Friday, 25 February 2011

Gillingham station to get a remodel

I was pleased to see in "The Medway paper" that the Railway station at Gillingham is getting a hefty sum spent on rejuvenation.
This is fantastic news as he station is in dire need of redevelopment. Apart from the leaking roof which allowed water to flow through the electric lights -Shocking- grimy platforms and waiting area with east germanesq toilets on platform 1 and 2.

I also agree that it creates a very poor first impression of Gillingham and I have indeed experienced first hand reactions of first time visitors. One of my friends came to watch her team, Lincoln City FC play at the Priestfield megadome.

"My word this is... Nice."

She had also become lost, having alighted before I had arrived, and was making her way down the platform to the newest building presuming that was the way rather than the dated and dilapidated stair way.

I had the pleasure of using the Medium station of the year (2004?), Winchester, and the station was clean, well laid out with helpful staff. Gillingham by contrast looks tired and dated - almost untouched since the 1970s, scruffy and dirty.  Don't get me wrong the ticket office was remodelled during the 90's and does look shiny and new with an open front hall but by then you've already formulated your opinion of Gillingham or your on your way out!

It will certainly not mean that Southeastern services will run better, that staff will miraculously be more helpful or informed by their superiors but it may make us feel better about the grim platforms and pigeon infested roofing and more importantly be a more welcoming starting point for visitors to our fair town.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The response from Mr Chisthi MP to my email about Southeastern

(Dated 7-2-11 copied word for word)

Dear Mr Sams

Thank you for your recent email expresing your concern with Southeastern Railway services. The issue you raise is of great concern to many of my constituents, with delayed services and rising fares causing particular unrest.

I have noted your particular concerns about the recently 12% rise in the cost of ticket prices and the figures demonstrating that they are meeting the 81% punctuality target. I have forwarded a copy of your email to Theresa Villiers MP, Minister for Transport, asking her to respond to the points you have raised with me on this specific issue together with your comments regarding customer service.

I am in regular contact with Southeastern and I will bear in mind your comments when I next meet with representitives from the company. I also make regular visits to both Gillingham and Rainham stations during the morning peak times; dates for my next visits will be announced soon and I do hope you will come and speak to me if you are at one of the stations during these visits.

I will write to you again when I have received a response from Ms Villiers.

Yours sincerely

Rehman Chisthi MP

( I'm more than happy with this response and I will post any further communicationm, especially any response from Ms Villiers!)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

An interpretation of the 2015 election

 It as been said that I watch too many movies and think in Movie terms and scenarios rather than come up with my own. This may be true.

That said I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean III the other day and my mind wandered into a giant metaphor for the Liberal Democrats and the 2015 election which if you bear with me I will illuminate.
The sun is high in the blue sky, it's rays warming the sea and air and glinting on the brass gilding on Lieutenant Commander Cable's telescope as he surveys the action from the quarter-deck of the Endeavour. In the distance he could see the Tory vessel sailing across their position.
"What are they doing?" he asked
Admiral Nick Clegg looked up from the charts and a smug smile played across his face. "He expects us to honour our agreement. It's nothing personal Dave it's just good politics."

Down on the gun decks Liberal activists were arming the cannons with election pledges and completed tasks carried out by the coalition to success. They were buoyant with their experience in government, the promises they had kept and the difference they had made. With the defeat of Labour there only lay the olde enemy, the forces of conservatism were all that lay between them and governance. Now they were the party of the people, the party for real change and here to take back their former glory now the Labour usurper vessel had been sent to the depths under the Coalition's cannons. Now he would turn on Cameron and the Liberal warship could pass onto Westminster cove unopposed and form a government.
Clegg gave the signal and the great yellow panelled warship turned towards the last barrier, the wind filling the sails and the golden banner fluttering overhead the dove pointing the way forward as he strode to overlook the decks below his heart filled with confidence.

