Friday, 30 March 2012

U-Boat sighted in the Medway.

The last remains of a U-boat in the Medway
A German U-boat (Unterseeboot) lays in the Medway, not waiting for Allied shipping but slowly rusting away and I'm not talking about the Russian Submarine in Rochester.

Out towards the mud flats of Kingsnorth lays the remains of one of the Kaiserlice Marine's U-boats decaying slowly in Humble Bee Creak.

There is quite some lively debate as to which vessel she is, either U-122 or U-123 or even UB-122 but the original story of how she got there remains the same.

Post war the surrendered U-boats were acquired by scrap companies to break up. Twenty Three U-boats were towed from Harwich to the Medway and one of them grounded in Humble Bee Creak, the rest were stopped near by and had their engines and generators removed.

Unfortunately for the Scrap companies there was so much Scrap metal available at the end of the war that there was no money in it and the market quickly collapsed. The Boats remained on the marshes until World War Two when the other more accessible vessels were taken apart for their valuable metal.

This vessel though remains upon the marshes where she lay, her nose cone removed and resting in front of her so she cannot be used as per Versailles agreement and her hull slowly rusting away.

U-122 and U-123 were both built in Hamburg and launched in December 1917 and  January 1918 respectively, both were UE II type Mine layer submarines.
Each had a crew of 36 men and 4 officers with a top speed of 11.5 knots (7 knots submerged)

U-123 was Commanded by Oberleutnant zur see Karl Thouret whose previous commands had been U-79, U-78 and UB-93.

U-122 was commanded by Kapitanleutnant Alfred Korte and was the only one of the three Vessels to score a "kill." The Icelandic vessel Njordur (A fishing trawler of 278 Tonnes) was shelled and sunk on 18th October 1918.
The third possible vessel UB-122 which is considered to be the more likely wreck, considering a comparison shot with others of the type, was built in Bremen and launched in February 1918. She was a UB III class U-boat under the command of Oberleutnant zur see Alexander Magnus, she had a similar speed to the other two vessels but was a coastal patrol vessel rather than a mine layer and although she took part in two patrols she didn't manage to sink any Allied shipping.

Which ever vessel she is, this interesting anomalie lays resting on the marshes and is little known to the people of the Medway towns. For the history geek like me it is truly fascinating but for many it is a historic irrelevance doomed to continue its slow decay, a grim fate for the last of her kind.

See also and also

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Holy Crap a Pasty tax!

Marie Antoinette is famously reported to have said to starving French Peasants; "Let them eat cake" (although as an Austrian she probably said a word that is not very nice in German that sounds like cake.)

Now the Coalition are saying - let them eat Pasties... but be prepared to pay the VAT man.

In this years budget a rise in VAT on hot baked goods has become the rallying point for dissenters and Labour, who, by the way, didn't turn up in Parliament to vote for the removal of the 50p income tax rate for high earners (as the motion was passed by some 300 MPs vs 20 something.) but raise the pasty by 20p each and you're looking at all out rebellion.

Some argue that this tax on the humble meal of choice for tin miners from yesteryear is an attack on the humble working man whilst Caviar, Pheasant and Bollinger remain untouched.

This, in my humble opinion is absolute rot.

Yes, it does seem like the humble pasty is going the same way as cigarettes and beer but at the same time growing obesity levels and weight related illness are affecting the country in a negative way and the state is having to foot the bill. Strangely National insurance doesn't cover all of the expensive treatments that need to be carried out.

You may recall that I was originally against a Fat tax, writing back in October that it was unfair to take my last Vice away and it wreaked of the Government telling the people what it can and can't do.

Well, I've changed my mind somewhat over the past few months and am wondering whether the Government is trying to sneak a move to eat more healthily in under the radar and shouldn't we as a nation (that includes you Labour) be trying to help people have better diets and lifestyles?

I must admit that I need to lose weight. I've been telling myself I'm going to take up running, cut down on the greasy Mac goodness and even on the night my daughter was born and I staggered home from the hospital with a large "Meat and Chips" from the only eatery open at that time - This would be my last box of greasy "Meat" covered in burger sauce as now I had a responsibility to baby Sophie to see her grow up rather than get struck down by a Heart attack in my 40's.

Two years and probably 20 Meat and chips later and I've not changed. Half of the reason I eat crap is because it is affordable and it is available.
Using myself as a case study point, I can say hand on heart as food prices at MacDonald's have risen the more disinclined I am to eat there. When I worked for the company a decade ago the Double Cheeseburger was 99p. Bargain! Now its' £1.49 maybe more if at a franchise. I am disinclined to pay that and will seek an alternative elsewhere.
(That said, I do love Burger king burgers but they are too pricey so they are reserved for a special treat!)

In the Guardian article "Pasty tax, easy as pie" it is suggested that a large Cornish Pasty will rise to £4.95. Holy Crap we're going to starve there's no food about!!!! Lets storm the Winter palace and put Cameron and Clegg's heads on spikes... Oh wait hang on... I can go to Aldi and buy the ingredients for a sandwich (some good sandwich meat, bread, lettuce, orange juice and a yogurt) for a similar price and that will feed me for a week... what kind of financial wizardry is this?

This is not a move to price the common man out of the food market, there are plenty of viable healthier alternatives to enjoy. Heck for £10's you can go to Marks & Sparks and get a three course meal for two which is the similar price to buying two new taxed pasties one for your wife and one for you.

The fact also remains that Heart disease kills a heck of a lot of people in this country and that diet related sickness is a major cause for concern. Smoking and drinking is already taxed so why not some fatty foods? Treating people with illnesses related to poor diet costs the NHS money so why can't revenue be gathered to put into the NHS and education to try and avert the inevitable?

What I don't understand is Labour's position in not challenging the cut in the 50p income tax rate - something they spent all of last week harping on about (millionaires budget) - but are up in arms about this measure which could ultimately mean real income for the NHS to block one of the major strains on its budget and a major health concern for the nation.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

My imminent defection

Greener pastures?
There have been many suggestions that I have Tory sympathies, my support for Coalition policies mean that I, like our leader, may be a subversive Blue in a Gold cloak.

It is indeed true that I have more sympathies with the right and in my misguided youth my ideals were somewhat Hobbesian on a good day and on a bad day... Well I may have inferred once or twice that it was not up to us the citizens to question the rulings of our betters.

That has all changed over time and the naive teenager is, thankfully lost in time. However some of my beliefs, especially when it comes to Justice, can be a bit more right wing.
With Cameron's new Diet Conservative party it would be fair to say that my more centralist and left wing views would now be welcomed under the broader church of Conservativism.

Also it is believed that I am an ambitious politico with designs on Council and Parliament and lets face it the Liberal Democrats aren't going anywhere and if I want to progress then clearly being a Conservative is the way to go. Medway Council is dominated by the Conservatives and there are a number of safe seats that I could stand in.

Of course though none of this is true.

I am Libdem through and through.

I do sit firmly in the centre ground of Politics with urrings to the right and left of the spectra depending on the issue. I also fully grasp the position of the fluidity of Democracy that Ms Dorries missed the other day. I believe in talking to residents and doing what they (or a majority) want or what is in their best interests rather than being nailed to a rigid ideology. What is good for one ward is bad for another.

Although the Conservatives, and now Labour, have moved more into the centre there are still elements of the party I could never reconcile with. This element or the Peter Bone wing and I would never see eye to eye. I also do not believe that private companies running services are a good idea. Privatising the Roads and charging tolls for example is a completely opposite stand point to me. Although I do agree in competition to encourage services to improve within the NHS and Royal Mail.

