Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Blair is Back

Nobody in British politics gives a better speech than Tony Blair and this morning he gave a cracker at Trimdon Labour Club. The full text is on the Guardian's website.
Labour does not talk enough about its record in government nor get the credit it deserves. Here's the passage I liked most...

"Thirteen years of power has seen its share of bad times and good, for the people and for the government. That's for sure.

But just cast our mind back and recall the change for the better. Not just the pledges on the famous pledge card back in 1997, every one met and more.

Remember how people used to wait 18 months queuing on a hospital waiting list. Now it is a maximum wait of 18 weeks from GP to operation. Delivered by a Labour Government.

Thousands fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer. Delivered by a Labour Government.

In 1997 half of all schools got fewer than 30% of their pupils 5 good GCSEs. Today it is only 1 in 12. Delivered by a Labour Government.

And the biggest schools and hospitals re-building programme since the Welfare State began. Delivered by a Labour Government.

New services like Sure Start.

New frontline workers.

Help for families through tax credits and the winter allowance.

Delivered by a Labour Government.

Crime down, having doubled in the 18 years of the last Tory Government, the chances of being a victim lower than at any time since the Crime Survey began.

Delivered by a Labour Government.

Then the changes that we delivered and that would never have happened under the Tories: a minimum wage, flexible working, devolution, a ban on handguns. And how do we know they wouldn't have happened under the Tories? Because in each case they opposed the change.

Then there are the things done which define the spirit of the society we believe in: civil partnerships, the Human Rights Act, the boost for arts and culture and yes even bringing the Olympics to Britain in 2012."

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Greatest Ramsgatonian

This week's Economist magazine has a review of a new book by Abigail Green about Ramsgate's greatest ever citizen Moses Montefiore. There's a booklet to be written about electoral areas named after great citizens. In Thanet there is the ward Sir Moses Montefiore (does any other place use the term Sir in designating an electoral area?)

In Lewisham I was a councillor representing (John) Evelyn Ward named after the 17th century gardener. There were also wards named after the wood carver Grinling Gibbons and Samuel Pepys the diarist.

The Moses Montefiore Health Centre opened in 2007 is one of the latest ways his achievements have been marked in Ramsgate. How suitable that a free modern health centre for all commemorates the work of a philanthropist.

The review alone of Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero told me several new things including a foible or two. The book is available here.

Tally Ho! - Fox Hunting (Again)

I make no apologies for returning to the subject of foxhunting. Demonstrators outside South Thanet Conservative offices were surprised to find them empty and unclear whether the local Conservative campaign is still being run from there - I wonder if anybody can clear this up?

I am bemused why the Conservatives seek to make this an issue in the election. The vast majority of people oppose foxhunting by tearing animals to pieces. Shooting them is different but chasing to exhaustion is not an effective or efficient method of pest control. It is an histoircal anomaly but one which David Cameron sees as a priority for Parliamentary time. It is hard to argue there is a desperate need for change if one of the changes you prioritise is the return of foxhunting. Of course if a vocal minority of your friends and family see it as akey issue then that would explain this disproportionate choice, and that is the case for a Shadow cabinet packed with people who have hunted and whose families see it as their traditional right.

Locally this is not an issue in North Thanet where Roger Gale's views opposing foxhunting are clear, honourable and consistent. I have commented for over a year now that Laura Sandys struggles to give a clear view and to answer questions on policy. Typically on foxhunting she refuses to provide a clear view of what her views are, as last week's Isle of Thanet Gazette reported. Foxhunting is a pretty simple issue to make your mind up on. If Laura is unable to come to a view on this how will she be able to represent the South Thanet electorate on more complex issues? It is becoming increasingly clear why in June 2006 the safe Conservative seat of Folkestone and Hythe did not select her. Laura was rated top of the applicants on paper, but as soon as it came to talking to 300 Conservative members and thinking for herself on her feet she was the first candidate eliminated.

Today's Independent reports that hunting activists are primed ready to support Conservative candidates....

A letter from one Tory candidate, while thanking the huntsmen and women for their support, pleaded with them not to invade his constituency like the cavalry, "cantering into town in pink chinos and Barbours


The East Kent Hunt, operating south of Canterbury, urged its supporters to "do everything in their power" to help the Conservative candidate in Dover, Charlie Elphicke, unseat the Labour MP, Gwyn Prosser, who has a 4,941 majority to defend."

It also notes Steve Ladyman has been targeted for his anti-foxhunting position representing the vast majority of his constituents.

The questions people need to know the answers to are...

1. Have the hunt supporters written to Laura Sandys?
2. Does she want them to come and work for her in the election campaign?
3. Foxhunting with hounds - is she for or against it?

