Shefford Hustings: “He’s behind you!” “Oh, no he isn’t!” #NadineDorries #GE2015

In the beginning…

Almost 5 years ago, during the 2010 general election, I attended my first ever political hustings meeting. Held in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, the panellists were all parliamentary candidates for Mid Bedfordshire. The room was full and buzzing with many locals including myself attending in the hope of questioning the incumbent, Nadine Dorries, about recent rumours of a police investigation into her expenses claims. This was the first time I met Tim Ireland (@bloggerheads) and the last time I wore “normal” shoes.

The meeting didn’t go as planned as the late-arrival, the incumbent Nadine Dorries, discovered the meeting was being filmed and broadcast by one of her more successful critics, Tim Ireland (with advance permission of the organisers of course, Tim is always extremely well prepared). For full context video of the now infamous event can be seen here.

Fast forward five years, and I find myself at a second  Mid Bedfordshire hustings event, this time being held in the pretty Bedfordshire village of Shefford (home of the Mid Bedfordshire Conservative Association office). The meeting was arranged and promoted by “Churches Together” and held in St Michaels Parish Church on the High Street. The candidates invited to attend were again-incumbent Nadine Dorries (Conservative), lovely Linda Jack (Liberal Democrats), gentle Gareth Ellis (Green Party), charming Nigel Wickens (UKIP), earnest Charlynne Pullen (Labour), delightful Ann Kelly (Monster Raving Loony Party) and an extremely brave and splendid chap who is now my partner, Tim Ireland (Independent). Yes, Tim Ireland. You heard me. Tim & I have been dating since April 2013 and living as a couple since August 2013 at our home in Harlington, Bedfordshire.

During our 2 years together I have learned many things about Tim. I had first been drawn to him by his absolute integrity and attention to detail. (Yes he’s pretty, too, but that’s not what first attracted me. Much.)  I have learned that he has a fabulous sense of humour, collects books (100s of them), can make ANYTHING out of bits of junk, and that he has been a victim of intense harassment for many years as a result of standing up for his beliefs. Indeed, I have witnessed it first-hand and had it directed at me as a result of our relationship. It is Tim’s desire for justice that has led him to stand for Parliament on an “anti-corruption platform” in his home constituency and frankly, it is a very appropriate choice of location.

#votetim

#votetim

Tim’s campaign is unique. His hand-made posters carry the simple message “#votetim” and (as required by electoral law), an “imprint” – this wording reads “Produced and promoted by Tim Ireland of 6 Lincoln Way, Harlington”, and it satisfies a requirement of electoral law that all printed material carry the name and address of the printer and the promoter in order reveal who is responsible for the production of the material (PDF). His “battlebus” carries the same simple message plus a little bit of fun in the shape of an arrow pointing to the driver (Tim). Yes, there’s even an imprint on the car. Tim’s a stickler for detail. He doesn’t have the funds to compete with the high profile campaigns of Nigel and Nadine and so is using his creative talent and considerable ‘vote other’ appeal to reach out to his potential voters, but while the campaign may be ‘outside the box’, everything is within the rules.

Tim’s first campaign video has had over 1000 views already and the campaign was going really well… until last Sunday. I won’t repeat the false allegations that were printed about Tim in our local paper as we are hoping for a retraction and an apology. (waits)

One wonders who the source of this ‘story’ was and what other falsehoods have been pitched to the newspaper in what can only be an attempt to harm voter confidence in Tim. Wednesday 15th April brought a further enquiry from a reporter working for The Independent on Sunday who was responding to a series of new and old allegations against Tim that had been pitched to them along with some local news outlets. The next day (16th April) upsetting articles along this line were published online by two local newspapers (without any offer of right of reply) and deleted by one them not long after for reasons unknown. Unsettled but determined, we chose to ignore the reporters for now and concentrated instead on preparing for the evening’s Shefford hustings.

So, let’s fast forward to 6.30pm of that day of the hustings and get on with the show…

Here is the church and here is the steeple, look inside and there are the people. Well, most of them. Notable by her absence was the invited incumbent, Conservative Nadine Dorries who had belly-ached announced earlier in the week that she would not attend any event that Tim was at. She went as far as to request he be uninvited to the Shefford event but the organisers had no legal choice but to refuse her. Democracy, hey? What a bummer. Nadine gives the outward (and highly vocal) appearance of being afraid of Tim, yet has been told in no uncertain terms by Bedfordshire Police that he is of no threat to her and never has been (though this does not allow for any threat he may present to her career). We have paperwork that reveals their often-stated position that he is merely holding her to account, as is his right. (Yes we can back this up. It’s all about evidence, you know.)

Quite why Ms Dorries continues to push her dangerous and damaging falsehoods at each and every opportunity even when Tim is making no public mention of her is anyone’s guess. (If one were speculating one might think “book sales” but that would just be silly.)

Where was I? Oh yes, the church slowly began to fill up with constituents of all ages, and the candidates mingled prior to taking their places on the panel. Before the meeting began, two young women (later identified as the younger daughters of Ms Dorries, Jennifer and Cassandra) and one young man (Ryan Austin, a former critic turned intern of Ms Dorries) began distributing leaflets and one of the young ladies delighted in handing one to me. I happily accepted the gift with a broad grin, but the contents stunned me. These home-printed leaflets carried no imprint (remember that annoying little election law thing?) and under the pretence of giving Nadine’s apologies for her absence, not only defamed Tim and myself but, I believe, sought to turn the audience against us both. The Chairman David Foskett swiftly asked for them to be destroyed or handed in as they were unauthorised. Naturally, some of them were retained as evidence.

The hustings began with the Chairman introducing the candidates and explaining that Nadine would not be present. At this, the event almost immediately took on the air of a poor am-dram, even pantomime at times. People who other audience members described as “obviously planted objectors” took their turn disrupting the proceedings before storming out or being asked to leave. I am of the view that some of these objectors broke the law (yes, that pesky rules thing again).

First up was an older lady who interrupted the Chairman’s introduction and demanded to know where Nadine was (despite being told twice already). She declared the event a “farce” before stomping off. As Linda Jack began her introduction, she was interrupted by the second in line, a very angry chap reading from a script (I won’t repeat what he alleged at this time). He was asked to leave and shouted down by the crowd who had already had enough of the disturbances. Finally the meeting was allowed to begin, and we were back to Linda (who handled the disturbance with her typical humour) followed by Tim (who introduced himself by reading a bible passage about evangelism and intimidation and declared that he would not hide his light under a bushel for ANYBODY!). The moment Tim had finished speaking, another ‘plant’ began declaring that Nadine was “prevented from coming” before storming off. Barely seconds passed before yet another ‘plant’ asked why Nadine wasn’t there (despite his already knowing before being told several times). He mentioned the leaflet and started shouting down the Chairman who was repeating their position on not taking questions from the floor and asking the man to sit down or leave. The man loudly concluded that it was a “complete and utter waste of time” before being escorted out. Each of these events were met with an isolated ‘hear hear’ and anaemic applause, both of which came from Dorries’ own children, who tried and failed to spark dissent in a room full of people who were already sick of their shenanigans.

There was an appropriately-submitted question on defence next, which was answered with passion by Linda (an ex-servicewoman) and Tim who movingly informed the audience of the lack of after-care interpreters in the Iraq conflict had received from our government at the time. Then, yes you’ve guessed it, another one. This one asked how “YOU” (Tim) could dare to stand “in the House of God”, read the bible, and talk about justice. Well, forgive me if I’m wrong but a church seems to me to be the perfect place for such an activity, and in any case it was Tim’s own bible and his right (and his turn!) to speak about justice or anything else. That man left with his partner before he could be escorted out, and peace ensued for about 20 minutes.

