Tuesday, 30 September 2008

sad, sad, sad

Well I couldn´t resist it any longer and I had to find an internet cafe to get a fix of surfing. While I´ve been away it appears the western world´s economy has collapsed, I´ll bet Al Quieda are pìssed off, all that time and effort spent on bombs and all they had to do was buy a few dodgy mortgages instead. I did see the boss of the Bradford and Bingley who took over in Mid August will walk away with almost two million pounds for 30 days at the helm. Can´t the politicians see that its the fat cats milking the system that need to be controlled not pandered to? but then of course the lib/lab/con all sold out to big business years ago. The Tories are the party of old money and Nu Labour the party of New Money, but in both cases its definitely money that talks.

Well better go since I´m paying for this by the minute and am being told to stop ranting. Home again tonight unfortunately, every time I pass through the stupid revolving door at arrivals at Newecastle airport it makes my spirits fall and then getting a parking charge because we actually stopped in the drop off bay long enough to open the boot, put in the cases and leave. I hate Newcastle (rip off) airport.

PS I also hate the new politically correct Sainsbury´s adverts. Have you noticed that there is no Dad sitting round the kitchen table for family meals?

Sunday, 21 September 2008


UK energy self sufficiency is coming to an end and we are all facing a future where the health and security of the British economy is dependent on factors which Britain cannot control. For thirty years the North Sea kept this country going but successive governments have failed to prepare for the future. In 1990 just half of one percent of Britain’s electricity came from gas fuelled power stations, now it is 40% and Britain is facing a severe energy shortfall. By 2020 it has been estimated 80% of our gas will be coming from countries like Russia.

Nuclear power stations cannot be built in time to make up the energy gap and in fact the crumbling state of existing nuclear plants means even maintaining current nuclear energy levels is going to be a major challenge. Coal-fired power stations would be a logical step, after all we have 100’s of years of coal still in the ground under the UK, but under EU obligations Britain has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. Coal therefore is not a politically acceptable option and despite the hype, wind, tidal and solar power are never going to be an adequate substitute.

Britain therefore will be heavily dependent on gas imports for the bulk of our power generation over the next couple of decades. Unfortunately the UK didn’t follow the example of many European countries and negotiate a long-term, fixed price supply of gas when prices were low. This leaves the UK relying on increasingly expensive open market sources. Sources, namely Russia, that are increasingly feeling their economic muscle!

It was reliance on Russia for 40 per cent of their gas that prevented European countries from making more than token protests over Russia’s invasion of Georgia last month. The Russian Prime Minister has made clear the Kremlin regards gas as a foreign policy tool. The Czech Republic, Ukraine and Estonia have all had their supplies choked during diplomatic spats with Moscow in the past three years.

So maybe we had better start voting for Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest. If we don’t we might end up sat in the cold and dark very soon!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Hey I'm going to Barbados

Hey. I'm going to Barbados, flying high with Coconut Airways! Does anyone remember that song? Totally Tropical sang it back in 1975. Unfortunately I'm not really going to see the palm trees, nor am I going to see my girlfriend in the sunny Caribbean sea!

However, I'm off to Majorca for a few days! Easyjet from Newcastle. Getting the 8.00am departure on a Sunday gets you to Majorca in plenty of time to be sat on the balcony sipping a cool drink with your lunch. I know its not supposed to be environmentally friendly and my carbon footprint is fairly big this year already but
take heart from the fact that a Virgin Atlantic 747 flew from London to Amsterdam in February this year using fuel made with a coconut and babassu oils mixed with conventional jet fuel. Of course according to the Aviation Environment Federation only 2.3 per cent of global carbon emissions come from air travel so maybe I shouldn't feel too guilty anyway? Unfortunately not according to Greenpeace who condemned the Virgin flight as a publicity stunt with dangerous consequences for the planet, high altitude greenwash! Friends of the Earth even dismissed biofuels as a major distraction in the fight against climate change with mounting evidence that the carbon savings from biofuels are negligible.

Well regardless of the carbon footprint I'm off to the sun for a few days! Don't know if blogging will continue while I'm away, depends on whether I can find an Internet connection!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Conservation area?

One of the on-going sagas at Hartlepool Council is the status of Conservation Areas around the town and in particular the plastic windows" debate on the Headland. Another hot potato is pot holes in road! So here is a unique opportunity for both these issues to be combined.

Hartlepool Council kindly filled in some pot holes on the Headland recently. Unfortunately they used tarmac in a cobbled area, totally destroying the ambiance of the original Victorian road scene. Hartlepool Council's Policy is that any work done to property in a Conservation area must enhance the area and where possible return it back to its original appearance. So if Hartlepool Council can insist on traditionally constructed, timber, sliding sash windows why can Hartlepool Council also put down tarmac in one of the few remaining cobbled areas on the Headland?

I blame the local Councillor whose house is only a few feet away from the site of this vandalism! Oops, that's me!

