Sunday, 30 March 2008

Why can't this country do things right anymore?

In an earlier post about the chaos at Terminal 5 I speculated why was it this country can't seem to run large capital projects anymore. It was bit of a rhetorical question but interestingly the same question was asked in one of today's Sunday Papers.

The answer the columnist came up with was very disturbing. Basically he said starting 40 years ago and continuing to this very day there has been a sustained attack on our education system. The Grammar schools, which has been gutted by successive governments in the name of educational choice, were a conveyor belt that took children of academic promise and turned then into solid middle class professionals, the Doctors, Dentists, Engineers, Surveyors, Architects, project mangers, bank managers, etc, all those desperately needed professionals that are vital to keep our society going. Unfortunately it has taken 30 years for us to notice the supply well has gone dry. However, as the people who qualified in the 60's and 70's get older and retire then their replacements are not coming through and hence major projects are being left increasingly in the hands of people without the education or training to carry them through.

The "Operations Director" interviewed on the TV over the Terminal 5 debacle was a perfect illustration of the tend. He was young, clean cut, obviously at home in front of the media and totally incompetent if judged by the standards of how well Terminal 5 Operations were being managed. He probably had a degree in Classics from Oxbridge and an impeccable pedigree, exactly the sort of chap one always had on the board, the problem being there are no longer the professional highly competent, practically educated and trained Grammar School boys available in the levels below him to ensure the general direction he provides get translated into workable, real life solutions.

The worry thing about this theory of course is that its taken 30 years for the shortage too become apparent and so it could well take 30 years to put it right, even if we started now. The perfect analogy being the crippling shortage of skilled tradesmen caused by the UK's decision to stop training apprentices. The UK Skills gap that exists because of that decision has never been closed and probably the shortage of skilled professionals will be the same. Of course if we want a Media Studies Graduate then no problems! If we want an Engineer, Project Manager, Surveyor, Brick layer, Plasterer, plumber, electrician, etc then that's a bit more of a problem! Lets all hear it for Education, Education, Education!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Tall Ships Board

Just an aside from a Councillor at the North Hartlepool Neighborhood Forum on Wednesday

"I'm on the Tall Ships Board myself, but we haven't had a meeting yet........."

Well they had better hurry up if they plan on contributing anything to the event. Surprisingly I wasn't asked if I would be interested in being on any of the committees. Of course as someone who started sailing when I was about 6 years old I suppose I wouldn't have anything to offer and no doubt Hartlepool Council is full members who hold RYA Qualifications as Day Skippers and who have actual experience of sailing as a crew member on board these vessels?

Terminal 5 Teething Troubles

I wonder how many people were like me and thought of the London Olympics while they watched the chaos at Heathrow Terminal 5. I could visualise a complete catastrophe of an opening ceremony with the Olympic flame turning up late, the stadium only half built and any members of the public who had tickets being sent home as the health and safety police hadn’t completed the risk assessment and put in place the required emergency plans.

Maybe Seb Coe could explain it all away as “teething problems”

This country’s record on major projects is not exactly an example to the rest of the world at the moment. Wembley stadium was years late and millions over budget; the millennium dome was an embarrassment and now Terminal 5. What is wrong with this country? Maybe if we spent less time being politically correct and more time doing the jobs that need doing then we might get somewhere! The London Olympic Authority should be concentrating on getting the infrastructure in place to enable the games to be held, however there are much more important things to consider such as the ‘gender equality’ present in the construction industry. Lord Coe and his team are currently recruiting two Employment & Skills Managers (Women’s Project) to proactively promote construction related employment opportunities for women, assist in removing the barriers facing women wishing to enter the construction industry, broker on-site construction related work placements and direct employment for women and offer additional support to women on-site to ensure retention and career development.

According to the Olympic Delivery Authority Website ( “Understanding gender specific schemes will be new to many contractors and to the construction industry as a whole. The successful candidate will have a proven track record of supporting women/under-represented groups in gaining employment within the industry and also facilitating relevant training and development opportunities. In addition, they will have experience in educating and assisting companies to place women/under-represented groups into construction jobs.”

