All posts tagged 'Dover'

Immigration remains Labour's Achilles' heel

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, June 24 2015

When Labour was turfed out of government in 2010, leadership wannabe Andy Burnham said the party had been "in denial" about immigration and had failed to grasp that many voters felt that under Gordon Brown, it had failed to address the issue.

On a visit to Kent as part of his leadership campaign, I asked him if he felt the party had remained in denial in 2015.

Unsurprisingly, he denied it, saying the party had beefed up its policies and had addressed concerns about welfare tourism by advocating a policy in which arrivals would not be able to claim benefits for two years.

Events in Calais have, however, only served to underline that Kent, as the 'Gateway to Europe' is at the sharp end of the debate.

Rolling footage and photographs of migrants clambering on to lorries destined for Dover or Folkestone reinforces the belief of many that the situation remains volatile and we are only a few steps away from some kind of invasion.

Add in the chaos caused to the county by the implementation of Operation Stack (caused by A wild cat industrial dispute) and it is hardly surprising that Labour struggles to get much traction on the issue.

The party's problem is this. It wants to be tough on immigration at the same time as wanting to continue to support open borders and the principle of the free movement of labour.

All the while that it does, it exposes itself to the charge that it is facing in two different directions and that is precisely why it has haemmorrhaged so much support to UKIP. The public tend to lump together genuine asylum seekers with economic migrants - they are all part of the same stream that have set up camp in Calais.

At least Andy Burnham has acknowledged that Kent is vital to the party's prospects at the election in 2020.

Although it is worth remembering that during the election campaign not a single senior party figure made it down to Kent, where it had two target seats and suffered a crushing defeat in both.


Meanwhile, Conservative MPs Damian Collins and Charlie Elphicke have laid the blame for the recent choas at the door of the Calais authorities - specifically the town mayor Natasha Bouchart.

Both have lobbed a few well-targeted political hand grenades in that direction, accusing the town's leaders of being complicit in allowing migrants to travel across the channel to the UK.

No doubt they thought it would help the Conservative cause.

But it was slightly undermined when Prime Minister David Cameron said it was not helpful to point fingers as the government tried to build a consensus with its European partners about what is, after all, not exclusively a UK/French issue.


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Beautiful Toilet

by Down and out in Dover and district, with Len Oldfeep Friday, February 28 2014

Congratulations. If you’re reading this then you are one of the lucky survivors of the great false widow spider invasion of 2013, which saw the population decrease by zero. The eight legged menace was one of the biggest talking points in the South east, shutting down schools quicker than Jeremy Forrest and even making the evening news and national papers. There were plenty of sightings in Dover with everyone suddenly ‘falsely’ becoming spider experts. Word got around that a distinctive white dot on their backs that looked like a skull identified them so. I got swept up in the furore myself and reliably told my parents one had taken up residence in the corner of the kitchen and they should leave immediately. My dad however chose to stand his ground and hoovered the beasty up instead.

While the Jaws like fever was fun and distracted Dovorians for a short time, we soon got back to the business of condemning the state of the town. This has now spilled over into 2014. More people than ever are wading in with their take on this issue, from the young to the very old. The press have picked up on this and various opinion polls and guest columns from younger readers have appeared, gauging the general feeling of its residents. Some feel Dover’s a lost cause. The older generation try to defend it but cannot help be sceptical about the always approaching regeneration and development schemes, which never, well....develop. Surprisingly, it seems to be teenagers who tend to be the more optimistic and the most articulate when describing the town. They accept there may not be a lot to do for them but remind us of our assets like Dover Castle and our rich history.

One poll that caught my eye was by the Dover Express who invited readers to describe Dover in one word. The poll was viewed on its website more than 20,000 times and received more than 800 suggestions. 81% of readers choose a negative word but this was kind of irrelevant. What the poll said to me was people cared deeply about their home. With the poll they ran a graphic with a selection of the words used all jumbled up together; some written bigger or bolder than others. Running my eye over it two words stuck out and they were: beautiful and toilet. I thought this summed up perfectly where Dover is right now. At times there is great beauty; The White cliffs, The Seafront, The port lit at night, our parks, the castle. Then, on second inspection, a toilet; Burlington House, neglected empty shops, decaying buildings, some parts of Folkestone Road and the big TV-Which thankfully has recently been packed back away in it’s box.

Whenever friends, who have since settled down in their respective university towns, come back to visit they are always quick to run down their former home. I have been guilty in the past of joining in these frenzied attacks, as not to be left out. I always feel uncomfortable doing this, like talking shit about an old friend behind their back without really knowing why. Sometimes I will try to get in there first to save Dover from another tedious swipe from an exile. Whatever I feel about Dover at this time and wherever I am it will always be a part of who I am. Any criticism of it feels like a judgement on me too. The people whom I shared these memories with now only return to ridicule and mock it and seem to enjoy seeing its deterioration, when what they should do is support it. It’s what we all should do.

