Climate event in Whitestone Sept4th 2-4pm.

Come and find out more about what you can do for climate
action and meet your neighbours and Whitestone Climate Action
Group. There will some informal discussion groups led by locals.
Everyone welcome
FREE CLIMATE ACTION EVENT at Whitestone Parish Hall
Saturday Sept 4th. 2.00-4.00
Display from Action for Climate Teignbridge (ACT)
Family and young person quiz
Green gardening and environment
Energy, homes and saving display from ECOE
Local food, planting Trees.
Mini think tank for positive action.
Tea and Cake!
Please bring masks and use sanitizers for COVID safe event
This is a Whitestone Climate Action Group Event.
For more info or if you would like to get involved

Pets as prizes

A number of constituents have contacted me with concerns about Pets as Prizes, usually goldfish.

The council terms for holding any event on council property includes a list of goods prohibited for sale and a colleague has asked the events team to ensure that ‘sale’ also means provision of prizes as it is part of a transaction.

1.     The Council will not permit the sale of any illegal, dangerous, or inappropriate products. The following is a list of products / product groups, prohibited for sale. The list is meant to be indicative only and not an exhaustive list.  If a trader is unsure of the status of any items, which they are proposing to sell, then they should seek further advice from the Trading Standards or obtain legal advice.

List of Prohibited Goods

a.      Guns, replica guns, ornamental swords and knives (except securely packaged domestic kitchen knives and cutlery which meet the Trading Standard Regulations for knives)

b.      Crossbows

c.      Laser pens

d.      Novelty lighters without a child-proof mechanism

e.      Live animals

f.       Fireworks

g.      Counterfeit goods

h.      Illegally copied videos, CD’s, DVD’s, MP3 disks and computer games

i.       Drugs, drug related products or items promoting the taking of drugs, including ‘legal highs’

j.       Inappropriate or offensive products, or those deemed so by the Council

k.      Any items that are offensive, indecent, obscene or pornographic or that could bring the Council into disrepute

l.       Products made wholly or partially with real animal fur

m.    The Council reserves the right to amend the above list of products or product groups at any time

Voter ID is just the beginning

VoterID will do nothing to prevent fraud, and will do a great deal to suppress hundreds of thousands of legal, but mostly not Conservative votes.

It is claimed that many students vote twice, but I have seen no evidence. How we vote is of course secret but whether we vote is not secret. It is recorded in the “Marked registers” which can be inspected on request. A student foolish enough to vote at home and term time addresses in the same general election will have the evidence of the crime recorded in the marked register. This is not prevented at all if they have ID at both addresses and if they do not have the ID, their right to vote is taken from them completely. This is inexcusable. These rights are precious, we must defend them.

But Voter ID was the headline Conservative assault on democracy last week. This week we learn that they plan to gut the electoral commission, stripping it of its power to prosecute for electoral fraud. In 2017 for example the electoral commission fined the Conservative party a record £70,000 after a year long investigation revealed £275,000 of illegal overspend, now THAT is electoral fraud that is actually happening. If you have a spare £275,000 to spend on an unfair advantage in an election then just £70,000 to get off the hook a year later is probably perfectly affordable and good value for Conservative Donations. I’d say we need a stronger electoral commission, with power to give fines that actually deter this fraud. More recently the Electoral commission investigated the Prime Minister’s misuse of funds for his flat redecoration. Is there a connection?

These appalling “dead cat” policies do nothing of any value. They distract from the real crimes, and entrench the Stranglehold on power that First Past the Post gives them. The Conservatives are stealing our Democracy.

(published in Western Morning news and Mid Devon advertiser.)

Voter ID is an attack on democracy

My conservative MP Mel Stride supports Voter ID because it is “just common sense”. That is a convenient argument if you have no evidence. Let’s take a look at the evidence.

