Sunday, September 30, 2007

Crying Wolf.

Just before I wander out to support the Boy's Brigade march in Westgate on a wonderfully sunny Autumn afternoon, I would like to make a brief point about "crying wolf" on this website.

The comment entry, further below, came in this morning as a comment, I forwarded this to Cllr Shirley Tomlinson, who took time out from her Sunday morning to visit the site and investigate. She tell's me there's nothing there!

Readers will know that if they draw something to my attention, that I'll do my best to help and take appropriate action, whether the matter is in my own ward or not; by forwarding the email to the right councillor if necessary. However, if I start sending out false alarms like this one, neither Thanet Life or I will be taken seriously, something I'm sure readers would rather avoid.

So please, check your facts and if you want me to help act on a problem, by all means leave an anonymous comment but I won't move it on in future unless I receive a separate email with your name on it. Is that fair?

"Those big bins are all out at the Waste Tip next to the Cemetry. (nice) They are stacked 20-30 high, rotting in the open conditions. The TDC seem to have turned a 'blind eye' to this fact. Have a look quick because as soon as they read this, they'll move them round the back out of the Public's eye."

Call Collect

RIPA. It's here in Thanet too but few of our readers will know what the "Regulation of Investigatory Powers" is.

I was engaged with the debate on privacy since the very beginning, even ending up in the Newsnight studio with Jeremy Paxman for a head-to-head with the then Home Office Minister, Bob Ainsworth. What I said then was picked-up by the tabloids, about giving a traffic warden the right to read your mail and it wasn't far short of the truth.

Since then, it's been kicked-about by the Lords a few times, watered-down slightly and been given greater impetus again by the 'war against terrorism'. In October, it's back and every council must have its own RIPA policy and every telephone call and email you make or send in future will have its details - but not its content - recorded.

The trouble with RIPA is that the information it harvests isn't just available to the caped crusaders of anti-terrorism. The add-on clauses of this "ill-conceived" piece of legislation can also include other government departments like the Inland Revenue and anyone else who might have a case to make. We haven't so much sleep-walked into a police state under New Labour but fallen-in to it with our eyes closed and now its too late.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference, Labour's own think-tank, the Left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), using data from the Government's own quarterly Labour Force Survey. has revealed the real strain on our welfare system from immigration. Records show that some 40% of immigrants from underdeveloped countries, like Somalia, Iran and Bangladesh, are on benefits, with one in ten Pakistanis claim sickness or disability benefit – almost twice the level claims by people born in the UK.

The Channel 4 programme 'Despatches' is going to broadcast the report tomorrow and it may well hijack the conference debate at Blackpool. The figures on council housing, for example, risk being exploited by BNP extremists who stir up trouble by claiming that new immigrants go to the front of the local authority queue ahead of white families. Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: 'I would be very concerned at any programme which might turn immigrant groups against each other.

The immigation debate backfired on Michael Howard at the last election and it may yet return to haunt both David Cameron and Gordon Brown for the General Election that is being predicted for November!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Thanet Photo and Video Competition

There's so much good photographic and video talent on the island, that I managed to persuade the council to start a competition to show Thanet off to its best using local contributions.

There's a first prize of £500 worth of photo and/or video equipment and the competition runs until November 9th, with the entries displayed on the council website, the library and the council offices in Cecil square, Margate.

Visit The Council Website for your entry information.

Ed: I have to disqualify myself from entering but encourage anyone who has sent in photo or video clips to ThanetLife to join-in.

To Gamble or Not to Gamble? - Gale's View

It is the 29th September, our wedding anniversary, and the Big Organ Grinder dithers on. His troops have this month been marched up the hill and down again and are at present "neither up nor down". It may all change in the next few windswept Blackpool days but in the meantime back to the start of the month.

And back to Westminster. I have some forty child tax credit cases on my books. Each one of them involves a demand, from the Revenue and Customs, for the return of benefits overpaid as a result of the incompetence, usually, of the Department and the inability of the Treasury to get its sums right.

This scheme was invented by one Gordon Brown as Chancellor, a man who famously then hid behind the skirts of his Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo at the time, and bravely refused to come to the despatch box to answer for the chaos that he had created. This man is now the big Organ Grinder with his finger on the nuclear button!

The tax credit scheme was presided over by Mr. David Varney. Mr. Varney took his Treasury knighthood and, rewarded for his inability to make Brown's scheme work, moved on. I therefore find myself in Whitehall discussing with his successor my view that the Revenue and Customs should bear the cost of its mistakes, preferably out of the salaries of its mandarins, wipe the slate clean, sue the genius that installed its failing computer programmes and start afresh. This view does not entirely find favour but to be fair I am given a courteous hearing and the promise that the system is being reviewed and simplified. I shall advise my frightened constituents not to hold their breath.

Young David wants to bring back national service. Well, no. Not really. The excitement is over a proposal to offer sixteen year olds the chance to do six weeks of "national citizen service". Not compulsory. Nice try, Dave, but a little wide of the Sergeant Major's mark! This proposal, though, is pure brilliance when compared with the gimmick launched by Ed Balls, who describes himself as, amongst other things, "Children's Secretary". We are to have "Citizen's Juries" that will meet to discuss "issues that effect children" and usher in "a new kind of politics". Come back Madam Defarge. All is forgiven.

September is harvest time but the Big Organ Grinder is busy sowing. "A British Job for every British Worker" is one of many autumn golden headlines designed to pitch to the Tory vote and convince us that Mr. Brown is not Scottish but British, wants to control immigration, clean hospitals, cut crime, lower taxes, fill the land with milk and honey and do all the things that he has signally failed to achieve during his ten years already in power!

Meanwhile Young David pledges to force a Commons vote on whether or not a referendum should be held on the draft European Constitutional Treaty. The Big Organ Grinder and Little Organ Grinder Miliband are determined that "this is not a constitution" and that no referendum is needed. Interesting. I print and deliver, with a few chums, forty thousand leaflets and deliver them to every home in my constituency. The response is outstanding. Ordinarily politicians will claim a "huge response" meaning that we have received three or for replies. This really is different. The "We want a Referendum" reply cards really do come in - and are still coming in - in hundreds. Not only that, many of them are hand-delivered to my office or bear first class stamps, such is the eagerness to reply. If there is to be a snap election let it, please be a referendum on Europe.

In the real farming world there is something approximating despondency. Relieved that the Government Vet, Debby Reynolds, has announced that the foot and mouth outbreak is over and returning to market we are shattered to face a fresh outbreak of the disease at the worst possible time in the farming calendar. By the end of the month we have added the first case of blue tongue to this litany of disaster and those of us who are not farming can offer little but sympathy for our friends that are. It is, to be sure, a hard and cruel life.

Mid month and Northern Rock. The banks, jittery, are refusing to lend each other money. This leaves one of our largest mortgage lenders short of readies and having to go to the Bank of England for emergency financial support. Not entirely surprisingly this causes a run on funds, queues around the block, computer systems and shares crashing. And a rise in the Government's popularity! Notwithstanding the fact that this administration has presided over rocketing house prices and a huge and unsustainable increase in public and private debt, facts effectively highlighted by Young David and Boy George, the Bank of England (wholly unprompted by Brown and Exchequer Darling, of course!) steps in with huge largesse and saves the day. The smell of roses all round and, No, the Governor of the Bank, Mervyn King, tells the Treasury Select Committee, he was not leaned on by the Government. Ho. Jolly Ho!
In Brighton the Liberal Democrat Conference press coverage seems dominated almost entirely by the age/experience/wisdom/senility of the Party's leader, Ming Campbell. A pity, really, when you want to talk about climate change.

