Tag Archives: Gloucester

3 ways Labour can still win back Gloucester

A new poll of Labour/Conservative marginal seats by Lord Ashcroft has found that my home city of Gloucester will be held, by the skin of their teeth, by the Conservatives.

This will come as a blow to the Labour party who placed Gloucester 38th on the list of must win key battlegrounds.

Significantly though, the poll finds some key variations between the national picture and that of local voting intention in Gloucester that provides some clues to how Labour can still win back Gloucester…

Local Labour need to win over former Lib Dem voters

The latest national YouGov polling reinforces a key trend that many, including those within the Labour party, have spotted and that is that there lead in the polls is based on picking up former Lib Dem voters. The latest national figures suggest 38% of 2010 Lib Dem voters are planning to vote Labour in 2015, compared to just 26% Lib Dem and a meagre 11% Green and 10% UKIP.

Locally however in Gloucester, just 16% of 2010 Lib Dem voters are planning to vote Labour compared to 25% Lib Dem and 20% UKIP.

This suggests that although the Lib Dem vote has collapsed in Gloucester like other parts of the country local Labour have failed to capitalise. UKIP are, as well as picking up ex-Conservative voters, also taking chunks of key demographics that Labour need to be claiming!

The size of the former Lib Dem vote share should not be underestimated in Gloucester…

In 2010 the Lib Dems picked up close to 20% of the vote in Gloucester (9,767 votes). Assuming that they retain 25% of this (approx. 2,500 votes) that leaves 15% of the total vote share in Gloucester up for grabs (approx. 7,500).

Interestingly Greens have also failed to capitalise on this. The poll predicts they will pick up just 7% of 2010 Lib Dem voters. This, combined with the higher than national average ‘don’t knows’ among 2010 Lib Dem voters in Gloucester, suggests that there are still a significant number of key floating voters in the constituency.

The campaigning will be important…

Local Labour must battle apathy and ensure a high turnout

Nationally the above mentioned YouGov poll suggests 6% of people will not vote and 13% do not know who they will vote for.

Locally however in Gloucester, Lord Ashcroft found that, 13% would not vote and 14% do not know who they will vote for. In short, according to this poll, Gloucester has more than double the national average of people planning on not voting in May 2015.

In 2010 Gloucester had a 64% turnout rate, marginally lower than the 65% national average. If this drops further this will in itself prove to be crucial as high turnouts traditionally favour Labour while low turnouts tend to support the Conservatives.

If Labour wants to defeat the Conservatives they must ensure a high turnout, especially among key demographics such as the 18-34 age range who typically are more likely to back Labour but also are much less likely to vote.

The 24 hour lead up to the election will be key in terms of Labour getting their supporters out and voting…

Labour need to get out there and knock on doors and deliver leaflets  

With just over 6 months to go until the election it is interesting to note that the poll found 70% of those surveyed said that they had not heard from any local political party in the last few weeks. Marginally more however had heard from the Conservatives than they had from Labour.

Being active locally and being seen to be champions of your local area remains an unmovable part of the path to electoral success. With so many floating voters in Gloucester this only reiterates the need for Labour to be getting out onto the door steps making the case for why they think voting Labour is the best thing for Gloucester.

The question though is not only will local voters hear them but, but will they believe them?


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Local elections: Gloucester results

Essentially nothing has changed in my home town of Gloucester. The council still has ‘no overall control’. 15 seats were up for election but there was no change in the number of seats for each party.

The Conservatives hold 18, Labour 9 and the Liberal Democrats 9.

In the national political climate this has to be seen as victory for the coalition partners and a missed opportunity for Labour. Indeed, in the popular vote we can see that Labour lost support leading to a tiny swing to the Conservatives.

Gloucester popular vote:

Con 11,889 (37.40%)
Lab 8,110 (25.51%)
LD 5,800 (18.24%)
UKIP 4,898 (15.41%)
Green 963 (3.03%)
TUSC 133 (0.42%)

Changes since 2010 locals:

Con -1.35%
Lab -1.47%
LD -12.54%
UKIP +13.60%
Green +1.58%

Swing, Lab to Con: 0.06%

Remember that Gloucester is a key battle ground for Labour. If they want a majority in 2015 they need to win seats like Gloucester.


