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Runners and Riders for MP 2010

Runners and Riders Fylde MP 2010In keeping with what is becoming a counterbalance tradition, we're going to have a look at those who would like to be our next Member of Parliament.

We're using five sources of information to do this.

We have personal knowledge of some of the candidates, but mostly we have their Statement of Persons Nominated, their leaflets and, although we were not able to attend Friday's Hustings meeting as the United Reformed Church Hall in person, we had deputed three trusted readers to give us their impression of events.

The result is mostly a foregone conclusion of course. It would be amazing if the Conservative candidate didn't get elected in Fylde. We've felt that ever since we first met him in December 2008, shortly after he was selected.

He has an excellent memory for names and faces, (and that's key to making people feel they know you) and since that time he has moved to live in Fylde, and has been working exceptionally hard to meet as many people and groups in the area as possible, (and that's the absolute key to getting elected. If a large number of electors in the area feel they know you and you know them, you're halfway there already).

So, because Fylde is a traditionally Conservative area, and barring any unforeseen major upset, we think it will be Mark Menzies MP on 6th May - but you don't need to be Einstein to work that out.

There will, of course, be people who have not yet made up their minds, and others wishing to know about the candidates from other parties, so we're doing our usual 'Runners and Riders' prior to the election..

They are - in order of how the leaflets arrived with us (well, more or less, the UKIP one hasn't yet arrived....)

  • WINLOW, Bill - Liberal Democrat
  • MENZIES, Mark Andrew - The Conservative Party Candidate
  • ROBINSON, Liam John - The Labour Party Candidate
  • MITCHELL, Philip Anthony - Green Party
  • BLEEKER, Martin - United Kingdom Independence Party

These are the people who have been nominated to stand for election. In theory, any or all could still withdraw, but that's unlikely..

Next, here's our take on their leaflets - it's a summary of their first leaflet to arrive with us.

A stylish, tidy, and informative front, with a fussy multicoloured obverse - maybe to cater for those with short attention spans

It majors on Bill's long experience in City Councils and more recently, County Councils, but to counter the 'age' thing that usually accompanies 'experience' it gives equal space to explaining (convincingly) how the Lib Dems generally have been ahead of the game on several events this last year or two, and thus quite 'with it'.

Pictures mostly of Bill Winlow with famous people, places or in 'ceremonial' garb..

The obverse is a mixture of national policy, stressing how 'fair' the Lib Dems would be, and promoting Lib Dems in Fylde Council and the County Council.

Three word leaflet sum up: Experienced, forward-looking, fair..

Printed in Blackpool

Polished, professional, tidy, (and mostly national issue) front with knocking copy for Labour and pro Conservative NHS copy. Side panel for local information.

Obverse is a corkboard map of the Fylde constituency (this includes bits of what most folk would call Preston - which is also in the Fylde Parliamentary constituency) with map-pin notes explaining how he links and interprets national policy to the needs of Fylde. Personal info panel and a clever "Tell us your issues of concern"; panel for return to local HQ.

Photos - an odd one or two with 'famous people' but mostly taken with local people. Majors on British Aerospace, with a wonderful photograph there that advertising companies would die for if they were trying to create a 'feelgood' picture of him.

Inescapable message from the front is "Change"

Three word leaflet sum up: Professional, reliable, local.

Printed in Guilford

Traditional A4 book-folded big-photo front, crammed, fussy inside and largely wasted back page (actually, the layout concept shares a lot in principle with the Conservative one, large areas of nationally mass produced stuff, with local sections and overprinting for constituencies)

Lots of mentions of 'Fylde'. About one quarter is national policy, like the Conservatives it also relates national policy to some local issues, but wants "more affordable homes for Fylde" which may not go down too well. Photos mostly of Liam in local settings. Also mentions BAE strongly. Almost no personal information.

Three word leaflet  sum up: Average, unexciting, disingenuous.

Printed in Essex

100% recycled paper (as you'd expect). Small, (so less to clog up landfill if it falls into the hands on non-greens), dominated by national policy. A bit of information on the candidate.

National policy focus is: a living wage, jobs and NHS. Philip wants to protect the NHS, and (apparently) do away with Springfields and Clifton Marsh in favour of renewable energy, and to convert existing properties to house more people.

Photos, one of the candidate, a blurred picture of him as part of a St Annes Group demonstrating for climate change action, but not a single local photograph

Three word leaflet sum up: Waste of space.

Printed is Sussex

Still waiting for it their first leaflet to arrive


Here we're going to give the three (sometimes, as you might expect, conflicting) opinions of our different contributors who heard the discussion at the hustings meeting..

Overall impression
The meeting was arranged by "Churches Together in St Annes" and that's why the questions have a social justice flavour.

About 80 to 100 people attended.

A bit of argy bargy had taken place about whether the UKIP chap could participate. Seems, (perhaps because he was a last minute candidate?) the organisers had not invited him to be part of the proceedings. It appears he did not know until the previous night about the meeting - and had telephoned the chairman as soon as he found out.

The Chairman was, it seems, reluctant to admit him to the debate, and had said he could sit in the audience, but after pressure from others, the Chairman allowed him to join the panel on the platform..

The 'Churches Together' did a great service to those residents of Fylde who were able to attend, as our readers will see.

The format was a series of questions put to each candidate. There were a few 'raw' ones from the floor allowed, but in the main the questions were chiefly the set piece issues as below. They included:

Climate Change
 Do you think the admitted mistakes in the IPCC Report on climate change damages the case for urgent action? And would you support a "Robin Hood" tax levied on financial transactions as a means of raising finance to help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change?