From previous experience Laura Sandys will continue to treat the people of Thanet as if they were mushrooms and keep them in the dark.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hever Castle - The Other End of Kent

I visited Hever Castle yesterday on a sunshine and showers kind of day. I was fortunate to get tickets through Kent County Council's excellent Big Day Out scheme. This provides 18,000 free tickets for Kent residents to local attractions. This year there were major problems with the website repeatedly crashing when issuing tickets. Dozens of people I know who tried to book tickets failed so I count myself fortunate. Next year these problems need to be sorted out so people don't have their time wasted, and the uncertainty of whether they have tickets or not. Previously I have enjoyed browsing the site to see where to visit. This time visiting after hearing of the previous crashes I just took what came up and was very pleased with Hever Castle.
Most famous as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn I only wished the gardens were later in the year, and will probably revisit when in full flower. The Italian Gardens had been recommended to me and did not disappoint with swathes of hyacinths generating generous amounts of scent.
The model exhibition is well worth a visit and the Castle itself provides a clear well organised history. It must struggle to cope with numbers on busy days. Sudden rain sent everybody inside and it seemed close to capacity. An early start after a walk around the lake I am told is the way to beat the rush. Next time.
Click on any of the photos to enlarge them and apologies I'm unable to format this post better!

Friday, 26 March 2010

For the Many, Not the Few

Today's Financial Times headlines with only part of the story: "Rich hit hard by 13 years of Labour budgets". From what I observe the rich have done pretty well over the last 13 years.
Go to the Independent and they write in more detail:

"The richest households in Britain are about £25,000 a year worse off as a result of changes to the tax and benefits system introduced by Labour since 1997 – while the "working poor" are better off by almost £1,700, or 13 per cent of their income.

The very poorest sections of society – those with a typical annual income (after tax) of £9,000 or so – are about £1,200 better off."
One of the big lies widely told is that all the main political parties are all the same. The independent evidence from the Institute of Fiscal Studies is quite clear, Labour has redistributed wealth from the richest to the poorest over the last 13 years.
So when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats talk about "change" it is clear that it will be for the financial benefit of the wealthier few.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Beware the Ides of March - Backstabbers about!

Since I started this blog I have hopefully established some themes. One is a desire for openness and accountability. Another is my concern for how poorly the current Standards system for councillors works. Set up for members of the public to complain about councillors’ misconduct, it has repeatedly been misused in Thanet by Conservative councillors. For new readers the Conservative Leader Sandy Ezekiel has twice been censured for misconduct by the Standards Board and his Deputy Roger Latchford once. Despite incontrovertible independent evidence to support these decisions, the fact that both complaints came from Labour councillors has in my view resulted in an organised campaign for revenge by some Thanet Conservatives. Other Labour colleagues have received a number of unpleasant experiences. For myself I have been subject to 3 standards complaints from Cllr. Martin Wise Conservative Cabinet member for Finance. Further standards complaints have been made by Cllr. John Worrow Birchington Conservative councillor, and the Conservative Mayor of Margate and Chief Whip Ted Watt-Ruffell. I note he has finally lost these posts following his criminal conviction.

All of these “complaints” have either been withdrawn or proven to be unfounded. However, their processing has cost Thanet District Council thousands of pounds. They also serve to send out a clear signal. Anybody who criticises Thanet Conservative group will be targeted. Even if it does not stop me, I know that others are understandably unprepared to put their heads above the parapet. That weakens democracy, the less people that are prepared to come forward, the lower the quality of representatives and in Thanet we have some shockers.

People see this and become even more cynical about politics and disconnected. The local “leaders” of the Conservatives endorse this conduct and do not criticise it. Both Parliamentary candidates Laura Sandys and Roger Gale rely on the same people to campaign for them. Throughout this process Thanet Conservative blogger Simon Moores (pictured) has staunchly supported this (mis)conduct of politics. I have been a critic of Simon Moores’ refusal to acknowledge the errors of his colleagues. Before an anonymous Conservative commenter criticises me in comments I have clearly stated that I do not condone misconduct by Labour representatives, and that can be found through this blog on the record including criticism of named individuals.

Simon Moores has now complained formally with Complaint TDCSC 40/10 (I think that may mean there have already been 40 complaints this year!) that I have failed to comply with Thanet District Council’s Code of Conduct in relation to comments I have posted (presumably about Cllr. Moores). Now the absurd thing about this process is I do not know what my supposed offence is. I won’t find out and have no opportunity to defend myself. And yes I know this ridiculous procedure has been set up by the Labour government, but I have been opposed to it since it was set up, but those of you with a blue tinge might enjoy the irony.
As the Private and Confidential letter states....

