Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A right to die?

Today the High court has ruled against another case of a critically ill person who wanted to have an assisted death.

This is a very divisive case and issue for many.

Life is a very fragile thing but ultimately it belongs to the individual and if the individual chooses to end it then so be it.

I know suicide is a selfish act and death itself leaves family members suffering from the loss and picking up the pieces especially if it is a sudden death. Families may lose out financially as well and the damage that can be left in the wake of a suicide can be quite immense. Sometimes though people can not see any other way and depression can cause people to see no other way out as can desperation.

In the case of Assisted dying though the person is usually in a state of extreme illness and suffering. Some are bed ridden with no Quality of life - in some cases they have requested it themselves rather than it being requested by the family. In the case of Mrs Purdy who has fought her way through many courts up to the European Court of Human rights to be allowed to die. Why are the state so hesitant to allow her and others like her to die.

It shouldn't be an opening of the flood gates that will see us dumping our elderly relatives at the doors of euthanasia centres or Futurama style suicide booths on the streets but for those who are really ill and are living in agony dosed up on pain killers and waiting for the inevitable should be allowed to request and receive clemency.

It is something that has happened in war time, soldiers would give comrades and enemies mercy deaths and indeed RAF fighter pilots often carried their pistols with them in case they became stuck in the cockpit of a burning fighter heading for the deck but it was never spoken of.

We do it for animals who are horrifically injured or dying.

I remember my Grandfather telling me of my Nan's throat cancer. He told me of sitting by her bed staring at the shell of the woman he loved as it ravaged her, of the pain that she was enduring and the helplessness of watching her go that way. Of not being able to help her or speed her on her way and end her suffering.

It is a sad fact that there are still horrific ailments and conditions that blight lives and the lives of our families. Some can be overcome with medicine and human endurance but sadly others cannot be and there is a certain inevitability of the end. If the only alternative is a long painful degenerative condition should the option of assisted suicide be available?

I honestly think so. I have trouble with the notion of the State dictating what an individual can and cannot do and restricting their personal freedom to act and if that includes ending their life then why not?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Roads before Runways

Livingston Road Canyon.
One of the things to come out of the Rochester Airport debate at last weeks full council was a plea from freshly defected Labour Councillor Andy Stamp who in his report stated that a couple of roads in Gillingham
North had now reached such levels of deteriation that they were now unsafe.

If has been something of a common complaint around the Medway towns, our roads are in a dire straights and I have as many pictures of potholes on my phone as I have pictures of my kids. Some have been there for a long time and Livingston road in my ward of Gillingham South, is particularly bad - made worse because the holes were filled in last year so badly that they have deterioated in months as well as the excess gravel not being cleared away afterwards!

Indeed the pavements are dangerous too having been dug up and filled in countless times with scars that rund in long routes along our byways. The pathment outside the esplanade of shops in Sturdee avenue is cratered like the moon and is a trip hazard for elderly residents and disabled (like my daughter who has walking difficulties and has to wear splints) alike.

Would it not be better to sink the £4.4 million that is going into the Airport reinvestment into making our roads and pavements safe?

I'm not knocking Medway or the airport - just pointing out that there are areas that are in more of an urgent need of these funds - something the Liberal Democrats (and Labour) pointed out to the Conservatives last week.

I understand fiom Cllr Juby (Lib Dem) that he has petitioned to get Livingston Road and Balmoral Road completely resurfaced and many holes are to be filled on roads like Pier Road where cars were bouncing along the road!

What of the rest though? What do the Conservative led Council think the priority for the people of Medway is; an Airport used by hundreds or roads used by us all?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Game Review: Skyrim

A year or so ago I saw a trailer like this on the television and I turned to my wife and said;

I have got to play this game dude...

I have played a lot of shooting games like Call of Duty Modern warfare and Black ops as well as other games like The Sims 3 and was thinking about a change and this trailer caught my eye.

I hadn't played a role play game like this in a really long time, since Daemon's gate on the PC and that was more of a strategy rather than a one player game.

As I loaded the game I began to get excited as the black cleared to reveal three other NPCs in a cart, one is gagged, the other is a soldier and the fourth a Horse thief. As we're taken to Helgen for execution and our heads put on the block when a dragon descends and torches the city and you have to flee for your life.

Character generation can be lengthy but as it is your character for the rest of the game it is indeed worth it.
You can skip through with a cursory "yep" and a click if you're not bothered how you look or size etc but race is very important as each has its own bonuses and draw backs. My first character was the embodiment of an old Dangeons and Dragons character I used to play as - Uglύk the half Orc barbarian - now a fully fledged Orc warrior who is now level 50 and fairly unstoppable in most fights smashing through bandits and Drauger with relative ease. My current character is based on one of my other favourite Lord of the Rings characters, the Wood Elf Haldir of Lothlorien, who is now at level 4 and who got eaten by a bear lastnight...

The game itself is ultimatly fairly sandbox and although there is a story mission you are relatively free to wander the huge area that is Skyrim and make your own adventure. Indeed as Uglύk I have only done one Legion mission and only completed Part 1 of the main story missions but have completed the thieves guild, become thane of most of the holds and chief Wizard at the College of Winterhold.

