Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Councillor Osborne under investigation for breach of code

It seems a tumbling of small stones has started an avalanche on the blogosphere that has transferred to the real world as a local Labour blogger, Councillor Tristan Osborne finds himself under investigation for breaking the Council's code of conduct.

Cllr Osborne has been accused (by other Twitter users - not me) of bending the truth or "spin" in the past but despite our differences in opinion (there have been a few, including my defence of Tracey Crouch's role over Social Media) his blog does have something to offer and does give a constructive critique from the opposition, although sometimes it does need a bucket of salt and you must bear in mind the intentions of the author.

Still. The basic complaint arose over a repeated accusation about Council of "Fraudulence." The posts themselves were actually about Council tax avoidance by people and so the fraud isn't on the Council's behalf. So the title of the pieces was misleading?

At best it was a poor choice of wording, at worst it was a deliberate term to plant seeds in the minds of people who wouldn't then read the whole article but blissfully walk away thinking the Council committed Fraud - unlikely for the majority of people.

Anyway, John Ward posted the original complaint about these blog posts here, it was picked up by the Medway Messenger in Monday's paper (27th February) and then by Alan W. Collins here. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel by telling you the whole story, Alan and John do a better job of it.

Alan quotes Cllr Osborne as saying;

When Tories are talking about fiscal prudence the evidence stands for itself as this blog has regularly commented upon to much annoyance to those who would rather not allow any form of free speech. Sanctions are the preserve of the desperate; not the strong.

To a degree, I agree. As a Liberal Democrat and a firm believer in the works of Mill et al the freedom of speech and the ability of one person to say what they want IS a fundamental right...

BUT, at the same time you also must be careful not to say everything you want to, as it will offend other people and could encroach on their freedoms.

I myself have had my knuckles firmly but fairly wrapped by our chairman and reminded about what I can and cannot write when it comes to discussing the Medway Libdems, our plans and aims etc... It is in the same way that if I wrote about the Imperial War Museum and how hypothetically I felt it conducted business etc I could lose my job and rightly so.

It is the cross all journalists and that includes us Bloggers, have to bear. I've made assertions and backed down, even written amendments to the original blog. A prime example was the "Fighting Boris Island?" post where I was critical of Medway's MPs for not being there to ask questions on the project only to find out an hour later that they had been in a meeting with the Minister - whoops!!!
The fact is I apologised via Twitter and posted an amendment to the article.

My advice to Tristan would be to keep doing what he's doing, maybe turn it down a notch and maybe re-read or rethink a blog post before you hit "Publish Post" As I tried to explain in the Social Media post the online community, especially those in the Public Eye, need to be careful what they say, write, blog and tweet. People are watching. Me, I'm just a citizen really, just writing my opinions so as long as I don't accuse Councillor Jarrett of being a Giant wasp monster from the planet of Glargon VI with a taste for human flesh sent here to destroy the planet (clearly he isn't...), bring my actual employer into disrepute, or just bold face lie, I am free to state my opinion. As a professional politician, even on the local level the world is full of landmines to step on and there are people waiting for you to stand on them!

At the end of the day, I personally think it is a lot of noise over nothing. Indeed John Ward, who made the original complaint, said that he only wanted Cllr Osborne to get a slapped wrist and reminded of how he should conduct himself but suddenly it has blown out all proportion. I am sure that the board will eventually come back and tell him to be more careful but can see that the posts themselves did not accuse the council directly of Fraud. However the best advice I can give to Cllr Osborne? - An extra read through, rephrasing or save and come back to read it later could save you a lot of crap in the future. You've got an important position as opposition to put out an alternate view and it would be a shame to waste it and I genuinely mean that.

Nick Clegg and Baroness Williams' letter on NHS reform

Dear Chris,

As you know, the Liberal Democrats fought for significant changes to the Government's original Health & Social Care Bill. We've succeeded in making a real difference. Thanks to those efforts, and if we are able to win amendments on competition and Foundation Trusts, the bill now going before the House of Lords should be allowed to be completed.

Today we have written to all of our colleagues in the Commons and Lords. You can read the letter here (see below.)

Later this week the House of Lords will debate Liberal Democrat amendments to ensure we rule out any threat of a US-style market in the NHS.

If these amendments pass we are confident that competition and diversity in the NHS will always be done in the interests of patients, not profits.

Next month we will return to where this process all began a year ago when we meet at our party's Spring Conference.  If we secure these necessary changes Conference can be reassured that it has finished the job it started last March and the Bill should be allowed to proceed.

With your support we can build a stronger and better NHS ready to put patients at the centre, working with local communities, and responding to the financial challenges of an ageing population.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

Baroness Shirley Williams of Crosby


Dear Colleague,

The Health Bill currently in the House of Lords is now undoubtedly a better Bill because of the Liberal Democrats. A number of people deserve credit for improving this Bill. Firstly, and most important, are our Party members who made it clear at our conference in Sheffield in March last year that we would not accept a Bill that puts profits before patients. We secured a “pause” in the legislation, which led to a number of substantial changes to the Bill, for instance that competition could only be on quality and not on price. Since the “pause”, there have been further changes, which owe a great deal to the hard work of our Health Minister, Paul Burstow and our parliamentary health committee led by co-chairs, John Pugh and John Alderdice. Second, our Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords, led superbly by Judith Jolly, have done an outstanding job scrutinising the Bill line by line.

With the help of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, several eminent Conservative peers, Labour’s Lords team led by Baroness Thornton and Lord Hunt, and a determined group of cross-benchers, many members of the medical professions, an all-party consensus has now ensured that the Secretary of State will remain responsible and accountable for a comprehensive health service financed by taxpayers, accessible to all and free at the point of need.

This should guarantee the future of the NHS, one of Britain’s greatest social achievements. In addition, led by Phil Willis and others, arrangements have been put in place to make the UK a world leader in medical research, to raise the status and protect the independence of the Public Health service, and to ensure that all profits from the treatment of private patients in Foundation Trust hospitals must benefit the NHS.

The Bill has now undergone more than 200 hours of scrutiny and had more than 1,000 amendments made to it, amendments that have put patients and the people who know them best at the very heart of the legislation. This is not the Bill that we debated as a party last March. Crucially, some elements of Labour’s 2006 Health Act, which opened up the possibility of a US-style market in the NHS, have been radically changed, such as the gold plated contracts for the private sector, which allowed a Labour Government to pay private providers a total of £250million for operations that weren’t even performed. We can also take pride in the fact that it was the Liberal Democrats who changed this Bill to ensure that no government will once again be able to favour the private sector over the public sector like the last Labour government.

The Bill also now has in place safeguards to stop private providers “cherry picking” profitable, easy cases from the NHS, and we have made sure that private providers can only offer their services where patients say they want them. We are also clear that no one should be allowed to spend public money without telling us how they are going to use it. That is why we have insisted that decisions about patient services and taxpayers’ money must be made in an open, transparent and accountable way.