“the allegation will be considered solely based on the information provided by the complainant”

This “evidence” will be considered in secret, and I cannot rebut anything because I do not know what I am accused of. It is a bit like The Prisoner, or Catch 22.

The great thing for Simon Moores is that you dear reader are paying for his complaint.

Hundreds of pounds will already have been clocked up as council officers including lawyers receive his complaint, consider it, investigate, process it and write reports on it. Then all this paperwork relating to his complaint goes to a secret committee meeting. After that it may be thrown out, or it can be further investigated so that the costs go into the thousands.

Whilst all this goes forward these comments on the web that I have made remain there. The usual complaint is that I have failed to treat the appropriate person with “respect.” So let me assume this is the case. There is a “disrespectful or inaccurate” post out there somewhere which you can go and find and which in Simon Moores eyes is false/wrong. Now in my view of a situation like this I would ask that the comment was withdrawn or suspended. A complaint can still be made but at least the comment that has caused offence is no longer visible, and this has happened in other cases Simon Moores is familiar with.

Indeed he is aware that on varying occasions I have withdrawn or amended posts on this blog in relation to his 3 cabinet colleagues Cllrs. Martin Wise, Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford. So he knows that if he has a reasonable position it will be treated reasonably by me. He also knows that all the posts I have suspended have since been reinstated because his judgment was wrong and that his colleagues had wasted thousands of pounds of Thanet District Council’s money.

Have a look at this post on 15th March 2009 (the Ides of March) from Simon Moores Thanet Life with its implied threat at the end

"I support, irrespective of party, the notion of proper standards in public life and blazing away with a constant stream of unsupported and defamatory allegations runs against the very concept of a standard of public behaviour.
Should Winston Churchill have happened to have read Cllr Nottingham’s weblog this weekend; it may have led him to make that famous remark: “Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.”

To remind you my posts which Simon Moores judged wrong were

Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel was Reasonably Aggressive - true, found by Standards Committee
Laura Sandys would refuse to condemn Thanet Conservative misconduct - true, sadly still one year later she remains staunchly with the wrongdoers
Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford would fail to attend the hearing about their misconduct - true
Simon Moores would refuse to condemn Sandy Ezekiel's abusive behaviour - true, but perhaps understandable a few weeks later Simon Moores was offered a Cabinet job and accepted

So not unsupported and defamatory as Simon Moores wrote but all true. What a bad judge of character Simon Moores is. 0 out of 4 must do better!

To see what all the fuss was about read the details of the guilty verdicts on Council leader Sandy Ezekiel and his Deputy Roger Latchford go here

Now there is no way that my conduct has been comparable to Sandy Ezekiel's (repeatedly) or Roger Latchford.

I have not

Abused and sworn at pensioners
Asked my policial opponents "outside" for a fist fight
Made false complaints to the police wasting taxpayers money
Circulated racially offensive emails
and I could go on....

At the same time Simon Moores posted the comments above, his good colleague and friend Cllr Martin Wise issued 3 Standards complaints against me all matching the description given in his post. I would judge Simon Moores either helped prepare the false complaints or had sight of them before they were received at Thanet District Council's offices.

The problem for Simon Moores is that his judgment was proven wrong 6 months later at Thanet Standards Committee, apart from loyal member of Team Ezekiel Zita Wiltshire who was in a minority of one. The committee voted to reject Martin Wise’s invented view of history and preferred the evidence I supplied, but not before thousands of pounds had been wasted.

So my criticisms of Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford were found to be reasonable, not as Simon Moores falsely portrayed them “unsupported and defamatory”. (If I lived by the Standards of Team Ezekiel I would have excellent grounds to issue a Standards complaint against Simon Moores). Simon Moores of course has not amended his post nor admitted his factual errors.

We now face a situation where an email or a conversation between the respective political parties' Chief Whips could probably resolve matters. It is of course Simon Moores right to issue his complaint, but I question his judgment in spending taxpayers money rather than his own. Of course any lawyer looking at Simon Moores Thanet Life’s many comments about me would suggest there was no case to take forward. Simon Moores knows this so he is going to spend your money, not his own.

I also do not understand why he can complain, and yet leave whatever comment that has caused him to complain, out on the internet where people will continue to read it. I would suggest he really is not that bothered, and this manufactured complaint may be tied in with the coming elections for leading positions in Thanet Conservative group which I understand are this week.

After all a year ago a fierce condemantion of this blog coincided in promotion and extra income, perhaps he thinks the same tactic will work again?

For my part I will continue to criticise people directly and as is said in politics “stab them in the front.” For Simon Moores and his friends there’s a different way. I give you Simon, with Martin Wise and Ted Watt-Ruffell on backing vocals....the backstabbers! (and you’re paying thousands of pounds for them to do it!)

