Monday, August 31, 2009

So Someone Reads This...

For this first time, the Cambridge City Conservative blog earned a place in the top 100 Tory blogs.

We have a local blog and were not expecting it to be included on a national list for which there is intense competition. Learning of the award was like getting an email telling you have won a prize in a competition you never entered. But, for once, it was true.

The Award was the result of a vote in the Total Politics Annual Blog Poll conducted during the second half of July and announced over the weekend. The Total Politics Guide to blogging will be published in October: “With the blogosphere comprising literally thousands of bloggers, the Total Politics Guide separates the wheat from the chaff and gives you the inside scoop on which bloggers are leading the charge, and which ones you should watch out for.”

The internet plays an important role in campaigning, but there is no substitute for good old-fashioned door knocking.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cambridge in Film

Of course, the Cam does not really look the Thames, as they tried in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but filmmakers can sprinkle their magic to make us believe it. The Cambridge News covers the latest film to use Cambridge as backdrop, this time for a romantic comedy. If you have ever wondered who else has filmed here, and where, it is worth looking at the Internet Movie Database –

The location link is:,%20Cambridgeshire,%20England,%20UK&&heading=18;with+locations+including;Cambridge,%20Cambridgeshire,%20England,%20UK

Films bring work to Cambridge and provide a platform to promote the city; so it is ‘well done’ to the council officers and private firms that make this possible.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pint Plan is Potty

Public Safety is the supposed reason for the Home Office looking to replace pint glasses with something more plastic.

It is all to do with cutting down on the number of ‘glassing’ incidents. Glassing is vicious, but once again we get expensive government proposals that treat the vast majority of people as being guilty of crime they have never committed and never would commit.

Where there are troublesome pubs, it is the role of the police, landlords and owners to assess whether the glasses need changing. But the idea, for example, that Cambridge CAMRA [Campaign for Real Ale] pub locals are out for a fight, is nonsense. If the Home Office busybodies care to stop by, the most they’ll get is a bent ear.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

It is More than Tesco

I was at the City Council’s East Area Committee this morning. The substance of the event – should the council enforce its own planning guidelines – may seem a strange topic to normal people. After all, why bother with rules if you do not plan on enforcing them? However, the City Council has overruled its own guidelines to the point that the council is treated with ridicule by many of those putting in applications. Did you know that two in every five appeals against the city are successful?

Some councillors, including Chris Howell (Conservative), had to speak from the floor because of the way the rules for representation and participation are drawn up. Chris’s contribution was superb. It showed how having a councillor with a clear understanding of the issues, and the ability to express them on behalf of local residents, can make a difference to a meeting.

However, today was more than about Tesco in Mill Road. The debate on the need for another supermarket is quite separate from the planning, highways, change of use and access questions that come up. Today’s meeting threw more light on the whole way that the planning system operates in the city: it’s a muddle.

Although not officially part of the Committee, the Liberal Democrat leader of the city council was there. He twice had to talk to the officials during the proceedings. As the architect of the system, I hope he saw how it was not working.

Cambridge can do so much better. We need more councillors like Chris to make the change.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Thinking Needed on Benefits State

Today, the think-tank Policy Exchange calculates that nearly 6 million Britons are on some form of benefit:
  • 1.58 million on Jobseeker's Allowance

  • 2.6 million on incapacity benefit and the new Employment and Support Allowance

  • 736,000 on lone parents' benefits

  • 400,000 on carers' benefits

  • 363,000 on disability benefits

  • 182,000 on other income-related benefits

  • 95,000 on bereavement benefits

The real story is not so much the scale of the benefits state, but that the government makes it so difficult to get off them. People are rational, and it is not worth getting a job or a promotion if your allowances drop or if you are on a penal rate of taxation as a result. This logic applies especially when a range of benfits are means-tested. Why acquire more means when the test will just take them away? Labour's Britain is broken. It will take a long time to untangle this mess.

A Serious Debate, Please

Letters to the editor
Cambridge News

Dear sir,

The letter from a Labour parliamentary spokesman (News, 18th August), struggling to twist the words of a Conservative backbencher into official Conservative party policy, did politicians of all stripes no favours.

This year, Labour backbenchers have praised someone who fought for the Fascists against Britain in the Second World War as ‘a super hero,’ called dyslexia a ‘fictional malady’, and claimed that Gordon Brown was a successful Prime Minister. All of these views are controversial; but I will not pretend to News readers that the first two are Labour policy.

It is the third point, whether we have Gordon Brown or David Cameron as Prime Minister, which will be decided at the next General Election. The public expects a serious debate on this subject, without spin. As candidates, it is up to us to provide one.

Yours sincerely

Richard Normington


Monday, August 17, 2009

Justice Delayed for Equitable Life Policyholders

Equitable Life’s policyholders have fought a long battle for justice. The Ombudsman’s report set out a number of areas where there had been maladministration and where the Government should make payments to policyholders.

The Conservatives accept these recommendations. Sadly, the Government, rather than following our lead, took six months to make a formal response, decided to ignore most of the Ombudsmans findings and is now stringing out the process with a further inquiry into the payments.

A Better Africa

MEP Syed Kamall writes, " there is a generation of young politicians across Africa who realise that the key to development is in their hands and who look to us not for hand-outs but for help in abandoning decades of aid dependency and the failed policies of previous political leaders."

