Saturday, January 25, 2014

Watching the Elected

So Nigel came and went; was mugged by the usual band of suspects and left Cliftonville to the faint strumming of accompanying banjos, vowing never to return.

By all accounts, his much-publicised school debate in Broadstairs proved an anti-climax and left people wondering what UKip's policies really are. At the end of last week, he further confused the politically minded, when he was asked if his party's entire 2010 election manifesto after he was asked whether the UK Independence party still wanted to introduce a dress code for taxi drivers, regularly deploy armed forces on the street and repaint trains in traditional colours. His subsequent attempt to distance Ukip from its manifesto of four years ago may put Mr Farage under more scrutiny about what the party stands for in the run-up to the May elections but for many, it will still remain a vote against the political establishment and one which risks delivering the very opposite of the outcomes of they might wish for.

Gordon Brown Hands Over the Keys to the British Economy
Meanwhile, in the light of so much good news this last week on the recovery of the British economy, Ed Balls announces that Labour would introduce a 50p tax rate for rich (it was 40p under Labour) and a 10p tax rate for poor, which Gordon Brown abolished in 2007. Quickly rubbished by the CBI, this economic master-plan, would apparently deliver a balanced budget and solve the 'Cost of Living Crisis' at a stroke. And if, for one moment, you are really prepared to trust Ed Balls on the economy, there's a place vacant in the same group queuing-up to bash poor old Nigel Farage outside the Walpole Bay Hotel.

 Former Trade minister Lord Digby Jones remarked on Ed Ball's budget announcement: "It's great politics, it's lousy economics"

I've joined the ranks of those using the KLM flight from Manston to avoid having to spend hours negotiating Heathrow or Gatwick. I've a conference coming-up in Madrid and by far the simplest solution is to park at the airport, take the shuttle to Schipol out of Manston, change gates on arrival and wait sixty minutes for the next flight to the Spanish capitol. This takes about five hours of travel stress and the train fare out of the equation.

I'm expecting a sizeable local story to appear in the next week or so. It's been alluded to elsewhere but until it's all properly resolved I'm going to sit on it and the BBC have it under embargo. After that, I plan to deliver both barrels in one direction. Expect to be surprised and perhaps a little shocked too. Enough said for now and I don't plan to write very much here until this new revelation sees the light of day.

PS. See today's story on Thanet regeneration in the Observer on Sunday.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Come on Down Nigel

James Wharton MP with Sir Roger Gale in Ramsgate
I read today that a UKIP councillor has attributed the recent flooding to God's anger at our nation's support for equal marriage. There's a popular statistical axiom that 'Correlation does not imply causation' and until we see a plague of locusts and our firstborn being carried-off, it may be too early to blame the divine and not the jet stream for our troubles this winter.

It's a curious argument on climate change. Given that I lost both an aircraft and a greenhouse in the recent small hurricane, I wonder what I've done to offend the Almighty?

Mr Farage, has of course committed to cleaning-up the more eccentric membership of his party before the spring elections and on Monday, he arrives in Thanet, to take part in a private debate at St George's School in Broadstairs, with Thanet South's Labour candidate, Will Scobie and the Conservative MEP candidate, Julie Marsen.

I was surprised to see that the debate is by invitation only, as I'm sure this could easily have filled the Winter Gardens and perhaps raised a big sum for charity at the same time. People would, I'm sure pay good money to see Mr Farage challenge Will Scobie's Labour-directed position on Europe. No referendum, no say and even greater integration with Brussels.

On Friday, James Wharton, the MP who has been pushing through Parliament, a Private Members Bill to guarantee a European referendum, visited Ramsgate to give a talk, supported by both Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys. He explained very clearly, that if we want to change our relationship with Europe, as so many people seem to wish, then the only way of achieving this is to vote for a Conservative government at the next general election.

Alternatively, if it's simply a protest vote against the current political system, that people wish to exercise, then voting for UKIP, simply delivers Ed Milliband a much better chance of forming a government in 2015; in which case, nothing offered by either UKIP or the Conservatives will ever see the parliamentary light of day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On One Leg

CAA Recommends
I had my annual CAA medical this morning and having stood on one leg with my eyes closed, touching the tip of my nose with the opposite hand, I have successfully been declared fit for flight, if nothing else.

The truth be told, it does go into a little more detail; think of a complete MOT lasting over an hour with an ECG, sight, sound, blood tests, you name it and my index finger remains sore while typing. Christmas is an official disaster, having put on some weight, which now has to go and I'm looking forward to several weeks of not eating all those things I like best.

