Tag Archives: Neil Carmichael

David Drew still on odds on favourite to win back Stroud seat

ladbrokesDavid Drew, the former MP for Stroud and Labour Party candidate for 2015, is still odds on favourite to win back the Stroud marginal seat according to new odds tweeted by Ladbrokes.

This shows no real significant change since February last year when Hynd’s Blog reported that Ladbrooks had Drew at 4/9 to win back his old seat.

If you were interested in an outside bet though, Ladbrokes are now giving odds for the Green Party at 50/1.

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Read Stroud MP’s copy and pasted response to constituents concerns

As British resident Shaker Aamer remains being held, without charge or trial, in Guantanamo Bay I decided to do what I could to increase the pressure on the US authorities to ensure his release.

In a personal plea to my local Conservative MP Neil Carmichael I wrote:

“At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.”

Just under two weeks later I received a response from his office saying:

“I share your concern about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo”

It went on to assure me that:

“Securing Mr Aamer’s release is a high priority for the Government and I understand that it has been using all diplomatic channels available to communicate this.”  

I wrote back naively thinking that these words were at best his own genuine heartfelt views but that at worst, they might be those of his caseworker who would be employed to write such responses on his behalf.

Sadly not, they appear to not even be his caseworker’s words.

Today someone on twitter shared with me this response to their letter to their own local Conservative MP, Sajid Javid.

Javid Aamer letter
A word for word match to the response Neil Carmichael sent to me.

Now I personally find this insulting and misleading. I would have been disappointed to receive a cut and paste response if it had been made clear it was such, but to try and pretend it represents some original thoughts on the subject is, in my mind, reprehensible.

If I had wanted the views of the whips office I would have asked my MP to relay to me the views of the whips office. I didn’t. I waned his own views on the continued barbaric incarceration of a British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

To respond to a matter of, quite literally life and death, in such a glib institutional way is a damning reflection on the seriousness in which he takes his job. Following up and acting on the concerns of constituents is one of the cornerstones of being a MP.

On this occasion my local MP Neil Carmichael has utterly failed.

I hope he makes an effort to amend for this but I suspect stony silence is more likely. It has been a month now since I wrote back to him and I am still awaiting a response.

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A letter to Neil Carmichael MP on the detention of Shaker Aamer

This is a copy of a letter sent to my local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael:

Dear Neil,

I am writing to you once again about the case of the British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer. I am writing again because there have been no significant movements towards either his release or trial since our last correspondence.

Days, weeks, months and even years have slipped by for both of us since our last correspondence on this issue but I am sure you appreciate the same sense of time sliding by will not be shared by Shaker who remains being held in the most awful of conditions within Guantanamo Bay.

At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.

Why now?

In August of this year yet more troubling evidence (1) has emerged that Shaker has faced further beatings at the hands of those who hold him without charge or trial.

Years have passed for Shaker inside Guantanamo but I ask you to do what you can to ensure that not another single day goes past in the same way.

As such, as a matter of urgency, I am writing to you to ask you to undertake the following actions:

  • To make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process (2).
  • To write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.

I look forward to your response on this issue. Please respond by email rather than through HoC paper.

With optimism,

Steve Hynd

Sources:

  • (1) http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2014_08_27_PUB_Shaker_Aamer_beaten_Guantanamo/
  • (2) The Government e-petition requesting “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing detention in Guantanamo Bay” has so far obtained at least 117,442 signatures. An adjournment debate was held in Westminster Hall on 24th April but this did not lead to immediate action for Shaker’s return.

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Stroud MP makes national news…for the wrong reasons

Neil
Stroud’s Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, isn’t famed for his media profile. And so it was with a little surprise that I saw that he featured in Hugh Muir’s Guardian Diary.

They say any publicity is good publicity…for Mr Carmichael’s sake I hope that’s true.

