Sunday, December 23, 2007

Money and Politics V

To illustrate the perils of believing what you read in the newspapers, Skuds has suggested that the figures quoted in my last post (about how Henry Smith and his chums on West Sussex County Council have had large increases in their allowances despite an independent review concluding that no such increases be given) were incorrect.

Good job too, because it meant that I read the actual reports, and there are some differences.

Firstly, the Special Allowance for the Leader, Henry Smith, has gone up from £26,523 to £29,394, an increase of 10.8% (about the same as the Argus' 11%).

Secondly, the Cabinet members allowance has risen from £15,691 to £18,283, a jump of 16.5% (which is 2.5 percentage points more than reported by the Argus). Eight councillors receive this allowance.

Thirdly, it's not clear what is meant by non-Executive Chairmen, because under the old scheme there were two levels of allowance for committee chairs. For six of the posts, the old allowance was £8,375. For three others, it was £6,582. If the increase applies to all, then they will all now get £8,989. That's 7.3% for the first six, and 36.6% for the other three (The Argus report refers to three chairmen getting 24%, which I can't see from the figures at all).

Fourthly, all of the other Special Responsibility Allowances are increasing as well, by an index-linked figure, which was actually what the panel recommended for all posts. There are 32 councillors who receive these allowances, out of a total of 70. The number affected by the self-determined increases is up to 18.

Fifthly, all of the above will also be getting the standard councillor's allowance that all councillors receive - £10,546 in the 2006/7 year. I believe that this is also index linked.

Money and Politics IV (my previous post on this)
Original Evening Argus article

From WSCC:
The Scheme as it stood before 14 December 2007 (pdf format)
The report of the Independent Review Panel (pdf format)
The Report before WSCC on 14 December with the large increases (pdf format)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Money and Politics IV

Henry Smith was apparently happy to complain about our MP's expenses. Of course, we all know that our Henry would never, ever, put himself in a position where he could be accused of putting his nose into the trough.

Or would he...

According to the Evening Argus, West Sussex Council recently reviewed the councillor's allowances. What happens is that an independent review panel is set up, and they make recommendations. The same happens at Crawley Borough Council, and when I chaired the relevant committee (the excitingly named 'General Purposes Committee'), it was certainly expected that the review body's recommendations would be taken as they stood, and certainly that councillors would be very careful before voting for more cash.

The WSCC review panel recommended a freeze on increases. So what did our elected servants in Chichester do? Did they accept a pay freeze, because as the panel's report said, "Public service, rather than material reward, should be the primary motivation for involvement in local government."

Well, er, no. They instead voted for increases. Three committee chairs will get an increase of 27% (that's about 10 times the rate of inflation). The Cabinet members, such as Lt Col Tex Pemberton, get a 14% increase (a mere five times the rate of inflation).

Henry will have to make to with only an 11% increase (four times the rate of inflation) as Leader.

Now, WSCC will claim that because they didn't spend money on a pension scheme for councillors, they've saved money. However, it's only a matter of time before such a scheme is set up, and of course it will more than likely be a final salary one, so an allowance increase now just makes the scheme more expensive when it does come in. I predict it will arrive some time after the next County elections, or before if they can suddenly pull out one of their rare low tax increase budgets (rare? they happen every four years, by some sheer coincidence).

The allowance increases are apparently backdated to April.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When is rape not rape?

Apparently, according to John Redwood, rape isn't that bad if you know the woman first. Who knew? I'd always thought that 'No' means 'No' was a pretty universal truth, that it's a horrific crime whether the rapist is a total stranger or whether they are someone they though that they could trust.

Here's what he said, on his blog:
They [the Labour government] decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape. Again, none of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion when the two were spending an evening or night together.

Labour's doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man's word against the woman's and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together. Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date.

When I read that this morning, my immediate thought was what if we replaced the crime of rape with another one. The Provisional BBC beat me to it with murder. You could try it with robbery or with child abuse if you like, just in case the full ridiculousness of the MP for Wokingham's views aren't immediately apparent.

Essentially, Redwood is saying that because it's a bit hard to tell whether an alleged 'date rape' is genuine or just a woman getting revenge, we shouldn't bother to treat in the same way as any other rape.

There is this attitude from the right that certain crimes are not really crimes. Speeding, for example, even when there's pretty clear evidence and any driver ought to know what the limit is. And now it appears that rape can be added to the list of things that 'law abiding' people just happen to do, as if they aren't in control of themselves.

It's total rot, it really is.

In the same article, he argues that corporate manslaughter is being made 'equivalent' to murder (when in fact it isn't, but it is being made equivalent to manslaughter), presumably because corporate negligence that leads to a employee's or customer's death shouldn't be punished in the same way as any other deadly negligence. Under the Human Rights Act, limited companies are considered to have the same rights as people. So, under that basis, they should have the same responsibilities, surely?

Ahh, but of course the Tories don't agree with the Human Rights Act. Despite the fact that all it is incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into our law, so we don't have to keep having cases heard at The Hague, and despite the fact that it is something that their great hero, Sir Winston Churchill, was fully in favour of.

David Cameron is trying hard to convince us that the Tories have changed. Redwood is giving the lie to any such claim.

Money and Politics III


Cameron's constituency accepted illegal donations

Monday, December 03, 2007

Money and Politics II

The local press have been giving Laura Moffatt a lot of hassle recently about her expenses, and the nearby Tories have not been avoiding the opportunity to crow about it.

However, as Skuds shows, there are two sides to the debate about the cost of someone's work - the output. For example, Laura has voted in 89% of Commons divisions. That sounds a bit low to you?

Well, Nicholas Soames, who we remember fondly as our MP before 1997 (when he agreed with cuts at Crawley Hospital in a way that Laura has never done), manages 46% in his new capacity as MP for Mid-Sussex. Francis Maude barely manages to represent the voters of Horsham a third of the number of times that he could. Both claim lower travel expenses than Laura Moffatt, but should we be surprised if they don't bother to exercise their votes, and so don't need to go up to Westminster as often as more committed parliamentarians.

Why are these MPs absent so much though? Could it be that they have something better to do? Oh, it turns out that Soames and Maude are pretty active outside their jobs as MPs. Seems that Soames has five other jobs and Maude has eight. They presumably are spending some of the time that could be used for representing their constituents out earning money that they don't need (the MPs salary is fairly generous). If they aren't doing what they were elected to do, no wonder they don't generate as much of an expenses bill. However, despite the fact that Maude votes about two-fifths as often as our MP, his expenses are proportionally much higher.

