Sunday, 30 October 2011

"Rolling back the State" Conservatives hoodwink bus users.

I'm sure all of us can agree that we want to be more free from the State. The social contract is that I pay taxes and partake in certain activities to benefit the state such as voting, the census, jury duty, conform to the law and should the worst happen perform national service with conscription. In return the state helps to educate, police, heal etc.

It is about achieving a balance, obviously a state that has no interest in the lives of its citizens is a bad state destined to be overthrown where as a state like Nazi Germany, where the state is ever present and represented in EVERYTHING is also despised and disliked.

Also in these economically tenuous times I can also understand the state withdrawing subsidies from projects and services that are no longer affordable.

HOWEVER...

Local Conservative Councils are withdrawing subsidies from bus transport across the South East areas, especially to school bus routes.

At last weekend's Southeast Liberal Democrat Conference we heard from delegates from the Reading area and also the Sussex areas of local Conservatives "Rolling back the state" and encouraging children to walk to school instead.

According to delegates this is an ill thought out plan for several reasons.

* Parents would have to cut hours at work so that they could walk their child to school.

* In the countryside many lanes lack footpaths at the side, are not wide enough for two way traffic and with a national speed limit in force it is not safe to walk along for adults let alone children.

* The plans are designed around a circular frame so that all those within a certain radius are exempt from subsidised bus transport. This doesn't take into account geography or roads and although some one may live 2 miles from the school they may live 3 -4 miles by road.

* In Urban areas like Medway where it seems similar cuts may be made, there is also danger with busy roads and crime on the doorstep. I know I wouldn't be happy about letting Sophie walk to school on her own.

What will ultimately happen? Parents will drive their kids in to school thus adding to congestion, doing damage to the environment and costing the tax payer even more money.

In Medway many elderly residents also rely on the network of Arriva buses whose routes crisscross the whole of Medway and even offer a better and quicker alternative to getting to Maidstone than Southeastern trains. Many residents use them to get to shopping hubs like Tesco in Chatham, Asda near Horsted, the Pentagon and Chatham high street, and Aldi in Gillingham (where the car park only has an hour stay on it!).
If Medway Conservatives do "Roll back the state" and cut subsidies to Arriva then it will hit the constituents hard.

The other extreme would be that with a lower subsidy the bus companies may up prices thus pricing many off the buses. I already walk most places as it is cheaper but many don't have that luxury. Public transport MUST be affordable to the public otherwise it might as well not be there.

Needless to say that the Conference voted Against such reform and promised, as a party we would oppose it in our area.

We understand how important public transport is for everybody, we also want to role back the state but not to the detriment of the people.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fat Tax II - Take away's to get stealth tax?

There have been discussions about bringing a Fat tax into the UK that would see food of a certain calorie level taxed in an attempt to combat obesity in the UK.

Now a new measure is being suggested and backed by Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch.

In Last week's KM [21-10-11 Medway Messenger article "Takeaway tax touted by MP in fight against Fat" by Alan McGuinness] it was reported that levels of obesity in Medway were such that 30% if adults were obese and more than 20% of children were overweight. Quite a shocking statistic. To fund education into better diet and litter picking generated by takeaways such as Baran's Kebab and Fish bar of Sturdee Avenue or McDonald's (who organise their own litter patrols within a certain radius of the restaurants.) a one off tax will be levied to any new take away before it opens its doors.

It is very interesting, it should be explored. Miss Crouch stated. We have to remember that these people pay business rates.
We are trying to encourage businesses to open but we just have to look at all these different issues and see what the pros and cons are.

Starting up a catering outset is always expensive, ovens, fryers, freezers etc as well as starting stock, menus and opening publicity can near enough bankrupt anyone. Then to have a one off £1000 tax on top of that might cripple someone. As she says these businesses do pay business rates and we are trying to encourage business to grow and for entrepreneurs to start up companies, do we really want to cripple them with more tax?
Companies like Burger King, KFC and McDonald's will be able to absorb the cost without a problem but a smaller business won't be able to.

Other options, currently carried out by Medway Council, include siting such places away from schools where Children can have easier access and temptation. Ones like the Baran's fish bar in Sturdee, situated between four schools, would end up with severe planning problems.

Littering isn't really the responsibility of the companies, it is the individual consumer who then litters. If anything greater education in schools or from parents should combat this and the unhealthy eating. I've seen kids walking past my house and just dropping their fish wrappers in my garden, and adults too. Also what of confectionery companies who also produce such waste, should they also be charged?
Does Subway count as a take away, it's food isn't high calorie but it does produce litter?

I agree with the principle though but it does need more research.

Thankfully for me, Miss Crouch agrees that consumers shouldn't be levelled with such a fee. Though the pro of that is that the consumer who does over eat does pay for their eventual health care the con being someone who indulges occasionally gets hit with it.

In Friday 28th October's KM the following comments were posted by readers:

I don't see how going after the income of takeaway outlets is fair when perhaps the fatties should be targeted themselves - Dr D

I can see his point but...

I don't see what a stealth-tax such as this would achieve. Clearly a poorly thought-out idea. -Jon

Food for thought.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Nigel Farage offers UKIP spot to Reckless and Crouch

Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch
Tucked away in the "Letters to the Editor" section of today's Medway Messenger is a letter from Nigel Farage of UKIP with an interesting offer. It is the same offer that he made to any Conservative MP in last night's Evening Standard.

The letter in the Messenger congratulates Tracey Crouch and Mark Reckless for their stance on Monday and that they put the interests of the country and their constituents first before career and party line. This is indeed backed up by some to the "Webchat" in the next column which I will come too at the end.

Mr Farage also offers a spot for the MPs in UKIP.

By staying in the Conservative party, MPs such as Mr Reckless and Miss Crouch are fighting a losing battle and if they wished to join a party who believes as he does, that the people should decide their own future, he should join the UK Independence Party.

Most of the letter is actually directed at Mark Reckless, no doubt Mr Farage is aware that Miss Crouch's voting record in the House of Commons has been for greater integration with Europe according to the Public Whip. 

Personally I cannot imagine either MP defecting to UKIP. I understand that there is a certain disquiet and even anger at the Europe decision in some quarters of the Conservative party but mass defections seem unlikely, especially from a long standing Conservative Councillor and member like Mark Reckless.

