Friday, 19 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Just a short note to wish all my readers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Activity on the bloging front has been a little quiet recently mainly due to too much going on to have time to blog and secondly due to on-going illness which has left me feeling completely washed out at the end of the day and only really fit for my bed.

However, I am spending Christmas in warmer climes and maybe a bit of sun on my back will perk me up no end. If the opportunity arises I may do some holiday bloging but in case it doesn't I hope normal bloging service will be resumed 5th January 2009. Until then, Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Whoever gets the most votes wins!

The latest Guardian poll has the Tories on 37%, down from 45% in November, the Lib Dems up 1% to 19% and Labour’s share up 3% at 33%. "Others" are on 10% which is up 2%.

However the interesting thing to me is putting these numbers into the UK Polling Report "Seat calculator" gives the Tories 279 Seats, Labour 295 Seats and the Lib Dems 47 Seats. So despite being ahead in the votes cast the Tories would still get fewer seats than Labour who would be thirty seats short of an overall majority but still ahead of the Tories. How can that be fair?

I always used to say democracy was quite simple! Whoever got the most votes wins! Obviously that's not true in the UK anymore but then we are now in a post democratic era where voting is still allowed but isn't allowed to really influence the results.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Bitter and Twisted

I have someone who regularly posts anonymous comments on my blog which I read and then delete. He (or she) of course is very upset that I don't allow their comments through onto the public area of my blog.

This post is directed to them. It's quite simple mate, have the balls to put your name on your postings and I'll let them through! Your real name of course! Not some pen name. Although something like "Bitter and Twisted" would probably fairly accurately describe most of your posts.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Did I upset the Mayor? Apparently I did!

As someone has been quick to point out I've "apparently" upset the Mayor because I wasn't at the Council Meeting last night when he made his remarks about me. Well this is true, I wasn't there, I'd sent my apologies.

I was intending to be there and had submitted two questions to the Mayor to which I wanted some answers. Unfortunately for personal, family reasons I wasn't able to make the meeting and that is all I'm saying on that matter. No-one was more disappointed than me because the alternative commitment I attended did not go well and I knew that having questions down and not be at the Council Meeting to ask the necessary follow up supplementaries just gives the Mayor a free ride and the rest of the Councilors an opportunity to have a go at me in my absence. However, the battle to obtain access to the information is not lost. It is back on the Cabinet Agenda in January and the Mayor did say the report would eventually be released to the rest of the Council. Unfortunately he didn't say when nor did he confirm the report would be issued unabridged!

I’ve upset the Mayor!

I have been told I’ve upset the Mayor! He apparently claimed at last night's Full Council Meeting that I'd been very rude to him. I can’t remember being rude to him but I do remember attempting to represent my constituents and being denied the right to do so. The Mayor claims he got upset when I challenged my exclusion from observing a cabinet discussion. The topic of discussion being an investigation by “external advisors” (Consultants) on the senior management structure of Hartlepool Council. These Consultants are receiving half a million pounds of public money! It seemed to me only fair that the public’s elected representatives should be allowed to know what all their money has been spent on?

The Mayor reportedly feels that when told to leave “his” meeting I should have gone without protest. I believe that excluding me was illegal and unconstitutional and ultimately it came down to a vote of 6 – 1 by Cabinet to have me removed. Perhaps the Mayor would prefer the old Soviet system where people like me daring to ask questions could be shipped off to Siberia? Of course the Mayor referred to “his” meeting showing he seems to have forgotten it is a public meeting that he is chairing on the publics’ behalf. It’s not “his” Council, the employees are not “his” officers and the millions of pounds spent by the council is definitely not “his” money.

Too many people in public office forget who their bosses really are and where the money they spend comes from! To paraphrase Tony Blair, “Politicians are the servants of the people NOT their Masters” Maybe some politicians on Hartlepool Council should think about that?

Mugabe Vs Brown

This was sent to me today by e-mail, not sure where it originated from but I suspect Guido Fawke's blog ( since that looks like his avatar in the middle of it all.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Diet Report No:7

Bit late with the diet report this week. Weight on Friday morning 15stone 11lb (100kg) so it looks like its settled at 2lb a week loss. Another 3 stone to go so it will take me about 6 months........of course Christmas interupts this

Friday, 5 December 2008

Euro Preparations Unit

Just as well there is no shortage of money sloshing around the UK Government’s coffers. There might not be enough to meet spending commitments to British Sport but at least £43million has been lavished on the Euro Preparations Unit, which exists deep within the Treasury.

