Monday, 30 August 2010

Tory war with Kent Police

The local press have lambasted the Rochester & Strood Conservative Association and rubbished the campaign to re-elect a Conservative in the ward.

Local Tories are now falling over themselves to attack our bobbies on the beat after the Police rejected claims from previous Medway Conservative leadership-challenger Cllr Craig MacKinlay, that Councillor David Craggs was forced to resign, after serving less then two weeks on Medway Council.

According to the Alan Watkins Gun Wharf Briefing the story is thus

"[Cllr Craggs] quit after being told by his bosses at Kent Police that he could not be a Councillor and a Special Constable at the same time. That advice has been disputed by Conservatives, who claim Mr Craggs was bullied into resigning."

Very odd therefore that David Craggs gave up his Council job only to remain in an organisation which had 'bullied' him out.

Something does not add up.

It is now clear that the Association did not undertake appropriate levels of scrutiny on eligibility on candidate selection. A simple shut book case which serves to highlight why Medway Tories shambolic management proves why, if they can not manage themselves, why they should be kicked out of power.

The police have responded to the hyper partisan press release from River Ward Tories and have denied acting inappropriately. They have insisted that they told Mr Craggs that:

"When the force became aware of his candidature we agreed with Mr Craggs that he would cease operational duty with Kent Police and he has not resumed operational duty with the force since his election

This was to allow him to make a personal decision as to which role he continued with.

It is entirely untrue that Kent Police has tried to interfere in the democratic process. We are trying to prevent any perception that policing could be politicised."

The Tories should accept some responsbility for this situation and immediately pay the £10,000 election bill for the by-election?

The Conservative Party has been undermining the Police since taking office in May. From cutting police numbers, to the overt politicisation through unwanted directly elected commisioners to cuts in Magistrate services and an active policy to encourage short-sentences for career criminals.

Labour candidate John Jones writing to local residents this weeekend emphasised his anti-crime credentials. As a member of the local PACT Committee he will work with the police and community to reduce crime and not politicise operational independence of the Police.

In the letter to residents he stated that:

"Let's be clear of the reason, whatever it turns out to be in detail, is because the Tories have made a mess of their arrangements which will now cost the taxpayer many thousands of pounds. I respect former Cllr Craggs for wanting to continue his long service as a special constable but think the Conservative Association should have got the issue of eligibility sorted out beforehand

Much more importantly the problems that we all face and thing things you have asked your councillor to get on with, remain the same. I know because I have been able to speak to so many of you about your concerns."

It is time we worked with the Police to reduce crime and not politicise and undermine their operational independence.

Improving Health - Cut Smoking

Half of Medway's smokers will die from cancer, todays Medway Messenger has reported.

Despite the negativism and opportunism of libertarian and right wing bloggers, the local media has come out in support of this blog and government-backed and NHS campaigns to 'ciggy-bust' our way out of a cul-de-sac of health inequality.

According to the 277-page report, entitled Investing in Health, it shows that the chief killers in Medway will be lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer. Alcoholism will also cause more deaths from the disease.

Individuals who live in Luton & Wayfield (the ward this blogger hopes to represent), Strood South and Twydall have a higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer, but incidents in the more affluent Rochester West ward are the lowest for Medway, says the report.

The report has highighted the success of previous programmes of government to reduce the levels of cancer by pro-active intervention. The rate in Medway remains significantly higher than elsewhere in south east England.

The report makes starkly clear that

"Fifty per cent of all current smokers are likely to be killed by their smoking habits"

The main causes of many illnesses are lifestyle excess; including smoking, obesity, alcohol and physical inactivity.

The report also has some interesting statistics on other health indicators including

- By 2030 more than half the population will be over 40, increasing the risk of diabetes which currently affects 12,583 residents. Though the number un-diagnosed may be signficantly higher.
- Tuberculosis affects an average of 19 people a year in Medway
- There are 8,033 people with coronary heart disease and 148 people with HIV

This report starkly highlights why health prevention and proactive government education programmes are very much necessary.