The salary on offer for these jobs, a quite modest £35,000. However, from such little acorns might empires of politically correct jobsworths can be grown.

Hartlepool’s own major project, the tall ships race looks at the moment to be relatively free from too much political correctness, although the aim for Hartlepool to “make its mark by setting a world first. The first Tall Ships' Race with the environment at the forefront” could ring some alarm bells. How long before the Council Taxpayers of Hartlepool are picking up the bills for a Tall Ships Race Office Climate Change Manager?

The “work steams” announced in the Hartlepool Mail also caused me some concerns. Event technical, fleet technical, event management, visitor accommodation/marketing all seemed to be fairly sensible but two others, finance/legal and safety advisory made me wince. As an experienced project manager (and qualified health and safety advisor) I know financial responsibility cannot be delegated to a sub-committee and both financial and safety issues need to be part of each group’s own working brief otherwise they can easily spiral out of control.

Terminal 5 might take several weeks to sort out their teething problems but at least they will have that time. The London Olympics (and the Hartlepool Tall Ships) are one off projects. Get either of these wrong and there are no second chances.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Happy Birthday Rosie.......Love You!

My Baby Girl Rosie is 17, Happy Birthday! Here she is cutting her cake yesterday (Her birthday was 26th March) with her proud parents and grandparents (Baby brother Edward is missing from the picture as he is at HMS Caledonia this week on a Meteorology course). We had to take the candles off for the photo as the glare from 17 flames was too much for the camera to cope with.

Unfortunately for Rosie the expected car didn't appear for her birthday. She did get a copy of an insurance certificate with her as a named driver for her mother's car and that cost over £500. Apparently ALL her friends got mini coopers for their birthdays! Well her friends' parents must have more money than sense! Rosie's car of choice is a RAV4 and I wish her well in her quest for one. She's watching one on e-bay at the moment, £400, R Reg, 110,000 miles on the clock. Rosie tells me the Insurances is only £75 A MONTH.

Seventeen years ago Rosie was just 9lb 8oz, she's a bit bigger than that now and seventeen years ago i could sit for hours just letting her grip my finger. This morning I had to watch her get into the car, full of 17 year old invincibility after one lesson and set of to drive to college. The journey lasted almost 10 yards before her mother yanked on the handbrake and managed to stop the car about 6 inches from a brick wall. I knew it was too soon to let Rosie drive on busy roads at 8.00am but what do I know, I'm only her father! Hopefully the scare might mean she admits so needs quiet roads and lots more practice, however she is a 17 years old woman so admitting her dad "might" be right is going to be very hard for her to do.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The wonder of Woolworths

Has anyone seen the latest Woolworth's TV Ad? It's includes a section on "boy's toys" and another section on "girl's toys" The two sections were each over very fast but it seemed to me the boys toys were cars and the girls toys were pink! I will take more notice next time it's on.

My wife and I have two teenage children, one girl and one boy. (Sorry, I should say "partner" not "wife" as using the word wife might imply a totally non-PC belief that a married couple are somehow a better arrangement for child rearing than single parent, same sex couples, or a multi gender nurture sharing matrix). Based on observation over many years my "partner" and I know that the male child and female child are different. Not that one is better than the other, just they are not the same! On the whole boys do want to play with toy guns and model cars while girls like dolls and make-up. As they get older then the boys move more into computer games and the girls develop the female fascination with shoes (and handbags).

I wonder if the Politically Correct Brigade will be complaining about the Woolworth's Advert? After all it could be interpreted as a nice piece of gender stereotyping!

The PC lobby ignore the fact that girls and boys on the whole prefer to play with different toys. Political correctness says that shouldn't be allowed to make a difference. I am all in favour of both sexes having equal opportunities but the sexes ARE different. Some boys might want to play with dolls (I had an Action Man myself, isn't that a type of doll?) but as the PC Brigade will say, how will men get in touch with their feminine side if they are not made to develop caring and nurturing facets of their personality? As regards what side of their personality girls display as "Ladettes" then the least said the better!

