Sunday, 29 January 2012

Medals for Bomber Command


Wellington Bomber
 In 1941 the Third Reich was at the pinnacle of its power, the Luftwaffe was triumphant and controlled the skies over Europe, the German Armies still undefeated were pushing towards Moscow and a German victory was inevitable.

Within four years Germany was defeated, her roads and railways were shattered, her industry crippled and the once proud Luftwaffe blasted from the skies or hiding in woodland and under Autobahn bridges.
The RAF air offencive had played a massive part in this victory and was indeed the arm of the British forces that did the most against Germany.
To be fair to the other forces, the Royal Navy played an excellent part in protecting convoys, harassing German Shipping and Arctic convoys to Russia but its big battleships were fairly redundant in the new modern war.
The Army fought valiantly in France, Norway, North Africa, Italy, Greece, Crete and in the second push through France and the Low countries but the main strength of the German army was tied up and ultimately defeated by the Russian army.

In 1941 Stalin insisted that the British opened up a second front to draw German forces away from the Eastern front. British high command knew that landings in France were not possible and Scandinavia was too far for resupply. The only option was to launch an air offensive.

At this stage the majority of the air arm was made up of Wellington Bombers, Stirlings and medium range Anson and Blenhiem bombers. Without escort these planes were quickly turned away by the Luftwaffe and many Wellington's were chewed up by Messerschmitt BF 110 heavy fighters.

As larger bombers came into action the RAF still suffered losses by day as unescorted bombers travelled deeper and deeper into German territory and eventually they switched to night bombing.


Messerschmitt 110 Night fighter
 The Luftwaffe quickly adapted to deal with the night menace, and a belt of Radar stations stretching from Belgium to Switzerland nicknamed the "Kammhuber line" after the Luftwaffe General in charge of Night defence. This line had Night fighters covering and as the Bomber stream crossed it the fighters were vectored to intercept.
Even after the use of Operation Window to confuse the Radar sets Junker 88, Messerschmitt 110 and the excellent He 219 Uhu night fighters were soon equipped with their own Liechtenstein sets and able to vector themselves in.
The Nachtjagdgeschwader would also use a weapon called Schräge Musik which was a pair of upward firing machine guns. The night fighter would creep under the Bomber's blind spot and fire into the fuselage from below - effectively blowing it out of the sky.

Even now RAF veterans speak of "Scarecrows" shells that were fired and scattered parts of planes to scare them. In actuality they were bombers being destroyed by Schräge Musik.

If that wasn't enough to contend with there was the Flak. The 88mm German Flak gun was one of the best weapons to come out of the war and they were concentrated in huge numbers around the Reich's cities they had search lights and radar control and were deadly in concentrated batteries. There was also the Flak tower, giant concrete structures that housed many concentrated AA gun batteries.

The whole affair must have been harrowing. Long hours of flight at night, death only a heart beat away from hidden enemies and when you got to the target the ground would open up with deadly Flak shells and once you'd done that you had to fly back through the Nachtjagdgeschwaderen with a possibly damaged aircraft or wounded crew.

Did Bomber command receive any real recognition?

No. A few VCs or GCs were handed out for extreme bravery - a notable example is Guy Gibson VC who famously led the Damnbuster raids and a scattering of others but as a whole no.
Fighter pilots always get glamorously decorated. As Oberst Werner Baumbach of the infamous Kamfgeschwader 200 wrote in his book Broken Swastika bomber pilots have a different mentality to fighter pilots and are generally more stoic. The Jagdflieger used to refer to their bomber pilots as "Bus drivers" for their slow moving chugging aircraft. A fighter pilot's success could be measured in the amount of kills he got, the same for Stuka pilots and ground attack aircraft. The Luftwaffe's highest decorated pilot, Oberst Rudel was a Stuka and ground attack specialist who destroyed many tanks and facilities. (he also lost a leg and escaped Russian capture returning to German lines!) However Medium and heavy bomber pilots could not measure their success - only by their longevity.

The other thing is it is hard to recognise an individual act of bravery in an aircraft as it is hard to recognise who was responsible. For example Eugene Esmonde received the VC for his attacks on Scharnhorst, Gniesnau and Prinz Eugen in the channel dash but no such award was made to his observer and gunner who perished along with him didn't receive the same medal.

The next thing is Dresden and Hamburg. My grandfather went through the city of Ulm post war and he said all that was left was the Cathedral and the rest of the city was flat. In Hamburg a firestorm burned bright and fierce started by British incendiaries. In Dresden ( three months before the end of the war) the bombing pattern was planned especially to start a firestorm. It burned so hot that German citizens hiding in their basement shelters melted and had to be pumped out. The death toll was catastrophic.
It is arguably a war crime - I know opinion is divided on this subject and I won't add my voice to either side merely make the observation that if you shot a civilian it was a crime but to blast them from the air as all sides did during the war it is OK. To me it doesn't add up.

This should not detract from the bravery of the crews and pilots who were following their orders and flew bravely into action, often to death, wounding and capture. They should be awarded something for their bravery, and I understand a campaign has been mounted to see these men finally get the recognition they deserve and who can fault it?

Crossing Swords Involuntarily

This is more of a personal reflection (rambling) rather than a discourse about politics.


I’ve never been involved in a campaign before, well not really. I’ve written about things, tweeted a few things, argued with a few people about the merits and cons of a particular policy or cause but always been lower ranking minion or foot soldier.

The City Status letter to Nick Clegg, which I’m sure you’ve all read about in the Medway Messenger or in this Blog, was the first one I picked up the torch and ran with. I did take it upon myself to write the letter and those who’ve watched me work on it and write, re read, edit, listen to it at home and work will know that this has been an almost Ahab-esq mission for me. I am very grateful when Tony Jeacock, our new Chair for helping me with the drafts and sharpening my waffle. When I presented to the Group the other week I took their suggestions on board and between me and Tony we again cut it down but kept it sharp.


I’m not a political animal really, yeah I’m a Libdem and believe in the principles of Mill’s On Liberty, I also agree with Nick but I am open to other ideas and approaches. I’m not tribal at all and will be one of the first to disagree with a bad Party decision. Though I am a Liberal I am also of the same school as David Lawes and Nick Clegg, to reiterate a quote that someone said of Clegg - I'd make a good Tory if I wasn't so Liberal. I don’t have long term aims to become an MP, Prime Minister or even a Councillor – if it happens then cool, and I’ll do my utmost to serve my constituents  but really, it’s not my primary motivation in life. My main life goal up until I got married was peace and quiet. I wanted a comfortable arm chair and a good book – in my heart of hearts it’s still my aim and I’m looking forward to retirement or when I win the lottery. Since getting married and having my daughter my aim has been looking after them and people like my family across the towns and the best way I can do that is to take a role in politics and at least keep up, maybe get involved in the debate – it beats sitting at home and reading about the conclusion in the paper.


