Robert Halfon wins 2015 General Election in Harlow

Conservative candidate, Robert Halfon has won the Harlow seat in the 2015 General Election. Halfon was also MP for Harlow from 2010.

halfon

Other candidates were:
– Dave Brown (TUSC)
– Eddy Butler (English Democrats)
– Murray Sackwild (Greens)
– Geoff Seeff (Lib Dems)
– Sam Stopplecamp (UKIP)
– Suzy Stride (Labour)

The turnout was 65.27% which is 0.17% more than in 2010 when there was a turnout of 65.1%.

Robert Halfon’s majority this election is almost double to that of 2010 where he won with a majority of 4,925. This year his majority was 8,350 with 48.86% of the votes.

In 2010 the Labour candidate, Bill Rammell, achieved 33.7% of the votes. This year Suzy Stride managed 29.9%.

Full list of the votes
– TUSC: 174 votes
– Conservatives: 21,623 votes
– English Democrats: 115 votes
– Greens: 954 votes
– Lib Dems: 904 votes
– UKIP: 7,208 votes
– Labour: 13,273 votes

During the post-count speeches, candidates expressed their thoughts on the result – excluding of course the TUSC candidate, Dave Brown, and the English Democrat candidate, Eddy Butler, who didn’t show up for the count.

Robert Halfon (Conservatives) said: “I will do my utmost to make sure the Conservatives are the party of the workers this term.”

With much gusto, Suzy Stride (Labour) said: “I have loved being a Labour party candidate here in Harlow. We are the party of social justice. We will keep fighting and walk with our heads held high.”

Geoff Seeff, (Lib Debs) who seemed to be avoiding the microphone at all costs, said: “I am proud of the role my party played in this government.”

Murray Sackwild (Greens) expressed words that many Labour voters were thinking: “We will keep on pushing. We will be watching your voting record Robert Halfon.”

murray

Rental prices in Harlow Town Centre.

Robert Dyas will be closing their store at the Harvey Centre Approach on Friday 1 May.

IMG_5204

Harlow Town Centre appears to be something of a ghost town these days, with at least 7 stores up for rent and many more closed.

The following are annual rental prices for various empty stores around the town centre:

Robert Dyas – £85,000 PA
Phones 4 U – £50,000 PA
Marks & Spencer – £295,000 PA
6 Broad Walk – £42,580 PA
8 Broad Walk – £27,000 PA
12 Broad Walk – £43,000 PA
21 East Gate £20,000 PA

Affordable? Comments please…

What do Harlow candidates think about euthanasia?

MPs

Euthanasia has long been a heavily debated taboo topic, but how often do we hear what our local politicians think of the subject?

In the first political hustings debate Conservative candidate Robert Halfon, who is standing for a second term, said: “I believe that we are making very dangerous moves in our country towards legalised suicide and I am passionately against it. If there is one thing that would ever make me want to leave this country it is if we introduced euthanasia.”

In light of this, I thought it best to get a response from each of the seven candidates running for Harlow in the General Election.

The term euthanasia can be taken two ways. The first being assisted suicide, the second being to terminate the life of another. In this instance I will be referring to assisted suicide.

Murray Sackwild – Green: “In my opinion it’s a personal choice. If one makes a considered judgement that one’s quality of life is so poor and there is no chance of improvement, as long as one is not pressured by relatives, I believe that the state should not block a person from terminating their own existence and should offer facilities to support this.”

Eddy Butler – English Democrats: “I would not leave the country if euthanasia were legalised. I think this is not so much about suicide as assisted suicide. I am in two minds about assisted suicide. If legalised it could be open to abuse. But one can see compassionate grounds to sanction it also.”

Geoff Seeff – Lib Dems: If a person is fully compos mentis has made a properly validated living will that his or her life should be terminated in certain specific circumstances in order that they die with dignity, that would meet my criteria for freedom to choose. We have all seen relatives and friends suffer over an extended terminal illness and it is not what I would want for myself.”

