Thursday, 30 August 2012

Oakeshott calls for Libdem change and Clegg to go

Lord Oakeshott's comments on Radio 4 today made difficult reading on today's Telegraph website - but necessary.

We have lost over half our market share... Since the election and any business that had done that would be looking very hard now at both strategy and its management to see how we get some of that back because otherwise we are going to lose a large number of seats.

Very true. It is something I've dwelt on and something we're working hard on in the Medway towns.

Lord Oakeshott also points out that 39 out of our 57 MPs were holding their seats against the Conservatives - now we've served in Government with them the obvious anti-government swing is to vote Labour. Also in seats we're we've won against Labour there will no doubt be a big swing away from us.

But I don't really need to state the obvious.

We do have a very good brand and very good policies which are popular... we have to fight very hard just to put the message across but to get it implemented in Government.

This is very true, Lords reform, AV referendum, Pupil premium, rising the Income tax threshold etc etc... these are our policies and we need to shout about them on the door step now and get into the press.

We can't be stood on the doorsteps in three years time shrugging our shoulders and blaming the Tories for not implementing our stuff with a coy We tried attitude.

We're angry that Clegg's "emergency rich tax" hasn't gone through because George Osborne (heir to a fortune/ lordship) doesn't like it and dubbed it Envy Tax. So we need to be shouting about it now and making the public aware that what we were doing.

What of Nick?

I can understand the calls for Nick to go. He has done a difficult thing by leading us into Coalition with the Conservatives and his tenor as DPM has been met with mixed reviews unfortunately he lags behind Cameron and Miliband in the poles despite the hard work of balancing a Coalition.

I'd like to see him stay, I think he's done a good job but as a figure in the media, he is roundly disliked and hated. May be a fresher face would help in the next election - then again who would take the charge, especially when it looks like we could nose dive! Maybe Nick should lead us through the election and stand down in 2015 for a new face/leadership to begin the somewhat inevitable repair?

The other option is for Nick to stand up. Lets take this righteous wrath over Lords reform and Wealth tax and shout. Stand up against Cameron, be vocal - you are our leader, Deputy Prime Minister - bang some heads and make a loud stand and not go quietly into the night.

If we show our independence as a party with our own Liberal agenda and school of thought and different to the Tories now - we can achieve more popularity and backing.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Boris Island - Clearer interpretation of events?

This weekend I was trawling the blogosphere, trying to bring myself up to speed again and see what was going on.

I was most disappointed to read the following quotation;

It seems once again that those with a limited understanding of local history are trying to distort the Labour position on the Estuary Airport and claim we are 'scaremongering' the local public.

This was clearly directed at me for my previous post.

It is true I'm not a professional Politician, indeed I'm a trained historian, mainly of the Red-coated or Jackboot clad parts of history. However I was writing my Master's degree dissertation on Airfield and airports effects on local communities with a large section on the Cliffe proposals that was going on at the time. My Grandfather kept me really will informed and sent me all manner of documents and news reports!

As a non- politician sitting in the shallow end I have to be careful what I write which means I read up thoroughly before I write anything.

Boris Island, being the only thing that preoccupies the local media and politicos at the moment means I've been able to keep abreast of the situation.

Let me demonstrate by tackling the extensive list on the post to prove that there is scare mongering and an almost paranoid state that those dastardly Tories are going to screw us over.

Tory MPs opposing Labour's visual campaign and favouring a low budget campaign - Well that's just good fiscal sense. After all at the time such a campaign would have been a knee jerk reaction to something that was nowhere near certain, indeed there was to be a mayoral election before anything became "Concrete". At a time when the Conservative administration in Medway was (and is) being heavily scrutinised and criticised for its over expenditure on vanity projects whilst at the same time cutting services and staff, a big campaign would have been a waste. Now however a larger campaign is necessary and is now underway.

Boris Johnson is London's mayor. He wants what is best for his city and its residents and has acted somewhat independently over the project, much to the embarrassment of the Parliamentary Conservative party - a prime example of a local party crossing swords with a national party. On paper a Hub airport would be fantastic for London and indeed for Britain's economy and jobs - which is why George Osborne and others are interested in such a project. Also, on paper, the Estuary is a reasonable place to put it as it has a limited effect on land value and houses. However there is the immense environmental damage.
These backer and the dire straits of the economy have forced the Government's hand and when added to the aviation industry's concern that we're rapidly reaching current capacity. It would be easy to just slam the door and ignore what is happening but this Government is doing the responsible thing and opening up the forum for debate.
Or should a Chancellor of the Exchequer not be looking into ways to boost the economy and business within the nation?

A consultation may also expose all of the natural frailties of the Estuary airport, the SS Robert Montgomery, the unexploded ordinance out on the Peninsula, the fog and all the other problems and finally rule it out as a possibility once and for all and should be welcomed rather than seen as the ultimate GREEN light for construction.

