Friday, 31 October 2008

Political Double Speak

At last night's Council meeting I was struggling with political double speak. Protecting local interests and trying to ensure local jobs were retained was a definite good thing said one "independent" councillor, a sentiment I had already expressed and with which she was agreeing with me. She then went on to say that protecting British Interests and trying to ensure UK Jobs were retained in the UK made me a "Little Englander"

So protecting Hartlepool is good but protecting the UK is bad? How can we do one without the other? The Councillor in question trotted out the good things about the European Union in her opinion, including much better health and safety regulation and keeping the peace in Europe. Well no-one could argue about health and safety being a good thing, I wouldn't want to go back to the bad old days of people regularly being killed at work, however most reasonable people now accept that health and safety has swung so far into risk adverse that we are in danger of not being able to do anything! The old chestnut about keeping the peace of course ignores a little organisation called NATO which has done more for peace in Europe than the EU has ever done.

But back to double speak, protecting local interests good, protecting British interests bad! How can she, and others like her, be so blinkered as not to be able to see the basic contradiction in that stance. You have to protect British interests to be able to retain the ability to protect local interests. It's bad enough being micro managed by Westminster but even that is preferable to centralist control from Brussels!

Give me Victory!

Having finally given in to the demands of my children I've subscribed to Sky TV. There are literally now 100's of channels pouring into the 50inch plasma screen (known as "the Beast") which dominates the TV Room. Some of the channels are literally unbelievable, "Movies for Men" caught my eye but it didn't show the sort of programming I was expecting, it appears to be none stop Westerns or War Films!

HD is quite impressive, but not sure it's worth the extra £10 a month. However the Military History Chanel is a definite favourite bookmark. Their series on the Royal Navy is something I would definitely recommend. I didn't know for example that it was a statutory requirement at the beginning of the last century that the Royal Navy must maintain in commission a navy bigger than the combined fleets of the second and third largest navies in the world. This law was only repealed in 1921 when the USA decided to out build the British Empire and so began a navy build up we couldn't match. It was also revealed that we owe the fact we have a navy at all these days to Argentina. If they had waited another year to invade the Falklands then our navy would have been so gutted and downsized by the Tory Government that we could never have taken the islands back. It was only the public reaction after the Falklands that enabled the Royal Navy to hang on as anything more than a glorified coast guard.

The Navy may now be getting two new aircraft carriers (well over due!) but it still faces savage cuts, this time from Labour under Brown. MoD penny-pincher's have the official flagship of the Navy's Commander in Chief in their sights. This role has been filled since 1889 by HMS Victory. The MoD want the Navy to end centuries of tradition by abandoning running the celebrated vessel, which lures 500,000 visitors a year to its dry dock in Portsmouth. The Navy spends £1.5million a year on its upkeep, a tiny sum in the greater scheme of things, to maintain this magnificent ship that means so much to both naval people and the whole nation.

Selling Victory to a private firm could turn it into a Disneyland type attraction and that would make a mockery of Britain’s naval heritage.

Since a campaign has been launched to save The Victory for the nation the MoD has back pedaled a little, now insisting there was no question of Victory being flogged off, but they do admit that her future is to be reviewed like any other warship. A spokesman stressed: “We are looking at a range of funding options.”

Diet Report No:4

Completed the four weeks diet yesterday and the final weigh in this morning put me at 104kg giving a total loss for the four weeks of 17kg. In real money that is a fall from 19stones 1lb to 16stones 6lb. So I suppose that's not bad! 2Stone 9lb lost.

The next four week package has already arrived and is ready to go but I'm having the weekend off before starting again. The urge to have a curry is just too

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Protecting local jobs

Impassioned speeches were made by two Labour Councillors at tonight's Council Meeting wanting to protect local jobs and stop the work going out of town. Unfortunately both of the Councilors had to admit that under European Union Rules the work was of sufficient value that it had to be tendered across the whole of the EU. Best value rules then meant we couldn't favour our own local workforce over companies from Paris, Berlin, Warsaw or a tiny hamlet in deepest, darkest Bulgaria.

So long as we stay in the European Union we have to play by their rules. Complaining about it isn't enough. If these people really wanted to protect local workers and make local decisions locally then they'd admit we would be better off out of the EU. Of course they can't do that as they would then be off message and going against their Party Policy. Just another case of no matter what they might say their actions speak louder than their words and their actions are definitely party first, party second and always party ahead of principle or integrity of belief.

When is a business viable?

In today's credit crunch and businesses going to the wall it was interesting to get a local authority's interpretation of "viable" when applied to small businesses. Apparently after trading for three years and making a profit every year a business located in the countryside was deemed not to be viable by Hartlepool Planning Committee as the profit made was only £5,000 a year. As someone who has been involved in business for over 20 years I think three profitable years trading shows a fair degree of viability, especially when establishing the business from scratch. After investing many thousands of pounds in a business it is not unusual to make no profit at all for the first couple of years, its called investing in the future!

I suppose if you are sitting in your local authority post with your public sector pension to look forward to then you wouldn't get out of bed for only £5,000 a year, which incidentally is about the same as my Councillor's Allowance. Does that mean I'm not "viable" or "sustainable" as a Councillor? Admittedly if I had to live on it for the rest of my life then I'd struggle but then I'm not building a political career which will ultimately lead me to bigger money, unless of course I managed to get elected Mayor then I'd make more than £5,000 a month!

So when is a business viable? If making a trading profit in these current times doesn't count then I dread to think how many none viable businesses there are out there. Of course all he has to do is put his prices up until he makes more money doesn't he? Local authorities might just be able to hike Council Tax on the basis that their customers have no choice but to pay whatever is demanded but unfortunately its not that simple in the competitive world of the private sector. If the price goes up too much the customers go elsewhere. Ah just imagine if you could do that with Council Tax. Sorry you could say, I'm paying my Council Tax to somewhere else this year, they've offered me a much better deal! Bring your rates down next year and I might switch back to you!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Digital Angel

The company leading the way in implantable human chips, VeriChip Corporation, is 45% owned by another advanced technology company in the field of animal identification and "emergency identification solutions" called Digital Angel .

Digital Angel's SABRE Division announced in September this year that it has signed a contract valued at $9 million with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) to supply latest generation Personal Emergency Locator System (PELS) to replace the current system which from February 2009 will become obsolete due to changes in satellite monitoring technology.

The system is designed to be integrated into aircrew clothing! Well so far at least!

Chipped like dogs!

To those people who commented that it will never happen here I would point out that VeriChip in the USA has been making implantable chips approved for use in humans since October 2004. The rice grain-sized chips, designed to be injected into the arm's fatty tissue, can be scanned like a bar code to call up personal information such as name, blood type and medical records. The chips can also be linked to financial information such as credit card numbers and buying habits, a facility that a nightclub in Glasgow was trying to exploit by offering to implant its patrons with the chips. The club, called Bar Soba, said the chips let customers leave their wallets at home and still have their favorite drink on the bar waiting for them as soon as they walk through the door and get scanned.

Latest versions of the chip can include GPS data, just imagine how much info the government could collect on you if you were monitored 24/7 on everywhere you went and every time you spent any money it was logged! Even George Orwell allowed his creations to have privacy in their own bodies! Of course 1984 was supposed to be a work of fiction but too many people now a days seem to view it as an instruction manual!

More on fingerprinting

The NO2ID Campaign has called for plans to allow the police to fingerprint people on the street using mobile scanners to be put on hold until vital legal protections are put in place. Police currently have the power to demand fingerprints only after arresting someone. However if scanners are in use the public could come under pressure to give prints "voluntarily". Given the government's appalling record on abuse and mishandling of personal data does anyone want even more personal details under their control?

NO2ID wants full disclosure on biometric data trials, information currently blocked under claims of "commercial confidentiality". Unfortunately this Government has a habit of only reporting the good news about biometrics, not the bad news about how often the scanners get it wrong. NO2ID also want checking only against criminal fingerprint databases. Currently the checks would be able to access the proposed National Identity Register and turn mobile fingerprinting into fishing expeditions, effectively turning the entire population into suspects with nothing to stop mobile scanners resulting in the creeping fingerprinting of everyone in the country.