To simply put your head in the sand is deeply irresponsible. This report highlights starkly why campaigns like 'ciggy-busters' should be encouraged, where they are legal and awareness raising.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Quote of the Day

Cllr MacKinlay told YourMedway that

“We are entirely vindicated on all counts – it is Kent Police who are spectacularly wrong. As regards costs of another election, let us not forget it was Labour who forced this election by the resignation of Bill Esterson and they who petitioned for it, local Conservatives did not cause the election.”

It seems for Tories - Je ne regrette rien...

NHS Direct to be scrapped

Another promise broken Dave?

The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has let slip that the government is planning to scrap NHS Direct, the hugely popular medical telephone helpline.

Chatham is one of the major centres for NHS Direct employing a large number of staff in its Quayside House in the Chatham Dockyard.

The Conservatives promised in the election not to re-organise the NHS but have since made a significant u-turn with expensive structural changes leading to cuts in services and medical headcount.

While touring Basingstoke and North Hampshire hospital on Thursday, Andrew Landsley revealed that the phone service – which this year cost £123m to run – is to be axed.

Until Lansley's apparent indiscretion, the official government line was that a new free telephone service, NHS 111, would not replace existing local telephone services or NHS Direct but might do so in the longer term if a pilot scheme is successful.

The Department of Health has confirmed that NHS 111 would replace NHS Direct within three years. The new service is undergoing trials in County Durham and Darlington.

"When NHS 111 is rolled out nationally, it will replace the NHS Direct 0845 4647 telephone number," the department said yesterday. People can dial 111 to get health advice and information about out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres, emergency dentists and 24-hour chemists.

Although the new number is free, it is expected to be far cheaper to run than NHS Direct because it is likely to employ fewer medically trained staff. The department said it did not know how much NHS 111 would cost but admitted that it had a responsibility to save money.

"It is important that we deliver the best possible service for the public and, in the economic climate, deliver the best value for money," said a spokeswoman.

The NHS has been told to find up to £20bn of savings by 2014, even though the health service is due to see rises in its budget in the coming years.

According to the government, one way to cut costs is to hire cheaper staff. Forty per cent of NHS Direct's staff are trained nurses, but anyone dialling 111 will speak to non-specialist "call advisers" who have completed a 60-hour course rather than a degree.

The course, which is the same as that taken by 999 call operators, includes "specific education around anatomy, physiology and clinical features of injury and illness to enable them to provide a high-quality assessment of symptoms," said the health department spokeswoman. She added that difficult calls will be referred to a doctor or clinical supervisor.

Cuts to clinical staff in favour of non-medically trained people. A risky strategy which could harm patients.

River Ward Statement

The news that Cllr David Craggs resigned suddenly due to a conflict of interest with his role as a Special Constable has landed on very hot ground indeed, but it now appears that the resignation was unneccessary.

The press statement today by
River Ward Conservatives has however clarified the resignation, and indeed is quick to point the blame onto the Kent Police.

As below:

"Before the election they had confirmed that there were no rules to preclude a volunteer special constable from being a local councillor, indeed there are two Conservative MPs and one Labour MP who serve as special constables, whilst being at the heart of the law making process at Westminster. Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering is also a SITTING COUNCILLOR on Kettering Borough Council. Magistrates are similarly allowed to become local councillors and vice versa, there are no restrictions.

Such was the intense pressure put on David that he felt he had to resign from the post of a paid councillor in order to carry on as an unpaid and volunteer police officer, a position he has held for 17 years. That letter of resignation was delivered to the Acting Chief Executive of Medway Council yesterday at 11.00am. Acting upon the resignation letter, an appropriate ‘Notice of vacancy’ in River Ward was issued by Medway Council, in accordance with electoral law. Within hours, and subsequent to legal advice already obtained by Rochester and Strood Conservative Association, the Kent Police Authority confirmed that there is no restriction in a special constable being a councillor.

Kent Police were incorrect, and arguably unlawful. They had even threatened disciplinary action against David Craggs. Because the statutory ‘Notice of vacancy’ has now been issued, acting upon David Craggs resignation letter, the electoral cycle is started and cannot be retracted, despite the resignation now clearly being unnecessary, based on wrong advice and arguably extracted under duress."

