Rant

Troughing Councillors Should Be Voted Out of Office

2 Feb 2013 at 15:29

Just when you thought politicians couldn’t get lower in public esteem, Tunbridge Wells councillors are set to vote local Cabinet members a 22% increase in allowances, and the leader of the council is due to get a 15% rise. The proposals have been accepted by the council’s finance committee, go to the Cabinet on Thursday and are due to be voted on by the full council at its next meeting. Because of the Conservative majority on the council the proposal is likely to go through. They are not the only council to be increasing allowances while at the same time making cuts to the budgets of voluntary groups. Labour led Norich City Council has increased councillor allowances by 54% and its leaders rumuneration by a whopping 54%.

As Chris Kamara might say, “Unbelieveable, Jeff”.

I’d like to think that any local councillor who votes to increase allowances in this economic climate will face the wrath of the electorate at the next council elections. But the trouble is, we still have one party states in UK local government. Tunbridge Wells is one of those councils whose political complexion has barely changed in 60 years. And it is unbelievably complacent. It fails to listen, its consultations are a joke and many of the councillors are fully paid up members of the Old Boys Network. There is a group of younger councillors who are trying to change things, but they are resisted at every turn by their older counterparts. This is the makeup of the council…

Conservatives 37
Liberal Democrats 5
Independent 2
Labour 2
UK Independence Party 2

Sadly there are no elections this May for Tunbridge Wells council, as it is the County’s turn. Just as well, for TWBC Conservative councillors. No doubt they are hoping that by May 2014 people will have forgotten their troughing. I won’t.

I’ve never been in favour of PR for general elections, but I am persuadable for local council elections. We need to rid local government of these one party state fiefdoms, whether they are Conservative or Labour. They breed complacency and corruption. Council tax payers deserve better.

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Media

The Sun Replaces Archbishop With Bishop Basher Guido Fawkes

2 Feb 2013 at 12:24

It’s not often I burst out laughing when I read a tweet, but I did just now. The Sun has announced that Guido Fawkes will be writing a column for them each Sunday. What they haven’t announced is that Guido will be replacing the Archbishop of York’s column on the Op Ed page. I can just imagine the comment pieces that move will provoke. Essentially, Dr John Sentamu was blackballed for the Archbishop of Canterbury column because he had the temerity to write for a tabloid newspaper on a Sunday. On a Sunday, I tell ye!

The reason this announcement caused me to laugh is this. I well remember when Guido and I were hugely critical of The Sun’s pisspoor Whip column all those years ago the journalist who ran it accused of us of trying to get her sacked so one of us could take it over. Both us us vehemently denied the accusation on the basis that if we did, it would signal the end of our blogs. Why? Because it would mean we would have to save all the best stuff for The Sun and it would mean an inevitable reduction in interest in the blogs. And that’s the danger now for Guido Fawkes. It will be very interesting to see if The Sun column acts as a spur for his blog and he gets far more readers for it, or if existing readers get the feeling they are being ignored or let down because of the Sun column.

The Guido Fawkes Star on Sunday columns were a very much watered down versions of the blog. They have been very much in the tradition of Sir John Junor’s Backbencher column in the Sunday Express all those years ago – full of gently chidings to politicians and celebs rather than outright viciousness. I guess that’s inevitable. No mentions of Auchtermuchty, though, sadly! My suspicion is that the new Sun column will be much more political, with less concentration on the celebrity world. The Star and Sun are both tabloids, but The Sun has always been much more political than the Star.

I actually think Guido’s Sun column could become a great political column and The Sun clearly see its potential. I absolutely hope it works for both of them. Some will no doubt view Guido’s move as ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ but that’s lazy thinking. You don’t have to be one or the other. The new media can sit quite happily alongside the old media and I suppose over the years I’ve proved that. But it does make it more difficult for Guido to be seen as completely independent in his views on the newspaper world. And that independence is a major reason why he has built up such a readership in the media world, so much so that last year he launched Media Guido. Essentially, you don’t shit on your own doorstep, and he will know that.

