Saturday, 31 August 2013

Letter from the Leader: Our priority is Syria

Dear Chris,

This was a week in which we all grappled with a complex set of questions about Britain’s role in the world:

My own views are well known: that there is a humanitarian case for the UK to be prepared to participate in multi-lateral, legal, targeted military action in Syria, aimed at deterring the use of chemical weapons. But there are no easy answers in this debate and I entirely understand and respect the misgivings that have led some colleagues and party members to oppose such action.

Last night, Parliament made its opposition to military action clear and of course, the Government will abide by that decision.

I held an online Q&A with members earlier today. If you weren’t able to join in, you can see it here.

I want to assure you that we will not turn our backs on the millions of innocent Syrian civilians caught up in this horrific war.

Our priority is humanitarian aid for the refugees now huddling on the Syrian borders. We have already pledged nearly £350m of aid, making the UK the second largest donor in this crisis. Food, water, shelter and medicines are the least we can provide to those people torn from their homes by this civil war.

But of course, only a political process will end this war and allow those millions to return safely home. So, although Russia and China are likely to continue to thwart efforts even to act politically through the UN, we will continue to work actively to build the diplomatic chances for peace.

Best wishes,

Friday, 30 August 2013

Syria - I just don't understand the inaction

It is true - I have an interest in war.

I've studied war in all its forms since I was a small boy. I'm fascinated by the tactics, logistics, strategy and human behaviours from the Field marshal on the hill to the Private on the fields - but I am not a war monger.

War for war's sake is always wrong and should always be a last resort to  sort out a situation.

As a Star Trek geek I also hold to the Prime directive of non interference in another nations internal affairs.

When Human rights are being, shall we say flexed(?!) then there is space for diplomatic sanctions and pressure.

When they are ruptured then more serious moves need to be made.

But when Women and children are being murdered in the streets or homes a line has been met and I truly believe that the Civilised world cannot sit idly by. As for using poison gas and nerve toxins, a practise banned after the Mustard and Phosphane gas attacks of World War One, on the helpless is absolutely unforgivable.

Seeing the news feeds of rooms full of dead children, civilians laying on the floor as if sleeping, people gasping for breath in hospitals through damaged lungs - I cannot understand how we cannot act?

I don't want to talk about the politics of the matter really, nor do I want to speculate on why Ed Miliband did what he did - I will merely point you to Dan Hodge's blog in the Telegraph.

I guess at the moment there is an area of doubt as to whether Assad has used the weapons or not and this is down to an MPs discretion as to whether or not it warrants action. I for one agree with Nick Clegg, that Assad has the weapons, he has used them before, his troops were shelling that area of town at the time and he has threatened to use them time and again - way to many coincidences for me there.Couple that with Military intelligence being pretty damn certain kind of hits the final nail for me personally.

Whether you are for or against an air strike though it doesn't matter as though as it was Party politics that won the day last night rather than a discussion of morality and right or wrong. Stackee's blog on Parliamentary Party politics puts my thoughts into words very succinctly.

So what are the solutions for Syria?

Well, we have precedent of such things:- Libya, Kosovo and Bosnia. The West provides an aerial strikes removing Assad's ability to deliver such weapons then pulls back.

Another approach is to provide Aerial superiority that will remove Assad's ability to wage war or to level the playing field for the rebels.

Neither option should be attempted before the UN weapon's inspectors have reported back. It is highly likely that for whatever reason the Russians and China will veto the Council if the decision to militarily intervene is decided. If this happens I still think that it is right to try and do all we can to stop these war crimes from being repeated.

I agree humanitarian aid needs to be delivered to the people in Syria and in the internment camps in the surrounding countries where hundreds of people are concentrating. This is always a recipe for disease and deprivation and aid must be organised. This needs to be done quickly as well.

History shows that when the world hesitates or decides to sit on its hands people die. Not the combatants or the ones who arguably deserve to but the innocents, the helpless and the defenceless.

The world cannot allow these atrocities to continue - it will not be forgotten and never forgiven.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Star Wars Battlefront III

For fans of the original Star Wars Battlefront and its successor Battlefront II there has been a long wait for a sequel on a newer platform and now it looks like our dreams may be answered.

