Author Archives: Steve Tierney
The “Don’t Believe The Hype” Diary Special
I’ve had a busy few days. At the tail end of last week I was at the Newton Village Hall Committee meeting helping the great team there to finalise plans for a number of forthcoming events for the village. On Friday night I attended the Leverington Conservative Branch meeting which was focused on fundraising and other business.
On Saturday I worked a final day at one of the businesses I am a involved in – Number10 Cafe in Wisbech. We have now closed up shop (though will re-open briefly for Rose Fair.) It’s been a fun couple of years and I’ve enjoyed being a part of the cafe, but anybody involved in business knows when circumstances change you have to change with them and sometimes that means cashing in your chips, which is what we’ve decided to do. It wasn’t an easy decision because we will miss the many excellent regular customers we’ve come to know. But external changes beyond our control, coupled with some staffing changes, meant this was the right time to bring the business to a close.
I was amused by the sensationalist report in the Usual Local Paper (no prizes for guessing which one) which said that we had opened in a “blaze of publicity” (we had an opening party that lasted an hour) and which then said that even our good reports on Trip Advisor “couldn’t save us.” Typical article from the Usual Suspect. I’m a bit worried that he might be in love with me but that he doesn’t express emotion well :) Interesting aside – the only comment on the article from a member of the public suggesting that “the business would have worked 30 years ago, but now it had to be Russian to survive” or something. Of course, the fact that our next-door neighbour, an Eastern European delicatessen, shut up shop a few months ago neither merited a news article nor seems to agree with the commenter’s sentiment. Probably it has escaped the Wisbech Standard’s notice that quite a few shops have shut or are shutting in the last few months in our town and others. Obviously the special thing about my shop shutting it that its my shop, and so the opportunity for another of his sly little snipes. He should just ask me for a date. I’m married – and I don’t swing that way – but at least he’d be out of the closet. It’s unhealthy to keep these obsessions on the inside. :)
For the record: we (the owners) have closed up shop for our own reasons and at our leisure. Those reasons have naff all to do with Eastern Europeans, despite them being the bogeyman of choice for so many of late. We have not “gone bankrupt” and are entirely solvent. Nobody has “forced us” to close, we have no outstanding bills to any supplier or anybody else and we have the best wishes of the staff – all of whom have received their full legal compensation in the proper way. We have chosen to sell at this time, we have not “been closed” by anybody or anything. Meanwhile, we provided jobs for local people for two years and we are proud of the service we provided our customers. That’s the actual truth. Simple, really.
On Sunday I was at an Eastern European birthday party. Lots of vodka shots were drunk. Great food, too, and a really enjoyable and positive atmosphere. I had a lot of fun! My Latvian (I’m learning to speak Latvian) got a bit of a workout and I quickly found out I need to learn a lot more before I try and chat about anything other than: “Where is the toilet?” and “My name is.”
Monday evening I took part in the Wisbech Town Council Festival’s Committee, which is presently working on the August Rock Festival (it sounds like its going to be really, really exciting!) and our activities during the Rose Fair.
Sadly, today (Tuesday) I will be spending about fourteen hours doing accounting. Blurgh. Not my favourite task, but its gotta be done. I suppose, then, I’d better get started. Hopefully, my blog post has been long and varied enough to give John Elworthy an article or two to fill the empty spaces in his paper with. I know he relies on me for content and I wouldn’t want to let the side down. Maybe: “Tierney does vodka shots”, or “Tierney says Aliens Have Visited Earth” would be a suitable headline? Does it have to be true in order to be printed? I forget. :)
Late Night Shenanigans
Friday night, I was working in my office. It was about 2.30 AM.
I was disturbed by a loud noise from the alleyway alongside my house. It sounded like a group of drunk people doing the things groups of drunk people do. In the alley, alongside my house.
Since my son’s bedroom overlooks that alley and I was worried he’d be awoken, I put my dressing gown on and went out.
It was very dark. There were, perhaps, a dozen men and women in the alley. They were talking (loudly), laughing (loudly) and the collective sound in an otherwise quiet street was very loud. But they didn’t know because, as previously mentioned, they were quite drunk. At this point, from the languages and accents, I identified that most (but not all) of them were of Eastern European origin.
