Monday, 28 December 2015

Just the Business!

I have been thinking about the shift away from central government funding for councils – which is a good change as it will remove the historic tendency of certain-flavour governments in particular to manipulate the funding formula (along with 'tweaks' and suchlike) to favour those councils their party runs – and how it will affect us here in Medway, Kent.

The change to retention by councils of Business Rates in their entirety, instead of a large chunk of those funds going to central government for re-distribution, as has been the case for decades, makes local government much more truly 'local' and less susceptible to (largely-hidden from public view) control from Westminster and Whitehall.

It will, however, necessitate sufficient business rates income to make up the difference, and perhaps could even exceed the original overall council income including Council Tax revenues. Not all communities or council areas as a whole have the same level of local businesses as, say, a typical London borough or other notably commercial area.

Here in Medway, we do have a lot of business, from retail (two shopping centres, dozens of shopping parades, several standalone shops & stores, plus a few retail parks) via offices to a good chunk of commercial and industrial businesses.

Apart from all the industrial and similar enterprises on the Hoo Peninsula, especially at Grain and by Hoo St Werburgh, we also have Gillingham Business Park, Medway City Estate, Rochester Airport Industrial Estate, Second & Third Avenues in Luton, and the Knight Road area of Strood.

We also have a considerable tourism sector, primarily but not exclusively in Rochester.
Overall we should be set fair to pull our own weight, and once we are settled in to the new arrangements we might well find we are much happier in this regard than we have been for many years, ever since the Blair government really started manipulating the grant funding they controlled back then, which was the largest chunk of income that council's received.
Readers might not be aware that, for example, the very similar to us (in council terms and needs) Brighton & Hove received over £50 million more than Medway in central government grant every year. They, of course, were a Labour-run council.
Such gerrymandering will not be possible from 2020, so expect Labour to find ways to complain about this change being 'unfair', 'discriminatory', or one of their other favourite labels for things they don't like. In this case, it will be because the councils they run will have to perform much better than many of them have tended to endemically, and they will no longer be bailed out.
Interestingly we saw an example of that here in Medway when Labour ran our council's finances some 16 or 17 years ago. The council was bailed out by the then Labour government because their local bods messed up hugely – even delaying paying bills until after the end of the financial year – and needed several million Pounds.
Their replacements have consistently produced balanced budgets ever since (though it wasn't easy with that gerrymandered funding I mentioned above) so it could have been done by a competent council administration – and that is what will, over time, come out once these new funding arrangements are fully in place.
A lot of Labour-run councils are going to come under the spotlight, and their profligacy and incompetence will become very public. They will have to either shape up or in all probability be voted out of control of those councils. Thus much of the rot within local councils will be excised, along with its subsidy by the rest of us – and that will be good for everybody in the long term, also in restoring confidence in local government.

Divide and Not Rule

Further to the Corbyn/Labour situation, this short item at Political Betting shows how dire things already are. Bearing in mind that it was the public who overwhelmingly selected Corbyn to be the new party leader, not Labour MPs, and it is that same pool of people who are polled for both leader approval polling and voting intention surveys, this makes it even worse than could otherwise have been the case. That initial broad support in August/September is no longer there.

Though, as it says at the linked post, "things can happen", and there is a long time to go until the next scheduled General Election in May 2020, the conclusion at the end is unambiguous: another Conservative majority seems almost certain.

In fact, it might not work out that way, but unless there is a drastic change to Labour, they at least look set to become either the third or possibly even fourth largest party group in the House of Commons after that election.

It is unlikely that Labour will regain any of their former seats in Scotland, which is a crucial factor; indeed the SNP might well take the remaining three seats north of the border, making them possibly the third largest group in the Commons, with UKIP (if they are still around by then) gaining a large number of frankly undeserved seats via the back door, as the only remaining perceived to be non-establishment Britain-wide party.

I hear that UKIP are doing particularly well in Wales at the moment, so watch out for signs of this growing over the months and years to come. I personally think that their tactics there will continue to bring dividends for a while, but will falter after next May if they can't turn that into seats anywhere, or in subsequent years as more and more council seats in Wales come up for re-election.

An alternative scenario – and the one I have been anticipating for a while now as being the more likely, despite what some insiders are saying right now – is an SDP-like split and a new party being formed. My thinking is that this is most likely to occur soon after next May's council and police & crime commissioner elections if (as expected) Labour do at all badly.

This new party would probably hold most of the seats that the immediate defection takes with it, come May 2020, and could pick up a number of the remaining Labour MPs' seats as well, reducing the latter group to a very small number of members. This would be a healthy thing for British politics, both national and local, as again a Communist totalitarian-tendency movement will be marginalised, just as has always happened in the past – and that is what they are looking set to become exclusively.

Okay, the whole of Labour is essentially 'mild Marxist', tempered and slowed by its long-standing Fabian practices, but has generally been manageable and has never quite completely wrecked our nation – though it has been close once or twice, including just a very few years ago. A Corbyn-led (and, essentially, selected) set of Labour-labelled candidates is a very different proposition!

Interestingly, all of what has been happening with Labour has been more-or-less inevitable from the moment the Conservatives formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, back in May 2010.
A very few people around these parts might remember that I have been smiling as I told them in years gone by something of what I expected to follow over the period ahead; and most of that has now panned out – actually slightly better than I had predicted back then.

It was so easy to predict, simply because of the underlying nature of the Labour party, its rules, and both its higher echelons and the ordinary and Union-based members – and there is much more yet to come, equally predictable!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Tipping Point

Even a Lefty writing in The Independent has this weekend indicated that Jeremy Corbyn needs 'to be got rid of' as the headline puts it.

The trouble is that it can't be done. Anyone who knows how the Labour Party constitution and procedures operate will already be well aware that it is virtually impossible to topple the party leader. The leader has to step down, realistically, and that generally happens only after a General Election failure – as Ed[ward] Miliband did after his such failure just six months ago.

On top of that, with the huge support the current Dear Leader received when elected to that position – and still receives even today, if not to quite the same degree – both among the Labour party membership and around the country, it would not go down well if anyone were even to attempt to oust him, whether or not it succeeded.

Indeed, the mere attempt would not only impact Labour's support and votes in future elections, it would almost certainly lead to an unrecoverable split and the party breaking into two – something like what the 'Gang of Four' did some thirty years ago when they too broke away from Labour and created the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

This would split the existing Labour vote even more than if Mr Corbyn were to be left in place and his leadership never challenged, and make neither resulting party a strong parliamentary force, as each would have only a few dozen MPs at best – and those would no doubt be representing their own party's heartlands almost exclusively (there might be the odd fluke win for one or the other) so not representative of the majority of the electorate.
There are several other bad things that will probably happen, but that will be the overriding consideration, I can well imagine.

Perversely, therefore, it is probably best for the party to leave things as they are, grit their teeth and wait it out until the next General Election in May 2020. They are simply going to write that one off in advance – and I suspect that privately many have already done so.
They can meanwhile, in the shadows, and starting right now, be devising and creating mechanisms that they can simply drop into place immediately there is a change, ready to begin re-building the party's electoral (and perhaps other!) fortunes immediately after that almost certain total disaster, rather than losing months during the leadership election that will follow. Remember: it took more than four months to elect Jeremy Corbyn.

They must therefore hope that, after the 2020 election, Corbyn will then do what Ed-M did earlier this year and step down of his own volition (or perhaps with encouragement from party colleagues and others) as soon as the scale of the inevitable rout becomes clear, and certainly once the Conservatives pass the finishing line (326 seats) in the election results.

It is the only way they can now proceed, realistically, in a kind of damage limitation exercise that will last some 54 months.
They made their bed – no-one else imposed it on them – and now they must lie in it!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Through at Two

Again I am saying 'months' here, and once more looking at Jeremy Corbyn's career (such as it will turn out to be) as Labour party leader.

It is now two months since he became the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition party, and with a struggle has now even become a member of the Privy Council – which he is required to be in his position, but avoided once (on a flimsy pretext) and apparently didn't conform fully to the accepted protocols on the second occasion – but got away with that.

Rather than present a catalogue of causes of his upcoming (and necessary) departure from his new position, I think this by Iain Martin covers most of the bases, and is thus useful reading.

