Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Happy Birthday to my DAD

Cross Party Support

In the past UKIP support in the North East has often suffered from the impression that the Party are mainly former Tories. This impression has been hard to shake off even though the level of votes UKIP is now receiving in many areas is much higher than could be accounted for by such a simple explanation.

Hard evidence that UKIP is getting support right across the political spectrum was at last provide by a recent poll by ComRES. Asked which party did current UKIP supporters voted for in the 2005 General Election, those saying UKIP split Labour 16%, Lib-Dem 16%, Conservative 15% with the rest (41%) saying they didn’t vote or they wouldn't say!

UKIP has proved it is a party that appeals to anyone who wants common sense back into politics. UKIPs policies are decide by real people and NOT career politicians. The main parties are now dominated by career politicians with little or no experience of the realities of life outside the political bubble. This is why real people are turning to UKIP and away from the artificial, out of touch and self absorbed main parties.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

False Colours, Quislings or just scurrying for Labour's crumbs?

The Annual Council Meeting used to be the "Mayor Making" in the good old days when we had a real Mayor who wore red robes and a chain and went along to open things and be photographed by the Hartlepool Mail. Now of course we have an elected Mayor and a "Chair of Council" Neither of them wear robes but the "Chair" does wear the Mayor's Chain and the elected Mayor is very goof at being photographed by the Hartlepool Mail (especially in the run up to an election). Despite Labour not having a majority on the Council the Chair of Council for eight years in a row has been Labour Councillor Carl Richardson. Despite not having a majority on the Council the Chairs of all three Neighborhood Forums are held by Labour Councillors and every Councillor's Seat on the Hartlepool Partnership is also held by, yes you guessed it, Labour Councillors.

How can this be you might ask? The answer is simple. In Hartlepool if you vote Conservative you actually get Labour, if you Vote Liberal Democrat you actually get Labour and in some cases even voting Independent (such as allegedly our Mayor) and you get Labour.

Its the Tories on Hartlepol Council that really stick in my throat. The Lib-Dems toadying up to Labour doesn't surprise me in the least as that's what Lib-Dems do. Some of the Independents toadying to Labour also doesn't surprise me as some of them are just Labour supporters who think they might not get elected in their wards if they declared their real allegiance. But the Tories behavior astounds me.

At the Annual Council the Tories received their 12 pieces of silver in the form of the Vice Chair of the Council going to one of their Councillors. I return for this crumb from the Labour table the Tories supported every one of the Labour nominations for Committees and Chairmanships that keep Labour in power in Hartlepool even though they are not the majority group any more.

If the none Labour councillors stood together then Labour would be out of power in the Hartlepool Council Chamber as far as Committees and Chairmanship's were concerned, but NO, the Tories and Lib-Dems are more scared of the Independents (and UKIP!) getting any influence than they are of Labour remaining in charge.

I wonder if the West Park Tories realise they have elected three Quislings who might as well be Labour Councillors?

Easy to critisise!

There is a sadly little read (they have taken their hit counter down!) website that I visit occasionally when I want a bit of light relief. It's been going quite a while and has some good articles sometimes, however it's discussion forums are the best bit. It has half a dozen hardy souls who howl about the injustices of Hartlepool Council and an equal number of apologists for the establishment for whom the Civic Centre can do no wrong and who leap on any criticism of anything as evidence of trying to pull Hartlepool down.

I don't get (directly) involved with this website anymore. I did when it first started and I had high hopes for it but then the moderators allowed a small group of people to use it to attack me personally and use it to throw mud at me and my family. I was eventually forced to have my solicitor write to the site moderators asking them to remove statements that were libelous!

Anyway, some of the 2009 Mayoral Candidates posted on this site and one of the unsuccessful ones has now posted that

QUOTE "I've just woken up to the fact that our council is run by morons."

And there in a nutshell is the problem! Not that the Council is run by morons but the fact that has he only just woken up to this? The answer is that he, in common with the vast majority of Hartlepool residents, have not cared enough to get involved! He then says

QUOTE "most of you lot have known about this for YEARS and did sod all about it".

Well some of us have been trying for years to get things changed but constantly run up against the wall of inertia created by the people who just blindly vote in the same old faces without thinking about it or just don't vote at all and so allow the same old faces to keep coming back again and again.

Prior to his realisation what did he do about changing things? Did he go and vote for a Councillor who wanted to do things differently or did he vote the party Ticket without thinking or did he just not vote at all?

It's extremely unlikely we will be seeing his name on a ballot paper for the Council next May. Would he put in hours and hours of thankless work trying to change things or will he just go away, like Cameron, until another shot at the top job comes up? I will never vote for Ian Cameron or anyone who just pops up every four years seeking the top job and the big money. Spend four years as a back bench councilor, spend four years seeing up close how labour still run this town and how they are kept in power by the collaboration of the Tories and the Lib-Dems who are so desperate to keep out independents (or even worse in their opinion UKIP!) to prevent them upsetting their cozy club.

There are probably three or four Councillors who really want things to change. The rest desperately want things to stay as they are. Of the few who want change none of them are on Drummond's Cabinet for exactly that reason, they want to do things differently, they don't sing off the Chief Executive's Song Sheet and so they must be marginalised and kept down at all costs.

Any of the "independent" candidates for Mayor who were really serious about it will be on the ballot papers again this May. Any of them who were just there for an ego trip or who thought they might have a chance at a big pay day will disappear without trace. All those Candidates who said they wanted to change things, wanted to work for the people of Hartlepool, wanted to contribute? Then come and do it on a back bench allowance of about £100 a week rather than the £1,000 a week plus the Mayor receives.

