Politics

Nigel vs Russell: Who won the Question Time face off?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, December 12 2014

It being the pantomime season, it was a smart move by the makers of BBC's Question Time to rope in Russell Brand and UKIP leader Nigel Farage for its final programme of the series.

I am not sure whether it left the audience desperate for a re-run and neither was it clear who was the villain and who was the hero.

It began with a question that seemed to offer Brand an open goal - was the adverserial nature of politics leading to its decline  - but he appeared unusually nervous and fluffed it, which must have taken David Dimbelby by surprise.

Still, at least the audience was in a rather frisky mood and a few more than heated exchanges from the audience seats only served to remind those watching how tame the panel seemed.

At some points you sensed that Russell Brand and Nigel Farage had more in common than they were prepared to admit and couldn't decide who was the villain  - both characterising themselves as "outsiders" - but Brand stuck the knife in with a good one-liner about Farage being a "Poundland Enoch Powell."

Although I did wonder whether, like Blue Peter, this was something he had prepared earlier. The cameras at one point showed him leafing throuh what could have been cue cards - who would have thought he needed those?

Farage generally kept his cool but was rather less animated than he usually is. He correctly surmised that it would be counter-productive to try to best Brand.

Instead, he chose to focus his attack on Labour's Mary Creagh and the floundering government representative Penny Morduant, who had she been playing in a football match, would have been substituted very early.

Creagh was reasonably good but too often lapsed into a recital of Labour's commitments that has most people tuning out and wondering about other things.

I expected Penny Morduant, who gamely appeared in the ITV programme Splash, to be rather better. After a belly flop like that, she may be inclined to turn down future invitations.

But she was on the defensive from the start after Dimbleby chose to remind the audience and viewers that she had been found out for making a speech in Parliament in which she used some rather fruity words - apparently as a dare from certain Naval friends.

Not a good position to debate a question about how mainstream politics might be in decline.

Dimbleby crowbarred a question about social mobility and whether we ought to have more grammar schools right at the end, which was a mistake as the panel only had a few minutes to debate what could well be an election flashpoint next May.

Brand lamely admitted that he "didn't know much about grammars" and opted for a rambling riff about other issues, leaving Farage with the easiest of tap ins at goal.

It was all entertaining stuff but the audience seemed more up for a fight than the panel.

The curtain dropped after what seemed no time at all but the audience was probably thankful the cast did not come back for an encore.

And if you wanted me to name the person who came across the best, it was the journalist Camilla Cavendish, who was easily the sanest person there.



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Categories: Politics

Britain First and the lone Protester

by Down and out in Dover and district, with Len Oldfeep Sunday, December 7 2014

 

Like many of you I watched the Britain First video when they descended on Dover https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew9288NWQTo  I have viewed it several times now and the more I see it the more distasteful I find it. A heavily biased and edited film that from an outsider’s perspective makes Dover look like an anti-immigrant town. And indeed sometimes it does feel that way when you hear how people talk about it on the streets, in local pubs, coffee shops and of course on facebook. But what did come across in the video, which gave me hope, was the different attitude the younger generation had on the subject and what it means for them to be patriotic in England today.

Led by former BNP stalwart Paul Golding and his henchwoman Jayda Fransen, The video see’s the Britain’s First gang get a lot Of Dovorians on side with their message of ‘our country being full up’ and the fear of ‘becoming a minority in our own country’ before turning on a brave young man, who decided to come down from his flat to peacefully protest the march, inviting people to take it in turns to insult and try to humiliate him for disagreeing with their far right views. Videos posted to YouTube show how Britain First stalk and ambush their targets (largely Muslims) by rushing into mosques and shoving cameras into the faces of their unsuspecting victims. They are confrontational, intimidating and above all disrespectful to other cultures and religious beliefs, and the videos are packaged to look like military style exercises. Is it anyway for a serious political party to act? I don’t think so.