As I mentioned the KM has also printed a couple of comments supporting them both;

Congratulations to both of them for listening to their constituents and not being bullied by the PM and the Whips. For those that say this is not the right time for a referendum, can they please tell us when that time will be. -Trevor

There has also been stiff criticism for Rehman Chishti MP for Rainham and Gillingham for his support of the Government line.

I see Reh Chishti toed the party line again. - Jon

And more importantly by former resident and esteemed fellow Blogger Alan W Collins and Conservative party member.

In politics, your constituents come before your party and you career. I have moved from Medway so will not have a vote in 2015, when Gillingham and Rainham is likely to lose a Tory stronghold and gain a Labour Stronghold. I hope Mr Chishti knows how hard he needs to persuade the constituents he betrayed that it won't happen again if he wants to regain the trust.
Strong words. Personally Mr Chishti voted the way I would have wanted him to, siting that it is better to concentrate on Home issues first and a referendum later but I also know that the "Out" and anti EU voices are louder with strong passion. I respect their opinion and more importantly respect Miss Crouch and Mr Reckless for their bravery in defying the Government and representing their constituents. It was a tough call, one I don't think I could make.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

EU Referendum debate and fall out.

Despite a record Conservative rebellion of over 80 MPs (twice the amount as rebelled against John Major) the Government won with 483 vs 111.

When I left the debate yesterday at 10pm I was deeply concerned by the way it was looking. As a Europhille (cue booing and hissing) I knew that should a referendum happen then the chances of a an "out" vote being returned was exceptionally high. Unlike the AV referendum I had no illusions that the "out" vote was much more vocal but like a loyal foot soldier I would have wearily manned the Yorktown-esq redoubts against the odds and fort until consumed by the insurmountable odds and the smoke cleared.

I should make it clear that it is not that I don't think the British people should have a say. On the contrary I think a referendum should happen but not at the current moment in time.
The Economic crisis that has gripped, not just this nation but the whole world requires all of the EU member states to be involved and Britain is a major power and should be involved.
Also, in this country, the people's number one priority is not Europe. It's jobs, its paying the bills, keeping public services not blowing X million pounds on a referendum. Yes people feel passionately about Europe but the majority of people have it as a lower priority at this time.

However I should also stress that whatever the outcome I would have supported it and not complained. After all that is what Democracy is for; the rule of the majority. If I was in the minority, like the AV campaign, I would accept it, notch it up to experience and carry on.

Europe and Euro scepticism has always been an obsession within the Conservative party and it is a personal demon that they need to reconcile but within the confines of their party. They need to come up with a party line rather than carrying it out internal debate within Parliament. A year ago Peter Bone raised the question of a referendum in PMQs and segments of the party have been harping on about it since then. I know the issue isn't dead, nor should it be.
This is a debate that needs to be had in parliament and taken to the people but in the future rather than now. If anything the government should be concentrating on sorting out the economic mess we're in first before worrying about this ideological crisis. Strangely though I do respect the MPs who brought this to debate and also who had the courage and conviction to stand up to the three teir whips and Government pressure, it is a sight rarely seen so even though I think your cause was mistimed your conduct is exemplery.

As Nick Bowls said last night. We have one shot at making this work, one "Referendum" card to play at the negotiations table when hashing out a new deal. If we shoot our bolt too early then it will fail.
Europe is a grand project, and if it can be reformed, if it can be worked out then the benefits will be there for all. Work is being done to combat environmental problems, crime, terrorism... do we throw it all away?

I think what is needed is a calmer time, before 2015, when both sides can put across their side of the debate calmly and collectively without fear of the press or different groups spreading fear and hyperbole and then the referendum.

Monday, 24 October 2011

European debate - Another thing.

As Parliament prepares to debate Europe I offer up a couple more thoughts to my other post.

* Europe is not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination and needs serious reform. There are concerns over how it runs, the powers it has and how it conducts its business but the solution isn't in a bail out which is ultimately what will probably occur if a referendum is to happen.

If you needed complicated leg surgery so that you could walk would you not do it or would you lop the leg clean off and live without?
It sounds an extreme metaphor but it is true.

Europe provides the opportunity to work together on many matters that effect all of the member states. International crime, human trafficking, trade agreements, economy, the environment. All of these things need a continent consensus.

Before the European Union each state would carry on independently and states such as Germany, France, even the UK would seek to assert themselves over smaller states or influence them, but in the EU all of the states are equal in rights. Germany's plans for the Euro recovery were to be stalled by the Slovakian parliament!!! Had that happened 80 years ago then "Gun boat diplomacy" or sabre rattling would occur now there is debate amongst equals.

Together we are stronger and more democratic. Yes, the system needs change but we can be part of the solution rather than the problem.

President Sarkosy has been quoted as telling David Cameron off for criticising the Euro and advancing Britain's interests;

"We're sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro, you didn't want to join and now you want to interfere in our meetings."

He has a point. If we bail out of the European Union they don't have to deal with us at all, they can negotiate trade agreements and decide Continent wide issues without consulting the UK and we could get some seriously bum deals! Surely it is better to be a part of the situation?

* The timing of the debate and the three line whip.

David Cameron has said that;
 "I don't think this is the right time to legislate for an in out referendum. I think this is the right time to sort our Europe's problems, sort out the Eurozone problem,. defend our national interest and look to the opportunities in the future to repatriate powers back to Britain."

True, and something I completely agree with.

Two of the three Medway MPs (Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood and Tracey Crouch of Chatham and Aylesford) are set to vote against the Government wishes. No word has been heard from Rehman Chisthi in the local media.

Mark Reckless is quoted in the KM [24-10-11 Medway Messenger page 2] as saying;

Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch
This is an issue that is beyond party lines. How we should be governed as a country should not be decided by politicians but by the people in a referendum.

Again true, but a referendum at this time would not be fair and open and therefore not constructive. You shouldn't make decisions when you are angry or if your judgement is clouded and this is one such time, the Euro collapse would cloud everybody's judgement.

The good news for Europhiles is that even if the debate comes out in favour of a referendum it doesn't mean that one has to be instantaneous, in fact they can wait until 2015, they would just have to carry it out.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

European Referendum - My two cents.

Caroline and I
I remember the last time my friend Caroline and I had a serious disagreement. It was a bright sunny April Saturday afternoon and we were sat in the park outside work enjoying an ice cream.

We were discussing the upcoming election and the policies of our two parties. There were obviously some disagreements between Gold and Blue especially when discussing our proposed immigration amnesty.