I approached them and asked the biggest fella if they wouldn’t mind keeping it down a bit, since my son was asleep quite close by.
They apologised profusely. Several of them shook my hand. They shushed one another and generally quietened down. Then they left.
Sorry this isn’t the horror story about horrible foreigners and their terrible behaviour that some might have hoped for. I could have just made something dramatic and scary up, which would have been more fun to read. But I thought, In this instance, I’d just tell it as it happened.
It has been nearly 40 years since the British people last had their say on Europe. In that time, so much has changed – the countries involved, the powers devolved, the benefits and costs of membership. People feel that the EU is heading in a direction they never signed up for. It is right to negotiate a fresh settlement in the EU that is better for Britain – and then put the result to the British people in an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. This isn’t just a Conservative campaign – it’s for everyone who believes that we need a different relationship with the EU and that the British people deserve a say.
GIVE THE PEOPLE A VOICE!
62% of people believe we need a referendum on Europe, but some people and some parties don’t believe we should have a say.
WHY WE NEED A REFERENDUM
- Europe has changed. More change is imminent.
- People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up for.
- We need a fresh settlement that is better for Britain – based on fairness, flexibility and competitiveness.
- We should let the British people have their say on that new settlement through an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
HOW WE CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN
Currently, only one of the main three political parties believes the British people deserve a say on Europe: the Conservatives. They are bringing forward a draft bill to legislate for an in-out referendum before the end of 2017, following a renegotiation. This bill will need the support of either Labour or Lib Dem MPs to pass. Some issues are bigger than party politics. It’s time to Let Britain Decide.
TAKE PART IN THE CAMPAIGN
Lobby your MP. Write to the Fenland Citizen. Download and share campaign graphics and posters. All by clicking here:-
The Shape Of Things To Come?
I was thinking – now that the Conservatives are no longer in majority control at Cambridgeshire County Council, we should begin to see things change. Primarily, we should see policy change in areas where the opposition have previously been united in their opinion. So I was thinking back over controversial things which LibLabKip have all agreed on in the past which we should surely expect them to now “deal with” since they have a majority between them to prevent or break policies they don’t like. This will become more obvious when we move to the committee system next year, which does away with even nominal cabinet control. Here’s where the axe is likely to fall, if these people are true to their past demands.
Every opposition party has attacked the previous administrations decision to stop subsidies to those bus routes which were not commercially-viable. They have all demanded that the decision is reversed and that, once more, money should be poured into the coffers of private bus companies to pay them to run mostly-empty buses along our county roads. Given that this is one they are united on, and have made speeches on more times than I can easily list, I would expect the people of Cambridgeshire can expect a massive and comprehensive “investment” into running bus routes up and down the length and breadth of Cambridgeshire.
Adult Social Care
The pressures on this massive budget will be fixed. Overnight. Because it’s only “incompetence” that has prevented it being fixed before. Have faith. LibLabKip are on the case.
County Wind Farms
Tricky one, this. The Lib Dems and Labour want the county-owned farmland to be allowed to bring windfarm proposals. Given UKIP’s opposition to windfarms its less certain that this will be reversed. But actually, not all Conservatives agree with this particular policy and UKIP say they don’t have a party whip – so given that the lefties will certainly all cheer a reversal of the policy there’s a pretty good chance that the numbers stack up for a U-Turn on this one. A million pounds a year (stolen from you and your granny) pays for a lot of pet projects, after all.
I’ve long been a big supporter of ShapeYourPlace, the award-winning county-run community website. But all the opposition parties argued for its funding to be cut and many speeches were made about how it was an unnecessary expense. Since there is unity on this, I would expect ShapeYourPlace to be gone within a year or so. Or to be a shadow of its former self.
Members Scoring For Highways
I spent four years campaigning and fighting for a system of member’s scoring to empower councillors and their communities with regards to highways work. I managed to get agreement in the last couple of months, finally. But since the push is now to roll the clock back to AJCs and other pointless, expensive wastes of time, I’d expect the proposal to be quietly dropped. Which is a shame, because its pretty much the only route some of the less “major” roads have of securing funding any time soon if they’re not already on the list.