I find this the most enjoyable part of the game. Skyrim has a vast sprawling landscape of mountains, grassy valleys, icy tundra and swampy estuaries. The whole landscape is peppered with caves, creepy castles, bandit camps, huts and mines. Each is crawling with bandits, enemy factions, undead, necromancers, wild beasts and Vampires and flying high above you are Dragons...

The graphics are really good and quite entrancing at first. I wasted many hours riding from place to place just because I enjoyed the landscape and for the random encounters. Once you have been to a place however there is always Fast travel between them which will move you, your horse and any companions to that location. It can be quite helpful if you, like me, regularly lose their horse and can't remember where it is parked.

Aela the huntress
The missions themselves are pretty good with a variety of sneaking, cunning and downright bloody fighting - it is totally up to you.

With every skill used you gain experience and with every level we gain a perk point which can be allocated to a skill tree giving you bonuses. For example as you assign points to Archery you can unlock the overdraw (which does more damage), Eagle eye (which allows you to zoom in) and Hunter's discipline (which allows you to recover more arrows from a fallen foe). So whatever you want to be your key skills can be maxed out. This is why Uglύk is such an awesome two handed weapon wielding heavy armour wearing killer blacksmith with secondary sneak and bow skills.

There is scope to get married and with the add ons you can even build a house (rather than buy) and adopt children for the full total immersion. This game does suck you in and you find yourself totally immersed and losing time just by running around or going to the next town to sell your plunder or buy the latest gear.

The draw backs are that the game has quite a few bugs. Some missions get stuck and you need to reload from quite a time before. I did one dungeon and found on trying to exit that a door had slammed shut and wouldn't let me open it. I've also been unable to complete certain quests even though I have done so and they show up repeatedly in my "To do list". I am also barred from buying the house in Markarth as I completed two quests at the same time and missed the dialogue with the steward which is most vexatious.

The loading screens can be quite tiring as well and can take a loooooonnnnnnnnggggg time to load between going between sections of dungeon, out of a building or into a city irrespective of the size of the location you are entering. This can be quite annoying if you are playing to a time limit or running around a city. I once ran spent as much time on loading screens as I did actually running around!

If you like fantasy or role play games, freedom to explore and do what you want without the oppressive "Story" hanging over your head and pulling you back then this is definitely the game for you. Easily ***** despite the bugs!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Full Council, Rochester airport, theatre, waste and local politics

Thursday night I went to the theatre. I wasn't watching a musical or Shakespeare or even or one of those modern ones where everyone speaks Dutch and it turns out that lead character is actually a moose. Unfortunately I was at Medway Full Council meeting.

It was awfully entertaining and a member of Democratic services showed me to my seat. I was nervous as I had a question to ask with a supplementary etched out if the answer failed to hit the right point.

The pageantry began on time when we were upstanding for the gold mace, officers and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. All took their place at the table overlooking the Councillors and the audience quickly followed by opening prayers.

The whistle blew and kick off began with a short debate on the length of Public questions. Vince Maple, leader of the Labour group, argued for 45 minutes instead of the usual 30 due to the number who had come or until we got to question 25 so everyone got to ask at least one. It took enough time for three questions to reach a consensus and then it began. After the preliminaries it got to the public questions.

Up stepped the villains of the piece; Cllrs Chitty and Jarrett. They quashed repeated questions and concerns about the development of Rochester airport. Cllr Chitty has shifted all safety concerns to the CAA and swatted away safety concerns by saying that they would look at the safety measures fully as part of a crash investigation. Cllr Jarrett conducted himself in a boorish manner akin to Herman Göring with refusals to repeat himself and answering with blunt disregard to the situation. At this early stage I could tell that no matter what anyone else thought or said.

The Audience got to participate too with traditional calls of "Oh no its not!"
As well as new ones like;

"Utter Crap!" (my favourite) and "Have you read it?!" referring to a particular safety report that Cllr Chitty seems to be ignoring.

Then it was my turn. Clutching my scribbled notes I stepped up before the bench and tried to steel myself with the Anglo-Germanic Sams stubbornness and belligerence. I was not here for political reasons but first and fore most as a concerned parent.

Cllr Mike O'Brien answered my question politely and concisely and in the manner I should have expected but with the added sting that the 40% cut figure I had been lead to believe was true was in fact false. (proper blogpost will follow when I receive the written answer.)

"Do you have a supplementary question Mr Sams?"

My mouth dry, my notes irrelevant and my resolve crumbling into full retreat I stared at the microphone for what seemed an eternity before shaking my head and fleeing back to my seat mentally berating my cowardice.

The back and forth restarted and when the 45 minutes were up a further debate was had as to whether or
not they could just press ahead and get question 24 and 25 done and with much heaving and sighing it was agreed.

Cllr Chambers' report
When this was all dealt with and some of the public drifted away Cllr Chambers rose to his feet and like Chancellor Palpatine gave his report, soft and gentle, barely audible in the public gallery but full of barbs and excuses - It isn't our fault the schools were rated badly it is because Ofsted moved the goal posts! It is the press only reporting the negative things on us - we're doing a good job really...