We lapsed into silence for a moment and then she said in a slow testing voice;

Chris, please tell me... you don't think... we should be in the Euro do you?

I don't remember my answer but it was a flowery politicians one, the sort of answer Nick would be proud o that placated but did not answer the original question.

Chris. [It hadn't] Do you think we should be in the Euro?

My answer caught in my throat - deep down I knew she knew my answer.

Yes... I stammered.

I knew she was cross and that maybe I had disappointed her as she walked away trying to order her response which ran a long the lines of;

Chris, you work for a place that commemorates those who fell to keep this country separate from European rule and you are telling me that you want to hand the power over to a European parliament?

My counter argument at the time was weak and I won't share it here, needless to say that we had a healthy debate and have since decided that for the duration of the Coalition we will agree not to talk about politics that could be contentious.

Needless to say that Caroline, as always appears to have been right and I'm true to form and wrong!!!

 The point to this anecdote is that I understand constructive arguments to do with anti EU feeling and not just the not just the arguments that are put forward from the Daily Mail and popular misconceptions such as "The EU say our Banana's are the wrong shape" or "The EU want to ban Chocolate in the UK".

The Europe debate is clearly one that people feel passionate about, it is not like electoral reform which found vast swathes of the population disinterested. On Europe everyone has an opinion.

This opinion is not always founded in fact as sometimes fiction is more compelling. Also when it comes to dealing with out European cousins it is easy for the British people to slip into casual xenophobia. Stereotypes are easy to throw out and everyone seems to be overly obsessed with the past. How many times have you heard: "Two world wars and one World cup!" sung at the Germans? In fact Britain's obsession with the Second World War still paints the Germans as a vicious aggressor that has to be defeated (as they were before) and the French are not to be trusted... All of these are opinions and falsehoods that shouldn't be thought in these modern times.
After all when you talk about Germany people think Nazi, or picture the German war machine pouring across Europe, never great writers like Von Goethe or Schiller, the wine, the music, the culture or the beauty of the Rhineland.

It would be the former image that elements of the "No" campaign would clutch to.

However I do believe a referendum is necessary at some point. It is important that the British people get to decide on such a big issue like their fellow citizens in Europe who have voted especially on the subject of the Euro.With this growing crisis with the Eurozone, now may seem like the best time for a referendum as the UK is asked for more money to help bail out Greece. However an in/out referendum would be wrong at this time. The world economic crisis requires a global solution and a fractured Europe will not help this at all. For example should the French economy crash then Britain's economy will suffer a hit of $2-3 trillion dollars! [Figure quoted by Sharon Boles MEP at the Kent Liberal Democrat Conference 22/10/2011]
It would be irresponsible for us to pull out now and leave the whole continent to collapse financially and if Germany collapses then we're all in trouble. Like it or not we are one continent and despite the 22 miles of Sea between Dover and Calais we have to help each other and the best way to do that is through the EU and its parliament rather than soldiering out on our own, we don't have an Empire to back us up anymore.

As the party shy's away from the debate and people through out the tired line of;

Lib Dems U-turning on another pledge!

I'd like to remind you that the actual pledge was that we would have put forward a motion for a referendum IF the nature of the relationship with Europe was to change .
I don't think it is.

As for the Conservatives bringing this to the floor? Well theoretically they are honouring a pledge to debate the issues brought up in e-petitions that the public have sent in. However it also reminds me of the debates in parliament in my youth, I remember one of the factors that struck the Major Administration were splits over Europe that fractured the party, is this something they want to revisit?
Also is it not completely irresponsible to distract the nation at this crucial time, the hardest hit to our economy since the 1940's, with an superfulous debate on Europe? Dangle something juicier infront of the media and populous and they will forget all about the rise in inflation and the rising unemployment figures?

An EU referendum is an important debat to be had, but it has to be had sensibly and openly with none of the dirty tricks or fibs that were told during the AV campaign. Also now is not the time, it should be done IF our relationship with Europe was to change or in a more economically stable situation

But wait there's more.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Mike Hancock or Dr Fox - whose was the greatest security risk?


Mike Hancock MP

As the enquiry into Mike Hancock's affair with suspected Russian Spy Ekaterina Zatuliveter continues it hit the headlines of a few newspapers today. The Metro's headline read;

THE MP AND THE "SPY" WHO LOVED HIM

The story goes on to detail how Ms Zatuliveter is fighting deportation due to espionage charges and that Jonathan Glasson, who was the Government official at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission stated:

[Ms Zatuliveter] reporting from Londongrad [and she had] eyes and ears in the House of Commons.

Dear God!

If this was forty years ago it would be a scandal that rocked the Capitalist world. A Russian, clearly a KGB operative using a prominent MP to gain access to information and power in Parliament!
This is what good Fiction is about or scandals that rock the Government. Remember the Profumo affair and Christine Keeler?

However fiction is what this seems to be. The more I read the story the less I believe that she is a spy.

As you read Ms Zatuliveter and Mr Hancock's back story the more you can see that it is nothing short of an extra marital affair and the only reason people are screaming SPY is because the girl is Russian.

They met in 2006 in Moscova where he attempted to bed her and she declined. They met a few months later and an affair started. Eventually she relocated to Britain to study at Bradford university but the affair continued with them meeting at the weekend.
In Novemeber 2006 she began working as an unpaid intern for two or four days a week. She was given security clearance to work in the Houses of Parliament and then moved later to being a full time assistant on £250 a month. As his intern and assistant she had access to his parliamentary emails - all above board because Interns often answer enquiries from constituents and help manage an often over worked MP's work load.  So is she a security risk just from that?

The affair apparently ended in March 2010. So.... she was attached to a Liberal Democrat MP between 2006-2010 and saw his emails... What were we doing in that time period?

Yeah that's right we were sitting in opposition and the party looked like it had absolutely NO prospect of affecting Government policy as New Labour held sway. She would have been better off tacking herself on to a Labour or Conservative MP!

It is claimed that Mike Hancock asked questions in parliament about renewing Trident and the renewal of Britain's Nuclear defence! Clearly something that would be of interest to the Russian Spymasters in the Kremlin.
But the renewal of Trident or scrapping of it, was a major part of our manifesto and so his questions in parliament are actually/probably to do with party politics rather than Russian military intelligence.

Ms Zatuliveter also had a fling with a NATO official and a diplomat in her time.

And?