For me, the City Status bid is wrong for reasons I’ve stated more than once so won’t do so again but it never occurred to me that people would feel just as strongly that it was right and had been campaigning for it actively.


My Grandfather rarely spoke about fighting during the War but on one occasion I asked him and he told me that when opening fire on the enemy you saw figures in Grey at a distance, you squeezed the trigger and they fell – you didn’t know if they were dead, wounded or taking cover. He’d always liked Germany and Germans (something he had passed on to me) but on another occasion he mentioned a German sentry one night who’d been singing Silent night. Pop had hated the Carroll ever since and wouldn’t have it sung in the house so we drew our own conclusions. The personification of the “enemy” or “opponent” is a hard thing to reconcile, they cease being shapes and become people.


For me fighting “city status” or Medway Council’s consultation over Care homes had always been fairly easy. It was “Medway Council.” A huge faceless organisation like “The Empire” in Star Wars. They had to be defeated for the good of the residents and that was the motivation, so when I got an email from a friend who is a local Conservative, saying that she was disappointed at our actions and that it would spell an end to all of their hard work it made me feel quite guilty. She went on to say that it was more about giving locals something to be proud of, that Medway was important and to give some Civic pride which in my mind is really a noble goal.
I got another Tweet from another friend who outlined a similar stance and again I felt exceptionally bad and apologised profusely – suddenly “The enemy” had a face and for me the personification was real. My actions were affecting people I knew, not just knew of, and who I would consider to be friends.
This is the danger though, and something I guess we all have to get used to in local and national politics. We’re not all in the same party and we all have different views – sooner or later we’ll have to cross swords even with those we have a lot of respect and liking for.
Even the actions of Cllr Jarrett over the Nelson Court issues are motivated by a greater good, to save money in the budget for other services - we just disagree that this is the area he should be making the cuts.
I guess the moral of the story is that you shouldn't take it personally, as I have, when criticisms come your way or if a friend in another party does something you disagree with - at the end of the day we all have differing opinions and we aren't going to agree all the time. Sooner or later you'll be in a meeting or reading in the paper and go;
 "They said What? How can you say that?!"
The first friend I mentioned tweeted me Friday whilst all this was dwelling on my mind and feeling sorry for myself - I was in the house on my own just letting the story run around and around in my head - saying
 "I don't want to sound harsh but MAN UP!" - Which made me smile and I'm taking the message seriously and I am removing my heart from my sleeve for the future - I'm not going to become a merciless anti this and that party monster hell bent on destruction and the changing of Medway to Gold but I'm also going to have to accept that we can't all agree and that unfortunately swords will be crossed even with friends - of course the manner in which you do that will determine whether they stay friends and I hope that I will keep to it.
I also hope that I will forgive me for any clashes as I will forgive them - after all friendship is just as important.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Dear Nick... Letter of protest over Medway City status bid

RE Request to reject the City Status bid by the Medway Towns.
                                                                                                                        17th January 2012
Dear Deputy Prime Minister,

We write to you in your capacity as final arbiter regarding the City-status bids to plead the case for not granting Medway City Status. The reasons for this are three-fold: 

Firstly, the cost: Medway Council has played down the cost saying it will only cost 8 pence per resident. We do not believe this is a fair reflection of the cost when considering changes to signage alone, in all its forms and applications, which would be numerous. This comes at a time when the Council is trying to save £15m by 2015, having already overspent by £2m on the unpopular new Bus station’s original budget and wasted a further £2.3m as a result of other examples of poor planning.
Additionally, with the Council’s proposed selling off and closure of day care centres for the elderly, along with residential care homes; making redundancies; cutting other services, we believe that the City-Status bid is another unnecessary burden for the Medway Town’s council-tax-payer.

Secondly, there is no evidence to suggest that City Status would be of any benefit to the towns. We understand that Brighton and Hove believe the only thing that city status brought them was a great deal of debt. We are concerned that city status would only add to the financial squeeze in Medway with no benefits. The Medway towns already has great potential with plenty of space for new business; a large work force; good transport connections to London, the rest of the country and Europe. City Status will not change that.

Thirdly, this is not something the people of the Medway Towns want or even care about, not that Medway Council would know, as the consultation process has been woeful. Our activists reported that on the doorstep, very few people expressed support; many more expressed their rejection, but most were apathetic towards the whole concept.

The Leader of the Council, Rodney Chambers OBE, admitted after the second failed attempt, a third bid would not be in the best interests of the Conservative group or the people  of the Medway Towns, yet here they are doing it all again.

Each one of the Medway Towns has a rich heritage of its’ own and historically, they have achieved much by themselves. Labelling the towns as one, i.e. the City of Medway, will see each town slowly lose its' individuality. They each have their own cultures, their own communities and a City of Medway would be an artificial construct. Most residents are proud that they live in Gillingham, Rainham, Chatham, Rochester or Strood…. we all live in the unitary authority of Medway Council, but none would say they live in Medway.

The whole bid for City status for the Medway towns is undemocratic, unwanted and unaffordable. Please consider our petition accordingly.


Yours faithfully,          

Chris Sams (Secretary)

Tony Jeacock (Chairman)

(On behalf of the Medway LibDems Executive Committee)

Medway LibDems Fight City Status (press release)

The Medway Liberal Democrats have written to the Deputy Prime Minister, the final arbiter in the decision of which town will gain City status, asking him to ignore and deny a bid for "The city of Medway"
The Council has forged ahead with the wasteful third attempt without the backing of the people of Medway. In fact we've found that on the door step the majority of people didn't know or care about the bid, which suggests yet again the Council is not carrying out the will of the people?
City Status will be a lot more expensive than the 8p per resident that the Conservatives are predicting. The entirety of the Medway Towns will need re-branding including road signs, Civic vehicles, Civic buildings, stationary, uniforms, publicity - the list is endless! Just like the Bus Station, you the tax payer will pick up the tab for something you don't really want so that the Councilors can call themselves "City Councilors" which is the only guaranteed outcome. We do not believe you should have your public services cut so they can afford City Status?
The Medway towns have their own individual identities and cultures and they will be lost in a city with time. Unlike other towns that are applying the Medway Towns is a conurbation of separate towns forced together under the Unitary-authority. Rochester has its Medieval Castle and Cathedral as well as its Dickensian heritage, Chatham has its' Dockyard, Gillingham has been home to the Royal Engineers for over a century, Rainham has one of the busy Commuter hub. In a City of Medway the names and individuality will be lost. How long before Gillingham FC becomes Medway City FC?
The Conservatives and Labour haven't listened to you before and they are still not listening. We've listened but they have ignored us too so we've taken this step to represent you and the Town's best interests.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Boris Island Referendum is a waste of time.