The appointment of Justine Greening as Minister for transport looks problematic, as yes; she is against further expansion of Heathrow, as are the Liberal Democrats. This is why the Coalition agreement (on top of both parties Manifestos) states there will be no third runway in this parliament. (Although that doesn't rule out laying the plans for future governments to put in place.) Though her appointment doesn't automatically mean that there will be an Estuary airport and as a rising star within the party she was soon to receive a top position and with the reshuffle after Doctor Fox's exit from Defence, Transport (big enough to be important but not that important) was there. I admit that taking two months to respond to the open letter was not cricket and should have been much swifter BUT as I wrote at the time she is right  not meet with local council leaders about the project. As the project will be going to consultation it would be inappropriate to meet with anyone protest group or council for fear of vexing the others. How would it look in Heathrow or Gatwick if the minister turned up BEFORE the consultation and said to the Medway Towns:
Nah it's alright you guys are safe

It is better to deal with the duly elected local MPs who, after all represent the people of Rochester & Strood, Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham as well. To be fair they have continually fought this with meetings with the PM, the Minister and questions at PMQS... Why doubt the duly elected representatives just because they too are Conservatives?

A HUB airport within the UK would be fantastic for the country and so an open consultation is absolutely necessary to look into ALL the options. There is no point panicking and scaring other people when absolutely nothing is set in stone. Heck, this morning the press are going on about the likelihood of expanding Heathrow over Boris Island so what does that mean?
What is easy to forget is that there are similar "NO" campaigns in other areas and local Politicians desperate not to let Central Government build a bloody great airport in their back gardens and residents who really don't want it either and the Minister cannot be at the beck and call of all of these groups. Let the Consultation happen and kick in the campaign then with the facts about the environment and the ordinance etc etc...

I know that William Hill have slashed the odds of construction however they are the same people who had Germany as odds on winners of Euro 2012 which I am saddened to say we lost. I'm not a betting man, nor am I are rich man but I am so convinced that I pledge £30s of money I don't have to go to the Demelza House, a local charity, IF this Government consultation gives the Go-ahead for Boris Island or Isle of Grain HUB.

Having spent my whole life over thinking EVERY detail and certain events whilst extrapolating every last detail and blowing things out of all proportion I can understand how the alternative conclusions were reached, especially if you throw in a distrust/hatred of the Conservatives into the mix.
Now, I'm not a Conservative, I'm a proud Liberal Democrat who has had disappointments with our Coalitions partners and disagreements with the Conservative Council that I have aired on line. But if you take a deep breath and think about what is going on there is no real concrete evidence that they are planning a HUB and that they, like a responsible party of Government are preparing to solve a particularly sticky question and look at all the possibilities.

I take quite a bit of umbrage at being dismissed as having "limited understanding" of something I clearly have a grip on and a fair alternative point of view backed up by facts and opinions in just the same way and have followed this story for some time. I suppose, because I'm not a councillor, nor have a corresponding viewpoint it is easy to dismiss my arguments with a fair amount of condescension to the wider audience - whatever helps you sleep at night.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Blogger Barrage

The internet is truly a wonderful place.

It is one of the few places you can really say what you mean and really exercise your freedom of speech, after all I will probably never meet a tenth of the people who read this 'blog and only gauge responses by the meagre comments or by the odd angry tweet.

Sometimes a riposte in another local Bloggers site will crop up. Some constructive, which is great, and others not. (I'll come to that tomorrow!)

The problem with politics is that it is a highly mobile situation and fluidic, constantly changing and with a Million and one different view points, even within the big three parties. Libdems are constantly at war with each other over points of policy which is of course the beauty of this party, a polyglot of ideas and theories that are all considered rather than dictated by High Command or by the Unions.

The Blogosphere is very helpful in this expression of ideas but has one major drawback.

To the non-political or casual reader it is a virtual barrage of comments and criticisms.

There is a certain air of constantly returning fire and raining down shells of wisdom, opinion and (dare I say it?) truth upon other 'blogs.

Like real Artillery each of us comes with different types of ammunition, star shells to expose truth and grey areas for other readers. High explosives of facts and figures to bring opinion about and grapeshot for when we're criticising a broader target such as Council/Government expenditure.

But the real danger is that we become deafened by our own noise.

I try to keep an open mind. I mean I am a Liberal Democrat and that shouldn't be forgotten when you read my pages. Obviously my personal bias will lean that way...
BUT I have criticised Libdems in government before and will probably do so again.

I listen to debate and formulate my own opinion based on my view of the facts. I have defended the Conservatives record over "Boris Island" and yet criticised them over train fares. I have criticised the Conservative led council over cutting Care homes but criticised Labour for politicising the whole affair.

Some other bloggers are deafened by their own guns and seem to be on crusade to completely decimate the other parties (usually the Other party) and that their way is the only way.

The problem is the noise of the guns can scare people away and what starts as a reasoned argument or statement can rapidly become a full blown bombardment.

The problem is, its only other like minded people who join the fusillade or spotters like myself who are looking for a weakness in the curtain that ever really pay that much attention.