Britain First does highlight issues that I think lots of people are quite rightly worried about including: Pakistani grooming gangs, FGM, and the no-go areas for non-Muslims that now exist in areas of London and other towns and cities where there is a larger mix of cultures and religions. But the vigilante approach they have adopted only makes the divide between the different ethnic groups within communities greater when what we should be doing is trying to integrate and live together respectfully and peacefully in a multi-cultural society.

It’s what the lone Dover protester knows and the few other young men who supported him in the video accept. They have grown up in much more tolerant times and the world has become smaller thanks to technology, creating a connected world where opportunity stretches further than their village, town, and city, county and even country. They may think of themselves as global citizens now rather than simply English of wherever they may come from. One of the protesters, in his late teens says: ‘It’s a whole world’, at one point.

 I don’t believe all older people are against immigration or racist but from my own experience and as the video  seems to suggest I think they are more suspicious and fearful they may lose their cultural identity of which some have fought for and they are rightly proud of. This is a legitimate concern and what Britain First says they are trying to protect but are they just living in the past, nostalgic for a seaside postcard Britain that just no longer exists?

Britain First cronies stoop so low in the video to suggest the lone protester does not respect those who fought and lost their lives in the Great War and try to equate pensioners dying during the winter because they can’t afford fuel bills to the issue of immigration, in another effort to outrage the by now baying crowd. He is even booed when he reveals he is a teacher, the mood changing as the crowd are now caught up in the nasty pack mentality Britain First like to create.  What they fail to understand is his is a modern patriotism, proud of a country that welcomes immigrants and Asylum seekers  fleeing sometimes terrible circumstances, gives foreign aid generously and believes in a level playing field for everyone regardless of sex, race or creed, looking to the future not to the past. Above all he has empathy.

England’s coastal towns where UKIP are making gains are some of the least diverse communities in the country. So why are we so worried about immigration here in Dover? It is reasonable to suggest that areas which are less diverse are not as accepting of immigration opposed to areas with a higher concentration of immigrants. Whatever the case the video showed not everyone was taken in by the bullying Britain First and there is hope for us yet. Britain First does not speak for me as they claim and I hope not for Dover.

 

 

 

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Categories: blogs and bloggers | Dover Town centre | Equal Rights | Europe | KCC | kent | Local Politics | National Politics | People of Kent | Politics | UKIP

UKIP leader Farage will be in it to win it

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, August 15 2014

Finally, the speculation over where UKIP leader Nigel Farage is going to stand at the general election is over. And, as expected, he is to go for the nomination in Thanet South, where the party feels it has a better than evens chance of making a long-awaited parliamentary breakthrough.

Of course, he has yet to go through his party's selection process but even allowing for the occasionally perverse choices made by local constituency associations,  it is inconceivable that activists would want anyone else.

I will stand for nomination in Thanet South, says UKIP leader Farage>>>

So, can UKIP win? National polls would suggest not but that is to ignore local circumstances and demographics.

The current MP Laura Sandys is standing down, meaning that any personal vote she may have carried is gone.

UKIP can legitimately claim to have established Thanet as a power base after the county council election last year, when it won seven of the divisions up for grabs. it has a well organised local association and won't have difficulty in mobilising foot soldiers to pound the streets come election time.

The fact that the Conservatives have chosen a former UKIP member, Craig Mackinlay, to be its candidate is an indication of how anxious they are about the challenge - underlined vividly by the share of the vote UKIP took at the recent European election - 45.9% - compared to 22% for the Conservatives, albeit in an election with a low turnout.

The charismatic Farage will bring some stardust  to the campaign but that is a double-edged sword: plenty of people like him as a plain-talking, unspun "man of the people" but equally, many see this as precisely the opposite and a carefully contrived - but entertaining - act.

Labour will also have some anxieties over a strong UKIP push in a seat they have eyed up as a target for some time. The worrying scenario for them is that some polls are suggesting that UKIP is drawing as many votes from them as it is from the Conservatives - which will play to UKIP's claim that Thanet South is a tight three-way marginal.

