash, but in the case of Johnson, it was more of a bicycle crash: spokes all over the road, wheels mangled and a reputation badly dented.

After the opening exchanges – “Good morning, how are you?”; “Very, very good, thank you” – Johnson went downhill at an alarming pace until by the interview’s close, admitting he had “sandpapered” quotes as a Times journalist, failing to deny he lied to the party leader at the time, Michael Howard, about an extramarital affair and conceding that he had humoured an old friend when he asked for a phone number in the knowledge that the friend intended to beat up the owner of it.

By the interview’s close, “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” was one of Mair’s more generous reflections on Johnson’s integrity.

Doubtless Johnson had been lulled into a false sense of security by the opening minutes in which he was able to hint, without providing incontrovertible proof, that he thought Cameron was misunderstanding the importance of migrants to the London economy.

He also gently put the boot into his predecessor as mayor for failing to plan the London Olympics’ stadium properly. He came across as the charming, talented politician that he is.

But then Mair took the interview on an unexpected turn, and asked Johnson why he had agreed to be interviewed for the Michael Cockerell documentary. Johnson flannelled before, saying he had not seen the programme. Suddenly Mair’s tone changed lethally: “But this happened in your life, so you know about this. The Times let you go after you made up a quote. Why did you make up a quote?”

It is impossible to describe the menacing politeness of tone in which Mair specialises, or his ability to pause mid-sentence to maximise the impact. Johnson asked plaintively: “Are you sure your viewers wouldn’t want to hear more about housing in London?” It was, he added, a long and lamentable story, to which Mair replied: “OK. But you made a quote up.”

Johnson was cornered. “Well, what happened was that … I ascribed events that were supposed to have taken place before the death of Piers Gaveston to events that actually took place after the death of Piers Gaveston,” he said.

“Yes. You made something up,” Mair replied. Johnson said: “Well, I mean, I mildly sandpapered something somebody said, and yes it’s very embarrassing and I’m very sorry about it.”

With this admission trousered, Mair continued: “Let me ask you about a barefaced lie. When you were in Michael Howard’s team, you denied to him you were having an affair. It turned out you were and he sacked you for that. Why did you lie to your party leader?”

Johnson squirmed. “Well, I mean again, I’m … with great respect … on that, I never had any conversation with Michael Howard about that matter and, you know, I don’t propose …”

Mair interrupted: “You did lie to him.”

Johnson: “Well, you know, I don’t propose to go into all that again.”

Mair: “I don’t blame you.”

Johnson: “No, well why should I? I’ve been through, you know, that question a lot with the, well, watch the documentary. Why don’t we talk about something else?”

Unfortunately for Johnson, Mair was willing to change the subject.

Referring to the documentary, Mair explained: “The programme includes your reaction as you listen to a phonecall in which your friend Darius Guppy asks you to supply the address of a journalist … so that he can have him physically assaulted. The words ‘beaten up’ and ‘broken ribs’ are said to you …”

Johnson replied after snorting about an old story being dragged up. “Yes, it was certainly true that he was in a bit of a state and I did humour him in a long phone conversation, from which absolutely nothing eventuated and … you know, there you go. But I think if any of us had our phone conversations bugged, they might, you know, people say all sorts of fantastical things whilst they’re talking to their friends.”

Mair proceeded to inform, in passing, a dazed Johnson that even convicted fraudster Conrad Black does not quite trust him, before asking him to show some honesty by openly admitting that his ambition is to be prime minister rather than trading in obfuscatory metaphors such as rugby balls emerging from a ruck or saying it is not going to happen.

Mair: “You’re not going to land on the moon either. But do you want to be prime minister. Say it.”

Johnson obfuscated, presumably hoping for something to eventuate, before saying he wanted to do all he could to help Cameron be re-elected – “and in those circumstances it is completelynonsensical for me to indulge, you know, this increasingly hysterical …”

Mair: “You could end it all just by saying what you know to be true. What should viewers make of your inability to give a straight answer to a straight question?”

By now most viewers are hiding behind their sofa, or telling their gawking children to look away, or ringing the BBC begging them to show the test card.