Election fever hits a high. Brown is "believed to be holding weekend talks to decide whether to hold a snap poll". In Kent with have other fish to fry. The Gale's eldest son is getting married and our eyes are taken momentarily off the political ball. Incredibly, at this equinox, we are blessed with sunshine. Bride and Groom will shortly be honeymooning off to trek through the Andes in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and for a brief moment we remember that there is a life beyond the ballot box and a world where real people live and love and laugh!

Back to earth with a bump. The Labour Party invades Bournemouth sending my aged Mother and other residents into hiding for the week. Remember Blair, the "pretty straight kind of guy"? Well Brown remembered him, fleetingly, after about forty minutes into a turgid speech designed, we are told, to appeal to wavering Tory voters. It was an election speech, of sorts. Full of more promises to mend education, the police, the health service, the armed forces, Iraq, pensions, and all the other things that, as one half of the Blair/Brown team the Big Organ Grinder has spent the last ten years helping to break!

Gordon Brown, it seems, wants to be regarded as a "pretty Son of The Manse kind of guy". Unfortunately, political leopards do not change their spots and electoral memories are not that short. You really cannot spend a decade at the very heart of a grim and failed administration and then expect the voting public to give you another ten years in office to try to put right all of the things that you, personally, Mr. Brown, have contributed to damaging. To call an election or not to call an election? You decide. Cut and run or dither and look ridiculous?

I'm driving off to the seaside. A lot may depend upon what happens in Blackpool in the next few days.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Surge

I can't honestly recall a similar experience. I've just negotiated my way back to St Mildred's Bay from West Bay, using the lip of the sea wall - pictured - where it connects to the cliffs. The sea surge is so intense that waves are rolling over the promenade and threaten to wash any careless passer-by into the sea.

I took the photo just after I jumped to safety to avoid the wave that preceded it.

If you have a beach hut in West Bay, best check on it. I have asked the council to try and help push No10 back into position as it has floated to the edge of the promenade and risks floating away.

It occurs to me that sea levels are higher than they were when I was a boy and along the promenade, there are scattered fragments of concrete where the waves have fractured lumps away from the edge.

A great view of the tidal action however from the cafe in West Bay and see the video that Michael Child shot of Ramsgate, below:

To Let To Let Too Much

Strong winds and pouring rain. Part of a tree down at Adrian Square in Westgate and complaints about too many estate agents signs, several of which have blown down in the same area.

Getting very wet in the process, I hope the tree branch will be "sorted" by KCC later today and I walked one of the offending "To Let" signs back into Westgate and presented it to the appropriate estate agent, reminding him politely of the town and county planning act, "control of advertisements. class 3."

I do agree with residents, there are far too many of these signs around and they are supposed to be removed within fourteen days of completion of an agreement but many are not. One problem we have locally is that we have only two planning enforcement officers to police the whole of Thanet and as you can imagine, they are kept rather busy.

I'll have another walk around Westgate next week and see if the signs have been reviewed in the light of my approach to all the local estate agents. Hopefully some action will be taken but I somehow don't think we are going to see an end to the blight with so many empty properties available to let.

On another note for Westgate residents, I'll be joining MP, Roger Gale at the Westgate library for his advice surgery at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 6th October, if there's anything that needs direct attention.

Photo by Sue

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The New Jerusalem

At lunchtime today, we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of the Labour Party Conference closing with both a chorus of "The Red Flag" and William Blake's "Jerusalem", which is more commonly performed at the close of Conservative Party conferences.

In case you haven't read Peter Hitchen's "Abolition of Britain" in which the author claims that Britain has experienced a "cultural revolution", comparable to the one imposed on China by Mao, you may wonder why a group of socialist Scots, responsible for dismantling any real concept of England, might be singing what is considered by many to be the English national anthem.

I suspect it's all about trying to capture the middle-ground of Conservatism while paying lip-service to the last of the "comrades" - still found slumbering within our own council chamber -with no real place inside the affluent new Labour political class that appreciates a good capuccinno or Chianti!

I wonder what they will sing in Blackpool next week? It can't be 'Jerusalem', Gordon's pinched that along with the crime policies. Send in some suggestions and I'll pass them along!

Dog Bites Child

Another child bitten by a dog on Ramsgate beach I see!

The nine-year-old girl was with her friend near Ramsgate harbour and ran towards the water to escape the dog, but the child was bitten on the leg. The dog returned to its owner when they reached the sea.

The dog is described as a cross-breed and the owner was a white man, aged between 38 and 50, 5ft 8in tall with brown thinning hair and glasses.

He was wearing a Leeds football shirt, white tracksuit bottoms and trainers.

Anyone with information about this incident - which happened on the afternoon of Sunday, September 9 - is urged to contact police on 01843 222178 or Kent Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

Beyond Reproach

Is the real division in British politics not between rival political parties but between an arrogant and self-interested political class and ordinary voters?

Like me, you may have watched the 'Dispatches' documentary on the abuse of Parliamentary privilege with a sense of disgust. We've all heard of the fiddles introduced over the last ten years and the exploitation of the "Green Book" which places MPs beyond any real accountability but I hadn't realised how far the rot had set in under New Labour and the influence of two key figures, one being a Mr Gordon Brown and the other being a Mr Jack Straw. The former of course wrecked the UK pension system but made sure that he and others, like the Lord Chancellor would benefit from the most generous pension arrangements in the land, while Mr Straw has made very sure that any real application of Freedom of Information in regard to MP's finances is on a par with China.

I had naively thought that the National Audit Office (NAO) was truly independent and beyond reproach, only to see that it has been "got at", the shambolic, wasted billions of the National Programme for IT being a fine example of "good project management" and "value for money". If you can't trust the NAO and even Blue Peter in this country of ours, who can you trust?

It's not good. It makes a sham of our democracy and with every year that passes, the new ruling elite look like the characters from George Orwell's novel, "Animal Farm", one law for them and one for everyone else where taxes, expenses and pensions are concerned.

Meanwhile, Jack Straw, looking to beat the Conservatives at their own game, plans to introduce a new law that will make self defense against muggers and burglars more 'proportionate' in favour of the honest citizen. My eye caught one of the comments in today's papers which is show below. Do you think the person writing it has a point?

"I think given this government's sensitivity to race it would all depend on race. If he's a chav from the local estate then it's fine to give him a whack with your bat as he climbs in the window. If he's from an ethnic minority, Balkans or even a member of the "travelling community" then you may as well help him pack away your belongings because any force used would always be disproportionate and probally racist. I've been burgled twice so far, plod never found the criminal, obviously, but they've been very helpful sitting there drinking tea and eating biscuits while they took all the details before isuing me with a crime report number. Worth every penny I pay them in my taxes......"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sport Cruiser


Forget the car, I was out with Loop Magazine last week, "road-testing" the little beauty in the photograph.

Available as a kit but also a factory-built order, the Sport Cruiser costs £40,000, has a top speed of 138mph at an economical 17 litres per hour. It has full "glass cockpit" instrumentation like the latest generation of airliners and is the ideal runabout for all the millionaires and property developers who will be rushing to buy a stake in Margate's regeneration, via Manston, following today's story in the Independent newspaper.

Now if we could turn a length of the the cliff at Palm Bay, near the pumping station, back into an airstrip - just like 1912 - just imagine what that would do for Cliftonville property prices and commuting opportunities to London?