UKIP's prospects for an historic parliamentary breakthrough in Kent are probably about as good as they will ever be. The party has momentum, a high profile and a leader who enjoys popular support and knows that the issue of Britain's membership of the EU will be centre stage in the election campaign.

Perhaps the only prediction about which there can be an certainty is that Thanet South will be a key electoral battleground. And if you are not enthused by politics or politicians, it could be a place to give wide berth to next May.

 

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Categories: Politics

UKIP and a little local difficulty over Nigel Farage

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, August 11 2014

An unguarded remark from an UKIP constituency official in Thanet South set off another round of speculation about  Nigel Farage and his interest in standing in the target seat of Thanet South in 2015.

But no-one seems any the wiser about whether he will apply for the seat - or has already - despite the assertion, reported in the Financial Times, that it was "the worst kept secret" in Thanet.

Separating fact from fiction is rather tricky and UKIP has not helped itself by the ambiguity of statements hurriedly put out at the end of last week.

The local UKIP association had been expected to announce a shortlist of would-be candidates on Friday.

It didn't and offered as explanation that it had received a number of late applications for the candidacy that meant it would now have to carry out a fuller shortlisting exercise, whittling them down for a final hustings meeting on August 26.

In answer to the question about whether Nigel Farage had thrown his hat in the ring, UKIP evaded a direct response by saying that nominations had continued to come in and the selection process was continuing. In the absence of a straight "yes he has" or "no he hasn't" you can understand the subsequent confusion.

What does seem rather odd is that the local party had a plan to reveal its shortlist on Friday but seemed  to have been steered away from doing so by the national party, which was possibly concerned that if, as predicted, Nigel Farage is to apply the selection would become a coronation rather than a contest.

That, of course, is still the likely outcome: it is stretching the imagination to conceive a situation where party members faced with a shortlist that includes the party leader would opt for someone else. It makes the claim that there had been a late flurry of applications less credible - given the steady drip drip of hints and speculation about the leader's intentions.

Even if you subscribe to the theory that there is no such thing as bad publicity, this rather messy turn of events has not been UKIP's finest hour.

Although I doubt local actvivists and party members will mind terribly if, come August 26, Nigel Farage is confirmed as the prospective candidate for Thanet South.

But we will have to wait until then to find out.

 

 

 

 

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Categories: blogs and bloggers | Politics | Urban Gravesham

A reboot for the Kent Crime Commisioner - but will it work

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, July 25 2014

A very different Ann Barnes appeared before the inquistory Kent and Medway Crime Panel this week, a month on from being told to "reassess her style" and repair the damage done by her appearance in the disastrous TV documentary "Meet The Commissioner".

It was a less combative, more consensual and contrite commissioner who set out a range of proposals to improve the way she worked, especially in terms of her engagement with the public and the force, where many officers remain deeply unhappy they have been tarnished by association by the public relations car crash the Chanel 4 documentary proved to be.

So, what did we learn? What was clear is that the commissioner has grasped that the  Ann Barnes "brand" that proved successful when it came to winning the election has become a toxic one in office. So, there was a common theme to many of the proposals, which was a clear move to "depersonalise" her role.

This even involves re-branding her social media profile: her Twitter account no longer features her image or even her name, which you could argue is contradictory when considerinig the underlying reason behind commissioners, namely that the public have a readily identfiable accountable person overseeing the force.

There is to be an end to what she described as "confetti big bang publicity" events -  another tacit admission that her personality is a weakness as much as a strength. In its place will be greater focus on the commissioner's "office"  - again, an attempt to take away the spotlight from her and turn it....well, we are not quite sure where.

There were still flashes of the old Ann, when she referred to the panel as "gentlemen" - overlooking the three female members present and stated it was not necessarily a bad thing to have "a distinctive" style, even though that is what has landed her in difficulty.

