KentOnline Blogs | Kent's best bloggers - creating a buzz in your county

Ukip's latest coup and why Labour are alarmed

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, February 19 2015

On the political Richter scale, the news that the leader of the Labour opposition group on Ashford council is to back Ukip represents a minor tremor rather than a major earthquake.

Despite Ukip's best efforts to portray the declaration of Harriet Yeo as a major coup, it falls well short of what they really want, which is the defection of a Labour MP.

Mrs Yeo is not even joining Ukip so she is not actually a defector at all - and says she doesn't agree with many of its policies.

Having said that, any party would be glad to win over the support from a rival party and Ukip, which tends to specialise in this sort of thing, won't be unhappy about the coverage the story has got, even if one broadsheet went slightly over the top by declaring the councillor as a top Labour figure.

Of arguably more significance are the comments by the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Brendan Chilton. His warning - in remarks recorded without his knowledge - that Labour councillors were in danger of being wiped out by the Ukip advance  - ought to be (another) wake-up call for the party.

Labour cannot hope to form a majority government if it fails to win seats in Kent but the signs are that will prove beyond them. As Cllr Chilton put it: "They [Labour councillors] may not exist after May if Ukip move at the pace they are."

They have two official target seats - Chatham and Aylesford and Dover and Deal - but the polls are not indicating that the party is picking up enough momentum to deliver them victory in May.

Not surprisingly, Cllr Chilton is rowing back furiously and unconvincingly to limit the damage, saying that he may have to "eat his hat" because "it looks like the opposite will happen" - the kind of spin that alienates voters rather than engages them.

Perhaps he should have stuck to his guns. His frank assessment of the situation Labour finds itself in is precisely the sort of thing party chiefs need to hear but instead they are keeping on with the platitudes about "getting a positive response on the doorstep". With an election two months away, it may all be too late.

____________________________________________________________

There seems to be a degree of confusion about the events surrounding Cllr Yeo's ousting as the leader of Labour's five (now four) strong opposition group.

Cllr Yeo was booted out of the job for failing to attend meetings and deal with constituency business and deselected as a candidate. She claims it was all accomplished without her being given a chance to appeal and done by text.

What is clear is that the party seemed very keen to present the change in leadership of the group as completely innocuous. The news was relayed to the Kentish Express as a minor change in personnel and nothing too contentious. Cllr Yeo's name was not even mentioned.

What seems to have happened is that word got out that Cllr Yeo was contemplating a switch to back Ukip some time ago. She has admitted she spoke with Nigel Farage late last year and that may have leaked.

She believes that was the real reason she was ousted athough acknowledges that she did indeed miss some meetings because of poor health.

We aren't being told Labour's side of the argument because it has pulled the shutters down and is referring all questions to the regional press office.

______________________________________________________________________________



Tags: , , , , , ,
Categories: Nostalgia

Spinning lights, Lodge Hill and Ann Barnes' PR spend

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, February 15 2015

Conservative county councillors did their best to put a gloss on their streetlight switch-off U-turn at the authority's budget meeting but it has been an unnecessarily messy episode which the opposition parties understandably exploited.

The ruling administration did what it could to make the best of a bad job but had to face accusations that it had not actually saved any money, after spending £3m on installing the technology needed to move to part-night lighting  - effectively neutralising the predicted saving of £3m up to 2017, when it says bulbs will be replaced wih LEDs.

At least Conservative council leader Paul Carter was upfront in acknowledging that had the council known that the cost of LEDs was to fall significantly, it might not have embarked on the switch-off. (His claim that it had saved money was less convincing).

Opposition in Kent appears to have been more vociferous than other areas, which may have something to do with its size and rural nature.

To be fair, it did consult pretty widely at the outset.

Having said that, perhaps councillors did not do themselves any favours by appearing rather dismissive about residents' fears over security and crime, insisting the perception of an increase in crime was not matched by the reality.

______________________________________________________________________________

Any public figure who spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on outside PR agencies and consumer research companies can expect to be asked to account for it.

Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes says appointing outside consultants was necessary to secure an "independent" review of the communications strategies adopted by the force.

Communications are important for any public body especially for the police.

But we doubt many people will regard it as that important to pay a PR firm close to £14,000 for an insight into what was being done and what might be done better - especially given the common complaint that they don't get to see many police officers on the street these days.