UPDATE : UPDATE : It maybe that the tarmac is a temp arrangement as in a 'make safe' until a return visit can be made to rectify to the appropriate specification. This sometimes happens if the team have a bit of tarmac left in the hotbox rather than dumping it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Career defining decision

I found myself in a strange position this morning, feeling sympathy for Ian Wright MP for Hartlepool. I have felt sorry for him once before when he was apparently caught out in a bare faced lie in a debate at the Corporation Club during the 2004 by-election. That time didn't actually matter as it turned out since the Hartlepool Mail reporter present somehow missed it completely! However, Ian must right now be agonising over what to do. Will he join the still small handful of Labour MPs who have taken massive risks with their careers to become part of the initial batch to publicly call for Brown to go or does he wait and see?

I've looked at his website and his two most recent press releases are August 22nd and September 11th so neither are up to date enough to give any clue as to his thinking. Of course in all rebellions there comes the point when the outcome is clear. Brown will go, have to face up to a party election or it will all fizzle out.

One thing however is certain, the actions of every single member of the parliamentary party will be noted and remembered and the critical element if Brown is forced out will be the point at which they decided to join or not.

So Iain faces a possible career defining decision. Stay loyal and if Brown survives then his career is safe, at least until next time. Wait until Brown goes and then join the rebellion could be too little, too late. My personal prediction, based on Ian's voting record, is that he will take the safe option and be 100% loyal to Brown right up to the point he is forced out as Prime Minister. Iain will then be 100% loyal to Brown's replacement and claim he had always wanted Brown to go but placed party loyalty above his personal wishes!

Of course its all fairly academic since Labour face an extended period in opposition after the next election, simply because that's how British Politics and the two party system work. The Tories will win because its their turn. Labour will get it back in 2018 or 2022 by which time Iain will be in his 40's and either a senior shadow cabinet member ready for a push for the top or a life long back bencher hanging on for his gold plated parliamentary pension.

Buzz Word Bingo

I've selected a few "buzz words" from the last post so anyone who wants to play a game of buzzword bingo can have a go. Print out the list and put each word on a slip of paper. The competitors take it in turns to draw out 5 buzz words. Read through the last post and the person who sees their 5 buzz words used first is the winner. Build up your stock of buzz words for use in your own games in meetings at work!

integrated, governance, issues, challenging , good management practice, seamless delivery, partnership working, mentors, reform, building capacity, common platform, (10-year) strategy, improve outcomes, key strengths, start of the journey, step change and world-class workforce.

No doubt everyone has their own favourites (Low Hanging Fruit, Stretch the envelope, push at the boundaries, etc) My own is "Let's scuba that round the think tank and see if any bubbles come up"


One of the numerous e-mails that pour into my inbox is a daily briefing from "PublicNet" an organisation which claims to provide an integrated e-mail and web site service for everyone concerned with the governance and management of public services. (Their words, not mine!).

According to their website (http://www.publicnet.co.uk/about) PublicNet "focuses on the issues challenging all parts of the public sector and encourages the sharing of good management practice. It monitors progress towards a seamless delivery of services and brings news and views about partnership working across central and local government, the health service, non departmental bodies, and the voluntary and private sectors."

Anyway, today's offering included "TENDERS INVITED FOR REFORMS IN YOUTH WORKFORCE" and its reproduced below. If you actually bother to read it then you might wonder who exactly makes up the "Children's Workforce Development Council" This appears to be another of those Quangos that are springing up like mushrooms. This one was set up in 2005 and is supposed to support over half a million people in the children's workforce across England, including those in childcare provision, learning mentors, education welfare, foster care and social care.

Their website (http://www.cwdcouncil.org.uk/why-were-here) does acknowledge there are other people who work with children who are not covered by the Children's Workforce Development Council, these are people like teachers, police and health service professionals. However, don't worry the Children's Workforce Development Council works closely with colleagues in the Children's Workforce Network, a completely separate quango (http://www.childrensworkforce.org.uk/) to address common issues across the whole of the children's workforce and to find answers to common challenges.


Bids are being invited from organisations that want to deliver a major programme of reform for professionals working with young people. The Children's Workforce Development Council is seeking tenders for five projects which, it says, will contribute to improving the lives of young people and their families.

The projects include proposals for leadership and management, building the capacity of the Third Sector and developing a common platform of skills and competences across the youth workforce. Bids are being invited from contractors who will deliver each of the elements in line with the Department of Children, Schools and Families' 10-year strategy for the youth workforce.

Keith Brumfitt, Director of Strategy at the Children's Workforce Development Council said ‘Aiming High for Young People' had set the target of developing a skilled and confident workforce in order to improve outcomes for young people. "Our youth workforce has shown considerable commitment and versatility over the years, providing much needed services to young people and their families across England," he said and added, "They have a number of key strengths which need to be built on. These five tenders are the start of the journey to achieving the step change towards a world-class workforce which meets the complex demands of young people today and in the future."

Tenders are being invited for youth workforce leadership and management development programmes to ensure that by the end of March 2011 those leading and managing youth services will have the skills to deliver integrated services for young people and common apprenticeships and a common foundation degree will be in place.

Choice at the Polls (so long as its Lib-Dem, Labour or Tory)!

You would have though the Tories would be delighted by a cock up by the Liberal Democrats which resulted in their candidate missing the nomination deadline for a Council by-election, especially when the seat in question is in a fairly safe Lib-Dem ward.

However, after it became clear that there were only two candidates, Tories and UKIP contesting the Middle Rasen Ward (West Rasen, Osgodby and Usselby), on Thursday October 9, the Deputy Conservative Leader issued a statement attacking the Liberal Democrats (and Labour) for “ignoring residents” and denying them a choice at the polls.