Then there is the future of the van - dubbed Ann Force 1 during the election - which the commissioner has determined needs to be retired. Why? Because, according to Ann, she no longer wanted it "to be the story."

This may seem inconsequential but it goes to the heart of her difficulties and what underpins this reboot. The van was actually quite a good PR asset - when it came to the election, she bowled around the county in it to drum up support and the media were regularly told where it would be calling.

But in continuing to use it in office during "meet the commissioner" events, stripped off the promotional stickers, still gave the impression in some quarters that its real purpose was to continue to promote Ann - in other words, some considered it was all part of a rolling election campaign with one eye on 2016, when the next elections will be held.

You might have thought that members of the panel would have murmured their general approval with this decision but in a bizarre twist,  a succession of councillors got to their feet to implore Ann to keep the van. Cllr John Burden, the leader of Gravesham council, was among the cheerleaders. He said that if it was cost-effective and did the job, she should keep using it. A double bluff? Who knows but support came from all quarters, regardless of political allegiance.

The commissioner herself seemed rather perplexed, saying she would reflect on what the panel had said - leaving the van's fate in limbo.

Evidence, if she needed it, that rebranding is not an easy thing - and that it is particularly difficult to de-personalise a brand that has become so toxic largely because of the personality of the person involved.

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Our efforts to ask the commissioner a few questions about the changes were rejected when the meeting was completed. The commissioner said she had an engagement in Canterbury and didn't have time.

 

 


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Categories: Police | Politics

Out with stale males - but will anyone really care at election time?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, July 16 2014

With the kind of chutzpah you tend to expect from politicians, David Cameron declared that his reshuffle presented the best of modern Britain, which begged the obvious but unanswered question as to what sort of Britain we have been living in until this week.

Still, the reshuffle threw up enough changes to satisfy the hungriest of political commentators and observers, not least in the departure of the much-maligned education secretary Michael Gove, who will now get first hand experience of the challenge faced by many teachers every day - handling an undisciplined group of disinterested people.

For Kent's MPs, it proved to be a mixed bag. The much heralded cull of stale middle-aged males led to the unexpected sacking of policing minister Damian Green, the Ashford MP. What had he done wrong? Nothing at all.

Even the hard-nosed Police Federation lamented his departure, surely a first. But he fell into the political demographic being targeted by the PM and paid the price - the irony being that as a moderate, progressive Tory he no doubt believes that Mr Cameron may be doing the right thing in freshening up his top team. Having said that, in replacing Mr Green with Mike Penning - who is the kind of stale male Cameron wanted to cull, he is entitled to  be a little perplexed.

He is not a natural rebel, with consensual tendencies but his note of defiance in a tweet was intriguing, announcing that he would continue to fight for what he believed in. What could it mean? 

Also heading for the exit door is the Faversham and Mid Kent MP Hugh Robertson, widely praised for his stint as Olympics minister.

He decided to stand down as foreign office minister to take stock with his family about his future, which leaves open a variety of options. Having had arguably two of the most interesting ministerial briefs and overseeing the London Olympics, he may consider that he won't top that unless he gets a senior cabinet role. Might he decide to leave politics? A possibility as he has never made secret that he would like the chance to try his hand at another career.

Anti-fracking groups will no doubt be celebrating the departure of Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon, who has landed the role of defence minister after a lengthy parliamentary career and who may owe his elevation partly to his Euro-sceptic tendencies.

The question is whether anyone will, come May 2015, care two hoots about this reshuffle? Cameron is obviously concerned that many regard his government as being made up of a privileged, public-school educated male-dominated elite who, despite their protestations, have no real grasp of the daily challenges of "ordinary hard-working" families. 

I seriously doubt anyone will go into a polling both next year, reminding themselves that the PM changed his top team to include more women. Voters are not stupid and tend to see through this kind of opportunism but you can understand Cameron's dilemma. If he had stuck with his hand rather than twisted, he would have handed his opponents an easy target.