Maybe then I might even vote for you!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Savings without cuts

The ever upwards rise in Hartlepool's Council Tax is always justified by claims from the Mayor that either Council Tax goes up or services will be cut. There is even the strong possibility that this is to be the battle cry of Labour in the forthcoming general election.

However, a recent Yougov Poll showed that 77% of people believe it is possible to save 10% off public spending, without reducing front line services. Only 14% believe it isn't possible with the other 9% not being sure.

Not surprisingly the belief in no-pain cuts is highest amongst Tories, but even among Labour and Lib-Dem voters more than 7 out of 10 think savings could be made through efficiency savings.

Of course just because you think the savings could be made that doesn't necessarily translate into votes. I'm sure there are lots of Labour supporters in local government who know that waste and inefficiency is rampant. Unfortunately I'm equally sure many of those people will never vote anything other than Labour.

However, the recent European Elections, where UKIP topped the polls and finished ahead of Labour, do show there are some voters deserting the labour flag. It was the first election in my life that Labour has been beaten in a national vote in Hartlepool. I hope this is repeated in the General election when a UKIP MP could replace the current snout in the trough Labour incumbent MP and so would give a clean start for the town!

Regionalisation continues......slowly

In the past there was lots of discussion and possible controversy over the establishment of regional control rooms for the Fire and Rescue services. However, it's all gone quiet recently since the system, which will link all fire and rescue control centres via nine regional hubs and will cost £380m, was meant to be completed by the end of 2007.

According to a Public net briefing A series of delays had pushed back the deadline for a national roll out to spring 2012 but leaked documents have now revealed that the program faces a further 10 months delay, meaning the new system will not be on line for the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.

One justification for the Regional Centers was improved ability to respond to and control major incidents such as terrorist attacks. The Olympic Games of course being a target for such attacks. The government deemed the project vital to security and our resilience to a terrorist attack. They have spent over a billion pounds of taxpayers' money to supposedly make them safer. Unfortunately its now going to take over five years, and counting, for it to be completed.

According to the Fire Brigades Union the project is in "meltdown" and unless the network was working by the summer of 2011, it would not be tested enough to work effectively for the 2012 games. The whole project was difficult to justify in the first place and the options being looked at to continue it appear to be the last gasp of civil servants desperate to justify their previous recommendations. According to the Union spokesman the government need to take the opportunity to look at this project afresh and end it now. This will give the fire service certainty and end the anxiety being caused to control room staff. The only real option is keeping and upgrading our existing fire controls and getting the new digital radio system in place.

The government's response was that schedules for projects of this kind are kept under constant review. The department's focus is making sure the benefits of this project are delivered to the fire and rescue service and the public.

Just another massive government IT project that has failed! and these are the people who want to give us a national identity data base! If it wasn't so pathetic it would be laughable.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Buckingham needs a voice, not a Speaker

UKIP today announces that it will be contesting the Buckingham parliamentary constituency at the next election against the new Speaker in the House of Commons, the Conservative MP John Bercow.

"John Bercow is not the man to bring the much needed transparency and honesty to Parliament," said UKIP Leader Nigel Farage.

"His own behaviour over expenses claims, second-house flipping and the rest have made him untenable as a long-term choice.

"We in UKIP will therefore be standing against him at the next election.

"Our prospective candidate is Dave Fowler, 57, who has lived in the area all his life and runs his own plumbing business there.

"Buckingham needs a voice, not a Speaker, so we will take Bercow on and when we defeat him, Parliament will have an opportunity to think again."

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Independent Panels NOT the answer

All the main Parties are now endorsing an independent panel to set MP’s salaries and allowances. I am 100% opposed to this.

If the Independent panel comes back with £250,000 a year and £1,000,000 in allowances then the MPs will take it but say “Not down to us! We are only taking what the Independent Panel recommended” It will let the MPs off the hook.

Of course the Independent panel might come back with £25,000 a year and no expenses. Unlikely of course since the “Independent Panel” will be carefully chosen to make sure MPs get a good deal. It’s like the Remuneration Panel that large public companies use to set Director’s Pay. These panels consist of people who are unpaid and have no financial stake in the company for whom they are setting the Director’s Salaries and Bonuses. Great you might say, all fair and above board.

However, the people sitting on Company A’s Remuneration panel are Directors of Company B who have people on their Remuneration panel who are Directors of Company C who have people on their Remuneration panel who are Directors of Company A. Back round in a circle! If the Remuneration Panel of any one of these companies decides massive increases then the circle makes sure everyone else also benefits. In simple terms “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!”

If the remuneration panels were chosen from ordinary shareholders then the results would be very different. Unfortunately if you want an example of how it will work in practise just look at the “People’s Peers” that Blair introduced to bring more ordinary people into the House of Lords. There weren’t very many ordinary working people on the lists that eventually made it to the ermine. The first 15 "people's peers" included seven people who already had knighthoods, the wife of a existing peer, three university professors and two others who had already received other honours from the Government. All but four were already in “Who's Who” I’m sure we all agree that this is a typical, everyday mix of people you might meet in the pub or walking down any typical British High Street on a Saturday Morning! NOT!!

So the “Independent Panel” will be packed by “insiders” and people who will be there to do the bidding of the government but who will then enable the government to duck responsibility for their decisions. Classic government slight of hand.

