Thursday, May 31, 2012

Conduct Unbecoming

In the light of this morning's news, now on the BBC and which will feature on the local news bulletin this evening, Cllr Bob Bayford, the Leader of Thanet's Conservative Group, has moved quickly to issue the following statement:

"It has come to my attention that Cllr Ken Gregory has received a police caution for an offence against another Council member. The TDC Conservative Group demands the highest standards of conduct from its members and I have decided to suspend group membership from Cllr Gregory with immediate effect, pending further consideration of the situation. For the time being, I will assume responsibility for shadowing the Housing and Planning portfolio."

I'm rarely lost for words on any subject but on this occasion readers may also understand why it is inappropriate for me to host comments here but I'm sure there will be ample opportunity for debate on the other popular Thanet weblogs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

СМЕРть Шпионам

Today, I thought I might make the reporting a little lighter. I hear intelligence chatter, that Mike Harrison's Facebook password was targeted by none other than the sinister organisation, SMERSH (СМЕРть Шпионам), in an effort to discredit him with the Labour group. The objective, apparently, to facilitate Councillor's Ian Driver's unstoppable progress, in using the Scrutiny Committee to influence council policy in a direction which remains quite alarming to some observers; as James Maskell has already observed, quite astutely on his weblog.

Yesterday evening I happened to meet Will Scobie, who was on his way to Scrutiny, which is of course chaired by none other than Ian Driver with Mike Harrison as his deputy. I gave our young Margate mayor the business card of a friend, at the Serious & Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and suggested he pass it on to Mike, as a good person to make a homophobic hacking complaint to: "Use my name as an introduction," I offered.

(Updated 14:00 - Cllr Driver has now reported the matter to the police as a 'homophobic hate crime' and has a crime number. Deafening silence on the subject still,  from Labour leader Clive Hart, Cabinet member, Cllr Michele Fenner and of course our 'Equalities and Diversity Champion', Cllr John Worrow)

James Maskell reports on his weblog, that the now rather awkward relationship between Cllrs Harrison and Driver intruded into the evening's Scrutiny Committee business. He writes: "We started off with a statement from Driver in his role as Chair asking Harrison to remove himself as Vice-Chair."

After taking a quick photograph of Westgate's Councillor Tom King yesterday, it occured to me that he bears a distinguished and passing resemblance to the character of 'Mr Bridger' in the original of the movie, 'The Italian Job', with Michael Caine: "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"

With yesterday's funeral of my colleague, Cllr Brian Goodwin, the political gloves are about to come off as Westgate becomes a pivotal seat in a council with no overall majority. The controlling Labour minority looks increasingly ragged and riven as each weeks passes. I'm told that UKIP started leafleting two weeks ago and even Worrow's TIGs have ambitions to spread their influence beyond Birchington.



At the last local elections, readers may recall the last ditch effort by the opposition to prevent me winning a seat in Westgate by the simple expedient of delivering letters to homes, alleging that I was guilty of every character flaw and vice you might possibly imagine, short of  public devil worship. It very nearly stopped the election as a gross breach of the rules but actually appeared to win more votes in my favour.

Whatever the final results of the by-election, I'm sure it will give us plenty to talk about for weeks to come!

Lastly, I've been asked to let people know of Horace's  sponsored 'Summer Stroll' for charity on 22nd July. Please see the poster below.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Bizarre World of Parish Politics

Yesterday's story on Mike Harrison's Facebook woes popped-up on the BBC's South-east news last night, (watch it here) with his insistence that it was all part of some strange plot to discredit him. I can only remark that when my time comes to be 'hacked', I would rather have a hacker who can spell.

In response to an email to all councillors from Mike, denying responsibility for what was written, I have suggested he report the matter to the police, as this now looks much like a criminal offense, involving both hacking and homophobic remarks. A complaint would swiftly help to clear his name, as the police would very quickly be able to identify the source of the posts.

Some good news, of course, is that Margate will take a £100,000 share of the £1 1/4 million in the 'Portas Pilot' to resurrect failing High Streets and Thanet also receives some £4 million to bring empty homes back into use.

Today, sadly marks the funeral of Cllr Brian Goodwin at the Thanet Crematorium at 4pm and I took this sunset photo yesterday 'in memoriam', so to speak. A great many people locally, will miss his cheery good humour and his personal sense of optimism to the very end.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that Labour were already campaigning in Westgate last Saturday morning, where my sources report that Cllr Iris Johnston and the fledgling Mayor of Margate, Will Scobie, were out  collecting signatures, with Will's girlfriend, Jodi Hibbert  the new Mayoress of Margate.

Starting a local election campaign in advance of the funeral of the last ward Councillor, is considered by some here, as both disrespectful and the height of bad manners and I'm struggling to understand why Labour might want to deploy Jodi Hibbert as their candidate for the Westgate ward. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Over at the Birchington Parish Council last night, the excitement was never-ending. The packed meeting was to elect a new Chairman and officers, with the public, once again waiting to see if Cllr John Worrow might make an appearance to face his public.

Cllr Worrow didn't disappoint and with his help, TIG managed yet another political coup, with Cllr Jack Cohen, receiving enough committee support to take the Chair of the Parish Council from Linda Wright by a margin of one vote.

Item 8 on the Parish Council agenda was public speaking and this was exactly the opportunity a number of people in Birchington were waiting for. Even Harvey Patterson, Thanet District Council's,'very own legal eagle' had been dragged along to deal with the some of the anticipated questions to Cllr Worrow and Cllr Dr Cohen, from Heather Seer and the aggrieved members of Minnis Bay Watch.

Just before the item was called, Cllr Worrow, stood-up, gave his apologies, 'an important meeting to attend' and promptly walked-out, to jeers and catcalls of 'Coward' from some in the hall

So, once again, it appears that Cllr Worrow has ducked-out of taking any responsibility for his statements and avoided the most fundamental democratic interaction with the people who once voted him and quite likely will never vote for him again.

I wonder how long this 'carry-on' style of parish council political farce will continue in Birchington? With Cohen, Worrow, Furness and La Roche in control of the village,  the answer is without doubt, 'as long as it takes.'

Monday, May 28, 2012

Social Suicide

I've said before that politicians, local and national should be very careful about what they write on Facebook and Twitter and Labour's unreconstructed Marxist, Mike Harrison, should be more careful than most, as he has an unfortunate habit of attracting Standards Complaints as did the former Cllr Mark Nottingham, before he was deselected in favour of Cllr Ian Driver.

This time however, Mike, on his Facebook page,  less than charitably, regards one of our Independent councillors and a former Labour colleague as a 'Shirt-lifting gender bender.' It's the kind of loose remark that may not be able to dodge the bullet of public opinion and press interest, given the growing outrage caused by the Facebook conversation thread pictured.

Mike, who most recently branded Thanet's Conservative Group "one of the most homophobic in the country," insists on his blog: "I suspect my account has been hacked or got into some other way and some pretty unpleasant remarks have been inserted into a conversation I was having with a friend."