The Grand Finale:

 

The uncomfortable wooden pews were beginning to cause people to stir a little in their seats and a few people left quietly when we were approaching the hour mark, but the audience was still approximately 100+ strong when the last disturbance began. A female voice this time, one of Nadine’s daughters loudly announced that “Nadine would like to be here, BUT”. She and her sister proceeded to point accusing fingers at Tim, each making false allegations against both of us (again, we have concerns about the law here, but Tim’s immediate reaction was sadness that Nadine had apparently involved her children so deeply in the matter). Both girls singled Tim out and accused him of being a stalker during this final disruption. I had a brief moment of déjà-vu at this point, remembering the Flitwick hustings.

Notably, by this time the audience had absolutely had enough and the two girls were booed out of the church. With still over 100 audience members present, the hustings continued without further interruption and the debate finished at 9.50, followed by a chance to chat with the candidates or leg-it home to catch up on the other political debate of the evening (you know… the one that Cameron & Clegg chickened out of).

In Summary:

 

We are mindful of the law and don’t wish to fall on the wrong side of it ourselves, but with no newspaper covering the event and a lot of chatter going on, we thought it important that a  detailed record of the event exist. There is a lot of talk about what did and didn’t happen at the Shefford hustings and we wish to protect the wider public from potentially finding themselves in difficulty  by innocently speculating on what actually happened, or perhaps repeating some of the reports of the event tweeted by Nadine Dorries and parties who were directly involved in the disruption. It is safe to say that these reports are far from accurate.

You may arrive at conclusions about where this event leaves some people with regards to the law, but you are urged to not make any declaration about any of that, particularly about any of the candidates involved. This post is designed to inform the public about the events as they unfolded, and we ask you to handle the information delicately and appropriately.

Bedfordshire on Sunday, if you’re reading this: THIS is your story, and it’s a real one this time… with physical evidence and hundreds of witnesses. With this in mind, I suggest you do your job and finally report on it. And if you have time, Tim is still waiting for that retraction and apology. Pretty please.

** UPDATE **  (added 10th May 2015)

I can confirm that there is a police investigation into these events in progress and we look forward to a conclusion in the not too distant future.

In other news, there has been no apology from the Bedfordshire on Sunday for their defamatory article written about Tim during the election period and no reporting of the above events, although one of their reporters has privately admitted their hands are tied on this due to legal constraints.  HC

* UPDATE * (added 11th May 2015 )

Both Tim & I have been subjected to intense harassment from unnamed parties, right from the beginning of our relationship, this harassment increased during the election period and Tim has written on the subject here: j.mp/peaceoffer

 *** UPDATE 31ST MAY 2015 ***

The inquiry by Bedfordshire police into the events at Shefford resulted in a file being passed to the CPS who concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a case. The Sunday Mirror covered this story today.

 **UPDATE 1ST JUNE 2015**

I can now confirm that a parliamentary election petition has been lodged by Tim against Nadine Dorries. More information about petitioning the result of a general election is available here: Electoral Commission .

Election Petition

This blog post written today by Richard Bartholomew is worth a read for those wanting to find out more: http://barthsnotes.com/2015/06/01/election-petition-challenging-nadine-dorries-some-context/  

UKIPping me? Facts not fear!

Many adults in Mid Beds may be taken in by the UKIP party lines but not it seems, the youth. The picturesque village of Ampthill were *lucky* enough to play host to UKIP PPC Nigel Wickens yesterday. Mr Wickens, who I recently met, is a very charismatic and eloquent man so naturally I’m scared stiff he’ll pick up a lot of votes here in Mid Beds. Therefore, I was very relieved to see this lively, youth demonstration in my Facebook feed this morning. Setting themselves up in opposition to Nigel on the other side of town, the kids are reported to have had fun, been polite and got their message across. They even had a wave at Conservative PPC Nadine Dorries who drove by in her self-titled “Nad-Mobile”.