These comments of course will be interpreted by those who have the PC Mindset to allege that I am a rampant sexist and display out of date, redneck thinking. In my opinion one of the problems with Britain at the moment is Political Correctness! There are 1,000's of people out there now working in the "discrimination industry" and it is in their interest to find more and more ways to keep themselves in work! IfWoolworth's want to advertise boys toys and girls toys then I say good luck to them! If the children don't want them then they won't pester their parents to buy them,Woolworths will lose money and withdraw the products. Of course saying "parents" could leave me open to more allegations of being None-PC! What about kids with only one parent, or kids living in alternative lifestyle scenarios? What is the Politically Correct term for "parent" these days? Can you even say "Children" or "Kids" or should it be "young adults" or by saying "young" am I being ageist? HELP!!!!!!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Hartlepool's Voice in Westminster

Another good week in Westminster for the voice of Hartlepool! After a by-election campaign dominated by promises that "Hartlepool Hospital is safe" which were dropped almost as soon as the ballots were counted, Iain Wright MP announced his intention to be Hartlepool's Voice in Westminster NOT the governments voice in Hartlepool. With this in mind wouldn't you have expected him to be vocal in the condemnation of the Post Office Closures? Something many members of his own Party are speaking out against on the streets of Hartlepool. Hartlepool's voice was noticeable only in its absence as he dutifully voted with the Labour Party whip AGAIN. So much for Hartlepool's voice in Westminster!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Which way is the bus above travelling? To the left or to the right?

Can't make up your mind?

Look carefully at the picture again. Still don't know?

Primary school children all over the UK were shown this picture and asked the same question.

90% of them gave this answer: 'The bus is travelling to the right.'

When asked, 'Why do you think the bus is travelling to the right?' They answered: !Because you can't see the door to get on the bus.'

How do you feel now??? I know, me too. Little smart A***S!!

Not Good Enough for Eldon Grove but OK on the Headland!

Hartlepool Planning Committee this week rejected an application to put up an industrial style sports building in Eldon Grove. It is a shame the same aesthetic sense wasn’t applied to the horrible shed erected to the rear of the Headland Borough Hall in the name of sports development.

As one of the Committee who spoke against the Eldon Grove Carbuncle I fully supported the development of tennis in Hartlepool but could not support a building like the one proposed. This is totally out of place in a residential street and in my opinion was a building of zero architectural merit. Hartlepool Council should not allow eyesores like these to be erected.

The Planning Committee agreed and the application was unanimously rejected. It’s a great shame the same standards are not applied right across the town. The Sports hall to the rear of the Borough Hall is also out of place and totally out of character for the area. This Headland Sports Hall was erected with Regeneration Money and replaced another sports Hall that had been allowed to fall into disrepair. I also spoke against the design of the sports hall on the Headland but we were told we had to accept what was on offer or we would get nothing. We ended up with a lowest cost, industrial cladding, building which is already starting to look shabby.

Hartlepool planning committee seem to apply one set of visual standards to areas like Eldon Grove and another set of standards to the Headland. Try and put UPVc Windows into a house on the Headland and there is an outcry! Put up a tin shed and the residents are told to be grateful for what they get.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Smoking, Gardens and Consultants

After Planning today I visited the new "Member's Lounge" in the Civic Centre. It looked very nice and is very shiny and new. The old members Lounge was the only place in the Civic Centre that still used to smell of cigarette smoke, but that was reportedly because of its direct access to an outdoor garden/patio area. The new lounge is n the first floor so no outside play area for the Councillors. I wonder who gets the garden office now?

PS I was also told today that Hartlepool Council now uses that many consultants that we are employing Consultants to advise on which consultants to employ. The lunatics are definitely taking over the asylum!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Park and Ride

Durham City has a successful park and ride scheme in place. Maybe the Tall Ships Office could learn some lessons from them? In the first 12 months of the £10 Million scheme, the Park and Ride buses, which operate from three edge-of-town car parks on key arterial routes into the town, carried more than 600,000 passengers.

A TEN MILLION POUND scheme carried 600,000 passengers in twelve months. Hartlepool Tall Ships Team are talking to a couple of Farmers about using some fields to set up a scheme to carry a similar number of people in three days!

