Thursday, 31 December 2009
The official Tory line is that the council were magnificent and beyond reproach. I agree that the efforts by many staff was beyond the call of duty, but the whole farrago was reminiscent of a 1970s public information film where a water leak was dealt with by a family diving for the buckets, locating the stop cock and repairing the leak in the loft... whilst the narrator tells the smug nuclear family: "What a pity you let it happen in the first place".
The Tories revealed their hand when they went into overdrive rubbishing Lib Dem attempts to help residents, instead preferring to brown nose their way through the crisis with an orgy of back slapping and congratulations. What's odd is that we simply reacted to residents calling and emailing us for help because for some reason that's what we think councillors are elected to do. The Tories obviously view being elected merely as a chance to put on fancy dress and expect residents to know their place.
The people who run Reading and have run Reading for most of the last 23 years have not been the politicians but the council officers. There has been very little in the way of real politics, simply rubber stamping of budgets and policy decisions.
The Tories obviously plan to continue with the "Council knows best" approach that has characterised the way the council has approached everything from recycling to traffic management. Their claim that they are “ready for power” is a mere cipher for "don't expect anything different". In fact a very simple look at the voting record at full council meetings reveals that the Tories and Labour vote with each other against the Lib Dems far more times than their alleged Lib-Lab pact. It is more often than not a Labour-Tory consensus that prevails, with both parties hiding behind the fact the council meetings are never reported properly in either of the town's 'newspapers'.
One easy example is the last budget where we asked for speed guns to allow policing of blackspots. Both the Tories and Labour fought tooth and nail against the Lib Dem budget item, yet when it became policy thanks to us refusing to back down, they were falling over themselves to get pictured with them. Two faced muppets!
There is only one opposition in Reading. And only one party that thinks it is their role to reflect the views of and to stick up for council tax payers.
It sure ain't the Tories or Labour. They are both parties of the establishment and the status quo - now an even more appropriate analogy when Status Quo's unoriginal 12 bar three chord boogie merits an OBE from the establishment. The reality is that is was punk that changed music, not safe establishment pub rock. That's your choice with either the Tories or Labour.
If you want change, vote for the punks on the block. You know you want to... just have the courage to stick two fingers up to the boring old farts of British politics.
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Many have blogged and tweeted about the official version of events and quite honestly I'm not sure that I agree with it either. I suspect that some serious spin is being applied. We are to believe that it took until 5pm for someone to decide that there might be a teensy-weeny problem out on the roads.
Well hello! At 1pm it was clear that Mount Pleasant had not been gritted and was starting to freeze with traffic hardly moving. By 2pm there was complete gridlock in the town centre. The official story sees people sat around twiddling their thumbs until an "OMIGOSH have you seen out of the window?" moment at 5pm. Three hours of ignorant bliss? Maybe there was really nothing being done. I cannot remember a single official bulletin on local radio during that period or until the press release went out at 8pm.
I was similarly not impressed by the Council's failure to keep the buses moving. That should have been the number one priority. One of my constituents is 82 and left with no way home and a hill to climb... with shopping. In terms of reducing the congestion in an emergency, cars can be left in car parks overnight, if there is a guaranteed route home by a prioritised bus service. The council announced free parking far too late for anyone to know about it. Yet what if that had been backed up by a guarantee that all bus routes were fully gritted and operational? That is emergency planning.
When it comes to sticking up for residents, Lib Dems were all hands to the pumps, diseminating council information, pointing out where the problems were and trying to keep people up to date. Even so, we also believe that you should not make the same mistake twice and immediately called for an urgent review when it was clear that things had gone Pete Tong.
What was the Tory reaction? Since they can't help themselves - it was to spread lies. Daisy Benson calling for an urgent review apparently meant that the Lib Dems were demanding unlimited budgets for gritting. Putting words in your opponents' mouths and reacting to the words you yourself have put there is the result of taking Harry Enfield shows far too seriously:
"Now if that Daisy Benson come in here and said that she'd tear down the premature baby wing of the Royal Berks to pay for gritting across town, I'd say no Benson, you may be the hardest working councillor and undoubted darling of the local Twitter scene but you are not murdering babies to ensure that people have a safe journey home."
The only slight problem with that tactic us that she said nothing of the sort. Tories reacting to what they hope we'd say rather than we actually say is all they can manage. They really are going to have to invest in a new campaign manual.
On the other hand it is easy to be critical, so perhaps I'm being unfair and should consider how the Tory vision may be superior in some way to the Lib Dem response. Well, as is usual for a Tory promise it is, er, nothing apart from congratulating officers for their hard work. However, we know from their own mouths that the twin pillars of the next Tory budget are capped departmental budgets and cuts across the board. Out of grit? Tough luck, we have a budget to stuck to. The fuss and vitriol they kicked up when we suggested that yes, we would consider an overspend if it was for protecting children makes me think that the collapse of the town's transport infrastructure would be a mere bagatelle. I would recommend you all start packing sleeping backs and a thermos flask of soup before venturing in to a Tory run Reading in winter.
I was looking forward to the Labour reaction but they seem to have all disappeared leaving the Chief Executieve to take the flack which, I have to say, he has coped with extremely well. Doesn't mean of course that a self-critical look at what happened shouldn't be done as soon as possible. Delaying any review could be dumb. This could all be happening again in only a few more short weeks - we've only just started winter.
One of the main things that I'll be asking for is that the council puts in place more facilities to help residents help themselves. If the top of each hilly road had a salt and grit bunker, half the side roads would be clear by now with no expense to the council other than the raw materials. Yet have you seen the grit bin distribution? All nicely clumped in Tilehurst and Caversham. Equally hilly, Katesgrove has one, conveniently situated at the bottom of a hill! My road, Highgrove Street, resembles a ski jump for the winter games. We don't expect the council to grit all the roads, but it is not unreasonable for them to let residents help themselves and waving a bag of Saxa at the ice isn't quite enough.
I see a busy few days ahead for us, so whilst were working, why not have a look at our snow video?
Friday, 18 December 2009
The 'not enough hours in a day' scenario was typified by the second issue of UTA! this season being written in one marathon 32 hour session! Given that the only break I had that day was to attend a Lib Dem Group meeting and I had to cancel sleep that night, it surely proves that I truly am an artist suffering for his art!
But with the Work / Life balance now firmly tipped back in favour of Life, the spleen vent can be fully opened again. It's not as though I've had nothing to rant about.
The Thick of It final episode was an absolute classic and I suspect that you will find that being raided for quotes... although I have a lot less to choose from if I have to leave out the swearing. On the other hand it did generated a few ideas for a follow up to the original 'In The Poop'. I'm thinking that a closed circulation limited edition may be in the offing.
I only read a few local blogs on a regular basis but in the online equivalent of viewing a Zietgeist tape before resuming normal service, I had a little refresh to see how people look at the world if they don't have Pantone 1235 tinted contact lenses. Sad to say it only confirmed why I don't bother reading them. Most are the local political equivalent of This Week. On the other hand, at least Andrew Neill knows This Week is rubbish and only watched by people too lazy to turn off after Question Time.
However, I did have one unintended fit of the giggles at a 'a rant by numbers job' mascarading as political commentary. I was shocked to find out that an evil public services union was planning to bring down a major UK business. I was looking forward to this issue being brought up at the next Local Joint Forum and it would also explain what Tony Jones has been up to recently! Then as if by magic, the name UNISON disappeared?
But then we Bloggers would be toast without Find & Replace and a fervent belief that the Google cache will wipe it away in less than an hour. But thanks to a little web page archiver, it's joined the collection... ;0)
Saturday, 31 October 2009
We look back at previous generations and laugh at their foolishness at believing supersticious nonsense. We justify our ridicule of the Dark Ages with the widespread acceptance that fact based rationale is probably the best way to make sense of the world.