An eye-witness and local shop owner said “ukip were one side of town the kids were the other.. the heckling ukip were getting by members of the passing public was hilarious…. the kids were very very grown up and just did their bit but didn’t heckle”.

Tomorrow is the last day you can register to vote. PLEASE use your voice, even if like us you live in what is considered a “safe seat”. The 2010 election saw over 21,000 registered Mid Beds voters fail to use their voice. What a difference they could have made if only they felt their vote mattered. Don’t believe the propaganda, there really is no such thing as a safe seat!

Register now: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Facts not fear!

Facts not fear!

Bloody love my Eric…

Following the lovely Eric Pickles’ recent announcement regarding broadcasting and recording council meetings, Tim & I decided to be the first members of the public to do just that. A few weeks ago we recorded our first meeting and repeated the experience last week at a full council meeting at Chicksands, Shefford.  The agenda item we were most keen to broadcast was a proposal that the council should record and broadcast their own meetings – this policy would serve two purposes, it would enable the public to better connect with them and also give them some protection when/if their decisions or discussions were questioned. The vote was unanimously in favour of going ahead with the plan and so we should be able to watch future meetings online very soon.

As a Labour member, I must admit to feeling a little outnumbered in the chamber – Central Bedfordshire Council is extremely conservative in its make-up. HOWEVER, the staff and Councillors were all exceptionally welcoming and bent over backwards to provide us everything we needed for both historical, successful events.  After the meeting several Councillors came over to meet us and talk about the experience and without exception, they were very happy with how it went.

The meeting itself was a pleasure to be at, local politics is as fascinating as is national – the topics discussed included the Luton/Dunstable Busway (which has proved to be a massive success), Council Tax charges and what help (not very much) is being provided for the thousands of residents who are currently in arrears, a proposed Gypsy & Traveller site and a few other topics. At the end came questions from the “opposition” – the non-Tory Councillors. This was wonderful to watch, like a watered-down PMQs but without all the silly jibes/heckling that takes place every Wednesday in Parliament! Questions were actually answered and as a result, progress was made. John Bercow has done a great job as Speaker but there is still so much to do in this regard. One of my earliest blogposts ( Muppet MPs ) was on this subject and very little seems to have changed since.

We hope to be live-tweeting as well as broadcasting future council meetings so, if you’re as mad about politics as we are – watch this space–>> http://www.ustream.tv/channel/flitwick  (View it through IE not Chrome to get the volume, yes I know its nuts!)

Me & Bobby McGee – #Trolls V #Twitter

I rarely follow “Celebs”, I even more rarely tweet them but recently I broke my own rule and followed the Lizard Lick Towing gang. I have no idea why I enjoy watching their show so much, maybe its that I like shouting “NOOOOOO!” at the TV in a desperate attempt to stop them getting beaten up yet again? Or maybe its because Bobby Brantley is just so darn cute? Whatever you think of the show itself (often described as “Marmite” ) – you can’t help but love the people. Big Ole “Juicy” , Hard-As-Nails Amy (except when she melts like a sappy girl), Ronnie with his bleached, spiked up hair & bible chapter t-shirts, dirty-flirty Jonny (how God loves a trier!), “Craaaaazy Charlie” who is as mad as a box of frogs and of course, Built-Like-A-Shed Bobby.

Bobby was in Ireland this weekend, appearing at “Truckfest Live” so I sent him a wee tweet, not really expecting an acknowledgement – having a large following must be so difficult.  A couple of hours later I checked into the Twittesphere and was delighted to see he had favourited my tweet. Aw :)  Then I noticed he had followed me, WHOOOO!!!  I *know* its silly but I was so ridiculously pleased that the smile hasn’t left my face since. I’ve had a really stressful few months setting my new shop up and this simple gesture from a lovely man not only lifted me completely out of the doldrums but had me skipping around like a 6 year old. Whether he ever tweets me, quietly unfollows me (for getting on his nerves) or whether we will ever get to meet in “real life” (he’ll be at the Kent Truckfest in September),  I can’t predict right now. What I do know is that we live in a remarkable age where we can simply reach out our hands and touch a complete stranger on the other side of the world (or the moon for that matter) and make a difference to their lives.  