A sneaky teaser trailer was released onto the internet earlier this year giving Star Wars fans and gamers the chills as they begin to hope for more running around blasting Stormies/Rebel scum depending on your orientation.

The first two games were fantastic and allowed many of us Fanboys to finally do what we had always wanted to do - run around as Stormtroopers, drive AT-ATs and fly TIE fighters in combat.

The levels were all straight forward and held the same format as the World War two variants of the game with taking bases to increase your potency, bring you forward command posts and weaken your enemy.

There were two eras to choose from, The Republic (vs the Confederacy of Planets) and the Empire (vs. the Rebellion) with each army haing basciallythe same untis but with specialised elites.

The first offered a limited role for starfighters with only the Bespin level making them the focus. The role was mainly close support and anti-vehicle role but the smallness of the levels meant that you could never open up the throttle.

The AT-ST was the king of the battlefield and somewhat unstoppable if you had a pilot character inside and the Droidika was the best in built up eras and corridors.

Although the campaign wasn't great it was entertaining as you cross the galaxy and if you win enough battles you get to remove a planet (by Death Star or Blockade) or instantly get it to switch side (if you're the good guys). Each planet offers a benefit for your campaign like more ammunition, health regenration or more reinforcements.

There were heros avialable on certain levels for a limited time period dependent on how many hits you took and how many bad guys you killed.

The Second offered much much more to offer gamers.

Although the AT-ST was toned down and erial support was removed from ground battles certain other bonuses came forward.

Firstly Officer class characters who are able to rally troops with a mod and carry a greande launcher. Personally i didn't use this much and stuck to my trustee Stormtrooper (or Sniper) class.

The biggest change was the advent of Space Battles. Each side having four classes of Starfighter (Fighter, Interceptor, Bomber and Transport.) with Pilot class and Marines for boarding - Yes Boarding!

I was elated to thefirst time I climbed out of my TIE fighter and ran around a Mon Cal Cruiser. Unfortunatly the accessable area is fairly small but worth exploring.

space battles revolve around scoring points by destroying parts of the enemy's Capital ship like Engines, sensors, Gunnery and sheilds. You can do that outside or for trooper fun - inside.

The Campaign for the single player is fantastic and follows the career of a 501st clone from Geonosis up to the battle of Hoth fighting droids, Rebels and Clone troopers with a story mode feel with individula mission objectives making it feel less samey and more story based.

A Droid Marine

Galactic Conquest has been streamlined so there is only one battle per planet but you earn points per planet owned to pay for new Starfleets or unlocking new troop types. The Starfleets can only move along the Space lanes and through systems you control making it ever so more tactical.

It is a game that never really tires and that can appeal to the General of the Grunt - If the new game runs on a similiar engine and is even half the game that I and II were then it should be amazing...

I, and a lot of other gamers and Star Wars fans wait with baited breath!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

*Sigh* Rail increase again...

Well it is no surprise that the Rail fare is projected to rise again next year by 4%.

It isn't a bad amount really, it could be a lot worse but it could also be better and save the already strapped British public some money.

So what does it mean for me?

Well, I'm on £21k p.a and I've been given a 1% pay rise for next year (woot!) totalling £210s P.a.
So I will be earning a mind boggling extra £175 per month bringing my wages to £1925 per month before tax, pensions and National insurance. Luckily the Liberal Democrats got one of their key manifesto pledges through parliament and my income tax will be effectively halved after April as I won't be paying anything on the first £10,000 I earn - Thanks Nick!!!

So... That will be an extra hundred free - maybe...

So say my take home is about £1450. Lets take off Mortgage of £450, Council Tax £110, Electricity £100s, Gas £15, Food costs, £80, my half of Nursery bill, Mobile is about £40 £200 brings me to £555s.
My current Railway bill  £352.60 (add 4% to this...) comes to £366.68 which effectively leaves me with £210s a month to live on or £50s a week next year.

That is excluding buying lunch for work, going on a day out with the family. A trip to London Aquarium costs £50 entry as Sam and I are £22 each and £13s for Sophie as a child (unless using vouchers etc). That is a week's flash money gone.

