Sunday, 31 October 2010

Tories Jumping the Gun

A bit insensitive for Medway Conservatives to be snubbing Her Majesty in this matter.

This blog supports the campaign for City status but it is inappropriate for the Council to re-brand as something which it is not currently, and which is still being considered by the Queen.

Cllr Jarrett's response that 'we can call ourselves what we like' is simply a baffling response. A town can not just suddenly decide to call itself a city, or a city a metropolis. Perhaps Maidstone Council will re-brand to City of Maidstone or Faversham or Dartford. That is a ridiculous response.

With £50m of cuts identified over the next four years, it is simply concerning that 'Ivory towered' Tories are squandering money on publicity schemes whilst people are loosing their jobs.

If the Queen does not award City status to Medway then this is an expensive mistake.

It is appropriate to wait until you know you have won something before undertaking, at great cost, such re-branding.

Liberal Democrat prospects flagging

Remember this??

With Medway Liberal Democrats apparently confident about winning in the local elections next year, we cant but ignore the glaring u-turns and inconsistencies in the national party and just point out to residents that the yellow peril can never be trusted.

Many voters will have lent the Liberal Democrats their votes because of Iraq, Tuition fees or because of fair taxation.

Despite their commitments on tuition fees reduced to smouldering ashes, it seems that the Libereral Democrat manifesto bonfire continues apace!

Having spent years railing against a new generation of nuclear power plants, eight prospective sites for precisely that were announced last by energy secretary Chris Huhne.

The “No to Nuclear Power” microsite was a flagship implementation of their (rather good) ourCampaign system. Starring, erm, energy secretary Chris Huhne,

The page has mysteriously vanished from the internet in the last month but the video is still visible:

Such honesty...

Liberal Democrats in Medway will be given a lesson at the ballot box next May across Medway.

The party can delete its web pages but people will remember where your manifesto commitments and how Nick Clegg has sold out.

You have sold out on your principles for a few red boxes. The doorstep is pointing to a true humbling of the Liberal Democrat next May

Friday, 29 October 2010

Baby and Bathwater

An interesting exchange at Treasury select committee this morning, where Lord Turnbull - former head of the civil service - seemed to question George Osborne’s claim that Britain was on the brink of bankruptcy until now.

Chuka Umunna:
“You said that you didn’t think the issues that had been raised in relation to sovereign debt and the UK were relevant. What did you mean by that?”

Lord Turnbull: “Well I always thought that we were capable of producing a financial settlement that wouldn’t take us into Irish and Greek problems. Secondly, a very large part of our debt was domestically held. If people are going to sell gilts they’ve got to buy something else. Who are these great shining examples of people who are issuing rock solid debt you want to buy?”

Chuka Umunna:
Do you think it is accurate to describe the UK as being on the brink of bankruptcy?

Lord Turnbull: No, I don’t.”

Perhaps a little less fiction from Conservatives on this issue would do some good.

Consumer sentiment and growth must be the focus for the next 12 months and rediculous economic arguments which are not derided by most intelligent commentators but are not believed by the public do the economic recovery no favours.

Thats why the polls have tightened.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Tory splits again...

They say it is the government of all the talents... more like the government of all the talentless.

To be fair, Boris has a valid point on this one. No one wants to see families forcibly evicted and moved to other lower cost locations. A number of Medway wards could be affected by any mass migration of people. This is potentially damaging for our community as well for those individuals who have to move.

Second time in a week we have one Conservative saying one thing and another saying something else.

These guys are like ferrets in a sack.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Benefit reforms could hurt poorest Medway wards

Tonight there are very real concerns that the Tory plans will see a mass exodus of 200,000 residents into areas of Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent.

Wards in Chatham and Rochester are some of the poorest in Kent with a number in very low-rent areas. These are likely to be areas that London Councils will consider for migration of benefit claimants, should the Conservative cap go through.

Our Council is under enough pressure with resources before any major move or forced mass exodus from central London.

Tories are once again targeting the vulnerable. Not only do those who are forced to move suffer, but the communities they move to, will be stretched to cope.