In the words of Voltaire, with great power comes great responsibility. In the same week that Twitter reached out and made me happy, it flattened a girl completely. I’m talking of course about the daughter of the late Robin Williams. Zelda, should have felt supported, with overwhelming pride for her father and taken love and comfort from Twitter following the sad loss of her father. Instead, the few (and it is only a few) vicious, despicable tweets sent to mock her in her grief were the ones that hit home & she deleted her account.  I really hope she finds her way back and learns to overcome these trolls. I have had a little experience with them myself again of late and they can affect you, as is their intention. Sometimes only by stepping away can you see them for what they are, pathetic little cowards who desperately want your attention.

DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS

Even as I typed this, a comment was left on an article about Olly Martins (Police Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire) in response to my support for him : “Hans Hartfiel” says:  “I have not read his tweets as I think Twitter is for chavs, single mothers, people without real friends, the unemployed, criminals and so-called celebrities”.

Not to let the trolls have the last word, I’ll leave you with this brilliance by Janis Joplin, recorded just a few days before she died at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. Me & Bobby Brantley McGee :)

http://youtu.be/WXV_QjenbDw

 

Dress to the left… #Lefties

Now the run-up to the 2015 general election is hotting up, I keep seeing digs on Twitter about “Lefties” so I started thinking, what exactly is a Leftie?  In the “old days” of course, a Leftie was a person who is left-handed. There is even an annual Left Handers Day on 13th August to celebrate being one of the special 10% .  On Twitter however it is used to describe/deride those who hang to the left. Politically of course.

A quick search show this particularly nasty example of how one tweeter sees “Lefties”. 

lefties

So what makes a Leftie a Leftie and why would that be a bad thing?

In my experience a Lefties are kind, generous, will fight for the vulnerable, join together to make positive changes and are an all round “good eggs”. So why are we seen by “the right” as a bad thing? Surely Lefties are exactly what David Cameron wanted for his “Big Society” push? The volunteers, selflessly giving up their spare time and very often their money to keep community organisations and charities going following government cuts to their funding? 

Why do “the right” find us so threatening and seek to undermine us at every opportunity? It seems to me that being brought up in privileged worlds where they have never had to “make-do”, scrimp, save or fight just to have an equal chance makes it simply impossible to comprehend that people really can be and are this good. 

Interesting article about the decline in Conservative party membership numbers since David Cameron came to power. Another showing that UKIP membership raised more money last year than membership of the Conservatives. 

Anyway, they are todays musings. If you would like to join us (approx) 190,000 “Lefties” and make a real difference to your community/family/the World rather than just helping yourself and your cronies – you can join the Labour Party here  :) 

YAY! Nadine Dorries is no longer a “number 2″ #TheFourStreets

***ANOTHER UPDATE, SHE’S NO LONGER A “NUMBER TWO” ***

FINALLY ONLY A WEEK AFTER THE ” BANK HOLIDAY ONLY SPECIAL OFFER PRICE OF 20p” WAS SUPPOSED TO FINISH, SHE HAS MADE IT TO THE TOP OF THE KINDLE BOOK CHARTS. YAY!!

BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND

Well done Nadine, the Head of Zeus Publishers and of course to all of you lovely readers who supported this worthy cause. What a triumph for the good people of Zeus to have their faith in a much-panned book restored. This is the cheapest Kindle book in the top ten by a mile, so – if you haven’t already spent your 20p – get in there quick, before they hike the price back up to about 50p!

 

** UPDATE SUNDAY 4TH @ 13.24 – THANKS TO THE FANTASTIC EFFORTS BY EVERYONE, THE BOOK IS NOW AT NUMBER 3!!  PLEASE KEEP SHARING TO GET HER RIGHT TO THE TOP **

 

I know we have had our differences over the past few years but I’m a forgiving soul and my MP, Nadine Dorries really needs our help right now.

