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