Vince Maple spoke well and welcomed Commrades Stamp and Cooper to the mix and spoke scathingly of Tory failings on sure starts and waste on Rochester airport when other services were in danger. Clearly he was very much the hero of the piece.

Cllr Juby spoke briefly agreeing on some points with Cllr Chambers and disagreeing on others but the real limelight was being reserved for Cllr Jarrett's return.

A couple of sly swipes at Cllr Stamp for defecting (again) and continued bluster that impressed no one and made him no more friends in the audience but to be honest I don't think he cares.

Other bit part players came on with Cllr Stamp whining that Cllr Jarrett was making cheap political and personal shots at his expense which gained at least two scoffs from the audience (one being me, get a sense of humour or some thicker skin Andy, as my sister would say "get over yourself"). Cllr Osborne got up and, though I agreed with most of what he said, channelled the party political broadcast. He spoke like an air raid siren droning on and on and addressing the audience more than the opposition in a style that sounded like a party rally or hustings event rather than full council and it washed like a wave over pretty much everyone with no effect.

I admit that I don't know much about what is going on with the airport, I have been to busy worrying about my own problems and the Nursery situation that almost stopped my wife going back to work. However as a layman watching I thought Cllr Murray's amendments to slow agreeing on the future of the airport until after the consultation was finished was a good one. In the past the Council have been accused of holding consultations because they had to and that a decission had already been made. Such was an accusation about the Care homes like Nelson's court where it was pushed through and assurances have been found to be built on sand. Having seen Cllr Jarrett's and Chitty's performances on Thursday I think it is already a done deal no matter what the residents of the Davis estate (who live under the flight path) think or what the rest of us who have had services cut think of the £4.4m that is being allocated to this. Cllrs Cooper (lab), Juby (ld), Gilroy (Lab) Griffiths (lab) and others spoke at length about the services that could benefit with this money especially the elderly and children. Cllr Stamp argued that the Strand that is used by thousands a year could have the sea defences repaired (having fallen into the sea and are dangerous) and the whole area spruced up or a hundred people could benefit from the new airport improvements. Both opposition parties were united and voted in favour but the Tory administration shrugged and voted it down.

I had drifted off into my own world not long after that but Cllr Tollhurst's (con) defence of the airport plans woke me up. She was very passionate about it and condemning the Labour group for what happend some fifteen years ago and their aims to still concrete it over. She argued that if you were against it then you were "Knocking Medway" and we should be proud of the airport - I left not long afterwards somewhat confused and cross.

I've spent time asking myself if I really want to be elected to this theatre and as yet I still haven't found a really compelling answer yet. The only thing I keep coming back to is that things must change. I saw very little representation of the people of Medway there last night. A lot of the bit parts did, some of the leads such as Vince Maple did, probably under all the hot air and party bluster, Cllr Osborne did maybe, Cllr Juby and Smith spoke of it too but the top two or three Conservatives I... I just couldn't see it. They seem to be bulldozing ahead with the scheme and that is it, they know what is best and we will have to agree and see that they're right - yet again just like the bus station, Medway tunnel etc... etc...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Border Agency wrong to be silent over FBI Most wanted in Chatham

Tracey questions Border Agency's decision

In May of this year one of the FBI's most wanted was arrested in Victoria Road, Chatham, Kent. Sean
Lopes who was wanted for kidnap and attempted murder and was convicted in absentia to 15 years in Prison had been on the run since 2005. Lopes has been in the UK for several years and even got a job at Gravesend Sainsbury's as a night manager - all under his name.

Local MP Tracey Crouch had written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May to request details on how he managed to get past the Border Agency and customs. Her request has been turned down as it would be in violation of the Data Protection act.

This is interesting as the Data Protection act is there to protect an individual's personal information held by any agency or company. This however should be void in this case for two reasons.

 Firstly it is part of an investigation, possibly criminal as he may have fraudulently entered the country and used a fake passport.

Secondly, it is not accessing personal information. The request was for information on how he entered the country and got passed customs rather than an invasion of his privacy and his life.

I share Tracey's concerns that a wanted man who has kidnapped and attempted murder has managed to slip past the Boarder agency's radar and live openly in Chatham.

The failure of entry officers to stop this fugitive potentially could have put my constituents, and others at risk from an extremely dangerous man and I shall be writing again to the Home Secretary to make this point. - Tracey Crouch MP

The good news is that no one was hurt or killed in this slip up but there remains the possibility that they could have and in the interests of Public safety these questions should be asked and answered as part of a general investigation into this case. The Border Agency needs to look at this apparent loop hole immediately to examine how easy it really is and how stringently they do their background checks on those immigrating to this country.

One is forced to wonder are the Border Agency keeping a lid on what has happened until they have done a thorough internal sweep for information, in which case they should just answer the letter with that fact.

The case will continue but let's hope that Tracey is answered by the Agency and a thorough investigation is conducted.

(Also - Happy Birthday to Tracey too!)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Crime in Medway - what can we do?

Crime in Medway, Police often too late to help
Yesterday my wife was slapped about the head by a member of the public twice in a public restaurant in
front of our three year old daughter.

It started in a busy lunchtime MacDonald's in Gillingham when her friend accidentally knocked a tray sending an empty happy meal box into the lap of a child at another table.

