Friday, April 10, 2015

Manston Airport – Search and Rescue Can Come Home

The way is clear for Search and rescue to return to a re-opened Manston Airport.  That is the real significance of the announcement made yesterday by the minister of state for Aviation, John Hayes, during his visit to Thanet yesterday, says North Thanet`s Roger Gale.

“It is a pity that the real issue was buried under a synthetic and media-generated political “row” says Gale.

“The Minister responsible for the Coastguard Service has approved a one-year contract for Bristows to operate from Lydd while discussions relating to the future of Manston continue. He has made it plain that during that time there will be no capital investment in new SAR facilities, paving the way for a swift return to the preferred operating base, Manston, as soon as the airport is once again operational.  That speaks volumes. It demonstrates the faith that a significant and reputable company, Bristows, has in Manston and it states very clearly the importance that the Prime Minister and the Transport Department have placed upon Manston as a strategic national asset – because this move has the full backing of Number 10. This is part of a process that those of us who really support Manston have been engaged in for months and it has nothing to do with the General or council Elections at all. “

Commenting on the status of the RiverOak indemnity package Roger Gale has added:

“The Minister made it plain that, based upon the indications that he has received and the contents of a letter sent to him by the Chief Executive of RiverOak, Steve DeNardo, yesterday, he is confident in saying, with the full weight of Ministerial Office, that he is satisfied that there will be no risk to the Thanet Council taxpayers in proceeding to a Compulsory Purchase Order.

I have a copy of that letter in front of me and in it Mr. DeNardo says:

“We instructed our solicitors, Wragge, Lawrence Graham, to draft an indemnity agreement between Thanet District Council and RiverOak to cover all the Council`s risks. This was because we recognised that for both financial and political reasons it would be impossible for Thanet to carry any risk, however small and however remote. I can confirm that the indemnity agreement as drafted does meet those requirements.

RiverOak is a US registered company but prior to the signing of the indemnity agreement we will create a UK based and registered company, to be known as RiverOak Aviation, to go through the CPO process and take ownership of the airport if awarded. The same company will also hold all the appropriate CAA licenses.

In support of the CPO process RiverOak accept total responsibility for making the business case for the airport to the CPO inspector. In doing so we recognise that if we are unable to satisfy the Inspector as to the viability of our business plan we will lose the CPO and a significant amount of our own capital but it will have been done at no cost to Thanet.

To this end we are prepared to deposit up to £2,000,000 into a designated escrow account in the UK simultaneous upon the mutual signing of an indemnity agreement between RiverOak and Thanet District Council”

That is the basis upon which the Minister of State has felt it possible to say that there will be no risk to Thanet . I do not believe that the situation could now be clearer.

I have made it plain to the Leader of Thanet District Council that if she and her administration now proceed to instigate the CPO procedure then they will do so with the full and non-partisan backing that I have offered to date and to that end I am prepared to put my own political reputation on the line.

Further, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Thanet District Council, Bob Bayford, has indicated that on an equally non-partisan basis the Conservative Group will back the controlling Group and will share equal political responsibility for the decision.  I do not think that we can offer more and I hope and expect that reservations will be set to one side and that, on the basis of the Minister of State`s assurances, the process will now be allowed to immediately commence”.

Sir Roger Gale.

See earlier Bristow SAR story for background reading.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Election Time Again

There's a General Election a matter of weeks away and Thanet will have an opportunity to find a new political direction or new political leadership, if it wishes.

The very real danger though, is that the island will once again be left with a weak and riven political administration, pre-occupied with points-scoring, antipathy and issues, wholly-unrelated to what is really important for every one of us that lives here.

So, while exercising the protest vote may seem attractive, be very careful what you wish for, as the consequences and some of the people, may be far worse than anything we have ever seen before.

I'm of course stepping down from an active role local politics - loud cheers - but I have good reason to worry over the fact that while there are some every good candidates for public office out there, there are others who really should not be given any form of responsibility whatsoever but are quite likely to be returned, simply because enough people like the colour of their rosette.

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One View or Two?

Not long in from Frankfurt and I've published Sir Roger Gale's 'View' of the Thanet Draft Local Plan, below.

Reading the Westgate Development Concerns Facebook page, I'm struck both there and by my conversations on the street, at how little people understand the process of local democracy and how it works; or not as the case may be.

