Friday, July 20, 2007
Now Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has been ordered to produce a report into the way the honours investigation was carried out. Too right.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Anyway, Labour voted against and so the battle lines are pretty much drawn in Wickford. With Labour, developers would carry on cherry-picking the prime development sites on a piecemeal basis. With the Conservatives we get coherency in development, and public infrastructure gets constructed too. It is a bit odd though, Tories wanting central planning and the socialists of Basildon Labour in favour of a market free-for-all. I wonder what the people of Wickford will think of that.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
In Basildon we have always balanced central government targets with actually doing the things that local people want, like keeping the Council Tax down and collecdting the bins weekly. The targets can't entirely be ignored, however, because the government can make trouble for local Councils that really don't co-operate. So, we have adopted a balanced policy towards them as opposed to treating them as the Word of God like the government intended, but there is still a cost in terms of the Council's focus being on Whitehall instead of on local people.
Now if Brown could just give Basildon more than the absolute minimum Revenue Support Grant...
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The current situation in Iraq is a depressing reminder of the mistake we made by invading on the basis of false intelligence. Our troops are doing a good job in a dangerous situation, but progress is painfully slow. The political stalemate between rival ethnic and religious groups is proving difficult to break, and is continually being reinforced by a combination of sectarian violence and terrorism.
Having opposed the war, I believe it is important to learn the lessons of this disaster and ensure that any future military action is wholly justified by robust and authoritative intelligence which is independent of political influence. This was certainly not true of the key 2002 Iraq dossier, which wrongly claimed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
What has come to light since the Hutton Inquiry is the extent to which Government spin doctors were involved in the drafting process, making suggestions and even writing parts of the dossier.
Indeed, we now know that it was the Foreign Office press officer John Williams who produced the first full draft of the dossier on the 9th September 2002 – one day before John Scarlett, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, produced his first draft. The Freedom of Information Commissioner has ruled that Ministers ought to publish this document, but so far the Government has refused despite the fact the Williams draft was originally intended for publication. So what has the Government got to hide?
I have challenged Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the previous Foreign Secretary on the issue in the House of Commons. A Parliamentary motion I sponsored recently attracted good cross-party support from over 50 MPs. I also secured a Parliamentary debate to put the spotlight on this draft dossier - but still the Government remains obstinate.
Tony Blair’s legacy as Prime Minister was the Iraq debacle. If Gordon Brown is serious about beginning a new era of open Government without spin, then he should make a start by publishing the Williams draft.
Monday, July 16, 2007
It’s not difficult, weekly rubbish collection is both right and popular. That’s usually a winning combination.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
In Basildon we are doing a lot of regeneration, so I see a lot of designs. Some are very good, but a depressingly large number are effectively taking a punt with the lives of the people who will have to live with them. Housing in particular is not a good area for experimentation, because of the concentrated misery that can result when you get it wrong. To be blunt, architecture awards are not a priority Basildon District. If you want to do something build something radically different then, please, go do it somewhere else.