And so many do with songs by local troubadours, inspired by the town’s ongoing problems to petitions calling for the council to be more transparent on the redevelopment of the town centre.  I think Dover can be beautiful again. Things always come back around. Look at Shane Ritchie and Jim Davidson. Who would have thought? With the arrival of Cineworld, a new hospital, the redevelopment of St James Street and the Dover Music Festival all on the horizon; Dover can hopefully regain some credibility in the years ahead.

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Categories: Dover Town centre

Johnny Depp gossip spreads like wildfire

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Friday, October 4 2013
The hype around Johnny Depp filming in Dover and staying nearby at St Margaret-at-Cliffe has settled down now.

Whispers and gossip spread across Kent that the Hollywood A-lister was in our county whilst he filmed scenes for his new Disney movie, Into The Woods. It is a story featuring iconic characters such as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk.

It truly is a stella cast. Along with Depp is Chris Pine - guys ask your wife if you do no know who he is. She will have a picture of him in her purse. Emily Blunt, James Corden, plus legend Meryl Streep all star alongside Twilight star Anna Kendrick, who plays Cinderella.

Some film fans even made an effort to sit outside the hotel that Depp was suspected to be staying at and wait for him. They revealed on the kmfmofficial Facebook page that they spotted some of the cast, but not Johnny himself. He was probably staying on the Black Pearl. Incidentally look out for the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 2016.

Into The Woods is out in Kent cinemas next year. I think due to its setting - in part in the Garden of England - that it is only fair that the world premiere is in Dover.

We all at some point have had a celebrity moment. It is this idea where 'Celebrity Touch' came from.

Saturday mornings on kmfm I ask you to text me if you have touched a celebrity. Shaken their hand on your initial meeting with them, received a cheeky kiss on the cheek or simply brushed past them and your hair touched their shoulder. It all counts as a 'Celebrity Touch.'

I had a listener of the show on a couple of weeks ago who was very happy to say that she touched Jon Bon Jovi's leg. That counts as a 'Celebrity Touch.' Every week I try to find out if there is a bigger celebrity encounter. Eventually I am hoping that someone high-fived President Barack Obama.

If you have had a 'Celebrity Touch' email me.

I'll also speak to you on your way home on kmfm Drivetime from 4pm


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Categories: kmfm

Fracking - the political divide in Kent. And Farage coy over general election seat

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, August 27 2013

There are not many issues where David Cameron and Nigel Farage agree. But fracking is one: both believe that shale gas has the potential to drastically reduce energy prices in the UK and that benefit is one that trumps the enivronmental arguments made against it.

The UKIP leader was in characteristically forthright mood on a visit to Kent to rally his troops when asked about fracking, saying it was a "God-given" opportunity for the county and whatever hazards the process of extracting shale gas may have, they are no worse than other industries, such as coal.

Farage: fracking in Kent a God-give opportunity>>>

This UKIP/Conservative consensus over energy is revealing.

Both parties clearly feel the case for lower energy prices has more resonance for hard-pressed families and pensioners who may consider that the anti-fracking protest movement is a luxury they cannot afford.

Their stance also reflects the scepticism that both have over renewable energy sources, particularly wind energy and is a less-than-subtle acknowledgement that many communities fear the blight of wind turbines littering the landscape.

It is a calculated risk. Events in Balcombe suggest that local communities, presented with the prospect of even just exploratory drilling actually taking place on their doorstep, will find the lower energy bills argument rather less persuasive when contrasted with the disruption.

This means there is politically a lot at stake for both parties. Fracking itself won't determine the outcome of the next general election.

But on the back of Balcombe, it is easy to see how revolt in the shires once companies get the go-ahead for licences could swing votes away from both.


Will he, won't he? Nigel Farage is batting away questions about whether he intends to stand as a candidate at the next general election in Kent.

He says speculation will detract from his focus on the European elections next year.

My suspicion is he that he doesn't actually know or has a few seats in his mind but can't decide. The list may include a few Kent constituencies.

Had the long-standing Roger Gale opted to retire from Thanet North, he might have fancied his chances there.  

While UKIP has taken votes away from Labour in recent elections, its support will probably hold up better at the general election, meaning seats like Dover and Thanet South are probably out of the question.

Which leaves Folkestone and Hythe as one possibility, but even here he would face an uphill battle.

Still, it does incorporate Dungeness, where he does like to fish for sea bass. 