With the clock running down, Johnson desperately tries to mount a recovery, saying he disputes Mair’s interpretations. Then he resorts to the old standby: “What viewers want to know is …”

He said: “They don’t care about phone conversations with my friends 20 years ago, they don’t care about some ludicrous, so-called made-up quote, and what’s the third accusation? I can’t remember …”

“Lying to Michael Howard,” Mair reminds him, before Johnson finally collapses in a heap, his lights, pannier bag and reputation strewn across the bicycle lane.”


Guardian letters: The East Devon voting experience and its implications

Guardian letters today:

“Writing of Ed Miliband’s revision of party membership rules as “his greatest error” is not just old news, it’s fake news too (Labour members built networks. Now Corbyn must too, 19 June), which Zoe Williams rightly recognises as negative commentary, repudiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s actual performance through – and out the other side of – the election campaign.

However, it is clear that Zoe needs to take the temperature outside of the capital – as John Harris has done so successfully – where she will find that people have made careful assessments to desert their “natural tribe” to support the best-placed candidate.

In East Devon – a very traditional Tory seat that includes chunks of Exeter, which returns a Labour MP – more than 21,000 people opted to support an independent candidate. The Labour leadership would be wilfully blind to continue running there, thus ensuring the inevitable return of the Tory incumbent. The notion of a progressive alliance took root without instructions from elsewhere; now it must be nurtured by a newly confident Labour leadership.

Les Bright
Exeter, Devon”


Which old nag will Swire back next time?

Swire was all for May – both Remainers who turned.

He fought (or rather didn’t fight) the election on her being the right woman for the job – “strong and stable” and our only hope to avoid a ‘coalition of chaos’.

We now face a ‘coalition of chaos’ of Tories and the DUP and May is almost certainly on her way out. Who will Swire back next? Perhaps BoJo – an old Etonian who will almost certainly want his old schoolmates around him.

And don’t forget, Swire (who complained of ‘vile comments’ about him in the election) has issued no censure of his good mate George Osborne – who described Mrs May as a “dead woman walking”.

Please, Claire Wright run again! Please!

Claire Wright tells her side of the General Election story

AND she doesn’t whinge!

I originally intended to draft this blog in response to Hugo Swire’s repeated and tiresome accusations levelled at my supporters supposed abuse on Twitter and his insinuation that someone connected with me damaged his election posters.

I am not suggesting that Mr Swire didn’t get a hard time on Twitter, but his reaction to the challenging remarks, has been completely over the top.

For the record, once again, I have never ever asked anyone to, nor do I know of anyone, who damaged his posters.

And to respond only to these false allegations cheapens my campaign and the spectacular level of support my team and I received from a huge range of people right across the political spectrum during those six magnificent weeks.

It undermines the energy, the passion, the clear sightedness, and the unswerving determination that gripped so many of us during that frenetic time.

There were times that I felt (and I think many of us experienced) real joy at being involved in something that meant so much to so many people.

So you can see I see things very differently from our MP.

Here’s my story.

I was campaigning for the Devon County Council elections in Otterton which has a patchy mobile reception, when I reached the top of a hill and my phone suddenly started pinging with messages. I quickly learnt there was to be to be a general election on 8 June (eight weeks from that point).

Having previously hoped to run for a second time, my initial reaction was a deep groan.

I had no team, no funding and no structure. I didn’t even have a parliamentary bank account.

The only thing I had was the result from the 2015 general election, where I finished in second place with over 13,100 votes. It was a great first time result, but a successful new campaign in such a short timeframe seemed impossible….

…. Within an hour I was mentally planning a campaign.

There were two immediate priorities. First, I needed to know whether I had public support to run. Without this, I would not even contemplate running.

Secondly, if there was public support, I urgently needed a core campaign team.

I knew that I also needed significant funding for any campaign but I was confident that this would be resolved with crowdfunding, should I decided to stand.

By the time I had returned home, I had received dozens of messages urging me to run. For two days I kept my counsel before putting out a press release saying I was considering standing in the general election but if so, I would need an army of helpers if I had a chance of winning.

After this, I was deluged with offers of help. Hundreds of people offered their time, their expertise and their energy. I had thought a few might come forward but this was an amazing and inspiring reaction.

So it was settled. I would mount my second campaign for the East Devon Parliamentary seat.

While my gut instinct was powerfully present, I knew I was taking a risk. There was a possibility I could receive fewer votes than I had in 2015 due to the short timeframe and rumours of a LibDem resurgence. Fewer votes would have been humiliating, but the urge to run was very strong. I decided to take the risk.