He took part in work sponsored by my old department, in conjuction with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Read the full article at


Friday, August 14, 2009

David Cameron on the NHS

"We as a Party are so committed not just to the principles behind the NHS, but to doing all we can to improve the way it works in practice. So yes, we will spend more on the NHS, but we will also improve it so that it is more efficient and responsive to patients. People working on the frontline will actually be able get on with the job they signed up for, without getting tied up in a web of targets. And we will put more power in the hands of patients by giving them better information about the care they can expect to receive.

Underlying these reforms, and our whole approach to the NHS, will be one big ambition - that future generations will be even prouder of the NHS than we are today."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That 70's Retro Feel

A postal strike at my office, a rail strike on my train service, a spending crisis in Whitehall, rising unemployment in my country... It may be 2009, but here's the link to the BBC series I Love the 1970s: for those who want to see how it was the first time round.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Counting Down

No more than 297 days until voting closes at the next General Election.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Grove Lodge - Demoliton Delayed

The only attractive building on the college site - and they want to knock it down.

In January, the City Council gave planning permission for Grove Lodge to be demolished: Grove Lodge is the gatehouse to the house where Emma Darwin lived after her husband Charles Darwin died. It is in the grounds of Murray Edwards College, on Huntingdon Road. The College wants to extend its car park, and had planned to demolish the building last week. It has given the building a stay of execution, after numerous local residents wrote to the College's president, Dr Jennifer Barnes, to complain.

The decision date is now set for September. If you want to add your voice too, the contact details are E-mail: ; Phone: 01223 762227 (President’s Office).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Funding available for community and voluntary groups

Community and voluntary groups are being encouraged to apply for financial assistance from Cambridgeshire County Council. Local voluntary organisations have an ethos that is healthier and more progressive [in the positive, non-political sense!] than the organs of the state by itself.

Use this link for more details:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Robbing Peter to Pay for Paul’s PR is Wrong

Taxpayers coughed up nearly £4.9 million last year hiring political consultancies according to figures provided by the Taxpayers’ Alliance. This is a small part of the total of more than £38 million of taxpayers’ money spent on lobbying, communications and funding for think-tanks and public sector trade associations.

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Nick Hurd said earlier: 'The hiring of lobbyists by government bodies to grab more cash is a financial scandal. No wonder the bureaucratic state has ballooned under Labour, given lobbyists are routinely in the pay of the Government ... Conservatives will put new rules in place to stop this outrageous waste of money.'

Local Quango Hands Out Over £100,000 of Taxpayers’ Money to Think Tanks and Public Affairs Firm

Cambridge City Conservative spokesman, Richard Normington, commented, “Giving over £100,000 of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to three left-leaning think tanks, and a lobbying company, is cause for concern to say the least.”

Figures provided by the Taxpayers’ Alliance today show that Cambridgeshire-based EEDA, the East of England Development Agency, spent more than £115,000 on:

  • £12,341 to the New Economics Foundation;

  • £18,454 to the New Local Government Network;

  • £25,049 to the Institute for Public Policy Research; and

  • £59,472 to a “reputation management” firm for “Public affairs, stakeholder engagement and public relations consultancy”.

In addition, EEDA lists some 31 posts in its ‘communications directorate.

“The New Economics Foundation is the one that said that people in Egypt, Pakistan and Burma lead longer, happier and more meaningful lives than those us here or in places like New Zealand or Switzerland. That’s nuts.”

Richard noted, “Business support should be based on local need. A future Conservative government will end the current Regional Development Agencies and allow local authorities to form enterprise partnerships to promote economic development.”


NEF rankings for HPI [Happy Planet Index]

Rank Country

1 Costa Rica
12 Egypt
24 Pakistan
39 Burma
52 Switzerland
74 UK
103 New Zealand
143 Zimbabwe

4th August 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Education – Exam Paper Access is one Key to Confidence

A Conservative government will create a free online library of all exam papers and scripts. This will provide full transparency and enable proper academic scrutiny of our exam system.

Labour treats past exam papers like state secrets. It refuses to publish them.

“Exam paper access is a key to building confidence in our education system,” said Richard Normington. “People work hard for qualifications, and it is only right that we do everything we can to make sure that this is not undermined by uncertainty,”

“Confidence in the qualifications system provides equality of opportunity and greater social mobility. If doubt creeps in, employers would take the students from ‘known’ institutions instead of trusting equally valid qualifications obtained at other places. I want a society where employers ask ‘what can you do’, not ‘where did you come from?’

“So this is an important step to ensure that that students, parents, teachers and employers have confidence in British qualifications, now and in the future.”

3rd August 2009

The Poor Receive Less Help Under Labour

Figures published by the Office of National Statistics show that the poorest 5 million households are paying more in tax and receiving less in benefits than before Labour came to power. With the perverse incentives caused by multiple means-tested benefits, making it more expensive to be in some jobs than to be unemployed, Britain's social security system is broken.

% of total taxes paid 1996-97 2007-08

Poorest households 6.8% 7.0%
Richest households 41.3% 42.2%

% of total benefits received

1996-97 2007-08

Poorest households 28.1% 25.9%
Richest households 10.1% 10.6%

See for more details.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cherry Hinton Village Centre - 20th Anniversary

Today's Cherry Hinton event was a great success. One of the exhibitors that I enjoyed talking to was from The Cherry Hinton Local History Society. The Society usually meets on the last Monday of the month at St Andrew's Church Centre. The next meetings will be on Cambridge Mayors, Thomas Hobson and the AGM will be on Monday 30th November featuring "Lucy Lockets Pockets". As a history buff, it was great to to chat with others who share this interest.