Muir writes on Mr Carmichael’s rather strange question in the Commons:

“There are neighbourhood plans in Chalford, Dursley, Eastington and nearly a dozen other areas in my constituency,” boasted Stroud MP Neil Carmichael. “Does the minister agree that a good neighbourhood plan is an appropriate protector against inappropriate developments?” And Boles did agree – but how can there be a dozen plans in Stroud when there are only a handful in existence, voted through by referendums, in England and Wales? “There actually aren’t any,” one puzzled constituent said. “It was a puff question to support the coalition’s planning policy.” Can that be so, we asked Carmichael. “None have had the vote yet, but some are close,” he said. “I should have corrected it at the time. I should have said there are neighbourhood plans under way.” Indeed. No one wants the House misled.

Not exactly the sort of national press coverage Mr Carmichael would have been hoping for.

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Former Labour MP David Drew odds on favourite to win back Stroud seat

Drew
Ladbrokes have today released betting odds for the Stroud constituency General Election results for 2015. Stroud’s former MP David Drew will be pleased to see that he is considered odds on favourite.

In 2010 David Drew was defeated by the long-standing Conservative candidate Neil Carmichael by just 2.24%.

2010 Stroud General Election Results:
Conservative: 23679 (40.84%)
Labour: 22380 (38.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 8955 (15.45%)
Green: 1542 (2.66%)
UKIP: 1301 (2.24%)
Independent: 116 (0.2%)
Majority: 1299 (2.24%)

As a result Stroud is considered as a key battleground for the 2015 election. We know that Stroud features 16th on Labour’s 106 must win seats to secure a majority. We also know that Stroud is considered part of the Conservative 40/40 2015 campaign strategy (hold 40 key marginal and win 40 more).

So what will it take for Stroud to once again turn red?

Control the Labour to UKIP vote loss – Although of course UKIP are not a real contender for winning the Stroud seat, they could potentially cost both Labour and the Conservatives dearly. There is evidence to suggest UKIP nationally will dent both Conservative and Labour’s vote share, but locally in Stroud, David Drew is a well-known ‘Eurosceptic’. For Labour to win Stroud back they need to be able to play on this without alienating their core demographic. It will be interesting to watch how the local Labour party plays Drew’s well known ‘Euroscepticism’ in the more working class areas of the constituency such as Storehouse and the centre of Stroud.

Mop up the Liberal Democrats – The Liberal Democrats are widely expected to haemorrhage many of their 8,955 votes as the regional party concentrates on re-electing their standing MPs in the South West. To do this Labour need to learn a lesson from the Liberal Democrats and start producing some bar charts that leave the electorate with the clear message: Stroud is a two-horse race, vote Labour to keep the Tories out. It will be interesting to see if this ‘two-horse race’ rhetoric comes out in the Lib Dem strong-hold of Dursley.

Keep an eye on The Green Party – Lastly there is also the Green Party which saw their vote drop by about a 1,000 from 2005 to 2010 after a substantial campaign by the local Labour party to present David Drew as the ‘green choice’. Just before the election the local Labour party released an advert that some interpreted as a message from the Green Party endorsing the Labour candidate. Although I don’t expect there to see a repeat of a campaign of such intensity to secure Green votes, I am sure that the local Labour party will be wanting to squash any sign of resurgence from the Greens (who maintain a healthy vote share in local elections).

Get their core vote out – At every election we know that the core Conservative vote will turn up to the ballot box. As always, Labour’s challenge will be to ensure that their core support gets out to vote. With this in mind, expect to see a big push for up-dating voter intentions* on their data-bases and then a mammoth election day operation!

*Steve’s tip of the day. To avoid having your door knocked on constantly on election day, tell whatever party that turns up your doorstep that you would never consider voting for them. This way you’re placed in their records as a waste of time to chase on election day.  

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Minimum wage sparks Twitter argument with Stroud MP Neil Carmichael

This is a cross-post from my local paper, the Stroud News and Journal. I cross-post it only to illustrate the positive potential that twitter has to hold our politicians to account.

