Archive for the 'politics' Category

Border Moved!

After the Civic Affairs Committee Meeting, groups representing the Parish Councils of Over and Willingham arranged three meetings over the Christmas period to agree a compromise (see posts passim).

The first meeting was an outdoor walk over the current and proposed boundaries, so everybody knew what we were talking about on the ground. This was amicable and not unpleasant, if slightly damp underfoot.

The next meeting was at Willingham Parish Council offices, and took place after Over had their next Full Parish Council Meeting. It was a very short discussion, because Over had voted unanimously not to change the border, because 400 years. So much for compromise. The final meeting was cancelled.

So, back to the Civic Affairs Committee with low expectations. I didn’t attend this time, as it was held during the working day, but the astonishing result was a decision to move the border to the green line, minus a couple of fields to the south (the red hatched fig-leaf to the committee shown on the map). An astonishing eleventh hour outbreak of sanity.

It’s not a completely done deal as the decision of the Civic Affairs Committee is only a recommendation to the Council. We will have to wait for the 25th January Council meeting for the rubber stamping to seal the deal – unless more politics intervenes.

Council Politics

Last evening I attended the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Civic Affairs Committee Meeting as a member of the public, albeit wearing my Parish Council Planning Committee Chairman’s hat.

Under consideration was a petition from businesses and residents in a portion of Willingham village which, for historical reasons, is actually across the border and in the neighbouring village of Over, although it adjoins Willingham and is separated from Over by more than a mile of open countryside.

It’s a good job there was no flammable liquid to hand because self-immolation was becoming an increasingly tempting option as the evening wore on. This was essentially a single agenda meeting and it took 2 1/2 hours. As a member of the public, I was not allowed to speak.

It should have been simple. The Guidance says: “The .. council must have regard to the need to secure that community governance within the area under review .. reflects the identities and interests of the community in that area.

The people and businesses in the area want to be in Willingham. Therefore, according to the Guidance, they should be in Willingham.

Over Parish Council objects to moving the boundary. Nobody knows why, and they didn’t say. The best I could glean was because 400 years.

Various District Councillors are also against it, and it is even harder to understand why. They never addressed the point, but did argue themselves into corners on several occasions.

One Councillor briefly raised the question of cost, but not what the cost related to – it seems the cost of debating this must now dwarf the cost of actually changing the boundary, but to discover whether that was true would have required the injection of facts into what was an almost fact-free evening.

The petitioner was asked what tangible benefits would be seen if the boundary were to be changed – even though this is not a criterion for judging whether it should be moved. He related the trouble some businesses have with deliveries, where lorry drivers first go to Over, then start looking for the business park. There is a business park in Over, so they drive around there for a while and eventually give up and phone.

The Councillors then became obsessed with SatNavs and postcodes, speculating on whether deliveries really would get lost – despite having just been told that they did. An anecdote about a villager who regularly misses having her bin collected was related. Her Councillor always tells her to ring the relevant department, and the first thing they ask for is the postcode, thus intending to emphasise the postcode’s importance but entirely failing to see that even with it she was not getting her bins emptied.

Another proposed benefit was that building a footpath to the business park might be possible. This was dismissed as “pie in the sky” by the Over representative because nobody would fund a footpath which was 1.25 miles long. A footpath to Willingham would be 75 metres.

Several Councillors expressed themselves “unable to grasp the concept” that all that would be achieved was the moving of a line on a map. This is entirely the point, despite another claim that to change the boundary would in effect be a “land grab;” no land ownership is in any way affected by parish boundaries.

One final irrelevance: it was observed by another Councillor that there are many anomalies like this in Cambridgeshire village boundaries. I’m not sure why he raised this because he didn’t say how it was connected. I assumed because they would then all want to change (some already have) but again, he didn’t say why that would be an issue. In fact, the Guidance does have something to say: “a [review] offers an opportunity to put in place strong, clearly defined boundaries, tied to firm ground features, and remove the many anomalous parish boundaries that exist in England.

It may be my political naïveté, but there appeared to be an unspoken commitment amongst the objecting Councillors (by no means all Conservative) that “nothing must change.” Ever.

How did it end? Astonishingly, with a compromise: the decision was deferred for 4 weeks so that Willingham and Over Parish Councils can meet and agree a way forward. It has taken an alarming amount of time and effort to get to what should have been the starting point.