I scanned the offers of help carefully, searching for potential core campaign team members. I also contacted a few people who had previously expressed an interest in helping me and who had excellent skills.

A meeting at Ottery St Mary Football Club was booked for on Monday 24 April. About 20 people with key skills attended.”

By the end of the meeting we had agreed all the key posts. The core team of 12 and the skeleton of a campaign was created.

I had been advised by the County Solicitor that I could not publicly declare as a General Election candidate until the Devon County Council elections were over, so to ensure we were fully ready for the launch on Monday 8 May, my team and I quietly beavered away on our preparations, including:

– setting up systems for volunteers, maps and canvassing
– drafting a campaign plan and writing campaign literature
– ordering publicity materials
– setting up the crowdfunding arrangements and a bank account
– reading the Electoral Commission guidelines to ensure we met them on all aspects of the campaign

There were also things like insurance and data protection issues to consider and comply with. It isn’t easy to get insurance as an Independent!

It was a hugely busy time. And many of us were getting to bed well after midnight and getting up again at around 5am to stay ahead of the work.

My caffeine drought ended immediately. Without copious cups of tea and coffee every day I couldn’t function.

My manifesto, which had been put together in 2015 based on a survey and conversations with thousands of people, was updated to include my position on Brexit (a proper parliamentary vote on the final deal) the NHS latest atrocities meted out by the Conservative government and the appalling slashing of school funding, which is causing massive problems for teachers and pupils across Devon and the country.

With years of obfuscation and lies drip fed to this country by the Conservative government often about ministers own record on our NHS and public services, I was determined I would tell people the truth about what was happening.

My manifesto addressed this in the space that was available. I enlarged on these remarks at my public meetings and at hustings.

Austerity has done terrible things to this country. Those of us who always believed that there was another way are now angry yet vindicated following the Prime Minister’s declaration that there will be no more austerity.

Because of course, she knows she cannot force more cuts through with a hung parliament.

This is good news, but the NHS is already on the verge of being sold off wholesale to developers. That’s what The Naylor Review and NHS Property Services have already started doing across the country.

Some of us have campaigned against this in our local communities. I have held two public demonstrations at Ottery St Mary Hospital and held the slippery managers of NHS Property Services (which now owns 12 community hospitals in Eastern Devon) to account as a member of Devon County Council’s health scrutiny committee.

One would have thought the local MP might be concerned about the risk the ownership of NHS Property Services posed to 12 local community hospitals, but instead Hugo Swire gatecrashed a demonstration I held in May last year. He asked me if he could address the 200-strong crowd which I agreed to. But rather than expressing his concern, he used this time to accuse me of scaremongering and being politically motivated.

In his follow-up blog post he disrespectfully dismissed the Ottery residents who were present at the protest as a “pack.”

There are many other examples I could give of Hugo Swire’s desultory record of fighting for local people but that one pretty much sums it up for me.

Although I might just give his dreadful record in parliament a quick mention. He has never, by his own admission, voted against the party whip.

In 16 years.

Back to my manifesto, I was confident that the 2015 pledges were still valid after knocking on hundreds of doors in the recent Devon County Council elections.

On Thursday 4 May the Devon County Council elections took place. I learnt that I had achieved 75 per cent of the vote with 3,638 votes, which is the biggest majority in Devon, once again.

I was over the moon with the result. But there was no time for a break or to celebrate. We had an announcement launch to prepare for on the Monday (8 May)!

I gave a speech and we Facebook live-streamed this event, which was held at Exmouth Rugby Club. I found the ability to stream straight to the internet and interact with residents at my events enormously exciting.

It prompted at least two members of the public to turn up speculatively at the Rugby Club and ask for my A1 boards!

We launched my manifesto at Sidmouth the following week to an audience of around 80 people. Once again it was live-streamed on Facebook and as with all my events I took questions from the floor without knowing what they would be in advance.

The campaign funds soon came flooding in and by the end of the campaign we had secured almost £13,000, in over 200 separate donations – nearly as much as we raised in a whole year during 2014/15.

With hundreds more volunteers, we were determined that every house (within a village and town at least) would receive a copy of my manifesto. This includes around 5,000 in Exeter and Topsham, so it was a tall order. Around 60,000 copies were printed so we had some spares.