Labour has led the charge today calling for the local Conservative Association to repay the cost of the byelection in full in light of the waste of time and money on another byelection.

Despite the pressure on the candidate, the people of River deserve better then this.

The time lime of events now goes as thus. It seems to be that RSSCA had advice prior to the election from one source that it was OK for David Craggs to be a Councillor, but then received contradictory information post-election from Kent Police HR / Personnel on the specific force eligibility, stating it was not because of established policy. The Councillor then resigned his position, before the advice was received from the Kent Police Authority that it was not illegal for Cllr Craggs to be Councillor but presumably individual forces have the right to follow individual procedure.

Confused? You betcha...

After reading, re-reading and then reading the press statement thrice time; finally it made sense. Or has it!? No, it seems the Medway Conservatives have omitted a great chunk of time, noticeably the period between David Craggs being selected and then being elected.

Now it does get serious folks because despite the verbage there do remain some major questions here that still need to be answered.

The Conservative statement made clear that the candidate had received confirmation of eligibility prior to the election which then changed. Who confirmed his original eligibility; the Kent Police, Kent Police Authority or another third-party?

What was the legal advice received by RSSCA prior to the KPA advice. If that advice was that it was legal, was that communicated to Cllr Craggs prior to his resignation?

If the advice was to suggest it was legal, why did the Councillor not decide to appeal internally, rather then resign his Council position? Was this avenue explored?

Why has it taken so long (13 days it would appear) to get confirmation from the Kent Police Authority and when was this advice sought by Medway Council / RSSCA? Post or pre-election?

Did the RSSCA or any of its officers make any direct approach, not via the candidate, to Kent Police post-selection but pre-election on eligibility?

Individual Forces are entitled to different positions on eligibility and whilst the rights and wrongs of this can be explored, they are simply not relevent to the key point which was David Craggs was ineligible to be both a Councillor and a Special Constable prior to his election. The candidate should have known his eligibility before he stood and was absolutely sure of this position. Obviously, if he was given poor advice then we should all know the source.

I agree though with the statement that it is a regressive policy being enforced by Kent Police and think it should be repealed.

The candidate and RSSCA should have made absolutely clear with all parties prior to the election that his standing was allowed. This ambiguity should not have happened 13 days aftet the election.

Blame of course can be spread. But in the end, the fact is we have a byelection and it is a Tory that has had to stand down because facts were not confirmed in advance in the appropriate manner. Understood people took assurances at face-value as anyone would. But the fact remains that in politics, if you make mistakes like this, you have to suffer the consequences.

This is a total mess.


If the above is accurate however Kent Police now stand to be slammed.

This is a totally unacceptable way to act with an individual who has given years of service. It is absolutely discusting behaviour of the highest order and heads should roll immediately for this outrage. The Police stand not only to have embarrassed and harmed a serving officer but also to have caused massive local instability and harm to residents, who once again have to go through an election process.

The Police need to respond immediately.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

River Voters snubbed by Total Tory shambles.

The news that Cllr David Craggs, recently elected Councillor for River Ward, has suddenly resigned has sent shockwaves through local politics with campaigners across the political spectrum aghast at how the Conservatives could have mismanaged so spectacularly.

The prospect of another by-election looms over the horizon again within the next 34 days. A prospect which will anger local residents and indeed stretch the nerves of Tory voters across the ward.

The Medway Tory shambles will also send shockwaves across the region because of the overt manner in which the campaign was fought on ConservativeHome. The victory by David Craggs was tweeted by dozens of dribbling Tory supporters desperate to parade the trophy of a seat, once Labour, that had moved to the Conservatives on what was a widely predicted result given by pundits with the national state of play.

Fawning Tory twitterers who now stand silent.

Musings from Medway made particular note to inform Tim Montgomerie and the ConHome team of the resignation as soon as it was announced. The ConHome team made a specific and 'unusual' request to the Tory grassroots across the region to campaign for a Tory win in River ward and it posted several articles including the result. Unlike the resignation of Cllr Bill Esterson, ConHome has made the decision not to inform its readership of the resignation of Cllr Craggs.