A lot of people will be sitting down with the popcorn now. But whatever your view, this announcement makes the world of political diary writing and media commentary all that more fascinating and that has to be a good thing.

I’m not sure why, but I gather there have been several explosions in the Rhondda Valley and in West Bromwich this morning.

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Random Thoughts

Let's Talk About Sex Addiction, Baby

2 Feb 2013 at 09:53

On my LBC show on Wednesday we talked about addictions and how to deal with them. I guess we all know what the most commons addictions are to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. But it goes far more widely than that. A friend of mine is addicted to Skippy peanut butter and reckons she eats a jar of it every two days. A caller on the show told me he was addicted to buying and looking after dangerous snakes. Really.

I’m not sure if you’d class this as an addiction, but I reckon I am addicted to my Blackberry. If I lose it or leave it at home I feel as if a limb has been chopped off. I can’t think of anything else which gives me that feeling of total loss. Perhaps I need to think a bit harder.

I wonder if we should differentiate between physical addictions and psychological ones. We don’t talk about sex addiction much in this country, yet it is a major issue in the United States. I always thought that it just meant that someone just had a bit more sex than average, but I had to change my mind after a friend of mine declared himself a sex addict. He literally has to have sex with a different person every day otherwise he says he gets the shakes. Imagine the pain he caused his wife when he had to admit what he was doing. Unbelievably, she has stuck with him. He goes to Sexaholics Anonymous meetings and is desperate to rid himself of what he regards as a dangerous affliction. The trouble is that anyone who wants casual sex can now get it on tap.

Many so-called ‘dating’websites are in fact nothing other than message boards for people looking for an anonymous, no strings attached, bonk. CraigsList, PlentyofFish.com and in the gay world Gaydar.co.uk and apps like Grindr mean that sex is on tap 24 hours a day. And like with so many other forms of addiction, some people find it very difficult indeed to turn off that tap.

Psychologists reckon that a lot of non physiological additions occur because of stress or because of unhappiness in another area of one’s life. I live a very happy life, albeit quite a stressful one. Who wouldn’t, with two more or less full time jobs? I think I should therefore acquire an addiction. Your suggestions please…

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World Politics

Gillard Fires the Election Gun Eight Months Early

30 Jan 2013 at 07:42

Morning, everyone.

I am an avid follower of Australian politics so it was with a sense of incredulity that I heard this morning that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a general election for – wait for it – September 14th. Yes, you read that right – in eight and a half months time. And so begins the longest election campaign in recent history. Perhaps she intends to bore the Australian electorate into submission. She’s certainly got the voice to do that. Her reasoning is interesting…

It gives shape and order to the year, and enables it to be one not of fevered campaigning, but of cool and reasoned deliberation. I can create an environment in which the nation’s eyes are more easily focused on the policies, not the petty politics. I can act so Australia’s parliament and government serves their full three-year-term.

If you say so, Prime Minister. More likely she thinks that a long campaign will expose the weakness of Liberal Opposition leader Tony Abbott. And if I’m honest, she may be right to do so. He’s a singularly unimpressive man – overpromoted, given to intemperate outbursts and not really up to the job. He’s also given to sexist outbursts against Gillard, which may appeal to the part of the Australian electorate that is prone to a ‘tinnie’ and nine o’clock in the morning, but tends to put others off supporting him.

Gillard herself is a ruthless political operative who grabbed her opportunity to overthrow her predecessor Kevin Rudd. She’s a machine politician with a voice like a pneumatic drill. She may have been born in Wales, where she spent the first five years of her life, but there is certainly no trace of a Welsh lilt. She takes no prisoners and can argue her way out of anything. Her two and a half years as Prime Minister have been dominated by arguments about her plans to impose a carbon tax, something she adamantly promised she wouldn’t do during the last election campaign. Had the Opposition had a stronger leader she would have already been dead political meat. Yes, she’s behind in the polls, but I wouldn’t put it past her to edge ahead between now and polling day. This is an election which is Abbott’s to lose, and if he does lose it will probably his mouth which is the cause.