What's this Liberal Democrat opposed to democracy?!?! No wonder their a dead party! Siding with the Tories again? *pah* You've been sucked into the Tory Spin Machine! By siding with them you are condemning us to having the airport...

Right that's got that out the way and none of them are true by the way, I'm sure more criticisms from labour will come my way but I'm allowed to have my opinion and I agree with a lot of what Councillor Mike O’Brien  has said about Labour's proposed referendum.

In a recent Council Cabinet Labour proposed a motion for a local referendum to give local people a say on whether we want a new airport with in spitting distance of the Medway Towns. After a long and mixed discussion it was voted down by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Independents and since then an online campaign has continued blaming the Tories for blocking democracy and putting the whole "No" campaign in jeopardy.

One of the issues is the cost. Both sides seem to have pulled figures out of thin air when projecting the cost of the election but either way it is an extra burden that the already stretched Medway Tax payer can ill afford. Cllr Osborne is correct the Conservative Council has over spent on many different projects but at the same time we don't have the money now. The Council is looking at closing elderly care homes and cutting back other front line services now, as the Coalition are looking at cutting back subsidies for local authorities and a deficit in Council funds where is this money going to come from?

Coming from someone who supported AV and having looked at the fall out from the Electoral reform society studies I can also agree that running an election and referendum at the same time is a bad idea. The turn out of electorate for the Police Commissioner will be low - after all we didn't even get over 50% of the electorate turn out to vote in Medway's councillors I can't imagine many turning out for the Commissioners - something that only a few politicos really believe (or not) with. I'm not saying that a low turn out election is an invalid election- far from it, I truly believe in democracy and any result that sees those who take an interest in how their area/country is run should be respected but the view in London and in Boris towers might be that if only 30% of Medway bothered to vote yes or no then there is a general feeling of apathy and take that as a "green light."

If they don't care either way we might as well go for it.

You'd probably get a higher turnout if you held it as an apolitical referendum or even postal vote on its own without other party issues - which lets face it, put people of voting, they're sick of this sort of bickering. If it was pitched as on a local vs. National issue with something that directly affects them, you'd get a higher turnout.
The good thing about the referendum, which was not true of AV is that all of the local parties agree that there should be no Airport locally so there will be no voting against a party's stance on the Airport (i.e. people voting yes to the airport just because Nick Clegg and the Lib dems say No.) - we all know this happened at AV. 
The AV referendum also showed that a double count is possible - it takes a long time but it’s possible
The people of Medway have already made themselves clear on this issue so why ask again less than a year later? All four parties that constitute Medway council and also those the other parties like the Greens, UKIP etc. all stand firmly against the airport and have a history of fighting the Cliffe proposals. I'm confident that all of us ran with this stance in the local election and got support from the electorate on this. Further to that - and I can't talk for the other major parties but we have consulted our constituents and they don't want it. Every councillor has been elected from the people for the people to represent the people and so should have already spoken to their constituents and saying "No" because it’s what they know they want. So how can Labour justify spending money and time to find out what we already know?
It may give a stronger message to London that we as a community don't want it but the council already are representing the people's wishes and stance and national Government has to respect that.

In a similar vain whether or not Rodney Chambers is well known nationally or not - he is head of the local Tory party and thus head of the council, with an OBE and has to be acknowledged as that. Also if you are worried that it all sounds a little bit NIMBY and that a small leader of a disaffected council I'll up the anti with.... A deputy Prime Minister, yes that's right Nick Clegg is against it as is our entire parliamentary party, also I'll throw in the RSPB, Greenpeace, councils in Essex and areas in North Kent, Thames Shipping, Pilot unions... if anything we're part of a choir of voices of equal weight, if we stood alone then yes I'd say a referendum would help but now it seems like a wasted exercise.

Also I don't know how much of a real support a referendum has amongst the population of the Medway wielding pitch forks and burning brands and marching on Gun wharf as an oppressed mass.

I'd like to just reiterate that a consultation is not by definition a formality before this Boris' Bond villain lair is built in the estuary. Nor is it a sign that the Government is taking it seriously. If anything the consultation is about Britain's overall aviation policy. It has been acknowledged that Britain is dropping behind European competitors and it would be better for global trade and the economy if a new airport was constructed. Although it has also been pointed out, and I concur, a new airport will take around a decade to construct and expansion of existing facilities would be preferable as it could be done in a few years instead. The best way for Government to lay plans for the future is to hold a consultation on it and get a range of ideas before making a decision.

At the end of it all it doesn't matter what I, Cllr Osborne or Cllr O’Brien think - The council of elected members from across parties voted it down. Democracy has spoken and the suggestion is dead - let’s not use it as a party political stick with which to beat the Tories - Lets move on, drop it and unite for the benefit of the people we represent as ONE. Or face our petty squabbling being a possible undoing of the No campaign.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Ginger liberal; who I am

Before you start reading please open this in another tab/window and hit play, it adds a certain ambiance to my meandering!!!

The more I tweets I read from my contemporaries locally and nationally the more I wonder about my Twitter feed- not just what I reply too but the stuff I tweet as well - Often irrelevant gumpf or about my family.

It suddenly occurred to me I'd not really introduced myself or my family to give some context, after all I'm more than just the Ginger Liberal,  it also it gives me a more human dimension. So many people on line seem to be sleek political and spin machines and lack any kind of realness about them, I think this people get vexed when they follow the likes of me and wonder;
What do I care that he's watching Empire Strikes back?

But there is more to life than politics, and here's mine.

D.O.B:  25-11-1980, Canada House Gillingham.
Siblings: 1 Sister, Gemma (8-1-83) who is more successful than me!

I grew up in the village of Marden, was educated in the local primary school, Cornwallis school and finally King Alfred's College to study History and Post graduate Social History.
I've studied Japanese History, British Politics 1900-90, Medieval and Pre-industrial society, Aethfred the Great and Nazi Germany writing my FYP on "The Rise and fall of the Luftwaffe 1935-45"

Favourite music: 90's mostly indie; Sleeper, Ecobelly, Garbage, Pulp.
                          Random one hit wonders; Joshua Kadison, Babylon Zoo, Crash test Dummies
                          Other music: Evanescence, Florence and the machine,

Favourite Song; Ohne Dich (Rammstein) Run Away train (Soul Asylum) Secretly (Skunk Annansie) Broken (Seether feat Amy Lee)
           
Favourite Movies: Star Wars... Any of them, especially Empire Strikes Back, Enemy at the Gates, We were Soldiers, The Battle of Britain, Nottinghill, Four Weddings, 50 first dates and disaster movies like Independence Day, Day after tomorrow, 2012, Volcano...