It is a danger if you believe that yours is a popular opinion, or that you alone are the soul voice of reason because x many people have seen your post. You are still but one voice in the dark, often lost in the barrage of all the other guns.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Intolerance and book burnings

If memory serves me German Author Heinrich Heine once said; Where a state burns books, one day they will burn people. (Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen)

This is a fact that is frighteningly relevant.

A book is more than a papery object bound together full of words. It is a summation of ideas and beliefs and means a great deal to the author and many readers. I should rapidly point out that for the most part I'm talking about the Non-fiction variety. I can't imagine many people, beyond maybe me, becoming upset about the burning of Star Wars; Darksabre!

Usually when people talk about book burnings the immediate train of thought goes to the Nazis. As the Third Reich began its slow rise to European dominance all the Non- German books were confiscated and burnt in a nationalistic fervour and display of Germaness. Mostly books by Jews (Heine, Einstein or political ideology that was considered not to fit into the Nazi ideal such as Trotsky, Rosa Luxembourg, Lenin  etc. There is also the Jewish Communist Karl Marx who is obviously the antithesis of everything the Nazi party strived to be.

This was Germany reasserting itself and finding a new identity in the post First World War/Wiemar period. Heine was correct that within ten years of the book burnings the Holocaust was in full swing. Herr Heine was proved correct.

Surely that was then though right Chris? I mean, the Nazis are pretty evil right?

There's no denying that the Nazi Government went on to do one of the most horrific acts ever carried out by mankind in the modern era. Book burnings and the removal of ideas was arguably the first step of many.

One of the constants of history is that no one ever learns from history which locks us into cycles of repetition. Events that are transpiring today have already happened many times before and yet no one has learnt. The banking crisis... same as the South Sea trade bubble collapse in the early 19th Century. Public alcoholism - the Gin riots. So to flip it around - Nazi book burnings (which was not the first instance of it in history!) can be compared to this picture;

Yes I know it was one priest in America... and I also know people will chuckle and say Well its one crazy in a country of crazies but lets think about this.... It is the first step and its still significant.

I'm not one for religious tomes. I am an avid disbeliever but not aggressive. There are aspects of Islam that I disagree with the same as Christianity and Judaism. There are laws and beliefs that are carried out and legislated in some countries that I think is just Bat *dropping* crazy and backward but I respect them because they are people's beliefs.

It seems that people do not see the significance of burning books, or if they do they are so caught up in hate they don't care.

I'm sure many shrugged when they heard of US soldiers burning Korans in Afghanistan a while back and thought;

So what?

But it is a red rag to a bull.

Britain learnt this to their detriment in the early 19th Century with the Indian Revolt which was caused, in part by forcing Hindu Sepoy's bite rifle cartridges (when loading) that had been dipped in tallow which contained Cow and Pig fat.

So?  I hear you cry.

Pigs are filthy animals according to Muslims and Cows are considered to be Sacred by Hindus which is a double whammy! It caused a massive rift between the offended soldiers and their less numerate and often uncaring White officers and ultimately led to the Lucknow and Cawnpore massacres.

People need to be mindful of others beliefs and religions. We also need to be tolerant of them.

You may be angry at a particular set of people - in the case of the above priest it was Islamic terrorists, BUT in committing his act he has alienated and angered a vast number of Muslims across the world for burning their Holy book. It does nothing but inflame the situation.

A similar act was  the burning of Poppies on Remembrance Day a few years ago. No they aren't religious books or cause religious offence but they act as a national unification. Something we Britons come together with. Its not about politics, or religion, or even the war that is being fought - it is about the soldiers who have fought and died. It is  National symbol.

Government's need to act on this when it happens. Yes it is attacking an individuals liberty to do as they will however Law is based on balancing liberty of the individual against offences caused to the sensibilities and Liberties of others. Burning someone's religious tome clearly offends the sensibilities of the individual.

Where states burn books. Well, all I'll say is that as I wrote that I could hear the steady clomping of Jackboots on gravel in my mind and a veil of darkness.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Airport expansion, Boris Island, local Labour & responsible politics

A Grain of truth in fears?
I've written a lot about Boris Island and the Grain hub over the last year or so. It is rarely out of the local news or Political scope for more than a week. Some one always has an opinion or Boris Johnson makes a remark or... Its tiring really.

One of the main themes of the writings though is Labour's interpretations of the events - as they are the most vocal group upon the subject.

What usually happens is there is an event or someone (usually a Conservative but more recently Dr Huppert Libdem MP for Cambridge) and suddenly the spin cycle begins and the shouts of:




but as I've tried to maintain; Nothing has been decided yet

According to today's article in the Telegraph newspaper Justine Greening may find herself shuffled out of the cabinet and into another senior position. In doing so the Government can look at expanding Heathrow as a stop gap but put it in place to happen after 2015 so as not to rupture the Coalition agreement (again) or break election pledges.

Heathrow has its draw backs with angry residents, pressure groups and environmental problems too. Other economists will argue that Heathrow expansion is a mere stopgap and a proper HUB will be needed or lose out on trade. Boris will argue that Mr Cameron has pussy-footed around it and that a chance has been lost.