When Hartlepool Council decided that every Councillor must undergo a CRB Check, (illegally in my opinion) I opposed the move, in fact I was the ONLY Councillor who voted NO, not because I have anything to hide (which of course is the easy charge to make) but because I opposed the creeping intrusion into people’s private lives and the growth of Big Brother. In actual fact I have had several CRB checks and hold a copy of my own Police Computer Record, (anyone can demand a copy of their own record, under the Data Protection Act) and all but one have come back 100% clear. The only problem came on my Council Check where someone with “Similar” details to me came up on the check. I was asked to provide finger prints to “eliminate” the “similar” person from the check. My first reaction was to ask for a definition of “similar” if it was another 40something, white, male, who looked like me, lived in Hartlepool and had the same National Insurance Number then I was more concerned about identity theft than anything else. If however it was another white male living in the North East with the initials SA then I didn’t see why finger prints were required. A quick check on our photographs should be enough? NO came the reply Fingerprints or NO CRB. Please note, I didn’t fail the CRB check, I just didn’t complete the full process and so the CRB were unable to proceed with my application. The CRB are far too canny to fail people as that would then leave them open to challenge.

Co-incidentally I was required to complete anther CRB for a different organisation a few days after the Hartlepool Council. My application through this organisation passed without any comment! The “similar” person never appeared on this check! Just a co-incidence? Since then I have had two more CRB Checks and both of these have passed without any problem. I do wonder if the CRB are being used to collect fingerprints “voluntarily” thereby getting everyone on the government systems. In my opinion it’s only a matter of time before we are chipped like dogs!

Let's have more elections

Financial considerations were the main concerns expressed by the Mayor and Cabinet over the possibility of a move to all out elections every four years rather than the thirds system currently used by Hartlepool Council. The wasn’t a single mention of the main reason why I thought elections are actually held, namely to allow the people to express their democratic rights through the ballot box.

Most politicians hate elections! It is the one time when they actually have to listen to the people. Peter Mandelson for example has reached the ultimate “safe seat” he can remain in government without ever having to face the electorate ever again. Political heaven. The power, the position, the influence but zero accountability to the people. How is that democracy?

Of course most people just trot out and vote how they always vote so it’s irrelevant to them if elections are every year, every four years, or even once in a lifetime. The “I vote X, always have, always will” brigade are the politicians favourite voters. They can be ignored, lied to, manipulated and generally abused but they trot into that polling booth, or nowadays more likely complete their postal ballot, and vote the way they have always voted. Its like a spouse going back to an abusive partner, no matter how many times they are slapped, kicked or knocked around they go back again and again, either because they are scared of being alone or they know their abuser loves them really!

Most voters are like abused spouses, they are too scared to leave the party they have always supported as that would mean doing something different, or they “know” the other parties would be even worse, their current party has told them so and of course they know best.

However, some of the electorate do actually think about things and just occasionally come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, voting the same way every time is not the way forward and maybe, just maybe they should look at the record or performance of the parties. These are then the dangerous people for politicians. The dreaded “floating voters” These are people who look at issues, who consider policies and actually cast their vote according to who they think is offering the best solutions to today’s problems.

The massive advantage of elections by thirds to me is that the people get their opportunity to have their say on a regular basis. I would do away with general elections if I had my way; let’s put a quarter of the MP’s up for re-election every year. Wouldn’t that concentrate the minds of our rulers? Let’s have more elections not less. Let’s elect the Chief of Police, lets elect the Magistrates and JP’s, lets elect the members of the Hospital Trust Board. Fewer appointment, more elections, that’s what I say!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Throwing a pie is better than throwing bombs!

Support for Free Speech and the tolerance of the Manchester University left wing were on show on Friday when Immigration Minister Phil Woolas visited the campus. He was forced to pass through a mock "border control" and asked to show his passport. Then as he took his seat, he had a cream pie thrown at him for "spouting right-wing anti-immigration policies." So much for tolerance!

Mr. Woolas was invited by the university students´ union to speak on a debate on the e nvironment, but the event was hijacked by activists of "No Borders" - a group which campaigns against border controls. Initially all in good humour the mood turned ugly when shortly before the debate was to start a woman from the audience threw a cream pie at him and ran away. The pie throwing was justified by the No Borders Group as a reason to stop the minister engaging in any debate as they felt Any debate would "legitimise what he was saying." So much for Free Speech! Obviously the only legitimate view to be tolerated or to be debated is one that No Borders agree with?

Maybe I should throw a custard pie at the next MEP I hear standing up to praise the EU? After all I don't want anything that "legitimises" the European Union. However, unlike No Borders I accept that not everyone shares my view on the EU, even though anyone who supports the EU is, in my opinion, misguided to say the least! No borders were quite smug about preventing the minister spouting "right wing anti-immigration policies". According to their spokesman "The danger is that people like him are making such views mainstream." I don't know how to tell these thugs but these views are already mainstream and are gaining more support by the day.

Why is it that extremists of all types always think theirs is the only viewpoint that should be allowed. Intolerant, bullying left wing thugs or intolerant, bully right wing thugs, they are both still just thugs! There are many people out there who hold views I consider to be repellent but I don't think throwing pies at them is any way to go about protesting. Throwing a pie is better than throwing bombs, but once you start throwing anything then you've lost the argument in my opinion!

My Future's in Falkirk

Reportedly a Scottish council official has recently been allowed to work from home - in PRAGUE.

For 7 months, the community services marketing executive continued to publicise leisure activities and tourist attractions in Stirlingshire and also worked on a marketing campaign entitled, (are you ready for this, it's priceless), entitled 'My Future's in Falkirk' aimed at attracting people to live and work in the area and encourage residents to stay. Could anyone make it up!!!

Bullingdon Club

The Sunday Times has published a Bullingdon Club picture showing Rothschild and Osbourne as fellow members. This is not the famous picture which included Boris and Cameron (which I understand is now no longer available for publication but still available on line, try

The Mail on Sunday gleefully points out that at least two people have been fairly obviously deleted from the picture, the guy resting his arm in open air being one give away as is the white fronted dinner jackets without anyone in them! Of course when the Daily Mail published the same photo in April 2007 ( the Mail on Sunday were not quite so critical!

Peter Mandelson’s last act as European Trade Commissioner

From The Independent on Sunday.

"Peter Mandelson’s last act as European Trade Commissioner was to advocate new trade rules that will directly benefit the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Less than a month ago, in one of his final speeches before being recalled to the Cabinet and after he accepted hospitality on the Russian’s yacht, Lord Mandelson announced a new EU trade strategy giving multinational companies freer access to raw materials, including scrap aluminium and natural minerals used in the production of the metal. Mr Deripaska owns Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer, which has subsidiaries in Europe. The companies import both scrap aluminium and aluminium-containing minerals from Africa and India. The new rules would exempt such companies from paying expensive export duties, to the anger of development charities.”

Apparently you could get 10/1 on Mandelson having to resign (again) from the government before the end of this parliament. Odds are now 3/1 and shortening!

Staff without posts

According to Official Figures there are currently 1,743 permanent civil servants classified as 'staff without posts' across Government departments. The Ministry of Defence had the largest number with 830, followed by the Department for Work & Pensions with 368 staff, and the Foreign Office with 212. Apparently this includes people returning from career breaks, maternity or sick leave and those waiting to be assigned a new full-time role. So while everyone else is tightening their belts to get through the financial crisis the civil service is paying people to do nothing! Of course it could just be the Public Sector equivalent of Job Seekers Allowance? If you don't have a job in the Private Sector then you are laid off, redundant, "down the road" and signing on at the Job Centre. From this report it appears if you don't have a job in the public sector then you are "staff without posts" and kept on until something turns up for you? Possibly your gold plated, final salary scheme pension?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Russian Billionaires, luxury yachts and our former, much missed (NOT) Hartlepool MP

More details are emerging about Russian Billionaires, luxury yachts and our former and much missed (NOT) Hartlepool MP, Peter Mandelson who originally claimed to have first met the aluminium magnate four years ago. (

However, The Guardian reported that the two men had been seen together by a journalist at a Moscow restaurant in October 2004. This being after Lord Mandelson was appointed trade commissioner but before he took up the post. The length and nature of their relationship is central to questions over whether Lord Mandelson, while European Trade Commissioner, faced conflicts of interest when dealing with matters connected to Mr Deripaska. Earlier this month, the European Commission cleared Lord Mandelson of any inappropriate links with the tycoon, whose business benefited from a December 2005 decision to ease import duties on Russian aluminium.