You would assume from that that the Tories are supporters of choice and the democratic process. However, the Tories then attacked UKIP for putting up a Candidate and there by ensuring there would need to be an election. UKIP are wasting Council Taxpayer's money by forcing an election complained the Tory spokesman. So Lib-Dems and Labour are wrong for not standing a candidate and hence denying choice at the polls but UKIP are wrong for having a candidate and hence providing choice at the polls?

Of course the real reason the Tories are so upset is that when they talk of choice at the polls and the democratic process what they mean is choice between one of the Lib/Lab/Con Club. Any party not in that cosy little arrangement is definitely not welcome. It doesn’t really matter which of the Lib/Lab/Con you vote for they are all more or less the same party with almost identical policies so if the Tories don’t win they would much rather see Lib-Dems or Labour winning instead of an outsider like UKIP. The Market Rasen Lib/Lab/Con are showing the same contempt for the electorate that the Hartlepool Lib/Lab/Con did when the three parties co-operated with each other to keep out UKIP in the last local elections. The Lib/Lab/Con would always rather see one of their own gang win than someone not in their club. After all the Lib/Lab/Con all take 80% of their policy instructions from Brussels and so it’s only their names and a few minor policy details that differentiate between these three parties these days.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Contract Scrutiny Panel

Well my name has once again come up on the rota to sit on the Hartlepool Council Contract Scrutiny Panel. A committee so useless and pointless that it can't even get permanent members to sit on it, apart for the Chairman of course who receives an "additional responsibility allowance" for this vital post, amazing what people will do for an extra few quid a week.

A typical meeting starts with apologies for absence, mine usually! This week for example I has a full load of ready mixed concrete to lay on Monday morning and it arrives when the ready mix people decide it will. Order it for "first thing" and that can be any time between 8.00am and lunchtime. As anyone who has ever laid concrete will tell you it isn't really practical to take a break while tamping and leveling it and come back to it in a couple of hours, the dratted stuff will go off if you leave it and its very difficult to get a good finish after it has cured!). Anyway, after apologies we then open tenders for something or other, often vital things like the supply of fresh flowers for the Chief Executive's Office or the milk for the Mayor's Horlicks, all high level stuff. Of course the Councilors don't actually open anything, we just watch a number of Officers open envelopes and then sign a book to say they have seen them opened. The Officers then take the tenders away and "evaluate" them. The tenders opened at the previous meeting are then brought back to the Scrutiny panel and as a result of the evaluation a recommendation is made. To ensure no favouritism the tendering organisations are now referred to to as A, B, C, etc, no names are used, must be fair of course. The Councillors agree the Officer's recommendation, after all how can you challenge an "evaluation" and the contract is awarded.

The value added by having half a dozen councilors observe this process is precisely zero. The best thing that could be said for the Committee is that it usually doesn't take very long. Unfortunately to attend a half hour meeting can still take up a whole morning as the committee doesn't meet until 10.00am so there isn't time to do anything useful before hand, you just get started and then you have to leave to go to the meeting. Also by the time the meeting is over and you get back to work it's lunchtime and so the entire morning has been wasted.

If I was ever Chairman of this Committee (very, very unlikely that will ever happen, Chairman's positions are jealously guarded by the Labour Group and doled out as rewards for good boys and girls), but if I ever was Chairman, I'd hold the meeting at 8.00am so that it was over by 8.30am and I'd at least have the chance to do something useful with the rest of the morning, like earn a living! Still I suppose as the average Councilor is retired, unemployed, unemployable or in a nice public sector post with unlimited paid time off the the need to earn a living doesn't figure very high on their priority list. Of course this is one reason why so few people who live in the real world of mortgages, children, WORK, etc become Councilors, unless you have a very very understanding employer (or are retired, unemployed or unemployable or even better if you no longer need to work as you are getting a nice salary from the Boards, Trusts, etc that your mates have arranged for you) then getting time off work to attend pointless meetings isn't easy!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Choose the laws you obey and forget the rest?

I keep having to check its not 1st April when i listen to the news these days. Stories that would be brilliant April Fools are now quite often true. We now have the courts telling us that criminal damage is OK if it is in the cause of fighting global warming! According to many scientists two of the biggest contributors to global warming are motor cars and airplanes. Should we therefore all start overturning cars on the street and setting them on fire? Should we storm the airports and slash the tires of every jumbo jet we can find? When the police arrive we just tell them we are protesting about global warming and then it will be OK to continue?

If criminal damage to power stations is OK now then what about the workers and bosses of such power stations? Are they to soon be legitimate targets? The shadowy figures in balaclavas from the animal rights groups seemed to have a fair level of success (from their point of view anyway) when they adopted the tactic of targeting the employees (and shareholders) of companies involved in animal testing. So maybe the next step is for eco-warriors to pull on their masks and start terrorising the people who operate and run these power stations. Make them too scared to turn up for work and the power stations will have to shut down! Will that be deemed acceptable in the fight against global warming?