We now have a Bill that delivers on the issues that Liberal Democrats have campaigned on for years. For the first time, there will be real democratic accountability in the NHS through new Health and Wellbeing Boards that will give councils a real role in shaping local health services. Public health will finally be returned to its rightful place in local government. Integration between health and social care will become the norm rather than the exception.

However, given how precious the NHS is, we want to rule out beyond doubt any threat of a US-style market in the NHS. That is why we want to see changes made to this Bill that have been put forward by our Liberal Democrat team in the House of Lords to make sure that the NHS can never be treated like the gas, electricity, or water industry. First, we propose removing the reviews by the Competition Commission from the Bill to make sure that the NHS is never treated like a private industry. Second, we want to keep the independent regulator of Foundation Trusts, Monitor, to make sure hospitals always serve NHS patients first and foremost. Third, we will introduce measures to protect the NHS from any threat of takeover from US -style healthcare providers by insulating the NHS from the full force of competition law. We will also insist that anyone involved with a commissioning group is required to declare their own financial interests so that the integrity of the clinical commissioning groups is maintained. Finally, we will put in place additional safeguards to the private income cap to make sure that Foundation Trusts cannot focus on private profits before patients. These changes are needed, not just because of this Bill, but also to plug the holes left by Labour’s 2006 Health Act that allowed private providers to make profits at the NHS’ and taxpayers' expense. It was that Act that started the process of the marketisation of the NHS by allowing private providers to be paid on average 11% more than the NHS. These changes will ensure that competition and diversity in the NHS will always be done in the interests of patients and not profits.

Next month we will return to where this process all began a year ago when we meet at our party’s Spring conference. Once these final changes have been agreed, we believe conference can be reassured that it has finished the job it started last March and the Bill should be allowed to proceed. We believe these changes will appeal to those in the House of Lords and the House of Commons who share our commitment to the NHS, and believe it can now embark on the reforms that matter: putting patients at the centre, working with local communities, and responding to the financial challenges of an ageing population.

That will demand a united effort not only from the NHS but from all of us who cherish it. Then the essential work will begin to ensure that the necessary changes are introduced as smoothly as possible in full collaboration with everyone who works in the NHS. The real test will be to demonstrate tangible benefits to patients. After all, in the end, it is the interests of patients, which should count most of all.

Best wishes


Nick Clegg
Baroness Shirley Williams

Saturday, 25 February 2012

First World War wrecks to be salvaged - disturbing graves

At 6.20 AM on the 21st of September 1914 Leutnant Weddigen of the Kaiser's Imperial Navy gave the order to fire the first torpedo from U-boat U9.
HMS Cressy

The torpedo struck HMS Aboukir and she came full stop and began her 35 minute futile struggle to stay afloat, the order was given to abandon ship as her sister ships HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue, the other two vessels in the patrol fleet, moved to assist and launched boats believing the flagship (under the command of Captain Drummond. Rear Admiral Christian who had commanded the flotilla had been force to take his flag ship HMS Euryalus back to Harwich to recoal).

At 6.55 Hogue was struck by a further two torpedoes and began to sink as well finally disappearing at 7.10am. U9 quickly submerged into the darkness but fired again at 7.20. The crew of Cressy spotted torpedo trails and the order "All ahead full!" was passed but to no avail. The blast from the torpedoes impact was so hard that it lifted her high enough in the water for a second torpedo to pass under her!
A third struck at 7.30 rupturing tanks in the boiler rooms and sending white hot steam out onto the men working in the engine rooms. She began to slide into the water before rolling onto her back where she remained for twenty minutes before slipping beneath the waves.

U9 post war in Dover
In under two hours the German Navy had cost the Royal Navy three Cruisers and 1397 officers and men with 837 saved by Dutch fishing vessels and Royal Navy destroyers who arrived late to the scene - more than the British losses at the battle of Trafalgar! Of those lost 85 were from the Medway Towns.

These vessels lay undisturbed for some forty years resting twenty two miles from the Dutch coast until Winston Churchill's Conservative government of 1954 sold the salvage rights to a German company however a Dutch company has now applied to search the wrecks for Copper, Bronze and other rare or precious metals and this has angered Naval Associations.

Mr Murray of the Chatham branch of the RNA has stated;

They are war graves and should remain so. They have been down there for damn near 100 years. Why do they want the scrap metal? Somebody's trying to make money. It is nothing to do with the families of the people who fought for their country.

Also, in October of last year Navy associations from Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Begium, Britain and Austria wrote to a national Newspaper to decry the salvage;
[We] suggest that no such desecration would take place in graves on land.
We urge that our sailors should be allowed to rest in peace.

I agree. I know that, by law, you can remove a grave stone from a church yard or Grave yard after 100 years as it is considered that no one in living memory is alive - though I am sure that with current life spans that can be contested, and I'm sure salvagers would argue that case now but it does not remove the fact that those hulks are in fact tombs.

As the Association states, should a German army grave be found deep in the woods of France, or a Spitfire found in a laying in a bay it would be left be, so why should the a sunken vessel be any different?

The same goes for the wrecks of Titanic and Lusitania. As interesting as the artifacts brought up by they should remain taking things from the "Debris field" that lies between the two halves of Titanic and leave the actual wreck alone.

When a vessel is lost at sea and the crew and passengers hit the water they are often sucked down by the vessel, die of exposure, drowning, injuries sustained or even to Shark attack well before recovery. In rare occasions there will be recovery operations for the dead but that is usually in peace time, the Navy cannot put other vessels into danger to collect the dead and know the dead who was ashore will be buried properly but to those that don't have no memorial to mark their loss except for the vessel itself.

When HMS Bulwark exploded (killing 736 officers and men) in Sheerness, 26th November 1914,some of her dead were buried in Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham where vast lines of white graves marked HMS Bulwark and even sadly "Crewman unknown" HMS Bulwark, but the wreck remains untouched as it is a grave and is protected by the "Protection of Military remains act"

Unfortunatly Cressy, Hogue and Aboukir are out of British controlled waters and have already had salvage carried out upon them so are exempt from the act.

The disturbance of these vessels is a violation of the last resting place and memorial to those 1400 odd men who died early one September morning and are all but forgotten. They should be allowed to continue to rest in peace.


Sources:

Salvage firm urged to leave Sailors' war graves alone Medway Messenger, 2nd December 2011, A McGuinness

Wikipedia entries for HMS Cressy, Hogue, Aboukir, Bulwark and Protection of Military remains act.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Jarrett slates Libdems in Council over Clegg letter

Councillor Jarrett
Medway Council is tonight announcing their budget for the following year and the cuts that look to be levied upon the citizenry, the raised charges as well as confirming the sale of Nelson Court and the Outsourcing of the other Care homes. These are all really important to the people of Medway and believe me I am going to come to those at some point in the near future.