Normally I would take anything the Guardian said with a very, very large pinch of salt. According to Lord Mandelson people made incorrect assumptions when he said he met Mr.Deripaska in 2006. People “assumed” this was the first time they met but he now admits “to the best of my recollection we first met in 2004 and I met him several times subsequently." Of course the phrase “best of my recollection” is one that leaves plenty of future wiggle room for further revelations should they need to be revealed.

Lord Mandelson’s earlier statements about his meetings with Mr Deripaska could very much be interpreted as spin, which is now becoming un-spun. Peter Mandelson does not say whether these meetings were in an office in Brussels with other EU officials, or on his yacht eating canapés. Of course if Peter Mandelson really played no part in the aluminium negotiations, as he seems to be claiming, then what was he doing as the EU Trade Commissioner?

Friday, 24 October 2008

PLAN B - NO to Regional Assemblies so YES to Unitary Authorities

When the people of the North-East said emphatically ‘NO’ to an elected NE Regional Assembly we (UKIP) advised the electorate not to allow this temporary euphoria to cause them to ‘take their eye off the ball’.

The real significance of the vote on November 4, 2004 was NOT the satisfaction of derailing Labour’s latest effort to divest us of our democracy, but, rather wondering just how they would get round to ignoring our verdict as they surely would do. Who can forget John Prescott who possesses the political acumen of a fruit-fly looking like a cross between Quasimodo and a bulldog chewing a wasp lecturing us about “missed opportunities” because we saw through their (the Labour Government’s) spin, deceit and lies and told them to “get stuffed”.

Many correspondents pointed out at the time that even if the vote on an elected Regional Assembly had been 100% ‘NO’ (it was an overwhelming 80%) the UN-elected assembly would still be in place. Of course papers such as: The Journal, Northern Echo and others, who all campaigned for a ‘YES’ vote, never pointed out this fact to their readers. Strange that, isn’t it?

How very satisfying that people power prevailed over press power. Given this background, few will be surprised that these same papers backed the plans to subvert duly elected parish, town, borough and county councils’ and merge them into wholly undemocratic and unaccountable bodies called UNITARY authorities.

Whenever public opinion was consulted on plans to break up our historic northern counties they overwhelmingly rejected them. TRUE TO FORM THE GOVERNMENT WENT AHEAD ANYWAY! Who doubts that Unitary authorities are Regional Assemblies PLAN ‘B’?

Regionalization – the ‘Balkanization’ of Britain was decreed in the Maastricht Treaty (Article 198A) of 1992. The plan is simple, – Britain, as a self governing nation state is to be obliterated and replaced by a series of ‘regions’ all subordinate to ‘The European Committee of the Regions’ in Strasbourg. This structure is already in place with the network of unelected assemblies across the country, the referendum in 2004 was merely an attempt to ‘legitimize’ their plans. They assumed the people of the North East could be relied upon to endorse their treachery. How very wrong they were!

History has shown us however that the EU will never take ‘NO’ for an answer. The examples to prove this are many. The latest ongoing example being of course the news that the Irish, having said ‘NO’, are to be made to vote again on the ‘Lisbon’ treaty, which as we all know is the EU constitution rejected by France and the Netherlands, declared ‘dead’ then brought back as a ‘mere’ treaty. This self-same anti-democratic drive of the EU is the real story behind ‘Unitary authorities and their enforcement on the public. Unitaries are Regional Assemblies in a new wrapper. Reject Plan ‘A’ and all they’ll do is rebrand it as Plan’B’.

PCT Incentive Schemes

Apparently the Department of Health guidance for PCTs and practices on PBC for 2008-9 states that PCTs should focus on a locally agreed incentive scheme. Specifically for 2008-9 schemes should:

“… include incentivising practice based commissioners to reduce people’s lifestyle risks. However, PCTs should ensure that this does not involve ‘double paying’ – i.e. over-rewarding activities that are already financially incentivised through other means such as the Quality and Outcomes Framework. Also, incentive schemes should be cash releasing, and funded from savings made from PBC.”

I'm not sure exactly what all of this means but at least one PCT is now proposing to reward GPs financially for reducing referrals to hospital, irrelevant of clinical need, for reducing hospital admissions for life threatening conditions and for ensuring that more patients die at home.

Some have questioned if this incentive scheme fits in with the doctors ethical guidelines to act in their patients’ best interests when making referrals and when providing or arranging treatment or care. Doctors must not ask for or accept any inducement, gift or hospitality which may affect or be seen to affect the way they prescribe for, treat or refer patients. So how does being paid a bonus to keep people out of hospital fit in there?

Torbay PCT is offering GP's a bonus payment linked to achievement of a points scheme. A total of 135 points are available for achieving all targets, at the maximum level. Practices with a list size of 5891 (national average) will receive a payment of £110/point. Increasing the number of patients that die at home by 4% over last year is worth 12 points. A similar reduction in rates of admission for alcohol related harm per 1,000 patients will get another 12 points. The bean counters that run the PCT's have worked out it's cheaper to pay GPs not to send people to hospital than it is to admit sick or dying patients.

A coldly financial assessment therefore of a chronic alcoholic with liver failure would send that person home to die rather than admit them to a hospital? This would of course be a double win since it would be in both the die at home and reduce alcohol related admissions categories. Under these guidelines would Harold Shipman be an ideal GP? He had loads of patient die at home without clogging up valuable hospital beds.

If you want to know more then try the link below

Internet fraud

Well it's finally happened to me! Internet fraud has caught me in its web. My Credit card provider rang me this morning to query some "unusual activity" on my account.
Skype phone credit transfers and several thousand pounds worth of purchases on line overseas.

I assured them I have not been visiting India recently, nor buying large quantities of textiles there. They have stopped the card and checked it was still in my possession, which it was (in fact still is but in two pieces). The card has not left my possession in the last two weeks other than in three petrol stations, one I use regularly in Hartlepool, one on the M1 about 10 days ago and the other in the centre of Leeds.

The card remained in my sight at all times so if the details have been stolen then its been very cleverly done. Might just be a co-incidence but it was 7.00pm on Monday evening I filled up the car in Leeds and less than 6 hours later the card was being used to electronically transfer money overseas! My credit card provider assures me I am not liable for the loss as the card is still in my possession. I suppose if you want to steal credit card details then a petrol station is a very good place to do it!

Actually this might be the universe returning to Karmic Balance. If my card details were lifted in the Leeds Petrol Station then this was the same petrol station where I bought a Cheese Savory in Brown Bread Sandwich in clear violation of my diet! So there we are, cheat on the diet and get your credit card details stolen, it's just natural justice asserting itself!

Diet Report No:3

A week of hell fighting man flu, which continues to wrack my body with pain and suffering, (but I never talk about it, just solider on in silence). The Friday morning weigh-in however still had to be faced. Down to 105kg which is another 6 pounds this week to a fighting weight of 16 stone 7lbs. At this rate I've got about 12 weeks to go to hit my target weight of 12stone 7lbs, mind you 4 stone in 12 weeks isn't a realistic, or even healthy, weight loss. Speaking of which time for my Amoxicillin!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ladies, get back in the kitchen!

