Burns night is, I believe, the 25th of January, but I was observing it early last night with Saffron Walden Conservatives, at the Saffron Walden Golf Club.

Saffron Walden Conservatives helped out in Harlow a lot during the General Election, working to get Rob Halfon elected as Harlow’s MP. It was nice to visit them in return, help with their fundraising efforts and see many of the people who came to help out.

The evening was a wonderful one, with a superb Bagpiper and an interesting speech on the meaning of Auld Lang Syne. The food, starting with Haggis Neeps and Tatties was also very tasty.

I admire how much the Scots, where ever they are in the world keep toasting their national poet and keep their Scottishness alive; it made me wonder why we don’t do the same in England… We have arguably the most famous national bard in Shakespeare so perhaps it is time that we started having Shakespeare Nights….

Cllr Jean Clark, the Deputy Leader of Harlow Labour Party has written a letter to the Harlow Star, you can catch their E-Edition here, in which she is trying to blame the Conservative Government for making cuts, denying the deficit, blaming the Global Economy and of course trying to show the last Labour Government as not guilty of messing up Britain’s Economy.

She certainly doesn’t like Harlow’s Conservative MP Rob Halfon, who rightly talked before Christmas of the “sad legacy of the last Labour Government”.

Come off it Jean, who do you think you are kidding? Or are you just slavishly following the lead of Mr Milliband and his Shadow Chancellor in their confused economics?

Lets look at some stone cold facts (helpfully provided by those superb chaps and chappeses at CCHQ) Jean and see what we think….

Going into the financial crisis Britain had one of the largest structural deficits in the developed world. Tony Blair, Alistair Darling and Mervyn King have all argued that Labour’s spending was “extraordinary”, not “sustainable” and that from 2005 Labour failed to deal with the deficit.

  • Institute for Fiscal Studies: ‘By the eve of the financial crisis, [fiscal drift under Labour] had left the UK with one of the largest structural budget deficits in the developed world… the vast majority of other OECD countries did more to strengthen their public finances during Labour’s first eleven years in office than Labour did in the UK’ (IFS, The Public Finances: 1997-2000, 19 April 2010, p. 2 and p. 10).
  • The Governor of the Bank of England: ‘We are confronted with a situation where the scale of deficits is truly extraordinary. This reflects…the fact that we came into this crisis with fiscal policy on a path that wasn’t sustainable and a correction was needed’ (Mervyn King, Guardian, 24 June 2009).
  • Tony Blair: ‘We should also accept that from 2005 onwards Labour was insufficiently vigorous in limiting or eliminating the potential structural deficit. The failure to embrace the Fundamental Savings Review of 2005-6 was, in retrospect, a much bigger error than I ever thought at the time’ (Tony Blair, A Journey, pp 681-2).
  • Alistair Darling. [by the autumn of 2007]‘We had reached the limits of what I thought we should be spending’ (Alistair Darling, The Times, 19 November 2010).

But of course when we hit the financial crisis, Labour did not take their foot off the accelerator – nope – they kept spending, whilst they watched tax revenues fall…

  • The fall in tax revenues made up less than a quarter of the deficit. Official figures show that public sector current tax receipts fell by 2.5 per cent in 2009-10 on 2008-9. But Total Managed Expenditure grew by 7.4 per cent in the same year. (HMT, Public Finances Databank, 7 December 2010, Table C1 and Table B1).
  • Net taxes and NICs peaked in 2007-8 at £516 billion, and fell to a low of £477.8 billion in 2009-10 – ie a drop of £38 billion. This is less than a quarter of the deficit which reached £156 billion in 2009-10 (HM Treasury, Public Finances Databank, Tables C1 and Key)

But of course this is what they did throughout their term of Government, doubling the National Debt!!!

  • Labour doubled the National debt. In May 1997, public sector net debt was £351 billion. By April 2010 it had more than doubled to £893 billion (ONS, Time Series RUTN, 16 September 2010).