It has also shown me that logic, reason and plain-speaking are strangers to local politics, and I can only thank my lucky stars that most of these meetings take place when I am at work and therefore cannot attend.

“Successful” Brexit

Just a small rant, because shouting at the radio in the car is not as cathartic as you might think.

I am getting increasingly annoyed by the repeated use of the expression “make a success of Brexit” without the slightest definition of what that success might be. Obviously, for T.May it is already a success. For R.Murdoch it is about increasing personal wealth, power and influence. I cannot imagine what goes on in the rage-driven minds of the Daily Mail editors and writers.

Nobody has defined “success,” but lots of people seem to be able to read the minds of the 38% who voted to quit – the will of the people – without actually saying what it was they saw there.

For me, a successful Brexit will be one where we

  • have free movement & trade within & with Europe,
  • welcome refugees from wars we have helped to start,
  • have no local duplication of civil service and bureaucracy,
  • retain influence on local & world politics,
  • have less racism & division, more unity,
  • keep & extend protection of workers & human rights, and
  • see an end to petty-minded nationalism.

You may be able to see where we would have to be to achieve all those things.

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie

A Champagne Socialist toasts the departure, at last, of Mrs Thatch

Dead, dead, dead.

Tim at work said when he first heard that Mrs Thatcher had died, he thought “Derek will be pleased.”

It’s true. I was. I opened a bottle of champagne and toasted her departure. Amongst the “vitriolic hatred” on Twitter, there were calls to “show some respect for the dead;” that she was “a mother,” or just a “sick old lady” and that we should “think of the family”. (To that last point, if I knew them, obviously I agree my reaction would be different.)

Clearer writers than I have pointed out that if the only people who are allowed to speak are those who admired her, particular those in power or who own newspapers, then the wrongs she did would be swept under the carpet. I refuse to be cowed by “petty” or “lefty” tags.

My younger cousin (although he is old enough to remember her) asked on Facebook what good she did. I could think of nothing, other than the inspiration to my favourite Alexei Sayle joke:

In the olden days, people were named after their jobs – smith, if you made horseshoes; cooper if you made barrels; thatcher if you made people SICK.

And I left it at that for a day, but the praise continued. People forget, or don’t know, or think that because Labour would have been worse then she was good for the country. That’s how we ended up with the horrors of the present Government, but that’s a different argument.

So I wrote this:

A lot of things which changed under Mrs Thatcher would have had to change anyway, this I will concede. The unions were undemocratic, and our industrial base was never going to continue as it was.

Things did not have to change in the callous and unsympathetic way that Mrs Thatcher chose. Germany and Norway managed it without the destruction. Now, without effective unions, we have a “flexible workforce” with zero-hour contracts, multiple part-time jobs, enforced weekend hours and a minimum wage which isn’t enough to live on.

She had more interest in 3000 people on an island half way around the world than the many British communities which were destroyed by her vendetta against the miners; the resulting Falklands War cost many lives and won her the election for her second term. We now import coal.

She sold off council houses and stopped the councils using the money to replace them; now we have a housing crisis.

She started selling off all the utilities, so now the French own the electricity, the water is owned by Middle Eastern and Chinese companies. They dodge tax on their profits, but claim that upgrades and maintenance must be paid for on the bills.

She “liberated” the financial markets and we all know how that ended up. Nobody can afford to buy a house in London as the bonus-driven price inflation spreads out across the country. Successful British companies are bought by multi-nationals, often with loans which they struggle to repay so that production has to be moved overseas or the factory they promised to keep open is closed because it is “unprofitable”.

She made the market “king” – private always better than public – which saw NHS cleaners re-employed by the lowest bidders, paid so little that they didn’t care about the job, and people died from infections in filthy hospitals.

Most of all, she created the me-first, money-is-everything, screw-you-if-you-can’t-afford-it attitude which pervaded the eighties and still drives the politicians of today. The rich own more and the poor own less but David Cameron still insists we are “all in it together” whilst his chancellor cuts the tax rate for the richest 300,000 people.

I’m glad she’s dead, because of what she stood for, because of what she did and because of what is still being done in her name. I wish that Thatcherism had died with her.