He continues: "I strongly suspect that this is yet another sordid and petty act by a certain political parties dirty tricks department to discredit opponents in a desperate attempt to regain control of Thanet Council."

I guess he means me in that last paragraph and as I'm in the information security business, I don't regard it as impossible that a Facebook account can be hacked. This happens with monotonous regularity and more recently I helped a member of the Government get his account back with a quick email to a friend in the company. It's far more usual that Facebook accounts are the subject of what we call 'SpearPhishing'; i.e. a high-profile account is hacked by organised crime groups or intelligence agencies for a specific purpose. So Mike Harrison should, in addition to his personal sense of outrage, be mildly flattered that he's the subject of such an unusual effort to access his account. I recommend he contacts the police and I can give him a direct number if required to the Head of Unit.

I understand that the BBC, instead of asking my opinion, are seeking independent comment, which leads me on to the loose connection with last week's story.

Unlike Cllr Worrow, in last weeks' widely reported Minnis Bay of 'Ugly Pigs' debacle, Mike, may struggle to use the same 'Mysterious Mr Fox' defence, of some other character as the author and I really would urge everyone, particularly in public life, to be very wary of social media and the friends and topics they engage in online conversations.

Conservative Shadow Council Leader, Bob Bayford, has written the following letter to Labour Council Leader, Clive Hart:

"It has been brought to my attention that Cllr Mike Harrison has used offensive, homophobic language about a fellow councillor on a public forum, a copy of which is attached. This is clearly a gross breach of both Council and Labour Party codes of conduct.

It is totally outrageous language and behaviour from a councillor and brings the Council into disrepute. As you know, Cllr Harrison is already the subject of a Standards complaint for offensive comments about women which you chose to ignore. Given your public statement during a recent debate that "it's certainly what I stood for as a Labour Councillor - equality...It's at the core belief of the Labour Party - equality"
,

I am sure you will want to take immediate and decisive action to demonstrate your commitment to equality issues and acceptable standards of behaviour. This is of considerable public interest, therefore I would appreciate a swift response, outlining your proposed course of action."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rescue Me

Walking the dog this evening was interrupted by a 999 call to the Coastguard, when I spotted two occupants of a jet ski in difficulties between Westbrook and St Mildred's Bay.

I don't like calling 999 for anything less than a real emergency but these two gentlemen clearly weren't sailors and were clearly having problems. "Where are you from?" I called out. "Lithuania," replied the driver. "It's over there," I said, pointing expansively in the general direction of north-eastern Europe.

The two of them were sitting on what I could only describe as a rather 'clapped-out-looking' jet ski, which was defying all attempts to start it.

Anyway, they finally drifted-in close to the sea wall, where the driver risked several attempts at 'braining' his passenger, against my advice, by trying to throw the heavy sea anchor up at the promenade railings. He eventually succeeded and I secured the anchor and then used the thin line to pull himself up and out of the sea, cutting his arm on the way.

Rather than wait for the inshore life-boat and the Coastguard vehicle, which I told him were coming, he then proceeded of on foot, towards Herne Bay and I had to reassure the inshore lifeboat team and Coastguard 4*4 when they arrived that he wasn't actually lost at sea but was walking-off to find his car and trailer. They went-off in pursuit by car to make sure he was OK.

All credit to the Coastguard for their quick response but this does, once again illustrate what I've said before about jet skis  in general and some irresponsible operators presenting an increasing hazard to themselves and others along the coast and if you look back on this weblog, then I think you will find another photo of a jet ski being rescued at the identical spot.

You can see from my photos that the passenger was reluctant to have his photo taken.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ice Cream and Capuchino

I've been doing my rounds of Westgate this afternoon and I'm delighted to see the new traditional sweets and ice cream shop is now open at the end of Station Road, next to the Post Office.


Called "Piero's" I can personally recommend the ice cream selection on a day like today. if you click on the photo further below then you can see what sweets are available in all the interesting-looking jars.

Westgate is, of course, becoming increasingly 'Chic' with three new businesses opening in the last month; nothing less than miraculous given the worst recession in living memory.

My view on small high streets like my own and that of Margate's 'Old Town' quarter, is that small 'vertical' businesses, like our micro-pub and with luck, Piero's, point the way forward to a mini-renaissance, particularly in a tourist economy and with Westgate having such fine beaches within sight and walking distance of the Turner Contemporary.

Strolling through to the other end of Station Road, I stopped for a chat with Stevie (Stelios) who many readers will recognise from the men's barbers, next-door to Beano's cafe, having a Mediterranean coffee break between customers at Molly's bar, where I joined him for a capucinno and also had a chat with Lorraine who owns this second of three new businesses in Westgate.

Apparently Stevie is planning to transform his shop into a more traditional men's barbers, offering hot towel shaves and with a change in decor with an awning over the front to suit the older style of Westgate. I for one think this is a great idea as I firmly believe that if the traders can recreate the unique style of Westgate, it will only become more attractive as a summer tourist destination, evoking some of the memories I had of the town as a boy. I can only say, 'Good Luck' and I'm here if anyone needs my help with the Council.

Finally, I was asked a little earlier what plans, if any, there were to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee in Westgate-on-Sea and the answer is that the WWRA, local resident's association is having an event, for members only, at the Bake House, behind the Carlton Cinema, between 1pm and 4pm on Sunday, 3rd June. It's a big party with food and drinks and so if you aren't a member already, now's a good time to join.

I'm also informed that on Monday night the Birchington Parish Council will be meeting in the parish Office in Albion Road starting at 7.30pm, and for those people from Birchington and Minnis Bay who were unable to ask Cllr John Worrow a question due to his previous non-appearance, this is an opportunity for him to meet the public he appears so keen to avoid.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Manston Night Flights Decision

What the German Luftwaffe failed to do in 1940, Clive Hart's minority Labour administration in Thanet, is well on its way to achieving in 2012.

Tonight at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Council, the Labour Group, supported by the Independents, voted against 'Any' night flights taking place at Manston airport between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00.

Cllr Ian Driver of the Thanet Independent Group (TIG) suggested that the airport now be closed altogether and that in the near future, the aviation industry will cease to exist.

It's worth noting that the survey of local opinion only took in less than 5% of Thanet's population directly under the flight path in Ramsgate and that Labour was already committed to this decision as part of their election manifesto.

More thoughts tomorrow but until then, the video from 'Carry on Cleo,' roughly sums-up Cllr Driver's position and technical grasp of the aviation industry; in my opinion at least. While Labour's Cllr Nicholson cleverly managed to weave the Prime Minister's father-in-law into the narrative, another former Leader of the Council, Cllr Sandy Ezekiel, now sitting as an Independent and upset at barracking comments from the audience behind him when he spoke, managed to offend people in the chamber at least twice by describing both the gallery and the Labour Group as 'Rabble.'