In my opinion the argument that the ends justify the means is a difficult one to justify in most cases!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Put your head between your legs and kiss your **** goodbye

The anniversary of 11th September made me think about how to cope if terrorists do manage to get hold of a nuclear weapon? Looking on the internet I found advice from the government issued during the Cuban Missile crisis. This wrote off people living in the immediate vicinity of an attack and focused on improving the chances of those who lived through the initial blast. Anyone leaving the house after an "H-bomb" was advised to take a "travelling rug" with them and drivers are asked to offer a lift to their neighbours. Gumboots or stout shoes, a hat or headscarf, coat done up to the neck, and gloves were also recommended.

Householders were told to use the cupboard under the stairs as a "core shelter" and that whitewashing the windows would "greatly reduce the fire risk by reflecting away much of the heat" Although if you only had a four minute warning would you waste your last moments looking for a paintbrush? Government advice was designed not to panic the public and gave the impression that nuclear weapons would not disrupt everyday life for long. Hardly the message Tony Blair gave out in his now infamous speech claiming Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction in only 45 minutes.
Of course official preparations were under way out of the public gaze with confidential forecasts that 12 million would die in the initial attacks, with many more to follow The public were told to stock up on sensible clothing and food for two weeks but local government was making preparations for "disposal of the dead", mass homelessness, house demolition and maintaining the water supply.

Preparations for government to continue were also underway with around 6,000 civil servants identified ready to take shelter when a nuclear attack was imminent. They received instructions for travelling to an undisclosed "headquarters” which would probably be one of the twelve seats of regional government (yes they had them in the 60’s, even then Regionalisation was underway!) from which the country would be run. Those selected to survive were told to go straight home, collect a few personal belongings and to say goodbye. How many of the staff selected for working in the bunkers would really have left their families and gone underground is not known.

The location and purpose of their work was to be kept secret, with communication with their families to be only by post. That assumes of course the postman could deliver such letters, or even collect them from the “secret” location. Just in case anyone thought they were in for a jolly holiday they were also advised that "facilities for entertainment or recreation at the headquarters will be limited" and that people travelling to the secret "headquarters" should bring a packed lunch.

The Treasury argued that civil defence was a waste of money on what could only be a "cosmetic" exercise. Anyone looking for parallels with today’s terror fears shows the on-going dilemma for governments to find ways to advise the public about threats, without panicking them by showing how vulnerable they really are to disaster. Of course today’s governments have a couple of huge advantages over their 1960’s counterparts. Surveillance equipment and computers mean we are all being watched much more closely than we were 40 years ago and the average Britain today accepts erosions of their civil liberties and privacy that would have been unthinkable then. The numbers of official organisations that can enter your home, read your mail, listen to your telephone conversations, and of course now intercept your e-mail are many, many times more numerous than 40 years ago. Can you imagine your average local council in the 1960’s using private investigators to snoop on potential dog foulers? Well Hartlepool Council has admitted that they have done it!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

9/11 Seven years On

I recently spent some time in North America and visited both the Kennedy Grave Sites in Washington and Ground Zero of the World Trade Centre in New York.

The Kennedy Graves was obviously a highly emotional experience for many people who were exchanging "Where were you when Kennedy was shot" stories. However as I was only 3 years old on 22nd November 1963, I am not old enough to remember where I was when Kennedy was shot and visiting the graves was interesting in a detached or academic kind of a way.

The visit to Ground Zero was also a bit flat. When you have seen one building site located in a hole in the ground then you've seen them all. My main question was how come it's still a building site 7 years on? Rosie was more interested in a designer outlet Mall she had been told was on the block next to ground zero and Edward's main concern was that he was hungry! I suppose Ground Zero for my children was rather like Kennedy for me. The kids were only 9 and 10 when the twin Towers came down so world events were not really high on their agenda.

I however do remember where I was on 11 September 2001. I was working in Hartlepool that day and came home for some lunch. My wife was watching TV and I came in just in time to see the second plane hit the tower. I assumed it was a film or a drama documentary that she was watching but she told me it was a live feed and explained about the first plane. I didn't get back to work that afternoon but watched the unfolding horror of the people waving and then jumping from the windows as the towers came down.

It is fair to say the world changed that day.

A walk in the Park

Many people feel the world is going mad but I thought I’d heard it all until I logged onto the “Political Correctness Watch” website (See links) and discovered a story from Telford in Shropshire.

Park staff have been ordered to stop and quiz people using the town's park who are NOT accompanied by a child. Childless people in a public park will have to explain what they are doing in the park and could be thrown out by Park Wardens, or even reported to police, if the Wardens are not convinced of the reason given. It is to be hoped that enjoying a walk in a green and pleasant public space is acceptable?

The local council says the policy is a 'common sense approach' aimed at safeguarding children using the park. Telford & Wrekin Council may even use the Child Protection Act to require adults using the Park to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau checks or risk assessments before entering the park.

You couldn’t make it up could you!

When NO dosen't mean NO

The trouble with allowing people to vote is they are sometimes prone to vote the wrong way. Usually people fail to see past tribal loyalty and vote unthinkingly for whatever their Party tells them to. Of course on the EU this means that being Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat is irrelevant, all three parties vote the same way, 100% pro-EU. However, sometimes even party loyalty can't make people vote for something they know is wrong! The Labour Party famously lost the argument on elected regional Assemblies when 80% of one of their few remaining blindly loyal areas, the North East, voted NO. This was despite a last minute campaign that abandoned the previous None-Party approach and claimed a NO Vote was a Tory Vote.