Unfortunately, it's not rugged enough for banner work, so I'll have to stick to the workhorse Cessna 172s.

Special Interest

Last week, I mentioned that I had spotted what looks like an interesting archaeological site between Faversham and Sittingbourne. On the way home on Monday, I took some photos and you can see that that something big once occupied the site.

Up to the right hand side, there are round, hut-like impressions, so I wonder what it was and how long ago it must have been when the entire building or village occupied the space.

Any local historians, if you want to get in touch, I'll tell you exactly where it is. Time to rush out and buy a metal detector!

Margate - The Seaside Resort du Jour

Margate features in the Independent newspaper today and this is some of what it says, although you can find the full story here.

Airport chaos and carbon footprints have done wonders for Kentish seaside towns such as Margate. Not long ago it was the enfant terrible of the Isle of Thanet, a byword for dilapidated bingo halls and kiss-me-quick postcards. Now the sandy bucket-and-spade resort is the seaside resort du jour. Tourists tired of the nearby trendy town of Whitstable are heading downstream to Margate, where the beaches are sandier and the air saltier, not just from the sea but the old-fashioned chippies that line the promenade.

A Margate renewal partnership is spearheading the regeneration campaign, working to turn the listed stone pier into an art-and-eating venue with painters' workshops and hi-tech night lighting. A high-speed rail link from London is set for completion in 2009, so you'll be able to go from smoke to sand in less than two hours. But the best thing of all? Margate's house prices are still comparatively low.

Margate was once the domain of retired couples and teenagers, but locals are upping the cultural ante. They like their seafood here: not just cod and chips, but mussels, oysters and fine wines too. A successful old-town regeneration scheme has got Londoners all a-fluster: won over by Margate's retro charms, they are opening boutiques, galleries and even a top jazz café that puts on a festival of national acclaim, Big Sky, every summer. You can hardly blame them: a burgeoning arts scene and lack of pretension are an all too rare combination.

Despite last year's mass exodus to the excellent shopping centre at Westwood Cross, the local council has done a fine job of encouraging retail in Margate's old town. A farmer's market comes to the hotel-packed suburb of Cliftonville once a month. Great nosh can be found at the newly opened Number Six, which has the best chocolate cake in town. And with no Starbucks in sight, Café G's low-fat cappuccinos won't fatten anyone but the local economy. A new juice bar on the high street gets the youth vote.

Read on...

Photo by Sue

Joined-Up Dots

I've enhanced, filtered and sharpened the alleged Madeleine McCann "sighting" photo from Morocco. See what you think?

But when you enlarge it and look in more detail, you can see where the brain is automatically filling in the missing parts in a way that resembles the iconic photo of Madeleine that we all have seen and is stored in the subconscious.

All I can conclude is that it's a small child of indeterminate sex.

Service Council Tax "Concession " is "Mean and Tacky" - MP

North Thanet`s MP Roger Gale has today (Tuesday) described as "mean and tacky" Gordon Brown`s "Council Tax Concession" for service personnel.

"This deal is like so many of Brown`s budgets" says Roger Gale. "It was designed to grab headlines and the devil is in the detail. It is targetted only at army personnel on active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will do nothing at all for those many who serve less than six months - which includes those repatriated wounded or dead - and of course it does not recognise the existence and the heroism of those serving in the RAF in the skies above war zones or of the Navy patrolling the Gulf."

The MP, who has spearheaded the campaign to persuade the government to honour Blair`s pledge to make funds available for the families of deceased servicemen and women to be legally represented at inquests, was speaking on the eve of a visit to HMS Bulwark in Plymouth.

"What am I supposed to say to my constituents serving on board this ship?" said the MP. "Am I to say that `Your country does not care about the Royal Navy?` This ship`s last tour in support of the Iraq war lasted eight months - but not all of that time was spent in the war zone. Does that make their contribution to this misguided war effort any the less courageous or valuable?

One of the first combatants killed in the Iraq war was a young naval aviator, one of my constituents. Another was the first woman officer to be killed in the war. Does this government not recognise them?

Blair liked to describe himself as "a pretty straight kind of guy" It seems as though his Chancellor now wishes to be regarded as "a son of the Manse kind of guy" but the fact is that the old mean streak dies hard.

If we want to be fair to our service men and women then we should not be divisive. Every Service Man and Woman on active duty anywhere overseas should receive full domestic council tax relief for themselves and their families for the duration of their posting and every service family should be afforded accomodation that is large enough, clean and decent. We either treat our armed forces as the dedicated personnel that we are or we lose them."

Concern for Missing Birchington Boy

Police are concerned for a missing 12-year-old diabetic boy who has not had insulin for 24 hours.

Alfie Cummings, from Birchington, is a type 1 diabetic and depends on his medication.

He was last seen on Monday when he had his last jab, and has now missed two shots. Officers said he knows that he needs to take his medicine.

Kent Police have released this photograph of the child in an appeal for help in tracing him.

A spokesman said: "He has disappeared before for short periods of time, but never for this long.

"He is aware of his condition and the need to take his medication regularly."

The schoolboy is described as 5ft 2in tall, with short blond hair, and a mole between his lip and his nose.

He was last seen wearing a grey and blue hooded top with a diamond motif on the back, black Adidas tracksuit bottoms, a black puffer-style jacket, and black training shoes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wildlife Trust

Proof positive that primitive man is alive and well in Thanet, with news that police chased and arrested five men for hunting a wild animal with dogs. (a Badger I'm guessing)

The police were called to a farm in Minster on Friday night after receiving reports that the hunt was taking place.

The men involved - and their dogs? - tried to escape but police caught up with them in a 4x4 vehicle. All five were given cautions.

Chief Inspector Mark Chambers said: "These arrests send out a clear message that the hunting of wild mammals with dogs is not acceptable."

Ed: I'm sure they will be devastated to learn that their behaviour is unnacceptable and will be shamed by their caution. I don't think so somehow. What is equally worrying is that a directed effort towards tormenting wild animals in this very brutal fashion is frequently reflected in display of violent anti-social behaviour elsewhere.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thanet Earth - Question Time

News today that more than 550 jobs will be created when Kent-based company, the Fresca Group teams up with specialist large-scale growers of fruit and vegetables in building a 91-hectare site - to be called Thanet Earth - located between Birchington and St Nicholas at Wade.

Fresca will invest £80million in the project that will include seven glasshouses, each covering the area of around 10 football pitches, and will use the very latest in efficient hydroponic growing techniques.

Expanding the local economy in any way, is a positive step but two questions concern me as I'm sure they will concern others. Firstly, how such a massive construction will appear as we drive past it and from the air - I will take photos - and very importantly, where the 550 new jobs will be sourced from.

If it's agricultural work, then I suspect and I would like to be proved wrong, that the great majority of these will be unskilled and Eastern European sourced in nature. Given last week's stories from Boston in Lincolnshire, if this is the case, then we need to think very carefully and clearly about both the impact on the community in which the workforce will live and what indeed are the real benefits to the Thanet workforce?

What do you think?

Too Much Wind

Too windy for me to get to Bournemouth this morning but it does give me a chance to listen to Gordon's speech.

I'm hoping for an announcement that the balance in £Billions in benefits and grants, presently going north, will be distributed a little more evenly in our direction, here in Thanet but somehow, I think not.