I'm also not ambitious in that way. I never have been and never will be. I will run again and if I get in I will work hard for my ward but I have not got the arrogance to presume I'd get into Council let alone through selection  let alone Parliament!!! Anyone who swaps party for that reason and that reason alone is not the sort of person you want to elect as clearly they are self serving.
Also, on a local note, I don't think I could ever see eye to eye with Councillor Jarrett and I do disagree with policies run through by Medway's Conservative dominated Council and have done so vocally here and indeed the now (in)famous Clegg City status letter!

I'm afraid I have to disappoint my critics - I am a Liberal Democrat and I believe in Liberal Democracy, I Agree with Nick and I have no intentions of jumping ship at all and being proCoalition doesn't mean that I compeletly agree with everything that comes out of Westminster except on the broader sense. Afterall no Government makes 100% correct decissions.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Pause for thought on Isle of Grain Hub

Some interesting points from an Isle of Grain resident on the proposed airport, weighing some pros and cons.

Definite food for thought.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Libdems are "Insignificant" says Nadine Dorries

It appears that Nadine Dorries has won more friends in the Liberal Democrats with her latest statement.

As the Boundary commission looks at redrawing the map of British constituencies and politics some MPs are fighting losing wards and gaining others who tend to vote the other way and other MPs, like Nadine Dorries are fighting to keep their constituencies alive and themselves employed.

As this battle rages MPs are turning to those on the ground, local Councillors, who represent the individual wards that are being moved and urging them to help, to convince voters that it is in their best interests to stay in their current boundaries, to argue with their County party colleagues and local party to make representation to the Commission.
This is indeed what Nadine Dorries has done, sending off emails to local Councillors saying that she fears that Mid Bedfordshire will be split between North Bedfordshire, South West Bedfordshire, Bedford and Hitchin and Harpenden.

One such recipient was local Libdem Councillor Tim Hill. He was surprised that for the first time in his five years as a Councillor his local MP was finally communicating with him after his many attempts to try and contact her. Then again she needed help so it made some semblance of sense.
I think she's clutching at straws and is desperate to keep her job. She doesn't want the hassle of applying for a different seat.

He also says;
It seems ironic that after five years she chooses to contact me for the first time when we could have done so much together to improve the lives of people in my ward.

He politely replied saying he did not support the cause.

Now if the story ended there it would be all fine and dandy.... However Ms Dorries would not let it lie;

I make a point of not contacting the Liberal Democrat, Tim Hill. As the Lib Dems generally have no position, principles or beliefs and tend to make it up as they go, I have never felt the need to consult him, and I'm afraid I have to disabuse him of the notion that contacting him was a deliberate act.
I'm afraid his name just popped up in a mail shot of councillors. As I regard him as an irrelevance, I would have removed it had I spotted it.
(my emphasis)


What ever your political beliefs or agenda you have to respect that the people of the ward, in this case Wootton, Stewartby and Kempston Hardwick ward, voted for their representative. Mr Hill represents, and has done for five years with 39% of the votes in 2011, these people and knows what is going on in the ward and could assist.

It seems exceptionally arrogant to dismiss him for the capital crime of being a Libdem and an irrelevance...

Did the Rebellion refuse the help of the Ewoks because they were an irrelevant indigenous species that couldn't possibly defeat the Empire?

Did Britain and it's Empire refuse the help of Brazil during World War Two because they were irrelevant to the struggle?


As for the party having no beliefs and "making it up as they go" those are obviously misinformed generalisations. Liberal Democrats as a whole are flexible and deal with issues, especially on a local level, as they arise and individually. Being held in a rigid party doctrine means that you are unable to react as well to situations. In fact the only doctrines we follow - Liberalism and Democracy mean that we do what is in the interest of people which can change regularly.

Maybe someone should send a copy of Mills On Liberty to Ms Dorries and then she will understand and see the Party's true guiding principle (a copy of which is passed down to each party President on the inauguration.) and I hate to point this out to her but... Liberals have began running Parliament with Lord Palmerston in 1855 and have successfully brought in many reforms including Old age pensions, helped form the NHS and the fact that we're still about and having an effect on British politics and still exist we are clearly not Insignificant.

The whole thing reeks of snobbery and personal dislike. The fact that she refused to call for help from Mr Hill just because he was a Libdem. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of this because I'm an irrelevance also... but then again these are my beliefs, as they are for quite a few other people and I've suddenly been labelled pointless. That and I cannot understand the arrogance behind it and the fact that an MP would disregard an entire ward that is in her care, full of voters who would may have voted in support of her in 2010 because they are in the wrong party. A councillor will help any one from their ward no matter what party they voted for yet Ms Dorries appears to not take an interest in a whole ward because a 6% majority voted for the wrong party, for at least five years!

Forget your party allegiance for a moment... If your Councillor was trying to raise your issue with the MP and they could get no answer on your behalf would you be annoyed?

Would you want your MP to take an interest in things happening in your ward and work with your elected representitive?

Lets be honest?

Cllr Hill says that he has made many strenuous and consistent efforts in trying to contact her office, each without success and receiving no feed back.

If this was my MP, I'd want something better and I'd want someone who would engage in grown up and engaging politics.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Do DRINK have a leg to stand on?

As the Boris Island debate rolls on between the Medway towns and London a Pro- Airport group is making it's voice heard within the towns, DRINK (Demand Regeneration In North Kent.).

The group, formed of local business personalities argue that the airport would kick start regeneration and bring money and prosperity to the region.

It is true that since the closure of the Dockyards in Gillingham and Chatham, money has slowly leached out of the area effecting wards like Gillingham North, Gillingham South and Chatham Central which have become severely run down. Gillingham High street, which I remember as a boy was diverse and teaming, has died an agonising death and businesses have struggled financially. Even the Wimpy burger has closed down.

(On paper) A large venture, such as the airport would indeed provide a wealth of jobs for the Medway town's population, whose levels of unemployment have risen during the financial crisis. More houses will need to be built for people coming to the area, hotels, rail connections, roads and money will return to the towns.

Gillingham F.C Chairman, Paul Scally wrote in Friday's Messenger;

Anything that creates tens of thousands of jobs has to be looked at, and we would be failing ourselves and our children if we didn't.
I don't know where the best place for it is. If it can be in Medway and benefit Medway, then all the better for Medway.

Chairman of the group, Neville Gaunt, similarly said;
We have been inundated by business owners who are angry that the politicians are passing up what could be the best thing to happen to North Kent in years- something that could create jobs and bring hope to the unemployed and poorly paid as well as reduce the real poverty we have in parts of the area.

Believing that there should be more of a debate and are concerned by the Political unity (Unity of parties? really?) in their opposition. They claim that local politicos and Councillors will inadvertently hurt the people they claim to represent.

They wrote an Open Letter on the subject. (View Here)

I've thought about this before, but last year when the first rumblings began to happen I asked Socialist party member Jac Berry if the airport, in her opinion, would bring affordable housing, jobs and money to the region and that could this be a good thing?
I completely agree with her answer, which ran something like this: Money and jobs is all well and good but we've only got one planet and we need to protect the environment.

After all the vast areas of green space around the Medway towns, and especially the unique Thames marshlands in Grain are areas of outstanding beauty. Also how many home owners now want to live in the flight path of one of the (hoped to be) busiest airports in the world. Its bad enough I am kept awake by my next door neighbours dance music let alone a the 3.15am flight in from Dubai! My house value would drop even more.

