Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dominic Cummings

Picture from: https://twitter.com/WillBlackWriter/status/1264260846487822337/photo/1


I sent the email below to my MP. I received a reply - copied and pasted below.
Dear Mr Blunt

As yet I don't believe you have called for Mr Cummings resignation. 

It is arguably ACCEPTABLE to defend a colleague. This and the power of patronage ensures the Prime Minister will get his way

However, defending someone flouting the guidance is potentially going to have a detrimental impact on the governments message. People will just say guidance can be ignored if your "instinct" tells you to do so. This will cost lives.

Please call for his resignation. Even the Daily Mail is calling for Mr Cummings to be sacked.

Yours sincerely 

S Khan 



Dear Shasha

Thank you for your recent email regarding the Prime Minister’s adviser, Mr Dominic Cummings. I have now received over 500 email enquiries on the matter in addition to a large number of calls and posts on my social media accounts. I am reading all the correspondence, but it is not possible for me to reply in a timely way individually to each communication as I would normally do. Instead, I have tried below to respond to the points made and to provide you with a full understanding of my view on this issue as your Member of Parliament, having reflected on the points of view and questions put to me in all the correspondence.

The pandemic and the strategy to manage its threat means we are all living through a new experience. This explosion of correspondence, unprecedented in my 23 years in Parliament, over one long weekend on the actions of a non-elected adviser, which are open to interpretation both sympathetic and condemnatory, itself indicates we are in times strange to all of us. My reaction has been to reflect on the factors that have led to this situation and your decision to take the trouble to communicate your view to me.

There are real pressures created by the measures required to control this virus, as well as the tragic outcomes for many of those directly infected and their families. The harm this virus is doing is outside this generation of humanity’s experience. All of us have had to endure at least massive change and inconvenience, most of us disruption to family and professional life, and the frustrations from the restrictions become more onerous to bear each succeeding day. The correspondence has reinforced this for me in reading about a mother restricting herself to only see her 9 month old baby twice in this period, families’ extreme anxiety about isolated elderly relatives managing their frailties and the probable terminal risk this virus poses to them. Then there is the anxiety about the future that, as this virus retreats, the world will then need to face and work through the societal and economic consequences it leaves behind.

In the UK, these Covid-19 factors are being laid upon the character of our recent politics. A culture of growing polarisation and intolerance for the other’s point of view and, certainly it appears to me, an alarming unwillingness to properly understand why others might have a different perspective, but instead too often to put the most malicious interpretation on others’ motives.

Ironically this great national collective effort to combat this virus’ threat to us all was emerging as an opportunity to bring us together as we all made our contribution in different ways and this would help bear down on this wider polarisation in our politics. The tragedy of the Cummings affair is that like a virus itself, it demonstrates that this polarisation, intolerance and lack of generosity of spirit remains deep in the British body of politics.

That this polarisation has infected the consideration of the merits of the actions of an ill Cummings family could hardly be clearer. In the critical public commentary there has been scant consideration by most, if not all, of the merits of the human judgments of parents trying to serve their family best, consistent with protecting the rest of us, which is the object of the policy on which he helped advise at the most senior level. We have even had a dozen or so bishops threatening to withdraw collaboration with the Government on this pandemic based on this issue alone without having heard the detailed context of Dominic Cummings decisions for his family. In this context one can understand why we saw the unprecedented business of an official giving a full explanation of his personal conduct and submitting to questions on it in the garden of No 10.

My views on the merits changed listening to Mr Cummings during Monday’s press conference. Once I understood that the opportunity to self-isolate as a family unit, within close distance of immediate relatives on an isolated farm, who were perfectly placed to pick up their child caring responsibilities if the virus overtook them, the uninterrupted car journey, even if long, makes complete sense. Of course, this would be a situation available to strikingly few people, but his actions were wholly consistent with the interests of his family and critically the rest of us as well. The family’s 260 miles journey, in a car, was less dangerous to the public than travelling any distance on public transport. He was fortunate enough to have the ideal situation of an empty house, with both sister and parent in adjacent houses ready to provide for his family should they be needed. It was also reasonable for him to collect the other two members of his household from hospital, again in a car without coming into contact with the public. I also accept the reasons for a test drive before driving back the 260 miles, 15 days after his first symptoms which is in line with self-isolation guidance. We can send up the eyesight test issue in isolation but checking whether one would have the strength and endurance to make that long return car journey whilst in recovery from Covid-19, struck me as appropriate and responsible.