Favourite TV: Big Bang theory, PMQS, How I met your mother, Inbetweeners, Firefly.

Favourite Books; The sorrows of Young Werther, All's quiet on the Western Front, Star Wars Darksabre, the Darth Bane books, Heir to the Empire, Thrawn Duology, Guards Guards Guards! Going Postal, Brothers in arms (by Chris Goss) Game of Thrones,

Favourite Characters; Admiral Natasi Daala, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Starkiller & Juno, Werther,

My Wife and I got together in 2004 and we were married in April 2009, her name is Sam - Yes we're both aware her name is now Sam Sams and she's cool with that. My wife isn't a Liberal Democrat, she's liberal but not Liberal but is very understanding of my rants and mumblings... not so much of me wanting to name a future son Nick though.

We have a daughter together, Sophie born 12th May 2010. She's the most important thing in my life. Sophie is clever - I mean really clever for just under two - she's not to hot on the walking (why bother dadda? i can crawl faster...) but she's got a really good vocabulary with words like Dragon - she can identify animals, people by name, ask for things and thank you as well. She's going to go really far - You watch.

I have Six best friends in the real world; Dave, Caroline Bell, Caroline Wright, Toni, Jonny and Haaaaaaaavvvvvveeee you met Matt? I also have a really good friend and Twitterwife - Rachael
All of whom I adore and will do anything for.

I've got varied interests in good fiction, marine biology, model making, X-box Games, foot ball - by the way I support Gillingham FC the town in which I was born and have family from - my great great Grandfather has his name on the Royal Engineers memorial in Brompton barracks for fallen R.E's in the Boer War and my nan went to Barnsole Road School, and also the German National Team- I do not support nor can never support England, it has always been Germany and always will - through bad times (England 5 Germany 1) and good times (Germany 4 England 1). I'm also interested in Marine Biology (a field I should have taken up rather than History), The German Air force (I'm doing a talk on the Luftwaffe in Afrika for the work History group in June if anyone wants to come??? No - didn't think so) and Model making/painting usually Warhammer and Airfix 1/72 scale soldiers and aircraft but since baby Sophie burst onto the scene my expensive and fragile models have fallen by the wayside. I'm also in the process of writing a Sci-fi novel - ask me about it some time and I'll tell all! Or you can check out my other blog for snippets.

My Hero's and people I look up to include my Grandparents - my Granddad Sams "Pop" was my surrogate father and my best friend, he was my Obi-wan and I miss him everyday, Colonel Werner Molders, of course I'm inspired by Nick Clegg too - sounds contrite but I really believe he is doing a good job in the toughest circumstances.
I work at a Museum in London that has a lot to do with War but not in a section you'd find interesting but I do get to work on a few things, mainly staring dewy eyed at our Focke Wulf 190 or arming the Pak 38 gun and wishing I could fire her...

I have a tendency to chat rubbish at times, often crazy sounding stuff and moan about work and the trains. Politics is a part of my life, something I'm interested in and I have convictions about how I think we should conduct ourselves and what representatives should and shouldn't do for their voters.

BUT as you can see it isn't my whole life. Nor will it ever be - Yes I am a Lib Dem, yes I am the Medway group's secretary and I will be helping the group and even Councillor's Juby, Smith and Kearney but my life is not geared to the complete destruction of the Tory, Labour or Independent Groups as part of a vicious coup that will see Medway turn Gold, I don't see the other parties as enemies or a force to be opposed with every fibre of my being, agree to disagree - compromise - when you're right, fight and fight well for your cause (i.e. Nelson Court or Boundary reform or Against City Status) especially if you don't think the electorate is being served well but lets face it - we're not at war.
So if you see me following you on Twitter - I am a real person and I have other hobbies so I won't always be chatting politics - likewise my opinions have been shaped by my experiences so No I'm not buying into anyone's "Spin" or doctrines - It's all me. Also, and I can't stress this enough, I'm not a Moron, niave yes but stupid no. If I don't understand something I will ask you and please do ask, sarcasm is wasted on Twitter so my questions will be real.

Also, I do have a life outside of Politics and it isn't the be all and end all of my existence, (that's my family) and nor should it be yours.

A wise person once said to me;

"hey we all go thru that. all you need to worry about is providing for wife & beautiful kid. The rest is extra-curricula." - How very true.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lib Dems sink Boris Island

The Wreck of SS Richard Montgomery
I usually find political point scoring distasteful - When all the major parties are in agreement locally and yet "political Football" is still going on about who is right and wrong I just shudder and think of the electorate who may lose out and cease to wonder why people are no longer interested in politics anymore - I mean really?!

Any way, that aside, and seeing as everyone else is doing it I might as well hop on the band waggon and blow the Lib Dem trumpet on this.

Yes! It is true, the Libdem branch of the Coalition is doing the right thing and sticking to our guns, pledges from our manifesto and listening to the people of North Kent and Southern Essex by blocking this move as best we can and pointing at the Coalition agreement. (page 17 of the Agreement - On protection of rural areas.)

Dr Julian Huppert MP was interviewed by Paxman last night (18th January) and said;

I am against expansion in the South East of Britain as I don't think it makes a lot of environmental sense from an environmental perspective.

Indeed it doesn't. The Isle of Grain and the estuary is a reserve for many types of protected wading birds that live on the individualistic marsh lands. This whole area is protected.
there is no economic argument for destroying a vital habitat for thousands of wetland birds. We would be horrified if this act of environmental vandalism goes ahead simply to suit short-termist approach to the economic mess we are in. Says Martin Harper, director of Conservation RSPB

Nine out of Ten aircraft service providers from Heathrow have refused to use an island or Grain based airport due to the fears of bird strikes on aircraft and the concerns of having to ditch in the plane in the Estuary. Pilot Unions have also stressed concern for their members.
From my work on German Aerial operations over England I can confirm that during the Battle of Britain German Bombers wouldn't fly low over the estuary because of the dangers of bird strike - They either flew at high level or along the coast.
(If you're in any doubt imagine a bird striking the glass panels at the front of a Heinkel He 111 bomber travelling at 250mph, or worse a flock being disturbed by the noise and flying up into the propellers.)
Other concerns include the SS Richard Montgomery which lays, full explosives just off Sheppey and is a possible hazard to any construction in the estuary.
There is also the problem of shipping within the estuary which will suffer major disruptions to the oil and gas trade, also with rough weather there are dangers to the airport's surface.