Read the BBC report by clicking here.


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I look forward to the day when a local newspaper headline reads: “New ASDA opens driving down local jobs and driving obesity levels up”

My local paper, The Citizen, has today reported on the opening of a new ASDA in Gloucester and once again ignores the cost to the local economy and quotes industry figures with no critical eye.

The Citizen reports:

Store manager Russ Elkins said there are still plenty of jobs up for grabs and is encouraging people from the area to apply. “This store has employed 130 from this area, and it will help deliver healthy eating at competitive prices,” he said.”

Well, if the story manager says it…it must be true.

So let’s explore Russ Elkins’ claim: “[ASDA] will help deliver healthy eating”.

In 2005 a report was published that stated that despite improvements, supermarkets were “undermining public health goals” through price deals that “promote unhealthy food”.

In 2008 a report was released showing that supermarkets had doubled the number of promotions on unhealthy foods since 2006.  At the time Saranjit Sihota, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: “Increasing the promotion of unhealthy foods in supermarkets clearly fuels the ticking time-bomb of obesity in this country.”

In 2012, a three year study was published that found supermarkets, like ASDA, guilty of “over-promoting fatty and sugary products using special offers and price reductions”.

The trend and sentiment of these reports are damming.

For balance, I tried Googling ‘ASDA healthy eating’ and all that came up were stories on ASDA’s website (you will excuse me if I don’t trust that source) and Daily Mail articles about ASDA’s bagged salads being linked to poisoning cases (again you will excuse me if I don’t trust that source either, but still…not exactly a ringing endorsement).

So, some questions for store manager Russ: Does your supermarket disproportionally promote unhealthy foods through special offers and price discounts? If yes, how would you say this fits with your statement, “[ASDA] will help deliver healthy eating”?

And then secondly, his claim about the store creating jobs.

Again, some questions: How many of the jobs provided will be part-time jobs?

I have read statistics to suggest that about 2/3 of all jobs in supermarket jobs are part-time. Is this reflective of the new store? Then, how many of these jobs will pay the Living Wage – the minimum someone needs to live off?

A report by the Fair Pay Network (FPN) suggested that only 1 in 7 jobs in the big four supermarkets get paid a living wage. Will this be reflective of the new ASDA store?

Lastly, of course, there is the Friends of the Earth report that found that local stores employ more people within a local community than superstores do, concluding, “The simple conclusion is that small shops are better for employment than having a superstore”.

In other words, even if ASDA did offer stable contracts and decent pay, the undeniable conclusion is that less people will be employed in an area because of the opening of a new supermarket.

Russ, do you really believe ASDA has created 130 new jobs…or just taken 200 and minced them into an own-brand 130?

At some point, it would be nice to see a local paper asking store managers these sorts of questions.

Rant over!


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Filed under Food and Drink, Gloucestershire

‘That was my mosque you tried to burn down’

Police outside Mosque on Ryecroft Street in GloucesterIn the early hours of this morning, someone tried to burn down the Masjid-E-Noor mosque in Ryecroft StreetGloucester. CCTV footage shows someone pouring petrol onto the front door before lighting a rag to ignite the fire.

This is just one of a recent spate of anti-Islam (Muslim?) attacks that have occurred since the tragic murder of Lee Rigby.

In reaction to these attacks the liberal left have gone on what I refer to as the, “we are all the same” offensive. Owen Jones writing in the Independent illustrates this phenomenon by stating:  “83 per cent of Muslims are proud to be British…compared to 79% of the British public” – a gallant effort to highlight the ludicrousness of the EDL’s arguments.

I think something slightly more nuanced than this though.

I don’t really share many nationalistic sentiments, with the right or the left. Why would I? What have I got in common with someone from Glasgow, or Gilford, or even Glandyfi?

In contrast however, what do I have in common with someone from Gloucester? Well, quite a lot now you come to mention it…and yes, I do take it personally when an arson attack occurs in Gloucester.