But maybe we have not progressed as far as our smugness lets us believe.
The Home Secretary says that he has lost confidence in a Professor who has simply done his job as a scientist and that is to state the evidence and produce findings based on the evidence.
When a fact based opinion is given to politicians and their first reaction is to wonder what the Daily Mail would think we are getting into dangerous territory. If we'd followed that practice in the 1930s we'd all be speaking German.
Instead it should be the Home Secretary that people should lose confidence in. The Labour Government is persuing policy based on nothing more substantial than the magic of the Wookey Hole Witch. The Prince of Darkness is probably grasping his planchette in his left hand as he consults his ouija board before giving Adam Crozier his daily set of instructions.
Even now I suspect Gordon Brown is thumbing through to the astrology page in the Daily Mail for advice on when to call the election. I await the next Government initiative to vet asylum seekers. Chuck them in the Serpentine and if they drown they can stay. Oops. Maybe in the current climate I shouldn't be floating ideas like that?
For all Gordon Brown's alleged high IQ, he and his cabinet have only proved themselves to be more and more intellectually bankrupt as the days tick by.
Friday, 16 October 2009
- An average 6 year old weights 20Kg.
- It would take 18m3 of helium to lift him.
- The balloon (approximating from a cylinder and cone) could only contain about 11m3 of helium.
...but I think I may have found a use for that helium bottle I haven't taken back yet!
Thursday, 15 October 2009
This was a poorly thought out election gimmick by the local Labour party settled upon in 2007 to get a green scheme up and running for the 2008 local elections. I was told this over a year ago by someone who at the time of the decision was a Labour Party insider.
It wasn't cheap. Reading Borough Council paid about a £50,000 premium per bus and over £200,000 for the refuelling depot. Labour didn't even have the decency to declare it on their election expenses.
To see Tony Page, a former Chair of Reading Buses, non-Executive director at the time of the decision and a cabinet member bleat he knew nothing and was completely in the dark really does beggar belief. Is he incompetent or simply refusing to give us the full story?
The supreme irony is that it was Labour's fuel taxes that killed it.
Monday, 12 October 2009
This is economic vanadalism at its worst from the man who sold off Britain's gold reserves when they were at their lowest level and destroyed the pension provision of the UK in a way that even Margaret Thatcher's "Greed is Good" philosphy couldn't quite manage. I guess he thinks that if he sells it all off now at the bottom of the market then the other parties will have nothing to work with when he gets kicked out on his arse.
All we need now is for him to appoint some management consultants to oversee the sales and fleece us even more.
Saturday, 3 October 2009
"Vote for Cameron. He's not Gordon Brown!" only has a certain reach and as we get closer to the election, they are having to reveal more of their manifesto and on this evidence there is not much sawdust between George Osbourne's ears.
The latest plans from their financial genius (sic) involves asking people reaching the age of 65 to hand over £8,000 for "guaranteed" long term health care.
This idea really does expose the fundamental problem with the Conservatives. They are fully geared to give to those who already have, paid for from those who have very little.
There are a major problems with the Tories' big announcement.
This is effectively a tax on retirement. It is why for decades the backbone of our welfare system has been to bank entitlements throughout one's working life as it's the time you are most likely to be able to afford to pay, ready for the times when you cannot. Duh!
Unless you already have a few shekels to rub together, this £8,000 is most likely to come out of a lump sum taken on retirement. £8,000 on current figures reduces your income from an annuity by £45 per month. Maybe not much to a Tory voter, but a hell of a lot if you are a pensioner with a meagre top up pension.
Then of course, we can see from Tory Wokingham exactly what they view as being long term health care provision as they slash services to the legal minimum.
And in terms of the real cost of health care, £8,000 is pissing in the wind. Research by Saga has revealed that the average cost of a four-year stay in a care home is currently £112,312. So who is actually going to pay to top up this guaranteed insurance for the well healed? Yep, the lower end tax payer who already shoulders an uneven burden.
Gordon Brown's legacy will be as the person who finally destroyed the pensions of millions of citizens but the Tories look to continue exactly where they left off and cannot be trusted.
There needs to be an honest debate about pensions and long term care funding, but Tory fag packet policies are not the way forward.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
The local Tories really are a party divided against itself as the latest CCEA Panel meeting flushed out.
When Peter Beard and myself voted against the Askett Hawke development of Kings Meadow it was because of:
- Over development
- We didn't think they'd get planning permission
- It was a big hunk of cheese casting a massive shadow on Kings Meadow
Pretty clear and unambiguous we thought and a logical position to take. The Kings Meadow Campaign wasn’t perfect, but we thought more likely to deliver. However, we got a load of abuse from the Tories as they either voted for or abstained in favour of the developers. Then after it was apparent they had scored a massive own goal with their own supporters, we saw their panicked backtracking. They then called-in the decision when it was abslutely clear to anyone that had actually bothered to read the officers' reports that all would happen was a 6 month delay and Askett-Hawke would tell them to sling their hook.
So what did we get? A 6 month delay, Askett-Hawke told them to sling their hook and eventually the cabinet backed the Lib Dem position. Could have saved everyone one time and effort if you’d listen to us in the first place boys and girls.
Then we have Rob Wilson... the man wot “saved the Woodley routes 63/64” claiming unjustifiably that it was all down to him as his press release was regurgitated by the Post without any semblance of journalism or actual facts.
All fine, except we'd started campaigning on saving them a full month before Rob’s “parliamentary straight from nursery” researcher put out their “me too” press release... and even then that was factually incorrect as it was Labour that bailed the routes out by using Transport Infrastructure Fund pump-priming money.
Now we have the Tories failing to back Lib Dem calls to reverse Tory Wokingham's and Labour Reading's 21% hike of Park and Ride fares. Yeah, real joined up thinking from a bunch of muppets who want you to trust them to run public transport in Reading. In a prime example by the Tories of how exactly they’d back public transport... they agreed with Labour to jack up the prices. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.
The worst insult they could muster was that we would dare to put the Tory position on our Focus leaflets? Duh! Too right, the local press won’t publish the real story. Despite their Labour leaning ways, the press now are so desperate to not annoy the Tories before the next elections that they choose not to report things fully.
It’s increasingly clear to even the Tories’ own supporters. There really is only one opposition party in Reading.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
No doubt the same nodding that has her standing for a party that is for replacing Trident when she is personally against it. Is standing for a party that introduced tuition fees, when she has campaigned against it. Is standing for a party that sent our troops to die in the illegal Iraq War, when she was opposed to it. But where are principles when politics are involved?
I have to agree with one point she made during the Politics Show about there being a lot of small businesses in Reading. There are... but they were bigger businesses until the Labour Party screwed things up.
After a promising start in student politics Anneliese has aligned herself too close to the Labour toadying machine to be seen as anything other than an apparachnik. Her press releases show the dead hand of Gordon Brown and a cut and paste Charlie Whelan template to put enough distance between herself and a dying Government.
Recent odds show the Tories as odds-on in Reading East, as you'd expect with an incumbent MP spending his communications allowance like there's no tomorrow (and rumours from Westminster are that there will be no tomorrow), but with the Lib Dems at 14-1 and Labour being out at 100-1, a significant switch to the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out is probably their worst nightmare.
One thing that I can guarentee that will happen over the next few months is that the Tories will start to throw mud in Reading East at the Lib Dems (and you can see from previous comments that they have already started with the personal attacks).
Thursday, 24 September 2009
I got lucky last year as my specialist subject came up at my first conference. No such luck this time, so this year I left it in the capable hands of Gareth Epps, Daisy Benson and Neal Brown to wave the Reading flag and get up and speak in debates.