The obvious feelings of a majority of the British people, decidedly Euro Sceptic, is the main reason why successive UK Governments have refused point blank to allow the British people a referendum on EU Membership. This Labour Government even weaseling out on is promise of a vote on the EU Constitution, now repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty. Of course Ireland, the only country where a vote has been allowed, voted NO, which was obviously the wrong answer as far as the EU Project was concerned.

Have the Brussels Bureaucrats accepted this vote? Of Course they haven't! When the Dutch and French voted NO to the Constitution the Brussels Commissioners made some superficial wording changes, mainly crossing out Constitution and inserting "Lisbon Treaty" and re-submitted the document. It's no longer a Constitution was the claim and so allowed Britain to weasel out of their promise on a referendum and allowed the French and Dutch government to ratify it through parliament without all that bother of asking the people what they thought.

The Irish problem however is a little more complex so officials in Brussels have decided the Irish Republic will be told to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon/EU constitutional Treaty. An internal EU briefing paper entitled “The Solution to the Irish Problem” says the Dublin government will give in to demands for a second vote to overturn the previous rejection of the treaty before an EU summit in October.

The briefing suggests that the second referendum would be held in the autumn of next year, leading to the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in 2010. An influential group of French officials has written the document inserting guarantees on abortion, taxes, the country’s neutrality and the maintenance of the Irish Commissioner in Brussels. However, the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, wants the Irish to vote again, and give the "right" answer, before next year’s European elections. He fears the poll will become a referendum on a treaty many people in Europe do not like.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage MEP has said that is precisely how our party sees the 2009 Euro-vote, it will be the referendum that the British people were promised but were never given.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Three ways to leave the EU

History is a great teacher if you bother to learn the lessons it teaches. The Southern States of America only wanted to be left alone to run their own internal affairs without interference from outsiders. Their attempt to "Leave the Union" resulted in a vicious and nasty civil war where brothers literally fought on opposite sides. The South was crushed and generations latter "Dam Yankee" is still an insult and "The South will Rise Again" is still a sentiment expressed by many. So armed secession is unlikely to work for the UK. Even if we could mobilise enough people to make the effort to switch off their reality TV and leave their sofas then they would be facing an armed and organised force in the new Europol already being mobilised ready to smash public disorder (basically anyone disagreeing with the EU Project). More recent attempts to leave the Union can be seen in the satellite states the now defunct Soviet Union. Attempts by their vassals to leave were dealt with very firmly and although the EU may not yet be ready to roll tanks down Whitehall I doubt it would need to since the political establishment in the UK are all under the control of Brussels.

Talking of the UK political establishment brings up the second option to leave the Union, through the democratic process via the ballot box. This would be my favoured route. Unfortunately the main three parties already 100% behind the EU Project and any party daring to oppose the march of the Union is marginalised in the press and branded little Englander or racist. Peter Mandelson has already said that Europe is entering a Post Democratic Era and so the growth of appointed commissioners and puppet parliaments will continue unchecked unless a political will is discovered to resist their progress. Sadly there appears to be little or no evidence that such political will exists. People don't appreciate things they are given for nothing and several generations now believe they live in a democracy but don't need to do anything to defend that democracy. Once it has gone then getting it back will be a hard, bitter struggle. As and business man will tell you getting a new customer is very hard, a fraction of the effort put into existing customers will keep them loyal for years. Ask the people of Zimbabwe how much effort they need to put in to reclaim democracy in their country! If a robust opposition had not allowed a dictatorship to emerge then maybe Zimbabwe wouldn't have gone down the totalitarian road. Ask yourself how much real opposition does the EU Project face in its march to total control?

So that leaves the final option. The route that actually worked for Hungary, Poland and the other eastern European States that were swallowed up by the Soviet Union in the 1940's. These countries only escaped when the Soviet Union became so bureaucratic, so hidebound, so lacking in vitality and spark that its centrally controlled and regulated economy collapsed. Ultimately it all comes down to money. The EU is like a huge pyramid selling scam that needs to be pushing new members in at the bottom to provide cheap labour and new markets. That however cannot go on forever and the countries the top cannot keep paying out for ever. The EU will eventually collapse under its own weight and the UK will have to start fending for itself again in the wider world.

Yugoslavia didn't last long after Tito went, Spain is starting to show cracks between its various regions, Scotland wants out of the United Kingdom (another example of a "Union" that is failing), Belgium is already practically two separate countries. What do these countries have in common? A protracted period living in an artificial and enforced false Union. Unless the EU economic collapse come soon then the UK cannot begin to regain its freedom until all is lost. Then it will need a generation or two living in the darkness before freedom can be regained.

So of the three options which one would I prefer. Armed insurrection is not a road I'd like to go down. Democratic withdrawal via the ballot box would be my preference but until people re-discover political will then that too is a not the road I think we will follow. Which leaves economic collapse and then pick up the pieces afterwards. Maybe the silver lining to the current credit crunch will be the disintegration of the European Union? Unfortunately I think its just too soon and we are facing a lost generation or two before Great Britain can start to reclaim its lost sovereignty, its lost pride and its lost self confidence and belief that we can stand on the world stage without needing the EU to hold our hand.