I would go the other way. I would say to MP’s “You pay yourself what you think you are worth, individually, you can write your own cheque every month for salary and expenses BUT every single penny you take will be published on-line every month for your electorate to see exactly what you think you are worth to them” This would require MPs to justify their claims to their electorate and even more tellingly to their colleagues and party officials. An MP claiming vastly more than anyone else would be shamed, an MP claiming vastly less would shame the rest. An amount would eventually be established where claims and public expectation would balance. Any MP outside the normal range would then need to be ready to justify themselves!

If you think it would never work then try reading some of the books by Ricardo Semler. In particular his book “Maverick” on the transformation of his company Semco. Using his philosophy, which included everyone setting their own wages, the company grew from $4 million US in 1982 to $212 million in 2003.

Monday, 22 June 2009

James Bond RIP

Went on a very pleasant walk round Spion Cop Cemetery on Sunday, nice way to spend part of Father's day! I was with my father and we specifically went to see the grave of an ancestor of ours, James Bond. The link comes from my father's maternal side, through the Boagey to Bond. So if anyone ever asks you where is James Bond buried? The answer is Spion Cop Cemetery, Hartlepool.

There are three other family graves next to James's but the headstones have been laid flat. I would like to put them back upright one day but I think it would be a big job for me and my dad do ourselves.

Cash Machine Alert

Hartlepool residents or visitors who used a cash machine this weekend at the Morrisons supermarket in Hartlepool town centre are being urged to check their accounts after police recovered a skimming device used to steal people's bank details.

Police recovered the device from the cash machine the Morrisons supermarket in at around 1.30pm on Sunday.

It has been removed for forensic examination. Police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously near the machine on Sunday morning to contact them. Anyone who has identified unauthorised card withdrawals is asked to contact their local bank. Two men were arrested shortly after the incident, but have since been released and liminated from the inquiry.

Anyone with any information can contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302126.

My daughteer made extensive cash witdrawals this weekend, but they were from the bank of "Mum and Dad" so I dfon't expect that money to be returned anytinme soon!

Full story
in Hartlepool Mail

Friday, 19 June 2009

News of my Resignation is premature!

Thank you to all those people who have contacted me to say they will miss me in the Hartlepool Council Chamber following my resignation as reported in the Hartlepool Mail last night.

Sorry to disappoint some people but the "stepping down" referred to my post as Head of Elections for the UK Independence Party. The job was taking me away from my family and from Hartlepool for bigger and bigger periods of time, culminating in almost two moths in London in April and May to co-ordinate the UKIP European Parliament Campaign.

After this campaign I decide to step back from the national scene a little bit to spend more time at home. This actually means I cam be more active in Hartlepool Council and get my teeth even more into St.Hilda Ward Issues. I have never stopped fighting for ST.Hilda Ward but now I can give it even more attention without distractions from national issues.

I will miss the buzz of the bigger game but in the end I'm elected as a local councilor and that is the political job that deserves my priority. I still won't go to meetings that don't effect my ward or its residents, I have no intention of becoming one of those Councillors who would attend the opening of an envelope if there was an "attendance list" going round. I despise people who think "being there" is more important than actually doing anything when you are there.

More expenses!

I have already stated on this blog that I have never claimed a single penny in expenses for any Council business. I think I should also make it clear that unlike the Mayor I don’t have a personal assistant to book taxis, trains or planes on my behalf.

The Mayor said he’d never claimed expenses, but he seems to be unable (or unwilling) to recognise that he might not have claimed them but his expenses have been paid, over and above what he receives in salary, by the Council Taxpayers of Hartlepool.

In my opinion what he said in the Hartlepool Mail is even worse than claiming expenses! At least expenses are usually reimbursement of money you have paid out, the Mayor doesn't even pay it out in the first place. Obviously Stuart Drummmond is now well versed now in political double speak. It is true he has never “claimed” expenses, but only because all his expenses are paid for him without him needing to bother “claiming”

Thursday, 18 June 2009

wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred

Now that the heavily censored MP Expenses Claims have been published there is a rush of MPs repaying taxpayers' cash. All three main party leaders are handing back something. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is repaying £150 for a plumbing bill which he mistakenly claimed twice. Tory leader David Cameron giving back £680 claimed for repairs to his Oxfordshire home and Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg is repaying £80.20 for international phone calls.

Most MP’s are saying their claims were made in error. It seems our “Honourable” Members of Parliament have difficulty reading what they are signing. The official form on which these claims were made clearly states they can only claim for additional expenses that are

“wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred to enable you to stay away from your only or main home for the purpose of your Parliamentary duties”

Claims for pipe repairs under tennis courts, council tax for the servants' wing, dog food and of course most cleaning have all hit the headlines as unjustified.

However, how claiming the legal cost of converting the leasehold of your flat to freehold comes under “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” does escape me.

Will we therefore be seeing Hartlepool MP Iain Wright repaying the £1,431.46 he claimed for that very purpose? (Click here for pdf of Iain Wright's Claims) Of course had it been you or I signing these forms there would probably have been a statement somewhere that “false claims may lead to prosecution”

One law for them and another for us?

Updated my Council Profile

As a born and bred Hartlepool lad I love the town and want to do my best for the place and its people. I came into the world in April 1960 in the old Cameron Hospital, now sadly gone. At that time I think there were 5 hospitals and a maternity home in the town. Soon they may not be any hospital at all!

I am married to Sandra, who is a Chiropodist; we have 2 children, both teenagers and both currently (June 2009) doing A Levels at Brinkburn Sixth Form College. I attended Fens School, Hartlepool Grammar School (now the site of Hartlepool Sixth Form College) and then a B.Sc at London University. Self employed Management Consultant since 1986. I hold an M.Sc from Loughborough and a Cranfield University Management Fellowship (amongst other qualifications).