Laura costs more in expenses, but on a per-vote basis, Skuds' figures show that Maude is far worse value for money.

Money and politics I

What can anyone say about the ongoing scandal concerning party funding?

As a member of the Labour Party, I have to say that I'm absolutely hopping mad about the Abrahams 'dodge' of paying through third party's, and utterly disgusted that people at the top of the party organisation knew about it and didn't think it was a problem. I'm no expert on the law, but I think it's pretty obvious that this is a no-no.

Personally, I don't care how high up they are, if people working for the Party knew about this and didn't question it, then they should be sacked.

The problem of how we pay for our political parties will not go away, although I think that stiffer spending caps would be a good way to reduce the pressure and would mean less expensive adverts cluttering up the screens.

The media are loving this, and there's always potential for an error (such as Hain's campaign not fully registering all donations properly) being blown up into part of the mire. It's quite clear that the person who makes an illegal donation is the prime wrongdoer. If due diligence is carried out and a problem is not carried out, then the recipient can't be blamed. However, if they did know that the donation was iffy, then they have acted outside the law. If they didn't check and a such a check can reasonably have been shown to show something up, then they have at least been negligent.

However, it's strange that all this focus is put on to one party. The Lib Dems had a real problem with a major donor who turned out to be ineligible - and quite possibly giving them other people's money. The Tories are being very quiet about Lord Ashcroft (who was ennobled after he started bunging them large amounts, but apparently 'cash for honours isn't an issue for him) who appears to still be a tax exile, despite promising to regularise his affairs with HMRC, and who gives the Party a lot of money through third parties - companies, not individuals - as well as flying the leader and shadow cabinet out on top-class jets all over the world at bargain basement prices.

Of course, Labour would have less of a problem with money if the income from the unions and members wasn't on the slide. My view is that the decline of union participation is not something that the Party has taken seriously enough. For some reason, the unions have been regarded as trouble-makers (when often they have been the stalwart supporters of the leadership against us uppity full members). Party membership has slipped over the past ten years, and I detect that quite a bit of that is down to disappointment with the course of the Government, and with the way that the party changed under the New Labour ethos of centralised control.

The main issue that I have about the centralised control links back to the start of this piece - that they may think that they know what they are doing, but at times the organisation of the party leaves a lot to be desired. The historic problems with membership systems appear to have been solved after many years of complaints, but regional and central offices really are not responsive and as we have seen, have been complacent about something as fundamental as keeping within the law on donations.

Luckily, the party central office have very little to do with the Government. However, with civil servants ignoring the Data Protection Act at the same time...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Can Tories add up?

Got Henry Smith's new leaflet through my door. It's very nice, a shiny full-colour A3 folded jobby (must have cost Lord Ashcroft a few quid for all of them across town).

There are lots of pictures in it. Lots of them. And in most of them Henry is grinning at me. Great, we know he can smile at a camera. But what else can he do?

Well, adding up and sums might be a bit of a problem for someone.

Taxing sums
There's a bit on the front page slagging off the tax credits scheme, claiming that 'fraud and error' have cost the taxpayer £5bn. However, checking the latest National Audit Office report, I can see that the outstanding debt from overpayments from 2003 (when the scheme was introduced) to 2007 was less than that - £3.9bn, of which only about £0.7bn has been written off. A further £1.6bn has been allocated to underwrite the possibility that not all of the remainder can be collected. That's a total of £2.3bn on the worst case. Half of Henry's figure. Not that I'm saying that it's a good thing, but the Tories are inflating the effect, and have come up with a nice round number to scare us poor taxpayers.

He also claims that the money could build 150 hospitals. Hmm. That works out at less than £35M per hospital. If we look at the figures used by Henry's Campaign for Pease Pottage Hospital, we see that the hospital he's telling us he can get built would cost £168M, about five times as much. And to run it for one year would cost nearly £100M. So, assuming that you want to run a hospital for some time after you build it, £5bn would pay for more like 20 hospitals.

The article ends with a Henry quote:
the sick irony is that Crawley only needs one hospital

Umm, we have one hospital. I thought we needed a better hospital, but maybe Henry's less ambitious for us than he'd like to think.

Swings and roundabouts
Also on the front page it says that Henry
achieved the highest national swing from Labour to Conservative (over 8.5%)
but he didn't (assuming that what they actually mean is 'highest swing from Labour to the Conservatives in the country'). David Burrows had a higher swing (8.7%) to win in Enfield Southgate. Sir Patrick Cormack had a higher swing (9.1%) when he held South Staffs.

Yes, Henry did get one of the largest swings, but not the largest. On it's own a small inaccuracy, but given that he can't work out how much a hospital costs, or count how many we have, perhaps there's a pattern emerging...

Costs of investments may rise as well as fall
Page 2 now. It's welcome that West Sussex County Council has invested money into new schools. The figure quoted is £80 million. However, according to a press release from 2003, it was a £54 million PFI project. The remainder of the money was found by selling off land (largely school playing fields), and the PFI part of the deal will still have to be paid off over the next 30 years. Some of the capital will have come from government grants anyway, and WSCC could not have done all of that work without help from the Labour government. Besides, I remember the pain we had to go through in Southgate when involved in the scheme were plans to close one of the local primary schools. Thanks to local opposition (and I like to think I helped the parents out there) we retained both primary schools.

Also, we are getting a 'state of the art' library. Wonderful though I expect it to be, the Tories and County Hall have been promising us a new library for over 15 years. I know it's that long, because I was working in Crawley Library on Saturdays in 1992. And it was considered to be long overdue then. So thanks, Henry, for finally coming through, but let's hope it doesn't take 15 years for anything else to happen.

Of course, one local invesment that Henry's leaflet completely misses out is also one of the most well known: Fastway. Why could it be that a West Sussex County Council led project, investing millions of pounds into local transport infrastructure, is not worth shouting about? The plans were launched by Cllr David Dewdney, the Tory councillor from Pound Hill, and were set to cost £30 million.

Perhaps Henry doesn't want to be associated with Fastway. Maybe it's related to the events of spring 2005, when the County Council found that it had gone over budget by £6 million. It was known at Easter that year, but apparently Henry, then the leader of West Sussex County Council, was totally unaware of the overspend until after May. Coincidentally, he was at the very same time standing as the Conservative candidate for Crawley in the General Election. As far as I can see, he either did know but decided it was a bit embarrassing, or he really didn't know, which begs the question as to whether someone who can avoid knowing about a £6 million snafu is really in touch with what's going on under their own noses.

