Friday, 23 January 2015

My Way on the Highway

As many people around these parts in particular are well aware, I am a formidable force for good action (and strategic planning!) when it comes to highway and related matters. It is probably my strongest suit when looking and my ward work from when I was on Medway Council and subsequently as well.

Indeed, since leaving the Council, and moving home, I have been getting all manner of street scene and similar issues dealt with in other parts of Medway, most notably in the ward where I have been living for the past several years.

This, as I conclusively documented at the time, was because the Labour councillors for this ward had neglected to do anything for years, and nothing was even in the queue of outstanding work. Thus I felt no qualms about taking on the task of dealing with a range of issues from a broken kerb (trip hazard) at a crossing point outside an infant school to resurfacing damaged sections of roads, with two lots of graffiti removal, sorting out collapsed metal fencing, and having overhanging branches (two lots again) dealt with, also in the mix.

My wry smile at last night's Council meeting when Labour councillors complained about 'the appalling state of Medway's roads' might have puzzled others in the public gallery at the time, but not if they had known the reality.

You see, it is generally only in the wards of Medway that have just Labour councillors that the roads remain in a bad way for years on end. That is because they do not want them to be fixed, because those roads' only use to Labour councillors and activists is as a political weapon. If they are dealt with, that weapon is lost. It is exactly the same philosophy as Labour's intention to 'weaponise the NHS', which is something that is currently in the news.

I am very careful when getting highway (both road and footpath) repair work done on what might be considered to be someone else's patch. For a start, I make sure that it has been in a bad way for some time and is not already scheduled to be fixed (when the facility for that check is available – and there have been no fewer than three such systems coming and going in recent years!)

Occasionally I embarrass the existing ward councillors to do something themselves – as seems to have been the case in regard to the footpath repairs on Eastcourt Lane, Twydall, after years of neglect (I had been checking in Google Street View images going back at least three years). Only once I have – very publicly – pointed this out did it suddenly become of interest to at least one of the three Labour councillors for that ward, and was subsequently fixed. I went back to check...

I spend many hours using Google aerial and street view imagery to check out various parts of the Medway borough's roads, taking careful note of the dates of those images, and plenty more hours on the ground, checking first-hand. For example, St Albans Close in Strood South ward was one of just two roads that were then, on Google Maps, still showing need of significant work.

I checked it out (and it's a slightly involved walking route from the nearest 'bus stop!) and found that it had been recently completely resurfaced. They'd done a good job too. I reported in the other road (Beech Road) myself last year, having first checked that no-one else had done so already, and offering suggestions to aid with the logistics of that task when it came to implementation.

That is a mixed-representation ward. Labour-only Rochester East ward has several long-neglected roads whose entire length in each case is a disgrace.Why has this not been tackled? I have waited a long time for these to be done, even feeding the 'intell' on these roads to a former Conservative activist who lives there – but has now gone to UKIP so I am not expecting any results, especially after his general attitude toward the running of the council on a number of fronts.

As a direct result of that, I have today reported those three roads in Rochester. For anyone who wishes to see what I mean, search for Anchor Road, Mooring Road and Fairway Close. The same two Labour councillors have represented those three roads for eleven years and done nothing about them in all that time! Now that is the real story of Medway's roads.


UPDATE 24 January 2015: Medway Labour didn't like this post, but rather than commenting here have instead tried to counter it via Twitter (their favourite medium). It appears that the official figure they are using is a simple count of how many roads have (or had when the exercise was last run) an issue of any kind, as a proportion to the total number of roads each Local Authority administers.

This isn't all that useful, as we (and, I suspect, many other areas) have roads of differing lengths, numbers of lanes, amount of traffic and so on. Also, 'an issue' might be the tiny blemish on Wells Road close to Bligh Way shops in Strood, or the full-length resurfacing needed on the three roads I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.

I can find no evidence of 'crumbling' roads as Medway Labour claim in their image – and I have almost certainly put in considerably more effort into watching this than all of them put together – and they have tweeted that they are not interested in providing a list, so I suspect they have done no actual work on the matter at all, merely looked up a central government ministry statistic.