The context of his decisions and consideration of their merits also needed to exclude the rumour and innuendo surrounding them. For example, the speculation about a further outing on 19th April based on allegations by two unidentified witnesses, has been strongly denied by Mr Cummings and a formal statement from No 10 confirming this. Reports of the Durham police’s conversation with Mr Cummings’ father were also proven inaccurate when the Constabulary withdrew the suggestion that they gave him ‘specific advice’ about the correct actions to be taken during the coronavirus outbreak to remain in accordance with lockdown guidelines, implying the Police believed they had been broken.

These are the reasons I believe it would be wrong to fire Mr Cummings on the merits of this episode. I understand and personally applaud the Prime Minister’s decision to stand by his man at this time. I was struck by hearing the recent words of the new Labour leader about his duty of care to officials of the Labour Party, to whom he guaranteed due process under his leadership. These are standards that place truth over image and perception. Our default position should be to support them. It is a brave thing to do in my profession as the whole truth and nothing but the truth can very rarely carry the day in a 24 hour news cycle. The difficult experience politicians in a democracy must manage is that a conclusion based on a balance of arguments is then betrayed by truths that support a competing interpretation. It then depends on how you balance up the arguments and factors to bring you to your own conclusion. I much regret in today’s politics it is often seen as some kind of gaffe to accept your opponent’s conclusion might have any merit at all. I would like this intolerance to reduce and for Covid-19 to help widen understanding and for us to look for the best in each other, not least whilst so many people are demonstrating their good values in the actions to defeat this virus.

On the Cummings affair it’s also brave to stand by an unpopular figure as you start with people’s perceptions already tilted against you. I accept perceptions also play a role. It is claimed by a few of my colleagues and in effect by some of my correspondents, that in this emergency, perception trumps truth, because it is perception that will dictate public behaviour and thus how this looks, even if grossly distorted by the lens of a media seeking to sustain a different narrative should be the decisive factor. Depressingly that is often the conventional political response. Dispose of the difficulty even if unfair. Indeed, that is the normal fate of serving politicians but Mr Cummings is not a politician and the Prime Minister has chosen to take the higher and more difficult path of discharging his duty to truth and due process to his Chief Advisor. I believe that decision deserves my support, even though that will not satisfy many of my correspondents.

I hope this long reply has at least managed to explain why I have come to this conclusion and even if you strongly disagree, that you might respect the conclusion just as I understand why you have felt so motivated by the experience of this one small family trying to manage its situation as best as they can within the context of the Covid-19 emergency that you have raised it with me.

Yours sincerely,

 
 


  
  

Crispin Blunt MP
Member of Parliament for Reigate  




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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Isle of Wight experience

The outcome of the December 12th General Election is one that fills me with fear. Boris Johnson is between 8 and 12 percentage points ahead and on course for a majority. The one probable silver lining is Greens get their second MP.

Leading the race for that honour is Vix Lowthian on the Isle of Wight.
The Green Party stall in Ryde

Earlier this month we combined a weekend away with some campaigning. Vix is benefiting from the Lib Dems standing down - as part of the Rebel (Remain) Alliance.

When we met she spoke of her frustration that the Labour candidate had not stood down either. Labour members need to think about 5 more years of Boris Johnson. They can't win in Isle of Wight but they can help the Greens.


The European Elections show that there is a strong independent mindset among islanders. Let's hope that IOW goes Green.





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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

BJ is PM today

BJ is PM today.
If the EU doesn't re-open the Withdrawal Agreement and he fails to suspend parliament to leave without a "deal" (both of which I believe will happen) then Boris has to push the most radical right wing and populist policies possible to keep Brexit voters content in advance of the next General Election. His appointments indicate this. That way he'll nick some of those Brexit Party votes to stay in power.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Green Wave all across the country

  1. A couple of weeks back, I was lucky enough to be standing for election when the wave rushed through the country. A record number of councillors were elected locally and nationally. Greens jumped from 178 to a dizzying 362 councillors. Regrettably, it was bad luck that this alliterative alignment of circumstances - namely Brexit bollocks and climate catastrophe - didn't occur when I was a target candidate in Croydon and Sutton!