This is not a NIMBY argument. Any idiot can look down these points and see that these are bad ideas.

Tracey Crouch MP stated on Twitter that any consultation would be a waste of money and time and I completely agree with her. Any consultation on just the Estuary and Boris Island projects are indeed a waste of time and money.

However, lets look at the bigger picture. Nationally we need to look at a greater Aviation policy - after all Heathrow is at 98% capacity and Gatwick, Heathrow and Stanstead Airport expansion has been ruled out. Boris is right when he says;
You can't go on expecting Britain to compete with France and Germany and other European countries when we simply can't supply the flights to these growth destinations - China, Latin America. We are now being left behind.

True.

A spokesman for Nick Clegg said;

Nick does not favour the building of an estuary airport. He believes that the environmental and cost implications in any case mean it is unlikely to be viable.
Wow... Nick agrees with me - and most of Medway.
he has said that he is prepared for the issue to be considered as part of a wider consultation on aviation policy that had to be discussed through the proper channels of government. But the consultation must take the views of stakeholders, including local communities and environmental groups into account. (I've highlighted the last bit)

The Conservative position in parliament (indeed even Labour's as some opposition MPs have supported the project) is tricky as although Tracey Crouch, Mark Reckless and Rehman Chishti have done all they can to over throw this move they are nought but back benchers and the National need is greater than the perceived Local NIMBYism. It isn't a case of "Two faced Tories" it is a case of;
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."
The country needs a new aviation strategy and it would give great boost to the economy and offers great opportunites for British industry.

However, going back to Dr Huppert's interview:

I'm delighted to say that in this case it seems the Department of transport isn't supporting it, we're not supporting it, the local MPs who are Conservative are not supporting it. I think John said earlier on that there are very few people supporting it at all. We're not supporting it and we're going to stick to that.

If anything, I think that media speculation and indeed local opposition has stirred up some of the flights of fancy. After all, the newspapers in London (Metro and Evening Standard) have run articles about how wonderful this new hub would be - supported by the Telegrah and Times which immediately creates a knee jerk reaction with the local press who know the people's concerns and duly report it.
Then there is a local furor about how local Conservatives aren't taking the threat seriously.

Take for example the "Foster plans". They detailed a wonderful new facility on the Isle of Grain but were actually part of a much wider national scheme and can not be taken as a Green light for the air port actually going ahead.

The Chancellor said in his Autumn Statement that the Government would be looking at Aviation strategy - HOLY CRAP THEY'RE BUILDING BORIS ISLAND! came the cry...
No... they're just looking into the fact that we need to expand our aviation stratedgy Nationally.

My money, and probably the smart money is on Birmingham airport. With the proposed building of HS2 to Birmingham, and the wish of Birmingham Airport to expand it would make sense to do this. Also experts have said that the facilities need to be done quickly not in a decade - which is how long a new airport would need to be completed.

I'm sure this is not the end of the tale... but I'm hoping that the future is a bit brighter and am pleased that the Lib dems are fighting for what's right enviromentally, locally and economically in Parliament.

Links:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/9023815/Nick-Clegg-threatens-to-veto-unviable-vision-of-a-new-airport-in-the-Thames-Estuary.html

http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/huppert-on-boris-island.html

Scottish Independence


In 1776 a group Nationalists, political theorists, brigands, and well to do Colonists declared Independence from the Crown of England, believing they had a majority support. The fact they didn' and that the majority of Colonists were neither for nor against the Crown or Colonial cause didn't stop a successful rebellion.

Politicians at the time were worried about the financial dent the loss of the Colonies would have on a struggling British economy which was recovering from the debts of the Seven year war and establishing new garrisons in freshly acquired territories. Others were of the opinion that a separate "America" could stand on its own and it would only be a matter of time before they came crawling back to the crown and a merciful and forgiving King George III would welcome them back.

Now, three centuries on, the SNP - a democratically elected government in Scotland, which has always had an agenda for Independence, have moved for a referendum on breaking free of the Union but there is opposition from Westminster.

Before I go on, I should say that I am neither for nor against the break up of the Union. I do believe that the British Empire was only possible because of all the British peoples working together for mutual benefit. Scottish engineers and soldiers have brought about wonders and achieved great things alongside their Welsh, Irish and English counterparts and it would be mutually beneficial for us to stay together and support each other. However if it is the will of the Scottish people then it should be respected.

I also agree with Ed Miliband, if the process of a Independence is messed up, it is going to cause problems for future generations. There is a lot at stake and a lot to debate. Centuries of symbiosis and integration means there is a lot to "unzip" and share out; the NHS, military, rail, road and the clincher - North Sea Oil/gas.

The cynical voice in my head wonders if this isn't what is causing all of the problems and would we be having the same questions about Welsh devolution?
It is a serious question though, after all serious revenue is generated by these natural resources and at a time of economic down turn - we need all the income we can get.
Linked to this is the deficit - what is Scotland's share? Can England foist of a percentage to Scotland and what is a fair amount? After all it was a British Government that failed to legislate and regulate the banks, it was British bankers who cocked up equally so theoretically we're all in this together and we should all get out of this together.

Would you leave your friends in a bar when the bar bill came in without paying your share?
There is also the question of Nationals. Plenty of Scots and English work or live either side of the boarder with their families. Will passports need to be issued? Will there be an amnesty where groups can relocate home or to where they'd rather live just like in America in 1783? I have a friend who is half Scottish, born in Scotland but lived in England most of her life and dislikes Scotland and considers herself English, should she have to return to Scotland, or live with a Scottish passport in England?

Ultimately though, once there has been a referendum and the Scottish parliament has a mandate for independence, nothing would stop them from closing the boarders and declaring it immediately rather than working to a time table set by Westminster. After all its not like we'll march like "Butcher Bill" Duke of Cumberland over the boarder and reassert the rule of the crown. As a sovereign nation Scotland could appeal to the UN for help as a democratically elected Parliament with a democratically decided referendum England would be powerless. Hopefully though it won't come to that!

It is an issue that needs to be looked at and debated by both Holyrood and Westminster without media hype and bluster of personality for the benefit of both nations and peoples if the referendum comes back "Yes".

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Conservatives against Gay marriage?

John Stuart Mill, whose philosophy "On Liberty" which forms the basis of Liberal Democrat philosophy, wrote that a majority that can get itself as "accepted” can force their will and standards onto those that aren't "accepted". This is called the "Tyranny of the Majority." and is to be treated in the same way as tyranny from above.
People are free to act as long as it doesn't affect another person's or group's Liberty and all people are treated equally.
There is due to be another Conservative rebellion over Coalition plans to lift the ban on Civil marriages for Lesbian and Gay Marriages. Opponents fear up to 100 traditionalist Conservative MPs will vote against the ban in a free vote as it will water down the traditional values of marriage.
Backbenchers have protested to the front bench ministers in private 1922 committee meetings that this is an attack on the institution of marriage.

