How did we let win Letwin?

BR OpinionBy Sam Barker

Who knew? Who would have guessed that beyond the tangerine diamonds and exhortations to vote Green that Bridport was somehow blue? That the man purveying shredded Letwin literature as toilet paper outside his house was not representative of the voting intentions of the town?

But then maybe it wasn’t Bridport. Maybe it was elsewhere in West Dorset that gave Letwin this supercharged majority? The man himself seemed strangely absent from DT6 during the weeks of the campaign, preferring friendlier territories like Poundbury or Sherborne. Not that he didn’t come here at all – in a video on his site he’s standing outside the South Street toilets one Tuesday in April, all gap-toothed equanimity, saying how much he likes being out on the election trail talking to “all sorts of interesting people who raise all sorts of interesting points and questions,” celebrating “the chance to argue things out.”

Maybe there should have been more arguing things out. That way, an impassioned minority that felt like a majority might have better known what it was up against. But then maybe it was the arguing that drove the majority to cowed silence. A few weeks ago, Janan Ganesh, the political commentator, said that voting Conservative had become a transgressive act, like being punk or emo. He was right, except that unlike punks or emos Conservative voters played it normcore until the opportunity came for self-expression in secret.

Presciently, Letwin himself foresaw the outcome. In another video filmed on May 1, he says that the last few days of an election are a “precious moment” in which there is the possibility of a “large number” of normally disengaged people actually “attending to the political question.” As the “awesome decision” approaches, he predicts that this group will, “probably more and more decide that they opt for securing a better future for themselves [by voting Conservative]…”

For Letwin, therefore, voting is a private act, the culmination of a short but intense period of personal reflection. A moment of deep communion between citizen and state. Not an expression of long-term tribal affiliation to be displayed on Facebook.

Where does this it leave Bridport? With high house prices and low pay the town has benefited from the tax credits that look most at risk from the new regime. The new government aims to make £12bn in cuts to benefits by 2018 and Liberal Democrats such as Ros Kayes will not be there to check this. Sometime soon, those decisions made in private will start manifesting themselves in public. Start donating to food banks now.

By |May 9th, 2015|Opinion, Politics, Sam Barker|2 Comments

Public First Meeting Update

Last Friday’s meeting, 20 February 2015

By the numbers…

231 people attended at the Electric Palace

All but two voted in favour of West Dorset District Council moving from Cabinet to Committee form of government

Overwhelming majority of those present voted in favour of initiating a study into the pros and cons of having a unitary authority

Overwhelming majority in favour of holding council meetings in the evening to allow people in work to participate

  • Public First Group will be in Bucky Doo Square from 10am this Saturday collecting signatures for their petition for a referendum to change West Dorset’s system of government.
By |February 23rd, 2015|Politics, Public First Group|2 Comments

Democracy First, Public First

Public FirstPUBLIC MEETING Electric Palace, Friday 20 February, 7pm

When Public First, the group that campaigns for greater democracy in West Dorset, held a public meeting in Dorchester on 7 January, 270 people attended. Now the people of Bridport have a chance to air their views. We invited Public First’s secretary, John Grantham, to explain what it is all about.

Do you really know what’s happening in your West Dorset District Council? Do things ever ‘happen’ before you learn about them? Do you feel consulted and listened to? Do you know about the council’s new Tri-partite agreement with two other districts? Do you miss the Community Link newspaper that used to come from the District Council to all residents with news of its activities? Were you consulted and listened to over the District Council placing their new multi-million-pound offices on top of one of Dorchester’s two largest car-parks? Are you in favour of entering your car registration number when you buy a parking ticket? Do you sigh when you see in the local papers some of the things that happen, some of the unexpected costs? Are you tired of party-political bickering when really serious issues face us locally? And would you like to know more?

Many desperate needs in our local society need to be addressed. We need to be able to think independently. And in many ways we need to reverse the relationship with councils: they are there to serve us, not we them.

Public First Group is a non-party-political organisation where Democracy trumps any party affiliation. Join us in Bridport at our next meeting and see what happens. Look out for street-posters for details. For most of the meeting, it will be the public that speaks. You have your say… (To see film clips of what happened at the Dorchester meeting go to and click on ‘Meetings’). Additionally, all five prospective parliamentary candidates have agreed to attend and debate, including Oliver Letwin.

Consider signing the petition, just launched, to obtain a referendum on whether to change West Dorset District Council’s governance from its Cabinet-based system to a Committee system, which would enable ALL councillors to be involved in policy-making and not just the six-person Cabinet, all from one party. For a petition form go to and click on ‘Petition Form’.

By |February 16th, 2015|Politics, Public First Group|0 Comments