It is equally hard to justify the £2,400 spent on media training for the crime youth commissioner Kerry Boyd, whose term of office is to end shortly but whose activity has been so low profile as to make her virtually invisible.

Perhaps the advice was to not say anything or do anything in public or before the media.

_________________________________________________________________________________

It proved one of the few local flashpoints in the Rochester and Strood by-election, so what have the parties made of the government's decision to call in the plans for 5,000 homes at Lodge Hill and hold a public inquiry?

Strangely, it has produced an unlikely consensus between UKIP MP Mark Reckless and Kelly Tolhurst, the Conservative candidate.

Mr Reckless says he is delighted he will not rest until he has 'won the war'. Kelly Tolhurst declares she will "continue to lead the campaign against it."

Perhaps they should stand on a joint ticket. No, we can't see it either.




Tags: , , , , , ,
Categories: Memory | Precept

Manston, Murray + the lights go out at County Hall

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 6 2015

The fate of Manston Airport is still - excuse the pun - up in the air.

But the MPs on the transport select committee lifted one or two interesting stones on what seems a very complex issue of who owns the airport site when they quizzed a variety of witnesses at a hearing this week.

The hearing made for an uncomfortable experience for Pauline Bradley, the director of Manston Skyport Ltd and the two interim directors of Kent Airport Ltd who were repeatedly pressed on the issue of the extent to which the former owner Ann Gloag was involved and how she potentially stood to benefit on the back of the business park scheme envisaged by the new owners.

MP Tom Harris articulated what many people think about the sale when he asked Ms Bradley if she could understand "why people might look at this and think it looks slightly fishy" given that "a lot of people are about to get very wealthy on the back of a £1 purchase?"

In a reply that lacked a great deal of conviction, she said that there had never been any attempt to disguise Ms Gloag's financial stake and there was no question that she would exercise any financial control. Which is of course an important distinction but it took a while to prise out the fact that Mrs Gloag has a 20% stake.

In one of the more dramatic moments, Sir Roger Gale read from a report which he said revealed that Mrs Gloag had no intention of running the airport for two years. While it was unclear who wrote it, the MP quoted a section which stated that "in the process of creating the JV [Joint Venture] steps should be taken to restructure the HGT  shareholding such that it cannot be easily identified" and that "the perception that the site is under the conrol of a non-controversial JV partner would be commercially advantageous from a planning perspective."

I got the distinct impression that the committee members were not awfully impressed or totally convinced by the evidence put forward by the owners but we will have to wait and see. And it is likely that we may have to wait until after the election to find out what the select committee recommends.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you can hear the sound of car gears crashing around County Hall, it is probably connected to the latest policy U-turn.

After a reversal on plans to axe the number of communty wardens comes the news that the great streetlight switch-off is to be effectively scrapped.

We were told when it was first introduced that a pilot scheme would run for a year and then be reviewed. But the Conservative administration has clearly got the jitters and are to phase it out. There will still be a review which as I understand it will focus on issues.such as whether the switch-off has led to more crime and if so, where.

 

The new policy is to invest £40m in replacing every single streetlight with new LED bulbs, which have the advantage of being more energy efficient and can de dimmed and are cheaper to run - once you have made the initial outlay.

KCC invested an awful lot in its pilot swith-off scheme and there will be some questions about why it went to such great lengths to do so.

The odd thing is that when KCC first announced about deciding to replace the bulbs in its 120,00 streetlights in October, there was no mention of the possibility that it could be an alternative to the night-time switch off.

But the switch-off has gone down badly in many communities and there have been claims it has led to increased crime rates.  When opposition parties at KCC  called for an end to the scheme last September, they were told by the Conservative Mr Brazier that "most rational people know there is nothing to fear."

The fear that seems to matter among Conservatives is the fear that it will cost them votes at the forthcoming election.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Al Murray hit the campaign trail in Thanet South this week and rival candidates were probably gritting their teeth as he effortlessly  secured a huge amount of media coverage.

 

 

There were plenty of jokes, repartee with reporters and mugging for the cameras. It is all slightly surreal and you have to wonder whether, by May 7, the joke may have worn a bit thin.