However, Cllr Clive Hart, tells us that he's in a meeting with Gordon today, so perhaps, in conjuction with Dr Ladyman, we'll get some cash as a needy cause or better still, a marginal constituency?


With election fever very much in the air but no banners, in today's Guardian, Dr Ladyman (majority 664) comments: "We're ready to go now if it was what he thought was right and I'm quite happy if does it, but I have a slight preference to wait until May 2009. He has promised he wants to govern for the whole country and that means holding the majority of the seats in Kent. But it is a 50-50 choice. The voters, including Tory voters in Broadstairs, are warming to Gordon."

Ed: Would any warming Broadstairs voters care to comment here?

Teenage Smoking Ban - MP Predicts Confusion and Anger

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, is predicting probable confusion and possible anger when the ban on the sales of tobacco products to 16-18 year olds comes into force next Monday (1st October).

"Preventing the underage sales of tobacco products is important" says the MP "but retrospective legislation almost always causes grief.

From next Monday we are faced with the inevitable prospect of retailers who have served regular customers under 18 but over the current legal limit but under eighteen having to tell those young men and women that they are no longer allowed to buy cigarettes.

The association of Convenience Stores tell me that refusing age-restricted sales (of alcohol, for example) is already a major cause of intimidation and violence towards shopkeepers and having to take away a right that some at present enjoy is clearly not going to make them popular.

I do not believe that anything like enough publicity has been given to this change or to the fact that shopkeepers will be implementing Government policy and legislation.

There's a very real danger that some young people will blame shopkeepers for a ban that they are simply required to enforce by law and there will, I think, be an inevitable increase in the number of young addicted smokers trying to persuade older teenagers and adults to buy cigarettes for them. This change is going to need a huge amount of community support and understanding if it is to work smoothly".

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bonkers Builders

We had to do Chelsea vs Manchester United this afternoon. A message from Jose Mourinho, "Goodbye and thanks for all the fish", might have been more appropriate in the circumstances but he didn't ask.

Come tomorrow, it's the Labour Conference and I can certainly think of a more striking message than one asking the Prime Minister to support small business. "Vote Tony - Get Gordon" springs to mind!

Mind you, Monday's weather lookds decidedly "iffy" anyway, for both Bournemouth and a birthday message, in part Arabic, over Southend pier.

Did anyone see the BBC politics programme today? It's on the web at the BBC website but the housing Minister, described as "Bonkers", Kent's house building policy, unhappy that not enough houses are being built.

KCC leader, Paul Carter was on the programme and pointed-out that Kent had "over-performed" and that to build houses before the infrastructure was in place would not be sensible. However, the government wants its new houses and particularly social housing, yesterday, 11,000 in Thanet alone and isn't happy with feeble excuses involving roads, environment and more.

Hands up anyone who wants to see 11,000 new houses built in Thanet as quickly as government would like and without taking careful account of our own traffic and infrastructure problems?

I don't see that many.


Photo by Sue

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nice Sunset

Sue, one of our regular readers, is accumulating a splendid collection of photos, she's taken of Thanet. You can find them here and I'll certainly be using a selection of these from time to time to illustrate entries.

Not Dead - Just Thanet

Woody writes:

"Just wondered if you would be interested in putting a link on your site to my site the Isle of the Dead. This is a paranormal group in the thanet area and on the site there is a lot of thanet history and a section on thanets hauntings.Why not check it out at www.isleofthedead.co.uk

The site has only just started and it may help to attract new members"

Ed: Which reminds me, this time of year, the field markings are very pronounced from the air and yesterday, I spotted a significantly large archaeological site between Sittingbourne and Faversham. Whether it's been investigated or dug before I don't know but I need to photograph it and tell someone before I forget. It might be the outline of a walled fortress, don't think it's Roman though!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Content Aware

I should have been in Warsaw today but a diary clash with no flights yesterday evening after 19:30 from Heathrow, means that I'll be flying a banner over Ramsgate tomorrow afternoon instead. The banner is all to do with the demand for a referendum on the EU constitution, so look-up around 4:30pm.

Meanwhile for the photo-bloggers and amateur photographers among you, have a look at this new technology that will be cominn our way soon, called "Content Aware Imaging."

Forget cropping your photos, this is very different indeed!

Wet Feet

I was aghast to hear today's headline story from Manchester, that "Two community support officers looked on as a boy of ten drowned because they had not been trained to deal with such an emergency."

This wasn't the sea or a raging river, it was a pond and from the look of it, the lad was only feet from the edge.

It's a normal human response to attempt to save the life of another human being, particularly a child. I've been in a similar situation myself and it's not something one really thinks twice about before one gets wet.

What was, I wonder going through their minds as they watched the tragedy unfold? Perhaps neither could swim or perhaps a high-visibility set of water-wings wasn't available? Maybe we'll never know!

This is another example of our health and safety obsessed society gone mad; rather like the young man who died in the recent floods, you recall, drowning because the paramedics and police would not amputate his foot in case he contacted blood-poisoning as a consequence.

Death is, of course, the worst possible form of ill-health but "Sorry lad, health and safety regulations I'm afraid, we'll have to let you drown!"

Manchester Police commented: ""It would have been inappropriate for PCSOs, who are not trained in water rescue, to enter the pond."

What's your view?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Bit of Blarney

I was having a chat with a chap from Pfizer in a London bar this evening and we were discussing the impact that the loss of manufacturing jobs at the Sandwich plant might have on the local economy of Thanet.

As you know, it's rather more attractive for manufacturing companies to be out of Britain these days, for sound economic reason and my good friend, Cllr Ewen Cameron, who happens to be an economist, has come up with a number of the reasons why:

"Under the Labour Government, employment in manufacturing has fallen by over 40%. In real terms, over 1.5 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the UK since 1997 and in the three months to July this year alone, a further 43,000 manufacturing jobs were lost.

Times have changed radically since we used to be one of the greatest production hubs of the planet and only 10.7% of the workforce are now employed in manufacturing.

A local issue involves the Irish Republic (ROI) which is doing rather better than, these days for a number of good reasons. First among these is its business-friendly tax regime, where tax on business profits is only 12.5% but here it's in the UK is 30%, Where would you site your manufacturing business?

The total tax burden in ROI is only 30.5% of GDP, compared to 37.2% in the UK, so where would you prefer to be paying taxes?

From the 2005 OECD data the tax burden in the UK on the same measure is now over 40% of GDP) and last year, Ireland achieved economic growth of 6%, compared to only 2.7% for the UK and average individual wealth in ROI overtook the UK

The UK, under Gordon Brown, is the only major economy in the OECD to have increased total tax burdens over the least five years."

So there you have it, good reasons why Pfizer and other big companies are drifting away from the UK, which is dangerously reliant on oil revenues and the financial services sector which powers a large chunk of our economy and which is now built on huge levels of personal debt and an overinflated publc sector workforce; producing nothing of value that we can sell to anyone else.

Next Monday, we might hear Gordon Brown call a snap General Election before the crisis predicted by a number of city watchers, starts to appear in a UK economy which still appears stong. With the UK "no longer at a world class level" in regard to graduate output (OECD) and with school class sizes ranking it behind Slovenia, where, I wonder will all tomorrow's jobs come from under New Labour?

Monday, September 17, 2007

On the Planet Ming

Several items that caught my attention in today's papers.