Our Conservative MPs need to oppose these forced evictions. Our Council is already under enough pressure, and we do not desire, nor wish, to have even more people using stretched services at a time of austerity.

Cameron's stubbornness harms Medway. Its time our MPs put our area first and oppose these reforms.

Estuary Airport shelved... for now?

The Tories needed to make an unequivocal statement. Labour called for one. The Peninsula residents demanded one.

So it was with some expectation and welcome that this blogger witnessed Medway MP Rehman Chisthi direct a simple question to the Prime Minister.

It was in the Prime Minister's court today to end this 'pie-in-the-sky' scheme once and for all.

He failed.

Responding to the question from the Gillingham and Rainham MP today Mr Cameron said: "The Department for Transport has no plans to build an airport in the Thames Estuary, Medway or Kent. We have also scrapped plans to build a third runway at Heathrow."

Whilst on the face of it this is a welcome response it actually raises more questions then it answers.

First of all no one was yet under any illusion that there were plans being considered by the Department of Transport. The proposals are being paid for, directed and pursued by the Conservative Party Mayor. Everyone knows he has not yet passed on his recommendations yet but at some point he no doubt will. London Conservatives are therefore continuing to direct funding into proposals that will concrete over North Kent. The fact that proposals are continuing tonight means residents have achieved nothing but a false guarantee.

Will the lobbyists stop trying to persuade David Cameron and George Osborne?


Secondly, Mr Cameron did not refute any future plans. The Prime Minister did not rule out a future airport, he did not and has not directed Boris, as party leader, to ditch the idea. He has not called for the disbanding of the Parliamentary Thames Estuary Group.

Lastly, those of us who have some memory will remember Cameron promising that 'there were no plans for a VAT increase.' That changed quick enough. Plans change, times change, Tory fuzzyness hasn't.

Cameron has therefore told us nothing new. Boris Johnson's spokesperson today refused to ditch the proposal.

So we are back to square one? No. The Cliffe proposal is now, most importantly, on the table. Net result; Medway lose. The Prime Minister has rejected plans everyone knew did not (yet) exist, the Conservative Party Mayor can continue funding plans and proposals to concrete over North Kent, the lobbyists can still meet senior staff and the Parliamentary Thames Estuary Group are still able to sit down.

To top it all off, this blog will a wager down to readers, that within the year we will have further press coverage of Boris Island, Cliffe Airport and/or the concreting of North Kent.

Throughout this sorry saga, residents have been treated with contempt by representatives of the Conservative Party. We have had three years of threats and constant denials, counter-denials and policy changes. Three years of one Conservative saying one thing and another saying another. Residents are fed up of it.

Cameron had a chance today to get the Conservative Party Mayor into line. He had a chance to call for the disbanding of the Parliamentary Thames Estuary Group. He had a chance to reject any and all future suggestions on an airport in the Thames Estuary.

He didn't.

Oh well, Labour will not be the only one's hoping for a Ken Livingstone victory in 2012!

Today presented an opportunity to finally close this chapter and move on. They failed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Growth is the Key

Welcome news today that the UK economy grew far more rapidly than expected in the third quarter. Real GDP (the total output of the economy) increased by 0.8 per cent and was 2.9 per cent higher than in the third quarter of 2009, according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics.

Economists had expected an increase of just 0.4 per cent.

Growth in the second quarter was 1.2 per cent, though this was boosted by a recovery from the effects of the bad weather which depressed activity in some sectors in the early part of the year. Over the last three quarters, growth has averaged 0.8 per cent, or an annual rate of 3.2 per cent and this is as good an estimate as any of the underlying trend in recent quarters.

If we go deeper into the numbers growth is being led by an extraordinary surge in activity in the construction sector, where output has increased by 12.9 per cent in the last three quarters. But there have also been healthy recoveries in activity in two other sectors: manufacturing (up 4.1 per cent over the same period) and business services and finance (up 2.4 per cent).

Output in all other sectors has grown less rapidly than overall GDP and that of the service sector as a whole increased by only 1.4 per cent over this period.