Cllr David Craggs is a decent man and as this blog has stated previously, would have made a strong Councillor. However, personal ties aside, the fact River voters are to have another by-election after such a short period of time makes a mockery of the Council. Voters deserve transparency to ensure they understand the reasons for this resignation. A bland statement of contrition is not good enough for the electorate, for campaigners across all parties, Council tax-payers and Council staff who sat at polling stations and at the count.

Surely and obviously, stronger attempts should have been made to clarify the position before he was nominated. Blaming the police or others weeks after he was nominated indicates that not enough ground work, or pressure was placed on a resolution to this key question during the election.

The Council have seemingly become involved which raises questions about why the ruling group have had to use public resource on a party political issue. Candidate selection and eligibility is a party matter for pre-election screening not post-election wrangling.

The simple fact is that each force operates different eligibility criteria and these would have been very clear on standing.

This blogger can not see how there can be complications unless perhaps Cllr Craggs stood knowing that Kent Police had a policy of ineligibility, and was wrangling to change it after his election using the fact that the national police position is more ambiguous.

Blame can be apportioned to both sides in theory, but if the eligibility was clear prior to David Craggs nomination meeting then the blame lies with Medway Conservatives for not refusing his candidacy.

This by-election is an expense on the Council tax payer to the tune of £5-10,000 which could otherwise be spent on local services; caring for the elderly, cleaning parks and filling potholes. That is a public outrage.

Because of the cost and inconvenience with the electorate the Tories need to answer immediately the following questions and in public

1) Was any attempt made by Medway Conservatives/ RSCCA/David Craggs to clarify in advance of selection with Kent Police Personnel department on whether Cllr Craggs was eligible. If so, what was the response? If they were not consulted, why not?

2) Was a question asked of the candidate at the selection meeting and candidate hustings on eligibility to be a police officer and Councillor? If so, what was the response. If not, why was this question not considered necessary of the candidate?

3) If the candidate was considered ineligible was the candidate asked to step down prior to the election?

4) When were the Council informed of the problem on eligibility and how much has the Council spent on legal fee's, from tax payers money, to consult and engage the police on this issue? As a candidate will have to sign a nomination form on candidate application, did the candidate fully understand the position and did the nominators of the candidate have awareness of any conflict of interest?

5) Are the Tories reflecting on this bungled process to ensure such a thing never happens again? What internal processes are being introduced?

Medway Tory Councillors are a running joke across the area. From the Councillor calling for single-mums to be sterilised, to the Councillor caught kerb-crawling, to the Councillor making Irish racist slurs, to three Councillors parking in disabled parking bays to the Councillor who stated that dead bodies should be raided for precious metals. A long line of Conservatives Councillors who have Medway over the last four years.

The Tory hypocrisy over the selection of the Labour candidate for Luton & Wayfield who polled well given the Tory national poll lead, serves to highlight why this blogger feels Tories may do well to keep their own house in order before moralising on the opposition.

No one party has a monopoly on talent, but the Tories locally have had so many incidences of gross incompetence that the question now remains, how long left?

This reflects very badly on Medway Conservatives and serves to highlight for all voters why this incompetent, inept and bungling bunch of pygmies should be removed from office and soon.

Update - 27/08/2010.

ConservativeHome have now very generously updated the readership on the position. Noted that it took less then 6 hours for the result to be published and 46 hours for the resignation but good on them. Sometimes fair is fair.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Winter Fuel Allowance Threat

It appears that the coalition Liberal Democrat and Conservative Government is considering cutting Winter Fuel Allowances for the elderly.

According to the Daily Telegraph:

“it has learnt that ministers have resolved to increase the qualifying age for the annual payment from 60 to at least 66. Talks are under way about an even bigger rise.

The basic winter fuel payment, made to more than 12 million people, will also be cut by £50 for new recipients and £100 for the oldest.”

Nick Clegg has dismissed the piece as 'irresponsible speculation' but it is clear that the issue is being discussed and at length in the corridors of power.

The cut in Winter Fuel Allowance would be a vindication of the Liberal Democrat manifesto position of slashing the allowance, though the Liberal Democrats made clear that the cut to the allowance of those between 60-64, would see increases in Winter Fuel Allowance to disabled people.