First, the LibDems who live on the planet 'Ming have declared they are going to super-tax the super-rich, which is anyone earning over £70,000. They don't appear to have grasped that one reason the UK economy does so well is that this is a popular domicile for billionaire businessmen and football club owners who bring their money with them, in return for a compromise with the tax man. It's not fair, I know but the alternative is that they go and live elsewhere, leaving us to live with rather less investment and interest on their mega-bucks. This kind of theory of wealth distribution simply doesn't work in the global economy of the 21st century.

The other news item which interests me this morning, is Alan Greenspan, the ex-head of the US Federal Reserve, forecasting gloom and doom for the UK economy and "difficulties" ahead for UK home owners, as rising interest rates bring house price growth to a shuddering halt.

The 81-year-old economist, an adviser to Gordon Brown, said that recent increases in house prices - particularly those in London and the South East - were unsustainable

While providing some reassurance about Britain's prospects in the coming decades, saying it will be one of the best-performing Western economies, thanks to the Thatcherite reforms of the 1980s and the strength of the City he also points out tht Britain must overhaul its flagging education system or risk being left behind by other vibrant economies around the world.

Now if you listen to government, you would think we had the best education system in the world but if you listen to the CBI, teachers and university professors, you'll hear that we are sliding quite rapidly down the league tables and will soon be down there with the eastern Mediterranean on an equivalence basis. Time to wake-up and learn Cantonese I think!

Finally, the government has admitted that more than a million pounds a month in child benefit is going to youngsters who live in Eastern Europe.

The money is being paid out to 14,000 Eastern European nationals who claim for offspring living in their home countries.

It is the first time the Government has acknowledged that the payments - funded by British taxpayers - are going abroad.

Even larger sums in tax credits for children are thought to be paid to recent migrants from Eastern Europe but ministers insist that total figures are 'not available'.

Later this morning I'm going down to the benefit office to claim for my six children in various EU countries abroad. I have a hand-written letter from each of their mothers - in their native language - attesting to the fact that I am the father, which should be enough!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Civic Procession

Just thought I'd share a photo of the Margate Day procession from the Mayor's Parlour in the old town up the hill to the Winter Gardens in the sunshine. And very splendid it all looked too, with Mayor's, (our own Mayor and lady Mayoress pictured) MPs and civic dignitaries from across Kent.

Out of Ammo and Bandages Too

Remaining with the subject of the debt owed to our armed forces, an excerpt from one of the Sunday papers ths morning. Apparently, we are short of medics and:

• one military base under daily Taliban attack spent three weeks without a doctor
• the main military hospital in Helmand has run out of beds twice in six months
• no formal system exists in the Army to replace soldiers killed and injured in battle
• helicopter shortages have meant that one isolated base was down to its last 50 rounds of mortar ammunition
• the commanding officer of one unit was stranded at a base for five days by the lack of helicopters
• heavy machine guns in use by the Army are 55 years old

It has also emerged that the 40-bed field hospital at Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand, was forced to close its doors twice in the past six months because it ran out of beds. The last occasion was on September 5th following a Taliban attack on an Army patrol that left two soldiers dead and two seriously injured. Soldiers subsequently injured were flown to military hospitals belonging to other coalition members

More revelations of despair from the Army are bound to follow!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Remember

One of the more unusual banners I've been asked to fly, leaving for the Spurs ground this afternoon but tomorrow, being Battle of Britain Day and Margate Day both, will be a little more sedate, with a "Remember The Few" message over St John's church in Margate at 10:15 am, just before the memorial service.

After that, I'm told I have to go and dress-up in my Margate Charter Trustees robes for the procession and event at the Winter Gardens. I think I'm given a three pointed hat to wear!

Sad to hear of the loss of a pilot and his Hurricane fighter, displaying at this afternoon's RAFA Shoreham airshow, which is, after all, a celebration of the memory of those who took part. After all, "Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few."

Given the dismal treatment of our armed services by the present government, that debt and covenant appears to have been conveniently forgotten over the last decade.

If you had happened to have been strolling along Minster road in Westgate on this day in 1940 you would have come across the picture below.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Check Your Postcode

Have you ever wondered why you spend so long hanging on the telephone when you try and speak to companies and banks with big call centres?

The answer, apparently, is that they now screen incoming calls by postcode, so if you happen to live in Cliftonville West or Central Margate, your chances of being spoken to by a financial advisor at your bank or well, anyone, are rather less than if you had a Chelsea postcode.

I had a look at my own postcode details at http://www.checkmyfile.com/ - it's free - and this is what it says about me and my neighbours. No mention of any aircraft!

"Family Composition: Mature and retired single. Couples whose children have left home, and some elderly peopleSocial

Social Grade: C1-C2-D. Slightly higher proportion of social classification C1 than average.

Higher than average levels of Christians.

Average Age: Typically over 45 to 84.

Qualifications: Very few graduates, however most educated to GCSE standard. Slightly higher proportion of people with 5 or more GCSEs than average. "

There's more of course but when it comes to house prices and loans, the postcode is now the first hurdle to overcome and my last address gave a credit score of 842 out of 1000, whereas my present address only gives me a credit score of 806; the average being 750.

The sweeping nature of the classification should worry us all as it will also determine, for example, whether a bank will even bother to operate a branch in an area with a poor postcode score. However, the evidence that some organisations won't even bother to answer the phone to people who live in the wrong area, is deeply worrying.

I have saved www.checkmyfile.com as a link in the sidebar.

Armed Forces - MP Backs Call to Recognise "Covenant"

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, is supporting demands for public and government recognition of the covenant between the country and its service men and women.

Speaking following yesterday`s statement by the Royal British Legion and the publication (today) of a Select Committee report on service housing the MP, who is a former Defence PPS, Post-graduate of the Parliament and Armed Forces scheme and a member of the Legion, says:

"The manner in which we treat our servicemen and women is a disgrace. We send them ill-equipped to do our dangerous and dirty work fo us, we place inordinate demands upon their capabilities ("overstretch"), when they are injured we no longer provide dedicated military healthcare in the UK, we house their families in accomodation that local authority tenants would simply not accept and when they are killed we provide no resources for families to be legally represented at inquests.

This situation brings shame upon our nation. It is entirely the fault of a government that talks support for the armed forces but fails, and has failed under Gordon Brown as Chancellor, to provide the resources to meet the commitments to which Government has pledged our support.

The time has come for the British people to stand up and be counted and to demand of government that we respect6 the covenant between the Country and its servicemen and women and to make full and proper provision for their needs at every stage of their careers and beyond death in service".

Ed: You may recall that it was Queen Elizabeth I - Good Queen Bess - who, following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, allowed many of her sailors to starve in port because she was reluctant to pay them. There's a message for the MOD in there somewhere.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ballet Shoes

I've been over with the BBC today, at Reculver, where they were filming a sequence for the new film-length dramatisation of 'Ballet Shoes', the classic novel by Noel Streatfeild, which will appear on BBC One over Christmas.

Set in Thirties London, Ballet Shoes tells the story of orphans Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil, who are adopted by an eccentric explorer, named Gum, and raised as sisters, one of whom becomes a pilot; hence the aircraft sequence!

Victoria Wood, Richard Griffiths and Marc Warren are among those in the cast and today involved the filming of a biplane sequence, using Terry Brown's classic 'Stampe'. Does anyone recognise the shady-looking extra in the photo?

It's not me!




Quick Change

Proposed changes to the Council’s Cabinet portfolios are to go before a meeting of Full Council next Thursday.

Under the changes being put forward, Cllr. Jo Gideon, who is currently the Cabinet Member for Health and Communities, would also take charge of the Safer Neighbourhoods portfolio, which covers Council functions, such as CCTV, community wardens and licensing.