Euro Pol

The armed European Gendarmerie force is now a fact, but a news blackout in Britain means the UK population remain mostly in ignorance, exactly where the Red, Blue and Yellow political classes want them to be. At the moment the Euro gendarmerie may be restricted to training barracks in Italy but the Treaty of Velsen gives them a legal basis to operate anywhere in the EU so they are most unlikely to remain forever in North-East Italy.

Continental Europe has a tradition of criminal justice that it is completely different to ours (no habeas corpus, no trial by independent jury, etc) and a totally different tradition of policing. European Police are definitely a police force along military lines. Europol officers look like soldiers with steel helmets and automatic rifles. The police in continental Europe are militarised and carry lethal weapons at all times. Our police are a civilian force and regularly unarmed.

Europol ranks reflect their basic philosophy; officers called "colonel" and "general" are commanded centrally by the government. Individual officers are shifted around the country, so each city will be patrolled by strangers. Our police in contrast are by tradition locally recruited, and locally accountable.

The Euro gendarmerie practise street-fighting tactics in battle formation. Random deaths from police gunfire have occurred over recent years in Italy and even in Sweden during G8 and other protests. Continental police forces are not familiar with our concept of "policing by consent". How many times have we seen news reports where Continental Police seem to love going into crowds with heavy handed tactics? Continental police have their primary task to uphold the authority of the state, putting down manifestations of civil unrest, dealing with protesters. When they are used to investigate crimes they are often under the direct command of a member of the career judiciary, who has the responsibility but no training in detective work. The Portuguese police in the McCann case being an obvious example.

At present the EU could not deploy their Europol in the UK, Justice and Home Affairs is still an individual member state's prerogative, but this will change with the Lisbon Treaty, justice and home affairs will become an EU competence, like practically everything else.

Undeniably justice and home affairs are the heart of state power, for it includes the power to use physical force on the citizens, to put people in prison. When the EU takes this power it becomes at last a state in its own right, with powers to repress directly behaviours it deems undesirable by citizens of any member state.

The "red lines" the government has drawn have already been dismissed by several of our EU partners, and our own parliamentary committees, as not worth very much and anyway they will be subject to the interpretation of the European Court of Justice and
Article 6.3 of the Treaty of Velsen, which allows the EU gendarmerie to be deployed in another State with the simple "consent" of that state. Once here they will not be subject to our Parliament. They will be subject only to Brussels, and will obey only decisions taken there, decisions taken by majority voting, where we will have only 8% of the vote.

We appear to be heading for a situation familiar to the satellite countries of the former Soviet Union. A domestic police service that can be over ruled and made irrelevant by an external, quasi military, police force, deployed and controlled from outside of our country and completely unaccountable to us for its actions once it is here. An army of occupation by any other name?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

UKIP National Conference

My brief blogging frenzy (caused mainly by loads of free time waiting for ready mixed concrete to be delivered, but that’s another story!) will take a hiatus for the next few days as I’m off to the UKIP National Conference in the sunny seaside town of Bournemouth.

The Bournemouth International Centre [BIC] is a purpose built entertainment and conference venue and will be hosting the UK Independence Party Conference over Thursday 4th, Friday 5th and Saturday 6th of September 2008.

The full program gets underway on the Thursday evening with a Chairman’s Reception at 6.30pm. On Friday the Conference officially opens with a Mayoral Welcome and a full list of interesting speakers fill the day until a break at 5pm giving a chance to freshen up before attending the Conference Dinner at 7pm.

Saturday morning will be starting early for me with a working breakfast meeting of the UKIP Elections Committee, of which I am Chairman. The highlight of the Conference will then be yours truly taking the platform to round off the Saturday morning session by addressing the Conference on the subject of “Election Campaigning” The afternoon will include more motions and speakers with a chance for a members to put their points of view to the Party Leadership in a Question time session. Conference will no doubt will close with a typically rousing speech from our leader Nigel Farage.

Getting home from Bournemouth on a Saturday evening is a complete nightmare and National Rail Enquiries produced a 14 hour journey plan that gets me home mid morning Sunday! So the decision has been taken to go back to Dartford, where the UKIP Press Officer rests his weary head, get drunk, sorry I mean continue policy discussions, and then catch the 9.30 from Kings Cross on the Sunday Morning. This plan gets me home only a couple of hours later than travelling straight through on the Saturday. Of coursed it also gets me home with a hang over after all that policy work in Dartford. It’s a tough life in politics.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Councils to borrow to lend?

After the rejection, thankfully, of the proposal that Hartlepool Council offer cheap mortgages the Local Government Association is now calling for local councils to be allowed to borrow money against their assets so they can offer competitive mortgages.

If Northern Rock can end up effectively bankrupt then the thought of Hartlepool Council, or any other local authority, BORROWING money to lend out to people makes me shudder. No doubt loading more costs onto Council Taxpayers to ease the Housing Crisis seems like a good idea to someone. Interesting that the proposal allows Councils to borrow against their assets, unfortunately the Government is now insisting that land owned by the Council (a considerable asset in its own right) be sold at below market rate to social house builders” and of course Hartlepool Council divested itself of billions of pounds worth of assets under yet another government scheme when it gave away all its Council Housing a few years ago.

Quick decisions!