It will be an entertaining ride, watching this. Australian election campaigns are brutal.So let’s sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

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News Story

Catholic Church Shock! It Says Something Positive About Gays!

29 Jan 2013 at 22:21

Whisper it, but the Catholic Church might just have inched its way into the 1990s. This is what the Catholic Church of England & Wales said in a document today, issued to MPs and Peers….

We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.

Let’s just savour that, shall we?

We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.

Now the rest of the document is about how gay marriage will lead to the downfall of civil society and all the usual bollocksery. But let’s rejoice that after all these years they have actually had the courage to something that is even moderately positive about gaybos. I’m sure the Pope will rap them over the knuckles. Now, if only they could bring themselves that gay marriage threatens no one, least of all straight people. Because as I keep on reminding people…

IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH GAY MARRIAGE, IT’S QUITE SIMPLE, DON’T MARRY A HOMOSEXUAL!

Full story HERE at Pink News.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Catholic Church of England & Wales

29 Jan 2013 at 21:17

We recognise that gay couples make loving parents but they must be banned from marriage

Catholic Church of England & Wales, 29 Jan 2013

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Video

Video: Falling Out of Love With Politics

29 Jan 2013 at 17:12

Here’s a short Daily Politics film with an ensuing discussion with Jo Coburn and myself about falling out of love with politics. The hook was my blogpost from a few days ago (scroll down).

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Video

Video: The LibDems Have Acted Shamelessly on Boundary Changes

29 Jan 2013 at 16:20















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Earlier on the Daily Politics I debated the proposed boundary changes with LibDem Peer Lord Rennard and YouGov’s Peter Kellner. See how you think I did. Lord R looked a little uncomfortable at times when I pointed out a few home truths about LibDem behaviour!

The result of the vote in the House of Commons has just come through. The government lost 292-334 and there seem to have been a few Tory rebels. Tim Shipman has names David Davis, Philip Davies, John Baron and Richard Shepherd all voted with Labour. They need to examine their consciences on this. But more importantly so do the LibDems. They’ve acted like spoilt schoolchildren, as I explain in the video!

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Policy

Why I Would Divert Childcare Funds to Sink Estates

29 Jan 2013 at 08:44

OK, you might say I don’t have a right to a view on this. I’m male, gay, and don’t have children, but I am a taxpayer, so that surely gives me a right. Anyway, deep breath, here goes.

Why, dear reader, why is it that middle class parents think that the rest of us should subsidise their childcare needs? When people have children, don’t they consider these issues before they decide to have them? If not, why not? It may seem a callous thing to say, but if you can’t afford to have kids, don’t have them. But surely that’s the responsible thing to do. Middle class parents who don’t think about how they will need to change lifestyles are just as irresponsible as the mythical single mother who deliberately gets herself pregnant to get a council flat. In fact, they are worse. At least the single mother is capable of rational choice.

So when I hear Children’s Minister Liz Truss bleating on about how she can’t find a nursery place for love nor money my sympathy is somewhat limited. Why? Because her solution seems not only to be to encourage private providers to provide more places, it is for the government to provide more subsidy. And in that, she is supported by the Prime Minister. I just don’t see that government has a role here beyond imposing minimal regulation on private sector nurseries. Fine, if the government wants to get into the nursery provision business, let it do so but charge commercial rates.

The aim of encouraging women back into the workplace may be a laudable one, but isn’t encouraging mothers or fathers to stay at home to rear their children an equally laudable one. [cue feminist outrage]? it is stay at home mothers and fathers we should be supporting – parents who put their children before their careers. They are the ones who are making the real sacrifices, but do they ever get a mention in this debate? Very rarely.

Listen, I’m not having a go at parents who through economic necessity have to go back to work as soon as they have a child. But I am having a go at middle class yummy mummies and daddies who seem to think it is their God given right to have children and hang the consequences for the rest of us. it is not government’s job, or the taxpayer’s job to solve their self made problems for them.