Conservative Party Airbrushing Black Candidates

The Conservative Party remains a party which struggles with issues of race. I have highlighted here and here difficulties in Kent

Yesterday's Observer highlighted the Conservative Party in Barking and Dagenham only having white candidates on Council election literature.
Today the excellent Left Foot Forward blog provides the 3 election leaflets here, here and here. They show all 3 black candidates missing from election leaflets, and question with the BNP candidate in Barking being Nick Griffin whether this is a coincidence.

Pictured is the Conservative candidate Simon Jones who has some questions to answer on why only white Conservative candidates appear on election literature with him. Of course he's happy to have the master of airbrushing David Cameron pictured with him. Click here to see David Cameron on white candidate only literature only here.
Michael Ashcroft does not get the recognition on Conservative literature his tax-free money deserves so here's an airbrushed image from MyDavidCameron.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Thanet Council bottom of the table on Housing

Shelter the housing charity have carried out a survey of Councils across England. Here's what Shelter found on housing in Thanet

"There are 4,697 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in Thanet – at current letting rates this will take 9.38 years to clear.Independent experts say Thanet needs to build 1,544 homes per year. Thanet District Council planned for 70 new affordable homes to be provided last year.

This was less than the number of new affordable homes needed.

Despite this, only 63 new affordable homes were delivered on average in each of the last three years, even less than the number planned and less than was needed."

This is a shockingly bad record. Compare Thanet to the rest of the country and it comes 309th out of 320 councils with returns. In the South East only Shepway (Folkestone) was worse out of 64 Councils.

My previous post highlights another bottom of the league table Thanet District Council performance on Ramsgate Marina. There's no doubt after 7 years it has to be time to sack the manager, Thanet Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel. On housing Cllr. Zita Wiltshire has held the Cabinet portfolio for three years and her performance leaves a lot to be desired.

One aspect of the housing portfolio is tackling issues of anti-social behaviour. On this like her fellow Thanet Cabinet members Martin Wise and Simon Moores she has a very poor record, readily tolerating and defending anti-social behaviour when carried out by Conservative colleagues. In particular at Standards Committee she has sadly striven to run the line that Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford are innocent, even when finding herself in a minority of one. If only she had shown the devotion to her portfolio that she does to her Leader.

The point is made very well in this week's Isle of Thanet Gazette by Eastcliff Richard and I've taken the liberty of copying it here. (go to Eastcliff Richard for an enlargable version)

My thanks to Cllr. Iris Johnston Labour's Shadow Cabinet member for Housing for highlighting this information.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Ramsgate Marina - Weak leadership from Thanet Conservatives

There's a very good letter in today's Isle of Thanet Gazette from my colleague Cllr. John Watkins...

Dear Editor,

For anyone who has watched the decline of facilities at Ramsgate during the last seven years of Conservative control of TDC, the downgrading of our Royal Harbour to the bottom 6 out of 91 UK harbours, by the Yacht Harbour Association, will come as no surprise.

The 'jewel in the crown' today is in a sorry state, due to years of Tory neglect. In 2000, under Labour's TDC management, the harbour saw the addition of the brand new 100 berth Western Marina and by 2003 it was equipped with a new port control room, it's own dredger, the new 40 tonne boat hoist and a new fuel barge facility, plus new security gates and a CCTV system, together with two new amenity blocks for visiting boat’s crews.

Now, due to adverse reports in the national boating press in recent years regarding departure delays and vessels grounding on the sand banks at the entrance, some yachtsmen are avoiding our harbour. Less leisure vessel visits were recorded during 2009 and less permanent berths were occupied. There have been reports of accidents caused by unstable and poorly maintained pontoons and due to the build up of silt, the inner marina gate has had to remain closed for longer periods in order to prevent boats grounding in their berths.

In the outer basin the long eastern marina breakwater and pontoon has been out of use since last October awaiting major repairs, with no firm date for when it will be available for mooring large visiting vessels this year, and there are rows of smashed light fittings on the pier. Meanwhile,the listed Maritime Museum building stands closed and forlorn, with boarded up broken windows and rain water pouring in the roof, putting the artefacts at risk.

The Tory cabinet member for Ramsgate Marina said last week “We are not complacent about our wonderful historic harbour, and we are restructuring".

He deserves a golden rivet for complacency - what is badly needed is a change of administration at Thanet District Council.

Cllr. John Watkins, Labour Shadow Member for Ramsgate Marina

I would add that one of the problems here is that the Thanet Conservative administration have had 3 different councillors in charge of the marina in the last years Cllrs. Mike Roberts, Roger Latchford and John Kirby.

Roger Latchford especially is quick enough to claim credit for other matters, I wonder who he holds responsible for this damningly poor performance?

