Friday, 30 October 2009

The Excellent La Magnolia

I have had family staying this week and they kindly took me for a meal at La Magnolia. The Italian restaurant and pizzeria is situated under the Yacht Club at the Westcliffe Arcade, Ramsgate.

What a superb experience it was. Friendly, attentive and understanding service. Award winning wine from Brindisi, the best any of us had drunk in a very long time.

To cap it all the pizza oven has been imported from Naples and constructed especially to order. The pizzas had such a light flavoursome texture. The restaurant was full and talking to other diners, booking is becoming advisable. I have voted for it in the Italian restaurant section of the Kent Restaurant Awards. It is great to see Thanet restaurants in 3 of the top 4 positions.

If you have not been and you like Italian food, give yourself a treat and go to La Magnolia.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The New Conservatism - Tax Lawyers for All!

Hopi Sen (pictured) the extremely well written "Blog From the Backroom" I feature on my blogroll, today takes to pieces the Dover and Deal Conservative candidate Charlie Elphicke's attempt at explaining Conservative economic policy. It prompted me to have a look at Charlie's website.

It has a wonderful juxtaposition to welcome you. The second paragraph says:

"As the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Dover & Deal, Charlie works hard for us to get our fair share so we can all be better off."

the third paragraph starts by telling us that

"Charlie is a tax lawyer"

Now there is a contradiction here. Do you know any of your friends who use a tax lawyer? No? Me neither. I know some local small businesspeople who use accountants, but a tax lawyer that's for serious shedloads of money. We're talking city bonus types amongst others.

The aim of people like Charlie is to ensure that rich people and large organisations pay less tax, so that the vast majority of us pay more. So what he really should say if he is being honest with his electorate is

"As the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Dover & Deal, Charlie has worked hard for the better off to get them a bigger share, so the rest of us are worse off."

Go to Charlie's article on the Centre Right blog and he wants people to forget about his past saying:

"In the Financial Times world, they allow the richest to fill their boots with massive, unjustified bonuses."

Well Charlie, what about the role of tax lawyers in maximising those bonuses?

He goes on

"The doorsteps of places like Dover and Deal people are incoherent with rage. Unlike the FT, they are patriots with a powerful sense of nation. They feel the excess of the bankers and the Labour Government have seriously harmed Britain."

Well Charlie, I did a quick survey of people I know in Dover and Deal. I know this is unrepresentative and biased, but I could find nobody incoherent with rage, they all managed to talk. Maybe people get incoherent with rage in Dover and Deal when they are visited by a tax lawyer who claims he wants to give them more money, when he has spent a career of doing the opposite - just a thought? Charlie is right though that they feel bankers have harmed Britain. The people of Dover and Deal also think tax lawyers have harmed Britain too, none of them could think of any ways in which tax lawyers had helped them, they knew though that tax lawyers meant more money for the few and less for hard working families. Perhaps Charlie could explain how in the excesses of the bankers, tax lawyers helped ordinary people?

He will not be able to, because tax lawyers like Charlie Elphicke have been working hand in glove with hedge funds, city bankers and the like to minimise their tax and as a consequence to maximise it for the rest of us.

Charlie's taking the mickey in his article though because he claims:

"And George Osborne is absolutely right to point out that rewards should be linked to longer term performance."

Except of course tax lawyers like Charlie Elphicke get annual bonuses. They get them because they use whatever short term wheeze they can come up with which helps their clients pay less tax. That's what their job is all about. No long term performance assessment for tax lawyers.

Indeed one of the features of the last two decades has been that tax lawyers have done very well as the economy has done well, so I would imagine Charlie Elphicke is a rather wealthy man.

Then Charlie jokes with us that

"Most of all, Charlie cares about our community, serving our people and the nation."

When Charlie had the chance of serving people and the community by choosing a career as a police officer, a shopkeeper, a teacher, a soldier, a nurse or a cleaner, Charlie said no, I am going to look after a few very wealthy people and ensure they get even wealthier, there can be no finer way to serve the community than to be lawyer!