In practice, there is no reason to believe that Mr Corbyn will either step down from his party leadership position any time soon, or be successfully ousted. It could drag on for years, helped by the Labour party's own rules and procedures. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this was the month when his position became permanently untenable and he was now clearly an irreversible detraction from Labour's electoral and broader public standing.

The longer he remains, the more the public will learn of the true nature of Labour, usually hidden beneath a veneer of apparent respectability, so I am hoping it really does take years to oust him.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Wheels Within Wheels

So, with the atrocities in Paris last night, I suspect even more people around the globe will become ever more aware of the evil that is in the world these days. All sorts of blames and accusations will be flung hither and yon, especially by those with their own preferred slant – perhaps even outright prejudices.

Perhaps all too predictably, this latest attack by several gunmen was, according to what one reportedly called out, in retaliation for involvement in Syria. Cue accusations of 'Muslims' and 'refugees' – which has already happened, but misses the target.

The reality is that these were people who were happy at inflicting violence, at killing. It was easy for them, and they schemed and planned to make it happen. Whatever their stated 'cause', it was in the first place a licence to indulge their blood-lust. Such a severely deranged (and dangerous) mental state is required to be able to behave in that manner.

Ultimately it doesn't really matter what the supposed 'cause' is or is stated to be: such people will find a way to do what they have a lust to do. They are ideal foot-soldiers for the New World Order – the real force behind all of this and much more.

And that is what this is really all about.

All the bad stuff in the world that has been ramping up over several years now is a sign not just of the 'end times', but of the end days – which is allegorical, as it will encompass quite a few years all told, most of which has now passed. We are very close indeed to the time for which the Antichrist will be allowed to rule. His throne was installed in the Vatican a few years ago, and he might even have been formally enthroned by now.

To Roman Catholic officials who like to claim that the throne is nothing more than 'a piece of tasteless art' (two of them have previously tried that line with me) I'd counter that we have already seen the artworks of the design for this throne, and it is a close enough match to be beyond any reasonable doubt.

That is the point of origin, one might call it, but there are several distinct but sometimes overlapping components to the New World Order structure, which is designed to enslave us all. First we have

Secret Societies

There is no legitimate reason for a society to be at all secretive unless what it is doing is so dubious in nature as to necessitate it. That is a truism, with no apparent exceptions apart from governmental security services for obvious reasons; and even those we know about to some extent.

The Illuminati seem to have been the main engineers in establishing the New World Order; and were certainly responsible for telling those who were watching and waiting around the world that it was eventually fully in place, by having their pyramid with the 'all-seeing eye' put on the American dollar banknote. There is no other reason for its presence there, of course.

The Freemasons are the more visible of the main secret societies, and look to be intended to become the day-to-day managers of the new order, reporting to their Illuminati bosses, who in turn will no doubt report directly to the entity on that throne.


There are many religions, nearly all mutually incompatible and a few directly contradictory. Obviously they cannot all be right, and many (perhaps most) will no doubt turn out to have been either created by the devil or encouraged by him. It is easy enough to eliminate those that are obviously incompatible with the nature of God or us, are non-corroborated, or appeared at a seemingly pointless time, such as between Jesus' first and second comings. There is no need for anything new to suddenly come into being in between, as it has all been covered already.

The reason for all these others is firstly to misdirect people, and the second is to encourage atheism by having folk tar all religions with the same brush and end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?) Atheism is of course lazy, ignorant or willful, and means not having even a fraction of a clue about why anything exists, including ourselves. Still, that's the choice of many, made much more commonplace because of all the 'dodgy' faiths out there.

Fortunately, the Holy Bible is consistent with the nature of God (as we can experience, which is encouraged), it has so many observers, chroniclers, participants and prophets writing in it that even the last of those four categories has to be divided into Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. And that's just those who had books named after them! There are other ways to tell what has the ring of truth about it and what hasn't, too many to go into here.

This doesn't mean that the devil hasn't tried to subvert (and succeeded) genuine formalised religions, as the business with the Vatican that I mentioned above attests. If one keeps to the Word, though, especially the New Testament, rather than the word of corruptible humans, then one can't go far wrong, if at all...

Political Structures

It will come as little surprise that this is another key area for Satan to have had a strong foothold for many years and in fact decades – probably longer, but perhaps less acutely felt, especially here in Britain. Although any part of our political establishment could in theory be turned, it was here – as in other countries – that the political left were the easy targets. It was so simple to nudge them toward a dependency on deception, theft and manipulation, ending up ultimately in oppression and totalitarianism.

It seems nowadays that all the significant Left around the world is in thrall to the devil – and there is a huge wealth of instances that even I could relate, and I am sure there are numerous others with their own experiences and what they have witnessed. I can think of no notables exceptions to this seemingly solid rule, but perhaps I have missed something.

Overall, all these wheels are turning all the time, largely independently of the others, but together they are a formidable force, all ready to move up the gears when it all starts to kick-off in earnest. With the Paris killings, I think we now have an early warning that we are very close to that time!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Public Questions at Council

Undoubtedly the most contentious issue at tonight's ordinary meeting of the full Medway Council – which will be starting half an hour later than usual, because of a special item of business just before – will probably be the elimination of supplementary questions from the public. The published questions will remain, but not the (more often than not) politically-loaded secondary 'supplementary' question.

Here is the agenda for tonight's meeting.

I am not surprised at this action, owing to the ongoing abuses of this facility over the years. There is no legal right to it, and it is something that I have witnessed creating ever more difficulties for getting to and through the proper business of the Council – all that is on the agenda that affects many more, perhaps all in some instances, of the quarter of a million residents of Medway, not just those with a one-issue agenda that they wish to push. Usually there will be a body of Lefty 'rent-a-crowd' in the public gallery, supporting them and heckling and/or booing the responders.

The abuses of the public questions agenda item have always been most evident in the run-up to either the council's own elections or a General Election. This year we had both of those on the same day!

One clue is in how the public questions then become dominated by candidates from opposition parties, mainly Labour but also a fair few from other parties. The first question, which has to be okay-ed by the Chief Executive of the council with legal advice from the Monitoring Officer, is obviously constrained by legal and constitutional restrictions, and is seen by the member who is to respond so an answer can be prepared. The (supposedly brief) supplementary, however, is completely unknown to the responder until it is asked.

Far too many of these have been non-questions, over-long, and party politically dominated, especially in those election run-up periods. There are many other aspects that look very much like an abuse of the facility, and the rest of us in the public gallery have to wait for all this guff to be got out of the way before the meeting reaches the real business of the evening. Why should we have to? Don't we count?

Perhaps public questions should be made the last agenda item...

A little history might be useful here. Some years ago, when I was on the elected Council, I brought to a meeting of the Conservative Group my own misgivings about the supplementary question business, anticipating exactly what has since come to pass. Nearly all those who participated in the ensuing discussion, from all parts of the 33-strong group, defended the supplementaries – some quite robustly. Thus I know with absolute certainly that this isn't a 'Conservative plot to stop proper public scrutiny' (as has been claimed) or anything of the sort.

As always in this life, abuse something too much, too often, and you risk losing it altogether. The current proposals are just a warning shot across the bows, leaving Medway as still one of the better councils in this regard (many other councils have much greater restrictions, such as only one question per meeting and only two per year) though not one of the very 'best', if one thinks along such lines.

When I was campaigning for one thing or another, I applied intelligence rather than 'mob rule' (as one can sometimes witness at Council meetings here) so was able to achieve a number of good outcomes, most of which very few folk realise I even had that big a hand in(!) How much have the 'usual suspects' and their fellow-travellers achieved via their methods? A tiny fraction, between the lot of them!

There is a lesson there for those with enough brain cells to realise it – and to suss out that, it many instances, the real campaigners are being politically manipulated. That too is something I have witnessed a number of times, including Labour candidates and former members among the rent-a-crowd I mentioned above, and I have noticed them starting off the bad behaviour on more than one occasion.

The best results come from respecting structures such as Council meetings – which were agreed by all parties involved, by the way – and not giving those in control any reason to take away anything from the current structure/format. Tonight's expected changes are a case of cause-and-effect, and the cause has been the mounting body of evidence – all captured on audio – that the present rules have become untenable because of the public's (some of them!) long-term and ongoing abuses.

Put the boot on the other foot: what would you do?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Fun at One

One month, that is.

A month ago I wrote about what I foresaw as possible consequences of the Corbyn leadership of the British Labour party. One month in, much of what I anticipated has come to pass, other aspects are obviously on the way but currently still to come, and one or two items might not happen exactly as I thought they were most likely to go.