I would far rather see all the effort and money that is put into the annual air show put into sorting out the Marina. I'll say it again, Thanet does not need one off events, it needs long term sustainable tourism and Ramsgate Marina should be the cornerstone of this, not the neglected afterthought that it has been over recent years.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Mixed messages on foxhunting from Laura Sandys

Work commitments meant I was unable to attend this morning's anti-foxhunting demonstration. My thanks to Councillor Alan Poole for the photograph and others present for their help in putting together this report.

"In King Street, Ramsgate outside an apparently deserted, derelict Laura Sandys' campaign office a large group of animal welfare activists gather to draw attention to the proposal by David Cameron to allow a free vote on the repeal of the hunting ban should the Conservatives gain control in the forthcoming election. The peaceful and legal demonstration was organised by those concerned at Ms. Sandys' persistent refusal to say publicly whether or not she would, if elected, support the lifting of the ban on hunting with dogs.

Had she left town to avoid speaking to the large contingent with placards outside since her latest advertisement promoting her new website lists the King Street address as her HQ?

As the numbers angered at the proposal to allow hunting even to be put on the political agenda grew it became clear that Thanet residents and others visiting the area oppose any suggestion that blood sports once again be permitted in this country.

'Why do the Tories want to turn the clock back?' was a typical question asked by those queuing up to sign the Keep Cruelty History petition.

One member of the demonstrating group had recently managed to get a statement from Laura Sandys' Personal Assistant who did say, when pushed by the campaigner, that Ms. Sandys would, if elected, vote to repeal the hunting with dogs ban. Odd then that Ms. Sandys has released a press release saying she has no interest in hunting with hounds.

Slight problem here with being consistent, Ms.Sandys. It was clear from the numbers who supported Barbara Woodrough and her fellow anti-animal cruelty supporters that South Thanet wants an unequivocal statement that shows you do not intend to vote, if elected, to support any attempt to bring back hunting with hounds."

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Oh Lord Won't You buy me a Mercedes Benz?

I am pleased to see the government drop its proposals on an insurance scheme for dangerous dogs. Interestingly this was something criticised both on this blog and that of Thanet Conservative councillor Simon Moores.

One thing that we do not agree on is the tax dodge money from Michael Ashcroft for the Conservative Party. I want the billionaire to pay the £127 million tax he should have done, so we all have to pay less tax. Blogger Beau Bo D'Or is in great form at present and has created a possible Conservative Party election campaign song....

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Blog is Dead, Long Live the Website

Herne Bay blogger Phil Rose is closing his Save our Downs blog. I've noticed he's been posting less frequently. That's partly because he's been busy setting up a new website Herne Bay Matters which aims to....

•celebrate the great, good and quirky things that our town has to offer, and to make that information readily available to all the people who live here, and everyone who visits
•highlight the things that need fixing, improving, or stopping
•provide a contact point and discussion forum for anyone with ideas and actions that will help with either of the above.

Good luck to Phil in his new endeavour.

Friday, 12 March 2010

A Night at the Opera

My infatuation with the new High Speed 1 trains and St. Pancras train station continues. When it first opened I wrote about the need for initial teething problems to be worked through. The station's free wifi is occasionally unavailable at peak times due to so many people using it, and can be slow. It also bars several sites on a somewhat random basis - several of the blogs on the blogroll on the right hand side cannot be accessed.

On the upside for a busy hub there is a relaxed feel to the Southeastern trains part of the concourse. Recently, I heard this group of young singers doing a wonderful marketing exercise. I know very little about opera but the sound was like the old BA advert, and a tranquil contrast to the sounds of the station. These young singers were busking and advertising that University College Opera will be performing Robert Schumann's only opera Genoveva at the Bloomsbury Theatre from 22nd March.

What an ingenious idea to combine a rehearsal with fundraising and raising the profile of the production whilst entertaining. I only wish they perhaps could video an extract as the clip of the opera below does not do justice to their singing. I hope their production is a success, and with the theatre 10 minutes walk from St. Pancras perhaps they will attract some visitors from East Kent.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Anti - Foxhunting Demonstration in Ramsgate

Regular readers will recall my post on foxhunting and on South Thanet Conservative candidate Laura Sandys refusal to state her personal views on the subject. I have been advised of a demonstration to protest at Laura Sandys failure as on so many subjects to give a clear line of her opinions on foxhunting, as she hides behind a Conservative Central Office standard letter. Mrs. Thatcher would have said she was "frit."

The demonstration is being organised by Barbara Woodrough, a long time anti-fox hunting and animal welfare campaigner. It will be at 11am on Thursday 18th March outside the Conservative offices 7-9 King Street, Ramsgate.

