Sunday, 27 June 2010

Afghanistan behind the Headlines

I don't normally venture into foreign affairs. The story of how General Stanley McChrystal was sacked by President Barack Obama has been one of the main foreign news stories this week. I want to recommend full reading of Michael Hasting's outstanding (award winning?) journalism for Rolling Stone. Yes there's the story of McChrystal bad mouthing people but there are several other insights too.

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

The Merits of Andy Burnham

I believe David Miliband will make the best Leader of the Labour Party. Like a number of friends my regard for Andy Burnham MP for Leigh during the campaign has increased. Three thoughts.

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

Clegg and Cable Tell It Like It Is

Hat tip to Tom Harris MP and poignant for all those seats where people voted Liberal Democrat rather than Conservative...

Friday, 18 June 2010

A Small Event in Margate This Weekend

I will not be supporting Margate's Big Event this weekend. Some readers will know that I object to thousands of pounds of public money being spent on an airshow.
Last year I wrote
"Thanet Council are due to support the Nottingham Declaration. This is the top local authority acknowledgment that Climate Change exists and needs to be addressed. It is disappointing that 340 local authorities have already signed, so Thanet is one of the last to do so.

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
The events in the Gulf of Mexico with BP's massive oil spill, surely demonstrate that we need to reduce our demand and enthusiasm for oil, not promote it. It is fine by me for petrolheads and dieselheads to spend their money as they will. It is different for public organisations that should spend our money wisely.

Thanet Council's Conservative adnminsitration was elected on the slogan Vote Blue Go Green. The hypocrisy of promoting an event like this reinforces why the public are cycnical about politicians.

There is an environmentally friendly event in Margate,the Tom Thumb Theatre will be open on both days this weekend for visitors to have a look around. I am told Frankie Jordan will be telling the odd story, and the Smugglers Records musicians will be playing on Sunday.
It also gives me the chance to feature the Grateful Dead's Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues as a song to enjoy for the weekend whatever you are doing.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Two Good Men

My fellow Thanet District Council Labour councillor Mike Harrison should blog more. I thought he may have transferred to the national stage when I read this article by Mike Harrison on the Progress website. This Mike Harrison I think is a Yorkshireman and his conclusion is one I would like to see all the Labour Leadership candidates having more regard for his conclusion..

"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

Shosholoza - Go Forward South Africa!

The World Cup is the greatest sporting occasion. Tonight South Africa play Uruguay. I hope with all the brilliant new stadiums South Africa win to almost secure a second round place. Their team song is the old mining song Shosholoza (Go Forward). I would love to hear more crowd singing of this and other songs. Here's evidence that vuvuzelas are given a rest from time to time by Bafana Bafana.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Ultimate Spinner

David Cameron is the best spinner in British politics. His career was spinning for Norman Lamont and then spinning for Michael Howard. His private sector experience was spinning for Carlton Communications. He has started his Prime Ministerial career with magesterial spin. Apparently the deficit is bigger than expected. It is not true. It is a big lie but that does not mean that he will demean his office by trying it on.

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

Roger Gale Fails Again

I see North Thanet MP Roger Gale failed today to be elected as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. This follows on from his failure to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons. What is the point of Roger Gale continuing as a MP? A Conservative friend (yes they keep it quiet too) told me that Roger would not be adverse to a peerage. There are reputedly 100 Conservatives to be appointed by the Con-Dem government. Previously when Roger Gale was evaluated by the Conservative Party, I understand one feedback was that he was "Mr. Angry," and hence he was overlooked. As a supporter of David Davies MP, it is hard to see why David Cameron would want to reward him.

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."

Crikey! It's the Tories on Europe

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

At the Heart of Going Green

I have had some larger items to donate to charity shops recently. It's not easy to do so, there are double yellow lines outside all the Ramsgate ones, or the shops are in pedestrianised streets. This means awkward carrying or having someone sit in the car on gthe yellow lines, whilst one of you tries to carry the furniture in, when you really need two people to carry larger or bulkier items.

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.