Before I continue, I should point out that this doesn't seem to be the same homophobic legislation or beliefs of the Right that is prevalent in Republican parts of America - and although, if linked with the anti-abortion stance of Nadine Dories et-al it could be seen by some commentators that this is the Right mobilizing for the same here. Personally I don't believe that is the case here.  The Conservative party has changed a lot over the last few decades and modernized - ok they're not all like us (Lib Dems) and Conservatism is a broad church that covers a large spectra of views BUT they aren't the bible thumping puritans that make up a very vocal part of American politics - or so it seems to the casual observer from across the pond.
 C
David Burrowes MP, aide to Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin has stated;
Many colleagues are worried that it would fundamentally affect how marriage between a man and a woman has historically been viewed in this country.
There are strong doubts that we need to go down this path. It would open up a can of worms and a legal minefield about freedom, religion and equalities legislation.

In my humble opinion I think that modern Society has ruined the institution of marriage. A few generations ago marriage was for life - I'm not saying that people should stay in a loveless, violent or otherwise detrimental marriage, on the contrary people should be free to escape marriages by divorce but quick marriages and divorces are far to common these days. It seems that marriages aren't to be worked at these days and that if its not working out you can just split. Also the number of marriages - how many celebrities are on their second or third marriages, it cheapens the whole process. Extramarital affairs are also more common and with Mobile phones, social networking sites and email make it so easy to cheat and "Role models" are seen to be having affairs and it can glorify these actions; Ryan Giggs Vernon Kay, Jason Manford etc... I'm not criticizing the freedom of the individual to act; we all have weaknesses and soft spots for people with the potential to stray, just observing the social stances.
After Germany broke the Munich agreement, Hitler said "So I signed a piece of paper, it means nothing." and marriage is the same thing. I married because my wife wanted to marry, it has in honesty made her feel more secure and comfortable but for me nothing has changed between the two of us. The same is true for others I know they're just as happy and committed as they were before. I also know heterosexual couples who have married and split within a year and homosexual couples who have been committed to each other for years in the same way as a married couple.
Why can their union not be treated in the same way as marriage? Is it not the marrying together of two people who love each other and want to commit to each other in front of their families and friends to say "I want to be with this person."
Traditionalists say it isn't the same as the marriage between a man and a woman but why? Two women or two men can love each other in the same way; perform as a couple in the same way why can't they marry legally in the same way? Why should their lifestyle be oppressed by what is considered to be "accepted" - after all we're in the 21st Century now and society's norms aren't what they were fifty years ago. I fear that David Cameron agrees with me - well probably vice Versa;
Yes it is about equality, but it is also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative.
Lynne Feathersone, Lib Dem equalities minister is carrying out consultation on marriage law throughout March with the aim to legislate.

100 Tory MPs to rebel against PM's plan to legalize Gay marriage, Andrew Grice, I, 17th-1-2012

Monday, 16 January 2012

Rail fare increases - Commuters lose out at PMQs

I was pleased that I was able to sit and watch PMQs at work last Wednesday, even more pleased as the lead topic brought up by Ed Miliband was rail fare rises.

Regular readers will no that I, as a suffering commuter am opposed to such hefty rises and I fear a time when the poor hard working commuter will be priced off the networks altogether. I honestly think that cross party cooperation is needed for this and hoped to see some serious debate happen and some head way.

My hopes were soon dashed... as I should have probably feared.

We entered a tit for tat round of who was to blame for the current rise in fares.

The Process of the rise was put in by the last Labour Government.


The rise was too hefty for commuters.


Autumn Statement cut the rise from RPI +3 to RPI +1.

We cut the rise - You reinstated it.

You only did it for one year - election year.

No we did it permanently.

No you didn't...

No answers were reached.

Right before I go on lets get the "Blame" out the way.

The Conservatives privatised the railways and made a bit of a hash of it.
Labour brought in RPI +3 formula with a variation of 5% on that so long as the average increase was a rise of 8% across the network and all the current Rail companies have that in their contracts with the Government and the Coalition is tied to this variance ruling.
Labour did bring in a change for 2010 and unfortunately for Ed Miliband a memo from Lord Adonis was found verifying that it was a one year kybosh as a sweetener for the electorate and unfortunately the Coalition had to abandon that.

The Coalition however has not done much to fight it. MPs have talked about it, the Autumn Statement has held it down to RPI+1 as a respite but the future has does not look as rosey as we might hope.

Two further points:

The Southeastern region has been on RPI+3 because we were paying towards the High Speed 1 rail route where as a lot of the rest of the nation kept RPI+1 and Sir Roger Gale MP mentioned in PMQs that his Constituents (Thanet) have paid up to 11% for a few years under Labour Government.

This battle of Political one-upmanship is never going to benefit the commuter. It is one of the very easy vote winners, lowering taxes and cutting prices will always catch someones attention as will casting blame and bringing up unfortunate truths from another party's past but ultimately it solves nothing - Prices will continue to rise.

I'm not even going to say that voting Liberal Democrat will change that, yes we want change and fairness but I can't promise you that we won't do the same thing because all parties are caught in the simple truth that David Cameron brought up on Wednesday;
It either has to come from the Taxpayer or from the traveller.
I can hear hundreds of thousands saying- I don't travel by rail, why should my money go into helping all those people travel by train up London? Surely they get paid enough? Aren't some of them bankers?

 It is a fair question - one that there is not a fair answer to.

Ultimately if you use a service you should pay for it.

However these rises in Train fares are not only damaging for the Consumer, but also they could eventually be detrimental to the economy as low paid workers are forced off the railways and maybe out of a job because they simply cannot afford the travel.

This all boils down to responsible Capitalism, which I'll be writing about later in the week, and Government control of the pricing - I know not very Liberal but - so that any rise is affordable by the users. Other solutions are being bandied around and I know Labour have set up a task force for it but I sincerely believe that a Cross party group needs to get together and lay all this history at the door as this childish squabbling is not achieving anything.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lib Dems lose support with the electorate

Future looks bleak.
Well it was bound to have happened. The Liberal Democrats are proving what political theorists have said for many years. If you're in Government you lose popularity, indeed tough decisions lead to losing votes - leave sprouting populist nonsense to the opposition parties who can promise the world and not have to deliver a thing. 
But the loss of 75% of support is a big knock. Three out of Four people who voted Libdem in 2010 would now vote elsewhere. ( 25% Labour 25% other 25% Don't know) That is a huge dent in party support. Also things look bleak for other reasons. Only 1% of voters who normally vote for the big Two had turned to the Lib Dems in 2010 and our protest vote status has fallen as 10% of protest voters have said they would still vote Lib Dem. If we were to hold a General Election now the party could, on paper, die in Parliament. Has Clegg led us to ruin? Have the Tories finally defeated their "Old Enemy" with Coalition? 

