Monday, 18 October 2010
Speculation on the train is that we have hit cattle. Descending the guard carefully walks round and inspects the train.
After a further delay the guard announces the train will proceed slowly as no trace of the pheasant (livestock???) can be found. The train limps late into Ashford International.
Monday, 11 October 2010
Sunday, 10 October 2010
A lovely sunny day saddened by the news on BBC Kent radio as I returned that Solomon Burke (great website) has died. Not many people write a song that is also a philosophical statement - Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. I first recall it being performed by the Rolling Stones, and the song is part of that musical movie masterpiece the Blues Brothers. Here's the great man himself, rest in peace Solomon. Love somebody, Solomon said so.
Saturday, 9 October 2010
I have got a fair way to go still but was struck by what Tony Blair wrote about his speech to Labour Party Conference in 1997:
“I specifically went out of my way to pay tribute in my own political heritage to Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge..” p118
His actual words were:
"I'll tell you: my heroes aren't just Ernie Bevin, Nye Bevan and Attlee. They are also Keynes, Beveridge, Lloyd George."
In this year’s speech to the Labour Party’s Conference, Labour's new leader Ed Miliband said...
"I also know something else. Wisdom is not the preserve of any one party. Some of the political figures in history who I admire most are Keynes, Lloyd George, Beveridge, who were not members of the Labour Party."
Ed Miliband then generalisedin his speech, but I doubt his conclusion is that different from Tony Blair's 13 years ago:
"Division among radicals almost one hundred years ago resulted in a 20th century dominated by Conservatives. I want the 21st century to be the century of the radicals."
Monday, 4 October 2010
First impressions count and I liked the desire to sit our group in the pub, despite other reserved tables. Too many publicans seek the earliest opportunity to send you off to the annex restaurant area, where sometimes there are hardly any other people present, and the atmosphere can be fairly soulless. I’m happy to decamp if the pub is full, but it will always be second best to being near the bar.
The Sportsman is a Shepherd Neame pub so the beer is fine and the wine was too. Service is thoughtful and attentive. Those with special diets will encounter every effort to adapt to their needs. Sunday lunch is excellent value and our group sampled all 3 meats on offer chicken, lamb and beef – all quality.
Vegetarians do not have the greatest choice but will have something created to order by the chef. The bar area has sofas for coffee, tables for food, television for the sports addicts and a pool table all squeezed into a building dating back to 1750.
Steve and Nikki will soon be celebrating their first anniversary since arriving last November. Here’s to many more years of great service to the community. They certainly deserve to succeed from my experience.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council said that Cameron’s “Big Society” was the use of language to try and stake a claim to an area of politics that has traditionally been Labour territory, mutualism. Steve said a co-operative approach should not be just a response to cuts, but rather a more flexible and responsive way for local government to respond to what people want in local services.
With British society increasingly less homogeneous a “one size fits all” big state approach cannot be responsive to communities like Lambeth where over 150 different languages are spoken. He disparaged Suffolk County Council’s proposal to privatise all its services. This was the right’s response to automatically see public provision as bad.
Meg Hillier MP chairing the meeting urged all present to read the book issued by Local Government Leadership - Co-operative Communities, Creating a shared stake in our society for everyone.
Jim McMahon the Leader of Oldham Council and one of the youngest council leaders in the country talked about the need for co-operativism to extend outside local authorities too. So Councils should hold their money with ethical bankers who did not fund the arms industry and land mines for example, not banks putting a culture of bonuses first.
Oldham Labour'sl policy was that the top earning member of staff should not earn more than 10 times the pay of the lowest paid member of staff. An excellent idea!
Jim wanted to restructure financial responsibilities so local ward councillors had a greater say in how monies were spent in their communities. He concluded co-operativism should be part of everything a Council did and not just a branding exercise.
Tessa Jowell MP believed there was a moment for mutualism politically and the packed fringe meeting with more than 70 people present with standing room only. Some people had to be turned away showing the enthusiasm for this in the Labour Party. Co-operativism with worker and user boards had transparency at its heart.
Tessa believed Council’s preparing their manifestos for the 2011 elections should look at including co-operative commitments in their pledges. This had approved by people in Southwark and Lambeth in 2010 local elections, who had returned councils with co-operativism in the heart of their campaigns.
Michael Stephenson General Secreary of the Cooperative Party said there were 3 key things
1. The credit crunch meant people questioned financial arrangements.
2. Mutualism was becoming fashionable with 24 pledges in Labour’s last manifesto.
3. The Big Society is an insidious version of Thatcherism where volunteers were available in wealthier communities but not poorer ones.
He thought many councillors did not still understand co-operatives and mutualism, and those present should explain and evangelise for co-operatives. Co-operatives were an option but not the only solution. Trade unions had unfounded fears about the prospect of greater, mutualism and this needed to be robustly explained as co-operatives had been part of the Labour movement for more than a century.