The Winter Fuel Allowance was heavily debated in the General Election 2010, where Labour led the charge that the Tories would cut the allowance.

David Cameron made his position on the Winter Fuel Allowance absolutely starkly clear:

Cameron :…Stop his candidates from lying about Conservative policy. Glad I got that off my chest, it’s something I feel very, very, strongly about.

Q: Just to be clear, you will keep benefits, but you will not change them in any way. You will not means test, you will not change the criteria?

Cameron: We will keep what we inherit in all of those important areas. All of the things Labour has been saying are complete and utter lies.

Pretty Definitive. If the coalition were to cut the Winter Fuel Allowance it would be a massive two-fingers to pensioners across Medway.

Many Conservative MPs in Medway spoke about the Winter Fuel Allowance whilst in opposition.

Tracey Crouch MP spoke eloquently about the affect of government changes to the allowance on the 25th April 2008, where she attacked the then Labour Government for changes to the allowance. If her government were to scrap the allowance for the same 60-64 year olds this would represent a slap in the face to those she sought to represent only two years ago.

Mark Reckless MP also campaigned during the election to safeguard the Winter Fuel Allowance. On his blog he confirmed a 'personal promise' that 'I will protect your Winter Fuel Payment' as part of a piece on David Cameron's Pledge to Pensioners. He accused Labour of scaremongering on cuts to Winter Fuel allowance.

So two Tory MPs who would honourably oppose the cut to Winter Fuel Allowance it is presumed?

This blogger will be watching our MPs very very closely indeed on this issue because it goes to the heart of looking after the most vulnerable in our community.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Australia Votes

Some choice cuts from the Australian Election...

The election is apparently too close to call with the New Labor Party under Welsh-born Julia Gillard v London-born, Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott is standing for the Liberal Party. Not lost is the irony that in Australia this is actually the Conservative Party equivalent. It is all in the name...

The Liberal Party is also in coalition with the Australian Nationals, who are the equivalent in lunacy of the Scottish & Welsh Nationalists.

The only other major party is the Australian Green Party who occupy the ground to the left of Labor. They are widely predicted to support Labor in a coalition if they do well.

Here are some choice cuts: Firstly the

Liberal Party:

Personal attacks from the Liberal Party... backstabber, harsh words. Designed for cinema or quick TV adverts. Short, sharp, snappy...

Comedy capers. South Park-esque and is actually an official PEB. Happy bunch those Liberal activists. This PEB was designed for the internet... its a viral attack add.

Is this supposed be a Labor voter down-under? Apparently this man is a pop star! Are the Liberals trying to portray Angry Andersen as a key switcher? Something of the 'Joe the Plumber' about him...

Labor Party

Personal attack. Labor strategy is character attack; similar to the anti Michael Howard approach in 2005. Abbott was a former Liberal Minister who cut health, similar to Howard who cut Police. This add is interesting as the presentation of cuts is likely to feature in future Labour Party PEBs in the UK. Expect similar to this in future elections for UK.

Looks like the economy, schools and immigration are the issues. Wow, are we talking policy. This PEB has the hint of 'governing party' about it. This PEB was released when Labor was initially in the lead.

Typical Labor Attack add more recent. Policy substance. Note the Forward not Back symbolism. Looks like they have taken some lessons from 2005 in UK.

Australia Future not Back. Similar to the UK Election in 2005 where its a choice between an old Liberal figure with a dated ideology and a forward future with Labor. Clear juxtapose; forward not back.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Kingsnorth Resurrected?

Despite the victory last year by local activists against the expansion of Kingsnorth Power station, it appears that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Government has once again showed its total and utter duplicity and dishonesty.

The coalition is watering down a commitment to tough new environmental emissions standards, resurrecting the very real possibility of the return of dirty coal-fired power stations, including at our very own Kingsnorth.

This blog supported Green organisations and local campaigners during the anti-Kingsnorth campaign because it did not believe that the science of sequestration had been tested or proven on the scale required for Kingsnorth. In addition, this blog raised the very real concern of air quality and the fact that Medway already suffers from poor quality air, but would only get worse if an expanded dirty coal power station was situated nearby.