She used to work as a chaperon for foreign diplomats in Moscova, it is possible. Also should we look at her past relationships and jump to these sort of conclusions? There is no proof.

All the actions are easily explained.

Dr Fox, however, has been cleared by enquiry as allowing his friend Mr Werrity actually into the Ministry of Defence and on official visits with the Defence Minister as posing no "risk to security".

But he was Minister of Defence with an unknown man, without security clearance wandering around the MoD building, possible access to secret documents, going on business trips with the Minister abroad.
Doctor Liam Fox MP

Yet question marks remain as to what Mr Werrity actually saw or did. I'm sure he is also innocent of any wrong doing and that all actions were just an oversight as Dr Fox allowed his friend to visit him at work etc. However has he been Russian and Ms Zatuliveter been English would Mike Hancock be on the front page still?

I doubt it.

Of course if History is to teach us anything it is that when it comes to espionage trust no one. Christine Keeler was British and supposedly passing secrets, Kim Philby and the other Cambridge spies - British and passing information to the Kremilin before defecting.

I'm not passing judgement on either case, merely making suggestions and making comparisons. If anything in my opinion the Dr Fox case is far more serious than the Hancock case and it is only because the girl is Russian that it is even news worthy.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Conservatives Cock up Chatham Bus Station?

Chatham Bus station under construction.
Last Monday Medway's "Dynamic Water Front Bus Facility" opened to the Public with a number of things missing or still under construction. It was also running approximately 6 months late and £2 million over its original budget. Understandably there is a bit of a furor about the whole project.

Public response to the new facility or "Mushrooms" as it has been described by Medway resident Robin Juste Emery, has been fairly mixed.

It would have been a nice idea if they had just listened to what people were saying. There aren't enough seats, they aren't close enough to the stands and there are still no bins.
Says Mike Watson

Robin Cooper, the council's director of regeneration, community and culture said;

The Police advised us not to install bins, but we need to review this decision.

I have tweeted @Kent_police for confirmation but at the time of writing I have not received a response as to why they would advise this.

There were further criticisms about the exposed nature, one of the many comments about the exposed nature was from Shelia Purser;

It could have been more covered up. At least in the Pentagon you were dry.

Again Mr Cooper responds:

If people are shopping in the High Street in the rain, they will be getting wet anyway. Those who travel by bus are exposed to the elements, because the bus does not drop them home. The information centre which is heated will be available for shelter... If we need to redesign some aspects of the station we will.

So more expense? There seems to be a serious lack of vision. Yes I accept people get wet and cold waiting for buses however it was sheltered in the Pentagon and similar cover could have been provided.
Other criticisms include the information screens not working (They are now and they are going to get anti glare put on.) No toilets (they are waiting on the water company to finish pressurisation) No Zebra crossings (they had just applied anti skid treatment on the road and the paint would not adhere to it.) - The drivers have also been trained to drive at 10mph - but if you get hit by a bus at 10mph it still hurts and could Kill you!

Councillor Chambers has said that There will be teething problems and I accept there are things that will be overlooked but where you are running six months late it wouldn't have made a difference if they waited a further week to get it right or if they had made sure that the basics were ready for the opening day.

Understandably the other political parties have swooped in to criticise the Conservative administration for presiding over the troubled project.

In a press release on their website Cllr Glyn Griffiths, spokes person for Front line services stated;

Tories have poorly managed this project through out, and have clearly had no foresight at all.

Deputy party leader, the affable and  popular Cllr Vince Maple has been very outspoken about the whole project saying:-

The so called "dynamic bus facility" is just one - albeit very expensive fiasco in a growing list of ineptitude.

He is also quoted in Dan Bloom's article in the Medway Messenger [14-10-11] as saying;

Even though it has had an additional six months, clearly it still isn't finished. The public view is no surprise to me - it has been a very badly run project which doesn't have the confidence of the people of Medway.

Medway Liberal Democrat leader, the indomitable Cllr Geoff Juby was quoted in Max Evan's article in the Medway News [13-10-11]

We can't look back in Medway -we have to look forward in the hope that it's one way to save Chatham. That's what it's all about- saving Chatham as a shopping destination. I'm not sure it will, I hope it will, I hope I'm wrong. I hope investment will come here but all town centres are suspect at the moment.

I tend to agree with Geoff. Yes I am annoyed, like Cllr Maple, at the glaring errors and mismanagement of the whole project by the Conservative administration and I think some serious lessons need to be learned from it and the electorate should remember this in the next local election.

BUT

Medway town centres need regeneration and is in need of a breath of life. The other certainty is that the Pentagon bus station would have to be replaced eventually. Indeed Medway Council have revealed that there are serious plans for regenerating the waterfront, demolishing shops that are there and replacing them with office space, a national chain store (which has shown interest) and the future is looking good.
There is still a concern for the traders in the Pentagon by the public, one person felt that there Sainsbury's and Wilkinsons' would suffer. As predicted in this blog this is a strong possibility and already shop keepers in the Pentagon have already recorded a 30% drop in "On the day sales" for last Monday. However this may just be a blip in the figures that may not be attributed to the bus station, you'll just have to watch the figures over the upcoming months, the new station may be the step that was needed to save Medway's high streets.

So the Step was necessary and worth making however the way it was done so with a serious lack of vision.

Quotes from the Public and Cllr Chambers taken from KM [14-10-11] article by Dan Bloom
Quotes from Robin Cooper from Medway News [13-10-11]

Darth Vader and Medway Bus station



As many people will know, I am a massive Star Wars geek.

When reading up about Medway's new "Dynamic Waterfront Bus Facility." I stumbled upon an artcile in the Medway Messenger by KMFM DJ Andy Walker entitled;

Darth Vader got it right.

Within it he suggested that Darth Vader would not have allowed the Death star to have been used until it was fully operational... Unlike the Medway Bus station.

Chatham's "Waterfront dynamic Bus Facility"
Could you imagine the Death Star with workmen all over it? The toilets not ready, the lifts only working in the Southern hemisphere and the super laser only firing on a Thursday?

This is the equivalent of what has happened in Medway, there were no bins, no information points working, no zebra crossings....

Moff   Councillor Chambers Commander of the facility Leader of the Conservative group said that;

There will be teething problems...

Well this is true, but had Lord Vader actually been part of the planning and implementation board he would have not appreciated such failure. There would already be a new leader of the Council.

When I read Commander Councillor Mike O'Brien's comments "It seems to be working." I can't help but hear;

The Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.