The new mayor of Margate, Will Scobie, stood-up and confirmed once again, that at the callow age of 23, it's best to say very little and quite what Cllr Dr Jack Cohen was on about, will have to be retrieved and made sense of from the video in a week's time. Independents, Cllr's Tom King and Bob Grove actually voted rather than abstained last night but supported the Labour motion.

Technical arguments in support of allowing some latitude for commercial flexibility around the closure periods flew out of the window and Ramsgate's Cllr Elizabeth Green appeared to be under the impression that everyone shared the same time zone between here and Cairo. I could go on but plan to write a little more in the morning!



Carrying on from overnight briefly, before I start work, aside from the normal exchange of political animosity and class war between the veterans on both sides of the council chamber, what we viewed last night was a 'bad-tempered meeting' according to the BBC a polarisation of local politics, almost as if the Ramsgate councillors had declared UDI from the rest of Thanet.

Yes, of course there are valid arguments surrounding aircraft movements and sleep but from the Labour Group, we kept hearing the expression, 'Open Skies' used in an emotional context, when all the Conservatives were seeking to do was add the word 'Flexible' as amendment.

Why 'Flexible?' As I tried to explain to Council, Manston attracts mostly cargo aircraft from the Middle-east and Africa where the time difference is roughly + 4 hours and the temperatures are much higher.

Much like the road haulage business, cargo aircraft need to be carrying as much as possible to be commercially viable but unlike trucks, large aircraft are temperature limited in their performance. To summarize quickly how warm it is vs the length of a runway, determines how much load an aircraft can carry and whether it can take off. So if Manston shuts, dead on 23:00 and an aircraft is delayed at Cairo because the temperature is a little too high for its weight of fuel and cargo at the local Egyptian time of 23:00, a fully-loaded 747 might have to wait until it cools enough to depart. That can cause it to lose its original slot time with Eurocontrol into the UK and make it late in Manston.


Recognising this fact, The Conservative Group thought a complete ban on 'Night flights' would allow no flexibility for carriers running late and would send out completely the wrong message on Manston to the airline industry.

There's absolutely no suggestion of supporting constant flights throughout the night but simply doing what most other local airports do and that's allow a little 'flexibility' rather than 'intensification', less than a handful of scheduled flights that the airport may seek from time to time while recognising the sometimes uncertain scheduling of arriving aircraft, which most of us have experienced as air passengers.

In regard to the survey, there's no doubt it was a useful and valid test of public opinion but the airport is in proximity to some 150,000 people in Thanet and not just those on the approach path from Ramsgate. The great majority of the local population had no opportunity to express whether they were in favour of a total ban on night flights or whether they supported some flexibility and the airport's potential for creating jobs in an area of chronic deprivation.

While the debate only delivered a recommendation from the Council and the airport may choose to ignore it, this is, I believe, the wrong message to send to an important local business we need to be successful to create jobs. Instead, Labour has placed the airport in a commercial straight jacket and while Labour wins votes in Ramsgate, overall, the people of Thanet are the losers.

News of News

Thanet  District Council will tonight decide the future of Manston airport in an extraordinary meeting of the council and it very much looks as if Labour will be using a 'Whipped' vote with the support of the three now comfortably rewarded 'TIG's' to have their way on 'No Night Flights.' The debate will, I'm sure be a heated one.

Meanwhile, I hear that the 'soaraway' Thanet Gazette has its sights firmly set on TIG's Leader, Cllr John Worrow, in tomorrow's edition as it investigates the continuing mystery of the fabulous Mr Fox, TIG's missing webmaster.

I also see today that those busy Broadstairs-based psuedo-anarchist socialists, the Thanet Watch pampleteers, aka 'The Communist Manifesto' on my weblog sidebar, also feature Cllr Worrow prominently on the front of their latest issue today. Price 60p in all good newsagents.

In fact I may own a rare copy with a visible misprint but I'm looking out for some more.

One of our readers has sent me in the dictionary definition of 'TIG' which appears to be: "TIG (as in TAG) - a children's game in which one chases the rest and anyone who is caught then becomes the pursuer."

No real surprises there then!

Police and Hospitals

It's supposed to read 29 degrees today, in London at least, so I'm not expecting many people to be inside reading 'Blogs.'

Yesterday evening, I attended a Kent Police briefing in the council chamber, from the Area Commander, Chief Superintendent Mark Nottage, assisted by local Inspectors, Mark Whitham and Rob Fordham and I thought I would share some of the information with you.

Kent Police are facing a £50 million reduction in their budget which in real terms means 500 less police officers and 1,000 less support staff. In order to to use their dwindling resources more efficiently and meet the expectations of the public, the strategic model has changed to allow them to move officers around between areas to meet demand.

Here in Thanet, what was until recently:
  • 1 Inspector
  • 5 Sergeants
  • 29 PC's
  • 26 PCSO's
Has now changed quite dramatically from this month and become:
  • 6 Inspectors
  • 12 Sergeants
  • 85 PC's
  • 23 PCSO's
I won't dive into the detail but readers will see that we now have more officers available than before although PCSOs have been cut by three along with elements of the familiar neighbourhood model.

If you live here in Westgate your PCSO is now Jim Coleman.

A couple of things that Ch.Supt Nottage mentioned are of further interest. The first was that Government, local and national needs to sort-out the endemic social problems that blight areas here in Thanet and which drain already stretched resources. I assumed this reflected what I have written about here before about the train from Bromley South station, depositing London's unwanted or homeless here in Margate and Cliftonville. The second, was that he had a meeting with the responsible Government Minister last week, to discuss the wider and equally serious challenge of of the large numbers of children and young people in care, which is a problem not only for the police but for our schools as well.

As an aside to this story, Westgate traders were having problems with a couple of troubled teenagers from Ethelbert Homes and following my own intervention and the cooperation of the home, the ringleader has been 'moved-away' to some other ward but the wider challenge still remains, particularly in areas like Cliftonville, where vulnerable young people are exposed to gangs and individuals with extremely negative potential outcomes. I'm reminded of 'The Artful Dodger' and the unpleasant character of Fagin in Charles Dicken's great novel 'Oliver Twist.'

More officers should mean less anti-social behaviour and the Government is taking a much tougher stance on the problem. I will be very interested to see the crime statistics at the end of this year to see how much impact these new changes have had but in summary, we all need to realise that along with other public-sector resources, the police model has to change to match its budget and we can only hope that greater streamlining leads to greater efficiency.

I have written to Ch.Supt Nottage to apologise for the behaviour of several prominent Labour councillors last night. At times, Cllr Johnston, who was chairing the meeting was in danger of losing control and while members may have their valid concerns over local policing, there is absolutely 'no excuse' for the rambling monologues or voluble bad manners of the kind I witnessed last night.

On a completely separate note, I attempted to engage in the Facebook campaign to 'Save the QEQM A&E' but promptly disengaged when I saw that little or nothing could be achieved in that forum by sharing the facts.