I hesitated to blog this report from the Times-on-line as it is a minefield of political correctness, national sterotypes and sexual politics. However, never one to avoid putting my foot in it I thought why not! So here goes. I am wearing my tin helmet and crouching in my foxhole ready for the screams of outrage!

The Times-on-line today reported that the sexual revolution is breaking out in Scotland, at Broughty Castle Bowling Club to be exact. Founded in 1867 the club excluded women until 1924 when a ladies' section was formed. There are currently 50 women who have the status of associate members and more than 100 men who are full members. Associates pay £46 a year, full members pay £153. Apart from reduced fees associate members are also expected to provide catering assistance to the club on Saturday games and competitions. Meals come in hot from a local supplier but the women have to set the tables, dish out the food, collect the dirty plates wash them and clear everything up. The ladies do it on a rota basis with three ladies each week. Apparently some of the women are fed up being treated as “kitchen slaves.”

The Ladies Section AGM has now demanded that as of next year the club must either share the task around or hire an outside agency to serve the meals. Club officials have said that if the ladies are no longer willing to work in the kitchen then the committee will recommend that the associate members' fees rise to 75 per cent of the full members’ fees to mitigate the damage the ladies withdrawal will cause to the club’s finances. This will mean an increase from £46 to £115 per year. Ladies who volunteer to continue providing the meals service on Saturday afternoons will be given the option to retain their current reduced level of fees.

Bowling officials dismissed the row as a storm in a teacup, but admitted that the sport was one of the last bastions of male privilege. The club has of course been lambasted for its outdated approach and attacked for “threatening women” with higher fee prices in exchange for kitchen duties.

The best way forward to me would seem to be to remove the distinction completely between women and men members. Put them all on the same membership fee of £150 a year then do as the ladies suggest and bring in outside help. The food itself is already bought in from an outside supplier who could no doubt also provide three willing workers to set the tables, dish out the food, collect the dirty plates, wash them and clear everything up.

According to the report the Bowling season runs from April until the end of September, which by my calculation is 26 Saturdays, in addition, they also help to put on teas on other days when the club runs competitions, so the most any lady will be asked to do is 2 afternoons a year or about 8 hours a year? For which they are currently paid (in the form of reduced fees) £69 or just over £8.00 an hour. Seems like a good deal to me!

My daughter currently works in the evenings waiting on tables and she gets no where near £8.00 an hour, she’s in receipt of minimum wage (under 18) of about half that for working Saturday evenings. She’d jump at £8.00 an hour on a Saturday afternoon?

It seems to me that the club are not threatening higher fees in return for kitchen duties but currently offer REDUCED fees in return for kitchen duties. If the Ladies don’t want to do the kitchen work any more then I am 100% behind them in their rights to say so BUT they surely then can’t expect to retain the reduced fee as well?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Suffering in Silence

I have been struck down, the dreaded Man Flu has claimed me! The hacking cough, wheezy chest, sore eyes, aching limbs, but I'm not complaining, I'm soldiering on in silence. Bearing up stoically and without demur, no-one knows the agonies I'm suffering but not one word of complaint or self pity will pass my lips. Assuming I survive this affliction then I'll emerge stronger for the experience! As a typical man I'm not one to harp on about being ill, just get on with it is my motto! Ah, the suffering!!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The ultimate surveillance society

More details are emerging of the government’s increasing mania for keeping us all under tight surveillance. Proposals are for five huge databases, all linked together in real time to create the ultimate surveillance society.

The compulsory registration of all mobile phones for example would interface with the automatic number plate recognition system of road traffic cameras, which provides live coverage of motor-ways and main roads. It, in turn, is linked to the DVLA in Swansea which holds the records of all registered vehicles in the country.

By monitoring a single telephone call it would be possible to identify exactly where its user was and the registration number of the car in which he or she was travelling. This car could then be found within seconds by the automatic number plate recognition cameras and tracked along its journey.

Jacqui Smith the Home Secretary and the government spy-masters at GCHQ are reportedly gung ho for the databases but Smith has apparently been told by her senior officials that they believe the proposals are impractical, disproportionate, politically unattractive and possibly unlawful from a human rights perspective.

Even the Association of Chief Police Officers have their reservations, describing the plans as “mission creep” which seems like a management speak way of saying that if you give these people an inch then they take a mile! The Association of Chief Police Officers also point out there is an inherent fear of the data falling into the wrong hands. Given this government’s record on losing data I think “inherent fear” is putting it lightly!

Give people power and they use it! This has been proved by anti-terror legislation being used to prosecute people putting their bins out early, identify culprits for dog fouling or using accommodation addresses to try and get their kids into the school of their choice. No-one is saying these people shouldn’t be brought to book but I don’t think a 24/7 surveillance society is the way to do it. Especially as it will be the ordinary law abiding man and woman on the street who end up being the easy target to be milked by on the spot fines while real criminals get away with it.

Monday, 20 October 2008


Safe, Secure and, Encrypted

The rationale behind the proposed data base of mobile phone holders becomes even less credible after a few minutes internet searching on mobile phone security and encryption

One product claims to certified and licensed by the Israeli Ministry Of Defence and boast features so powerful that it is running on cell phones are in daily use by government leaders, international business executives, intelligence officers and law enforcement agencies around the world.

The system is just one of dozens on the internet that offers a fast, safe and economical way to keep your sensitive cellular conversations and text messages secure from eavesdropping. It apparently utilizes a dual layered combination of unbreakable encryption algorithms at a military level with encryption keys automatically generated by your phone, without any external server.

The price of £495.00 might put off the ordinary man in the street ringing his missus to let her know he’ll be late home for dinner but I would have thought it would be peanuts to an international terrorist organisation? So why do the British Government want to have a data base of mobile phone owners? My Children change their phone about as often as they change their socks, just imagine the massive job updating 72 Million records. It seems to me to be another information disaster just waiting to happen!

Eavesdropping Law

Further to my post about mobile phone registers I've come across an interesting piece of information about another country that has the power to monitor its citizens communications. It appears the British Government scheme is actually more draconian than one introduced by that arch defender of democracy, Robert Mugabe.

In 2004 the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe declared Mugabe’s “Posts and Telecommunications Act unconstitutional as it violated freedom of expression. Mugabe hit back with a new bill, The Interception of Communications Bill, in 2006 to "monitor and intercept certain communications in the course of their transmission,".

Known as the ‘eavesdropping law' Mugabe claimed it was necessary in order to deal with the emergence of more sophisticated forms of corruption and crimes such as electronic money laundering, fraudulent electronic transfer of funds, dissemination of offensive materials and even cyber-terrorism.

Actually Mugabe was less ambitious than the British Government. The UK is setting up a scheme to monitor ALL mobile phone and Internet communications as standard practise. The Zimbabwe Act cut out the Courts and the legal process completely but didn’t give a blanket permission to snoop as it still required a warrant for specific interception to be obtained from the Minister of Transport and Communications.

You couldn't make it up could you! Zimbabwe having more liberal surveillance laws than the UK!

Big Brother Society comes ever closer

The Big Brother Society comes ever closer with an anticipated compulsory mobile phone register being set for introduction in the draft Communications Data Bill next year

Everyone who buys one of Britain’s 72Million mobile telephones will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance, all of course under cover of moves to combat terrorism and crime. The move is targeted at monitoring the owners of Britain’s estimated 40m prepaid mobile phones. They can be purchased with cash by customers who do not wish to give their names, addresses or credit card details.

GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham has already been provided with up to £1 billion to work on the pilot stage of the Big Brother database, which will see thousands of “black boxes” installed on communications lines provided by Vodafone and BT as part of a pilot interception programme.

Senior officials in the Home Office have privately warned that the database scheme is impractical, disproportionate and potentially unlawful. However, looking at other decisions of this government it doesn’t seem they worry too much about what is legal or lawful. Of course the old “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about” brigade will be out in force to defend the move. How about defending our civil liberties, our right to a private life or just our rights to live without the government watching our every move, reading our every e-mail and now listening to our every mobile phone call.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Diet Report No:2

Completed another week and faced the Friday morning weigh-in. Down another 5 pounds this week and am now a positively skinny 16 stone 13lbs (107.5kg).