The estuary itself is not safe for flight with such a high chance of bird impact. During the Second World War, when large green areas were converted to Military airfields, North Kent was left alone,l (other than Gravesend - but a couple of squadrons of Single-seat fighters aren't the same as bombers or transports.) and the Luftwaffe did not operate out over the estuary in large numbers either for the same reason.

Also there is the other economic concern, that of the bottom falling out of air travel. With increasing taxation on travel and with people running out of disposable income for expensive holidays and travel as well as the fossil fuels crisis whose to say what the state of Air transport will by the time the Hub is finished?

More importantly, I can speak for Medway Libdems who have spoken to their constituents, as have local Conservatives and Labour, they're not convinced and don't want it. I take DRINK's point but I don't think anyone else agrees.

My Granddad said recently, Why trust businessmen advice? At the end of the day they want to line their own pockets rather than what's best for the people. - Indeed.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Labour Flogging a dead horse on Referendum

This is of course my opinion and not necessarily the view of the Medway Libdems...

Some may have seen the Twittersphere alight this morning with a somewhat heated discussion on the notion of Boris Island between Cllr Osborne and myself.

Well it dented my pool of calm and forced me to abandon my book (A clash of Kings by George R R Martin if anyone is interested.) and focus my thoughts on this.

First I should illuminate - A while ago Medway Labour put forward the notion of holding a local referendum on Popular opinion over Boris Island at a Full Council Meeting. As I understand from tweets from observers, what had been a well argued point became a bit of an Anti Tory rant by Cllr Osborne.

That aside the Council took a vote.

For the Referendum... Labour

Against the Referendum... Conservatives
                                        Independent Group
                                        Liberal Democrats.

Motion Failed.

Democracy is fickle and sometimes people vote against clearly good ideas i.e. AV...

But you have to respect the decisions however much you disagree.
I still believe the Government sale of Oregon was wrong. I believe the treaty with France rather than Germany before World War One was a mistake and I still believe AV is a better system than FPTP But I don't harp on  about it.

The fact is a referendum would have no effect what so ever.

To quote one a tweet from this morning:- Let People say No and send a mssg (sic) to Cam and Clegg. No means No.

Well let us examine this...

Firstly, Clegg has already said No. In fact the Liberal Democrat and Green Parties are the only two parties that have been consistent in their stance against the whole project in Parliament.

Secondly, should the Medway Messenger's headline from the other week about George Osborne's email inbox being filled with "No" emails, coupled with the letter to Justine Greening by the Council, Opinion in the local press, the representations from the three elected MPs to the Minister... I fail to see how a referendum would add to these.
A Government willing to ignore all these Representations would also clearly ignore a referendum. Clearly the local opinion as a whole is "No" already?

Also Local Opinion won't matter if National outweighs it. After all if You were Prime Minister and a project needed to go through would you side with the many or the few?

Let's be honest...

This is then added to the Environmental impact, the fact the Thames Estuary area is being protected by the Government. Could they quickly then ignore that?

Finally... I revert back to the Yellow Nosed bastard points mentioned here and here (which still haven't been answered by the way) and to the question left unanswered from this morning...


The Medway tax payer is already facing service cuts, including to Elderly care, sure start emergency funds cut, they cannot be asked to have their already stretched money spent answering the question we already claim to know the answer to and tell the Government yet again something we've already told them several times...
I don't think you could justify the expense. If there is another source for the money then please answer the question....

The motion failed, the Council can't justify the expense, everyone knows local opposition to it, let it go.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Osborne and Vince have knuckles rapped.

Medway Council's investigation of Councillor Tristan Osbourne and Councillor Vince Maple has come to a swift close with a slapped wrist from Legal officer Perry Holmes and the issue of a Statement of retraction. According to an article in the Medway Messenger (19th March) the member of the Council who complained was none other than Councillor Jarrett - Deputy leader of the Conservative Group:

I held the view that they had acted improperly and I think the decision has borne that out.

In defence Councillor Maple said; We were clearly criticising the council in their ability to manage fraud.
Councillor Osborne stated; Councillor Jarrett should be concentrating on sorting outstanding Council tax, rather than chasing an opposition which is legitimately holding his financial mismanagement to account.

Well... I agree with Councillor Jarrett on this occasion. I know, pigs have just been flying around the Naval memorial on the Great lines but there it is.

The original post title was worded along the lines of Medway Council one of the most Fraudulent in the UK.

As the article unfolded it did, as Councillor Maple says, explain that it was the area and failure of the administration to deal with Council tax fraud and invasion. - Fair enough.

BUT Any first year Media studies student or even any commuter will tell you the thing most people take away from an article is the headline, often not getting past the first paragraph. I can say from leafing through the papers on the train in the morning that I read the headline/title then move on if it doesn't interest me but it may stick in my mind. What would I have taken away from the Labour articles?
Medway Council was fraudulent.

How many people, who are still reading at this point, thought that this was an article about George Osborne and Vince Cable?

If I had a title called Tracey Crouch; The MP and the Football coach. How many people would read it and jump to the wrong conclusion of a seedy affair rather than a biopic piece about how she balances being an MP and Coach to the Under 14's Meridian Girls football team?

The point they were making in their leaflets and blogpost is valid and it is up to the opposition to publish the facts and call the Conservative administration to account using factual and substantiated claims. However the wording of the original title and again the sentence that described the council as Fraudulent was not thought out properly. It sounds like aspersions of a different nature are being thrown around by Medway Labour, aspersions that are not true.

The blogosphere is watched as a media outlet and those who write have a responsibility to be as honest and straight forward as we can. As I stated before;
At best it was a poor choice of wording, at worst it was a deliberate term to plant seeds in the minds of people who wouldn't then read the whole article but blissfully walk away thinking the Council committed Fraud

There may be better things to spend Tax payers money on but Standards are Standards and if the Independent board upheld the complaint and felt that action was needed clearly Cllrs Maple and Osborne were in the wrong. I hope that this is the end of it though and lessons have been learnt.

Tax the rich. Clegg vs. Cable

As the country continues to struggle to fill the deficit and as austerity measures begin the bite at the already stretched middle and working classes eyes turn to those who have plenty and call for them to pay their share and to help their country in an almost patriotic call is put out divisions on how to do it begin to show at the Libdem Spring Conference.

This all started with the 50p tax that the Conservatives desperately want to be rid of which was put in place as Super Income tax by Labour for anyone who earns £150k which is a good way of hitting those on high incomes such as executives and indeed Premiership footballers. (rumours have it that Arsenal's new signing Lucas Podolski will earn £100k a week but others earn a lot more especially with sponsorship and appearances etc.)

But what should it be replaced with?

Well, Dr Vince is in favour of the Mansion tax, something Liberals have always liked as it attacks those who do not earn and sit on their wealth rather than those who are working hard. This is why we've fought the Conservatives to raise the level of income tax to £10k so that those on low incomes can enjoy their hard earned money. This Mansion tax will be based on the value of your home and should hit anyone with a home valued at £2 million pounds.

There is a broad understanding that if the 50p rate were to go... it should be replaced by taxation of wealth because the wealthy people of the country have to pay their share, particularly at a time of economic difficulty.
The mansion tax is actually a very economically sensible way of doing it. says Dr Vince (quoted from Evening Standard Cable targeting London as price of axing 50p tax, p2 6-3-12).