Blimey, numbers and money really are not Mr Smith's strong points, are they? I've only got to the first column on page two, and my confidence in the guy is shot to pieces...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Inheriting the wind

Inheritance tax. Apparently, it's a bigger issue for voters than any other political subject.

Why would this be? After all, currently less than 10% of estates are liable to the tax. When it comes to tax, it's far less widely felt than VAT, National Insurance, Income Tax, or duties on fuel, alcohol and cigarettes. Of course, everybody who owns a newspaper is likely to be affected. Many of the senior journalists on national newspapers and on the TV could potentially be. I'd be surprised if most of the Tory front bench are not likely to need to pay some death duties.

However, the vast majority of people will be totally unaffected by increases to thresholds for Inheritance Tax. So why are people so worked up? Of course, everybody hopes (can I use the Brownite word 'aspires') to be rich enough by the time they die to leave a substantial amount. More to the point, everybody secretly hopes that aunty Mabel is sitting on a pile of cash and that she's put it aside for us. However, the reality is that the average person is unlikely to be so fortunate. Even if you are lucky enough to inherit, say, a 1 million pound estate, the current taxes would still leave you with over £700,000. If aunty Mabel was only worth half a million, you'd get 84% of the value.

The Tories may have wanted to get rid of it completely, but have come up with a new threshold of £1 million. Given that it's the super-rich who are likely to be able to spend a bit of time and money on tax planning away much of their obligations, and they'd be getting a cut of £280,000 anyway, this would be a long way towards removing the tax completely. Given that the Tories are not telling us that we can cut overall taxes, that means that billions would have to be found somehow.

Alistair Darling has announced changes, which effectively mean that the £300,000 allowance is transferred to a widow(er). As no inheritance tax is liable on estates passed between husband and wife (or, I believe, civil partners), it means that when the remaining partner dies, the estate gets an allowance of £600,000. Fine if you're married, a but annoying if you aren't.

Skuds has an idea - rather than tax the estate, why not tax each inheritor according to how much they get? Lateral thinking there.

My feeling is that Inheritance Tax is fair - it's no more unfair than any other taxation at least - although the quick increase in property values has caused people to worry that the middle classes might come under the cosh (and we can't have that now, can we?). I think that it would make sense for either the main home to be exempt, or for the average house price to be a factor in determining the allowance (I quite like the idea of a formula rather than the Treasury every now and again picking an arbitrary number for allowances on tax).

Mind you, on a related note, it's quite odd to hear the Tories complain about their policies being stolen. They nicked the idea of a flat rate for non-domiciles from the Lib Dems (and they attacked it as unworkable at the time).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Local lad still doing well

I wonder if he knows it, but Iain Dale and his contributing baying Tory commenters have put our Skuds in the top 100 'left of centre blogs' for the second year in a row.

More from Burma

Unfortunately, my fears of violence in Burma have been well founded. Every day the Guardian has been providing updates and links to more information about the events there. The official death toll is nine, which is likely to be a massive understatement. A Japanese reporter has apparently been killed, which may well bring more opprobrium from the international community. More importantly, hundreds of monks have been arrested, with many being beaten.

Tues 25 Sept GU newsblog
Weds 26 Sept GU newsblog
Thur 27 Sept GU newsblog

One glimmer of hope is that it appears that there is a group within the Burmese army who are sympathetic to the monks and people.

There's not much that we can do as individuals, and sanctions are unlikely to have an immediate impact. As it is, I don't use Total petrol stations, so I can't even hurt them (the French oil company is a heavy investor in Burma, laying a new pipeline there). If by chance anyone who reads this ever thinks about filling up their car with Total, please don't, while they help provide financial backing for this odious regime.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Talking about suppression...

Here's a place where they do it properly - Burma (or as the military junta would have it, 'Myanmar').

I've been keeping a little eye out on the growing opposition demonstrations there in the last few weeks, starting with protests over escalating fuel costs, and this week seeing the Buddhist monks marching through Rangoon ('Yangon') and other cities.

Yesterday there was the bizarre sight of a military chappy kneeling in a temple, imploring the senior monks not to go out again today. It would seem that the Burmese hold monks in very high esteem, but this display was sinister because the leaders were really saying "Please don't do it because we might have to send the army in".

The monks went out again today, and as the Guardian newsblog updates showed, there are a lot of rumours and whispers about hospitals being cleared and riot police moving in. However, no actual reports of a crackdown, although apparently Aung San Suu Kyi was moved from house arrest to prison this afternoon.

The odious regime really ought to fall, to be replaced with democracy, but they have largely been allowed to get away with oppressing their own people for decades, with China helping them out and no-one else wanting to intervene in a liberal-humanitarian stylee in case it causes ructions.

President Bush has announced extended sanctions (good move, but years late) and the rest of the world is trying to convince the Burmese government not to use violence to restore 'order'.

However, a curfew has been declared, and gatherings of more than 5 people have been banned. I have a bad feeling about tomorrow.

Hey look! A bandwagon!

But one that I have no shame whatsoever in jumping on to.

As mentioned in my previous post, Alisher Usmanov has been accused of using his influence to get Fasthost to suppress criticism of him, resulting in the taking down of not only Craig Murray' and Tim Ireland's blogs, but also those of Boris Johnson, Bob Piper and other innocent bystanders.

This exertion of corporate financial muscle to try to stifle people's opinions has had the effect of bringing far more interest in the activities of Mister Usmanov, who has a shady past and (perhaps more worryingly) a large stake in Arsenal FC.

And this is (as of the time of this post) the list of 251 blogs which have spoken out against the heavy-handed use of lawyers to shut down free speech:

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke (224), , Skuds’ Sister’s Brother, Contrast News, Poliblog Perspective, Parish Pump, El Gales, Noodle, Curly’s Corner Shop, Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft, otromundoesposible, Richard Stacy, Looking For A Voice, News Dissector, Kateshomeblog, Writes Like She Talks, Extra! Extra!, Committee To Protect Bloggers, Liberty’s Requiem, American Samizdat, The Thunder Dragon, Cybersoc, Achievable Life, Paperholic, Creative-i, Raedwald, Nobody’s Friend, Lobster Blogster, Panchromatica (251).

Mr Usmanov, how very dare you!


I know I've been a bit quiet lately. August was not a good month, basically because not much happens to comment upon anyway, but primarily because my grandfather passed away after a brief illness.

This month I just haven't had the energy to think much about posting, and I also spent a week on holiday (piling up the carbon tonnage by flying off to San Francisco - you can tell I'm not a member of the Green Party).