I'm concerned by the alarm being spread from the soap-box platform of Cllr Ian Driver (Formerly of Militant, Scargill, Respect, Labour and now a TIG councillor) and a mixture of fringe left-wing and Trades Union interests, 'the usual suspects,' that appear to have little or no interest in the facts but have a much wider anti-cuts and anti-Government agenda.

Cllr Driver does in fact know what the facts are and here's a link to his statement from the TIG's now, 'disappeared' website. I'm not aware of any plans to 'close' the A& E at QEQM. I am aware of some aspects of critical trauma care being allocated to centres of excellence in hospitals around the region and the Council, patients' groups and local MP's are able to feed their own views into the ongoing consultation process which could see QEQM picking-up new specialist treatment areas and losing others to the like of the William Harvey. What the final result will be still remains unclear and will be until the autumn at least but I'm quite dismayed that the fears of local people are being 'played' so very cynically for political gain by the same people who bought you 'Occupy Turner.'

We have an excellent local hospital in Margate and you can expect members of all groups and political parties to fight to keep its essential services intact for the benefit of local people. However, it's quite possible in the near future, that hospitals will specialise in different critical areas of trauma care and while if you break your leg of hip, you will find yourself in the familiar QEQM A&E casualty unit, a major heart attack involving a coronary stent, might involve emergency transportation to a specialist intensive care unit at another hospital once the patient is stabilised.

So let's not jump to pre-judge the results and wait to see what the plans for east Kent actually reveal and whether they make practical and medical sense in the public interest, before the demonstrations against them actually begin.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More Bananas

It's been a curious day. The Thanet Times has revealed that none other than Lord Lucan is the mysterious and now missing webmaster for the Thanet Independent Group's website and Michael Child, presently Labour's principal cheerleader in Ramsgate is worrying that I'm becoming a little obsessed, with the TIGs. To be honest, it's very hard not to be drawn along with the story as it develops each day, together with the Thanet Gazette, the BBC, several local weblogs and who knows, perhaps even Private Eye?

A couple of weeks ago, given our differences, simply having a chat with the editor of the Gazette and my old friend, Tony Flaig, would have been quite unusual but the events of the last week have brought people together, in asking what on earth is going on at Thanet Council and where will it all end?

Hardly a day passes without one new strange revelation or another and I'm most impressed that Birchington Parish Councillor, Bernard la Roche, has had an epiphany of his own and joined the happy independent band, of Worrow, Cohen and Driver, because this now gives me the opportunity to add the video clip below, from the popular 60's children's series, 'The Banana Splits,' as the suggested supporting music for Thanet's most unusual but influential political group.

Other breaking news this evening is that Margate's new Mayor, Will Scobie, is claiming his Twitter account was hacked today, which would account for his new and unusual sideline in peddling a 'revolutionary' American herbal diet programme over the internet. I did point this strange series of 'Tweets' out to him a little earlier but if you happen to have invested in any miracle diet pills as a consequence of his glowing endorsement of the product, I suggest that before you experience any unfortunate side-effects, you return these to the Mayor's parlour in Margate and ask for a refund.

Hopefully, tomorrow, I can return to something a little more serious and down to earth, than dodgy weight loss advice from the Mayor and some wildly exaggerated rumours of a deranged, homophobic ninja assassin stalking one of our Birchington councillors.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Invisible Man

For the benefit of all those Birchington residents hoping to hear from Cllr John Worrow at this evening's meeting at the village community centre, I've just been informed that he has now sent his apologies as a more pressing engagement calls.

Where he may be going remains a mystery but suggestions I have received in the last ten minutes include an 'unexpected but urgent diversity conference' and that 'he's not allowed to leave his home until he has tidied his room.' I'm sure more will follow as there are some very disappointed people out there who appear to expect him, as a ward and parish councillor, to turn-up at a public meeting which has been scheduled for weeks.

Late Newsflash:

The BBC are reporting that: "Thanet councillor John Warrow fears a 'hate campaign" and may, this evening, be in hiding, having made a formal complaint to the police.

"Mr Warrow said: "I fear that it could be part of very nasty homophobic hate campaign against me."


Thanet Times  22nd May 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Little Annoyed

"Crikey", as the long lost Eastcliff Richard might have written, "It's all the fault of that Simon Moores bloke!"

I'm referring to this morning's press release from the Thanet Independent Group, a copy of which you will find here, which concedes that some residents of Minnis Bay might have been a little annoyed at being described as 'ugly pigs' but it's all really the fault of 'yours truly' because Cllr John Worrow was quite unable to distinguish between the light-hearted satire," you might find here from time to time and the cruder online insults traded on his last and most recently defunct weblog! Now that's what I call a grand and generous but not unreserved apology on behalf of his so-called 'Web team'; I wish I could afford one and I'm sure people in Birchington will be most impressed indeed.

In fact, tomorrow evening at 7pm at the village community centre, they will have their opportunity to quiz both Cllr Worrow and Cllr Cohen on their policies and recent statements from the Thanet Independent Group and so you might have to arrive early to be sure of a good seat. I suspect though, they may both fail to turn-up to 'face the music' from a very unhappy constituency but I'm looking forward to seeing a report of the meeting.

One thing however does bother me today and that's the visitor traffic to the Thanet Independent Group Archive is actually greater than those coming here to enjoy my sense of satire. I may have created a monster! Either that or people are now waking-up to the awful truth of what Clive Hart and the Labour Group did on Thursday night, when they effectively handed the keys of the council's committees to TIG.

Expect the worst or best for the Manston Night Flights debate next week, depending on your point of view as Cllrs Worrow, Driver and Cohen prop-up the Labour vote.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

The sudden disappearance of the Thanet Independent Group (TIG) website, came as a shock to many readers yesterday. Had their been a catastrophic server crash at Google's Mountain View facility or had the politically-motivated, hacker group, 'Anonymous', targeted  the TIGs in a denial of service attack?

Nobody appears to know the answer but like several John Worrow-controlled weblogs before it, TIG suddenly evaporated from the blogosphere and with it, the vital information that might be required to support at least one of the Standards complaints of many, now in the hands of Thanet District Council.

However, all is not lost and in particular, the valuable political resource and gems of personal wisdom, that the TIG weblog represented, its manifesto and position on vital elements of local policy; more important than ever before. You will have read that all three TIG councillors now hold the most influential positions, being given the Chairs on Thursday evening, of the Council's most important governance committees.

Now, I just happen to have the archive of all TIGs posts from the very beginning and I thought, as a gesture of cross-party cooperation at its finest, that I would rebuild their content for them. It may take a little time of course but you will see from the sidebar and here that we now have a new weblog, www.TIGabout.blogspot.com .

Readers will not only be able to remind themselves of those important policy commitments such as the 'Boy George look-alike contest' for this summer's Minnis Bay Pride weekend or the introduction of 'Diversity Blogging Wardens'  but will now be able to leave (moderated) comments on each of the stories. You may recall that for some strange technical reason, TIG has had huge problems accepting comments on their blog in the past but now I've solved that particular challenge.