I didn't make it to the Council meeting tonight as it is my wife's birthday and I wanted to spend the night in with her, though I have been following it on Twitter and now that she is engrossed in Ebay and her new DS game I can write with freedom.

During his speech tonight Councilor Jarrett, deputy leader of the Conservative Group & Council as well as portfolio holder for finance made an attack on the "Clegg Letter" on city status. 


In case you've never read by blog this is a big deal for me. Medway Council are running a third bid for City status... you know what this link will explain it all.
So what did Councillor Jarrett say?

[The Libdems] didn’t have the courage unless their group leader was out of the country.

*sigh*

Alright, personal bias aside, let’s examine the validity of the claim.

After much debate over the last year or so about City status and campaigning against it during the Local election in May the issue came to a head at the AGM where a vote to decide whether or not to write to Nick came about. The vote was cast and the decision taken.

Where was Geoff Juby the Council group leader? Surely Geoff would not agree to this course of action?

Geoff was present at the AGM. I only know which way I voted (Yes) but all of us acknowledged that the majority had spoken and that a course of action was decided.

Then, yes Geoff went away for about six weeks to the Philippines and Hong Kong to see family.

However, although Geoff is leader of the Council group and a well respected councillor and guy he is not the leader of the Medway Liberal Democrat group – that is in fact Tony Jeacock who was elected at the same AGM for 2012. As the letter was drafted it was passed to the chair a number of times before it was presented to the Group on the 16th January for approval.

The letter was sent out with the signatures of the Group Chairman and Secretary the following week and yes Geoff was still on holiday, however if Geoff had been present I’m sure he would have been supportive and critical in the right places. After all, the group had democratically voted for this.

The Group took this very difficult decision and acted. It was not a Palace coup initiated by a couple of cowardly or ambitious Group members whilst our brave and heroic leader wasn’t even on the same continent as Councillor Jarrett’s words may suggest. This was democracy in action, something that the Party is based on.

I apologise if this has been a bit of a rant, this project has been a personal one for me and I do get defensive, especially with all of the flak that has circulated in the Media and online. I also understand that the Conservatives have fought hard for City Status and can understand they are angry with our perceived “betrayal” of their project but I wanted to set the record straight on Councillor Jarrett’s words.

Fighting Boris Island?

Today (23rd February 2012) questions were raised in Parliament concerning Airport capacity and national plans to increase capacity.

MIA? Medway's MPs
The general thrust was that there would be no expansion to Heathrow but that expansion was indeed needed. I get the impression that this is going through committees and looked into by the Government in general. There was also a lot of weight put on HS2 as a solution to many of the problems of internal transportation and should a successful railway be put in then a weight of pressure would be relieved from the airports and cut back on the need for expansion in capacity.

Then came a question from the MP for Kettering Mr Phillip Hollobone MP asking about "Boris Island" and stating that the Island was "the only way" for expansion. Justine Greening's response was fairly non-committal which for campaigners is fairly annoying as we still don't know where the Government is going to go with this - to be fair I don't think they know either, which is clearly a good thing as it means the fight is still on.

The thing that got me was a complete absence of our MPs in the Chamber. I could be wrong but I didn't see either Mark Reckless, Tracey Crouch or Rehman Chishti in the chamber at that time. Mr Reckless was present for Health questions just before and Mr Chishti appeared towards the end but that was to raise a question about Honour Killings in questions to the Home secretary. This may have seemed like a nothing debate or set of questions, indeed there seems to be a lack of urgency over the whole thing as the Government await the results of the Mayoral election this May but for the constituents who are watching (granted I bet I was the only one watching BBC parliament on their holiday) it is disappointing that none of the three were present. This is one of the fore most concerning National policies to effect the area, something that is giving great Media coverage and of local concern. By not being there it gives free ammunition to Medway Labour, who have made a point of attacking the National (and local to an extent) Conservative party and scoring points from them. I know they are all busy people and that they have many other engagements but to just miss the session or leave before it starts is just so agonising.

I sincerely trust that they are working on this and I know they have stated their opposition and raised questions in the past and will continue to do so on our behalf. I also sincerely hope this was a one off and that they were unlucky that someone noticed!

Additional:

As mentioned by John Ward in the comments, and was pointed out to me on Twitter by Messenger reporter Alan McGuinness Medway's three (and a further three MPs from North Kent) had a meeting with Justine Greening at Midday ( I was watching from 10 - 12.) on the subject of Boris Island.

Apologies for slow changes, I was away from a PC!

According to Alan in his twitter stream;

Tracey Crouch MP response
Spoken to Tracey Crouch re Greening meeting. Described it as firm + frank. Said 6 N.Kent MPs would continue to push for meeting with PM.

He then goes on to quote Tracey with;

She’s [Greening] listening to all sides of the discussion + we had the opportunity to make it very clear what we thought.
We still want to speak to the Prime Minister, we intend to press for that. It isn’t either or as far as we’re concerned.

So there you have it. In light of this meeting at 12 it would have been unnecessary for the MPs to be in the chamber and they are indeed fighting our corner. As I stated in the blog post, they have worked hard in the past and (in answer to my hope) continue to do so in the future on this issue.
I can understand Ms Greening's position as a Government minister has to do what is right for the whole country and not just for Medway thus taking in many opinions. I just hope for the environment and the Medway Town's sake that they do get to petition the Prime Minister personally and that common sense prevails over the ambition of Mr Johnson.

I also retract my former statement about MIA, they clearly did have somewhere more important to be and on this subject to! Best to be preparing for it rather than wasting time in the house!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Boris Island will be death of local Tories

One of the big issues that is always on the mind of residents, politicos and environmentalists in the Medway towns and indeed into the villages and even across the estuary to Southend, is the construction of either Boris Island or the Foster design on the Isle of Grain.

The story and the fear will not die down and the local paper, the Medway Messenger has recently unearthed a great story about Lord Foster and Boris Johnson meeting with George Osborne and the Treasury to discuss the scheme behind closed doors last August.

Further to that is Medway Labour’s online voice continually questioning the Conservative Party’s commentment to the  “NO campaign” and reminding everyone that Boris is a Conservative and that Justine Greening, who was sent a letter signed by the leaders of the four main political parties on the Council (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Independent group) requesting an audience and to protest the scheme on behalf of their constituents, has yet to reply. Which really, she should have, even if it was just to fob Medway Council off.

Now, as an opposition party member, I too, could take cheap shots at the Conservative group for failure and some may read my forth coming comments as that but please be aware that they are really observations rather than criticisms and attacks. This is, of course, because I think we are better off all standing together and by infighting we will ultimately be weaker. So I hope that this will be taken as the former rather than latter.

The Conservative group must know that should the No campaign fail then they will suffer electorally in Medway - big time. The electorate, like Darth Vader, do not tolerate failure when it comes to big issues, they expect results.
You can babble a defence in an Admiral Ozzell way; “It was a National decission, we did all that we could, we were betrayed, it could be smugglers it could be……”  but they aren't interested.