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Categories: Medway

What High Speed have done for us

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Wednesday, December 22 2010

Protests about the proposed route of High Speed 2 from London to the Midlands and the North will provoke hollow laughter in Kent. I remember reporting on marches from South Darenth and Sutton-at-Hone that demonstrated fierce opposition to the initial route.

There was the admission that a map had been drawn up on an official’s dining room table using out of date information and putting the route through a new housing estate near Blue Bell Hill, Chatham. When a Mid Kent Parkway station was proposed between Medway and Maidstone, there was an outcry that the “green lung” would be removed and prompt the creation of a “Medstone” or “Maidway” conurbation.

There was dismay with the proposal to put the link down the pretty Nashenden Valley. When construction started, there was outrage over the “scar on the landscape.”

I can hardly remember a good thing being said about the proposed railway, wherever it went. Maidstone council bowed to this anti-sentiment and voted not to have anything to do with what eventually became HS1 And yet, and yet...

Taking a lesson from the French city of Lille, which battled for the TGV line to go through its heart, Ashford council fought tooth and nail to have the service re-routed through the centre of the town. Look what that decision has done to the prosperity and potential of the town.

Commuter journeys have been transformed. Look at the potential for regeneration in Dover, Margate and Folkestone from the presence of what is a brilliant service on state-of-the-art Hitachi trains. Look at the great advertisement for the county. Kent, a railway back-marker since the 1800s, is no longer on the wrong side of the tracks.

While third-rail trains were stuck in the snow, HS1 kept on rolling. More than seven million passengers took HS1 in its first year and I bet that figure will be a lot higher next year. It is a powerful economic driver for the county, raises our game and is proving a powerful incentive for firms to move to the county.

Just as 19th century steam trains and track came to blend into the countryside, with pressure groups lobbying to preserve threatened lines, so the railway that sparked so much protest in Mid and North West Kent is now part of our landscape. Nothing much to protest about now. The engineers did a great job.

Maidstone is left on the sidelines, now pleading for a high-speed station that was once there for the taking. Prosperity is slowly shifting to Ashford and will in time flow to Dover, Margate and Folkestone. House prices will rise disproportionately in towns with good access to the trains. A Manston Parkway station is on the cards.

HS2 protesters should look to the Kent experience and see that while they should ensure the route is tweaked here and there, and tunnelled under beautiful places, there is so much to gain from high-speed rail in terms of greener travel and greater convenience in a modern world. Things we fear in advance often come to be loved. In a 100 years’ time, HS2 and HS1 will be celebrated as much as the steam railways of another era.

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Categories: Business | Trains | Transport

Time to forgive?

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, October 25 2010

Eighty-two balls in the hat for the FA Cup draw but it always seemed destined that Gillingham would be paired with Dover.

I’m sure Andy Hessenthaler and co had hoped Dover fans would have forgotten what happened in the summer and moved on.

But it appears not.

Dover need no incentive now on Tuesday night to win their FA Cup replay against Farnborough and set up what will be a cracking first round tie at Gillingham.

Whites fans will be hoping Martin Hayes and his team can dish out a bit of revenge after Hessenthaler left Crabble to return to Priestfield.

I don’t think anyone can really blame Hess for leaving, but what appears to still rankle with them is what happened afterwards, particularly the decision of Ian Hendon to leave just weeks after "joining" them as manager.

The problem is that Hendon never signed a deal (despite sitting with Whites chairman Jim Parmenter with pen in hand at a press conference to unveil him as manager!) and weeks later hot-footed it over to Priestfield to link up with Hessenthaler.

Nicky Southall followed and so did Darren Hare but who can blame them?

Dover are a great club and going places but as a professional you’ve got to aim high. Hessy did a good job at Dover and deserved another crack at the Gills job so why the hysteria?

Most managers have a team of trusted people that they keep close to them and that is no different than Hessenthaler. He and Hendon have been close since their Barnet days, and probably before that. Football can be a murky world and so it’s best to have people you can rely on close at hand.

It was a messy situation in the summer without a doubt but, like the Dover chairman said this week, it’s all worked out well in the end and Martin is doing the business so far at Crabble.

I’m sure that if Dover get through to play the Gills those Whites fans will be quick to attack Hess and co, but should they? I don’t think so.

Someone called me naive previously for saying such a thing but that’s football. We all have differing opinions.

I can’t see what is wrong with having ambition in the game and moving onwards and upwards. All Ian Hendon did was weight up his options and choose Gillingham. How it ever got to the stage where there was a press conference to announce him as manager before a deal had been signed is for others to answer.

Good luck to Dover on Tuesday, it’s great to have so much Kent involvement in the cup and congrats to Scott Porter and his Hythe team for making it this far.

Roll on November 6.

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Categories: Gillingham | Gills | Sport

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