Indeed it should raise £1.5bn per year - ka----ching.

Unfortunately it will hit those who live in London and other wealthy cities where house prices are pushed up by the area and may not reflect the wealth of the individual.

If this tax is coupled with Stamp duty crackdowns, which would tighten loop holes and force landlords and tycoons to keep properties in their names rather than companies (worth £1 bn) even more money for central government will become available to lessen the blow of the cuts on the individuals.
However at Conference Nick came out with a new idea; The Tycoon tax.

The tax, inspired by a similar measure put forward by Obama in the US, means that those on high income will pay a proportion of their income in tax. In the US millionaires look at paying 30% of their income to the Government coffers.

Lord Oakeshott described such a tax as; a superficially attractive measure that falls apart under scrutiny and does nothing to do with the super rich non-doms and non-residents.

To whit Nick responded;  The only person who argues against a tycoon tax is one of our very own tycoons.

According to the Guardian report (Nick Clegg and Vince Cable split on Tycoon tax 11th-3-12) Clegg's aides had briefed him that Oakeshott was isolated and that Dr Vince would back the plans - it was a gamble as Dr Vince, a brilliant economist, didn't bite and only cagily said;
I have not seen the proposals so I cannot give you a very informed comment. The idea is an interesting one.

Danny Alexander, had a slightly more pro Clegg approach;

I think it's a very interesting and goood idea. It's one that could really help to ensure the thing that we all need to do as a country, which is to make sure that the wealthiest of this country pay their fair share of tax.

The problem is Lord Oakeshott believes that a Tycoon tax will take the onus off the mansion tax (which will hit nondomicials who maintain huge houses here like the Beckhams etc). It seems that Nick has backed down on the glossy tax for this budget but will push for the next one.

Still, as Chancellor George Osborne limbers up for today's budget we will have to see if Mansion tax is on the cards.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Nick Clegg is my political hero and he should be yours.

Lembit Opik has suggested that should Nick Clegg lead the party into the 2015 election he will lead it to disaster.
I've spent a lot of time dwelling on 2015 and on how we as a party are going to deal with such a difficult election. More importantly is the position of Nick with in the party at this time. Should he be removed now and a new leader put in place?

I like Nick, I think he is a fantastic leader and a Liberal from the old school sitting neither on the left or the right - doing what has to be done but along the lines of Liberal philosophy. The Lib Dems have always been a good base for policy and ideas which had attracted a lot of support both Nationally and locally all the way up to the pinnacle of Cleggmania in April 2010. The party itself is a melting pot of Liberals, Social democrats, pro Europeans, Environmentalists, Local Campaigners and we, for the most part debate and vote on policies amongst ourselves and up until 2010 no one had to think that they would be the tough decisions that have had to be made as to which we run with and which we ditch. He has provided a direction, not necessarily always the right direction but that is a matter of opinion. People can now see that we as a party are not a group of rudderless hippies and a protest vote, we stand for something and will make a difference to their lives if elected.

The Coalition has been a real test for not only the Public's perceptions of the party but the party itself by testing ideology and direction. The Coalition was born out of necessity to rectify the horrific state of affairs the Brown Government had left behind.
I know Libdems who have allowed their membership to lapse because of the Conservatives and I know of more than a few Conservatives who loathe our presence and impact. but it is working. A general consensus has been reached on the broad approaches and it's only large issues like NHS reform, Europe, tuition fees where there is a conflict of ideology. Even as the very junior partner we're getting a lot of our pledges through. Liberal Democrats are making a real difference including eleventh hour interventions on the NHS bill. Would a purely Conservative Government have brought in the Pupil premium? Raised the income tax threshold? carried out Constitutional reform? Unlikely.

No one would deny that the road had been all plain sailing but a remarkable (and unpublished) amount of Libdem work has gone in and the credit for this should go to the top.

Nick is manning the helm and absorbing a lot of the flak that isn't just limited to political criticism but also personal abuse from burning effigies but to dog effluent through the letter box. He has become a national hate figure yet he seems to take it in his stride and carries on doing what needs to be done. Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Labour, students, People on the streets... all seem to treat him with distaste and dislike - even my Mum, who is as apolitical as they come said at Christmas; "I think that Nick Clegg is a bit of a drip."
(Thanks Mum... Though my Grandfather said; "Chris is a bloody Liberal.")

Working with the Conservatives, especially in a Government who has had to make hideously difficult and unpopular decisions was always going to be tough. The Nation needs redirecting and dragging back into the black and to do so means cuts no matter what Labour tell you, reckless spending isn't going to do it and their financial plans don't explain where they are getting the money for some of their schemes. Clegg has swallowed the Jagged little pill and is now trying to cushion the blow, at least offering certain incentives and spoon fulls of sugar to take away the nasty tastes. I doubt many other political leaders or Libdems could have gone into this Coalition and made it work as well.

There have been times when I felt that I have been more than disappointed in Nick. I remember the hurt I felt when tuition fees were raised - it shook my very belief structure to the very core and took a couple of weeks of soul searching before I could come to terms with it as a major sacrifice. Then we come to the NHS bill. I've shied away from talking about it as my opinion of the NHS is far from impartial which I shan't talk about here, I've also, for the same reason not really looked at the bill and can only go on what I've heard. However, irrespective of what you, I or Nick think Spring Conference voted on aspects of the bill and these wishes were not represented in the Parliamentary vote on Tuesday. Is this a case of the Leadership over ruling the members or that they are in the position of the "know" and can make an informed decision as the membership just plain got it wrong? Who's to say, but we're a democratic party and I think that they should have represented the membership. Despite these arguments I find myself thinking; Which leader is perfect? The guy's only human and we all make mistakes and do what we think is right.
When it comes to 2015 though Nick Clegg
     Some of the anger coming from activists on the left of the party comes from people who joined seeing the party as an alternative to the New Labour right but Nick said in 2002;
Look, if that's what you think the party is, you're wrong, and maybe you ought to be joining the Socialist Workers party if that's what you want. you can join this party, but you need to understand that we're not the left-wing socialist alternative to Labour, we're a liberal and democratic party
(From Nick Clegg a Biography (kindle edition location 1892-3)
This is true, for the most part although I'm sure the ex Social democrat members feel the same, but as a Liberal I do. The party is not on the left or right but centre doing things that need doing and trying to improve the lot of the majority using good old fashioned Liberal ideas from Mill, to Paine, to Gladstone, to Lloyd George to Grimmond and I think Nick is doing as good a job of that as anyone.

I will back Nick at the next election. Regicide before then will be detrimental and could see the Coalition tear apart before 2015. Likewise putting in a spanking new Leader for 2015 is not a good idea either as they need to be grounded, know what is happening in the party and Coalition and the only people duly placed for that have the "taint" of Coalition upon them too. It would be best for Nick to carry on and lead us as he has done. He has done and is doing a fantastic job and should be allowed to carry on. I can proudly still say  - I agree with Nick.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Medway Libdems Press release on City status

Here follows the official press release from Medway Libdems concerning the failed City Status bid by the Medway towns. It's late and I've been out all day so I'll write a commentary to it tomorrow with response to the inevitable News reports in tomorrows Medway Messenger.

PRESS RELEASE 14/03/2012

Already, Medway Conservative Councillors are blaming the LibDems for having snookered their bid for Medway City-Status. But with all the time; money; re-branding and propaganda the Conservative Council have invested in their efforts, and all the hours of involving highly paid council employees, it is difficult to believe that one brief letter from Medway LibDems to the DPM was responsible for the decision taken in awarding the status to Chelmsford and not Medway.