So, I didn't post anything about the new Crawley Borough Council logo when it was unveiled a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, Skuds has already posted as much as one needs to know about it - it's eerily similar to a draft for the Conservative logo from last year and even more like an MBNA image that is used. But then all multi-coloured trees are going to look alike, and it's not so much the thing itself that I have a problem with, but the manner in which it has come about and the needless cost of going about the change.

Of more concern to me recently is that the BNP are putting a candidate up in a by-election in the Horsham District ward of Holbrook West (an area including part of the north of the town and a patch of semi-rural and rural land between Warnham and Rusper).

I missed the whole furore about Alisher Usmanov getting some blogs shut down after they criticised him (and in the process bringing down other, unrelated blogs). Not being a fully paid up member of the blogerati, it passed me by completely, but I have to add my disgust to that of the many bloggers who have protested about this abuse of corporate power. Chicken Yoghurt has the full skinny and Sunny Hundal at Pickled Politics has more here, here and here.

Live Blogging the Crawley Game

Ebbsfleet Utd 1(0) v Crawley Town 0(0)
(Ebbsfleet used to be call Gravesend & Northfleet)
Kickoff - 7:45pm

Crawley are currently in 7th place (although this is before the decision on whether to deduct 6 points has been finally settled). Ebbsfleet are 14th.

Thanks to the deal between Virgin and Setanta, I can watch this on the telly, so I thought I'd provide a live update. Updates will appear at the top, so anyone visiting won't have to scroll down much to see the latest. The game will appear in reverse order though. Ho hum.

The local press also give the same service - I'm not trying to compete, just complement their coverage :-)

Crawley Lineup
4-4-2: Bayes; Wilson, Mills, Stevens, Bull; Bulman, Thompson, Pinault, Cook; Madjo, Pittman.
(Subs: Vieira, Evans, Clapham, Joseph-Dubois, Krause)

For those watching in black-and-white, Crawley are in their away strip of yellow shirts and blue shorts

9:40 Full time.
Ebbsfleet win, and Crawley Town are frustrated. With by far the most opportunities to score, the away side also felt that they should have been a man up after McCarthy handled early on. Sasha Opinel played very well against his old side, and he was the decisive factor in this game.

The keeper fists away the delivery, only for a deflected cross to go for another Crawley corner. That results in a fray in the box, with the keeper agian punching the ball down, but no Crawley player can connect before a foul is given against them.

3 minutes of extra play indicated, and Crawley will really have to pick things up to get a point. However, a corner presents the opportunity

Madjo judged to have pushed, and he isn't happy with the ref. Free kick from Hawkins so poor it hits the corner flag for a throw to Crawley.

I can hear the announcer give Sasha Opinel the man of the match, which is more than fair, given that he kept Madjo out at a vital time.

Crawley start to recover, pressing upfield a bit more, but there isn't much time left to save the game.

Double substitution for Crawley, as Viera and Joseph-Dubois come on for Cook and Pittman.

Bull booked for a foul on Moore, and Ebbsfleet get a cross about 25 yards out. Nade gets the head again, but it goes across the face of goal. After such a good game, Crawley have lost their edge after conceding.

Lucky escape for Crawley as Ebbsfleet try to break and Wilson kicks the ball hard into Bayes' knee. If the keeper had missed that, it could have been an own goal to put Town two goals down.

Goal! Ebbsfleet make a chance from nowhere pay off, as a cross beats both central defenders for Nade to head the ball past a hapless Bayes. 1-0 to the home side.
Madjo comes back to help the defence, and leads in with his dodgy ankle to take the challenge. Brave, but perhaps foolhardy. Seems to be ok though

Opinel forced to give away a corner, but Ebbsfleet win the ball back

Pittman and Madjo team up again in the attack, keeping the ball on the pitch to pressure United in their own area.


A free kick for Ebbsfleet results in a shot over, but the Devils' defence should have closed that down.

Madjo comes so close!! A break up the left wing sees Madjo beat three defenders to squeeze a shot in, to see it go inches wide.

A scare for Crawley as Ebbsfleet nearly get behind the defence. Mills clears from the 6 yard box.

More pressure from Crawley, as Ebbsfleet are forced to pack the defence on the edge of the area. Wilson goes down with an ankle twist after trying to get a cross in. We can only hope he'll be able to run it off

Deft touch from Pittman on the left beats the defence, and Pinault was fouled (not according to the ref). Crawley are starting to put some good moves together in the midfield.

Of course, as I say that, Pittman almost gets past Hawkins before the United defender flicks the ball away.

Ebbsfleet have tightened up in the back, and Madjo has just been caught offside.

Madjo puts another shot wide, but the build up play was good, with Bulman putting a short ball in to the striker.


Crawley get a free kick on the edge of the area, with a yellow card for Bostwick. The shot bounces off the wall, and loops over Pittman before going wide

So close!! A break for Crawley puts Pittman on, and he passes to Madjo. A dummy strands the defender and Madjo shoots, beating the keeper, but Opinel gets across to head the ball away. That was going into the bottom corner.

A long shot (which looked like a mis-hit cross) lands on the top of the Crawley goal. Bayes had it covered, but that could have been a flukey goal for United.

Wilson makes a vital tackle on the edge of the box to keep Ebbsfleet from getting a shot in.

Ebbsfleet have an opportunity on the right wing, but the move breaks down. The ball is quickly sent back up the pitch for Cook, but the cross back is intercepted.

Ebbsfleet kick off the second half

The teams are back out, and Setanta have stopped the adverts. Steve Evans not happy with the ref, I agree that the handball was blatant enough to deserve a red card, but the ref (apparently soon to get a Premiership gig) has, as they say, the final decsion

Half time
Town have looked fairly good so far, although their confident start gave way to a few jitters as Ebbsfleet settled down about half way through. Crawley have had more chances, and better ones, with Madjo looking very flash - perhaps a bit too flash at times. Ebbsfleet have threatened, but I can't recall a shot on target or more than one really clear chance. The Crawley central defence of Mills and Stevens are having a really good game so far.

Time for another beer.

Another cross from Crawley following a good move from Pinault, but the keeper beats Madjo to the ball. And that's half time.

Pittman makes a good run down the right wing, but the shot goes out before reaching the post

A Wilson ball in is fumbled by Cronin, but Pittman can't get the rebound. Another chance for Crawley there.

Thompson comes through midfield to win the ball for Madjo to weave through. A shot is blocked, Pittman gets the ball back but Madjo takes it from him. Pittman not too happy, especially as the resulting weak shot goes wide.

Setanta are a bit odd - they interview the managers during play. Imagine Sky approaching Ferguson during an Old Trafford game for a quick word...