The current term 2006-2010 is my second stint as a councillor for St Hilda Ward so I must be doing something right! Of course you can't please everyone all the time but that's politics. Along with the other two ward councillors I hold regular ward surgeries but also publish my own newsletter approximately four times a year to every home in the ward. This newsletter is funded by me at no cost to the residents of St Hilda Ward.

In the run up to the European Elections 2009 I served as the National Campaign Director for the UK Independence Party. However, masterminding UKIP’s campaigns meant spending considerable amounts of time away from the town and so after the most successful campaign ever (13 UKIP MEPs returned to the Brussels Parliament) I decided to resign from a National Role to allow me to concentrate on local issues and St.Hilda Ward in particular.

Quite separately from being a Councillor I also serve on the Governing Body of Brinkburn 6th Form College and am a Member of the Friends of the Trincomalee, Member of the Cleveland Bee-keepers Association, a qualified Scuba Diver and enjoy DIY and reading. I hold my "ticket" as a RYA Competent Crew and Day Skipper and have crewed several times on one of the Tall Ships Challenger Boats. In 2009 I even applied (unsuccessfully unfortunately) for a berth on a yacht competing in the Fastnet Race.

I can be contacted through the Civic Centre or at my office address above, or of course by e-mail. Alternatively for a more candid look at me, please visit my blog at http://steveallison107.blogspot.com or you can follow me (StephenAllison) on Twitter.

Pathetic Decision!

As a member of Hartlepool Council Planing Committee I often witness some strange and unbelievable decisions. Yesterday's meeting was no exception. A planning application to spend millions of pounds on the Teesbay Retail Park was TURNED DOWN! Unbelievable!

The main reasons seemed to be a desire to protect the Town Centre Shops and safeguard the Victoria Harbour Development. Protecting the Town Centre didn't seem to be to important when TESCO wanted a new site, ADSA appeared to be acceptable when they moved OUT of the shopping centre. So why not Teesbay?

In my opinion the Town Centre wants to lower its rents and introduce free parking, that would be one way of getting more businesses to take up some of the empty shop units and one way of encouraging more people to actually use the shopping center

As regards Safeguarding Victoria Harbour! We have been waiting for this promised development for years and so far its just pie in the sky. The developers of Teesbay Retail Park wanted to put money into the site NOW. They were projecting stating work within the next five to six months.

Once again Hartlepool Planing Committee have shown themselves to be instrumental in blocking progress in Hartlepool! The only crumb of comfort was the vote was 7 against and 6 for so it was only turned down by the narrowest of margins. I hope the Developer's appeal the decision and the investment isn't lost to the town.

Google my name

Anyway, I was told by a young acquaintance recently that if you meet someone in a pub or club these days it's getting fairly common to sneak off to the toilets and run their name through Facebook or google to see if they are an Axe murderer or something like that.

Of course I had to try it.

Googling "Stephen Allison" brought back 8,290,000 hits. The top 10 were

Stephen Allison Architecture, a Glasgow based domestic & commercial architecture & interior designer.

Second was, yes, ME via this very bloggspot page.

Stephen Allison - State Representative from Georgia's 8th District

Stephen Allison (not me) professional profile on LinkedIn, the world's largest business network,

Stephen Allison (not me) - Online Memorial (Died 24th of August 2007),

Stephen Allison (not me!)on Facebook,

Stephen Allison (ME Again) on Twitter,

Stephen Allison, State Representative from Georgia's 8th District AGAIN

Stephen Allison (ME, third time) on a website called UKIP@HOME

Cllr Stephen Allison (ME, four out of the top 10) on Hartlepool Council Website!

So I got four out of the top ten Google Hits for "Stephen Allison" Should I be pleased or sad? and how do I get to the number 1 spot?

The Topic That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Indebted to David Phipps who posted this article on the Independence Home Website on 16th June. I especially like the record of the number of downloads of various documents from the Harringay Website! In fact I liked it so much I've put it in bold

Anyway read on................

It can, it is felt, be said that those interested in politics ‘per se’ are aware of the ‘fake-charity’ syndrome, whereby bodies, with charitable status, are set up to ‘guide’ the implementation of government policy and, in so doing, receive the bulk of their income from government departments.

The latest example of this is The Family & Parenting Institute who received £15.77million from the government, out of a total income of £17.77million. There is also a website available on which it is possible to view these ‘fakecharities’.

Yet ‘fake-charities’ are not the only example of taxpayer’s money being ‘wasted’ and from this report it would appear that local authorities and Whitehall are also ‘wasting’ public money – in the name of diversity and political correctness it can only be assumed; but, without doubt, as a result of immigration.

Immigration – hence the title of this article – is a subject that not one of the three main political parties wishes to discuss, coupled with membership of the European Union, or so it seems.

£50million spent on translating documents into foreign languages on such a range of subjects and for the benefit of ‘minority’ groups as beggars belief – and some of these, it is stated, have never even been read!

“Carers’ Assessment – Bengali, Hindi, Kurdish, Punjabi, Somali

Caring for Carers – Hindi

FAQs about the new secondary school – Polish, Somali, Turkish

Haringey Women’s Directory – Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, French, Kurdish, Somali, Spanish, Urdu

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Service Directory – French

School transfer leaflet – French, Kurdish, Polish, Romanian, Somali

Supporting People [help for vulnerable adults] – Kurdish, Somali

Traveller leaflet – Polish

All produced by Haringey council and distributed through its website, which recorded zero downloads in each case.”

