May 2010

The Lib Dem Reids

Someone asked me yesterday if Cllr Rachel Reid was my daughter. She isn't, but she is the daughter of another councillor, Kevin O'Connor.

Rachel has been on the council for 8 years, representing Grove ward. During that time she married and changed her name. At that point instead of having two O'Connors and two Reids, we had just one O'Connor and three Reids. Of course, we all got each other's post from time to time.

Since the last election Rachel has moved with her husband to Chessington South. So she has decided to stand there, replacing her father who is standing down.

If you think that is confusing I have to tell you that there are four Reid families closely involved with the Lib Dems in Chessington - and we are not related! Apart from Ian and me, and Rachel, the Chair and Secretary of the Chessington North and Hook branch are Reids (they are married to each other) and the Vice Chair is yet another Reid.

Four women and a man - some thoughts on those results

I was really sorry that Susan Kramer was beaten by Zac Goldsmith's millions in Richmond Park last night. Enough said.

But, of course, I am delighted that Edward Davey got back in with only a small dent to his majority. At the count last night I learned that Helen Whately's objective was to halve his majority of nearly 9000, but in the end it only dropped by just over 1400. She was a strong candidate - better than any the Conservatives have put up for many, many years - but Edward has done the work and it is obvious on the doorstep that he is highly respected across the constituency.

I got home at 5.30am this morning after a 24 hour election stint. The counting process was very long because all the voting papers in all the ballot boxes for the local and Parliamentary elections first had to be bundled, and the totals checked against the polling officers' records. Inevitably some ballots were placed in the wrong box, which was why they had to check all of them before starting the proper count.

The local elections ballots will be counted this afternoon from 2.30pm. From what I spotted last night it looks as though there will close contests in several wards, so the count could go on for some time. You should be able to follow the results live as they are announced on the Council's website.

Back to the Westminster results. I'm pleased to hear that Sarah Teather has gained Brent Central. This a new constituency and she was up against a minister, Dawn Butler, so it was expected to be a tough fight. In the end Sarah won with a notional 11% swing.

One that I was very sad to lose was Julia Goldsworthy in Cambourne and Redruth who lost by 66 votes. I've known Julia since she was a researcher for Matthew Taylor. She is a very bright, sparky woman who was developing well as the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Local Government. I've been working with her recently on the party's localism policy.

Lynne Featherstone is another MP that I have worked with and she pleasingly increased her majority in Hornsey and Wood Green.

Good news for Lib Dems in Kingston

Liberal Democrats have retained control of Kingston Council with 27 seats, over the Conservatives' 21 seats. Labour was wiped out.

Here in South of the Borough, we held on to all the seats in Tolworth & Hook Rise and Chessington South.

I'm a bit gutted that we lost one of the seats in Chessington North & Hook to the Tories, but very pleased that both Alan Dean and Margaret Thompson were elected.

I have had four hours sleep since 5.30am yesterday morning. Spent the day running the Committee Room then off to the Parliamentary count through the night from 10.30pm to 5.30am. It was fully light wehn I went to bed. Got some sleep, then back to the local election count for another 7 hours. Living on sandwiches and crisps - disastrous for my diet.

What huge political excitement, upheaval and disappointments! But it still feels as though a new era has dawned.

My email

They are gradually divesting me of all my power! On Monday I have to hand in my Council ID card and car park pass.

My Council email address will be pulled very soon, so please don't use it. You can contact me here, or simply email me on mary at maryreid.org.uk.

Take Back Parliament

Not in Birmingham

I can't make it to the special Lib Dem conference in Birmingham today because we have a family event, but I'm following it with interest. I have already expressed my support for the amendment from some members of the party which states:

"Conference calls for Liberal Democrats to work constructively in government to ensure that the
net income and wealth inequality gap is reduced significantly over the course of this parliament."

I place myself firmly within the Social Liberal wing of the party, and this amendment is designed to support Nick Clegg in any further negotiations, not to undermine them.

Whatever the outcome today - and I'm sure that the conference will overwhelmingly endorse the coalition deal - one thing is sure: the Labour and Conservative press alike will announce that the party is split. They simply don't understand that The Liberal Democrats is a federal organisation run by its members, not by the Leader, and that we discuss all our policy in public, unlike the other two main parties. Healthy and robust debate is the hallmark of our form of internal party democracy.

A coalition with Conservatives was the only feasible outcome from the election. The arithmetic with Labour did not add up, and in any case, several prominent Labour MPs stated their opposition to a deal with us. Liberal Democrats would not have been thanked by the nation for propping up demoralised and defeated party.

You might expect me to be more sympathetic to Labour than the Tories, and in principle that is the case. But New Labour has not, in my view, been acting as a progressive party for some years - just think of the many erosions of civil liberties, such as ID cards, detention and the RIP Act, let alone the war in Iraq. And the gap between rich and poor is no better than it was 13 years ago.

Now I would never describe the Conservatives as progressive either, but I have been astonished by the concessions that they have offered us. What we have now is definitely not a Conservative government but a Liberal Democrat/Conservative government, which is a rather different animal. It will hopefully neutralise the hard right of the Conservative party, while bringing back into prominence moderate voices such as Ken Clarke. On our side, I was delighted to see Steve Webb hailing from the left of our party - as Minister for Pensions.

