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.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Politics of Police Cuts

Tom Winsor has concluded a review of Police pay and conditions for the government with a recommendation that savings of up to £60 million are achievable. By a bizarre and disturbing coincidence on the very same day the Association of Chief Police Officers have published a report saying that government reductions in spending will cost 28000 police and back-office jobs over the next four years. Apparently they couldn't have put this out last Friday or tomorrow, it had to be today, on the same day as a detailed report on police practices, some of which seem more appropriate to the Bow Street Runners.

Just how stupid do they think we are?

There was a time when the police in the UK had very high public support, but shenanigans like this one are at least part of the reason why this has decreased markedly. In the past no government would have dared to tamper with the arcane overtime practices enjoyed by the police, but after the War on the Motorist, a senior police officer standing up at an inquest and stating that it is no part of the police role to control the streets, two women bleeding to death because a police firearms team was too worried about Health and Safety to do their job and things like that idiot firearms officer putting song titles into his inquest evidence about his shooting a man dead then public support has waned somewhat. In the latter case the excuse put forward was that the firearms officer was too stupid to do something complicated like inserting song titles into his statement. He was apparently bright enough to be trusted with battlefield-class weapons and to make split-second, life and death decisions though.

Again, this is not a matter of how stupid he was but how stupid the police think we all are.

We need to get back to a point where respected police services deliver both public safety and criminals to be prosecuted. The coalition plan for elected police commissioners is desperately needed. Of course, the police don't like it, being perfectly happy with the current situation where the Chief Constable occasionally reports to a committee of people whose names you have never heard of.

Accountability will be better for the police and better for the rest of us. I cannot believe that most of the abuses of the last few years would have happened if there was someone to carry the can for them in an actual election.

Democracy actually works you know.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

John Baron MP hosts Traveller meeting

MP and Councillor Tony Ball confirm Basildon Council’s position

Today in Parliament John Baron MP hosted a meeting which involved the travellers at the illegal Dale Farm site, local Councillors and residents. The purpose was to follow up on the meeting in January and agree action points going forward.

The travellers, following consultation at Dale Farm stated that they would not leave peacefully unless they had somewhere to go. The Council confirmed its position that it will clear the site. However, a £60 million fund has been made available in the last month from central Government which the travellers are now pursuing with the aim of finding sites outside the Borough.

John and Councillor Tony Ball said:

“We have made it clear that the rule of law must be obeyed and that this site will be cleared forcefully if necessary and within our timetable. However, we see it as our civic duty to go the extra mile to try and avoid the misery of a forced eviction whilst upholding the law.”

“There is a £60 million fund which has only become available in the last month to help provide sites. The travellers are now liaising with Essex County Council and the HCA in order to use this fund to locate sites outside the District. We will facilitate communication if required.”

Further to this, a Planning Application has been received for a Traveller site on the HCA land at
Gardiners Lane South. However, that application is defective in that much necessary work has simply not been done. No such application can be considered until it reaches the high standard that we require for all major applications in Basildon Borough.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Basildon Borough Budget

It was Budget night last night at Basildon Council. My colleague Cllr. Phil Turner presented a balanced programme that cuts the Council Tax by 0.25%, maintains frontline services and invests in community facilities, while making the required savings to keep in line with the fall in government support. So, we are spening £300,000 this year on Hannakins Farm Community Centre, Pitsea Leisure Centre and Victoria Park. Who could possibly object? Well, step forward Basildon Labour Party.

Labour's plan was to take £2m from reserves and borrow £2m in order to avoid building on open space to fund the Sporting Village. This was in support of the Kent View Road campaign to prevent houses being built in their vicinity. So, we have the basic principle of spending very large amounts of money in order to satisfy a relatively small resident's group. The Council's reserves and debt levels would be compromised so that Labour can jump on a bandwagon. Except that doesn't happen because they know that those sensible Tories will vote it down.

Of course, their proposal was technically flawed. They got the sum required to meet their stated objectives wrong; it's £8m not £4m. The failed to take the loss of income to the Council from the reserves they spent, which are currently invested. Worst of all, they programmed in a further £150,000 of savings without realising that this almost certainly equated to redundancies. Oh did their little faces fall when that was explained to them. What a shambles.