Charlie Elphicke the tax lawyer to the wealthy, who makes ordinary people in Deal and Dover go incoherent with rage and doesn't understand why.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Slow Conservative Resignation, Quick Labour Application

Guest post from my fellow councillor John Watkins:

"It may have taken the Conservatives many months to get a single resignation letter from their Dane Valley councillor in Panama but it took less than a day for the Labour candidate to turn around her complex pile of nomination papers when the by-election was finally called on Tuesday.

Sandra Hart presented papers on Wednesday, all signed, sealed and endorsed by residents of Dane Valley Ward.

Sandra Hart said:

"The people of Dane Valley ward have had to put up with a very distant and disorganised councillor for far too long. It's time they were represented properly, by a genuinely local person who is keen and organised and who has the backing of a very efficient team.

I'd like to thank John as my agent for the superb way he is managing the formal and legal matters, our support team at Labour headquarters and especially the lovely local residents who have endorsed my papers".

Election day will be Thursday 3rd December and the polls will be open from 7am to 10pm. It will be interesting to see who the other candidates are.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Why do these Newspapers endorse the Conservative Party?

Once in a while you read a stupendous blogpost. Something that captures the format and makes the point sharply. A post that could not be in a newspaper, nor on another medium to the same effect. You start by showing that a newspaper claims that "The BBC put Muslims before You" Who are you? Christians? Hindus? Athiests? Jews? In the mad world that is the Daily Star mindset all of these are more important.

You then as the middle photo shows fake outrage that the BBC get it wrong when featuring the BNP's Nick Griffin on Question Time. Add a dash of total and utter paranoia. Have you noticed that everybody in your workplace, every newly elected MP, every X factor winner, they're all migrants aren't they? So who are you going to go to when you are being incited to hold political views like these, not based on facts but just fear and prejudice?
Well the answer is not the BNP, it is the Conservative Party.
Do click here and see this magisterial post by Anton Vowl on The Enemies of Reason dissecting the Daily Express and the Daily Mail as well. My comment, all this fomenting misinformation is by newspapers who next year will advise people to vote Conservative to fulfil their prejudices.

Monday, 26 October 2009

How to Fight Anti-Social Behaviour

Last week I attended the regular Northwood Police and Communities Together (PACT) meeting. Thanks to Rev. Chris Skingley at St. Mark's Church who facilitates this and many other coommunity activities. Pictured are Steve Ladyman MP who also attends regularly, with PCSO Dan Mimran. Dan lead the meeting covering a whole range of matters.

I am interested that some other councillors think the way to tackle anti-social behaviour in their areas, is to broadcast problems as widely as possible. The problem with this approach is that it can mean that an area is talked down, whether it be for shoppers or people thinking of moving into a street.

Publicity is such that it can be 5 minutes to win a bad reputation, and 5 years to lose it. So if there are one or two roads with a small scale problem does it benefit people living there to seek the maximum media coverage? I do not think it does generally. What is important is that those affected are advised by knocking on their doors, and delivering leaflets. Indeed the best form of policing is when a community shares information and sets standards amongst itself, knowing that it can work closely with the police.

Those engaging in anti-social behaviour thrive on creating a climate of fear, and I would suggest sometimes media coverage can exacerbate this, so that certain areas are avoided even when problems have been resolved. I am reminded of a survey which showed that it took almost a decade for all M1 users who were frequently stuck in traffic to learn that the M40 was another parallel option for many of the journies from London to Birmingham. People are creatures of habit, and it can take quite a while to change patterns of behaviour once habits are established.

I am also disappointed when I hear lazy and untrue statements by Council officers saying that a crime problem has been resolved, when I know that is not the case as do many others. So what I am trying to say is that Northwood like everywhere else has problems from time to time, but sensationalising them is not the way to address them. Local people working together with the authorities is.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Glum Councillors

Here's a relatively new blog to take the mickey out of those councillors including myself (surely not!?) who take themselves a little too seriously at times. It is called Glum Councillors and...

".....will doggedly collate images of councillors looking glum whilst pointing at holes in the road, wearing hard hats or presenting oversized cheques. Lets celebrate the work of our local elected representatives!"

Looking around Thanet District Council, Deputy Leader Cllr. Roger Latchford has to be a strong contender for regular entries. Here he is pictured at Thanet's Credit Union Wantsum Savers

"supporting the new Thanet Gateway Plus initiative"

Look at that beaming welcome he is giving Thanet Credit Union President, Dr. John Pritchard. I wonder what facial expression he would use if he had some bad news? Thanet Council's Donna Reed, Head of Thanet Council’s Customer Services looks on.

