Thursday, June 25, 2009

Decision Height

I was thinking of going along to the 7pm meeting at Manston tomorrow evening to hear KCC leader, Paul Carter's view on the airport's future and of course, what arguments the small 'anti' airport lobby has to present in the public speaking opportunity.

I was over at Southend today doing training - see video clip - and to be honest, I would much rather see similar opportunities to support the local Thanet economy than of course pay my fees over to Southend, which offers excellent training facilities and is invariably busy with aircraft doing what I was doing today.

Clearly, as a pilot I'm bound to be considered biased but I firmly believe that Manston represents a resource that could bring more opportunity to our local economy and that we are much better off with it than without it. I fear that such a large open space would rapidly be filled by developer interests if there wasn't an airport present. However I understand and respect that not everyone shares my opinion on the existing and potential benefits of the aviation industry to our local economy.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cleaning-Up

Before I went off flying to Cambridge this morning, I took a black bin bag and cleared-up the remains of several McDonalds 'Happy Meals' and some vodka bottles from the grass beside the tennis courts at Westgate. I did it because it was an awful, unsightly mess and rather than try and request a street cleaner from more important work elsewhere, it only took a couple of minutes to remove the eyesore.

There's one 'local hero' I know, who deserves a medal. Occasionally I bump into Mike Coleman when I'm taking the dog for a walk and he's picking-up litter from all places along the seafront that the sweepers don't easily get to. Why, because he loves his town, feels a sense of social responsibility and hates seeing the mess that some people leave behind them.

Elsewhere, I noticed on Westgate Bay Avenue, several houses of multiple occupation with black bin bags outside being ravaged by the Seagulls. The rubbish collection isn't until tomorrow morning and so why, I wonder, are the bags outside today when the consequences are inevitable with so many hungry Seagulls trying to feed the their fledgling young?

Tomorrow morning as happens every week, one flat in Beach Rise will leave its black plastic sacks perfectly positioned for passing scavengers outside its gate and by the time I walk my dog, a week's worth worth of nappies, fast food containers and worse, will be spread along the road towards the St Mildred's Bay car park.

Why not, I wonder don't they try and position the bags in such a way that the Gulls don't tear them apart? I do with my own and on those rare occasions when the birds do have a go, you'll find me or my wife sweeping-up the mess from the street.

It occurs to me that while Seagulls represent a large part of our local litter problem, a very small proportion of households represent the same. In my own ward I can picture some of the worst offenders and can predict where, tomorrow morning, you'll find the rubbish blowing around the streets as the Seagulls, with beaks like can-openers do their favourite work.

These houses or flats won't bother to clear-up the mess outside their gates. They'll wait for the appearance of a passing street cleaner, perhaps on Thursday, to do the job for them and once again, a large proportion of his shift will be taken-up with cleaning up after the handful of households that couldn't be bothered.

And so why we all share the same concerns over litter on our streets perhaps there's a version of the familiar 80:20 rule taking place here in Thanet; that 80% of the rubbish we see floating about our streets may actually be down to 20% of the households or less? I've no empirical evidence to support this hypothesis but wonder if readers may have noticed the same where they live?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Passing Vampire

With Margate's 'Big Event' in full swing, aircraft photos are the order of the day and this one is of a passing Vampire of the post-war jet era.

Over on the ECR blog I see the usual suspects are resurrecting the Turner Contemporary (TC)'conspiracy' in a bid to blame some part of the prevailing local government financial crisis on the construction of the gallery in Margate; a project designed to help assist in the regeneration of the town's hard-pressed economy.

Now if there 'was' some secret plan to fund the TC project at local taxpayers expense, rather than as published, through KCC, SEEDA and the Arts Council one might reasonably expect the political opposition or even the local papers to be making a noise about it. Strangely enough I can't hear or even read anything on the subject.

So if the mischief makers are so convinced there's some secret plan which hasn't been spotted by those same people, then perhaps they should send in (another?) Freedom of Information Request but otherwise stop re-visiting the same old argument. And "Yes" Neil Armstrong did actually walk on the Moon and not on the set of Pinewood Studios!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Throwing a Wheelie

Once again, one can count on the Thanet Gazette getting its facts wrong. It can become a little tedious after a while but I'll quote today's little gem:

"While thousands of Thanet people live with litter on their streets and fight a daily war with seagulls, all six Tory members of Thanet council's ruling group must be wheelie happy, they all have secure bins.