Ahead to starboard there was a rush of water and the Labour vessel broke the surface in a flurry of surf, it's battle damaged hull seemed to be self repairing and its' own sails billowing as it gained speed. On the deck the Labour activists and MP's were slowly losing the lesions and calluses of New Labour, they  were being washed away to reveal something more pure and Labour in its original form. Captain Milliband, the new captain stood firmly at the wheel. "Arm the guns." he said in a soft but firm voice that sent up a cheer amongst the men.

"Ah she survived." Clegg smiled. This was almost better than facing the Tories on their own! The old ideological enemies would again be busy trying to out shoot each other that he could guide Endeavour past them and into the cove taking ground from each party and offering change, the change people wanted and that he promised. The smile intensified as the two competing vessels headed towards each other. This was going to be the easy victory he wanted.

The smile quickly faded as both vessels wheeled about and set a parallel course straight towards Endeavour.

"Orders Nick..." He could hear the panic in Cable's voice.

Something was seriously wrong, why were the two vessels working together? Why were they both coming towards them? His hand began to shake and he quickly gripped the handrail and gulped hard watching the party members and activists arming and preparing. He wondered how many still fully believed in the cause, in the party or even him. So many questions, so many doubts but he tried to look strong for the crew. But what should they do?

Across the waves the word "Fire" echoed as the Labour and Tory vessels drew level with Endeavour, then the roar of cannon filled the air and the crashing and splintering of wood. With each impact there seemed to be a voice resonating from the heavens.









All the while Liberal crewmen stood stoically by their guns, some being swept away as cannon shots impacted with them, their screams filling his ears as they slowly succumbed to the critics and failings of the party.

"Nick what do you command?!" Lieutenants Alexander and Huhne ran up the steps from the gun deck, their eyes full of terror as the Liberal dream began to be shattered by the stiff examination and the prowess of the other parties.
Nick looked on, his confidence shattered as the party was blasted apart. "It's just... good politics." he muttered

Alexander and Cable quickly exchanged glances and agreed quickly on a course of action. "Abandon ship!" The call spread quickly and with relief many Liberals jumped from the burning shattered decks. Many were glad to be jumping and free, many not supporting what the party had become, others not supporting the policies or the choices that the Admiral had made. A few stuck to their guns and awaited the order to fire, one independently was returning fire, it's voice clear but lost amongst the din.




But it was a lost cause, the vessel and the election was lost. All around him the Liberal dream, the vessel laid down by Thorpe and Steel, commanded so ably by Ashdown and Kennedy was coming apart under his command, burnt and shattered by a fullisade of broken promises and ridiculing the parties aims. The Admiral paced to the top of the steps and slowly step by step came down towards the gun deck. Behind him another fullisade struck each stair moments after each foot was raised from it turning it into a cloud of ruptured splinters..
With each strike he could hear the voice again.




He came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs, the deck was torn asunder by all the damage and the Tory and Labour shells. Liberal members were sparse, most having abandoned ship others laid shattered and exhausted upon the deck, their cause lost under the Admiral's command and leadership. He snapped to attention and as the final volley struck the ship from both sides and ignited the power supply engulfing the decks with fire. The explosion ripped Endeavour into splinters. The Liberal flag fluttered from it's torn mast and landed across a corpse filled sea, the party and its vessel slowly sank beneath the waves and the black murky depths of political memory.

This may seem a fancible fiction of what may happen, in fact I doubt that it ever will happen as elections are no longer decided at sea. The point I was trying to, and hope I have made, is that I truly hope that the someone in Cowley Street is working on the 2015 manifesto or election pledges already, after all it's only 4 and half years. Already signs of targeting a new demographic has been cited by the Liberal leadership. Clegg's call to acknowledge "Alarm clock Britain" has already showed a move away from student groups and some of the other minority interest groups that makes up the party's grass roots. It seems that they are trying to remember what the party had originally stood for and trying to retake its place as the party that cares and understands the workers of this country against the landed gentry of the Conservative party and the union dominated Labour party. Whether this move will pay off only time will tell and this commentator will be watching closely!
We are also being slowly bombarded by Liberal achievements in power. The removal of ID cards, removal of child detention, reviews of control orders, pupil premium etc... the party are eager to show off what they have achieved, or rather what they have been allowed to achieve. We need to be careful of the Conservatives for 2015... When it comes to a leadership debate Nick and Dave are going to have trouble debating past policy and if anything Nick may become guilty of not altering Tory policy enough or for selling out and becoming he dough eyed apologist for the Coalition.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Big Society

                                                                    The Big society

The "Big society", the grey almost corporate named policy that David Cameron bandies around and even Nick Clegg is talking in terms of this umbrella scheme. What is the Big society though?