LibDems now wonder what the cost to the Medway council tax payers will be in removing the City-Status branding and signage that the Council so arrogantly adopted many months ago.

Medway Conservative Council has previously bid unsuccessfully twice for Medway City Status. It seems that on this occasion they were completely sucked into their own propaganda. However, they will not take responsibility for their own folly, but instead would have it that (“a couple of Lib Dem activists” – Cllr. Jarrett’s words) have such significant influence over the DPM as to be able to successfully torpedo the Tory Council’s unwarranted aspirations.

We found during last year’s local election campaign that City Status for Medway was not popular with the electorate and had the Conservative Council researched the issue properly, and perhaps consulted more widely, they would have realised this and not pursued their quest any further.

We LibDems have said constantly that Medway was not yet ready for city status, with the regeneration of the towns nowhere near completed and the shopping centres still leaving much to be desired.

Tony Jeacock
Medway Liberal Democrats
(.. for and on behalf of)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Medway to remain towns.

It was announced this morning that Medway's third bid for city status has failed and that Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph have been named as the Nation's three new cities (one from England, Scotland and Wales).

It'd be easy for me to write an "I told you so" blog post, but I won't for two reasons.

1. I'm not an arsehole. I know how hard people worked for Medway to become a city, and I know that they were doing it with the best of intentions and the depth of feeling behind it. I know how I would be feeling should the decision have gone the other way. I sincerely want to express my commiserations to all those who worked hard for this.

2. Our letter to Nick Clegg (written to him as Deputy Prime Minister - Not as Leader of the Liberal Democrats) probably made no difference what so ever! I'd like to think that it did but come on. Lets be honest. I think a city from each country was a good idea showing true national spirit and cooperation, celebrating each facet of this wonderful Island nation. Also Reading was the over all bookies favourite with Medway in close second... Reading didn't even win.

Now that it is all over though we can get back to addressing the problems in our towns. The money that would have been spent on re branding (which would have been extensive) can now be put back into public spending and services. Regeneration of Chatham and Gillingham is far from complete, in fact the Citizen Advice Bureau has just been granted money to help the three poorest wards (Gillingham South, Gillingham North and Chatham Central) to aid with improvements through citizen committees. We can look forward to making the Medway Towns better for everyone and maybe lessen the blow of cuts to the citizenry.

The party is not against the idea of City status at all, its just that at the moment it is a financial frivolity and at a time in the future when the economy is stronger and if the consultation is done properly too, we will support the motion. On this occasion, we listened to the people on the door steps last May and we heard apathy or dislike and we wrote on their behalf, we did what the opposition should do in these occasions.

I'm sure that a lot of flak will come our way from some very disgruntled people, indeed I hear Councillor Jarrett has said some really blistering comments and I look forward to reading them in the Messenger on Friday. It would be easy to blame us for not winning the title but as I said, I honestly don't think that we made the difference and it would be arrogant of me to claim credit for it. Lets just say that the best Town won and respect the decisions of the cabinet office.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Assisted dying.

My Grandmother Sams died when I was four from throat Cancer, my Grandfather was at her side and took care of her through her illness but would never talk about it, except that he had lost the love of his life.

However when I was at school and there was a debate on assisted dying and Euthanasia he did say in conversation that the hardest thing in life is to watch someone you care deeply about suffer in agony and slowly. He said that, if a dog was dying from an illness or hideous injury the humane thing to do is to put them to sleep but when it comes to humans there is a different barrier.

Euthanasia is an ugly word. It brings to mind images of Nazi mandatory euthanasia, the programs to purge the human race of mentally and physically ill people under the guise of "Humanity."

It doesn't have to be like that.

What I say isn't applicable to those with mentally disability or suffering from the depression, mostly those with terminal or life debilitating diseases. I'm not being discriminatory, its just I know that that is a particular can of worms that leads to a heated debate and I'm not the person to start it. My sister worked as an NHS psychologist and has dealt with suicidal people and those with depression and said it is a tricky area. She said all you can do is offer as much help and support as you can but if someone is determined enough to take their own life they will, a fact confirmed by my Grandfather who, as a Policeman, had witnessed more than a few suicides in his time.
Or indeed, when I was a student, a man on Winchester station was arguing with his son then calmly walked down the platform and into the path of the express as it thundered through.
As I say, the main thrust of my argument is for those who are physically sick or debilitated and want to die.

As a Liberal, I believe in the rights of Man and as much freedom from the state as can be gained responsibly. Ultimately you have the rights to do what you want within the structure of law and as long as your actions do not infringe on other people's lives or rights. If someone is dying or living life in agony and wants to die, to end it I honestly believe that they should be allowed to. Medicine can only do so much to alleviate pain and to offer quality of life and should the patient feel that their quality of life is such that they cannot carry on then why not?

I know it is slightly different but assisted dying has happened at war for many years. Soldiers, to badly wounded to move have been left with pistols to finish the job, or been helped out by a comrade. RAF pilots would often carry revolvers in case they were trapped in a burning fighter heading towards the ground and this was at a time that Suicide was considered "self Murder" and illegal. Everyone just looked the other way.

Yes Suicide is a selfish act. It ends your suffering but leaves others in pain and having to deal with the emotional loss of a loved one but that loss must be weighed against the pain and suffering of the individual and surely it is better to remember someone as they were rather than what they became?
I always remember my Grandfather sat in his chair with a glass of Sicilian Red or German White, a sausage sandwich at his side and his smile - not as the whithered shell that lay in the Chapel of Remembrance at Medway Maritime - I refuse to. I only had to see him for five minutes like that so I was able to suppress the memory but someone who sees their partner deteriorate over months or even years doesn't have that luxury.

What if they find a cure?

Yes, I remember the scene in Star Trek V (the Final Frontier) when Dr McCoy helped his father to die and then a month or so later they found a cure and he could have recovered.
Life doesn't always pan out like that and with every decision you make you have to use the available information.

Our choices, our freedoms are restricted by many things including Law, money, time, others... We try to navigate life to get and do what we want in cooperation with others but ultimately the only thing we have power over is if we want Life to end. Why can't someone who makes that choice but physically can't carry it out be assisted?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Councillor Jarrett's Waterloo

The Bus station is Jarrett's Waterloo
During last month's preamble and budget Statement Councillor Alan Jarrett, deputy leader of the Conservative group and the portfolio holder for Finance within the council stated that he was lied to about the costs involved in Medway's "Dynamic Water front Bus facility" by Medway Renaissance and that he was unaware, until it was too late, that the Council would have to pour more money into the project to complete it.

This move has been welcomed by some members of the Council who have said that it is about time that officers face the music as well as portfolio holders. The example of Cllr Wicks and the failed "Medway Test" fiasco in which he bore the brunt of the blame even though an equal if not greater share could have been passed down to his lead officer who had a significant part in the organising of the test.

However, for blame one must look to the top. After the fateful day in 1815, who was considered to have lost the Battle of Waterloo? Was it Marshall Ney for squandering the cavalry on a ridiculous charge against Maitland's infantry formations? Was it Marshall Grouchy for failing to march his 30,000 men to the sound of the guns and appearing on Wellington's flank? No... the blame fell squarely upon Napoleon Bonaparte himself and so must it fall upon Councillor Jarrett.