Already, the new leadership and its campaign team have moved to try to make the party the more-or-less revolutionary Marxist body I have been quietly expecting, with ways to deselect moderate sitting MPs and replacing them with out-and-out Lefties as candidates at future elections. The leadership's approach to the party's sitting MPs has been disastrous, as last night's meeting of the Parliamentary Party – well-reported in various places – demonstrated very clearly, helped by members tweeting their views from within the meeting room.

The MPs are not happy, especially with policy U-turns and other impositions by the Dear Leader and his staunch supporter, the new shadow chancellor John McDonnell. So far they seem to be sticking with the party, rather than (as yet) forming a breakaway new party, SDP style. I think that will have to come in due course, most likely in the second quarter of next year by my (typically complicated but thorough) reckoning.

Frankly, the parliamentary party is tearing itself apart, as several of its members have openly admitted via social media in particular – and the broader party nationwide isn't faring much better.

This is fine in some regards, as it is what many of us anticipated and it could prove valuable to the Labour party if they bother to learn the lessons. Some will, but I suspect that many others will not, and the party's future viability is thus threatened if they don't fix this in the false belief that either all is well, or that it cannot be mended.

In the final analysis the fading away of Labour would be a good thing for Britain – but not if it leaves a vacuum where there should be a credible Official Opposition party (Labour can probably never again be a party of government, by the way) and there are no other viable contenders at the present time. I wish there were.

Labour have a long-standing track record of putting themselves through periods such as this, but always coming back from the brink. It genuinely might not happen this time, but it is not impossible. The next month should be even more telling than these past few weeks have been...

Saturday, 12 September 2015

And Now The Fun Begins!

So, as expected, Jeremy Corbyn has become the new Labour party leader today, and Tom Watson the new deputy to replace Harriet Harman, who had also been standing-in as leader during the leadership contest.

This largely predictable outcome (firmed-up by Andy Burnham's woefully poor campaign and multiple flip-flops over various policies) now sets Labour on a path they haven't seen for three decades. Already half a dozen shadow cabinet members have resigned from those positions, and a number of others (including Ed Miliband) have publicly stated that they will not serve in Corbyn's shadow cabinet.

Some are saying these are principled decisions, rather than self-interest – but anyone can see what being associated with Corbyn's extreme-Left outlook and direction for his party would do to their longer-term careers, so for my money they are in fact doing this out of self-interest.

Actually, it will be the eventual shape of the new shadow cabinet that should give us our best clue as to where the Labour party is now going to be heading. If Jeremy Corbyn stuffs it with his hard-Left comrades then it will generate splits within the party, possibly resulting in a faction going off to form a new party, as the 'Gang of Four' did back in the 'eighties to form the SDP, no doubt later possibly at least considering joining forces with the Lib Dems.

History would be repeating itself, and for similar reasons.

Another interesting ingredient is the part that the new deputy leader could well play to keep the party together under trying circumstances. Tom Watson is capable of doing that, though even he would struggle to deal with the sheer magnitude of the issue. I'd give it a two year life-span – more of a delay than an avoidance – and then it really would be 'crunch time' for the party.

Incidentally, 'big beast' Tom W has a strong reputation within the party regarding his skills and abilities in matters of this ilk, and has gained a lot of personal stature with his strong handling of the 'phone hacking scandal, though that was intended to harm the party's media deserters, specifically Rupert Murdoch, not to deal with the topic. Some of us saw through that, and noted the 'ouch!' factor when The Mirror was shown to have been at least as guilty.

Tom was also one of the small group of Damian McBride's smear campaigners who were targeting (among others) Sam Cameron, the Prime Minister's wife. Remember that? McBride had to resign his own position at the time.

Despite all of this, Tom W could keep most if not all of the party together for a while, but eventually the only way it will find to survive as a significant and credible political movement will be for Corbyn to step down, probably in 2018 by my calculations. I don't think he will head-up Labour's General Election campaign in 2020, and will wish to give his replacement time to get established and to re-jig the party's manifesto.

Some are saying that Tom himself might become the successor to 'Jez' – but with all his baggage he would be an easy target for the Conservatives, so I don't recommend this. I wouldn't put it past him to try, though. The problem for Labour is that they have so little political talent that isn't already very publicly tarnished beyond being a serious contender.

The only exception of whom I am aware is the currently inexperienced Dan Jarvis. If he were to be wise enough to look ahead and prepare himself for that opening, starting right now, he could be Labour's last hope to avoid all those pitfalls and become a genuinely valuable leader of the main opposition party in British politics. I don't know of any others who could pull it off.

Friday, 4 September 2015

On the Jez

(The title of this post is based on something B. A. Baracus said in the very first A-Team TV episode)

Well, that was the last of the Labour leadership televised hustings, just a few hours ago now. Did it help anyone?

Yes, it helped Jeremy Corbyn, who seems to have come across as more genuine than the others, the proverbial 'breath of fresh air'. Although there is an element of illusion in that seemingly very widely-held assessment, there is no denying its power.

It now seems to be almost certain that 'Jez' will become the new Labour party leader. Is this what I was originally predicting?

No. I was at first expecting Andy Burnham to win – but the Burnham campaign has been so poor, and the candidate himself has flip-flopped so many times (and been caught at it, and exposed on a number of occasions) on various policy questions, that his credibility has dropped quite significantly, even among Labour supporters themselves, who tend largely to be gullible and easily led by the nose.

I was also part-expecting a real show-stopper of a revelation or a gaffe by Corbyn – and that could still happen – though this was only a statistical judgment based on the sheer length of the campaign and the tendency of such things to happen during such extended periods in a party leadership context. It is now probably too late as, I suspect, the considerable majority of ballots have by now been cast.

I consider this to be somewhat unfortunate for Labour. Not that I am a Burnham fan, or anything like, but at least he could have handled the 'leader of H.M. official opposition' job tolerably well, whereas the likes of Corbyn and Yvette Cooper would, I think, be very poor. Liz Kendall isn't really in the running now, looking to come a distant fourth in the contest.

Thus we look set to have an unhealthy political scenario up ahead, with its inevitable tendency to draw the Conservative Government toward the centre, and easing-up on their more strongly principled policy stances because it will thus be so easy to attract disillusioned and disenfranchised Labour voters. This is one of the reasons why a good, mainstream opposition is vital for a healthy democracy.

Fortunately, the silver lining to this dark cloud is that it cannot last long. As Jeremy Corbyn will be unable to secure the support of many of his party's MPs on a number of his policies, sooner or later he will find his position is untenable – probably visibly around two years from now (actually much sooner, but it won't necessarily show outwardly for some time).

Although there is no certainly that the party's so-called selectorate will have grown up sufficiently by then, at least there is the possibility that they will choose a more acceptable leader next time. Perhaps there will be no too-lefty candidates from which to choose on that future occasion – though I suspect that 'bumbling Burnham', regardless of what he says about it today, will return to have yet another unsuccessful crack at it!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Cor-bynned Votes

It is interesting to read this...

I quote:
"Friend who is lifelong Labour voter was rejected AFTER voting for @jeremycorbyn and @stellacreasy with no explanation. Worrying ‪#‎LabourPurge‬"

Now, this could, as has already been suggested in response to that tweet, have been a mistake – but why are ballots being rejected after the vote, and how are their origins being identified? (Several others have come to public notice during today, so the above isn't an isolated instance.) That isn't how properly-run elections work – although I imagine it is easier to do with  online voting than with ballot papers, which would have to be opened by the party.

Whenever I have been involved in such a ballot, the paper, sealed in an inner envelope, was addressed to an independent electoral society, not the (Conservative) party. It was all done by them, so there was no scope for rigging by the party or otherwise manipulating the result.

The whole Labour procedure, including the Miliband changes, reeks of typical Labour incompetence, because anyone with a reasonably functioning brain could have foreseen much if not most (or even all) of what has now happened, especially when they look back into their own party history. They have brought it on themselves: nobody did it to them, so the blame lies within the party.

It must now be assumed that this Labour party leadership election is effectively invalid and its outcomes will not be able to be assumed 'safe'. Perhaps those who were already calling for its suspension are now being given the ammunition to actually achieve that end.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Strike Out Jobs

The current strike on the London Underground displays all that is wrong with such actions, especially in today's world. The 'tube' drivers receive a very generous income relative to most others, a ridiculously extended leave allowance – based on some dubious psychology – yet demand more.