The only real defence for any project put through by National government against a Council's will is if the National Government is another party. For example when the Cliffe proposals were going through it was easy for the Conservative Council to say it was a Labour Government move and gain support in a later local election.
Another easy excuse would be to say that the Coalition was forcing it through and that it was the will of their partners the Liberal Democrats - Unfortunatly Nick Clegg has come out and publically stated that the Lib dems are against the scheme and that he is not convinced. A stance that is echoed by the Medway Lib Dems.

I have no doubt that the Medway MPs, Rehman Chishti, Tracey Crouch and Mark Reckless have done all they can including questioning successive Ministers for transport, David Cameron himself and lobbeying to try and get it stopped but the public won't see that, they'll only see a dirty great airport as a symbol of their failure.

As I've tried to explain in past posts there is a difference between Local Parties and National Parties and in this case I would assume it is safe to say that No Conservative Councillor in Medway wants to see the Airport built or if they do have an opinion to the contrary they won't say so knowing that it is an immediate vote loser. The problem is that the Messenger has revealed there were meetings between Boris Johnson and George Osborne and Norman Foster to discuss the project. There is also the fact that the Country's airport capacity does need expanding. National Government may well be looking at the expansion and projects whether we, the people of the Medway towns and Grain want it or not.

What I will say, in criticism, is that up until recently the Council's Conservative groups response has been very lukewarm and head in sand. It reminds me of Chamberlain and Appeasement with the continual reassurances that "Its just Pie in the Sky" or "It didn't happen before, it won't happen now." The public don't want reassurances, this is starting to look like a real credible threat and they want to see their Council leaders standing up and doing  something and the Conservative group, as by far the largest need to take a lead on this.


Labour on the other hand have been very vocal. For them this is a win win situation as they by blaming "The Tories" you can blame the National and Local groups as a vote winner. Now I may be being cynical but come on Medway Labour... you are aren't you?  You can dress it up as representing voters and constiteunt concern and I am sure that is part of it but lets be honest... Its like Christmas isn't it? Especially as it is coming up to the Mayoral elections too...

However you feel about it, Labour are leading, currently on this in demonstrating against the airport. I would suggest that the Conservatives will have to up their game in fighting the proposals. At least then, should the worse come to the worse, they can say;
"We gave it our best shot." and hope for the best, but currently they have everything to lose if this proposal actually goes ahead.

If the worse does come to the worse then the Political landscape in Medway could change drastically for quite some time.


Update:

In light of Alan W. Collin's comment below I've decided to add and rephrase a couple of things. I must admit I got caught up in my thoughts and day dreams as I wrote and suddenly my Lunch break was almost over and I pressed send before I could edit properly.

I must admit that I hadn't thought as deeply about the reprecussions as much as I should have and I am indebted to Alan for the election returns stats and in retrospect the swing will probably be less than I have implied above. There is also the distance from the epicentre of Grain (which would be hardest hit) across to Rainham where the population as a whole probably care less about the project.
However, I do stand with the assertion that if this is coupled with a knee jerk reaction away from the Conservatives due to other national issues linked with austerity as well as local issues like the selling off of elderly care homes, cuts in local services, the bus station over spend... There is a lot of mud that can be flung, and flung it will as Medway Labour will do all in their power to cause havoc. Change may be a foot but as Alan and John M Ward have stated- It is difficult to predict the future.

As for Medway Labour's role. Yes they do appear the more active and, I failed to sharpen this point before, they are being counter productive too. Yes they are giving voice to those who are concerned but it is also fairly counter productive to the campaign as a whole. By using terms like "Tory Airport" it draws people into hating the Conservatives (rather than focusing on the over all goal) and, considering the Conservatives make up the biggest part of the Council, let alone the three MPs, and not being interested in their work, down playing often hard fought little victories. If we are to stand, we will stand united on this or we may as well not bother.

Also, on the referendum - I've said it once, I'll say it again. It won't make any difference. Local Councillors are already representing the "No" campaign and battling the proposals. However if National Government decides to build it the views of some hundred thousand (probably less) citizens will count for less if it means more money for the country. Also there is the concern that the people of Medway Could vote Yes... then what?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Response to criticism to Lib dem stance against City Status

At the end of January the Medway Liberal Democrats wrote to Nick Clegg regarding Medway Council’s application for City status – the Letter is (here) and the Press statement (here) and other articles on the subject (here)

Councillor Jarrett was quite scathing in Dan Bloom’s article that appeared in the Medway Messenger stating the following;

Cllr. Alan Jarrett (Con) said there was support from most parties and residents claiming, the letter was by “a couple of local activists” who “want to do Medway down.”

After reading the comments in the article, editorial comment and the odd letter in the KM’s letter page I decided to write a response to defend one of the accusations. Tony Jeacock, our Group Chair wrote to defend the accusation that this was a “couple of activists” two weeks prior to that and I've attached that after mine.

Just a quick note on the letter itself. Italicised text was edited out and Bold text was added or reworded text by the Messenger – I’ve left in the original text for comparison.

I am writing in response to Cllr Jarrett’s comments regarding the Liberal Democrat’s letter to Nick Clegg regarding City Status. (Article appeared 27th January.) FOR MEDWAY

Councillor Jarrett says that the Liberal Democrats are “doing Medway down”  I can assure the Councillor that considering my family’s (edited to MY FAMILY HAS A STRONG) involvement with the towns; My great-great Grandfather is commemorated on the Boer War memorial, my Grandfather built defences here and my Great Uncle worked in the dockyards. I am proud to be from Gillingham and the thought of “doing Medway down” has never entered my mind.
Unlike Councillor Brake’s account, times have changed and in this time of austerity and cuts, including the possibility of Care homes and other front line services facing severe cuts, how can we justify the cost for “potential gains”?
The brass tacks of the matter is that the Council will lose it’s Central Government grant for 2013/4, Council tax may have to rise and there will be a deficit and shortfall resulting in service cuts and pay freezes but they will need to pay out hefty sums for rebranding road signs, uniforms, stationary, this really can’t be another Council overspend.

As a father with a mortgage and Council tax to pay I’d like “Value for my money”. When I see services being cut and my taxes going up and money being wasted I, and many residents don’t see it.  Local Government must do what they have to do before they can do what they want to do and City status is a want rather than a have when spending from the Public purse.

Edited to Read as:

As a father with a mortgage and Council tax to pay, I’d like value for my money. Local councils must do what they have to do before they can do what  they want to do and City status is a want rather than a must-have when spending from the public purse.

(I should state that the letter was not written with the knowledge of the Executive Committee, neither was this article so all criticism should be directed to me alone.)
Tony's response;

Councillor Jarrett, in his response to the Lib Dems opposition to the city-status bid, couldn’t be further from the truth when he suggests the letter was by “a couple of local activists” who “want to do Medway down”. On the contrary, we hold the people of the Medway Towns very much at heart. The decision to take such a stance and submit the said letter to the DPM was as a result of a democratic vote taken by the whole of the Medway Lib Dem executive committee and ordinary voting members in attendance, which whilst not unanimous was nonetheless decisive.