The changes are being proposed, after Cllr. Chris Wells was recently appointed to the Cabinet of Kent County Council as the member responsible for children, family and educational standards decisions.

Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, said: “There is a great deal of crossover between these two portfolios, which is why this proposal is being put forward to Council. Cllr. Gideon is already responsible for youth as part of her existing portfolio, while Safer Neighbourhoods also covers the issue of activities for young people. That covers the Council’s commitment to provide a wide range of activities, particularly at evenings and weekends, to divert them away from crime or anti-social behaviour, but obviously the two areas link together very well.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Cllr. Wells for the work he’s done over the last few months in this important area. Obviously his new appointment to the Cabinet at Kent County Council will take up a great deal of his time, which is why he is stepping down from his Cabinet role at Thanet. Safer Neighbourhoods very much remains one of our top priorities and we know it’s an issue that local people feel very strongly about. We will be working hard with our partners to cut crime and anti-social behaviour further across the District and Cllr. Gideon will be an excellent person to look after this and ensure that this is delivered for the people of Thanet.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pleasurama Meeting

Michael Child writes:

"Firstly as I am sure most of you know there will be an open meeting that anyone can attend of the East Cliff residents association at Albion house tomorrow 13th September 2007 the main item for discussion will be Pleasurama the developers representative TDC officials and the architect will be there.

I have been pressing very hard for the two main safety issues, the state of the cliff and its façade, and the flood and storm protection, to be addressed before any other work is started.

The access road from Harbour Parade is very close to the cliff façade and the damaged cliff wall behind Kent terrace and I am concerned that vibration caused by its construction could trigger a collapse.

I am also concerned that the flood and storm assessment does not make sufficient provision for the safety of the people living in the apartments and guests staying at the hotel, both in terms of the protection of the building and emergency escape to the cliff top.

The news as far as I can find out is that it is now the intention to repair the cliff properly, (tenders have been arranged) before any building work starts, the experts I have consulted tell me this will probably take about a year, so yes another year's delay.

The environment agency tells me that they will not be attending the meeting as they have already advised the council so their task is completed.

The advice as far as I can find out is that the shown base line of the building is at the very lowest limit for commercial use much lower than would be allowed for residential, therefore the building will be subject to periodic storm damage. With the cliff behind preventing escape in a storm the residential part of the building would be like the Titanic without lifeboats. So a series of escapes will be necessary to the cliff top.

Finally it is my intention to press the council to move back the fencing around the site so it just leaves sufficient room for the work in the cliff façade to be carried out so the site can be used for parking and other leisure facilities for the next year."

Coastal Pressures

Thanet comes in for comment in a feature in today's Guardian newspaper, which examines the future of seaside towns:

"Connectivity in coastal areas is also a problem, with many accessible only via minor roads. However, there are some resorts that buck this trend, notably Blackpool, Hastings and Southend-on-Sea. Moreover, the problem is exacerbated where there is poor levels of connectivity and high levels of traffic (journeys per km), as is found in a number of areas such as Thanet, Torbay and Great Yarmouth. Thus, there are pressures on the physical and natural environment within coastal towns, threatening their appeal as places to live and work."

Apparently, the North-South divide is as big as it ever was when it comes to comparing Blackpool with Brighton but a significant problem remains with "Low levels of skills restricting the potential to commute to higher paid jobs."

Ed: In the attached clipping from last week, we can also see that according to Harriet Harman (MP), "Kent has fallen off the political map" of Britain, as well. When the government finally re-discovers it, please let me know!

Quite Reliably Unreliable

Westgate station is almost painted but I'm told that the painter can't get at the railings on the south side because of the undergrowth. There seemed to be a concerted effort, this morning, to collect bagloads of rubbish from the platforms and the track, which would be impressive if it were to be a regular event.

The curse of Southeastern trains struck again this morning. I was waiting for the 09:37 to Victoria, which should have got me to my Westminster meeting just on time but the railway had other plans. Looking up at the screen at 09:33, I noticed it now said "London Bridge".

I crossed back to the ticket office and pointed this out and a telephone call was made. "Yes, the train is now going to London Bridge, there's a points failure at Victoria and everything is backed-up."

"How long is the journey to London Bridge", I asked.

""Two hours" was the reply, which explains why I'm typing this now rather than on the way to London for a series of well-choregraphed, back to back meetings which now won't happen.

It's depressing how reliably unreliable the trains now are these days.

Your Thanet Blogger

The Bloggers have competition today with the launch of "YourThanet" from KOS Media.

The paper is also available as a 'freebie' from the newagents and it will be interesting to see the impact on the established local papers circulation and whether the Thanet Gazette or Thanet Times will suffer as a consequence.

It even has "YourThanetBlogger" where a mystery writer will, each week, air his or her views on living in Thanet; an original idea!

It's good to have another source of local news and to hear that "Thorley Tavens are now taking bookings for Christmas."

"Whether there is enough local news and gossip to go around is another question and inevitably, local newspapers descend into the mundane and the bizarre in their efforts to fill column inches against fifty pages of property space. If anything really interesting happens in Thanet, you'll probably find news of it here or on one of the other popular local weblogs first!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pfizer to Axe 400 Jobs

Yesterday, as if surprised, Gordon Brown told the Trade Union Conference that research he had commissioned, had discovered that the UK needs five million new skilled workers if it is to remain competitive in a global economy. Perhaps he's been hiding in a darkened room for a decade?

Today, we heard that Pfizer will cut 420 jobs over the next two years from its plant at Sandwich. The writing has been on the wall for several months and this really comes as no surprise either:

"Today’s announcement", said a Pfizer spokeswoman, "is the result of Pfizer’s ongoing plans to consolidate worldwide manufacturing operations in order to manage global capacity and demand more efficiently.

“It also responds to Pfizer’s continued need to establish a smaller and more flexible cost base, to ensure that it can continue to meet evolving business needs in an increasingly competitive environment for research-based pharmaceuticals.”

The fact of the matter is that Britain is increasingly uncompetitive and a poor source of the skilled workers that companies in a knowledge economy need. As a result, businesses that can are moving to the Pacific Rim and we can be thankful at least that London still floats on the financial services industry, because without it, Gordon Brown's non-productive 500,000 public sector jobs would have killed the economy by now.

Pfizer is a wake-up call and a terrible news for Kent. Laura Sandy's, the South Thanet Conservative spokesperson comments:

"We need to look at Pfizer’s decision to relocate its manufacturing outside of the UK as indicative of a larger problem created by Government policy. We are losing manufacturing capacity across the country and if we are not to lose still more jobs in a much more aggressive global market then we must maintain our competitiveness to protect the interests of our manufacturing jobs.

I urge the government to take note of what is happening here and ensure that we don’t push our world class businesses like Pfizer out of the UK. East Kent and this country have been world leader in the pharmaceutical sector – lets build on this not destroy it."

Meanwhile, Thanet South MP Dr Stephen Ladyman adds:

“It’s a real body blow to the community. I’m just disappointed they have shown so little loyalty to people who have made them wealthy."

Ed:Fortunately Pfizer still has 3000 people left in its R&D division but cheaper manufacturing jobs in South America and Asia will soon start to take large bites out of Europe's stagnant economies. This is, I suspect, one of the topics of conversation at the European Ideas Network conference in Warsaw next week, which I have been invited to attend.

Vicar Assaulted in Birchington

Kent Online reports that a A 17-year-old youth has been arrested on suspicion of assault after an attack on a vicar.