The mother of the child confronted my wife's friend angrily and she apologised for the understandable accident.

My wife then made a comment about how she would prefer it if the woman could refrain from swearing in front of our daughter. This escalated and the woman lunged forward and slapped her twice around the head, knocking her glasses of and was pulled off her by my wife's friend.

The staff were excellent and hit the panic alarm and the woman fled leaving my wife and daughter fairly shaken. In fact when I got home one of the first things little Sophie said to me was;

The naughty woman hit my Mummy. I was scared I was.

Not what any child should ever say.

Although the Police have taken a statement and have CCTV of the woman fleeing (the camera doesn't cover that part of the seating area) I do think nothing will happen about it.

At the end of the day the Police have more important things to worry about. Further to that they need to "Know" who the woman is and with the lack of footage of the incident it wouldn't take much for a good lawyer to say "Prove she threw the first punch or that it was indeed my client."

Ultimately what will happen?

More and more crime is occurring in Medway, or seems too be. Every time I open the Medway Messenger someone has been stabbed, robbed, run over or worse and those are just the crimes that are reported! There has been a spate of car vandalism in Franklin Road that has left already strapped for cash residents fuming. The police have been unable to help as the damage is often not discovered until the morning.

So what are the solutions?

Well, a lot of people put a lot of stock in CCTV but as an operator I can tell you there are many drawbacks. The Camera has to be facing the right way and you have to get a good visual of the person you want as well as lots of other rules. If strict, and I mean strict, procedure is not adhered to then a good barrister will rip the case apart.

Gone are the days when every beat cop knew his area inside and out and every family well and was known to them. The chances of them happening on the crime and at least recognising a fleeing criminal was a lot higher. A Policeman's word was good enough.

So what can be done?

I'm afraid that is a question for the Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable. Residents are starting to accept crime as part of the day-to-day life and that should it happen what can you do to stop it?

Some are already taking it into their own hands...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Tomb Raider Reborn: Game review

This may seem slightly premature as I'm only about a tenth of the way through the game but I am already
hooked which is rare for any game. Usually I get a day or so in, hit a snag or a tricky bit and put the game down for a while or I come home from work and I am too tired to play but this one... this one had me the moment the first title screen started rolling.

I have never really played any Lara Croft games before. I was a teenager at the time the first one came out on the PS1 and like any teenage boy I spent more time marvelling at her form than at the game itself - that and I didn't have a console to play on!

Any way, despite the reviews of my peers I didn't really get into it. I am not very good at judging distances for jumps and have loathed platform games in the past much preferring real time strategy like Dune II or Sudden Strike and flight sims like European Air War or Reach for the skies.

I thought I would give the franchise a shot though with Lara Croft; Angel of Darkness but in all honesty I didn't get very far and became stuck trying to jump from a house to another part of the street, became bored and played something else.

I was fairly surprised when I was in Game and saw Tomb Raider: Underworld and Tomb Raider; Reborn and looking at the back of the boxes decided to give the cut down pre-owned games a shot. Underworld I'll review else where but Reborn has blown me away!

The cinematic game footage is pretty sharp and dramatic, the graphics are so convincing it is like watching a movie. There is a lot of cinematic moments through the game which in previous games was quite annoying with stop starts just interrupting your flow but in this game they act as moments when you can catch your breath and they are seamless, often only a minute in length and even interactive.

The plot is that you are looking for a legendary Japanese island and seat of the Sun queen when your ship is sunk by a mysterious storm. Having been washed up on an island and kidnapped by some guy you now have to get back to your crew and get off this rock but things aren't what they seem. Imagine the imagery and basics of Lost but ten times better. The "Others" in this case are very much out to kill you and capture you so you need to be on your toes because they don't hold back at all. Daubings on the wall say eerie things like None shall leave and the bodies of World War Two Japanese, 16th Century Portuguese ships and modern vessels and planes litter the landscape as a testament to that.

To make things even more interesting you aren't the seasoned warrior that Lara has become in later games rather you are the girl fresh out of university learning how to survive, how to kill and put what you have learnt into practise. You earn skill points for actions that can be invested into skills allowing you to find your way around, survive, fight and gain precious salvage. Salvage is used to upgrade your weapons making them more accurate, have better magazine capacity and do more damage. .

However you do start the first level and a bit you don't have a weapon at all and rely on your wits before finding a modified Longbow, which in my opinion is the best weapon in the game so far, although the pistol has a higher rate of fire the bow is good for stealthy kills and distractions.

This game has something for everyone in it. If you are into shut'em'ups you can play it gung-ho and hammer through or you can go stealthy in a  Hitman style.

There are still lots of jumps and exploring to do that have kept from the original series but it isn't a dominant force. In fact I find the jumps, scrambles, climbing axes and rolling into cover a lot easier to do than on other games so if you are think; Ugh not another platform jumper

Then do think again. It isn't like that

I feel driven to save Lara, to find out what is going on on the island and get us off it. The cinematics make it feel like a movie and I've really found myself rooting for the lead character .

At one point Lara had her feet caught in a beer trap and there were wolves coming out of the undergrowth and armed with a pistol I had to take one shot at each - my heart was racing with adrenaline. I spend much of the game fearful and curious of what is going on. It is real entertainment.