The Co-operative Bank had an excellent record as an ethical financial institution without bonus scandals, and mutual housing could compliment Council provision. He also said that opportunities would only be maximised if the inevitable teething troubles were understood.
Sharon Taylor is Leader of Stevenage Council wgere every Labour councillor is also a Co-operative councillor. She wanted greater decentralisation of budgets into neighbourhoods and local communities. The principle should be to maximise decentralisation of budgets.
Helen Holland Bristol Council’s Labour Leader said trade unions were concerned about cooperativism and wanted to hear of strategies to explain and reassure trade unions that cooperatives could work for all.
John Smith from Surrey Youth service was very concerned about how Surrey County Council was looking at using this approach to cut youth services by replacing staff with young people volunteering to run clubs. He saw co-operativism and social enterprise as a threat to current provision.
Councillor Lambert from Rochdale responded that Rochdale were looking at a workers cooperative to run their youth service. He said that mutualism should be part of the toolkit of modern local government management.
Nick Yates from MIND wanted to see how those with disabilities might have their voices excluded from the running of cooperatives.
Mo Baylis from Heywood and Middleton CLP was concerned as to how coops could raise capital monies. For refuse collection, a new lorry is £250,000. Could cooperatives raise these monies and meet euro procurement rules. On accountability how do you vote out a cooperative board member like councillors who stand for election every 4 years?
Andy Sawford from Kettering thought cooperatives could lead to an atomisation of services and wanted to know how councils could ensure a core of services was maintained.
Tudor Evans leader of Plymouth Labour group wanted a quick guide to cooperative law so that when officers challenged the use of cooperatives he could insist on how cooperatives could be legally accountable.
Jim McMahon advised that Oldham had 40 senior managers yet not one of them lived in the borough whereas 85% of low paid staff did live in the borough. The managers mostly lived in leafier postcodes like Cheshire. He wanted standards of accreditation to stop people claiming to be cooperatives without achieving a kitemark.
As a Thanet councillor I raised the issue of provision of affordable housing through cooperatives and how cooperativism could not just work for local authorities, but also nationally to help the Labour Party to win the next election.
Michael Stephenson said with coming elections Scotland and Wales could test cooperative approaches in their manifestoes and governments.
Steve Reed said an opinion poll in Lambeth had shown 80% of people were in favour of the cooperative model and called this political gold dust. However, safeguarding children should always remain a council function. Cooperativess handed power to the people an idea at the heart of Labour ideology.
Manchester had seen the return of its renowned wet and windy weather. With the meeting being in the USDAW marquee all present had battled through background noise as rain pounded the tent roof.
Sunday, 26 September 2010
I am working at Labour Party Conference in Manchester. Ed Miliband's first scheduled speech at a fringe meeting after the leadership result announcement, was at the London Labour Party reception. Word got out and quickly the room was absolutely heaving.
One of my favourite parts of Labour Party Conference is the chance to catch up with old friends. My fellow Thanet Labour councillors Linda Aldred (left) and Michelle Fenner (right) were also present and took the chance for a quick word with Labour's candidate for Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.
Michelle had a longer talk with Joe Derrett. Joe is fondly remembered and regarded for all his work in the South Thanet constituency in the 2001 general election. Joe has just successfully run Ken Livingstone's press campaign during Labour's Mayoral candidate selection.
I happily acknowledge I am not the world's best photographer. The bottom photo shows the reaction to my "great idea" that Michelle and Linda should line up with my employer Mary Honeyball, Labour's spokeswoman on Women and Cultue in the European Parliament, in "traffic lights" formation.
Perhaps against their better judgment they kindly went along with the idea.
Saturday, 25 September 2010
OK here goes, in a few hours this prediction could look very silly, but I think David Miliband will be declared Labour's new leader later today. Labour's selction is based on 3 equal electoral colleges. MPs and MEPs, Labour Party members and Labour trade unionists.
First MPs, the college with most public information on voting preferences. Here David Miliband leads Ed Miliband on first preferences. I take most Andy Burnham supporters to put their second preferences to David. Diane Abbott's nominally left wing supporters have been leaking away with a surprising proportion moving to David, but the majority to Ed Miliband. Key here will be how Ed Balls supporters vote. Wisely Ed Balls is abstaining, his supporters seem to be splitting equally between the Milibands. So I take David Miliband to win this electoral college not massively but not closely either.
Labour Party members are the trickiest part of the college to assess. There are a number of regional differences. The North West shows strength for local candidate Andy Burnham. Andy has run a sound campaign and will leave this contest positioned to be a future Labour Leader depending on what known unknowns might bring.
Similarly as a North East MP David Miliband has extra strength in that region. A weakness for Ed Miliband is that he has a rival in Yorkshire, Ed Ball,s so he does not have a region to give him extra voting strength from strong regional support.