Of course it is absurd for Labour to waste any taxpayer money on preparing Britain to join the Euro when that policy is adamantly opposed by the vast majority of the
British people. News of the unit’s spending comes days after it emerged Gordon Brown held secret talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso - and Business Secretary Peter Mandelson´s admission that joining the euro was still Labour´s long-term plan.

The contempt in which the EUrocrats hold the public was revealed at the weekend when Mr Barroso said he has discussed the UK joining the euro with "the people that matter in Britain". He said senior Government figures believed Britain would be "better off" without the pound and that UK membership was "closer than ever".

The last Commons committee to investigate the cost of Britain joining put the
total bill for the UK economy at £40billion at 2008 prices - roughly double the
total amount of Mr Brown´s recently-unveiled economic stimulus package. When other European countries changed currencies in 2002, shoppers there saw
huge increases as businesses rounded up prices in the new money.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

NOT the Queen's Speech

My Lords and Members of Parliament. I am your Queen and I have come to this place to read you a list of tedious forthcoming legislation. Do please appear to look excited.

My Government has pretty much run out of policies, but has scraped the barrel to cobble together a few half-hearted ideas to see them through the next Parliamentary session. My Government's programme is a last ditch attempt to persuade the electorate to vote for them next time, and not necessarily a list of what is good for the country.

My Government will continue to plod on towards the introduction of ID cards, even though they're expensive and don't work and a serious infringement of civil liberties and everybody hates them. My Government will continue to solve the world's economic problems single-handedly with a brave but prudent global financial rescue policy, so it says here.

My Government will waffle on a lot about fairness. My Government will ban pubs and bars from running extra specially cheap drinks promotions, although it'll still be possible to binge drink on value lager from the corner shop. My Government had better not raise duty on sherry, else that's one's Christmas ruined.

My Government will introduce a new Minister for Outrage, someone whose job it is to spot petty annoying things that might get Middle England riled, you know like BBC personalities swearing at sick kittens. My Government will talk a lot about reducing carbon emissions, but won't actually do anything about it because of the cost.

My Government will drag the country even further into debt, on the basis that the Opposition will end up having to pay it off. My Government wants all children to have the best possible start in life, and other meaningless platitudes.

My Government will shout across the despatch box at Question Time rah rah rah like a bunch of public schooolboy oiks. My Government will introduce lots of new targets, including a target to increase the number of targets by 50%. My Government know not to increase taxes on horse racing, because one would be very upset.

My Government will continue to bugger about with the National Health Service. My Government are already busy networking with big business bosses to make sure they have executive roles to step into once they lose their seats at the next election. My Government will balls something up spectacularly, because that's what Governments do.

My Government will introduce legislation to allow the police to do whatever they like, but only under special circumstances (i.e. whenever they feel like it). My Government will continue to bandy around words like freedom and equality and security and globalisation because it makes them sound important. I'd better hurry up, this crown's getting bloody heavy.

My Government will send me round the world to meet various foreign heads of state, and I'll have to sit there listening to tedious speeches and attending banquets where they serve up roast creatures in sauce, oh God, why do I let them? Every Government's the same really, they all try hard but they always end up buggering everything.

Still, at the end of their day they're my Government, and I don't have to sign any of their poxy laws if I don't want to. The Duke of Edinburgh and I will be going home now. It's racing from Catterick this afternoon, and we don't want to miss it.

(Nod to

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Economics of Tourism

I am giving some serious thought to going back to University next year to study for an MA in Heritage Tourism. Probably not the best time to be contemplating a change of direction but tourism (and heritage) is something I'm getting more and more involved in. Some indication of the importance of heritage tourism can be gained through examination of visitor figures and this is where an Internet connection becomes a key tool.