A spokesman for Haringey Council is quoted as saying “Haringey has some 193 different languages spoken…….” It is appreciated that Britain has become a multi-cultural society but – 193 different languages? Within one local authority area?

And when were we taxpayers asked if we would provide £50million of our money for a service to benefit the ‘underprivileged’ members of our society, a service which it seems the majority of said ‘underprivileged’ don’t wish to use? No doubt some bureaucrat will now decide that the lack of ‘take-up’ is due to the service not being widely known and so decide to spend more of the taxpayer’s money publicising it!

When one considers the ‘benefits of immigration’ that our politicians are so fond of reminding us, then take into account the ‘costs’ of fake-charities, government quangos and the rest also, no doubt, providing ‘translation services’, the figure of £50million must be but the tip of the iceberg. Add in the additional ‘costs’ to our public services, such as health, education, law & order and it would then also be reasonable to believe that the ‘disadvantages’ start to outweigh the ‘advantages’.

An article by Max Hastings in the Mail highlights the problem of immigration in this country and the possible reason why the BNP gained the votes it did.

“Some 24 per cent of all births in this country are to foreign-born mothers.” and “Today, there are 300 primary schools in England where more than 70 per cent of pupils – nearly half a million children – use English only as a second language.” and “….there are estimated to be 725,000 illegal immigrants in the country, 518,000 of these in London.”

Of all the reasons contained in the argument against membership of the European Union, surely immigration and the need for 100% control of our own borders is one of the most important.

Politicians of the three main parties are aghast at the rise of the BNP, wonder how on earth it has happened and what they can do to counter said rise. In answer to the latter point, perhaps if the three main parties took their ‘heads out of the sand’ and actually discussed immigration and its consequences, it would be a start! It is also possible to suggest that another reason they seem unwilling, or unable, to discuss what is under their noses is that their noses have been, and possibly still are, buried too deeply in the trough!

Needless to say, no-one is advocating the policy proposed by the BNP, however it is obvious to the electorate, if not to the political classes, that something has to be done and done quickly. One gets the feeling that the subject of immigration will play a large part in the ‘arguments’ put forward by all political parties at the next General election!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

MPs should be housed in barracks

I still don't think the MPs have realised how much the public now hold them in contempt. The reimbursements to MPs of the expenses they incurred while performing their public duties is not an issue for me, what is a unacceptable is the way they have been exploiting the system for personal gain. How can the legal fees incurred for changing a property leasehold to a freehold possibly be an expense incurred while performing public duties? The Hartlepool MP obviously thought it was because he has reportedly claimed them as one!

MPs say it is necessary for them to have two homes, one in their
constituency, one in London. The obvious question to ask is "WHY?" I have worked in London and for short term projects I stay in a hotel or for longer term work I rent a flat. If I charged my client expenses to BUY a property in London and then charged them more to furnish it I would quickly be out of a job.

I think the suggestion by the Taxpayers Alliance is very sensible. Let the MPs move into the Olympic Village being built for the 2012 games. Alternatively why not a specially constructed barracks-style complex for MPs? The Barracks being the most popular suggestion made by members of the public to the committee set up to look at MPs expenses.

There is also some disgust over the dozen or so MPs who have now said they will step down after The Daily Telegraph revealed their expenses. Most are insisting on staying on until the general election, when they will qualify for a "resettlement grant" worth as much as £64,000. Rarely do I agree with a Liberal-Democrat but I think Nick Clegg has it right when he calls for an end to resettlement payments to MPs who chose to stand down.

The other thing that will upset Hartlepool's MP is the ban on employing family. His wife will need to look for another job in the future. I predict a "you employ my wife and I'll employ yours" culture will soon develop with MP's employing the partner of the MP in the adjoining constituency and visa versa!

Thanks to The Daily Telegraph for exposing the sorry state of British Politics

Another Famous Son

Another famous son of Hartlepool is "Andy Capp" There is even a statue of him on the sea front in my ward, next to the Pot House.

With thanks this time to the This is hartlepool website. Andy Capp has been the subject of a newspaper cartoon strip since 1957, when he first appeared in the northern edition of the Daily Mirror, Andy became the star of a British stage musical in 1982, written by Trevor Peacock and with music by Alan Price. Then, in 1988, he attracted his own ITV series, written by the redoubtable Keith Waterhouse.

Capp was created and drawn by Reg Smythe, a talented artist with no formal qualifications but a fine eye for character. Smythe has always seen Capp as someone from the north-east of England (he himself hails from Hartlepool), although the Capp traits are certainly not confined to gentlemen of that area. In short, Andy Capp is the classic anti-hero, an idler never seen without his trademark cloth cap and fag-end hanging from his bottom lip, whose home life consists of endless cups of tea, TV and kipping on the sofa, and whose outdoor life comprises drinking endless ale at the pub, visits to the betting shop, dodging the debt collector and the odd game of football. Capp is also a terrible chauvinist, his wife Flo being perpetually frustrated by her negligent hubbie, although she does occasionally get the last laugh. Flo's trademarks are her slippers, rolling pin (used mostly as a weapon) and rollered-hair.