The good people of Gloucester and I, we share a lot. We probably share friends, favourite places to eat, bus routes, schools, hospitals and everything else that makes a community. And yes, despite being a de facto atheist our friends and family will share places of worship.

So when a man approaches the mosque with petrol and matches in hand, he isn’t just approaching a place of worship that is special to hundreds of Gloucester residents. He is wading through the centre of my community.  He is lighting a fire under something that I hold very close to me.

The vibrant Muslim community in Gloucester is part of what makes the city what it is. The Masjid-E-Noor mosque has been part of this city for generations. People have been worshiping in the mosque since 1974 and at the site even longer. An arson attack on the mosque is like burning a hole in the patchwork rug of Gloucester.

This arson attack, on my local mosque, is no different to trying to burn down my neighbour’s house. It’s fucking with people that are close to me, and the metaphorical flames of hatred might burn down something that I deeply care about – the diverse tolerant multicultural ambiance of my home town, Gloucester.

You can sign a letter to Yakub Patel and the congregation of the Masjid-e-Noor mosque on the hope not hate website – here


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Event: Reflections on Palestine with Richard Graham MP

Thursday 20th December, 7.00pm

An evening of talks and discussions to update on the situation and share first hand experiences of Palestine.

Guest Speakers – Steve Hynd and Gloucester MP Richard Graham 

Venue – The Friendship Café, Barton Street, Gloucester, GL1 4RH

Steve Hynd has recently spent 5 months living in the West Bank with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The programme brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. They provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. Steve will be talking about his time spent there and his experiences with the Palestinians.

Richard Graham has taken a very personal interest in the Holy Lands having visited the West Bank of Palestine, Gaza and Israel. The political arena surrounding this area is a very complex one, and with the recent unrest in Gaza, our government’s role in shaping the future for that region is vital. Richard will be giving us an update on that political situation, and sharing some of his own views and experiences of the area.

The evening is a free event and open to all. If you have any questions or need more information please contact Imran Atcha on 01452 308127 or email gymnation@btclick.com

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St Andrews Church offers an inspiration

In 2004 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the separation barrier that had been constructed by Israel predominantly on Palestinian land was illegal. The ruling stated that

“The construction of the wall being built by Israel… [is] contrary to international law”

Significantly however it also stated that,

“all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention…have in addition the obligation…to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law”.

This includes the UK.

I raised this point when I spoke to the ‘Men’s Prayer Breakfast’ at St Andrews Church in Gloucestershire. I finished my talk with a request that each member of audience writes to their MP to ask him to remind the Foreign Office of this ruling and to ask how the government feel they are fulfilling this obligation.

I had been invited to talk about my experiences of working in the occupied Palestinian territories. I have recently returned from 5 months of doing human rights monitoring work with the organisation EAPPI.

I focused on the role of the separation barrier and how it has come to define life in Jayyus – the village in which I was based. I talked of the difficulties Palestinians faced obtaining permits to cross the separation barrier to access their own farmland. I also talked of how the Israeli army maintains a strong presence within the village.

Most of all however I tried to focus on stories of empowerment. How the Mayor of Jayyus would resolutely carry on working for the community despite having his house raided and his son arrested and attacked. I talked of how Israeli peace activists would come and work with Palestinians breaking down divides between the two communities.

When I finished my talk I was up-lifted to be met by a wave of enthusiastic questions. One member of audience told me of his recent trip to the Holy Land and visiting Hebron (and being shown round by an EAPPI colleague). Time and tme again, the question was asked, what can we do?

It was great to meet ordinary people living in Gloucestershire that felt inspired and empowered to work on the behalf of others. The congregation at St Andrews showed so much empathy towards strangers, and significantly also a willingness to act. It has left me inspired; I hope that I will be met with this sort of audience throughout my talks.

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Cheltenham Town FC, the fate of Mad Dog!

“After three seasons of being the clear underdogs in the third tier of the Football league, the very prospect of being one of the top teams was an exciting one”

This is the last entry into the history section of Cheltenham Town FC web-site.  It was written after an 08/09 season that saw us finish after 46 league games with 39 points and a goal difference of minus 40 (the worst in the league).  The season had been riddled with as many problems off the pitch as there were on it.  An economic uncertainty hung over the club like a dark cloud.  With a drop to the football league two however, the fans were sure that they might see a return to form and some consistent results. 