I would argue No, and that there is nothing to fear.

Firstly the Yougov poll only surveyed 4300 Libdem voters, from the entire nation, it is hardly representative of all the party's support from 2010. There are still large areas who are supportive of the party or atleast their MPs like Julian Huppert or Greg Mulholland where as supporters in Sheffield Hallam may be a little more lukewarm. The good thing about not having a PR vote is that it doesn't matter what opinion of Gillingham's citizens is when it comes to Greg Mulholland's election just the people of Leeds and as he and the afore mentioned Julian Huppert are doing good jobs for their constituency I'm sure that their party affiliation can be overlooked.
There is yet more good news in the form of a poll on Libdemvoice saw 564 Lib dems return the view that Nick Clegg is doing a good job and his personal standing had increased since the "Tuition" fiasco. This is backed up by another survey that shows his net satisfaction is up to +32 %! 

Our critics would say that there these party members are "Hard line Cleggites" but usually such surveys bring out the ney-sayers.
If "Hard line Cleggites" is the term then count me into that merry band. I still agree with Nick, and I think that, mostly, he is doing the right thing. 
Are we deluded?
I don't think so.
In 1781 Lord Cornwallis won a victory over the American Colonial armies at Guildford Court house with a pyric victory that cost his army dear. Taking the decission to march south to Virginnia and with the Colonial army of Green shadowing him Cornwallis burned the waggons of supplies so as to speed up the march and ordered the men to live off the land and forage as they marched. Cornwallis was loved by his men, he was a genius that was a soldiers soldier and who protected his men in battle to minimise losses.

Support for Nick is the same. Liberal Democrats know that the Coalition is not going to be easy. These are tough times politically, socially and economically. Tough decisions need to be made and have to be made and Nick is making those with you in mind at the expense of the Party's standing. How many other Politicians would do that or be willing to do that?
I know the Coalition isn't making all the right decisions -  which government ever does?

But Nick Clegg and the party did the right thing in 2010 and by working with the Conservatives they are doing good work. After all how much of the manifesto has been put into action? How much of a Liberal or Liberal Democrat manifesto has ever been put into action between now and 1914?  Have we not got in the Pupil Premium? Lifted people out of income tax? Fought for human rights? Done a lot of the things we promised to do?
A Lib dem Source was quoted in the I and sums it all up;
We always knew that, by going into Coalition with the Conservatives, we would lose some people who voted for us to keep them out. It is a long haul, but we think we can win people back by delivering in Government.

It is a long way to 2015, and as Ed Miliband said today, the current polls mean nothing and he's right. Although only 9% of surveyed Labour members think Ed is doing a good job at the moment and 87% think he is doing a bad job but show them a victory or a great speech followed up by substance, or capitalising on a slip by Cameron and members will flood back to him. It is the way of Human nature.
Of course I do believe we do need to look at ways of improving the Party's image on a National level, locally Councillors will continue to work hard and show their wards what they can do and prove they were a good choice. We cannot become to complacent as a party and it is up to us - the activists- to continue pushing the work we are doing and being a part of Tough liberalism.
Polls are only a snippet of opinion and cannot necessarily be taken as the view of the whole country. Only time will tell how we do in 2015 or whether Nick will stay at the helm. I'm not worried.

Lib Dems have lost three quarters of supporters, I, Andrew Grice, 6th-1-12

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Clegg pushes for greater Social Mobility

Whilst many parties and media pundits are happy to concentrate on battles that We have lost in Coalition and even on joining the Tories in the first place, today I am going to trumpet a genuine Liberal Democrat triumph (doing my bit for Tough Liberalism) - and one brought about by Nick Clegg.
Today he announced that Several banks and legal firms have signed a "Business Compact" to allow greater Social Mobility.
So what does that mean?

Well...
  • The Internship program will be as transparent as possible and remove barriers for those from a poorer background. 
  • Advertise Internships - including Work experience and general recruitment places fairly.
  • Support local Schools with mentoring and reading programs to encourage pupils of all ages and backgrounds to show them that they can shoot above their means.

A lot of this sounds straight forward like it should already exist but it is a sad truth that even in these modern times that someone who goes to a State school and studies at an old Poly university cannot go on to be head of a multi national bank despite grades and ambition just because their parents cannot afford to send them to Oxbridge.

On the other hand someone who's father went to Eaton with the Chief Exec can get the job or internship without a problem whether they're qualified or not. This is the life Nick had, he managed to get a good internship and work because of his background and it is a life he has fought to overturn for future generations. It isn't fair and should no longer be tolerated in a modern society. He has suffered criticism, which I wrote about  here for having this background but lets be honest, we don't chose our backgrounds or where we've come from but we can change where we're going and the world we want for tomorrow and that is what Nick has done and he should be commended.

This is an important step towards a society where it's what you know, not who you know, that counts,

Working with the Coalition, the biggest hitters in the City of London are helping lead the way to a fairer, more open society.
By opening their doors to young people from all walks of life, this marks the start of a culture shift at the heart of British Business, driven by the belief that ability and drive should trump connections and privilege.

HSBC, Barclays, Credit Suisse, RBS, Allen and Overy, Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst - Baker and McKenzie, CMS Cameron McKenna, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose, Simmons & Simmons, Irwin Mitchell to list but a few have signed up to the Compact.

Social Mobility is an ideal that is at the very heart of the Liberal Democrat party and the belief in people and this accomplishment is one that should be trumpeted. Hopefully this is the opening of a fairer society and gives kids from a poorer background the opportunity to achieve more and reach above the old idea of "Social position." and let those who can attain to actually do.

Clegg campagin sees City Firms open their doors to less well-off, Nicholas Cecil, The Evening Standard, 11-1-12

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Rebellious MP Mark Reckless

Mark Reckless MP for Rochester and Strood was the third most rebellious Conservative MP in England. He has defied the Government line 20 times - mostly over Europe but also over Tuition fees.

Tracey Crouch has "rebelled" twice and was absent/abstained for the Tuition fees vote and Rehman Chishti has not rebelled once.

When asked about this dubious honour he said;
The Conservative Whips in action.
In the short term it probably is a trade off [Against a Ministerial job]  but in the long term its important to stand up for what you believe in and what your constituency want.