After getting back to Reading I've been catching up on the various commentators and bloggers reports on our conference and they have by and large been so wide of the mark, you wonder if they are American service personnel.
The time when the only reason for party members to go to conference, in Vince Cable's words, was to give the leader a damn good kicking are over. We all know what we have to do and are fully behind Nick and Vince. We may have our disagreements, but we don't lie about them in public like the other parties do.
Since that's how they operate, it is only expected that others parties will try to make hay of the fact that Liberal Democrats are adults who can debate and argue the points and then once that is done and dusted get on with the job of sorting out Brown's broken Britain.
We are the only major party where it is the members who decide policy, not slimy tax-avoiding grey suits leading a bunch of sheep who'd happily vote for a donkey with a blue rosette on its arse. Where the idea of party discipline is to hide the true thoughts and feelings of party members behind a tissue thin facade of lies and false promises. One Tory candidate in Reading thinks his local group leader is completely useless. Bet you won't find that on his election leaflets.
There is a big clue in how our party operates badly hidden in our party's name... the Democrats bit. There is also a massive clue as to how the Tories operate and treat the electorate hidden in their name... Con-servative. When I was at Poly, there was a joke about the Socialist Workers' Party in that they were neither workers or socialist. The same is true of Labour they no longer represent labour, instead they have proved themselves to be the party of bankers and management consultants and look where that has got us.
I had a great conference, then I went back to my constituency and prepared for tea.
Friday, 11 September 2009
Gawd Bless Yer Mr. Brooker.
This is the man who threw a wobbler when I suggested an inner zone for the buses because short hop travel was too expensive and the man who told a full council meeting incorrectly (to much braying agreement from the Tories it has to be said) that mini-cabs in bus lanes were illegal. They are not. I had a response from the DfT that they are perfectly legal with the right traffic orders and in operation in many towns and cities in the UK... and in fact in operation down the Kings Road.
Now at the Traffic Management Panel he has claimed that I backed the closure of Station Hill to bus traffic. This is a lie. My position at board meetings, in public meetings and to the council officers responsible for highways has been loud and consistent.
For the record: A premier route interchange that is distributed around the station or away from it is not a transport interchange worthy of that name.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
So thank goodness for RSS feeds, I don't have to sully my favourites with a link to their website!
This is right on the button yet again. Charie Brooker on James Murdoch
It sounds like the local Standards Board is going to be very busy between now and the next election with assorted Tory skunks and Labour rats competing with each other to tell tales to teacher. Should be a good spectator sport for the rest of us!
Peter Jones' "Malcolm Tucker" impression is legendary, but I wonder if this means that Mr. Willis will have to behave himself for a change! Shame!!!
Friday, 4 September 2009
Freedom of speech is a right that must be preserved to protect against the power of the state, but there is a limit. The oft' cited shouting 'Fire' in a crowded cinema is one example where there is not a carte blanche to say what one likes when one likes.
Amazon.co.uk have been selling a CD from Manchester United supporters containing "Sit Down You Paedophile" being sung at Arsène Wenger and profiting rather nicely from it. Not surprisingly this generated a plethora of complaints.
In an interesting defence, Amazon claimed that they were selling the CD in the interests of protecting "free speech". The very same company that removed all critical reviews and deleted a discussion thread criticising their decision to sell it.
Given the rather bad taste of some items published in Up The Arse! over the years, I agree that there is a fine line to be trod between what constitutes distasteful and objectionable content and what is plain illegal, but in this case only a muppet would have tried to continue with their defence for so long.
It is probably just a coincidence that an email to their customer services department from Arnold J. Aardvark pointing out that a distributor can also be held to be guilty of criminal libel saw the item being removed from sale a day later. I suspect that an audio download accusing Caitriona Clancy, their Executive Customer Relations (sic), of being a 'kiddie fiddler' would have been removed before you could say 'hypocrit'.
Football humour is always going to push the boundaries of what is acceptable. It goes with the territory, but there is a well accepted line that the majority don't cross. There will always be the morons who sing about gas chambers and air crashes, but they usually are marginalised by proper fans and don't get the backing of multi-billion dollar global corporations.
What new wonders can we expect from Amazon in time for Christmas? A CD of Munich songs sung by the Citizens Ensemble? The Hillsborough Hymn Book sung by the South Yorkshire Police Choir? The next Up the Arse! is already writing itself.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Lest you should forget, thanks to their two year ban, it's Reading's Conservatives who are responsible for the rise of that particularly grotesque bean-curd munching, crystal healing, green wellie wearing, middle-class field fest where accountants commune with nature for a few days before driving back to London in their 4x4s. Okay Yah!
It's 22 years since I first cadged a backstage pass to Reading. I got it as a payment for working for 'free' building lighting racks and doing light shows at rave gigs at weekends. I blagged my way in in similar style for the next few years!
In 1987, Friday night was goth night with The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim and All About Eve. I caught the train straight from work at which I'd spent the day in my finest goth gear and carrying a metal flight case covered in stage passes. The finest beer smuggling device I ever possessed. It was never checked on entry!
1988 was one of the funnier Reading Festivals, even now. With a pretty poor line up, bottle fights were the order of the day. On the Sunday afternoon Janice Long announced: "If you don't stop throwing bottles, the Hothouse Flowers aren't coming on." Cue 25 minute rain of bottles!
1990 saw a major mud bath, where we discovered that Mudhoney didn't like mud. I'd hazard a guess that they didn't like honey either.
1999 had the 'funniest use of a flag' winner during Catatonia. Half way though 'International Velvet', the biggest flag of St. George ever seen in Reading started making a stately procession from the front of the mixing desk to the front of the audience causing Cerys to almost crack up with laughing. It is to be seen whether the ban on flags will also extend to foilage. British Sea Power would not be the same without it.
August 2000 saw the inspired choice of "We Hate Tottenham" to open the Sunday on the Carling Stage.
Even the dual-festival hasn't diminished the pull with the BBC forced to add "and Leeds" under their breath during their coverage. It'll will always be Reading Festival because: it's all about the music.
This year I am looking forward to seeing: The Horrors, Placebo, Kaiser Chiefs, White Lies and Glasvegas. If you want a laugh check out Crystal Castles and Anti-Flag!
Saturday, 22 August 2009
A new Up The Arse! hits the streets today, 17 years after the first issue and the quality hasn't improved although the targets have.
Looking forward to keeping an eye on Eboue Goals as Arsene Wenger continues with his ethos of fair play by forcing the Arsenal team to play with one arm tied behind their backs for at least part of every game.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
"Boggle-eyed, slapheaded, unpleasant, revolting, heartless, shit-for-brains, attention-grabbing, foetid excuse for a prick."
Had to use my V+ box to rewind and relisten several times! Who says satire is dead?
Thursday, 13 August 2009
"I find it incredible that a free people living in a country dedicated and founded in the cause of independence and freedom can seriously be thinking about adopting such a system."
Was it some right wing American nut job like Rush Limbaugh? No, it was a member of our very own British Tory party. Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP.
You see, you can say one thing in public, attempt to play to the gallery, deny it is party policy, hoodwink the voters... but we know what you're really thinking deep down. The only crime is getting caught saying it out loud.
Monday, 3 August 2009
Wind forward a day and I'm having a quiet beer in the Nag's Head and the background CD from Hell is playing: Genesis, Yes, arrgghhh! Can you demand Tamiflu for accidental exposure to Prog Rock two days in a row?
Later they swapped it for an eighties CD which wasn't much better, but it did have one of my least favourite Cure tracks, Caterpillar Girl, which against the opposition became my favourite track of the night.
I am going to have to listen to 'The Top' again. I think I might have been a little unfair to it.