And yet, all many (perhaps most by now) do all day is sit in a cab and press a few buttons.

Anyone who thinks that the drivers have any value probably ought to read this book, which I have had for decades...

It explains how 'train operators' on the Victoria Line were included purely as a sop to the Unions, and were not actually necessary. It cost, and continues to cost, commuters a fortune.

Subsequently, the Docklands Light Railway has proven the original point very successfully. My brother worked on that, so I have access to the 'inside track' on that whole story if necessary.

This latest action (inaction?) will simply push the powers-that-be in the direction of driverless trains throughout the London Underground, and then all those cushy jobs will go. As someone who never accepted that the original Victoria Line decision was right, I look forward to that happening...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Patchy on the Patch

It's good to see that Labour councillors are still occasionally getting things done on their patch. It's now seemingly such a rare occurrence that they almost make a song and dance out of it, publicising it in unexpected places, as here. Not that there is any harm in this, by the way, but those of us who are doers have so much going on (as I have done for most of the past fifteen years, for example) that we'd hardly make a point of highlighting one of those – unless it were the only one, I suppose(!)

As some reading this will know, I was doing this sort of thing all the time, more-or-less single handed for years, when I was on the Council here; and have continued to do so since moving to this largely-neglected (for many years) Labour-held ward over five years ago.

That has been not only here, but in other wards as well, which also usually turn out to have Labour councillors, and even a UKIP activist in one such area who had been active on such matters there while a Conservative, so I provided a tip-off, but then defected and didn't pursue it. I did, later, after asking whether it had even been reported in before. It had not.

I did have a post with half a dozen 'before and after' photos on my 'blog a few years ago, but deleted it last year when my image space use was nearing the limit and I cleared out a lot of older posts. I still have all the images, details and council reference numbers in my own records, of course, and might re-post them here again if there is any interest shown, as the space allocation has since been increased.

On a couple of occasions, instead of dealing with something myself, I have experimentally tried another approach, which was to publicise my findings either here or elsewhere in public view. The theory was that the councillors concerned would in effect be embarrassed into bothering for a change. Whether or not that was the reason for this method's apparent success, it is interesting to note that both those issues were fixed within months of my having splashed them about publicly.

Overall, it has been of great benefit to the residents of our borough in a number of places, and it has also helped inform me of who are the doers and who are merely posturers on our elected Council. Although it isn't precisely a party-based divide, it's fairly close, notwithstanding the (rare) exceptions.

Even in the case here, though, the same councillors have been elected for the ward that  includes Ropemakers Court for over four years, and their party for well over the 'decade' that Cllr Osborne refers to as 'when it should be have been done' in the linked post. Why is it only now that any one of the three is attending to this?

Foundation and Labour

If the great science fiction author Isaac Asimov had been born about fifty years later than he was, and lived in England, I suspect he might have written his Foundation and Empire episode that revolves around General Bel Riose with this nation's Labour party in mind.

In that story, a logic truth table demonstrated that, whatever combination of emperor and general(s) existed at the time, because of the social and galactic structure of the period, the decaying old empire would fail to defeat the Foundation.

Running the same kind of exercise with the Labour party, its current leader at any time, and the 'generals' waiting to make a name for themselves so that each of them could push to become the party's next leader, I found that a more elaborate but again consistent truth table emerged. The main difference here was that there would be several changes of party leader, both in and out of government, during the decade that was to follow.

The details are too involved to try to explain here – it would make for long and (probably) tedious reading for most, and some of it isn't easy to explain in words or diagrams anyway. All one needs to do is think about how the party was faring, in government, under Tony Blair ten years ago, and all that has happened since.

That starts with the Gordon Brown moves to oust Blair and take over, the inevitable failure to win the (long-awaited) next national election – and the almost equally inevitable failure to have gone for an election much earlier, when he might have succeeded – then passing through the Ed Miliband era (and the Union manipulations to get their de jure puppet to succeed Brown).

The big Unions' bosses' failure to do what I thought they might – force a replacement of Miliband at or by the autumn 2013 Labour party conference – meant that Labour was almost certainly not going to be forming the next government. Although I kept my powder comparatively dry in public, I did occasionally drop hints to trusted people in conversation during the eighteen months that followed. I knew, or at least strongly suspected at first, when I wasn't yet certain.

Incidentally, if they had engineered a change of leader (which would have been easy to arrange, by putting Ed-M in a situation where he'd have resigned: he almost certainly couldn't have been ousted), with the possible replacements realistically in the field at the time, that would have generated a whole new 'branch-off' for my logic table. Those could have been interesting times!

A Miliband-led Labour party was bound to be going nowhere, as we all knew he was incapable of presenting an electable face to the nation, either personally or party-wide, with the results we saw recently at the General Election just two months ago as I write this.

All of this led to the current party leadership election: a long, drawn-out process lasting a full four months from May to September. Now they have four contenders from across Labour's (not exactly unlimited) part of the political spectrum. The truth table shows that, because of their inherent nature, the party will be extremely unlikely to elect anyone on the so-called 'Blairite' wing of the party – which is the only potentially winning kind of contender.

No: their Foundation and Labour deduced positioning means that they will, whatever happens, head in the opposite direction when it comes down to the wire in selecting their new leader. They will repeat the mistakes of the recent past, again strongly aided by the Communist-run big Unions whose financial backing is essential to Labour having any election fighting funds anyway.

All this was predictable, and of course some of us foresaw it long ago. It is the beginning of the possible end of the Labour party – though that will depend on when the Unions' other failure to do what at least one of their bosses had been planning isn't revived. That was to either create a new Left-wing party or (more likely) to promote an existing one, such as the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP), as a replacement for Labour.

I have a feeling that the wind isn't blowing in a favourable direction for that just yet, so the Communists running most of this country's big Unions are no doubt finding it necessary to stay their hands for the time being, and play the game of getting involved in Labour's current leadership contest – hence UNITE's support for outright lefty Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, it's probably just tokenism, as I am sure they still have those other plans – which I have of course accounted for in my tables.

Overall, it is an interesting time, and exactly as was predicted by events in recent times when applied to my 'logic modelling'. The Labour party's future existence will depend upon the outcome of this leadership contest (including, to a lesser extent, the deputy leader election) and the way the wind blows thereafter.

While the time is not yet ripe to kill off Labour and heavily promote its replacement (probably the SWP) then it will limp on in opposition. One day, though, that situation is likely to change. That day is when a part of my modelling is brought into out the daylight for the first time since it was constructed...

Friday, 17 July 2015

What Is A Foreign Student?

Because of this story in the left-leaning Huffington Post, I thought it worth taking a few moments to explain what a foreign student is. Remember that I worked in the Immigration Dept of the Home Office for several years, some time ago, including on the public counters and answering telephone enquiries, so have a lot of insider knowledge.

For this I am ignoring the case of EU citizens, as we don't have the same kind of control over their movements and it would muddy the waters to attempt to factor them into this post.

The UK's purpose for foreign students was that they could learn to the high standards of higher education we have long had in this country and then take that back to their home country where they can deploy that knowledge and skill-set to improve the way that nation is in some way. It has never been intended as a route to employment here in Britain since the Immigration Act under which we were then operating was passed, quite some years previously.

At the time, I was operating under that law as amended (many times!) including on several occasions by the then current Labour government. This is not a 'Theresa May' thing!

Therefore this (rather skewed and inaccurate) piece in the HuffPo is largely a nonsense. It is indeed the current oft-voiced criticism of 'foreigners stealing our jobs' for one reason or another that was the reason for that formulation of the original legislation in the first place. Therefore the expectation was that overseas students would leave our country when their studies were complete – or within a reasonable period thereafter, at any rate.

There might be slight confusion in some people's minds in that – while they are studying (nothing to do with what follows) – such students on longer learning periods, such as at University, are usually permitted to take employment. This, though, is for the long-established practice of in-vacation short-term jobs, such as my brother did during the years he was at uni (he kept hot drinks vending machines cleaned and re-stocked, by the way).

Overseas students are not 'deported' at the end of their study time (plus a few months, typically) which, incidentally, would be at public expense. Tourists and other visitors to our fair nation are not deported either – unless they remain beyond their allowed time here, sometimes extended thugh so it doesn't happen all that often.