 In fact, everyone except the Labour Party agree that the deficit reduction programme of the Government is right, including the IMF, OECD and World Bank:

  • IMF: ‘The government’s strong and credible multi-year fiscal deficit reduction plan is essential to ensure debt sustainability. The plan greatly reduces the risk of a costly loss of confidence in public finances and supports a balanced recovery… With record-high budget deficits, credible fiscal tightening is essential to preserve confidence in debt sustainability’ (IMF, United Kingdom – Article IV Concluding Statement, 27 September 2010).
  • OECD: ‘The comprehensive budget announced by the government on 22 June was courageous and appropriate. It was an essential starting point. It signals the commitment to provide the necessary degree of fiscal consolidation over the coming years to bring public finances to a sustainable path, while still supporting the recovery’ (OECD, UK: Policies for a Sustainable Recovery, 13 July 2010, p. 3).
  • The World Bank: ‘What frankly is being done in Britain is courageous and important. It’s going to have to be done elsewhere to deal with the uncertainty created by very, very, very large debt’ (Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, Sky News, 6 October 2010).

So Jean, do you really want to keep denying the deficit and complaining because its easy to criticise the Conservatives for doing what needs to be done? Or are you just trying to keep the Unions, who help fund Harlow Labour’s election campaigns happy?

Lets face it, financially the Country was up the creek. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that it needs sorting, and nor does it take a genius to know that it will be very painful to sort out. Being painful does not mean that something shouldn’t be done. though.

So Jean, how about entering real politics? Instead of spinning a line, look at the facts? Instead of sitting on your hands and criticising, like Labour have done for the past couple of years in Harlow, why don’t the group that you are Deputy Leader of actually put forward a budget that balances (and doesn’t just draw down from the reserves that you plundered for years!) and tell the people of Harlow where you will find the money from?

Sadly I don’t think we will see a comprehensive budget proposal from Harlow Labour, but I am sure we will still see the criticism…..

My thanks to the team at ConHomefor bringing us CCHQ’s marvelous rebuttal of Labours frankly ridiculous economic analysis!

One of the things I discussed last night, over a glass at the Churchillian Dinner, with Harlow’s MP is would there ever be a British Tea Party.

I like the Tea Party – anything that gets more people engaged with the political process is worth a look, but it really appeals to my natural conservative instincts. As a conservative (note the small c)  I support small and smaller government, low taxation and freedom of individuals to choose for themselves rather than the State choosing for them. I also like the libertarian streak that the Tea Party is bringing back to the Republican Party.

But can I ever see the Tea party or it’s equivilent here in Britain?

Dan Hannan tried to launch a Tea party earlier this year, and despite being well attended there was hardly the mass movement feel that the Americans have seen in their loosely collective movement.

I wonder if the key reason the British are not flocking to a TEA (taxed enough already) banner, is that key to the formation of the American Tea party was the feeling that Washington was not listening to the public with those who have been inside the beltway for years staying the same, whereas in Britain the recent General Election saw many of the long standing London insiders leaving Westminster and a whole swathe of new MPs in Parliament. Also the fact that a Coalition Government is in power in Britain representing the views of the Majority of the voters overall means that Westminster is now listening to more of the population than the previous Government did.

So I don’t think that a British Tea party will happen. However England is another issue….

For too long the English, despite being a majority in these islands have been at the mercy of the other countries. Highlighted more particularly recently when Scotland has kept free prescriptions and university education whilst those of us in England see more charges imposed. That kind of inequality will make people upset, and has certainly done so where I work. Will those people coalesce into a movement? Or like the spring of 1848 will the bad weather just make us all stay at home an watch the royal wedding on TV?

Sadly I think the latter, but if our politicians are not wary of the mood of the country and the English dissapointment at their unequal treatment sparks protests we could have trouble. Anyone for an English Parliament?

I attended the Board meeting of Harlow Renaissance Ltd. last night, of which I am Vice Chairman.