I am aware of their claim of a £35 million total cost to bring all our roads up to top-notch standard; but as several millions are spent each year on a rolling programme of repairs, and it has been increasing year-on-year ever since the Conservatives took over running the council some fourteen years ago, this huge exercise is being managed well enough and without draining finances from other services.

I don't claim that all is rosy, and never have; although Medway's road have for years been recognised as being in the best condition of any in Kent – but I cannot recognise this supposedly 'crumbling' place when I, at least, do make the effort to make frequent checks of main roads, back streets, closes and all other places I can reach, throughout the five towns and as far onto the peninsula as I can physically reach – as well as with the continual aid of online aerial and street imagery.

Labour, on the other hand, do no work on street scene matters in many (if not all) cases, and all they are capable of doing is knocking Medway – which they do with monotonous regularity on every subject they can find. For voters in the local elections here this May, the choice seems to be between lazy,miserable dragging-down negativity with Labour, or actual achievements with the positive-attitude Conservatives.

Medway Council Meeting – 22 January 2015

I thought I ought to write something about this as we are approaching the local (as well as national) elections, and this was bound to have an effect. Although I couldn't stay until the end, as something cropped up and I needed to return home to deal with it, I caught enough to be able to tell precisely what was going on.

Fortunately the meeting was video-recorded, so I hope a straight, unedited copy of that will be uploaded to a publicly-visible site such as YouTube n the days to come (it's not there yet). So much of what I have been saying for several years will become clear to the truly observant that many of the public – reading what ends up being written in the local newspapers – will probably never realise!

Here are some thoughts I hurriedly posted to Facebook last night, assembled here for convenience and with a little 'fleshing-out' where that could be helpful...

Labour Gaffes

I got a signal (on one of my communication devices) that required me to leave this evening's meeting of the full Medway Council in order to deal with something from back here, but not before I had witnessed several Labour gaffes in their attempts to secure headlines from the no doubt broadly compliant (complicit?) journalists present.

There were several gems for anyone paying proper attention – and the meeting was video-ed so it will be possible (for the first time!) for readers here to see for themselves what I mean when I mention these things – though this is my favourite, from the Labour group leader...

Good ol' Vince: he said that the Labour group rarely call-in decisions (i.e. bring Cabinet decisions before the Full Council, as they are entitled to do) as they do so "only when they have a concern" (or very similar wording).

This of course means that they have no concern about most of the Cabinet's decisions – and yet, purely for party political purposes (and again this will become evident to anyone listening closely to what actually transpired) they spend most of their time at Council whingeing or otherwise criticising those very decisions.

In fact, on an almost trivial matter, the same individual gave their true game away much earlier in the meeting. He actually had a valid point, regarding the council's official Twitter coverage, and I'd have had some sympathy with the thrust of his case had it been handled properly – comfortably in advance of this meeting.

If he had, it could have been put in place for this meeting (which it should have been); but because this was a purely party political manipulation technique designed only to grab headlines, he left it until this evening – when it was obviously too late to do anything – to make his point.

Thus you get to understand something of the true nature of Labour: it isn't (and never has been,by the way) about 'right and wrong', only about what serves themselves. Note that they clearly weren't interested in getting the Twitter coverage in and of itself.

 The Fool On The (Lodge) Hill

Another interesting event at this evening's Council meeting was the result of a know-it-all (self-confessed) hot-head whose lack of understanding meant that he dug himself into a hole. This is a result of one of those I have been coaching getting above themselves and thinking they 'know it all', despite all my cautionary advice.

If the individual concerned had come to me, I could easily have explained the issue's history, posed a rhetorical question or two to aid comprehension, and predicted what was going to happen if he attempted this course of action. I'd also have suggested a better approach.

Instead of that, he went his own way, switching political parties in the process and is now beginning to look ridiculous, despite a predictable by-election success that he is labelling a 'referendum' (it is glaringly obvious that it was and is nothing of the sort).