This is what Parliamentary MPs should do. This was one of the reasons a PR style government was not chosen for the electoral reform referendum as everyone likes a point of contact and it keeps MPs responsible to someone. After all is your loyalty primarily to the Prime Minister? The party? The Government or your Constituency? I'd say the latter.

Every MP is different as is every constituency and the difference could be that one constituency is more Pro Europe than another.

The other thing that some politico's and commentators forget is that Political parties are not all one voice.
If you join the Liberal Democrats you instantly agree with Nick...

I can assure you that is certainly not the case.

The same is true with national Politics and "Rebel MPs" should be congratulated for having the balls to stand up for what they believe in. (In fact Anyone who stands firm and true to their personal beliefs should be commended for it.) Members don't agree with everything their leader says or even everything that is in their manifesto, even if they do they don't necessarily agree with their leader's application of it or even a Government's answers to national problems. There is also the issue of personal honour and pledges. MPs like Greg Mulholland and Julian Huppert voted "No" on tuition - not just because it was a bad idea but because they had pledged to vote No and run promising to vote No.

John Stuart Mill wrote in "On Liberty" that one should not be dominated by the will of the majority and nor should they.

A rebel MP is not a problem and as long as they are representing their constituents then they are indeed doing what they are meant to - likewise an MP that follows the party line and is following the wishes of their constituents or prove that they are working in their best interests are also doing their job.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

MPs and Social Networking Nationally and Locally.

In the news this week Dianne Abbott and Ed Miliband caused a stir with ill thought out tweets and a typo.
Dianne Abbott and Ed Miliband

Dianne Abbott, in a conversation with a Journalist stated words to the effect that White people like to Divide and rule. I can't comment on the context or say what I think she may have been trying to say or whether or not I thought she made a racist remark or not.
All I can say with certainty is there were grounds for offence and offence was taken whether real, false or hype. She claims the tweet was taken out of context and that she was talking about Colonialist attitudes to race in the 18th and 19th century.

Fair enough. However it wasn't clear and someone has blown a 142 character tweet out of all proportion and there were even attempts to get her to resign! 142 characters did all of that.

Ed Miliband then dropped a clanger the following day when he was talking about the passing of Bob Holness and he accidentally typed Blackbuster instead of blockbuster. This in the wake of Abbottgate led to another burst of furor. I am struggling to see why though as it was clearly a typo but yet again demonstrates the dangers of using such a tool and one should be used very carefully.

Tracey Crouch MP
Twitter gives the constituents access to their MPs in a way that could never have been dreamt of a decade ago and is used with quite some success by MPs such as Tim Farron to talk about constituency work and to interact with his party members in his role as Party President. Other MPs such as Mark Reckless post links to news stories on his blog and short comments. Tracey Crouch is a bit more engaging but lies between Tim Farron and Mark Reckless in chattiness but that is not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with being guarded about things especially in todays digital age.

However Tracey Crouch has been slated for not stating her position on the selling off and out sourcing of four elderly Care homes (something I have written about here and here)

As Nelson Court lies in her Constituency it was decided by the Save Nelson Court Campaign group run bu former Lib Dem Councillor Maureen Ruparel (whose husband uses Nelson Court) and her son to write to to Miss Crouch.

The Campaign is not a Liberal Democrat run campaign but apolitical as it was feared that it would be come a politicised struggle and detract from the actual plight and concerns of residents and the welfare of patients. The campaign is, however, supported by the Lib Dems, Labour, trade Union groups and Welfare groups.

As I understand it, Tracey wrote back to Maureen's first communication saying she was looking into the Council's proposals very carefully. Since then Maureen's mentioned there has been further communication between the Campaign group and Miss Crouch. Unfortunately due to a pressing family commitment, Christmas, my involvement in a pressing and purely Liberal Democrat project has led me to neglect my involvement in the campaign and I have not been as involved as maybe I should have. My knowledge of the campaign at the moment comes only from the local press. However I do intend to catch up as soon as possible.

I should quickly state what my role in the local party is so as not to garner any further confusion. I have been a member for under three years, an active member for exactly one year, group secretary for exactly one week. I've no involvement with what our Councillors do in Chambers at this moment nor can I dictate Where the party stands. At best I am nought more than a citizen of Gillingham with political interests who writes opinions on stories and issues.

Right back to topic.

Local Labour Councillor for Luton and Wayfield Tristan Osborne tweeted Tracey Crouch and Mark Reckless (MP for Rochester and Strood) for their stance as the story broke in the press in December. (blogged here)
Tracey's response was straight forward. She wouldn't comment on issues on a Social Networking site. All correspondences should be directed to her office or email address and she would respond that way.
She has then come under fire for refusing to state her position openly. ( blogged here) There has also been mounting pressure on Twitter by Medway Labour and Cllr Osborne for her to publicise her stand point.
Has a letter or email be sent to her by the Labour group?

To a degree I agree that in an ideal world it would be super for all MPs to publicise their opinions on everything but it is sadly very impractical!

In today's modern age anything said or written can come back to haunt you at a later time, also with the fluidic nature of politics etc information would need to be updated regularly to avoid mistakes or old opinions being quoted as current opinion. Also MPs would be under constant criticism for U-turning on previous positions by opposition parties - you can shake your heads but you know you would. A good past quote can be dug up and;

MP for Marden and Staplehurst Chris Sams once said that the Marden bypass would be wholly damaging to the local environment when just six months ago he was right behind it. Lib Dem U turn!!!!

May be I'm just a traditionalist but I can't imagine Asquith, Churchill or Wilson releasing their opinions regularly. If anything I could see Churchill quoting the Duke of Wellington;
If I thought my hair knew what my brain was thinking - I'd shave it off and wear a wig.

The key point is that Tracey is in consultation with the Campaign and is undoubtedly paying interest to the situation especially as her stated Parliamentary interests are:

If anything these facts alone would show that she would take the Nelson Court issue very seriously and may not want to jeopardise the campaign by making rash statements or worse further politicise it detracting it even further from what it is actually about - the plight of the patients and their families.

Yes the public should be let know but at the moment the Council is still going through the Consultation stage and nothing has been decided (although Cllr Osborne told me yesterday the Council has pre-budgeted for their closure) so at the moment Tracey's dealings with the Council are not a concrete outcome UNTIL a final position has been stated by the council. Hopefully, as I've warned before, the Council haven't gone into the consultations with an outcome already in mind.

Also as a relatively new MP she is right to be cautious with her words and tweets, something that Dianne Abbott and other MPs should take note of the perils of Twitter and heed the words that discretion is the better part of valour and one day you may say something casual and a month, a year later it bites you on the bottom.
Even in this case, I've read the drafts of this blog very carefully several times to make sure that it isn't worded badly or could be misconstrued as anything but observations.