While there is no suggestion of impropriety, all of the council's cabinet which dictates spending plans for the authoritity live in road with wheelies..."

Well I'm sorry to disappoint you Editor, I don't and here's a photo of the Seagull that regularly has a go at my own bin bags attached with the Gazette's own special attention to accurate reporting.

I particularly liked the 'no suggestion of impropriety' touch, implying quite the opposite.

The real story here surrounds a growing shortage of public money and all our council budgets are presently under review. The Gazette simply doesn't grasp how serious the situation is in regard to the enormous public sector debt, run-up by this Government and the consequences as the financial tap is turned-off.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies said after the April Budget that, to fill the black hole in the public finances between now and 2018, reductions would be needed across every area of government the like of which we have not seen since the 1970s.

The bonanza that has seen a doubling of public spending since 'Chancellor Brown' allowed it to rip at the start of this decade' – adding well over half a million public-sector jobs – is over. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said yesterday that 350,000 state-funded jobs may have to be shed over the next five years and the pain will be felt everywhere and particularly in those places where the public sector is the largest local employer and contributor to the local income.

You can see the start of this around us now as councils increasingly 'triage' their vital services in order to keep them running. We all want clean streets, carefully-tended flowerbeds and much much more but consider for a moment that only a modest fraction of one's council tax goes towards supporting literally hundreds of vital services in the community with the balance made-up by central Government each year. Today, Government is bust in all but name and so councils need to be very careful indeed in spending the budgets they have available.

It comes back to what I said in my earlier post. Not perhaps what is good, but what is necessary!

Liberator Diary

Continuing the story of the Liberator bomber crashes in Westgate and Palm Bay on April 27th 1944, my thanks to Annette Tison who has sent in excerpts from the war diary by LtCol Warren A. Polking, commanding officer of the 578th Sqdn. He wrote:

27 April 1944:
Up at 1:45 this morning which I thought I was leading since my Sqdn led, but Maj. Martin led instead. Bombed the Calais area with good results and no losses. Went to bed at eleven in morning and up at two this afternoon when again alerted. We ran a rush mission to a railway marshaling yards in France for our second mission in a day. Looks like the push is on.

The ships returned at nine-thirty. Lt Weinheimer’s ship was hit by a direct burst of flak over Belgium and Lt Weinheimer was killed and the ship badly damaged. Sgt Kent, off Waugh’s old crew, bailed out since his was the only chute undamaged by flak . The co-pilot, Lt Marshall, did an extraordinary job; brought the ship back, crash-landed near Manston. He is ok, six crew-members were killed.

What a tragedy as Weinheimer was a new crew but had worlds of experience and it was his tenth mission in a row. Really a swell fellow and a good crew. My sqdn is really having tough luck in the losses. I don’t see how this pace can continue on the crews.

Alerted again for tomorrow.


28 April 1944:
Slept fairly late. Then, this afternoon, I flew Maj. Holland [Group Flight Surgeon] and a nurse down to Manston to pick up Lt. Marshall off Weinheimer’s crew. Lt Weinheimer wasn’t killed after all. He, the co-pilot, navigator, and tail-gunner were the only ones not killed.

A sad sight, two B-24’s beneath the white chalk cliffs in the water. The scenery at Westgate was beautiful, flower gardens and all. Lt. Marshall has a very bad case of nerves, kept screaming he would never fly again. He said, “Colonel, how many were killed? I could see bodies.” He finally went to sleep on the way back from the hypo given him.


Annette writes: This certainly provides lots of details about the incident, including why copilot Marshall was awarded the DFC.

A Question for you: While in Westgate, would Polking have been able to visit both B24 crashes?

Ed: Very easily, in fact it's a nice coastal walk or cycle ride from Westgate to Palm Bay

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In Production

Bacon 'sarnies' all round, appears to be the order of the day at the St Mildred's Bay car park in Westgate, which is closed to all but film crew traffic this morning.