The Conservatives may be playing the long game and hoping that it will either be Labour's problem in 2015 or they will have a majority and not have to worry about losing a host of seats in Kent and Essex or worry about a rebellious group of local MPs joining up with the Libdems to vote the issue down now. Who knows?

This, like so many other suggestions and extrapolations is mere conjecture and we'll just have to wait for the reshuffle.

There is NO certainty over this project, a hang over from Labour not shutting this down with the Cliffe proposals almost a decade ago.

This consultation will, I'm sure rule out the possibility of the site once and for all due to its many problems like bird strike, environmental and ecological damage etc etc...

But what if it doesn't? What if the Independent body find its a good site? To paraphrase a local Labour tweeter.

Well what if they do? There will still be room to fight it and our MPs will keep doing that backed up by our elected Councillors and environmental groups and charities. It will not be over by a long shot.

What needs to happen though is for the Opposition to stop making Political capital out of this.

Firstly there is the fear mongering. Preying on people's concerns and worries about a really serious subject and turning every sentence, every suggestion into a news worthy slogan with continued ravings that the airport is going ahead and that the Tories are out to betray us all. Its not right and its not what politics should be about.

Yes criticise the project, put pressure on the Government to think about what it is doing - that's what a good opposition does but don't do this, its childish.

Some poor sod of a councillor said a while back that he, personally wasn't opposed to Boris Island, I made a similar comment (along the lines that should it be good for the nation/economy is it really a bad thing?) both of us have been lambasted for it by Labour politicos. Is that fair? For someone's personal opinion on the matter?

Look every one they like the idea of Boris Island! BURN THE HERETIC!

Again - its not right.

Lets all be clear headed about this - lets approach this as adults and as Maria Eagles suggested: Take politics out of the equation and all of us unite against this project without the crap, point scoring and the mild hysteria.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Rehman Chishti MP MIA for two months!

Last November I wrote a series of posts asking Where is Rehman Chishti? and ultimately had to withdraw from my salient point (here) as his record in Parliament showed how hard he was indeed working for the people of Gillingham & Rainham.

I was happy to leave it at that. Even more so when I received a letter from his office dated 16th July. To explain; I signed the online petition regarding "Lords reform" *mutter mutter discontent...* and it sent a generic email to my local MP. I was expecting nothing from it or any communication just a fools hope that my MP might listen or be swayed by a plea from an interested party.

A few days later a Westminster headed envelope arrived and in confused apprehension I opened it and read the following;

Dear Mr Sams,

Thank you for your recent email regarding House of Lords reform.

As you are aware, all three major parties committed to reform of the House of Lords in their 2010 manifestos. This was reflected in the coalition programme for Government, which said that we would "establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation."

The House of Lords has many qualities that are worth preserving. It values the ability of Peers to take the long view, to provide an alternative perspective and to ensure legislation is of the highest standard. The reforms will ensure that the Government keeps what is good whilst allowing the people to decide who gets to act in their name.

You will therefore be pleased to know that I support the Government's proposals.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Rehman Chishti MP

I was shocked. It had been a generic email and hadn't expected a response.

I was disappointed (to say the least!) when the reform didn't go through but I felt buoyed up that my MP had voted for it.

Then I received an email from a friend who sent me the following link... go on have a look, I'll wait here...

It appears that Rehman didn't vote for Lords reform. In fact he hasn't been active in Parliament since 23rd May with a while off in April!!!

In fact his last question in the house was on Lords reform at Deputy Prime Minister's Questions on 22nd May;

Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that House of Lords reform was in the manifestos of all three main political parties, and does he agree that it is absolutely right and proper that politicians should now keep to their promise and enact this much-needed reform?

Which begs the question of what is he doing instead? After all that appears to be two months MIA.If I stopped going to work for two months they'd fire me and with good reason. The electorate would feel the same way. The primary function of an MP is to represent us, their electorate. That's what they're paid to do, that is what they are elected to do. Its not publicised that heavily now but you can bet your bottom Euro that Labour will pull it out of the bag in 2015.

I don't want to get all preachy and vindictive, after all there may be a very good reason for this massive absence, but I feel a little betrayed that I've been personally assured of support but yet when it was needed it was not there.

2015 is going to be a Very tough election for Rehman, especially if the boundary reforms go through and he loses typically Tory voters to a pro-Labour marginal seat with, if rumours are to believed, a fairly popular local former MP Paul Clarke waiting in the wings to stand again. He is NOT doing himself any favours by just failing to turn up to work for almost two months, right before recess!

I'm sure I don't have to reiterate that political opponents will be watching his record with interest.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Time to call it quits?

So my reduced services pledge and sabbatical is going well!!!!

Before I went on leave I wrote a blog  post about my writing, this blog and what I'm thinking for the future (here) and well... I've been thinking.