If he was not informed he is to blame for not finding out. He IS the head of finance in the council, should he not have taken a greater look, paid more of an interest in this project?
In fact, some of Medway Renaissance (which conveniently no longer exists) argued that he did know and was kept informed by regular meetings and emails.

I must apologise for this, regular readers will know that I normally site my sources of information but this time I am forced to use an anonymous source and ask my readers to trust me on the reliability of it. I cannot name my source but I trust them implicitly and they have no reason to lie so please - trust me as I trust them.

I have been reliably informed by a source that those on the planning committee  for the Bus station (including Councillor Jarrett) were informed that the glass sections would go from floor to ceiling and that each enclosed passenger area would have automatic doors. They were also told that it was going to go over budget.

Indeed, Brian Weddell former head of Medway Renaissance has argued that Medway Renaissance did a lot of  good work and was monitored by elected members quite closely and indeed;

The Question is, against this background, why would anyone on the Medway Renaissance team lie? It is worth noting that the team was disbanded in March 2011. It seems odd that questions over the building programme have come to light one year later as the accounts should have been settled by the end of the summer 2011.
(sited in the Letters page from Medway Messenger 9-3-12)

This is a very good question. Councillor Jarrett has said that he is considering legal action against the group but it has taken a year for this to come to light - why not when the bus station so spectacularly failed to launch?

Other problems with his recent budget is the claims that they are having to deal with the cuts from central Government that have occurred over the past two years. My question is;

Why has the council not seen this coming? After all we knew in 2009 that there was going to be a financial storm approaching and that money was going to be short. This was confirmed when the Coalition was formed in May 2010 and the "No more Money" note was found.
Surely the time to start making savings and looking at the future was then.

No, Medway Council, like the proverbial cricket failed to put anything away for the winter and carried on spending money hand over fist and have suddenly found themselves without the money to maintain services as they should be. In fact, with poor planning they have cost the Medway tax payer more money with the cockups over photocopiers, Woodlands School rebuild, contested fines over the dubious practises of the CCTV car, the list goes on.

This lack of foresight has cost us, the Medway residents and we should see something for it.

Councillor Jarrett may have done a fantastic job in the past but he has failed spectacularly over the bus station, spending and forecasting and like Napoleon he should be forced to stand down.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nick Clegg's Spring Conference Speech

This year will show the best of Britain. The Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, a nation proud of our past, but with our face to the future. A nation that treasures liberty, honours hard work and values fair play and fair chances. That is the character of our country: strong, confident, united.

And our character as a nation is being tested, because even in this year of celebration families are under pressure, worrying about paying their bills, about keeping their jobs, about the future.
The road to full recovery for our economy will be long, and it will be hard. Anybody who says there is a quick or easy way out is kidding themselves. So the Coalition Government is working hard to clean up after the financial storm of 2008. Sweeping up Labour’s mess and keeping our economy safe.

At times like these, we must pull together. Not let ourselves be pulled apart. Pull together as one nation. A liberal nation because that is the spirit of Britain.

Some people think there is something slightly un-British about liberalism. But this country, our country, is the home of liberty. And we Liberal Democrats are heirs to the great, British liberal cause. I am proud that now, in this Coalition Government, Liberal Democrats are repairing Labour’s industrial-scale destruction of liberty.
Reversing 28 days of detention without trial, destroying the DNA records of innocent people held by the state, ending the illiberal nonsense of ID cards.
British liberties restored by British liberals.
Before 2015, because of us there will be:
the first gay marriage – and an end to child detention
the first bank levy – an end to huge tax loopholes for the rich
the first elections to House of Lords – an end to Control Orders
the first coalition government in our lifetimes
and an end to the myth that Liberal Democrats can’t govern.

We are governing to fix our economy. We are governing to fight for fairness. We are in government – and we are on your side.

So yes, these are hard times. But this will be a good year for a great nation. A good year for Britain.
But let me tell you, this will be a good year for British liberalism too.
Our biggest challenge is to rescue our economy. We need to sort out the financial mess Labour left us. But we need economic reform too. We need a new economy that serves not one square mile, but one nation. Not creative accounting, but creative industries. Not the City, but all our cities. Healing the divide between North and South. That’s why our Regional Growth Fund – that Ian Wrigglesworth has helped to lead – is investing £2.4 billion. Creating more than 300 hundred thousand jobs in the areas that need them most.
And we will bring sanity and responsibility to our banking sector. That’s why we’ve put up the bank levy. And why we are protecting high street banks from risky investments.

We will free our cities. That’s why we are striking deals with our biggest cities:
Sheffield and Manchester
Liverpool and Leeds
Bristol and Birmingham
Nottingham and Newcastle

Giving all of these great cities new powers and new opportunities, to be the engines of growth again.

And we will rebalance power in the workplace. That’s why I want us to build a ‘John Lewis’ economy, where workers have a real stake. Not capital versus labour, bosses versus workers but modern enterprises built on shared endeavour and shared profit.
An old liberal idea to build a new liberal economy.

And a sustainable economy, one that protects the environment. Tackling climate change, green jobs for the future, green apprenticeships and a Green Deal to cut energy bills.

Some say we have to choose between boosting growth and being green. What a load of rubbish. Going for growth means going green. The race is on to lead the world in clean energy. The new economic powerhouses – China, India, Brazil – are competing.

So the choice for the UK is simple: wake up, or end up playing catch up. Going green is not a luxury for the good times. It is the best road out of the bad times.

Our party is the green party of government. We have always been a green party. And let me tell you this: we always will be a green party because we need an economy fit for the future to pull us out of this economic downturn.

And in these hard times, we have to look out for each other. That’s why I fought so hard for benefits to be increased fully in line with inflation. The biggest cash rise ever in the basic state pension because we promised to look after pensioners. And we will.

Benefits for the unemployed were protected, too. Not everyone agreed with me on this, if you believed some of the stories. You would think these benefits are unlimited handouts for so-called “scroungers’’. But these are benefits for ordinary people. Many of them laid off through no fault of their own and who strive to get back into work.

Most people who claim Job Seekers Allowance are off benefits within three months. They don’t all sit there waiting for the next welfare cheque. That is a dangerous myth, that dishonours those down on their luck.
A friend of mine recently shared his memories of his father becoming unemployed. His Dad signed on but every day, he set the alarm for the same time as he had done for his job. He got up, shaved, put on a shirt and tie and sat at the kitchen table, working to get a job. And my friend said: “I’ve never been more proud of my Dad”.

So let’s never forget. Unemployment benefits are benefits for people who fall on hard times and hard times are not the moment to slash them. But if you are on benefit, you owe it to the nation, to yourself, and to your family to strain every sinew to find a job. To get up every day, just like my friend’s Dad at the kitchen table and work at finding a job.

That’s why I am such strong supporter of the basic idea driving the Coalition’s welfare reforms to make work pay, boost independence and give real help finding a job rather than leaving people stuck on the dole, enslaved by poverty.

That is why, in a few weeks time, I will be launching the new Youth Contract. A Liberal Democrat drive for youth jobs: 20,000 more apprenticeships, 160,000 new jobs and 250,000 work experience places. A £1 billion scheme to get every jobless youngster earning or learning, getting all our young people earning or learning.

Because no matter how hard things may be we will never, ever leave our young people behind.
That includes encouraging work experience. There’s been some controversy about this policy but I make no apology for it because we are doing the right thing. Labour’s benefit rules actually penalised unemployed youngsters for getting work experience. So thousands of them ended up on the sofa, glued to the TV, cut off from the world of work, wasting time and losing hope. Our policy means young people can get up and get on, keep their skills alive, keep up the habits of a working life and improve their chance of landing a job.
Because let me tell you this: there is nothing liberal about leaving our young people to waste away on the dole.