The region with the greatest number of Labour Party members London is not supporting its local candidate. Diane Abbott's campaign has been poor. I am surprised at how few leading left wing Labour activists have been prominent in her campaign, which has been amateurish at times. I think Diane will have an even greater media career in future but politically she has underperformed.
This has left a void in London which both Miliband brothers have been filling. My sense for what it is worth is that younger Labour Party members (a post Iraq generation) are heavily supporting Ed. London though is the most multicultural part of the country and here David has strong support. I think this is perhaps a legacy of his work as Foreign Secretary when he kept in touch with diaspora communities.
There seems to be an assumption that all voters understand the Alternative Vote (AV) system being used. I don't think this is the case. Any candidate who has stood in a local election will know that the person earliest in the alphabet normally tops the poll. No matter how many times you camapign and explain that people have 3 votes, between 10 and 20% of voters only vote for one candidate. Similarly my experience of AV elections is that the same applies. Media commentators automatically assume that trade unionists and Labour Party members are somehow brighter than the general population. Would that this were so, but both anecdotally and from experience I think there will be many votes which fail to transfer. Every vote which does not transfer weakens Ed Miliband.
This is bad news for Ed Miliband whose campaign has focused heavily on securing second, third and fourth preferences. With David Miliband coming first for first prefernces in all the polls this failure to transfer may well be what wins it for him. My view is that most Andy Burnham 1st preference voters will move to David M. The reverse applies for Diane Abbott supporters with them overwhelmingly moving to Ed M. Ed Balls supporters are the voters Ed Miliband needs to switch ovewhelmingly to him. I think he will get a majority of them, but I don't sense that it will be as heavily as he needs.
Ed Balls has fought an outstanding campaign. Anyone who ever suggested he was overpromoted because of his closeness to Gordon Brown looks pretty stupid and should be eating large doses of humble pie. He will be a political heavyweight for the next two decades.
Overall this is hard to call but I call this part of the electoral college as 50/50 between the Miliband brothers.
Turning to trade unionists there is an assumption that Ed M will win here as trade union leaders are strongly supporting him. Trade union supporters are the least political part of the electoral college. Many of them would struggle to name all 5 candidates. Diane, David and Ed Balls are well known, and I expect this greater public awareness to help these candidates. There are also a large number of black and ethnic minority trade unionists who I expect to vote Diane first and then exercise their second preference.
I take David to win this section, partly because of his far greater profile amongst the general public.
I don't believe the hype. There's been a brilliant social media campaign by Ed Miliband. Twitterati and Facebook friends have been advocates for Ed, but I think this has generated lots of heat in terms of media coverage for Ed Miliband winning and little light. Older voters always have a hoistory ofhigher turnout proportionally, and I take this to favour David. It feels to me like all those predictions that the Liberal Democrats make that they will breakthrough, which but rarely come true. If David wins he should take these talents in Ed's campaign and place them in Labour Party HQ.
So in a few hours this may look like a lot of nonsense but here goes
1. David Miliband
2. Ed Miliband
3. Diane Abbott
4. Ed Balls
5. Andy Burnham
caution as a David Milband supporter, I have my biases!
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
"I am terrible at politics. I hope you will forgive me for the rude tone of my email. I was replying to you as a councillor and neglecting to remember you are a person too. I'm sure the situation here will resolve itself amicably and I chastise myself for letting it get the best of my manners."
Monday, 13 September 2010
I’m afraid I am unable to attend the TDC Planning Committee on 15th September so I would therefore like to inform you of my serious concerns regarding the development of the much loved and well used green open space in Dalby Square, Cliftonville.
Firstly, this public green open space provides opportunities for social interaction, physical activity and play and general enhancement of the local environment. It also improves the quality of life of our residents by providing space for social interaction, especially for children, in an area dominated by densely situated and internally cramped living conditions.
Fighting obesity, especially in children is a particular problem for us here in Cliftonville West. The green space currently provides physical and mental health benefits which improve the health of our residents through the ability for children to ‘let off steam’ in a positive manner and stressed adults to simply take a break, rest and unwind in the open air.
Suggestions have been made that there are other places nearby for children to play, namely the small playground at the other end of the square and the Viking Playground on the seafront. The playground at the other end of the square is small and for ‘tiny tots’ only, with small apparatus for very young children. The Viking Playground is around the corner and across a very busy and dangerous main road. Consequently it is only really suitable to be visited with parents. This playground is also covered with apparatus, indeed another open green space was lost when it was created, and so ball games would be extremely dangerous and practically impossible in both the areas suggested.
My ward colleagues and residents will no doubt expand on these matters at the planning committee meeting but as a Justice of the Peace of twenty eight years and the Chairman of the Cliftonville Police and Communities Together (PACT), I am particularly concerned about the knock-on effect that taking away the green could have on anti-social behaviour in our ward.
Groups of children from many different backgrounds come together on the large green open space in Dalby Square and iron out their differences in a positive manner using a ball and in a spirit of sportsmanship instead of ‘running gangs’ in a concrete jungle.
