We have no idea how many people view this blog and we don't get many comments but it does seem that our sitting MP keeps an eye on it. We are quite happy for him to do this, hopefully it will let him know about whats happening in this part of his constituency.
We received the following message from him:
Dear Keith and Sue
I am told your blog contains the following allegation:
" All our fundraising efforts are designed to ensure that when an election is called Keely will have enough funds to compete with a sitting MP who is sitting on a sackful of money"
As I assume you accept responsibility for the contents of your blog, Would(sic) you please inform me in writing, what evidence you have for the allegation about me and what you mean by it.
Richard Burden MP
We suppose with all the dodgy donor stories doing the rounds at the moment all Labour MPs must be feeling a tad sensitive but Mr Burden need have no fear. This was merely a reference to the extremely generous salary that all MPs receive from the taxpayers. It does seem to us that his questions were in the wrong order, surely he meant what do we mean and where is the evidence, not the other way round. Still Mr Burden has never been appointed to any ministerial position so we don't suppose his grammatical skills matter too much.
This set us in mind of some of our experiences of campaigning over the years.
When Keith was first elected he stood against 3 Labour candidates. 2 were sitting Councillors, the 3rd was Fiona Saxon who was, we believe, an employee of Richard Burden who worked in his office and was presumably paid through his office allowance.
For the last 2 years the Labour candidate in Longbridge has been Amy Watson. She is also an employee of Mr Burden, her title, we believe, is Community Liaison Officer.
This is not in any way a personal attack on either of them, Amy is a personable and friendly young woman who we regard as being professional, hard working and politically experienced. She is a formidable opponent. She does in fact have a young son who was born not long before one of the campaigns. His name is Arlo, presumably named after Arlo Guthrie, He was an American singer who sang about the plight of the "Dust-Bowl" farmers and is a bit of a left wing icon. Keith always gets mixed up and calls him Aaron, which is Elvis Presley's middle name. Elvis was an alleged FBI agent and a bit right-wing so therefore not a favourite of the left. Keith promises to do better and remember to ask after Arlo and not Aaron in future.
To get back to the point, when Keith stood in 2004 he was working as a lorry driver. This meant long hours of hard, physical work and 1 and sometimes 2 nights away from home each week, not the ideal circumstances to be trying to win a seat against established Councillors and a member of an MPs staff.
Amy actually appeared in a leaflet Mr Burden distributed as a Parliamentary newsletter. The circumstances were that at a Longbridge Ward Committee Keith started extolling the virtues of the Neighbourhood Caretaker Scheme which we were running, Sue said after the meeting that when I was speaking Mr burden was scribbling furiously and she expected him to use this item at some future date. Sure enough a little while later up popped this newsletter with a picture of Mr Burden, Amy and 2 of the Neighbourhood Caretakers. Amy was listed as his Community Liaison Officer, no mention of a candidature at the time although as it was before the election was called there was no requirement for this. One of the outcomes of this episode was that all Council Employees were advised not to get involved with having their photos taken with politicians which could appear to endorse any candidate. That is why on our blog you will very rarely see a photo of a Council Officer except in exceptional circumstances were we want to pay tribute to them and the work they do. It also taught Keith to be a little bit circumspect when Mr Burden is in attendance.
Now we are quite sure that all this is perfectly within the rules, electorally and as far as the expenditure of Parliamentary expenses etc are concerned. It is merely to point out that no matter what advantages your opposition may have, you can still win, you can keep on winning and you can increase your majority, so get out there and fight! If of course there are any factual errors in this report we would be perfectly prepared to publish a correction, we believe that the truth is always sufficient and welcome comments from anyone who feels that we have the facts wrong.
Personal opinions are another matter but we enjoy a good argument.