Although, we all know that the Death Star II did open before it was fully operational, yes the Super laser worked but the Rebellion were still able to avoid the Emperor's trap and destroy the station a long with all the contractors who were busy installing Zebra crossings and making sure the toilets were working.

One can only hope that Chatham bus station does not suffer a similar fate, though I understand the Superlaser is being fitted next Wednesday.

Monday, 17 October 2011

German weapons found in Medway!


Heinkel HE 115 -one of the types used for mine laying.
 On the out break of hostilities the Luftwaffe began a campaign of laying anti-shipping mines of different types in the Medway and Thames Estuaries.

The Royal Navy and local trading ships suffered losses and a real concerted effort was made to clear these hazards from the shipping lanes.

Mines were layed by U-boats, Heinkel He 115's, Heinkel He 111's, Dornier Do 18 floatplanes, Junker Ju 88's and Heinkel He 52's usually at night or in the early days when RAF fighter control was not what it became in 1940. The types of mine used included Magnetic mines, contact mines and even the Buoyant mine - which was designed to float beneath the surface and detonate on the underneath of a vessel's hull.

One such mine was found by fishermen off the isle of Grain last week, [ Medway Messenger 17th October reports] and was brought back to Grain for the Royal Navy
demolition team under Lieutenant Dan Herridge began defusing it. The mine was taken to the sea bed and a controlled explosion carried out. Even though the water would have slowed the explosive blast a thousand yard cordon was put in place just to be certain.

“We don’t often find these types of buoyant mines – they are quite unusual. But it was in good condition so this was quite a delicate operation.” – Lt Herridge.

The Royal Navy have been able to disarm German sea mines since a fluke in 1939. A Luftwaffe bomber dropped its payload on the mud flats, on a piece of land owned by the Army who quickly dismantled it and dispatched it to Portsmouth for study.

The exact number of mines dropped by the Luftwaffe and indeed laid by the Royal Navy during World War Two is unknown and although the vast majority were swept and retrieved there is still an unknown number still lurking in the depths, age may have caused them to degrade but others, like this one may still be armed and dangerous.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Councillor Geoff on the NHS.

Councillor Geoff Juby
In Friday 7th October's Medway Kent Messenger local Liberal Democrat councillor and stalwart Councillor Geoff Juby wrote a small piece on the NHS and Medway. (page 22 if you have it.) 

Geoff exposes some facts that I'm sure members of the community will not know, including me!

There does seem to be a major discrepancy between the NHS reform and services and the role of the public. As Geoff says, the NHS is one of the Government services that touches all of our lives and is the support for "Cradle to grave." yet who gets to say how it is run?
Lib Dem party members at the Sheffield voted to stall changes and for the Government to listen at the Spring conference but you must
a.) Be a Liberal Democrat member.
b.) Be in Sheffield for the conference.

Anyone else must lobby their MP and Andrew Lansley and hope they get the results they need!!!

Geoff argues that the Medway NHS trust now holds its meetings behind closed door now, where as before they were open to the Public. Why has this move been made? Surely the people should be allowed to hear what the local NHS trust is planning. I'm sure it is probably quite deathly dull to most people but it means that all decissions and the decission makers can be held accountable to the Public. Behind closed doors everyone is blind to what is happening. The only scrutiny of the meetings, according to Geoff is a;

farce as it consists of dozens of long reports which simply have the end 'Recoomendation - that the report be noted.'

Geoff also rubbished the chairman of Medways NHS trust's claim that Dartford being cheaper to access than London.

At least most of the London hospitals, which are mostly easily reached by public transport, have proven track records for certain conditions - why on Earth should patients want tot struggle to get to Darenth Valley hospital and probably have to pay double in taxi fares than they would have paid for a cheap day return on the train.

This is referencing Medway trust's proposed merger with Dartford, something which hasn't been highly publicised and I don't know if the public at large have much knowledge of it or how it will affect their services.

The Lib Dem group is struggling, in all kinds of ways so it is good that as the third largest party in Medway (just!) we are still able to publish a voice. Geoff raises some important points, I just hope that someone notices, which is one of the reasons I've written this too!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Councillors Wicks & Jarrett must resign


 Throughout History politicians and officials have taken responsibility for failure.

Councillor Jarrett
In 1809, the magistrate of Nagasaki, who had allowed the garrison fall from a thousand to a hundred committed Sepuku after HMS Phaeton shelled the defenceless port and demanded resupply.
Admiral Byngg faced up to his  court martial and execution for failure to relieve Minorca's Garrison from a French Naval assault.
Lord North resigned as Prime Minister after the surrender at Yorktown 1781 which effectively ended the American War of Independence.

However in Medway, it doesn't matter how big your failure is apparently. Councillor Wicks, portfolio holder for Children and Councillor Jarrett, portfolio holder for Finance have dropped pretty large clangers and in my opinion should resign their portfolios...


In the case of Councillor Jarrett, it is one I've addressed before. There are serious questions about the way money is spent by the Council in my post on Woodlands school where the council project went wildly over budget by almost double (though predicted as a 300% increase at the time!).

The New "Dynamic Bus"... I'm not going to re- wade into the whole bus station debate/debacle, that can wait until after I've read tomorrow's Kent Messenger and become incensed.
What I will say is that it cost Medway £7 million and was around £2.5 million over budget which is a 50% mark up.

Traditional Solution to Military failure.

Poor planning surrounds the Bus station, including neglecting to sort a contract with Arriva out so the biggest Bus company in Medway wasn't in fact going to be using the new Bus Station. This left the council to foot the bill for the company to move facilities costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

One of the schemes the Council wanted to bring in, and something that we the Liberal Democrats were right behind, was free bus transport for 11-18 year olds around the Medway towns on "Freedom passes." Medway council have given the kids 1/2 price fare for the week because they were short by £2.5m 's.
One of the criticisms of Government is that it has lost touch with young people and here we  have a measure that would have scored the Council points, maybe have motivated some people to travel & experience stuff being  cast aside because a whole project... No at least two whole projects have been poorly mishandled.

Also worth noting is his role in the Medway tunnel debacle too... Councillor Chambers and Jarrett both sat on the Rochester Bridge Trust when it was sold to Medway council for a solitary £1 and the deals were drawn up. Dodgy enough on its own but when you factor in the whole
"Never is a  long time" quote, when asked about when Tolls would come in and continued vagary around the subject.