Global Warming On Every Document
It used to be that every single council document had a section at the end regarding how the policy affected “climate change.” We did away with that. There was a howl of outrage from the left when it happened, because it’s really important to have officers consider how some change in Children’s Services, or Adult Social Care might add to the world getting a bit warmer at some time in the future (if the warming ever actually starts again.) I’d expect it to make a return. Though UKIP might oppose it. Hard to say, given their fluid positions on pretty much everything except immigration.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but personally I am fascinated to see what proposals come forwards over the next couple of years regarding Council Tax. On the one hand these parties that have been opposition but will now be in a form of “control” will have to try and make good on all the stuff they’ve been promising. On the other hand, some of them will want to prove there was “no need” for the council tax rise because of all the “wasteful” uses the previous administration put the money to. Not so the Lib Dems, who love a bit of taxation. But UKIP, at the very least, should surely be trying for a freeze – or a cut!
Senior Staff Wages
For years and years we’ve been told by a smattering of opposition that we were paying senior staff too much. It will be interesting to see these opposition groups in control, particularly UKIP, who have continually told us how easy it would be to slash those on the higher rates of pay. They’ll be looking to alter contracts, or replace staff with the legions of highly-qualified alternatives that are just waiting to snap up senior roles on a fraction of the pay. We’ll see.
If there’s one “pet issue” that has been loved by every opposition party for as long as I can remember, its the subject of the council’s Communications Staff. The Lib Dems have previously proposed getting rid of most of them. UKIP have called their work “spin” and damned their roles. So I expect we’ll see a massive cull of those staff, all council-run newsletters discontinued, a massive cut in the communications budget? That’s what these groups have suggested they want to do.
UKIP get very angry about all the translation services that must be paid for. They probably don’t have a majority to cut all such funding, but maybe they can negotiate one by giving support to the Lib Dems or Labour on something? Because that’s exactly how you help people integrate and become part of the community – by freezing them out of it and failing to talk to them. Right? #sigh
On the election literature of local candidates for UKIP it said that Conservatives were lying when we claimed we had no power to stop immigration. The leaflets said that we: “Just didn’t want to deal with it.” I honestly do not know what powers UKIP think they have to cut immigration and migration into our market towns from their county council seats, but they must know something I do not. Why must they? Because they ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. They said so. Consequently, we should see all the immigrants and migrants disappearing from our towns. It should have started already. Can’t say it’s something I’d be particularly thrilled by, myself. I rather like many of those migrants. Yeah, I know. You can’t say that. It’s evil. But the Great Migrant Cull is gonna happen. UKIP said so. So it must be true.
The Bramley Line
Wisbech should surely expect the Bramley Line to reopen imminently? The Lib Dems have said they’d do it time and time again. UKIP have made hay with the idea, particularly those local county UKIPpers who’ve criticised the Conservative’s lack of progress on the issue. Labour don’t have much of a position on it, though locally their supporters have been supportive. So once they’ve got a majority and a committee system I would imagine a new train link wont be far behind. That’s pretty cool, right? This time next year, or the year after, we’ll be able to pay a fiver to get a train to March. And it wont cost us a penny in taxation because the market is absolutely bubbling over with demand for £5.00 train trips to March. We know this because of all the market research that’s … uh … um … going to be done soon?
We have been treated to a lot of promises for the future, coupled with criticism of the past for years now. These people who have made those claims are poised to be in a position to make good on them. At which point, I expect, we’ll get a good idea of who is mouth and who is trousers. As it were.
Soap Box – On Leadership
I’ve been involved in a diverse range of things in my life, as most people have. In politics, in business, in the community and socially, i’ve spent the last thirty years or so trying to contribute to all manner of organisations, clubs, projects, schemes and causes. It is human nature that in every arena you find leaders emerging and I’ve experienced many different types of leader in that time. Some better, some worse. Some that I’ve misjudged in the short-term and revised my view later.
With this in mind, I just wanted to talk about what I look for in a “leader” these days. But before I do I want to qualify my position – leader doesn’t mean “ruler.” It’s just a person who takes the point in an organisation and with whom the buck stops. Leaders are not “better” than those they lead, they are simply the person who has risen to a level of authority within an organic structure. Hopefully because they have the skills necessary to do so.* I should also point out that the point of this post is not to say that I know all about good leadership and am therefore a good one myself. I am not, actually. I fail in many of the areas I consider below, though I aspire to be better. This is simply the observations of somebody who has been led by others, many times, and now looks for the signs of good leadership that I’ve come to admire.
