Thursday, 8 April 2010

Today's hustings on the Ed Doolan Show

I have just come from the BBC WM’s Ed Doolan Show where all the candidates contesting the Hall Green seat were quizzed on a range of subjects from the shortage of school places, to support for local shopkeepers. We finished off with an opportunity to say why we should be elected.

Labour's Roger Godsiff claimed to be an MP who tells the truth and talks straight. Perhaps that's why he managed to vote both for and against the Iraq war in a space of days. True to form, Roger largely busied himself throughout with lots of posturing.

He claimed he championed opposition to the introduction of the Red Route and resident concerns over the redevelopment of Edgbaston Cricket ground. This surprised me considering he was notable by his absence on both issues. He awoke to the Red Route issue after the campaign got going. Indeed, both the local Labour councillor and Jerry Evans did nothing to oppose it when it was at committee stage. It is simply a matter of record that I was the person who put the Red Route back on the political map, raising the issue in the Council House and media. Unfortunately, the critical decisions were taken before I was even elected. Perhaps if Roger had represented the interests of local residents at the time rather than posturing about them now, we might have prevented the Red Route going through.

Roger’s attempted criticisms of me over the Edgbaston Cricket ground was also easy to shoot down. I had specially convened resident meetings to address concerns over the issue. I insisted that the Planning Committee actually come on site before making any decision approving the plans and made strong representation to Planning Committee opposing the plans. Unfortunately Labour’s Ian Ward opposed residents concerns and voted for the redevelopment.

Roger was a bit stung when I pointed out that both the Green Party and Lynne Jones MP are backing my campaign.

Still, at least Roger turned up for the debate - he has refused to attend the Balsall Heath hustings tonight and seems to want to avoid too many awkward questions from the public.

Jerry Evans, the Lib Dem candidate, has a bit of a problem too. As a leading Lib Dem city councillor, he has to support the Tory-led council in making huge cuts in jobs and services. Yet outside of the Council House he is busy attacking the Tories. When challenged on it, he replied ‘that politics’. No, Jerry, that opportunism. And it is one of the reasons why politicians are held in such low regard.

On behalf of Respect, I made it clear that there was an alternative. All the three main parties are promising severe cuts ('worse than Thatcher' in the words of the Labour chancellor), and none of them are offering a clear choice to the electorate. I was able to point out that a lack of school places was a question of priorities. If we could spend many billions replacing Trident nuclear weapons, we could certainly decide to put that money to better, and more peaceful, uses.

All in all, I enjoyed myself! Roll on this evening’s hustings in Balsall Heath!

Thanks to Abdul Malik for the photo.