Dave Brown – TUSC: “TUSC is a left wing alliance and there is no one ‘Party line’ on ethical issues such as euthanasia. In Government we would therefore submit to the majority after seeking their opinions. I believe that the best people to consult and respect in this area would be the individual suffering, their family and medical professionals.”

Suzy Stride – Labour: “I do not believe a bill has been before parliament that has provided re-assurance against the considerable risks involved with passing legislation that would legalise euthanasia. We have to be very careful that we do not end up with a situation where vulnerable people such as the elderly think that they are becoming a burden to their loved ones or to society and feel a form of pressure into euthanasia.”

Harlow UKIP spokesperson: “UKIP’s core principle is personal liberty and therefore this would be thought of as a conscience issue and not something that could be imposed by the party on it’s members. Any changes in the law in this area would have to be on a free vote or a referendum”

Robert Halfon clarified his stance by referring to a Commons debate in March 2012, when he said: “My worry is that whatever the intention of some, this [assisted suicide] will ratchet towards euthanasia. I feel that we need to move the focus of the discussion away from assisted dying and towards quality of life.”

Euthanasia is now legal in several countries: Netherlands, five US States, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. France also allows doctors to decide to “limit or stop any treatment that is not useful or has no other object than to artificially prolong life.”

All seven candidates standing for Harlow in the General Election have given their thoughts on this complex and often difficult issue. How will you vote now?

Harlow Elections 2015 – Who is running?

You will all know by now, hopefully, that the General Election 2015 falls on Thursday 7 May. Harlow has been classed by UK Polling Report as a “semi-marginal seat” – currently represented by Conservative MP Robert Halfon.

Here are a list of the SEVEN candidates for Harlow in the General Election next month, in alphabetical order…

Dave Brown: Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Dave
Dave says:
I am 54 and was born and raised in Harlow but now live in Epping. I have always worked in youth and community services, have also been a gardener and am currently working with adults with autism.
TUSC has been in existence since 2010, we are a coalition of workers, anti cuts campaigners, trade union members and Socialists who stand candidates in County council and Parliamentary elections.
I believe that it is time that ordinary people are listened to and that our needs take priority over rampant greed. Our coalition stands for: Nationalise the railway, public services and utilities – Scrap the bedroom tax – £10 hour living wage now – Public ownership of banks – NHS not for profit – Protect our environment – Protect the welfare state – No to Trident – Build council housing – Free education from nursery to university.

Pros:
– Can’t fault those policies
– Born and raised in the area
Cons:
– Where’s all that money going to come from?   Eddy Butler: English Democrats
Eddy
Eddy Says:
I work as a researcher and have lived in Loughton for about ten years.
The main difference about the EDs is that we support the creation of an English Parliament. Otherwise quite similar to UKIP.
I would oppose moves to build more houses and make Harlow bigger – as I oppose building on the Green belt and making conditions overcrowded with too much pressure on infrastructure. I support innovation and extra emphasis placed on research and development.
As MP I would speak out on these issues – and warn of the creeping danger of Islamic extremism.
I would start by speaking our without fear of party whips and be an independent voice for Harlow. If elected everyone would hear about Harlow the next day.

Pros:
– Seems to be fearless when it comes to whips
– Not afraid to say to what he thinks
Cons:
– Says they are similar to UKIP
– Was also a member of BNP and National Front
– Likes to blame things on immigrants

Murray Sackwild: Green Party
Murray
Murray Says:
I’m 55 and have lived nearby in Ware and Hertford for for 14 years.
I worked at Mark Hall for 13 years and am currently Supply Teaching, mostly at Passmores Academy. I’ve also been General Secretary of Harlow and Epping Forest NUT for 8 years.
The issues Harlow faces are: Real jobs, real pay, support for PAH, local accountability of local schools, pressured small businesses, cost of local transport and protecting Harlow’s green spaces.
Green policies are an alternative policy to other parties who promote the same neoliberal pro-austerity agenda.
I would vote according to the wishes/needs of the people of Harlow – rather than being made to vote according to party whips and start with the promotion of Harlow. Build on Robert Halfon’s work here – but without all the nasty Tory stuff.

