Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Only Gay In the Village

Michael Child recently posed the question on his Thanetonline blog about whether Thanet District Council was homophobic. Then David Davis MP commented that he considered the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition to be the “Brokeback Coalition”, referencing the iconic gay movie Brokeback Mountain. Alan Johnson MP commented on this that it was all a degree of trust, and that for some it was the “bareback coalition”.

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

Minster Show 2010

I'm a fan of Minster Show and went again last saturday.

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

And the winner is...

Friday evening saw a packed Ramsgate Custom House with late comers having to stand holding a hustings for the Labour Party Leadership contest. South Thanet Labour Party had opened up the meeting to our neighbours. We were delighted to be joined by Labour Party members from North Thanet and Dover and Deal.
South Thanet Constituency Labour Party Secretary Michelle Fenner (right of top table) had invited representatives from all 5 candidates. Regrettably despite ample notice neither Ed Balls nor Diane Abbott were able to provide representatives. I could not find anybody present who was considering voting for them. This inability to put their case to 3 Constituency Labour Parties 90 minutes from London brings into question the organisation of their campaigns. Was there nobody they could ask who could spare a Friday evening to press their case?
South Thanet constituency chair Alan Poole (second right) ran the meeting. He handed over to Cameron Miller (centre) who was representing Ed Miliband. Battersea based Cameron was a leading Labour students activist and worked for Martin Salter MP until the General Election. Perhaps a little earnest he was devoted to "Ed" and recounted stories of how he had been inspired by Ed's ability to relate to voters on the doorstep. Cameron saw Ed Miliband's Living Wage campaign as a key reason to support his favoured candidate.
The expenses scandal has damaged all people in politics. At a local level the commitment is often above and beyond the call of duty. Most impressive of the advocates was longstanding Aldershot Councillor Keith Dibble (second left). Keith had only had a few hours sleep so had been driven from Hampshire by Howard Linsley who fought Meon Valley at the last General Election. Both were then due to drive back with just the propsect of stopping for a sandwich somewhere to break the journely up. Keith used the S word, socialism advocating Andy's aspirational socialism. He also argued that with his northern working class roots Andy was the candidate best placed to appeal to the wider electorate.
An informal survey suggests that the most famous person to visit the Custom House since Ramsgate Town Council moved in is David Miliband's representative David Rowntree (far left) Blur drummer, trainee lawyer and losing candidate in the Cities of London and Westminster seat at the general election. David kept to a short prepared speech emphasising David Miliband's experience and standing with the electorate.
All three took questions from the audience and there was some debate followed by drinks and nibbles. Several of those present in the audience talked about becoming more involved with the Labour Party and possibly standing as candidates in next year's local elections. It was a very successful evening raising funds.
As to a result, Diane Abbott and Ed Balls both missed an opportunity and trailing in the polls need better organisation. All three representatives came out well. The winner from those who were new to the venue was the Customs House. Several people said what a brilliant vista it provides. Ramsgate Harbour can be taken for granted perhaps by locals, but seeing it through other eyes the Customs House is a pearl of a venue.
My thanks to Dave Green for the photograph.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Please Vote for Me

Please vote for me, that's what we politicians like to ask you. Last year I was very pleasantly surprised to receive so many votes - thank you to everybody who supported me. Many of you will not share my views, but if you are visiting hopefully you will find my ramblings occasionally worthwhile.

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
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

Goodbye Charlie Gas - Mr. Ramsgate

I was sorry to hear of the death of Charlie Goldsmith. As Charlie was leaving Thanet politics when he stood down as a councillor in 2003, I was starting to become involved so I did not know him. Yet like anybody involved in Ramsgate life his reputation was readily learnt.
Charlie represented the Eastcliff of Ramsgate for many years as a councillor. He lived much of his life in Flora Road. I spoke to Labour's current longest standing Thanet councillor Mike Harrison. He said that if you asked Ramsgate people who Charlie Goldsmith was they might not know, but talk about Charlie Gas and everyone knew who you meant. Charlie's nickname came from his job when he worked on Ramsgate's street gaslights. His death flashes a light on a barely recalled world more than half a century ago.
Although a Labour man, Charlie was not always a Labour Party man and he was at times an Independent and Independent Labour. In the end though he came back to Labour. He served in many roles but everyone I have spoken to has talked about what a superb Mayor of Ramsgate he was in 1988, 1992, 1997, 1998, and 1999.
The only other Mayor of Ramsgate to serve for 4 years in modern times Steve Ward talked about how proper and thorough Charlie was. Serving from 2004 to 2008 Steve said that Charlie had built a reputation for Ramsgate that extended across Kent and beyond.
He was Mr. Ramsgate.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Labour Bouncing Back

Normally when a new government takes power they have a honeymoon period. This is reflected in good local council election results. So this analysis by Mark Senior makes for interesting reading....

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%

500% Over representation

Sometimes figures say it all...

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

An Inspiration

I was sorry to read of the death of Basil Davidson. I was an avid reader of his articles on Africa and decolonisation in newspapers and magazines in my teenage years. As the obituary relates with a distinguished war record and considerable academic achievements including 27 books on Africa he lead an impressive life.

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

Gallumping Gove

Guest blog by Jim Parrish who is a Kent Labour Party activist in the west of the county:

"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

Wanting It Both Ways

Listening to Radio 4 Today's programme this morning Conservative MP Ian Liddell Grainger complained 6 schools due to be built in his Bridgwater constituency by the Labour government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) have been cancelled. Amazingly he says right at the end "this is not political".

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

Dutch Win The World Cup That Matters

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

Brenda Blethyn Ramsgate's Finest

Brenda Blethyn Ramsgate's finest star was on Radio 4's Woman's Hour this morning talking about her new film London River. It tells the story of two seemingly unconnected people who travel to London to search for their children who are missing in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings. Brenda plays Elizabeth, a widow searching for her daughter.
You can listen to Brenda talking about her French lessons, Ramsgate and the film here. Her interview starts 1 minute in.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Hythe Carnival Alive

On Saturday I went to Hythe Carnival part of the Hythe Festival.

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

College of Crime

Thank you to regular reader Louise for sending me this letter from Stephen Wakeford of Deal in today's Independent:

"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.