When identifying a “good leader” I look for somebody who is working as hard, or harder, than anybody else in the organisation. If the leader is spending all their time enjoying the fruits of being leader without actually pitching in to the fullest extent, I have no time for them. Leadership doesn’t mean doing no work. It should mean getting your hands dirty. A lot.
However, though a leader should work very hard, they should not try to do “all the work.” A good leader promotes people and surrounds themselves with people who are capable of carrying their weight – and then has the courage and humility to delegate to those people in order that the organisation can grow beyond the scope of one person’s talents, which will always be limited. A leader who continually tries to take on all the “big tasks” personally will often burn out, or become virtually impossible to work with. Even if they do not, there is a finite limit to how much good work such a minutely focused organisation can do. This is not productive or healthy.
Avoid The Bubble
A “management team” means different things in different situations. What it means in a council is quite different to what it means in a charity or in a social club. But the principle is the same – it is the people who the leader surrounds themselves with to help them in management and decision-making. A good leader does not just surround themselves with people who agree with them. This mutual back-slapping is, no doubt, very comforting. But it leads to the creation of an echo chamber where the leader can quickly believe their work is widely admired, which may not be the reality. Further, without challenge to your ideas and positions and policies, mistakes begin to happen. Challenge, at every juncture, is vital. The challenge may be wrong, but without hearing it – how do you know?
Everybody wants to be liked. Nobody wants people to hate them. But leadership does come with some responsibilities and it simply is not possible for everybody to like you. If a leader tries to be loved by all they will end up achieving next to nothing because the only way to such universal acclaim is to sit blandly nowhere and do nothing. And in time, even that sort of leader will be hated, precisely because they sat blandly nowhere and did nothing. A good leader has to be strong in the face of criticism. Not arrogant. Not a bully. Not blindly pushing things through without proper consideration. But strong enough to stand firm once they reach the point where the decision must be taken, safe in the knowledge that they have done the proper work and had the debates and know, now, where they want to lead.
Flexibility & Listening
A good leader should always be listening. Listening to their management team. Listening all the other people in the organisation at every level. Listening to people outside the organisation who express a view about it. Listening does not necessarily mean agreeing. You will encounter a million variations of view on anything and cannot agree with them all. You will encounter views from people who do not have the information you have in order to be informed. But you will often encounter views which are intelligent, or obscure, or original, or heartfelt, or informed in a way you have not considered. If a leader isn’t listening – they cannot hear those views. Hopefully, the leader’s colleagues are listening too, but a good leader does not rely on that. A good leader cannot afford to rely on that. And when something crops up that breaks the mold or challenges the orthodoxy? A good leader should not be afraid to be flexible. To change course, or U-Turn. This isn’t weakness. It is rational behaviour. When the facts change, you must change with them, or get left behind.
Inspire & Encourage
A good leader should know the people they are leading as well as is possible, within the context of their organisation. This is because they should know where talents lie, who works the hardest and what is going on around them. Inspiration does not need to come from the leader’s own actions (though that helps) but can simply come from recognition of good work, loyalty and contributions of all kinds. A leader of this sort encourages people simply by virtue of noticing when they do well. It’s not rocket science, but its amazing how often this simple method of engagement is lacking.
One very poor indicator is a leader who resorts to Machiavellian tactics to secure their position. Any leader who has to play “divide and rule”, setting factions against one another so that they don’t turn on and topple that leader is going to do more harm than good. Don’t get me wrong. It is a sad truth that a leader must be aware of the interpersonal politics going on in their group, regardless of its size. Aware of them so that they can take such actions as are necessary to avert disaster. Such is the reality of human sociology. But when such interactions become a tool for maintaining power, something has gone very wrong.
A leader is the person with whom the buck stops. While they may take issue with mistakes that happen privately – they do not attempt to “blame others” for mistakes that happen under their watch. It is fine to explain the mistakes and how they happened, but you will know a good leader by the simple expedient that they will be prepared to be the public face of the apology and will not shirk from that responsibility. It does not have to mean the end of a leader’s career. People respect a leader who knows their ultimate responsibility and does not shirk from it. Mistakes happen. A good leader accepts responsibility for what goes wrong, while doing their best to spread the kudos when something goes right. If this seems unfair – nobody ever said being a leader was “fair.” It’s a role, not a social contract.