I simply cannot express strongly enough just how important this green is in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour in an area where it has even proved necessary to create a special Task Force!
Cllr Douglas Clark JP
Friday, 10 September 2010
It is the column from the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie regarding a meeting between him and South Thanet's new MP Laura Sandys.
“I recently sat on a television panel with Laura Sandys, the new Tory MP for South Thanet and daughter of the old Conservative Defence Minister Duncan Sandys. What a complete waste of space she is. One more brain cell and she would be a keep left sign. If she is the quality of the 2010 Tory intake, God help Cameron and God help Democracy.”
I can't find the original article on the Sun's website to link to it.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
This is not just Kay Burley screwing up. It is the Sky News team, with researchers, an editor able to brief her through her earpiece and a producer who puts the whole team together. When these interviews happen, it is often overlooked that the BBC or Sky will have far more resources to prepare for the interview than the politician. Do have a watch as Bryant kebabs Burley.
Hat tip to Tomos Livingstone of the Western Mail.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
"There are also (apart from kerb crawling) incidentally further cases pending of staff bullying, problems with leading cabinet members disclosures and accusations of skullduggery over the recent primary school re-organisations. Each of these involves Medway Conservative Councillors."
Monday, 6 September 2010
They have an open day this coming Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Having visited a previous Open Day it is well worth a visit and you will receive a very friendly and informed welcome. This is part of the European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage, and to celebrate the 25 years of the Synagogue there will be an exhibition entitled Art in Judaism.
Saturday, 4 September 2010
Clive Hart writes...
"Dear Cllr Wells,
I write to you on a serious matter that for the past two weeks I have tried to raise in a diplomatic manner through your Conservative Group Leader and Deputy Leader. Unfortunately they appear either unable or unwilling to deal with you concerning this particular issue.
The fact is, we in the Labour Group can easily deal with the regular stream of throw-away comments you make regarding serious decisions at TDC, such as at the last council meeting where on one costly financial matter you clearly stated 'lets make this decision now and look at the detail later'.
We also have no problem dealing with the contradictory statements you make such as at the last TDC cabinet meeting where you supported giving away what is currently open green space (used by local children) for free to a developer for them to build on and around the same time you reportedly spoke on local radio about the problems of child obesity.
These kinds of comments are all part of the political process and we are more than happy to respond through that process.
Unfortunately, your are also well known for making nasty, appalling and outrageous comments in public. More recently these have included calling some residents of Thanet "inbreds" during a council meeting and also calling our Labour Shadow Cabinet a "mutual masturbation society". I find that kind of language disgusting and completely unnecessary and I believe most decent people in Thanet would too.
Now I have had it brought to my attention that you recently posted a comment through a local weblog on the world wide web that included the words "senior local labour members who have had restraining orders, or are said to be a little handy with their fists at home when they are frustrated and upset".
As Labour Group Leader I cannot ignore such derogatory comments and you can be assured that if I believed they were in any way true I would deal with the matter immediately.
I sincerely hope you agree these are extremely serious allegations. As a group we could use the standards process to deal with your comments. However, as an individual I have never used the standards process, despite on several occasions having good reason, and as Labour Group Leader I will not be drawn into wasting local rate-payers money to deal with your nasty outbursts (though I can't rule out others feeling differently on this matter and taking such action).
I therefore demand that you retract this latest appalling accusation and make a full public apology!
I also request that you keep such nasty personal thoughts to yourself and please try to temper your language in future.
Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Group Leader.
Please note: As you made all the comments I have referred to above in public I will also be making this communication public.
Friday, 3 September 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Former Medway councillor Bill Esterson has stood down from his seat since he was elected as MP for Sefton Central. That has left a by-election in the River Ward of Medway Council. The BNP are standing and this is particularly galling as the ward covers the area where the annual Love Music Hate Racism Medway event takes place.
Vince Maple is organising Labour's campaign. If anyone has any available time between now and August 12th their help would be greatly appreciated.
You can call Vince on 07981 661 451, alternatively you can call Labour's excellent candidate John Jones directly on 07886601725. There will be activity going on every day.
Thanks to Tristan Osborne's Musings from Medway blog for the picture of Labour campaigners. A win here will also send a message to the new Conservative - Liberal democrat coalition government.
The election here in 2007 was decided by less than 30 votes so your help could really make the difference.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Here in Kent the Conservative Party has a long tradition of homophobia. It took a hard line on Section 28 that made it the backwoodsmen’s backwoods. Enough of these outdoor allusions!
Things have got better. This has been due to the legislation and attitude of 13 years of Labour government. Some Thanet Conservative councillors such as Sandy Ezekiel, Chris Wells and Margaret Sheldrick have a strong record on gay rights. Others though remain uncomfortable with the idea of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) equality. You’ll not find them racing to photo opportunities for Margate Pride.