STROUD MP Neil Carmichael has come under fire for refusing to rule out voting for a freeze or a cut in the national minimum wage.

Despite saying a reduction would be a move in the wrong direction, the Tory politician would not commit to opposing one in the future, insisting that he would have to look at any proposals brought forward by the government before deciding how to vote.

Following his comments, Stroud Labour Party sent out a press release saying it was an ‘absolute disgrace’ that Mr Carmichael would not rule out voting to cut the minimum wage.

The party claimed his position amounted to supporting ‘the idea of reducing the wages of the poorest in society’.
Responding to local blogger Steve Hynd who re-tweeted the article in last week’s SNJ with the comment, “This is going to win @neil_mp zero friends in #Stroud,” Mr Carmichael tweeted, “@stroudnews #Stroud – I have long supported a minimum wage as a floor &, above all, I believe in promoting a high wage economy.”
Mr Hynd tweeted back, “So why not pledge to oppose any cuts? Min wage already below living wage! Time to stand up for #Stroud cc (constituents).”
Tweeting later on, Mr Carmichael said: “Low Pay Commission has reviewed methodology behind the minimum wage – to be considered – but I am focused on creating a high wage economy.”

Labour county councillor Brian Oosthuysen said: “To refuse to oppose any reduction in the national minimum wage is a kick in the wallet for all those low-paid workers who are struggling to keep their families afloat.”

He added: “What Stroud residents want is to see their MP fighting for them in Government, not fighting for the Government against them.”

You can follow me on twitter here
You can follow Brian here
You can follow Neil Carmichael MP here

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Gloucestershire County Council’s hypocrisy in tackling lung cancer

The Stroud News and Journal has today run the story “Lung cancer awareness campaign comes to Stroud”.

The article highlights the Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) campaign and the importance of getting yourself checked out if you display symptoms of lung cancer such as a persistent cough and breathlessness.

What it fails to comment on however are the causes of lung cancer. 90% of cases of lung cancer in the UK are attributed to smoking.

Equally it also fails to mention the £12.2 million that GCC has invested in tobacco firms.

On the one hand GCC are funding campaigns to raise awareness of lung cancer and on the other they are pumping money into an industry that is responsible for 90% of cases of lung cancer…

When I raised this with local politicians it only seemed to be the local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, who didn’t think this was a problem!

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Politicians respond to Gloucestershire County Council’s deadly investments…

Yesterday Hynd’s Blog covered the story that Gloucestershire County Council was investing over £12 million in tobacco firms despite Gloucester having the highest rate of lung cancers in the country.

The story evoked some reactions from local politicians.

Labour County Councillor Brian Oosthuysen was the first to respond and said through facebook:

“Steve, Brian here. I will raise it immediately. Shocking”

The Green Party’s Stroud District Councillor, Phillip Booth, responded by highlighting the GreenParty’s longstanding opposition to the council investing in tobacco:

Phillip highlighted this 2010 article in which The Green Party’s County Councillor, Sarah Lunnon makes the wider point around ethical investment.

The Cheltenham Liberal Democrats also tweeted the story out and their local branch secretary, Mel Gladwin responded saying:

Against this back drop, Stroud’s Conservative MP Neil Carmichael’s response is noteworthy for bucking the trend.

DM with Neil

I am yet to receive a response from him (although to be fair he hasn’t had much time) but nor do I expect to receive one.

Few Conservatives would follow Neil’s ‘profit at any cost’ logic – I’m not even sure Neil would if you pushed him. For example, I don’t believe many Conservatives would back investment into small arms. Why? Because quite rightly they would say that it is a product that when used exactly like the manufacture intended, kills people.

The obvious parallel here can be made with cigarettes. When a consumer uses the product exactly as the manufacture intends, the product kills.

As the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention rather aptly puts it, “More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.”