The emphasis of the Labour opposition has been to maintain this growth. Ed Miliband as Labour leader emphasised the need to nurture growth and most importantly of all; support small and medium sized businesses by encouraging bank lending and by maintaining consumer confidence and support.

The fact is that the budget cuts announced by Conservatives have not yet hit the economy. The announcement came last week, and will take at least six months to come through to the front line. The £6bn cuts in June were insufficient to damage the economy but may have depressed the construction figures to a small extent.

The real growth numbers to watch will be in Q4 2010 and Q1 & 2 2011. If these numbers are sufficiently down on the current growth numbers then we know that George Osborne has failed to take into account the state of the global economy before progressing with aggressive cuts, which in the eyes of the public could hurt consumer sentiment and small business.

The concern of this blogger is that if growth in construction, manufacturing and finance slows – which is what has happened in the US, and the UK economy appears to be following one or two quarters behind the US economy – overall growth rates are likely to be lower in 2011. This is particularly the case if public spending cuts and January’s VAT rate hike have a negative effect on activity

Add in the Osborne cuts to the public sector at the same time and there you have the big economic gamble. Labour argues an unnecessary economic risk with social consequences on the most vulnerable in our community.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, are forecasting a decline in growth. But then most economists thought growth would be a lot lower in the third quarter too, so what do they know? What do I know?

For now, those who are most optimistic about the UK economy – and who believe that it can cope with the massive fiscal tightening being imposed by the coalition government – have some evidence to support their case.

This blog would urge caution. It is far too early to make that judgement. George has received a welcome boost today, but this is before his actual policies even start to bite.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Train Fares EDM flop

The issue of train fares once again rises up the agenda with a motion being considered for full council to seek Conservative Councillor support for the opposition to the proposal of Conservative MPs to put up Medway Train fares by +3% RPI over the next five years.

A proposal which will penalise hard working commuters by up to £1,200 a year.

We have considered a motion on the Kent Conservative 'Fares Fair' campaign launched last year.
We will also be asking Medway Conservatives to support the Medway Fare's Fair campaign which opposed the RPI + 3% increase in fares according to its stated objectives.

Surely Conservatives will not only stand up for commuters but will support the campaign that was led only 12 months ago by colleagues in Kent and Medway?

On another note, The 'Reckless' EDM 838 which was supposed to re-assure Medway Commuters that Kent Conservative MPs were treating the issue of train fares seriously has worryingly flopped.

As of tonight only FOUR Conservative MPs have bothered to sign the Early Day Motion. It is noted that one who has not signed is fellow Medway MP, Rehman Chisthi. Perhaps it has received so little support because it is meaningless.

Appreciate Rehman may be busy tabling questions in the Chamber but surely he should support his comrades in their efforts or perhaps, indeed, Gillingham & Rainham constituents wont mind paying an extra £1,200 a year.

Tories will not be allowed to run away from Election pledges on train fares.

Boris needs to answer on Cliffe Airport

The Medway Tory response today to the Cliffe Airport proposal continues to be unacceptably lacklustre.

All we have had from Conservatives for the last three years has been polite letters, after silent conversations, after poorly funded campaigns. True, Cllr Chambers has ratcheted up the rhetoric today, but once again there is no plan being put forward by Conservatives to actively oppose the airport.

The Tories have treated the community with utter contempt. We have proposal, denial, counter-proposal, denial and now we have the return of Cliffe Airport.

Residents in Medway are being treated like a political football, with our house prices and lives at the mercy of Tory whims.

It is simply discusting the the Conservative Party and its Mayor of London is treating residents in Medway like a play-thing. The proposal for an airport is a very real concern and has impacts on house prices on the Peninsula. It is simply unaccetable for Conservartive MPs to keep laughing this off this as an eccentric idea, whilst the Conservative Mayor continues to fund proposals. This is not a joke to home owners in All Hallows, Cliffe or High Halstow.

Get a grip Conservatives. Get your mayor in line.

We now need some action and quick from Medway Conservatives.

The current online petition and poster campaign have not worked.

The quiet diplomacy strategy has achieved nothing.

