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letters@totalpolitics.com

LettersMixedopinionsonEricPicklesandastrong argument for job-sharing are among your letters this month

Letter of themonthwins a copy of DeborahMattinson’s newbookTalkingtoaBrickWall

Job share MPs? Claire Perry’s analysis (TP, Aug) of why there is “a dearth of womenintheHouse of Commons”isspoton. Inmost families, it is still womenwhohave primary caring responsibility for children, so the political work/life juggle is stacked against them.

According to aCentre for Policy Studies report, while amajority ofmothers with children at home want to work, only 12 per cent want to work full time. Failing to offer apart-time workingmodel at Westminster therefore potentially writes off 88per cent of womeninthe child-rearing phase of their lives.

The irony is that while politicians bristle at changes to their working practices, they have legislated to mandateflexible working in other people’s workplaces. If we really want morewomeninpolitics, politics must evolve to fitwomen’s lives. Wenow have job-share chief executives, jobshare lawyers, doctors, journalists, teachers, civil servants and diplomats… whynot job-share MPs? Dinti Batstone Vice-Chair, Campaign for Gender Balance Liberal Democrats

Yes Minister Pickles Iain Dale’s interview with communities secretary Eric Pickles was fascinating. Gradually the message is getting through in central and local government that Pickles actually meanswhathe says –not least about localism.

His account of the reaction to scrapping the Comprehensive Area Assessment wasworthy of a Civil servant: replace it with what? Pickles: Civil servant: things dowewantlocal authorities of aYesMinister sketch. Civil servant: Youwant to replace it with what? Pickles: Nothing. Civil servant: Yes, okay. Butwhat things dowewantlocal authorities to be judged on?What’s the regime? Pickles: Nothing. Civil servant: So just to be clear secretary of state, whenyousay nothing, whatdoyoumean? Pickles: Nothing. Imean nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s pointless. It doesn’t doanything. It doesn’t get abin emptied...

But for some in local government the process will take some adjustment. It will be like prisoners trying to adjust to life outside. Some council officers have got used to being told what to dobyWhitehall in the most extraordinary details. Nowthey will adjust to thinking for themselves rather than being told to conform to a standardised model. The tyranny of sameness is being ended. Spending transparency and local referendums meanthat councillors will bemore accountable to their residents –not to the Department for Communities andLocal Government. Cllr Harry Phibbs Hammersmith and Fulham Council Local government editor, ConservativeHome

People power As somebodywhohasbeen a committed localist since before it was fashionable to be a localist, I admit to be very enthusiastic about Eric Pickle’s approach in his newrole. I have heard that there are councils in the country that aren’t on the samepageordon’t quite ‘get’ what this is all about. Perhaps they think it’s just a temporary thing? A fad?

Well, I hope andbelieve there’s nothing temporary about it. This is a true sea change in local politics and,while I can’t speak for others, I have seen only enthusiasm frommy colleagues at Cambridgeshire County Council and excitement about the challenges ahead in delivering what I can only call a localism revolution.

“With great power comesgreat responsibility,” one of Stan Lee’s characters once said. Individuals at every tier mustunderstand that as power comesdown,sodoes responsibility. It’s refreshing to see powermovingcloser to the people – where it belongs. Big Society indeed! Cllr Steve Tierney Cambridgeshire County Council

Welcome to the real world Eric Pickles maytechnically havebeen “clean” in terms of whatwas then

Caption competition

TotalPolitics is giving one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to see the play Yes,Prime

Minister Gielgud Theatre, which redeemed on MondayThursday evening performances between 16 September and 28 October, 2010. Subject

Ministerat the Gielgud Theatre, which can be redeemed on MondayThursday evening performances between 16 September and 28 October, 2010. Subject to availability.

How to enter Simply email your caption to competition@totalpolitics. com with your name and address before 06/09/2010.

Entries submitted after the closing date will not count.

Last month’s winner “Medvedev erupted with laughter when he realised Obama was paying with the last note from the Federal Reserve.” Lizzie Rankin

A pair of tickets to see Danton’sDeathare on their way to you.