Ball goes into the Ebbsfleet net from a Cook header, but the whistle had already gone - a push gives the free kick to the home side

The ball has been pinging across the pitch for a while, both keepers are having to punt it back in a few times.

A close shave, as Ebbsfleet's Boswick puts the ball over after a great ball in.

Crawley are starting to reassert themselves in midfield, but Ebbsfleet are definitely upping their game off the ball.

Another good cross in from Ebbsfleet requires Bayes to clear.

Another short spell of pressure from Ebbsfleet, a dangerous ball into the box is cleared, and then Opinel sends a speculative shot wide.

Ebbsfleet win the ball with a dodgy challenge, but a long ball goes over the line before their forward can reach it.

Wilson, and then Madjo, play well to keep the ball on the pitch, earning a throw in near the line.

Steve Evans says he's satisfied so far, but that we should have scored by now.

Madjo works superbly through midfield, Bulman's cross just ahead of Pittman. A really good chance for Crawley!

Madjo shoots! just squeaks over the bar. This game is looking pretty good considering the level that these teams are at (he says, patronisingly..._

Crawley under a bit of pressure as Bayes forced to clear, and shortly after a shot goes over the bar.

Opinel (an ex-Crawley player) gives away a free kick. There's a bit of tussle in the Ebbsfleet box but the keeper eventually gets the ball.

Good ball in to Pittman from the free kick (taken by Cook?), but it goes about a foot over

Handball by Ebbsfleet! about 25 yards out, trying to stop the ball going over him to Madjo. The lad gets a yellow, which is lenient

Madjo takes the ball up the left wing, past the defence, but no-one there to receive his cross.

Second corner played to the penalty area but easily cleared. Crawley win the ball back, but break down, giving away a free kick.

First corner of the game awarded to Crawley. Played short, but goes out for another.

Crawley tighten up at the back, catching their opponents in the offside trap.

A bit of a worry as Madjo and an another player clash, but the super-striker is ok. Free kick but nothing comes from it.

Both sides are working hard, and much of the play is in midfield. That's why the commentary isn't really sparkling. That, and my total lack of wit.

Crawley throw in to the box, but a foul is given against them.

Ebbsfleet shoot from outside the box - miles wide.

Crawley defend at first, giving away a foul by the corner flag.


Before the Game
Pint of London Pride poured, sofa cushioned plumped and the crisps in a bowl, it's time to settle down to a first for me - watching Crawley Town on the telly.

NonLeague Today's pools predictions have a home win, and Ebbsfleet have won three games in a row. Crawley had some great winds recently though, scoring 13 goals in the process. The betting has Ebbsfleet as favourites, but Madjo to score first.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A prison with a Mote in it

What's worse, an MEP who is elected to stand for one party and now sits alongside neo-nazis instead, or an MEP who can't represent his constituents because he's in prison for benefit fraud?

The answer is, of course, Ashley Mote, who has managed to combine both.

Today the MEP for the South East was sentenced to nine months in gaol for defrauding us the taxpayers out of £65,506 over more than six years. Seems that he was claiming benefits after his business failed in 1992, and 'forgot' to let the relevant authorities know that he'd got work in 1996, and was receiving money until late in 2002.

When he stood for UKIP in the Euro elections of 2004, he 'forgot' to mention the charges against him to his colleagues, and it became apparent soon after he obtained his seat. UKIP chucked him out, but due to the bizarre rules of the EU, even though he was elected on a party slate, they can't replace him on their own, he has to resign, die or become ineligible somehow.

As an independent MEP, Ashley joined the same bloc as populated by the French Front National and the Italian Alternativa Sociale (represented by Mussolini's granddaughter, who has inherited all of the old boy's charm and many of his views). The BNP are also allied to these parties.

You'd think, however, that several convictions (guilty on 21 charges) would be enough for Mote to lose his seat. Especially for fraud. Then UKIP would be able to put a replacement in his place and we'd have a full complement of MEPs working for the South East. However, because his sentence was less than a year, he gets to keep his seat, again, thanks to those 'wacky' EU rules (and a lenient judge). Which, as one of his constituents, really gets my goat.

What does a closet-fascist fraudster MEP have to do to lose his seat?

[edit: turns out that the rule about only losing your seat if imprisoned for one year is the same as for the UK parliament, so it's not just a wacky EU thing. Also, Skuds blogged on this one too]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Learco Chindamo

A few things occur to me as I read about the furore concerning the decision not to deport the killer of Philip Lawrence

1) He's still serving a life sentence. That is the punishment determined by the court when he was convicted in 1996. He is eligible for parole next year, but that is no guarantee of release. Even if he is released then or later on, he will be under license for some time.

2) He was 15 when he committed his crime. That doesn't diminish the seriousness of it, but in my view we should treat young offenders as being likely to be less capable of adult decision-making than, ummm, adults. However, it seems that in the UK we reserve a special kind of hatred for women or children who kill.

3) As eloquent and outspoken as Mrs Lawrence is, that is not a reason to let her decide the punishment. If her husband had not been a nice middle-class headmaster, but say, an asian shopkeeper, would we have a Mrs Patel on the from pages of the tabloids? Doubt it, somehow

4) It wasn't the Human Rights Act, it was the fact that by law EU citizens have freedom of movement, combined with the rules that say you can't deport an EU citizen if they've lived there for more than 10 years (which he'd done at about the time of conviction)

5) Hang on, Dave is leading on this one, right? One of the real complaints is that 12 years was too short a minimum sentence. So who was in government when Chindamo was convicted in 1996? Which party had a whole 17 years of power before then to set sentencing guidelines which would have stopped such a thing happening at all? Here's a clue - Dave is a member of it, and was working for them for part of that time...

A War on Errorism

Some science news. In fact, check out the rest of Tom Hamilton's blog let's be sensible to see how Daily Telegraph pundits who right on education can't tell the difference between 'half' and 'all', and thing that degrees in advanced computing like Artificial Intelligence are useless, how 'Dave' thinks that a bare knuckle fight is a departure from Punch and Judy politics, and the things a wide range of idiots will say.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crawley hosts a superstar

Tonight at K2, there is a basketball international between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Making his d├ębut for GB is Luol Deng, who came to this country as a refugee (or, as the current parlance has it, asylum seeker) from the war in Southern Sudan. In the USA he plays for the Chicago Bulls, one of the top NBA teams, and is in the process of starting a new contract which is worth more than Wayne Rooney's.

It's heartening that he has retained his association with his childhood home, where he started his career, and wants to play for the GB team, it's quite possible that he could easily take US citizenship and try to get into their team, given his talent.

Good luck to the GB team tonight!