In fact, the medical should have been yesterday, so my apologies for missing the Blessing of the Sea in Margate this morning. It's been a hectic couple of days.

On Friday morning, I was up very early to take advantage of the good weather and catch a train up to Leeds Bradford Airport, to collect a replacement aircraft (pictured) for the one wrecked at Manston by the small hurricane on Christmas Eve. It needs a complete refit in order to be fit for purpose and so on Saturday morning, another day of fabulous sunshine, I flew this from Manston down to the maintenance facility near Hastings, where it will be about four weeks being fiddled-with and serviced, until I'm back in business flying banners again.

New Boy
From Kent through Sussex there are now enormous patches of water; large lakes that never existed before and landing on a grass strip was tricky, my new clean aircraft looking as if it had suffered a severe bout of dysentery by the time it left the runway into the hangar.

I caught the train back from Hastings to Margate, via Ashford and was interrupted by a local pilot friend, calling me from Devon, asking if I had an aircraft available. Apparently, he and the aircraft owner of a very nice Mooney, only recently imported into this country, had a narrow escape while landing this little beast and had wrecked the aircraft but both walked away unscathed. Could I come and retrieve them back to Manston before the airport closed?

So, I called TG Aviation at Manston, who very kindly hired me their quick Piper Arrow and started preparing it while I was still on the train. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I was able to do all my flight-planning work on my iPad, before I reached Margate and another good friend, an instructor at Manston, came along with me for the ride, which helps reduce the workload.

In bright sunshine, we left Manston at 2pm and were down near Exeter by 3:30pm, transiting over the top of Southampton airport. Visibility at 4,000 feet was outstanding and the extent of the flooding in Dorset and across the Somerset Levels is so dramatic, it has to be seen to be believed.

Dashing Down to Devon
Fifteen minutes to have a coffee, pick-up the other two pilots and then climbing back into the air again, with a glorious sunset behind us and a following wind, which bought the ground speed up to 130 knots as we headed back into the darkness.

The view over the south of the country last evening was almost as good as the daytime and the lights of Ramsgate were easily visible to the naked-eye from as far away as Ashford. We arrived home on Manston's runway just before 6pm and by then I was feeling a little fatigued.

I was sorry to read yesterday that the 2014 Manston Airshow has been cancelled, as it appears the new owner isn't as enthused over the idea as many local people might be. Without doubt, with both bad weather and traffic, 2013 had its problems but a huge following. I had hoped that 2014 would have been a watershed moment for the project but it's not to be. At this time, I have no idea if the present Labour administration have any plans for a Margate event instead.

Tomorrow, the wreck of my Cessna G-CFSM, will finally be removed from the hangar at Manston, now the insurance company have joined-up all the dots. It was a very good aircraft and I will be sad to see it go to scrap. It just goes to show that even three large concrete tie-downs are no match for nature at its most violent.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Dream On

I see that two of Thanet's more controversial political characters, earned a brief moment of national attention, in this morning's Independent on Sunday; as did this local blog.

In fact, it was all about 'Councillors behaving badly;' parish and district both and once again, we saw the notorious Sandy Ezekiel story revisited as an example of how not to behave in public and comment passed on the recent conclusions of our own standards committee. It seems that Thanet isn't quite alone in drawing attention to some of the more bizarre actions of its local politicians but the article concludes that the standards regime is itself a hostage to political fortune. Until such a time as it is given powers to do more than mumble disapprovingly in a locked room, it's business a usual in Council chambers across the land.

Tomorrow of course, most people will be returning to work after the Xmas holiday and life can start again. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to risk standing on the bathroom scales and quite possibly, I'm not alone in my reluctance.

By now, many people will have read the press releases about the holiday rubbish collection or in some cases, non-collection and may perhaps have listened to my counterpart, Cllr Alan Poole on the radio. Originally, BBC Radio Kent asked me to pitch-up on Friday morning as Cllr Poole was unavailable for comment. And then, as if by magic, some might say, on hearing that I had been asked, he became available, which was nice, as I enjoyed a lie-in and could listen to the interview on the BBC iPlayer. Alan's media skills are impressive and I'm quite relieved he was able to quite firmly tell the BBC and the Thanet public, what's what and what's not in the wide weird world of rubbish recycling.

I failed to see any dilapidated coaches packed with Romanians or Bulgarians heading towards Margate on Thursday but I was sent this second photograph from Pegwell Bay of the sudden arrival of new cheap ferry service from Ostende in the early morning sunshine. One more possible use for the vacant Pleasurama site I'm told.