Monday, 31 December 2012

Nick Clegg's Letter to the party and New years video

Dear Chris,

This week's Letter from the Leader will be a lot shorter than usual as this is a time to spend with your family and friends. And as I am spending Christmas with my three small children (much of it assembling or repairing their Xmas gifts) it's tricky to find even five minutes to send you this from my computer!

I wanted to take a moment to repeat the huge admiration I have for everyone who has worked so hard to support the party during 2012. Every leaflet delivered, every council by-election won, every person you speak to about the good things we are doing helps to make a real difference.

I also wanted to thank all of you for your positive responses to these emails, which I hope are providing an extra insight into what the Liberal Democrats are doing in Government to build a strong economy and a fair society.

I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and let's look forward to a succesful and enjoyable 2013.
You can also see my New Year video message here.

Best Wishes,

Nick Clegg

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Personal manifesto and local politics

As 2015 gets closer and the candidate selection process is looked at for the Medway Libdems I am forced to wonder if it is even worthwhile me standing at the next election.

Apart from personal issues such as work, money, family etc there is of course the big question of;

Will I get elected to my ward of choice?

The answer is; Probably Not.

The answer is very predictable because I am a Libdem.

A good chunk of the dislike that will be aimed at us in 2015 is somewhat earnt. Some of the things we have been associated with in the Coalition will damage us, even the bits that aren't our fault or were part of the negotiations between the two parties.

Then of course there is the Tuition fees thing. I admit, freely, the MPs who broke their pledge, and not all Libdem MPs did, should have stuck by what they said.

Medway Labour will no doubt be coming for us and am sure they will be happy to not hide the destinction between the Coalition and the hard work that Councillors Juby, Kearney and Smith have put in for their wards within Medway Council.

The Conservatives, likewise will also be keen to use Labour's deficit and blank paper against them with a quick Can you trust a Libdem?

There is a lot of things that need doing in the Medway towns. Gillingham North & South wards are made up of hard working yet poor people - some of the poorest in Medway. They don't care about a new Bus station, a bridge to nowhere, whether Councillor Chambers should have acted a year ago on Rochester airport, or the state of Chatham. They care about what is available to them, their neighbourhoods, their amenities and their lives.

The other parties often seem to busy bickering among themselves and grand standing over the big things that they forget the small things. ( The criticism that the Libdems spend their time squabbling with the Independent group is rubbish. In all of the exec meetings and sub meetings I attended in 2012 Andy Stamp only ate up thirty minutes - in the Force knows how many hours!)

Medway Council's Conservative administration also seem Chatham-centric with all their work aimed at beautifying Chatham town centre with it's new bus station, Gunwharf quay, work to preserve the high street and even wasting time worrying about the name "Rats bay". In the meantime what does Gillingham get?

Yes, there is the sport facility at Medway park, more Brompton than Gillingham but... There's also the new frontage to the Railway station - that's it.

The roads are still cracked and pot holed, the High street devoid of good shopping, play areas vandalised and still with broken glass over them, heck even the Love Medway app won't work out here having taken a month to clear away debris I reported on it. In the end I contacted a Councillor. These things are not things the ward Councillors can effect on their own but need to be addressed by the Council as a whole, and it is something as a resident I would fight for as a Councillor.

I may not have grown up here but my heart has always been in Gillingham. I go for walks around the ward, make notes and listen to issues. My daughter is at nursery here and by 2015 will be at school here, my wife works here, uses the public transport, shops here and we live here. Improving Gillingham and the Medway towns is at the heart of everything I do and plagues my waking hours. I would work so hard on case work, meetings and fight the resident's corner at every opportunity.

I am not about playing politics or oneupmanship- if I was I'd have taken the easy route and joined Labour or the Conservatives. Politics isn't about the struggle of red over blue and yes even gold, it is about the people, their wants and needs.

As I said at the beginning though, it makes no difference. I am a Libdem, my opponents will sling mud and call on people to judge me on the actions of others and not my own. I am not Nick Clegg, nor am I Danny Alexander or Vince Cable, I am no more culpable for their actions as they are for mine.

I will stand, I want to make the difference, I want to improve the towns and the lot of the residents but will that win votes?

I can but hope that personal politics outweighs the dated party personal politics

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Nick Clegg's letter from the leader 22/12/12

Dear Chris,

This week it is five years since I was elected leader of our party. It feels at once like it was yesterday and a lifetime ago!

The announcement of the result and my acceptance speech all passed in something of a blur. The memory that really sticks in my mind is of the next day, when I visited a school in Simon Hughes' constituency.