This individual has a HUGE amount of growing-up still to do – and, quite frankly, was never suited to elected office: the peg simply cannot fit the hole, which always means more harm than good is done, eventually. Very few who end up in this kind of situation have the wisdom to recognise this truth, so I am expecting some not very good times ahead, and the lesson to be learned the hard way.
Ah well, so be it...

Questionable Practices

Yet another aspect of the past evening's Council meeting was the well-known 'trick' of asking a seemingly-innocuous question, which is published on the agenda and for which an answer can be prepared in advance, and then the infamous 'supplementary' question that is the real (political) question.

We had several examples of those, all from prominent (and well-known) Labour party members and former candidates in elections gone by and one Liberal Democrat former candidate. One of them was new to me, but I'd known the others for some time: the names Garrick, Heathfield, Jeacock, Munton and Pranczke might ring the odd bell or two with any readers who have been following the scene here for a while.

Earlier Council agendas will show not only these same questioners turning up time after time, but the records of those meetings (i.e. including the supplementary questions) show the true, purely political motivations of these five – and a few others not included in this meeting's batch..

Again, this will be most evident from the video-recording of the meeting once it becomes available (I am assuming it will be uploaded for public viewing), and the purely political manipulation of what was always intended to be a helpful adjunct to the regular 'public questions' agenda item will be seen for what it has largely become.

Paying Attention

It is amazing to me how poorly-informed many opposition councillors are, even those who had spent time as part of the ruling group. Time after time in the 'Questions from Members' section of the agenda even political group leaders got basic facts wrong so were asking useless, irrelevant or nonsense questions, wasting their opportunity to achieve something of value.

I have already touched on one of these above, but the Lib Dem leader's question made reference to 'a large number of contracts with Medway Citizens Advice Bureau'. Well, perhaps two is a large number to the Lib Dems – it would be no worse than Ed Balls' recent inability to cope with counting to three, as in the short video clip I posted on my Facebook page earlier this week...

There was also an attempt to portray the Conservative Group as split on an important issue, but again – because of focusing on the political goal of the questioner rather than the (non-)issue – it fell completely flat. It is a lesson that Labour folk in particular never seem to learn, as their aims are completely skewed by their near-enough desperate need to jump on anything they think they can use for their own political advantage. Time and again, down the years, we have come to realise that this truly is the be-all and end-all of their (literally) miserable existences.

Indeed, the tenor of all of that party group's offerings to that point in the meeting were easily shown to be exactly as they had been for a decade and a half at least (I quote that time period because I can personally attest to its veracity)which is to continually 'knock' Medway and paint a dreary picture that does not accord with reality.

Not that the almost-rosy picture the Conservatives like to paint is accurate either, though in reality it is a lot closer to what those of us who are 'out there' a lot find and can feel (well, at least Sensitives like myself, who can tell more than merely what people say and their general demeanour,though of course I take those fully into account as well).

Bearing in mind that I live in a predominantly Labour-voting area, with its consequently expected moan-at-anything outlook, perhaps surprisingly it usually takes prompting to generate negative reactions here – though I have witnessed Labour people doing precisely that, in order to 'manufacture' the response they want rather than what is true. I could cite specific examples; and one day I expect I shall write a detailed post containing a number of those, just to drive the point home.

Some people like moaning (it's a convenient way to shift blame, among other temptations) so it's always easy for those coached in the ways of Labour campaigning to produce a falsified picture of life here. If the public paid sufficient attention too, in this case to how they were being statistically manipulated, perhaps they could discourage Labour by providing no usable results for them.

Summary

Overall, at least in the two-and-a-quarter hours that I witnessed first-hand, I'd have to say that the opposition (especially Labour) achieved very little for themselves politically, despite a lot of bluster – though, interestingly, not as much as I had expected. The public gallery was sparsely occupied, without the usual Labour-supporting claque, and remarkably quiet and well-behaved.In fact, it was one of the less unpleasant Medway Council meetings of the past year or more.

