Archive for the ‘Liberal Democrats’ Category

I was out door-knocking last night in Godalming and was surprised by the number of people who raised the issue of MPs’ expenses but who didn’t know about Jeremy Hunt. There are very few MPs who have had to repay more than him but people don’t know about it. So for the record here are some facts:

1. Mr Hunt had to repay many thousands of pounds following investigations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards;
2. Unlike many MPs who claimed for ridiculous things which were ‘within the rules’, Mr Hunt actually broke the rules. The Standards and Privileges Committee said in their report ‘We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Hunt committed two breaches of the rules’.
3. In one year alone Mr Hunt claimed £12,000 for his ‘second home’ in Farnham (he lived in Hammersmith and as far as I know he still does) but Hunt actually only stayed at the Farnham property for 60 nights that year, so the cost of his claim to the taxpayer was £200 per night;
4. He has now admitted that his political Agent lived in his Farnham home (he says for ‘3 or 4 nights per week’) at taxpayer’s expense;
5. This was a breach of the rules because ‘it provided a personal benefit to the agent from public funds’;
6. Mr Hunt had to repay £9,558.50 of the expenses he had claimed on his ‘second home’ in Farnham because of this;
7. In addition Mr Hunt had to repay £1,996 in expenses because he had claimed for two properties at the same time! (his home in Hammersmith and his ‘second home’ in Farnham);
8. In addition Mr Hunt had to repay £466 in respect of Council Tax claims and according to an interview in the Surrey Advertiser he has also repaid £659.75 because he double claimed on a stationery bill;
9. This makes a grand total of £12,680.25 in repayments that I know about;
10. In the separate investigation by Sir Thomas Legg only 16 MPs had to repay more than £12,500 out of a total of 646.

There are more embarrassing facts about Mr Hunt’s claims but I thought I’d stick to the main points here.

Mike supports local green campaigners at the Greening Godalming launch

Housing emits 27% of the UK’s carbon emissions. By retrofitting old houses with energy saving measures we could save between 60 and 80% of their carbon footprint. We will also save money on our fuel bills.

Government should help homeowners and social housing landlords in a massive retrofit process. German experience has shown that money spent by Government can stimulate up to six times the amount in energy improvements. By providing grants and low interest finance that makes repayment costs lower than fuel bill saving, the UK would move closer to meeting the goal of using 80% less carbon by 2050.

I support local Greening campaigns like Greening Godalming.

Government must have the courage and determination to take such bold steps. Not only would our carbon emissions fall but the jobs created would be very welcome in our current economic state.

Despite my opponent Jeremy Hunt and the Tories backing Labour to vote through the deeply flawed Digital Economy Act this week we must not accept it as a ‘fait accompli’.

If elected on 6th May I will be pressing my Party and the others to urgently repeal the Digital Economy Act and to subject all the proposals to proper and rigorous Parliamentary scrutiny.

Why? Because:

– it’s a flawed piece of legislation which hadn’t been properly thought through or examined before it became law
– it was rushed through in the dying days of a failed administration after a general election had been called
– it seriously restricts people’s civil liberties (the opposite of the Lib Dems’ proposed Freedom Bill)
– the Government was too lazy to go into the details before legislating due to the lobbying of certain industries
– the Government was too lazy to pay attention to the impact on other businesses, which is remarkable at a time of economic crisis
– the law was supported, rather than opposed, by the Conservatives, who recognised it was flawed but passed it anyway – another example of the Labservatives

Mike Simpson

Mike Simpson discusses pressure for housing in Badshot Lea. The Tory controlled Waverley Council are considering doubling the size of the village!

Why is Badshot Lea being targeted by Tory-controlled Waverley Borough Council for major housing development which would double the size of the settlement?

In February I spent an afternoon with Badshot Lea Councillors, looking around the village and the neighbouring green spaces. I was shocked to read the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment which suggests that the village might accommodate another 950 homes. The village clearly could not cope with such growth and the level of developer’s contributions would not be adequate to rectify major infrastructure problems in and around the village. In any case much of the land is unsuitable due to its frequent flooding.

Waverley Borough Council commissioned Baker Associates to conduct the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment and Badshot Lea is the largest housing site identified by them, with one area alone being earmarked for up to 850 houses.

The refusal to agree to the proposed eco-settlement at Dunsfold will inevitably lead to huge pressures on other areas to take major housing development. I will be urging Waverley Council to ensure a fair and reasoned approach to the allocation of housing and that at least 25% of any new housing is affordable housing for local families. Once again Farnham is being pushed by Waverley Council to take the pressure off other areas, but if past experience is anything to go by, Farnham will not get the facilities and services it needs to cope.

Hunt is said to be taking an interest in the issue, but he really needs to lobby his fellow Conservatives and get them to see sense over this issue. I suspect that, with the General Election coming up, there might be a re-think, at least for the time being.

The Conservatives have been raising millions of pounds for their election campaign and they’ve been spending millions too! Remember the airbrushed giant posters of David Cameron’s head and then the scare story posters of the so called ‘death tax’? Well it doesn’t seem to have helped them – they are going into reverse in the polls.

People have wised up to politics over the Blair years. They want to vote for genuine people not slick advertising. And they want to know what their politicians stand for!

It’s hard to see what Cameron and his followers stand for.

Do they stand for the rich and powerful?
Do they stand for ‘families’ (what about people like me who have been single parents for many years?)
Do they stand for Thatcherite cuts to public services?
Or is it a sort of soft focus nice but tough image they are going for?