An overwhelming majority of the British population oppose foxhunting, in a democratic society elected representatives should reflect this, not favour the views of a small minority of people just because they are members of their friends or family.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Potholes - Paul Carter's slow response

Further to my posting on potholes I have received this letter from Kent County Council

As you are aware, following the coldest and wettest winter for many years the road network in Kent has suffered unprecedented damage. Record numbers of potholes have been reported to us since the beginning of the year. Kent Highway Services has fixed over 31,000 potholes since the start of the year, but there is still more we need to do.

From Monday 8 March we will be dedicating all available highway maintenance resources to fixing the potholes and carriageways. This will be on a ‘find and fix’ basis and means we will be able to get the potholes repaired as soon as possible. A schedule of works to be carried out will be published by district on the Kent County Council website.

While Kent Highway Services are concentrating on this issue, other non-urgent highway maintenance issues such as kerbing, footways and vegetation will be rescheduled to a later date. Safety critical incidents will continue to be attended to as a matter of urgency and this does not affect our maintenance focus on street lights and drainage.

In addition, Paul Carter (Leader of Kent County Council) has already announced that Kent County Council is to spend at least an extra £1million on fixing the potholes. Small and medium sized firms were invited to tender for this major piece of work and contracts will shortly be awarded with work starting from mid April.

Kent Highway Services will be working closely with parishes in your district and they have been encouraged to report any pothole related problems in their area.

I am disappointed it has taken Paul Carter so long to realise that there was a need for extra money and the promise to start work in April is disappointingly slow. Similarly the decision to prioritise resources has come late in the day. As a cyclist I especially find potholes a difficult challenge and have had extra flat tyres. I hear local garages have extra demand for suspension work too!

If you want to report any potholes call 08458 247 800
or email kenthighwayservices@kent.gov.uk

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Muzzle It

I think today's government proposal for compulsory dog insurance is well meaning, but flawed. Most councillors will have encountered issues around anti-social behaviour involving dogs. The last time I did so, I was advised the problem was bad owners not bad dogs. Yet all too often when a child is savaged or killed we hear that the dog had never acted like that before.
There are bad dogs and worse dogs trained to behave badly. The Conservative response that this is a "Dog Tax" is ill thought out.
Nick Herbert, Tory shadow environment secretary, said:
“The problem of dangerous dogs is growing and the current legislation is clearly not working, but the Government's proposals risk penalisin millions of law-abiding dog owners with the blunt instrument of a dog tax. We should be targeting the minority of irresponsible dog owners, not the vast majority who are responsible dog lovers.”
That will not solve the problem. How many children is Nick Herbert prepared to see killed/maimed so that millions of people do not have to pay a dog tax? 5? 10? 15?
In my book the life of 1 child comes before 20 million dog owners being inconvenienced by a dog tax. I would suggest a different way forward, compulsory muzzles. When I visited Czechoslavakia as it then was 25 years ago this was the law. People were so much more relaxed around dogs. So there's a small one off "tax" - you have to buy a muzzle. But then everybody knows you have complied. The very visibility ensures that the policy is easily policed or reported by members of the public. No need to check for an insurance policy or microchipping, neither of which will stop dogs killing/maiming children. Does it help after your child is maimed/killed that there is a way of tracing the offending animal? I can't see it would be much comfort.
We all know the worst people will be most resistant to any legal proposal. Yes every dog owner is slightly inconvenienced, but it allows our children to play freely and safely in our public areas, and that for me must be our first consideration.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Firkin good beer

Reading the Campaign for Real Ale's Beer magazine I noticed a letter that brought back a few memories. Simon Nicholls from Deal wrote:

"I started my ale appreciation as a young man in South London and drank frequently in the Fox & Firkin. I have fond memories of Dogbolter and was pleased to see it mentioned. However, I was surprised there was no mention in the Firkin article of the Ramsgate Brewery. Eddie Gadd (blog here) is still brewing Dogbolter (now Faithful Dogbolter). It is still a blindingly good ale."
I fondly recall the Fox and Firkin in Lewisham and also frequented the Goose and Firkin in Borough. Best of all for me was the Phoenix and Firkin which sat on top of Denmark Hill train station, avoiding any need for drinking and driving! I too can recommend Gadds' beers. Although my current favourite bottle of choice would be Harviestoun Brewery's Bitter and Twisted which has a delicious lemony tang.
It seems a good opportunity to mention that the Planet Thanet Easter Beer Festival (the biggest yet with over 200 different brews) will be at the Winter Gardens, Margate on 2nd and 3rd April.

Election Battle in Coastal seats

There's an interesting article in today's Independent "The Fight on The Beaches" about "the seaside seats that really count." The Independent looks at Hastings, Weymouth and Blackpool North

This paragraph on Hastings resonated

The trust the locals have set up to save their pier is "non-party political", says Felix Robinson. "But it has to be said that Labour has done a lot for Hastings over the past decade, whereas the Tories have been pretty useless locally."