A London View of Docklands
Far too many people appear to believe we are governed by an odd version of the American constitution; that councillors are well-paid and work for them, full time and that simply by signing a petition in one part of a local authority, policy for the entire area can be revised or rejected. I worry equally, that in Westgate, a handful of well-meaning and active residents are not and have not been entirely straight with people on what is or has actually taken place and how we might resist the danger of a 1,000 new houses or at least find a compromise of sorts, which I believe will prove to be the inevitable result over time. Sir Roger Gale gives a more considered view of his own role and the dangers we face as a community, further down.

Westminster Middle Left
Residents vote for councillors like me, who are not full time; unless perhaps they are retired or unemployed and are entitled to just under £5,000 in allowances each year. The Councillors can add their vote to an issue if it is bought before a full Council meeting and not decided directly by the Cabinet of the existing administration which in turn, directs the Council and it's civil servants, the officers.

In Westgate, we have three councillors but only three among over fifty across Thanet, who also don't want hundreds of homes across their wards. We can't unilaterally decide to reject a policy, even a draft proposal, like this one, here in Westgate. The final decision on where and when new homes are built by 2031, will be one take by the Council as a whole and we hope that with the strength of feeling expressed across Thanet and not just Westgate, the ruling administration will listen.

Another great 'View' coming back into Heathrow earlier, with the splendid London panorama laid-out below m Docklands, Dome and the Millennium Eye clearly visible.

One Thousand Houses for Westgate? - Sir Roger Gale's View on the Thanet Draft Local Plan

The publication of Thanet`s Draft Local Plan has, understandably, generated more than a little adverse response in certain quarters.  We need, though, to remember that this is a draft plan and that it is open to public consultation.  It is important, therefore, that those many who wish to raise objections do so, I would suggest before the end of February, in writing and individually.  Round-robins and petitions carry much less weight than personal; observations based upon sound local knowledge and whether the concerns that a commentator wishes to raise relate to housing in Westgate and Garlinge, for example, or to the “flexible” re-designation of Manston Airport as a “opportunity” site, those concerns need to be spelled out for TDC very clearly indeed.

Although I am not directly involved in a local plan that is, of course, the ultimate responsibility of Thanet Council, I am taking, on behalf of those that I represent, a very keen interest in the matter. I was, for the record, unable  attend a public meeting in Westgate about the arrangements and date of which I was not consulted but of which I was simply  informed, I had representatives present at the gathering, however,  and I have been fully briefed as to what was said and by whom. In due course I shall make a written submission myself based, in the case of housing requirement, upon the obvious concerns that have been identified relating not just to the loss of farmland and open space but also upon the defects in road infrastructure, school, healthcare employment opportunities an  and other vital considerations.

It clearly is not good enough for the County`s housing requirements to be dumped upon East Kent with little thought as to what the predicted thousands of people who will occupy new homes might do to earn an income to support those families. At the same time we need to recognise that there is already, and without attracting incomers from London or beyond, a significant housing need locally that must be met. Laura Sandys and I have already sought to challenge the concept that it is somehow in order for Inner-London Boroughs to seek to acquire, not directly but via the back-door of private landlords, properties in which to locate some of their problem families. We shall continue to challenge that practice insofar as we are legally able to do so and most certainly expose it as and when it takes place. Thanet needs housing for Thanet`s own.  I note that our County Councillors have been studiously silent on the subjects of both the Local Plan and this related issue and it is, perhaps, time that they raised their heads above the parapet and let us know that they still exist.

There is also a danger in all of this: you do not need to be a rocket-scientist or a brain-surgeon to work out that a backstop provision might be to dump one hideous great housing estate on that wonderful brownfield site otherwise known as Manston Airport. The paradpox is, of course, that Manston as a working airport is the one real opportunity that offers the prospect of considerable employment in the short to medium term.  Unless, therefore, you buy into the “housing and industrial estate” pipe-dream promoted by those who wish to see the prospect of aviation destroyed, it is essential that those commenting upon the local plan state very clearly their objections not only to massive housing estates but also to any re-designation of Manston for uses other than for aviation.

I believe that with imagination and good use of derelict and under-used sites it should be possible to meet much of our real short and medium-term housing needs without destroying either our environment or the future of our airport.  If, and only if, all other options have been exhausted should we even begin to consider how careful use of some greenfield sites might be landscaped into use.  That, though, will require not just very careful thought and sensitive planning but massive investment in supporting infrastructure.