For that you must look to the top, the portfolio holder and he, Councillor Jarrett, should think about putting his resignation into the pot. Something isn't being handled right or well by the Portfolio holder for Finance. Now is the time to step down.

Councillor Wicks is also a repeat offender. As the portfolio holder for Children's services he is also responsible for the Woodlands road cock up.

That and the poor planning of primary school mergers and closures in Medway, which, to be fair has been slightly misrepresented. New schools will not be needed in the Ridge Meadow area but in Chatham town centre. Even still it has been predicted that one in six children in Chatham will be without a school within three years! Can new schools be built in this time and be ready, and I mean REALLY ready not Chatham Bus Station ready? Probably not.... Cock up two.

The big news recently is the catalogue of mistakes in the Medway test (11+ exams) that took place at the end of September. Despite promises to parents and MP Rehman Chishti (Rainham and Gillingham) that no child will be disadvantaged parents are concerned about the affects will have.

Now exams are stressful enough without a lack of provisions, at one school only two pieces of fruit were provided per pupil for a whole school day! Delays were caused by poor sign posting, two members of staff trying to check in 200 pupils, in breaks they found not enough toilets were available!
Other problems included problems with an English exam going out without part of the question paper. When a pupil asked what he was supposed to do he was told to open the booklet and read the questions.
"There isn't a booklet..."
A quarter of an hour was then taken to find the missing questions.
One boy was so traumatized that "he looked so pale. He was shaking and sobbing in the car and we couldn't calm him down. By the time [his mother] got him home he literally just fell to the floor."
Now I know that Cllr Wicks was not present, nor was he completely to blame, in fact Rose Collinson, the director of Children's and adult services, shares the blame he is the figure head. To make matters worse it took 13 days for him to issue a statement of apology. He disappeared for this time, presumably to the party Conference in Manchester. This is the worst part of it, at least if he had turned up the Monday after the debacle and led the investigation and personally apologised etc then you could forgive any role in the disaster especially if solutions were found quickly - instead of just disappearing!

These two Councillors are responsible for several quite high profile disasters in recent Medway Political history and they should, as a matter of course, offer their resignations or Councillor Chambers should lead a cross party investigation into the actions of their departments. If this was National Government the Press and public would be beying for blood as they are for Chris Huhne and Liam Fox but as its only a local council many are ignorant of it.
I'm of course not suggesting that Councillors Wicks and Jarrett shouldn't commit Sepuku, it is far to messy, and firing Squads are now illegal in the Uk but resignation is definitely the way.

Then again they don't have too because of a lack of public knowledge, even when it comes to the next local election they both sit in relatively safe seats, (Jarrett in Lordswood) and Wicks in the Tory stronghold of Rainham! It us up to opposition parties like the Liberal Democrats and Labour to remind the voters in 2015 and try and remove them if they will not remove themselves.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Pornagraphic Censorship and the Sexualisation of Women.

The Government have announced backing for a campaign to keep Internet based porn away with an innovative "Opt in" system, and the Liberal Democrats want to remove Nuts magazine and Page 3 from the Sun. Are we now living in Victorian England?

The Nuts and Page 3 model Sophie Howard
The answer is No... and this is why.

I shall divide this into two parts, the one I agree with and follow it with the one I don't.


The Liberal Democrat Conference held in Birmingham had some very interesting headlines and debates, none more so than Dr Evan Harris' speech on the sexualisation of women and the soft core pornographic images that were available for children to see in our newsagents.
This was quickly followed by a lot of Media hype about how the Lib Dems wanted to ban Page 3 and Nuts magazine! This is a direct attack on freedom of speech and expression! How dare they threaten the "British institution" of page 3!
I hate to break it to those Sun readers but Slavery was a British institution and that was overturned.
Anyway, the point is the Lib Dems don't want to ban page 3.

The actual motion read;

Tackling the projection of women as sex objects to children and adolescents by restricting sexulised images in newspapers and general circulation magazines to the same rules that apply to pre-watershed broadcast media.
and that is what was proposed.

Printed media like the Sun's page 3 and lads mags which include vast amounts of soft core pornographic images and sexulising text that do encourage the idea that women are sex objects or that they are all promiscuous. This paints a false image of women to the young and impressionable.
I do agree that banning these publications is an attack on freedom of speech and action. Should a model, like Sophie Howard, choose to take her clothes off for money then that is perfectly fine. Many models use the money to support their family, lifestyle or education. Others use their status and fame to raise money for worthy causes. Peta Todd has worked tirelessly for "Help the Heroes" including doing tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and other sponsored events.

What we are arguing is that the publications should not be in general view in the newsagents and instead should be placed on higher shelves.

Could you imagine the outcry if a topless woman appeared on day time TV where any child could see?

It is the same principle.

Now news has hit the Twittersphere that the Government is thinking about a new inbuilt censorship of the Internet. The scheme, supposedly put to the Government by a Christian Mothers group, would rely on service providers setting up automatic censorship so that Pornographic images and sites are automatically blocked and that you need to "Opt out" to get the full Internet.
"Excuse me... I'd like Pornography on my PC please."
Not something many people would say!

Now this, I'm not to fond of.

The Internet is a great tool and resource but it does have pornography, politically evil sites, some horrific imagery etc that you wouldn't want a child to see or any right minded person would want to see! However censoring it straight off isn't the answer. and that is what was proposed.
My daughter Sophie and I

Firstly, if you're a parent and you are worried what your child will discover then why not do some actual parenting and sit with them whilst they do their homework?
I'm all for letting Sophie, my daughter, exploring and growing but the same with any parent I don't want to see her in danger. I want her to know that knives are sharp but that doesn't mean I let her play with the Bread knife. Thusly my wife and I will be monitoring her Internet usage when she is old enough to use it and she certainly won't have a computer in her room.

Also, the values being pushed are from a Christian Mothers group that even cited Jesus' values. What of us that aren't Christians? Are we having someone else's moral code pushed upon us?

Finally there I must raise genuine research. When I was at school and again at university I often found that the network "filter" would filter out massive amounts of genuine URLs that I was going to use as research for no apparent reason. I wrote my dissertation on the Luftwaffe at war and so many sites were banned because the word Nazi appeared on them... very problematic when writing about the Nazi regime. There were also sites that had pornographic content that were not blocked as the URL name was not obviously pornographic! How accurate will this new filter be? There is also the fact that teenagers are better than adults when it comes to working the Internet. They can do all kinds of technological wizardry and nothing can get in the way of a teenage boy and the search for naked women!