Boris Johnson has today given his blessing to a further consultation for the proposal to create an airport on Cliffe. His officials are now actively putting together proposals for a 'cheaper' version of the Island Airport which would bulldoze and concrete over properties and communities.

This now requires a robust and aggressive response from the Council.

Medway Labour and this blog have consistently warned Conservatives that this move from Island Airport to Cliffe was likely to happen. They have ignored all representation.

Residents have heard these denials from Conservatives so many times now. Denials, counter-denials and coalition promises. Yet again the issue comes back onto the table with more detail and more momentum

The worry is that once again Medway Conservatives are not treating this issue seriously.

Why do they object to visual and funded campaigns to oppose the airport?

Conservatives continue to selectively ignore the fact that officials in Number 10 and the Treasury are being actively lobbied on an airport proposal in North Kent. They ignore the fact that senior officials are being lobbied, we have expensive proposals being drafted, we have investors in the Middle East being consulted. What part of serious do Medway Conservatives not quite grasp.

A polite letter to the Sunday Times simply will not do.

House prices on the peninsula will be affected unless we have an immediate denial from Boris Johnson. This needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

The idea that you could tread softly when the airport was a mythical island in the estuary was an argument which could be considered coherent. This is a plan, on land, and where we have had a previous history. The movement of bird reserves aside, this proposal clearly has wings otherwise it would not be being considered as a proposal.

We have had constant denials from Medway Conservative MPs that the airport will not happen and that the Conservatives have no plan to build an airport.

Either way residents are fed up with being kicked around like a football. We elect Tory MPs to do a job. Do it.

There is a now a demand that instead of harsh words and ineffective posters that Medway Tories get a grip and campaign now.

Medway Labour will be challenging Tories once again.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tory Airport proposal targets Peninsula

The shocking revelations in the Sunday Times (p. 15) and BBC News that the Conservative Party Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is now actively considering bulldozing over the Hoo peninsula in a very real and credible attempt to keep his idea for an airport alive.

Todays article, a deliberate leak this blog suspects, will destroy any semblance of credibility that the inept Medway Conservative campaign is having any impact on the 'Boris Airport' proposal.

A campaign which has been so low-key that you could be forgiven for thinking that Medway Conservatives actually wanted a mega-airport over Medway.

Labour in Medway has opposed any new airport in North Kent.
The prediction by Medway Labour and this blog has been that the 'Island' proposal was a slippery slope to bulldoze over Cliffe and North Kent. The rejection of the Island proposal by Cameron did not include other areas of the Thames Gateway and Conservative Transport Ministers response to questions have been open to interpretation.

Tory PPCs were able to secure very cagey responses during the General Election which ruled out the Island proposal but did not rule out a North Kent option. Mark Reckless arguably secured the votes of thousands of peninsula residents on the back of such a position.

Tracey Crouch MP (Chatham & Aylesford) put her credibility as a public representative on the line on the issue. Following representation, she recently wrote to Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport, asking him to clarify Government policy on the Thames Estuary Airport, as proposed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"I can confirm that the Government has no plans to build any new airports in the region. Our aviation policies are firmly focussed on improving existing airports - making our airports better, not bigger"

Why then, is the governing Conservative Party candidate for Mayor, continuing to seek representation on the matter?

Despite the above assurances, communities in the peninsula today will be very worried indeed about the plan of the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson. Worried about the bulldozers who could concrete over greats swathes of RSPB reserves. Communities who will be worrying about pollution and the prospect of being part of a Tory air-traffic corridor. Communities who will be worrying about house prices. That article today will in one swoop damage the prospect of people looking to buy or sell on the peninsula.

We need Boris Johnson to immediately make a statement about the proposal for an Airport on the Hoo peninsula. Any delay or equivocation from him and it effectively means we have a green light from Conservatives to consider the scheme.

Medway Conservatives need to get a grip and fast. We need an active, visible and capable campaign to oppose this airport and we need it now. This proposal is not a pie-in-the-sky, it has wings and the longer Rodney Chambers and his 'chums' continue to stick their proverbial head in the sand, this will only get worse and worse.

Medway Labour have warned the Tories for months to raise their game. They have not.