An army of production people and associated 'luvvies' - if that's the technical expression - silently invaded the bay at around 8am this morning and are dotted between here and the West Bay cafe munching on fried egg sandwiches and puffing cigarettes. Nice to hear comments such as: "Isn't this lovely" and "It's like being in the South of France." A welcome reflection on our Thanet seaside and Westgate in particular.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Necessary and The Good

The strong wind proved to be an absolute nightmare over Southend airport this afternoon. ‘Under the hood’ and on instruments only, the experience is on a par with riding a ‘rib’-inflatable at speed in choppy water. Keeping the tolerances required to create neat holding patterns and precise descent rates at exact speeds was more like a wrestling match with an octopus.

Meanwhile, the distracting buzzing in my pocket reminds me that I have forgotten to turn my ‘Blackberry’ off and back on the ground, I discover a series of emails from Michael Child, giving me a hard time over last night’s Cabinet meeting decisions on Pleasurama and the Ramsgate Museum, news of which you can find on his excellent press release aggregation site at http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/.

I’m new to Cabinet meetings and at present I'm learning the ropes from watching and listening to the exchanges in the council chamber. Last night’s meeting however prompts me to share a few observations:

From a Local Government perspective what is good and what is necessary are often not quite the same. People call and correspond with me and tell me what the council should do, because they firmly believe its right, even if the dictionary of rules and regulations which governs us has no entry for their particular problem. Invariably and in the present economic situation, councils are now having to do what is necessary. In other words, facing record unemployment and a public sector funding catastrophe, still being denied today by the Prime Minister, councils are rightly doing everything to ensure that essential services can continue to operate without interruption while giving every possible impetus to a hard-pressed local economy.

In distinguishing the good from the necessary, Cllr Wise, did last night make an astute observation, when he suggested, that on occasions and for the benefit of public confidence, we may sometimes have to choose the good over the necessary. Flower beds may be an example of this, in that the council may be cutting back on the number of flower beds or closing public toilets (that are being constantly vandalised) to save public money for other more pressing priorities but sometimes concessions have to be made for public opinion.

The second thing I noticed yesterday, is that our Labour opposition don’t present a sense of being, well, Labour! Instead I have a mental image of a new political group that would prefer the public to think of them as local personalities, Clive and Iris and David perhaps, each doing laudable ward work. This may be preferable than associating themselves politically with the likes of the Labour Party of Gordon Brown, Hazel Blears or Shahid Malik. In a way this is illustrated by a flurry of releases appearing telling us how hard they are working! There’s almost a sense of a General Election in the air but not quite!

What did strike me was a sense of denial over the state of our economy This was some way short of Dr Ladyman’s persistent “You’ve never had it so good” mantra but having to be reminded that as a society, we are all 'up the creek' without the proverbial paddle and that our grandchildren will be burdened with the debts of the last twelve months.

With a hundred thousand people a month being made redundant and little to suggest that unemployment will not rise above 3million next year, you can, if you like, choose to believe that the Conservatives are the ‘Nasty Party’. At least however, there’s an attempt to be honest and pragmatic about the mess we are in and if you don’t believe me, then listen to the LibDem’s Vince Cable as an independent voice of reason. If you think it's getting tough now, then you haven't seen anything yet because we haven't really felt the impact of the public sector financial crisis; only the first ripples of the incoming Tsunami!

I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that here in Thanet, the headline issues involve dealing with a growing burden of deprivation, unemployment and homelessness, triggered by the downturn in the economy. The problems associated with this are visible in eight of the wards in Thanet and when it comes down to our local policy, I like to think that like my Conservative cabinet colleagues, I’m a realist and while supporting some ideas which are intrinsically good I’m more concerned at present, with shrinking budgets and delivering what’s necessary to help the more vulnerable people of Thanet through this national crisis.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fields of Red Poppies

I thought I would share this photo with you, taken this afternoon over Detling hill. I assume they are red poppies but if any reader knows better I'm happy to be corrected!

All around Kent at this time there are the most remarkable contrasts and colours visible from the air and no camera can do them real justice!

Much Decorated Liberator Navigator

My thanks to Dr John Pritchard and Annette Tison of the veterans group for forwarding this news-clipping of Lt Marvin Gurwit the navigator of the USAF Liberator bomber which crashed on the rocks at West Bay, Westgate on the evening of 27th April 1944.

More information on the events of that day can of course be found by searching aganst 'Liberator' on this weblog.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blue Flags

A reasonably pleasant afternoon over the South-east of England today. I had one job to do for Arun Council, out of Goodwood, rolling along the beaches between Bognor Regis and Worthing Pier, celebrating their Blue Flag beach status.