Good to see he Mayor is back from paternity leave and getting stuck into his portfolio responsibilities. I've just received, via e-mail, the "Decision Record" of the Mayor's Regeneration and Livability Portfolio meeting for 29th August.

The Meeting commenced at 10.00am and the Mayor received a report informing him that the Head of Emergency Planning had been invited to attend the 4th European Congress on Disaster Management in Bonn, Germany as a speaker. Invitation was accepted. The Mayor then considered a report extending the boundary of the Headland Conservation Area to include the Heugh Breakwater. Extension approved. Next up was a report on the progress made against the Regeneration and Planning Services Departmental Plan 2008/2009 in the first quarter of the year. The Mayor noted the progress against key actions in the first quarter of the year.

The meeting finished at 10.10am. Just over 3 minutes per decision. That's three quick decisions! Maybe he should give some lessons to Pamela Hargreaves, the Performance Portfolio Holder.

Ms Hargreaves meeting on the 29th August started at 3.00pm and she kicked off a review of the proposed Hartlepool Connect Annual Report that details actions taken over the last 12 months. The report was noted and some proposed amendments were agreed for action. Then straight into a request that the Portfolio Holder support an action plan for undertaking a stress risk assessment and for the Council to become a ‘Mindful Employer’. The report was noted, the stress management action plan agreed and the proposal that the Council becomes a ‘Mindful Employer’ was also agreed. Following this the Portfolio Holder was informed of the results of the 24th phase of Viewpoint, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Citizen’s Panel, which was distributed in February 2008. Decided that the results of the survey be noted. The second last agenda item covered details of employee absence for the first quarter of 2008/9 and actions taken. Finally the Portfolio Holder agreed to the appointment of a provider of Occupational Health Services to commence on 1st September 2008 for three years with the provision for a two-year extension.

The meeting finished at 3.35pm. So Ms Hargreaves made 5 decisions in 35 minutes, 7 minutes each. The Mayor could have disposed of that Meeting in just 15 minutes!

Airport Security

A quick nod to Greg Beaman for this story. A Ryanair flight was forced to make an emergency landing after a jar of mushroom soup in an overhead locker started to leak and dripped onto a passenger with a severe allergy to......mushrooms.

The story reports how the plane was forced to divert and make an emergency landing so the passenger could receive medical attention. Of more interest to me was how the jar of mushroom soup had made it through security checks and onto the plane? As a fairly frequent flyer I actually think the security checks are more of a psychological ploy to reassure passengers and conversely to keep them frightened than a serous attempt to stop terrorists. I have been through Newcastle airport many times carrying liquids in excess of the "100ml" limit and never been stopped once. My daughter on the other hand had a small spray confiscated at the x-ray machine despite it being quite clearly (to anyone with a sense of smell) a well known perfume. At the same check point I was passed through carrying 500ml of water and a screwdriver. Why a screwdriver you might ask? It was in an outside pocket of the bag and I'd forgotten It was there, until I arrived in Majorca and was unpacking.

Traveling back through Terminal 5 recently I had the joy of being photographed and apparently only the mess made by the baggage fiasco stopped iris scanning or fingerprinting being introduced from day 1 at terminal 5. No doubt the day will come and fairly soon, when DNA Tests are required to get on a bus! Airport style security at railway stations is already being mooted, so arriving at Darlington 10 minutes before the train is due too depart might soon be a thing of the past. If I'm going to a meeting in the west country its as cheap to fly down as to get the train and takes about the same time, even allowing for 2 hour check in at the airport. Make it as hard to get on a train as get on a plane and the time advantage for the train will disappear completely.

But, the question still remain. How did a jar of mushroom soup evade security? Just shows how the scanners, body searches and metal detectors are powerless in the face of a simple fungus!


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

UKIP Hartlepool AGM

The A.G.M. of the Hartlepool Branch of U.K.I.P. will take place on Tuesday, 16th September, in the Woodcutter Hotel, Kingsley Avenue, starting at 7.30 pm.

The agenda is as follows

1. Chairman’s Report.
2. Treasurer’s Report.
3. Election of Officers.
4. A.O.B.

U.K.I.P.’s North East candidates in the 2009 European elections will be in attendance and they will outline their plans for fighting this very important campaign.

Eric Wilson
Branch Chairman.

Have you spotted the new logo yet

According to the August Issue of Newsline (Hartlepool Council and Schools Employee Newsletter), Hartlepool Council have made some subtle changes to its logo, following a review involving representatives from all departments. Has anyone out there spotted the new logo in use yet? I down loaded the one above from the Hartlepool Council Website and I think it's still the old design? The thumbnail shown in Newsline has Hartlepool written in Green not Blue and there are four waves under the stag, not three as in the logo above. Well the changes are described as "subtle"

Nice to hear that there is time in the busy working day of Hartlepool Council to "refresh" the Hartlepool "brand". Of course it hasn't been "refreshed" since 1996 so maybe it was overdue for a change! After all it's almost impossible to maintain morale with an outdated and tired logo!