 

But he is doing a good job of pricking the pomposity of politicians who,  during interviews, like to preface their answers to questions with the refrain "I am glad you have asked me that" - normally followed by an answer that has absolutely nothing to do wth the question.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________


 



 


 


 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,
Categories: Politics

Operation Stack - time for the government to act?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, January 23 2015

As Operation Stack gets close to being in place for a record number of days, gridlocking much of the county, the debate about how to deal with it continues.

Kent County Council has advocated buidling a series of lorry parks which would be open round-the-clock as somewhere for HGVs to park overnight but would also provide some capacity to hold lorries during Operation Stack.

There are three main problems. One is that building these won't come cheap. The authority is borrowing £10m to hold in reserve to help buy land where necesary, which it wold then hope to recoup from a private operator who would run it as a commercial concern

The second is that these parks would be relatively modest, with spaces for about 800-900 HGVs in total. That is nowhere near enough to avoid the need to turn the M20 into a lorry park when there are problems getting across the channel.

The third is that if anything happens, it won't be for a long time. KCC says it hopes to open one near Westenhangar, Folkestone by 2017 but the politician in charge, Cllr David Brazier, warned this week that even that may be optimistic.

Kent County Council has unfortunately squandered years and a considerable amount of money pursuing an earlier proposal for a huge park off the M20  at Aldington, near Ashford, that would have been capable of holding up to 3,000 HGVs.

It stubbornly stuck with this idea for far too long in the face of people telling it that it would go nowhere and was not viable.

What ought to be quite clear now is that this is an issue the government cannot afford to leave to KCC and others to sort out. This has been its line for many years - overlooking the obvious point that the M20 is not KCC's responsibility but the Highways Agency - which is accountable to the government.

More importantly, Kent is the gateway to Europe and as such, the problems created by Operation Stack have economic repercussions way beyond the undoubted damage done to businesses and residents in Kent.

Every day that lorries are stuck on the hard shoulder of the M20 means that somewhere, a business is losing money, suppliers are missing delivery dates and hauliers are having to reorganise their schedules. 

As the economy improves, the road network around the south east will come under crippling pressure if the government just sits back and says that the job of finding solutions is left to councils. It is stating the blindingly obvious, but the amount of commercial traffic travelling through Kent to and from Europe is not going to reduce.

If the coalition is prepared to spend £42bn on the High Speed Two project, it really ought to be able to allocate money to help tackle the problems caused by Operation Stack.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Kent County Council has signed off on another contract to management consultants Newton Europe, this time for a fee of £5.5m to oversee the authority's specialist childrens services. It is already paying the same company £5.4m for a contract to advise on how to cut the costs of care for the elderly and vulnerable.

To be fair, it seems that the company has delivered savings in adult care and the hope is that it will do the same for children's services.

The company website in unsurprisingly gushing tones describes itself as one which delivers "transformational, award-winning change" across a variety of sectors - including building submarines - and is a place where "initiative, creativity and versatility" thrive.

There is even a testimonial from KCC itself - with the website featuring an equally glowing reference from social care director Mark Lobban, its commissioning director who praises the "strategic transformation through evidence-based commissioning" that its partnership has achieved.

There is nothing wrong with Newton Europe soliciting testimonials from its clients, of course.

But some might feel it would be better for the council to keep more distance from those it is paying significant sums of taxpayers' money to.




 


 




 

Tags: , , ,
Categories: Private Sector | Prostitution

Mine's a pint: Can comic Al Murray upset the election odds in Thanet South?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, January 15 2015

If the election battle for the key Kent constituency of Thanet South was not already interesting, the news that comedian Al Murray - or his alter ego the pub landlord - is throwing his hat in the ring has made it even more so.

Announcing his intention to stand via a video address in which, among other commitments, he pledged to make beer a penny a pint came out of left field. Interestingly, an interview he gave to The Independent in 2013 criticised comedians who embraced politics, saying their role was to lampoon them.

 

It appears his main target is Ukip - his party's logo is an inverted pound symbol in gold - and his opening salvo in the video was to declare that the time was right for a tilt at Westminster.

"It seems to me UK is ready for a bloke waving a pint around offering commonsense solutions," he declared, leaving no ambiguity as to who is in his sights.

His confused rivals reacted in the only way they could - by adopting a jocular tone saying it would liven up the campaign and desperately trying to avoid looking either panicked or po-faced.

Ukip to its credit came up with the best one liner, saying it welcomed the news of "a serious rival at last" while its leader Nigel Farage saying "the more the merrier." Laura Sandys, the out-going Conservative MP, said there were already enough comedians standing - note the plural.