This matters. Thanet District Council is unrepresentative of the community it serves. As far as I can find out, no out LGBT councillor has ever served Thanet. There are subtle and informal barriers to gaining selection and election. I am saddened to hear that a LGBT individual who wishes to become a Conservative councillor is encountering difficulties.
This individual has good press contacts and can attract media coverage. They have a record of serving their community and voluntary activity. They would be superior to several serving Conservative councillors. But they face a problem. A notable Conservative individual is uncomfortable of any idea of a civic partnership. Perhaps they misheard and are confusing civic with civil! A subtle campaign is being waged to make it harder for this candidate to become a councillor.
So I hope those Conservatives with a sincere commitment to equality will intervene. This individual deserves their support so they are judged on their political views and competence, not their sex life. I hope that the first out LGBT councillor is elected to Thanet District Council next May.
I will not post any comments that seek to identify any individual’s sexuality.
Monday, 26 July 2010
Whilst it threatened to rain, a quick spit was the worst it got and once again it was well attended.
The excellent Minster-in-Thanet website has developed a comprehensive mini-website with many photographs which covers the show. Well worth a click.
The parade had the usual floats with several Kentish princesses attending.
I enjoyed the exhibits in the marquee especially the vegetables. Once again Fred Fright (pictured at the bottom) dominated.
He saw off strong competition from Tom Debonno and Tracy Northrop. The crafts, flower arranging and encouragement of children are all that a show like this should be about.
Entertainment flowed from one stage with a range of musical acts.
On the other side of the show children raced and the "Red Wheelies" Scooter formation team paraded and then displayed, raising awareness of multiple sclerosis.
My thanks to members of Minster and Monkton Horticultural Society for their time and tips. It's good to know that everyone's beans seem to be behind this year!
Their autumn show is on 18th September at Minster Village Hall.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Friday, 23 July 2010
It's that time of year again, when Total Politics asks you to vote for your Top 10 favourite blogs. This is the fifth year of the poll and it covers all the political parties.
The rules are simple.
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to email@example.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Monday, 19 July 2010
There have so far between 18 English major council byelections in July . It is interesting to look at the accumulated vote totals ( over 28,000 votes ) and the vote share changes from when the seats were last fought in the 2006-2009 period .
Conservative 27% minus 3%
Labour 31% plus 8%
LibDem 22% plus 3%
Others 20% minus 8%
In case the results were distorted by the very high BNP vote in Barking , Goresbrook and Green vote in Brighton St Peters , I repeated the exercise without those 2 seats , the vote share changes were almost identical
Conservative 30% minus 5%
Labour 31% plus 9%
LibDem 26% plus 3%
Others 13% minus 7%
From “The House” magazine
“A tenth of all MPs were educated at just 13 schools, 12 of which are public schools. This means that over 60 of the nation’s parliamentarians were educated at a tiny percentage of its schools.”
“54% of Conservative MPs attended fee-paying schools, 40% of Liberal Democrat and 15% of Labour.”
“7% of the population is educated at public schools, compared to 35% of MPs.”
That's 500% over representation.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are stopping the Building Schools for the Future programme which benefits 93% of the population.
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
I was inspired by him when he came to give a talk at my school when I would have been 14 or 15. In a less international world it seemed amazing that this man who strode the world was in Herefordshire. He gave a fascinating talk particularly about Portuguese decolonisation and brought moden history to life. I have thought since that I wish had his talents. Reading his obituary he left school at 16 - life is what you make it!
Racial equality is the norm now but it wasn't by any means in my youth. I remember discussing Basil Davidson's visit with my father. Dad told me how unpopular he had found it in the 1960s supporting African independence at work or in the pub. Many of his friends cleaved allegiance to white settlers especially in Northern and Southern Rhodesia based purely on skin colour. He talked about the "sins of our fathers". In recent years with the increases in overseas aid, we are perhaps repaying some of the debts on which the wealth of Britain was based.
Decades later I am grateful that Basil Davidson gave up an afternoon to explain that in Africa, there wasn't a "white man's burden", but rather as his book title puts it so well a Black Man's Burden that was the legacy of colonisation.
Friday, 9 July 2010
"The arrogant but accident-prone education secretary, Michael Gove, has had to own up to 25 errors on his documentation spelling out the details of how he would axe Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, which he announced just four days ago. Several schools have found to their horror that schemes they had been assured were safe are now for the chop. Tonbridge and Malling is largely untouched by the plans, although residents in Sevenoaks are concerned about the planned new Knole Academy. Paul Carter, KCC leader, says he is: “Surprised and disappointed”.
In addition, Gove’s mad-cap Free Schools scheme, which – if it ever sees the light of day – threatens to deprive local authorities of funds in order to appease middle-class zealots who the state system is not good enough for their offspring and want taxpayers’ cash for their often harebrained or sinister plans.