Friday, 31 July 2009
However, the This Morning with Richard Not Rik Show! is still providing plenty of laughs for the people of Reading. A handbags-at-dawn epic about who signed what petition when. Now now children, don't go telling tales to teacher.
Perhaps satire is dead when those who should be satirised make such a great fist of it themselves!
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Friday, 17 July 2009
Thursday, 16 July 2009
After signing an early day motion asking the Government to back down over the extradition of Gary McKinnon he voted with them.
When he abstained in the Gurkha vote after posing publically for photographs, I called him a disgrace. Words fail me for his latest piece of duplicity becuase this time he actually voted with them. Still hoping for a peerage are we luvvie? Can't think of any other reason why he would want to Brown-nose so shamlessly.
So next time you see some god-awful press release from him about how proud he is to back an early day motion, just remember it is all hogwash and he doesn't mean a word of it.
Martin Salter: the Parliamentary career that died of shame.
I've always been a fan of local milkmen and there's no better way of showing your appreciation than by actually using them.
Marmite didn't take up my other brilliant idea of the time, but I've forgiven them as squeezy Marmite is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Obviously it has to be since sliced bread or you wouldn't have anything to spread it on.
Friday, 10 July 2009
Results were in today, and it was such a comprehensive demolition of the Tories that I can't even start to pretend that I made a difference. When I left town, Gosport had no Liberal councillors and putting a Liberal poster up in the windows was akin to a declaration of war. Now we run the place.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Even then I suspect that the Tories knew the score when they signed him up. They just hoped he wouldn't be found out, but why? His antics have been well documented in Private Eye.
But one of the more alarming aspects of the story is that it looks more and more that the courts and the police have tried to bury the story. John Prescott makes a very good point (I can't believe I just typed that!) when he says:
"First of all, those of us that had our phones tapped and the police were aware of it - why were we not told? Why were they [the News of the World] not prosecuted?
Why indeed? Just who were they trying to protect? The victims quite clearly were those whose phones were tapped by a foreign owned tax avoiding newspaper. This looks like collusion in the British establishment to protect the guilty, because I can think of no other reason to keep these facts secret. Power and money does apparently have its advantages.
But back to more basic reasons why Murdoch's poodle shouldn't be trusted. He's a Spurs fan. I've just found one of my old stories about him in UTA! issue 54. Far too bad taste for a family web site like this!
Monday, 6 July 2009
These organisations were set up by the Tories in the eighties and enthusiastically seized on by Labour as means of (1) avoiding having to make unpopular political decisions (2) getting around the public's rather nasty habit of wanting to have a say in things and (3) an nice little sinecure to reward the party faithful.
Now it would seem that, rather like his Road to Damascus revelation over Section 28, after opening the stable door Cameron is scrabbling around for a lasso - although perhaps I should instead welcome Conservatives coming around to the Lib Dem idea that you should put the power back in the hands of the people. The problem I see with the Tories sudden conversion to democracy is that their track record suggests that once the public start making decisions they do not agree with, they will take it back off them.
Many of the bodies are nonsensical and undemocratic. Strategic Development Agencies exist because both Labour and Tories refuse to get to grips with the West Lothian Question. The proposed replacements are doomed to fail because "South East" has no emotional recognition. England does.
OFGEN has led the way in being industry poodle rather than a consumer champion and OFCOM has proved itself to be little more than a lobbying arm for British Sky Broadcasting.
In Reading we have the Local Strategic Partnership, an undemocratic body that keeps its minutes to itself and which thanks to Labour has seen large amounts of decision making transferred from the democratic to vested interest groups.
We also have the perpetuation of 'jobs for the boys' for failed politicians as the South East Diamonds and numerous other unelected boards testify to.
Many quangos only exist because of the target driven culture pioneered by the Tories and perpetuated by Labour.
Yes, some of the quangos have to go as they serve no useful purpose. But on the other hand would you trust the Government to audit itself, or run a railway? No, is the simple answer. Some of these bodies are absolutely required, but need to be publically accountable.
A commitment to local democracy from the Tories, rather than headline grabbing platitudes would have been far more convincing.
Friday, 3 July 2009
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
He lists the current circumstances as the recession, whilst any fule kno, it's because the Government would be given a damn good kicking by their own backbenchers.
That is, apart from Martin Salter who, loyal to the last, would no doubt go down with the ship in inglorious style. All fully in keeping with his campaigning to keep Post Offices open, whilst with no sense of irony whatsoever also voting to close them.
Just hold your nose a little longer. They'll be gone soon.
Friday, 26 June 2009
We can now say that Reading Tories make it up as they go along... it's official!
First we had a motion from them against the Preventing Violent Extremism report that looked like it had been made up on the back of a fag packet. Actually, it would have been much improved if it had been written on the back of a fag packet. So much so that when their group descended into farce they were told by their own Mayor to get their heads together and "sort it out", which they did by removing the word 'not' from their motion to reverse its main recommendation completely!
Then we had one of their number putting forward a motion to help defray the service charges to council tax residents by putting windmills on tower blocks. Since he didn't voice any opposition to the service charges in his speech he presumably agreed with them as a way of balancing the Housing Revenue Account, so it's amusing watching their headbangers trying to pretend that they'd do nothing of the sort.
I have to acknowledge though, that they have a understandable position to present to the electorate. It's hard to accuse them of their sums not adding up when they steadfastly refuse to do the sums in the first place. I suppose their argument is that it's impossible for the opposition to accuse them of committing major fraud on the electorate, when no-one actually knows what amount is involved.
This was followed in the meeting by an even more hilarious scene when the more excitable fringe of the Tory group had to be chased back to their seats after getting up to walk out when the saner members of their group suddenly realised that they'd lose one of their own motions if they left.
We're used to ridicule from both Labour and Tories for sticking to our principles in the council chamber. The number of votes since May 2008 which have seen the Tories and Labour voting with each other against the Lib Dems leaves no doubt that there is only one opposition party in Reading, but if the Tories really think that they are ready for power, then Lord help the residents of Reading. They are an absolute shambles.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Thursday, 18 June 2009
From the published details of MPs expenses, Reading East Conservative Association submitted invoices for and were paid:
|15/09/07||£1,200 for delivery of Parliamentary Report.|
|28/03/08||£500 for posting a Parliamentary report to inaccessible electors.|
|18/03/08||£1,300 for delivery of Parliamentary Report.|
What makes it interesting is that Rob Wilson in defence of breaching Commons rules over the misuse of the Communications allowance told the Commissioner:
"I am aware that a very small number of reports were delivered after that date due to reliance on volunteer deliverers, some of whom are elderly. However I know that in the vast majority of the constituency (including Church ward) my instruction was met."
So if we are to believe the MP for Caversham, he uses volunteer deliverers for which Reading East Conservatives charge £1200-£1300.
Assuming the "inaccessible" invoice is for items that were posted, that makes £2,500 paid from the public purse to the local Tory party for "voluntary" deliveries.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Chancellor Alistair Darling does not plan fundamental reform of the structure of the system that regulates UK financial institutions.
The US government has announced a major reform of banking regulation to prevent future financial crises. The overhaul of the banking system will require big banks to put more money aside against future losses and is meant to curb excessive risk taking.
So there we have it, the Badger thinks everything in the garden is rosey whilst the US havve twigged just how corrupt the whole system is.
However this is the telling line:
Mr Obama has said he expected Congress to "work swiftly to get these laws into place", but warned that his plans would be a "heavy lift" because they faced opposition from "special interests".
Yeah, the same special interests that has seen the so called Labour Party lying supine on their backs and waggling their arms and legs in the air as they've had their tummies tickled for the last 12 years.