Of course we have a similar accolade to proud of here in Thanet and our own airshow in a week's time. I think we may get lucky again as there is prevailing high pressure and with it, the chance of good weather.

After a photo survey for the same council of the re-landscaped Hotham Park, I had a second and more unusual banner to do from Blackbushe Airport to Ripley in Surrey; finding a village pub at 5:30PM and flying the message overhead, "We Love Disco Dave." Whoever 'Dave' is, I hope he was suitably surprised!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Truth and Fiction

I see I've been 'Smudged' again in the Thanet Gazette this morning. The Gazette having published a letter I sent last week pointing out that in fact I did not vote in favour of the new development on the site of St Cecilia's House in Westgate at the last Planning Committee , rather the opposite, speaking against it together with Cllr King.

This morning, having read Smudger, I've written another letter and made a call to the Editor, Rebecca Smith.

First, my letter as 'Angry of Westgate':

"Dear Editor

Following my earlier letter of last week, it appears once again that the Thanet Gazette is unwilling or incapable of checking its facts before going to print.

You claim – writing as ‘Smudger’ - that I was nowhere to be seen at last week’s count at the Winter Gardens, when in fact I arrived with Cllrs Ezekiel and Latchford in the morning had a long chat about Westgate with one of the reporters and finally left at lunchtime, when I had to go to work, which, “Yes”, does involve flying airplanes!

Secondly, you appear to believe that as Cabinet Member for Business Transformation and Customer Services, that I am responsible for the poor telecoms signal at the Winter Gardens. Given its awkward position below the cliff, built in a time before the mobile internet, I suggest you take the matter-up with Vodafone or O2."

And I can't make it rain either!

After pointing this out to Rebecca over the phone I gave her the following quote:

"If you continue to publish such inaccurate reports then I will put two aircraft over your building carrying an 'appropriate message'. This may be good publicity for me but it may not be such good publicity for you".

Now, I know the Gazette is short on news and given the choice over a positive story about Thanet and negative one, we'll invariably read the bad. It would be nice however if it made some small effort to publish material that is both newsworthy 'and' accurate. After all, if it simply makes-up stories in the best tabloid tradition, how can local people have any confidence in its coverage? In the circumstances, the people of Thanet are poorly served.

I've no problem, as a local councillor, with the newspapers taking an occasional pop at me over policies etc but the Thanet Gazette rarely lets the truth get in the way of a good story. After all, if you let the small lies go through unchallenged, what next? Back to the Evil Hood story all over again perhaps?

So let's see what they make-up next in order to see if I'll put on an impromptu air display over Margate. I'll have to decide though, whether it warrents using both aircraft at once!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Above Suspicion

Westgate is to become a location for the Lynda La Plante, ITV drama production: 'Above Suspicion' on Thursday and Friday of next week, with the West Bay Cafe and St Cecilia's House both featuring in the filming.

The drama stars Kelly Reilly and Ciaran Hinds (pictured) who you may recall as Julius Caesar in the lavish HBO production,'Rome'

Other than showing remarkably good taste, why the production company settled on Westgate as a Thanet location, is a mystery to me but I look forward to discovering more.

Sea Road and the St Mildred's Bay car park are both scheduled to be quite busy with film units, so please be prepared for a little disruption down at the beach side cafes.

With high pressure forecast the weather should be good and with luck, will show St Mildred's Bay and West Bay off at their best!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Slippery Slope?

In ancient Rome, the person of a 'Tribune of the Plebs' was inviolate but that didn't prevent the murder of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus.

Republican Roman politics was of course a nasty and frequently murderous business with some minor parallels with our own party politics in Britain today. However and in principle at least, Plebian Tribunes, as the people's representatives, were supposed to be immune from the threat of personal violence:

"Their sacrosanctity was enforced by a pledge, taken by the Plebeians, to kill any person who harmed or interfered with a Tribune during his term of office. All of the powers of the Tribune derived from their sacrosanctity. One obvious consequence of this sacrosanctity was the fact that it was considered a capital offense to harm a Tribune, to disregard his veto, or to interfere with a Tribune."