I remember one of the students asked me what I'd do if I became Prime Minister - "theoretically of course" he added, hurriedly. And he was right: I've only got as far as Deputy. But we have as a party absolutely defied the expectations that were set for us five years ago.

They said we would be wiped out at the election. They said we couldn't be trusted with the economy. They said we were a fringe party only interested in fringe issues.

We've proven none of that is true. We've proven we can govern, and govern well, even at a time of upheaval and crisis for Britain. We've proven we're committed to delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life.

But most of all we've proven that Liberal Democrats can anchor a government in the centre ground, moderating the forces of tribalism that you would expect to dominate politics at a time like this.

I believe Britain needs that moderating force more than ever. That's the argument I made in a speech this week to mark my anniversary and set our course for the rest of this Parliament.

I won't try and repeat the whole speech in this letter.
You can read it here or watch the video.

But there's one example I used that I want to repeat - because I think it shows exactly what I mean by "anchoring" the Government in the centre ground. It's an example of how the very fact of coalition means positive compromise - it means reasonable ideas go ahead and extreme ones fall by the wayside.

This autumn the coalition decided to go further to reform benefits to help support people back into work and reduce the costs of the welfare state. That's the right thing to do.

The Conservatives suggested we cut an extra £10bn from welfare, take away child benefit from families with more than two children and take away housing benefit from everyone under the age of 25.

But when our two parties sat down to agree a plan, instead the coalition stuck to the centre ground. We agreed to increase benefits by 1% a year, in line with public sector pay rises - not freeze them - delivering savings of just about a third of the proposed £10bn. And we rejected completely the more extreme reforms that had been put on the table, protecting young people and larger families from cuts.

So if you're asked what Liberal Democrats are doing in Government - tell this story. Welfare reform is important to reduce the deficit and help get people into work. But if you want reasonable welfare reform, not indiscriminate welfare cuts, we're the party you want on your side.

But that's enough from me. Enjoy Christmas and don't spend too much time talking about politics!

Best Wishes,

Friday, 21 December 2012

Rehman Chishti on Leveson

At the beginning of the month I signed one of those E-petitions that lobby your local MP. The one I signed was to encourage my local MP, Rehman Chishti to vote for the Leveson proposals.

I dutifully filled in the address and email etc and sent it off.

Much to my surprise (but not my wife's!) I recieved a letter from Rehman on 14th of December and thought I would share the contents:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for contacting me about the LEveson Report.

The Leveson Report blows apart the conspiracy theories that have been thrown at the Government over its relationship with News Internationa. It established that no deal was struck between the Conservative party and News International, that no deal was done to give Jeremy Hunt responsibility for handling the BSkyB bid in order to fix the outcome, and dismisses the idea that Jeremy Hunt rigged the BSkyB process.

The principle of the Leveson Report is independent self-regulation of the press. I support this priniciple.

The Government has been clear all along that the status quo is not an option and I, personally, am determined to see Lord Justice Leveson's priniciples implemented. Ministers will be engaging in cross-party talks to work out how to deliver this.
I do hope that this information helps, and thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.

Yours sincerely

Rehman Chishti

Fairly generic but welcome.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Finally, recognition for Arctic convoy crews

By the beginning of winter 1941 the future of Europe looked bleak. The Swastika flew triumphantly from flagpoles across the continent and the sound of marching jackboots resonated in many streets. The Wehrmacht had rolled through all opposition only being turned back at the English channel. Now they had encircled Leningrad, sat poised at Orel as Denikin had some twenty years previously and forward detachments were in the suburbs of Moscow itself.

Russian industry in the Ukraine and Belarus had been destroyed or overrun and the Luftwaffe roamed with impunity looking for fresh targets. New factories were being set up quickly in the Ural region to resupply a new Russian army to replace the one that was marched back to Germany as prisoners, but this would take time, something the Russians did not have.

Quick to get Stalin onside, Churchill promised convoys of lend lease equipment to sail by the quickest route from Iceland to Arkangel and Murmansk. The journey was a slow perilous one though. The water was freezing, so cold that if you were to fall in you would need rescuing in 30 seconds to survive. Ice formed around superstructures on vessels , winds were biting cold and with icy teeth and to touch metal with bare hands was to leave your hand behind and frostbite was a common problem.

Hidden Nemesis; Tirpitz
Then, of course there was the German Navy and Luftwaffe operating from Norway trying to stop you. In the first two years the Condors and Heinkel's mercilessly attacked the poorly defended convoys but with the advent of the fleet carriers they fell back to the spotter role for the U-boats and surface vessels. Although she only twice ventured from her lair KMS Tirpitz was a constant threat, the smaller vessels like Hipper were repulsed in the battle of the Barents sea and Scharnhorst sunk on boxing-day 1943. Had she got in range of the convoy it would have been over quickly.