Invitation to Tender

My spies tell me that there will be One Ladies WC for every Five Hundred prospective visitors to the Hartlepool Tall Ships Event. The Tall Ships Team are also looking at a couple of Farmer's fields for Park and Ride Schemes. If these field are out near Elwick then that could be convenient for the Ladies Loos as the ques will probably stretch that far out all the way from the Marina.

Let's also hope it dosen't rain. I've parked in a field when its been wet and needed a tractor to get me out again. Also "Park and Ride" so 1,000,000 people, let's assume half come by car (though how else will they get there? Train? Bus? Walk?). Assume 4 in a car and you have 125,000 cars to park. Let's hope they are big fields to take care of the "Park" element.

That leaves the "Ride" Assuming 100 seater coaches taking 30 minutes for a round trip. That will need 5,000 coach journeys to get everyone into town. 100 coaches will give a capacity to move 20,000 people an hour so it will need over 25 hours to get everyone in and out. To get people in and out in 4 hours will need to move 125,000 people per hour, or just over 600 coaches! That of course assumes all coaches run at full capacity!

However, don't worry about the details while there is the opportunity for The Tall Ships Empire in Hartlepool Council to continue to grow. The Tall Ships Team are now looking to appoint the favourite tool of the public sector Empire Builder .... "Consultants"

The Hartlepool Mail carried the following advertisement (under Public Notices of course not Job Vacancies)

The Tall Ships Races
Hartlepool Quays
7th - 10th August 2010
Invitation to tender to provide sponsorship services

Hartlepool is delighted to be the only UK port hosting The Tall hips Races in 2010.

Tenders are requested from experienced consultants interested in bidding to provide sponsorship services to assist the Tall Ships Team in delivering a successful event.

For further details please contact the Tall Ships Office on or (01429) 523420

Deadline for submissions is 12noon on Friday 4th April 2008
(Interviews will be held on Friday 11th April)

Eurovision Song Contest 2007

Compare the map above with the participants in 1957 to see how the Euro - zone has grown and Grown and GROWN in the past 50 years.

The dark green are the "Big 4" countries, that automatically qualify for the final since they pay most of the costs of the contest (Yes the UK is not only a major funder of the European Union but we also fund the Eurovision Song Contest. I hope the BBC Licence Payers are happy with that!).

Medium Green are Countries that qualified for the final due to the 2006 results. Light Green are Countries that qualified from the semi-final. Red are Countries that didn't qualify from the semi-final and Yellow are Countries that have participated in the past, but not this year * indicates Debuting countries for 2007 and † are Returning countries

Power Station Visit

Councillors, Residents Representatives and Power Station Employees at the recent site tour of Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station.

The Station Staff were to a man (and woman) 100% enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about their power station. The visit was extremely interesting and definitely confirmed my view that a new power station would be a massive boost to the economy of Hartlepool.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Passport Application

Dear Minister,

I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.

How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time. Do you people do this by hand?

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name is Mary, her maiden name was Reynolds, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich for God's sake! I just want to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of week's well-earned rest away from all this crap.

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the goddamn picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process! Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally jacked off!

I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London. I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services. However, I have to get someone "important" to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor... who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN...

Yours sincerely,

An Irate British Citizen.

(With Thanks to Geoff who sent me this by e-mail this true it all is!)

Eurovision 1956

Thank you for those people who have contacted me after my comment about Israel and the Eurovision Song Contest. Looking into the Contest's history is actually quite fascinating and there are many parallels between the European Song Contest and the European Union itself.

The Eurovision Song Contest was first held in 1956 in Switzerland and was broadcast as a Radio Programme. The countries coloured green in the map above where the 7 countries originally involved (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland). Austria, Denmark and the UK were going to compete but were disqualified as they failed to register a song before the contest closing date.

The contest was won by the Swiss entry. The voting system allowed juries to vote for any competing song, including those of their own country but as Luxembourg failed to send any judges the Swiss delegation (as the host country) were allowed to vote twice. The scores for this Contest have never been made public and only the winner was announced, no other placings were revealed. The winner, coincidentally, was Switzerland!