According to official sites for instance the Georges Pompidou Centre of Art and Culture in Paris attracts over 7 million visitors annually. The paintings and sculpture exhibited at the Louvre attract more than 5 million visitors, the Paris based Musee d’ Orsay and the Picasso Museum each receive several million visitors and these and other art galleries support Paris’s tourist image as a city associated with a rich heritage of art. London's top heritage attraction, The British Museum currently attracts around 5.6 million visitors a year and 4.8 million visit the National Gallery.

Museums, theaters, art galleries, heritage sites, castles and country houses consistently rank among the most popular UK tourist attractions. Of course none of these will be as popular as the Hartlepool Tall Ships race in 2010 which will attact 1,000,000 visitors in just 4 days. Read it and weep at the Tower of London, Tate Gallery and the Natural History Museum where their ANNUAL visitor numbers are only about 2.6 million visitors for the Tower, 2.2 Million at the Tate Gallery and a pathetic 1.9 million visit the Natural History Museum.

Tall Ships - Some Answers

The Tall Ships Briefing yesterday morning was attended by half a dozen Councilors. The evening session had a few more there but it was interesting to chat to one of the evening attendees to compare notes.

One thing that wasn't discussed in the evening session was the current £1.2 Million pound budget shortfall. Currently the budget for the event is £3.2 Million pounds. This is being covered by £800K from Hartlepool Council, £775K from One North East, £350K from Private sponsorship and £200K (estimate) from merchandise sales. Add that up and it comes up about a Million Pounds short. Also the vast majority of the £350K Private funding is still to be found and of course merchandising sales are also only estimates.

However, all is not lost. There is a cunning plan! The 1,000,000 visitors are estimated to be coming in 60,000 cars each day, all of which will need somewhere to park. So the plan is to charge £10 per car. This will give £600K a day income so for the four days of the event there should be £2.4Million come in from car parking charges. Wonderful, the event is going to make a profit! No worries. Even at only 500,000 visitors and only 30,000 cars a day we should still cover the funding black hole.

Plans are also in place in case it rains to ensure that the event is not a wash out. These plans appear to be putting up tents for the visitors to be able to take shelter. These same tents of course service dual duty to protect people from the sun should it be a scorcher!

Plans to view the Tall Ships Parade of Sail from Old Cemetery Road might need looking at and the old Steetly Site will have to be tidied up. The organisers are also appealing to residents of the town to stay at home as much as possible during the four days, or at least use their cars as little as possible, this will keep the roads free for the event traffic.

Overall a very upbeat presentation and the few Councilors there agreed that we all wanted the event to be a triumph for Hartlepool and to put us on the map. There will unfortunately be no permanent legacy of buildings left by the event as there is "no capital spend" for the race. What this means to you and I is that everything will be in tents or in the case of the toilets i Port-a-loos. My main concern however was the undeniable face that currently Hartlepool Council is underwriting a £3.2 Million Project with less than half that amount firmly committed. If the private sponsors don't come in and the £10 fee per car doesn't cover the hole then it does appear it will be Hartlepool Council that is picking up the bill.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

euro santa

With a nod to Trixy and More to life than Shoes. A report from Santa on his build up to the big nite from

The year started badly, thanks to global warming. We lost several workshops when the ice sheet melted and they drifted off - checked ocean current charts, and they're due in the Hudson Bay in 2014. Must put a reminder in my Google calendar about that. Everything is now wet underfoot and I was getting grief about installing a drainage system.

It was time to move and we, for reasons that now elude me, decided to relocate to Brussels.

We settled into our new premises at Tours and Taxis. Then things started to go seriously wrong. Off to the Commune to register - they asked what was the nature of my work? “Well, I sneak into children's bedrooms when they're asleep, and if they're good I give them a present.” Eventually I got released from the cells. Apparently, I'm on some sort of 'watch list' now.

Had to put the sleigh in for a 'control technique' even though sleighs don't have engines. Still got a 400€ bill, though. Got stopped by the police on the way back and fined for not having a reflective vest and a red warning triangle. For the love of God, who could miss seeing me and a dozen reindeer?

Had a lunch meeting with Commissioner Wallström - I'm sure she's part Elf. She wanted me to deliver a copy of the Proposed EU Constitution to every child as part of their communication strategy. “Even if they've been naughty?” “Especially if they've been naughty,” she purred. We manage to find a compromise and they're going to produce it as a colouring book. What sold me on the idea is thinking of the look on Nigel Farage's face on Christmas morning. As I leave, she calls out, asking what I would think of a rebrand. Pardon? Would I consider rebranding myself as EuroSanta, as it would give the EU a friendlier image? I take a huge slug from my hip flask and promise to think it over.