So there you have it, a double edged sword of censorship. Both designed around protecting children from overly sexualised imagery but one way, placing it out of harms way and the other banning it altogether. But as citizens the choice is ultimately up to you.

Dr Vince and Wartime analogy

During his conference speech Dr Vince Cable made a comparison of the Economic crisis to being at war. He was slated by some critics for his comments but I think they have some veracity and wartime experiences can be called upon by the populous to help with the austerity measures.

Firstly the comparison. The world is struggling to sort itself out after the cataclysmic blow caused by reckless banking and misuse of the economy by different governments but like the war it has struck everyone from every walk of life. None of us has got away without being touched by it in one way or the other. Unlike the German threat of the early 40s we are not likely to be overrun or suffer casualties but we all need to unite to defeat it and come out the other side, it might be even worth a national Government forming like the ones in the 1930's and during both World Wars. The threat is real and it is here until we, as in everyone in the country or even Europe and the world need to solve.

There are always lessons from history which can be learnt and reapplied where necessary, there is no need to re learn what history can always show us. One of them is how to be careful with money in our own house holds. With the U-boat blockade of the UK food stuffs became a rationed due to low numbers, now it is not so much that certain foods are rare just too expensive to buy. Why not turn, as our grandparents did, to growing your own veg. Flowers are all well and good but if you have the space, and I know a lot of people in urban areas don't, then why not give it a go? I did it a year or so ago and my wife and I grew Corn on the cob, Potatoes, Tomatoes, we have a pear tree already, and green pepper. This year we have pepper, tomato and strawberries! Nothing tastes better than your own veg - strangely! There is also the war time mindset of being frugal, waste is the Hun's best friend etc. Money is tight so don't throw it away.

The Big Society seems to be rooted in an idealised version of the 1950's - The Conservative party's heyday, and of a community that helps each other and volunteers. In the 1940's my Great Grandfather bread rabbits and traded the meat with a neighbour for vegetables, and other neighbours for other things. My Grandfather would trade his tobacco ration for vodka with the Russians (in occupied Austria) and then trade Vodka with the Americans for other luxury goods like chocolate etc. The same thing can go on now. If you have an allotment why not trade with someone else. Indeed a neighbour of mine offered me a bag of Cooking apples in exchange for a bag of Pears. Why not pull together as a community like this?



Now is not the time for party politics and partisan point scoring. The nation is in crisis, if we go down a no cuts scheme we could end up like Greece and folding financially. Also with cuts and austerity measures- something is going to be got rid of... I'm sorry but it has to. In your own lives if you can't afford a thing you don't buy it, or if you  are having a tight month you cut out the luxuries so why shouldn't the Government? Take for example Libraries. Now I'm a massive book worm and collector and I love libraries and think they are important in society however the simple truth is people just don't use them as much as they should. Is it thusly wrong for the Government to cut some of the lesser used ones and save money? I read an article in the Evening Standard that highlighted this when they asked a member of the public;

"How do you feel about the cutting of your library?"

The member of the public rallied about how awful it was etc.

"How often do you use the library?" They were asked.

"Oh, Never."

I know some of the cuts have been devastating and I don't agree with all of them, and protest isn't a bad thing at all, quite the opposite, we shouldn't all meekly do what we are told by the Government because... well they're in charge... However you have to remember that they are making tough decisions for the benefit of this country and cannot save everything. At the moment it feels (to me anyway) Mr Miliband's opposition are not offering alternate routes, merely criticising the Government. The double standard of Ed Balls saying the Cuts are wrong but forbidding his colleagues from promising to turn the cuts around should they get into power. Now is not the time.

If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
I challenge Labour to help, come up with viable alternatives and methods rather than ney saying. Don't do it for the political points, the polls, the future voters. Do it for Great Britain and her people, the jobless, the poor, those who will suffer because of your administration's cock ups. They need you to stand up for them. Offer alternatives. If all our MPs are not working to the one goal of victory then we will end in defeat.

There is also a certain amount of truth in having to work with our Allies. Now I know it seems strange thinking of the Germans and the French as our Allies but Europe is in need of our help too. It is true that a damaged Europe means a damaged Britain. We do a fair amount of our trading with Europe and are in need of their markets and their exports. Should we stop supporting them they may collapse and then who will buy our exports? Business will suffer and more jobs will be lost.
Of course there is also the possibility of War time self sufficiency and supporting British industry over foreign imports but that takes time and is expensive and ultimately isolates us from the rest of the world. Unlike 1940's Britain, we don't have these institutions in place and an Empire to support it.

Many laughed at Doctor Vince but there is indeed truth in his analogy, we are at war, not a physical war against Germany but a financial war against an enemy that doesn't physically exist and we must combat it in the same old style of frugalness, community and collectively.

Will the future ever be bright and Orange?

The Liberal Democrat party stand at a crossroads, one way leads back to Government and a role in this nation's future - the other is the path of wrack and ruin leading to political obscurity and eventual death. But who is manning the helm?

It appears the electorate are becoming more and more disheartened by the system and politics, voter apathy has become a real phenomenon with vast swathes of the people turned away from politics. In Medway less than 40% turned out to vote for the AV referendum! Whether you agree or not with AV is not the point. This was a momentous political step, a nationwide political referendum that decided how You elect Your representatives something our ancestors would have killed for but six in ten people couldn't be arsed to vote.
 But why should they be interested?

Westminster is full of grey men who argue the finer points of policy that has no relevance to their lives, more interested in political point scoring than in policy that will affect peoples lives - Or so popular opinion goes.

It is easy to disrespect the rule of law if you do not acknowledge the state's ruling body as representing you - Its' laws mean nothing.


Cleggmania offered change. Nick's showing at the Televised leadership debates really got people interested in the Party's message, change - a new way forward for society and political reform. There was a surge in support and in the media. Nick could do no wrong, he was a voice of reason, a fresh breeze on a stuffy day. We even increased our share of the votes! However to no avail as we lost seats. To many people there is only the two extremes, Red or Blue. Some households will always be Tory, others always Labour and will never cross sides.

There is also the old adage that if you want Labour out Vote Tory and voting for another party (if you vote at all) would be a waste of time and would be splitting the vote, especially on the left. However you end up that way with a choice between two parties that are beginning to represent the same thing. As the video points out, you get the same result if you vote for Kang or Kodos!