At the last Council meeting I mentioned an old post on this blog about the East Kent Sustainable Community Strategy. Responding Cllr. Latchford said that he did not read this blog, quick as a flash one of my colleagues said, no he has a little man who does it for him. I wonder if this is who they meant?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Apple Time

It is time for the finest Kent vintage to start being savoured. I have delighted in my first litre bottle of Kent apple juice freshly made in 2009. Pure Discovery apple juice from Broomfield Orchard, CT6 7BA (01227 362279). Do get some if you can, and they have more apple varieties as the season progresses.

When we moved into our house the garden had old fruit trees. We tried to nurse them through, but they struggled to produce much fruit, and after a couple of years we removed them and have replaced them with 3 small apple trees. Modern rootstock allows several small trees to be fitted into small gaps. By choosing 3 different types, which in theory fruit sequentially, we have a succession of apples. Our chosen trees in theory all keep, so from about September to about Christmas we live off our own apples. At present each tree only produces 20-30 apples, but little by little the crop increases year by year. Also small trees means there will never be a need to have long ladders to go picking, or to wait for windfalls. If I ever won the lottery one of the things I would love to do would be to buy an orchard.

The fruit garden at Yalding Organics, near Maidstone is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It is well worth a visit if you get the chance.
I have been reading The Apple Book by Peter Blackburne-Maze. I recommend it especially for its insightful history of apples. Thanet is blessed with several good historical blogs,

to name but two. I do not aspire to imitate them but thought this information on page 56 of the Apple Book might be of interest.
Mr. Tucker was gardener to a Mr. J Slater in Margate where grape growers faced mildew problems in the 1840s. He mixed flower of sulphur with lye and water and applied it to vines affected by mildew. It worked like a charm and was the original and rather crude form of lime sulphur, a fungicide that was manufactured until the 1980s.
A footnote in history for a Thanet man inventing chemicals for food production. Thankfully this is no longer produced and organic production goes from strenght to strength.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Fowlmead, a Model for Pegwell?

I have wondered for some time why here in Thanet the powers-that-be seem to think 'regeneration' means more houses crammed into smaller and smaller sites.

Can there be another way? This thought often strkes me where I visit a fine example of 'regeneration' without a single extra house being constructed.

The Betteshanger Colliery coal tip is a relic of our Kentish industrial past or rather it was until SEEDA (South East England development Agency) took over the derelict site in 2000 after it had been lying neglected and unused after the pit closed in 1989. For anyone interested in Kent's industrial heritage the pit opened in 1927, the year after the General Strike and was manned by those blacklisted by pit owners in the Midlands and Lanarkshire. Many in Thanet are the descendants of those 1500 miners, since the original miners were refused lodgings in Deal and had to travel to the area until the Mill Hill mining community was built. In 1946 the Betteshanger Training Centre for the newly-nationalised industry was opened by Manny Shinwell MP from the North East, the well-known trade unionist who was Minister of Fuel and Power.

SEEDA in 2000 asked local people what they wanted done with the site on the Sandwich to Deal road, and overwhelmingly the answer was not housing,nor a golf course, nor a heritage site but a facility for everyone from walkers, horseriders, cyclists, birdwatchers, and all able and less able. 'The past is the past, we want to look to the future' was their message.

This community-led scheme now known as Fowlmead Country Park, funded by the government opened in 2007 following the creation of ponds, the building of an observation platform for birdwatchers, the planting of 130,000 trees and shrubs, the creation of footpaths, bridleways and the piece de resistance - the European Championship cycle track that is so popular it gets booked up for competitions years in advance.

Walking round the site in beautiful early Autumn sunshine I saw bushes festooned with berries including from the top sloes for gin, rose hips for syrup, and sea buckthorn for vitmains. I spotted dragonflies swooping low over the ponds and could hear birds in the distance. I haven't managed to spot a kingfisher yet but remain hopeful.