The song “Refrain” was sung in French and was never released commercially which has caused suggestions that it actually placed very low and was chosen for political purposes. Rumours placed Germany second thus justifying Germany hosting the second Contest, and a possible third place was mentioned for Belgium.

So incompetence, unrepresentative juries, behind the scenes deals, secret voting and alleged fixing for political purposes. It appears from reports that all these were evident in the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1956. With a pedigree like this the Eurovision Song Contest could almost be a model for decision making in the European Union today.

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Barcelona Agreement

Come on now! Admit it! How many of you have heard of the Barcellona Agreement? Shame on you iof you missed the announcement! It has been quietly going about its business for more than a decade. However, it's not surprising if you missed the news about its formation. The European Union operates mainly in secret and behind closed doors and accepts its long term aims will take generations. Slow creeping growth often means its intrusion into more and more of our daily lives go unnoticed. The Barcelona Agreement began the process by which Cyprus and Malta became EU Member states and Turkey is a “Candidate Country” following close behind.

The “Barcelona Group” was set up at a Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Barcelona on 27-28 November 1995. Formally known as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership it is a wide framework of political, economic and social relations between the Member States of the European Union and Partners of the “Southern Mediterranean”. Originally 12 countries were included. Two (Cyprus and Malta)are now EU Members and one (Turkey) is a “Candidate” Country undergoing negotiations to join. On this basis it must be a reasonable bet that the European Union will ultimately expand to include the other Barcelona Group Members. This will bring Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria and Tunisia into the European Union at some point. Libya has had observer status since 1999 so it too must be on the eventual membership list.

I remember the first time North African and Middle East Countries appeared on the Eurovision Song Contest. Several people asked then how long Israel (for example) had been in Europe. The answer is obviously since the Barcelona Agreement in 1995.

Wealth beyond my wildest dreams

I am so excited. I've just literally been offered the opportunity to invest in seven oil and gas wells. This once in a lifetime investment opportunity came to me via the telephone from a very excited salesman, (who kept calling me Mr.Allen), and doesn't require me to part with any money at the moment. All I have to do is visit their website, log on using the personal ID assigned to me and the unique password that again is assigned only to me. Once I've logged on then I will be able to see the exciting opportunities for wealth beyond my wildest dreams that are available only to me!

Apart from getting my name wrong, I asked the nice man where he got my number from and where he was based. I am registered with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) which is supposed to block exactly this sort of nuisance phone call. Unfortunately it doesn't work for callers from outside the UK!

Suffice it to say I won't be logging onto their website and entering my unique ID and Password. I might not know much about computers but logging onto an unknown website in this way seems like a fairly good way of by-passing the virus checker, the "firewall" and all my other on-line security methods and thereby opening up my computer to all sorts of nastiness!

Mind you it was nice to know someone thinks I'm worth targeting! I wish I had half as much money as some people think I have! Well must go now as I'm collecting my winnings from the Spanish Lottery. I was surprised as I don't remember buying a ticket but as the nice man said they entered on my behalf which is why they need a small deposit from me to release the full winning amount. So it must be my lucky day. The chance to investing in seven oil and gas wells and winning a lottery I never even entered! Seems too good to be true!

Former MP spotted

The last post got me thinking about Peter Mandelson (Something I try not to do very often as it makes me shudder). When he left Hartlepool after stepping down as MP he made the usual remarks about Hartlepool having a special place in his heart, how he loved the town and its people, etc.

Apart from the briefest possible visit to sell his house I don't think he has been with 100 miles of the town since he left. I'd love to know if anyone has actually spotted the guacamole eating former MP in Hartlepool (or even the North East) since he left?

Of course the same question could be asked of Tony Blair in relation to Sedgefield. Has "Our Tone" been a regular visitor to Sedgefield since his resignation? I did hear the new MP for Sedgefield on the radio the other day where he appeared to say that Sedgefield has been neglected for years and he was going to put it right. When pressed about the statement he back peddled quickly saying Tony Blair had been a brilliant MP for Sedgefield but of course he was very busy as Prime Minister and had lots of other things to do.

