General election 2015 – the nominations are in and no, you can’t vote Green

Statement of persons nominated for the Hertsmere parliamentary constituency for the 2015 general election

If you voted for the BNP or for the Greens at the last general election and you were thinking of doing so again this time, you’re out of luck. Neither is standing in Hertsmere in 2015 and the deadline for candidates to get their names on the ballot has now passed, so that’s it.

Between them, in 2010, the two parties attracted around 2,000 votes or 4% of the vote. According to Buzzfeed “almost Everyone In England And Wales Will Be Able To Vote For The Green Party”. The Greens are putting up candidates in nearly 95% of UK seats (535 out of 573) and around 40% of their candidates are women, the highest proportion for any party at the general election. Before the deadline passed, I reached out to the 2010 Green Party candidate Arjuna Krishna-Das to ask if he planned to stand but it turns out he’s no longer Green and, in fact, he’s now supporting a right-wing group calling itself Liberty GB.

The task of gathering nominations for elections falls to local authority Returning Officers. You can download nomination documents – including those for the Borough and Parish council elections – from the Hertsmere web site and, for reasons which presumably pre-date the World Wide Web, you can pick them up in person from the council offices. The Your Next MP web site, has up-to-date lists of candidates for the whole country and you can add information yourself, where it’s missing.

General Election 2015 in Radlett

Don’t get over-excited. You live in the Parliamentary constituency of Hertsmere. The excitement of General Election 2015 is going to largely pass you by (as it will, of course, for most electors in most constituencies). According to this chart on the Electoral Calculus web site, ours is the 87th least marginal Conservative seat in Britain. It would take an upset of a never-before-seen magnitude to cause Hertsmere to change hands on 7 May. So relax. However you vote, you already know the outcome.

The incumbent MP – Conservative James Clappison – is standing down at this election. His replacement as Conservative candidate, Oliver Dowden, will, as night follows day, take his seat in Parliament on 8 May.

So, what is there left to say about Hertsmere? Well, there are only three other candidates so far declared. No candidates from the Greens or from the BNP, both of whom stood in 2010. They still have time to declare their candidacy, though, and so do you, so if you’d like to stand yourself, you have until the close of business on 9 April to submit your nomination. It’s not a straightforward process so you’ll need to get your skates on – and there’s the small matter of the £500 deposit. The Electoral Commission’s advice for candidates and agents is very comprehensive.

The four candidates so far on the ballot, in alphabetical order, are:

Sophie Bowler, Liberal Democrats
Bowler is a late entry. She’s on the Your Next MP web site and listed on the Liberal Democrats web site but doesn’t have her own profile yet. According to the JC, she’s too busy to campaign. The Liberals polled a respectable 8,210 last time round (the candidate was Anthony Rowlands), just behind Labour.

Richard Butler, Labour
A 27 year-old Borehamwood Councillor who’s been a Labour member since he was 15 and a councillor since he was 21. He’s, on Twitter. Labour’s 2010 candidate, Sam Russell, polled 8,871, putting him in second place, over 17,000 behind the Conservative candidate.

Oliver Dowden, Conservative
Hertsmere’s Conservative candidate is a member of the party’s inner circle: Deputy Chief of Staff to David Cameron and an experienced SPAD. A local man, born and brought up in St Albans and living there now, he apparently won the candidacy by a landslide, taking over 50% of the internal Conservative Party vote in the first round, which is very unusual. This Spectator article names him as one of ‘David Cameron’s secret A-list’ of candidates anointed by the Conservative hierarchy. He has a web site and is on Facebook and Instagram.

Frank Ward, Ukip
Interestingly, your Ukip candidate was also once a Borehamwood Labour councillor. Ward joined Ukip in 2013, having been deselected by Labour in 2006. He was a Labour member for 45 years. He’s also chairman of Hertsmere Ukip.

Although our own election is likely to be on the dull side, the General Election itself looks like it’s going to be anything but, of course. The BBC’s General Election homepage will probably be a good starting point (declaration: I work at the BBC). All of the papers have set up election portals, of course. The lead story on The Telegraph’s today is about reactions to last week’s seven-way TV debate. The Guardian’s lead story is about a Conservative defector to Ukip.