Of course, Labour leader Vince Maple's big opportunity will come late next month at the Budget-setting meeting, where he will have unlimited time to make his usual national politics speech (nothing really to do with the business of the meeting, purely party political posturing). After that, there will be one more regular Council meeting before May's elections, in late April, and that will be where the rest of the fireworks will be set off.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Enemy Of My Enemy

There is an old saying that goes the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It's somewhat simplistic, but it does allow for the creation of some 'unholy alliances' – as I personally witnessed during our local elections here in Medway some eight years ago.

Just about everyone and his dog who were involved in that election campaign (and, yes, there really were a few dogs in the mix!) who wasn't a Conservative teamed up with each other to jointly push an anti-us message. There is quite a story behind that, even entertaining in parts – but that is not my subject of attention on this occasion.

It has been interesting (if predictable) to see the launch of an anti-UKIP Twitter account, supposedly fed from across the political spectrum but (as I expected it would turn out to be) essentially, and predominantly, from the Left.

Okay, it doesn't really matter all that much, but it does mean that – despite a wealth of usable material – they all to often pick on things that they think make the case against UKIP, but to most of the British voting public are more likely to be seen as good things. I have encountered a number of such 'ouch!' moments, and suspect they sometimes do their cause more harm than good.

I follow this account, just to see what they are putting out, and even occasionally re-tweet one of their offerings if it makes a valid and important point. It does happen sometimes, though much of their material is too skewed (and, usually, obviously so) to be usable by someone with my (very high) standards.

So, are they my friends? No. Is UKIP truly my 'enemy'? Not really, not to the extent that I'd apply that term to them. In practice, these elements are already out there, and in practice I am doing little more than keeping a weather eye on them. I do not contribute or respond to them, and don't re-tweet much of their output.

I am content that the British electorate will reach their own conclusions and vote whatever way they decide – though I do like to occasionally pull out the rug from under those who seek to deceive us all. If it hurts enough, and often enough, it might just discourage the deceivers – but it is an ongoing situation and will probably never end.

Thus the game is being played in its 2015 form, and I shall keep a watch on it – though I doubt that any of what I have mentioned here is making more than a miniscule impact around the nation anyway!

The Debates Debate

I know it sounds silly, but we've had it before: the way the pre-General Election party leaders' televised debates are to be conducted and who is to be invited to participate.

Last time, five years ago, it was comparatively clear-cut – and there were three parties that could reasonably be thought of as being part or all of the new post-May 2010 UK government. They were, unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats.

Thus when those three parties' leaders were to be the invited participants, it all made sense and was no great surprise. Indeed, two of those leaders subsequently became Prime Minister (David Cameron) and Deputy PM (Nick Clegg).

This time around, the national situation has changed markedly and the waters are distinctly (or should that be indistinctly?) muddy, with no fewer than five parties now of sufficient significance to warrant consideration.

Realistically, there are only two approaches that the organising broadcasters can take without justifiable accusations of political bias...
  1. Have only those party leaders that can sensibly be expected to have a chance of being the next Prime Minister. That means David Cameron and Ed[ward] Miliband – no-one else; or
  2. All five significant parties. This is the only acceptable way to include the Liberal Democrats again this time, as their support in the country has consistently been so low as to have them in either equal fourth place or even fifth place, behind UKIP and the Green Party.
Ideally, there should be at least two such debates, one of each of the above. That should satisfy almost everyone. Lefties want UKIP included because they see Nigel Farage as their best weapon (hugely better in this respect than Miliband!) to make Cameron look bad, weak or otherwise diminished. Thus their pushing for UKIP's inclusion is purely politically motivated, and transparently so.

However, the Green Party has a larger membership that either UKIP or the Lib Dems, they also have a new MP who took that seat from another party by standing on a Green party platform. UKIP has never done this, merely holding two seats by deploying the same candidates whose positions were essentially secured by a different party, and their holding them primarily as 'the devil we know' in this time of anti-political sentiment.

Of course, the Lefties don't want the Green party leader in the debate(s), as that would tend to level the playing field again – and one thing upon which all Lefty organisations depend heavily is skewing things their way, playing as dirty as they feel is necessary to achieve that goal. They know they cannot win in any fair contest (hence all that postal vote rigging that we have read about in recent years, for example) as their most respected writers have frequently admitted, and as worldwide history during the past century or so clearly illustrates.