So read on and enjoy and don't forget there's a little bit of Tigger in all of us!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How Low is Low

Tonight's annual council meeting confirmed everything I suggested in earlier predictions. So that Clive Hart can cling on to the leadership of his minority Labour administration, the renegade members of the Thanet Independent Group (TIG) have been given the three most influential and best-remunerated committee chairs- the word 'Bribe' was used pejoratively on several occasions during the debate - and no mention whatsoever was made of yesterday's personal attack on a member of the public on the TIG website. Cllr Worrow reportedly told Cllr Johnston it was nothing to do with him.

While Heather Seer was in the audience tonight hoping for some kind of apology from Cllr Worrow or even an acknowledgement of the attack made on his weblog, I have spoken with Rebecca at the Gazette and we may find out a little more about the real identity of  the mysterious TIG agent, 'David Fox', next week.

Labour, struggling under the weight of political denial and a moral deficit, also expanded their Cabinet by one post but rejected an amendment from the floor, not to increase the Members Special Responsibility Allowances, given the present harsh financial climate. What message does Labour's 'generosity', send out to a public who are struggling?.

With the cost to the taxpayer of the new positions for TIG being around £24,000, plus the cost of the Birchington free parking 'bribe' written about here before, we can add the incremental costs of a new Cabinet post for David Green. Labour, who resented the Conservatives cutting the Cabinet down to size to save money, are back to their old tricks of spending other people's money on feathering the nest. I'm sure local bloggers Tony Flaig and James Maskell will add their own cynical views but as I left the Chamber, I said to Labour's Clive Hart, that I consider myself a moral person but one disgusted by the cheap opportunistic hypocrisy of what I saw take place this evening.

Tomorrow, I'm out early flying and so I might write more when I return but given my present feelings over the entire and rather sordid night's business, it's better I think to review what happened in the cold light of day! Postscript.. an interesting analysis by James Maskell here.

Closer to Home

This being a big day for council business, the Annual General Meeting of the Council, I will start with a little Westgate information.

Last week, I was horrified to step-off the train and see a group of young teenage girls from one of our local schools , smoking cannabis on the platform. I called-up the school and told the office but yesterday, I observed a teenage boy, doing a healthy trade in single cigarettes and perhaps a more potent tobacco mixture, outside the same school the girls came from. He's easily spotted, about 16, of school age, no uniform, baseball cap worn on the side of the head and not visibly of local origin.

I've reported this to Inspector Impey at Margate Police Station and he promises to have this worrying issue investigated immediately. I did suggest they pass-by this morning at 08:30 and 'Lift' the lad in question.

On another issue, Ethelbert's Homes has reared its head again, with anti-social behaviour from at least two of the troubled teenagers in its care, causing concern to traders in Westgate's Station Road. I've been in touch with the home after the last incident this month and I'm told that the ringleader has now been 'moved'. I'm sure much to the relief of people in Westgate but perhaps not to his next port of call. I see that as summer approaches, we are once again seeing an increase in anti-social behaviour around the station and outside the Piggy Bank nursery and I am keeping an eye on it.

On another and even less attractive note, many readers have shared their disgust at the response by John Worrow's Thanet Independent Group (TIG), to Heather Seer's letter written to the Thanet Gazette, published in the comments section of my last weblog entry. This veiled personal attack on a leading member of the public and the members of Minnis Bay Watch is beyond any pretense of satire, quite outrageous and exceeds any decent standard of responsible public behaviour. I will be taking copies of this with me to Council tonight, for those Councillors who don't read weblogs to see.

Whether this will prevent Clive Hart from giving TIG the keys to the Council's key committees in return for their vital votes remains to be seen later this evening. I'm told that some Birchington residents may be attending to demand Cllr Worrow's resignation as both Councillor and 'Diversity Champion'..

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nobody Expects

The wind is strong enough this morning to get me home from west of Bournemouth in an hour and twenty minutes; bumpy is an understatement. It wasn't much better getting over there yesterday afternoon either, as I ended-up following the coast, low-level, from Bognor, just to stay visual, below the cloud and rain before heading north briefly across Sandbanks and Poole to land at a small grassy spot in the hills in a violent rainstorm.

Today was a sudden reminder that I'm in a risky line of business, when the banner I was picking-up failed catastrophically 150 feet or so above the ground as I was climbing away. The first sign of this was a lurch and a sudden bleeding-off of airspeed as my nose came-up and the weight and drag of the bundle of washing behind me, pulled my tail down. At this point everything happens quite quickly but seems to be moving in slow motion. A glance at the air-speed indicator shows I'm at the edge of a stall and there's a line of trees ahead. There's zero chance of getting over these and so the decision is an unconscious one while there's still time to recover; My left hand reaches for the emergency release and my right hand pushes the nose down to pick up enough airspeed to climb away and miss the trees.

As for the banner, that drops safely into an adjacent field, which turns out to be a half mile walk to avoid a series of streams and barbed-wire fences. Ironically, I almost filmed the entire affair with my GoPro camera but being short of time, didn't switch it on. Here's the departure towards home instead. You can see the trees that caught my attention earlier.



I was speaking to the manufacturer in the States earlier and this kind of thing is very rare, the last being in about 2006 when a huge Corona Beer advertisement, did much the same thing at Rochester, en-route to Brands Hatch. Statistically, you know there's going to be a problem either with the aircraft or the banner, every thousand hours or so and it's experience that determines whether the outcome is a happy one or not.

Meanwhile, the post brings me even more excitement today, with a letter from Thanet District Council, informing me that Cllr John Worrow has issued a 'Standards Complaint' against me, this weblog and the comments that appear here. This  alleges a 'breach of conduct' and was delivered by hand by a diversity blogging warden in a rainbow-coloured pointy hat!

I'm rather looking forward to this trial by the council's own modest version of the Spanish Inquisition and I'm hoping that sympathetic readers will send messages of support to my cell in Newgate prison while I await the verdict. I should add that I am unable to offer any evidence in my own defense and this includes the complete and unexpurgated political works of Cllr Worrow, on his different weblogs, old, new and discontinued. Once the independent sub-committee has properly assessed the alleged offense, I will be informed of their decision. But who, might you ask, sits on this committee? That's another story of course, and I expect to find myself standing on a scaffold, opposite the magistrates' court in Cecil Square quite soon!



To finish-up for today, the results of my last poll, show that 66% of readers are in favour of the UK leaving the European Union and reflects a level of public disquiet over a failed or failing European project, the politicans in Westminster really need to wake-up to. With forty-eight hours until the annual meeting of Thanet Council, I'm putting a new poll up which offers readers the opportunity of guessing how much it will cost the local taxpayer to keep Clive Hart and Labour in control of the council, in terms of special responsibility allowances to three well-known independent councillors for their vital votes?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The New Statesman

According to an exclusive newsflash on the 'TIG' website this afternoon, not only might I be challenging Bob Bayford as Leader of the Conservative Group next week but I harbour secret ambitions to become an MEP as well!