I have no love of the BNP which is, in my opinion a political aberration. However, today's scenes outside Westminster. where BNP leader and European MEP, Nick Griffin was assaulted by members of the UAF -'United Against Fascism - group, may have been well-intentioned but was, I believe, harmful to our sense of democracy.

Who is to decide who can or who cannot speak in our country? After all, 'Speaker''s Corner' in Hyde Park has been an institution for over two hundred years. If we deny the right of any of our democratically-elected representatives the right to speak then our own democracy is the loser and a dangerous precedent is set. All such action encourages is greater sympathy and more publicity for the BNP; achieving the very opposite of what sensible political debate and lucid argument can achieve in revealing their racially divisive policies for what they are.

The right to demonstrate peacefully is a sign of a strong democracy and Nick Griffin should be allowed to speak unhindered by egg-throwing and placard wielding demonstrators from the UAF. After all, he will argue that we allow other small extremist groups to march unhindered through our streets, calling for the murder of our own soldiers or Holocaust Denial. By preventing his democratic rights as an elected MEP - no matter our own personal thoughts - we risk provoking the growth of the very extremism that politicians of all parties and their supporters should be working tirelessly to avoid.

"Freedom of thought and freedom of speech in our great institutions are absolutely necessary for the preservation of our country. The moment either is restricted, liberty begins to wither and die..." John Peter Altgeld

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lessons of History - Part III

Dangerous times in British politics with the BNP attracting sufficient support to place two MEPs in Brussels. One very good reason why proportional representation in the European style, is a very bad idea, as it swiftly empowers extremist and fringe parties and following last night's European election results, there's the growing patter of tiny polished jackboots all across the European continent.

With Labour beaten by UKIP and just avoiding a fourth place to the LibDems by 1% all three mainstream parties (or should I now say four?) need a sharp wake-up call following the elevation of the BNP's Nick Griffin to Brussels.

It's all very well for TV presenters to try and twist any reply by Mr Griffin into a quote from 'Mein Kampf' but he's a lucid man and his words have struck enough resonance with the public for him to be elected. Given this unhappy fact, the Westminster village needs to respond to a level of discontent within a significant minority, surrounding both immigration and Islam, the two 'Taboo' subjects in polite society, which are steadily encouraging the dangerous revival of Facism in our country. The main parties are clearly out of touch with a growing problem and swift action is required before the next General Election.

Meanwhile, in Wales, Labour is apparently back to where it was in 1918 and I await the results form Scotland with some interest!

The results, here in Thanet are:

BNP 1762
CHRISTIAN PARTY 490
CONSERVATIVE 9716
ENGLISH DEM 879
JURY TEAM 159
LIB/DEM 2482
NO 2 EU 529
PRODEM 142
SOCIALIST LABOUR 333
GREEN 3001
LABOUR 4478
PEACE PARTY 112
ROMAN PARTY 52
UK 1st 258
UKIP 7804

34.52% turnout

I never did discover what the Roman Party stood for but UKIP is clearly a growing force, trouncing Labour and the Greens. Once again, the voters are sending us a clear message over Europe; they are most unhappy with it and the example of an EU Referendum being forced, once again on the Irish, this coming October, is likely to attract even more anti-Brussels sentiment. How the LibDems in the face of such skepticism, continue with their solid support of the EU Bureacracy and growth, remains a mystery.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Do the Shuffle

Interesting news, I thought on another part of Gordon Brown's 'reshuffle' today.

No news of the vacancy left by the absence of the young and ambitious Justice Minister, Shahid Malik, accused in the press last month of breaching the Ministerial code but the equally young and ambitious Sidiq Khan has picked-up Steve Ladyman's old job as Transport Minister.

I rather suspect that the investigation of the absent Justice Minister is not going to be as rapid and transparent as Mr Malik insisted it would be but I may be wrong and indeed, he could be a victim of injustice himself, which is ironic as I'm sure he is indeed a paragon of Ministerial virtue.

Meanwhile, an angry Caroline Flint MP is in the papers, airbrushed-up to look the iconic part of the 'Blair Babe' that she once was. However, I've met her a couple of times on the conference circuit and can't reconcile how she really appears in true life, with the glamorous photo on the front page of one of the newspapers where she looks much taller. Photoshop is a wonderful thing. In the earlier story on the Blog about the Jury Team banner, the aircraft is actually a different one to that I was using on the day but the photographer decided to use that instead and you can't see the join!

