Friday, 31 July 2009

Comedy from Esther and Harry Potter

So, Esther Rantzen has officially announced her decision to stand as an MP for Luton South. The TV personality previously announced her intention to stand against Labour MP Margaret Moran after her expenses claims became the subject of criticism.

Ms Moran has since announced that she will not be defending her seat but this has not put off Ms Rantzen, who claims her stand is not merely a protest but "a glimpse of a vocation", adding that her participation in the election will "raise enthusiasm in the whole process".

Ever since Martin Bell's success in 1997, many people have been looking for, or looking to become, another "Man in the White Suit". I believe in Hazel Blears' Salford constituency there are now so many potential candidates claiming to be "the anti-sleaze candidate" that any chance of removing her are incredibly remote. In one sense it demonstrates how bankrupt of ideas the main parties have become. However, it also underlines the arrogance of so-called celebrities that they believe by simply announcing themselves as candidates they are in some way inspiring people to "believe in politics again". What tosh, Esther!

You might think I'd welcome Ms Rantzen's announcement. I certainly wish more people would make a stand (something that might happen if the ridiculous requirement for deposits was done away with). But I'm afraid independents cynically “looking for seats” in the wake of scandals really irritate me, especially when they are minor celebrities who think they can be politicians by making an act of “not being political”. It’s not that I mind them standing, but I object to the arrogance of anyone who feels that a combination of having been on TV a few times and capitalising on public anger towards an individual MP is somehow a substitute for a set of principles, political ideals and a record of working hard in a local constituency.

I would suggest that if she’s really interested in serving a constituency (sorry, becoming an MP) and doesn’t want to join a party, she should stand for the constituency in which she lives. Otherwise she will look like one of several people set to opportunistically capitalise from the expenses fallout. (And don't you think it's strange that none of the declared anti-sleaze candidates wants to stand against any of the many Tories who have been shamed in the expenses scandal?)

Interestingly, another celebrity has come under the spotlight after declaring his loyalty to the Lib Dems. Daniel Radcliffe, the young star of the Harry Potter movies, according to The Independent "expressed his admiration for Nick Clegg [and] stuck the boot into both Brown and Cameron". Hilarious! It's incredible what an education at Hogwarts can do!

The Lib Dems haven't made capital from Daniel's endorsement, so presumably we feel that we don't need celebrity backers when we have Tim Farron. However, I can definitely see why Harry Potter would be attracted to the Lib Dems. Our MP for Somerton & Frome, David Heath, bears more than a passing resemblance to Hagrid...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Charlie remembered

I was at Kendal Town Hall on Monday to make a presentation to the Mayor in memory of our friend, Councillor Dr Charles Batteson, who died in January.

Charlie was always a colourful debater in the chamber and as a Save our NHS councillor he was proud to argue what were often independent views. In his later years he struggled with his illness but I will always remember Charlie for his deep humanity and caring attitude.

Knowing how much Charlie loved Kendal and its council, I painstakingly created two photomosaics of Kendal Town Hall which will now hang in the council chamber as a permanent memorial to this dedicated man and progressive thinker. I am pictured making the presentation with members of Charlie's family.

We need more Charlie Battesons in politics, whether it is at a local or national level. He was a man of unshakable principle with a concern for people who will be sadly missed by all who knew him.