Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Something has happened in Hailsham this past week that highlights exactly what is wrong with politics nationwide.

One of the growing problems in Hailsham is the amount of ‘low-level’ crime involving young people that’s making life a misery for many residents. The fact that in the past two years we have lost the youth facility at the Hailsham East Community Centre and the Hailsham Youth Club at the community college is no coincidence.

So I wrote to Matt Dunkley, the head of children’s services at the county council, asking what plans he had to tackle the issue of youth facilities. To put a little pressure on him to come up with something meaningful, I put out a press release saying I’d written to him and making the point that doing nothing was not an option.

I wasn’t born yesterday so didn’t expect this to achieve great results on its own – it was aimed at creating some momentum. What I also didn’t expect was a vehemently angry reaction by two leading members of Hailsham Town Council, Ian Haffenden and Nick Ellwood. They put out a counter-release accusing me and one of our Hailsham county council candidates of ‘misinformation’. Well I wish it was misinformation, because then we’d still have the two youth facilities that have most assuredly disappeared!

I have a problem here. One of the central planks of my involvement in politics is that I want to work towards better politics. The idea that ‘our side’ has everything right and ‘the other side’ has got everything wrong is a nonsense. When we discuss problems in groups, we work towards solutions, not towards being able to say with righteous indignation ‘they’ve got it wrong’. It should be the same in politics.

I believe those who have lost faith in politics as a means of good governance have become disillusioned with the bickering, point-scoring, playground mentality that characterises Prime Minister’s Questions. They want people of different persuasions to work together to find solutions.

So how should I react to Messrs Haffenden and Ellwood? I’m aware they’re former LibDems who don’t hold much of a candle for their erstwhile colleagues, but I wasn’t around when they left, so I start from scratch with them. I’m also aware they have been doing their own work on the youth issue through Hailsham Town Council, which is good.

But they have put out what by any standards is a spoiling press release, which has led to the story being reported in the local press NOT as a call for improved youth facilities in Hailsham but as a spat between two warring political factions? It has made me very angry, but if I say that, am I engaging in exactly the kind of slanging match that drives people away from politics and keeps voting rates dangerously low? That’s my dilemma on this.

Mr Dunkley’s response to my letter – delivered incidentally to the media rather than to me – was that the county council is ‘listening’. This is OK-ish, but doesn’t go nearly far enough. We need more youth facilities in Hailsham – not an excessive amount so we spoon-feed teenagers, but more than we have now. All of us have a role to play, but we must fight the problem, not each other.


  1. Cllrs Ellwood and Haffenden are quite right in stating that your press release was aimed merely for political purposes and was in fact misleading the public and totally inaccurate. In addition, people need to be aware that Laura Murphy voted against the purchase of 1, Market Square (the current youth facility) and had her vote recorded for public record - thankfully, she was outvoted and the project went ahead. For the sake of clarity, Nick and Maddie Ellwood were expelled from the Liberal Democrats for reporting Steve Murphy (Laura Murphy's husband) for a breach of trust and was shamefully found guilty by the County Council's Standards Committee and the appropriate action was taken against him. Many local Lib Dems resigned as aresult of this. Laura also states she got the original funding for the toilet refurbishments - this is untrue as it was allocated before she was ever a member of either Wealden or Hailsham Councils. It is the Liberal Democrats who claim the glory for everyone elses work and gives politics a bad name.

  2. I agree with the comment made so far. We all remember how Nick and Maddie Ellwood were hounded out of the Liberal Democrats by Laura Murphy and her cronies because of her husband's breach of the rules. How can we trust Laura as a serious representative of the people when she can do that sort of thing to her colleagues. Chris, you sound like a nice guy, but beware of those that will stab you in the back.

  3. The Town Clerk at Hailsham Town Council has made comments in the press regarding your political statements - so is she political as well? - I doubt it!! Are you going to attack her next? Perhaps you should find out what is going on first before you go running off to the press with your political comments. All you are doing is giving the youth of Hailsham a bad name, when the vast majority are good kids. You will find some bad apples in all communities, so leave Hailsham alone.

  4. You will be pleased to hear that £800,000 YDS money has been secured through ESCC by Hailsham's County Councillors Bentley and Thomas and part of this money will be spent in Hailsham. As you put out a press release in the name of Liberal Democrats and Laura Murphy was slating the County Council, you were yourself engaging in a 'political spat'. Your web site continues to engage in dirty politics making claims for achievements which the Liberal Democrats had no bearing on. What is most shameful is that you are now making poor Joe Townsend a political matter. What lengths will you all stoop to?

  5. If the above is true and the facts suggest they are shouldnt we be publically apologising for the total missinformationwe have put out? And Laua should be putting the recold right. If you voted against the purchase of 1 Market square you are laying the party open to criticism if it is you suggesting there are not enough facilities. There is one more than there would have been if you had got your way!

  6. Picking on our young people is wrong and out of touch. Many of our kids are great young people who have so much to give. The problems that exist refelect such a small minority and i think you are wrong to paint them all with the same brush. You clearly have not idea of the pressures on families!