[Edit - GB 88 - 59 RoI, with Deng scoring 24 points. Looks like luck wasn't needed, but there's another game tonight (17 August) with a real test against Slovakia next week in Birmingham]

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Love Music, Hate Fascism

Yesterday I went up to the Crawley Mela at the Hawth. The event has been running for many years, and brings people in from all over Crawley and the surrounding area, from all parts of the community. Primarily based on the South Asian festivals, there was lots of lovely spicy food, music and dancing from many cultures. I took a few pictures which (If I can figure out how to get them out of my phone) might get posted later.

Wealden Unite Against Fascism shared a stall with the long-established Crawley Campaign Against Racism and the local Interfaith Network. We gain some new members, but the main aim was to get the name out and to get exposure. One way to do this was to give out stickers to as many Mela-goers as possible. Most people were happy to wear the purple badges.

A few were less so. While most councillors who were there were happy to be associated with the UAF, including the Tory Leader of the council, Bob Lanzer, the Deputy Leader, Duncan Crow pointedly refused to keep one on.

[error corrected]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tory communalism again

Skuds has highlighted the odd case of Cllr Carol Eade, who manages to do the same job twice for two different places, by being a Borough Councillor for Furnace Green in Crawley and a District Councillor for Eastbrook in Adur at the same time.

Like Skuds did, I looked at her page on the Adur council website here, and found a few odd things in her profile.

My interests / hobbies :

I am now entering my forth year as a Councillor and have enjoyed being involved in many of the duties. I still read Chistian books but time and circumstances does not allowed long walks anymore.

Umm, surely you mean 'fourth', 'Christian' and 'do not allow', Carol?

When and why I have become a councillor :

One day, after a service at the Southwick Methodist Church, I was approached by a Conservative Member who asked me to become a Councillor. The pre-requisites were a female Christian. I said that I would think about it and two weeks later the same person addressed me with the same question and also asked my husband to become a Councillor. My husband and I went along to a Committee meeting at the Civic Centre to see how things were done. We made several enquiries and spoke with other Councillors before coming to the final decision of accepting the request. We both went for interviews and were accepted to stand for election. We were both elected in 2003 for one year and again in 2004 for a term of four years.
Clearly her term still ends in 2008, and there is no mention of the fact that she's also a councillor in Crawley on her profile (I wonder what the people of Eastbrook think of that?).

What most intrigued me was the idea that she had been approached because of her religion and gender. As 'pre-requisites'. Obviously more important than use of the English language (of course, we all make typos). So why did she have to be a 'Christian'? I didn't realise that the Tories, least of all the modern Cameroony fluffy ones of today, were specifically a Christian party. I wonder if that will come as a surprise to the recent Sikh recruits to the Tory banner in Ealing & Southall, or those who fought for seats alongside Cllr Eade here in Crawley this year. One of those, Jarnail Singh, now represents Southgate, my own neighbourhood, and was backed by the local Gurdwara.

Are the Tories exploiting religion for electoral gain? Will this backfire on them at some point? Events in the Ealing and Southall by-election suggest that it already is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A question answered.

Earlier in the year, I asked, Does the South East have a Fascist MEP?

Well, one thing I wasn't aware of at the time was that the grouping set up in January to represent the far right in the European Parliament is essentially made up of two groups. On the one hand there is 'Euronat', which is made up of parties like the French Front National and the Flemish Belgian Vlaams Blok. On the other hand is Ashley Mote and two others from Bulgaria and Romania as independents (although Mote was elected as a UKIP candidate).

Thing is, when I speculated that the 'Identity, Sovereignty, Tradition' group would be the natural home of the BNP, I didn't know that indeed, the BNP are the British affiliates to the 'Euronat' group.

So yes, Mote is effectively allied with the BNP. I hope that any people in the South East who voted UKIP realise what they have done.

More bad news for the Crawley Tories

Back in January, the Conservatives had to admit defeat on their badly thought through and costed plans to transfer Crawley's Council Housing stock.

Essentially, all of the bodies that had to approve their proposals refused to do so, mainly on the basis that the projected £60M costs were inflated. The Audit Commission, the local tenant's panel, the 'shadow board' (the group set up to create the new entity which would take over the housing) and the Government office of the South East are difficult to argue with. Until then, it had only been the Labour councillors who had opposed putting the flawed plan to the vote of tenants. The Lib Dems appeared to prefer to tinker with the edges, and it was only when they gained a Tory defector and the true extent of the debace was apparent that they came to a definite position.

One of the things that was highlighted back in November was that the council had spent £30K on a DVD which had been rendered incorrect even before it was sent out. The Tory leadership had included a reference to the possibility of charging more for the vital Lifeline service (which provides a direct link between vulnerable elderly and ill tenants and the emergency/health services). However, this was defeated by Labour, Lib Dem and dissident Tory votes, but it was too late to remove this 'threat' from the DVD.

Turns out that this was not the only problem with it, or with other advertising sent out by the Council around the time to promote the idea of transfer. Today the Advertising Standards Authority said that Crawley Borough Council had potentially misled tenants and upheld two complaints:

A newsletter headlined "Council faces £12m shortfall to reach Decent Homes Standard (DHS)" said the Crawley authority would not be able to meet a £60m figure which it claimed was the minimum spend required on housing stock by 2010.

But the ASA upheld a complaint that this figure was misleading, because it included future maintenance costs beyond DHS guidance.

A second point of complaint concerned a promotional DVD which questioned the reliability of other information being disseminated at the time by the Defend Council Housing group.

The ASA concluded the material "unfairly denigrated" the aims of the group, which campaigned against the housing transfer.

So, the DVD also attacked the Defend Council Housing group. But the more important thing is that the ASA have also picked up on the Tory claims of a £12M shortfall in funding due to a need to spend £60M in three years. Even after the Audit Commission and others had pointed out that the £60M figure was too high, or referred to a much longer period of time, the Tory councillors were still sticking to the £12M funding gap. It doesn't exist! And yet again, the Council are finding that an august body has called them on the claims.

Crawley council said: "We're baffled because everything was checked and approved by the relevant parties in line with government guidelines."

I'm 'baffled' because the Labour councillors, Defend Council Housing and others had been asking them to clarify their figures for months before they were ignominiously dropped. The fact that they did not, and still have not, suggests that either they didn't know what the basis for the £60M really was (and how it compared to the actual spend to meet the Decent Homes Standard), or they did but didn't want to admit that it was incorrect.