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Rather like their local party who offer the electorate daily rubbish collections, round the clock litter picking, free day care for the elderly, a place at Eton for every child, a 50% cut in council tax delivered in lavender scented envelopes and a new Reading International Airport to cope with the large number of pigs circling overhead.
It's an interesting election strategy... relying on having a fool born every minute, but you've got to admire them for trying.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Despite the forecast, the sun came out and it was a nice day down by the river - although I did fail to get a go on the fire engine before it had to leave, Curses!
Praise where it is due to Martin Salter who turned up. Obviously, approving of my taking his advice to get out more, politics were put to one side and we had a pleasant enough conversation. It would be churlish not to acknowledge that he was instrumental in getting the Children’s Centre off the ground and despite his rather shabby record of toadying to the government, it is something he has done that he genuinely can be proud of.
On the other hand, Rob Wilson rather predictably failed to attend yet another event in the ward and it was a shame the Mayor wasn’t able to fit it into his diary. Probably too busy fitting in party political events in his Mayor's dairy to bother. Previous Mayors have managed to turn up at events at the Children’s Centre and had a great time. I hope Fred manages to clear his diary in time for the Christmas Party.
It seems that the only time that the Tories’ can fit in activities in Katesgrove is when it comes to faking pictures for their 'newsletters'!
Update: One commenter has suggested that Rob was at the Woodley Carnival giving out prizes. I don't know if this is true, but it's a good enough excuse and probably more fun than his last visit to Woodley.
But enough of Sir Alan Sugar. Well done to Sir Christoper Lee. Probably got it because Gordon Brown saw his bravura portrayal of Peter Mandelson in 'The Creeping Flesh'.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Please note that... not Chelsea or Man City or any other self-styled richest club in the world. Real Madrid. That must be a kick in the teeth for any self-agrandising multi-billionaire to know that a municipal football team has the drop on them.
Spending £80m right after shelling out £60m for Kaka means that Real Madrid are probably due another dodgy training ground swap from the capital of Spain and if UEFA had any bollocks, they would mandate that money spent on players was a maximum proportion of revenue.
I'm no fan of Real, but at least they are a football club. There is a lot to be said for a football team that is owned by the community, rather than some tax dodging, justice avoiding charlatan, but then what do I know about football... I'm an Arsenal fan!
Sunday, 7 June 2009
The former Spurs Chairman bought into Tottenham Hotspur in 1991, just in time to be on the inside track of the first Premier League rights package negotiations. What a coincidence for a satellite dish selling entrepreneur.
According to "Sick as a Parrot: Inside Story of the Spurs Fiasco" by journalist Chris Horrie, during the negotiations for the first TV rights for the Premier League, sealed bids were made by Sky and ITV. The ITV bid was higher than the original Sky bid.
Alan Sugar was heard calling Murdoch with details of ITV's bid, telling him to: "blow them out of the water" after ITV had offered £262m.
The revised Sky bid was put to the chairmen of the clubs and accepted. ITV were not provided with the opportunity to up their offer. In the end Sky paid just £190m, after failing to meet foreign sales targets.
In 2007 Sir Alan sold AMSTRAD to Sky for £125m and pocketed £35m for his troubles whilst staying on the AMSTRAD board.
Sir Alan told the Independent in 2005: "The biggest problem Labour has is its name. It's not really a Labour party. It has a chancellor drumming up business and enterprise." And we all saw what happened when they sucked up to their friends in the City, the biggest recession in living memory and a generation in hock, no pension and debts coming out of their ears to pay for their student loans. Thank you Labour, handing the country over to those already loaded is a legacy to be proud of isn't it?
Sir Alan is absolutely right about one thing. The Labour Party has consistently hoodwinked their core support during the nuLabour years. Only sentimentality keeps it going. It no longer has any connection with the party of Keir Hardie where principles are 'flipped' as regularly as property.
In February 2005 Sir Alan made a famous prediction about the iPod: "Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput."
He was wrong about the iPod, but with a slight adjustment he can rescue his reputation for telling it as it is.
Right now, it's the Labour Party that is dead, finished, gone, kaput and the call up of Sir Alan to become Lord Sugar is the final nail in the coffin.
Go on Sir Alan, you know it has to be done: "Gordon Brown. You're fired"
Friday, 5 June 2009
The Labour Party knows everything there is to know about parliamentary sleaze, so trust us to clean it up because we're the only party that really knows just how corrupt it is.
What next from Labour?
We know just how screwed up the economy is because we're the ones that wrecked it. Go on pretty please let us try and fix it.
We've buggered up the NHS, so please let us put it right because we're the ones who know what's broken.
...you get my drift.
Drawing attention to why the electorate hates you is never a good idea.
And Martin Salter really has gone demob happy when stating on BBC Berkshire that MPs who didn't back Gordon Brown were 'insane'. You can tell he's not defending his seat and is looking for a post-Commons peerage courtesy of the Order of the Brown Nose.
Thursday, 4 June 2009
It could be the first time a rat has joined a sinking ship!
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Do you know what we'd have done with it? Spent it on providing more front line staff instead of enriching computer consultancies with a track record of failure. When CDs full of children's personal details, as they inevitably will, are found riding around on trains, will we see this discredited lot resign? No, of course not. We saw how desperate they are to cling on to their jobs when Pete Ruhemann disgracefully refused to accept responsibility for the failures in Children's Services.
And Labour really cannot see any way of solving problems other than to hand over millions of pounds to computer consultants, who co-incidentally have donated money to the Labour Party.
Let's imagine how the conversation for the creation of database went:
"Dear computer consultancy, we have a problem with failing to provide adequate safeguards for our country's children. So instead of putting resources into children's services and providing more social workers to provide a decent level of service, what can we do that makes it look like we are doing something instead? A computer database you say? What a brilliant idea. If we'd asked child protection experts they would have never come up with anything as innovative as that. Here's a blank cheque. Oh, and here's a wall for you to piss it up as well."
If as it couldn't get worse, they handed the contract to PA Consulting, the firm which lost details of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales.
No, the real truth is that whilst we have this Stalinist bunch bent on centralising state control of the individual we, the citizens and our children, are the one's in danger.
We are in the last days of Pompeii. The sooner they go, the better.
Monday, 1 June 2009
It's been an interesting few weeks listening to politicians speaking of reform and proposing absolutely nothing of the sort, apart maybe from Alan Johnson who is desperately trying to distance himself from Gordon's mess before he sticks the knife in.
When it comes to the two main party leaders, David Cameron has offered enough hot air for a balloon trip to Paris and Gordon Brown has promised yet another focus group. Has he not see 'In The Thick of It' episode 2? We just need an Expenses Czar and we'll have had the full gamut of knee jerk reactions.
Of course the Lib Dems could bore for Britain on the subject of constitutional reform. Proportional Representation, Freedom of Information, House of Lords reform... yawn! We've been there and done it, some of us for considerably longer than we'd like to admit, but until the two main parties understand that the sheer unaccountability of the representatives of the people is the basic problem with British politics we're not likely to see faith in the political process restored.
As a case in point, it was demoralising to see a report on BBC Breakfast this morning where people were just not interested in voting because they felt it wouldn't make any difference. In a constituency where you could pin a blue rosette on a donkey (and in the case of Gosport, that's exactly what they have done for the last 35 years) what is the point of voting? What is the point of a democracy where less than 50% of the voters have an absolute grip on power for up to 5 years. I can't remember the last time a ruling party had a mandate from more than half the population to implement their programme.
We like to pretend that we have the mother of Parliaments, but in fact we have a squalid system where vested interests continue to have their way over people's lives. You can see this in the way that nuLabour were seduced by the lobbyists, the bankers and the management consultants, the very same people who supported the Tories in the past and who will support them in the future. Labour or Tory? It doesn't matter. They both sweep up hangers-on who have no principles other than to be on the winning side for their own self-interest.
