Here's my week-to-date round-up of a few aspects of what has been happening on the political front...
Who Really Runs Labour?
The thorny question of who really pulls the strings of Labour has raised its head again with what has been portrayed in various respected news outlets as a botched attempt by the (huge) UNITE Union to manipulate the candidate selection at Falkirk, and apparently in forty other constituencies as well. Dan Hodges, fully back in his stride these days, tells it as it is and what it means for his party.
This is not new; and indeed there is a certain degree of legitimacy in the Unions' claim to need to be represented within what they perceive as an increasingly middle class Labour party. After all, Labour was created as the political wing of the Unions and the so-called 'working class' whom those unions represented (well, they did back then, to be fair to them), long before so many of the big unions were taken over by Communists and became predominantly political organisations themselves.
The Unions' first big move in this decade was to do whatever they could to get 'their man' (Ed Miliband) to be the Labour party leader, shoving aside Ed's brother David in the process. This worked; and it was UNITE and the GMB who (seemingly 'illegally' under Labour party rules) who sent out material to their members suggesting that Ed was the one of the then five candidates to 'best represent the interets of [insert union name] members'.
This will rumble on now, and where it might eventually lead is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, it has to be said that all parties suffer from the practices disclosed in the Falkirk revelations. I (and no doubt some visitors to this 'blog) will have read about it happening in Tower Hamlets with Lutfur Rahman, those with longer memories will recall the Southall and environs claims and counter-claims of a few years ago, and there have been many others.
Indeed, I have personal experience of this, and could write a lot more about that, but perhaps it is better that I do not, at least not yet... Yes, it happens, and it almost certainly happens a lot. Personal agendas...
Council Tax Collection
Closer to home is the always concerning question of Council Tax collection rates. The thing is that those of us who do pay up have to pay more in order to 'fill in' for those who do not. In practice, there has always been a proportion of rates and its modern day equivalent that, at any moment in time, has not been collected for one reason or another, and no doubt there always will be.
The trend regarding such arrears is a slowly moving downward one, though Labour are trying to hoodwink the public into thinking that it is a worsening situation. It is not, as explained here, and is indeed creeping downward as a fraction of the total collectable amount – which, if you think about it for a moment, is the only valid way to do it (as the actual amount goes up almost every year).
Now, as to why there is a small by proportion, but nevertheless large-ish by actual amount, outstanding at any time is complex, as I could elucidate in several paragraphs (remember: I was the chairman of our council's Audit Panel for several years, so know a lot about this, including the numerous legal obstacles to recovery) but that isn't appropriate for this digest. Just accept that this is nothing new, that it rolls on from year to year with new arrears appearing and old ones being (often very slowly!) paid off simultaneously.
It all comes out in the wash, as the saying has it...
No New Runways Needed
That was the clear message conveyed to officialdom by half a dozen campaign groups from the south-east of England, as reported by 'AirportWatch' here.
Now, one might well expect that to be the line they'd all take, and they would be certain to have some evidence to back it up. It could equally be said that they'd find a way to arrange that any reports, investigations, surveys, whatever would be 'rigged' to produce the answer they want, rather than the answer that is true. After all, Sir Humphrey Appleby taught Bernard how to do precisely that, in Yes, Minister.
Indeed, I am personally a little wary of the conclusion that no new runways are needed in this region. I have a strong gut feeling that one or two could well make a significant difference if the question were handled intelligently – but at existing airports. I certainly do not subscribe to the idea that a new hub airport here is either needed or desirable – though if it were, the London Thames Global concept, to be located at Thurrock in Essex, seems to be far and away the best of those ideas.
There is still so much potential within what we still have in this part of the nation, so that if it is decreed that some kind of limited expansion in runway capacity must be provided (and I think it will), it would be much better if the campaign groups had something sensible to offer as a fallback position, rather than offering nothing and therefore having to be completely sidelined when the detailed decisions are being made.
Having such a 'Plan B' ready is my recommended approach for the campaigners, operating in concert, so that they can protect those whose areas they represent in this arena as best they can, even in the case of a modest expansion final decision. Without that, they'd end up completely out of the picture.
Not Keye Luke to David Carradine in Kung Fu this time, but the perpetual explanation for Medway Labour's continual flitting from one subject to another. There is no coherent 'master plan' in their policy activity, as such, only picking whatever at that moment will do them some political good or can be twisted to that end.
Some might suggest that they are simply being comprehensive and covering all areas – but they aren't. It is always highly selective, and if it cannot be made to make themselves look good (particularly when it gives them scope for attacking 'the Tories' sic) it will generally be ignored until and unless it can be thus presented.
Those of us who have been watching them for years have long ago realised this, and some of us have always personally witnessed how it has been stage-managed, from the collusion with local reporters (and there is a whole essay I could write about that!) to the use of out-of-area Labour-friendly outfits and individuals.
There is also (again) a Union-led agenda of 'motions' to Council with a 'heads we win, tails they lose' narrative worked out in advance (and the motions and speeches by Labour worded precisely to steer such occurrences in that way, and (also again) the disconnected nature of most of them, when one looks down successive Council agendas.
It doesn't require a Mensa membership-level intellect to spot what is going on, and indeed has been the norm for many years. By their actions shall ye know them, and it takes only a fairly modest effort to work it out for oneself. Lefties will no doubt remain blinkered, and will try to explain it all away; but once anyone has seen the truth, even those attempts lose all potency. Clarity overrides propaganda, every time!