HRL was incorporated in July 2006 to drive forward the regeneration and growth process in Harlow. It has four key members

  • Harlow District Council
  • Essex County Council
  • East of England Development Agency
  • Homes & Communities Agency

Its three key aims are

Delivery: to deliver Growth Area Fund and other projects delegated to us to quality, time and budget.
Collaboration: to act as a catalyst for consensus-building and co-operation, holding the ring and facilitating the dialogue between our partners and other key stakeholders.
Boldness: to import big thinking and innovation into all our debates, complementing the creativity of our partners and acting as agents provocateurs for the radical and long-term transformation of Harlow – not for the sake of it, but with the sole purpose of enabling a sustainable and cohesive community which plays its full role in the sub-region and Essex as a whole.

So as you can see it has a hefty remit.

Last night there was a presentation by Harlow North Joint Venture an amalgam of Land Securities and Places for People that want to deliver new homes to the north of Harlow.

Now I have always been in favour of this growth, with some serious caveats that I will return to later, and this has put me out of step with a lot of Conservatives in the East of England. I have supported the growth because Harlow is very constrained by its boundaries, and has very little land of its own to grow on, yet has the thirst and desire to grow.

As a new town building more houses is something that is and has been part of everyday life to those of us who grew up in Harlow, and do so desperately need those houses to allow third and now even fourth generation Harlow Children to stay living in the town. We are also all acutely aware that Harlow, being a grand old 62 this year has bits that are tiring mostly at the same time, and so that is why Regeneration is my councils’ top priority. Regeneration that can be assisted by growth.

Simples?

Well not quite because the most obvious place to build the new housing is on a swath of land to the north of the town, that doesn’t belong to the town, in fact its not even in the same county… Its East Hertfordshire, and those in the hamlets and villages that Harlow might overtake are not at all happy with the plan.

But I have always caveatted my support for the building of Harlow North with the following:

  • The Boundaries must move so that Harlow gets the Regenerative benefit of the building.
  • The infrastructure to support Harlow North must arrive before or at the same time as the development.
  • Any development must offer a one town solution and not two separate communities.

And really that last one is the clincher. It benefits Harlow not one jot if all that happens is a few thousand houses are built in East Herts with no reference to one cohesive community, if the links across the river between the two areas are not solved and if no effort is made to integrate the two developments.

Sadly the latter is all I saw from the presentation that HRL received. I questioned the speaker with my concerns and in their answer not once was the issue of connectivity mentioned and I was given no real reassurance about the amalgamation of two communities.

For me, who has spent the last six years supporting the idea of such a development it was a disheartening evening.

I hope that the issues I raised will be thought on at length by the people at Harlow North Joint Venture because if all that happens is a load of new houses appear in East Herts, when we all know that the residents there will use the schools, doctors, hospital, shopping centres, restaurants and leisure facilities in Harlow with no demonstrable benefit to the town then the people of Harlow will, rightly, be very unhappy.

The Leader of Hertforshire County Council, one of my own party colleagues once described the town I love so much as “a pimple on the backside of Hertfordshire”

Unless the people at Harlow North Joint Venture get real about creating a proper community, East Hertfordshire could well end up being the pimple on the backside of Harlow!

Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow has been calling for the FA board to resign following the disgraceful England performance at the world cup.

It has been picked up locally here by the Harlow Star, by the BBC here and even by the Daily Mail here

Rob, who is a season ticket holder at Chelsea, makes some interesting points, particularly about making the FA more democratic, and the ability for Fans to remove the board.

I can actually see his idea working.

Official England supporters could in effect become the shareholders of the FA. Imagine how many more fans would pay to be members of the supporters club if they had a vote on who was sat on the board of the FA. Imagine if it was elected who would be there….

I can see Trevor Brooking surviving as he seems universally respected by fans as the only member of the FA who actually “gets it” but in an open election how many of the others would survive? I would bet not many.

So who would end up running the FA in those situations? Well I can see heads of some clubs supporters clubs getting large block votes, and maybe some ex professional footballers as well, but would other sports stars and ex managers be able to bring their expertise to the FA? I think they would.

I think elections to the Board of the FA would reconnect the FA to the fans, to the grassroots, it would also give the board much more “clout” and probably guts to make some tough decisions.

I really do think Rob Halfon is on to something here.