He says the problem is “not thought to be widespread”. That’s putting it mildly, according to the Electoral commission data, in the 2019 General election there were NO convictions or cautions for personation fraud (a vote cast by the wrong person). There were just 34 allegations, none leading to conviction, out of 47.6 million votes. That is 0.00007%. This is a crime that is not actually happening.

He is dismissive of claims that this will discourage people from voting, but again the evidence does not support him. In a 2019 pilot scheme for Voter ID in two constituencies, 740 voters were turned away for lack of ID, and did not return. That is 0.4% of legal votes denied purely because of this scheme. Nationally that would be 200,000 votes lost. That is not an estimate, these are real people trying to vote, and being denied. The Electoral Reform Society has very good referenced information on these issues.

He claims (but does not cite specific evidence, so we cannot check it), that not having expensive lifestyle documents like driving license and passport is not correlated to age, or ethnicity. He doesn’t mention wealth. My common sense says that people without these documents are unlikely to be Tory voters.

He says the government will require local authorities to provide a free voter card. Will his government provide local authorities with the funds to administer this scheme? It seems unlikely given the funding cuts his party oversees. Many of us from all parties campaign to encourage people to register to vote, but it is hard for the younger, more mobile, and renters. We need voting to be easy.

He cites the mayoral election in Tower Hamlets in 2014 as an example of what he is opposing. I wasn’t aware of this case but it makes interesting reading.

Allegations that were upheld do include Voting fraud, but not the wrong person voting. It was double casting, or casting from wrong addresses. Surely this is fixed by tightening control of the voting register. This is not about legitimate votes being cast by the wrong person. Voter ID will not help if a fraudulent register entry has already been created.

Most of the other allegations were not about Voter ID at all.

• False statements made against rivals

• Bribery: large amounts of money were given to organisations who were “totally ineligible or who failed to meet the threshold for eligibility”

• Treating: providing free food and drink to encourage people to vote for …

• Spiritual influence

What is my conservative MP doing about these issues? Using this case to defend Voter ID is extremely misleading. Voter ID will skew elections in their favour. We should instead be making legitimate voting easier, and tackling electoral funding, and dark advertising. Does my MP care about democracy or his own victory? As the judge said of the Tower Hamlets case: “It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man.” I can see what he means.

(This piece was published in western Morning news and in Mid Devon advertiser)

Local Plan consultation on sites

Good article from Devon Live about the consultation being launched by Teignbridge on possible sites for new housing. The Council has to consult on all the sites put forward … so please take a look and send in your comments. The Government requires Teignbridge to build 761 houses a year (they had been talking about a minimum of 1532 houses a year not long ago).Possible housing sites in many local villages including Starcross, Kennford, Exminster, Kenton…

Are First Past the Post elections fit for purpose?

this is how many votes it took last Thursday to elect a County Councillor in Devon

Conservative 2,787

Liberal Democrat 5,043

Labour 5,805

Independent 9,234

Green 14,142

Why does the Conservative party take almost twice as many councillors per vote as labour and the Lib Dems, and five times more than the Green Party?

(Votes cast were Conservative 108,702 taking 39 seats, Liberal Democrat 45,395 winning 9 seats, Labour 40,640 winning 7 seats, Independent 27,707 winning 3 seats, Green 28,285 winning 2 seats)

Exminster community larder

Exminster has a community Larder, thanks to the work of Westbank I saw it today for the first time. Donated food that would otherwise be going to waste is available free. A great initiative but what a shame it is necessary. The gulf between the richest in society and those who cannot eat is being widened all the time by conservative policies.

Rewilding the churchyard

I am happy to have helped Ide to try changing the management of the churchyard to encourage wildflowers, habitat and diversity (re-wilding). A volunteer group in the community has drawn up a management plan, the Parochial Church Council and the Parish Council are all in favour. I have arranged for Teignbridge to reduce the cutting in summer, which will help wildflowers. The volunteer group will collect the grass cuttings which helps thin the grass and allows more seeds to germinate. Exminster have done this already as seen here.

Exminster churchyard rewilding
Exminster churchyard rewilding