All this may sound incredibly obvious. And yet, leaders who excel in all these areas are, in my experience, incredibly rare. Sadly, even the best leaders are sometimes toppled by events, or by those critical of their positions who would bring them down by spin and deceit. But if you encounter a leader like this – cling onto them. They really are worth their weight in gold.
*No doubt some will be asking whether this column refers to any specific organisation or individual. It does not. It came from a conversation I was having with a friend whose business is in severe difficulties due to poor leadership. I found the discussion interesting and thought I’d share my positions on the blog. Nothing more than that. So get over yourselves, predatory press.
Crazy Guy In The Corner
I was having a brief and predictable Twitter-joust with infamous Lib Dem Lorna Dupre about the environment. She accused me of being at the “forefront of opposition to all environmental protection measures in Cambridgeshire over the last few years” and I pointed out that she was confusing a love of the environment for a love of stealing money from pensioners and giving it to rich windfarm developers – you know, the usual thing. Pointless argument, nobody really listening, just a series of bullet points and party mantra.
Then Sarah Whitebread (another Lib Dem) chipped in and said:
Sarah is, in my view, one of the really good Lib Dems and this is why. It’s a fair challenge, an honest challenge. It’s also clever because there’s no way to respond to this on Twitter with the sort of depth needed to get to the root of the answer. On Twitter, a smart challenge like this puts the opponent on the defensive and in Tweet-debate that’s one verbal cut-and-thrust away from debate victory. Of course, Twitter is just a giant echo chamber of people playing word games, but I felt the challenge worth responding to here.
I’m a free-marketeer. I wont dwell on what that means in depth here – there are plenty of books on what a genuine free market might one day look like out there – but broadly I believe in the power of free markets (which are just individuals, cooperating voluntarily) and oppose the state tampering with those markets wherever I can. I’m also Libertarian-leaning (I prefer a small state and individual liberty to a big controlling state.) But a free marketeer is not an anarchist, I don’t believe in no state.
Pure idealists of one school or another believe in pure answers. If something falls outside what they think is right, they absolutely will not support it. While I respect that sort of idealism intellectually, I don’t feel that it is realistic in practice. I know a great many people who believe in one school of thought or other who are so sick of the way our government works that they wont get involved in it at all. You often hear hard-core Libertarians saying things like: “I wont get involved, they’re all the same,” or “whoever you vote for, you always get the Government” or any of those classic old lines that get trotted out by every “radical thinker.”
The problem with that is that if you get into local politics and try to pursue ideological purity you will usually fail. Short of forcing your ideas through and becoming exactly the thing you are opposed to – you’ll quickly find that very few others are as radical as you, or radical in the same way as you. And this is a good thing, because you might not be right. Yes, I know, that’s fighting talk for radicals. But anybody who hasn’t passionately believed one thing, only to get a bit older and take a different view, or experienced something which gave them new insight – must be very insular indeed. With that in mind, believing your ideology must be exactly right seems to me dangerous at best.
So your choice is – abstain from taking part at all. Sit on your lonely hilltop heaving heavy sighs and believing that you know the answers if only all those others would just listen to your wisdom. Or take part in the processes as they currently are.
Once you decide on the latter you will often hit obstacles. Policies that you think are bonkers, ideas that are anathema to everything you believe. You can oppose every single one of them if you like. But doing so will alienate you utterly and result in your having no influence over anything at all. You’ll just become “Crazy Guy In The Corner” who rants a lot. Or you can engage and argue and take part in the debate. Sometimes you will win, sometimes you will lose – but at least you are having some influence.
If you do not choose the latter then you are clearing the field for all the people who believe the opposite of what you do. Without you there, making the case, occasionally moderating or even altering their course, they will roll ever onwards with their own weighty ideas. I therefore propose, good reader, that if you do not take part you will achieve the precise opposite of what you think is best – by empowering those who would otherwise be slowed or defeated by your own arguments. You become, as they say, part of the problem.
We get to the point, finally:
So Sarah Whitebread asked me why I didn’t oppose “Connecting Cambridgeshire”. After all, isn’t that a subsidy?
