Diary of a Sutton Councillor

How to buy your way into Parliament

I have found the Conservatives’ recent series of full page adverts in the local paper rather amusing. Bankrolled by big business and wealthy private donors they can afford this extravagant marketing tool, whilst piggy-backing on the real work done by the long-standing Liberal Democrat MPs Tom Brake and Paul Burstow. You will have to excuse my scepticism at Ken & Phillippa’s claims to have been campaigning for St Helier Hospital for the last ten years when Ms Stroud only arrived in the borough three years ago. You would also think that if they care so much they would have learnt how to spell the name of the hospital correctly.


This is not the first time that Ken has jumped on the bandwagon of a Lib Dem campaign: I have received leaflets telling me of the work he has been doing in respect of our local ‘Your High’ shop. This work seems to consist of duplicating work Tom has already done and never coming anywhere near the school or the shop.


This adoption of Liberal Democrat ideas seems to be the local interpretation of the Conservatives’ national policy. Having no new ideas of their own they have been leaping on Lib Dem established policy and attempting to pass it off as their own. The Tories’ Damascene conversion to ‘Green’ policies is very welcome, albeit a little late, as is their realisation that they should not have backed the Iraq war. In contrast the Liberal Democrats’ long existing stance on climate change; Vince Cable’s warnings about the credit bubble; and our scepticism about the arguments for invading Iraq may now be seen as visionary.


It is not only the Parliamentary candidates that are coming round to the Liberal Democrat world view: even our local Tory leader Cllr. Scully is quoted in the paper saying “Sutton schools should be for Sutton Children” – a headline taken straight off a piece of Tom’s campaign material circulated a year ago!


As I say I find all this amusing rather than worrying as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I also trust the intelligence of local residents to to see through the well financed smoke & mirrors campaign the Conservatives are currently running.




January 23, 2009 - Posted by | Opinion


  1. Jayne

    Sorry, the quote predated Tom Brake’s campaign material by at least seven years. The quote may be the same but the way to acheive this is very different. LibDems have enjoyed the success of Sutton’s selective schools having spent over a decade both locally and nationally trying to scrap them.

    Comment by Cllr Paul Scully | January 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. Councillor McCoy

    I must say you’ve got some neck. Weren’t you one of the Lib Dems who voted through the £200,000= communications increase for your council spin dcotors.

    At least the Tories are doing it with their own dosh and not moneys demanded with increasing menace from Mr A Taxpayer, ie. me.

    Thanks a bunch.


    Comment by simon griffin | January 26, 2009 | Reply

    • Mr Griffin you are confusing two very different issues. The advert represents political campaigning for a Parliamentary seat. You are referring to the council’s communications budget which is apolitical. The council communications budget covers all the means in which the council provides details of its services to residents and businesses. This includes the whole range of information from library opening times, council organised events, leisure listings, letters to residents, press releases advising of new or changed services, to information leaflets for example on accessing social services. This budget also covers Sutton Scene and public consultations, directories, the website and internal communications. Of course if the council receives a Beacon Award or is judged to be the best performing London Council it is going to publish that news. The accreditation brings little other reward, certainly it brings no additional funding from central government. And of course the political opposition is going to seek to undermine any good messages with the use of terms such as ‘council spin doctors’. However this Tory advert is a great example of a more appropriate use of the term ‘spin’: it takes the Prime Minister’s response to a question asked by Tom Brake the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington at PMQ’s and passes it off with the implication that Ken or Phillipa had something to do with it!

      Comment by jaynemccoy | January 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thank you Councillor McCoy, I still find it a little hard to swallow that i should be providing additional funding through my council tax for a communications outfit that which as you say is telling me how good the council thinks it is. I understanbd that the council needs to speak to residents and leaflets and questionnaires are important but there must be a greater priority for thew real services that i pay for, like rubbish collections and roads.

    I have read in the paper that the Tory leader Paul Scully, who i notice has written above, has been quoted defending grammar schools. he is dead right to do so. Our grammars are being ransacked by kids from outside our area and its not fair on local kids.

    Like many others i think that the LibDems speak with a forked tongue on grammar schools, your MPs voted with Labour in 2007 on the Education Bill which would move to abolish the remaining grammars.

    As a beneficiary of a grammar school education myself, coming from a working class background in Hackney, i would not be where I am today, without it. The Sutton Trust has shown that social mobility now is less now than it was in the 50s and 60s and many distinguished commentators have said that it coincides with Harold Wilson’s crusade against selective education.

    I have never heard Sutton borough Lib Dems, MP or council, openly state their support for our excellent selective education system via our grammars.

    Let me ask you, Councillor McCoy, what is your view on grammar schools? For or against?

    Comment by simon griffin | January 28, 2009 | Reply

    • To respond to your direct question I believe that every child should have access to a good local school, and that is regardless of their academic ability. I have no problem with schools specialising as grammar or vocational schools, or by streaming within the school, as long as it doesn’t have a resulting negative impact on other students or schools. You will see from a previous post that I have expressed concern about the lack of access for Sutton children to our local girls’ selective school. The problem in Sutton is that there is competition from out of borough for all our schools. Sutton faces this pressure because of the lack of good schools in neighbouring boroughs, and also because of the Labour Government’s obsession with targets and academic qualifications. Not all children are academic and those that are not are being failed because of the policies set by this Government. This focus has failed those children who are talented, but who will never be academic. I welcome the new emphasis on apprenticeships as it presents opportunities for training and guidance for a much wider range of abilities. The Tories are guilty of the same narrow focus on academic ability and their pet grammar schools whilst ignoring those children who can never aspire to a grammar school education.

      Comment by jaynemccoy | January 29, 2009 | Reply

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