Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum - report

Last night I attended the Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum – a three-monthly meeting to allow the people of Swale to meet and ask questions of their councillors and other council representatives.

The forum is a good idea – just a shame that it wasn’t very well advertised as the room was full of councillors and representatives but hardly any members of the public. I only found out about it through a Lib Dem Members Newsletter.

But they didn’t miss much. The first half of the session was very much back patting, ‘aren’t we doing well’ etc. Two senior policemen were particularly pleased with themselves which did not impress me. I’ve had to report anti-social behaviour several times including eggs and stones thrown at the house and promised a visit by a PCSO on three occasions. And gangs of kids regularly congregate in the road with never a police uniform in sight.

The walk from Sittingbourne station through the town centre after dark to get to the meeting past several characters was a nervy experience in itself – although to be fair I did witness one very brave policeman taking on an unruly family who had overdone the lager (and language) somewhat.

So why didn’t I say this at the meeting? Because the chairman only allowed questions at the end – by which time of course the meeting had moved on. One lady, more formidable than I, made good points about communication regarding hate crime and got I felt rather patronising responses.

Things much improved after that – with an interesting activity over voluntary services, a look at spending on certain projects, and a discussion on the regeneration plan – so the whole evening was not a waste of time. It was all very interesting to witness.

I will be back in January - and I will try to encourage more ordinary people to attend.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

'Global warming myth' myth - letter to Sunday Telegraph

This is a letter to the Sunday Telegraph following a long article by Christopher Booker who regularly writes a column disputing climate change etc. I put it here as they are unlikely to publish it.

'Dear Editor'

'Interesting article by Christopher Booker - but I have one question for him.'

'Earlier this year we had a heavy snowfall. Kids aged 12 and 13 were very excited because they 'have never seen snow before'. It was all gone in three days.'

'When I was their age in the 1970s we used to get at least two or three weeks snow every year, with football matches regularly postponed and journeys to school and work disrupted.'

'My parents have told me of the epic winters they used to suffer in the 1940s and 1950s in London - week upon week of heavy snow and cold ice. 1947 and 1963 being just the two most famous examples.'

'Now I am not a scientist, so don't understand all the jargon, but my question is simply this. If global warming is a myth, what happened to those winters and why don't we get as much snow any more?'

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the List of Approved Candidates!

The big news this week is that I have been successful in getting on the list of Approved Parliamentary Candidates for the Liberal Democrats. This means I can now apply to seats to run for parliament.

Last week I was in Eastbourne for a day of evaluation sessions - it was hard going and I thought I had just run short - so was delighted to discover, while checking emails on a borrowed lap top in a pub in Bayeux (don't ask) that I was successful.

So now to find a seat to contest and I am hoping to get the chance to be the candidate for my local constituency, Sittingbourne and Sheppey. This is of course up to my local party, and we meet for our AGM next month.

Our current MP, Derek Wyatt (Labour) is stepping down and the Labour candidate will be announced next month. The strong front runner is the Conservative Gordon Henderson who only has to overturn a majority of 79. There will probably be a Loony running (or I should say another Loony as UKIP and BNP might also be up for it).

Anyway, it should be fun. Watch this space.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bayeux and back

A break away from the fray. Mary and I have just got back from a holiday at the French town of Bayeux in Normandy.

This was a chance for me to follow my interest in military history and tour the D-Day beaches. We went on two one-day tours, one for the American sector and the other covering the British, and we saw a lot and heard a lot of stories. While we were there we saw the Bayeux tapestry, the cathedral and various museums as well as speaking some basic French and eating too much food.

The most moving part was walking around the Bayeux War Cemetery and reading some of the inscriptions from loved ones. Most were British from the Normandy campaign June-August 1944 and I guessed that Tony Blair had never been there - as anyone who reads those gravestones would never choose to launch a war.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sittingbourne Labour bans men!

Letter to East Kent Gazette

I was surprised to see that the local Labour party are excluding all men from consideration as candidates in defence of Derek Wyatt's parliamentary seat. This is simply discrimination - and insulting to both men and women.

We all want to see more women in politics but the way to do this is to encourage more people overall to get involved and to join whichever political party is closest to their own views.

In the Liberal Democrats we have many talented and able women both at national and local level, who got there through their own skills and abilities. I am sure there are talented women in the Labour party too, but to say they need special rules because they can't compete with the men seems insulting.

Perhaps as it is unlikely that Labour will successfully defend this seat (the majority over the Tories is 79) they are looking for a fall guy (or, rather, a fall girl) so that the 'men' can come back next time round.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vicky Pollard - Conservative minister for Europe

"Yeah, but, no, but, yeah, but, no, but" etc

As their former leaders know, the Conservative party love a good punch-up over Europe. It's almost worth seeing them in government again to witness the fun we saw in the mid-90s. One minute they want to be 'at the heart of Europe', then they are Eurosceptics trying to 'save the pound', now a beautifully poised fudge. (To be fair, we can't blame David Cameron for being vague. He only has to keep everyone quiet and he will be walking into Number 10 - heaven help us).

The Lisbon Treaty process is now two signatures away from completion. I was in favour of a referendum and would have voted 'yes'. The European Union is a bureaucratic nightmare, a total mess, and the treaty goes some way (only a little though) to clearing that up. But a public debate would at least make people more aware of the pros and cons.

What about the Conservatives? Having moved their MEPs to the far fringes of European affairs, they have now promised, after ratification of Lisbon, to 'not let matters rest there' (whatever that means?).

The Lisbon treaty has set out provisions for countries to leave the EU completely - so why doesn't David Cameron promise a referendum on that? Do we want to remain members of the European Union? Then what will their position be - yeah, no, yeah, no?