So: we all have a part to play, a duty to the nation, and this duty is greatest of all for those with the greatest means. Those with the broadest shoulders should carry the heaviest burden – that is basic justice, Liberal justice. But that is not how it feels today.

Too often, rather than paying their dues the wealthy pay their accountants to get them out of it. Avoiding tax, minimising the amount they have to contribute – that’s the name of their game. Boasting about the latest wheeze for moving an asset here, a property there and a loophole everywhere. All to make the tax bill lower.
Let me tell you, few things make me angrier as the unemployed struggle to find work, as ordinary families struggle to make ends meet, as young people struggle to get on the housing ladder: the sight of the wealthiest scheming to keep their tax bill down to the bare minimum is frankly disgraceful. Multimillionaires avoiding tax by moving their money around.

So: we will call time on the tycoon tax dodgers and make sure everyone pays a fair level of tax. We’ve already raised capital gains tax, cut tax reliefs for the wealthiest, clamped down on tax avoidance at the top and we will go further because the Liberal Democrats have a crystal clear approach.
A philosophy of tax as old as our party, described by Mill, pursued by Gladstone, implemented by Lloyd George: tax wealth, not wages. That is why we will raise the income tax threshold to £10,000. A radical tax policy. Our tax policy.

From next month, 25 million people will have more money in their pocket and over a million low-paid workers will have stopped paying income tax altogether. Just think about that for a moment: a million more workers with no tax bill because of us, because of you.
That’s what it means to be a Liberal Democrat: real tax cuts at a time of real need. But we have to do more. That is why the Budget in ten days time and must offer concrete help to hard-pressed, hard-working families: a big increase in the income tax threshold, further and faster towards £10,000.
Help we promised, help we must deliver in Government, today.

I want the Budget to show how we are anchoring this Government in the centre ground. Credible – but fair. The last Labour budgets led our nation to the economic precipice. Fantasy budgets issued by a party in denial – out of ideas – and abdicating responsibility.
This month’s Coalition budget will show the determination of both parties in Government to repair the public finances. Keep our economy safe and help working families.

The last big tax-cutting budget was in 1988. Nigel Lawson cut billions from the tax bills of the highest-paid workers: a budget for the few, not for the many. But this year’s Coalition Budget must be a budget for fairness – not an 80s Lawson budget but a modern liberal budget.

Because we need a tax system for a nation pulling together: not being pulled apart. More important now than ever, when the forces of division are so strong. In dark economic times, people can turn inwards, close their doors, look for scapegoats. Fear can breed resentment and division: divisions between north and south between the nations of the UK, between different races or religions, between rich and poor, between the generations. Britain has a proud record of diversity and tolerance but we cannot be complacent. When the economy weakens, prejudice can breed.
So let’s fight it, in every corner of our nation.

We are bringing forward proposals for gay marriage, already provoking debate. Let me just say, if you are a young gay person, your freedom to love who you choose is a
fundamental right in a liberal society – and you will always have our support.

Let’s also fight for liberalism in London where just one more Liberal Democrat member of the Assembly would ensure the BNP gets kicked off. What a great moment for British tolerance that would be.
Let’s wipe away the ugly face of racism and reaction. I call on all Londoners – vote for Brian Paddick, vote Liberal Democrat and kick out the BNP bigots.

And let me also say a word or two about Scotland. I want the Scottish people to have much more power for over Scottish affairs. The Liberal Democrats are, after all, the party of home rule. But I also know that, as nations in a United Kingdom, we are better together than we would be apart: richer, safer and stronger.
Alex Salmond wants to break up the nations of the United Kingdom. I want to keep them together. He says this is a time for division – I say it is a time for unity. He wants to split us apart – I want us to pull together.
It is our job, as liberals, to fight against the forces of division. Fight for our vision of an optimistic, open and tolerant nation: a nation confident enough to face outwards to the world. Arguing, as I will be, at the Rio+20 Summit for green growth to create jobs, engaging with emerging nations to drive free trade, supporting President Obama’s drive, in Korea this year to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists and becoming the first major economy to hit the UN’s 0.7 per cent target for foreign aid.

Real help for the poorest in the world, promised by us and the Conservatives in opposition – delivered by us together in government. This is a time that demands a better politics. A politics of the national interest.
That’s why I am proud of this Coalition Government. We have shown that two parties, two very different parties, can govern together. Never again will the political Luddites be able to say that coalitions don’t work. Coalition is working, it is has been tested and it has passed the test.

Take NHS reform. Controversial, yes. Difficult, yes. But the value of coalition has been proven because this is a coalition Government. The health bill was stopped in its tracks and rewritten because this is a coalition Government. Competition will be the servant of health care, not the master because this is a coalition government.

This is a bill for patients not profits. It is not a Liberal Democrat health bill but it is a better bill because of the Liberal Democrats, a better bill because of you. A better bill because of Shirley Williams – Shirley: thank you.

So: I am proud of how Coalition is working but I am even more proud of us, of you. The Liberal Democrats are once again a truly national party of government. The only party of the centre ground, not of the left or right, of north or south, rich or poor but doing the right thing for the whole nation.

The other parties are bound and gagged by vested interests. We are not. The other parties are hemmed into certain parts of the country. Look at the electoral map: blue seats in the south, red ones in the north. Look at where the money comes from: trade unions on one side, City financiers on the other. That is why we can say today: the Liberal Democrats are the only true one nation party.

A one nation party of the radical centre, representing all regions and nations. Seeing not what divides us – but what unites us. Sound on the economy, passionate about fairness: doing the right thing and battling vested interests. Challenging the status quo

For this is the timeless liberal mission: taking on the establishment when it fails the people. A more urgent challenge today than for generations because the old establishment has failed.
The two square miles – the City and Westminster have failed. Failed the ordinary people of this country and must not be allowed to fail them again. Now that we’re in Government, people might ask if we can still be the party that challenges the establishment. The answer to that is an emphatic yes.

I may be Deputy Prime Minister but let me tell you: I am as much of a radical as ever.
Jo Grimond decried the conservatives of all parties, those who he said showed a ‘sentiment in favour of things as they are’:

Things as they are means an economy for executives not ordinary workers
Things as they are means a bank system that bankrupts our economy
Things as they are means life chances being crushed by the fortunes of birth
Things as they are means a tax system that hurts ordinary working families
Things are they are means a House of Lords stuffed with machine politicians
Things as they are means political parties kow-towing to media moguls
Things as they are just won’t do any more

And we are in politics to change them. We are the pioneers of British politics: our eyes on the horizon. By 2015, we will have done a lot but we will have plenty left to do.
Take education – a touchstone issue for this party. We will have changed the landscape by the end of this parliament, spending £2.5 billion a year on our pupil premium to strengthen our schools and create new opportunities for our children.

But that is just the beginning.

So I want our ambitions for education to be at the very heart of our manifesto in 2015. Education that delivers on the liberal promise: that every child can go as far as their talent will take them. That is what we Liberal Democrats will fight for.

So: 2015 is not the destination. 2015 is a staging post. This country will be a more liberal nation but we will just be beginning to tackle the deep problems that cramp the lives of our citizens and hobble our economy.
Because let me tell you this: in 2015 we won’t be looking back, asking people to thank us for what we have done. We will be looking forwards and asking for their support for what we can do together in the future.
We won’t have finished the job in 2015. We will just be getting started, just getting started on making this nation.

A more liberal Britain with every passing year: that’s the prize.
Let’s get out there and fight for it.

Eagle's strike Boris Island

Maria Eagle MP
It has been some 71 years and seven months Tuesday (13th March) since Eagleday saw airfields attacked across Kent and the South east for the first time yet last week the proposed Grain/Boris Island airport was struck again by an Eagle in the form of Maria Eagle. The Labour Shadow minister of transport came to Grain to meet local Councillors (pictured with the Labour Councillors in the Medway Messenger 9th March p.10), environmentalists, residents of Grain village which may cease to exist if Grain airport gets the green light.

According to Alan McGuinness' report (Labour Transport Chief: Lets take Politics out of airport discussions);

She said Labour had a number of concerns including the liquefied natural gas plant there and the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, which sank in 1944 and is full of explosives.

Ms Eagle said: "This is a distraction and the impacts it would have out here to the east of London would be devastating for communities and for internationally important Sites of special interest. We're very dubious."

These are all well known and spoken of problems with the project raised by Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour groups time and time again and I am positive will be noted by any idiot in the planning and implementation stage and during Consultation. However I, like every one who is attached in way or another to any group fighting Boris Island will welcome any input from anyone in Parliament who can help overturn this proposal. As all of us are putting fighting the proposals ahead of political ambition or point scoring (or at least have convinced ourselves that is what we are doing even if doing the complete opposite.)

Ms Eagle went further and argued that, as the title of the article suggest, that this should be fought outside of the political arena - something I agree with and have tried to avoid, except in the form of attacking those who have already made it political. Indeed it has been a week since Medway Labour's online voice's somewhat rabid attacks on the campaign and refusal to answer questions laid out by me twice (here and then again here asking them to clarify their claims). I sincerely hope that Local Labour have had their knuckles well and truly wrapped and made to be more responsible and are now willing to hush their politically motivated noise and either join the rest of us and criticise constructively where it is needed, stop blowing Red smoke and using this as an stick with which to beat the Tories locally and Nationally.

Hopefully a line has been drawn under this sorry state of affairs and we can all now just get on with fighting the proposals like the adults we are.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Justine Greening's response to Medway

Well, it has arrived. The long expected response to Medway Council's letter pleading the case against any airport in the Thames Estuary or on the Isle of Grain signed by the leaders of the four main Political parties in the council (Con, Lab, Libdem and Independent). It only took 7-8 weeks and is written in typical management speech which I will attempt to translate using my experience in middle management and civil service.

Dear Councillor Chambers,

Thank you for your letter of 18th January 2012 sent on behalf of all political groups from Medway Council requesting a meeting to discuss your concerns about recent media reports of proposals for a consultation on an airport in the Thames Estuary area.

Pretty standard managerial intro telling you why you wrote in the first place but generally could be translated as "Hello, thanks for writing."

I would like to reassure you that the Government has not made any decisions on the need for major new airport capacity in the South-east, and would only make such decisions on the basis of robust evidence and following consultation. As you know, the Government is developing a long-term strategy for a sustainable future for aviation. We need to provide a framework which supports economic growth and addresses aviation's environmental impacts. We issued an aviation policy s coping document last year calling for evidence on a range of strategic issues and received approximately 600 responses; and some parties have put forward proposals for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

As the Chancellor said in his Autumn Statement, the Government is committed to maintaining the UK's aviation hub status. As part of this commitment, we will commission a call for evidence on the options ensuring that the UK maintains its internationally competitive hub connectivity.

We've received suggestions from many quarters as to where a new airport should be, including the Thames Estuary (Obviously it cannot be hidden that that has been put forward.) however the Government has not made any concrete decisions as we have had pressure from environmentalists and the Liberal Democrats not to as well. We are also under pressure that the UK's airport capacity will be full within the next few decades and so in the interest of economy and status we must look at airports soon.
 SO we will be consulting on the issue taking into consideration the economic and environmental views.

We will publish the call for evidence alongside our consultation on a new Aviation Policy Framework in March. This is an important issue and we will consider a range of suggestions for how to maintain the UK's hub connectivity in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

We will be looking at this in the Nation's interest and gathering as much evidence as possible before making an informed decision that could go either way depending on this evidence. Although it must obviously be in the Nation's interest but be cost effective and have as small an environmental impact as possible.

In the meantime, we are pursuing a number of measures to get the most out of existing airport infrastructure in the South-east, including taking forward the recommendations of the South East Airports Task force, and reforming the economic regulation of airports to put passengers at the heart of the regulatory regime.

 We aren't making any rash decisions as this an important subject. We are looking at keeping air users in the loop and helping us make the right decisions that would benefit them as much as they benefit the local communities. It is going to be a long time until a new airport will be fully operational so we need to look at ways we can facilitate what we already have.

Unfortunately, the huge pressures on my diary mean that I am unable to offer a meeting to you at this time. However, as you may know, I met a number of Kent Members of Parliament last week- including Mark Reckless - who articulated to me some of the local concerns about future airport policy and planning which I know you share. I have agreed to meet them again later in the year for further discussions, once the draft aviation framework is published.

Thank you for taking time to write and for passing on the concerns of the people you represent.

Sorry, I'm not meeting you - it would be inappropriate and you're not important enough at this stage. I am dealing with your duly elected MPs ( Editorial; they just happen to be Conservatives and I'm sure this paragraph would say the same what ever party the MPs were in.) and will be liaising with them in the future as the consultation and planning proceeds.

It is a standard letter from a Minister or management position that seems to tell all and nothing at the same time and you have to read between the lines or guess at the meaning. My interpretation - and I don't pretend that I know the correct answer, is that the Government have truly no idea as to what will happen and are under pressure from environmentalists, Liberal Democrats in Parliament, Boris et al, aviation experts, local politicians from all over and campaign groups. All the opinions need to be collated and will be part of the consultation and a decision will be made in the Nation's interest.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fed up of reading Political propaganda?

 I've been reading local political blogs recently, mainly on the "Boris Island" debate and as some of my regular readers will know - Its been really irking me.

Not so much for the self aggrandisement, I mean all parties do that, its been for the down and out Spin and omission of facts.

My father was a world class liar... I mean unmatched in his ability to tell falsehoods to anyone and at the drop of a hat. He even told me that he was dying from an inoperable tumour with only a year at most to live. That was two years ago and he is fighting fit.

I've always been honest - well on the whole - as I've seen what lying and omitting the truth can do. I believe that in politics we should be truthful, we should not behave in such a manner. Deceiving the electorate and making false promises knowing full well it cannot be done or is untrue is wrong and it is what has turned the public off Politics rather than them wanting to get involved and make their communities better places or even to just do the basic and vote!

So imagine my growing anger as I read on... My stress levels rose and my mobile phone, on which I was doing my reading, almost paid the price of unbridled wrath........

Then through the darkness my Ipod spoke to me. A piece of music I had loved as a child and that I had introduced to Sophie came on.

This made me smile.

If you can't listen to it then you just need to filter it in to the text;

"Local Tories are robbing democracy - Mah na Mah na - by stopping representatives of the Labour - do do-di-do - from campagining- mah na mah na...."

As you can see the whole thing becomes a much more pleasant and bearable experience and I keep my cool.

Try it next time you're reading something that has more spin than a tumble dryer and has that smell of a country field at that special time of spring!