Unless you’ve been on another planet/living in a cave/exist in the “Real World” without social media or just don’t really care – you are bound to have noticed that Nadine has a book out. Not just a ‘book’ but the first in a trio – set in 1950’s Liverpool (a literary feat in itself being as Nadine wasn’t born until 1957, what a memory!).  The book is “heartbreaking” according to her publisher ‘Head of Zeus’ who confidently forked out a four-figure sum to secure the rights to the trilogy.

The book was released on April 8th 2014 to massive fanfare including newspaper reviews, a launch party and even a 4-page spread in The Sunday Times magazine.  However, despite all her best efforts, sales are embarrassingly low and (in order to boost sales according to Nadine)  Amazon have reduced the price of the Kindle version to just 20p!  This policy seems to be working as, at less than half the price of any other book in the top ten, its currently number 8 in the “Kindle Chart” (and not in a mere genre sub-category, I hasten to add)! What a bargain! Now, some of you who have paid £10 for the hardback might be a little annoyed that it’s been reduced so dramatically on Kindle in less than 3 weeks since the publishing date but apparently that’s just how things work in publishing.

This book, ‘The Four Streets’, is simply bursting with drama and larger than life characters (many using colourful, authentic Irish prose) including a paedophile priest, wicked stepmother, abused kids Kitty & Nellie and ‘Maura’ – a lady who sounds exactly like Les Dawson’s hilarious roller-wearing, breast-nudging ‘Cissie’ ! Although the book is receiving a lot of negative reviews, please don’t let that put you off. What else you could spend your 20p on that will give you so much in return? Well, lets have a look shall we?

Image

 

We visited Wilko’s and Lidl and Nisa today to see just what you spend your 20p on. Amongst our haul were mushy peas, cat food, toilet rim freshener, “Oink” crisps, cocktail sticks, paracetamol, cleaning sponges and paracetamol. Although they are all very useful to have around the house, none of these could possibly compare to The Four Streets. In fact the only thing that came close were in the reduced section of Wilko’s  –  TWO snow shovels for 20p! Yes, TWO complete snow shovels for just 20p. But, as it’s not winter and she really does need our help – I’m asking you to do the right thing – buy the book. Even if, like me, you haven’t got a Kindle to read it on, it’s only 20p and it would make her SO happy to be number one in the Kindle charts. I can almost see her tweeting with glee now. Go on, have a heart…

Buy it here: (Note Maureen Lee’s “The Seven Streets of Liverpool” which was published 12 days before. Its set in the same place, even has a “Kitty” in it and is on sale for a shocking £4.49 while Nadine’s bargain book is 95.5% cheaper than Maureen’s! Its a no-brainer!)

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Vote for us not to vote! #UKIP

So, just saw this new UKIP poster whilst driving to Bedford. (This whole euro campaign is becoming something of a farce with their use of staff pretending to be “ordinary British people” and even immigrants to promote their anti-immigration views).

Image

 

Anyway, I digress. UKIP say 75% of our (British) laws are now made in Brussels. They think that’s a bad thing. After all, who wants transparency, fairness, human rights etc anyway…? Ok. So, their answer to this is  “Vote UKIP 22nd May” in the European elections. Hmm, so – they don’t like laws made in Brussels, which is why we must vote to give them voting power in Brussels, by giving them *more* MEPs.

Ah but our MEPs (classed the laziest political party in the whole of Europe) don’t vote (say UKIP in response).

So, what they’re *really* asking for in these posters is for us to financially support their MEPs to the tune of almost £1million over 5 years – £6500 per month, per MEP PLUS expenses, office, travel and food/hotel allowances and in return, we get a big, fat ZERO.   Hell yeah, I’m up for that – where do I sign? 

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