  2. The ward on Regiate and Banstead council I was standing in polled the following:

  1. Chipstead, Kingswood and Woodmansterne
Tim Archer Conservative 1422
Simon Parnell Conservative 1277
Maria Neame Conservative 1207
Shasha Khan Green Party 642
Eileen Hannah Liberal Democrat 545
Gerry Heaver UKIP 367
Ian Thirlwell Labour 357


Alongside Green Councillor Jonathan Essex. Photo taken just outside the Count. At the time we were hopeful that all six target councillors were elected.


  1. My old campaign aide, Martyn Post, sent a succinct and precise explanation of the Green Wave in a Whats App message:

  • Dissatisfaction with the two main parties (Brexit shambles)
  • Remainers turning out, with left leaning remainers choosing Green over Labour
  • Good local camapigns with activists who joined during the green surge and stayed
  • Extinction Rebellion 's recent highlighting of climate change and need for action

I saw a tweet by London activist Benali Hamdache (copied and pasted below). His explanation covers five areas:


  1. 5) We selected community champions So many of our candidates have been active locally for years. They’ve built networks. They’re well liked. They’re invested in where they live.
  2. 4) Finally a spotlight XR & the People’s Vote have finally given the Greens air time. We’ve been able to capitalise on key issues that we’re authentic and trusted on. Fair coverage during the Euros should do the same
  3. 3) it wasn’t all Brexit Lots of wards Greens have won in are deprived or neglected. Greens have worked hard to connect with communities that felt poorly served by elected figures. For lots of areas they’ve never had regular ward campaigns. Greens were there as local champions
  4. 2) The time was right Brexit has shook loose party loyalty in a way never seen before. Remainers and Leavers we’re absolutely sick to death of the main two parties. Greens used the time to actually engage with local communities and win voters over
  5. 1) The professionalisation of the Party is here. Finally we have the membership, the experience and the funds to put together serious campaigns. Our field staff team are excellent and deserve a lot of plaudits today

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Thursday, May 02, 2019

Candidate for Chipstead, Hooley and Woodmansterne

I received an email from Inside Croydon asking if I knew of any former Croydon candidates standing  on the local elections. *London doesn't have any elections in 2019. I sent this reply:

Yes, I am one of those ex-Croydon now standing for Reigate and Banstead council. My home ward is Chipstead, Kingswood and Woodmansterne.
I've lived in Woodmansterne - which has a railway station actually in Croydon - for three years now.
Greens actually get elected in these areas! This is down to hard work and recognition for ther hard work. There are three Greens elected here in Redhill East (2) and Earlswood & Whitebushes(1) wards.
I haven't had an opportunity to get out that much but the activists tell me canvassing returns suggest the Green vote stronger than ever.
The local agent told me she expects turnout to be low as Conservative voters stay away because of Brexit. The local MP Crispin Blunt - a Leaver - took the unprecedented step of putting out a statement asking voters not to punish local Tory councillors because of Brexit. Local Tories have stopped canvassing because of the doorstep fury they have received over the issue.
Green canvassers are still noting concern about affordable housing and Green Belt development on the doorstep, but also for the first time Climate Change is being mentioned as an issue. Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough have pushed the issue to the fore of voters minds.
Given there are three councillors to be elected this time around, it will be interesting to see how the results pan out in my ward as the only party putting up three candidates are the unpopular Conservatives. Other parties such as Greens or UKIP could benefit from split votes.

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

WIll this all end in Civil War? It can't do.




Today my family and I are going to the the Peoples Vote March in Central London. I am not paid up member of the 2nd referendum brigade because I am more concerned about how we heal the divisions that have become so starkly noticeable as a result of Brexit.

We went to the previous rally and I felt the mood was more disillusionment with Brexit, because if there was a referendum and a Remain type option won - it will only anger those that voted LEAVE in June 2016.

I met, by chance, a consultant who works for financial institutions. Presently these institutions are  looking for guidance on what is likely to happen with regard to Brexit. This senior individual noted many similarities with Trump in USA and Brexit in UK. I jested with the consultant that in years to come, maybe we will look back at this time whilst in the midst of a civil war, wondering why we didn't do more to bridge the two sides of the Brexit debate. To my surprise the consultant didn't dismiss civil war out of hand.