As it was the lessons learnt in the Atlantic were used to great effect and the tide was turned against the German forces as Hurricane and Spitfires were gifted to the Russian airforce to replace their obsolete aircraft, trucks, rifles, clothing, fuel, raw materials came like a vital blood transfusion to a beleaguered USSR until May 1945. 85 merchant ships and 18 warships were lost in the conflict to the German's 4 warships (including Scharnhorst who took 1932 of her crew down to the depths) and 30 U-boats.

What reward or recognition was gifted by a grateful nation?


That was until yesterday's announcement at Prime minister's questions that a Star medal will be issued to veterans. This is far too late in the coming as many veterans are long dead or in their 80s or 90s. It is, however welcome that the brave souls who faced the elements and the business end of the German war machine in lightly armed and armoured merchant ships like their already decorated Atlantic comrades.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Response from my MP regarding Medway primary school failings

Following my email to Rehman Chishti about the concerning state of Medway Primary school results in the recent appraisals I received the following letter this morning;

Dear Mr Sams,

Thank you for your letter concerning primary school exam results in Medway.

As you may be aware, the Government has introduced tougher targets for Primary schools to improve standards across the country. This means that schools are set a “floor target” for 60% of pupils to attain Level 4 in English and Maths combined.

Although there have been improvements in Medway, results published last week show that 11% of schools are below the floor target. Whilst Woodlands Primary School continues to perform extremely well, with 85% of pupils attaining Level 4 in English and Maths, there are still two schools in Gillingham that are below the floor target.

I will be raising your concerns with Medway Council to find out what action they intend to take to ensure that all children in Gillingham and Rainham are given the opportunity of a first class education.
I will write to you again when I receive further information from Medway Council.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Yours Sincerely

Rheman Chishti MP

As many residents of Medway will know, this is a concerning time for the local children and their parents. Education is so vital and a child’s whole future can be effected at a young age by a problem such as this in Primary education.

Although, Sophie seems to have got into a good school (*Phew*), I’ll continue to push on this and keep regular readers and residents updated on anything I hear back.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Nick Clegg's speech from yesterday

Libdems back Airport works in Medway

It was announcement last week that there were plans to expand operations of the Rochester Airport with the laying of a concrete runway and facilities that give opportunities for up to a thousand new jobs in the area.

Rochester Airport has been blighted by bad luck in the past. Seven years after Short bros. and Pobjoy engine manufacturers moved to the site it was devestated by the Luftwaffe (15th April 1940) putting production back by a year and scattering production to sites across the UK never to return. Then followed the Channel Airways flights from Rochester in old Dakotas only to be cut short by stringent requirements of the Civil Aviation society. The rolling lease problems (that they have been too short for any real developement) and other issues saw an end to the microlight fleet who moved to Upminster and the once popular airshows grind to a halt.

However now a new beginning may be in the making. In these dark economic times, nationally as well as longterm local issues, it is a welcome move to generate income and business for the towns. More importantly there has been consultation with local residents over the issue and the move has been made together.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Right to bear arms? Time for change

Before I begin I should state that I am not making a judgement about American national politics, nor am I lining myself up as a Foreign national claiming to be an expert or telling them what they should do. Just making observations.

The Second Ammendment of the US constitution states that citizens have the right to bear arms. Fairly black and white. However it was written in 1791 and had it's origins in the English constitution from the century before that. For the English it was a necessity that the population could be quickly mobilised into an anti Catholic rebellion should James II or any of the Stuart pretenders retake the crown and enforce armed dictatorship.

In the US it was a knee jerk to their own successful rebellion against the British which ended in 1783 but left Canada firmly under the British crown and the perfect springboard for an invasion. There was also the need to let people have arms incase the Republic turned to a dictatorship as it did in France. It provided the people with a fail safe that should Washington become a Robespierre they could overthrow him - unlike the British, who under General Gage marched on an arms cache at Lexington and sparked the rebellion.
There was also the native question. During the revolutionary war the native populations fought for Britain, some for Washington others made assaults on settlements for their own ends. Citizens wanted, needed, the right to defend their homes otherwise all might be dead before the army arrived. This was true through the 19th century in the central and western states. However after the massacre of Wounded Knee (1890) the question of a full native rebellion was cruelly answered.

Let's be honest, the type of nations that would invade the US are the type who's military would destroy a village for the death of one soldier at a civilian's hands. Why do you think British citizens weren't routinely armed incase of Nazi invasion? It isn't up to Mrs Homersham of 69 Vale drive to grab a Sten gun and have at the Paratroopers - leave it to the regular or irregular forces.