Refreshing the logo might be the sort of job that requires an enthusiastic, talented and forward-thinking individual who can help continue Hartlepool Council's drive to deliver excellent internal communications to their employees. No doubt the new logo is indicative of Hartlepool Council's passion for internal communications and ability to embrace change. I'm certain the representatives from every department displayed formidable abilities to multitask, prioritise their workload and work on their own initiative. Possible Essex County Council may even now be head hunting their New "Internal Communications Officer" from amongst the ranks of Hartlepool Council's "Team HBC"

Any Council Taxpayer worrying that the change will result in loads of material with the "old" logo being dumped need not be concerned. You can be reassured that the new brand guidelines will be phased in as and when items need replacing. In fact a guidance manual on how the brand should be applied is currently being produced and should be available on the Hartlepool Council Intranet soon. Look out for "Team HBC" logo and "brand" on a council letterhead, flag, vehicle, polo shirt, etc in your town. Obviously the Council Website doesn't need replacing yet or the new logo could be seen on line?

If you want to know more e-mail alastair.rae@hartlepool.gov.uk

Electoral Reform Part 2

My post a few days ago regarding electoral reform received a couple of comments and even produced an e-mail from Ashley Dé, the "Head of Comms and Media" at the Electoral Reform Society.

Apparently my blog came up in their media monitoring and he passed on my comments about other anomalies to their Head of Research, who has "read them with interest". Ashley even apologised that the piece was not as exhaustive as it could have been but given the problems with local elections they could have filled up the whole magazine.

I definitely think the time is well overdue for some serious electoral reform in this country and if anyone wants some further information about electoral reform then I definitely recommend a visit to the Electoral reform Socity website


Of particular interest was


This is a short pamphlet on Proportional Representation Myths, which answers some of the more lazy and commonplace arguments of the First Past The Post lobby. In its preface it explains that "no political issue attracts more fallacious arguments than proportional representation (PR). Perhaps the most foolish one is that a proportional system would be too difficult for the voters to understand. The implication must be that English voters are the most stupid in Europe. For every other European country except France uses a proportional system, and proportional representation is now used for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved bodies and for local government in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Only Westminster and local authorities in England and Wales remain as a last redoubt of First-Past-the-Post."

Well worth a read!

Hit and Run!

My daughter learned another hard lesson in life today about how there are some nasty people about. Some scumbag drove into her car, made a huge dent in the front panel but didn't stop. My daughter has had the car for less than a week and it is her pride and joy. Judging by the damage the bastard who ran into it can't have failed to notice they had hit it, we are not talking a small scuff here, this is a major dent!

As a new driver there is no way my daughter can afford to get it fixed, her insurance excess is £650 and as the other driver didn't stop she can't claim off his (or her) insurance, assuming of course they actually have insurance.

So if you were in Hartlepool near the pink sandwich shop in York Road around lunch time today and saw someone hit and run into a silver Nisan Micra then my daughter (and then the Police!) would like to hear from you!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Buzword Bingo!

The Job advert in the previous post made me think of Buzzword Bingo. The rules are very simple, you select a number of "management speak words and phrases and then read through an advert or listen to a council speech and cross off the word or phrases as they are used. The person to get all of their words or phrases is the winner.

Acceptable "buzzwords" are highlighted below

We (Essex County Council) are looking for an enthusiastic and talented individual to join the Council's dynamic and forward-thinking internal communications team, as an Internal Communications Officer. Your energy will help us continue our drive to deliver excellent internal communications to the employees of Essex County Council.

Involved in all aspects of this busy internal communications team, you will help edit and write for the employee magazine; research and write news stories for the intranet; act as an internal communications business partner, advising directorates on all aspects of internal communications; and provide internal communications support for a variety of business campaigns and change programmes.

Your passion for internal communications and ability to embrace change will be combined with strong news writing skills - good grammar and spelling are essential. You will need an ability to prioritise your workload, work on your own initiative as well as with the team, and to multi-task.

A sound working knowledge and experience ideally in an internal communications environment, this is an opportunity for you to grow and develop your internal communications skills within a professional and energetic team.

Internal Communications Officer

Thank goodness the advert below is from Essex County Council and not Hartlepool Council. From the title it might be mistaken for a useful job but strip away the management speak and it is actually mainly concerned with supplementing Council propaganda and publicity by producing intranet article and costly glossy magazines nobody reads. If that sounds familiar then maybe you do look at Hartbeat as it goes from your mat to the recycle bag?

You may be one of those poor deluded fools who think you pay your council tax to get the bins cleaned, streets sweeped and public land taken care of? The advert below might disabuse you of this notion (re-produced with thanks to the Tax Payers Alliance (www.taxpayersalliance.com)

Internal Communications Officer (£21,414 - £27,597)

We (Essex County Council) are looking for an enthusiastic and talented individual to join the Council's dynamic and forward-thinking internal communications team, as an Internal Communications Officer. Your energy will help us continue our drive to deliver excellent internal communications to the employees of Essex County Council.

Involved in all aspects of this busy internal communications team, you will help edit and write for the employee magazine; research and write news stories for the intranet; act as an internal communications business partner, advising directorates on all aspects of internal communications; and provide internal communications support for a variety of business campaigns and change programmes.

Your passion for internal communications and ability to embrace change will be combined with strong news writing skills - good grammar and spelling are essential. You will need an ability to prioritise your workload, work on your own initiative as well as with the team, and to multi-task.

A sound working knowledge and experience ideally in an internal communications environment, this is an opportunity for you to grow and develop your internal communications skills within a professional and energetic team.

Closing date: 12 September 2008.