No: the deliberately emotive d-word is clearly intended here to slant the piece to generate outrage – a standard Lefty tactic, of course.

Incidentally, if someone's immigration-related circumstances change significantly, then there has always been provision to apply for an extension or (in appropriate circumstances) permanent residence. I do not believe that has been removed, nor is it likely to be.

Finally, all the facts about coming here to study are made clear to those applying to do so. If they don't agree with those conditions, then we're not forcing them to come here. If, as the HuffPo writer claims, it's different in other countries, well then perhaps one of those might have been a better choice for this individual.

The bottom line is that I have no sympathy whatsoever, having dealt with many thousands of students from abroad in my time – including a small number who were trying to worm their way in on a permanent basis, though most were genuine. Despite the (rather convenient?) arguments elsewhere in the piece, the writer of the linked piece comes across as perhaps not having come here on a genuine basis...

Friday, 19 June 2015

It Points Both Ways

I am currently reminded of the fictitious mayor Salvor Hardin's epigram which tells us that "the atom blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways." ('Foundation' by Isaac Asimov)

What has triggered this line of thought? The Labour party's leader and deputy leader elections, which are being granted disproportionate media coverage by what (as we all know by now) is a largely Labour-supporting media sector, with the remainder keeping up with the competition – so they are all at it. This includes televised hustings as if this is as significant as a General Election – which it is not.

Notably, the Liberal Democrats' own leadership replacement process is receiving virtually no coverage in the mainstream media, and nor did the Conservative leadership elections during the past fifteen years and more (though more than the Lib Dems are getting at present).

So, what is the relevance of Salvor Hardin's saying? It is that, in their attempt to make Labour the focus of the population's attention – and specifically at the expense of the other political parties – they unavoidably expose the weaknesses and other demerits of the leadership candidates.

So far we have had just one nationwide televised hustings, earlier this week, which most observers judged to be humdrum and unexciting. It also showed that the candidates were mostly living in the past, spouting the same rhetoric as ever (mainly: tax, borrow, spend), and any 'new' ideas they claimed to have turned out to be variations on the old, failed Labour policies that have now lost them two general elections in a row.

Liz Kendall is the only slightly brighter star in this rather dull firmament, but only in part. The lady is far and away the best – and most relevant – of the four candidates, but this is Labour so the others scored higher (to different extents) in follow-up formal polls and other surveys.

The most likely ultimate winner remains Andy Burnham, as I said in a couple of places a few weeks ago. That has remained unchanged up until his twice-uttered gaffe this past week about 'the party comes first, always' – Liz Kendall's riposte that 'the country comes first' during the terlevised hustings event making Burnham's self-serving attitude even more glaringly obvious than it might have been.

This is not exactly a new thing, of course, and has permeated the Labour party (and, it seems, all other Left-wing parties everywhere) for as long as I can remember. Even supposedly moderate Charles Clarke let slip the same sentiment on television several years ago, and others from the party have said the same in print for years.

Thus the public are, now more than ever before, learning truths that their supportive friends in the big media (most notably the BBC, as in this instance) really hadn't intended. Their agenda has, inevitably and predictably, been scuppered by the innate nature of those they are showcasing.

Really perceptive readers of this post will perhaps now start to see why, over the years, I have been saying that this particular (i.e. media) issue would ultimately work out for the best. That actual 'best' is yet to come, but what we have already witnessed gives an early clue or three to where it is all leading. Long before the next parliamentary all-out election in Britain, this picture should be clearer still!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ed-less Chickens

So Ed[ward] Miliband has gone as Labour party leader, and the contest is on for his replacement. This often happens just after a failed General Election attempt – but should it?

The Guardian, of all places, raises a number of valid points in its editorial today, suggesting that the party should have waited for the new MPs in particular to have settled in and to have had the chance to witness those who would become leadership (and deputy leader) contenders in action, at close hand.

The piece also criticises several features of Labour's leader election methodology – partly improved since five years ago, but still with many issues that could be avoided. For example, Tristram Hunt has been unable to secure the 15% of MPs' nominations that he needs to be able to enter the contest. That seems to be a significant loss, whatever one might think of him (and views are very varied, including that he is or is not leader material) and the resultant choice is diminished as a consequence.

It currently looks like Andy Burnham is the front-runner – which is great for the other parties, the Conservatives in particular, as he has such a bad personal track record and is even easier to skewer than Ed-M has been. Future Prime Minister's Questions sessions will be highly entertaining for those who are not Labour supporters if Burnham becomes the next Labour leader.

Yvette Cooper looks to be second choice, though there is a school of thought that suggests Labour people would never accept a female leader – deputy, yes, but not the party's actual leader. This factor alone also tends to scupper the chances of the other current contenders, Mary Creagh and the quite promising Liz Kendall (though I'd suggest her for deputy rather than leader anyway, myself, and not just because of that issue I just mentioned).

Of course, that school of thought might prove to be incorrect; and there are still a few more weeks to get in one or two additional candidates, each with the 35 MPs' support that each needs. Obviously with 15% being the magic fraction, only six candidates at maximum can enter the race.

Overall, procedurally I go along with the suggestion in the linked piece of having an interim leader and a decision on a 'permanent' replacement for Ed-M taken two or three years down the road. However it is already under way, and the Unions are still finding ways to manipulate the leadership decision (a large number of current Labour MPs are tied-up with the big Unions one way or another, for a start, which helps), so perhaps it wouldn't achieve anything to push for it this far in.

The consequence is that the party is now all over the place, and is already in what Iain Martin calls 'a dangerous position', with a risk of 'teetering on becoming a joke'. He's not wrong – and it could have been avoided. Now they are likely 'Ed-less' chickens...

Monday, 11 May 2015

Apportioning Blame – and Votes

The predictable 'votes-to-seats' argument about our supposedly 'broken' (i.e. inconvenient to some) electoral system has started in earnest. Many are again blaming our so-called 'first past the post' system for lots of votes resulting in no seats, yet all went into the elections – both candidates (and their parties) and voters – in full knowledge of how the system worked..

Regular readers here will recall that I took one of my occasional looks at this topic less than three months ago – but what I mooted then, and devised earlier in the decade, wouldn't suit those with vested interests in manipulating our electoral methodology to benefit those they support – which is their real aim.

Firstly, this (now mainly UKIPper) complaint that the party got nearly four million votes but only one parliamentary seat is based on a false premise. All subsequent analysis is undoubtedly pointing toward the following...

The only reasons they had that many votes, and distributed as they were, can be boiled down to (a) they spread themselves too thinly by trying to look impressive and important by fielding too many candidates (running before they could walk); and (b) much of that voting was tactical and was because of the present electoral system. Under a different methodology they'd have gained only a fraction of the number of votes.

This is one power that the electorate has over 'the establishment' (as the in-vogue terminology puts it) – we can vote tactically if we choose. Some are in favour of this in particular circumstances, others advise against it; but we can still decide for ourselves. The north of England results show this very clearly: they aren't interested in having UKIP Members of Parliament (obviously) but they were and are very interested in sending Labour a close shot across the bows to sharpen up its act, and get a decent leader in particular.

They are getting at least part of their wish, probably all of it in time.

This nation of ours already, quite recently, rejected – in a referendum – a change to even a 'half-way house' Alternative Vote system. I was pleased, because it (like other supposedly but not really 'proportional' methodologies) gives the possibility of some electors having two (or more, in other systems) bites of the cherry – those who voted for the losers at that.

Obviously, right from the basics, that is a dishonest way to fiddle a result so that a non-winner can – and often does in places that work with such systems – 'beat' the actual winner. The sales pitch is that this produces an 'overall majority' or words to the same effect; but it's a lie, and often results in an unwanted (by the majority) 'winner'.

If we wish to maintain integrity we either stick with the present method, or we change to something along the lines of what I proposed years ago and revisited back in February in my above-linked post. The latter would be quite a shake-up in how our parliamentary democracy functions in the country, but is a twenty-first century solution to many if not all the most significant issues people have with our present way of doing it.

Nothing that anyone else either does or is proposing comes anywhere near that.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Medway Council Elections 2015

Although the bottom-line outcome of the Medway Council elections, held on the same day as the General Election, is almost exactly as I anticipated, I was wrong in a few (minor?) areas in how we got there! I should mention, in passing, that as always when the elections coincide, turnout goes up in the locals, and we had record numbers of votes this time round.