And a coalition is not a merger - each party maintains its integrity and independence, and can fight for their own policies in by-elections. Instead a coalition is a pragmatic and mature solution to an unprecedented situation.

As a footnote - I haven't been blogging during this last week, so I haven't yet mentioned that our own Edward Davey is now Junior Minister, working with Vince Cable in Business. I'm delighted for him and for the party, as this is where he started and where he has most expertise.

UPDATE

The Conference overwhelmingly approved the coalition motion, and the amendment I referred to, together with eight others, were all accepted by the movers of the motion.

Lost deposits

These are the total deposits lost by each party in the General Election. Make of it what you will.

UKIP £237,000
Green £151,500
BNP £133,000
English Democrats £53,000
Christian People's Alliance £35,000
Labour £2,500
Conservative £1,000
Liberal Democrats £0

A Minister? I don't believe it ...

I've just updated Edward Davey's website with his views on the coalition.

It has been, not surprisingly, rather difficult to get hold of him in the last couple of weeks. Although he was not a member of the negotiating team, he is a member of the Liberal Democrats Federal Executive Committee, so had to attend all their meetings, late into the night, as well as the ones with the MPs.

He did make very quick contact with local members immediately after the election, in order to get our views on what the Liberal Democrat leadership should be doing next. (I'm not sure that there was this level of consultation down through the other parties.)

Then at the end of last week he called a meeting of all the party members in the constituency to talk about the outcome and tell us about his new job in the Government. He has been appointed as Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, led by the legendary Vince Cable . In fact, it is the only Government Department that has two Liberal Democrat Ministers.

I know that Ed is delighted with the appointment because it takes him back to the issues that brought him in to politics in the first place.

As for me, I still don't really believe that we have a Liberal Democrat MP who is also a Minister. It is going to take some getting used to!

No more first class travel for civil servants

Amoing the many, and far more serious cuts, that are likely to be announced today I have a particularly warm feeling about the squeeze on expenses for civil servants.

When I chaired the Local e-Democracy National Project most of the members of the Board worked in local government or were councillors. But we did have a handful of senior civil servants from the (then) Officer of the Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Office.

We used to meet in Leicester, and after the meetings would walk back together to the station. Those of us travelling back to London would wait for the train, and when it arrived the civil servants got on the first class coach while the rest of us got on second class.

When I questioned this I was told that the civil servants 'had no option because the were automatically booked into first by the system'. My expenses were paid by the project, not by Kingston, and I only ever claimed second class travel.

That was not the only extravagence. At an international conference I saw a group of civil servants getting away with £2000 of drinks one evening at public expense. I was totally shocked by this.

Local government was forced to clean up years ago and in spite of the odd exposure in Private Eye the general view is that public funds must be used frugally. So I for one can't wait to see civil servants travelling economy and second class like the rest of us.

Localism - at last a Liberal Democrat version may be on the cards

The Queen's speech yesterday announced a Decentralisation and Localism Bill which I pounced on with interest.

The coalition deal had indeed proposed giving powers back to local government, redressing the remorseless whittling away at local powers under Labour.

But the detail will be what matters. I have a particular interest in this because I am a member of a working group that has been developing the Liberal Democrat policy on localism. When we started we had no idea that we would be in goverment by the time we finished.

So, what happens now? We will be finishing the policy report, which I helped tp draft, very soon and then presenting it to Party Conference in September. It will be a significant test of the flexibility of the coalition - will the policy agreed by Conference then be absorbed into legislation? If so, what other hurdles will it have to jump over?

This is a new process for all of us, not least for the Tories who are not accustomed to having policy decided by members.

Body image

I now weigh three stone less than I did last summer, or indeed when that photo above was taken in Jamaica a year earlier.

That's not me in the water (I took the photo of some friends), but I do remember feeling very self conscious, wanting to hide inside a loose cover-up. In contrast, I spent last week on a North Devon beach with the family, and I found I really didn't mind walking around on the sand in my (new) swimsuit.

And yet .... I still see myself as chubby in the mirror.

The truth is that I could still do with losing another stone, and get rid of the fat around my tum. But I am acutely aware that something very odd has happened to the way I perceive myself.

When I look at my reflection it really doesn't look very different from when I was three stone heavier. And yet I have the evidence before me - the measurements that I have recorded faithfully over the months, those clothes I was wearing last year, and the cost of buying new clothes as I shrunk. But I just can't see it in the mirror.

So what is going on? Was I simply deceiving myself when I was larger? Or am I now more aware of my size, happier to inspect my figure and therefore more aware of my current shortcomings?

Whichever is true, I find I can now understand some of the body image issues that anorexics face. However much they lose, howvever skeletal they become, they still judge the image in the mirror to be too large.

Now don't worry - I am in no danger of anorexia. I have lost weight by eating healthily, not by starving, and I enjoy days off the diet. In fact, my key guiding principle has been that food should never be treated as a moral issue - there should be no guilt and no self-punishment - so I think I've got the psychology right.

But the inaccurate body image is still intriguing.

Published by Mary Reid, 126 Clayton Road, Hook Chessington KT9 1NJ
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