Maybe a Cameron government would come down and kick the local Tories into shape?

"I'd like to think so," Robinson says, "But I'll believe it when I see it."

In South Thanet there's the High Speed 1 fastest trains in the country, rebuilt schools, masses of new buildings at the QEQM hospital, new doctor's surgeries from the Labour government...and the Conservative record?

Bertie Biggles latest posting shows how ineffective local Conservatives have been.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Change remains the same

Hat tip to The Audacity of Pope (what a great name for a blog) for this image.
Still no news from Laura Sandys of how much money she has had from Michael Ashcroft.

How much tax avoided (evaded?) money has gone into her campaign? Steve Ladyman MP can tell you where every penny of his campaign money comes from, why can't Laura Sandys do the same?

She should publish a clear statement and accounts now, not keep thinking she is still in public relations and can keep her head down and hope it goes away.

"Sunshine is the best disinfectant" - David Cameron. Pass the sick bag.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Patching Potholes Pouring Money Away

A guest blog from Jenny Matterface of Broadstairs...

"You might be mistaken for thinking the photographs with this posting are of some farm track, unadopted road or country lane but you'd be wrong.

These photographs were taken this morning and show Beacon Road, Broadstairs.

OK, it's been a harder winter than normal, and Kent Highways did send a team to patch this busy road a few weeks ago.

Oddly the workers only filled in one or two and left the rest.

As it was raining I said to them it seemed an odd day to chose but was told....

'We've been told to do it, but we know it's a waste of time'.

You can see quite clearly where the gravel used to fill the holes has been squeezed out by the traffic, and h
as sprayed up on to the pavement.

What I find odd here is that the Thanet Way, the A299, is down for resurfacing this month.

I can't say I have spotted any lumps, bumps or holes on the A299 but can show you plenty on Beacon Road.

Drivers and cyclists have to play dodge the parked cars, the potholes and debris in the road.

Cyclists beware if you come along here after dark as some of these holes could swallow a small child or animal."

Friday, 5 March 2010

Laura Sandys new supporter....Robert Mugabe

Over the last few years many Conservatives, including some Thanet Conservative councillors who are backing Laura Sandys as the Parliamentary candidate in South Thanet, have made disgusting comparisons about Labour representaives and Labour's record to corrupt tyrannies. Today though the corrupt Robert Mugabe has come out in support of the Conservatives saying:

"We have always related better with the British through the Conservatives than Labour, we have a better chance with David Cameron than with Brown."

Read the full story here.

Will Laura Sandys who claims to have foreign policy expertise, find some principles and reject this endorsement? Or will she stay silent as usual in the hope of courting Mugabe supporters in Thanet?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Cabinet Minister campaigning in Ramsgate

Jim Knight MP is a name to put fear into the heart of any Conservative campaigner. In Labour's 1997 landslide he failed to win Dorset South. Undaunted he continued campaigning and in 2001 was Labour's only gain with a majority of 153. Working harder than had ever been seen before by a local representative in Portland and Weymouth, Jim again won against the national trend in 2005 increasing his majority more than tenfold to 1,812. When people predict elections the change in demographics and the effect of having a hard working MP is often overlooked, and like Jim, Steve Ladyman MP in South Thanet has consistently outperformed national trends.
This morning Jim was in Margate at a meeting of Thanet Works where Labour government money has been establishing and safeguarding jobs. It is regrettable that when it is often Labour held wards that have the highest unemployment that Thanet District Council chooses too only have Conservative representatives on the board.
In Thanet Council Chamber I often hear rhetoric from leading Conservative councillors wanting to work together. The reality is that they choose to take a partisan approach and ignore that it is Labour government money providing the resources.