Once the consultation has closed Thanet Council will have to consider the representations that have been made.  The Draft Plan will then need to be revised and confirmed. I would hope and expect that at that point it will not just be rubber-stamped by the Council Cabinet but debated and voted upon before being submitted to an Inspector for consideration and final approval by a Secretary of State.  That will all take time but in the interim there is a council election and it is vital that we see elected council candidates of real quality with the calibre and intellect to deliver a Local Plan with the sense of vision that will take Thanet forward  in the interests not just of current residents but of future generations. If we fail them they will rightly not forgive us. - Sir Roger Gale MP.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Going Underground

We remain a United Kingdom but I'm not entirely convinced it feels that way anymore.

What I find somewhat bizarre is people of visibly non-Scottish antecedence, promoting independence, which rather begs the question of what Scotland or being Scottish actually is in a modern world? After all, I'm part Scots, English, Belgian and Norwegian and I'm sure that genetically, most of my readers also share an interesting mix, as well as in the case of a great many English people having a 10% Italian marker gene, inherited from the Roman legions. It all seems rather irrelevant in a global economy; to me at least. I enjoyed Braveheart like anyone else but that's where my imagination stopped.

St Regis Abu Dhabi
I thought I would share the picture opposite. It's the private tunnel leading from my hotel in Abu Dhabi, across and under the big main road.

This rather reminded me of the stories of Nero's Golden Palace in Rome. Here you have a subway decorated in the finest marble and polished like a mirror, with no expense spared. At a time when here we worry over the minimum wage and austerity, it's a reminder of what wealth and conspicuous consumption can look like elsewhere, where money is no object and street litter simply doesn't exist.

I had a call last week from the BBC. Apparently they have a political reporter moving down to Thanet to live in advance of next May's General Election and of course it's South Thanet which is the focus of their interest.

The 'Beeb' had been trawling this weblog and I pointed then at several local characters whom I 'm sure would also be happy to offer an opinion on the local political scene.

What is without doubt however, is that the lives, familiies and personal histories of all the political candidates; not just Nigel Farage, are going to be under intense scrutiny between now and next May. If there's even a hint of any skeleton in the cupboard or even a minor indiscretion at secondary school, the BBC or quite possibly The Sun and the Daily Mail are going to be looking for it with chequebooks poised. Quite why anyone would be prepared to put themselves through what is yet to come, for a poorly remunerated role on a Westminster back-bench, defies understanding.

Manston airport is firmly back on the agenda again with last week's visit from Cabinet Minister, Grant Shapps.  With Scotland and the powerful SNP influence of Mrs Gloag, now firmly behind us, I really do think there's a chance for the airport but if and only if the Council rallies behind a CPO and a suitable partner to achieve it. That said, I fear that Labour, with an eye to picking-up any and every possible vote in Ramsgate for Will Scobie, next May, may prevaricate as long as possible and Manston may yet become a political victim of Nigel Farage's ambition in the town.

I would like to be proved wrong.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Whistle-stop Tour

Independence Square in Kiev
Back from my recent travels, after an epic five hour journey, by train, from Heathrow to Westgate, yesterday afternoon. Thanks to South-Eastern trains, racing for a timetabled train that did not exist and then discovering engineering works between Gillingham and Faversham, with a replacement bus service, which stank of cannabis, with several of my fellow travellers, straight out of a Monty Python movie.

A Mother's Vigil
Anyway, having landed at Heathrow at 2:20 PM, I finally arrived home at 7:50 PM, a little faster than the equally dramatic and fun-filled eleven hour journey, last month, between Wolverhampton and home after I delivered an aircraft to RAF Cosford.

I thought I might share a few of my photos from the last week, so here they are.

Two of these may be of passing interest. The first, in monochrome, is, I'm told, of a mother, who sits on the same spot every day, where here son was shot dead by the President's snipers in Kiev's Independence Square last winter. Very sad.

Air Strike?
The second, was taken passing Irbil in Kurdistan. I knew, from the news that there was a fight to recover the strategic dam, inside Iraq, this last month, from ISIL and so when I saw where we were on the moving map, I took a look over towards the Iraq border and was surprised to see three artillery or air-strikes taking place, one after the other.. Here's one in the photo.

The last photo is of the opulent foyer of the five star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi, where the evening temperature was 41 degrees Celsius when I landed.

You don't check in to a hotel like this in the conventional sense. Instead, relax in a magnificent ante-room, while the staff check you in and attend to any baggage or special guest requests you might make and if you wish to have your own 'Butler' assigned then it's an option; rather like the BBC's programme on the famous Taj hotel in Mumbai.

It was rather nice, momentarily imagining life was really like this, for three pampered days, before I sped off to Istanbul and then to Kiev to do another job and from there, into the almost predictable  hands of South-eastern trains for the long journey home.