The only possible threat for the average citizen in the states is from a home invasion or possibly from a wild animal out in extremely rural areas.

As President Obama stated, the sort of incidents like the Newtown school accident that broke the hearts of people the world over, have become all to common in recent times. According to this report the NRA believe that getting rid of schools is the solution - but I sincerely hope this is a hoax!

The US needs to look to Canada where there is a greater gun ownership but a lot fewer incidents like this.

Another suggestion is - well I'm confused as to why anyone needs an automatic, a Kalashnikov or Uzi as "home defence" or for hunting purposes. These sort of weapons should be Military or Police grade equipment. It isn't sporting to hunt a deer with a gun that can fire a full autoburst of 100 rounds a minute - what's wrong with a bolt action rifle?

A bullet fired from a 9mm pistol or rifle will wound or kill an attacker just as surely as an automatic weapon so why do you need more firepower?

I know many factions, usually sited on the right of the American spectra will call this an attack on their constitutional right or liberty but they need to think about the bigger issues here. Twenty six people were killed, mostly children aged between 6 and 8, the most innocent of innocents. How can the liberty to carry a gun be valued more highly than the lives of children or innocent people in a cinema, a university campus, walking down the street in Washington?

As I said, I am not casting judgement upon the US or it's politics. All I will say is that every innocent life taken is one life too many and something must be done.

Friday, 14 December 2012

My letter to my MP over Medway's failing schools

Dear Mr Chishti
         I am writing to you concerning the worrying situation of Medway's primary schools. As fifth worst in the country it is a very concerning state of affairs.

I am not writing this as a Libdem trying to score points or trouble, nor am I here to call for Councillor Wick's head. I am writing as a concerned dad whose little girl will be starting primary school at Woodlands road in the next year or so.

Although Woodlands is a good school and my wife and I have every intention of helpin and augmenting both of our children's education it is still concerning.

As you know education is like a race, if you stumble in the starting blocks you'll be constantly playing catch up. The early years are especially important.

I know that your counterpart in Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch, is looking to secure a meeting with the council on the matter, I'm just seeking reassurances that you will be doing the same thing. There are a lot of worried residents in Gillingham and Rainham as well as across the Medway towns that, like my wife and I, want the best for our children and do not want to be let down. We would really appreciate it if you could, similarly intervene and help sort this situation out for the benefit of the local children, be they already in the system or, like Sophie, about to enter into it.

Thank you for your time,
Yours faithfully

Chris Sams 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Measure B passed by LA county

Aurora Snow
Precisely a month and a day late I am writing about the success of Measure B voted for in Los Angeles County.

Not heard of it?

No, nor had I until two months ago and that was through an obscure channel and I'd forgotten about it until this morning - hence the delay.

A while back I read this article by adult performer Aurora Snow and found it quite interesting.

Basically the bill is a battle of freedoms and liberties.

The Pro B wing argued that performers in the adult industry had the right over their own body and freedom from disease.

The anti B wing argued the state that the LA county was attacking the industry's freedom of speech and expression. The industry also argued that it was self regulating and that performers had to be tested regularly. Interestingly though, as Miss Snow pointed out, only for HIV, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia with a zero need for Syphilis or Herpes or any others.

I'm personally fairly indifferent to Pornography as an industry as I believe that if someone willingly enters into the that line of work, like Miss Snow did, and they enjoy the work, moreover willing adults buy the magazines and movies then that is up to them as long as it is not invading my personal liberties or it is where minors can get at it then it is all fine. One of the fundamentals of law is that you are free to act as you will as long as you do not cause negative effects on another person's liberties and what you do behind closed doors in your own time (again, not effecting someone elses Liberties) is your private business.

However, no matter what your feelings are towards the adult business you have to respect the right of the performers to be disease free and not give in to industry pressures or bullying. It is akin to workmen being forced to remove Asbestos without breath masks and hazard suits. STDs can be deadly and those that aren't can have a really negative effect on your life and everyone has the right to work in a safe environment.

Further to that is the cultural stigma against safe sex. Anything that can add to the idea that safe sex is good for you is a bonus. Those who want to engage in casual sex with multiple partners in their personal life should really par take in safe sex to cut back on the risk to themselves and others. Miss Snow puts it perfectly when she states that when there was a slip up on set she had to contact previous industry partners and her boyfriend at the time. If the adult industry starts showing performers engaging in safe sex then surely that will transmit to those watching the movies too.

I am happy to report that the measure was passed with 55% of the vote despite some big company support for the Industry's "No" campaign shown in Gail Dine's Guardian article and is now law.