If you have never played Tomb Raider before, as was the case with me, I would strongly suggest you start with this one. As a reboot to the popular series I can only hope that any further games are made in the same mold as so far this has been a fantastic experience.

Definitely my favourite game of the moment ***** out of 5!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Lego Batman DC Super Heroes - Game Review

DC Heroes in Lego form - awesome
I have been a big fan of the Lego franchise of games since the first Lego Star Wars came out and I've managed to play most of them.

There have been many improvements through time to these games such as the advent of Split screen which means you no longer accidentally drag the other player over cliffs!

There is also the ability to change characters mid  free play game that allows you to swap to a character that hasn't been been selected by the game. This means that the amount of Toggled characters is kept to a minimum and you don't have to scroll through a dozen characters for the one you need now. This is a great improvement on the first Lego Batman game as in free play you had to go through all the Batman and Robin suits and then a handful of villains with special abilities which could easily be up to fifteen characters and very time consuming!

Moving on to Lego Batman II it has everything we've come to expect from Lego games with fun puzzles, and character specific rooms that need to be done on free play. In that respect there are no surprises and no complaints, like all the games it keeps you on your toes and makes you think about things.

There is an added free play aspect in that now you get to wander around Gotham City and look for more Gold bricks, vehicles, superheroes and Super villains. This is quite fun and is a an interesting break from levels! The down side to it is that you will (often and I mean often) get attacked by goons which can be a little annoying even when you are invincible!

The other thing is that even when you unlock all of the vehicles you cannot use them in missions even on free play - though it is fun cruising around Gotham City in a Squad car with the lights and siren on.

The plot is pretty good with you trying to bring down Lex Luthor and the Joker who are trying to bring down Batman and Gotham city with 15 levels.

The levels are, as I said pretty good but with a couple of downsides.

The first is that the only playable characters on Story Mode are Batman and Robin and then from about half way through Batman and Superman and the variety is slightly lacking.

There is a vast swathe of Justice league characters who you can play with but only in the last two levels of the Story mode. Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Wonderwoman which is a little disappointing but they are all there for Free play!

There is also a vast array of villains that appear in the first three levels like Catwoman, Bane, Riddler, Harley Quinn and Scarcrow but they are only seen in these levels as a bit part for you to overcome quickly and instead you focus on just Joker and Lex.

The Story also follows the Joker's giant robot that they are using for about six levels with the same enemy being fought in different ways through out and that can get a bit samey.

There is also another glitch that means that if you are playing two player and you are aiming with a sonic gun, laser eyes, freeze breath or water gun and Player 2 is running around your aim will move all over the place and you can't do anything. Sometimes it feels like the game was designed for One player at times rather than Co-op.

Over all though it is a good game and continuation with the Lego franchise. If you have played any of the other Lego games and enjoyed them you'll like this one and I can recommend it as a worthwhile purchase.

*** Stars out of five.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Cllr Juby's Column; Do we take Democracy for granted?

We moan about successive governments, whether or not we support any particular party, but I think we don’t appreciate how lucky we are that every five years, we have the chance to make changes.

Democracy only works with the consent of the people, and we are fortunate that we do have a right to organise public demonstrations. though these may cost us, the taxpayer, a lot of money on policing! The fact that we have a free press does mean that it is rare for things to get out of control and the police are accountable.

Yes, we have had our riots with arson and looting, but this pales into insignificance when we look at other countries which are struggling to achieve democratic government.  The whole of the Middle East, as well as some countries in Africa, South America and Asia, seems to be on a knife edge. The only people who pay the price in the end are the millions of innocent men women and children who are either killed or maimed, or end up as refugees causing huge problems elsewhere – and incidentally to us as well in terms of overseas aid.

Politicians of all parties spend a lot of time on doorsteps trying to persuade people to vote and what we all hate is apathy – the ‘It doesn’t make any difference’ attitude.  Parliament is full of mudslinging as to who funds political campaigns – if political parties were funded centrally on their membership numbers it could encourage more of us to actually become involved.  Why should big business and trade unions call the shots for the rest of us?

Everything from cleaning the streets to international negotiations is decided by politicians, maybe some of us need to do some soul searching well in advance of the next elections!

I do tend to agree with Geoff on the issue of Party funding. The current trend at Prime Minister's questions is about Lynton Crosby or Unite and the petty placed questions that have cropped up time and again over the last three weeks have all monopolised this well trodden path and not addressed issues that could/should have been brought to the Prime Minister's attention.

The Liberal Democrats are mainly funded by members for the members and have no vested interests and I think the Conservatives and Labour party need to show the same willingness to cap donations from groups and show themselves as free from direction of vested interests.

That said, I think Parliament also needs modernising and rules changed. Pitt the Younger no longer walks the halls, neither does Earl Grey, Lord Salisbury or Asquith - the rules and language are antiquated and has been used to create this Party partisan fighting that ultimately doesn't help anyone. The public needs to get more involved yes but I think that Parliament also needs to be flexible and actually engage more with the Public and the best way to start this is by cutting the bickering, keep it constructive and actually debate the issues rather than who is responsible for the problem in the first place.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Politics, Parties and lack of promotion for Tracey Crouch

I have gained quite a dim view of Partisan Party Politics over recent years.