Now, Gove is moving with indecent haste to whip schools in Kent into opting for academy status this September. In barely eight weeks’ time – while schools are closed for the summer and without consultation, least of all asking parents what they think – some schools will be able to leave local authority control, choose their own curriculum and set their own entrance rules. What’s more, they will be beyond the reach of Freedom of Information requests and so able to disregard local opinion altogether.
This is by any standard government by diktat and Kent County Council should resist Gove’s proposals. If implemented, grammar schools designated as outstanding by Ofsted will drift further from the community they were set up to serve. Already grammars in West Kent are skewing the system against East Kent children by selecting pupils from outside the County, depriving our children of places they deserve.
Labour believes in a root and branch overhaul of secondary education in Kent to provide a fairer system for all. The Conservatives who run Kent County Council are gazing in horror at the prospect of losing control of a substantial number of schools they now control. “It’s too fast”, cries Cllr Sarah Hohler, cabinet member for education. Perhaps the Tories loyal supporters who go through fire to get their children into the existing grammar will take against it all anyway. After all, weren’t those academies designed for the oiks?
Secondary schools designated “outstanding” by OFSTED in West Kent who have made preliminary enquiries about becoming an academy include: Tonbridge Grammar School; Hayesbrook School and The Judd School. Others considering applying are: Bennett Memorial; Hillview School; Mascalls School; Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar and Wrotham School. If they all leave local control, education in Kent will become a free-for-all where only the well-off take the best at public expense."
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Ian appears to be the Tim Nice but Dim of the Conservative Party. It is simple, vote Conservative and you get shoddy schools. Schools were run down into a terrible state by Mrs. Thatcher's government, and now schools are to be run down again. Labour spent to improve schools, the Conservatives want to stop this. It is political Ian, Vote Labour and you get better schools, Vote Conservative and you don't.
Local South Thanet Conservative MP will be letting down her constituencts. She's part of the Conservative Party committed to stopping the building works needed at Clarendon House Grammar and Chatham House Grammar schools in Ramsgate, and the Northwood Centre in my own ward. Bankers I note will not have increased taxes until next year, a choice of priorities which says it all. I would bring the tax on bankers forward, and increase it. Instead the priority is to cut schools.
If Ian Liddell Granger is sincere he should leave the Conservative Party, you can listen to him wanting to borrow more money, and trying to avoid responsibility for his actions here. His non-political comment comes right at the end.
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Here's a story which shows how utterly useless and lazy the British media can be. The Commonwealth Fund is a private American foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable. It independently audits the world's health services and has concluded that the Dutch have the best system.
World Cup Runners Up? The United Kingdom! Have a look at the key indicators. Britain has the most efficient health service. Look at the figures in detail and our health service is remarkably cheap with the lowest expenditure on health as a proportion of gross domestic product. One of the reasons we're so efficient is we spend less time on paperwork. In other words you turn up and go and do not have to fill in forms and insurance claims as in other countries, although my dentist seems to revel in finding pieces of paper now they're being run by a private company.
In 2007 we spent $2,992 per head on health. That's less than half the United States ($7,290) and substantially less than Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.
Where does Britain do poorly? Life expectancy. That in part is a legacy of the Thatcherite economics which threw so many people on to the scrap heap and ran the NHS down.
So here's independent evidence that Britain has a brilliant health service, yet I've not seen anything in the papers mentioning this. The fact that a Labour government has achieved the most efficient health service in the world surely deserves wider mention?
I've done a google news search for the Commonwealth Fund. In the last 2 weeks there are dozens of stories in the United States and several in Canada. In the United Kingdom the Press Association sent the story out so all the papers and television channels will have seen this, yet none worked this up into a story.
I only found out because I receive all the Labour Leadership candidates emails. My thanks to Andy Burnham who summarises the truth the British media dare not name:
"This is a magnificent achievement for all who work in the NHS and vindication of our (Labour's) commitment to and investment in our health service. It destroys the Tory claims of inefficiency and waste as an excuse for cuts."
Give the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats a year or two and they will cut that achievement down to size.
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Monday, 5 July 2010
Hythe's High Street has weathered the move into the internet age of shopping better than most. It has several charity shops but they fit in well, and the partial closure of the High Street every Saturday provides encourages retail trade. I recommend the Demelza House book shop especially which always has interesting finds.
The Carnival Big Parade included many floats one featuring the town's councillors. An interesting idea that perhaps could be copied in Thanet. Personally I think I would get a better response as a councillor if I volunteered to go in some stocks to have wet sponges thrown at me to raise money for charity!
With a band, street performers, Punch and Judy for children there was something for everybody. Better still were the afternoon events on Hythe Green. Vintage Kentish buses provided free tours of the town. A great idea to show off Hythe's charms to new visitors, and encourage them to return.
Dozens of classic cars were on display, and there were many other stalls for gardening, football and all the other things a town wishes to show off. Best of all were all the free rides for children. There were half a dozen giant inflatables, a carousel, and other classic rides. A giant slide, a land train, a Pirates Adventure and a stage with songs and comedy. Best of all and the only attraction with long queues was the simulator with its trip through space whilst being thrown around as if you were on a big dipper.