Only cheated twice this week, once when I was driving back from Leeds, I stopped to fill the car with petrol and was tempted by the sandwiches, ah bread! and the second time when Edward (the swine!) left a box of wine gums on the passenger seat of the car and they called to me until I munched one (or three or four, OK a handful!).

Got a Surveillance visit this morning and the client always has fish and chips on Fridays! Ah can I be strong in the face of that temptation!

Update: I failed to resist the fish and chips! It was the promise of mushy peas that broke my resolve.

Update 2: Just to point out the Fish and Chips were NOT allowed by my diet. One fellow Councilor rang to ask me of details of the diet that included fish and chips. Sorry but no good!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Don't ring 0906 Numbers

Christmas is fast approaching and another scam has surfaced to take advantage of the festive season. A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911 (a premium rate number). DO NOT call this number, if you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £15 for the phone call.

The fraudsters are based in Belize but surely the British Authorities can shut down 0906 numbers? I pay my telephone Bill to BT and so they must be passing on the money, doesn't that make them an accessory? How about handling stolen money? Surely BT must take some responsibility. Of course 0906 sites are big business. I googled 0906 UK numbers and got 294,000 hits. The top three sites were companies selling 0906 number services, one estimated that an 0906 number receiving three calls per day would net the operator over £10,000 a year!


I can stand back a little from the Pensions crisis since I have never been a member of a company pension scheme (actually for a few months I was in GEC's Pension since I reached a level in the organisation were it was compulsory, but the pension I receive from that is about £30 a year!). I did contribute to a private pension for a couple of years in my late 20's (The good old Prudential) and was convinced by a snake oil salesman (aka Independent Financial Advisor) to put some money into a "financial product" many years ago. I should have been suspicious about anything described as a revolutionary new financial product but I was young and naive. Both these investments still exist but profits are long gone in charges and fees!

The problem I've always had with pensions was quite simple. I give the pension company money every month for 40 years. They charge me fees to receive and look after this money which they invest on my behalf. If there are any profits AFTER they have had their slice off the top then that goes into my pension pot for the future. The annual fee is then taken again (usually a percentage so the better my pot grows the bigger the slice the pension company take in terms of number of pounds. In don't know why it costs more to manage £50,000 than £5,000 but it obviously does since at 6% a year the pension company make £3,000 to manage £50K but only £300 on £5K.

So after 40 years of handing over my money I';m then allowed to buy an annuity with it that gives me back some of my money every month until I die. Of course anything left after I die isn't part of my estate. it is kept by the pension company. So I've paid fees every month for 40 years to be allowed some of my money back when I retire but i never get control of the capital, I'm only allowed some of the income. If I put the money in the building society then they pay me for the privilege of investing it, they don't charge me to have my money in their account! AND when I want to retire the whole capital amount is mine!

Of course if you are in a scheme where your employer puts in matched (or even higher) contributions and your pension is a final salary scheme then you can't lose I suppose. Unfortunately for every winner in these public sector schemes at the moment there are dozens of losers in private sector money purchase schemes. Never mind who wants to retire anyway!

Bailout or dividend?

I have a modest share holding in a few companies (Remember to Tell Sid!) but have always thought that there were two elements to shares, capital growth and dividend income. A company that ploughed its profits back into developing and expanding the company increased its capital worth and a company that distributed the majority of its profits to the shareholders paid bigger dividends. Of course this is a very simplistic view. What I was very clear on was that dividends were distributed profits. No profit meant no dividend. No profit also mean no money to re-invest in the company and so ultimately also long term meant no more company! I have no problem with companies making profits! Profits are what makes everything possible.

However, the capital growth element of shares in reality has no bearing whatsoever on the asset value of the company. A company can have a share value running into millions of pounds but zero physical assets (anyone remember the share boom and bust?). The only time a company receives any money from the sale of its shares is the first time they sell them to the market. After that it is the trader and seller of the share that gets the money, not the company.

If a company's share price doubtless the company don't get a extra penny, it is the shareholder who gets the money, similarly if the share price halves the company don't have to pay out, its the share holder who losses the money. So what controls the value of shares? I thought it was the value of the company but its nothing to do with how much a company has in terms of physical asserts, its actually controlled by the size of the dividend they pay out! The bigger the dividend the higher the share value! So if there are no dividends from shares for 5 years then the value of shares to traders is zero for five years! The fact the share value is zero doesn't mean the company has any less physical assets, have any less cash, have any fewer orders or sales. A company can have huge physical assets but if its not paying dividends then its share price is low. Of course if the share price falls below the value of the physical assets then the assets strippers move in, buy all the shares, gut the company and sell off the physical assets.

Trading of shares is a cornerstone of capitalism but in actual fact is a totally parasitic operation that contributes nothing material to the world, its just one huge casino where the traders play with other people's money and bet on share prices going up or down. When people go to the races and bet on horses and lose the government don't step in and refund the lost money. If a bookmaker took bets at odds he couldn't pay out on then when he ran out of money he goes bust.

Which brings us to Bank Share Values and Dividends. The banks have all made huge losses and are relying on taxpayers money to bail them out. The shareholders are now complaining that there will be no dividends until the taxpayer is paid back. Well that seems fine to me. There have been no profits hence no dividends. The shareholders took the gain in the good times and so now they take the pain in the bad times. If they don't want to hold shares for years without dividend then sell them, they will get peanuts for them but that's the risk they took when they bought them. The value of your investments can go down as well as UP!

The government should stand firm. No taxpayer's bailout money for shareholder dividends. Nor should there be huge bonus payments for as long as there is public money in the banking system. Up the Workers!!!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Comment Policy

This blog is my personal ramblings and my comments on news and events. Anyone is welcome to read this blog but I write it for me, not for anyone else. Following some quite unnecessary and personal comments I have modified my blog settings to require my approval before a comment made by a reader is posted for all to see. I will accept comments that add to debate or make valid points about the events or news I am referring to. However, this is my blog and I will not allow anonymous comments that are insulting and which attack me personally. If someone wants to have a go at me then I see no reason to give them a platform to do so.

I think he (Ken Livingstone) got it almost totally right

It's not often that will say this but I agree with Ken Livingstone after reading a recent on-line interview with him published in 21st century socialism. I think he got it almost totally right when he identified the problem with British Politics today. The same problem that New Labour had in 1997 will also be applicable to the Tories should they win in 2010. Anyway in Ken's own words....

"I actually think a lot of the problems of New Labour come not from the ideology, but the lack of experience of government. If you look at American politics, with the exception of this year and Kennedy in 1960 - whoever is elected this year is going to be a Senator, without ever having been a Governor or a Mayor. And there was one other election in the past, it was Harding in 1920; only three American elections where someone has gone from the Senate to the Presidency. Every other election they had been a Governor, a successful military commander, in one instance a Mayor. And if you look at Germany, every Chancellor since Adenauer, and who was briefly his successor? Ehard. Every other Chancellor since then has successfully run a Länder. Everywhere else in the world, people are Mayors, Governors, and you are not allowed to play with the national state unless you demonstrated you could run the local one.

Here in Britain, the local government experience has been squeezed right out. Everyone leaves university, works in some PR firm or as a researcher for a MP, and the first experience they have of managing anything is when they find they are a Cabinet Minister or a Prime Minister. So I watched Blair and Brown and everybody, except for Blunkett and Dobson and Chris Smith, who'd had strong local government experience - all these people learning and making the sort of mistakes that I made when I was a councillor in Lambeth my 20s, but on the national stage. Blair would honestly say to you that he spent his first term as Prime Minister learning how to do the job. That's a luxury. Boris is now spending his first term as Mayor learning how to do the job. This is a luxury that you really can’t indulge. It is really only in Britain with this obsessive centralised state, that you've got to be Prime Minister, or virtually nothing else is worth doing. It has got worse under New Labour; in Mrs Thatcher’s time, being a Cabinet Minister you had a real air of responsibility, and were left to get on with it.