Connecting Cambridgeshire was a County Council led plan to encourage the roll-out of Superfast broadband across Cambrideshire. The idea was to use a large sum of public money to encourage a broadband provider to connect every corner of the county – instead of just the ones that the broadband providers thought was commercially-viable as might otherwise be the case.
This is an absolutely fair challenge. Why didn’t I? Well, in truth, I did challenge the idea within my group. (Let’s not get into party politics today, we’ve had the argument before and will have it again, no doubt.) In fact, any local or County Conservative who knows me will tell you that I am so reliable with my free trade dogma that I bore them all to tears. ”There goes Steve again, waffling on about free markets.” Sarah is being a little disingenuous, since she also will have heard me rattle out the old Free Market arguments on all sorts of issues in full council meetings in the past.
But there are battles you can win and battles you cannot win and there are only so many battles you can fight so you need to pick them wisely. The truth is – there is a big difference between Wind Farm subsidies and the Connecting Cambridgeshire plan. Wind Farm subsidies are a blatant attempt to pretend that a completely unviable energy source might be the solution to our problems. For scores of reasons I wont go into again – this is a downright lie. Even the wind energy companies must surely know this – they are taking the opportunity to enjoy government largess created for reasons of ideological argument, not economic good sense. And people who have to live near wind turbines hate wind turbines. For a free-marketeer like myself it isn’t the money that really galls, or the undemocratic way they are forced past planning refusals, or even the spin and lies that are used to convince people about viability. It is the fact that while those resources are being directed towards a bad idea, they are not available for the exploration, creation or action of new ideas that might genuinely work. In short, we’re propping up a lie at the expense of any chance of discovering the truth.
On the other hand – broadband really does work. It does what it says on the tin. It does make it easier for people to connect, both personally and in business. It does make an area more able to bring in fresh blood – both population-wise and business-wise. It does give a county an edge in the employment market.
Since I am not an anarchist, or even a hard-core Libertarian, I do accept that the state has a role to play in the provision of certain kinds of infrastructure. So for me, how strongly to oppose state subsidy is related to how vital the infrastructure is. In the modern world I think it’s hard to argue that broadband isn’t as vital as a number of other things we consider intrinsic infrastructure. So, as long as proper competition is in place, and there is no sign or cronyism or corporatism – I’m prepared to raise a bit of a grumble about broadband subsidy but be convinced by my colleagues and constituents that it’s important enough to shut up and get it done. Which is what happened. I was uncomfortable about some aspects of it, but convinced by my colleagues to keep my powder dry for darker battles.
In regards to being convinced of the importance of those landscape-blotting, concrete-based, community crushing, bird-smashing, energy red herrings which require constant backup from coal and gas and huge subsidy from the energy bills of each and every one of us or a single one would never be built? Not so much.
Sarah might suggest that, therefore, I am being inconsistent. She’s right. All politicians and activists are, to some level, inconsistent. I would point out that every sensible political activist must learn when to be rigid and when to be flexible or will just be considered Crazy Guy In The Corner. And if that feels like I’ve not been ideologically pure to the free market cause? That’s okay. Zealotry is a dead end anyway. There’s always room for personal judgement and a little common sense.
I was approached by a student recently about interviewing me for a paper she was writing about local politics.
I was happy to agree and we spent about an hour on the phone, her asking interesting questions and me doing my best to answer frankly.
The one question which most caught my imagination was: “What, in your view, are the most common mistakes made in local politics.” I asked for clarification. Did she mean in political activity, in policy, in personal life? She said that was up to me. So I chose In Policy.
My answer won’t come as a surprise to any long time reader of this blog but I said I thought there were only two mistakes made in policy, that they were made by almost everybody on all sides of the political spectrum and that they were behind just about everything that goes wrong.
(1) Failure to properly identify the problem you are trying to solve.
(2) Failure to consider the non-obvious or invisible consequences of the policy you propose.
She then asked me how often these mistakes were made. My response: “All the time. These errors are, in my view, behind every single thing that is wrong with political policy at every single level.”
“How do we fix that?” she asked.
“No idea.” I said. “Our nature and our political systems seem to discourage both in equal measures.”
Where’s The Warming?
I find the body language of the interviewees particularly interesting in this video.