Their next wheeze was to cancel our weekend free car-parking in order to fund a free music festival that we have cut. They claimed that this £100,000 initiative had failed. Well, not according to the local Chambers of Commerce and the Essex FSB it hasn't, but Labour didn't bother to talk to them. Another shambles.

Sometimes I wish for a better opposition. Sometimes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Megrahi blackmailed Gaddafi over Lockerbie bombing

Just when you think the Labour government's actions over the Lockerbie terrorist Megrahi couldn't get any more sordid, another shoe drops. Now they are free to tell the truth it appears Megrahi threatened to reveal the details of how Gaddafi ordered the Lockerbie bombing unless the dictator got him out of his Scottish prison. According to the Telegraph, this is from two separate sources: former Justice Minister Mustapha Abdel-Jalil and former terror mastermind Atef Abu Bakr. So, basically we have confirmation that Megrahi was as guilty as hell, that Gaddafi planned the whole thing and yet the bomber is sitting at home with this family having exceeded his advertised 3-month lifespan by a long enough time to write a novel. Moreover, we now know why Libya was so desperate to get him home: because he had said he would squeal otherwise, and Gordon Brown and his cronies went along with it.

Hang on, someone might say, wasn't this all the decision of the Scottish government? Well, for the someone who doesn't know how politics works, there would have been no way on God's green earth that the Scots would have let Megrahi go over the strong and public objections of the British government. Instead, the Brown regime gave the Scots political cover by keeping any criticism either muted or non-existent. That created an environment where the Scottish government could release Megrahi without political consequences in Scotland and where US criticism largely fell on the UK. The fact is that Gordon Brown let the worst mass-murderer in British history out of jail because he thought it would improve relations with a genocidal dictator.

That man's moral compass is nailed to a direction that does not require principles to follow.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Brown explains his Ethical Foreign Policy to Gaddafi

I know that you have to deal with unsavoury characters as PM, but Labour had a policy of positively cosying up to Gaddafi. Given current events Brown is probably hoping that photographic evidence of contacts with the genocidal dictator won't emerge.

Oh dear:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Libya and not Burma?

Why Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and not Burma or North Korea? There is one factor that marks out the last two that is not present in the first three; the status and role of the army. In Burma and North Korea the army is integral to the State. Burma is run by the army. The leaders of North Korea hold rank in the army and the senior generals sit on the highest committees in the land. For the Arab countries the army is separate from the ruling party, and is a distinct and separate institution. In Egypt and Tunisia the armies are relatively powerful and designed to fulfil their role of protecting the country. In Libya, the army is relatively weak and not trusted by the ruling elite. This explains the Chadian mercenary units, the hiring of mercenaries being a classic tactic of rulers who doubt the loyalty of their own forces.

What this all means is the answer to this simple question: will the army fire on its own people? In the case of Burma and North Korea, no-one really doubts the answer. Both states have histories of using their armies for brutal internal repression. In the Arab countries the answer is no, and that is the basic reason why Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali are now in need of alternative employment. In Libya the answer also appears to be no, but Gaddafi's use of mercenaries has changed the dynamic. If you meet a peaceful demonstration with live heavy weapons fire from a bunch of foreigners then you had better think things through. Predictably, the Libyan army wasn't going to sit still while hired Chadians murdered their brothers and sisters. There is now a state of civil war in the country.

Of the many options open to him when the protests began it is actually possible that Gaddafi chose the worst, for both his country and for himself. By going with the Ceaușescu strategy there is a real chance that this will end with him and his family being put up against a wall and shot.

I suspect that there won't be too many tears if that happens.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

West Ham clobbers Alastair Campbell

I am a West Ham fan. I am also a football fan, in that I will watch any decent team because I just like to see the game played well. Last night I didn't have to stray from my favourite team though because the boys in claret and blue were playing Burnley in the FA Cup. As anyone who follows that competition knows, West Ham won 5-1. What was even more satisfying was that the TV cameras picked out lifelong Burnley fan Alastair Campbell in the crowd looking a little sad.

Campbell is the former Director of Communications and Strategy to Tony Blair. He was also the man who debased British politics with a culture of lies, including the web of deception that fooled the Commons into voting for the Iraq war. His poison extended to the last election, where he tried to spin the line that Labour hadn't actually lost in an effort to keep Gordon Brown in power.

God knows what he is doing now, maybe lying to himself in the mirror of a morning just to keep in practice.