For proof, this blog has a history of raising justifiable concerns on the Airport issue - please do take a read of concerns it has raised.

Residents will remember Conservative campaigners in 2003 attacking the then Labour Government proposal for an airport. The same campaigners are today silent. For some reason the public campaigns they so cherished are now so opposed.

Make no mistake, there will be Conservatives sitting on the peninsula today who will be fuming at this duplicity. Perhaps they should actually do something about it, and soon. This is about your community now, will you stand up for it, or put your Party interests first. It's time to make a call...

Cllr Chambers its time to get a grip and its time to run a proper campaign.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

We're backing Medway City

Its a great case. A great place. Lets make Medway the newest and youngest City in the UK in 2012

Friday, 22 October 2010

Labour for Luton & Wayfield

Sam Craven, Tristan Osborne and Christine Godwin

On the back of the victory in River Ward, Labour in Luton & Wayfield will be beginning our 'voter challenge'

The challenge will be to meet every voter in the ward before Christmas to listen and hear their concerns about the Council and Conservative cuts.

The funding for our challenge is there, the campaigners are ready, the leaflets are being delivered. A new campaign website is close to completion and a new vLog will be established before Christmas. We will be inviting residents along the campaign to record a video for the vLog highlighting what they most disagree with about the cuts. This is a new and innovative
media project. We are in conversations to link with the Medway media to bring a vLog of the campaign over the 5 months until May 2011.

Luton & Wayfield deserve better then the Conservatives who have failed Medway and will not defend our towns against massive cuts being inflicted upon us by the Conservative Party.

Today the Medway Messenger revealed the extent of the Conservative cuts of £50m.

That is money to care for elderly residents, money to build play-parks, money to clean our streets and fight anti-social behaviour, money which funds our sports-centres and cares for the ill and infirm. Money which pays for bus fares and money that re-surfaces roads and cleans our paths. Money that could be used to regenerate Medway and help the poorest in our community.

The Tories call this waste, we call it basic services that help people.

We will also stand up for the middle class. We believe that the cynical increase in train fares which will add £1200 to the average commuter bill is a disgrace. We believe that the VAT rise to 20% will hurt hard-pressed families. We believe the rise in tuition fees will hurt our young people who are only seeking to better themselves.

We will fight this Conservative assault on hard working people. Yesterday the people of River ward rejected the Conservative cuts and we believe those in Luton & Wayfield will as well.

Luton & Wayfield needs Councillors who can stand up to the cuts and fight to stop them. We accept that with the current deficit we do need a sensible approach to managing the local finances but we oppose the over-aggressive cuts to services that are being foisted upon us by George Osborne.

His deficit reduction strategy is based on the electoral cycle and not the fiscal cycle. Based on the election in 2015 and not on the best interests of the people of Britain.

River Ward residents yesterday voted to kick out the Conservatives because of what they did to their community in Brompton and Chatham.

We believe and will stand up for a Luton & Wayfield residents against aggressive cuts and those who oppose the VAT increase, tuition fees and rises in train fares.

If we can meet enough of you and listen to your concerns, we hope you will agree with those who voted on Thursday. That Labour is once again standing up and fighting for you.

The People win in River

The result of yesterday’s by-election in River Ward was as follows:

Anthony Cook – UK Independence Party – 42 votes
Garry Harrison – Liberal Democrat – 92 votes
John Jones – Labour – 695 votes
Steven Keevil – The Green Party – 36 votes
Andrew Mackness – Conservative 631 votes
Ron Sands – English Democrats – 31 votes

Turnout was 25.7%. Swing Conservative to Labour 4.9%.

On winning Cllr John Jones

"I am grateful to residents giving me their support after this amicable election. I have heard the real challenges that residents across the ward face, some of their frustrations about current council processes and some of their aspirations for the future.

I will do everything I can as their community champion to fight hard to ensure improvements are made and potential problems are challenged at all levels."

Cllr Vince Maple, Labour Election Agent said

"This victory sends several messages across Medway - firstly people have fear of what devastating impacts the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government will have.