St Regis Hotel Abu Dhabi

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Taking the Leap

Super-hero in Town
Watching a movie being made in Station Road or even finding a superhero, waiting at the bus-stop, is an everyday occurrence in Westgate-on-Sea these days. Then there's our own local version of Top Gear running around the streets after midnight, frequently repeated several times a week.

I wonder if we could persuade the super-heroes to stay-up into the early hours to deal with boy-racers? I'm having very little visible luck with police to date; even with the assistance of our Member of Parliament.

Anti-social behaviour in Westgate, is, I'm sure somewhere lower down on the police list of priorities, particularly when you consider the mayhem that can occur elsewhere on the island but it would be nice to see a little action, as they now have most, if not all of the number-plates and I really couldn't make it easier for them.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may have spotted that I'm playing with Google Glass. I've just been into Westgate to have corrective lenses ordered and so should you see me wandering around looking like one of The Borg from Star Trek, you'll know why' it's taking a little getting used to, having a head-up display in front of my right eye all the time, feeding me information from the Internet.

Back to the real world and we are, of course, a small island of dog-lovers and here in Thanet, it's 'Staffies' you are more likely to see on our streets than any other breed.

Having stumbled across this video on YouTube, I wonder how many of our local pets and their owners might be up to the remarkable challenge, shown below? The dog doesn't appear too worried but then nobody has explained to him in any great detail, what the risks are.

It all rather explains why Superman chose to take the bus instead!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It's Farage for Thanet

No surprises this evening, as UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, wins his party's nomination to stand as the Parliamentary candidate for South Thanet in next May's General Election.

I'm reminded of the classic BBC series, of the 1980's, House of Cards but with a much shallower but far more populist character in the leading role, originally played by Ian Richardson.

Is this good for Thanet, north or south? Well I'm a little prejudiced and would of course says 'No'. Principally, because it turns the local political scene into more of a three -ring dysfunctional circus than it is already.

We already have a clown, in the shape of former militant socialist and  Green Party candidate, Ian Driver and Labour's local hopeful, Will Scobie, fresh from university, may be the candidate who benefits most from the arrival of UKIP's largest political cannon on Ramsgate's seafront.

Thanet has a host of problems, economic and health-related and I suspect that the people who most need a conventional, hard-working candidate, are the one's most like to be let down by the cult of celebrity politics and the media bandwagon which will very soon be camped in Ramsgate, between now and May of 2015.

Nigel may be the winner tonight but it's Thanet that may ultimately prove to be the loser of this political beauty contest as our dirty-linen is washed in public, to satisfy the curiosity of newspaper readers across the planet.

As for the other candidates, my advice to you is lock-up your bin bags, because every indiscretion, every secret and anything that you may have done of note since primary school, is now up for grabs.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

This Afternoon in Westgate 1940

If you were out for a walk in 1940, you might have seen Herbert Bischoff's Me109 of 1/JG 52 (note wild boar motif) make a forced landing on the edge of Minster Road, after his engine failed during a dogfight above the town on the afternoon of 24th August

This photo, snapped by a local air raid warden, caused lots of trouble and he was bought before the court on Margate charged with "Photographing the wreckage of a German aeroplane without a permit." Apparently the police and the military, keen on denying intelligence to the enemy were very disturbed by the number of people running around taking souvenir "snaps" but the culprit was "let-off" with a warning.

Pursued by RAF Flight-lieutenant George Gribble. Pilot Bischoff (see his account) hit a concrete anti-glider post before running across the stubble and bending his propeller. For him the war was over but his unit, JG52, went on to score more victories against allied aircraft than any other in the Luftwaffe, mostly on the Russian Front, so Bischoff was probably quite glad to end the war in one piece.

Herbert Bischoff. survived the war as a POW and became a prominent doctor, corresponding with local historian Dick Hambidge and the full story is here.

If you know the area, you can just about work out the position of the aircraft if it were still there today.

The Wild Ones

Daily Mirror from the Earlier Riot in May 64
It's hard to imagine that fifty years ago, this weekend, the 'Mods and Rockers' were fighting it out on the beach at Margate.

As a small boy, I can remember seeing the running-battles with the police, an army of black leather jackets, like ants across Marine Sands, from the clifftop at Westgate. There were also a few brief skirmishes that spilled into Westgate. The town was a very different place then and I think everyone wore a dress and a tie; perhaps even both. Those were the days when we never locked our house and people commonly exchanged a cheery 'good morning' when they passed each other in Station Road. The big houses in the town were normally owned by single families and so the population was a fraction of the 6,000 or so it is today.