Green groups are aghast that a flagship policy called for in opposition by both Lib Dems and Tories, and which they last year tried to force on the Labour government, will now not be implemented in the coalition's first energy bill to be published this year.

This is a bare-faced lie given to Liberal Democrat supporters. Local PPCs and MPs made political hay out of the issue and even attended the event. The same anti-Kingsnorth Lib Dems are now silent. Disgraceful behaviour which shows opportunism at its worst.

The criticism of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative commitment to green issues follows news last week that nature reserves could be sold off as countryside protection measures also bear the brunt of budget cuts in the Department for Environment.

Introducing a so-called "environmental performance standard" (EPS) for power companies would have restricted greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas plants and encouraged companies wishing to build to use more efficient technology.

The introduction of an EPS was personally championed by David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg when in opposition; their opposition to Kingsnorth became something of a cause célèbre – and even features in the coalition agreement – but was opposed by energy companies and Tory backbenchers.

The chief executive at one coal-plant operating company warned that the UK's renewable energy technology – which would be used to help new plants meet the target – was too undeveloped to make the EPS feasible.

Now government sources confirm they will not be bringing forward legislation in the autumn and will instead spend the summer working on "the larger picture". They will open a consultation on the idea in the autumn with the results being presented to parliament as a white paper in the new year.

Green campaigners believe this is noncommittal for a policy both parts of the coalition said could be implemented immediately when in opposition.

They believe a delay in the introduction of the standard until next year – with a few years for the legislation to pass through the house and for it to be set up – raises the possibility of new coal-fire power stations slipping through the system.

The news comes as
more than 14,000 people have objected to plans for a similar new coal-fired power station at Hunterston in Ayrshire

Greenpeace energy campaigner, Joss Garman, said:

"David Cameron made the introduction of new rules to stop the most polluting power stations one of his flagship green policies, and Nick Clegg helped ensure it was a key part of the coalition agreement.

Both Lib Dem and Conservative MPs voted for the introduction of such a measure just a few months ago, and if they U-turn on this and fail to put this measure into their new energy law, how can they claim to be the greenest government ever?"

This blog will continue to oppose any new Kingsnorth proposal until the science behind Carbon sequestration can be proven.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Shame as Youth Unemployment Rockets

The number of long-term young unemployed people has doubled in ten local authorities across the UK, with Medway (+158 per cent), West Lothian (+121 per cent) and South Ayrshire (+120 per cent) experiencing the sharpest increases. Medway is now the worst area of increase in youth unemployment in the United Kingdom.

The TUC analysis of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) data shows that the number of young people claiming the dole for over six months has increased by 21 per cent in the last year to reach 103,230 in June 2010.

However the number of 18-24 year olds claiming JSA represents less than a third of the total number of young people out of work for over six months, which reached 338,000 between March and May 2010.

Southampton (-62 per cent), Stirling (-46 per cent) and Halton (-44 per cent) have experienced the sharpest falls in long-term youth unemployment levels over the last year.

The rise can now be directly blamed on successive government policies. With unemployment figures showing a further rise in long-term unemployment, and the Bank of England set to reduce its quarterly growth forecasts, it is now time that the Conservative Government accept that its overly aggressive language on deficit reduction will impact consumer confidence and is likely to harm the recovery. Sentiment, a rare commodity, is flagging.

The rise in youth unemployment are a warning that deep and early spending cuts, before the private sector has recovered, will only hurt our young people more.

Medway has suffered in part by falling aspiration. The Conservative closure of the dockyard and the cuts to education budgets through the 1980s and 1990s left not only a generation of unemployed but a legacy which remains to this day, where pockets of the town remain hotspots for worklessness. This culture was embedded under Thatcher and has remained stubbornly entrenched ever since. The closure of the Dockyard, a major employer, has not been matched since. Low-skilled workers remain at the mercy of cyclical economic trends and a lack of industrial blue-collar work and the closure of military bases has led to serious problems.

The proximity of Universities and improvement in education is the solution for future generations which is why it is key that per pupil funding is maintained.