Now everything is run centrally, and it will be under Cameron I suspect, if he gets in, and this is a terrible weakness. You need to have demonstrated administrative experience. Now to my surprise, I expected a lot more casualties of people who turned out to be incompetent ministers. But it was still a wasted first term. A lot of the errors that were built in were that. There were the ideological errors of saying we are not going to increase taxes on the rich.

And then were just the errors of omission. How long does it take you before you realise those civil servants aren’t yours, and they have their own agenda and they are just very good at seeming yours? I learnt that when I was in Lambeth Council in 1970s before I was 30. And then Blair had to learn it in his premiership."

When I said I think he got it almost totally right rather than completely right I meant he was showing his own bias in that he obviously believes that only experience in local government is valid experience. I think it also needs people from industry and commerce to bring their view points to the table. However, I have no problem agreeing with Ken on his basic premise which seems to be that going direct from University into Westminster politics might make you a very able politician but it in no way equips you to run the country.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Gordon Brown, the final days in the No;10 Bunker

This is a brilliant piece of video from Youtube. Well worth a look if you think Gordon Brown and the Labour Party might be on a sticky wicket holding onto the seat the forthcoming Glenrothes by-election. Just copy and paste into your browser search bar

Harsh economic facts of life

My daughter now has a car to run! Ah the wonderful experience of watching her counting her pennies to see if she can put petrol in the tank! I've told her she needs to be saving up for her insurance renewal next year, tax, tyres, servicing, etc but so far all her cash is going on fuel. I think she's not drinking as much Starbuck Coffee these days as a super skinny latte with twist and sprinkles (or whatever it was she used to order) now equates to three litres of petrol.

In desperation she has got herself a job. Waitress at the Mayfair Centre on a casual basis. She's completed one shift and received her first pay packet but so far she's out of pocket since she had to buy some black trousers and a white blouse to wear at work and the cost of the clothes came to £1 more than she was paid as 17year old, casual staff. Her next shift will be as and when required but I don't think she's holding her breath.

Rosie's foray into minimum wage employment has been a bit of a wake up call for her on the harsh economic facts of life. Of course if this doesn't motivate her to do well in her A Levels and get to a decent university then minimum wage might be what she's destined for! Her experience also means she's now also worked out why the staff in Starbucks are disappointed when she didn't leave a tip! Just one person giving her a single pound on Saturday would at least have meant she broke even on the night!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Third in the world

We may be in a banking meltdown, we might not have won the world cup since 1966 but we did come fourth in the world medal table at the 2008 Olympics and after overtaking the Netherlands earlier this year we are now number three in the world in the "population density" table.

Of countries with a population of at least 10million England now only ranks behind Bangladesh (1,045 per sq km) and South Korea (498 per sq km).

England's figures forecast 405 people for every square kilometre by 2011 and the Office of National Statistics have calculated the rate of increase has increased fivefold in the last decade with the likely continuing increase in population density putting us at an estimated 574 people for every square kilometre by 2081. This compares with just 287 for every square kilometre when the figures started to be collected in 1931.

Housing shortages, overcrowding, overstretched schools, transport, hospitals and other public services, all things we might have to just get used to living with?

Beeching's Axe, nothing changes!

Just watched a very good documentary program presented by Ian Hislop about the Beeching Axe of the railways. Excellent example of when pounds, shillings and pence (as they were then) are applied without any allowance for the social and human impact of the decisions. Of course it was before global warming and environmental issues were being given any weight but the thing that came across to me was how little government thought processes have changed in the last 50 years.

In the the 1960's, Beeching, a respected industrialist, was hired to justify decisions already made. The Minister in charge was a committed road builder who didn't want anything that might throw doubt on his policy. There is no evidence that vocal local protest managed to save a single line once Beeching had identified It for closure. Wilson campaigned to save the railways but as soon as the votes were in the bag what he "really meant" by what he said wasn't how it sounded and he discovered that Beeching was actually right. Labour party campaign promises somehow got lost or redefined once they were in power and of course there was a wonderful quote that Hislop unearthed about potential closures in Wales. Apparently one line couldn't be closed as "it runs through seven marginal constituencies".

Fast forward to the present day. Professor Darzzi, a respected surgeon, was hired to justify decisions already made. The government is committed to large PFI Building projects and don't want anything that might throw any doubt on the wisdom of mortgaging our children's futures with off balance sheet spending that makes huge profits for certain favoured construction firms. There is no evidence that vocal local protest managed to save a single hospital once Darzzi has identified it for closure. Iain Wright campaigned in the Hartlepool by-election to save the hospital and rolled out the big guns from Westminster to provide reassurance, but as soon as the votes were in the bag it turned out that the hospital wasn't quite as safe as he claimed and the re-assurances Labour gave during the campaign wasn't actually what they meant now they were in power. The admission that campaign promises are "aspirations" rather than concrete policies and of course there were the "heat maps" prepared by Labour Ministers to identify where hospitals under threat are in marginal constituencies and so closures are directed only to Tory Constituencies or safe Labour seats (like Hartlepool is thought to be!) where it was assumed the Labour vote wouldn't be affected by a small thing like the loss of a hospital.

So the battle ground might have been different but the government's attitudes are remarkably unchanged in 50 years and of course don't even mention Post Office Closures!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Happy Retirement!

Just been surfing the net and came across another consequence of the massive global crash in stocks and shares in the past few days. Spare a thought for those poor souls who are spending their last day at work today before going off to a well earned retirement. After thirty or forty years ploughing money into their pension pot they are now facing the purchase of their annuity which will define their basic income for the rest of their lives. The actual income level they will get will be considerably smaller than even if they had left just last week or before the start of the summer. Those looking at a relatively comfortable planned retirement just days ago could now be looking at a very, very different future.

Of course those on final salary schemes are safe aren't they! Or are they? Massive shortages in pension funds for final salary schemes were being forecast before the crash. With a huge collapse in fund values it’s going to be very hard seeing how those can go on.

Gordon Brown's tax raid on pension schemes caused the problems that pensions were seeing before the banks started to tumble. Will he get the blame for the new plunge. I hope so! But then the Tories or the Lib-Dems are no better.

What gender is 'computer?

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

'House' for instance, is feminine: 'la casa.'
'Pencil,' however, is masculine: 'el lapiz.'

A student asked, 'What gender is 'computer'?'

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether computer' should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that 'computer' should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computadora'), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your salary on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ('el compu tador'), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have got a better model.

The women won!

Not Reckless!

Apparently the Government are to support the local authorities that risk losing money on the Iceland Bank Collapse because they are convinced that no authority had acted improperly or recklessly in investing in the Icelandic banks. They said the financial framework for local authorities, under which they have to strike an appropriate balance between the security of investments and the returns on their money, appeared to have been kept to.

No body acted improperly or recklessly in booking their holidays with XL either but the government didn't step in then did it?

It is now emerging that 108 councils, 15 Police Authorities and Transport for London have a total of more than 890 million pounds in Icelandic Banks. Biggest exposure is at Kent County Council which has 50 million pounds at risk followed by Nottingham City Council which has 42 million.

Anyone looking for a silver lining to the crisis could consider that it might be the beginning of the end for the European Union. Last Saturday European leaders talked about solidarity even though President Sarkozy’s US-style bail-out plan had already collapsed into the dust. The German Chancellor then decided for the first time in years that German interests come first and European interests come second. After she acted she received, again for the first time in years, loud applause from her own electorate.

Finally it is being seen that the only way to stop countries acting in their own national interest is to take that power away from them, to form a treasury department, (in Frankfurt!), that has power over tax, and power over government spending. Indeed some of the EU extremists are using this crisis to call for that.

Hopefully it is more likely that what has happened in the last week marks the beginning of the end. The markets are saying it already. Italian government bonds now yield 1% more than German or French-issued government bonds. The markets are saying that economic and monetary union will not last. Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader, summed it up in the EU Parliament this week when he said "The credit crunch is hitting and hurting all of us, but I see a speck of light at the end of the tunnel. I see a dividend: possibly the beginning of the end of this whole mad and unwanted (European Union) project."