Councillor Jarrett says we have no evidence to support our claims. The fact is, the issue of city-status featured prominently in our local government election campaign on the doorstep last May, further evidenced within our campaign literature. On the doorstep in each of the wards in which we campaigned, we found lamentably little support at all for city status and such that we did find was rather less than robust. The negatives far outweighed the positives, but an even greater majority expressed their total disinterest, which is hardly an endorsement for the local council to proceed when there are far more urgent needs to address.

And where is the evidence that the Tory council secured an overwhelming level of support from the local populace for city status? I would suggest they have become blinded by their own propaganda.

Finally, as a group, we have not said that we should not ever again consider city-status in some form. We simply do not believe it to be appropriate at this time when there are far more important issues at stake, such as saving our residential care homes and day centres caring for our elderly who are no longer able to safely look after themselves, instead of selling them off to the private sector where their future cannot be assured. To refer to our democratically elected course of action as “cynical” is a bit rich coming from a group that goes through the motions of conducting a so-called “consultation” on the proposed closure or sell-off of these establishments, knowing full-well in advance that their decision has already been established.

Tony Jeacock (Chairman) Medway Liberal Democrats

Rochester City Status

Every local authority makes mistakes especially in the filing - it is inevitable. However back in 1998 there was a massive cock up with paper work in the Medway towns that meant that the city of Rochester upon Medway, a city of the realm since 1211 accidentally lost the paperwork and failed to reapply thus down grading it to a town. Whether this is was done deliberately or not is open to debate but the truth is it is truly gone.

The only way to get it back is for the whole of the Medway towns to apply for City status - which, for the moment I, the local Liberal Democrats and the Green party are opposed to.

Early last year when thinking about this, I was told that petitions to Parliament, the Lords and indeed the Queen were made and all had failed.

Well, you may remember that when you were a child, and your parents told you not to do something because this or that would happen but you did it anyway?

Well, I wrote to the Queen and my letter was passed on to the Cabinet office...

Something I never expected happened, the Cabinet office responded;

Dear Mr Sams,

Thank you for your letter to Her Majesty The Queen regarding the Diamond Jubilee competition for Civic honours. This correspndence has been forwarded to me and I have been asked to respond. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

There have been 25 bids for city status and 12 for lord Mayoralties, which is a magnificent response to the competition. Careful consideration will be given to all applications after which Ministers will formally provide their advice to Her Majesty The Queen, as such honours are awarded under the royal prerogative.
Your Views on Rochester and on Medway's application for city status have been noted. The results of the competition are expected to be announced over the coming months.


Yours Sincerely
Noelle O'Connor
Deputy head Constitutional policy team.

Sounds good eh?

Unfortunatly, I speak Middle management/civil servant from having to do so in my own career and I can translate for you;

Thanks, we've filed your letter but to be honest it was a waste of your time and ours.

Well it was indeed worth a shot - a certain amount of optimism in me will keep fingers crossed but cynic in me knows better.

I should also just make it clear that, I wrote this as an individual and not as a Member of the Medway Liberal Democrats and it is also not necessarily the view of the exec but my own personal view.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Rebellion are just plain wrong

This is in no way a serious post about current politics...

With the destruction of the Second Deathstar over the Sanctuary moon of Endor the Empire began its steady decline into obscurity. However the "darkest period of Galactic History" is, in fact a half truth. Indeed if you ignore the acts of genocide and mass murder committed by Imperial Troops and the Fleet and looked at the administration of the Galaxy, the Empire was actually a force for good.

The Clone Wars rocked the galaxy, not just on the Outer Rim but also on central core worlds, Kamino, Mygeeto, Felucia, Kashyyk and even Coruscant itself was hit by the War. The debt left by the Old Republic was the largest the Galaxy had seen in a long time and the reparations and restructuring costs were phenomenal.

The Old Republic's slow open forum senate would never have raised the funds to repair the Galaxy and the Government, under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine took the step of taking direct control. Where as before each planet would argue for its own restructure and its own trading rights etc the Empire could direct and rebuild from a central position, rating the planets and sectors by order of importance.
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin

Indeed with the creation of the Grand Moffs the pressure was taken off the Central Government. Each Grand Moff would administer a sector, such as Tarkin's Sesswanna sector, and he would then administer the needs of his Sector using the resources of the Sector to increase revenues and better the planets within the sector. Central Government were unconcerned by the way these sectors were run as long as support and tithes were paid directly into their coffers. There were also Imperial agencies like INTSEC, COMPNOR and the Imperial Military intelligence Ubiquitous to keep an eye on Imperial officers and administration to make sure levels of corruption, which had been rife in the Republic, were kept as low as possible.

The Empire also increased Public spending in an attempt to reboot Galactic economy. Large Ship building programs and facilities were massively encouraged and undertaken in quickly "Galacticised" companies such as the Star yards at Kuat Drive Yards, or Seiner Fleet Systems (manufacturers of the famous TIE fighters) as well as Super weapons like the Deathstar project, Torpedo spheres and World Devastators.
Private investors were also encouraged with the creation wealthy Skyhooks over Core worlds for the elite in society.
Individual trading companies were needed to shift resources around the Galaxy and Imperial Credits were used to encourage this as well as bring trade around sectors.

The Public sector was also heavily subsidised by the Empire, a huge military machine was established and although there were a few clones left after the original war, there was a smaller number than you would imagine and the bulk of the Imperial Military was made of volunteers and conscripts all of whom needed paying and eventual pensions. The Imperial Military were indeed often the first point of contact for many across the Galaxy and even rim worlds like Tatioone has a small garrison of twelve Stormtroopers with the relevant support personnel, as well as other Imperial personnel serving planetside and fighting unemployment. Also the Imperial presence on the planets helped augment local police forces and system defence forces that tried to fight of the scourge of the space lanes - pirates and slavers. Under Imperial protection convoys and merchants could travel in relative safety, the sight of an Imperial Class Stardestroyer is often enough to deter even the most hardened criminal. Civil unrest could also be dealt with by the deployment of Stormtroopers or Imperial Army regiments in riot gear which would more than cope with local thugs and irate citizenry.

Indeed the Empire opened up new areas of the Galaxy to civilisation. The need for raw materials and living space for colonists meant that Imperial programs to locate and mine materials and minerals meant many craft were dispatched to the far reaches of space. Other "backwater" worlds were rapidly improved by Imperial investment projects and direct control by the Grand Moffs or Central government and local businesses and modes of production were stimulated.