It's possible to see some relics of the tip's past -the odd bit of rail; left from the railway that took the coal from the coveyor belt under the road to the junction near Sandwich. I think it should be left like this so children will acknowledge their industrial heritage. Shale forms some of the paths and it is possible to spot large lumps of coal at the sides of the paths.

Enjoying the views towards Ramsgate, Sandwich and then Deal it is hard to imagine the site in its heyday, but it is heartening to see how the trees and shrubs have prospered despite the generally poor soil. Planting on top of a coal heap can't be easy, but the vegetation has thrived.

A small group from a Thanet special school was able to complete a certificate-awarding scheme at the country park. Their teacher said what an achievement this was for this group with severe learning difficulties.

Wouldn't it be good to see the old hoverport site in Pegwell Bay developed in such a sympathetic and sustainable way?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Piffling Pounds in Panama

Pictured is Cllr. Brian "4 jobs" Coleman. He earns £104,000 a year as Mayor of Barnet, a Barnet councillor, a member of the Greater London Authority, and Chair of the London Fire and EmergencyPlanning Authority. With so many hats, he is unable to perform his Mayoral duties to the same standards as his colleagues.
Talking of Standards, Brian Coleman was recently censured by Barnet Standards Committee for being abusive and offensive. Not before £10,000 was spent by Barnet Council on top lawyers to help him defend his reputation, even though the evidence was clear from the start, and Barnet Council had free lawyers available on insurance. An early apology to resolve matters does not seem to be part of the Conservative Party Code of Conduct.
You will see from the picture at his office at City Hall, London, that Brian Coleman has to sleep when at work, to keep the four jobs going. Click and enlarge it, and you will see that caffeine from a coffee, and a diet coke haven't been able to help stop the eyelids closing.
With all these similar shennanigans it could be that Thanet District Council's Conservative Group could twin with Barnet's Conservative Group. And yet, Barnet does have certain standards that Thanet cannot reach. Barnet Conservative councillor Christopher Harris has been in Australia for 4 months. He is collecting £800/month from Barnet Council, and is claiming he can do his job by email. Last Thursday night at Full Council, Thanet Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel said Stephen Broadhurst, resident in Panama for 2 years was doing his duties as a Dane Valley councillor by email.
Barnet's Council Leader makes a different judgment, and has stripped Councillor Christopher Harris of the Conservative Party Whip. Councillor Harris responded by wondering what the fuss was about, and claiming £800/month was a "piffling" sum of money. Councillor Stephen Broadhurst is "only" receiving £300/month. Yet some of this money will be going to the Conservative Party, he will pay subscriptions and may make other contributions. A Conservative councillor, who understandably wished to remain anonymous estimated that every councillor would contribute at least £50/year to the Conservative Party, and many contributed considerably more than that.
So local people pay Council Tax to receive a negligible service from Cllr. Broadhust, who pays the Conservative Party money. After so long abroad is Stephen Broadhurst still paying tax in the United Kingdom? Or is he like another Conservative funder Lord Ashcroft refusing to confirm that he pays UK tax?
It is time for Thanet Conservative Group to remove the Whip from Stephen Broadhurst, and for the Conservative Party to stop taking money from him.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Super Sandy Sorts It Out, Simon does it Slowly

Tony Flaig recently asked the
question, "What have the Tories done for us?" As a resident of Dane Valley he answered his own question as "jack". He highlighted the fire damaged site in Millmead Road with photos on his post, and complained that the three Conservative councillors had done nothing to sort matters out.
In comments on the post Cllr. Simon Moores said:
"Quite the opposite of 'Jack' Tony and rather more than you think.Clearing a privately-owned site doesn't happen with a magic wand as much as you or I would like it to. It's a frequently lengthy and convoluted process as this is not public property.
I have the same problem in Westgate with the remains of the bungalow in Ethelbert Sq. A final notice has been served on the owners of the site after 18 months of orders being ignored!"
An accurate well informed opinion, indeed possibly an "expert" one?
18 months might be how long it takes a Conservative to get round to taking action, but Labour's candidate in Dane Valley Sandra Hart took just over 18 days.
The top photo shows her taking details on 23rd September and the photo below is earlier today showing the clean up of the site starting. 22 days not 548 days. That's 24 times slower!
It is a mystery as to what "rather more than you might think" really means.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Happy Anniversary to the China Gateway Planning Approval

Guest blogger Jenny Matterface writes:

"Can it really be a year since that stormy full council meeting at which CGP (now CGI) was given planning permission for Phase 1? Can we ask what has happened since that day?