Housing & Homelessness.
Do you agree that there is an acute shortage of affordable socially rented housing in Fylde?  If so what steps will you take to increase the supply ?

Poverty & Wealth
With the widening gap between rich and poor, what steps would you take to stop cheating on tax through off shore tax havens ?  And what level do you think the Minimum Wage should be increased to?

In the light of our nation's financial crises, do you believe armaments in general should be reduced, and Trident scrapped?

Asylum Seekers
Do you think that Asylum seekers should be allowed to work whilst awaiting a decision on their application to stay?

What part do you think the churches can play in Social well-being?

Our representative's  views on the candidates were.....

Bill Winlow - Liberal Democrat
View 1
"The Lib-Dem guy was very good at picking up on the things that others had said that had pleased the crowd and adding them to his answers, I asked myself would I buy a car from him and the very definite answer was NO!"

View 2
"Presented well. Able to give local and national examples with facts and figures. Referred to notes frequently, but was fluent in debate. Used candidates and questioners names in replies and succinctly tied in previous elements of debate. Was the more experienced candidate of the five which gave him a slight edge. Has lived in Fylde for 10 years."

View 3
Very talkative. Had a technical, scientific, teacher-ish approach. Plenty of good ideas and idealistic views without relating desires and proposals to cost and practicality. There were lots of "What we would like to do is....", and less of "What we will do is..." He was a competent and experienced performer, and able to 'work' the audience to his benefit, but probably not as interesting to hear as Menzies or Robinson.

Mark Menzies - Conservative
View 11
"After seeing the events of the night I am afraid the only one that may be worth a vote is Mark"

View 2
"Articulate and passionate in debate, said would go against party line if Fylde was adversely affected by decisions taken at Westminster. Not utterly convincing arguments. Tried hard to be Fylde orientated, but will have difficulty in filling predecessor's shoes. Not lived in the area for great length of time".

View 3
"Polished, well tutored on the party line, and knowledgeable. Appeared honest in giving at least some of his answers. Spoke with what appeared to be conviction, and missed very few of the points he ought to have made as each opportunity presented itself with the questions that arose. Stressed his own family credentials in relation to housing need. "My mum was born and raised in a council house, so when it comes to social housing it's something my family has experience of..." Good use of statistics without 'Doing a Gordon'

Liam Robinson - Labour
View 1
"A high flyer in the making"

View 2
"Confident (a little arrogant. Similar style to Roger Small / John Coombes combination) Used same opening line - I'm very proud of..... too frequently, and used unnecessary tautology. Some convincing arguments presented. Addressed questioner by name and needed no prompting to be first to take the mike to answer questions. His examples were not always relevant to Fylde. (Scouser, lives in Blackpool)."

View 3
Spoke well and confidently. Took personal ownership of Labour party policies. Effective performer. Focus on 'self' quite a lot. Polished, and able to speak on more or less nothing for several minutes and even then twist it to his own advantage. Will make an excellent MP somewhere, but probably not here. Made a big issue on affordable housing need in Fylde, using examples of people he has spoken to here. "One of the first things I would want to do if I was elected would be to have an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive and the new Leader of the Council to discuss this issue [affordable housing] as one of the key priorities for the area that I'd like to see addressed..."

Philip Mitchell - Green
View 1
"The green guy was in cloud cuckoo land: all he did was to read from the green manifesto"

View 2
"Poor presentation skills, looked uncomfortable, lost track of own points and unable to give more than 3 words without saying "eerrrr". Not a stimulating performance from start to finish. Stick to tree hugging! Develop a sense of occasion and buy a suit. "

View 3
"Weak, hesitant. Poor speaker. Awful presentation in parts. Full of erm's and delivered in a dull, monotone. He in not an asset to anyone except his mum.  Absolutely hopeless. Based on his performance at this meeting, if he gets ten people to vote for him, he'll be doing very well."

Martin Bleeker - UKIP
View 1
"The UKIP guy was embarrassing"

View 2
"Unfortunate start to the evening as he didn't know whether he would be allowed to take part or not, but went for the sympathy vote every time. Was more pro-European than LibDems, and referred constantly to his own unfortunate circumstances which some 7 months ago had led him to become a UKIP member. This had the unfortunate effect of serving to highlight how far up the political ladder one can get in such a short space of time. Did manage to speak on most subjects until lost it altogether at the last question. Should have quit whilst second to bottom - slightly ahead of the Green candidate. (Or maybe he should just have given leaflets out at the door)."

View 3
"Mr Bleeker was aptly named in relation to his chances of success in the election. The were times when he could not string a sentence together, let alone a complete paragraph. "I love Europe" was one of his quotes. He'd obviously not read the party literature yet. As the only party in Fylde to (supposedly) propose withdrawal from the EU this would have been my vote, but not after tonight.

On the question of the church in society he said " Myself, I don't have a religion. I'm a Christian. I don't believe in tribalism, God did not make prophesism or however you say that, he didn't make Muslims, he made humanity. So as far as I'm concerned, mankind is equal." Toe-curling.

Things got even worse when, speaking of Trident as a nuclear deterrent, he said - "We're not an aggressive nation as nations go" (this brought hoots of derision and cries of "what about the Empire" - but he was too young - or too ill-educated to bring such history to mind." On the last question (about offshore tax havens) he simply dried up and sat down. It was really embarrassing for him.

Dated:  24 April 2010


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