This revelation comes as news to me, particularly as the Conservative group had its AGM last week and there was no change of Leader, despite the wishful thinking or equally fevered imagination of  Councillor Worrow.

Better still, in order to become an MEP, one has to be rather high-up on on the candidates list - as well as being on it - and in pole position to knock-off one of the sitting MEPs, who won't be that keen on sacrificing those long and tedious lunches in Brussels, together with one of Europe's most generous public-sector pensions, regardless of  which political party you happen to represent.

I see that I'm lucky enough to be parodied in the video clip below, with that 80's Conservative icon, Alan B'stard. I'm quite certain, that given the confused state of Westminster politics and with the LibDems sharing a seat in Government, rather a lot of unhappy people in this country, might vote for him today, if that is, he happened to be a real political character. Maybe next year!

Sunday Ramble

I had lunch on Friday at a restaurant opposite St Paul's cathedral and looking at the other diners, mostly it appears from the surrounding city banks, that the recession that we feel so sharply along Margate High Street, remains quite invisible in some places.

With a little time to spare, I wandered around the great cathedral's grounds, which had of course been cleared, most recently of the 'Occupy London' group that set-up camp there during the winter months but it seems they had another attempt at returning this weekend in advance of the Dalai Lama's visit to collect the Templeton prize.

Returning home later that same afternoon, I made a point of watching who got on the train at Bromley South. I have a theory, I've written about before, that the station, a short bus ride from Lunar House, is a starting point for what one can only describe as welfare migrants, single young men and sometimes women sent to find cheaper temporary accommodation in Margate and Cliftonville, very much against the requests of our own Council.

With only the front four carriages of the train going as far as Ramsgate, it's not hard to guess who might be heading my way in ones and two's because unlike the other passengers, they look very much like people given a one way ticket to nowhere, with their belonging crammed into cheap sports bags.

Is there absolutely no way, I ask, that we can control this flow into our most vulnerable areas of Thanet for the greater good of the majority, who deserve the much wider economic and educational opportunities that go with a properly balanced community and not one constantly weighed down by demands placed upon us by other local authorities and agencies? Perhaps it's not politically correct to ask or perhaps our new 'progressive' Labour administration has some ideas but as the downward process of decline and inward migration in several wards accelerated under a previous one, I'm not holding my breath that any local Party has an effective answer to the mounting pressures of London's homelessness crisis..

I had to call BBC South-east news on Friday night, as they were busy writing Manston's obituary based on what they thought had happened during the previous evening's Cabinet meeting. The 'Beeb' apologised and agreed to correct their piece in the next bulletin but even with a forthcoming Council meeting, this month, to debate the Manston night flights issue, the damage is being done to the airport's prospects as it appears clear that Labour has taken a vigorous anti-airport stance. All this at a time when County and Government are talking-up the need for greater airport capacity, if only to head-off Boris' wild dreams of an island, estuary super-Heathrow within sight of our coast.

Sir Roger Gale, our Thanet North MP, has sent me a letter to publish in regard to Clive Hart's stance on the airport:
He describes as “contradictory nonsense” a letter sent by the Leader of Thanet Council, Cllr Hart, to the Chief Executive of Manston, Charles Buchanan.
This letter” says the MP “which has been widely circulated by TDC to the press, purports to support the development of Manston for commercial purposes.

In fact and Hart is of course well aware of this, the position taken by Thanet District Council at its Thursday meeting and the disingenuous nature of his letter, fly in the face of the recommendations of TDCs own commissioned report and pays no attention whatsoever to commercial reality.

In pandering to the rump of his party and to a handful of motley “independent” councillors Hart is placing at risk the huge employment potential of one of our greatest available job-creating assets. At the very moment when the Department for Transport is looking seriously at Manston for Olympic and post-Olympic potential development and is considering a further upgrade of the rail links between Manston and London Hart is effectively saying 'We do not want this business'. We all recognise the need to strike a balance between the environment and job-creating development but TDC is not seeking to strike that balance in any meaningful way based upon the evidence of their own report.

These statements tell me that this Thanet administration simply cannot be trusted either to reflect the truth of the report to its own electorate or to put the need for regeneration and job-creating development above partisan short-term populist headlines. The Council not only has no “Plan B.” It does not have any plan at all and it is a tragedy that while the coalition government and KCC, working with East Kent`s MPs, are busting a gut to help to get the economy of East Kent moving in the right direction a bunch of political Luddites appear determined to undermine the effort that is being made in spite of them.

Even at this late stage I urge Hart to re-visit his own report, get around the table with those trying to take Thanet forward, put the party-political agenda of his administration to one side and start to negotiate a serious plan to enable not only Thanet but the UK to take advantage of an aviation asset that the Country simply cannot afford to squander or lose.”

The official Thanet Conservative Group release on the airport's future can be found here.

Next week, it's the annual general meeting of the council and many readers will now yawn and move-on. However, what takes place next Thursday evening, may come as a shock to even the most jaded cynics. Everyone knows three vital independent votes masquerading as a political party of misfits, that would do credit to the characters in the children's TV show, the 'Banana Splits' , will have to be bought, in a Faustian political sense, to guarantee that Clive Hart and the minority Labour Group stay in control. So don't switch-off quite yet!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Future Uncertain

Some quick thoughts after this evening's Council Cabinet meeting while they are fresh in my mind.

First-off, there's real concern on the Conservative side of the floor that the Labour Group is already making recommendations on the future of Manston airport, in advance of the forthcoming, full Council debate, without sharing these with the Opposition. It strikes me that with such an important topic, some of the more basic principles of local democracy are being thrown-out of the window.

The press release that followed the meeting is somewhat at odds with what actually took place and I'm wondering if perhaps I was somewhere else or simply asleep!

Without any shadow of a doubt though and based on tonight's performance, the future of the island's airport remains a difficult and uncertain one while Clive Hart and Labour remain in control of the Council.

The Royal Sands development in Ramsgate was kicked back into touch again. In fact it never appeared on the pitch tonight and will re-appear in a future Cabinet meeting, where, who knows, it will be pushed back to Council? Anyone care to make a bet?

Margate's QEQM hospital and the future of its casualty, A&E unit was the subject of a report to Cabinet. "Yes" I can see the practical advantages of specialist care units in Maidstone and Ashford but what will go there and what will be left here in Thanet remains ambivalent and this is understandably a cause of worry to many people. For example, there is no fast road solution between here and Ashford for emergency vehicles and it's also a long way to expect families to travel in what is after all, a deprived part of the County.

We will hear more about this in the Autumn but it's true to say that all political parties here in Thanet are united in seeking the best possible emergency care solution available and protecting our hospital's services and will be watching the consultation very closely indeed. In the meantime, wild rhetoric and an alarmist Facebook campaign from one of our councillors only serves to worry the community before the full detail of any plan is available for calm scrutiny and a proper response.

