Friday, March 18, 2011

Cameron shows how it is done

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have shown how it is done. Despite foot-draggers and nay-sayers they have managed to get a UN resolution authorising action in Libya. This is not just for a no-fly zone, but allows strikes on military targets as well. It provides for all that is needed in order to stop Gaddafi slaughtering his own people, and it comes just as Gaddafi told the world that the freedom fighters in Benghazi could expect 'no mercy' from his genocidal army and air force.

Getting a UN resolution of this type is not easy. Either Russia or China could have vetoed it. The US under Obama have veered between inactivity and indecision. The Arab League could have been quicker. In the UK the political vultures were gathering, ready to rip into Cameron if he failed to pull it off. Some commentators were quietly advising him not to bother, as if political embarrassment was more important then soldiers for democracy stopping bullets and shell fragments. Fortunately, our Prime Minister knows the difference between right and wrong, and has the political and diplomatic skills to match.

Gaddafi was betting on the whole UN process being just too difficult. Well, he was wrong. His spokesmen are already back-peddling as if his bicycle has a reverse gear.

Too late sunbeam.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Extraordinary Council Meeting Redux

So, we have had the meeting and the proposals for Direct Action on Dale Farm were voted through. The meeting was at the Towngate Theatre with an audience of around 200, both pro and anti-clearing the illegal Dale Farm site. Councillors kept the debate measured and there was no trouble, though there was a considerable police presence just in case.

One thing that was a little depressing was the content of some of the opposition speeches. Firstly, they quoted getting emails supposedly from disgruntled members of Basildon Council staff who were concerned that a decision on Dale Farm could mean that they lost their jobs because of the cost. Conservative Councillors had such emails too, but had the wit to check to see if the people were really Council staff. Guess what? They weren't. It was a deception that the Conservatives at least were too bright to fall for.

Secondly, a couple of the Labour Councillors tried to directly link the use of reserves at Dale Farm with supposed Council cuts to services. Now it should be understood that reserves are capital, and are not used for day to day expenditure, and that Council services are provided from the revenue budget, which is not affected by the monies required to clear Dale Farm. So, I listened with some surprise at a couple of the Labour speeches. Do they really not understand the difference between capital and revenue? You might expect that from ordinary members of the public, but from elected Councillors who want to run the Council one day it would verge on the tragic.

This whole matter has created a great deal of press interest, which has been handled by the Leader to my relief. I head him on Radio 4 this morning for example. The press coverage has been generally neutral to supportive and I am very glad of it. This isn't because I think that the people of Basildon Borough need persuading that their Council is doing the right thing; the vast majority want Planning Law applied fairly and so support the Council's position. This is because the coverage should make government sit up and listen.

We are in this situation because of failures of national policy, and only government can sort it out.

Blair and Brown didn't care, let's hope that Cameron and Clegg do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Extraordinary Council Meeting

As I write this I am waiting for an Extraordinary Council Meeting to start. This is on a long-running Planning Dispute, as reported here. One of the key aspects of the decision tonight is the cost of the action, which could reach £8m. This is a great deal of money and the issue is if it is worth it, especially as Basildon Borough is acting as the fulcrum for a failure in national policy in this matter. My view is that it is a balanced decision, but that Planning Laws have to be enforced, not for any box-ticking reason but because such laws are there for very good reasons. That they have been ignored has hurt both the Travellers and the settled community.

This cannot continue.