According to the TUC,

'Young people were hit particularly hard by the recession and with the Government focusing on spending cuts, rather than getting people back into work, they may not fare much better during the recovery.

'Previous investment in employment schemes helped to keep many thousands of young people off benefits and in paid work. But having made an early decision to scrap the £1.2 billion Future Jobs Fund and the Young Person's Guarantee, the Government has yet to announce similarly well-funded support to get people back into decent paid work. Young people struggling for work this summer should be very concerned by the Government's silence.'

Tory polices are only making matters worse. Medway Council has been forced to scrap the Future Jobs Fund and other mechanisms to reduce youth unemployment and it is this bloggers concern that young people across Medway now face a Conservative tripple-whammy. Not only are the aggressive cuts leading to sluggish growth, risk of double-dip and reduced employment, but the Conservatives are also cutting the benefits of those seeking work, and it is cutting the public sector staff who are employed to offer counsel and advice.

Yvette Cooper warned of the cuts to come:

The Big Society is a big idea. But it risks being seen as a slap in the face to hundreds of young people. It's the economy stupid and at present the Tories have over-egged the downside and risk sluggish growth.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A Coup 'what if'

The Tory win in River Ward and the news that local government selections for the Conservatives are nearing conclusion will no doubt be on the mind of our current leader of the Council, Cllr Rodney Chambers.

Cllr Rodney Chambers, a patrician one-nation type Conservative, has been in charge for years of a Tory group that despite the constant snipes, has largely benefited from the largesse passed onto it by the previous Labour Government. These moderate Tories are struggling, and it is rumoured that there is a genuine unhappiness at having to cut services amongst the leadership. A sense of frustration that not all has been achieved and that Medway deserved better from government.

The election of Cllr Craggs on Thursday now puts an early coup very much on the agenda it is this bloggers belief. As previously commented, the Tory selection meetings have been busy picking a new type of Conservative Councillor. Recognising the names, it seems that the libertarian-Thatcherite type are very much in the ascendency. The 'wets' as they were once termed are now on the decline. With squabbles seen in Peninsula and seats across Rochester & Strood it is very much evident to most, that change is coming.

Change incidentally which will see the Conservative Group lurch to the right.

But when?

The coup plotters, who rumours indicate, have previously harboured ambitions for leadership, have time to consider their position. They could act over the summer period, so ensuring a period of transition and a clean manifesto break with this current moderate Conservative administration, which has failed and gerrymandered resource away from key areas in Rochester, Strood and Chatham.

They can take over now, embed a new policy agenda, take some populist lines and fight to hold-the-line in May 2011. Of course key supporters will have the benefit of safe Tory wards, so should only loose a few seats next year, which ironically will only aid in the consolidation of power. The concern of course is should one of the plotters come from one of those marginal seats, they could very much be at risk. However, the election of this type of Tory Administration in a right wing manifesto, in a local ballot will also give the plotters some kind of democratic legitimacy and before next year, key leadership candidates could undertake the 'chicken run' which to non-politico's, is the flight of 'Council Cabinet holders' and 'leading Councillors' to safer wards. It is a process common-place in other areas.

Putting pressure on other selections in Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham is far easier from a position of strength. These areas would be the weaker cousins of a new administration.

Cllr Chambers will now be looking to his legacy as leader and the 'politics' of being seen to go on his own terms. He must now be considering his position and will be aware that he can go now, on a electoral high, and with a semblance of having picked his own time to leave, or suffer the humility of perhaps being purged out next year in a coup, should Labour gain seats in the next election. Given the tightness of the polls and comments from Government Ministers on the sly to journalists, the Coalition is expecting a rough time of it early next year. Labour only needs a small swing in the national polls and we would pick up a number of wards on small swings.

This blogger is of course speculating and putting his proverbial finger in the wind. But a bright person can look at the situation and perhaps pose a potential 'what if' then it must be on the minds of those even brighter and closer to the action.

We will know soon enough. The window will close shortly and this blogger will go back to challenging the current administration of Cllr's Jarrett and Chambers.

Will they blink or will they go to kitchen draw. We will find out...