I'm starting to hear how the independents are going to divide up the the key committees and the 'Special Responsibility Allowances'  that go with them, in order to keep a minority Labour Group in control at this month's annual meeting of the Council.

There's another impression of the same meeting on James Maskell's weblog but I may add more later...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Thanet Watch

Other than offering useful gadgets and you'll see I have a new poll on my sidebar today (please vote if you have any views on Nigel Farage's speech), Blogger produces all kinds of interesting statistics on where visitors are coming from and what they are looking for. I keep a regular eye on these on a daily basis, as from time to time it can offer useful intelligence on a local story or event I'm not aware of.

Some of these can really be quite bizarre or very seedy indeed. So for example, having once mentioned a police raid raid on a brothel in the Canterbury Road in Westbrook, it stands to reason, that searches for local brothels land on my front page and simply mentioning it again here, will reinforce the search-engine traffic from both Google and Bing. So perhaps I'm in the wrong business!

Today, the 'intelligence chatter' suggests something else and that's antisemitism or more accurately, someone is putting in key words and searching through Thanet Life, trying to discover if antisemitic remarks have been made here, at any point in time, against one of our local councillors; among them, searching for any incidence of a racist phrase in a song from a Sasha Baron Cohen movie; 'Borat'.

So, to save on any more wasted energy on the part of the researcher involved, it's not a subject I would tolerate but it does remind me of something else, particularly given the somewhat light-hearted discussion elsewhere on the blogs over whether the island's latest 'Red Top' newspaper, 'Thanet Watch', is funded by the North Koreans!

So here's a short public information film should you ever be tempted to buy a copy. I do realise, that several of the leading characters or is that usual suspects, may look a little familiar if you live in Broadstairs.



Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Magic Roundabout

Thursday evening sees a meeting of the Council's Cabinet and there are several controversial items on the agenda that will likely catch the public's attention and possibly enjoy a little vigorous showboating from some independent quarters in the process.

The first of these is the 'Consultation response to the proposed night-time flying policy submitted by Manston airport.' The second involves a report into the future of the trauma unit at the QEQM hospital and the third is the Royal Sands agreement, where the report requested by the last Cabinet meeting will be submitted but this will again be closed to the public because of issues commercial confidentiality.

Another item, which will likely pass most people by is the new 'Neighbourhood Planning Process' which gives greater control to local communities in determining development and Sir Roger Gale recently bought this subject up in a discussion with Westgate traders, over the Sainsbury's supermarket application for Hundreds Farm.

It will be interesting to see if the now familiar 'Magic Roundabout' trend of  the Labour Cabinet kicking back its 'progressive', decisive and difficult decisions to Council will continue.

More recently, I've found one has to arrive at the meeting early or risk the Tiny Independent Group setting-up shop in the Conservative opposition seats.

Given what's on the  Thursday agenda, this is bound to be both  informative and entertaining in more ways than one, as efforts at what you or I might think of as serious debate or cross-examination, are either quashed rapidly by the 'progressive' Chair or become a little incoherent with a little shouting thrown-in for good measure. But come along and see as there's rarely a dull moment in local politics these days!



Monday, May 07, 2012

In Westgate

It's a reasonably pleasant Bank Holiday Monday and while I wait to see if Rochester airport will open, so I can move a couple of aircraft around between here and Brighton - it was waterlogged this weekend - I thought that I would remind readers that if they look down the sidebar of this weblog, they may find some interesting links and resources.

In particular, I've put hundreds of my aerial photos and almost the entire old photo library of Thanet's past online for readers to enjoy, as well as many links to other local websites and resources.

I very much enjoyed Dawn Crouch's local history presentation at St Saviour's church this weekend and look forward to the next one. The town never ceases to surprise me, which reminds me that I must make a small correction to the Wikipedia entry. There are lots of significant gaps in the online information and it really needs an enthusiastic and knowledgeable editor to populate it. You can find the complete Westgate Guide pictured left here.

I have been asked what happened to the homeless man sitting on the pavement outside the Piggy Bank nursery in Station Road on Saturday. First of all, I would like to thank Reg Bell and several of the traders for offering help and Angelo's for giving me a free hot drink for him.

The gentlemen concerned, had discharged himself from a hostel on the Isle of Sheppey and come here, still wearing wearing a hospital wristband. He had spent the night in beach shelter and was clearly on the verge of hypothermia and on investigation, also had a number of other serious medical conditions that required care.

For reader reference the Thanet District Council emergency out of hours number is 01843 292442

Bank Holiday Saturday before the FA Cup Final is not a good time to make oneself intentionally homeless and be sick at the same time but after help from my shadow cabinet colleagues and Swale Borough Council, I managed to persuade a very patient police officer to collect him, somewhat against the gentlemen's will and then have him driven back to Sheppey where he could be given proper care, rather than face the possibly alarming consequences of a night on Westgate's seafront in the condition he was in.

What happened on Saturday revealed a number of deficiencies in the system that need attention, more so perhaps in the present local government climate and I hope to raise my concerns with Cllr Johnston when I next see her on Thursday for a Cabinet meeting of the Council.

The straw poll on the sidebar on the choice of Will Scobie as Mayor of Margate ends today. So far, the results for those who voted reflect broadly what I've seen on the ground, with 59% against the idea and 26% approval, with the remainder indifferent. It's now up to  the incoming Mayor Will to prove the skeptics wrong but I do recommend that in climbing the greasy political career pole, he spends rather less of his time being a front-line Labour activist out of Thanet in the year ahead.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Brian Goodwin Passes Away

I've just been informed that Brian Goodwin, my fellow Conservative ward councillor for Westgate on Sea and Margate Charter Trustee, passed-away at the QEQM hospital earlier this morning. My wife, a hospital chaplain, was in fact due to visit him again on her Sunday rounds but it was not to be.

Brian had been struggling hard against cancer for several months and finally lost the battle this week, even though he had been determined and optimistic to the last.

The Conservative Group has made its own statement through its leader, Cllr Bob Bayford, shown below but I'm sure readers here, will join with me, political colleagues of all parties in Thanet and the residents and traders of Westgate who knew him well, after many years of stalwart public service. in sending their best wishes to his family and his wife Anne at this very sad and difficult time.

Bob Bayford writes:“It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death this morning of Councillor Brian Goodwin.Councillor Goodwin represented Westgate on Sea ward since 2003 and cared deeply for the area and its residents.He will be greatly missed by all his friends and colleagues in the Conservative Group at Thanet District Council and in the wider Thanet community.”

Tom King, Independent Councillor for Westgate and Chair of the Westgate & Westbrook Residents' Association (WWRA) has asked me if I would add a few words:

"Brian was a close colleague and a former Chair of the WWRA and I knew him for over twelve years. He was a jovial character, who contributed his personal energy and enthusiasm in achieving the very best for Westgate and on behalf of the residents and the WWRA, I'm sorry to hear of his passing. He will be missed."