The Left's diversionary tactic has been to put it about that David Cameron is scared of facing Nigel Farage.

I am sure he'd face such an encounter with trepidation, but he knows he has little to fear. UKIP has lots of internal problems, many of which reach the public awareness; their policies are often incoherent and nonsensical and get changed on the hoof (as our Mark Reckless recently found) or even scrapped in their entirety; they are essentially one-dimensional in nature so can be easily outflanked by Cameron's broader and more inclusive approach, and insider knowledge, especially on the world stage.

He can handle the gig!

On the opposite side of the political divide, the Lefties know that the Greens are on an upward trend these days, after a couple of years more-or-less in the political wilderness. Their change of party leader seems to be bearing fruit – watermelons in this case, of course: green on the outside but raw Communist red when one looks below the surface.

This means they can 'out-left' Labour easily, and could even (after an all-five debate) lead to the Lib Dems petering out completely within the next couple of years. Thus neither of those parties wants the Greens involved in any of the debates, especially while that party is in the ascendancy. Both are running scared of them.

Thus it is easy to see that it is actually the Miliband and Clegg camps that are 'frit', and David Cameron who is correct in insisting that the Greens be included. Overall, they are now the most significant (especially potentially) of the three 'lesser' parties – and without them, neither of the others (Lib Dems, UKIP) should be included either.

That, folks, is the bottom line!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Still 'Kipping or Waking Up?

Inevitably, and perfectly understandably, there is currently a lot of anti-UKIP activity by other political parties and sources (especially on Twitter) that do not appear, on the surface, to have a party political basis – though it is more than likely that they do.

For me, already knowing much of what lies up ahead, it has been interesting to observe all these manoeuvrings and the effect they have. The latter has tended to be the opposite of what was intended, actually bolstering UKIP's support rather than diminishing that support/ It's all quite predictable, once one appreciates the 'playing field' that exists in Britain (especially England) today.

None of that really matters all that much in practice, as the deception that is UKIP continues to make headway with a disillusioned voting public, trying hard to find a party that can be considered to be 'non-establishment', for whom they feel they can vote. So far, it seems to be working, and it will result in a spoil for other parties, most notably – but not exclusively – their primary target, the Conservatives.

Thus it is possible that, for a second time, there will no overall majority after the May election – which is what the UKIP leadership are, I believe, fervently hoping, if (as seems likely) they cannot achieve their preferred outcome of a Labour overall majority.

If that sounds strange, it is worth learning at least something of the truth about UKIP, some of which I have described before. All the necessary clues to the truth are in the public domain, and have been obvious to any attentive observer for some time. Two simple questions, that most people will answer incorrectly, will when correctly answered point this out quite starkly...

  1. Are the UKIP leadership left-wing or right-wing?
  2. Are the UKIP leadership in favour of Britain's exit from the EU, or greater integration?

I shall not answer those here, now, as it is much more instructive for readers to work out the truths for themselves. The mere fact that I felt it necessary to ask them, and in that precise form, is in itself a further clue.

I see that the party's most famous founder (there were originally three, one of who has since died), the left-wing Alan Sked, is weighing-in because of fears that the party's current 'Farage effect' will deprive his old party of any seats. Incidentally, it is interesting to remind ourselves of why he left the party he had helped to create in the first place: partly because of Nigel Farage, partly because it was getting 'too right-wing' – which was never the true game plan: that was just deception.

When it really comes down to it (and as some who have made the switch to UKIP have already learned) everyone is going to have to learn the lessons for themselves, as I often say. There is no point my saying anything to any 'Kipper or supporter in person, because they always 'know better' and use the standard Lefty trick of labelling me in a negative fashion.It has been tried many times.

Therefore I now mostly let them be, and wait for them to humiliate themselves as unfolding events prove what is and what isn't. Although it goes against the grain a little, I have had too much of that kind of treatment to bother much any longer. Let them learn the hard way!