Why then, in this Conservative mindset, is it OK to invest in Tobacco but not guns?

So the question for Neil Carmichael, Gloucestershire County Council and anyone else that backs such deadly investments is: Assuming you agree that there should be some ethical guidelines to investment, what criteria do you think GCC should use that still includes tobacco, a product that is responsible for the death of 6 million people every year?

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What definition of an emergency excludes climate change but includes the murder of Lee Rigby?

I remember back in 2009, alongside millions of others around the world, I took to the streets to demand that our leaders stop playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with our future and secure a legally binding climate agreement.

While some at the time expressed frustration through violence at the failure of Copenhagen, all I remember is the crushing feeling of defeat as our leaders floundered.

In the words of Mark Lynas, Copenhagen was a “disaster”. It is hard to disagree with him on his use of adjective.

Since then, despite knowing all too well the severity of the risk that we as a species face, I have lost my voice and my heart when it comes to climate change.

This apathy is not unique or very surprising, but nor is it particularly helpful.

It is not unique because I know through speaking to friends and other ‘environmentalists’ that others have experienced a ‘post Copenhagen slump’.

It is not surprising because we are getting to a stage where we have to choose the worst of some very bad options. In the classic moral question where you ask if someone would pull a switch to divert a train from killing a group of people if you knew your actions would kill one person, no one expects that person to pull the switch with enthusiasm.

Equally though, this apathy is not particularly helpful because it runs the danger of throwing us even further away from tackling climate change and avoiding the most serious of consequences – large scale human death.

This is why I owe a huge amount to my wonderfully articulate and courageous friend, Dom Aversano, who this week metaphorically shook me out of this apathy.

Dom is one of those guys with an admirably solid moral core and who oozes determination and passion – in a very self-effacing English sort of way!

This week Dom took to the pages of the Huffington Post to write about how we have now exceeded 400 ppm of carbon in our atmosphere. If like most people, you’re thinking… ‘what the hell does that mean?’ Dom provides a nice summary:

“On 9 May this year the number of parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere exceeded 400ppm for the first time in at least 800,000 years. Anything above 450ppm dangerously risks pushing us passed an irreversible tipping point. This is would mean the climate is then out of our control… The end result is a planet 6°C warmer and no longer capable of supporting our current civilization.”

In short, we have just slid past another milestone that edges towards not just being slightly fucked, but proper fucked.

Dom quite rightly asks, why then are our leaders not calling this a national state of emergency?

Cameron did call a Cobra meeting (where politicians get together to show that they are doing, or planning on doing, something about a national emergency) for the tragic death of Lee Rigby a few weeks ago. He has failed however, to hold an equivalent meeting whenever he is told of how climate change will cause of the death of millions or even possibly billions of humans.

Figures vary dramatically on the current death toll from climate change. The World Health Organisation estimates 140,000 deaths as a result of climate change. Kofi Annan’s organization, the Global Humanitarian Forum, puts the figure closer 300,000 every year.

There are various estimates out there extrapolating this into the future. The Daily Mail recently ran with the figure of 100 million deaths by 2030 – although I am not sure how we can know anything more accurate than ‘a lot’.

What definition of an emergency is Cameron using that excludes climate change but includes the murder of Lee Rigby?

I hope that most readers would agree that these sorts of figures do constitute a national ‘emergency’.

It is well established that they only way to reduce the likelihood of us suffering the worst consequences of climate change (like the upper estimates on the number of deaths) is to reduce our carbon emissions.

Dom, in his Huffington Post article, signposts us to how the government is fairing in this respect. In 2012 the UK’s carbon emission went up 3.9%.

To put this into context, around 11% of the world’s GHG emissions come from within the EU and every other nation state in 2012 saw a reduction in their GHG emissions apart from…you guessed it, the UK!

Despite such as urgency for action – made only more so by the fact that a ton of GHG emissions saved today is worth more than a ton saved in a year – our elected representatives have in the last week voted against imposing strict emission targets.