People also are pleased with the selection of new Labour Leader Ed Miliband who visited River Ward and finally River residents also made it clear they want a reliable community champion fighing their corner, I know John will take on this role with his trademark energy, thought and passion."

Cllr Jones Jones spoke to Musings from Medway after winning saying

"I will work for all those who voted for me and those that did not and attempt to build bridges and work for the community in which I live.

This is a fantastic result for the hard pressed middle class family who felt today that the Conservatives have let them down, and targeted them with regressive taxes, increase in train fares and cuts to police and schools.

I can now stand up and fight for services and not support a government which is destroying the fabric of society here in Medway and undermining investment in Universities, schools, hospitals and the Police.'

This blogger believes the result is a referendum on the current government. It shows the result of the Comprehensive Spending Review in a key Kent marginal seat.

This is also of course a slap in the face to the River Ward Conservatives and the agent who comes out of this process weakened immeasurably.

We look forward to next May where the people will once again make a judgement on this useless Conservative administration

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Train fares and Dartford Toll

Medway commuters face season ticket rises of up to £1,200 over the next four years according to the Department of Transport response to the Comprehensive Spending Review

£1,200 which is a tax on middle class commuters who will now have to pay an increase in fare's that will impact family budgets, holiday plans and shopping bills.

Instead of fares going up by one per cent more than the rate of inflation — the formula since British Rail's privatisation in 1995 — they will rise by three per cent over the cost of living from 2012 in every region across the UK.

It means that an annual season ticket from Milton Keynes will rise by £1,194 to £5,026 by 2014.

A Gillingham commuter will have to pay £4,995, a rise of £1,187.

In an attempt to mitigate the potential charges of hypocrisy Medway and Kent Conservatives led a pre-emptive strike by tabling an Early Day Motion 838 in Parliament which was dutifully picked up by the YourMedway paper.

The motion states

"Southeastern's franchise agreement with the Department of Transport has allowed increases on regulated fares of RPI + three per cent. as opposed to RPI + one per cent. for other rail franchises which has resulted in a recently proposed fare rise of seven per cent. from January 2011; understands that franchise agreements with train operating companies are to be considered as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review; and calls on the Government to apply a cap on fare rises for Southeastern that is henceforth no greater than for other franchise"

The EDM, which conveniently fits straight into the coalition narrative, is nothing but a diversionary tactic which gives no help to the average Medway commuter.

The Department of Transport response to the CSR makes clear that all train companies will now raise fares by RPI + 3% from 2012. In reality the EDM means nothing to the average Medway commuter, who will not get any mitigation for current fare increases which already stand at that level.

The justification for that fare premium during the Labour period in office was increased investment in the railways. However the government increase is to mitigate government subsidy. This is a major difference because money on fares will not be invested in stock or safer stations. It will go to the government.

YourMedway did not mention that Kent and Medway Conservatives have shown brazen hypocrisy in relation to train fares.

Over the last two years Tories have been actively campaigning for a reduction in the +3% RPI increase in train fares.

The Kent Conservatives ran a 'Fare's Fair' campaign, still fully visible on their website stating that

'The Government has imposed upon South Eastern Trains a condition to run a subsidy-free network by 2014, resulting in an average increase of 3% above the rate of inflation. The Government’s imposition of year-on-year extortionate increases in rail fares for Kent’s commuters threatens to damage the Kent economy, deterring visitors and businesses from coming here. This will do nothing to get people out of their cars and onto public transport.'

Kent Conservatives campaigned in 2009, during the recession, claiming that a 3% + RPI increase was a disgrace and would damage the economy. Yet now they remain silent.

Hundreds of commuters voted Conservative in May 2010 to keep train fares low. Organisations across Kent were backed by Conservatives to channel commuter anger and potentially harvest key anti-fare votes for the election this year.

Mark Reckless MP campaigned in March 2009, with the 'independent' Medway Fares Fair champion to reduce standard fares. The independent champion for Medway commuters, who is also an announced candidate for the Rochester & Strood Conservatives for election in 2011, refuted any bias at the time stating that the campaign had sought 'cross-party support.'