Goodwill Payments or Section 106 Agreements

As a member of Hartlepool Council Planning Committee I am quite used to "planning gain" or "community gain" being part of planning applications. If a developer wants to build something contentious then an offer of money towards children's play areas, road improvements, etc is quite often made to sweeten the pill. These "Section 106
agreement" funds can be spent anywhere of course not just restricted the area of development under consideration.

Any development of private housing that comes before the planning committee is now accompanied by a percentage of the properties that will be made available to the rental sector, often being given at reduced or even cost prices to an RSL (Registered Social Landlord, the successor to Council Houses in Blair/Brown's Brave New World). Local Authorities are even being told land that they own must be sold to private developers at a knock down price if the developer is partnered by an RSL to build Social Housing. I've always been a bit uncomfortable that we were in effect selling planning permission and now the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling on the Government to specifically stop wind farm developers going even further than Section 106 agreements by offering 'goodwill payments' to local communities when applying for planning permission.

When I read the report, "Goodwill Payments – Do they benefit communities or bring planning into disrepute?" it was interesting that the CPRE found cases in every English region where energy company goodwill payments were used for things that bear no relationship to renewable energy. The examples given, children’s play areas and senior citizens’ lunch clubs, being familiar to anyone who has participated in Section 106 agreements in planning.

Goodwill payments apparently have to be offered outside the planning system because to do otherwise would possibly lead to accusations that planning permission is being bought and sold. Interestingly, Section 106 Agreements can only be offered as part of the planning system because it is thought that to do otherwise could lead to accusations that planning permission is being bought and sold. I'd be extremely grateful if someone could explain, in simple language, without recourse to legal and financial gobbledygook, exactly what the difference is between buying and selling through perfectly legal and acceptable Section 106 agreements and buying and selling through perfectly legal but now considered dubious Goodwill Payments. It's a distinction that I'm not all that clear on to be honest!

Diet Report No:1

After my Friday morning weigh-in I'm now tipping the scales at 17 stone 4lbs (110kg to those on the metric scale). Target weight is 12 stone something (even 12 stone 13lbs would do!) but as that's 83kg I think I'd need major surgery to get down that low.

The diet has been quite easy to manage so far. I go on line and from a big list I pick 7 Breakfast sachets, 7 lunch, 7 tea and 7 snack bars. It then all arrives in a big cardboard box and all I have to do is pick the appropriate sachet, bang it in the microwave for 2 minutes, stir and serve. Now that's food shopping, meal planning and cooking I can deal with. The only extras are 2 pieces of fruit a day and as much water as I can drink.

More Bonuses anyone?

How much of OUR billions of pounds being pumped into the financial sector will be soaked up by Christmas bonuses for the Chief Executives, Finance Directors, Account Executives, etc in the City who caused the crash in the first place? These people were happy to take millions in bonuses when their gambles paid off and now will no doubt be happy to take millions in bonuses now that their gambles have failed and we are bailing them out. Not one single penny should go in bonuses until the entire public debt is paid off, with interest.

Having your cake and eating it !

It seems amazing to me that no-one has made the link between the Icelandic saving bank situation and the amazingly high interest rates that were being offered. Didn’t any of the individual or institutional investors stop to think and then ask why the banks were ready and willing to pay interests rates way above anything else available in the UK? I always thought higher returns meant higher risk? So in effect those people and organisations, including Local Authorities, took a gamble and lost. Would Gordon Brown and his merry men be rushing in to guarantee the stake money on a bet at the races. The 7% interest on offer with Kaupthing simply did not make sense compared with the 5% that was the best available in the UK at the time. Those who took the Icelandic gamble enjoyed the inflated returns until the collapse and and now, thanks to Brown and Darling, could still get most of their money back.

Having your cake and eating it is the phrase that comes to mind!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Euro-Elections Committee Meeeting

Last Saturday found me in England’s second city for a UKIP European Elections Committee Meeting, a committee of which I am Chairman, no doubt paying for my sins in a former life. Usually these meetings are held in London during the week but it is getting increasingly difficult to co-ordinate diary commitments to get everyone together. The meeting before this was 7.30am in a Bournemouth hotel and this one was arranged for 9.00am Sunday in a Birmingham hotel.

I had a ward Surgery on Saturday so I planned to drive down Saturday afternoon, check out the meeting room and have an early night. This plan was feasible because Clive Page the UKIP Press Officer, or “that Clive” as he is known in my house, wasn’t going to the meeting and hence there were limited opportunities to be lead astray. This was good because I have started a new diet (after tipping the scales at 19stone I thought it was a good idea) and so am off alcohol of any kind. However, I reckoned without John Bufton (The Welsh Regional Organiser and Lead MEP Candidate for 2009). John had failed totally to find a drink after 11.00pm in the Crewe by-election but was convinced his old stamping ground of Birmingham Broad Street would redress the balance. So off we went.

First port of call was an Irish bar with a good line in music and steady supply of water (for me) and larger for John. A good time singing along was had by all and even a little bit of jigging on the small dance floor. Was a bit taken aback by the Brummie style of dancing? I’m not used to having a young lady dancing so close to me that her body is rubbing against mine. I moved away of course, as any gentleman would, but she chose exactly the same moment to also move in the same direction so she stayed in contact with me for several seconds. It took some quite nifty footwork on my part to disentangle from her. Luckily she wasn’t offended by our obviously accidental body contact; I wouldn’t have wanted her to get the wrong idea about me. Her mate was also dancing very close to John so it must just be how they do things in Birmingham.

Anyway the Irish Bar was closing at 2.00am so we moved onto the 70’s disc bar that was open till 3.30am. Larger for John and more water for me. More upmarket in the disco of course, it wasn’t tap water, it was designer water. The bottle was plastic and so was John’s larger glass. The last time I had to drink from a plastic glass in a bar it was the Student Union Bar in Loughborough in 1986!

More very close dancing was going on in the disco bar and I notice the dancing got closer and more frantic the closer the time got to 3.30am. There were a very striking group of Brummie girls all dressed in yellow and black stripes who were remarkably like a swarm of bees. They definitely had the blokes buzzing round them that was for sure. Of course I was old enough to be their father but as I’ve never been to Birmingham before (apart from to change trains) then it was highly unlikely that they were in any way related to me. As possibly the only sober person in the place apart from the security staff it was an interesting experience observing how desperation overtook all other emotions and the need to pull and be pulled became paramount!

“Go Ugly Early” was the strategy recommended by one of the other RO’s. I couldn’t name any names but as a former navy man he has apparently had some success with this approach at various watering holes around the world. Looking at some of the blokes in the disc who were leaving with some very attractive girls it seemed like there was a shortage of ugly girls. Unless of course they had all been snapped up before midnight and were already home and in bed, leaving only the attractive girls behind to wait until sufficient alcohol had been consumed to make them appear ugly enough to approach, or more likely give the blokes enough bottle to make a move, well that’s how it worked 30 years ago in the Gemini!

Toddled off to my hotel bed, all alone and stone cold sober around 3.30am. Four hours sleep, breakfast (something that claimed to be muesli but looked like the scrapings from the bottom of the rabbit hutch) and then straight into the meeting at 9.00am. Ah it’s a wonderful life!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Is nothing safe from the Labour tax grab

The credit crunch and the economic turmoil are leaving Gordon Brown’s Labour Government short of funds. Tax and spend Brown introduced dozens of new taxes while he was Chancellor and his government now reportedly has the RNLI in his sights.

Under plans to make them pay for using life-saving radio airwaves lifeboat supporters may have to raise another £260,000 a year. Ofcom says fees are essential to ensure effective use of the commercially valuable airwaves and pointed out that other users of the airwaves, from television broadcasters to taxis, paid to use parts of the spectrum but the maritime and aeronautical sectors did not, so it was planned to bring
them into line with the rest, under Administered Incentive Pricing (AIP).