If we have extra money to spend to improve the life prospects of children let’s spend it where it is really needed – in the sink estates. That’s where the real childcare problems are. Give the money to Louise Casey. She’d spend it far more wisely than well meaning Department of Education civil servants.

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Books

Book Review: West Ham - The Inside Story by Tony Cottee

28 Jan 2013 at 22:18

I think if any West Ham fan were asked to compile a list of their Top 5 greatest ever West Ham strikers, Tony Cottee would more than likely feature alongside Geoff Hurst, Syd Puddefoot, Vic Watson and Iain Dowie. OK, maybe not Iain Dowie.

When I saw that Cottee had written a new book I assumed it was merely an update of his autobiography published back in 1995. So I bought it anyway even though I only expected a couple of new chapters to bring his life up to date. Boy was I wrong. It’s a whole new book, covering the last 18 years of his life. It covers the fag end of his playing career in Malaysia, Leicester and Norwich before moving on to his ill fated six months as player/manager at Barnet. He writes movingly about the difficult transition from top class player to journeyman pro winding down his career, and the awful realisation that through little fault of his own, his managerial reign at Barnet would prove to be the first and last time he had the chance to manage a football club.

This is not a particularly polished book. It’s published very cheaply on very shiny paper with far too many photos mixed into the text. It’s not edited that well either, but somehow none of this matters because it’s so authentic. Cottee isn’t a bad writer and can certainly hold the readers attention and he comes into his own when he starts discussing what turns out to be the main theme of the book – how we tried to buy West Ham and install himself as chairman. I reckon I know quite a bit about the recent history of West Ham, but I hadn’t realised how close Cottee came to achieving his goal, and as he relates, had West Ham not not been promoted in the playoff final of 2005, it’s likely that the name above the Chairman’s office at Upton park would be Cottee not Gold or Sullivan.

Cottee hated what he saw happening to the club he supported as a boy. He felt Terry Brown the then chairman, was resting on his laurels and fat salary (£492,000 if you please). The club wasn’t operating as it should commercially, the wrong managers were being appointed and they were buying the wrong players. So Cottee set out to do something about it. He tells the tale in exhaustive detail, naming names and shaming those who he sees as guilty parties. For a footballer with no background in finance to get so close to successfully buying West Ham tells you something about his gutsy determination. Despite Terry Brown constantly shifting the goalposts – and price – Cottee persevered and whenever his bid suffered a setback, he bounced back. But the one thing he seems to have lacked was perhaps the most important thing – a sense of media nouse. Cottee went through the whole episode operating by the maxim ‘least said, soonest mended’. He didn’t go public with his bid and as a consequence was outmanouvred not just by rival bids but also by Terry Brown’s media operation, which sought to do him down at every opportunity. Had Cottee gone public at the right time and solicited the support of West Ham fans I suspect his bid would have been unstoppable. Instead, he was shafted not just by Terry Brown, but by the Icelanders.

The Icelanders? I hear you chorusing. Yes, because the main point of this book is to show us, the loyal West Ham fans, that it was Cottee who actually gave them the idea of buying the club in the first place. They had agreed to put up money to back Cottee’s bid, but over time, they sought to edge him out of the equation. Once they realised that Terry Brown wouldn’t do business with Cottee he was well and truly shafted. Was he naive? Probably. Did he trust one or two people – like Keith Mills from Seymour Pierce – too much? Absolutely.

I’m not going to go into any more detail because I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet, but suffice to say after reading it you will change your opinion of quite a few people at the heart of the club over those years.

One question he didn’t really answer, though, is why didn’t he try to buy the club again in 2010, or at least attempt to become part of the Gold/Sullivan bid? He clearly enjoyed good relations with them both.

Perhaps I will ask David Sullivan in our next interview.

Anyway, do buy Tony’s book. It’s published in paperback at £14.99, but you can buy it for under £9 from Amazon HERE

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