How will all this go down with the voters in Thanet South is anyone's guess. His parody of a hyper-nationalistic landlord is sometimes affectionate, sometimes cutting. 

Is he serious about winning? Or simply standing to poke fun at politics and politicians? If it is the latter, there is a good case for arguing that his candidacy is unnecessary.

Many voters already look on politicians as a joke and don't need a comedian to remind them of that or deflate the egos of those standing for office.

________________________________________________________________________

There was an interesting debate about fracking at County Hall this week. Or rather, there should have been but in the grand tradition of council meetings, our elected-representatives decided that it was more important to debate whether there should be a debate.

This stemmed from a petition submitted by the Faversham and Mid Kent Green Party candidate Tim Valentine and signed by nearly 3,000 people. Under KCC rules, this automatically triggered a debate at the meeting of the authority's environment scrutiny committee.

The only problem was that, according to the council's legal eagles, no such debate could be permitted as to do so and to adopt a presumption against any fracking applications, would compromise the council's position because it was the relevant planning authority dealing with them.

So, we were treated to one of those debates about constitutional procedures which councillors seem to relish. A clearly exasperated Cllr David Brazier, cabinet member for the environment, said he could not understand why "intelligent people" had signed the petition"  when a cursory glance at KCC's website would have indicated why such a call was not likely to succeed.

I am not sure how that would have gone down that well with the public but that's County Hall politics for you.

As it was, after some ill-tempered exchanges, the Conservative majority on the committee voted to close down the debate much to the irritation of the opposition representatives.






 




 

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Politics

It’s changed so much in 20 years

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, January 12 2015

On January 3, I clocked up 20 years with the KM Group. Back then, I worked on Kent Today, a paper with several editions each day, and those of us who were around then (and trust me, I have several colleagues who have been with the company far longer than me) still wonder how we did it.

Computers were reasonably new to the world (at my previous paper, I’d worked on a typewriter) and turning a breaking story around by 10.30am could involve quite an expedition.

Having tracked down who you needed to speak to, you would set off on your trek, hopefully with a photographer in tow.

We’d have to interview people at super-quick speed, fast while still being courteous, and there simply wasn’t time to drive back to the office to write up your copy.

Instead, you would get a draft written in your notebook, find the nearest phone box, call the operator and ask to make a reverse charge call.

If no photographer was available, you would have begged your interviewee to hand over a photo of themselves and then drive to our head office in Larkfield where the company’s only scanner was kept.

Somehow, it would make it into that day’s paper.

It sounds antiquated now but we were at the cutting edge.

I can’t begin to tell you the excitement when we started publishing colour photographs.

These days, you find yourself requesting a black and white image simply so it looks atmospheric and edgy.

It hasn’t all been good – there were times when I knocked on doors and had them slammed in my face and I wondered why I was doing it.

But the times when I did knock on a door and was welcomed in – even in the most tragic of circumstances – made it all worthwhile.

Sometimes people realise you are there because you care.

I’ve cried with grieving families, abseiled down tower blocks to raise money for charity and celebrated when years of campaigning have come to fruition.

The good and the bad, it’s been a privilege. Thank you.

//////////////////////////////

Our telephone line at home went down last Monday. As far as we know, it’s just us and two neighbours but, bizarrely, we’ve been given differing explanations.

Our call charges and telephone line are dealt with by different providers, which was our first headache – whoever we rang (on our mobiles – I’m looking forward to that bill coming in) referred us to the other company.

Eventually, someone told us it was a fault at the exchange which would be fixed by today (Monday) at the latest.

We went to share the news with our neighbours. “That’s funny,” said the first. “They told me it was a problem with the box on the corner, or my inside line.”

The other neighbour, who runs a business, had been told it would be fixed within six hours. The last time we spoke to them, they still they had nothing.

Our favourite piece of advice from one company, while referring us to another, was “to dial this number from your landline”.

“I don’t have a landline,” said hubby through gritted teeth. “That’s why I’m calling...”

Tags:
Categories:

Fox hunting: Lazy accusations of bias are plain wrong

by In The Editor's Chair, with Leo Whitlock Monday, January 5 2015
We have never been afraid to cover controversial issues or subjects that divide our communities.