In recognition that lifeboats are in a different position to commercial users the government may allow a 50 per cent discount on the fee which would reduce the impact to only an extra £130,000 a year. However, that's still a lot of money when you
think in terms of lifeboat days and collecting tins for pound coins. The RNLI provides a search and rescue service, at no cost to the government, but the government now want to charge the RNLI for the pleasure of doing it. Charities could end up having to raise millions of pounds to hand to the government, and it is obscene that organisations such as the RNLI should have to pay for safety radio channels.

Local Government and Consultants

Actually if it was really local government then it would also include the aim of paying the consultants a huge amount of money to find radical new ways of keeping everything the same!

Thursday, 2 October 2008


I've just received an unsolicited e-mail from on the subject of "Legislation"


New clauses have been added to the legislation regulating your online activities; some of the operations are now considered illegal. The new law has come into force as of 25.09.2008; the penalties have been toughened.

Please read the new document and be more accurate further on.



The attached zip file scanned as an application file so of course it went straight in the bin.

Don't play with matches

Thanks to Greg Beaman for pointing out this story, which does have a serious side, but mainly for his brilliant response to the claim from University of Gloucestershire student Nick Levy regarding student initiation ceremonies.

"We had to put matches in private inappropriate areas and set them on fire whilst drinking more beer."

As Greg says

"Are there really parts of the body in which it would be 'appropriate' to stick a match?"

Answers on a postcard please!

PS There are also claims of a student dressed in a Nazi-style uniform encouraging other students to drink excessive amounts. Are Europol aware of this breech of the law? Are European Arrest Warrants pending?

Prince Harry at risk of arrest by Europol?

I have blogged a few times about Europol and the EU Arrest Warrant but these seem to be subjects that no-one is concerned about other than the dwindling band of people in this country who actually care about civil liberties and the supremacy of British Law on the (formerly) sovereign soil of this our green and pleasant land.

Heathrow airport is most certainly not green and pleasant but it is definitely part of Great Britain, unfortunately just how far the supremacy of British law has been eroded was shown this week when a German born man, now with Australian citizenship, was detained by British police the moment he landed in the UK even though he has not committed any crimes in either the UK or Australia.

So how can someone be arrested for a crime that does not exist in either of these countries. Simple, the police extradition unit pounced, using an EU arrest warrant issued by German authorities. The arrested man will now be sent to Germany to face trial. This of coursed is exactly what the European Union claimed would never happen.

Europol however have been very careful in choosing their victim. The man in question is one of a small band who claim that the Nazi Death Camps were just anti German propaganda made up after the end of World War II. As such there is quite rightly very little sympathy for him anywhere outside his own small group. The worst that could happen to anyone who denies the holocaust in this country (or Australia) is they will be called a prat, or much worse, but it is not a crime. If they are quite happy for no one to like them very much, apart from a few other loonies, then there is nothing to stop them from denying the holocaust. However, in Germany it is a crime, punishable with a prison sentence. That is German law and German business. Now, thanks to the European Arrest Warrant it is also an arrestable offence in the UK even though our Parliament has never passed any legislation specifically dealing with this issue.

So, the newspapers and the authorities are mostly silent. Anyone raising it of course can be accused of supporting the twisted views of the man in question so no-one dares speak out.

I for one have no intention of supporting his views in any way but find myself thinking of two famous “quotes” on the subject of free speech,

The phrase ``I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'' (Widely but falsely attributed to Voltaire) is one that too many people appear to have forgotten in the UK and which has been trampled on many times by the current administration’s contempt for liberalism and freedoms. The most notable case being their legislation to surround Westminster in a half-mile no protest zone. This was mainly aimed at removing a long running anti-war protest from Parliament Square but has significantly reduced our freedoms to protest about our ruler’s decisions.

The other touchstone I use is the famous poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller;

When the Nazis came for the communist,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the Trade Unionists
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jew
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I have this poem printed out by my computer because it is extremely powerful and moving, it also can be updated to almost any circumstance where people remain silent in the face of assaults on dwindling civil liberties. The Europol have now established their rights to come into the UK and arrest a man for something that is not a crime in the UK and no-one spoke out because we accept the holocaust did happen and anyone who denies it is a prat. Who will the Europol come for next? Will anyone speak out then?

PS Wearing Nazi Uniform or displaying Nazi symbols is also a crime in Germany. Just recently there were pictures in National Newspapers of Ed Balls, now a senior government minister, in a Nazi uniform............

and of course Prince Harry has donned such a Uniform for a fancy dress party and pictures have appeared in National Newspapers.

Can we expect Europol to be swooping on the Palace of Westminster and Windsor Castle anytime soon?

No more Council Tax increases and Free Bananas

When he was first elected the Mayor of Hartlepool stood on two pledges. No more Council Tax rises and free bananas for every school child in the town. Of course the Council Tax promise was quickly forgotten and his last column in the Hartlepool (aka Labour Party News) Mail didn’t seem to very impressed with recent Tory pledges on controlling Council Tax. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise since Drummond has admitted he voted Labour and he is proud to “lead” a high spending Council as that proves how much he cares. Tax and spend, great Labour policies that have got this country in the mess they are in today!

However, on the bananas front there might be better news. European Union Agriculture Ministers are supporting a scheme offering free fresh fruit and vegetables to millions of schoolchildren next year as a way to promote healthy eating and tackle child obesity.

Anything that gets us some of our own money back from the European Union would normally be welcome. However, the 90 million euros a year in funding comes with the usual strings attached that each European Union country match the amount of cash that it receives from Brussels and must post notices all over the place acknowledging the involvement of the European Union. In this way the European Union gets the UK to pay for good publicity for the EU without having to explain that the money being spent comes from the British Taxpayer in the first place.

There also may be a problem with bananas. Most ministers said they preferred to use locally grown or EU produce so I’m not sure how many European Union countries grow their own bananas?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

I'm a Liberal Democrat

During my recent holiday I watched a bit more TV than I usually do, including a few episodes of "The Weakest Link" For those who don't watch it the program is a quiz hosted by Anne Robinson.

The start has the contestants introducing themselves, typically "Hello, my name is Stephen, I'm 48 years old, a Management Consultant from Hartlepool"

I was half watching the TV when i heard something along the lines of "Hello, my name is Tarquin, I'm 35 years old and a Liberal Democrat" Anne Robinson is usually fairly acid tongued but even she was a bit taken aback by this. "Why are you a Liberal Democrat" was the obvious question and Anne duly asked it. The answer "because I support their policies" seemed like a reasonable response until Anne probed a bit further by asking a trick question and asking Tarquin to say which Liberal Democrat Policies he liked. "All of them?" was his rather weak response and Anne sensed blood in the water and wen for the kill by demanding he actually named one specific Liberal Democrat Policy he actually supported. Que was for some waffle about the environment and fair society. Basically he didn't have a clue!

Typical Liberal Democrat, don't actually admit to belief in anything, never actually announce a policy or you might have to defend your position. I know Liberal Democrats who are Euro-sceptic! When you explain that the Lib-Dims are the most pro-EU of all our political parties it comes as a huge surprise to them. Lets face it, most lib-dims are members of the party because they are not Labour or Tory supporters. Lib-dem policy is whatever they think the person they are talking to wants to hear! If you don't like what they are saying then let them know and they'll change their position.

Heart Attack Grill

Back from holiday and several hundred e-mails awaited my attention. The majority of them total rubbish that had evaded my spam filter to arrive in my in box. However some were worth looking at. To see the full menu of the Heart Attack Grill please paste the link below into your browser.

Make sure your speakers are turned on and enjoy!

Thanks to Councillor G Lilley for these menu suggestions. Up the Workers!

If you despair of UK Political correctness then to get some good old USA PC just click on the note at the bottom of the site pointing out that the "nurses" referred to do in fact have no medical training. You eventually end up with an official warning letter from the Arizona Nursing Board which is well worth a read! Have these people no sense of humour?