MANY IDEAS have been put forward to explain the rise of populism in the West: economic insecurity, a backlash against immigration and fake news, to name but a few. Another on the list might be the lack of shared spaces where people from different walks of life can meet and mingle. If politics has become tribal, perhaps that is a result of people being walled off from others—in some cases literally—eroding the sense of commonality and community.
That is the intriguing message of a recent book by Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University and the author of “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life” (Crown, 2018). The title comes from a phrase used by Andrew Carnegie, an American steel baron of the early 20th century, to describe the thousands of public libraries he helped build with his donations.
I’ve been researching the facts about the need for housing in Haslemere. So far, my conclusion is “not much”.
Waverley Borough Council has posted on its webite a document called the “West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment, September 2015“, which covers the whole of West Surrey, with assessments broken down by borough. More importantly for Haslemere, there is also a “Waverley Addendum” to this document, which includes some detailed figures for Haslemere (alongside Farnham, Godalming, Cranleigh and “others”). Continue reading “How Much Housing Does Haslemere Need?”
Lord Ashcroft polls has released a post-election poll of voters’ intentions for the next General Election. Based on his results, Flavible Politics has produced a map of likely results by constituency – and this shows Waverley as a LibDem gain:
Not only SW Surrey either, but also Guildford, Woking, Mole Valley, Esher & Walton and Reigate in Surrey (and a very narrow loss in Elmbridge), and eighty more gains across the country.
Is this even credible? At first glance, clearly not – but let’s look a little deeper.
In the local elections for Waverley borough three weeks ago, the Conservatives took only 38.7% of the total votes cast, against 27.3% for the LibDems, 20.5% for the Farnham Residents Association, 6.8% for Labour and 4.1% for Greens. But there was in effect a “progressive alliance” between the LibDems, Greens and Labour, taking the total progressive vote to 39.2% – just a fraction behind the Conservatives.
Then, in last week’s EU elections, Liberal Democrats topped the poll on 35%, followed by Brexit on 28.8%, Greens on 14.5%, and Conservatives on only 11.5%! Conventional wisdom is that the EU results were distorted by the dominance of Brexit, but – “it ain’t necessarily so”. Lord Ashcroft’s poll, on which the projection is based, did not only ask about future voting intention, it also enquired about, and analysed, past voting history, in the last general election, as well as last week for the EU. His analysis showed that while yes, some of those who has switched from Labour or Conservatives to LD, or to Farrage’s Brexit, would return to their original party for a general election – not all of them would. Hence, Conservatives would not recover to their earlier level of support – and Liberal Democrats would retain a substantial share of their newfound (or newly returned) supporters.
If this projection turns out to be sound, that would create the extraordinary situation where nationally, just 4% would separate four parties:
Of course, it’s not that simple: what voters tell pollsters they will do, and what they actually do, are often very different – especially when the next general election could be a long way off. Circumstances will change, new events will get in the way. But what is surely true, and will remain so, is that we are in a period of remarkable fluidity in British politics, where extraordinary developments have come to seem almost commonplace: who would have predicted just three months ago, that we would end up with 16 MEPs?
The idea of Liberal Democrats wining SW Surrey in the next general election may well be just too fanciful to be taken seriously – but the possibility of getting at least much closer, is surely not.
My first formal Council business was an induction meeting on Monday evening, with a presentation by a guest speaker from Waverley on the councillor’s code of conduct, some further information from our town clerk.
Thursday evening was the first real business meeting for the new council, We elected Liberal Democrat John Robini as our new mayor (with Jacqui Keen as his mayoress), and Conservative Simon Dear as deputy mayor. and the business of allocating councillors to the various council committees and working groups, and as council representatives on a range of outside local bodies. I have agreed to serve on the planning and finance committees and the neighbourhood plan working group. I will also represent council on the Charter Fair committee and Haslemere Health Group.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I (and the other incoming new councillors), was given a Haslemere tie, which I now wear when attending any meeting as a town councillor.
In between meetings, I had a reread of the proposed Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan. This is a document that has been six long years in the making, driven by Haslemere Vision – a local voluntary group. It was adopted by the outgoing council earlier this year, and must now go to a public consultation, followed by a referendum. If it passes the referendum, it becomes the formal Neighbourhood Plan, which must be taken into account by Waverley Borough for their planning decisions affecting Haslemere. If not – back to the drawing board. Hence, the need for careful study. I have now gone through it twice, and will do so again.
Also important for planning, is the controversial proposed new development in Scotland Lane, on the Red Court site – which the developers prefer to refer to as “Scotland Park”. For months, I’ve been aware of intense opposition from the local Haslemere South Residents Association, largely on the grounds that this is declared AONB land (“Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”) which they believe should not be developed. There are also concerns about the impact on traffic through Scotland Lane. I’ve taken a first, cursory look at the glossy brochure given to me at the end of last week, but will need to give it much more careful study, and have a good look at the site, before I can reach any conclusion on this.
This week was really just a prelude to formally taking office. The local elections had been held on Thursday May 2nd, but ballots were not counted until Sunday 5th. Immediately after the declaration, the Haslemere depute town clerk presented me with a large purple folder of homework – documents to read, some forms to complete and sign.
By Wednesday, I had an email from our Haslemere Town Clerk, which among other things invited me to set up my formal Haslemere Town Council email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) , which should be used for any correspondence on Council business.
On Friday morning, I went down to the town hall to complete the paperwork, and at the same time took advantage of in invitation to meet the police commander for Waverley Borough, Inspector Gary Smith, who was in town to meet residents and hear our concerns. I spoke to him about the conspicuous lack of visible policing which we all know is due to draconian cuts in budget. What I did not know, was just how far-reaching those have been for neighbourhood policing specifically – but he assured me that he is fighting hard to improve ,matters, and has now had approval to double the budget for this: from two officers, to four.
Over the weekend, I answered a ring at the door, to be greeted by a lady from the Redwood property development company, with a large, glossy brochure about their proposed redevelopment of the Redcourt site on Scotland Lane (which they are choosing to call “Scotland Park”). This will require careful study and consideration.
On Sunday morning after Mass, I met with our team of Liberal Democrat town councillors, together with Green Councillor Claire Matthis, for a discussion about our preferences for the key council posts.
My first formal council meetings will be next week, with an induction meeting on Monday, and the annual meeting to elect mayor and deputy mayor on Thursday.
For the borough election in Haslemere East and Grayswood, you can vote for three candidates – but we have just two candidates. We recommend that you use your third vote to support the Green candidate, Gary Lloyd.
Similarly, in the town elections for Hindhead and Shottermill, I recommend that you lend your additional votes to the Green candidates, Bella Bramley and Rebecca Slama in Hindhead, and Claire Matthes in Shottermill.