It's not just North East Safe Labour Seats that get taken for granted! Safe Tory seats are often handed out to high fliers in the same way safe Labour seats seem to attract Labour cabinet ministers. The possession of a safe seat allow the politicians to get on with their real priority, their political career, without having to waste too much time bothering about their constituency and getting re-elected since they know they are safe. Any constituency seen as "safe" for one party is a "lost cause" for the others. No party will waste resources on safe seats they don't need to keep sweet in order to win and no party will waste resources on lost causes that they have no change of taking. Let's hear it for the Marginals!!

It's all the fault of the North East

It occurs to me that the refusal by the Labour Government to allow a referendum on the EU Constitution (sorry, I mean the "Lisbon Treaty") is all the fault of the Labour voting North East of England. The last time Labour allowed a referendum it was too planned to anoint the new North East Assembly. The overriding result was an 80% NO Vote. This was achieved in the face of Labour Politicians actively campaigning on the slogan that “a NO Vote was a Tory Vote”

Now, hated of the Tories is passed to most north east babies while they are still in the womb. In fact the politics of envy, the chip on the shoulder brigade, the “working class hero” hatred is too intense to be rational in many cases. I have come across people who hate the Tories with such intensity that religious suicide bombers could appear to be moderate when compared to them. With this in mind then you would think anything that even hinted at supporting the Tories would have been a sure fire way of getting the YES Vote out in droves. Unfortunately for Labour it didn’t work. A huge majority of the North East population do indeed hate the Tories but they seemed to hate the European Union inspired Regional Assembly even more. So there you are. No Referendum for us on the EU and its all the fault of the North East of England. If they couldn’t be trusted to vote the right way then how could the Labour Party risk allowing the rest of the country a say.

PS Hartlepool of course gave the Labour Party two fingers in its Mayoral referendum as well. I was told, but as I wasn’t invited I can’t say if it’s true, that the Labour Candidate had a marquee on his lawn and a breakfast of strawberries and champagne laid on ready to celebrate his election as Hartlepool Mayor. After all, the good sheep of Hartlepool could be relied on to elect the Labour Candidate couldn’t they? The subsequent election of a man in a monkey suit put pay to the political ambitions of that particular labour supporter and probably cost him the chance to replace Mandelson as MP for Hartlepool when that individual left for pastures greener in Brussels.

Climb the Pole.......Go Iain GO!

The control of the UK by unelected Brussels Bureaucrats is now almost totally complete. The Lisbon Treaty continues its progress into UK Law without a referendum of the people who couldn’t be trusted to vote YES and so were denied the chance to vote at all. Twenty Nine Labour MP’s did do the honourable thing and vote for a Referendum. Two of these MP’s were from the Teesside area, Frank Cook (Stockton North), and John Cummings (Easington) were both Labour rebels and backed the Referendum Amendment. Frank Cook of course has already been deselected by the Stockton Labour Party and I think I heard that John Cummings is retiring at the next General Election. This means both of these MP’s are free to listen to their constituents and truly represent their views rather than just parrot the party line and give priority to maintaining their position on the greasy pole.

Surprisingly (sarcasm here) the MP for Hartlepool was not on the Rebel list. Looking at the voting record of the Hartlepool MP is appears the only time he has ever voted against the government whip was in his first few days in the Commons when he accidentally went through the wrong lobby. With blind loyalty like that he is surely destined for high office very soon!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ward Surgery

Well another Ward Surgery tonight where a grand total of zero members of the public turned up. Every month we hold these non-events and every month almost no-one comes. All around the country there must be 1,000's and 1,000's of hours wasted in Councilor's Ward Surgeries that no-one ever goes to. Add in the cost of venues and the printing (in 10 languages) of Ward Surgery notices and I'll bet the amount of money wasted is immense. However, Ward Surgeries are one of the sacred cows of local politics! Just try and do away with ward surgeries and the flack really starts coming at you!

In my opinion Ward Surgeries are like Village Shops and woe betide anyone who tries to take them away. Of course no-one actually uses a village shop for their main grocery purchases, but everyone likes the thought of a Village Shop being there just in case they forget something in the weekly Supermarket visit and so need a local convenient place to buy a pint of milk, box of matches, birthday card, etc.