Firstly, has the Section 106 that so many councillors fought for been signed yet?

How many of the conditions imposed have been acted upon? The diversion of the public footpath; the installation of mains drainage; the environmental impact study; the archaeological study; the restricted hours of work and so on?

Has the Planning Committee been kept up to speed on the various elements it insisted on?

Has EKO LLP, that joint venture by TDC and KCC, finally sold the land required for the Gateway show building? There was talk of meetings being held at which terms were being negotiated but has a conclusion acceptable to both sides finally been agreed?

What did the Chinese visitors think of Margate during their recent visit? Did they approve of the three Mayors kow-towing to them when most of us would only bow to our Queen?

Is Cllr. Ezekiel sincere in his statement in the Isle of Thanet Gazette when he said there would be no expansion of the Manston Business Park? Where does that leave Phases 2 and 3 intended to be built on what has been described as ‘the most versatile agricultural land in England’.

Will the Chinese go ahead if they only have Phase 1?

The CGI shares are currently trading at a three- month low what is the immediate future for the company? With a massive bank loan due for re-payment will the company be able to re-negotiate their loans?

We all want worthwhile employment for Thanet. We know there would have been some jobs (but perhaps not as many as the company was promising) had the scheme got underway so it must be frustrating for all those who voted for the application to be approved to see so little apparent progress. Can we perhaps get an update from the company and its supporters as to when we might see some of the warehouses up and running? Will the company consider siting the HGV activity away from Acol so that the residents can get some sleep?

So many questions. So little real information."

Do have a look at the video, scroll to 3 minutes and watch Roger Latchford performing the traditional Thanet welcome to distinguished guests from the East, the removal of the traffic cone from the doorway. I know there was extensive cultural research in preparation for this visit, so perhaps this was some kind of feng shui?

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Leader's True View

Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel’s columns in the Isle of Thanet Gazette are a weekly selective view of the world. I have commented before that I think it is a weakness of the Gazette to only provide a platform to the local MPs and Council leader. I think on a proportionate basis it should allow occasional columns from Greens, Independents, Liberals and also Labour’s opposition Leader on Thanet Council. The smaller parties might only feature once or twice a year, but they still should have a chance to have their views expressed as long as they have elected representatives, be they councillors, MPs, or MEPs.
There were plans for the Leader’s column to go on the web but this did not happen for some reason, so I have photographed it above and you can click on it to enlarge last week's column.

It does not help that Sandy Ezekiel rarely cites sources to substantiate his "facts", and last week was a special nonsense edition.

In the first of what might become an occasional series, here’s what Sandy could and should have said if he was more accountable to the people of Thanet.
“I want to borrow as little money as possible, and ignore that there is a global financial problem caused by American banks. I want to cut services. I want as few people as possible working in the public sector. Contract it out, privatise it, or better still do not do it. My Council is leading the way by closing down public toilets. People should go before they leave home, or be able to hold it in. That is one level of discomfiture, let me move up to the next level, pain. I talk about some pain for employees, but please be clear, I want everybody in the community to share this pain. I have landed you all in it together. I am confident that as your Leader I am the man to inflict pain.

Indiscriminate pain is wrong, there are those in the community who should not suffer these cuts. I am pleased that my fellow Conservative councillors Hayton, Jarvis, Bayford, Kirby and Wells all had an 8% increase in the money they receive from Kent County Council this year. It is right and proper that your Conservatives protect key people. Trust Labour Cllr. Liz Green to complain about this and talk about morals.

Let me tell you how badly we are running the Council. Six years ago my Conservative administration took power in Thanet. Every one of those years at Thanet Council we have had an increase in money from the government. Not just to meet inflation, but every single year the Labour government has given me extra money on top of inflation to spend on you. That’s a great deal. And you know it gets even better. Most of you will not have had increases greater than inflation for the last six years, and you may be facing very uncertain times at present.

Thanet Council is sorted. The government has guaranteed an above inflation settlement for this year, and the next two years! That's a total of 9 years of increases greater than inflation. So as you can see I have no reason to complain about the money coming in from the government, and I can plan for the future knowing I am getting increases. Most of you can’t say that.