The Rebel Alliance are fixated on returning to the period of the Old Republic, which proved itself to be slow and corrupt with each planet vighing for itself against the greater good of the Galactic whole. It too was undemocratic and its very fall came about by it's lack of Democracy and allowing the Confederacy of Independent Systems to cede from the Republic's administration.
Yes, the Empire did carry out some heinous acts to maintain order and to combat crime, but it also brought the Galactic economy back on track with Austerity measures and rapid investment in the Public and Government sector as well as stimulating Private companies.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Schisms between Left and Right in the Coalition

Happier times, but now is there a drift?
As the Coalition continues to trundle forward it appears that limbs of the two parties, the Libdems and the Conservatives, are trying to pull the fabric apart. On the right of the Conservative party we have Europsceptics and those who are frustrated with the Human Right's act and Abbu Qatada's release. On the left an army of angry Libdems who are getting more and more angry over Austerity cuts and the worrying drift to the right that has happened within the party.

The Conservative right, who have never really liked the idea of the Liberal Democrats being in Government with them, in fact if anything a necessary evil to help prop up their majority in May of 2010 and now a parasitic symbiont that is passing through their policies under a bigger party's guise and blocking them from doing what they want or feel needs to be done.

The case of Abu Qatada is a prime example of our two parties not agreeing. The case is being used as an extreme example of the problems of the Human Right's act.
The Right cannot see why the man cannot be held for an indefinite period of time or be forcibly deported to Jordan. To add salt to the wound the Government's efforts are being thwarted by the European court of Human rights.

Although the Qatada case is fairly extreme, I find myself agreeing with the courts.

Should Qatada be deported to Jordan he faces possible torture, as do witnesses in any trial. On top of that he has not actually been charged with anything and under law you cannot hold a person in prison without charge. Control orders, likewise imprison someone in their home and restricts movement, whom they speak to, police can make unannounced visits - basically you are owned by the state and your freedoms revoked which is just wrong. If they are guilty of an act and there is sufficient proof to have them found guilty by a jury of their peers then fine if not - I'm sorry - but they should be freed.

The state, wanting to control its citizens, to hold them indefinitely without trial or conviction, forcible deportation and removing their freedoms is, to me reminiscent of a certain far right German Government from the middle of the century. If you open up that box, even a little, you sacrifice the very freedoms and ideals that you are trying to protect, and it is a slippery slope to the Nacht und Nabel laws.

The European Court of Human rights, separate of course from the European Union and Common Market, is there to assist Governments making decisions that effect Human rights and therefore are a force for good. In this case torture can never be condoned.

Another source of tension is Sarah Teather. Peter Bone MP, asked at PMQs this week why she was still a government minister as she did not turn up to the pivotal vote on Welfare reform. Sarah Teather had always objected to the bill and when she was held up in Sheffield, by design or, as she has told everyone, by work the Conservatives have seen it as a slight.
True, under normal circumstances, a Government minister should vote with the Government - however this is a Coalition, and in the agreement no one needs to vote a certain way. If Ms Teather was strongly opposed to the policy, as many Libdems are, how could she vote - in good conscience for it?
If anything absentia from the vote is preferable for the Government than voting against. The point is she is a Libdem, and she stuck by her principles in the same way as those Conservative Eurosceptics who voted for a referendum did despite the whip.

On the Libdem side, there are left leaning Liberals who are horrified by the extent that the party seems to have drifted to the right and even become a diet Conservative party. Others believe that Clegg et al have sold their souls for their Ministerial positions and that the Coalition is truly pulling the party into the Darkside.

I must admit, there are times I agree.

However, I take solace in the good work that the parliamentary party are also putting through and the ends that justify some of the means. The nation is in a dire state and working with the Conservatives is the only way for improvement as Labour still seem entrenched and blameless.
Yes, there are bitter pills to be swallowed, and these aren't the decisions or policies that we would put through on our own but we're in Coalition and we're going to have to do things we don't want to do and agree with things we don't always agree with in the same way they are.

This is for the benefit of the country and both parties will need to rein in their respective wings to keep the Coalition on course.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bonus' injustice on the Railways

As commuters across the country are being squeezed by increasing fees absurd bonuses are being handed out to Railtrack bosses.
Sir David Higgins was due to get £336,000's as a performance bonus this May which is 60% of his current wage of £560,000 PA!  This is a staggering percentage when commuters across the country are paying up to a third of their annual income on train travel.

Since the figures came to light however Sir David and the other directors have said they will not take the money instead they will put the money into greater Health and Safety measures at level crossings following the announcement from the Bazlinton and Thompson case, (Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson aged 14 and 13 respectively were hit by a train after passing through an unlocked pedestrian level crossing gate.) which is very noble of them, though I wonder if they would have done so had it not been made public, however that is neither here nor there.

The question I'd rise is this the same for Southeastern and the other Franchise holders? What are their bonuses? I know its not very liberal to pry into the bonuses or indeed to control them however with this new notion of responsible capitalism and greater fairness for the Consumer/worker it may be in the interest of overall fairness.

Rail unions have applauded the decision and TSSA union leader Manuel Cortes has said;
We said last week that it beggared belief that National Rail could be talking about a multi-million, long term bonus scheme within days of admitting criminal behaviour over the deaths.

But wait!!! The unions aren't innocent in this either. Lets turn the spotlight to the RMT, TSSA and the Underground. Personally I don't use the underground much, it is too expensive and I'd rather walk and get some exercises and see the beautiful city I work in, well the bit I work in is nice anyway but I've seen the chaos caused by the spate of one day strikes for any numerous reasons. The London press is also keen to tell us how much Tube drivers get paid and from memory it is around £40,000 pa which is a pretty princely sum but as the Olympics get closer a pay deal is again being debated. An offer of £500's was made as a bonus for working through the Olympics which is an increase of £400's on their original offer.

Other employers, notably London Overground, Network Rail and most recently DLR, have come up with serious offers and agreements and we expect LU to do the same.
It is well documented that transport will be the biggest technical challenge throughout the Olympic period with massive pressure on staff and services from moving millions of extra passengers around Greater London and the South East. says Bob Crow head of the RMT

OK I can see their point that it is going to be a nightmare. Its going to be hard enough Commuting to London as well as working in a Tourist attraction, as I do, in central London but I'm not getting any extra bonuses for doing so. The fee stands at an extra £20's a shift and the LU have offered to be as flexible as they can this is the best offer that can be given and the Unions, in my mind, are just being obtuse.  After all their pay is already pretty damn impressive and they want more? This money ultimately comes from the consumer's pocket and the costs we pay, how is this fair?
UNITE, the bus drivers union is also arguing it isn't enough for their staff and haven't ruled out industrial action! So we have to suffer that as well?

It is dis-heartening as a Commuter to see this and I'm sure that others feel the same way.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

German solution to English football

Big news has rocked the nation.

Fabio Cappello has quit as England manager months before the Euro 2012 competition over a spat with the English FA over the John Terry Racism case. This leaves the English National team in serious trouble ahead of the International tournament and surely dooms them to fall at a very early hurdle.