A big night for politics ahead this evening. Will the results of the local and county elections be mirrored in the Euro Elections? Will Labour have any seats left at all and will the minority parties such as UKIP make a strong protest vote showing. It certainly beats the X-Factor as a source of entertainment!

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Final Countdown

Not quite a whitewash but almost!

I'm just back from flying around in some rather miserable conditions - I heard one poor chap putting down in a field on the way home - and hear that Thanet is now almost uniformly blue in terms of the elections results, with only one 'Green' survivor, (Mrs Elizabeth) who beat Mike Taylor in Ramsgate.

It's possibly the biggest single swing in electoral history and Labour have now lost 'all' their counties across the nation. Defending 500 seats, they've reportedly lost 300!

I also hear that Geoff Hoon has also quit the Cabinet this evening, joining, Blears, Smith and Purnell. Caroline Flint, has done a complete 'Volte face' since announcing her undying support for the Prime Minister, last night and has also announced that she is not prepared to act as 'Window dressing' for his two-tier Government.

What comes as a surprise, is that Coventry MP Bob Ainsworth has emerged as perhaps the biggest winner from today's chaotic Cabinet reshuffle after being propelled into the job of Defence Secretary.

'Bob', currently a junior defence minister, will replace his former boss John Hutton, who threw the reshuffle into disarray when he confirmed his intention to stand down from frontline politics this morning.

I first came across 'Bob' on the BBC's Newsnight some years ago when I was asked in by Jeremy Paxman, to debate, RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, with him. I can't imagine anyone, less up to the job than 'Bob Ainsworth', a fundamentally unimaginative Labour stalwart and a natural bureacrat.

Not a good day for the Liberal Democrats either, a real body blow losing their homeland county seats in the Southwest and being hammered by the independents elsewhere.

For KCC, Chris Wells is back and so is Robert Burgess and I hear that Cllrs Hayton, Kirby and Bayford also made a strong showing and were returned.

They are now joined by new boy, Mike Jarvis. In Kent that leaves only two Labour county councillors remaining!

Labour's Clive Hart, Alan Poole and Iris Johnston never really stood a chance, thanks to the shambles at Westminster over the last week and I hear the result is much the same across the whole country but I need to watch Channel 4 News in a minute to find out more.

It will be interesting to see how the Euro-elections pan out. Here in Thanet, UKIP made a strong showing as one might expect and this may logically extend to the European results.

How Gordon Brown can resist the call for a General Election after all this I don't know. I'm sure he'll try though. His biographer has described him as a "Stalinist and a Marxist" and the ultimate political plotter. It all conjures up in my own mind, an image of the final days of Nu-Labour in the bunker, deep under No10, with local, county and Euro elections results raining down like the thunder of distant artillery!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Jury's Out

Strangely enough, I was flying a 'Jury Team' election banner all the way along the M25 from Rochester to Reading yesterday, having had no 'takers' for my 'Save Gordon' campaign.

While I was in the air, I could hear the rescue services looking for the reportedly missing light aircraft from Cambridge to Lydd; a helicopter and the Coastguard Cessna from Manston (pictured). I rather think that the pilot, a Swiss, I hear, may simply have gone somewhere else and forgotten the strict rules governing letting ATC know of a change of destination. I hope so anyway

Based on today's election results, I'm wondering, like many other, if our Prime Minister will survive the week or perhaps go down in history as Labour's worst poll performer since Michael Foot. The PM who nobody voted for and the Chancellor and then unlucky Prime Minister, who supervised the greatest 'Boom to Bust' phenomenon since the Great Depression of the 1930's

With both Hazel Blears and Jaqui Smith, very publicly jumping ship before the election, I'm guessing Chancellor Darling is next, as Gordon wasn't prepared to say whether the former would last the week either in Prime Minister's questions yesterday.

As we get to mid-afternoon at the polling stations, the computer is presently showing me 25% Conservative with 14% Labour and the rest split between the other parties for the county elections, based on voters declaring who they voted for on leaving the polling stations.

I've had a hard time on several doorsteps with some people not planning to vote at all because of their complete loss of faith in our political system. Once again, the differences between local, county and national politics appear very confused which doesn't help and can take rather a long time to explain where the key issues are involved.