Ward Surgeries also remind me of a small village I drive through regularly on the way to visit a client in Hull. The regulars in the local pub had dwindled to almost zero and were so few that the pub couldn't maintain draft beer on tap due to sales being so low. As they lacked a decent pint the trade dropped off even more until the Landlord said enough is enough, closed the pub and applied to turn it into a private house rather than a public house. The result, massive outcry, the claim the pub was "the heart of the community" and a petition to the local planning committee demanding the application be refused.

The application was deferred for 6 months. The Landlord kept a diary of his customers and beer sales in this six month period. The only time any significant sales were recorded was in the two meetings held there by "regulars" to discuss keeping the pub open. The pub is now a very nice private house in an impressive location set back from the A19 between Thirst and York.

Councilor's Ward Surgeries are rather like this pub! Surgeries are "vital in the Democratic process" but no-one actually uses them, it's just seen as nice that they are held!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Remote Control

Anyone who thinks the EU and the Lisbon Treaty are just an irrelevance to them should paste the link below into their browser, switch on their speakers and watch the Video. It lasts 20 minutes but is definitely worth it

Hate Crime

In common with many people I have been appalled by the decision to restrict service men and women wearing their uniforms in public to prevent then being abused over the UK's involvement in Iraq. This is not the first report of this nature! I remembered reports that injured service personnel in NHS Hospitals were being denied treatment by some staff, who again objected to British Forces Iraq and Afghanistan.

Consider for a moment what would happen to a group of teenagers verbally abusing and spitting on an individual from a different race or of different sexual orientation. These would be "hate crimes" and would be dealt with quickly and firmly. Can you imagine the outcry if gay men were told that if they went out flaunting their sexual orientation then they deserved to get beaten up or if to prevent assaults people of one race or another were advised to stay off the streets!

Service personnel should be able to wear their uniforms with pride and any yobbo abusing them in the streets should be dealt with in the same way as anyone abusing someone of different race or sexual orientation. Unfortunately while "gay bashing" is (quite rightly) illegal there is obviously no law against abusing our service men and women. Similarly hospital staff refusing to treaty a gay patient would be in big trouble! Why then can they refuse to treat injured services personnel? Possibly because our armed forces go where they are sent, do the job they are told to do and get on with it without the benefit of a politically correct lobby behind them. Even remembrance day parades are being scaled down by the PC Brigade. I would give every one of out boys and girls who serve in Iraq or Afghanistan a medal the size of a dustbin lid, the freedom of their home town and no serving soldier, sailor or airman should ever need to buy a drink while home on leave. It dosen't matter whether you think we are right or wrong to be in Iraq (personally I think we are dead wrong and sholud never have been there in the first place). What matters is our armed forces deserve and have many times over earned our support, respect and admiration.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Holiday Inn or Express Hoilday Inn

Spent the weekend in London with my daughter, Rosie. Two reasons for the visit, shopping for shoes of course, plus she wants to be a Solicitor and there was a careers conference at the London School of Law which she was booked to attend to tell her all about it.

Her conference went quite well, from what she told me, which as I am her father means she told me what she wanted me to know. She has decided to go to Cambridge and then become a Commercial Law Solicitor. Her chosen firm pays £38,000 a year to their trainees in the first year, £45,000 in the second year and then the sky is the limit. I pointed out it was very, very competitive but with the supreme confidence of youth that didn’t bother her at all. I suppose as she is on target for 5 Grade A A levels she probably has the academic qualifications she needs. I did also find out she was very shocked when everyone asked her if she was a Geordie! Rosie unfortunately shares the common delusion that she herself has no regional accent……Bless!! As the young people say.

We had booked to stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Old Street, which is the chain I usually use. We were allocated a smoking room. However my “Priority Club” Membership definitely specifies “NONE Smoking Room only” so we were upgraded and transferred to the Holiday Inn Kings Cross. This was a massive mistake! Rosie now knows that Holiday Inn Express isn’t like Holiday Inn “Plus”, she’s discovered proper Holiday Inns are actually much nicer than the Express Holiday Inns. The rooms are better, the en-suites are better and the breakfasts are definitely better. Rosie will now expect Holiday Inn every time, which of course means twice the price!