Any one working in a workforce is entitled to protection from reasonable danger by their employer and they should provide the means to make sure they are kept safe through contraception and paying for health checks.

The downside is that having been quite vocal against the Industry's preferred stance, Aurora Snow now fears that her career will be harmed. Only time will tell but in my opinion it should not be held against her and that she can continue - I unfortunately fear that her career will suffer harm but hope that an individual standing up for what they believe in will not face any repercussions on this.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Southeastern epic fail today.

I was going to continue writing about Medway Tunnel or share with you all the latest letter from Nick to the membership but instead, after a really nightmarish journey into work, I thought I'd share with you a letter I am writing to Southeastern delay/repay scheme and an illumination of the chaos that I witnessed on a modern railway system....

Dear Delay and repay team,

I am writing to you on the off chance that my journey today may be applicable but I am not holding out much hope.

The original fault was indeed my own. I had failed to notice the thin green line on the Engineering works posters that ran through the Medway towns and thus didn't realise there were buses until 8.45.

Still, I came up with the following journey that would get me to work on time:

7.55 Bus from Gillingham station arriving at Rochester at 8.13
8.21 Train from Rochester to Strood arriving at 8.26
8.31 Highspeed train to Saint Pancras arriving at 9.05
Then jump on the Northern Line and within half an hour I'm at the Imperial War Museum, ready for work at 9.35 - a whole 15 minutes early!

I bit the bullet, accepted it was my original cockup and bought the HS1 return to add to my Season ticket (see attached sheet) and headed off. It all went to plan at first but at Rochester it went hilariously wrong.

At 8.16 a train arrived on Platform 4 and terminated - resting in the station.
At 8.19 we were told our train was at Higham and only 5 minutes away.
At 8.26 a train pulls in at Platform 3 and we were advised this was our train. So we all boarded and the platform staff, who were genuinely fantastic, told us that they would telephone ahead to Strood to advise them to hold the HS1 for us, it was all very doable!

8.29 the Train on platform 4 leaves for Slade Green depot.
8.30 We're all ordered off the train on Platform 3 as it is also going to Slade green depot and that our connection was outside Rochester awaiting a platform because these two trains had been sat there doing nothing.
8.35 The train arrives on platform 4 and we watch the other train leave platform 3.

8.38 ish we leave Rochester and the train is running around 17-19 minutes late. There is no Highspeed train at Strood.

So now I'm stuck on the stopping service to Charing Cross. It isn't all bad as, if it is running on time it will arrive at 9.41 and I can get to work a by 9.53 - however we're running 20 minutes late.

When I get to Gravesend I checked the National Rail enquiries progress report (as there had been no announcements) and the train's progress will be sped up by skipping Eltham, Blackheath and Lewisham and getting to Waterloo by about 9.44.

I was then very interested that we stopped in Eltham, and Blackheath... Then came the funniest thing. At Lewisham we're told (although we're running late) that an "All stations" train on platform 1 was going to be in front of us so our journey was further slowed down.

On top of that there was no heating and it was freezing!

I finally arrived at Waterloo at 9.48 and work at 10:02.

I should have arrived in London at 9.05 and arrived at 9.48 most annoyed.

Does this count towards a delay/repay case as the 20 minute delay at Rochester and general confusion cost me the HS connection at the £3.30 I paid for HS1?

All the best,

Chris Sams

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Cllr Geoff Juby on Taxation and TV liceneces

Liberal Democrat group Leader, Geoff Juby's column from this week's Medway Messenger - Needless to say I agree with Geoff on the Taxation!

In recent months there has been a lot of publicity given to the subject of taxation and benefits.  Are we in danger of following Greece, Spain and Ireland in running into massive deficits because of an inability to actually collect the taxes due? 

Major multinational corporations pay little or no UK tax – and many of the members of parliament, and the House of Lords,  who should be addressing this problem are themselves in a questionable situation with regard to their own tax payments.

Isn’t it time that companies took a pride in publicising their tax contributions instead of trying to avoid them?  Public opinion is a powerful sales tool – how many of us would actively support a commercial company who boasted of the millions paid into the exchequer each year!

The poor and disabled are suffering humiliating interviews and loss of income because of the publicity around a few false claimants, and it’s costing almost as much as the savings to fund the appeals and administration.  Apart from a very limited number we all pay what is now an unnecessary tax calling itself a television licence! 

Sometimes I wonder whether the BBC might be better accepting advertising like every other television channel – I have not been able to discern any particular commercial bias in the multiple channels available to us. Now nearly everyone has access to Freeserve, and I don’t think I am the only person to comment that the BBC news coverage can fall short of that provided by other channels. 