Tonight, following a massive mix up on the part of a Local Labour member and myself, which has all been cleared up having him genuinely not seeing the disclaimer in the corner of this blog, I started to analyse the blog, my role in the local party and politics as a whole.

Its like a whirling aerial dogfight. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy dogfighting but it should remain in the air where it belongs.

I've spoken about this before and about how I spent my teenage years preparing for a battle that had happened some fifty years before by cleaving my way through enemy airforces (usually in a BF 110 taking the RAF apart) but I didn't expect to still be doing it in another form.

I got into politics quite by accident. It started as a dare to stand up for my chosen party, then I went to a few meetings, wrote a few things about Southeastern ticket rises etc... Next thing I know I'm on the Total Politics blog top 100, Group Secretary, a prospective candidate for election... What the heck happened?

Partly its a selfish act.

I want what is best for my family and for families like mine across the Medway towns. I am motivated as a tax payer and resident by the issues that tick me off or make me happy and I want a better life for us.

If I'm involved I'm part of a solution rather than sitting at home bitching about the Council or the Government.

I truly believe that Politics should be open and honest and conducted by grown ups.

I'm sorely disappointed.

There are those like Vince Maple, Geoff Juby, Tracey Crouch et al. who aren't into the game playing, who believe in the same as I.

There are however many more who are into playing the game. Its all about the twisting words, semantics, the accusations, the mud flinging, the down right dirty play and even straight up fibs. For them party victory is THE most important thing. They're not isolated to just the Labour party, there are those in the Conservatives and I am ashamed to say it, yes even the Libdems.

All I can say is; I tire of it.

There came a point that even Molders and Hartmann grew tired of dogfighting and left it to younger pilots. Is this now my turn to bring her about and head back to the airfield and take a desk job?

Maybe it is. After all my life's ambition is to obtain true peace and quiet mixed with a good book and comfy arm chair.

My family is the most important thing to me and with the birth of my son Oliver three weeks ago, I've been finding my time has been severely dented. So much so that I am seriously considering not running for secretary again this year as I can't guarantee I'll get to every meeting. I'm almost tempted to just fade back into the ether of the Medway Political scene and become a small l Liberal.

Then I think of what my Great Grandfather Walter used to say;

When you're right - fight.

I want to fight for a better Politics, the New Politics.
I want to fight for a fairer deal for my family and millions like us.
I want to fight through the lies and continue to tell truths.
I want to fight for and win for the Libdems because I believe we are a good party and one that represents the people accurately - or at least in the Medway Towns.

I also think of how it hurts to give up the Secretary position and although I may have to accept that bitter blow I can get a less important role in the Exec and still be heavily involved but still have the option of missing the occasional meeting.

I'll be honest I am torn... Further thought and discussions with our Group Chair are needed.

I've not written this to be dramatic or as an attention seeking exercise - I'm just saying it how it is.

More Tripe with your Estuary Airport press release?

Stop putting it in your press releases
I've been reading some absolute rubbish about Boris Island/Estuary airport and Government (esp. Libdem) involvement from... yep you've guessed it... the Labour transport twitter feed again.

I cannot believe that what is being published is actually sanctioned by their Party machine as it is populist and alarmist, playing on people's fears and concerns for party political gain which is one of the lowest forms of Politics.

So what has been said? Surely you have proof to the contrary?

Well Yes... as a matter of fact I do.

Just to help, that article address is here

Lets look at the first accusation:

Why has LibDem transport spokesman today backed new hub airport replacing Heathrow?

The quote referred to is:

"We recognise, however, that a single, hub airport - rather than a constrained Heathrow with multiple satellite airports - would be better for the environment and better for the economy in the long term. Even three runways at Heathrow would only be a medium term solution."

So lets dissect this...

Earlier in the article Dr Huppert MP had been stating about the party's stance on not expanding Heathrow and why such a move is totally out of the question - both environmentally and for the local residents.

There is research that shows that the UK's airport capacity is at a dangerously low level and that if a new airport or expansion of existing facilities are not undertaken then there will be a serious problem. Economically a new HUB airport somewhere in the UK would be a great idea. It would boost trade, show that the UK is serious about transportation links, business and trade as well as create many jobs. To not act could see the locus of trade shift to the continent and away from British jobs/business.

This is a serious proposition that needs to be considered yet  as you can see, @Labourtransport is trying to make it look like the Libdems want Boris Island which is something that isn't the case.

Right, lets move onto the Second tweet (the top one) and look at this...

Wow, OK. Good governance means that you seek opinion and who better to look into that than an Independent body?

What if the Independent body find in favour of the Estuary airport?

Holy floating island in the estuary Batman! For Pete's sake the Government don't have to go through with constructing the damn thing.

Also... This hurts to admit this but... If it will benefit the nation as a whole and boost British Business for many decades then... well... can it really be a bad thing?