Sadly we have wasted that money, that’s why I can describe Thanet Council as being “on its knees.” I do not care what effect this has on the morale of Council staff. I just want to make it up as I go along, and every week that is what I intend to do. Lots and lots of extra money, and I have lead the Council to a situation where I tell you we are on our knees.

As a Conservative I am opposed to our local museums. These are havens of shared history and experiences across the whole of our community, that's almost socialist. I do not value this, it is not individualist enough. As your Leader I have closed the Maritime Museum in Ramsgate and Margate Museum. Let me tell you where we have reallocated the money. I think stripping is a far more important part of our heritage, and that's why I have spent £30,000 on promoting it. Some people say it stereotypes women, but that is just Labour bleating on about equalities, let’s get the burlesque on, or should I say ladies off!
Do we want to offer family attractions like museums or do we want to aim at stag parties? I think all you families out there know what my Cabinet think is the answer to that question."

Now here’s my challenge to Sandy Ezekiel, let’s have the references for the article you produced last week. Mine are linked above, and talking Thanet and Thanet District Council down is the wrong thing to do.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Total Place and Thanet

At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton last week four of my fellow Thanet Labour Group councillors, Clive Hart, Liz Green, Dave Green (pictured in the Conference hall as South Thanet Labour Party's delegate) and Linda Aldred (not pictured) attended a meeting to discuss the government's Total Place project.

Total Place is a new initiative that looks at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services and at less cost. It seeks to identify and avoid overlap and duplication between organisations – delivering a step change in both service improvement and efficiency at the local level, as well as across Government.
Total Place is an ambitious government programme that is taking a fresh look at the totality of public money being spent in a local area, from the council and the NHS, through to policing and Jobcentre Plus. It aims to look at what might be done differently and what savings could be made.

With government spending on public services running at about £500bn across the UK, the project offers the prospect of saving billions of pounds of taxpayers money.

Kent was identified in the April 2009 Budget Report as one of thirteen pilot areas in England for Total Place and for Margate a Task Force will focus on the two multiply-deprived wards of Margate Central and Cliftonville West to rethink the way services are delivered.

Thanet District Council Labour Group Leader Cllr. Clive Hart told me

"The Leadership Centre for Local Government meeting in Brighton last week was very informative. It's clear that our local authorities at Thanet District Council & Kent County Council have been investing significant time and resources in the Margate Central and Cliftonville West district wards for some time now, but with little effect. A multi-agency approach to neighbourhood management that also includes the police and health authorities has to be the way forward if we genuinely want to improve services for local people. We need all public services to work together for the benefit of local residents if we are to make any real impact. If this project proves successful I would like to see the same approach extended to all parts of Thanet as soon as possible".

The way to tackle the financial difficulties public services face is not just to cut, but to think smarter.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Read All About It

A friend asked me about my recent blogging award. They do not follow blogs and in trying to explain blogs in Thanet to them I made comparison to the various national newspapers.

Here's what I thought ......

Starting on the left of course, Dave Green’s Eastcliff Matters was for many years the Guardian. Now that he is Mayor of Ramsgate and blogging less frequently that makes him the Observer. I suggest this blog is as an approximation to the Guardian. Cllr. Mike Harrison's Newington Blogspot is a less frequent blogger on the left so he's the Sunday Mirror.

Cllr. Simon Moores Thanet Life shares many of the values of the Daily Mail, with a similar regard for accuracy and consistency. Tony Flaig’s Big News Margate talks a lot about television, albeit Kent TV, and does bang on about immigration too, so he’s nearest the Daily Express. Thankfully, he's not obsessed with Princess Diana, just Mr. Puss. The most read blogger in Thanet Eastcliff Richard equates to the biggest selling newpaper The Sun, no ECR, no fun. (Good to see Samantha guest editing breaking up the boys club, get well soon ECR).