Noticed that expenses were climbing alarmingly and production was down. Popped round to check the reindeer and found out one reason why - they've been stuffing their faces with waffles and beer and put on so much weight that they're about as aerodynamic as Louis Michel. Went to talk to the elves, but they were all in the pub. For 'lunch'. All day. Dead important meeting, apparently.

DG Environment come round to discuss my carbon emissions. They decide to make an impact assessment. Commissioner Dimas turns up in the reindeer shed: “What is the carbon footprint of a reindeer fart?” “Let's find out,” I say, grab him and stuff his head up Prancer's backside. One of the Elves filmed it on their mobile phone and had uploaded it to You Tube before I could stop laughing.

Jamie Shea calls from NATO to give me a telling off about flight plans. Seems that last year I crossed the flight path of an unmanned drone over Khandahar and scared the daylights out of the remote pilot when I suddenly appeared on his monitor. Poor chap's still off work. Well, if you're going to spend the season of goodwill to all men by lobbing missiles at destitute Afghan farmers, then you get what you deserve. Call it karma.

Summoned to Berlaymont, where Commissioner Mandelson lectured me on our toy production being against EU tariffs and upsetting the Chinese. I express my sympathy through the medium of a fist and get a couple of good ones in before security pounce and bundle me out of the building. I get back to the office, make a couple of calls, pull a few strings and the next thing we know, Mandy's on a one-way ticket back to London.

It's about this point that I realize I'm getting too old for this. But finding a replacement is impossible as they would need to be able to cope with reindeer and work with elves and have impeccable planning skills. I have a moment of sheer genius. I reach for the phone and dial.

“Margot Wallström speaking.”

“Hey babe, have you thought about breaking through the ultimate glass ceiling?”

Sorted. Put the toys on eBay and buy a small Caribbean island with the proceeds.

So, I hope you enjoy Christmas. I'll be distilling my own rum on a tropical beach and you'll have EuroSanta in your chimney.

Ho, ho, ho.

Tall Ships Briefing

It's the Member's Briefing on the Tall Ships on today and several people asked the same or very similar questions so I have summarised them into the five points below:

1) What steps are being taken to minimise the effect on the residents of the town who will need to continue their daily lives during the event?

In particular this question was raised by residents of the Headland, where traffic problems during the Headland Carnival are horrendous, and residents of Seaton who suffer during the November 5th celebrations when considerably less than 1,000,000 visitors are involved.

2) How many Hartlepool residents actually own a sea going vessel?

The reasoning behind this question apparently is that assuming its actually quite a small proportion of the town’s residents then are the Council taxpayers of Hartlepool free to assume that if we are affluent enough to spend public money on an event which caters to such a very small number of Hartlepudlians that it becomes a massive hand-out to short term visitors that there will be no increase what so ever in council tax for the foreseeable future ?

3) How many jobs are being predicted to be created by the tall ships race? How many of these will still be in existence 12 months after the circus has left the town?

4) How many corporate sponsors have been signed up and what is the split between public sector funded sponsors and private sector sponsors? What is the split in sponsorship between hard cash contributions or help in kind. (I note that the last information available on on this area is some months old. (target suggested was to raise is £350,000)).

5) Hartlepool has committed a “significant” budget. What is the latest estimate regarding the actual cost of the event and what steps have been taken to limit the liability of Hartlepool council taxpayers as regards the costs of this event (Especially relevant as Hartlepool have committed to pay all invoices within 30 days of receipt).

From my own point of view I am interested in status of the Project Risk Register. What action has been taken on the top half dozen risks identified in the risk register. I have looked several times for the register on the intranet but can't find it? Also what has been the progress on the commissioning, design and production of the event prizes and Hartlepool is required to arrange at least £10,000,000 public liability insurance and indemnify the organisers and their representatives in relation to any claims arising. What steps have been taken to limit the liability of Hartlepool council taxpayers from such claims?

Should be an interesting meeting!