The teenager, from Westgate was arrested on August 23rd.

He has been bailed to return to Margate police station on October 2nd as investigations continue.

The alleged incident happened on August 8th when the Rev Don Witts approached a group of young people who were drinking and being intimidating in the churchyard of All Saints' Church, Birchington.

Mr Witts was hit by one member of the group and suffered a cut lip and sore left wrist.

Ed: Outrageous but no surprise I'm sure for Birchington residents

A Savage Species

Although others have commented on the story which appeared in last Friday’s Thanet Gazette, I had deliberately avoided remarking on the story of the dog attack on a rabbit in a Ramsgate park. I simply found it too depressing!

That any person, youth or otherwise, should take the trouble to go to a pet shop, buy a baby rabbit and then set a Staffordshire bull terrier on it in a public place, where children could witness the outrage is beyond civilised understanding.

What we do know, as another reader has commented, is that such behaviour rarely, if ever stops at rabbits. The FBI profiling of such psychopathic personalities among others, shows that a person capable of this kind of atrocity will move on and up to human beings and represents a clear and present danger to the community in which he lives.

Although the police are reportedly looking for the youths involved, I would be very surprised if any real progress is made and even if it were, the weak nature of our present legal system will deliver no sanctions, only a revolving door. We can, I’m sure expect those involved to be back with something greater and more savage in the not too distant future. It’s a concern I will raise with Shadow Home Affairs Minister, James Brokenshire, when I see him for a meeting at Westminster tomorrow.

If this weblog appears a little quieter than usual – and it’s been pretty occasional of late anyway – it’s because I’m into my seasonal change, easing out of the aviation business into the other ‘job’, which, in the weeks ahead will take me to London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Havana and possibly Moscow. That makes ‘blogging’ a little difficult at times, so if there are gaps in the coverage, you know why.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Police Seek Witness in Dog Attack on Child

It was only this summer that I was remarking about dangerous dogs on our beaches and now we read that a girl of nine received serious bites when she was attacked by two dogs at Victoria Parade in Ramsgate on August 4th.

The animals, a Jack Russell and a Rottweiler, were being walked by a man and a woman.

The girl’s grandmother was also injured as she tried to prize the dogs off. The bites needed hospital treatment and may lead to permanent scarring.

Kent Police say the couple with the dogs were aggressive and left the scene in a blue people carrier. Some children provided what they believed to be part of the registration plate but it did not tally. The car has so far not been traced.

The girl, from Bedfordshire, was on holiday and playing ball when the attack happened between 6pm and 6.50pm on a Saturday.

Police in Thanet now want to hear from people who witnessed the attack or who knows the dogs' owners.

Anyone with information is asked to telephone PC Dan Fordom on 01843 222778 or Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Registered Post

Delivered as promised to Gordon Brown this afternoon as he arrived at the Trade Union Congress. Couldn't get a better photo from the outside but perhaps the TV news cameras picked it up along Brighton seafront? I could see them swivelling in our direction as we passed the convention centre.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Let the People Decide?

Stephen Ladyman, MP for South Thanet and vice-chairman of the Labour Party is among those Labour MPs' who have said there is no need for a referendum on the new EU treaty. He said: "The correct way to deal with this treaty is debate in Parliament. The contentious parts of the treaty have been removed, so there is no need for a referendum.”

Critics say the treaty is virtually identical to the controversial EU constitution, which was rejected after votes in France and Holland two years ago.

Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet, insisted the treaty should be put to the public vote.

He said: “The draft constitutional treaty is no more and no less than a thinly veiled attempt to reintroduce the European constitution under another name.

“Blair, as Prime Minister, promised that the British people would have their say in a referendum. Brown, as Prime minister, is seeking to deny us that right and wants to force approval for a fundamental constitutional change through parliament alone.”

Ed: Should we put this treaty to the test and let the people decide or simply trust Gordon? What's your view?

Beside the Seaside

Not quite the kind of advertising for Margate that we might have liked or is it simply a straightforward observation of some of the many problems we are facing here in Thanet from one visitor's point of view?:

"I have never been to an environment like that with such awful drug problems", "there are so many tensions because of the immigration centre."

Comments from Daniel Percival, who played Moses in the film of the Margate "Exodus."

You can read the remainder of the interview in Kent On Sunday.

Vowel Sounds

Maybe I should have the banner, which is designed to catch Gordon Brown's eye tomorrow at the Trades Union Congress, written in another language?

Today's Sunday Telegraph reports that "immigrant workers will be forced to learn English before they are allowed into the country. This controversial crackdown, which is expected to reduce the number of people entering Britain by at least 35,000-a-year, will be unveiled by the Prime Minister", in his speech in Brighton.

There's an apparent catch though, in that the condition will be extended to all skilled migrants, who numbered 96,000 last year. Nothing is said about the "un-skilled" those already here illegally or the many thousands waiting to cross the channel at the first opportunity.

They will be now be expected to speak, write and understand English to standard equivalent to GCSE grade A to C, obtaining proof either by passing an internationally recognised English test or showing they have a university degree from a course taught in English.

A good idea or just another soundbyte from a government with no real solution to a very big problem? What do you think?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Wet Paint

It's a miracle, I can confirm that Westgate station is in the process of being painted. Like having the toilets at St Mildred's Bay car park re-painted earlier this summer, it's indicative of small victories which take a certain amount of persistence to achieve. Now let's hope that the station painters don't run out of whatever colour paint they plan to use!

Thank you SouthEastern Railways!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Helping with Enquiries

Watching the news from Portugal and the crowds waiting outside the police station in Praia da Luz for Kate, the mother of Madeleine McCann to be formally named as a suspect, I'm reminded of this scene from Monty Python & The Holy Grail:

What's your view?

Parking Space

This photo, reportedly of a traffic warden, from one of today's newspapers, has provoked outrage in Westminster, where it's supposed to have been taken.

It reminds me of two separate incidents, over 24-hours, four years ago, when my motorcycle was ticketed - off street - by the over-zealous guardians of Westminster's parking spaces.
On both occasions, passing wardens agreed that I was in a private area and that in all likelihood, their supervisor had done it but as they pointed out, it was my word against theirs and none of them was prepared to give me their badge number as a witness.

They hadn't bargained on everything being recorded on a digital camera. I was determined not to let Westminster Council get away with this and it took six months and multiple letters before they gave-up trying to collect the by now inflated penalty fines and announced they had lost the records. No apology or acknowledgement that they were working outside the law and that at least one of their traffic wardens was out of control. Mind you, there have been lots of documentaries on the same subject, Westminster and Camden being among the worst.

I rarely even bother to take my motocycle to London anymore these days. With few designated parking bays and a zillion scooters taking-up all the room, it's hardly worth the risk.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Metro Message

With the Trade Union Congress taking place in Brighton next week, pictured here, is a potential surprise message from the Union, waiting at a secret Thanet address for Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to arrive at 'Congress'.

Any other messages for Gordon while I'm about it?

Well Underway

I've been nagging SouthEastern railways since I became a councillor, to have Westgate station re-painted, as they had apparently promised to do so in the past. As I won't be able to attend the Westgate residents meeting on Monday night, here's an update from the company in reply to my latest letter:

"You have my assurance that Westgate on Sea (and all other stations on our network) will be re-painted and the programme is well underway.

However, you will understand that we have to prioritise and resources will intially be diverted to stations in the worse condition. I am afraid that there are stations in worse condition than Westgate and these are being re-painted first."