Friday, 13 August 2010

Tories to cut Military Helicopters

The country's helicopter fleet is facing 20 per cent cuts as the Ministry of Defence carries out Treasury demands for savings, the Evening Standard has reported tonight.

The Army, RAF and Navy are to be slashed by Dr Fox as he fails to defend his department from David Cameron and George Osborne cut's agenda.

A secret internal MoD memo has revealed that Defence Secretary Liam Fox is demanding savings of £3.96 billion across rotary wing aircraft in the Army, Royal Navy and RAF.

Among a string of options drafted by officials is the scrapping of the entire new £1.7 billion Lynx Wildcat fleet, the phasing out of Sea Kings and the “deletion” of the Puma fleet.

The confidential paper submitted to the Strategic Defence and Security Review shows that other helicopters facing reductions in numbers are Chinooks and Merlins.

The helicopter cuts emerged as the Defence Secretary today underlined how much pressure the MoD was under to meet the Government's drive to reduce the national deficit. It brings back memories locally of the Conservative closure of the Chatham Dockyard which decimated the local community, and whose legacy, still remains in joblessness locally.

The plans for deep cuts – part of wider 10-20 per cent cuts to the MoD budget – have infuriated military chiefs who battled hard to get their budgets up for operations in Afghanistan.

Hypocrites, David Cameron and Dr Fox also repeatedly criticised Gordon Brown and Labour for failing to provide the armed forces with the helicopters they needed but they have now shown the true two-faced nature of the government.

The strategic defence review is set to be completed by next month, ahead of the October spending review. It is predicted to fundamentally undermine the military and will stretch the military covenant to breaking point.

Dr Fox is at war with the Prime Minister and Chancellor who want to cut funding for the military even further.

River Ward Result

The votes cast were as follows, in order of position:

CRAGGS David George (Conservative) – 617 votes (44·6%, +5·6%)
JONES John Alun Charles (Labour) – 544 votes (39·4%, -0·7%)
HARRISON Garry (Liberal Democrat) – 104 votes (7·5%, -0·6%)
KEEVIL Steven Richard (Green Party) – 45 votes (3·3%, +3·3%)
RAVENSCROFT Brian Christian (BNP) – 39 votes (2·8%, +2·8%)
SANDS Ron (English Democrats) – 33 votes (2·4%, +2·4%)

Turnout was 25·3% (1,386 ballot papers, including postal votes, out of a ward electorate of 5,484). Just four ballot papers were disallowed (blank, spoiled or unclear where the cross had been placed).

The result did not come as a shock despite the commentary from outside observers. Box counts from the General Election night revealed a significant Tory majority in the ward which had been cultivated by a sitting Tory Councillor. It was noted that UKIP once again did not field a candidate in Rochester & Strood. An unholy alliance or mere coincidence?

This result was always going to be an odds-on punters bet on the Conservatives. This blog said as much yesterday whilst reserving judgement.

Obviously a disappointing result for Labour locally but will this now be the high water-mark for the Medway Conservatives?

Around the country Labour has been getting great results in council by-elections. The results in votes cast in all the council by-elections in July and in the first weeks of August show us neck and neck with the Tories on 34%. The Lib Dems were on 24%.

It is important to remember, and some leadership candidates seem clearly not to think, that winning in Kent is absolutely crucial if you are to win back Parliament. Voters in Medway are the middle-ground aspirational's who left the party in droves under Gordon Brown, and they must be courted aggressively over time to win back.

The vote yesterday was close and with other marginal wards at a knife edge across the town, a tipping point could see the Labour Group double in size on very small swings indeed.

It must be noted though, that the catch-up with the Tories is remarkable in view of the fact that only 14 weeks ago in the General Election Labour were only 8% behind the Tories. This shows that the party is determined to fight back. This blog strongly believes that support for the Government will ebb away even further as people see the risks that the Government is taking with the economy, when they feel the impact of the unfair VAT increase and the public service cuts.

There is encouraging news of more new members continuing to join the Labour Party. Across the country, the Party has gained 27,894 new members since May 6th. A third of these new members are people who have formerly supported the Lib Dems. Half are Labour voters who now believe that they must join the Labour Party to fight the Government and 10% have joined to take part in our leadership election.