Politics in this country won't change until voters are given back control of their lives. In the words of Wolfie Smith: Power to the people!
Friday, 29 May 2009
I'm not sure I agree with the editor's impassioned plea during Local Newspaper Week that local papers have an important role holding people to account. There is far too much of a symbiotic relationship between local papers and the people they are keeping tabs on for that to be true and in many cases a willingness to accept the official explanation as an end to a story has been evident.
Add to that the small matter of being systematically starved by their proprietors of the resources to do proper investigative journalism. It's therefore no surprise that we get a local press eager to not rock the boat because, quite frankly, their advertising revenues depend on it.
I'm not singling either of our local papers out for criticism, simply recognising it as that's the way it is.
Thursday, 28 May 2009
I am writing to you about Reading East MP, Rob Wilson, who is currently seeking to recruit an unpaid worker for his office, in spite of the regulations that require all workers to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.
In terms of this MP, the advert he has posted (copied below) makes it clear what he wants this intern to do; "Duties will include data entry, filing, answering telephone calls and general office assistance to Rob's Parliamentary Aide and Constituency Assistant". I am sure you are familiar with MP's use of interns as workers in this way, but maybe not so familiar with the fact that HMRC has significantly tightened its definition of volunteers recently, which has specific relevance to the use of interns in political office.
I have checked this situation with the DBERR helpline on the Minimum Wage, the only place for authoritative, official advice on this subject, with reference to the new guidance, and asked specifically about whether an intern who was expected to do work like this should be paid the Minimum Wage.
They say that firstly the term "intern" has no meaning in terms of the regulations and that the only exception for "work experience" is where it involves a full time student on a required placement for their course.They also told me, firmly and unequivocally, that for a volunteer to be exempted as unpaid they must not be expected to turn up at any specific time or do any specific work and also that "as soon as you give them work you expect them to do they could claim the Minimum Wage as it becomes an employee/employer relationship". This also accords with the newly published guidance on the regulations which was highlighted in the Low Pay Commission report on the National Minimum Wage and which is now widely available.
Please note that it makes no difference whether a person agrees to work unpaid or not - it is not permissible for an employer to conspire to avoid payment in this way.
This is also not about the use of volunteers who might drop in to an office and agree to take part in campaigning, all of which can legally be unpaid. There is however a quantifiable and legally observed difference between that, and taking someone on who has been recruited to do specific work like this individual.
I have asked Rob Wilson about this, via his assistant, but he is not prepared to address this or check the regulations. At a time when the probity of public figures is such a live issue, this is somewhat surprising. However if he will not do it, might I suggest that you find out if what I am saying is accurate or not? The Minimum Wage helpline (0845 6000 678) would be more than happy to advise on this. If you make an enquiry as an employer and place the circumstances outlined in front of them and ask them whether someone taken on in this capacity should be paid, you may discover something that you may, or may not, wish to enlighten Rob Wilson about.
If you need any more details, please feel free to ask.
However, that doesn't mean that other important conclusions can't be drawn from the claims being made. You just have to look at some of them: expenses for the upkeep of a duck pond, a coppice, moat repairs and now a claim for servants quarters. You couldn't make it up.
It tells you all there is to know about David Cameron's hot buttered crumpet Tory party. Ce n'est rien la change.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
In Reading, your Tory councillor only does a mean average of 36 items of casework per year, a Labour councillor does 44, whilst a Lib Dem on average does 94. See, it's not just an election time slogan, we actually deliver what we promise!
Sunday, 24 May 2009
Because we haven't spent any serious money for the last three years we have seen the gradual decline of the team, down to the point where there is not enough daylight between us and fifth place for my liking, let alone being up there challenging.
The club has to decide whether we want to end up like $pur$, endlessly whinging about the glory days of yesteryear and talking about pretty football or whether we want to be serious contenders.
We have some terrifically talented young players and also some who Wenger keeps around because he's determined to prove people wrong. This summer there has to be a clearout of players like Diaby who have gone backwards since breaking through, a downgrade to able subsitute for the likes Dennilson and above all the building of a backbone to the team. Signing Arshavin was a step in the right direction, but he should have been brought in as a planned team building excercise in August, not a panic buy in January to thwart Villa's charge.
Overall, I'm not worried about who might be shipped out this summer or the tabloid scare stories. I am more concerned that Arsène Wenger understands that the days of Champion's League football on the cheap is now over and serious investment is needed.
Friday, 22 May 2009
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Reading has a Labour administration because to a man and woman, the Tory group voted for one.
There is no other reason.
What Labour does in the coming year is the complete responsibility of every single member of the Tory group. What Labour inflicts on the town is the fault of the Tory group. When Labour screw up again, it will be the fault of the Tory group.
Of course, it didn't go without the usual blustering and pomposity from the Conservatives who once again proved themselves not fit to run the town if they ever get power by once again showing that they can't be bothered to read the Borough's constitition.
The annual meeting is the moment that the council appoints the executive for the coming year. If you want to appoint a different one this is the moment that you do it. D'uh!
The Labour response was predictable. On the Disappointment Index Jo Lovelock only registered a "very disappointed". I was hoping for an "extremely disappointed" at the very minimum, so I was disappointed.
Events only proved, as if we didn't already know it, what an arrogant bunch Labour are. Last year they were rejected at the ballot box and have less than half the number of councillors, yet still think it is their divine right to run the town.
I can exclusively reveal how many calls our group received to ask us if they could count on our support or abstentions to re-elect their executive... a big fat zero.
But we know that they are a busted flush, so you can't really blame them for carrying on with their arrogant ways after 23 years of running the town into the ground. That's only to be expected from them. The real disgrace as far as the people of Reading are concerned is the behaviour of the local Conservative group.
This is what Andrew Cumpsty said in the Evening Post in February: "Reading deserves much better than this and we Conservatives are ready to deliver it."
Their actions and conduct then and now exposes that boast as hollow and empty rhetoric like their other promises. They continue to peddle the lie that they would have set a zero percent council tax, when in fact their budget for change was a blank sheet of paper. No wonder people have no trust in politicians when they act like this. They really are a shameless bunch constantly trying to hoodwink the electorate.
They had their chance to back up their words with actions and the local Conservatives blew it. They have shown themselves to be more interested in dressing up in fancy dress and posturing than delivering anything concrete to the people of Reading. Last year the electorate demanded change. They have been peristently denied it by this disreputable bunch who have the cheek to style themselves an an opposition.
One thing was clear from the Annual Meeting. Reading only has one official opposition group, and it sure isn't the Tories.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Since he now conceeds that his web site is nothing more than Tory propaganda, maybe he should offer to pay back the £10,357 of tax-payers money that he has trousered to pay for it and his piss-poor "Parliamentary Reports" over the last year? Makes claiming for a hob-nob pretty small beer.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
In April 2007, Martin Salter spoke up in the House of Commons in support of a bill that would exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act. It passed in the House, but fell in the Lords because no-one was prepared to back it. The irony of an unelected House upholding the rights of the electorate was not lost on me.
At the time my colleague Gareth Epps told the Evening Post: "This squalid bill is designed to reduce the amount to which MPs are open to public scrutiny. It will damage freedom of information and give politicians a bad name. It is sadly no surprise to see Martin Salter enthusiastically in support of it for those precise reasons."
At that point Mr. Salter accused Gareth of jumping on the media bandwagon, in one of the more bizarre attacks from the ambulance chasing MP from Reading West.... or East depending on which way the wind is blowing.
When I highlighted Martin Salter's attempts at suppression of information about MPs he failed to address the substantive parts of my complaint and instead resorted to personal abuse, telling the Evening Post that I was a "tragic individual who should get out more" (although you may also say that was fair comment!)