So there you have it, Westgate hasn't been painted, I think, since I used to travel to school in Broadstairs forty years ago but "programme is well underway" and spare a thought for all those other stations facades that are crumbling around the poor railway passenger, while the Eurostar dashes into its gleaming new London terminus at 200mph and several billion pounds later!

Ed: A Quick footnote. The comments suggest that the Station is now being painted. Something I said perhaps? But if it is, I'm delighted and I'll go and have a look on Saturday morning!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Manston Approach

Nepal Airlines has apparently fixed an electrical fault on one of its Boeing 757s by sacrificing two goats, named Mindy and Max, in appeasement of Hindu sky god Akash Bhairab, Reuters reports.

The airline boasts two Boeings, and one was reportedly giving it a certain amount of grief leading to suspension of services over the past few weeks. However, the quick dispatch to the hereafter of two caprine sacrifies in front of the "troublesome" machine at Kathmandu on Sunday quickly resolved the matter.

A senior airline official, declined to elaborate on the exact nature of the problem, but confirmed: "The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights."

Troubled residents of Ramsgate wishing to invoke the power of the sky deity against training flights from Manston may like to know that he has a preference for grilled sausages!

Time For a Change

A General Election may be near. The Conservatives, I see, have launched a new poster campaign and the one pictured is supported by several variations you'll probably see displayed in different places, which focus on crime and what, if anything, can be done about it. Statistics from earlier in the week, reveal that 50% of all recorded crime in Kent is now alcohol-related, which really comes as no surprise, given that beer is frequently cheaper and more available than bottled water.

Time for a caption competitition I suppose, as the chap below, who is moonlighting as a north London minicab-driver, believes that nuclear power is the answer to all his problems, when instead, this aspiration may in fact lead to rather more sudden and immediate climate change than he could imagine. I rather wonder what would happen if he and David Cameron followed the popular example of television and swapped jobs for a month?

Your chance to write his new party slogan...?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Addington Street Fair

Michael Child has been busy with his camera again. This time it's the Addington Street Fair.

Links to other readers photos are welcome but I have drawn the line at one local photographer's collection of nudes in unusual Thanet locations. Disappointing I know but I'm sure you'll find this most popular of all Thanet websites without my help!

Endangered Species

Also spotted in Broadstairs this morning, a brief glimpse of a rare and endangered species of local politician who arrived just in time for the coffee and sandwiches.
He's seen in this photo receiving an urgent 'flash' request from the Navy, for a new aircraft carrier to pass on to the Ministry of Defense.

MVS Masterbrew

I was at the dedication of the new Maritime Volunteer Service 'RIB' outside the Royal Albion Hotel in Broadstairs this morning. Named the MVS 'Masterbrew' and sponsored appropriately by Shepherd Neame, the craft was given a liberal baptism of ale to help it on its way.

I've put up the rest of the photos, here, for any of readers that attended to download.

In the event of severe floods, Tsunami or any other maritime emergency, the Masterbrew and its volunteer crew, will be available to rescue the good people of Thanet, six at a time and so they deserve our support during this period of global warming, together with all other volunteer services, such as the RNLI.


East Kent Tories Launch Referendum Campaign

North Thanet`s Roger Gale and Charlie Elphicke, Dover & Deal, took time out with newly-wed Laura Sandys at her South Thanet wedding party this week to launch a campaign that will lead to the distribution of tens of thousands of leaflets calling for a referendum on the draft European Treaty.

In a joint statement issued at the Pegwell Bay Hotel East Kent`s leading Tories said:

"This leaflet invites people to get in touch with us and to indicate their demand for a referendum on an issue that will affect the whole future of our Country.

We believe that the draft constitutional treaty is no more and no less than a thinly-veiled attempt to re-introduce the European Constitution under another name. Indeed, outside Britain other European leaders have recognised and admitted that most of the provisions of the original constitution are contained within the constitutional treaty and that only cosmetic changes have been made.

Blair, as Prime Minister, promised that the British people would have their say in a referendum. Brown, as Prime minister, is seeking to deny us that right and wants to force approval for a fundamental constitutional change through parliament alone.

We hope that the people of East Kent will respond to our initiative, which is not funded through Labour`s "Parliamentary Communications Allowance", in their thousands and by doing so they will help us to send a very clear message to Downing Street: Give Us the right to vote".

Monday, September 03, 2007

Good Reception Over Ramsgate

Over the Pegwell Bay Hotel in Ramsgate this evening to help celebrate a wedding reception taking place there. My best wishes to Laura & Randolph on their marriage and for the future ahead.

I was planning to tie the banner to the Oasis 747 yesterday but I couldn't find a suitable attachment point!

Montefiore Photos

Michael Child has taken some photographs of the Moses Montefiore synagogue in Ramsgate, from their open day and you can find these on his 'Michael's Bookshop' website.

Montefiore’s life was linked to Ramsgate. In the 1830s he and and hs wife, Judith had bought East Cliff Lodge, a country estate (then) adjacent to the town, very much in the manner of the Victorian Jewish gentry. He played a huge part in the affairs of Ramsgate and one of the local ridings still bears his name. In 1873 a local newspaper mistakenly ran his obituary. "Thank God to have been able to hear of the rumour," he wrote to the editor, "and to read an account of the same with my own eyes, without using spectacles."

At East Cliff Lodge he established a Sephardi Yeshivah (The ‘Judith Lady Montefiore College’) after the death of Judith in 1862. In the grounds of the house he built a beautiful and ornate Italianate synagogue; next to it he built a mausoleum modeled on Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem (whose refurbishment and upkeep he had paid for). There in 1862 Judith was buried; and there in 1885 he too was laid to rest.

Just Say "Non"

If you believe that Gordon should give us a vote before delivering what's left of our democracy to the tender mercies of an EU Consitution, which other European states have said "Non" to, then please sign-up on the 10 Downing Street website with over 18,000 others at the last count.

If we do sign-up, then will the last person please switch-off the lights before leaving for Canada, New Zealand, Australia and anywhere else, where an ounce of democratic common sense still remains!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Intelligence Led

I was planning to write an entry before going out today but then I read the Sunday papers and was overwhelmed by a sense of apathy, with story after story describing how the world about us is crumbling around our ears, with even the police now wanting the right to the strike.

The question one has to ask is whether many people around the land would notice a real difference if they did? There's a lovely comment in one of the newspapers from a senior officer, who admits that so called "Intelligence-led policing" has led them to target specific groups and individuals but has led to community policing - i.e. the Bobby on the beat - being neglected.

Meanwhile, over in Liverpool and after two weeks of detective work, they're no closer to finding the gunman who shot dead an 11-year-old boy playing football; mainly because the 'community' knows very well that police protection for informants holds very little personal reassurance when gangs are more than prepared to take revenge on the families of the same; look what happened in Bishops Stortford last week.

Of course the really big news this weekend is that David Beckham may be losing his hair and to make things worse, has an injured knee. Expect the Prime Minister to comment on this grave sporting crisis once he's finished the fitting for his new "Nelson Mandela-style" shirt.

Back in the world of the escapist though, have you seen the changes to Google Earth recently? It now includes a remarkable flight simulator program which allows you to explore the world in very high resolution.

Open up google earth. Hit control+windows button+A (or control+alt+a if you don’t have a windows button)

Enter the flight simulator, it's a huge improvement on its predecessor and you can fly over Ramsgate to your heart's content without annoying anyone!