Back in my player days for Stanmore Rovers
As a fan (not fanatic though) of Football and as someone with a deep, unquestioning love of the German national team, I have observed the English team from an "outsider's" point of view. I've seen them at the best of times... 5-1 over us in Munich. (We're still not talking about that...) and more notably the worst of times 4-1 in the last Weld... sorry World Cup.

Now, please take it on the chin when I say that England are where Germany was a decade ago. After the 98 World Cup when footballing legends Klinsman, Kupke, Eilts, Sammer all retired from international football. Only Lothar Matias trotted out for Euro 2000 and lets be honest he sucked and so did the rest of the team as we bombed out due to lack of experience, even the 2002 World Cup we were lucky to get as far as we did. Germany was no longer the force it had once been. Even in the World Cup in Germany, where I truly believe we were sublime, pundits described how it "Wasn't the Germany of Old."
Only the last World Cup has changed that opinion.

England are in a similar position, tired older players like Terry and Lampard who are no longer giving their all or, sometimes seemingly not interested at all. Then there is the Lothar Matias shaped spectre of David Beckham often being touted for a return or, y'know, just a half - he scores a blinding free kick.

NO, I say. Change is needed and change is good.

The team plays like 11 super stars when it needs to play as one team and the manager, whomever takes over, needs to ignore the press and endless speculation and take 11 players who play as a team, even if they lack the individual quality. Look at how well Germany did in the last world cup, apart from some obvious talent in the form of Ozell the majority of the rest of the team is mediocre - Podolski, Mertesacker, Metzelder all average. Indeed Klose and Podolski had only scored a handful of goals in the Bundesliga in a year but as soon as they don the White and Black of Germany they become electric. It appears to be inverse for England players who can score braces of goals in a season for their clubs but as soon as the White of England comes on nothing. The team have to be proud to don the shirt and to play representing the country they love and shine.

Indeed any new manager has to realistically take time to build a decent squad and should be ignoring the press and the pressure they pile on for Victory because "We are England" the target should be the World Cup 2014 and beyond. Time needs to be taken and pressure needs to be taken off, I know footie is "more than just a game" for many people but like club level, national teams need to be grown and instant results are not instant. Time and effort is needed and young players cultivated and brought up with a mixture of experienced players in friendlies and tournaments.

Who could take the position? Well, I'm available I've played a lot of Championship Manager and if I can get Gillingham into the final of the UEFA cup final or Margate FC into Division 1 playoffs for the Championship, I'm sure I can mastermind England's victory over Andorra.

But seriously Harry Rednapp is an option, though I doubt he'll leave Spurs before the end of the season.
Gareth Southgate is a good choice as is Stuart Pierce, Neil Warnock or even Sven as a holding position manager until a full timer can go in. What is needed is a manager who can get the team working as a team and not as a group of "Galicticos" if they can do that who knows? You may beat us again in a serious game and one day earn your Three stars!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Conservative Letter to stop EU law integration

In 1731 Captain Robert Jenkins had his ear cut off by the Spanish Coast guard sparking off the War of Jenkin's ear that ran from 1732-48.

In 1860, during the Opium war, Private Moyse of the 3rd East Kent Regiment was captured and executed for refusing to Kow-tow to the local Chinese Mandarin causing massive consternation amongst his piers and indeed in the Realm.

Britain has always guarded the sovereignty of its citizens and their rights abroad. They are citizens of this realm and subject to the justices of the Monarch and her ministers plain and simple.

It is along this same line that 102 Conservative MPs, including Chatham and Aylesford's own Tracey Crouch MP, have written an open letter (published in yesterday's telegraph) to David Cameron imploring him to use the "opt out" over Europe's "Pan European code of crimes" - an attempt to bring in line all of the member state's justice systems.
There is also the issue of the European Arrest warrant.
We want the UK Supreme Court to have the last word on UK crime and policing, not the European Court of Justice.

It finishes with:

We should maintain our national standards of justice and democratic control over crime and policing - but let other nations integrate more closely if they wish.

This isn't a revolt. Nor is a threat merely a plea to the Prime Minister.
As a salve to the irritating problem of the pro-European Lib Dems in coalition it suggests that we as a nation can still opt in on parts of the 130 point plan that will benefit the Country with regards to combating crime and international terrorism but Britain as a Nation should be responsible for its citizens.

I've always found Crime to be abhorrent, probably because I'm descended from a long line of Police men, who have served the nation for about a century. It is for this reason that I've always found Crime abhorrent and I can agree with the idea of getting member states together to pool resources - data, finger prints and DNA of convicted felons which could help solve cases abroad.

However the State should be responsible for its own laws (Drawing up and implementation) and every state is individual in its law creation as each has been created and molded by its own history. It should be out of the hands of the European Parliament as is the sovereignty of the British Citizen.

Britain is not a non extradition country and I am sure that if the German Polizei were to request a British citizen for arrest and deportation and could provide enough evidence to support the arrest, it would happen. It would be out of the EU's mandate to be able to action this overstepping British Sovereignty over its own citizens.

In short, I agree with the letter - bet no one saw that coming - and this wouldn't be a case of Britain being obtuse. If anything Europe should be about cooperating not integrating fully.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Privatisation of Care homes in Medway Demo


Outside the Pentagon yesterday
Yesterday the Trade Union Against the Cuts (socialist Workers party) organised a march to protest against the Closure of the elderly Care homes in Medway and attracted support from the Save Nelson Court group, the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Greens, and the most important – the public in what Councillor Maple (lab) described as;
A true Coalition, a Coalition against the cuts.
I’m not saying that in this period of Austerity and shrinking economy that National and Local government has to make tough decisions, economise and try and save money tragically wielding the axe - I’m not question that, indeed it has to be done . What I am questioning is where the axe will fall.
In that respect I completely agree with Geoff.
In his column in Party People (Medway Messenger 3rd February) entitled Councils must look closer to home over cuts, Councillor Juby outlines that the Medway Council is still spending money on
Holds onto its prestige positions for favoured Councillors while getting rid of front line staff.
As I understand it from sources close to the campaign, the very basic steps of inside streamlining within the facilities has not even been taken and that staff, who are concerned by the term “outsourcing” are really willing to take steps to do this. This is because “Outsourcing” is a terrifying prospect for public sector workers. Yeah it could end well and you get a good pension and employer but it could also mean the complete opposite. The only guarantee is that your current contract is honoured by the new Private company for up to a year. So even though they are motivated by the concern for the patient’s care they are also motivated to save their jobs. After all a privately run home will be trying to make a profit and will “trim the fat”, pay less, work them harder (as my Mum found when she started working for a private home) and even “tactically redeploy” staff to other owned facilities nearby.
Councillor Murray (lab) also outlines similar concerns about the Privatisation of the homes. In a recent Medway messenger report it was exposed that several of the privately run homes voicing concerns about standards in the privately run Winchester House and Friston House. She reminds the Council that there is less regulation in the Private sector and inspections no where near as regular. It is a genuine concern that standards for patients will slip – it is not a case of opposition parties starting rumours to cause problems.
As accountability in the private sector is less regulated, many private homes refuse potential clients and their families the right to drop in unplanned when trying to choose a home.
There is also the possibility that places will become limited and that prices will rise as the private company tries to make money and stay above water. Councillor Jarrett said in Party People at the end of last year that all the homes were increasingly uneconomic and that the Balfour centre was hemorrhaging numbers of users - in fact it is around a third but I think he and the Council maybe missing the point. If they followed Geoff's suggestion and cut back their expenditure "in house" (both at the homes and in Gun Wharf itself) they may find the extra money to keep them open. I have heard rumours that I cannot confirm or deny, that the Council has already pre-budgeted for a successful consultation and the privatising of these homes - I would suggest that this could make a mockery of the whole consultation process if it is true and that they will only hear what they want to hear. Lets hope it is false. They also have a duty to the elderly members of our community and to help provide for them. Yes Privatisation and Outsourcing are an alternative but surely trying to provide the best care possible is the best way and that is clearly under Council control.

