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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Town Centre

Interesting to see the Town Centre Development making the front page of the express again.

It does indeed seem like the development isn't going to go ahead in it's present form.

I personally am delighted by this. I thought, and still think, that it was the wrong type of development for us. Whilst we need something to be done, the plans on the table were going to do more harm than good.

I see this as a small moral victory for the "Plan B" campaign. But only a small one. I hope that we will all get a chance to get involved in putting a different plan for the town centre together, and only then will the victory be complete.

So, thinking hats on people.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Oh dear....

An interesting bit of tittle tattle on the Sun website here...
A TORY grandee was at the centre of rumours last night that he GOOSED dishy MP Natascha Engel.
The grandee in question happens to represent Macclesfield, although according to the article he can't quite remember whether it happened or not.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Getting on teh Interwebs - part 2.

(A lot of links in this post - much better viewed online at http://darrylbeckford.blogspot.com)

A lot of Politicians like to talk big about engaging with the public and using new media, but in reality it's just lip-service to make themselves sound like they're "down with the kids".

The sad fact is that only two CE Councillors twitter, and only this one has a blog and regularly emails constituents. Some are very good at leafleting, but many only leaflet when the election comes around, which I think is shameful.

In Parliamentary terms, you think things would be better. Perhaps it is a tiny bit: there are two and a half websites for the five MP's in the CE area (GO's isn't really a website so it's counting half, it just links back to Conservatives.com). Considering how many PPC's we now know about, I would be expecting them all to be fighting for space in the Interwebs tubes.

When they do finally get online, it sometimes seems to be a bit half baked. For example, the Congleton Labour Party have decided to follow my lead by using Google maps to highlight what they've been working on.

You can see my map at the side of the blog, or view it full screen by clicking here.

Unfortunately, the Labour party's version is a little more sparce. In fact, it seems that their PPC has been working on absolutely nothing, as the map below the heading "Working hard for you" has nothing on it.

At least he's honest.

Hopefully the new candidate in Macclesfield will be making a better effort than that although I note that someone, who is trying to poke fun on religious grounds, has already beat him to it on Twitter.

I'm worried that Cheshire East Council is becoming an example of this phenomenon, as we seem reluctant to engage online. I asked for a Freedom of Information disclosure log, and was told that there wasn't resource to do it. The council seems to be one of the only ones in the country now that doesn't use Twitter (although I'm about to stop following Cheshire West's feed because it never tells me anything of significance). And now we won't video Council meetings and put them online.

Following my post last week it seems that many people would like to be able to watch council meetings, or at least part of them, online. Most people seem to agree that this is far more valuable than arguing about when or where to hold the meetings themselves.

In fact, two people have volunteered to help free the information, and so I'm currently trying to find a way to make this work.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What have we learnt from the open primary?

The Macclesfield Open Primary on paper was a step in the right direction. We all want more control over who represents us - and allowing people to chose candidates for one particular party is a good way to do this.

However, I wouldn't say it was a resounding success. Assuming that we put aside the rather irregular methods used in the shortlisting process, there was still a few problems with the primary itself.

The communication regarding the whole process should have been much better. There was confusion as to who could register and attend, and who could submit questions. Confusion was inevitable, but none of the communications I saw managed to iron out the queries - and printing the wrong phone number on the first batch of leaflets was just embarrassing.

But for me the major failure was about time. We want to encourage a wide range of people to get involved. Some of these don't have time to spare, some will have families and for some it will be medically not possible to sit in a school hall for five hours. This is where we have really failed with the primary concept. Many people couldn't attend for these reasons, and worse still some attended by weren't allowed to vote because they hadn't seen all the speakers.

Although several hundred people registered, I'm told that less than a couple of hundred actually attended. In order for us to consider primaries a success, the numbers need to be in the thousands, not the hundreds.

The postal ballot is the way to go - but we need to curb the cost. Perhaps we could reduce this by doing it online, and by having papers available on request.

In the run up to the voting deadline we could hold a series of hustings to allow candidates to get their views across. One in a school hall, one in a shopping centre, one in a bar on a Saturday night. Mix it up a bit and try and make sure different formats to suit different types of candidates.

Without this the fad won't last. It just won't be possible to tell the media that the candidate was "selected by the people" when we have a process that so blatantly restricts who can attend.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Getting Councillors Online

As the topic of the week seems to be democracy and the Internet (more coming later following the post last week), I've noticed that the Conservative party have a new campaigning portal available for Councillors.

It's accessed here...


...and the idea is that Councillors can use it to setup their own site from a template. It's relatively basic, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Sir Nick always said to me that you couldn't win elections on the Internet. I agree with this - but that doesn't mean that you can't look to use it to supplement your campaign. In addition, it's a perfect way to provide information for your constituents as and when they want it.

The big question is how many of the Cheshire East Councillors will use it?