And before the postal vote deadline, our 600 (by the end of the campaign we had 700) volunteers had managed to deliver to most houses in the constituency.

Aided by our teams of volunteers we then embarked on an enthusiastic four weeks of leafleting and door knocking.

The best way I can describe the way my campaign felt to me was as though I was caught up in a maelstrom of energy. It was a whirlwind of positivity. A force of nature, caused by a desire by many people to elect someone they believed would stand up for them in parliament, someone they already knew would work hard for them and who they could trust to put THEM first.

I simply had to keep up with the amazing momentum.

It was clear at the first hustings and from the tweets from the LibDem parliamentary team that their strategy appeared to be to target me, in the hope they could claw back some of the votes they lost to me in 2015.

Their claims that I could never win, nor have any influence in parliament were political slurs and were levelled at me so often on Twitter that I was forced to block one of their team – a first for me.

I should add here that I have worked alongside the LibDems on the district and county council for years, just as I have the other parties. I have always worked with them productively and in a friendly manner. It was quite a shock to be the target of such hostility, albeit limited to their team of three.

My campaign brought people together from across the country. A friend visited from Nottingham and someone I had never even met before travelled from Kent and assisted us in Exmouth for a few hours.

It motivated a bright young man from Sidmouth to record a touching video outlining why he was working so hard to get me elected.

And it prompted a reconnection with a friend I haven’t been properly in touch with for two years.

There were countless emails from younger men and women who expressed a belief in me that I found extraordinarily moving and motivational.

I heard from disenchanted lifelong Conservative voters and people who had never voted before in their lives.

All were saying that they intended to vote for me and that I had offered them hope. It was so uplifting.

There were countless emails from residents with views across the political spectrum who said they would vote for me because I was already a hard-working councillor and they had confidence that I would be a hard-working assiduous MP.

If there were times when I felt exhausted and under pressure, it only took an email or Facebook comment along these lines to reinvigorate me. The big picture was endlessly present.

And I have made new friends. People that I hope to stay in touch with forever. My campaign team shared a rollercoaster experience that we will never forget. It wasn’t all plain sailing and at times the pressures were overwhelming. But we all gave 150 per cent to a cause we believed in passionately. And I will never forget their generosity of spirit and belief in me.

Although disappointed not to be East Devon’s MP, I was absolutely thrilled with the result of 21,270 votes – a 35 per cent share, up from 24 per cent in 2015.

Apparently the result is the best of any non Conservative candidate in East Devon ever!

Before signing off I must talk briefly about the Conservative national campaign, in which the behaviour of the Prime Minister allowed Hugo Swire to wriggle out of any hustings. Mrs May apparently could not even cope with the idea of a live interview on Woman’s Hour, which is a level of control freakery not seen in any prime minister that I can remember.

The Prime Minister’s inability to answer a straight question, instead sticking to a rehearsed script earned her the deserved label “The Maybot.”

But what I found most distasteful was the campaign of fear and negativity which the Conservative Party perpetuated against the opposition. There was no hope, no inspiration and no positive policy announcements.

Instead, the slurs against the opposition were nothing more than a stream of spiteful vitriol. I was quite shocked at how low the Conservative Party stooped in its vain attempt to retain seats.

The election result was 100 per cent deserved and my own view is that although the country is in unchartered waters right now, already we have seen that the worst excesses of the Conservative Party’s determination to shrink the state and force more people into abject poverty, somewhat thwarted.

What Mrs May isn’t confident of getting through parliament will be dropped. Despite the involvement of the dubious DUP, this new more consensual approach can only be a good thing for every single person living in the UK.

After six months of election campaigning I am relieved not to be knocking on doors any more, replying to thousands of messages and feeling as though my life consists of rushing at breakneck speed from one place to the next.

I am very happy to be reconnecting with my Devon County Council work, enjoying the sunshine, the stunning East Devon countryside and our local beaches in the company of my daughter or my lovely friends.

As for another election…. whether it is this year, next, or in five years, Hugo Swire can be assured that I will be ready.

Pic. A photo that symbolises the energy of the campaign. A group of us canvassing in monsoon like weather at Westclyst. The camaraderie made it surprisingly huge fun!”