From what I can garner and make out the Big Society appears to work as an ideal form of society in which we the people of the country take action to improve their local area and help society without government assistance. People would donate time to volunteer at charities and neighbours in need. Local people taking an active role in their area, taking a role in the running of their area be it city, borough or village. People actually doing something and not waiting for government to do it for us. Mr Cameron is encouraging us to take an active role in the running of our schools, calling the police to account and taking an active role in local councils.

To a degree I agree with the principle of the "Big Society". The British people have become lax and disinterested in politics and their local areas. People are too quick to complain about the government and the council not providing the services that they want but unwilling to take positive action to make these steps. People look to the state to solve all of their problems and provide answers. We have become so attached to the Nanny state that we can no longer rely on the state, its time that we are weaned and accept responsibility for our country. Through history the people have wanted more of a role in ruling their country, getting power and here it is. This is the ultimate expression of what I thought Localism is all about and it is something that deserves serious thought. After all who knows what the people of Medway want or need better than the people of Medway? It is common nature for people to complain about things and the actions and plans of government, local and national but very few people take an active role in it, which I think is negligent. People should take more of a role in an ideal world, we should be telling our local authorities what we think and what they should be spending our money on and how they administer our area.

So will it work? I would like to say that it would but I fear that society has become so addicted to the Nanny state and things have changed since 1940. Society seems to have become more and more insular and we close our front doors to keep out people, we view people with suspicion first. When my Grandfather grew up in the twenties and even when my father grew up in the fifties society was a lot more open, they knew their neighbours and shop keepers and could readily communicate. I can honestly say that I know only four people in my street by name and don’t even know the name of my next door neighbour. In my last house I didn’t even know that many! I’m sure, as well that the majority of people won’t want to change that. On top of that people travel a lot further to work now, more and more people commute and work long hours and do not have the time or inclination to give up their free time for projects. I know in my own life I work for approximately 45 hours a week with a further four hours a day travelling by train, my free time is taken up working on the house and more importantly spending time with my wife and daughter. I can’t even find time to take part in projects that I want to let alone other community based ones. Also I think that people have become addicted to the idea of the state providing everything they want. People want the state to have answers for them, we pay taxes for services and they don’t want to then run it. After all you don’t go into MacDonald’s, order a Cheeseburger and then go into the kitchen and help organise the making of it! Society has become complacent and insular with the creation for the welfare state and no longer want to work together.

Finally no discourse on government strategy can be complete without a brief mention of the cuts. Every policy is hurt by them and the scale of the money that needs to be saved. Now it is easy to throw easy dirt at Labour for contributing to getting us into this situation, as easy as for Ed Miliband to snipe at the Government cuts as well as his minions responding by saying:
"We would never do this…"
I always believe that it is difficult to say for definite what you would do if things were different. Anyway back to the point.
Yes local government have been pushed to the fore to save a money and this is affecting the local services and the councils are taking a lot of stick and protests for cutting services. I think this is right though. I believe that local government should, not only be more self sufficient but also accountable. We should be taking active roles in the councils and protesting, not just complaining after the fact and then blame the national government!

The Big society is an amazing idea and society could take this utopian vision and evolve into something that would set us apart from the rest of the world, a progressive society with people working for the benefit of not just itself but for the individuals as well. It just strikes me that the majority of the populous are not interested or have the time to take part properly and also the vast national debt and governmental cuts is not the best starting point for this move and easily attract sceptics.

But as a closing statement: Come on Britain. Prove me wrong, embrace the responsibility and make this a better country, one we can be proud of.