I just cannot get my head around the notion that defeating the other team is the sole reason to get into Politics, get elected and the basis of every issue. The ability to define yourself as the opposite to them is hardly productive.

Politics is not about Party over everything, it is about the people you represent and how you do it. I find the whole politicisation of serious issues and problems within this country such as the deficit and the serious problems of the NHS is frankly abhorrent.

I don't feel I need to precursor the next section as regular readers know my stance already...

Firstly, excellent news for Tracey Crouch on her reselection as Candidate for Chatham & Aylesford in 2015. This is also good news for the people of the constituency as in my opinion she has done a fantastic job representing them on many issues and is exceptionally passionate about her work and constituency.

This brings me to my second point. This morning Tracey tweeted an image from a publication (I'm afraid I don't know which) that... well check out the picture.

Personally I'm left in somewhat of a quandary. I can understand that a Prime Minister doesn't want "rebels" constantly going off half cock over issues and wants the backing of a team of loyal staff BUT it is always good to have those who question or say simply; Sorry boss I don't agree.

On the three issues that are stated I have mixed feelings on the EU budget, support Lords reform, am against the badger cull and want to see the Press reined in so that they cannot get away with the things they have in the past. We obviously don't see eye to eye on a few things but I really admire her for the way she does her job, the way she cares about her constituents and works her socks off. I also admire her (and Sarah Teather for that matter) for her ability to stand up and say No, I don't agree and I'm certain that my constituents don't and I will not support this bill.

That's what Politics should be about and what MPs should do.

I know that on the subject of Badger culls that Tracey has thought long and hard as well as changed her opinion on the subject after consulting with activists and residents before arriving at the conclusion that such a move was wrong.

There will be many in her Constituency who would disagree with rising the EU budget when they are having cuts to their services and local Government budgets and who would be outraged by such a move.

So, because she is passionate and stands up for what she believes in rather than being Lobby fodder she faces the prospect of sitting on the backbenches for even longer?

I would hardly describe Tracey as a serial rebel who causes trouble for the Government at every turn, indeed she as listed "Occasionally rebels" on They Work for you and in the last two years has rebelled 18 times. One of those occasions was also over Asbestosis  sufferers possibly losing legal aid to get compensation - a problem that is serious within the Medway towns and something her constituents feel very strongly about.

I would have thought that someone that knows their own mind, listens to their constituents and works hard for them would be a surer thing for promotion to junior Minister or aide than someone who toes the party line, agrees unreservedly with Dave (and Nick by proxy) on everything (except when Nick doesn't agree with Dave) and knows when to shut up, ignore their own beliefs and vote Yay with the Government.

But then what do I know?

All I can say is that it is the Coalition's loss.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Governments have failed the NHS & Residents of Medway

NHS is in trouble but Politicians haven't been listening
Yesterday was a sad day for our Democracy and the House of Commons.

The Secretary for Health Jeremy Hunt made announcements relating to the Keogh commission report and on going problems with the Nation's hospitals, especially dealing with unnecessary deaths.

Twitter exploded with comments about what was being said in Parliament and most party members and supporters that I follow were horrified by the level of partisan tweets and comments in Parliament. Tories going after Andy Burnham, Labour blaming the Coalition for deep cuts and mismanagements. Both sides of the house sat sneering at each other and shouting like the crowd at a Roma vs. Lazio game - Not the seat of power of a First World country and people who should know a lot better.

Even on a Local level the various Party politicos have started winding up the noise about the incompetence of the others - Andy Burnham this and Tory cuts that. The Labour PPC for Chatham & Aylesford has released a press statement on the subject and their various Twitter feeds have been releasing stats showing what has come into being since 2010. The Tories and some Libdems have been passing around a petition to get Andy Burnham to accept responsibility and resign... It needs to stop.

The NHS has had problems for a long time. Medway Hospital has had issues for at least a decade. Back in March I wrote about my family's problems with Medway hospital back in 2007.I also referenced problems that Rehman Chishti highlighted in 2008. It is irresponsible for the Labour Party to say this has all been since May 2010. However the Coalition needs to take ownership of the cuts and recognise that they have also had a massive impact and they need to be reexamined.

However lets look at the NHS Chief Executive at Medway Hospital who administers the cuts. Instead of keeping care and staff levels up efficiency savings were made and then a stupid amount of money was spent on a motivational speaker for the staff!

Then there is the merger with Darant Valley which has been beset with problems for Medway. Who was given a voice for this concerns? Only NHS trust members - not the staff or the residents who use the service. Even the elected representitve of Gillingham South ward, Lib dem Geoff Juby, was ignored by the Chief executive.

Of course there is also the Local NHS hospitals. Medway is the only local hospital with a 24 hour A&E where as the others can close at a certain time or redirect cases up to Medway. This obviously throws the already stretched triage and Emergency staff to unacceptable levels with priorities being thrown all over the place. When I took my infant son up with a suspected case of Meningitis we had to be hurriedly discharged (after thankfully pronouncing him all clear!) as they had an emergency case literally outside the curtain that desperately needed the space.