Among the pollsters, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on YouGov’s constituency page for Hertsmere. Using a rolling poll of approximately 150,000 UK electors (751 of whom apparently live in Hertsmere) they’re currently projecting a Conservative vote in the range: 41.7-54.6%. The fact that US polling ninja Nate Silver (founder of the FiveThirtyEight data journalism site), is forecasting the UK General Election has to be interesting, although he’s actually using the work of a group of UK academics to do so. His current prediction is for the Conservatives to take 283 seats against Labour’s 277. In this interview, though, he cannily concedes that accurately forecasting this year’s UK General Election will be very different from doing so in the more stable two-party context of the USA. UK Polling Report is an always-fascinating blog from Anthony Wells, Director of YouGov’s political and social opinion polling. He looks at all the UK polls and specialises in debunking party and media spin. His own poll of polls currently has the two main parties tied on 34%. Follow him on Twitter too. The BBC News Poll Tracker uses multiple UK opinion polls to measure support for the main parties during the campaign.

I’ll keep this blog up to date during the campaign, with links to useful resources and, as they arrive, details of the candidates’ policies. If any hustings occur locally, I’ll link to them here too. If you learn about any resources that I ought to be linking to here, leave a comment or email me. Follow @RadlettWire on Twitter for regular updates and the very handy @RadlettNewsBot for automated news about Radlett and the constituency.

Sad news from Platform 1

Mr Patel on platform 1 at Radlett station

UPDATE: Vinu Patel’s cremation will take place at Golders Green Crematorium at 4pm on Friday 13 February.

Terribly sad news this weekend. From a sign on his newspaper stand at Radlett station, we learn that Vinu Patel, who had kept the Radlett station newspaper stand for over 15 20 years and a newsagent in the village before that, has died. He’d been poorly for a week or two and the stand was closed for all of last week.

I’ve been commuting from Radlett since 1999 and Mr Patel has been a friendly presence on platform 1 for all of that time. We chatted for a minute or two almost daily for all those years: usually about the weather, sometimes about cricket or his family or holiday plans. I know that so many other Radlett commuters did just the same and they’ll miss him terribly.

He was a lovely man and a hard-working example to us all. If you’re in touch with his family I’d be pleased if you’d let me know so that I can provide more information about their plans.

A developing story

6 April 2012 Update. Yesterday, @RadlettPolice tweeted “Following the recent allegation of abduction police are satisfied that no criminal offence or suspicious incident took place.”

I’m chair of the Fair Field school governors so I’ve been quite close to the events of Thursday and Friday in Radlett. I’ve gathered together some of the media coverage plus updates from Fair Field School and the local police to clarify the sequence of events because there’s been some confusion and quite a lot of apparently unfounded rumour. I’ll keep this post up to date if there’s news and do leave a comment at the bottom if you can add anything yourself.

Wheel clamping – the results are in

You’re a surprising place, Radlett. Over 60 of you have completed our wheel clamping survey so far (click through and complete it yourself if you haven’t done so – the results will still count). We wanted to know what you thought of Wine Rack’s policy of clamping non-customers who park outside the shop – with release fees of at least £200. And it’s a close-run thing. Half of you, in fact, think it’s a good thing. 49% of those who responded said their attitude to Wine Rack’s policy was either positive or very positive. Only 47% thought the opposite (you can see the results in full, updated in real-time, here). Interestingly, Radlett’s response to other questions is more mixed:

  • 55% think that the government should ban private wheel clamping, only 29% think they shouldn’t (the balance is the ‘don’t knows’).
  • 31% think it’s OK for private clampers to operate outside the shop’s opening hours, 21% say it’s never OK.
  • 49% think a policy like Wine Rack’s would be damaging to their brand.
  • 88% think the release fee should be the same as or less than the local authority’s penalties.

Most interesting are the narrative responses. Almost all are negative:

How can shop owners possibly think this is good for business?! Totally narrow minded. I avoided the last wine shop at that site and will buy wine in budgens. Idiots

I will not consider spending one penny in wine rack. I am disgusted.

They are bully’s (sic) and crooks.

A quite astonishingly bad decision by Wine Rack… I will not buy from Wine Rack under any circumstances while the parking ban is in place.

A handful are more sympathetic:

I feel they are looking out for their customers. It’s nice to pull up and be able to put things in my car without having to park down the road…

It must be frustrating for shop keepers to have parking blocked by people who are not patronising the shop, having been clamped by local authorities before it’s never ideal but sometimes the only way to control parking!

Several think we bring it on ourselves:

there is a bloody FREE car park at the back but people cant be bothered to walk! Laziness!

I wish I didn’t have to agree with it but people in Radlett take advantage… Unfortunately some people do not use their brains and therefore have to sadly be trained by authority.

I think the most telling comments are the ones that place the shop in the Radlet context:

not the best way for a new business to endear itself !

think it is really poor of wine rack, we live in a village and they should be encourging people to use the high street and local shops. they are showing they don’t understand the area and I won’t be using them again…

And this one sums up my attitude best:

It seems out of keeping with the general friendly vibe of Radlett shops.