This season we have played 18 league matches and won just 4 (drawing 7 and loosing 7).  We have crashed out of the first round of the League Cup back in August, the Johnston’s Paint Trophy saw us depart in the first round thanks to Torquay and we decided not grace the second round of FA cup with our presence, again giving the honour to Torquay. 

Perhaps things might quieten down off the pitch? No chance.  Our manager, Martin “Mad Dog” Allen has been put on gardening leave after he allegedly racially abused a nightclub bouncer (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1221611/Mad-Dog-Martin-Allen-suspended-Cheltenham-allegedly-racially-abusing-nightclub-bouncer.html).  The clubs finances look as dodgy as ever.  Loaned players are coming and going, full time players just seem to be going!  Could this be one of the worst starts to a season ever?

Never mind all this though, if you want to be A Cheltenham fan you have to have a bit of mindless optimism.  All of this turmoil (on the pitch) is what why we love about lower league football.  We don’t want to see Ashley Cole skipping around! We want to see the sort of football that is genuinely unpredictable.  We want to see referees make terrible decisions.  We want to see a side that can go 11 games without a win and then drum Barnet 5-1.  We want to see Cheltenham Town!

Want we don’t want to see is a club that can take over a month to carry out its internal investigations about what action should be taken against the MadDog.  If the players are going to have a chance at creating consistency on the pitch we first need a bit of consistency off the pitch.  This drawn out investigation is not helping matters.

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Gloucestershire Ale Trail

For those of you who have expressed an interest. I would like to draw your attention to the Gloucestershire Ale Trail web-site (http://www.glosaletrail.org.uk/). Apart from telling you where your nearest micro-brewery is, it also tells you where you can enjoy their beers!

Or, you can check out CAMRA’s initative of locAle.  This accredits any pub that stocks beer that is brewed within a 25 mile radius. http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=281521


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The dark side of real ale

This is a matter close to my heart.  The slow death of the local pub and the real ale drinking that goes hand-in-hand with this.  In the UK around half of our 60,000 pubs are owned by just 10 operators.  This is not a healthy situation to be in.  39 pubs are closing every week!  The names of Green King and Fullers are becoming household names and yet micro-breweries are reliant on government subsidies to survive.  Meanwhile medium sized breweries such as Harvey’s in Lewes have neither the government support nor the operational capacity to compete with the giants at Green King. 

We can see from the Lewes Arms controversy how Green King is willing to put profit above consumer demand.  It is only after petitions and a strong campaign did the pub revert to stocking the local beer (Harveys).  This example however, also highlights what real grass-roots pressure can do.  If you are sick and tired of being offered the same old generic beers then do something about it!

The British beer culture (different to the drinking culture in general) is something that we should all be very proud of.  We produce some of the best quality beers in the world.  I currently have the pleasure of living in Belgian and people often ask me what I think of the beers here. The simple answer is that they often rely on crass flavours and offer none of the depth and subtlety that some English ale holds.  It is only when you don’t have something do you really miss it!

If you are like me and enjoy spending a considerable period of time (and money) in your local then choose wisely.  Follow my golden rules:

1) Choose a free house.  Green King especially is in danger of creating a monopoly over the pub industry. This has negative repercussions for the diversity of real ale that is being produced (and consumed).  If a pub has a big green sign hanging outside of it stay well away!

2) Choose a pub that stocks its beer from a local micro-brewery.  You might think this is hard to find, but increasingly micro-breweries are popping up left right and centre.  If your local free house is not stocking the local breweries then ask why!

For those of you based in Gloucestershire (my beloved shire) here are a few ideas for you to check out if you haven’t already!

  • The Woolpack in Slad (Stocks Stroud Brewery and Uley)
  • The Blackhorse in Amberley (Stroud Brewery and changing guest ales)
  • The Prince Albert in Stroud (Stroud Brewery)

For more information check out the good beer guide or the CAMRA web-site (http://www.camra.org.uk/home.aspx)


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