It is difficult, however convincing the electorate of the Lib Dem message, why should they risk voting for you?

There are areas with a strong Liberal Democrat Council or with exceptional Liberal Democrat Councillors who can convince the electorate of a Liberal way of thinking and of the party's merits. For eight years I lived in Mark Oaten's constituency of Winchester where;
"Labour Cannot Win!"
Admitting you were a Lib Dem was not an issue but those places are far and few between. It is difficult in other areas without a strong Liberal presence, such as Medway, to get the message across without people wondering if they are wasting their vote on you.

The Coalition government gives the party the chance to show the electorate that the party is fit to govern, that we have kept most of our election pledges and put through our manifesto for everyone's benefit. Tough Liberalism must be seen to work.

Even if a larger portion of seats is not on the table for 2015 and the party manage to return with give or take ten seats then there is another role for us. With the growth of voter apathy and the blurring of party lines the chances of a hung parliament become more likely, in which case the third party holds the power -rightly or wrongly. this is our opportunity, to grow, as Labour once did, within the other parties, gain experience and prove that the Liberal Democrats are a serious party of Government. Yes unpopular decisions need to be made and seats will be lost but that is what happens in government - decisions have to be made for the benefit of everyone.

Of course there is the other path. Will the electorate trust us as a party after the Tuition fees U-turn? Or support for the topical NHS reform? Or for the biggest of sins - Letting in the Conservatives? A few people have said to me that they won't vote Lib Dem again as they don't vote Tory. The decissions of Government have upset voters and party members. Others, like me, know that Coalition was the only way forward in May 2010, I may not agree with every decission made but then who does with any Government? With power has come greater Media attention and some serious cracks have appeared as well as scrutiny of our leaders such as Chris Huhne, who does himself no favours! Nick Clegg has become, unfairly, a focal point of hatred as one of the ringleaders of the Coalition and selling out on his ideals and Liberal fire- though he has not and continues to push through our Manifesto. The big question is; Will the electorate still hold these actions against us in 2015? That all depends on what the Government does in the next four years. Will the electorate punnish good constiteuncy MPs just for being Liberal Democrats? We will have to see - I sincerely hope not.

What ever happens in the Coalition, if we can suffer the slings and arrows from the media and keep the attention of an increasingly apathetic and fickle electorate we sand a very real chance of making a difference and bringing some Lib Dem gold to people's lives whether they voted for Kang or Kodos.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Fat tax on unhealthy food. Is this fair?

mmmm Whopper.... *drool*
Obesity is a major problem in Britain. Hell I'll admit it I could do with losing a stone... maybe two to look really trim, and I do enjoy good meals and don't get that much exercise as I travel by train and spend my working day sat down watching screens all day.

Individual studies have found that Obesity and heart disease, mostly caused by unhealthy living is one of the top killers in this country, even more so than Cancer. It is a major drain on our economy and on the NHS and something should be done.

Que the new proposals to levy a duty on high calorie food. This, like the duty on beer and tobacco products will raise money for the Treasury which can be put back into the NHS to help fund treatments and re-education on correct eating. Also with the raised costs it may put people off ordering a Whooper meal and perhaps eating something more healthy which again is a good thing right?

Well that's the merits dealt with, lets talk about the cons.

I like MacDonald's, Burger King and KFC. I like food that's not good for me. I don't eat it all the time but when I've got up for work at 4.30 am and caught a train so I can be in London for 6.30 why not have a McMuffin meal to make me feel better about myself? I have OJ with it...

Some people do eat to excess but why should we all have to suffer? Its not fair as its the casual munchers that suffer. Why should Government tell me what I can and can't eat? Will Chocolate be next?!

I don't smoke so that particular vice has gone and I already can't afford a beer anymore and I didn't even drink to excess anyway!!! If the Government take away my Zinger tower meals I will be most distraught.

Let people live the way they want to. Let them have the freedom to eat what they want to. If they want to fill their faces with greasy crap and face the consequences let them.

I know this is a weak argument in the face of sorting out Obesity and off setting the cost of health care but lets face it, it is a case of the Paternal Government taking you by the hand and saying.

"Now son, do you really want a Big Mac? Have some salad... Go on. There's a good boy."

As a closing statement I must say;

I could eat healthily and get hit by a bus tomorrow. I could eat KFC, Sausages, MacDonalds, Red meat and live to the grand age of 100. You never know, shouldn't life be about enjoyment? (Not controlled fun.)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Crouch forbidden to play by FA.

Football- It's full of crazy decisions, Christian Wörns being sent off in the Euro 96 final, Thierry Henry's hand ball in the France - Ireland game, FA officials refusing to officiate between MPs and Press because Tracey Crouch wanted to play, disallowing the second goal in the... hang on what was the last one?

Yes it is true, The FA, who were due to officiate the traditional MPs vs. Political Journalists stepped down when both teams insisted that Tracey play.

Due to its rules on mixed football, The FA is unable to support this match. As a consequence, once Tracey and the two teams confirmed that they wanted Tracey to play we stepped back from our official administration and endorsement of the fixture.

The rules state that only girls under 13 are allowed in mixed games.

Its ridiculous and yes, it does annoy me... I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself.

After all she's not stepping out for the World Cup final, or for her beloved Spurs against Arsenal ( though I'm sure she would have loved to play in last week's game!) or even for Gillingham against AFC Wimbledon - though if you are reading this Tracey, the way we have performed in the league I'm sure Mr Hessanthaler would welcome you at Priestfield for quality and enthusiasm. In fact Miss Crouch said in the Belfast Telegraph in May 2011 [ http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/offbeat/female-mp-barred-from-kickabout-16006201.html ] a similar thing;

All of the male MPs I've spoken to think it's ridiculous. I've played five-a-side with many of them so they know what I can do and what I can't do.
I just think that there has to be some common sense when it comes to what is essentially a kick about. It's not the Champions League final.
Yes, it's often competitive but that's not to say that I couldn't hold my own.

I think the FA need to think about their rules when it comes to non competitive games and friendlies for non league teams. After all, why should it matter if the player and all of the other players do not have a problem with it?

Just as aside, the MPs lost 5-1. As a Germany fan I feel their pain, there is nothing worse than losing 5-1 to anyone... but Tracey take heart, if we can come back and beat England 4-1 there is always next years game!

[sources   and  ]