I honestly don’t know, but I think their instincts are the same as they ever were i.e. protect privilege and squeeze those least able to afford it; cut education and health whilst encouraging people to go private; talk green but support big business polluters’ interests; talk tough on the banks but do nothing to upset their friends in high places in the City; and most importantly of all – never agree to any real reform of our political system because that might ruin their chances of ruling the Country on their own.

If I’m wrong about these Tory instincts I’d love to hear what the Conservative Party DO stand for.

Why not email me your thoughts at info@mikesimpson.org.uk ?

I doubt if Tony Blair’s performance ( and I use that word advisedly) at the Iraq Inquiry yesterday will change people’s minds about the Iraq war, but it might just raise a few more questions in the minds of the public about Mr Blair himself.

He could have expressed some regret for the loss of life of British soldiers or Iraqis. He could have regretted the two dodgy dossiers put together by his dodgy team and others. He could have regretted the boost to recruitment for terrorist groups resulting from the crusade that he and his buddy Mr Bush launched. But Mr Blair says he has no regrets. That blinkered zealot-like heartlessness was shocking, especially with grieving relatives sat just behind him.

Many of us who opposed the war predicted the consequences and did not believe Saddam had WMDs in 2001 to 2003 when the Bush/Cheney axis of evil were itching to start a war. Even the 45 minute claim (source: one dissident Iraqi) related to supposed battlefield weapons not WMDs that could threaten any other country. Logic told me at the time that if there was ANY chance that WMDs could have been fired at Israel for example, then Bush and Blair would never have attacked. There was absolutely no way they would have risked chemical weapons landing on Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Blair clearly lied about the WMDs. He knew that the intelligence was ‘patchy and sporadic’ but said the WMDs were ‘beyond doubt’. I believe he knew the 45 minute claim related to supposed battlefield weapons but claimed he did not! I don’t usually read the Mail but CLICK HERE for a great article from 2004.

Following the invasion, the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its nuclear, chemical, and biological programmes in 1991 and had no active programmes at the time of the invasion.

Please can everyone join the Facebook Group ‘Help Dan’ – he’s a guy from Godalming – as the Facebook Group says, ‘Daniel Eley, a wonderful young man who used to work with street children in South America and is currently teaching English at a school in Cali, Colombia, had a terrible accident on 1st Jan 2010. He dived into a river in a remote area and broke vertebrae in his neck.’ He needs our help. Click here to go to the Help Dan Facebook group
Dan’s family need financial help to pay for an air ambulance to get him home to the UK. Give to the appeal to raise funds by clicking here.

Bishop’s Meadow in October 2009

I understand that a rival bid has been made to buy Bishop’s Meadow in Farnham. Alarm bells are ringing!

A speculator has bid close to the asking price so it is critical that we get the maximum possible level of pledges to the Bishop’s Meadow Trust as quickly as possible.

PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN.

We’ve made great progress in our goal of saving Bishop’s Meadow in Farnham. Thousands of pounds have already been pledged with some big backers behind the new ‘Bishop’s Meadow Trust’ that has been set up.

The Lib Dems have taken the lead in setting up the Bishop’s Meadow Trust but the Trust will be controlled by the whole community.

Anyone donating at least £1 will become a member of the Trust and will have a vote at meetings to elect or re-elect Trustees. Regardless of how much a person donates they will only have one vote each. The Trust has been set up in this way deliberately, so that it is truly controlled by the whole community and not by any clique or special interest group.

If you can help the campaign or pledge funds to the Trust you can email me at info@mikesimpson.org.uk

The Trustees will then contact you personally, as the Trust will be non-political in nature.

The Trust is a registered Company limited by guarantee
Company No. 07087967

Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, this week continued his campaign of attacks on the BBC, a campaign which began several months ago. A weakened BBC is clearly in the interests of its competitor News International and surprise surprise The Sun is now backing the Tories.

If Mr Hunt were just an ordinary citizen criticising the BBC for its bad decisions and extravagant expenses I would not be concerned, but Mr Hunt hopes in a few months to be in control of the Ministry for media which will oversee the BBC and the press. Mr Hunt’s public utterances are therefore of great concern to all in the media industry.

I have written to Mr Hunt about my concerns that the Tories want to sell off or scrap key parts of the BBC including much of its online operations, Radio 1, BBC 3 and BBC 4. Mr Hunt’s attacks have been vicious and sustained. In a Daily Mail interview last month under the headline, ‘We’ll rein in the BBC, say Tories in radical plans to prevent one broadcaster state’, Mr Hunt talked about scrapping BBC 3 and 4 and taking action which the Mail said would ‘pave the way for channels such as Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News’. In August The Times reported that the Tories were planning to sell off Radio 1.

For months Mr Hunt has pursued an agenda of verbal assaults on the business of the BBC. Yet Mr Hunt, as far as I can see, has said nothing critical about the massive media power of the Murdoch Empire. Are the commercial interests of News International (owners of The Sun, The Times, BSkyB, etc) being deliberately favoured for party political advantage? “Nothing new there” some might say, but at a time when the reputation of politicians has hit rock bottom, we have a right to know.

My opponent in South West Surrey has attempted to cloud the issues around his attacks on the BBC and his support for the views of James Murdoch of News International. He says ‘it is not Conservative Party policy to privatise Radio 1’ or ‘ to scrap BBC 3 or BBC 4’.

Readers can make up their own minds by reading the numerous national press stories about Mr Hunt’s views and those of his fellow Tory Shadow Ministers. For example take a look at these articles:

Times details Tory plans to sell off Radio 1
Daily Telegraph article on the Tories, Murdoch and the BBC
Hunt interview with the Daily Mail on plans to curtail BBC
The Independent questions Tory plans for BBC

And finally – How Cameron cosied up to Murdoch