Pros:
– Seems to have genuine good intentions for Harlow
– Works with NUT
Cons:
– Doesn’t live in Harlow

Geoff Seeff: Liberal Democrats
Geoff
Geoff Says:
I’m 67, live in Woodford, and work as a chartered accountant and management accountant. I have stood in several elections since 1982.
I think the Lib Dems are expected to do much better than the recent polls would indicate and I would like to see a renewal of the coalition government. I don’t think the Lib Dems will take power by themselves.
Harlow citizens deserve a choice and my colleagues in the local party feel that my experience offers something better.
Clearly the A&E department at the Princess Alexandra Hospital is facing problems but I would be pressing for the use of additional NHS funding to be directed towards preventative programmes that keep people out of hospital.
I know 9, mostly primary, schools in Harlow have access to a counselling service but I would like every school to have access to an in house counselling team.
To start with as MP I would get to know the organisations active in the constituency better.

Pros:
-Clearly been involved in politics for decades

Cons:
– His connection to Harlow is: “All Essex and East of England Liberal Democrats share information”
– Doesn’t believe his own party is capable of winning the election independently

Robert Halfon: Conservatives
Rob
Rob Says:
Over the last five years I have run a number of high-profile campaigns, including Petrol Promise, which called on Government to lower fuel duty and cut petrol and diesel costs.
I work hard within the community, supporting local charities and businesses, and have held regular MP Advice Surgeries to help residents.
Whenever we have faced problems in our town, whether it be illegal encampments or the possible closure of our respite centres, I have stood up against the authorities.

Pros:
– Lives in Harlow
– Lowered fuel duty

Cons:
– Has an appalling voting record, including voting against equal marriage and raising the min. wage
– Openly opposes euthanasia

Sam Stopplecamp: UKIP
Sam
Sam says: 
I am 42 and have lived in Harlow for 6 years and run a local community transport scheme.
I have been a member of UKIP for 3 years and we are different from other parties because we have common sense. I am standing to give the people of Harlow a true choice.
Harlow faces issues like: growth, good jobs and cost of the government.
As MP for Harlow I would bring stability and security for the future and start with an EU referendum.

Pros: 
– Lives in Harlow
Cons:
– Not much to say for himself
– Missed out a few prominent issues that Harlow faces

Suzy Stride: Labour

Suzy

Suzy says: I’m 33 and like most of the candidates I wasn’t born here, I grew up in the East End and now live in Old Harlow.
I work for a charity that works with unemployed young people, upskilling them and helping them find work.
I campaigned for Labour in the 1997 elections, I was 15 at that point, I formally joined the party in my late teens.
Labour is the only party that can deliver social justice and build a better country for working people.
If elected as MP I’d put all my energy into fighting for a better deal for Harlow. I’d push forward the projects we really need for the future; regeneration of the town centre, investment in the NHS and schools, an extra junction for the M11 and improvements to the local bus system. I’d bring something different to the role.
One of my first acts would be to vote through measures to increase the numbers of doctors and nurses in our local NHS, I’d also scrap the bedroom tax and increase access to GPs in Harlow. I would start in earnest to provide more facilities for young people and I’d work with Harlow Council on plans to regenerate the town.

Pros:
– Lives locally in Old Harlow
– Works with young people
– Identifies and prioritises genuine local concerns
Cons:
– Has a really stroppy Labour party councillor from St Albans replying to her emails
– Seems to be quite hard to get hold of

To watch the hustings in Harlow with all seven candidates, see the YourHarlow footage here.

REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde by Sell a Door Theatre Company

IMG_4575Jekyll and Hyde, the play, is described by Sell a Door theatre company as a reinterpreted modern adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s cult classic novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The adaption is written by Jo Clifford, formerly John Clifford, who is a performer, teacher and well-respected playwright of around 80 plays.

Traditionally Jekyll and Hyde tells the story of one man split in two – respectable Dr. Jekyll transformed into the inexplicably cruel Mr. Hyde. This modern adaption is no different.