In the last five years things have changed a lot. We always had opposition in Wisbech and Fenland, but back when it was mainly Chris Howes and Reg Kemp and Mark Archer glowering away in Manea and the old Wisbech Labour crowd and so forth it had a very different atmosphere. It’s surprising how a very few people can completely change the atmosphere. Or maybe its the national coalition situation that’s responsible for some of that? I don’t know. But it is different.
This blog didn’t meet with everybody’s approval (of course) but it did reach a million hits a year at its highpoint! Not too shabby! I stopped blogging in the New Year, primarily because my blog was being abused by opposition and the opposition-biased sections of the press and since I was then a cabinet member on County Council it seemed unfair on my Conservative colleagues to be giving such easy ammunition to the other side. I could have avoided this by writing everything in a bland, inoffensive way, but anybody who knows me will tell you that’s just not in my character. : )
I’m back to being a humble activist and this has left me able to write freely again. Nobody is forced to listen, read or agree. I just write down what I’m thinking in the most frank way I can – back up what I’m saying with the best arguments I can think of – and let it roll where it will. Sure, the opposition and the press might still occasionally abuse what I write – but I have no significant position for them to latch it to now and the public will no doubt get pretty tired of hearing “ex-county councillor says …” used to fill empty spaces by lazy hacks and shouty opposition blogs that have a chip on their shoulder.
People may disagree with me in this blog, there are five years worth of rants and discussions and suggestions to look back over. Anybody who takes the time to do so may find quite a few predictions that bore fruit, quite a few arguments than panned out as suggested and quite a few policy positions that were “before their time.” They’ll also find plenty of stuff I was completely wrong about. I don’t deny it. I’m not a crystal ball reader, just a local person who genuinely enjoys political discussion and still thinks, despite all evidence and battle injuries, that it’s a force for good. Also – who else has even tried to do this? I’m probably not very good at it. God knows I don’t claim to be a master of the written word, or an ex-English teacher, or a prestigious Editor, but I’ve done my best to do something useful here. If I’ve failed, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
So I’ve taken a new turn with this Blog. I’ve rechristened it, getting rid of the old name “Getting The Message Out” and the old tagline “A Conservative Blog with a Fenland Flourish.” Now it’s called “Steve Tierney’s Soapbox” and the tagline is “Doing what I can, where I can, when I can.” Why the change? Well, when I started it I was selected to campaign as a new candidate for a county seat. The “message” I was getting out was a campaigning message. Nowadays I’m not campaigning to be anything – I’m just a local person who is trying to help the community in which I live by using my energy, admittedly limited talents and time to help do tangible things. This site will be used to promote things I’m involved in, or which I support – and to air personal views which people should feel free to agree / disagree / debate if they are vaguely interested in doing so. Nobody can say that the blog isn’t clearly named as a personal blog and so they can’t complain if they encounter personal views. It is what it says on the tin.
Where I used to speak as an elected councillor, the blog now has no connections to county council at all and no direct connection with Town Council. (I may occasionally speak about what the Town Council is doing, or what goes on there, but this blog is not associated with the Town Council in any way.) In two years time when my term as Town Councillor is done (to the very best of my ability, as I always try to with anything) I do not presently intend to stand for re-election, so that will be that. Hence the “rebranding” of the site in a more personal way. Every polite reader and commenter is welcome – but you come here to a personal site and should expect personal opinions. If you don’t like that, don’t visit. Simples.
When I stopped blogging after Christmas the site’s traffic dropped off dramatically, as you would expect. I am now slowly rebuilding it. This month since the relaunch I’ve had 29,000 hits (as recorded by my site analytics, which, like all analytics, isn’t a perfect science). Nowhere near the highpoint last year, but a respectable recovery in a short time. Not many comments at this point, but hopefully they’ll begin to come back as visitors lose their shyness. I don’t expect I’ll ever reach the point I was at while I had a senior elected office, but that’s okay. I write here partly for fun, partly for catharsis and party to create a space for discussion and debate. It doesn’t matter to me if that’s for a dozen, or a hundred thousand people, or just for me and my three Jack Russels to “enjoy”. Every little, as they say, helps.
Don’t be a stranger.
“If after every tempest come such calms,
May the winds blow till they have waken’d death”
- William Shakespeare, Othello