Democracy Inaction 2011

As usual, the sit at homes win by a huge majority. Oddly, although still pitiful, this was the highest turnout for several years – apparently because the labour voters bothered to turn up this time.

pie chart showing 56% didn't vote

Electorate: 5264, Ballot Papers Issued: 2343, Spoiled: 18, Votes: 1306, 521, 494.

Nuclear Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist for Western governments concerned over the safety of their nuclear reactors after the media outcry:

  1. Are you expecting the largest earthquake in recorded history?
  2. Do you expect any 10 metre high tsunamis?
  3. Err..
  4. That’s it.

Oh yes – stop basing your policies on the ill-informed jabberings of journalists.

Angry and Sick

I’m not angry at the LibDems (well, not all of them). They’ve been played by the conservatives, and played very effectively. Nobody appears to be blaming the Tories for privatising our universities even though they’ve done it. I am angry at the millionaires who had a free university education now stealing that from my grandchildren. The millionaires and their friends who are giving each other tax cuts, taking ridiculous pensions, awarding dividends and bonuses to their wives who live in tax havens, pretending that Cadbury’s is a Swiss company to save £200 million pounds a year, etc, etc.

I’m angry at the inequity and hypocrisy of it.

They can do it because the free market in financial services, which they created, screwed us all and whilst they are wringing their hands about how the country can’t sustain the debt they insist that it is perfectly fine for all future students to start life with even greater debts. “Because they pay nothing up front,” says the man who never had to save for anything, as if that makes it OK.

They can do it because the stupid press, instead of reporting the destruction of our future, leads with a story about an aged adulterer on a night out in the town who gets a little paint spilled on his armoured car.

I am old enough to have had a free university education. It benefits me, but it also benefits the country – if I earn more I pay more tax, spend more money, create more jobs. What next in this “learn to earn” mentality? What about those people with A levels? Shouldn’t they pay? What about those people who can read and write? What about those sick people, scrounging off us healthy people?

When I first heard what these bastards were doing to university funding, that the coalition government was going to force it through parliament with 5 hours of debate, I actually physically felt it – a sickening fall in my stomach as this country turned into a nastier place.

Google and WiFi Privacy

There are reports of people being outraged that the Google StreetView camera cars accidentally captured snippets of unsecured WiFi traffic as they wandered the land. I don’t really see the point of this – I’m pleased when Google can tell me where I am using this WiFi location information rather than the crappy GPS in my phone.

The outrage must surely be manufactured, but why? Do they seriously think Google is going to start emptying their bank accounts? Just because the Daily Mail is insanely interested in the intimate details of everybody’s life (particularly if you are a famous everybody), doesn’t mean that Google is going to start publishing the contents of any emails they found.

It was bad enough when the NIMBYs complained about the photographing of the outside of their houses from the street as an invasion of their privacy. To those I say “Either grow a hedge or put your clothes on whilst you are gardening.” And look up “private” sometime.

Now, people who are too lazy or stupid to turn on the security in their WiFi are complaining that small fragments of their communications might have been recorded by a passing camera car. It’s the criminals sat in the small van with a laptop that they ought to be worried about. Or the security forces who’ve just been promised £2 billion to store every web site you visit for your own protection against “terrorism”.

Is it just an anti-Google agenda, or is it a distraction from the Government’s far more serious snooping with intent?

I know who I trust: Google, criminals, government, Daily Mail.

A Sane Voice

I awoke this morning to hear the most sensible thing I’ve heard on the Today programme for many a decade. The outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Ian Gilmore, has endorsed the argument of Stephen Rolles of Transform that drugs should be decriminalised and regulated.

It’s a shame Sir Ian didn’t feel he could stand up before he was “outgoing”. The government (and this is without political bias, all the parties have knee-jerk drugs responses) has reacted predictably, saying it does “not believe this was the right approach”. I really cannot understand why they persist in thinking that prohibition will work, after decades of proof that it just doesn’t. I blame the Daily Mail.

The BBC have given this more prominence.

Maybe there’s life in the Labour Party yet

John Prescott was on Today this morning.

He was talking about the Conservative Plan to increase the inheritance tax limits, a tax change which would benefit approximately 1% of people in the country – the richest, of course – almost all living in Chelsea and Kensington. Mr Prescott said,

“it will be the only tax cut ever proposed where the man making it will know by name everyone who will benefit.”