The Times website is the Timesonline, nicely evoking our own Thanetonline from Michael Child, although Michael's willingness to publish from all comers makes him far more of a 21st century paper of record. For traditional Conservative values like the Daily Telegraph, and with coverage of audit discrepancies mirroring the Telegraph’s expenses stories go to Bertie Biggles’ Thanet Strife. At the other end of the spectrum Peter Checksfield’s Naked in Thanet is nearest to the Daily Sport. Moving slightly upmarket Cllr. Ken Gregory’s Village Voice is known for brevity like much of the Daily Star’s articles. Matt B’s Thanet Star makes much of being on neither side of the fence so he’s the Independent.

Apologies to those I’ve missed, I wonder what comparisons you would make?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

We Shall Remember Them

I recently revisited the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne just outside Folkestone. It is on the B2011, the old Dover - Folkestone Road.

It is more than just one memorial. The South Kent College wall is shown in the top picture (click on each picture to enlarge). There is a memorial wall naming everybody who flew in the Battle of Britain (second pic).

A statue of a sitting airman contemplatively looking out to sea has been placed in the centre of the site. It is raised on a small dais so that wreaths can be left.

What makes this an outstanding piece of design is the way it is set within the three massive blades of a propeller representing the Hurricanes and Spitfires. I have tried to capture this in the third picture. Even standing on the bunds shaping the memorial area I could not catch all of it, but I have just caught the White Cliffs of Dover in the background. Rabbits have burrowed into these bunds, leaving extensive warrens.

This expanse makes a place for a short stroll, to walk a dog or take a picnic. The whole site is worth a visit or even just a short stop if you have time when passing.

There are 2 replica planes a Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 US-X and a Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1. There is a visitors centre and many signs giving historical information.

My forbears have been fortunate. My father was too young to the serve in the Second World War and his elder brothers were in reserved occupations. My grandfather was too young for the First World War and then his age and work in the coal industry exempted him from the services in the Second World War.

My father's best friend was also his cousin. His two older brothers volunteered for the RAF.

Both of them flew out to Germany in bombers and never came back.

I therefore have always felt a particular obligation to those who served in the skies.

I am pleased to update that the campaign for a memorial to Sir Keith Park has been successful and a monument will be unveiled next month in London.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Two Yorkshirewomen for Breakfast

Staying in a bed and breakfast for a Conference, there is often a camaraderie with people who share the first meal of the day with you for the best part of a week. I was privileged to meet a woman who demonstrates how hard work and principled positions can win against the odds. At the last General Election in 2005 Labour's Ann Cryer MP who I am pictured with faced a diffciult task.

Ann is MP in marginal Keighley which she won in 1997. Labour's vote amongst the sizable Asian population was weakened because of Iraq. Ann had also been the country's leading campaigner against forced marriages in the Asian community. This sensitive issue had highlighted race issues. In these circumstances Nick Griffin from the British National Party (BNP) decided to stand. With a national swing against the Labour government Ann faced a challenging battle. Yet remarkably she won and this is the key thing. She had a swing to her! One of only 2 Labour MPs to achieve this.

Why did this happen? First and foremost everyone I have heard talk about Ann mentions her hard work. Second, did her prinicpled position on forced marriages attract the majority of Asians who oppose this archaic practice to vote for her despite Iraq? It seems likely that Asian women in particular in the secrecy of the ballot box will have voted for her in large numbers. Third Ann believed, she lead her team, working hard from the front and had a record to be proud of.

I am proud that the Labour government passed the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act. To those who complain about too much legislation, young girls should not be married off as if they were chattels. This legislation is a great testimony to Ann and her campaigning. Whilst Ann is retiring she told me how she will still be campaigning for her successor and on the causes she believes in. She is also working on a book when time allows. At 70 Ann acknowledges time's effect on her energy levels.

I wish Ann a long and happy retirement and feel privileged to have met her. For anybody who thinks the outcome of the next election is inevitable her example against the odds is an inspiration.

At the other end of a Parliamentary career I also nattered over breakfast to Eileen Driver, Labour's candidate in Richmond against William Hague MP. She is determined to hold him to account for his record. Eileen described how difficult it was to get local press coverage even when as pictured Cabinet minister Hilary Benn visited.
From what I pick up, this is an increasing problem of fair coverage. Local papers are often Conservative with a small c and I hope Eileen is successful in fighting for fairer coverage. At Labour Party Conference she was here, there and everywhere working long days attending Conference sessions and fringe meetings.