A meal for four at La Tusca is easily £40s, a trip to Westgate beach cost us that...
There are a lot of provisos in that set of equations. Nursery bills are bound to go up as are utilities and even food prices despite shopping in Aldi.

As Blackadder once said: I feel like a pelican. Everywhere I turn there is a large bill in front of me.

I wouldn't mind but my service has not really improved, it hasn't got any worse though. My train is still as it has always been. The staff the same faces at Gillingham station doing the same job. The speakers on the fast trains still broken and filling my ears with a tinny Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

for an hour each way. Still not enough seating at rush hour that leaves me sat in door ways or wedged into a corner. Finding a the toilets are locked, filthy or missing toilet paper. The same little darlings who clearly haven't paid for a ticket getting away scot free and me being woken rudely by a shove by a ticket inspector at 5am outside Dartford and having TICKET Please! barked at me.

There is a poster at Waterloo East that says in recent years Southeastern have invested millions into the network. I find myself scratching my head and muttering Where???

Yeah Gillingham Station has been polished and looks nicer except the toilets are usually locked on Platform 1 and 2. All the others are fairly the same, Strood doesn't have a lift still and I have to haul the buggy up and down the subway, Chatham is still reliant on platform staff letting disabled and buggy pushing travellers out the side gates. Trains are still the same units that have traversed the line in recent years... I can't see it.

So if the service hasn't improved why am I paying more out of an ever decreasing Sams family pot?

Lets not get political - bugger the They started it with Privatisation! They brought in RPI+1 - I'm not interested in it. It distracts from the real issue and is a vile point scoring exercise.

Commuters and the hard pressed people of this country want answers before we are priced off the network all together.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Right, Twitter, let's get a few things straight

There have been a few times recently where I have thought; I am so done with Twitter.

The echoing sound box of people agreeing with each other and the shouting down of those who disagree.

Those waiting for a mis tweet or slip up and *boom* it is everywhere...

I'm tired of the political robots who have built a facade removing most of their humanity and replacing it with professionally taken Avatar images, tweets that are straight from their party line as if their feed is connected to the central Press office.

I should clear this up for those who are labouring under false pretences - I'm not an elected official.

I'm not an official spokes person for the Medway Liberal Democrats (I know, I've been told that by the group chair.)

I'm just a guy who happens to be a Libdem but chats about what he finds interesting.

My avatar at the moment is a cartoon of a Luftwaffe Pilot which I found on a book at work and considering my passion for German aircraft and the Luftwaffe found it quite fitting. I tweet about a lot of things I find interesting and as I do not define myself as solely Libdem I tend to tweet a lot about my other passions - games, history (local and Luftwaffe) and also my Genealogy research which has been going on for quite some time.

My twitter feed is my personal feed - no one elses (as is my blog). If you don't like it do please unfollow.

Should I manage to get selected and run for Gillingham South ward in the Local election of 2015 then there will be some more political statements and should I manage to get elected then I probably will set up a separate Councillor Twitter feed for those who want to contact me about politics and the ward etc.

I will however not become a party machine. I believe politics is about the people and for the people so will stand as a person and as Cromwell put it, warts and all. I live in Gillingham with my small family and I work in a low paid section of the Public sector in London meaning I commute regularly.

I have frustrations with Medway Council but I also believe in the greatness of our towns and that they deserve the best. If you want a hardworking representative who genuinely cares about the ward and the residents of Gillingham then look no further. I'll fight tooth and nail for it.

If you want a party political machine that has designs on one day running for Westminster then do please vote for another candidate and see how that works out for you.

On a similar tact - I will never refer to myself in the third person on Twitter, on my blog or in Press releases - it is creepy and robotic and no - just no....

While we're talking about Social networks etc - my Facebook account is personal and fairly off limits to people. It is about my personal friends and family. I hold my family life fairly tightly and only show snippets on Twitter. I would urge people not to add me on Facebook without messaging me first or face disappointment.

That's the way it is and that is the way it must be. I am a man before I am a Party.