The main local newspaper covered this quite well, with snippets of information that many might not have realised. Note that this was added to chronologically, as results were declared, so is in a kind of reverse order with the most recent entry at the top, but in normal sequence within each 'chunk'.

The main oddity for which I couldn't have legislated was the election of what I believe were three so-called 'paper candidates': those who stood purely to fill a gap in a theoretically hopeless election for their party. I am fairly sure that Mike Franklin was not intending to get back onto the Council (after a long absence, by the way) nor Mrs Reckless who has a young family demanding her attention.

Much of this kind of phenomenon stems from split voting in multi-member wards, and the alphabetical placing on the ballot paper. This is because those who split their votes across parties generally go down the ballot paper from the top, looking for the party symbols they are after. Thus Albert Aardvark is almost certain to get more votes than Zienia Zowie, even if they are standing for the same party.

It's easy enough to check this by looking at these and other council elections' results. Sometimes an incumbent councillor will have a substantial personal vote and voters look for the person specifically before casting their other vote(s). This happened with me, despite my best efforts to 'share the credit' in newsletters and elsewhere, as my own (and my colleagues') vote shares reveal from over the years, so I am well aware of both these factors.

Anyway, overall, the restoration of a 36-strong Conservative group on the Council, Labour at fifteen members, no Lib Dems but four UKIPpers, means a change at the 'minor parties' end but essentially a return to more-or-less the starting situation after the previous all-out council elections four years ago, but with UKIP supplanting the Liberal Democrats and minor changes in numbers.

Personally, I consider this to be a less than healthy situation, but largely caused by local Lib Dems frankly not bothering to put in the effort during these past four years. They might try to (conveniently) blame their coalition participation and the effect of that which they attribute to their national standing – which is partly valid, though not entirely – but the reality is that they haven't been mounting any kind of on-the-ground activity base.

When an election comes round, then they seem to emerge from the woodwork and then, yes, they're knocking on doors and the rest of it – but for years at a time they are next to invisible. Even their local website(s) over the years were completely inactive in between elections, the original completely so and the more recent one merely copying the central party's posts and with zero local content.

They seemed to think that support would be gifted to them without their having to put in any work at all, even the minimal effort of writing something on a website. Now they have their reward – and hopefully someone will at last learn the lesson! They have only themselves to blame, and it has been going on for over a decade: it has almost nothing to do with 'the coalition'.

In the Council itself, I anticipate the four 'Kippers causing as much trouble as their characteristic arrogance can devise, but in the process merely turning the electorate against them, over time, as the truth seeps out. I don't expect them to survive the next council elections.

Interestingly, the controversial Lodge Hill development issue that seemed to be the primary driver of UKIP's success within Medway Council has been shown to be a damp squib from the party's point of view. Not only has their former group leader – who made such a big (and, frankly, ill-informed) fuss over it failed to be re-elected, the two UKIP members in the ward where Lodge Hill is located have also failed to be re-elected, and Strood Rural is fully Conservative again.

There is a big lesson in that, though I suspect that it will be lost on those three ex-councillors...

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Peninsula ward, two of the four UKIP members have been elected. I suspected something of the sort would happen, because of the ill-informed poison being spread by the member I mentioned just now, also because the two Conservatives who were not elected there were not exactly well-known around the ward. Indeed one of them stood in Rochester East ward last time, of all places. Nevertheless, they can now start to rebuild their party's standing in Peninsula, so that next time they will be able to displace the 'Kippers – which will almost certainly be a walkover if they do what I have suggested.

My old ward of Rochester South & Horsted enjoyed a better outcome than was at first on the cards, and it has taken considerable (secret!) effort on my part [EDIT: and, I have since discovered, at least one other's efforts as well] to help protect the third seat in particular. Others in the ward branch were well aware of the danger, though even they don't know how it was averted in the end, and (for very good reasons) I'm not telling...

Beyond all of this, the Council will continue to function, running reasonably well under the (seriously flawed) Cabinet-and-Scrutiny system until and unless that is scrapped, perhaps by national legislation. Thus the potential of Medway will continue to creep out into existence, there will be the inevitable (and predictable!) 'anti' campaigns, mainly by Lefties, and plans will be refined and fine-tuned or even delayed in some cases. Ultimately we're in for more of the same style of local governance, and this will be (broadly) a good thing, though less than perfect.

This is life, and it's good, following a good election outcome, both nationally and locally!

Friday, 8 May 2015

That Was The Election, That Was!

Well, that was one for the history books!

The General Election saw a small Conservative overall majority (something I had been privately saying was now a distinct possibility) and the loss of most Liberal Democrat seats – fifty of their 58 now gone.

My scientifically-modelled (such as it is: I don't really go in for making nationwide predictions) expectations were cautious to the point of pessimism, though still better for the Conservatives than any poll or betting market at some 295 seats, with only Harry Cole of Guido Fawkes fame making the same prediction.

In Scotland, the SNP took 56 of the 59 seats, interestingly leaving one seat each there continuing to be held by the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems. The expectation (mine and many others') that they would largely wipe out Labour north of the border has been even more devastatingly accurate than anticipated! The Conservatives had virtually no seats in Scotland to lose, which turned out to be a significant contributor to the asymmetric shifts during this election

Another such shift was in the target seats 'battleground', where the Conservatives took a fair number of their target Labour seats, whereas Labour failed to take more than a handful of their targets. Even the two most marginal such seats remained with the Blues, as did many more of their 106 targets. The Conservatives had concentrated on just forty target seats, and that focus aided their greater success, despite having significantly fewer activists and helpers on the ground.

Locally, the results have been exactly as I predicted – but only because, by now, the Conservative candidate for Rochester & Strood constituency – Kelly Tolhurst – had been able to make herself known more fully around the other eight wards in the 'patch' – rather than just her Rochester West presence as a councillor for the past four years.

This, as I said at the time of the by-election some six months ago, was the biggest ingredient in the equation at that time, as the by-election had, then, just been dropped on everyone with no time to work toward it. As I urged back then, the time to start working toward the General Election was immediately, right then – and to her credit and that of her team, they did just that. I then knew that the seat would be hers, and indeed it became so, and by a very healthy margin of 24k votes to UKIP Mark Reckless' circa 16k votes.

That was a good win, on so many levels!

Obviously, Tracey Crouch and Rehman Chishti held their seats easily, which was hardly a surprise. Poor Tristan Osborne, having door-knocked in Chatham & Aylesford for some weeks and getting the same response, reportedly had in effect resigned himself to abject defeat and has been reported as conceding that 'Tracey is doing an OK job as MP'.

The upshot of all of this is that the country now has a truly Conservative national government (despite what some try to claim) and all the drag of the past five years is now lifted away. Some will try to portray that as uncaring, a 'government without a heart' – but those who are both honest and intelligent enough to see past the Lefty spin will know that this is not so.

The breaking of the 'client State' will release the true potential of all our citizens who have true value, while protecting those who genuinely cannot contribute. These days, I fall into the latter category owing to age and health issues – though I still do not claim any benefits.

This election has done what I had been hoping for so long: it has made the next phase of our country's ascendancy back into the top echelon of the world's nations possible, and indeed highly probable, within just a few years.

Indications are strong that the international community has been waiting (dare I say eagerly?) for this, if anything even more strongly than they did five years ago, when the high probability of a Conservative-led government was the only prospect staying the hands of the big credit rating agencies who would otherwise have severely marked-down Britain's credit rating back in the Spring of 2010.

Now all we have in that respect (by the way) is a sliver shaved off our rating, purely symbolically (it was the minimum possible downgrade) to keep other affected nations happy, and only because of the Eurozone's woes that have impacted a chunk of our trading. In other words, none of that, slight though it was, has been because of any real deficiency here in Britain.

Thus the scene is set for what promises to be a very interesting few years immediately up ahead!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Locked Away in a Cabinet

Those with narrow or slanted views of politics are just as susceptible to reaching incorrect conclusions as anyone else making the same kind of error.

Take this look at Medway Council's democracy, which is probably well-intentioned but reaches the wrong conclusion and indeed falls into the trap that was set  almost fifteen years ago for those who have issues with the way the majority of councils are run nowadays. This is to blame the make-up of the elected Council for any perceived lack of local democracy, thereby missing the actual cause and maintaining the status quo.