Which leads me onto... No Independent body will favour the Thames Estuary what with the environmental damage, bird strikes and also the unexploded ordinance in SS Robert Montgomery or out on the peninsula where the Army and Engineers used to practise. There's the added problem of the wreck of HMS Bulwark which is a listed War grave and must not be disturbed.
There is also Birmingham which needs to be considered. As Dr Huppert mentioned in his article, Birmingham is ripe for expansion. It is in a prime location to get commuters to other parts of the country by plane or by rail and if you were to link it up to HS2 then you're really cooking on gas.

Lets be honest Labour, I know that given my recent posts that that may be against your nature but, a HUB in the UK would be a good thing and it doesn't have to be in the Southeast of England. Nothing is set in stone, annoyingly so stop making it look like it is. Further to that why are you arguing semantics and twisting this around to blame the Libdems?

Its fear mongering and mud throwing. That's all.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Labour Transport drop manure on my Twitter feed about Estuary Airport.

I'm meant to be on a sabbatical from Politics and the world of Westminster/Gun Wharf whilst enjoying time with my new son and my family. However in a dry spell of procrastination whilst decorating I hit Twitter and caught up on a few things.

It appears that Transport is the issue of the week and I'll come to the Railways later or tomorrow as this one really ground my gears.

The @Labourtransport twitter feed said this:

Which is a lie.

No two ways about it. Let me think and check... No its a lie.

Back in January (19th) I wrote the following blog post;
Lib dems sink Boris Island and Clegg publically came out and said that the Libdems were against the notion of an estuary airport and Boris Island. In fact our 2010 Manifesto was against airport building and expansion in the South east region. I've always known that the Truth is an elusive object within politics and I've always believed in credit where credit's due, after all that's what the New Politics is all about. We're meant to be acting as grown ups etc... I also know that every party has done it and probably will do it but Labour - I'm sorry I've caught you and you've vexed me on this.

The point is, it doesn't matter what I think. Labour has a much bigger mouth than I have and a much better media machine than either the Liberal Democrats and especially myself. The adage of If you throw enough mud also comes into it and ultimately I fear that the truth will be lost and that they will gain support from this.

Because of this - I've died a little inside and my faith in our Nation's political system and representatves has suffered another blow.

Labour should be ashamed of themselves but I know they probably aren't.

I shall say it again and hope that the truth will stay around:

The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary party and Local (Medway Branch) have always

been consistently against an Estuary Airport.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Nina and the Neurons

Katrina Bryan as Nina (with her Neurons)
Why am I writing about Kid's TV you may ask and well... I've got no real answers other than it takes my mind of a few things (including the current rifts in the Coalition) and being on paternity leave has meant that I've sat around enduring a lot of it with my daughter Sophie and after my failed experiment to get her into Doctor Who (Rememberance of the Daleks gave her nightmares!) and my wife judging me every time I sneak Star Wars on, there is no other choice.

I must admit that Nina and the Neurons is my favourite programme on the Cbeebies channel and has attracted sarcastic comments from my wife ( like Oh, so you're watching your girlfriend again? or Your Girlfriend is on). It is however really good for kids.

The basic format is around three children who have a question about a piece of tech or body part/organ or just general science that they put to Nina.

They then come down to the studio (becoming "Experimenters") and through a string of experiments and a brief road trip to see practical applications they get an answer to their question. All the way through Nina is assisted by her Neurons (Felix for touch, Belle for hearing, Luke for seeing, Ollie for smell and Bud for taste) with one or more being the main Neuron depending on the question and whether it fits into their area of expertise.

Its very informative and I must admit that even with A'levels in Biology and Chemistry, I've actually learnt a few things.

Its also had an impact on Sophie, who was singing along to the end song "In the lab" last week, told me on a couple of occasions when walking to/from nursery that we were actually going to go and see Nina, she tried to contact the Neurons randomly one day and started stroking the sides of her head inadvertently smearing yogurt in her hair!

Then of course my favourite:

Whilst watching Star Wars Sophie pointed at Princess Leia and said;

Daddy! It's Nina!

As she gets older I'm sure it will get more relevant for her and hopefully encourage her to think about how things work and ask questions. Until then, we'll continue to watch for entertainment, science and, with the risk of a blush, to indulge a TV based crush.

Any- who... I promise to get back to boring old politics tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Lords reform; A die has been cast

Well... They've done it... They've finally done it.

OK, we can put off Trident.

OK we can bite the bullet and raise Tuition fees IF we can make the application process and repayment system ultimately fairer.

OK we can agree to cuts as long as we can hit the Mansions and cut income tax for the poorest.

What is NON NEGOTIABLE tenets for the Libdems, indeed for me as well, was looking into House Of Lords reform.

But a handfull or rebels have suceeded in fudging up the Coalition agreement and Lords reform.

It was always going to be a steep mountain to climb for Nick Clegg to convince the Conservatives to swallow their pride and either abstain or grip the nettle and vote "Yes" as we have done.

Instead, the contract has been broken.

The vote that was lost pretty much cut the throat of the whole process and so rather than watch it bleed to death over the coming months Nick has called "time" and shelved it.

For Nick's official response click here.

But what does it mean for the Coalition?