It also means that Medway has a catchment area of One Million people in North Kent covering Sheppey to Dartford and can include Maidstone and Canterbury on a rough day. This is a horrendous amount of space and people for one A&E and hospital to cover.

A culture of target meeting and figures started to develop in the 90s and now hospitals are stuck trying to meet Government targets and not treating the sick as human beings rather than Statistics. Party Politics has been using the lives and deaths of the sick and elderly for years as a way of measuring the success of policy and to beat the other party over the head at PMQs.

This HAS to stop.

Many politicos sit and wonder why the public are fed up with Politics and don't vote and it is because of incidents like this that push people too far. If Politicians, and I use this as a broad stroke - I know there are exceptions, could stop acting like Children and trying to constantly get votes and score points and actually sort this problem out. People's lives genuinely depend on it and too many have been lost already.

What needs to happen is for the three main parties to get together and work out what is the best for everyone and stop acting like children. Medway Council need to look at things, the Department for Health need to look at Medway Maritime management, priorities and staffing. Most importantly of all Politicians of all ilks and creeds need to listen to the residents, of the horror stories that will hit the Press this Friday and of people's general disgruntlement and actually do something about it rather than play the blame game which is a game that frankly, we all lose at.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Open letter to Boris Johnson from a resident saying no to HUB on Grain

To the Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson esq.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you concerning your proposals for an airport on the Isle of Grain or in the Thames Estuary. I
am not writing as a Liberal Democrat rather as a father, a husband and a resident of Gillingham.

I will not trot out all the arguments of environmental damage and problems of shipping, the SS Richard Montgomery etc - which you have all heard and discounted rightly or wrongly before.

What I want to do is implore you from the point of view of the residents.

The Medway towns need serious regeneration and money injected to maintain basic services and inferstructure like our crumbling road system. There is also a ready base of people here who would gladly come and work there myself included. I work in London as a CCTV operator in a National Museum and I would relish the chance of working for more money in the Private sector closer to my home.

However I, and many in the Medway towns do not want the Airport on our doorsteps.

If you could just look at the Photograph I have inserted you'll see a little Green flag which sits atop of a light amongst a sea of lights. That light is my house on Sturdee Avenue, Gillingham. As you can see I would be right under the Isle of Grain's circling aircraft. Suddenly my idyllic little corner of England will have noisy aircraft filling the blue sky and filling our ears and forcing house prices down.

Any gain we as an area would gain from the airport would soon be lost by people relocating away from the flight paths. I know that if I had the money and my wife's mother wasn't ill and local to us I would relocate to Winchester (where I went to university) on the day the first foundations went in. I do not want my children to grow up in a flight path, nor do I want Rochester's traditional and historic sleepy ethos be disrupted by constant over flying aircraft. As strange as it may seem, I do love Gillingham and my family have been residents of these towns for well over a century, my Grandfather built defences here in World War Two, my Great-great Grandfather is commemorated on the Boer War Memorial in Brompton Barracks, my wife's family are here. This is our home and although I want it to be better in some ways I also love it for just what it is and this sort of change will no doubt ruin it in so many ways and could force us elsewhere.

 Even the promise of jobs is a lure as there will be fewer jobs available. All those in Heathrow who will found themselves unemployed following your proposed Government buy out will flood to Medway as skilled and experienced workers.

I understand that you are the Mayor of London and you want to make London a world leader but the people of the Medway towns and the Isle of Grain have spoken to their elected officials on the Local Council and in Government and Tracey, Mark and Rehman do speak for the majority when they say that the Medway Towns do not want this.

I would implore you once again to rethink this and to not rule us, the residents under the flight path, out as Trivial, we are far from that and we have told our elected officials No.

Yours Faithfully

C. J. Sams

Monday, 15 July 2013

Ginger Liberal Blog Policy change

Honestly, I've been swamped
This is more of an FYI post than an actual post about anything in particular and hopefully the real stuff will start to flow again.

Firstly I must appologise to any regular readers who feel let down that I have not been writing as much lately. I have just been unable to get on my laptop and write in the recent month and when I have I've not really felt the drive with which to write.

This is not to say that I am not passionate about politics in the Medway Towns or nationally anymore just that there are those who write a lot more concisely about it than I do.

There is still a niche for me, I hope, and I will be writing about Local politics and how I see it and what I have become vexed with or have concerns about. Someone said to me the other day that the people don't care about capital projects, of house building or open top busses just whether their roads are pot holed or their schools are open. These are the things that I found interesting and why I got into politics in the first place and where this blog started its life in the first place.

It is where my passions lie and that is where I will return rather than regularly giving my point of view on National stuff or international stuff.

Medway is where my heart lies, Medway is what is important to me and Medway is what I will write about.

I have also been scribing a lot of Fiction recently so do please check out my GingerWerther blog (link in the side panel!) and I will be uploading my works soon!!!

So, keep 'em peeled and hopefully there shall be some fresh stuff coming very soon!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Local Tories fudge Nursery budget

Woodlands School, Gillingham
As I write this it occurs to me that there may be more to this story than meets the eye. Unfortunately I am not in the possession of all the facts but welcome any illuminating info from the other side. Until then I can only go on the information I have gained.