Radlett Wire’s attitude to the policy is unequivocal. It’s nasty, predatory, unethical and it’s a PR disaster for Wine Rack. I cannot think of a worse way to enter a new market at a difficult time than to hire a private clamping firm with all the attendant bad news, hostility and aggravation. Wine Rack has been in Radlett for a couple of months and what are we talking about: Wine Rack’s lovely premises, their great product and attractive prices? No, we’re talking about the fact that they’ve hired a private clamping firm.

I hope that Wine Rack thrives in Radlett but I suspect they won’t while customers have to enter the store through a zone patrolled by people who hang around in a van waiting to pounce on careless motorists – people, remember, who earn a substantial commission for every car they immobilise and who are empowered to clamp your car at any hour, even when the shop is closed. It seems like the most elementary failure of retail common sense and quite the opposite of encouraging people to come in and experience the store.

Most survey respondents supported Wine Rack’s right to reserve parking spaces for customers but many wonder why clamping should be allowed while the shop is closed. Release fees, which start at £205 (including various fees), are clearly predatory and represent the kind of abuse of the civil law that encouraged the government to pledge to ban clamping on private property in the first place (thanks to Mr Cyril, in a comment on an earlier post, for this link to the relevant part of the legislation, still on its journey through parliament .

While times are so hard for retailers, the suspicion must also remain that this clamping policy is not about keeping spaces clear for customers but about earning income for the company. Retail premises with private parking spaces in front must be rather rare and the likely yield from these four spaces patrolled by PCS with release fees in the £200 area must be substantial. It’s a depressing thought but, with the economy bumping along the bottom for the foreseeable future, we’re likely to see more of this. Wine Rack have just made Radlett’s High Street a slightly less friendly place. Can it be long before other shopkeepers join in and this becomes a trend?

Wheel clamping in Radlett

Update: we’re asking Radlett residents and shoppers what they think of Wine Rack’s decision to use a private wheel clamping firm to enforce parking rules in front of their new Radlett shop. The 1-minute survey has been live since this morning and there are already dozens of responses. We’d like the widest possible response to the survey so please tell your friends, like and share this page on Facebook and Twitter and generally get the word out. Thanks! Steve

Private wheel clamping firms are a fact of life but here’s an interesting variation on the theme. The parking spaces outside the new Wine Rack in the parade on the East side of Watling Street in Radlett are now protected by a rather well-known firm of private clampers called Parking Control Services. Cars parked without ‘a valid P.C.S. authorised permit’ are liable to clamping and towing. The penalties are substantial and apply around the clock, even when local authority parking restrictions do not apply and when the shop is closed.

The warning sign uses the usual rather chilling language of surcharges, tow fees and daily rates and the phrase “Includes blue badge holders” stands out. There’s no mention of customers on the warning sign but I’m assuming that buying something from the shop will entitle you to a permit. All the spaces in the parade are private so Wine Rack are well within their rights to bring in the private clampers but what do you think of the shop’s clamping policy and do you support the government’s – much delayed – plans to ban private clampers? Complete this one-minute survey and we’ll publish the results here on the blog.

Fair Field’s Summer Fair – pics and another episode of the podcast

Fair Field is the junior school on the Watford Road at the edge of Radlett. I’m not impartial (I’m chair of the school’s governors and I’ve got kids there) but it’s an extraordinary place. Full of life and creativity, with a young and hard-working team, lovely children and parents who are unfailingly enthusiastic about the place. It was the school’s amazing PTA who organised yesterday’s Summer Fair. It was enormous fun, absolutely packed and will inevitably have raised a lot of money for the school. Highlights? The school choir’s performance of songs from Oliver, the Radlett Gymnastics Club’s exhibition performance, the gorgeous tones of Borehamwood Brass – and chatting with so many lovely Fair Field people.

Visit the school’s web site for more information.

Here’s another episode of the Radlett Wire podcast, a montage of sounds from the Fair. Download the MP3. Get audio like this delivered to your computer for nothing: subscribe to the Radlett Wire podcast.

The Radlett Art Society’s annual exhibition

The 45th annual exhibition closed last weekend and I dropped into the Radlett Centre for a chat with Carmen Beal, the society’s chair, on the final morning. She reported another successful show – local artists exhibited and sold works in all media – and urged me to let you know that the society is always eager to welcome new members from the area for its programme of events, lectures and exhibitions. If you’d like to know more or to join, let me know and I’ll pass on your details to Carmen.

Every year, pupils from Fair Field Junior school come down the exhibition for a tour of the work and some inspiration (two years ago they exhibited their own work in the show). This year they were brought by art teacher Jacqueline Voyce and The Watford Observer covered the visit.