In those days, much like a 'Just William' novel, small boys like me, wandered around freely and nobody worried where I might be. I  recall seeing one 'Rocker' hiding behind a bush along the seafront, when he saw I spotted him he pulled a switch-blade and threatened me and so I made myself scarce very quickly. This same individual was involved in skirmish at the junction of Station Road and Roxburgh Road and threatened my father. To this day I can remember, very proudly, that this was not a wise move and I never saw him again.

Changing the subject but remaining with bored young-men seeking violence and adventure, I see even the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for the revocation of Jihadi passports today and I suspect, that the BBC aside, a great many people are sympathetic to his proposition.

Daniel Hannan writes a thought-provoking piece in The Sunday Telegraph today.

I can't imagine anything worse or more dangerous than bringing 'John the Jihadi' back to this country for a criminal show trial, even if he and his crazed associates could be caught. Last night, Sky News used the expression an 'English Jihadi' but this opens a can of worms over what it actually means to be English today; the test of 'values' that Government is wedded to but that is derided by some cultural groups who have no wish to share our common values, even if they could be properly defined.

Not Quite as Blade Runner Imagined it
The problem that faces our society and most immediately our Government is loosely in two parts. The first is structural/technological unemployment, which is sweeping through the western economies and threatens the work prospects of all those who can be cost-effectively eliminated from the workforce (and expensive pension rights) by increasingly sophisticated and clever machines. The example I give in my lectures, is that while processors, following Moore's Law of 1965, may have improved a 1,000 times, algorithms and the business processes they support, have improved 43,000 times faster than that. The rise in self-employment and zero-hours contracts illustrates this very clearly, both here and the USA but politicians won't discuss it and continue to make welfare, pension and employment promises, as if they were in the late 20th century and not the early 21st.

The second problem is also born of statistics of a kind and that's swiftly changing population demographics. Yassir Arafat understood the political power of high birth rates. The Palestinian population increased seven-fold in one generation from 450,000 in 1967 to 3.3 million in 2002 and in open-prison which is Gaza, we can see the consequences writ large.

"The wombs of Palestinian women", Arafat said, were the “secret weapon” in his cause. The Israeli government is very much aware of Palestinian demographics.

In Europe, we can see, this part-reflected in a rapidly growing primary school population which is being driven by immigration pressures. We have an ageing, 'indigenous' population which is shrinking across Europe; with France's falling among its fastest. The Muslim population in Britain has grown by more than 500,000 to 2.4 million in just four years, according to official research collated for The Times this means quite unavoidably that England's religio-cultural future is a broadly Islamic one within two generations.

Together these present our society with a fertile incubator for radicalism and frustrated self-expression from a growing number of young men without prospects and a real sense of identity outside the highly polarised and self-imposed cultural bubble in which they live. It's a legacy of the Blair years and delivers moments, as we have seen recently, with the black flag of IS, flying openly in parts of London. All the Control Orders in the world are not going to be able to turn the tide of statistics or halt progress. What happens next is up to Government and Government has nothing that looks even vaguely like a solution for the future.

Daniel Hannan writes lucidly today "At the same time, let's stop teaching the children of immigrants to despise the British state. Let's stop deriding and traducing our values. Let's stop presenting our history as a hateful chronicle of racism and exploitation. Let's be proud of our achievements – not least the defence of liberty in two world wars in which, respectively, 400,000 and nearly a million Muslims served in British uniforms."

Back to my own bubble and for a Bank Holiday Sunday, it feel like late September. I'm off to Abu Dhabi, via Istanbul and then Kiev, lecturing very soon and I was somewhat encouraged to see Angela Merkel in Ukraine yesterday.

I was in Kiev at the end of last year; just before the problems all 'kicked-off' and I'm rather hoping I'll be in and out again before the next large Russian aid convoy comes into view. Borispol has one of the most spartan and least attractive, post communist  airports in the world, so this time around, I'll bring my own Mars Bar, a drink and something to sit on, while I wait for my flight home to Heathrow. There's a real money-making opportunity for a Starbucks concession there or even another trolley with a coffee urn!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Strategic Need for Manston Airport

Rochester Airport
Yesterday, I received a copy of Riveroak Investment's submission to the Davies Commission on the ''Utilisation of the UK's existing airport capacity.'