The real culprit for any lack of local democracy is the Cabinet-and-scrutiny political system that was introduced and indeed enforced onto the majority of Councils by the then Labour government back in 2001. I know: I was there...

I have said it before, and have known it all along: although it was easy enough to 'sell' to a compliant Labour government (a Conservative one would probably have seen through the ruse and not implemented it), the real – and only – purpose of the Cabinet system was to give Whitehall 'mandarins' more-or-less complete control over the local agenda.

The first thing the change did was to take voting rights on most policy matters away from all Council members who were not in the Cabinet – even the mayor lost those rights. In Medway Council, with (in those days) eighty members and a ten-strong Cabinet – the maximum number allowed, by the way – this meant that seven-eighths of councillors lost those voting rights overnight, on 1 October 2001. I was one of those seventy.

Even items of business that had to be ratified by the Full Council had by then already been discussed, debated and effectively decided by the Cabinet – and it is very difficult to come along after the event and try to oppose them. Indeed, the 'call-in to Council' facility for any Cabinet decision was very rarely applied by the opposition. We kept a record, which I have on file here...

Now, in the only model of the (limited) options offered, this meant the Council Leader chose his own Cabinet. This made sense, because in those days the ruling group had only 38 members, and the opposition – who had nearly always ganged-up to oppose them – had 42. Therefore, had they been given the opportunity to choose the rest of the Cabinet, they'd have stuffed it with their own members and nothing would ever have been approved – everything the Leader proposed would have been opposed. The council would simply have stopped and nothing new would have gone ahead.

If there were any doubt of that having happened given the chance, I witnessed that motivation in operation in every situation where the opposition members could gain their own political advantage from doing so. For example, they voted all the Scrutiny and other committee chairmanships (and the vice-chairmen) for their members, with none at all from the ruling group.

As if that wasn't bad enough in terms of local democracy (although I had no serious issues with it personally, adapting to suit), those opposition chairmen abused their positions in several ways – too long to go into here, though I have covered them in the past, including on my old Councillor website – manipulating as much as they could to suit their own party's ends.

It is to be noted that, when the Scrutiny Committee chairing changed hands to the ruling group, ALL those bad practices ended. The Labour spokesmen boycotted their invitations to pre-meeting briefings and the like, in a sulk, whereas others (Lib Dems and Independents) were at least more concerned with doing their elected jobs than everything having to be geared to their party's own interests.

This of course all helps to show that it is not the specific party that is the problem: it makes little if any difference – with the possible exception of Labour, but that is just in their nature. It is the way the system is designed that allows and (I often think) encourages such practices.

The result is the intended (by the mandarins) centrally-dictated Cabinet agendas, which if you look have only token localism and are essentially the same nationwide. Even the format and content of what goes into all those Plans and Strategies is dictated by Whitehall, while contract letting hardly requires the full Cabinet to decide.

What is the point in paying Portfolio Holders five-figure salaries if they can't even make such decisions themselves, and have to hide behind 'we work as a team' style excuses? There is nothing in a typical Cabinet agenda that is truly from and for the people of the area, only time-wasting dross!

Eric Pickles has offered councils the opportunity to scrap the Cabinet-and-Scrutiny structure, allowing councils to keep any of the benefits (such as summoning and questioning rights of various officials from the likes of the emergency services and health bodies) in the process.

Before this was passed in Parliament, I – and I alone – asked the question at a meeting of the full Medway Council whether they would be taking up this offer. The response I received was not only non-committal, it was sufficiently hostile in tone to tell me that they were not interested in pursuing this – and indeed they haven't done so.

Those in charge are far too comfortable to change now: another trap that was planned from the outset, but that only a few of us realised right from the start. They won't change unless this optional reversal becomes a legal requirement – but, unlike Labour, Conservatives aren't naturally inclined toward imposition unless it is genuinely necessary, so that is unlikely ever to happen.

Thus we end up with an ongoing fairly rigid structure that inevitably (seemingly unavoidably) produces the effects the linked piece points out in its simplistic analysis, with potential agitators wasting their efforts pointing at the wrong culprits. Meanwhile, Sir Humphrey dines with Sir Arnold to report that everything is still going according to plan, and their own positions remain unassailable.

Note that the moral of this story is that only those of us with the insight and maturity to at least tackle the underlying problems that now exist within local democracy have managed to get something concrete on the public record that could prove valuable in what might lie ahead. The Sir Humphrey types continue to dismiss the others as gullible sheep...

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

UKIP – the ZX Spectrum of British Politics

One of the interesting side-effects of the rise and rise of the so-called United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is that they can longer be the simple cult-of-personality outfit thay had all too comfortably slipped into once Nigel Farage had become their leader again.

Those who are familiar with both current and defunct outfits of similar origins – Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas and George Galloway's Respect in particular, though one can include several others including the rump-ends of the old Liberal party and SDP when the Liberal Democrats were formed – will no doubt recall that UKIP was also of this nature until around three years ago.

Then, when anti-Conservative movers and shakers realised that an Ed Miliband-led Labour party was never going to be able to dislodge David Cameron from Number Ten, they began to promote UKIP as they perceived that it was the only feasible alternative, working from the other side of the electoral equation to leech away the Conservative vote, rather than (impossibly) boosting the Labour vote.

How right they have been proven on both counts!

Awkwardly, UKIP was never really structured or even intended to become such a significant force in British politics as it is now having to face up to, and it shows. Quite apart from a number of other issues with the party – which are almost entirely of its own doing and its poor screening of candidates – the whole entity now resembles a Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer with all those add-ons hanging off the sides.

It still has the rubbery keyboard, which is bad enough, but it also has parts of its new self hanging on via electrical connectors alone, and the whole thing is dodgy, unreliable and distinctly intermittent. UKIP has had to bolt things onto its organisation, such as it was, to cope with entering the Big Boys' world. They are not coping very well, and it isn't surprising. It looks from where I sit to have been almost as devastating in practice as the Galactica's last jump in the recent TV series.

They of course will claim that everything is wonderful – just as Sir Clive Sinclair generally maintained about his products (and I have some tales I could tell about this from when we tried selling Sinclair kit for a short period!) which were, frankly, poorly designed, specified and manufactured.

Thus it can be seen that UKIP are in the unusual, perhaps unique, position of having been thrust into their current position, and are therefore not entirely to blame for their inability to handle themselves all that well. Their arrogant attitude, though, is their own doing and has made things a lot worse than they needed to be, it has to be said.

With dwindling support, as evidenced by consistent polling trends during the past six months, they will be lucky to have any seats in the House of Commons this Friday. Even Douglas Carswell could lose his seat in Clacton, though I have consistently said that this is an unlikely scenario. Mark Reckless will probably (and correctly) lose his, and Nigel Farage is unlikely to win the South Thanet seat – though anything could happen, of course!

In the next five years, if Labour change leader to someone at least reasonably competent, those anti-Conservative 'big voices' will then perceive UKIP as a potentially negative influence from their point of view, so will drop tham and they will fade back into obscurity. Perhaps the British electorate might even learn the odd lesson from this period from 2012 to (say) 2016 or so – who knows?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Medway Council Meeting – 23 April 2015

This was the last meeting of the full Medway Council before next month's local and national elections – and it was a strange one indeed.

The first hour was taken up with tributes to non re-standing councillors, two senior members in particular who are proposed to become Honorary Aldermen. That part was fine, though a stumbling Leader of the Council took about three times as long to say his piece as it should have taken.

The real issue stemmed from letting all and sundry from around the Chamber speak to this item. Why? Each political group's leader could have done, but there was no benefit whatsoever in having a dozen other members witter on, including four of the outgoing members. I cannot recall this having been done on equivalent occasions in the past...

Anyway, the big item of actual business was the batch of seventeen public questions, each with a supplementary question. As is usual just before an election, nearly all of these were actually party political questions, asked by candidates in the upcoming local elections here. I recognised the names as soon as the agenda was published, and the style and nature of the seemingly innocuous enough questions gave the game away as well. Of course, it is the (unpublished) supplementaries that are the real questions.

I wasn't the only one to realise the true nature of what had been submitted; and independently of me, another had also worked out that thirteen of the questions had come from local Labour, two from UKIP and one from the Lib Dems. A former local Labour member also disclosed on Twitter during the evening that he had in the past been asked to put his name to pre-scripted questions. It's what they do...