So did they lie, or can't they add up? And the people of Crawley elected more of these muppets to run the town in May.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A good day in court

Not only did Lydia Playfoot lose in her bid to sue Millais school for enforcing its uniform policy, but Tesco decided not to contest the suspension of the license at Downland Drive after all, and removed all the booze from the shelves ready for a 28 day dry period.

I'd have a beer to celebrate, only I've run out, and the local shop has just lost it's license.

Friday, July 13, 2007

In case you think I have a beef with Tesco, here's a Sainsburys story

It seems that the major chains are not doing well when it comes to satisfying the local councils. While I wait to find out whether the local Tesco will have its alcohol license suspension upheld, the main Sainsburys in Crawley has been fined £7,500 for not doing enough to stop boy racers using the car park for noisy meets. Costs of nearly the same amount were also awarded, costing the chain almost £15,000 in total, on top of their own legal bill.

The problem that Sainsburys has is that it is not easy to stop people getting into the car park when the store is closed. McDonalds and Homebase also have outlets there and the petrol station is (I think) open 24 hours. There is a gate on the slip road leading to the main car park, but to close it would probably cause problems (not least of which is that it is not easy for cars to turn back if they use the slip road). Besides, the entry to the petrol station also allows you to drive into the car park from the other direction.

However, it is their car park, and it is being used for behaviour that has caused serious annoyance to people living in nearby houses (a matter of yards away). The real problem is probably that as it isn't a highway, the police can't easily stop the miscreants on traffic offences, and Sainsburys has until recently been loath to spend money on trying to enforce reasonable use of their own property.

(I saw this on the BBC, but the story there has disappeared, so here's a link to the Argus, who appear to at least keep articles on local news in a findable place for longer)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wealden Unite Against Fascism launched

Tonight, we finalised the setting up of a branch of the UAF to cover Crawley, Horsham, Redhill and surrounding areas. It will be called 'Wealden' because we didn't want to restrict the group to Crawley or to any other specific area. It seems that the BNP are trying to gain councillors by finding vacant Parish Council places and putting candidates forward - often these will be unopposed. Exploiting this means that they can claim to be gaining support and representation (despite the fact that their vote is going down where they stand in real elections).

In the near future the Wealden UAF will be looking to campaign in the area, particularly where the BNP or other fascist parties have a visible presence. There is talk of hosting a 'Love Music Hate Racism' event, probably in Crawley, to build awareness of the campaign with young (and probably not so young) people in the area. It would also be a great opportunity for local musicians to display their talents and to help bring the community together

Bribing the Electorate

Further to my previous post, it seems that the Tories are really trying to prove that they have some policies (having spent the past 18 months proving that David Cameron is a 'nice guy' and little else).

The next big idea is tax breaks for married couples. On the basis that marriage will solve all of the social problems in the UK.

Now, I have a lot of respect for marriage. So much so that I am not married because I see it as a serious commitment that should not be entered into lightly. However, if the Tories get in and will pay me £1,000 a year to get married, perhaps I should regard it a less of an onerous promise. Thinking about it, if this is brought in, and it encourages people who are a bit dubious about marriage to get hitched, wouldn't we see more marriages break up later on (when the people realise that money isn't the only thing that should keep them together). Then there is the idea that people in failed and abusive marriages are to be encouraged to stay together because of cash. 'Family Values', anyone?

The other side to this, of course, is that it will cost over £3 billion to implement. Who is going to pay that extra tax - or who is going to lose the services of the same value? Could it be that single people will pay the price? Or even single parents? Are the children of parents who split up (or where one died) deserving of less support, so that married but childless couples can be better off?

Not to mention that it was actually the Tories who set in place the tax reforms which led to the abolition of the married couples' allowance in the first place (in 1990, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Major, started the trend to reduce its value). By the time it was abolished ten years later, it was worth about $400 per year, and benefited about 6 million childless couples.

Tesco fined £10,000

More on this (and the original post here).

I was mistaken in that I thought that today one of the Crawley Tesco stores would hear it's appeal against the decision to suspend it's alcohol license. In my defence, my information came from the BBC. The appeals for Downland Drive and Dobbins Place are due to be held on the 16th of July.

What actually happened today was the hearing for the Dobbins Place outlet which not only was caught selling alcohol to minors, but also did not have a proper supervisor (equivalent to a licensee for a pub) for a period of over two months.

The multinational corporation has, as a result, been fined £10,000 (source: the Brighton Argus). With takings from alcohol sales of £4,000 a week, I reckon that if the store makes a margin of about 25% of the retail price, the fine has wiped out the profit from that over the period for which the store lacked the proper management cover.

Now, it also happens that this week the Tories are unveiling their new 'policies' on Society. One of the ideas from Iain Duncan-Smith's groupthink session is to combat binge drinking and alcohol abuse by increasing taxes. Apart from the obvious question over the fact that the Tories have spent the last ten years whining about indirect ('stealth') taxes and have opposed every Gordon Brown budget which increased duty on alcohol and yet now they propose the exact opposite, should we not start off by enforcing the laws we do have?

In fact, as the councils in Crawley and Worthing are trying to do, having been notified by Sussex Police and West Sussex Trading Standards.

As much as a fine for breaking the law is a positive thing, £10K is hardly going to cause much of a dent to a company the size of Tescos operations, and if a spot check can find three shops in West Sussex which freely sell booze to minors, it would appear that the problem is more widespread (and that's before we even consider other outlets). Rather than increasing taxes for all drinkers, encouraging a black market and annoying much of the country, couldn't we just get the government to enforce the laws that are in place?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The perils of appointing from 'all the talents'

In the past few days, the idea of bringing in new blood to the main parties' front benches has been sorely tested.

  • When Gordon Brown put Sir Digby Jones into the new DBERR (which is the new name for the DTI), a lot of Labour people were a bit sniffy. It is now clear that while the soon-to-be-ennobled knight and ex-CBI leader will accept the government whip in the Lords, he will not join the Labour Party itself. I was under the mistaken impression that this was against our own Party rules (but I'm sure that they will be changed / ignored if it is).

  • As I noted earlier here the Tories are about to bring in Sayeeda Warsi to cover 'community cohesion', but she's got form. As usual, my comment is massively put to shame by Unity, who has comprehensively gone into her history and since brought up some recent developments

  • If you followed the first link in the previous point, you'll see that Unity has also dug into the past of Dame Pauline Neville-Jones (link repeated here). Seems like the time she spent as Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee was a total of 5 weeks, but it's the time after that which is of interest - pushing for appeasement of Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia at Dayton followed by a lucrative time working with Lord Hurd at NatWest brokering major deals with, umm, Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia until the downfall of the warmongering nationalist president put an end to the give-aways. Apparently the US diplomats nicknamed her 'Dame Neville-Chaimberlain' in 1996.
In all three cases, the appointee is unelected and will get a peerage in order to do their job. Even if they are only in their party post for a short while, their tenure in the Lords would be for life, barring some major impropriety on their part.