A few months ago the Head teacher of Woodlands Road School called a meeting of parents who attend the nursery to inform us what is going on and how Council cuts will affect the children and fees. Unfortunately I was unable to attend. My wife, who knows more about the child care and our house hold funds went and made some notes.

The Nursery has had it's budget cut by 40%

Not 4, not 20, but 40%

Further to this the Nursery will not be able to accept any children under 2 years old which will have a negative affect on mothers going back to work. This has been the case for my family and after several months of stress and viewing nurseries we've managed to get Oliver into a Private sector nursery that seems good. (it isn't Woodlands but it suits our needs at the moment.) Other parents are still looking.

There hangs a certain amount of uncertainty over the nursery as the 40% will come into being next April and will undoubtedly force prices up for those still at the nursery but there is a massive uncertainty as to by how much as it all depends on the amount of Pupil Premium money that will come into the Nursery and as yet that amount is unknown.

I have spoken with a couple of the staff who have looked after my daughter and they have told me that they have been told there is a probability of redundancies (which the Council will have to pay for) and of staff having to reapply for their jobs. This will rise unemployment and I am exceptionally sorry to say, lower quality at the nursery as I can not speak more highly of the quality of care and support that they give to the kids in their charge. Any loss will be a loss keenly felt. Further to that as Nick Clegg and the Libdems have vetoed the proposed ratio changes the Nursery will not be able to trim off as many staff leaving them possibly out of pocket.

The Nursery is also moving to sessional care (8.30-12:00 and 12:30-15:30) over wrap-around care (7:00-18:00) which restricts how many hours a secondary income earner can work and may mean that they have to give up work altogether if the nursery cannot provide a lunch time supervisor for the kids. How many employers would be happy with members of staff only working school hours? Be they retail workers, shift workers or clerical? Many parents are forced to look to the Private sector or bite the bullet and give up work altogether.

There is also the fact that any babies who have been put into the private sector through necessity, such as my son, may not come back to the nursery when they hit two years old. Although there will be some, who sadly have fallen into average nurseries through necessity, whose parents will swiftly move them when they get the first chance, there are also those who will stick with what they've got especially if they haven't seen Woodlands before. Why would you move your child if they are settled and you don't know that there is an excellent Nursery on your doorstep?

So there is more money not coming into Woodlands on top of the 40% cut and no paying parents for children under two. Whack on the fact that the School (now an Academy) cannot support the nursery financially in any way makes it even more dicey.

The Tory Council is banking on the fact that the Pupil premium and some trimming of "fat" will be enough to cover the costs and it is an exceptionally risky gamble to take with our Children's first steps into education and care as well as with the low income working families of Gillingham South ward and the hard working staff.

It really feels like Cllr Jarrett has got his sums and financial planning horribly wrong and it is the tax payer and working families etc who are going to pick up the brunt again.

I implore Councillor O'Brien, portfolio holder for education and early years, to look at this situation before it spirals out of control and leaves Woodlands either going belly up (in the long run) or forcing privatisation through the back door.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Letter from the leader: A million Jobs

Dear Chris,

Money, jobs and investment dominated the agenda this week. On Wednesday, the chancellor set out details of the Spending Round: the last set of savings we will have to announce in this Parliament. On Thursday, Danny Alexander followed up by announcing massive new investment in our roads, rail, housing and infrastructure.

And the moment he was finished, I rushed down the road to talk with the leaders of some of Britain's biggest cities about the next wave of "city deals", devolving financial and economic power to our great urban and industrial hubs.

Creating jobs. Stopping the build up of Labour's unsustainable debts. Getting the economy back on track. That's the central purpose of this government: it was on the day we started and it will be right through to May 2015.

And what about Labour? For three years their central purpose has been to accuse Liberal Democrats of betrayal for our determination to tackle the deficit and rebalance the economy. And now? They've effectively admitted we were right: they wouldn't reverse a single one of the cuts we have made. They finally accept that the difficult work we've done to set Britain back on the right path has been worth it.

So if you've been on the receiving end of attacks from Labour supporters over the last three years, now's the time to fight back. They're the ones who crashed our economy and racked up unaffordable debts. They don't have a credible economic plan and it's no wonder people don't trust them with their money.

Labour want us to be embarrassed about our record in government, but they couldn't be more wrong. We can be hugely proud of what we're achieving.

Balancing the books and rebalancing the economy isn't easy - especially not for the millions of families still struggling to adjust after the collapse of our financial system in 2008. We haven't relished any of the difficult decisions we have had to take, but we know they were needed. Because even though progress is frustratingly slow sometimes, it is happening.

More than a million new jobs created, and a million apprenticeships started, too.

Tax cuts for every working person, with two million freed from paying any income tax at all. Better protections for pensioners, higher standards in our schools, and help for all those struggling to find work.

We need to get out there and explain that story to everyone we meet. Labour don't have an alternative. They should be apologising to the country for the damage they did to the economy - and apologising to us for the brutal accusations they laid at our door while we were cleaning up their mess.

Liberal Democrats have done the right thing, in the national interest: cut taxes, created jobs and invested in Britain's future. There are just two years until the next election so let's stand up and be proud of what we've done.

Best wishes,


Nick Clegg