Similarly, questions from members and the two Motions were much the same kind of fare, especially the latter. The first Motion was from Labour, and was obviously nothing more than the latest in their ongoing series of Union-originated motions that relate to national policy, not local matters. With these, always worded to include our area as if to suggest that it is a purely 'local' issue, a little investigation generally reveals that exactly the same thing has been done in other councils by their Labour members,with only the place name changed to suit.

This one was to do with the poor firefighters – and the idea was obviously to use emotional blackmail for these heroes. It was laid on fairly thickly, so no-one who was paying any real attention to the proceedings could have missed it.

The second Motion, from UKIP, was also politically-loaded, and not a good idea at all. It was obviously 'manufactured', one big clue being that old favourite of 'sending a message' to central government as the mover declared. Yes, again it was not a local issue as such, and certainly shouldn't be isolated to one borough anyway. If it had been genuine, it would have been taken to Parliament, not a Council. I have warned of this wheeze in the past, as some readers here will no doubt recall...

In between, we'd had the usual Leader's Report, Overview & Scrutiny activity and a couple of reports. Nothing of great significance happened with any of those. The only noteworthy point, I think, was that several members from all sides complimented the Task Group method that deals with specific policy areas in greater detail than tends to be possible in full committees.

They are, in effect, renamed Working Parties with a few bells and whistles added to their permitted activities. Medway Council has always been very good at doing excellent work within its Task Groups, actually, so I can certainly go along with what the members were saying – even though I was appointed to only two such bodies myself, during my years on the Council so have limited experience of personal involvement. I have seen the outcome from several of them, though, over the years.

I thought the Mayor chaired this meeting particularly well, despite the over-indulgent tributes part (which had obviously been decided beforehand how it was going to be handled) and better than a number of other Mayors I have witnessed running these Council meetings.

It all finished at a little before 2230 hrs, which was earlier than I had expected. The media had been there from the start, though one of the two reporters left about a quarter of an hour before the end. Therefore expect some of what happened this evening to be featured in the local newspapers during the next few days.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Medway Council Elections 2015 – Initial Thoughts

Now that the lists of candidates for the Medway Council elections have been published for the 22 wards here, comprising 55 seats in total, I have been able to firm-up my predictions. However I am not making those public this time, as that information combined with my now-established reputation could give the 'wrong' parties some (small but definite) benefit – and I am certainly not in the business of doing that!

Therefore this is just a collection of some general thoughts that have come to me while going through these 22 'Statements of Persons Nominated', as they are called, which I downloaded from here a few hours ago, shortly after they became available. These are, for some odd reason, in docx form rather than the usual PDF file format. This produces odd effects, such as missing or too-narrow table columns, when read on anything other than the Microsoft Word program, and is thus not 'open' as all local council (and national government) documents are required to be.

Notwithstanding the technical issues, I have been able to work out who is standing for which party (or as an independent), their addresses and where they will appear on the ballot paper.

Regarding addresses, it is interesting to note a greater proportion than usual of candidates not living in the ward where they are standing for election. There is no legal problem with this, and indeed it is possible for a candidate from outside the ward to be at least as good as any other. For example, there are several wards in which I'd probably be an excellent choice if I were to stand there (Princes Park and Strood South spring immediately to mind) – though I am no longer in that business, so no candidate need fear my presence in competition to themselves!

It is true that many of those are so-called 'paper candidates' (or paperless in Lib Dem parlance) who are standing in places they know they haven't a hope of taking from the sitting party. For example, Labour in Hempstead & Wigmore ward, or Conservatives in Chatham Central – or (if they were to be honest with themselves) Green or TUSC in any ward.

Those last two are interesting cases, by the way, as both have put up more candidates here than they have ever done before: TUSC (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition) with one in each ward, so 22 candidates; and the Greens with 13. It is perhaps surprising that such a self-proclaimed growing party as the Greens, who only this week stated in the media that they have more members than UKIP, can't find as many candidates (UKIP have 32).

Printing a ward leaflet for one candidate costs just as much as doing the same for two or three as appropriate, and takes just as much effort to deliver. I suspect it is in reality merely a logistical device to get their General Election material out across the three (well, two and a half) constituencies, as TUSC and the Greens each have the full set of three parliamentary candidates. In this case, TUSC will have the better coverage as their council candidates will of course be keen to deliver and canvass in all those 22 wards...

On the subject of UKIP, to their credit they have managed to put up a full slate of 22 candidates for the nine wards that fall within the Rochester & Strood constituency. Their other two Medway-involved areas have been less successful, though, fielding just ten candidates between them, spread thinly across the other thirteen wards and with 23 places unfilled. Especially bearing in mind that their long-standing area leader has lived for years close to the Watling/Hempstead & Wigmore boundary, one might have expected better coverage in the Gillingham & Rainham wards...

The biggest disappointment, though, is having just eighteen Liberal Democrat candidates. They claim they are going for 'quality rather than quantity', but many of their supporters will not be happy to be unable to cast their vote the way they'd wish, simply because the local party seemingly hasn't bothered to put up any candidates in their ward. This is perhaps most acute in Gillingham North, a three-member ward they held from its inception on the present boundaries but lost seats through party resignations and two former members joining Labour a year or so ago.

Finally, there is just one English Democrat candidate, and there are four Independents also standing, of whom one is a former English Democrat. There are no BNP, Britain First, Respect or any other parties' candidates.

Although it hardly needs stating, just for completeness I can add that – as always – Labour and the Conservatives have a full slate of 55 candidates each.

Overall, there are a huge number of variables in this complex scenario, and still a few unknowns even to me. Most, though, is clear-cut, and I now know the most likely outcome (it hasn't changed for a long time!) with a high probability figure. That, though, will be kept secret this time! Meanwhile, between now and Polling Day, I shall be busy, doing my little bits here and there but mostly behind the scenes, invisibly, just to make sure...

Friday, 10 April 2015

Throwing Money Around

As expected, the upcoming General Election has brought out the perennial policy approaches.

Basically, the right-wing is careful with other people's money, but know when and where to spend for beneficial results to our society, whereas the left-wing are profligate with the population's money that they take in ever-increasing taxes (many of them invisible to the man-in-the-street).

Now, any idiot can use his or her elected position to steal off everyone else and then fling that money at causes that suit their own ambitions, their cronies or their future electoral success. I could list numerous examples of this, from the Police and Crime Commissioner to the former Government's Ministers, and various points in between – and beyond (e.g. the EU).

A perhaps surprisingly useful 'litmus test' – surprising, that is, in what it ends up revealing – is spending on the National Health Service (NHS).

Now, there's a whole debate to be had on whether we should even have an NHS in its current form, and many with knowledge of medicine's current needs might say with justification that – given the choice – they wouldn't start from here, but we do have to work with what we've got today.

On this topic, there are those rabid Lefties and the like who are obsessed with public ownership of the entire NHS, and are – erroneously – critical of the present government for 'privatising' the NHS. In fact, only six percent (and a bit) is in private or charity (third sector) hands, and of that around five percent was transferred by the preceding Labour government. Only one percent or so has followed that during the past nearly five years. Oops...

In the present election campaign, though, it is the Liberal Democrats who are repeatedly pushing their policy of throwing money at the NHS as if that is the way to improve the service.

It isn't.

Money is only one of the means to an end, and the present Conservative-driven methodology of modestly increasing spending year-on-year – to remove the excuse of 'under-funding' or 'cuts' as the supposed cause of inadequate performance – while improving ways of working.and cutting out waste, is the right way to go. I have witnessed so much of both sides and their vastly different philosophies over the decades, including the 22 years I worked in the Civil Service, that I have become well aware of the virtues and demerits of each side of the argument.

Interestingly, it was Labour who had backed themselves into a corner through their vast overspending during their time in office that resulted in their cluelessness necessitating actual cuts in NHS spending. As I indicated above, this would provide an oh-so-convenient excuse for the dropping of standards within the (heavily-Unionised) NHS and, in effect, a form of blackmail to the government of the day to up spending on the NHS hugely. It would backfire and people would be harmed in the process.

It might sound somewhat Buddhist in nature, but 'the middle path' is the right way to deal with this whole topic – and there are others that are similar, for that matter. Apply intelligence and insight, not dogma, laziness or vested interests, and the NHS can continue well into the future, adapting and improving, staying relevant and valuable.

Take any other path and its future becomes highly uncertain...