Surely we can't end up in a civil war. Civil unrest, maybe. Brexit headbangers are openly ringing up radio stations such as LBC and talking up civil unrest if Brexit doesn't happen in the particular way they want it to happen; On the Today Programme on yesterday, Nigel Farage used the word 'fight' with regard to  defending Brexit when being interviewed by Mishal Husain; and countless MPs are being called traitor by Brexit headbangers outside the Houses of Parliament. Are these the the early signs of something more frightening. I keep hearing the army are on standby.

I was talking to an Egyptian friend of mine, he made the observation that civil unrest starts when a rally or march gets attacked by the opposite side. Could this happen today??

Interestingly, a Professor of Political Economy has noted similarities between the Brexit divide and the English Civil War. They are mainly geographical, but the semblance is apparent in other elements.

The above is all hypothetical, but sometimes I wonder how is this going to end?


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Monday, October 15, 2018

Media just as much to blame for the Brexshit we're in.


Brexiters who are in the media or national politics are either stupid or pandering to their audience. So say I! Those who are radio presenters are essentially audio journalists, much like a reporter for the Daily Express. The readership of the Daily Express expects an anti-immigration slant OR pro-Brexit twist so the reporter writes a story to fit.

The same HAS to apply for radio presenters. They are in the numbers business. A commercial radio station is almost entirely interested in listening figures. No listeners = no advertising revenue.

I remember Iain Dale back in June 2016 maintaining a position of 'undecided' on the IN/OUT question. He finally backed Leave - at least publicly. At the time I thought this wasn't an action based on sound logic, unless one has calculated that for commercial reasons it would be better not to lose your audience.

So, when Danny Dyer famously blasted David Cameron I scanned the debate with interest, especially when Iain Dale tried to make capital out of it. I might be wrong about Dale in my assertion but I doubt it. In he full exchange he tries add weight to 'idiotic tweet' jibe at me.

Take a look at @IainDale's Tweet: https://twitter.com/IainDale/status/1012685399666429953?s=09


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Monday, June 04, 2018

Election results from 2018

Private Eye


The result in Beddington North was quite a surprise to many observers. Councillor Nick Mattey, formerly a Liberal Democrat, latterly a Green managed to get re-elected as an Independent with two other councillors. This news also managed to get into Private Eye magazine (above).




I chatted to Nick Mattey (his graphic above - poor spelling of my name) throughout the campaign. Our involvement in the Stop The Incinerator campaign has resulted in a friendship.

Independents getting elected in London is an amazing phenomenon. However, the election of these three in Beddington North was not a complete surprise:

1) Nick Mattey has been an active councillor in Beddington North. People know him. He has fully canvassed the households in the ward. If he wasn't a sitting councillor it would have been almost impossible to achieve success.

2) The Lib Dems in Sutton are serial leafleters around election time. Nick managed to orchastrate a campaign which exceeded the Lib Dems in terms of sheer volume and cost. I know he spoke to the Electoral Commission to work out how he could spend his way to success.

3) Voters are cynical about politicians more than ever before. Voters are learning that voting for a political party doesn't mean 'X'. It could mean 'Y'. For example, if you are a BREXIT voter, which political party represents your voice? The people of Beddington North have experienced deceit on an unprecedented scale. It was logical to turn to three residents who, total combined, have lived in the ward for many decades.

The 1.96 per cent votes I polled was to be expected given Green votes were probably going to the three Independents. This coupled with the fact that I don't actually live in the borough and both Labour and the Conservatives threw everything at the ward to win these three vulnerable Lib Dem seats suggests the result was fair.  On average Green candidates polled between 2 and 3 per cent in Sutton.

Election count at Westcroft Leisure Centre

I took the above picture at the Count. Nick Mattey is in the foreground. You can see the other tables have finished counting but because of the Independents - bundled in with the split votes - the counting continued long after other wards had declared.

Meanwhile,

CHIPSTEAD, HOOLEY AND WOODMANSTERNE

TIM ARCHER - CONSERVATIVE - 1357
PETER PARROTT - LABOUR - 276
CHRIS HOWELL - LIB DEM - 196
SHASHA KHAN - GREEN - 183
JAMES CLACK - UKIP - 122



The result in Chipstead, Hooley and Woodmansterne was completely expected. The Tory won by landslide. Interestingly less than 100 votes separated the other candidates.

Scoring a similar margin of victory to the Conservative was the irrepressible Jonathan Essex in Redhill East ward. He is one of the legends in the UK Green party. More good news was the election of Hal Brown in Earlswood and Whitebushes. Full details here.

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Standing up for what matters