Toynbee heads second election diary

POLLY Toynbee, that doyenne of the so-called thinking classes, bounced into Braintree this month to give her ever so liberal elite assessment on the second most marginal Labour held seat in Britain.

POLLY Toynbee, that doyenne of the so-called thinking classes, bounced into Braintree this month to give her ever so liberal elite assessment on the second most marginal Labour held seat in Britain.

Having met a few voters while out canvassing with Labour's Alan Hurst in this highly vulnerable Labour seat, she wrote that the good burghers of mid Essex were: sour and selfish consumers, only interested in gimme, gimme, gimme.

She was shocked that ordinary folk were not grateful for everything New Labour had done for them and were not prepared to shell out their hard earned wages and pensions to contribute to social engineering and wealth redistribution.

"Could they look up to horizons beyond their wallet?" she wailed. No doubt the insouciant and well-heeled residents of Islington and Holland Park nodded in agreement at Braintree's provincial values.


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It must have been a shock for The Guardian writer to actually leave London and meet state pensioners who are upset that such a large chunk of their hard earned cash goes on the council tax.

If they are lured by either the Conservatives' offer of a £500 reduction in council tax every year or the Liberal Democrats plans for a local income tax which exempts pensioners, then its up to Labour to come up with something better than their one-off £200 rebate doled out in a pre-election bribe in Gordon Brown's Budget.

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The New Labour government so adored by Ms Toynbee wouldn't exist without the voters of the Braintrees of this world. They don't deserve to be harangued by the metropolitan classes for having doubts over Labour's tax and spend policies.

Tory candidate Brooks Newmark retorted: "As Polly Toynbee is the official political mouthpiece of Labour in The Guardian, is this Labour's official view of local people?

"It is typical of New Labour's arrogance that when anyone who disagrees with any views, they become personal, and disparaging. Where is Labour's tolerance."

Ms Toynbee is one The Guardian newspaper's highly paid clique of top name columnists. She's not very tolerant of anything that does not fit into a narrowly defined left-wing vision of life.

In a recent article urging core Labour supporters not to stay at home in the election, she wrote of the Conservative Party's policies on asylum and immigration: "any reluctant voter should want to see the Tories pounded to dust so no mainstream party ever plays the race card again."

On the funeral of the Pope, she opined: "How dare Tony Blair genuflect on our behalf before the corpse of a man whose edicts killed millions?"

So it's perhaps little wonder that poor old Braintree should be trashed all over the globe via the Internet because Ms Toynbee was aggrieved to find that electors in this slice of mid Essex, even the pensioners who've had a £200 council tax rebate this year, weren't happily trotting along to the district council offices to hand over their hard earned tenners.

I e-mailed Ms Toynbee for a comment. Unsurprisingly, she hasn't' responded.

To read the Toynbee onslaught, log on to:

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/columnist/story/0,,1449977,00.html

IPSWICH Conservative Paul West was quick off the mark last week after official confirmation of the election date - his first leaflet "The Local Choice for Ipswich" was on doormats within 48 hours.

Introducing himself to voters, he made great play of his local roots, being born in Ipswich and the third generation of his family to live in the town.

He added: "Paul is not an outsider from London, nor he is from a privileged background. He is Ipswich born and bred and proud of it."

And unlike lots of election material churned out be would-be MPs, his was printed in the town.

There's just one problem with it. Prominently featured is a photograph of him with former Tory Party chairman Theresa "crocodile shoes" May with a caption "Theresa May MP, in Ipswich to discuss matters affecting the town."

I doubt if more than a few hundred Ipswich voters have ever heard of Mrs May. As every journalist is taught, never assume anything - explain all to your readers.

LAST Tuesday, a breathless e-mail arrived from Tony Blair, written in language for a class of five year-olds.

"If you have been keeping up with the news, you may already know that I went to the Palace a few minutes ago to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament."

What an insult, Tony . "I wanted to get this message out to you straight away about what's at stake at the election and how you can help. This will be a tough campaign and we will have to fight for every seat and every vote."

Yea, right. Then along came e-mails from Labour headquarters, begging for cash to fight the election. The delete button's never been hotter.

JUST as the Archbishop of Canterbury gave his blessing to Charles and Camilla on Saturday afternoon, the letterbox thudded open and in came a UK Independence Party leaflet. Disappearing down the drive rather than cheering on the Royal couple was the party's Ipswich candidate Alison West.

The previous day, she cheerily reported a good response as she makes her bid for the seemingly impossible task of getting elected in Suffolk's county town.

After going out and about in St Margaret's ward, she said: "It's not true I'm only attracting Tory voters. Out of 25 people who said they'd vote for me, only five are former Conservatives. There's plenty of Labour people who're fed up with being controlled by Brussels."

She adds: "The media constantly belittles us and ordinary folk are fed up with that. They feel our voice - and their voice - is being ignored."

COLCHESTER'S Liberal Democrat candidate Bob Russell extracted a half promise from the Government in the final hours of the parliamentary session.

Mr Russell, who's been MP for the garrison town since 1997, asked local government minister Nick Raynsford if "he will make it his policy to exempt members of the armed forces from council tax from periods when they are posted on duties overseas."

Mr Raynsford said officials from his department and the Ministry of Defence "are currently exploring whether there is a case for a council tax exemption or discount for service personnel serving abroad."

One up for Mr Russell - "I regard this as good news" - who can share the glad tidings when he bangs on the doors of squaddies during the campaign.

ONE of the first clashes of candidates at this election takes place in demure Frinton-on-Sea on Thursday when the Rev Andrew Rose hosts an "Any Questions" session at the parish church in Old Road, starting at 7.45pm.

Taking part are the so far declared Harwich constituency candidates. Douglas Carswell (Conservative), Ivan Henderson, (Labour), John Tipple (Respect), Jeffrey Titford (UKIP) and Keith Tully (Lib Dem).

WHILE the three major parties grab all the headlines, there are other alternatives to vote for on May 5.

Campaigning on an uncompromising ticket against the Iraq war and standing up for trade union rights and the rights of the poorest sections of society - "there is no middle class, just working class and ruling class" - is John Tipple, the Respect Party candidate in Harwich.

He has no doubts that Labour will win the General Election but believes Harwich needs a left wing voice in Parliament who will stand up for the hopes and the aspirations of the working class movement.

Respect was formed by George Galloway, the maverick former Labour MP who is hoping to pull off an upset in the east end of London seat, Bethnal Green & Bow.

The Greens are making a concerted effort in Suffolk, with candidates in Suffolk Central & Ipswich North, Bury St Edmunds, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal. But their best showing is likely to be in the highly marginal seat of Braintree, where candidate James Abbott is a popular district and parish councillor in Rivenhall and Silver End.

So far only one Independent has declared - Sally Wainman will be fighting Ipswich hoping to save Broom Hill lido from closure.

The UK Independence Party is aiming to build on the support it achieved in last June's elections to the European Parliament, when it finished second behind the Conservatives in the East of England.

Apart from the party's strength in Harwich, UKIP has high hopes in Suffolk South, Bury St Edmunds and Brentwood & Ongar of at least saving their deposit.

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