The final nail in the Holiday Inn Express Coffin was the discovery, by Rosie, of how comfortable the real beds are. She had always stayed in a family room with a pull out sofa bed and she has slept there. Now she has experienced a real bed the pull out sofa is definitely gone for good. Money no object to my little girl!

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Heugh Breakwater and £170,000 Consultancy Fees

Hartlepool council's appetite for spending on Consultants now includes £170,000 to look into sea defences for the Town Wall area of Hartlepool’s Headland. The appointed experts may even consider the need for the erection of a breakwater! Having lived or worked on the headland most of my life I was under the impression we already had a breakwater. A big stone structure that sticks out into the sea near the paddling pool? Isn’t that a breakwater? As regards the need for it then I’m fairly certain the Victorians didn’t build it on a whim!

It will take 18 months to prepare this report. If they would like to give me a ring I can show them the Heugh Breakwater in about 18 minutes. Alternatively they could look at the numerous reports that have been produced on this matter going back over the last 30 years at least. I found on line references to reports as far back as 1978 when "Central Design and Modeling Services" carried out an investigation into effects of abandoning the Heugh breakwater.

More recently the Heugh breakwater was extensively discussed (and a report prepared) by the Culture, Leisure and Transportation Portfolio meeting on Tuesday, 14th November, 2006.

Why is it that there always appears to be plenty of money for Hartlepool Council to bring in consultants and have studies carried out but after all the talk and the fees are paid the Council rarely seems to actually do anything!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Come in under a lorry and your welcome. Marry a British Soldier and you get deported!

This story was reported on Radio 5 Live on Friday 29th February and is an absolute disgrace. The British government should be ashamed!

Six years ago a Canadian woman met a British Soldier while he was stationed in Canada. They married and she went with him on his next posting to Germany. They now have two boys, aged one and two, who both have full British passports.

When the family moved to the UK several months ago she applied for full citizenship but it has been rejected since she applied after she arrived here. She now faces being sent back to Canada to apply again from there, a process which could take up to a year.

Her husband is a serving soldier so her two you boys will either have to be left with carers in the UK or go to Canada with her. Of course a none-British Citizen removing underage British Children from the UK is also difficult if not downright impossible.

This government doesn’t hesitate to send our servicemen and women into harm’s way. Unfortunately the same government don’t seem to think there is any responsibility on them to also look after the dependents of these service personnel. So while this government of this country protects the “human rights” of illegal immigrants, criminals and welfare tourists the full weight of the law is being brought down on the wife of a serving British soldier! If this lady had hijacked a plane or come in underneath a lorry through the Channel Tunnel then there would have been a queue of do-gooders fighting to help her. To call this a disgrace is an understatement.

Post Office Closures

The Hartlepool MP’s decision to be “too busy” to attend a meeting about Post Office Closures enables him to avoiding taking a stand that might irritate his Westminster bosses and risk damage to his political career. The Hospital Closure debate didn’t cost Labour the Hartlepool seat so Iain Wright probably calculates a few Post Offices closures won’t either.

However, in May there are local elections. The claim of “don’t blame us, blame the government” is wearing very thin, especially when it’s a Labour Councillor in a town with a Labour MP, blaming a Labour Government.

A letter reportedly to sub-post masters is putting the closures on hold during the local elections. Post Office Managers are apparently concerned closures could become a "local political issue" and so agreed to a government request for a freeze on some elements of the Network Change Programme during the run-up to these elections.

A “freeze” is only a temporary reprieve. If the Government were honest they would admit they cannot reverse the closure decisions as closures are being driven by Brussels. So long as European Union Directives take precedence over Westminster then the British Government doesn’t have the power to halt the closures.

It doesn’t matter whether you vote Labour, Conservative or Lib-Dem. Regardless of what may be said at local level all three of these Parties at national level support British Membership of the European Union and so all three ultimately support the Post Office Closures.