The organisation which was backed by Mark Reckless MP and Tracey Crouch MP stated in its objectives statement that:

'We are calling for Southeastern Trains to suspend their planned increases with immediate effect and bring them more into line with the current RPI, although even that will be on the high side for many. The +3% should be dropped immediately as we think it is discriminatory and unfair.'

The campaign championed the cause of a small increase in train fares on the 6th January 2009. Both Tracey and Mark backed the campaign wholeheartedly. The campaign even congratulated the two PPCs for having 'an excellent track record in campaigning on local issues for Medway residents'

Yet it now appears that the campaign remains dormant and the position of the Conservative MPs is silent. It is noted however that since the election of a Conservative Government the 'independent' group has made no public statement, including today, on the most important statement for a decade on the next 5 years of fare increases.

Another case which raises commuter eyebrows is the campaign by Tracey Crouch MP from the 27th March 2009 and 18th December 2008 on the scrapping of 'my campaign to scrap the stealth tax' Dartford Toll.

On the 15th December 2009 she announced on her blog that

'I am today announcing my support for the campaign to scrap the Dartford Crossing charges. Local residents who use the Crossing for work have been in touch and are fed up, not least because the charges were supposed to be scrapped once the Crossing had been paid for - which happened five years ago!!'

The Conservative Government has now not only kept the toll but it has been hit by a rise in the Dartford Crossing charge, which will go up from £1.50 to £2.50 by 2012

Kent Conservatives have also shown rank duplicty. Kent County Council Keith Ferrin said in 2006, that drivers are already being penalised with little benefit for Kent, and to ramp up the daily charge by 50 per cent to £1.50 would “just add insult to injury”.

Mr Ferrin said: “We will fight these increased charges. In effect, they are an additional tax on Kent motorists. It’s a bit like sticking the knife in where it already hurts."

Perhaps Kent Conservatives can clarify why they have quietly changed their minds. It is dishonest.

The double-standards of Tories will now be highlighted by Medway Labour. We all believe that elected Members of Parliament should stand by their promises before being elected and held to account.

This Kent Fare's Fair campaign, its independent sister group in Medway, and the Dartford Toll campaign are three campaigns which independent voters can link to online. Make your own judgement

We all accept that government has to make tough decisions in government as opposed to opposition. People would however give more credibility to honesty and when candidates have to undertake a u-turn for them to explain the reasons.

Commuters have been let down by Tories who are now back-tracking on campaign promises across Medway and Kent.

End of the line for Kingsnorth

News this evening that plans to build a £1 billion coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth were shelved today as owner E.ON blamed lower demand for electricity because of the recession.

The Kingsnorth station had been at the centre of protests over fears that the new plant would increase carbon emissions and climate change. The original plan by EOm cited the fitting of unproven carbon sequestration technology with no evidence or proof that the science would work. There were also concerns about other emissions and the effect on the Medway conurbation.

German-owned E.ON cited “economic conditions” for the decision, which means the existing power station at Kingsnorth will close before the end of 2015. E.ON's UK chief executive Dr Paul Golby said: “The economic conditions are still not right for us to progress.”

This blog opposed the expansion of Kingsnorth in 2008/2009 because the science of carbon sequestration had not been proven. It however does not support the wholesale closing of the site which has the potential and infrastructure to remain a power plant for future development.

The Kingsnorth development became a major issue during the General Election when the company submitted plans for pipeline expansion. Both Labour and Conservative candidates supported the expansion of the Kingsnorth site. This blog took an independent position and opposed development.

E.ON first applied for permission to build the Kingsnorth power plant in 2006, but then asked for the decision to be put off until ministers had made a decision on whether it must be fitted with carbon capture technology.

Ed Miliband, then the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, correctly ruled that new coal-fired plants would have to fit the new technology.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Trident pawn as Cuts hit defence

The Conservatives today showed the gravest betrayal to our armed forces and most crucially failed to renew the Trident Nuclear deterrent in a desperate attempt to placate Liberal Democrat peace-nicks.