With the newspaper strip syndicated to more than 50 countries and translated into 14 languages (Andy Capp is known as Kasket Karl in Denmark, Willi Wakker in Germany, Angelo Capello in Italy and, best of all, André Chapeau in France), here was a situation ideal for TV exploitation. Surprisingly, it took 29 years (1957 to 1988) for the idea to be realised. Even more surprisingly, the series, when it did finally occur, was a pronounced flop. The ingredients for a success were there: the Waterhouse scripts and the ideal actor in the lead role - James Bolam's Terry in The Likely Lads and its Whatever Happened To sequel had often been likened to Andy Capp - but the episodes, shot entirely on film, without a studio audience, were unreal and much less funny than the scripts suggested, representing the first real disappointment in Bolam's glittering career as a comic actor.

Capp is still seen in pop culture today.

He was involved in an episode of the third season of Family Guy entitled And the Wiener Is..., when he is seen at the Drunken Clam with Peter before getting into a fight with Flo when she catches him drinking.

The Goodmark Foods Company manufactures a line of snack products known as Andy Capp's fries.

Brian Johnson of AC/DC also bases his look off the character.

In The Simpsons episode Marge vs. the Monorail, Homer is seen reading Andy Capp in the newspaper. He roughly summarizes the comic when he laughs and says, "Oh, Andy Capp, you wife-beating drunk!" Homer also lay down on the couch in Andy's characteristic style in Make Room for Lisa, stating "That Andy Capp was on to something."

Still have plenty of Rope!

I was amazed to learn that many people, mainly southern jessies and Londoners, didn't know the Monkey Hanger Legend. So with thanks to the Hartlepool guide website here is the story

Tradition attributes this legend to the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was a December day and the coast at Hartlepool was subject to a heavy battering of gales and snow, through which a French vessel called the Chasse Maree could be vaguely seen just off the Hartlepool headland.

The fisherfolk of Hartlepool fearing an invasion kept a close watch on the French vessel as it struggled against the storm but when the vessel was severely battered and sunk they turned their attention to the wreckage washed ashore. Among the wreckage lay one wet and sorrowful looking survivor, the ship's pet monkey dressed to amuse in a military style uniform.

The fishermen apparently questioned the monkey and held a beach-based trial. Unfamiliar with what a Frenchman looked like they came to the conclusion that this monkey was a French spy and should be sentenced to death. The unfortunate creature was to die by hanging, with the mast of a fishing boat (a coble) providing a convenient gallows.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

British University places for British Students?

As the parent of two teenage children who are currently studying for A levels I was interested (if that is a strong enough word?) to read that British sixth formers could be "crowded out" of university places because of an increase in applications from candidates from the rest of the EU.

Applications for higher education in the UK in September have risen 8.8% from British candidates and applications from the rest of the European Union by 16.4%. The Government has set a 10,000 cap on additional places which means almost 50,000 potential student chasing 10,000 places.

Students from the EU are funded by the Government in the same way as British students, and count in an identical way towards universities' student quotas. The squeeze on places this year will mean even greater competition for courses. It is estimated that as many as 80,000 applicants could fail to find a place.

The vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University has warned that if British students are turned away, while EU students win places, it could lead to a backlash that mirrors the "British jobs for British workers" row. It will be difficult for the public to understand why a Polish student can get a place but their own kids can't. Once accepted onto a course the EU Students are entitled to the same grants and subsidised loans as British students. The EU Students are also supposed to pay back what they owe when they graduate, but more than half the EU students who should have started paying back such loans have failed to do so. The bill to the UK taxpayer is fairly small at the moment, just under £4,000,000 but it is getting bigger as students from the EU currently studying currently studying at British universities have borrowed, between them, a further £124 million to cover tuition fees and living costs.

Many who return to their home countries after graduation will never repay the money because there is currently no repayment mechanism outside of the UK. The Student Loan Company has to rely on students informing them of their earnings and making their own arrangements.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Time to dump the pound?

I do occasionally grit my teeth and read what Mandy has to say now he is our newly appointed (not elected) Deputy Prime Minister in all but name. He was my MP for several years and not once did I meet him without feeling queasy and slightly nauseous. However, on a trip (no doubt fully expense?) to Berlin Lord Mandelson hailed the euro as a saviour that had brought stability to the European Union during financial turmoil.

He claimed the euro has been a great success in anchoring its eurozone members during this financial crisis and that we should all recognise that this represents a major vindication for the single currency.

We should all be worried, (well all of us who love our country and wish to see it remain strong and independent), that the man making most of the government's policies has declared that Britain should join the euro.

Any country joining the Euro surrenders total control over monetary policy. If we had scrapped the pound interest rates would have been lower in the boom and would now be higher. Under the euro, Gordon Brown's boom and bust would have been even deeper.

As an illustration of how out of touch Labour are with real people you couldn't ask for a better example than Lord Mandelson calling for Britain to ditch the pound.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

EU security proposals are dangerously authoritarian

Civil liberties groups say the new EU proposals would create an EU ID card register, internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems.

The radical plans are highly controversial and need powers contained within the Lisbon Treaty. Some EU Officials admit the British and some others will not like it as it moves policy to the EU and further erodes the concept of National frontiers. The information system architecture of Europe-wide police and security databases will create a surveillance state monitored by a secretive new EU Standing Committee for Internal Security, known as COSI, to co-ordinate policy between national forces and EU organisations such as Europol, the Frontex borders agency, the European Gendarmerie Force and the Brussels intelligence sharing Joint Situation Centre or Sitcen.

Civil liberties groups are particularly concerned over "convergence" to standardised European police surveillance techniques and plans to create common data gathering systems to be operated at the EU level. Not only will existing DNA and fingerprint databases be shared across the whole of the EU but also CCTV video footage and material gathered from internet surveillance.