On balance, it seems the right thing to do but it also runs a risk. Some of those promoted are unknown quantities and lack experience at the top level. And beyond the confines of Westminster, there is a large constituency of stale males in their fifties who may feel ratheraffronted at being written off.

UKIP no doubt already has them in its sights.

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 Michael Gove's departure as education secretary is said to have prompted high-fives and cheers in staff rooms up and down the length of the country.

You might also have heard a smallish cheer at County Hall, where the relationships betwen KCC and the DfE have been slightly fractious to say the least. KCC started the ball rolling by joining a High Court challenge over the cancellation of various building projects under the BSF scheme scrapped by the coalition.

More recently, there has been the vexed progress - or lack of it - over KCC's attempts to create a new grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks, which Mr Gove seemed rather cool about.

Where the new education secretary Nicky Morgan stands on selection is anyone's guess. But KCC will be extending the hand of friendship to someone who they hope just might be more sympathetic to their plan. 

 

 

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Categories: Politics

Does Kent need more local politicians?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, June 17 2014

While councils up and down the country are moving heaven and earth to deliver more for less when it comes to crucial frontline services, there is one area where they are not so keen on downsizing - namely, on their own numbers.

Kent County Council looks set for a tussle with the Boundary Commission, which is reviewing the size of the authority and considering whether it needs a re-organisation because of wide variations in the size of wards - more than a third have what is termed an "electoral variance" of more than 10% from the average.

And inevitably, that has triggered concerns that the commission has its sights set on a cull of councillors. There are few things that induce a political consensus like a threat to their numbers and so it has proved at County Hall, where there appears to be political harmony among the parties that everything must be done to resist the Boundary Commission.

Does KCC need more councillors?

A flavour of this came at a recent meeting to discuss the review. It is true that the opposition parties initially raised some awkward questions about an internal report which they claimed was skewed towards preserving Conservative-held seats.

But this was followed by a less partisan debate, in which all parties agreed that in general, it would be a bad thing if KCC was forced to do with fewer elected members. UKIP councillor Mike Baldock said that in view of the likely growth in Kent's population, a case could be made for increasing the numbers."I am starting to think 84 is too low."

Former KCC deputy leader Cllr Alex King weighed in to say that KCC needed a council of  "a similar size" in the future. "It is quite a large county and we need a similar size to the one we have now...particularly rural councillors cover a great deal of ground and enlarging [wards] would make it even more difficult to represent their people."

'We need a council of a similar size' - Cllr Alex King

Liberal Democrat Ian Chittenden said that with uncertainty over housing numbers, it would be wrong to downsize. So, it wasn't hard to see where our elected representatives were coming from and it set the tone for a debate at the next full council meeting when the authority will decide how to respond.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, however, it is worth considering some of the figures. In terms of councillor numbers, Kent is the largest county council - alongside Lancashire  - with 84 representatives.

So, you may think that it could do with fewer. However, the average number of electors per county council ward across all counties is 9,877. If that was applied to KCC,  there would be 111 divisions - 27 more than it has now.

Still, I am not altogether convinced that the public will be sold on any attempt by KCC to boost its numbers, not least because of the costs.

Taxpayers already pay £1.7m for the services of the current 84 members by way of allowances and expenses.

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Kent County Council education chiefs are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to create extra grammar school places in west Kent.

A rebuff from secretary of state Michael Gove last year has not dampened their enthusiasm and the latest scheme - or "cunning plan" as KCC leader Paul Carter described an earlier proposal - envisages, so we are told,  a modular approach consisting of separate boys and girls wing.

A last shake of the dice? Maybe but you have to ask whether, if this does really does represent the best chance, why it was not considered before?