In support of his attempt to exempt MPs from scrutiny, Martin Salter sent out a press release saying that: "I am today registering a formal complaint against Reading Borough Council for releasing my correspondence on behalf of my constituents." A Freedom of Information request to the Information Commissioner showed that he had done nothing of the sort. A slight case of being economical with the truth methinks.
But this should all come as no surprise to anyone. Martin Salter has a track record of voting against allowing more Freedom of Information for the public. In April 2000 he voted against another extension to the act which would have allowed disclosure of facts behind policy decisions. In Salter's case it seems that the mantra he is happy to take up in defense of curtailing civil liberties, that of "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear", is not applicable in his view to MPs.
At about this time Mark Thomas was running a competition to hold a protest outside the Houses of Parliament to highlight the Serious and Organised Crime Act which forbade protests without authority. This was a bill that Martin Salter supported.
My entry for the competition was:
The Martin Salter MPs’ Expenses Protection Demo. "Save Our Expenses From Scrutiny"
This won, selected by Mark Thomas himself. At the demo, I had a chat with Mark about Mr. Salter. Enough said!
His latest attempts to appear holier than thou ignores completely his recent brush with the Standards and Privileges Committee. The Committee found him guilty of using pre-paid House of Commons’ envelopes to distribute unsolicited material and a failure to say it had been paid from his parliamentary allowance.
In a damning comment, the director of the Department of Finance and Administration said of him: "I consider some of his comments about his approach to the House rules regrettable. It is possible to draw the inference that Mr Salter has on occasions knowingly broken the rules for which this Department and others have a responsibility."
Which brings us onto Rob Wilson, our whiter than white MP for Reading East. I'm sure his expenses are all above board, but what have we here? The same committee that found against Salter, found him guilty of distributing party political material along with a Parliamentary "Report" which itself broke the rules for use of the Parliamentary allowance. Nice use of taxpayers money whilst we still can get it, eh Rob?
His creative use of the Parliamentary allowance shows no signs of stopping as he used it on a web site funded by the allowance to launch a political attack on Gordon Brown, hardly in keeping with the correct use of the allowance which is keeping his constituents informed about his Parliamentary activities, not party politicking at the tax payers expense.
This is what his own leader had to say about the communications allowance:
"Let me turn to another issue: reducing the cost of politics more generally. If we are frank, many of us know that the next issue we have to tackle is the communications allowance that was introduced only two years ago. It is worth £10,000 to every MP. Let us be honest: taxpayers are effectively paying out thousands of pounds so we can all tell our constituents what a wonderful job we are all doing. We have all done it; we all know the facts. Is not this a gigantic waste of money? Will the Prime Minister" now get on with something I have suggested many times? Let us save some money—scrap the communications allowance now"
Cameron must be sure that Lord Ashcroft is about to cough up more foreign cash if he now thinks his party can cope without the allowance to supplement their political campaigning.
In January 2008 I wrote a letter to the Evening Post accusing both our MPs of "Snouts in the trough from both Labour and Tories, where the only crime seems to be getting caught."
We have moved on 16 months and nothing that has happened since then that has changed my mind.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Without giving too much away in case you have tickets for Wembley, I'd like to apologise for ruining what might have been a promising new gag. The premise was: "What's the point of the Lib Dems? The rosé of British politics. They always come third."
That was until one cheeky member of the audience piped up: "Er, I'm a Lib Dem and I won." Sorry folks, I couldn't help myself correcting the Spurs fan's elementary error, especially as he was performing in my manor, so to speak.
I think I got off lightly for wrecking wherever he was going with the gag and of course, as is usual, all the wittier responses I could have made to him came to me during the interval.
He was right about one thing though. As with rosé, you'll like us if you try us!
Monday, 11 May 2009
But being a glutton for punishment, I'm back there on Thursday. This time for the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association Gala Dinner for a 20th Anfield Aniversary celebration on 'The Gooner' table. Rumour has it that George Graham may be attending! I hope so. He might have been silly enough to have been Spurs manager for a while, but he was really only a pantomime villian in most fans' eyes.
UPDATE: Provisional attendees are Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, David O’Leary, Steve Bould, Perry Groves, Gus Caesar, Alan Smith, George Graham and "Ooh Ah" Ray Parlour. Bob Wilson and Roger Daltrey will also be there on behalf of their respective charities. Now that is some guest list!
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Both Labour and the Tories have used council meetings to make snide comments about his dual role, including the rather bizarre attack that Gareth was using council meetings for political purposes. Duh!
This reshuffle will allow us to continue to be effective in the council chamber and allow Gareth to get on with the serious business of advancing Liberal Democracy in Reading. Can't wait!
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
But Gordon Brown is not the man who should be ashamed. He is, after all, holding the Government line in the face of a record national debt.
No, it is the 245 other Labour MPs who voted with him who should do the decent thing and go outside with a loaded pistol and rid Parliament of the self-serving greedy snouts in the trough sort of people who have done democracy so much disservice.
It is only right that the names of every one of them should be published.
UPDATE: When I wrote this post, I wasn't aware the the Reading West Weasel had abstained. The man is an unprincipled pusillanimitous disgrace. I hope his supporters are proud of themselves.
Many thanks to the people who have passed on their condolences after the death last week of my cousin Robert.
When I was younger, my Dad would dump me at my Auntie Pat's in Plymouth during the summer where Robert used to let me play with his Airfix aircraft carrier. Very brave of him!
Robert was regional manager of Catalyst Housing Association and I had dealings with him both as a councillor and at Great Expectations where we would have a beer and chat about our shared interest in unravelling the complexities of the Swaine family tree!
Thanks to the Evening Post for publishing this:
Monday, 27 April 2009
Saturday, 25 April 2009
So when I saw an item on the getreading web site that an Evening Post reporter was heading out to file a report, I apparently posted the following comment:
Perhaps whilst Natalie is out there she could perhaps also file a report on the political situation in Sri Lanka? I know it will be of interest to the many in the Reading Sri Lankan community.Except there was a bit missing by the time it got to being posted... the bit when I asked her to make sure she reported on the endemic corruption and rampant racism that is at the heart of the problems in the country. Odd that.
I'm sure Reading's Sri Lankan Tamils population would love to hear an unbiased report in the Evening Post on Serendip. I'm not sure we are going to get one if they can't stop editing their own comments page to remove off message items.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Let's take out the council spin shall we. The report actually states...
* It is accepted that some staff and ex-staff felt they experienced bullying behaviour......before making excuses for why it didn't count as bullying.
The main reason the report did not find evidence of bullying is that there were four tests for it to be proven:
Intent: was the behaviour intended to cause distress or to humiliate;
Impact: how the behaviour impacted on the individual;
Context: the overall situation, the reality of the concerns, the timing and the setting in which events occurred and roles within it; and,
Perception: how the recipient, or others present, perceived the behaviour at the time or shortly afterwards.
As these tests were agreed with the unions, the council can safely claim that there was no problem. I'm not sure why the unions decided to drop their trousers and bend over and agree to these definitions, but in my book any two out of the four would be evidence of bullying.
More laughably the 'intent' clause makes a mockery of these rules, as the only way to find out intent is to ask the person accused of bullying and is reminiscent of the old joke... "Are you a spy?" "No." "Well that's okay then, welcome to MI6".
We're not going to get to the bottom of things when there is such clear evidence that incriminating council documents and emails are routinely destroyed and the chances of that improving in the future is remote when I was told that the working relationship between officers and lead members had to be protected.