In the document, Riveroak develops its argument, that 'Manston airport can be re-opened as a successful Sky Port and Integrated Aviation Services Hub' and if you happen to be one of the many thousands of people in Thanet, who still believe in the airport's future, despite the efforts of Mrs Gloag to create the perfect conditions for a giant housing estate, the argument is attractive, if not compelling.

There will of course be many readers of this weblog, who will take a quite contrary view and I rather hope, given the experience of the last twelve months, I won't have the police knocking-on-my-door all over again, because someone feels offended by anything they may read here.

Ultimately, this is a decision for the Council but I do fear that any notion of swift progress has been somewhat kicked into the long grass by the council officers and the grass around our closed airport grows longer with every day that passes.

Meanwhile, Rochester airport is getting a new hard runway in exchange for sacrificing part of the existing RW34 grass area for housing. While it's not anywhere near the size of Manston, the economic value of a small and busy airport to the local community has been recognised and last month, a specialist flying school was launched for ab-initio, Chinese pilots. These will be coming all the way from China to learn to fly here, where the standards of training and tuition are recognised as among the highest in the world. Perhaps this also reflects a lost opportunity for Manston, along with the air sea rescue hub we were promised last year?

That's it for now. I have to traipse into Margate to get yet another waste food bin from the Gateway. Someone has taken to stealing mine, waste food included, over the last two collections and quite why, I can't fathom. Perhaps there's a roaring black market in Thanet Council brown bins, somewhere in eastern-Europe or perhaps the foxes have become rather more clever of late? If you find mine, can I have it back please? It's labelled.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On the Bench

Just George
A photo portrait of one of Westgate's most visible and popular characters, 'George'.

If you live in the town, then you are bound to encounter George and like many others, I make a point saying hello when I see him reading his morning copy of The Sun on the bench in Station Road while he waits for the cafe to open. He is always cheerful and chatty and I'm reminded of Peter Sellers in the movie, 'Being There.' If you ever watched it then perhaps you'll recognise the character.

Changing the subject now to a more serious note, yesterday, I received the decision notice (TDCSC/113/14) from Thanet District Council in regard to the complaint made against me - and two other councillors - a year ago.

This process had been delayed because the complainant., Margate landlady, Ms Louise Oldfield had also made a criminal complaint of harrasment; one which demanded a lengthy police investigation and which I'm sure you have read about by now, if not here, then in the national press or even on the BBC.

Kent Police, after spending large amounts of tax-payers' money interviewing bloggers and tweeters far and wide, finally dropped an investigation; initially forced-upon them by the office of our much criticised  police and crime commissioner, Ann Barnes and I'm pleased to say, that Thanet District Council have also followed their example and thrown-out  Ms Oldfield's complaint.

So what has all this achieved? Unfortunately, under Freedom of Information rules, the Council is unable to share the on-going costs of satisfying Ms Oldfield's many different inquiries, this one included and I'm afraid that Kent Police, are equally reluctant to reveal how much it cost the taxpayer to have two officers of inspector rank, investigating such serious allegations over a period in excess of six months.

Arlington under Construction
The end result, is that I and two other councillor colleagues have decided to withdraw from local politics next May, as a consequence of this unpleasant experience and I'm sure that Louise Oldfield's friends and supporters will be delighted to hear this.

And what did we do? In fact absolutely nothing and certainly nothing that might be regarded as either criminal of malicious. At worst, we tacitly disagreed with Ms Oldfield's position on the proposed Tesco development on Margate seafront and nothing more.

As Simon Davies of Privacy International described it:

"The move signals a bizarre twist in British policing from extending criminal evidence from content to context. This has the potential to create a serious chilling effect on free expression.........The most disquieting aspect of the police action is that the unnamed councillor faces criminal charges for doing no more than “liking” a Facebook post of the former mayor of Margate, pointing out that an objector’s artist’s impression of the proposed Tesco development is in the wrong place and of the wrong size. The development’s opponent claims this was “offensive” to her and complained she was the subject of criminal harassment by the three prominent local councillors."

Is this, I wonder what readers expect from Thanet's politics; that the police should become involved, over a disagreement on whether a Tesco store should be built on Margate's seafront and then should come knocking on the doors of councillors homes to interview three of them under caution, because someone holding an opposite opinion, is offended by what the Thanet Council Standards Committee describes as "No more than freedom of speech?"

I leave the final judgement to my readers, after all, both the police and the Council have now arrived at similar conclusions and perhaps the public sees things differently? Now, at last we have seen an end of it and if the local, rather than national press make any mention of it, I will be very surprised.