Proportionately the licence fee falls very heavily on low income families who may rely on television more than those who can afford foreign holidays, theatre trips and other entertainments.  Let’s hope that the Christmas telly is good, and in spite of current hard times, we all manage to enjoy the festive season.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Getting votes is like getting a date

Excuse me Miss Chalke would you vote for us???
I was casting my mind back to my student days and my abysmal dating history and then got to thinking about canvassing for votes.

Now, some people will resolutely vote for their party whether they performed well in Government or council or whether their policies are any good this time around.

During the 2010 election a colleague of mine was complaining that Labour were awful - Gordon Brown had really screwed up as leader of the country but was still going to vote for Labour because he didn't want the Conservatives to get in.

So - instead of voting in change vote for more of the same.

In some constituencies you could see Hitler get voted in over Jesus just because he was in a certain party rather than past performance or policies. For example Maidstone & the Weald will generally vote Conservative, Rotherham was always going to vote Labour no matter who or what was standing.

The same is true when trying to meet women in a bar. If the girl you are chatting to is into guys in bands and drives a nice car then the spotty Star wars nerd who doesn't drive is going to be out of luck even if he is a better person. It's all about types and people's expectations. I doubt I could convince Sarah Chalke (pictured) to go on a date as I'm sure I'm not her type(!) but could I get her vote?

Then there are those who don't want to be bothered. Many house holders don't like being disturbed during the day (usually because it is a day off work) or evening (because they've just got in from work) and just want to get rid of you - that's even if they open the door to you. The same when chatting up members of the opposite sex - do you really want your night interrupted by some guy you don't even know?

There are also those that are just plain tired of hearing the same tired lines and the same rubbish from people who, lets be honest, only want one thing. These people are jaded so badly that when someone genuine comes along they won't even look twice or pay any interest.

Granted, there are times that you can talk people round to your way of thinking (vote wise!!!) and are willing to listen to you and ask questions. This can be a bit of a rarity but all you can do is to put on your best smile, have the right paperwork in front of you and work the magic at the door. Some people have the gift of the gab as well. When I was at uni, there was a girl I had a crush on, it took me about a year to get a date - my friend Matt chatted to her and with in three hours he had a date! Likewise on the doorstep some people are dull, uninteresting, drone on about their laboured point and others are electric.

There are times where you may enjoy a spell of popularity such as not being the Government dishing out cuts or in dating - you might be captain of the Uni football team that just won the league. Or you could lie to people about how you are different to the other parties and how you are not going to have cuts when you get into power - or you're a footballer in the Chelsea youth team or that you're actually well off BUT popularity can fade and lies get found out.

What you need is longevity, substance behind the chat to win people over in the long term. You can't all be front with no backup.

The other thing is even when you've arranged a date and time to meet or got them to agree to vote for you, you can't force them to the Restaurant or Polling station. In both circumstances the law frowns upon chloroform and tying people up - it is just not cricket. You have to trust that you've done all you can to get their interest.

It is hard to say what to do. After all, I never chatted women up in bars - I never had the nerve to talk to strangers or put myself out there. I was the spotty Star Wars geek who played too many computer games (if such a thing is possible!) and would never get looked at twice. On one occaision I was chatted up and I totally blew it!

A girl walked passed me, accidentally caught her cigarette on my arm. She profusely apologised and offered to kiss it better.
I politely reassured her I was fine.
"Are you sure? I'll kiss it better"
"No, it's ok" I said with a smile. I walked up to the bar ordered a drink and suddenly, with horror realised what had happened. I turned around to see her looking shocked that I had declined but it was too late and I was too embarrassed to do anything.

All you can do, in both scenarios, is go out and try your best and hope that the magic and substance of your party's policies or history in that ward/seat is enough to win you a vote.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Libdems must be firm over Leveson

Feldmarschall Kesselring's defence of Italy against the Allies was marked by gradual withdrawals to pre-prepared defensive lines up the peninsula.

Much like the Libdems in Coalition. We're constantly, or at least portrayed as, constantly falling back to "the final line" and giving up another pledge or stand point. It has to stop.

To quote Captain Picard; The line must be drawn here and no further with the Leveson inquiry.

Now, I know I've not read the full 2000 page report, I barely have time to read my kids a bedtime story or the copy of Darth Plagius that I bought myself for Christmas last year!

The point is, most people won't have read it but there has been plenty of debate, news reports and discussion. From all of these, I have come up with my opinion - hardly blindly following party line- and some how I have come out agreeing with Nick's statement last week.