Europe's justice ministers will hold talks on the domestic security policy and surveillance network proposals, known in Brussels circles as the "Stockholm Programme", on July 15 with the aim of finishing work on the EU's first ever internal security policy by the end of 2009. The outcome being a domestic security strategy for the EU, an area once regarded as strictly a national home affairs area of policy.


For the first time in nearly four years I have had the time to read my Beekeeping Magazines. They have piled up in a corner, many of them still in their plastic wrappers, unopened and unread. My hives, once full of busy bees, are now empty and unloved. The Varroa Mite has now reached 95% of British Colonies and without intervention even a previously health colony can be wiped out in three to four years. Beekeeping in Britain is largely a hobby and a very interesting, relaxing, and rewarding hobby it is. You never stop learning, and providing you grasp the basics you can stop where you want to. There is an opportunity to involve other People, as there are many things connected with beekeeping that don’t involve getting too close to a beehive.

Many beekeepers are keen gardeners and every year I decide to plant up my veggie patch, pick my soft fruit and use my honey crop to become a little more self sufficient. Unfortunately there always seems to be a by-election or some other crisis and I end up saying "next year"

A crop of 40-60lb of honey on average per year is not exceptional and once you have a good supply of honey it is surprising what uses you will find for it. Honey can be used to replace sugar in many recipes, and fermented into mead which is one of the simplest drinks to make. Beeswax can be used for making candles, polish, soap, cosmetics, etc. All these things can be made with equipment that is available in most households.

Many gardens will accommodate a couple of hives providing they are sited sensibly. Beekeeping is seasonal and the amount of time needed varies. During the summer expect to spend, say, an hour on one colony, and 20-30 minutes on subsequent colonies per week for an inexperienced beekeeper, and half that for those who have been keeping bees for a year or so. A reasonably experienced beekeeper will only make fortnightly inspections, which further reduces the time needed. Swarming is the main problem during the summer and there are times when colonies must be inspected, and it is no good putting inspections off until tomorrow, otherwise your swarm could be causing a nuisance to someone else, and possibly sour relations, as well as causing a possible loss of honey. Winter work is generally maintenance of equipment which takes up little time, and there are no short deadlines.

Anyone who wants to know more about bee keeping should click here for the British Beekeepers Association Website

Expenses and allowances package worth up to £350,000

UKIP's David Campbell Bannerman and Stuart Agnew were elected on Sunday to represent the six counties of the East of England for a five-year term in the European Parliament.

They will be signing up to an expenses and allowances package worth up to £350,000 in Brussels, a big increase on the amount their four re-elected colleagues have previously been entitled to. Because the Freedom of Information legislation does not apply to European institutions, there is no obligation for them to publish the details, but the EADT, on behalf of their constituents, believes MEPs have a moral obligation to account for every euro they spend and claim back from the taxpayers.

The benefits package to which Euro MPs are entitled makes the Westminster expenses system seem small beer. From next month the salary of British MEPs rises from about £63,000 - currently in line with their Westminster counterparts - to £79,500. That is the new standard pay rate for all MEPs of 91,980 euros, converted at the current very favourable rate against a weak sterling.

In addition, there is:

£43,500 a year office allowance, to cover rent, telephones, computers and office equipment. There is no requirement to provide receipts to justify how it is spent.

£180,000 to cover staff costs of researchers and assistants - although from July newly-elected MEPs will no longer be allowed to employ their relatives. Returning MEPs will be able to carry on doing so until 2014.

£257 daily subsistence allowance to cover hotels and meals.

First class travel costs.

MEPs have also been able to claim a distance allowance on top of their travel fares if their journey to Brussels or Strasbourg was more than 310 miles (500 kilometres), starting at £102.50 per single journey.

However, one expenses loophole has been closed off. Travel costs will only be reimbursed against receipts, thus preventing MEPs from charging first class or business rates rail and air fares but travelling steerage and pocketing the difference - something that, until now, was acknowledged and permitted and added up to an annual bonus of tens of thousands of pounds.

Susie Squire, campaigns manager of the Taxpayers' Alliance, praised the EADT's stance. “The European gravy train has to end. MEPs must be made to publish how much they claim from the public purse - it is money which everyone is paying for through their taxes.

“We need a rule - no pay without receipts. Until now, MEPs could claim what they liked for travel just by handing over their boarding cards to the European Parliament.

“It is no wonder that voters are disengaged with Europe - they don't know who their MEPs are and are shocked at the expenses gravy train.”

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A European heroine

Well you can take the man out of UKIP but you can't take UKIP out of the man. I had the pleasure of working with Marta quite closely for several weeks during UKIP the European Parliament Election Campaign and when I read this article in the Daily Mail I thought it summed her up very nicely. I am certain she will make a great MEP and the Brussels Apperachniks will NOT be pleased to see her back!


Somewhere in all the hoo-hah about the extraordinary showing by UKIP in the elections for the European parliament there may be getting lost the best and happiest story of the whole election: I mean the triumph of the new UKIP MEP for the south east, Marta Andreasen.

I first came across Andreasen, a Spanish accountant, shortly after she blew the whistle in 2002 on the vast opportunities for fraud at the European Commission. This exploded into what is still known in Brussels as 'the Andreasen affair.'

Yet she was only doing her job. In January 2002 she had been appointed chief accountant by the budget and anti-fraud commissioner. Within weeks, Andreasen saw serious and glaring' accounting irregularities in the Commission's books. She said te Commission was 'massively open to fraud.' She refused to sign off on the 2001 accounts. As she explained it to me later, her voice full of professional indignation, the Commission did not practice even the most basic double-entry book-keeping: this left the accounts open to interference.