Clearly Hythe Town Council had spent several thousand pounds to provide a great free day out for local children. Ralph Hoult, Ramsgate's Deputy Mayor was present, and I hope that Ramsgate's Town Council will look at creating a similar event. I have briefed Ramsgate Mayor Dave Green and I know he is keen to provide a series of summer events.
All the volunteers, sponsors, organisers and councillors in Hythe deserve a big thank you for putting together such an impressive event.
Friday, 2 July 2010
"Kenneth Clarke's insight into penal reform, pointing out that prison is more costly than Eton, is most welcome. The obvious answer is to send all prisoners to Eton. As well as the cost saving, enhanced uniform, the upgrading of criminal patois with Latin and providing useful rugby skills, it could extend the social base and life experience of future governments."
Plus just like prison "insiders" at Eton do drugs, as David Cameron can confirm.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
The casual homophobia, dinner with a male French minister is so expletive deleted "gay".
The gentle derision of Britain whatever we think of the special relationship....
"The job instead went to British Ambassador Mark Sedwill – a move that effectively increased McChrystal's influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival. "In reality, that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight," says a U.S. official familiar with the negotiations."
Generally it is enlightening to have an account of the war in Afghanistan from a non-British perspective, which examines whether counter-insurgency (COIN) is working. So I thoroughly recommend a read here, and wish such detailed reporting was more frequent in the British media.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
First, Andy's call for government increases in NHS spending to be looked at in the context of wider social care is wise. The government will increase NHS spending whilst cutting other services which allow people to remain in their homes longer when they are unwell. People being cared for in their own home have a better environment and also cost the taxpayer a lot less.
Second, I happened to be talking to a journalist in Lancashire who covered Andy's constituency. He talked about what a good constituency MP he was. The journalist covered a number of safe Labour seats in the North West. He said that whenever there was a story or an issue Andy was always responsive, giving local journalists an equal priority with national journalists. This was particularly well regarded as Andy had the commitments of being a Cabinet minister. By contrast some backbenchers with less commitments were clearly not as attentive to this journalist. I find it is often unexpected stories like this that give a true indication of the merits and qualities of a politician, shock horror, journalist sings praises of senior Labour politician. This commitment and level of hard work is the style of leadership Andy could bring as a leading Labour politican in the coming decade.
Third, with the crunch game against Slovenia starting soon Andy has published this celebrity endorsement from England's Jamie Carragher, who talks about Andy's work for charity. I do not expect Andy to win, but I hope he will find a place in one of the top positions in the Shadow Cabinet after Labour's Leadership election.
Monday, 21 June 2010
Friday, 18 June 2010
The Nottingham Declaration recognises the central role of local authorities in leading society's response to the challenge of climate change. By signing the Declaration councils pledge to systematically address the causes of climate change and to prepare their community for its impacts. You can find out more about the declaration here."
Thursday, 17 June 2010
"We need clearer, distinctive and more coherent messages supporting our polices in government which has made the difference to people's lives; but yes quite rightly we should apologise or acknowledge where we got it wrong - but it has to be the right balance and we have to strike it now."
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
This morning the Financial Times' Tim Harford exposed David Cameron's lies on BBC Radio 4. You can listen to it here, or read a transcript here. The key part is here..
"The politicians weren’t talking about but everybody else was, especially the big numbers, the national debt, £770 billion. The projected debt in 5 years £1400 billion. They haven’t changed. David Cameron also pointed to lots and lots of little numbers throughout his speech and we’ve actually tracked down all but one of them and that every single one that we’ve tracked down was available in a published document often an official document before the election."
It is worse because David Cameron if he was being honest would actually say the figures are better than he expected. On 21st May the Office for National Statistics announced these nice figures which David Cameron is choosing to ignore because they do not fit the distorted picture he wishes to paint.
• Deficit down by £11bn on Alistair Darling's forecast
• April shortfall is record £10bn but still below predictions
The truth is the figures were better than expected, not worse. This wilful misrepresentation means that David Cameron is leading Britain to a double dip recession like Greece.
The "consultation" of the British public is a pointless farce if the government presents fiddled figures. This morning David Cameron was exposed telling lies, he should apologise. Nick Clegg should hold him to account as well.
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
Conservatives were also embarassed by his staunch defence of expenses abusing friend Derek Conway. My colleague Cllr. Iris Johnston has exposed Roger Gale's poor judgment in providing a character witness for Conservative kitten killer Ted Watt-Ruffell:
“I’m very surprised he decided to furnish someone facing such charges of animal cruelty, who has now been found guilty, with a character reference. Mr Gale has built his reputation on being an animal-lover.”
Cllr Watt-Ruffell was a former chairman of the North Thanet Conservative Party, which selected Mr Gale as its candidate.