After all, that is what a local newspaper is all about.

We do all we can to put both sides of the story and have faith in our readers to make up their own minds.

It is very rare for us to take a view. Indeed, the personalities in the newsroom are often as divided as our readership especially when it comes to issues of principle or politics.

One thing never changes - whenever a story that stirs up people's passions appears in the paper accusations of bias appear as predictably as long, dark days in December.

A story in last week's paper is a case in point - Call For Act Repeal As 1,000 Greet Hunt.

This story said 1,000 people attended the traditional East Kent Hunt meeting in Elham on Boxing Day.

Advocates of hunting claimed this showed support is growing for an end to the Hunting Act 2004.

That was enough to light the blue touch paper and were subjected to an orchestrated campaign on Facebook suggesting we were biased, supporters of hunting and that the newspapers owners had linked to the hunt and had ordered us to run the story in the form it took.

Clearly most of these people had not read the original story and, despite threatening never to buy our rag again, are probably not regular readers.

Their comments were all strikingly similar and just as lazy.

They had missed mention of the anti-hunt protesters in the second paragraph of the story.

They also missed the 216 words from the director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports who said: "Every Boxing Day those wanting to see a return to hunting with dogs put onm a flamboyant and extravagant show in a bid to convince everyone that tearing a wild animal apart from limb to limb in the name of sport is a good thing.

"Despite what the pro-hunt lobby say, the primary purpose of hunting has never been about anything more than killing for pleasure."

He goes on to say 80% of people in Britain say fox hunting should remain illegal.

Just as we always do, we will carry the anti-hunt letters we received this week. Even those that criticise our editorial approach.

For the record, the newspaper does not have a view on hunting either way.

I have no idea how our owners view hunting or whether they have links to various hunts.

In all of the years I have edited a KM Media Group newspaper, they have never instructed me to run a story, pull a story or change a story.

I can see no reason why that would ever change.

It's up to the conspiracy theorists whether they believe that or not. They will not.

Tags: ,
Categories:

And so the panic begins...

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, December 23 2014

It’s too late. Whatever it is you’ve forgotten to buy for Christmas, you’ll never get it in time unless you:

a) really want to join the hordes of other people running around in a panic, get completely stressed out and still not get what you want;

b) are happy to just shove money in an envelope and hope for the best;

c) were thinking of buying everything from a petrol station.

The last option doesn’t sound as bad as it once did. Once upon a time, petrol station gifts were limited to a sorry looking bunch of flowers, an in-car air freshener, windscreen scrapers and a dried-up cheese and tomato sandwich.

Not these days. Our local garage has realised fuel isn’t the only reason people choose to visit and now there are queues to get a parking space every weekend.

It was rebuilt last year, almost double the size and we all feared the worst. Anyway, when it re-opened, the place where you go to pay for your fuel wasn’t just one of your run-of-the-mill kiosks.

Ooooh, no. It had its own butcher’s counter, with meat fresh from a Kent farm, a deli counter with local cheeses and a wide selection of olives (although those don’t seem to have stayed the course).

Every day, there’s artisan bread brought in, it has its own mini-bakery to produce baguettes and rolls, and they cook up their own sausage, bacon, egg, any-combination-of-the-above fare.

There’s Kent beer, wine, gin, rum, vodka, all created within just a few miles of the place. They stock unusual sweets, flavoured oils and, of course, their local Messenger.

I’d be more than happy if someone bought me a present from there.

The one thing I can’t do is call it a garage. I simply can’t get my head (or tastebuds) around the fact the joint of meat for our Sunday roast has come from the same place where outside, there’s still that lingering smell of petrol which makes my stomach churn.

My neighbours call it the “magic garage”. My husband simply sticks to “the shop” to keep me happy.

I’ve tried referring to it as the farm shop, but I know it’s only me I’m kidding. And who cares what the packaging is like when the contents are so much better than before?

///////////////////////

So that’s it for another year. I’ll be honest, I won’t be sorry to see the back of this one.

There have been some wonderful laughs and moments to treasure – a family holiday to mark my dad’s 70th and my brother’s 40th being one of them.

But there’s also been some heartache; we’ve lost people we’ve loved and other battles have been hard but in a strange kind of way strengthened friendships and relationships, and made us stronger for it.

I hope this Christmas brings you everything your heart desires, and the chance to spend it with those you love.

