Saturday, September 29, 2007

Simon Heffer thinks he's a Thatcherite, doesn't understand term

Simon is on form today, most of column devoted to trashing the Conservative Party, a few lines criticising the government to substantiate his claim of being of the Right. His most interesting line is this:
One reason why Thatcherites like me respected Ian Gilmour, who died last week, was because he had the integrity to stick to his principles, whatever the consequences.
Simon thinks that he is a Thatcherite, this is precious. She was an arch-pragmatist when it came to doing good by her country, and while she certainly came at politics from the Right, she never let herself get stranded there just because of dogma. Let us look at her record against Simon's rhetoric: he wants immediate across the board tax cuts, whereas she was unafraid to put taxes up if that was what the economy demanded. She avoided foreign wars, fighting just the Falklands that was forced on her, where Simon is casual about advocating the use of military force. She expanded property-owning to all classes, giving many families their first real capital stake in the country, whereas Simon thinks the poor should basically stay poor. As for sticking to your principles 'whatever the consequences', that is a useful working definition of insanity. Keynes said 'when the facts change I change my mind', which is what most normal people do. Mugabe is sticking to his principles and the consequences are children staving to death. Integrity is not always admirable, but we now have a clue on what makes Simon tick. There must be a great comfort in viewing the world through an unchanging prism of certainty; it is the sort of reassurance the great religions, or Marxism, can provide, but it has nothing to do with the practical politics that actually makes people's lives better.

This week President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad explained that his actions were driven by a firm belief in the return of the Islam's 12th Imam. He seemed quite determined. I bet Simon is a fan.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Basildon Town Centre finalists announced

The procurement process for Basildon Town Centre rolls on, with the four consortia that will progress to the next stage announced yesterday. They are all big hitters in large scale development and regeneration, and attracting bidders of this quality shows the confidence that business has in Basildon District and its community. It also shows that the Council was right to launch our regeneration programme with a high quality event in London and right to send members and officers to the MIPIM property development conference and exhibition in Cannes. We were criticised for doing both, as if the way to attract large multinationals to a billion pound project was to make them come to us instead of going to them. Basildon has huge potential; 30 minutes from London, a dynamic economy, and public sector investment already happening in the form of the University Hospital and the recently announced Further Education College. But potential is not enough, you also have to sell the offer and that is exactly what we have been doing. We also have very clear policies to support private and public sector development, and we made sure that we had the funding for the project management and support skills that you need for a development programme of this size. So, things are going well and the Council is on course to achieve our objective of changing Basildon for the better. Fortunately, that is also the objective of government when it comes to Basildon and funding has followed intent. Basildon politics is traditionally quite virulent, but on this there is broad agreement. Politics isn't always about kicking lumps out of each other.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Labour goes Tory on self-defence

In 2005 there was a Conservative initiative in the House of Commons to change the law on self defence to give greater protection to people who defend themselves when attacked in their own homes. Labour killed with the line that the current law allowed reasonable force and no change was needed. So, if you injured someone while defending home and family you faced an investigation by the police and CPS but at the end of that protracted process you would probably be all right was the message. That people should not have their lives turned over by the authorities for being victims of crime seemed not to be an argument, at least not one the Labour government would entertain. Now, in the general spirit of airbrushing out the past, Labour is back with an 'urgent' review of the law on self defence because it suddenly is just not good enough.

So, what is going on here? Well two things probably: first Gordon Brown and his crowd want to grab back the agenda on Law and Order, and this is a pretty painless way to make good headlines. Secondly, you get the feeling that quite a few things that were vetoed by the grinning one, or his wife, are now back on the table because everyone else actually thought that they were quite a good idea. Well, I agree with this one, but it is pretty poor that it took a change of Prime Minister for Labour to understand how demoralising it is for the public to read of yet another ordinary person effectively being punished by a police investigation for having some scumbag break into their home. Maybe this time common sense will prevail, and maybe some of the smug no-nothings who mouth platitudes a couple of years ago will have the grace to eat their words.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Labour Conference Amnesia

It is the first conference after a change of government; repudiating the previous set of fools, trumpeting a change agenda, extolling the virtues of the new, fresh-faced team. Our new Labour government has certainly wasted no time in promoting their new programme that sweeps away the wasted years under, err, Labour. Instead of Labour replacing Conservatives after an election we have Brownies replacing Blairites after a coronation. Except that hasn’t happened either because many of the faces in the Brown government are exactly the same faces that were in the Blair government. In an Orwellian rewriting of history the doings of the last government have been assigned to some unnamed others and then trashed with enthusiasm. So, 24-hour drinking looks to be going the same way as super-casinos, now that the casualty wards are filling up with those maimed through drink. The downgrading of cannabis may be reversed as more pitiful tales of those tipped into psychosis through skunk are reported. It doesn’t stop there though; apparently the NHS hasn’t had enough change and the new big idea is to personalise it, whatever the hell that means. So, more pointless government targets and reorganisations appear to be on the cards. Spin is one thing that hasn’t changed though, with the soundbite friendly Council Tax rebate for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan being pushed for all that it is worth. Of course the money comes from the military budget; that is the one they use to pay for things like bullets and helicopters, so our army is likely to remain short of both. What’s a few soldier’s lives against a couple of days of good headlines though. No wonder the head of the army thinks that the nation’s relationship with the military is broken.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Further Education Campus for Basildon Town Centre

The result of a competitive tender for a huge £250 million Further Education package for South Essex was announced today. Both Competitions were managed by the Learning and Skills Council, Essex.

Much of the money will be invested in building new further education facilities in Basildon and Thurrock town centres, including a new campus in Basildon Town Centre. This, of course, works very well with the regeneration plans for Basildon Town Centre.

In Basildon, the winning Consortium will be led by SEEVIC College, who will be developing centres of excellence in sport and recreation, health, social care and medical technologies; business administration and financial services and engineering. These are serious subjects for the 21st century, and represent a shift away from some of the 'softer' vocational, but relatively low-skill subjects on offer in the past.

Councillor Malcolm Buckley, Leader of Basildon Council, said:

We are committed to raising education standards in the District and we are delighted to welcome yet more investment into the area. Raising standards and aspirations of our young people is vital to the future of Basildon.

This investment will not only help to raise attainment levels and standards of education, it will also be a major catalyst in the £1billion regeneration of Basildon town centre, and see the creation of a world class college campus in the heart of the town.

Too right, Malcolm.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

St. Andrews Centre in Billericay safe, for a year at least

In response to his letters and the petitions to both Basildon Hospital and SW Essex PCT, John Baron MP has received an assurance that there will be no downgrading or closure of services at St Andrew’s Centre, Billericay – at least for the coming year. The hospital has said the matter will not be reviewed again until it looks at activity targets for the financial year 2008/9. However, John is pressing for a longer term guarantee and, with the help Cllr Terence Gandy, Billericay Town Council, and others, is calling for the petition to continue.

John said:

Whilst welcoming confirmation that St Andrew’s will remain fully operational for another year, I am disappointed that Basildon Hospital could not go further. I am therefore asking for a longer term guarantee that there will be no downgrading or closure of services. This should not be difficult given that the population in the area is growing and therefore demand for St Andrew’s services can only increase.

I would like to thank all those who have both organised and signed the petitions in recent months. But, we think it best to continue with the petition because it is important that we illustrate the strength of feeling on this issue. As a local community, we are absolutely committed to St Andrew’s remaining fully operational in the years ahead.