As Jac Berry of the TUAC said at the demo; The Council are being short sighted in its privatisation - we are going to get old and it will be the next generation and their children that will suffer if this is removed.

 The Demonstration, petitions and voiced concerns by Medway's opposition parties and Councillors from a cross spectra of parties shows that the people of Medway are really concerned about this and their fears are grounded in reality and not just in political hype.
I hope the council follows the Conservative Leader's example stops and listens to a Big society that has voiced its concerns before thinking again and reconsiders all of its options carefully rather than plowing ahead.

Colonel Collins Vs Mike O'brien for Kent Police Commissioner?

Cllr Mike O'Brien vs Col Tim Collins
The Police Commissioner race in Kent has taken an unexpected turn today with the announcement in the Medway Messenger (3rd February 2012) in an article by Dan Bloom (entitled Tory Eyes Police Commissioner Role) of local Councillor Mike O'Brien expressing an interest in running for the post of Kent Police Commissioner.

Mike O'Brien is one of the Medway Town's senior Councillors who has served on the Community Safety Partnership and has experience working with the Police and community groups, was born in Chatham and knows the area really would be an excellent choice for the candidature.

Ignoring any Liberal Democrat, Labour or Independent (or other party) candidate the first hurdle is ex Colonel Tim Collins, yeah he's the guy you think he is - the Gulf War hero - the one who gave the inspiring Henry V style speech on the eve of battle. He announced his candidacy back in September at the Conservative Party Conference and claims that too long have the bureaucrats been in charge and he wants to get back to the basics of policing. This is not, he claims, a job for a Sunset Councillor and as a younger but heavily experienced man he has a lot going for him.

Well age is just a number and Mike doesn't feel he is a Sunset Councillor and says that Col Collins' comments Miss the point.

We differ in that I'm someone who has lived in Kent all my life. I was born in Chatham and I know what people expect.

So will it be a case of competency vs a name and reputation?

I fear so. Personally I think party politics should be kept out of the Commissioner post but with the spiralling costs of running a county wide campaign it was always going to be the big three running them rather than someone on their own but this definitely brings an interesting spin on the Conservative race.

Personally I'd back Mike over Colonel Collins in this particular race because he is a Local man who has dedicated a lot of time to representing his ward and the towns in Policing matters rather than someone who has been parachuted in.

Also my two grandfathers (and years of reading military History) imbued me with their opinion of British Military officers:

The British army is run by its sergeants. The officer gives a vague order like; "Sergeant take that bunker." and the Sergeant and NCOs give the orders and organise the men effectively. P.J Sams

All our officers were bloody idiots. We should have shot them at the beginning. A.J Pullen

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Coalition II in 2015?

In Matthew d’Ancona’s article in today’s Evening Standard (1st February) The Spectre of John Major is steering the PM’s EU strategy. he argues that David Cameron’s U-turn on Europe may have been in a move to placate his coalition partner Nick Clegg and that he is looking to a second term in 2015. The question is, would the Libdems want to do this again?
In Brussels, Mr Cameron took the step to agree that those states that signed up to the Fiscal Compact can indeed use other European Union institutions to push their decisions onto Great Britain – unless it was to threaten British interests including “The City” and then he would take contest it. All very sensible as the European states are trying to save their own economies, the Union’s economy and by extension our economy as well.

However the Euro sceptic wing of the Conservative party is already getting up in arms, spurned on by Ed Miliband’s taunt “The Veto that never was.”
We’re back to business as usual, ministers and mandarins cutting deals, and the people of this country ignored. If you’re a Eurosceptic, there’s only one show in town after yesterday and that’s calling for a referendum,  Douglas Carswell MP for Clacton.

However the Pro- European Libdems are over the moon with the action. It is no secret that Nick Clegg was Bitterly disappointed as were many of the party at what was perceived as Tory obstinace by some.  Could this new move by Mr Cameron be to placate his Libdem partners?

Maybe.

It could be that the realisation that it is better to be part of the solution than part of the problem and that the EU will need to access all it can to try and solve this massive crisis and if the Euro and the European economy collapse then Britain will take another serious knock and if our local trade partners are in serious trouble they won’t want to buy British goods r be able to afford it.

However Mr d’Ancona suggests that placating Clegg and co is at the centre of this move. According to estimates sited in his piece he suggests that a fear of the repeat of the Major years is what is pushing him. Who can forget the on going divisions of parliament and the Government being held to ransom by a handful of rebellious Eurosceptic MPs?
He suggests that some Conservative projections have them winning the election with say a 60 seat majority although others suggest 10 or 20. I agree with him that the chance of them taking points from us is pretty low as if our vote collapses, which I fear it may (especially with the Local elections at the same time) then why vote for the other half of the Coalition instead? They’re going to vote Labour.

If the majority is very low it would make sense to pitch the idea of a second Coalition to the Libdems and Clegg (if he doesn’t lose his seat next time.) and the best way to do that is to give some ground on Europe which is a central part of our ideology. 
There is plenty of work for the Coalition to do, and things that we have put in now that could be finished by the same government in 2020.

Would it benefit us though? It is hard to say. We’ve lost a lot of support over policies we’ve had to back down on; Trident, tuition fees, benefit cap – which has divided party opinion and attracted a lot of criticism from the opposite benches.  However we have put through a heck of a lot of our policies, and becoming a credible party of government with experience.
The big thing about Coalition is that it was in the National interest and we’ve sacrificed a chunk of our support for the  good of the nation, and I guess if it was necessary again in 2015 then yeah I’d like to think we’d sign on again for the good of the country, after all Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, but we have to also look at what state the party is in in 2015 and whether or not we still have strength and support to do it. Who can predict until the results come in?