 

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Categories: Politics

No-go areas, Manston grounded and EU elections: the week in Kent politics

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 16 2014

Here's a round-up of the top political stories of the week in Kent and Medway:

1. Three words uttered by a would-be UKIP MEP standing for election in the south east region succeeded in sparking a furious row.  UKIP's Janice Atkinson claimed there were now "no go areas" in many parts of the county as a result of the presence of East European migrant gangs - identifying parts of Thanet, Medway and Gravesend as such areas. She appealed for calm after a major police operation which led to the arrest by Kent Police of 22 suspects thought to be connected to trafficking. To her political opponents, they were reckless and irresponsible comments. But judging by the reaction, it seemed she had wide support. But what did Kent's police commissioner Ann Barnes think? She wasn't able to say because of the election purdah rules, according to her spokesman.

2. There was to be no eleventh-hour reprieve for Manston Airport despite a huge campaign by supporters to keep it open. Even the pledge by the Prime Minister to do what he could failed to persuade the airport's owner Ann Gloag to think again. Despite a final throw of the dice by the American investment firm RiverOak, which  improved its offer right up to the final day,  there was to be no deal. Why? No-one seemed quite sure as they wouldn't say.

But already there is speculation that the site could be sold for housing development at a more lucrative price. Which can be scant consolation to the 150 staff who lost their jobs as the doors closed amid emotional scenes.

3.  Just when it needed some stability, there was yet more political turmoil at Thanet Council with the abrupt and unexpected resignation of Labour leader Cllr Clive Hart. In a lengthy and emotional resignation statement posted on his Facebook page,  headed "Enough is Enough" Mr Hart gave full vent to his feelings about the "toxic behaviour" of certain other members. In particular, he pointed the finger at the Green councillor Ian Driver  - a persistent thorn in the council's side. Mr Hart - who only a week before had been elected unopposed as Labour leader - said he had felt under siege because of Cllr Driver. For his part, Mr Driver said he was a convenient scapegoat and all he was doing was trying to keep the council open and accountable. 

Clive Hart was replaced by the veteran Thanet politician Iris Johnston but even she faced problems straightaway as the former Labour deputy leader Alan Poole, along with Michelle Fenner announced they were quitting Labour and intended to sit as independents. Decontaminating the toxic political residues of Thanet politics will clearly take some time to complete.

4. It was bad news for Manston Airport but better news for Lydd Airport as it won a High Court battle against opponents who were trying to block its expansion. A new terminal for thousands of passenger and a runway close to 300-metres long will now be built although not everyone who lives in the area was happy.

5.The Conservatives may be braced for a drubbing in next week's European poll but will take heart from encouraging signs that the economy is definitely on the turn - illustrated  by a fall in the unemployment rate in Kent and Medway. If this trend continues, Labour's sloganeering about the "cost of living crisis" might not prove as resonant with voters as it hopes.

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Categories: Politics

Is there time to rescue Manston?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, May 6 2014

First, the good news: Manston undoubtedly has a future.

The bad? It won't - barring a miracle - be as an airport. Despite a huge amount of goodwill and support among the community and at least one consortium putting in a bid to take over Manston, its owner Ann Gloag has announced that the offer was not viable and she intends to close the airport within weeks.

There is no room for sentiment in these decisions and an outpouring of public support and warm words from politicians was never likely to be enough to persuade the current owners to rethink their shock decision.

Manston to close,say owners>>>

What had been required was a coherent, viable alternative from someone. One was submitted by an American investment corporation RiverOak Investment Corps,which indicated in a press release that it had offered a consideration  "significantly higher than the entire capital investemnt expended by the current owner".

According to the current owner, however, the bid would have required continuing subsidies to service the huge debts.

In its press release, RiverOak said it had "developed a long term plan to own and manage Manston as an airport in line with its investment philosophy of diversified investing in asset backed businesses." It added that it continued to be committed to investing in and devloping Manston as a successful diversified aviation service., although it does not spell out exactly how it will deliver on that commitment.

MP Sir Roger Gale did, along with his colleague Laura Sandys, make valiant attempts to pull together a bid but even they seem to have acknowledged that time is running out.