4 | Total Politics | September 2010 permissible underMPs’ expenses, (TP, Aug) but his inept and risible performance onQuestion Timewhen attempting to defend outer London MPs’ claims for second homeswas a keymomentinthecampaign against Commonsextravagance.

Iain Dale let himoff rather lightly in the interview, but nodoubtmanywill have seen the unforgettable YouTube extract inwhich he tries to persuade the audience that only MPsare required to arrive at work on time and work late evenings, to be silenced byCaroline Lucas’s killer one-liner “Welcome to the real world, Eric.” Mike Falchikov Edinburgh

What the Lib Dem vote really means I see amajor flaw in Andrew Hawkins’ analysis of the coalition government anddealignment (TP, July). Hawkinsdraws the conclusion that because only 54 per cent of those aligned with the Lib Demsvoted that way, it meant that they were necessarily moreopen-minded or promiscuous. But this analysis seems to be only apassing glance at the raw numbers, not an in-depth look at the reasons behind people’s votes.

Iwould put it toMrHawkins that 46per cent (or a substantial portion thereof) voted for other parties as a tactical vote, not as anopen-minded gesture. These people wouldhave voted for what they sawasbest for the Lib Dem supporters in areas where they didn’t have any chance of winning.

The sameapplies for the Tory andLabour votes aswell. For instance whenIvoted in Durham, a Labour safe seat, I voted for the Lib Demsinstead of the Tories simply because I thought it was better to have afighting chance at removing the LabourMPthanto remain solid with the Tory party (of which I ammember)andlose.

It is not “dealignment”. I voted for whatwasbest for myparty, and I suspect 46per cent of Lib Demsupporters did the same. Geoffrey Hodgson Durham

A less than restful summer

A less than restful summer on why the short return to on why the short return to

Ben Duckworth on why the short return to Parliament before party conference season is set to be very busy

Parliament before party conference season

Send your letters by email to editor@ totalpolitics.com or by post to: Total Politics, Heal House, 375 Kennington Lane, London SE11 5QY. If you would like your letter printed, please limit it to 150 words.

Total Politics reserves the right to edit letters.

Welcome to our September issue which normally comesout at a relaxed time of year. But that’s not the case this year. On the first day back from recess, wehave the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill. This legislative mouthful is causing serious concern amongbackbenchConservative MPs. Wespeak toMarkHarper, theminister in the Cabinet Officewhowill close the debate on6September, about the various controversies surrounding the bill. The government is in ahurry, but is it too fast for proper scrutiny?

Our cover feature this month is about defectors – the people who former colleagues feel like spitting onandwhoareoftenmistrusted by their newparty. Whatmadethem choose to walk the lonely road, andwas it worth the price? Paul Evans speaks to Quentin Davies, the former Conservative whomade anunlikely figure on the Labour benches, and is now in the Lords. Hedidget to serve in government as adefence minister, so does hehave any regrets? Turn to p30 to findout.

MatthewParris is one of those journalists whocanmakeyou feel inadequate and jealous of his beautiful ability to construct an argument. Whether you agree with his views or not, he’s one of themostrespected commentators onBritish politics. Hewasalso,ofcourse, anMP during Margaret Thatcher’s time in office. Hesits downwith Iain Dale on p24 to discuss his career andwhyhe’s so enthusiastic about the coalition.

Total Politics also looks at a British politician who leads the way onEuropean-wide financial and monetary legislation butwhodoesn’t get the sameattention asmany politicians based inWestminster. Sharon BowlesMEPis the chair of the ‘econ committee’ – to findout what that means, andhowsheis able to shape the City, turn to p14. Also inside you’ll find lots more features, debates andanalysis, ranging fromwhy the Green Party should build on its general election success to whether GMcropshave anunfair reputation. We’ve got an autumn reading guide, anMP with a love of heavymetal and David Baddiel telling uswhat hewoulddoasprimeminister. Enjoy, and I hope everyone hada chance to rest over the summer.

editor@totalpolitics.com

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September 2010 | Total Politics | 5