I'm happy with the assurances given to me by the Chief Executive that he will do all it takes to stamp this culture within the council out. The problem really is how many of those responsible remain in post if it is so easy to dodge the bullet.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
There were a few occasions that saw the front row going solo with giggling. Quite possibly because, whilst it might have been a Westminster-Washington satire, you couldn't help yourself from comparing these ludicrous characters and their comments to some of our local politicians.
"I am not a monster"
Rik "Desk Jockey" Willis:
"Have you actually ever killed anyone?"
"What you fell asleep on them, that doesn't count."
Peter "Sweary Mary" Jones:
"Those are curse words right?"
"Kiss my sweaty balls, you fat f***"
Andrew Cumpsty [on making a decision]:
"We have a saying in England: 'difficult difficult, lemon difficult'"
...or when he's speaking in full council:
"You're lobsterising. Can anyone smell bisque?"
You may be seeing more of this in the coming days on a satirical web site near you!
And if anyone turns up today at the Katesgrove councillors' surgery today with a problem with a wall... I'm out of there!
Thursday, 16 April 2009
The meeting of the Corporate, Community and External Affairs committee voted to call-in the cabinet's decision to award Askett-Hawk an exclusive period to develop their proposals for Kings Meadow. Andrew Cumpsty blustered his way through an unconvincing argument for delaying the restoration of Kings Meadow even further. Even more incredible when you take into account the fact that his party chairs the scrutiny panel that recommended it.
In fact if you look back on the last year, the Tories seem to be pathologically incapable of making a decision.
When it came to replacing the Civic, a process that they had been involved with since the start, they bottled it after an intervention in the press from Rob Wilson and instead chose to go back to the drawing board and delay that programme to the point where delivering it before the Civic falls down has to be questioned. When it came to setting a budget, one of the most fundamental duties of a local council, they couldn't come up with a single proposal apart from offering the electorate 'as much gold as they could eat'. And now we have their fudge over Kings Meadow, yet again following Rob Wilson squirming over their council position at a public meeting.
The local Tory party does seem to be going through a little internal crisis, evidence of which is their shocking treatment of Isobel Ballsdon. She was unceremoniously booted out by the boys despite leading the successful Tory response to the Childrens' Services JAR report for which she had earned enormous respect for the way she handled it. Isobel has put on a loyal and brave face since but really, that was shoddy politicking.
There now are question marks being posted around the forums and comment pages from Tory activists about Andrew Cumpsty's ability to lead the local party and it is true that he owes his position to a casting vote. Underneath the Tories are deeply divided and apparently led by the nose by Rob Wilson's re-election campaign. Even that seems to be out of his hands as he allows his minions to fabricate pictures for his glossy leaflets without censure.
It will be interesting indeed to see if the Tories can hold themselves together in a display of public unity when it is clear to outside observers that they are riven with factions whose only common goal is power at all costs.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Thursday, 9 April 2009
I should say at this point that I have the utmost respect for Tom Stanway and the reasons for his decision to back Askett-Hawke's proposal because I know he arrived at them after much thought and deliberation.
However, Rob Wilson's attempt to ride in like a knight on a white charger to the rescue is a tragic symptom of the bandwagon hitching he is so fond of. He perhaps should have shared his concerns about how the community can take part in and gain use of King's Meadow Baths with his fellow Conservatives before the committee met.
The maths were quite simple. If the Conservatives had all voted for the King's Meadow Campaign, Rob Wilson wouldn't be having to furiously back-pedal to save face now. His call for a call-in by the Corporate, Community and External Affairs committee of a decision that two of his own councillors dodged is pretty desperate.
Mr. Wilson should maybe also have had a word with one Tory member of the committee who did not appear to have read the briefing papers, asking a question the answer to which was quite clearly in the report before us. It's just not good enough to turn up and skim read the papers during a meeting and not have a good enough grasp of the matters under discussion to vote one way or the other. It is perhaps why we are sent them in advance? The people of Reading deserve better from their councillors.
It's a matter of public record that both myself and Peter Beard voted for the Kings Meadow Campaign proposal. As I said at the time, it was a tough call. I wasn't happy with some parts of the KMC bid, but then I wasn't happy with parts of the Askett-Hawke bid either.
Since it was a public meeting, I don't think I'm out of order for reiterating why I voted the way I did. The Askett-Hawke plans, in my opinion, overdevelop the waterfront and reduces the amenity of Kings Meadow - that hotel is going to cast a long shadow over the park in the summer evenings. In the current market, I also wasn't happy that all the integral elements would be viable and a partially completed project would do no one any favours. It was my opinion that there were pluses and minuses to both plans and in the abscence of a clear winner, the community option was always going to get my vote.
What can be said is that the planning committee is going to have to be pretty damn careful either way. Some members have probably overstepped the mark in what they have said about the two bids and will find it difficult to avoid accusations that they haven't predetermined a decision before the facts are presented before them.
I don't think this is the last we have heard of this by a long chalk!
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
They should have just arrested the American videoer under section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 for taking a picture of a police officer, confiscated his film and had done with it.
Still the City of London Police will be doing the investigation, so no harm done.
UPDATE: It seems that Independent Police Complaints Commission has finally taken over the investigation.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Corruptissima republica plurimae leges
Yesterday saw the introduction of a law which means that every email you send or web site you visit will be recorded.
Access to this data is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) which means that Reading Borough Council can, if they so wish, ask to see who you are sending emails to or which web sites you are visiting.
These powers were introduced under anti-terror legislation, which is why their biggest use is to work out who is dropping litter or trying to get your children into a good school. Those crazy Al-Qassam Martyrs will definitely think twice before conspiring to drop crisp packets in Broad Street.
I can see the appeal of "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" mantra, but it is a crap argument of an intellectually bankrupt mind. We've seen how easily Daily Mail campaigns become law in this country. When the Tories introduced laws to ban ticket touting at football matches, the select committee said that it wouldn't be used to criminalise the ordinary fan. So why then do touts continue to act with impunity whilst I personally know ordinary fans who have been arrested for handing over tickets to their friends? It's because the guarantees we are given are not worth a politician's promise.
The anti-terror laws were just such a prospect. Launch an illegal war against Iraq knowing that it would create more danger for British citizens, wait for the sadly predictable response and then hoodwink the public into removing centuries old earned rights and force everyone to be a drone of the state in the name of anti-terrorism. Anti-terror was never the agenda though. Scrapping the ID card scheme and putting more police on the street with the money saved would have been the most appropriate response, but whilst socialism is now a dirty word in the Labour party, central state control of the individual has never gone away from their plans.
The inevitable end point of all these laws is that the state will define who you are, your access to resources such as health care, education and even having your bins collected, all on the basis of you playing by the rules... their rules. The sad thing is that now they are on the statute books, the Tories won't repeal them for fear of looking soft on terrorism. I hope I am wrong about that, but I'm yet to be convinced by the public school boys.
And just to show how mad things have got, these laws make it possible for an organisation that allows staff on 'gardening leave' to shred documents over a weekend unsupervised and can't even supply copies of exant emails requested under the Freedom of Information Act because they can claim unverifiably that they have been deleted to now have unprecedented access to our personal lives?
There is a lot more to come out over Shreddergate but here's the sneaky bit, as my FoI requests proves, if you don't know what to ask for you won't get it. And just to make sure that nothing gets out into the public domain, if you do ask people are given 'confidential briefings' and are then under the threat of being Standards Boarded if anything should leak out. Clever!
The years of the one party state in Reading has left many unanswered questions which I'm not sure if we'll ever get to the bottom of because, as Jo Lovelock's threat to whistle blowers at the January full council meeting signified, there are some desperate for things to remain hidden.
In the meantime, if anyone from the council has any further information they would like to share, do not use your reading.gov.uk address and do not use the council's proxy servers to send emails via hotmail. They are monitored.