Well, I fear that Tit-for-tat voting may become the norm, indeed the moves to stop boundary reform are considered to be the first step (also quoted by BBC Journalist Robin Brant "There is now a definite air of tit-for-tat around the coalition"). It is very important that both leaders stamp this out immediately... well after Boundary reforms (Why should we make it easy for them, right?)

It isn't good for the Country, economy or politics.

David Cameron needs to get his house in order and bang some heads. As I said before, those who voted against because they fundamentally didn't believe in it should be safe but there were rebels in the list whose names were far too familiar.

This Government was founded on an agreement. Whether individual MPs or Rebellious Covens agree with it or not is irrelevant - Your leadership signed up to it as did ours and we have to stick to it.

I'm trying not to be partisan about this but... Lords Reform, along with Electoral reform, is one of the cornerstones of my political beliefs. I'm really gutted by the climb down and really angered that a small group of rebels have, in my opinion, screwed over the whole country and democracy.

An agreement like this is more than just a "Piece of paper" it is something that we as a party have taken seriously and probably to our detriment and it turns out they don't even feel the same way.

I think our Leadership and indeed David Cameron especially, need to look at this and think long and hard. It may be even time to ask the un askable question;

Is it time for us to walk away from the Coalition? After all if, in a real marriage you found your Spouse was not honouring the vows you'd want to call time, or work through some SERIOUS issues?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Clegg on Tory broken promises.

Here follows the release from the Deputy Prime Minister on Lords reform...

Reform of the House of Lords is a key commitment in the Coalition Agreement – the contract that keeps the coalition parties working together in the national interest.

The Liberal Democrats have held to that contract even when it meant voting for things that we found difficult.

The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, for the first time part of our contract has now been broken.

When part of a contract is broken, it is normal and necessary to amend that contract in order to then move on. So that is what we are doing.

I have told the Prime Minister that when Parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election Liberal Democrats in Parliament will oppose them.

Coalition is a two-way street. I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like while Liberal Democrats are bound to the entire agreement.
The Liberal Democrats joined the Coalition, in good faith, in the national interest at a time of crisis.

We will continue to work in the national interest.

We will continue to focus on the central task that brought the Coalition together: Rescuing, repairing and rebalancing our economy.

And we will continue fighting for and delivering the things we believe in – making the tax system fairer; the Pupil Premium; green energy; and jobs and opportunities for our young people.

In my discussions with the Labour Party leadership, they have made it clear that while they continue to back Lords reform in principle, they are set on blocking it in practice. Supporting the ends, but – when push comes to shove – obstructing the means.

I invited Ed Miliband to propose the number of days that Labour believe is necessary for consideration of the Bill. He declined to do so.

Instead he confirmed Labour would only support individual closure motions – which could bog down Parliament for months.

Regrettably Labour is allowing short-term political opportunism to thwart long-term democratic change.

So Liberal Democrats will continue to pursue our values in government and we will continue to campaign for democratic renewal.

My hope is that in the next Parliament we will return to it emboldened by the overwhelming vote in favour of our Bill at second reading and that Lords Reform will eventually be a reality.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Officially Miserable Medway.

Its official the Medway Towns are the second least satisfied area in the South of Britain.
Strangely, I’m not that surprised.
Lets be honest, what is there to look forward to in the Medway area? It is run down, dirty, a shell of its former self, a Council that seemingly care more about big projects than the day to day lives of the residents, raising personal debt, 11500 children in poverty, no good high streets, expensive rail and bus services and low incomes. There is nothing to look forward to, apart from the Olympics and Jubilee, just the same old grind day in day out.
There is little wonder then that the Medway towns are also one of the worst hot spots for obesity (30% of adults), high levels of smoking, teenage pregnancies and a low life expectancy linked mainly to cancer and smoking related diseases.
Well we all need vices to resort to to make ourselves feel better about life and if things are so bad then why not?
As I write this I’m watching The Never Ending Story with my daughter (for the 999th time) and I was just moved by the scene in the Swamps of Sadness;
Everybody knew that those who let the sadness overtake them were doomed to sink into the swamp.
This is true of Medway too. It’s easy to let all the problems over take you and get sucked down but at the same time is life really that bad?
I mean, we’re still living in a First world country, we’re not being shot by Government troops, forced to work in sweat shops, our children aren’t dying after a few months from drinking filthy water… Things are not as bad as they could be. It is worth bucking up a little bit.
The Medway Messenger cited some comments from Facebook;
It lacks atmosphere, there’s not much to do in the owns compared to Maidstone, but it is much better than Dover (Says Mike Canham Croom)
Fair point.
Medway Youth Council suggested the creation of a Reward card for young people. Every time they went to Medway Park swimming, or to the Ice bowl they could get points they could put towards getting a free game of bowling. In the wake of this survey it would seem that their plan, which we support should be implemented. Encourage kids to be more active and to enjoy the towns.
Put down the Burger pick up a bowling ball!
Dawn Adamson wrote;
House prices are becoming out of reach for most people living in Medway and wages are far lower than average and as an ex-Londoner I find the people less friendly too.
OK, house price rises are the same everywhere at the moment as are wages. The nature of capitalism is to keep prices up and wages down and make more money for those on the top. Unfortunately there is nothing you can reasonably expect the Council to do anything about.
There is something that YOU can do though.
For Pete’s sake smile, or say “Hello” to people you see regularly.
At my end of Gillingham there is a street cleaner who always says “Hello” as I go to work and always waves and says “Hello” to my wife and little girl and it is surprising how much of a difference it makes to your day.
Smile’s are infectious, and I know this is easier said than done considering everyone’s personal woes, but try it. Be polite to people in the street, patient with those who work in shops, stop using the C – word as an adjective especially at 11 O’clock outside my daughter’s bedroom window!
The reason that the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland did so well in the survey is that life on isolated rural communities is painfully simple and life in big urban conurbations is difficult but lets get on with it before we get sucked into the great mire of sadness. Similarly we need to encourage our youth to get off their backsides and do things get energised and I think the Council should seriously look at this proposal from the Youth Council.
Also, be proactive with happiness. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Computer game violence: Hate the player not the game