My own elected representative,  Neil Carmichael MP, has voted against his Conservative Party colleague’s , amendment that would have removed carbon from the energy production cycle by 2030.

Word’s fail me in the face of such short-termism. And so I will finish with the words that Dom finished his article with:

 “It might be said that talk of asteroids and destruction to civilisation is alarmist, polemical, and childish, but the great climate scientist James Hansen said in response to the unprecedented Arctic ice melt last summer that “We are in a planetary emergency”. In the face of such a stark warning it is childish and irresponsible not to respond, and polemical and alarmist to ignore the scientific community’s advice. We owe it to the children of today, and the future, who are relying on us to act now.”

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The Challenge ahead for Neil Carmichael

Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud

Stroud lost their widely loved Labour and Cooperative MP David Drew, as Neil Carmichael the Conservative pipped him to the post at Thursday’s General Election.  David was not loved because of his party (indeed this was a problematic area for many), but because of his record as a “constituent MP”.  In other words, because he made it known that he cared about his constituents and worked on their behalf.  David set down the challenge for Neil during his speech on Friday morning saying that he would “drop the files off so you Neil can get started”.  On the campaign trail I met numerous hardened Conservatives who were going to vote for David because they knew someone David had personally helped out.  Neil must be able to show that he can represent all of his constituents not just the 30% who had voted for him by taking up these cases.

Stroud in the past has had less than effective Conservative MP’s.  The most recent of which was Roger Knapman, who later went on to become leader of the UK Independence Party.  It is widely held in the Stroud Valleys that Roger represented a wholly different kind of politics to David, despite their shared scepticism of the EU.  Roger was born in Devon and soon after being defeated by David in 97 returned to Devon to contest a seat in North Devon.  This is in stark contrast to David Drew who is truly seen as a local “Stroudite” (whether this is a good thing or not remains to be debated).

Many fear Neil may just be another Roger; a man too busy with the dealings of Westminster to be able to truly represent Stroud. I have heard countless “stoudies” rubbish Neil’s character with little or no basis.  I say, let’s wait; at least until he has made a mistake before we start the attack.

Neil, academically speaking, represents a more progressive wing of conservatism.  He has assured me that he opposes the Conservative’s involvement with the ECR group in the European Parliament because of the “unsavoury nature” of those who they sit with in coalition for example. There is no reason to believe (at this stage) that Neil will be any worst a constituent MP than David (although he must prove this) and there is no reason to think that he will be any worse than other elected Conservatives (just think we could have Dr Fox as our representative).  Essentially, I am saying lets hold our fire and let him prove himself (for the good or the bad).  At this stage we should be giving him all the support we can to see if he can give it his best shot.  I want the best for Stroud and this will only happen if we try to work positively with our new MP.

Neil remains a decent hard working person.  He was before he got elected, and he will remain to be so.  We might disagree with some of his politics, but I do not see any advantage attacking the man.  Equally, I see no point in creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by talking up the “inevitable demise of the next 5 years”.  Now is the time to be drawing out shared politics such as our equal commitment to localism and see how this can benefit Stroud and its surrounding valleys.  Will Neil publicly back the community supported agriculture project in Stroud for example? Will he push for the investment needed (not cuts) in the Stroud valleys to make us a leading force in renewable technologies (including the manufacturing of wind turbines despite the hysteria in the Cotswold villages)? Will he really work to challenge the gender pay gap that persists in our society? These are all issues that Neil and the Greens agree need to be tackled; these are the sorts of areas that I would love to see Neil and the Greens working together on.

As far as I can see, he has done nothing to deserve the hatred that I have heard off people (not from Greens but from members of the public and other political parties), he simply has the misfortune of representing the Conservative Party.  Let’s hope that Neil has the vision and the perspective to engage across the political spectrum for the good of the people of the Stroud valleys and beyond!

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