The first door I knocked on this morning in Northwood wanted me to pass on their thanks to Steve for all his work in helping them as a young family with their housing problems. The bottom photo shows Northwood Ramsgate Town Councillor Emma Poole on the door. Emma always enjoys canvasing and she reduces the average age of Ramsgate Town Council by about a decade! Jim Knight gave people the chance to communicate their message to a man at the heart of government, as he is Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions, and attends Cabinet. I was surprised at how many were content and happy to decline the opportunity, but many others told him how it is in Ramsgate. It helped on one doorstep where schools were an issue that Jim had visited Marlowe Academy when he was Schools Minister.
Thanks to my fellow Thanet councillors Richard Nicholson, Alan Poole, Clive Hart and Dave Green for coming to Northwood and to Broadstairs activist Jenny Matterface and Corinna Huxley from Cliffsend. We were all wonderfully worked hard by the stakhanovite Nigel Singh. The response on the doorstep was very interesting. I encountered real people wanting to talk about real issues. No mention of Gordon Brown or David Cameron, several of Steve Ladyman (all positive) and one of Michael "I like the Conservative Party so much I bought it" Ashcroft. Shouldn't we all stop calling him Lord until it is clear that he properly deserves this title? Has he bought his title or did he properly meet the conditions required of him?
Local residents were talking about jobs, schools, housing, the NHS, the economy and immigration. The response was that whilst Labour was not perfect (who is) but it had delivered for them and they wanted more investment in schools and hospitals from a government that had a record of delivery. On anti-social behaviour residents had noticed an improvement since I was last knocking on these doors and that is great to report. Amongst all the scare stories there are more police and police support officers and crime has fallen.
A lot done, a lot more to do but lets not hear the scare stories that talk our communities down.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Michael Foot - My Debt of Honour

It is hard to know where to start in appreciating Michael Foot and all that he did to make the world a better place. I first bumped into him in Traflagar Square when a student in the early 1980s when he was Leader of the Labour Party walking towards Parliament. Walking with his stick at speed he readily allowed me to accompany him and to talk politics. My main message I recall was to thank him for all the work he had done for the Labour Party. It is hard to imagine today that a Leader of a Political Party would be walking in central London without and security.

I was brought up in the certain knowledge as to what a worker Michael was. In 1963 he was very seriously injured in a car accident at St. Owens Cross in Herefordshire. His life was threatened but he was nursed back to health in Hereford General Hospital by the NHS. The NHS founded by Nye Bevan his predecessor as MP for Ebbw Vale. Michael was on his way back to London late on a Sunday night after a weekend in his constituency. In an age before the motorways of today he was on a journey of several hours on A roads back to London for a week at Parliament. This was a regular journey for him and puts into context the moaning of pygmy Conservative representatives who complain about their need for first class travel.

When the accident happened Michael was with his wife Jill Craigie. I was fortunate to meet them and see them on a number of occasions and it was transparent to the most casual observer what a deep and enduring passion they shared together over decades. Michael Foot leaves behind an immense bibliography. He is best known fittingly for his 2 part biography of his predecessor as a MP Aneurin Bevan. If you want a short sharp read Guilty Men. Michael co-authored this evisceration of the Conservative appeasement policy in 1940, and it resonates through the years. People forget that a man who later came to be known as a strong supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, was a strong advocate for violence if neccessary to defeat fascism rather than appeasement.

A lesser known book but one which has brought me great pleasure over the years is Debts of Honour which he dedicated to his wife Jill "the biggest creditor of the lot" - how many in politics owe so much to their partner. In it he pays tribute to an eclectic selection Disraeli and Beaverbrook from the right. William Hazlitt, Jonathon Swift, and Thomas Paine plus more. He writes of Daniel Defoe the feminist, Michael was a feminist when many men in the Labour Party were still chauvanists. First in the book is his father Isaac Foot part of the famous family which has provided so much patriotic public service to our country.
I saw him speak on many occasions and in terms of oratory in my time only Tony Blair in British politics has equaled his ability to educate, enthuse and excite. Michael was a great loyalist to his beloved Plymouth Argyle and the Labour Party says the BBC. Yet they overlook his role at the Tribune newspaper as was and now a magazine. A former editor and regular contributor, Michael advised, cajoled and fundraised for it over decades.
As an ordinary Labour Party member in 1983 I recall with despair the ineptitude around the Bermondsey by-election campaign and a more senior campaigner advising me that part of the problem was that Michael was too nice to sort out some of the problems. When history judges us better surely to have been considered too nice! There were too many fellow travelers in the Labour Party at this time, most notably Militant. Michael Foot it always struck me thought he could defeat them by the power of argument. Two problems - not all of us had his powers of persuasion, and Militant never played by the rules! Like many others I resolved to address this through organisation as well as debate.
Michael failed in the 1983 General Election but at the time it was hard to see who else could have held the Labour Party together through such fractious times with the SDP splitting off to the right and Trotskyites to the left.
Michael never retired and was an activist to the end. I was privileged to have his entusiastic support when I paid tribute to people from Lewisham who supported the anti-fascist forces and I have written about this elsewhere. Michael readily opened his contact book and ensured the presence of many distinguished figures. He spoke with passion and fervour, and but for his health would have fought in Spain for the Popular Front.
How wonderful that a man who suffered more than his share of ill health in his life should live to the age of 96.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Will Laura Sandys South Thanet Conservative candidate say how much money she has had from Lord Ashcroft and his "front" companies?
Could she/he return some of the £127 million tax he has avoided paying to you and me please?