Dirty tricks, no nicks and standards

Marina on an electoral roll and thinking back to those Playboy days

Dear Marina

If one more person calls me to report a pothole, pledge a donation or join something called “the revolution” I’m throwing my phone out the window.

I keep telling them I’ve never heard of you and to f**k off. It was my son who spotted the same name on some leaflet people keep shoving through my door. What’s going on?

Disengaged, East Saltdean, near Brighton

Thank you for getting in touch. Given the number of Focus leaflets delivered through your letter box, it does concern me you’ve never heard of Marina Pepper.

I am one of your local Liberal Democrat councillors standing for re-election on 3rd May for East Saltdean and Telscombe Ward. That’s where you live.

Regarding the phone problem, there are three possibilities. Either we have a simple crossed wire, clever seagulls or somebody enjoys a prank.

Allegations of tampering are currently under investigation so I’d best not elaborate. But suffice to say it has not been lost on my crew that your disarming phone manner will have played an interesting curve ball to the electorate this week.

All calls are now redirected to my mobile until further notice at no extra charge to the caller. And please, in the spirit of sisterhood, register to vote. I notice you are not on the electoral roll. You have until 5.00pm on Wednesday 18th April.

Dear Marina,

Anna Nicole Smith was 39 years old when she died. You are 39 now. Given you're her age and with first-hand experience being in Playboy I thought you might be able to answer a question that's been plaguing me: Who's her baby's daddy?
So far three men are up for the task (or the fortune) of parenting six-month Dannilynn: Howard K. Stern, owner of the sizzling business, Hot Smoochie Lips, Inc., Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, who is already married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and her former Australian bodyguard, Alexander Denk.
So, please, draw your bunny ears and contemplate which man you are hoping will come out as the victor following DNA tests.

Love H from the US

Playboy Centrefolds don’t wear ears – that’s Playboy Bunnies. They are croupiers and waitresses. We are ….I don’t know what we are……fine specimens of womankind I assume. Anyway, we wear – well, not much at all really. Although I do now, since that is what is expected of proper upstanding members of the community. But not underwear. It’s too warm these days.

Now we’ve cleared that one up, to your question. Who’s the daddy? Who cares? If a bunch of girl men want to carry on like a harem of cash crazed Texan gold diggers in some twisted narrative Hollywood inversion of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, I’m not going to waste time worrying. I have a mountain of Focus leaflets to deliver and a Tory party machine to beat by 3rd May

I wonder if any of the men in question would like to make a donation. They can contact me by clicking here.

Dear Marina

You were recently reported to the Standards Board for England over allegations of your conduct following planning permission being granted for a waste incinerator in Newhaven. Apparently you said opponents to the scheme had “followed the due process and now is the time for direct action.” I understand the complainant interpreted this to mean “a call for civil unrest outside the law.”

What should we expect Councillor Pepper? Riots or a resignation?
RG, Sussex

As the Standards Board has ruled – and I agree – “direct action” can include a multitude of lawful activities. Such as home composting, shopping wisely, leaving excess packaging at supermarkets, re-using, recycling, even demonstrating outside parliament: if you fill out a form and don’t tread on the flowerbeds.

Having said that, a number of great people and movements in history have broken the law to ensure better laws. To name a few: the Suffragettes, Tom Paine, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Ghandi.

If the people of Newhaven and the surrounding area want to change government waste policies and feel their only option – now Ruth Kelly has refused to call in the incinerator planning decision – is to take to the streets and chain themselves to the swing bridge in the centre of town, I can neither condemn nor condone their behaviour. I will however fully understand their sense of frustration.

Gotta go. Did you know I’m standing for election on 3rd May in the ward of East Saltdean and Telscombe? It’s a two horse race between Liberal Democrats and the Incinerator-hugging Tories. If you want to send a donation contact

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
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Conservative disunity is not all good news for Labour

The Tory leadership election could squeeze Labour out of the conversation, just like Blair and Brown did to the Tories.

The first test of opposition politics is relevance. Other key yardsticks - political plausibility, economic credibility, setting the agenda and developing a governing vision - all matter greatly. But making yourself a central part of the relentless cycle of daily politics, the terms of which are generally set by the governing party, is the first hurdle. It matters not whether you sign up to new politics or old: be relevant or wither. 

The issue of relevance is becoming a pressing issue for Labour. Take George Osborne’s favoured issue of the so-called national living wage.  Leave to one side the rights, wrongs and nuances of the policy and just consider the basic political dynamic it creates.  Osborne has, quite deliberately, set up a rolling five year argument over a steadily rising wage floor. On one side, is the Chancellor arguing that his policy is the right thing for Britain’s ranks of low paid workers. Pitted against him are ranks of chief executives of low-paying big business. With each impending hike they will holler at Osborne to go no further and the media will happily amplify the row. In response the Chancellor will quietly smile.

Sure, on occasions this will be uncomfortable stance for Mr Osborne (and if the economy takes a downward turn then his pledge will become incredible; there are always big risks with bold strokes).  Yet the dominant argument between the Conservatives and big business leaves Labour largely voiceless on an issue which for generations it has viewed as its own.

We may well see a similar dynamic in relation to the new national infrastructure commission – another idea that Osborne has plundered form Labour’s 2015 manifesto. It’s far too early to say what will come of its work looking at proposals for major new transport and energy projects (though those asserting it will just be a talking shop would do well not to under-estimate Andrew Adonis, its first Chair). But there is one thing we can already be confident about: the waves of argument it will generate between Osborne’s activist commissioners and various voices of conservatism. Every big infrastructure proposal will have noisy opponents, many residing on the right of British politics. On the issue of the future of the nation’s infrastructure – another touchstone theme for Labour – the opposition may struggle to get heard amid the din.

Or take the different and, for the government, highly exposing issue of cuts to tax credits. Here the emerging shape of the debate is between Osborne on one side and the Sun, Boris Johnson, various independent minded Conservative voices and economic think-tanks on the other. Labour will, of course, repeatedly and passionately condemn these cuts. But so have plenty of others and, for now at least, they are more colourful or credible (or both).  

The risk for the opposition is that a new rhythm of politics is established. Where the ideological undercurrent of the government steers it too far right, other voices not least those within the Conservative family - moderates and free-spirits emboldened by Labour’s current weakness; those with an eye on the forthcoming Tory leadership contest – get reported.  Where Osborne consciously decides to tack to the centre, the resulting rows will be between him and the generally Conservative supporting interests he upsets. Meanwhile, Labour is left struggling for air.

None of which is to say there are no paths back to relevance. There are all sorts of charges against the current government that, on the right issues, could be deployed - incompetence, complacency, inequity – by an effective opposition.  Nor is the elixir of relevance for a new opposition hard to divine: a distinct but plausible critique, forensic and timely research, and a credible and clear voice to deliver the message. But as yet we haven’t heard much of it.

Even in the best of times being in opposition is an enervating existence. Those out of power rarely get to set the terms of trade, even if they often like to tell themselves they can. Under Ed Miliband Labour had to strain – sometimes taking big risks - to establish its relevance in a novel era defined by the shifting dynamics of coalition politics. This time around Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is up against a Chancellor willing to take risks and pick big fights: often with traditional Tory foes such as welfare claimants; but sometimes with people on his own side.  It’s also a new and challenging context. And one which Labour urgently needs to come to terms with.   

Gavin Kelly is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation