Thursday, 31 May 2012

Is all this Jubilee nonsense really necessary?

I'm not that fun at parties.

I spend too much time in my own head over analysing everything and looking at historical context and in a new exciting/boring train of thought - political impact.

So today whilst sat at my daughter's nursery Jubilee celebration surrounded by Union Jacks and red, white and blue I got to thinking about the Jubilee and whether it was necessary.

I should also briefly add that the greatest influence on my life, my Grandfather, was a staunch Cromwellian who thought that Monarchy was a thing of the yesteryear that should be abolished as soon as humanly possible. For my part I believed in Hobbesian law - the state and Monarch was to be obeyed without question until I went to University and things changed. Unfortunately the last Monarch I really respected was King George III. I'm also not that patriotic. Don't get me wrong I love all that Pax Britainnica which summons up notions of Empire, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Isandalawana, Spion Kop and patriotic jingoism that got everybody killed in Flanders. I'm also very interested in great Germanic institutions such as the Royal Houses of Hanover and Saxe Coburg Goethe (as the Windsor's were before they had a falling out with Cousin Wilhelm). This however does not really colour my notions of the Jubilee.

My number one concern is; How much is all this pageantry costing? After all we are in the midst of austerity and the Government is spending how much on national events like the boat parade up the Thames and local councils who are cutting down services that you and I use but still finding the money for these events. Most people are getting an extra day off (I'm working though) which is costing businesses. People up and down the country are holding street parties and weather permitting barbeque's which will hit their pockets at a time when they should be saving money. What are they celebrating? That someone who lives in relative luxury has been in post for 60 years and has everything paid for by the tax payer? How many services etc have been cut by Government and now they're blowing £x Million on a huge party? Is this the sort of thing that should make the average person cross?

Well No.

Ignoring me (and believe me a lot of people do!) and other dour Republicans this is just the thing that the British people need right now.

A party is just what the Doctor ordered to lift the spirits and to forget all the crap that flies at us on a daily basis. Is it wrong to take a day - or two - and celebrate something? There are so many dark clouds out there at the moment that a day of silver linings helps buck up morale. It worked in Russia in 1913 when the people came out and celebrated 300 years of Romanov rule despite the dire situation their economy was in and the poverty that the average person lived in. Even in the darkest days of the Blitz and the fear of German invasion there was time to celebrate victories and little things.

Also following the loss of the Empire and losing the very of essence of what it was to be British in a world that has moved on so quickly left us in the past it is good to celebrate our institutions and history. Lets be honest despite the high points the last sixty years have been tough for the country and the people but we're still here and moving towards the future, redefining Britishness and finding that place within the new world that left us behind.

As much as I dislike the idea of Monarchy and question its relevance in these modern times it is worth celebrating as well to thank Elizabeth for what she has done and spending sixty years in the public eye which has become increasingly more invasive and representing the country and state at so many events. Sixty years in any job is a long time and a vote of thanks for what the Queen does do is due.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Energy bills rising out of control

Today's Metro (May 30th) ran an article painting a bleak picture for the people of Britain.

Projections point towards an increase in fuel poverty as prices are set to rise over the next six years.

According to Cheryl Latham's article one in three households will find that their energy bills will be unaffordable  by 2015 and consumer groups have reported bills doubling over the last eight years.

If they continue at the same rate then by 2015 they could be £1582 PA and by 2018 £2766 PA.

Already 6.5million people live in fuel poverty and it is becoming more and more common for families to start rationing power and gas usage or chose between food and warmth and it is estimated that 60% of these people do not have adequate heat.

According to Ann Robinson of;
The UK is hurtling towards a cliff beyond which the price of household energy will become unaffordable. Time is running out- if pricing trends continue we will hit crunch point in less than three years.

There is also the added rise in price as large energy companies pass the price of making their organisation more green, which in my opinion should come from the share holders and profits.

This, however, is not the only rising price. The cost of living in general including Rail fare and even the basic prices of food are going up whilst wages stay level. Ultimately Capitalism is running off with itself and getting greedy.

Successive Governments have failed to regulate the private companies and now it really has reached that Crisis point. What can happen?

Companies cannot expect to keep rising prices when people can no longer pay. They need to compete and bring prices down and cut wages to Executives and share holders and be reasonable to their service users. What good is a service if it cannot be used?

Ultimately though these figures are merely projections and there may be no cause for alarm, but Companies like Southeastern trains and the Utility companies need to bear in mind that sooner or later their customers will be priced right out of the market.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

UK Un-cut protest outside Clegg's house

Yesterday, anti-cuts protesters held a peaceful protest out side the Deputy Prime Minister's house in the form of a street party. Bunting was laid out and even a samba band played for the masses of people come to protest about the Austerity moves made by the Government.

A further 70 protested outside the Constituency office of Mr Clegg in Sheffield;
David Kirkham stated;
We're here celebrating and partying for some great British institutions, namely, the welfare state, our NHS and the public sector life blood - things that were achieved by our ancestors in the post-war period
Another protester stated:
Nick Clegg is one of the architects of austerity; he’s a millionaire and lives in a million pound home. The cuts are a political choice of this government and the Cabinet of out of touch millionaires, they are not necessary.

Also UK Uncut stated on twitter today:
MEMO TO CLEGG: many of your neighbours & their kids joined us in the sunshine on our street party yesterday Ps stop the cuts

Mark Sewotka the head of PCS union also said:
We applaud their innovative and inspirational action that takes the campaign right to the doorsteps of those responsible.We would like to see more of this kind of community campaigning, linking up with unions, arguing for the alternative to spending cuts, for investment to improve our public services and to protect our communities from what this arrogant government is trying to do

It was a peaceful protest and passed with out incident according to the news sources however they are barking up the wrong tree in my opinion.

Firstly, I admit that as someone that has never had to worry about money Nick Clegg, in fact a good chunk of the cabinet do not necessarily understand the hardships that the common family has to suffer and the compromises they have to make just to scratch by however why target Clegg? Maybe because he is a soft target? Lets be honest Cameron has more of a Police presence so the next one down is Nick and lets face it he is quite unpopular already for many reasons.

But is targeting Nick justifiable?

The man who has been influential in pushing Libdem policy that means you no longer get income tax on the first £10,000 you earn? For bringing in the Pupil premium to aid children from poorer backgrounds in school? For nagging David Cameron and the Conservatives to change tact and invest in infrastructure and move away from Austerity? Yeah the guy sounds like a complete arse...

On top of that he vocalised on the Marr show this morning that Austerity has been necessary. For all of those who have failed to noticed or just not interested in the truth, the economy in 2008 was screwed... The Coalition took steps in 2010 to plug the leaking ship and that meant cuts - anything that was seen as unnecessary or to costly was scrapped and tough decisions were made because they had to be made. Sometimes you just have to be brutal. God knows I haven't agreed with all the places the axe fell but it had to. Now that the leaks have been plugged the Government are looking at where they can invest to encourage growth and the cuts have only been the first stage.

The third prong of my attack is that this is Nick Clegg's home... Its where his wife and kids live. Whatever the man does at work, and what ever you feel about him you should leave his family alone and his meagre family time as well. It is well documented that Nick Clegg works long hours and tries, like many of us, to balance a hectic job and his family time so why ruin it for him? In the past he's had dog excrement put through his front door and the Police even advised him to stop cycling to Parliament as they couldn't guarantee his safety. That's why he has to ride around in the Ministerial car that you guys keep criticising him for. There have been many tweets on the subject:

Cllr Ian Roberts:
: 'spend money you haven't got NOW or we'll harass your family'. Top notch, guys.

Shane Greer:
I really don't think protests at Clegg's house are right. Must be terrifying for his young children.

Conservative MP Louise Mensch also commented (and encouraged followers to donate to the Libdem party):
If you believe targeting home & family of a politician you disagree with is intolerable bullying - £5 for Nick Clegg

Importantly though its where his young boys are, they are innocent in all of this and the Protest trapped them in doors on a bright Saturday. They are not to blame for this and yet must suffer. How is this ok?

If you disagree with your football manager's handling of the team do you go back to his house and protest? No! If you get crap service at Tesco do you go to the Manager's or Staff's house? No!

So why is it ok to pester the man's family on the weekend? I'm not doing an impassioned Leave Nick Alone!!! rant, I'm just saying that its ok to disagree with his policies and the way the Government carry out its business but leave the man's family out of it.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

EU referendum and Libdem Europian Policy

I know back in October I wrote about the proposed Conservative move for an "In/Out" referendum for the EU and said that the time was not right well now I'm going to suggest that later this year will be the time.

Nick Bowles had said that the UK would only get one shot at a referendum or threatening one and last year was too early. However with Greece unable to form a government, their imminent departure from the Eurozone, Spain forcing in austerity policy, the Italian, Portuguese and Dutch economies shrinking and only the German growth keeping the Euro afloat now may be the time. After all the UKs economy has grown, not much but a little and the economy is moving forward - again sluggishly but like Germany's in the right direction.

By the time we have the Police Commissioners vote in November this year the climate in Europe will probably have deteriorated further and the conditions thus better for the UK to make a "fairer deal" or pull out before it gets any worse taking our hard earned taxes with it. After all, we the people are having our services cut and held back to help with the deficit not to bail out the Greek economy. A referendum would also be welcome.

I know there isn't a lot of time before November for an informed debate but lets be honest most people have made up their minds about Europe already.

Countries are preparing contingencies for their own economies if Greece were to pull out or stay and there is a certain amount of uncertainty of what's going to happen and inflexibility with  the German Chancellor over the treaties and what can and can't be done to rectify the situation and with the new French President, M Hollande, change is inevitable.I would not be surprised if fresh treaties and deals are to be hammered out in the very near future and the UK needs to be able to say "In" or "Out" and negotiate from a strong position. May be now is the time to Put up and shut up, end the divide and answer the question.

I know that we're a pro European party and I'm all for that (although I feel the EU needs some serious reform.) the party may need to tone this down to appeal to the electorate. The British people are historically Euro-phobic, with a certain amount of right, and they shy away from the Libdems because of our vocal support. Maybe in 2015, especially in the light of the Euro Meltdown, we should just state policy commitment to a referendum in the event of treaty change and leave it at that.I know it is important for us to stand our ground within the Coalition, especially for our beliefs etc but Cameron's Conservatives are winning points over the party left right and centre as we are looking like we're lashed to the mast of a ship with a course set for rocks. We should press for a referendum at the end of this year and give the people what they so desperately want rather than shaking our heads in belief that we know best. Europe will continue to be a sticky situation and very fluidic, it would do the party well to remain fluidic too and respond to the posibility that change will happen in Brussels and we as a Nation will have to adapt to it.

Friday, 25 May 2012

European Court of Human rights & votes for Convicts

Wednesday night I was stood in our local Chinese take-away waiting for my order and leafing through The Sun when I came across an article on the court of Human rights over ruling Parliament and declaring prisoners should be allowed to vote.

This made me cross.

Not because I am opposed to Convicts voting - I mean I am but I acknowledge I'm a little right wing when it comes to justice and policing and personally believe that if you've been excluded from society by Prison you cannot and should not take part in Society through voting. This is by the by though.

I was annoyed by the language of the piece that kept repeating that Murderers and Paedophiles may now vote like regular people. This is true however there are other criminals who've committed other offences in prison who make up the majority. Yes people like Ian Huntly and Ian Brady are the lowest of the low but they are human beings, barely, but there you are. They should be accorded the same rights as everyone else.

That said, it was The Sun and I had no high hopes of literary genius.

What really got under my skin, and bare in mind that I disagreed with the Court's decision, was the comments made about the Human rights court.

The Court was set up after the Second World War (1959) to enforce human rights cases throughout Europe. The Court is not part of the EEC or EU and, yes as the Sun pointed out, the judges are "un-elected" and preside over cases that may be in violation of the Human rights declaration (1948) within Europe. They are an external body that is meant to be devoid of politics.

The Sun's article displayed a lot of anger that Europe was again dipping its oar into our affairs and contradicting a democratically elected British parliament.

To quote someone from the American War of Independence ( can't remember who);
An elected legislature can trample a mans rights just as much as a dictator.

The NSDAP government elected to Germany's Reichstag is a clear example of this as is President Assad in Syria, President Mugabe's administration in Zimbabwe etc. The point is, whether we agree with the Court's ruling or not the fact is they feel that not giving prisoners the right to vote is clearly a violation of the Human rights declaration. There is still a right to appeal.

The Court, like any legal court has made an informed decision and consulted and deliberated over the laws and the protocols that we, the British people have signed up to and helped to create. We cannot disregard things that we don't like when it comes to Human rights just because its not convenient to us and hiding behind an "elected legislature" doesn't mean that abuses aren't or can't happen and we have to respect the Court's decision whether we agree with it or not.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Dave agrees with Nick on growth

"Yes, of course I agree with Nick"
The fluidic nature of the European economic crisis has led to a change in tack by the Coalition as David Cameron finally remembers that he agrees with Nick and moves away from the harsh reality of Austerity and moves to increase growth and central Government investment.

It was started by European leaders (including Mr Cameron) trying to convince Chancellor Merkel that Europe needs to change its options and Germany should realise that the Greeks and other nations are not going to be able to repay all their debts to them and that the debts should be consolidated into Eurobonds and the Central bank should be more interventionist. She has, naturally, preferred to defend her position stating The treaties forbid taking on a mutual liability, that includes in our opinion also Eurobonds.

Still, as contingency plans are being drawn up across Europe for all the possibilities including the probable Greek exit Dave has agreed with Nick yet again.

The Deputy Prime Minister has been pushing for the Treasury to release money for investment in projects and try and kick start the economy with projects and now Dave has added his voice much to Ed Miliband's joy.

For two years you have been the high priest of Austerity, you have been telling the world that austerity alone is the answer. But now the recognition has dawned that it isn't working and you find yourself on the wrong side of the argument.

Ok, he has a point but you'd also think that at least the right move is being made now?

The next few months will see Massive governmental investment in projects like housing and infrastructure said Nick yesterday. An architect friend of mine said that you can never underestimate the importance of infrastructure and it is indeed so damnably important and is often underfunded.

Britain never really modernised post War and where as Germany modernised and improved Britain settled back to business as usual and struggled with the Austerity of the 50s and the collapse of Empire and we are still reaping that. However the State has the Golden opportunity to invest internally and bring roads, railways and motorways up to scratch creating jobs. As people earn more money they will spend more money.
There is also the question of housing. With a growing population our cities are becoming more and more crowded. I know that building on green spaces is never ideal but the simple truth is either we home people or stop having kids. However affordable and greener houses can be built and free up the overcrowding and frankly squalid housing in urban city centres that can date back to the 50's and further which are in serious need of rebuilds and again provides work and money to already bypassed areas that are in dire need of investment.

This may seem like Plan B, or Plan A+ but to be brutally honest I am just glad that the Government are now taking steps to try and turn this all around and encourage growth as well as inject money into projects that have been ignored for far too long and all because Dave remembered he should agree with Nick.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Culture in the UK needs to change for new age of Austerity

There has been a definite change in the Social approach to Austerity and personal finance over the last century.

Really Chris in a whole century? Through changing times of War and prosperity as well as vast social upheaval and change?

Well yes, obviously things have changed but if you scratch away at the surface the same pressures that threatened our Great-great Grandparents are the same as today yet approaches have changed.

A level of greed and a "Something for nothing" culture have developed as more people believe that they the state will, and should, help them out.

An acceptance of the Nanny state and having everything done for them has led to people not being able to do things for themselves.

For example if a child is failing at School parents are quick to point at the school and ask what they are doing rather than asking what, if anything, can be done at home to help.

Capitalism and mass marketing has affected us all and the need for bigger and shinier stuff has lead to more of our disposable income being spent on "Luxury" items. Who really needs the new Garbage album? Or Diablo III? or War Horse on DVD?

We all know what kids are like at Christmas and Toy manufacturers have perfected their technique for for appealing to kids and parents find themselves caught by the dreaded "I wants" - believe me in four years I'm going to have my children striking me and I shall join the vast hordes of people who become indebted at Christmas.There is also Social pressure to have the "Latest thing" and not just in kids, my wife had wanted an I-phone for well over a year and kept trying to figure out where to get the money or contract.

 Banks ceased to be interested in your balance and more in the Customer's situation. Earlier in the week it was reported that one person who wrote into the Citizens advice bureau in Medway had over 60 credit cards! One load was got out to pay another loan and the debt is just moved around. It seemed that in the mid to late 90's the credit card became more and more prolific. Banks, or at least my bank, began pushing them, adverts fell out of magazines, adverts on TV with Rowan Atkinson and the message was;

"Buy now, pay later. - You can even spread the payments over time!"

The boom years brought economy air travel too so you could go clubbing in Ibiza for an affordable amount and pay it back slowly.

Obviously debt is not all self inflicted and situations and life can throw you a curve ball. Students studying for their finals and not able to work, long term illness, house repairs or even death within the family but they result in the same, though there is no blame and these are the people the Welfare state is meant to help. Too many people are relying on the state to pay out, true the Welfare state is there as a safety net to help those who fall and in need of assistance but it seems that more people are jumping off the cliff on purpose. These may sound like sweeping generalisations but how many people have quit their job and signed on just because they don't like their job? How many people keep having Children just for the increase in Child benefits?

I always thought Liberalism was about freedom of action from state interference and a strong belief in people being able to make their own decisions. Well we're all adults and we have to make adult decisions in life and that means sacrifices. No, I can't afford to buy Skyrim for £44 this month, I can't afford that holiday to Prague next year unless I save up and make sacrifices, our family budget cannot stretch to another child so we won't try to have another one.

The problem is debt spirals and you only need a wild month and you're up a famous creek without any oars.

Society and culture was more geared for living in the "here and now" rather than worrying about the future as the use of credit cards meant you could defer. Our parents and Grand parents who'd lived through real austerity in the 30's and 50's were a bit more sensible and stowed money away for a rainy day or leaner times. Haggling was much more common  and both my Grandfathers had a keen eye for a bargain and banter with shop owners. War time tips for making things last have long been forgotten. When was the last time you heard of someone darning a sock?
Make do and mend is a term lost to the mists of time as are the war on waste. Yes I realise that there are no longer U-boats sinking grain convoys and bread is fairly ubiquitous and cheap but pennys add up so why waste things?

Years ago we all knew our neighbours and cooperatives would help each other out. For example my Great-grandfather used to breed rabbits so during the leaner times he would trade rabbit meat for vegetables from one of the his neighbours. There were also occasions when trades would be shared for favours or discount. Now it seems we all hide behind the drawbridge of our own little castles and watch suspiciously over the ramparts. Community has died out in larger cities and towns for a lot of people and there isn't the help there was.

A new approach to Austerity needs to be taken and in some places has already begun. When I was at school the kid whose parents dressed them up in Charity shop clothes usually bore the brunt of many cruel jokes. I, a mouthy somewhat arrogant ginger kid took enough flak as it was but it was made worse by the market bought tracksuits and the lack of "named brand" trainers. There was also only a small spattering of charity shops on high streets and in towns with the charity bookshop doing very well in university towns where students could sell on their old tomes.
Now charity shops have become more and more prevalent, especially in towns like Gillingham where other larger shops can not find a market or sustain themselves. People like my family go in and pick up good quality children's clothing for our daughter, who is at the age where she grows out of things really quickly. I can assure you that she is always smartly dressed. My wife has an eye for nice clothes and we have saved a small fortune buying from Cats Protection rather than Mothercare!
We as a nation need to make things last, take better care of things and yes be prepared to mend things rather than throw out and buy new.

Keep in mind; "Can I really afford this? Do I really need this?" and if the answer is no then walk away, you'll find yourself better off in the long run.

The State does, however, need to intervene with banks and legal loan sharks though. The banking industry must again see the public as cash cows and instead see us as people who will need help. Part of this whole crash was due to over lending to people who just couldn't pay it back. Why would you keep loaning money to someone who is £43,000 in debt? Sound a ridiculous figure? Well it is in fact the AVERAGE debt of those who have contacted Medway's Citizen's Advice!
As for legal loan sharks, the APR is ridiculous and if you don't pay back in a timely fashion you could find yourself locked in spiralling debt with no way to get out of it. Government needs to cap the level of APR that they can charge so that they can at least be some hope.

Yes Culture has changed over time but there are lessons that we can adapt and adopt that were our Grandparents' to save money and resources. We also need to change our approach to life in that we need to make serious decisions and not keep thinking the state will keep bailing us out - that's not what they are there for. We're all adults and should make adult decisions. However the state must also do its part and support those who do need assistance, the elderly, the sick, those who have suffered tough times and they need to redraw the lines with banks and  legal loan sharks to make try and protect the people form predators.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

I agree with Vince on a better Politics

Twelve days ago I wrote about the "New Politics being dead" and the distrust in Politics that has become more and more prevalent over recent years. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who feels the same as Vince Maple, the newly elected leader of the Medway Labour group (congratulations by the way!) wrote in Medway Messenger's Party People of similar observations.

Vince wrote about how scandals in National Government, the Cash for access for David Cameron, the Murdoch Press (which haunts the big two parties) and the Libdems Tuition fees.
All of which are true, I'd argue that the Tuition fees promise was... Ah hell I'm not going to argue over semantics and technicalities but I think Labour share more than was mentioned but anyway that's not important to the over all message so moving on...

The point is that Vince went onto say;

I think people involved in politics need to show there can be a different approach: where engagement is real and meaningful, where people feel part of the process, that decisions are made with them, not despite them. It is also about not promising the earth when in opposition, and hoping that residents don't catch on if in government we fail to deliver.

I wholeheartedly agree. Its something that we as politicos and politicians (local, county and national) need to aspire to. We all know that politicians can't be trusted and that their word is not their bond and even the breath of fresh air that was
Cleggmania has been put under harsh scrutiny during the Coalition's run in power - some of it is unjustified - but the public perception is that it is all justified. I truly believe that Vince's description is what we should all aim for.

I want to reach in a position of 2015 when Medway votes on its local and national government, that people are not saying "You're all the same!"; that people can see my Labour team are working hard to help people put their trust back in politics.

With one slight tweak, that's my dream too. That tweak is not Libdem instead of Labour, that goes without saying really, but all the parties and not just in Medway but in the UK. Tall order I guess but a noble dream none the less. All parties have a lot of work to do in this field and I know the Medway Libdems are already working towards it, we've consistently worked for our constituents and will do and I know that Vince and his team are doing the same for their wards.

There is a nasty side to the local politics too with various parties telling misleading "truths" or even whoopers locally, there have been public consultations that haven't listened to the public, there have been accusations... It can be ugly, and there are times when I think;

I want no part of this No one would believe me on the door step if I told them that; Yeah I genuinely want to represent their needs and I am interested in their problems and for me people come before party. Promises can't always be kept but try and keep them realistic.

I'd love to see this dream, this value that I believe is worth fighting for become a reality but I fear that it is unachievable.

I will do all I can at my end and within the Medway libdems to keep our part of Vince's (and my) dream going and will be watching with other commentators over the coming years of local Labour's record in this field.

This is Political clean up is the aim that we
all need to address and be self regulating on. Pull in the vitriol and big claims and sweeping promises and bring politics back to what it should be about - the people not the votes.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Wrong time for House of Lords reform

A while ago Alan W. Collins stated that only Liberal Democrats and those interested in Constitutional reform are still pushing for House of Lords reform.

At the time I tried to think of a witty and clever response but fell silent as I realised that I fall into both of those categories.

Then last week Clegg grimaced in the house as David Cameron said that All parties are divided when it comes to Lords reform. Surely Liberal Democrats wouldn't be opposed to Lords reform?


Well, I'm not opposed to Lords reform, in fact I think that it is important to sweep away this anachronistic undemocratic wing of Parliament. It's time has passed and greater democracy should always be welcomed.

Lords reform has been a Liberal aim for over a century with Asquith's parliament of 1908 and Lloyd George's People's budget aimed at trying to change the Conservative dominated upper house that just blocked all of the positive reforms being put through. No other party has been so dogged in it's attempts to reform this and it was one of the first things that came up in the Coalition agreement and on the lips of Liberals everywhere after the Rose garden. When can we finally do this?

Is now the time though?

The  nation as a whole has lost faith in the Political process and politicians in general. The accusation is that they do not live in the real world, nor understand the problems of the real people especially as the problems of the banking crisis continue to resonate and hit average working people. As the average personal debt in the Medway towns (as reported by the CAB) stands at £43,000 and rising train fares, utilities, cost of living and wages freezing can Lords reform still be a priority?

This distrust and suspicion of politics is visible in the falling numbers of people voting and unfortunately I can see that the turnout for the elections for the Lords will be ridiculously low. Of course this shouldn't be the reason not to bring in greater fairness and democracy but the first maybe.

The Coalition needs to prioritise and as much as it pains me to say this guys - I really don't think now is the time. Yeah I know this is the moment we've waited for and I know that given the bad press and the Tuition fees thing we're probably going to have to wait another century before we can effect it again but we need to give the people something.

In 2015 if I knock on someone's door and say Ever think about voting Liberal Democrat?  I'll get asked what we have done
and I'll say well we gave you a more democratic house of Lords. How many people are going to go for it? How many people will see it as a priority? How will it effect their lives?

The electorate, and I'm one of them, want our lives made better, our money to go further and unfortunately Lords reform doesn't appear on list.

Yeah I agree with Nick and with the need for Lords reform but I don't think this Coalition Government is the time with all of the other problems facing the nation.
People will be happier to vote for us  if we cut the deficit and dull the blades of Austerity rather than keep one of our major election pledges on a project that only we seem to care about.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

1922 spells resurgant Conservatives

Mr Baldwin, legendary Conservative PM
It would be easy to Caricature the Conservative party as the Galactic Empire, Lord Cameron reporting to Baroness Warsi's throne room at the pinnacle of Millbank towers and being reassured that;

Soon the Rebellion will be crushed and young Clegg will be one of us.

Their MPs an army of grey clones who are desperate to privatise everything and make as much money as humanly possible at all times crushing the will and rights of the common voter but this is simply not the case.

Ed Milliband can spout the platitude Same old Tories... as much as he likes but its just simply not the case.

Prior to 1997 the Conservative Government had not really spent that much time out of power during the Twentieth Century (save from the Liberal administrations of Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith) and had a tireless record of fiscal responsibility where as Labour tended to have a better record on reform having taken over that mantle from the Liberals. Thus a sort of brake and accelerator quickly re-established itself after the turmoil of The First World War and the crash of 29. The Middle ground seemed to evaporate (along with our share of the votes) and a sort of class war was played out and slowly settled.
The Conservative party had no need to change - it only had to play the waiting game before it moved in to retake its seats from Labour four maybe eight years later. You voted Conservative because it was safe and you knew what you were getting.

New Labour posed a problem though. It was like a fuzzy cuddly Conservatism, right but left as well and approaching long overdue reform. Their leader was charismatic and spoke to the people where as Conservative leaders seemed to speak to a bygone age. Haig would have made a fantastic Conservative Prime Minister just not in the late 90s, Ian Duncan Smith and Michal Howard likewise were Conservatives from pre-Blair and had no hope of breaking through the aura that was Tony Blair and talk to you and me.

Something really needed to be addressed and the Conservatives have addressed it. David Cameron was from the same mold as Blair and outshone the old Labour Brown, he offered a brand of Conservatism that sounds a bit like New Labour in its spin. Traditional values that are at the core of the party; a return to traditional values, fiscal responsibility and a big Society stay firm but there seems to be a growing move towards the centre.

2010 brought an influx of Conservative MPs who were not of the same mould and were interested in improving things. This is why the Coalition agreement was so easy to forge and why the Libdem negotiating team worked so well with the Conservative team as they were willing to be flexible (where as David Lawes says Labour were very inflexible and it was Gordon's way or the highway). The road-map of the Agreement is very progressive for a Conservative government that doesn't really need us as much as we think they do and David Cameron and a wedge of these fresh MPs were more than willing to adopt a good chunk of our policies because they shared the views and had similar ideas.

Of course their were wings of the traditional party who were unhappy about the levels of involvement and direction that the party seemed to be heading and that Clegg et al had far too much influence over policy. For them the Coalition was a sell out and almost a perversion of what the party Should stand for. This consisted of traditionalist Conservatives, generally from safe seats like Nadine Dorries who made her feelings about the Libdem involvement very clear and even those from marginal seats like Peter Bone who regaled the House with the opinions of Mrs Bone on a few occasions and her opinion on whether the Deputy Prime Minister might be pulling Mr Cameron's strings.

Last week the Evening Standard ran an editorial written by Matthew D'ancona, saying that the Conservative backbenchers were in trouble and really need to modernise and get with the program if they want to survive. Ditching political dinosaurs and outspoken critics of the Coalition  had to be silenced and ousted and a united front behind Dave was needed for a good public image.

Well... they've done it.

The 1922 committee, a traditional forum for backbench Conservatives to raise their point of view away from the frontbenchers and an arena for policy formation voted in a new committee last night. The majority of new members come from the 301 group (the amount of seats needed for victory in 2015) and old guard Conservatives like Bone and Chope are out of the executive committee! The 301 group appear to be mainly new MPs who are a lot more progressive and break the mold some what.

They want government in 2015 and they are going to continue the Cameron revolution. They've already published Life after the Coalition and now Iron Ladies (a collection of essays from new up and coming female Conservative MPs) and are showing a new set of colours. They are showing the traditional backbone but with a more caring front and dare I say it Liberal way of thinking. More importantly they are getting behind their leader en masse, they don't want to repeat the leadership splits and cracks they suffered under Thatcher and Major.

Labour talk about taking the centre ground - well the Conservatives will steam roller it and only one thing looks set to stop them and that is if the Coalition doesn't achieve economic stability and growth. It appears that both our party's destinies are entwined on this one target. Even then it would be easy for them to blame the Libdems for getting in the way.

As the Tory brand is packaged and sold to a growing audience, which would sky rocket if we can consolidate the deficit, they can afford to lose the far right wingers and "little Englanders" who are a slowly dying breed, to the likes of UKIP and still gain massive support from people in the middle like myself. As a Liberal Democrat I find it concerning that more of our core demographic could be eroded by this but as a political commentator I find it interesting to see the Conservatives branching out like this and will watch them grow and carry on. I think we need to go away and do a similar amount of rethinking as unfortunately Orange Book Liberalism has not achieved the backing we hoped it would from the electorate. Like wise if Labour are really intent on appealing to the masses they need to go away and define themselves and their direction rather than defining themselves as "Not the Coalition - their policies are not ours"

If I could stretch to a prediction, I'd say that if the deficit isn't reached Labour will get in in 2015 in an anti Austerity ticket but I believe that Ed Milliband, who in my opinion isn't much of a leader, and his cabinet will make a bit of a pigs ear of it and a completely rejuvenated Conservative party will landslide in 2020 and hold on to power for a decade at least.

The grand old party is far from dead, its future shows a lot of promise but still is held in check by the deficit.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

German Air weapon developed in Medway

As many people will have gathered, I'm a bit of a Luftwaffe geek with far too many books and pointless anecdotes.

As I read Friday's Medway Messenger I turned to the history section and was shocked to see a German Mistel on the page. After my initial confusion I read the article to discover that the two aircraft were in fact developed by Short Bros or Borstal and was a way of crossing the Atlantic in one journey rather than short hops to Iceland. The Empire flying boats were able to make the journey on their own but it meant ripping out the passenger or cargo holds and creating room for another fuel tank.

An attempted Composite had been made during World War One but it was no more than an experimental aircraft. Others included fighter or reconnaissance aircraft housed in or a top of Zeppelin or Airships with varying success. As airship travel appeared more and more dicey with the loss of R 101 and Hindenburg (which was lost during production of the composite) travellers were looking more keenly at aircraft.

Major Robert Mayo, the technical director at Shorts suggested the Maia (S.21 Empire flying boat) and Mercury (S.20) composite. Short's chief test pilot said:

All eight engines were used during combined flight but the controls of Mercury were locked. The airfoil designs of the two aircraft were such that Mercury's wings were carrying the major part of the air load at the speed and height chosen for separation. Safety locks prevented separation until this speed and height were reached and both pilots had an unlocking handle, both of which had to be pulled to cause release

The two aircraft were held together by a series of locks that had to be released by the pilots of the two aircraft and a third which would disengage automatically when the strength of 3000lb was applied to it as the craft pulled away. The design of the two aircraft also meant that on seperation the Mercury would climb whilst Maia would drop away thus avoiding collision.

After initial test flights around the Medway towns the first flight from Southampton to Montral with separation off the coast of Ireland took place on 21st July 1938 and a distance of  2930 Miles taking 20 hours at 144 mph.

Other sucessful flights from Dundee to South Africa took place as well!

Unfortunately World War Two interrupted the development of this aircraft and Maia was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in Poole Harbour during the Battle of Britain. Following a successfully career as a reconnaissance aircraft Mercury was scrapped in Borstal by Short and recycled into war aircraft.

The German aircraft developers were always interested, and some historians argue too interested, in aircraft design and developmental craft. Fuhrer and Luftwaffe HQ also liked to throw out challenges to their gifted designers to meet possible needs such as the Amerika bomber plans for the hypothetical plan to bomb the USA.

Clearly composite aircraft and the ideas developed in Medway were rapidly picked up by the Luftwaffe during World War Two. This was in two fold.

The first was on exactly the same line of thinking - trans-Atlantic flight for the Amerika bomber. The plan was for a Heinkel He 177 bomber to fly as far out into the Atlantic as possible with a Dornier Do 217 bomber on her back. At the mid-ocean point the Heinkel would release the Dornier who would continue to New York, bomb the target then fly to a pre -arranged point where the crew would bring the craft to a controlled crash landing and be picked up by a U-boat. This project was abandoned as wasteful of material. This clearly drew its ideas from the Mayo-Short composite of fuel conservation although as a one way probably one off attack on an unprepared America.

The Second was the Mistel project. With a large surplus of bomber aircraft that could no longer be economically used, a shortage of bombs and an excess of fighter aircraft the Luftwaffe command and designers came up with the great idea of using Junkers Ju 88 bombers with a modified crew compartment i.e. filled with explosives and a Focke Wulf FW 190 or Messerschmitt Me 109 (as seen in the picture) strapped to the top. Using the Bomber's fuel they would fly out to the target and the fighter would release the lower portion in the same manner as a bomb before flying back to base.

With the production priority production being on fighters there was an excess with too few pilots to fly them and German Bomber design had fallen way behind the Allies by this late point in the war. In fact it was almost suicidal for the Kampflieger to go into battle as their slow, ponderous aircraft were easy targets. Luftwaffe high command much preferred to use strike fighters and modified Junkers 87s and Henschel Hs 129s for attacking armour.

The Mistel were operated by Kampfgeschwader 200 the elite Military intelligence bomber squadron and used against bridges on the Oder during Operation Beethoven to slow the Russian advance with a limited effect.

Heavy and ungainly they offered the pilot little hope if engaged in close combat by fighters and the only escape was to jettison the lower craft and make a run for it as the pilots of KG 200 were bomber pilots and not skilled in dogfighting as their Jagdflieger colleagues. However using the lower aircraft's engines and fuel capacity gave the whole aircraft a much longer range than a lowly single engine fighter.

Other Mistellin projects included an Arado jet propelled bomb with Heinkell He 162 Salamander atop or even a modified Messerschmitt Me 262 airframe packed with explosives with a bomber variant of the Me 262 as the second aircraft. Though swift and deadly as this craft would have been it would have been massively draining of the small amount of resources left to Germany by 1944-5.

There are no known surviving aircraft of this type however one of the composite fighters does still exist and is housed at the Imperial War Museum, London!!! Thankfully I work there so was able to wander out and take some photographs of the underside of the Fw 190 A8 to show you the strut holes.

Here are two of them either side of the Fighter's redundant bomb rack.

Here on the starboard wing is a small "boil" with another strut hole. This was the key to the whole design. Under the boil is a small explosive charge that once triggered by the pilot will separate the two aircraft sending the lower portion to the ground.

In Defence of Lisa Harding

As always, I'm strangely late to this party. I've sat and I have watched when really I should have done more or said more and for that I have regrets. I've always stood by my friends and here, rightly or wrongly I'm doing it again.

Lisa or "spidey" has been a friend on line for over two years now, not just to me but to quite a few of us. She served the Libdem party and wrote for her award winning blog spiderplantland, which at the moment won't load and I'm hoping this is just a technological glitch rather than that it has been deleted. She had strong opinions - the best kind- never sat on the fence and was always happy to debate.

She's had some tough times in her life, a past that many of us can say that we're thankful not to have and last year she lost her beloved dog Mickey.

She'd been disheartened with the Coalition and indeed the party for quite some time and after another failed attempt during the May local elections and having lost her job due to Coalition policy she defected back to Labour. The split was far from amicable for some people. Lisa had written a long blog post detailing what people had said about her on Twitter with screen grabs.

Now I know that there is a strength of belief that Lisa has told lies, misrepresented herself and others but that is opinion. When it comes to the Internet and Twitter you have to take people at face value and what they say. May be I'm too trusting but I have been given no reason to doubt Lisa nor have I ever judged her.

I was taught as a young man that Courtesy costs nothing and If you can't say something nice about someone don't say anything.

Yes Twitter gives us all the ability to debate and argue on line about policies and I admit there are times where unkindnesses are said by both parties however from the screen grabs there have been times where people have been clearly attacking another (without naming names) to each other. I get that there are times when people don't like people. I don't like some people, but might I suggest that if you do want to engage in this then please do it as a Direct Message where it is hidden from view rather than an open message that everyone can see. Its just heartless.

The internet is a great big faceless mask and it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves after all who can prove any of it. I can see no need to dig around in anyone's "story" unless of course money or feelings are involved. I've always believed Lisa and have no reason to doubt her, but if others want to that's their prerogative however please voice your opinions in a DM. Not everyone's past is rosie and full of dancing bunnys. Think of the pain you can cause by digging it up again and waving it in their face in your pursuit of the "truth."

I don't want to fall out with anyone, I'm not going to name names or slag people off - Its not my style. At the end of the day I have no personal quarrel with any of you. All I will say is that Lisa is a friend of mine and I stand by here, for better or worse, and I feel that the comments are unwarranted. You are all welcome to your opinions and I welcome debate about policies and politics but I will not and cannot condone personal attacks especially over extended periods of time.

This is all I'm going to say on the issue.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

New Economic Policy for Medway Council

NEP for Russia brought about regeneration
A few weeks ago my blog was mentioned in a Full Council meeting by Councillor Alan Jarrett, deputy leader of the Conservative group and portfolio holder for finance. This, as always, amazed me as I didn't think many people actually read this blog let alone that it had any clout what so ever.

I was thinking this morning about local politics and the Council's hilarious over spends that we (the Libdems) and other opposition groups (especially Labour) have been critical of. Maybe we're going about this the wrong way... Maybe we should make suggestions rather than continual criticisms and if Cllr Jarrett or one of his staff/researchers is reading this then please take this in the spirit it is suggested.

So Al, (can I call you Al?) please get comfy and prepare for some mind blowing Economic policy.

I don't know if you, or any readers are familiar with the episode "Empok Nor" from Star Trek Deep Space Nine?
The engineering crew of DS9 are preparing to go on an equipment gathering mission to a similar station Empok Nor. Chief O'Brian comes up with a list of equipment divided into three sections:

The Must haves

The Could do withs.

Would be nice.

Right, as a household on a limited income we are used to prioritising what we spend and we pretty much divide all expenditure for the household in this manner. We must pay our council tax and utilities, we must buy food, we must buy nappies. We could do with some new bookshelves to replace and reshuffle furniture, we could do with powerful weed killer for our back garden. It would be nice if I could buy those Hornby engines or those 1/72 scale German infantry men for painting.

You said in your article for "Party People" in Friday's Medway messenger that the Council is getting on with the job. Yes they have achieved some good things but at the same time the over spends have been crippling especially when compared to some of the cuts you have made. Tough decisions have to be made but selling off Nelson Court looks heartless when you've overspent on the bus station, Stoke Crossing, Roadworks, Woodlands School bail out, Photocopier contracts... people see the money you are wasting and the "price" that is being paid. Might I humbly suggest that you apply the O'Brian list to Council spending - and be brutal when applying them. It may be worth going through the upcoming budgets and prioritising in this manner because at the moment it looks like the Council is running a Coulda/woulda/shoulda style budgets.

OR better yet ask the populous. An information gathering exercises need not be expensive. Who needs phone polls and marketing companies, in fact you don't even need printers. Get one of the Council's many officers to draw up a table on Microsoft Word or Excel with three columns of Musts/Coulds and would be nice and then photocopy some 500 and dispatch them to the 18 local libraries and made available to users to fill out and hand back to staff.

The main drive is to live with in the Council's means. It doesn't take a Financial wizard to know that the economy is up a certain river with out a certain rowing implement and things are not going to improve greatly over the next few years. Government grants are going to get slimmer and slimmer and the day that Council taxes will be forced to rise is on its way but you will need to prove to the people that you can be trusted with their/my money.

Years ago I used to play the computer game Simcity where you build and administer your own city and generate wealth so I have a rough, simplistic idea of the current situation. Grand projects are eye catching but often the old adage spend money to make money doesn't always ring true and people will often point out great big White Elephants. It'd be an idea to get rid of all those pesky empty properties that are taking money and sitting idle and derelict - I understand there's about a hundred that could go? Housing is good so keep up the good work with the new housing in Rochester but serious steps to encourage people into the city centres to go shopping is just as good, there is a good mix of shops that are stock affordable goods its just the numbers of shoppers has dropped and is going elsewhere.

Regeneration is needed. Lets be honest, parts of the Medway Towns are run down and tired but lets not go bolting off towards big shiny things lets keep it small. What is necessary regeneration? Roads are a good start, pavements, parks, high streets, kids play areas... small jobs that paper over the cracks until real investment comes knocking or the economy pulls out of its slump. People don't care about shiny new dynamic waterfront bus facilities they want to see things they use working properly or tidy and neat. Paper over cracks as a quick fix, clean up the rubbish, licks of paint on municipal buildings, sort out the moonscape roads and paths and people will feel less down about where they live.

I'm sure you're already applying the O'Brian principles but I (and probably a great number of denizens will feel the same) not tightly enough. We know times are tough and cuts will come but you guys need to be showing that you aren't wasting the money unnecessarily (after all projects never run to time and there are always unexpected problems that require more money - may be it would be worth setting the price of a project then setting aside a further 10-15% to cover unexpected problems).

The people of Medway, and I include my self and my family in this, don't want to see the council pouring our money down the drain whilst basic services that we use all the time (roads/pavements/car parking) are not attended to. As I said - better to prioritise and explain priorities to the people than run a coulda woulda shoulda administration. It may not lead the Medway towns to economic recovery but it will certainly keep them on an even keel until the Storm passes.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The "New Politics" is dead.

One of the things that drew me to the Liberal Democrats, apart from polices, was a certain honesty that wasn't questionable unlike New Labour and their spin machine and the fading memories of Conservative sleaze that rocked the Major Administration.

I became inspired by Nick. As the expenses scandal hit the news and the "truth" that the public had held about MPs being corrupt was proven, only one person seemed to be listening to the public out cry as Nick called for Parliament to extend its session to get to the bottom of this.

Leadership debates followed and Clegg stepped up over the bickering of Blue vs. Red and spoke to the people, spoke to me.
"The New Politics" it was dubbed. Moving away from party over people or bitter blood feuds against the old enemy. Its something I believe in, something I think is worth fighting for.

But New Politics is now the same as the Old.

70% of people failed to vote last week in local elections, Politics is failing the people.

Parliament is like the battle of Waterloo - A furious battle between two opposing armies hell bent on the other's destruction. In fact blog posts and Political pundits of all sides talk in terms that sound like Napoleonic battle reports.
(I'm not singling out Cllr Osborne as an attack, only for illustrative purposes as writers from all parties are guilty of this - So if you're reading this Tris I'm sorry.)

Both sides are now hell bent on taking the middle ground, a metaphorical La Haye Saint, and losing strength on their left and right flanks respectively.

I know (well hope), that at heart politicos believe their candidate would be the best at representing the people than the others but outwardly it seems that its all about the winning.

When slogans like Labour cannot win here (Winchester Conservative Group) or Only Labour can oppose the Tory Council (Medway Labour) and the Libdems have done as bad. It sounds pathetic and I want to bang peoples heads together and knock some sense into them.

Take a look around you.

The Public have been screwed over by Labour, they've faced Conservative austerity and now they've been failed by the Libdems too and the paragon of virtue that was Nick Clegg has "Sold Out" for a whiff of power.

No one perceivable politician or party stands up for the common man.

My Sister said to me a few weeks ago;
Why should I vote? What's the point they're all the same - A year ago I'd had an answer but now there is only silence.

Cllr Juby raised similar comments in "Party People" a few weeks ago about a lack of representation and too much Party before people and I echo those sentiments. Maybe its because we're such a small group in Medway with a small clutch of Councillors - I'm not trying to be Holier than thou- but we spend a lot of time talking about the people of Medway rather than a resurgent Gold tide that will sweep the Tories and Labour away. Although I'm sure my observations could be true for Libdem groups and politicos around the country too.

Another thing is the misleading comments. Last week before the local and Mayoral elections rising Labour star Chuka Umunna tweeted this:

Needless to say there was no response.

Voting Labour in a local election today will not oust Cameron tomorrow. Last year local Libdem Councillors were berated on the doorstep for their failure to stop tuition fees! This isn't down to voter ignorance but to years and years of political leaflets blurring the party lines between local and national issues.

Yet, hope remains were company stays true... Some MPs including Libdems Greg Mulholland, Dr Julian Huppert and local Conservative MP Tracey Crouch (to name but a few) restore a certain amount of faith in that they are willing to put down Party loyalty and vote for their constituencies. Mulholland and Huppert voted against tuition fee rises and the NHS bills! Tracey recently stood up for constituents against the Government line on Mesothelioma and Asbestosis sufferers.

Party's are about linking like minded people with in parliament not about forming two separate power blocs who are hell bent on the destruction of the other. Politicians, politicos and pundits are losing sight of what its all about and I urge everyone to please take a look around you and remember why we are doing what we're doing and try to recapture that idea of "New Politics" it is what is needed for the benefit of all.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Thieves strike Naval memorial.

It is one of the most striking landmarks in the Medway towns resting on the top of the Great lines visible from as far away as Strood and Rochester. The Navy memorial commemorates the fallen sailors of Chatham based warships and the towns lost sons, husbands and fathers who gave their lives at sea for Britain and her Empire. There is even a plaque on the tragic loss of the crew of HMS Bulwark killed in an accident off the isle of Sheppy.

There are 1800 names on the memorial and it is the only place that most of these men are to be remembered.

Then just over a week ago thieves struck and stole the Copper and Lead from the roof of one of the covered annexes. Metal theft is on the rise and is a quick way to make money. Old memorials, churches and even the signalling cables outside London Bridge have been attacked!
The Government is clamping down upon this to make sure that metal dealers are only buying legitimate metal but it is a long road and there will always be those who are more than happy to turn a blind eye to the source of their metal.

Although the Commonwealth Graves Commission has promised to repair the damage as a priority they shouldn't have to. After all this is a memorial to the fallen who gave their lives for this country. It is fundamentally wrong to steal from the dead or to vandalise graves but for me, personally,acts against war memorials and graves are far worse.

To fight and die for your country is one of the finest things a person can do. I know I sound like one of those old Kitchener-esq dinosaurs who holds firm to Dulce et decorum est but if you are willing to lay down your life for something you should be remembered. I wrote a while ago about the Death of history and how society is slowly forgetting what has happened as memories and generations fade. The First World war is almost a century ago now and the Second war is 70 years ago. Why should people care?

Because these men died to protect Democracy, our way of life, our nation, homes and families. A German occupation in World War Two would have been an ugly affair and many would have been killed in Nacht und Nabel decrees, anti-Semitic policy and even under the Military Government's reign for partisan activities. A First World War occupation would have been more lenient but still strict, as Grandson of Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm had a claim on the throne and could have easily taken over and drastically altered our nation even making German one of our national languages!

These men fell preserving our nation and society and now a handful of thieves have desecrated their only memorial, a truly terrible act.

 I would urge anyone who has any information about this case, however small to contact the Police on 101 quoting reference: 04-0094 or Crimestoppers on:  0800555111

These people need to be brought to justice for this heinous act of vandalism.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

No one agrees with Nick. Fresh leadership needed?

After another round of Local elections the Libdems have again taken another blow. For the first time since the joining of the SDP and Liberals we've fallen below 3000 Councillors.

Control of Cardiff and Birmingham councils where they were jointly run with Plaid Cymru and Conservatives (respectively). The party were expecting 16% of the votes, the same as last year but in the North where there were fewer Conservative Council votes the anti-government vote turned against us, we lost remaining seats in 14 town halls, nine more seats in Sheffield (except Hallam- Nick's seat where we won all five!)

Many Local Liberal Democrats around the country are becoming discontent with the leadership of the party for their concentrating on National issues rather than offering support to Local campaigners. It was interesting that the information coming out of HQ was about National issues and what the Parliamentary wing had achieved in power rather than practical help and suggestions for the local Councillors who provide the party with so much substance.  Many Liberal Democrats fear that Clegg is leading the party to doom, these are the same prophets from last year but now they have two years of proof.

According to the Evening Standard (Clegg attacked as Lib-dems slump to lowest level, Nicholas Cecil, 4-5-12, p.5) a "Senior Lib-dem" has said that the party is crossing its fingers for financial recovery by 2015 to boost popularity and John Pugh MP said:
It's not just a question of economic recovery. It's giving people hope and a vision to vote for and we failed to convey that. we need to re-establish our social liberal credentials. Orange Book liberalism is proving to be electorally disastrous.

Are these calls justified?


We are still chugging on quite well in other areas. Cambridge is still run by us, seats have been taken from the Conservatives including Southport & Cheadle, Brentwood as well as Sheffield Hallam. In Hull we took back 7 seats from LABOUR which we lost last year! Our aims, according to a Communique from Libdem HQ were to hold the 7 majority controlled English Councils and we have done. Surely that is a good thing?

Further to that, lets put Labour's crowing of victory into some sort of context...

* Labour lost 2000 councillors in Tony Blair’s first term in office, 1500 of them within the first two sets of local elections.
* In 1981 Labour gained 988 council seats just before Michael Foot took them to one of their biggest ever election defeats
* In 1999 William Hague won 1,348 council seats, and completely failed to dent the Blair majority in 2001 when the Tory vote share feel by 5%
 So it can be seen that although Labour have made some key gains, and congrats to their candidates by the way, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to charge to ultimate victory in 2015.

Lets calm the panic and be rational.

What does need to happen in my opinion is that HQ and Nick need to take a hard long look at what we are doing and what we are standing for.

I believe that, over time, people will come to acknowledge our unique role, the Liberal Democrats, in this government as the only party that combines responsibility on the economy with Social fairness.

I agree Nick. Unfortunately I fear that it will be someone like myself in thirty years time writing a dissertation on the Coalition for their History degree long after we have ceased to be.

I really believe in what the party stand for and I believe we have a lot to offer especially locally in Medway where we have abandoned all that Party tub thumping and ideological warfare crap that the other parties seem hell bent on and are actually listening to the people and their issues definitely backing Social fairness in the face of the cuts.

I think Nick is doing a fantastic job as Deputy Prime Minister under difficult conditions but I do agree with Andrew George MP who has said we need to focus on key Lib-Dem issues and, although it pains me to say it as I truly believe in it, abandon Lords reform. The population won't care in the long run whether we've brought in greater democracy (heck 70% of people didn't vote on Thursday!). What people care about is money and help and we need to demonstrate and plug that side more other wise my prediction of the 2015 election will genuinely come to pass.

Change at the top is not needed, the losses are still manageable however we need to take stock and redirect ourselves before it does get worse.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Bombing the Wrong targets: The German Luftwaffe in Africa and the Mediterranean 1941-2 Pt I

Some readers may know that on Wednesday 9th May I've volunteered to do a talk to the Imperial War Museum History department about the Luftwaffe in North Africa and the campaign against Malta. To be fair I was at a leaving party last year, I'd had a couple of beers and got talking to one of the others about my Dissertation and said in usual Becks fuelled bravado.
You know what Bryn... I could talk about that. Next year? Yeah plenty of time.

Well now I need to present and the research is taking up a lot of my spare time and taking over my writing time. As I am trying to commit my presentation to text I thought I'd post it here on this blog for anyone that is interested....


There are several generalisations and disbelief about the German Military that have developed through time since the War and I'm hoping to dispel them through the course of this presentation.

Germany's War aims were driven, not through ideology, though that did help, but by resources and OKW (OberKommandderWehrmacht) was painfully aware of the short falls of fuel, precious metals and rubber that faced the fledgling Wehrmacht.

The notion of Blitzkrieg grew out of tactics first used by German Stormtroopers and during British counter attacks in 1918. Heinz Guderian, in his seminal work Achtung Panzer! described the conditions for the ideal tank attacks to punch through an enemy front line and into the rear areas quickly.

Its all about Schwerpunkt.

OKW and OKH (OberKommand der Heer) would select a point of attack along the enemies front line that was the weakest or most preferable for attack. Behind German lines tanks and motorised Infantry would be massed and on X-day they would advance under artillery fire through the line and then sweep towards stores and rear areas sewing confusion and panic into civilians and military staff alike with the aim of bringing the war to a swift end.

This type of war appealed to the German strategists who knew that Germany could not afford another protracted war of attrition like the First World War. If Germany was to go to war she had to take out her enemies quickly and efficiently and this is where a problem arose.

Artillery is slow and cumbersome, it cannot be dragged along at the same speed as a Panzer column and takes time to deploy and fire. Also with the advent of aircraft any large mass of artillery being deployed behind the lines and the lengthy barrage before the attack would attract a lot of attention and the enemy would be able to guess where the attack would come. So what is the solution?

Cue the Luftwaffe.

The German high command had not been ignorant of technical developments and had pursued an active, though supposedly secretive, creation and evaluation program for aircraft development including the infamous "Dive bomber order" from Udet's office.

I'm not going to delve into the age old, and dare I say it tired debate, about whether the Luftwaffe was a Tactical or Strategic air force. For the purpose of Blitzkrieg it was purely tactical as the OKW heads were not interested in long term aerial strategy they only needed temporary aerial supremacy above the Schwerpunkt and advances. The point of the invasion was to knock the enemy out quickly.
I shall never start a war without the certainty that a demoralised enemy will succumb to the first stroke of a single gigantic attack  - Adolf Hitler

The Luftwaffe was thus seen only as flying artillery. The beauty of it, as seen by the Army commanders and their master planners in Berlin, was that they could attack without prior warning. On X-day the medium bombers would strike the enemies air instillations around the target areas whilst 109's would perform a freijagd over the advancing columns and areas shooting at anything that moved and engaging enemy aircraft. As the Panzer columns moved forward Ju 87 Stukas would be called in to strike hard points in the defencive network and enemy counter attacks.

This was all controlled by the column commanders who had a Luftwaffe officer attached to update the local Fliegerkorps commander of situations and to report their units current position to cut down the chance of friendly fire. This way the Army group commanders and Luftflotten commanders knew where their men were- In theory.

One of the big problems came with the attacks on England and Malta. The Luftwaffe was suddenly thrown into a strategic role without Panzer support. Africa and Russia threw into sharp relief the amount that the Luftwaffe was being used as an artillery piece. Field commanders were more than happy to call in wave after wave of Stuka dive bombers on one target forgetting the wear and tear on aircraft and their crews but I'll come to that later.

One of the great myths about the Third Reich is the size of its armed forces including the Luftwaffe. What is often forgotten is that during the invasion of Poland there was only 1 bomber fleet on the Western front and only a handful of fighters. The same was true during Sealion, the Germans fielded some 2400 aircraft and that was the total strike force available. When the Germans built up a bomber fleet for Malta or assigned the meagre forces to North Africa they were reassigning aircraft from more vital areas and were generally the only aircraft available.

So why Africa?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Foster's Airport plan good idea? bad idea?

Local politicians are quick condemn Lord Foster's plans for the Grain HUB and there appears to be an epic battle for the high ground waiting for someone to slip and no one dares say anything positive for fear of being Politically crucified and losing votes!

Its happened once, someone broke ranks and made clear an opinion and the opposition had a field day...

A few weeks ago there was a meeting on Grain to discuss the plan but no one from Lord Foster's office, nor Boris Johnson's office or even anyone from DRINK were invited. I was informed it was a one sided Propaganda style attack upon the plans and lots of back slapping with everyone agreeing that this airport was nothing but evil and should not happen.

I always thought politics was about open debate and viewing all of the facts as well as talking to people and giving them the facts before deciding and yet anyone who dares to put forward an alternate view (much the same with city status) they are wrong, Medway knockers or out to line their own pocket.

So I thought I'd play devils advocate, push my head out into no-mans-land and advance a pro argument for Lord Foster's designs with the cons and see what people thought.

Before I start I'm going to be quite specific;

This is not necessarily my PERSONAL opinion on the matter and NOT that of the Libdem group. I'm just playing Devil's advocate and providing Pros and Cons for people to reach their own conclusions.

The creation of a HUB airport just outside Medway offers fantastic opportunities and regeneration in the Medway area and if the right deal is struck then the Towns can benefit massively.

The HUB itself is going to take about ten-twenty years to complete and is going to require a lot of labour and construction. Medway has lots of unemployed as well as graduates from academies learning construction and indeed the proposed Technical college at Brompton. Local building companies who are struggling for work in these depressed times would, if given the right opportunities, flourish as contractors/subcontractors on such a massive project.

Should Medway Council come out in favour of the scheme they could get an agreement to improve our road connection and infrastructure replacing our potholed and much neglected roads. After all a good connection to a vast array of businesses and a pool of workers will be vital for the HUBs creation and maintenance. Also the Medway towns would become vital as an overflow or cheaper alternative for hotels and we're only twenty minutes away.

Transport connections to the rest of the Country (and the World!) would once again put the Medway towns on the map. Replacing the economic void that was left for the closing of the Dockyards some thirty years ago and could bring serious cash and restructuring to our tired and weary towns. Such wealth and status could even bring Councillor Jarrett his beloved City status too.

There are other considerations too including Tidal energy generators that would go across the estuary and a new flood defence that will aid the ageing Thames barrier and help control the tidal nature of the estuary from London all the way down to the Medway towns. If handled correctly this water could even be desalinated (so I've been told by an architect friend!!!) providing the nation with a greater reservoir of fresh water meaning that droughts and hose pipe bans in the County would be a thing of the past.

The HUB would also be beneficial to the whole country providing commerce and the stopping over point for Europe. We're an hour by train from Paris, two hours to Brussels, Amsterdam, maybe three hours by train to Berlin.

There are of course the cons and these are serious cons that stop any local support in its tracks.

There is the destruction of the Hoo peninsula. Not just the environmental damage to the famous and beautiful marsh land - a vital habitat for many protected birds and the muse for Dickens, but also the villages of Stoke and Grain, their communities will be scattered and moved on in the name of progress. Should a desalinisation process occur it would ruin salt marshes and the local ecosystems which have evolved over time around the salt water. The Estuary wildlife would be forced to move on or die out causing irreparable damage.

The Medway towns would likewise change and grow, eliminating green space and rural areas beyond Hempsted and Walderslade as new housing is created. Roads will become choked with more traffic if the infrastructure is not handled correctly - and looking at the Bus station lets be honest it probably won't be- with more air pollution. There's also the pollution from the Aircraft themselves.

Ultimately is this a price the people are willing to pay?

In a Springer style "Jerry's final thought" I'm going to forward this notion for debate.

Local Politicians and politicos are fighting back the "No" campaign pretty strongly and whether they think this is the right thing is ultimately immaterial. What is more important is what the people of Medway think.
They've been told why the airport is a bad thing, the story is saturated in the local news and they have the council and all the political parties saying "No" but where is the other side of the coin?
Honesty and debate of ideas is what politics is about and it is something I truly believe should be at the heart of everything we do but I'm starting to really believe that I'm quite Niaive about that and that Spin and party bluster is the order of the day.

If the No campaign is the right course of action then it will get the backing of the people. Lets be fair to them and let the Yes Campaign also get a say and let those who believe it is a good idea champion it without fear of persecution.

Thanks for reading... Take care of yourselves, and each other ;-)