The Conservative leadership even spat in the face of those Conservatives who believed that all were to be held to the coalition agreement. This agreement rested on the crucial 'line in the sand' issue of the renewal of trident. It appears the Tory leadership has sold its principles to placate the coalition partners.

The Strategic Defence Review today was nothing to do with the actual requirement of national defence and everything to do with shirking responsibility and undermining national sovereignty to justify over-aggressive cuts. The Coalition government seemingly ignores the threat of a state-on-state conflict despite rising tensions in Iran and statements by Argentina over the Falkland Islands over the summer months. It ignores the requirement of the Navy which is increasingly dealing with pirates in the Cape, drug smuggling in South America and the rise of China in the Far East who are militarising the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. It ignores the requirement of the Army to project power in numbers in conflict zones which we may not be able to predict.

The cuts also link with discussions that David Cameron has had with the French who are due to share logistics in defence. A country which has a history of flaky and abstract loyalties.

Mr Cameron and Dr Fox are engaged in high level conversations on sharing A400M military transports, which are due to enter service in 2012. There are rumours that the French may also gain access to Britain's Boeing C-17s and on aerial tankers. Crucially todays report lends credibility to the sharing of Britain's two new aircraft carriers. The fact that one of our carriers is to be fitted with a catapult allows French Rafale strike fighters to fly from it. Dr Fox called this position 'unfeasible and unrealistic' but with this catapult it puts this very much on the agenda.

These conversations are all in the public domain and are due to form part of a conversation at next months NATO summit. UKIP voters will be particularly interested to note that instead of withdrawing from European defence agreements, we are about to see even further integration with Europe.

The crucial clue is the fact that Britain will not have air-craft capable of flying off the carriers. Whose planes are we going to fly?

This blog supports NATO and the premise of joint defence, but for Tories to pay no reference to the undermining of national sovereignty over our armed forces is a betrayal. In addition to sharing defence with another country the Tories have slammed our boys where it hurts:


The Harrier jump jet and Nimrod reconnaissance planes will be scrapped. Some squadrons of Tornado jets will be saved, but Joint Strike Fighter and a modernised Eurofighter will form the basis of the RAF fire power and there will be extra money for unmanned planes. The air transport fleet will be upgraded with A400M and A330 aircraft, replacing the Tristar and VC-10 from 2013. Some air force bases will close and 5,000 RAF personnel will lose their jobs over the next five years. Extra 12 Chinook helicopters to increase flexibility.


The Army will have to cut up to 7,000 personnel over the next five years, and lose 40% of its tanks and 35% of its heavy artillery. It will lose one deployable brigade out of six. This will undermine the UK's power penetration should another conflict arise in the Middle East such as Iran.


The Ark Royal, launched in 1985, will be decommissioned almost immediately, rather than in 2014, as previously planned.

The construction of two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will go ahead, as it would cost more to cancel the projects than proceed with them but one of them will be mothballed rather than entering service and the other will be fitted with equipment for jump start jets rather than the Harrier.

The navy will lose 5,000 personnel and its surface fleet will be cut from 23 to 19. It will get a new fleet of Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines.


The government says £750m ($1.2bn) will be saved over four years on the Trident nuclear deterrent missile system by cutting the number of warheads on each boat from 48 to 40 and reducing the number of missile tubes from 12 to eight. The UK's nuclear warhead stockpile will be cut from 160 to less than 120. The final "main gate" spending decision on Trident will also be delayed until 2016 - after the next general election.

This is a major betrayal of our national defence and is a cheap sop to the Liberal Democrats. Not renewing our nuclear deterrent is the crucial message from this review. It is partisan political judgements based on contemporary political circumstances and not military reality.


The Ministry of Defence will lose 25,000 civilian staff over the next five years. It will also have to renegotiate contracts with industry and sell-off "unnecessary" buildings and assets.

The defence is review is not strategic, it is not progressive and it is clearly designed to undermine the core principle of national sovereignty. A Coalition Government which has given fig-leaves to Liberal Democrats which has left this country in a weaker position to our enemies.

They have failed to stand up for our military, failed to stand up for our country and have played partisan games with our nuclear deterrent. Shame on them, shame on them all.