Unlike many people Roger Gale has the option of a generous retirement. Last November I wrote
"Aged 66 he is eligible for the state pension. With 26 years in Parliament he is eligible for a leaving payment of £64,000. He would also receive a pension of 26/40 x £64,000 = £41,600. He may well have other personal pensions, plus the state pension of £4,900/year. "
These figures will continue to increase the longer Roger continues as a MP. Roger Gale's retirement package is double the average earnings of his constituents.
At a time when Roger Gale is calling for cuts he has the chance to put Conservative Party policy into action rather than resorting to rhetoric. He could stand down as a MP. He could then use his knowledge of the local area and generous pension provision to work on a volunteer basis in the North Thanet constituency. He could undertake work for the community building the Conservative's "Big Society". Wouldn't that be a far more productive use of his time? He would also free up a vacancy to stimulate the economy by providing a well remunerated job.
If we are "all in it together" as Conservatives claim, I think Roger Gale should resign and give back to local people after having been so well paid over many decades.
I still hold to my prediction in January 2009.
"My money is for him to go on and on and on and on."
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
You run the risk of being exposed as breaking the law like Thanet District Conservative Cllr. Roger Latchford was recently. He parked his car on double yellow lines when he was delivering an addition to Birchington's Christmas lights. I was sorry to see him condemned for his act of kindness. It was disappointing that there was nobody who wanted to help him in the Birchington community, but his explanation should have been greeted more sympathetically than it was.
A friend recently told me of a way to avoid the problem of difficult delivery of large items, which also works for those without access to a car. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) offer a free collection service for furniture and electrical items. They will also pick up other items when collecting the furniture or electrical item. Click here to go to their form. You need to be within 15 miles of the BHF's Margate shop, or one of their other furniture and electrical stores which are listed here. Congratulations to the BHF for helping us all go green as they resell our unwanted items.
Saturday, 29 May 2010
A grotty weekend’s weather for the Bank Holiday needs some cheer so here’s some music from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Apart from Tom Petty’s great music, he’s man from the left. He stopped George W Bush from using the song I Won’t Back Down in his campaigning.
Peter Bogdanovich’s film on Tom Petty, Runnin’ Down a Dream is well worth a watch - it is almost 4 hours long!
The soundtrack is constant classics but it highlights how Petty has never been afraid to stand up for himself. Early in his career he threatened to file for bankruptcy to get out of a very poor record deal
and he wrote this song in response to having his music ripped off and standing up to bullies.
Well I won't back down
No I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down
No I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from draggin me down
gonna stand my ground
... and I won't back down
(I won't back down...)
Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
(and I won't back down...)
hey I will stand my ground
and I won't back down
Well I know what's right, I got just one life
in a world that keeps on pushin me around
but I'll stand my ground
...and I won't back down
(I won't back down...)
Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
(I won't back down)
hey I won't back down
(and I won't back down)
hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
(and I won't back down)
hey I will stand my ground
(I won't back down)
No I won't back down...
Thursday, 27 May 2010
Michael Child has more photos available here and I am grateful to him for the use of the top photo which shows Ramsgate's own Sundowner left high and dry by Thanet District Council.
At every event commemorating Dunkirk since 1965 Sundowner has been present. Hundreds of hours of volunteer time has gone into restoring and maintaining her. She's often to be seen in Ramsgate and is made freely available to visitors. Yet because Thanet District Council Conservatives' failure to sort out the mess that is Thanet's maritime heritage Sundowner is left high and dry. Whilst radio, television and newspapers rightly honour all those little boats and the people who served and died, Sundowner sheds a tear stuck on the side of the harbour as she is left stranded.
Almost a year ago Sundowner volunteer John Watkins detailed problems with East Kent Maritime Trust (EKMT)...
"More than £40,000 spent on consultants in recent years, whilst paying their own local permanent staff poverty rates of pay. £75,000 in fees, plus £62,000 penalty, paid over to the legal profession, for the mediation concerning their hugely expensive and totally unnecessary squabble over the tug Cervia.
In addition to all this, the EKMT inexplicably failed to produce any annual reports and accounts for over three years, until November 2008, contrary to Charity Commission rules. This was whilst still continuing to receive, with no questions asked, their regular annual £80,000 grant from Thanet District Council, funded by the local rate payers.
At the start of 2008 the East Kent Maritime Trustees, who included three senior local Tory politicians among their number, were able to carry forward funds of almost £223,000. This sum included money from bequests, donations, grants and sales. However, in spite of this they still found it unavoidable to make every one of their loyal staff members redundant, thus depriving seven local workers of their livelihoods and tipping them all out into a very uncertain future."
We hear much of the supposed Big Society that the David Cameron Conservative government wishes to see brought about. Yet here are volunteers giving their time freely frustrated by a lack of local political leadership, to ensure charities which have councillors involved with them and which have received public monies act in the community's best interests.
Sundowner the boat the Nazis couldn't stop has been left high and dry.