Skyrim: Fantasy Sword play
Last night I killed a man. I don't know his name, where he came from or if he had family, all I know is that he died at the end of my blade gasping for mercy as he laid on his knees.

He did start the fight to be fair, he attacked me first wielding a two handed sword and rushing out of the long grass at me as I looked for an easy way into the castle.

I should point out I was playing the fantasy game Skyrim and not wandering the streets of Rochester.

I've grown up on computer games starting with an old Amstrad 1512 back in the very early 90s when PCs only had CGA graphics (4 colours) and by the time I went to University I was susceptible to a good looking game. It was back on that first PC that I killed my first computerised German serviceman in the classic "Ace of aces" (I think) in which you fly a Mosquito fighter-bomber over Europe. Now some twenty years on I hate to think how many German Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen I have killed. Mostly it has been watching their aircraft burning and heading to the ground over the skies of Kent, or in key battles of World War Two like Dieppe, Falaise gap, Stalingrad and the Bulge in a rifle shot. There have been other games - Goldeneye on the N64 ate ALOT of time in my first year of Uni, Perfect Dark, Medal of Honour, Commandos, Sudden Strike, Age of Empires and of course the classic Grand Theft Auto.

It is a game that has attracted a lot of criticism from parent groups, members of government and well meaning people but it is a game that has also attracted a lot of fans. I've played most of the GTA games (except the newest one) and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Yeah, they can be violent - I used to start riots in the streets, aggravate the Police - I even shot a man dead in the street because he insulted me- but it is fun. 

The point is;  for me, and all the gamers I know, the game and violence ended when I switched the Playstation off. It was a great stress relief. Nothing beat coming home from a hard day at work than opening a cold beer and taking out my wroth on the people of Liberty city with aggressive driving and lawless abandon. I'm not an aggressive person, in fact many have commented on me being a walk over who is uncharacteristically even tempered for a redhead. Also coming from a family tradition of Policing and Law meant that I would never consider breaking the law. It is escapism and fantasy, a world you can do what you want and hang the rules.

Critics would argue that these sort of games encourage violence among young people and that they become attracted by the violence of it and want to try it out in reality. In some cases the border between reality and fiction become blurred and some idiot will go out to try an enact what they have done in game.

Maybe this is true for some people, a small minority who tar the rest of us gamers with the same brush. 

I will admit that some games are worse than others. I once played Manhunt which was blamed for a murder and I was horrified at the methods of killing and the needlessness of the violence. Personally I like a good reason for combat - generally fighting the forces of evil (or good if it is a Star Wars game) rather than the helpless. Maybe the gaming industry should look at the premise of some of the games but as I'll come to in a minute, there are age ratings for a reason.

The same criticisms can be levelled at movies and even literature.  I've been weirded out by the honest Medieval savagery of the Game of Throne's books but I've not taken to rape and pillage. Violence has been part of popular culture forever - look at Shakespeare, Canterbury tales, the classic kid's film Watership Down that scarred my generation. Look at the body counts in movies like Where Eagles Dare or all the ketchup spilt in Battle of Britain. So why blame computer games when other forms of escapism are just as violent?

The last thing to say about it is that... These games have a rating for a reason. I was once introduced to one of my Mum's friends who complained to me that he'd watched his son playing a game that included beating a prostitute to death and stealing a car. He'd bought it as a 13th birthday present. It was GTA - I told him to check the rating, its an 18. I believe that it was duly taken away from him!
 So parents, you should keep an eye on what your kids are playing.

As for the rest of us? Well some of us like sports, others like good books (I do love my reading), model making (you should check out my spare room), hard drinking, clubbing, walking and others enjoy computer games. As long as gamers aren't going out and recreating games/fantasy in the real world then who are we to tell them that they cannot enjoy themselves? After all recreation and committing a crime is a conscious choice made by an adult and is not the fault of a game.