There is a fine balance of liberties in this case and a statutory under pinning of the press, namely legislating tighter controls and redrawing the boundaries and enforcing the laws. However once that is done the Government will take a step back and a new, more powerful independent standards agency will police how the press carry out their trade.

Sound's pretty Stalinist as if the State is policing the freedom of the press and speech. However it isn't.

Tightening the press's standards will protect the liberties and the freedoms of people like you and me as well as celebrities. Look at the McCann's or Dowler's - even the families or friends of celebrities in the manner that Charlotte Church documented last week who have had their privacy severely violated on the off chance there may be a story.

This cannot be allowed to continue. The press has been carrying on like a secret police force which is illiberal.

We, as a party, find ourselves at serious odds with our Coalition partners. Maintaining this status quo and trusting that the press have learnt their lesson is just not good enough. A lot of Conservatives feel that it is.

I believe in the freedom of the press. It has worked for the last 300 years and it is important to democracy says one of our local MPs Tracey Crouch and to the probable shock and awe of regular readers, I disagree with her on this.

Yes, a free press is exceptionally important as a voice and whistle blower on the way Government carries on it's business but the press isn't free due to to the monopolies and vested interests.I'd also argue that the free press (ignoring the war years where Government control and censorship were a necessity) worked for 280 years and it has been the last twenty that have seen the press becoming more and more invasive and above the law.

Tracey went on to say At the end of the day it's about principles. Misuse of phone hacking is illegal and should be dealt with by the law, which should be tightened up. - I agree with what she says but we have differing ideas on the implementation.

Moving back to the main thrust of the post; Nick needs to stand by this principle, lead the party in a stand on this.

Not for populist point scoring, though I'm sure we could be painted as that, but because it is what we stand for and stand we must.

There is nothing in the Coalition agreement on this so we're not tied to the Conservatives on this one. Any falling back should only be as part of the cross party negotiations and legislation.

If we falter on this and back down on our guiding principles we might as hand the keys of Great George Street to Nigel Farage and UKIP and just go home.

Nick, be strong, be resolute and stand your ground on this.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Council tax rise in Medway - who is to blame?

In his book Stupid White men, Michael Moore describes a raft of policy brought in by the Clinton administration that would create a lot of public interest and support but knowing full well they weren't implementable such as;

Safeguard Alaskan seals

Award $320m to the Chicago mass transit system

Out law snow mobiles in national parks

Award $7.2 million to states for child passenger safety...

They were all to be cancelled by the incoming Republican government thus making them look bad even though the reversals would have to be a given as they were expensive and unworkable.

So what has this got to do with the Medway towns? Do we have a seal colony?

No - but the last Labour Government have left some statutory landmines which Medway, and other councils across the nation, have blundered into it.

At the local party AGM on Wednesday, Councillor Geoff Juby delivered his Group leader's report which revealed these startling facts...

Red vs Blue - whoever wins - we lose
One example is that local auditors imposed a measure, that had been appealed and insisted on by the National Auditors office, that will cause all manner of problems for the council and it's elderly residents. Simply put it means that the council must charge the full cost of some elderly care provision to the community - i.e those that use it. This will cause the knock on effect that elderly people aren't going to go to the day centres, are staying at home alone and foregoing home visits because they simply cannot afford the service.

Remember when Labour were kicking up a stink about the closure of the homes last January and how the Conservatives were screwing over the elderly residents of the towns with the closure of care homes?

Thankfully a cross party agreement in full council saved the council the added cost of backdating this to 2009!!!!

Another one, on a slightly different tack is the reform to Council tax benefits. Despite all of the parties working together to get Council tax benefits decided at the local level and the Coalition Government putting the law forward it was thrown out of the House of Lords by the Labour lords. The over 65s are exempt to any of the rises. Medway Council wanted to distribute the rise evenly across all of the board and cut the single occupancy from 25% to 20% and had the cost been spread across the age ranges there would need to be no need for an increase.

I'm not going to mention the over spends that the Conservative administration have done in the past as they are well documented elsewhere but...

A long while ago I wrote about Medway Tunnel, the dodgy deal that saw Medway Council buy it for £1 from the Rochester Bridge association (that Councillor Jarrett and Councillor Chambers are both members of) and opposed by the Medway Libdems, well the last of the money has dried up and it is up to the council tax payer to fund it now. On top of that the road maintenance budget has had to be slashed by £1 million as the money does not simply exist. So stand by for worse driving conditions in the towns.

Michael Gove's move for more academies has also fudged things up for everyone too. there have been mistakes in the funding of the Academies so £8m is being moved from the education budget to cover this move. Basically all of those schools that decided to stay within the LEA are now paying for the Academies!
This is an ongoing issue however and the Council is challenging this - let's hope it will work out with a favourable outcome.