It is a measure of her simple decency that she did not realise how dangerous professional integrity could be in Brussels. When she came under pressure from within the Commission to sign off on the 2001 accounts despite her concerns, she looked for support from the then-president of the Commission, Romano Prodi, and from the vice-president of the Commission who had been given the job of cleaning up the commission after the last bout of corruption had come to light in 1999 -- and here is the black humour in all this, that vice-president was Neil Kinnock.

All the 'support' she got from Kinnock were attempts by senior Commission people to discredit her. They said her concerns 'had nofoundation in fact.' Her personal and professional reputation was smeared. When she persisted in attempts to voice her concerns, Kinnock threatened her with disciplinary proceedings.Then when she tried to appear before the European Parliament to tell them what she had found in the accounts, she was sacked by fax from Kinnock.

At a press conference later in London, Andreasen said that Kinnock had been part of a 'cover-up' to prevent her exposing her concerns about the way the EU's (then) £63m budget was open to fraud. 'Despite official press briefings against me and appearances on this issue by Commissioner Kinnock and his staff, I have been repeatedly reminded of my obligation to remain silent.'

But she was right, and her concerns had plenty of 'foundation in fact.' As Christopher Booker and Richard North point out in their book The Great Deception, her charges were supported by another "whistleblower" within the Court of Auditors, Dougal Watt. In April he had independently lodged an official complaint against Nepotism, corruption and mismanagement within the Court of Auditors itself, endorsed by 205 colleagues, for which he himself was dismissed from his post.' The following Year, Accountancy Age magazine, knowing professional integrity when they see it, named Andreasen their 'Personality of the Year.'

The smears and threats made against Andreasen could have broken any other person. But they didn't break her. That is why, when I saw the picture of UKIP leader Nigel Farage raising Andreasen's arm in victory, it was the happy ending that almost never comes in politics. She will go back to Brussels in triumph -- and as an honest voice for Britain. The only question is, why were the Tories so dull-witted not to see what a fantastic candidate she would be for the parliament? Why did they let UKIP snap her up? One suspects it is because the Tories still have that Brussels-establishment taint that has been colouring the party since the days of Howe and Hesletine. And one thing Marta Andreasen is not is Brussels establishment.

The first day of the rest of my life

I woke up this morning and realised for the first time in years I had no UKIP Work to do!

When I first became involved in UKIP it was a small part of my life but it grew and grew and grew until it became a monster! Prior to UKIP I had a thriving business making good money, I went to the gym regularly, I had friends, hobbies and interests. In short I had a life! The last two months I have lived, breathed, eaten and slept UKIP and the European Election Campaign. On Sunday evening that campaign resulted in thirteen MEPs. I was particularly delighted by John Bufton getting the fourth seat in Wales. John really deserved that seat and I unreservedly wish him well. I was proud to be even slightly associated with that victory but to be honest it was John and his team that won it. Brilliant news John. If you are ever in the North East you are welcome in my house anytime.

However, after the campaign I took stock of the situation and decided I didn't want another 5 years of it. Thank you to those people who have said I will be missed in UKIP, even more thanks to those people who really meant it! UKIP was a massive part of my life for the past five years but it's time to move on. There will be no vitriolic "resignation speech" or massive self indulgent e-mails. As far as I am concerned the UKIP door has closed behind me and its time to look forward not back.

PS OK I'm kidding myself. I'm going to stay a member of UKIP and might even stand for the National Executive Committee! Now that might be a fun job! NOT!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Stating the Blindingly obvious!

Yet another piece of research that has reached a blindingly obvious conclusion.

"High levels of pay for local government chief executives are partly down to a risk-averse attitude from councillors who demand that new managers already have experience of running other large and successfully rated councils!"

Read the full article here

Hartlepool Council is a perfect example of Councilors who are too timid to actually do anything radical, being lead by a Mayor who is totally under the control of a Chief Executive who is determined to protect the Staus Quo

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Hair Cut

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about his bill and the barber replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The cop is happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later that day, a college professor comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The professor is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen different books, such as 'How to Improve Your Business' and 'Becoming More Successful.'

Then, a Member of Parliament comes in for a haircut , and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Member of Parliament is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Members of Parliament lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the Members of Parliament.

Vote carefully!

Thanks to Marta for this!

Lies and more lies

They say politics is a dirty game but its not helped by slipshod reporting and failures by supposedly reputable newspapers to spot deliberate misinformation and lies. Several days ago a Green website carried a leaflet supposedly by Godfery bloom and Derek Clark, both UKIP MEPs, that was supposed to be UKIP's anti Green policy. The whole leaflet was deliberate piece of disinformation but it's now appearing in the Guardian reportedly as UKIP's official policy.

Of course its a waste of time telling the Guardian its got it wrong and they are peddling misinformation that first appeared on a Green Party Blog. Since when has the Guardian really worried about telling the truth about UKIP? Its not like it claims to be a disinterested observer.

Anyway, the leaflet being reproduced is NOT an official UKIP leaflet and is a spoof document that has appeared on various websites spreading deliberate misinformation about UKIP and its policies. The Leaflet is NOT endorsed by UKIP and has been produced without the permission or approval of either of the UKIP Candidates whose names are used on it.

I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Guardian's research has been so slipshod as to be taken in by such a poorly executed spoof. Unfortunately the Green's on the web are now using the Guardian's article to legitimie their spoof leaflet!