Proposals were also put forward by staff involving developing the freight side of the business but this too assumed there would have to be continuing subsidies for a time. It's worth remembering that it has been losing £10,000 a day as an airport, a colossal drain.

KLM has already walked away and says it won't be back, as have various freight operators. Which brings us to the speculation that the site, partially or wholly, may in turn be sold off to developers for housing. There is a strong feeling that at some point, some of the site will inevitably go to housing developers

But there have been as many twists and turns in this long-running saga as there have in the race to win the Premier League, so with two weeks to go before the door is shut on Manston, anything could happen.

Today, though, it seems its days as an airport seem numbered.

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It is interesting to see that  RiverOak has turned for its PR to someone with intimate knowledge of Manston airport and was closely involved in various efforts to develop flights from it back in the early 2000s.

Tony Freudmann was vice president of the Wiggins Group, which owned and ran the airport before it was sold to PlaneStation, where he was senior vice president between 1994 and 2005.

Mr Freudmann has also had his own consultancy - FT International - between 2009 and 2013 in which he "delivered high level consultancy services in relation to aviation and tourism development to the public and private sectors in the UK, Germany and America."

He is now chief executive officer of a firm called Annax Aviation Services in which he manages "the global regional airports and airlines strategy of a priately-owned investment group."

He was also instrumental in the failed attempt to establish flights between Manston and Virginia in America back in 2006. The plug was pulled on that after poor ticket sales. Kent  County Council lost £300,000 in the venture.

 

 

 

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Categories: Manston | Margate | Politics

Politicians in high visibility jackets and chatting about boilers? There must be an election looming

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 2 2014

Here is my round-up of the top political stories of the week in Kent and Medway. 

1.  If  you haven't seen a politician for a while - get ready. One could be on your doorstep soon. The European election is just around the corner and the May 22 poll - with the results on May 25 - looks like being marginally more exciting than perhaps it has been in the past. Chancellor George Osborne was first out of the gate, with a visit to Ebbsfleet where his much treasured 'garden city' project will be.  At the moment, there's not much to see except a muddy quarry but the Chancellor was whisked away for a tour of the field, resplendent in a high-visibilty jacket, boots and a had hat. Mind you, Dartford MP Gareth Johnson had by far the best jacket, replete with so many fourescent strips, he could be seen from space.

2. Following hard on George's heels was his chief tormentor the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who popped down to Medway to rally support  among Labour activists and in doing so, enjoyed a lengthy conversation about boilers - possibly too lengthy -  and seemed very impressed by the variety of cakes his guests offered. For once, Ed had UKIP in his sights rather more than the Conservatives, although he contrived to get the key "cost of living" phrase in several times. David Axelrod would have been impressed. 

3. Talking of UKIP....you can't keep Nigel Farage out of Kent that long and although he wasn't physically in the county, his decision not to stand in the Newark by-election, resurrected speculation that he had a county constituency in his sights - either Thanet South or Folkestone and Hythe and the fact that you can't go very far in Folkestone without seeing a UKIP billboard may be a tantalising clue. But UKIP was a bt miffed when some wag put alternative slogans on them  of a satirical nature. And Nigel passed another political right of passage when he was egged by a protestor on a visit.

4. Crime commissioner Ann Barnes had a spot of bother over the costs of an office relocation to Kent Police HQ in Maidstone. At £150,000 it seemed rather a lot, especiallly as, until a national newspaper started asking questions, no-one had appeared to have known about the expenditure. Still,  she fought back and just about managed to rebut the claims - among them a suggestion from an "anonymous" source that she was a bit of a Diva. Still, if it was supposed to be a good news story because of the long-term savings, it seems odd that the commisioner was not shouting about it from the rooftops.

5. And finally, there was news that the government was to crackdown on betting shops in town centres by unveiling new powers to councils that would allow them to block bookies from opening. For once, there seemed to be cross-party support for the policy. Political harmony during the run-up to an election? I'm feeling rather queasy...

 

 

 

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Categories: Politics | Precept

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