The big two, too busy playing politics and trying to score points and it is the residents that suffer.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

I am the reason the Libdems are failing - sorry guys

Dear Tim (Farron)

The only fate that should befall me...
How are you? I hope you're having a good weekend, I'm sorry to disturb you but I thought someone should know this important news.

Yesterday I had a Sally Bercow moment on Twitter. I admitted to a Tory Councillor ( Chris Irvine) that... well, this is difficult to say...

Well in answer to the comment that Libdems (me on this occasion) were gold on the outside but red in the middle - I said that in reality I'm more blue than red

Local Labour tweeter and PPC for Chatham & Aylesford Cllr Tris Osborne retweeted it and pointed out that

This particular Golden nugget suddenly all fell into place - It is all my fault and the only thing left for me to do is to resign. Then I thought on this further and the depth of my betrayal and failure means I should be taken from this place and shot. Clearly I'm too dangerous to the party to be left roaming the streets of Medway.

I thought I should explain my actions though before hand so you can understand my true inner evil and the depth of my betrayal.

I was a confused youth with a certain penchant for right-wing politics, deeply indoctrinated by my Republican Churchill adoring Grandfather with strong feelings on crime and punishment. At university I drifted left as I became disgusted by the way I perceived the company I worked for treated its staff across departments.

However I always voted and supported the Libdems. I'd spent a semester working on a module on the evolution of Political thought from Hobbes to Marx including Locke and Mills. I was struck with an epiphany - this was is what I agreed with.

I joined the party late, some point in March 2009 after a long chat at work with my Tory friend, Caroline who told me that if I believed in something strongly enough I should join the party. It was then that I really noticed the rise of Nick Clegg. Truth be told, I'm a bit of a fan boy, I respect his work, think he's deeply underrated and unnecessarily derided in the national press.

I think if you were looking for a word to define me with one word, especially my online persona, it is Liberal or Cleggite.

I must admit though that I have had disagreements with party position over the last two years. Tuition fees were a bitter pill to take and there have been times when my heart broke at the decisions we were making Nationally, so much so that I joined the left leaning Soclibdem forum in the hope of balancing the party. I've stood fast though, I ran paperless in the local elections and since January this year I've served as secretary of the Medway association. In this role and as one of the vocal supporters of campaigning against City status it fell to me to draft the, now, infamous letter to Nick asking him as Deputy Prime Minister to ignore Medway's bid and why.

In our recent AGM and despite my unfortunate decision to stand down I was talked into re-standing. Former Councillor Stephen Kearney was exceptionally vocal in his support and on what a good job I had done through 2012.

Yet at the same time, like an insidious tumour, I have apparently caused the fall of the Medway Liberal Democrats, untold damage to the regional and possibly the National party. I am more Blue than Red.

It is true, I make no apologies for it. I have serious Ideological problems with the Labour party and it's policies (or lack of). I disagreed vehemently with the war in Iraq, the ID cards, the rail price index RPI+3, the way Gordon Brown failed to act decisively over the Economy and Expenses. Since they have left power I have become even more disillusioned with their constant spin, the untruths that their activists and ministers were willing to spout. The fact that, without any real policy they've won support for simply not being the Coalition and that in retrospect their 13 years in Government seem to have been the light in an otherwise dark Tory period. Of course the Ginger rodent comment by Harriet Harman was the final nail for me. It grates upon my very soul.

On the other hand you have our partners the Conservatives. The Force knows I disagree with the Nadine Dorries and Peter Bone wing of the party on so many fronts, nor am I fan of the Tory run Medway council's works. Yet at the same time this is not the Tory party of old, there are voices and leanings that whisper seductively like the darkside of the Force. They have mellowed a lot. I admit I am a fan of Tracey Crouch, it would be ludicrous to deny it. As the link shows, I think that she does a good job as MP. Is it wrong to state such a thing? If I was ten years younger, in my pre-Mills days, I would be so inspired by her and this new Tory party that I'd have joined. However I am 32 (as of last Sunday) not the love sick, computer game playing, right wing 22 year old listening to Evanesence in my bedroom and plotting world domination. I'm a 32 year old man, with a wife and two beautiful kids who has been about the block and really thought about things and my ideology a hell of a lot. I am proud to say; I whole heartedly agree with Nick.

However, if Councillor Osborne is correct and this part of me, this sympathy and burning hatred for the other parties, is causing the party I hold so dear to my heart harm to the scale he suggests then I must stand down and resign my party membership immediately! I await the Firing squad with quiet acceptance.

Yours faithfully & with tongue in cheek

Chris Sams

Medway Secretary and arch-traitor