Dr. Jekyll is a high-profile cancer specialist close to a major breakthrough, with primal urges that he tries to fight. During his research, Jekyll creates an unintentional strain of a drug that has the capability to alter his personality and appearance, turning him into the abhorrent Mr. Hyde as he experiments on himself.

The play uses only 3 actors and an overused revolving stage that they turn themselves. The stage is dimly lit and eerily misty from the moment we take our seats.

Perhaps the most shocking element of the play is the vivid descriptions from Mr. Hyde, who loves to “hear the crunching of bones” as he stamps on his victims – men, women and children.

Nathan Ives-Moiba is an actor-come-contortionist, transforming himself from Jekyll to Hyde rather brilliantly by using his well-sculpted body as the most powerful prop – hunching, twisting and manipulating his way through some gruelling acts as Hyde. So much so that the steampunk accessories were out of place and unnecessary, much like the constant undressing and re-dressing.

Understated and smooth actor Lyle Barke, plays London lawyer and Jekyll’s long-suffering friend, Utterson. Though I found his relationship with Jekyll was annoyingly ambiguous.

Rowena Lennon is convincing and brilliant as Dr. Lanyon and Jekyll’s servant, though somewhat stretched in a multitude of other roles. As a servant she plays a victim of abuse, which Jekyll loves as it “keeps their esteem low”.

Jekyll’s desires are ultimately always the same as Hyde’s. The only thing that Jekyll wants is to distinguish between the two and split his conscience so that he can revel in evil without guilt. Much like Freud’s description of the human psyche – can the ego keep both the id and the superego in a state of equilibrium?

I won’t spoil the ending, but I think it’s safe to say that question is answered.

Jekyll and Hyde is coming to the end of the tour now, with the last performance on 27 March. For more info and tickets click here.

Bus driver polices roads of Harlow with a bike and camera

DaveS3A cyclist in Harlow has been recording footage of dangerous driving via a camera attached to his helmet, which is now used as police evidence.

Dave Sherry, from Katherines in Harlow, uses a camera that is attached to his bike and helmet on a daily basis to go to and from London, where he works as a bus driver.

This all began when Dave was hit by a car whilst out cycling. He said: “After a car hit my back wheel the police told me it was his word against mine so I decided to protect myself.”

To keep himself safe, Dave uses a Garmin GPS to log times, dates and locations of incidents, a truck horn and a personalised hi-viz. His bike is a Mekk 2G Carbon Fibre Racer/Rockhopper mountain bike.

The London bus driver said: “My family are fully supportive of me. They do worry, but no more than if I didn’t have the cameras.”

Dave, who has been cycling for 14 years, collaborates with police forces around the various areas he cycles, by handing over evidence of careless and dangerous driving to them.

One of the ways Dave names and shames dangerous drivers is via his YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/sueperbs.

Dave, 37, said: “The evidence can be and has been used in court. Only last week a woman was sent for a driver awareness course because of one of my videos.

“I believe the police think it is a positive thing and we have even been talking about going out for a cycle together.”

Talking about how other road users react to him, Dave said: “I am regularly in close calls with vehicles, but the most shocking time was when a van hit me and the driver got out and attacked me.

“Drivers can help cyclists by being aware of just how much damage their car can do. We all need to be more considerate and observant.”

If a cyclist, or anyone else, has similar evidence, they can report this to the casualty reductions section at Essex police, Roadsafe London at the Met police and http://www.policewitness.com.

REVIEW and Interview: Stonebird by Mike Revell

Stonebird
Stonebird, although aimed at a younger audience, has no age limit. I, at the ripe old age of 24, thoroughly lost myself in this stunning book.

I instantly warmed to Liam, a lonely 11-year-old boy whose grandma is being eaten from the inside out by a demon… dementia.

Despite being surrounded by family – mum, sister Jess and dog Daisy – Liam feels more alone than ever. Put into a new school with no friends, whilst it always seems to be wine o’clock for mum, Liam is struggling to come to terms with his new life and his grandma’s demon.