In all three cases, there is the potential for major clashes with the rest of their new colleagues (perhaps Dame Neville-Jones will fit in pretty well though with the Tories). I know that we need to bring in views from outside the political ghetto, but I think that in these cases the approach will backfire.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

People will insist that this doesn't happen

MCB condemns terrorism & calls for people to help the policeSecretary General Muhammad Abdul Bari said:

"Those who seek to deliberately kill or maim innocent people are the enemies of us all. There is no cause whatsoever that could possibly justify such barbarity."

Can't argue with that, can we. However, I bet you that I read in the next few days several people saying things like "so where are all the 'moderate' muslims who are publicly disassociating themselves from terrorists" or even "with the silence from the muslim community, are all of them in sympathy with the bombers?".

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tories just like the SWP?

Cosying up with moralistic muslims, I mean. New Gold Dream looks into the past of new 'Community Cohesion' Shadow Cabinet member Sayeeda Warsi. She likes Tory policy because of the homophobia and uptightness about sex education. She's also been quoted in the Times making numbers up concerning detention of terrorist suspects and stirring up tensions in Yorkshire:

She had believed that her detention statistics were correct at the time she wrote the Awaaz article, she said, adding: “I don’t believe that I have to justify everything I write, line by line and word by word.

“It may offend people sometimes but I will speak from the heart and speak the truth. And if speaking the truth is upsetting community relations, then I hold my hands up to that."

So, she may spout rubbish, and it may upset community relations, but she believes in the essential truth of it. I wonder how much 'truth' she will speak in her new role?

Still she was on the Cameron A-list for Commons seats, but the latest elevation will mean she gets a peerage instead. So yet another person will get a seat in the House of Lords and to serve on a front bench without ever having been democratically elected (yes, I know that the same is true of government ministers, and I'm no happier about that)

[hat tip:]

Frank of Horsham loses his job

Another story concerning the nearby town of Horsham...

Francis Maude has been sacked as Chairman of the Tory Party. At the same time David 'Two Brains' Willets has been moved away from the Schools brief. That is understandable, as it was a suggestion by him to continue current Party policy concerning Grammar schools caused a major stir (because the 'old guard' thought that the policy from over 30 years ago was still in place, despite the Thatcher government seeing more grammars close than any other).

But what has Frank done, or not done, to deserve his fate? Will he be able to spend more time with the currently moribund* 'Campaign for Pease Pottage Hospital'?

*moribund in that it appears to have done nothing for over six months apart from be used as a leafleting campaign by the local Tories. They haven't even updated their 'Proposal Document' to correct the spelling mistakes yet, let alone unveil any more of the plans, which we were told were a mere matter of a bit of effort on the part of Henry Smith and Francis Maude

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tesco update

Back in February, the local Tesco on Downland Drive (as well as the branch in Dobbins Place) had it's alcohol licence suspended after repeatedly being caught selling booze to under-18s in operations run by Sussex Police and the local Trading Standards. However, Tesco immediately appealed, and so the suspension has not taken effect.

There was another Tesco branch in Worthing which was subject to the same treatment for the same transgression, and the local council there had acted earlier. In the same way, Tesco appealed, and the appeal was heard and lost a few days ago.

The two Crawley stores are the subject of appeals on 9th and 16th of July (it isn't obvious from reports which one will be heard on which date). Unless there is some significant difference in the details, it would seem likely that the cases will go the same way - meaning that the shops would have to sell no alcohol for 28 days and when they get the license back ensure that a named licensee is on the premises on weekend nights.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blogertarian reveals true colours

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt says farewell to Blair in unsurprising terms, finishing up with a list of 151 awful things that he's done in the last ten years.

Not wishing to pick through the whole list to decide which I concur with and which are just paranoid warblings, I'll just look at the preamble to see where this comes from:

‘But think of all the good he did,’ say his vestigial supporters. The first ‘good’ to fall from their lips is his three general election victories. The thing is, the Labour Party isn’t like the Brazilian World Cup team - an election victory isn’t a trophy to put in the glass case until the next tournament. To hear most of Blair’s hagiographers speak, winning has been the end in itself.

I agree with this part - to a certain extent. Of course, that Blair won three elections is a measure of some success, and has the advantage that Hague and Howard didn't win any elections.

Once you get past the three golden ‘historic’ election victories, the rest of the trophies accrued over the last ten years look small and brassy. What about economic growth during every quarter of his premiership, cry the faithful. Or the minimum wage? And tax credits?

The thing is, who really cares about such things?

Me for one. Am I alone here? Isn't it part of the Labour movement, if not the vast majority of what we call the 'progressive' wing of politics to at least care about things like the low paid and unemployment? I tell you what, if the minimum wage was revoked today (unthinkable now, but not in 1997) or the economy slowed up, people would start to care an awful lot about it.

Especially when they’re administered in such cack-handed, inhumane ways.

Inhumane? The minimum wage is inhumane? Economic growth has been brought about in a cack-handed manner? I don't get the point - unless Justin has already moved on from the things he doesn't care about...

I think I'll pass on the 151 things that Justin does care about (I suspect that a great many aren't solely down to Blair, and that some are suggestions or quotes rather than actual policies).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Unity on the Ring Thing

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the parents of Lydia Playfoot, the 'Silver Ring Thing' girl, were somewhat involved with the running of the Silver Ring Thing in the UK.

In a sterling post, Unity from Ministry of Truth explains in full detail that involvement, along with a few more details about the case and the organisation.

But there's more. He also uncovers (with help from Tim Ireland the history of one Denise Pfeiffer, who appears to:

1) be involved with the PR firm which works for the Silver Ring Thing,
2) have been actually working for the Silver Ring Thing in 2004 as 'Assistant National Director',
3) be such a rabid Michael Jackson fan that she was charged with making obscene phone calls to the man who accused MJ of abusing his son (she was deported from the USA for that),
4) be the current or ex-girlfriend of one Clive Potter, BNP parliamentary candidate and a man heavily involved in the Solidarity 'Trade Union' and the Christian Council of Britain (both BNP fronts),
5) have, along with Potter, been involved in National Front activities in 2000 against the Leicester Mardi Gras,
6) be a lingerie model (at least in 2006)
7) work for 'mediamarch', an organisation which calls for lots of censorship
8) claim to be an 'asexual' and adult celibate