If we can reserve comments on this post for any personal messages of condolence and tributes, I would be grateful.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Flicking Through

In fact, not a great deal to comment on having flicked through the pages of our local 'soaraway' Thanet Gazette this morning.

There's a masked marvel in superhero costume, running around Ramsgate, artistically sprinkling silver glitter on dog poo, to highlight a prevalent problem; a gesture which Northwood councillor, Ian Driver describes as 'inspired'.  I do suspect however, that rather more than a pocket-full of pixie dust is needed to deter some of the more aggressive looking dogs and their anti-social owners I see out walking on a regular basis. I spotted one large animal on the seafront at Birchington this week. I can't recall the breed but I do recognise it as the type you would not want to have anywhere near small children without being attached to a strong chain.

Why, I wonder, are so many people in Thanet now buying what I would call trophy or status dogs? Is this for self-defense in uncertain times or simply to intimidate their neighbours? In a recession, the cost of feeding such large dogs must be prohibitive, particularly as so many of the younger owners, I see out walking 'Buster' during working hours, must be on state benefits of one kind or another.

Back to the Gazette and 'Smudger' picked on John Worrow I see and not me for once, reporting on last week's stormy Birchington Parish Council meeting where he told the Chair: "I'm not an idiot, don't treat me as one." Apparently he has placed himself in charge of the Olympic torch visit, which is nice.

Ian Driver became rather hot under the collar at a comment made in one of my earlier blogs last week which remarked: "Every village has an idiot but only Birchington managed to elect one" and I might add that after Monday's somewhat bizarre mayoral election in Margate, there's quite ample evidence that the lunatics have taken control of the asylum.

Which of course, brings me neatly back to the subject of comment moderation. While I do moderate comments here, unlike other weblogs, I very rarely use it unless bad language or libel are involved. Exceptions of course are my good friend, Michael Child attempting to pull a thread over the edge of the Pleasurama cliff-face and Rick's often wild theories about the IRA and the Deal barracks bombing,  rogue Freemasons and more.

Those readers that bother to visit Thanet (Tiny) Independent Group's rather bizarre weblog, which changes colours and fonts on a regular basis, will see that their best answer to comment moderation is to allow no comments at all, which conclusively proves that everyone agrees with them.

I recognise that some people may occasionally be offended by comments. We are, after all, a society that thrives on being offended at any opportunity and Cllr Driver more than most. However, I do retain a sense of humour and respect what little remains of free-speech when it is used in a satirical manner and I'm simply not going to switch-off comments here, because our tiny band of three local independent councillors want me to.

Finally, I have it reported from several reliable sources, the allegation that the editor of the local paper may be 'improving' Councillor Worrow's letters, because they are so poorly written. I for one, think that this is either pretty outrageous or outrageously funny, should it be true and anyone comparing and contrasting what they see in the paper and what they might read written elsewhere by John Worrow, can only conclude that the familiar childish style, syntax, spelling and use of the English language are quite remarkably different between the two.

Are such public-spirited secretarial services only available to one Party?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Cross Channel Visitor

I'm just back from Calais and I will put up some more detail and I hope video of the model Spitfire flight as it comes together. It arrived safely at Manston after a low-level crossing of the Channel as the weather was pretty miserable in places.

To be honest, I didn't think we would get away with it today but the mist and low cloud lifted sufficiently around lunchtime for me to scramble-out to Calais with visibility over the Channel still very poor.

I really don't like flying at low-level over the sea as if the engine hiccoughs then one is in the water pretty quickly and without time to call-in a Mayday.

Anyway, I found Calais which loomed out of a bank of mist. The other aircraft and the model were being laid out on the apron with the help of the airport's very obliging 'Pompiers'. The French are always very welcoming and laid-back about General Aviation and so once Mike Booth's labour of love was all prepared, it was carried on to the main runway, started-up and off it went with the other aircraft, with its controller in hot pursuit.

I came off the blocks next with a photographer and promptly lost sight of mother-ship and model in 500 foot cloud over the coast, so I climbed-up to 4,000 feet, through the clouds into the bright sunshine, to avoid any chance of hitting the other aircraft en-route.

At Dover I left the bright sunshine above the clouds and came back down again through the mist and drizzle and with help from Manston radar, linked-up with the model and it's accompanying Eurostar aircraft over Pegwell Bay. For a model aircraft, it's very fast indeed and incredibly maneuverable, moving along at nearly 100mph. Then it was back into Manston, where the model Spitfire landed perfectly on the big runway and then was quickly retrieved by the fire crew, before a Learjet on circuits came around again.

I have made a video of the trip from Calais back to Manston but I'm struggling with Apple's iMovie, which I have never used before It is simply a condensed view of the flight and I'm not expecting any BAFTA's for the very raw production quality either. The model is almost impossible to see as it's so small and quick. as for the famous 'White Cliffs', I didn't see them!



Finally and on a quite different note, I didn't see anyone from the Thanet Gazette covering the story when we landed this afternoon and so will send in so e pictures. I haven't had a chance to buy and read the local paper today, so I may get one in the morning and quite possibly pass comment on what Thanet news they have been especially creative with this week!



Thursday, May 03, 2012

Spitfire

For the aviation enthusiasts among the readers, there's a second attempt tomorrow, Friday 4th May, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Supermarine Spitfire, by flying a radio-controlled scale model from Calais to Manston and then the Spitfire museum.

My job is to fly the camera ship and so if you do happen to be interested or plan go along and see what happens, here's the plan so far; all subject to the weather of course.

An earlier attempt organised by Mike Booth, last year had me sitting at Manston all day in the fog but tomorrow's weather looks vaguely promising. I plan to drop into Manston at 09:00 as the airport opens, pick-up the photographer and take-on fuel, departing out to Calais at 09:30.

I should be making my approach into Calais at 09:55 and then the organiser, Mike Booth, tells me '"We hope to depart back to Manston at around 11am UK time."




All going to schedule and as long as we don't lose this very large model Spitfire in the English Channel; it flies at 90mph, the aircraft will be attempting to land, unscathed, on Manston's main runway between 11:30 and noon. If there's internet access available at Calais I will attempt to Twitter what's happening and you should be able to see this on the sidebar of the weblog but don't forget to refresh the page every now and then.

Once it's landed, then it will be taken over to a press reception at the Spitfire museum. I will add more later if I find out more but I'm just the driver! I'm hoping to film it with a GoPro video camera attached to my wingtip.

Pictured left the ME109 bought down on the edge of Minster Road in Westgate during the Battle of Britain. The young German pilot, Herbert Bischoff. survived the war as a POW and became a prominent doctor, corresponding with local historian Dick Hambidge.

I've embedded an interesting ten minute movie above and added a walk-around clip of one historic Spitfire visitor to Thanet, Defender of Malta, below.