But when Liam finds his grandma’s diary, it soon becomes apparent that she has a magical, mysterious past and a protector in the form of Stonebird, a gargoyle.

Stonebird has protected Liam’s grandma since she was a girl, following her from Paris to Swanbury through the War. Now he has appeared in Liam’s life, but Stonebird cannot simply be controlled. Gargoyles are both wonderful and dangerous creatures.

As Liam struggles to keep a hold of things – Grandma’s demon, mum’s drinking, Jess’ moods, Matt the bully – Stonebird will change his life in ways that Liam can’t predict.

This novel is nothing short of magical and had me in tears – several times.

A must-read for both children and adults. Especially poignant for those affected by the heartbreaking conditions Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Keep an eye out for Mike Revell’s second book – with a little bit of real life and a little bit of magic!

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF STONEBIRD, MIKE REVELL

Mike Revell
Mike Revell grew up in a village in Essex, close to Saffron Walden. He studied creative writing at the University of Essex then studied journalism at Harlow College.
Mike now lives in South Wales and, when not writing, he reports on the NFL for The Mirror newspaper.

What do you miss most about Essex?
Essex has played a big part in different stages of my life, and I miss it for different reasons.
I grew up around Saffron Walden and miss all the countryside around there.
I studied at the University of Essex and miss having so many friends close by, because a lot of the time it felt like having one giant holiday in Colchester!
I miss the train into Harlow, which always gave me chance to read, and seeing the friends I made at Harlow College every day.

What made you go from journalism to publishing your own book?
I’ve always wanted to be an author, so even while I was studying journalism I was scribbling book ideas in my notebook, then writing them up in lunch breaks or on the train or in cafes. Learning the craft of news writing helped my storytelling in a big way, because it’s all about finding the right words and writing concisely.

What are you reading at the moment?
I read a lot of children’s books, both because I like to see what’s out there, and I think the ideas in children’s and young adult fiction are often a lot more exciting than adult books.
I’m reading Phoenix by SF Said at the moment. It’s a rollicking sci-fi space adventure with gorgeous illustrations by Dave McKean.

Who, or what, gives you inspiration?
I find inspiration in so many places! Sometimes by reading other authors or watching movies, and other times just by going for a walk.
Seeing the world, the rolling hills on the horizon, the swoosh of passing cars, the rustle of trees can all spark ideas and send my mind wandering.
There’s a fantastic quote by Roald Dahl, where he says: “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”

You say you wanted to write about the importance of memories… what’s your fondest memory?
One of my favourite memories is from when I was three years old.
It was a good year, that one. I learned to tie my shoes and do up a tie. I collected all of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, but best of all I learned how to ride my bike without stabilizers. I remember setting off down a hill with grubby knees and scuffed-up palms, and the thrill of realising I wasn’t just balancing… I was riding! I still remember how excited I was, bursting back into the house to tell my parents.

What did you find most difficult when writing Stonebird?
Probably the dementia scenes, with the grandma in her care home.
They’re all based on real life experiences I lived through with my own grandma.
I knew if I wanted to do the subject justice and treat it with honesty and respect, I would need to focus on the small things. The details of what it was like.

Other than writing, do you have any special talents?

I have double jointed thumbs and can make them dance in quite a sickeningly weird way.
I also love American football and have played it for about eight years, although not very much recently.

What’s your ultimate guilty pleasure?
The moment Taylor Swift comes on, whether it’s in the kitchen or at cheese night!

If I gave you a million pounds to donate, which charity would it go to and why?
The Alzheimer’s Society, because I’ve seen how horrible it is for people to deal with dementia, and know how it can affect the lives of everyone around it.

Any regrets?
I often wonder if I would change anything growing up, but then you never know how it might have affected the future.
Right now, I’m living my dream. I wouldn’t want to change anything about that.

Will there be a sequel? 
No sequel – but I’m busy working on a second book at the moment.
I can’t say much about it at, but it’s similar to Stonebird in that it’s got a little bit of real life and a little bit of magic!