And as 2015 rings in, may it be better than 2014 because even if it’s been good to you, there is no harm in hoping that the best is yet to come.

Tags:
Categories:

In their own words: The Year In Politics

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, December 19 2014

It has been a tumultuous year in Kent politics and 2015 is shaping up to be just as turbulent. Here is how the politicians saw things - in their own words:

“We have picked up the jigsaw pieces from different boxes and put them in new boxes where there is real synergy.” Some mystifying jargon from John Burr, the KCC director in charge of re-organising the way the council is run.

__________________________________________________________________

“We are not the masters now, the people are the masters. We are the servants of the people. We must never forget that.” Newly-elected Rochester and Strood UKIP MP Mark Reckless victory speech has uncanny echoes of Tony Blair in 1997.

___________________________________________________________________

“By-elections are different; there is a chance for people to vote in way they haven’t done before.” Conservative leader David Cameron calls for people to vote tactically to stop Mark Reckless in the by-election.

___________________________________________________________________

You should tell that to Mrs Cameron” The Prime Minister's retort to a reporter on the campaign trail in Rochester who said he was looking fit and whether he had been working out.

__________________________________________________________________

“People who have got through [to Britain] call and say ‘We’ve got through. This is El Dorado and we’re staying here’. Natasha Bouchard, Mayor of Calais addressing MPs on why hundreds of migrants were gathered in the French town.

___________________________________________________________________

“It was poor judgement and naivety on my part rather than words spoken with any malice.” Janice Atkinson Ukip MEP and prospective parliamentary candidate for Folkestone and Hythe after being caught on camera describing a supporter as “a ting tong from somewhere.”

____________________________________________________________________

“I did ask about the mafia issue” - Thanet council officer Mark Seed on reports that potential investors in ferry firm TransEuropa had crime links.

____________________________________________________________________

“The only reason I agreed to do the documentary was to help people better understand the role of police and crime commissioner.” Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes on that Channel 4 documentary.

______________________________________________________________

Women of the UK: burn your bras...Or not.” Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch tweet in response to a Ukip claim that for every bra bought in the UK, £1 went to the EU.

______________________________________________________________

“These statistics, while accurate, could lead to an entirely misleading impression being given about how hard members work for their communities.” Cllr Gary Cooke, KCC cabinet member for democratic services explains why the council stopped publishing meeting attendance figures.

______________________________________________________________

“Conclusions were drawn where there was no evidence to support those conclusions.” Kent County Council leader Paul Carter on why he withdrew a report suggesting government welfare reforms were behind rising crime, homelessness and food banks.

______________________________________________________________

“It is now not beyond the bounds of possibility that we hold the balance of power in another hung parliament.” Ukip leader Nigel Farage after his party’s crushing European election victory in May.

_______________________________________________________________

“Nigel Farage is a pound shop Enoch Powell and we need to watch him.” Comedian Russell Brand on BBC ‘Question Time’ takes a dig at the party leader

_______________________________________________________________

“As we entered the studio, and his personal make-up artist straightened his chest hair for him, I kid you not, I realised that perhaps he might be a bit lighter weight than expected.” Nigel Farage retort at Russell Brand on BBC Question Time.

__________________________________________________________________

“Over the past few decades, flood defences in many areas have been neglected, and local people left to fend for themselves.Those days are coming to an end.” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visiting Kent to announce £17m of flood defence work

_________________________________________________________________

"I am out but not down" Ashford MP Damian Green after losing his job as policing minister in what was culled a cull of middle-aged ministers from the cabinet

________________________________________________________________

"I don't think it would have made much difference" - Liberal Democrat candidate Geoff Juby on whether the presence of his party leader Nick Clegg on the Rochester and Strood campaign trail would have helped. He went on to lose his deposit in the party's worst result in a by-election 

_________________________________________________________________

"The New Ways of Working Programme has progressively implemented the approved phased redevelopment of several key hubs" - what else but a Kent County Council officer's report on "re-organisation"

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories:

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.



Tags: , , , , , ,
Categories: Politics

Got a bee in your bonnet?

Bloggy BeeIf you have a voice, and would like it to be heard, why not consider writing a blog for our site?

Click here to send us a message and let us know!

Welcome to our blogs!

Our Blogs

Tag cloud

Top Posts of the Week

Topics of Conversation