All posts tagged 'University-of-Kent'

Why the argument over the politicisation of policing won't determine who becomes the Kent police commissioner

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, November 7 2012

It would be overstating matters to say that there has been a sudden rush of interest in the race to become Kent's first-directly elected police commissioner. I certainly don't detect any Obama type bounce.

Voters will go to the polls next Thursday and there remains a fear the turnout will be dismal - possibly as low as 15%.

That is not to say people are uninterested in the issue of crime and policing.

It is one of the ironies of the government's flagship reform that public apathy towards a new generation of elected police chiefs is in direct contrast to polling which consistently makes crime - and fear of crime - a major pre-occpuation of voters.

The problem with the election is that when you examine the manifestos and policy pledges of the six candidates standing, there isn't an awful lot that separates them.

They all believe in giving greater support to victims. All - to varying degrees - oppose creeping privatisation. All want to give the criminal fraternity a harder time; all believe in the importance of visible policing; they all want to improve social cohesion. And so on.

It's as bland a set of commitments as the bowls of rice contestants in "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!" face over the coming weeks.

The candidates were given a chance to air their views and proposals at a hustings meeting at the University of Kent's Medway campus last night.

During the evening, someone tweeted: "I promise to prioritorise visible policing and get tough on crime. Not just tough, zero tolerance tough...have I won yet?"

Sarcastic, yes but they have a point.

The specific policy pledges, such as they are, have often been eclipsed by soundbite politics in which, it seems to me, the candidates have been more inclined to talk in generalities about their aims and aspirations and have been a little fearful of being too specific.

Partly, this is a reflection of the fact that the commissioner has a strategic rather than operational role and candidates are wary of stepping into territory where they might be regarded as interfering in day-to-day policing.

While they understand this, in general the public don't - or are at least confused.

At the hustings meeting, there was a telling moment when the candidates were asked to identify a single strategy proposal for bringing down crime that did not involve the words "zero tolerance". The answers were as woolly as a flock of Romney Marsh sheep.

Which brings me to the issue that has set a few sparks flying - the debate about the danger of policing becoming politicised by commissioners.

Actually, the argument has been about the party politicisation of policing, which is not exactly the same thing. Even independent candidates will become - if they win - "political" figures, albeit under a non-party political banner.

Some people are genuinely concerned about this and contend that it will be the issue that determines the outcome.

There's an instinctive unease among many about the idea of police control being vested in a politician. (It reminds me of the quote about education being too important to allow politicians to be involved).

Ann Barnes, who is one of the leading independent candidates, has made the issue the centrepiece of her campaign.

The campaign literature of Dai Liyanage, another independent, is headed "Not Just Another Political Puppet."

But is this an issue which has the resonance on the doorstep some think it has?

At the hustings meeting, it was striking that the audience didn't actually seem to care terribly much about the candidates' political colours.

The questions they asked were not party political ones but focused on what would be done, for example, to tackle anti-social behaviour or drug dealing.

In other words, who would do the best job to make our towns and villages safe?

And that, it seems to me, is what the election should ultimately be about.


ONE of the complaints made about the election is that not enough has been done to publicise it. Public disengagement has certainly been an issue.

So, why has the Police Area Returning Officer Nadeem Aziz decreed that the media are to be banned from using social media like Twitter and Facebook to report from the election count at Dover town hall?

To call it bizarre is an under-statement and there are questions about whether it as any legal force, especially when these are the ways in which many people now expect to get news.

We are challenging the ban and so too are some of the candidates and their agents. Let's hope commonsense prevails.


The six candidates standing in the election have, as a result of a challenge by a member of the audience at the hustings meeting, agreed to declare the donations and expenses of their campaign's before polling day. (Electoral law means they don't have to until after the election)

We'll be publishing all these when we get them all.


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Categories: Politics

Opening ceremony will be a stunning show

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, July 27 2012

After 84 months of waiting and planning, it’s Olympic bonanza time.

At least it’s a bonanza for most. Sponsors, athletes, spectators, Danny Boyle, outlets selling fish and chips for £8.50 and a 175ml glass of wine for £5.20, a pint of lager at £4.60 and a bag of Cadbury’s (the official Treat supplier) chocolate sweets for £1 - £3.

It’s been good too for the University of Kent, which expects to make £1.3m from Olympic-related hospitality. Eurostar will be bringing thousands of spectators from the continent to make up for the dip in business travel.

Soldiers drafted in to cover for the G4S fiasco (will they ever win any more government contracts?) may not be so happy. And motorists held up by Zil lane BMWs (they have sensors that automatically change traffic lights from red to green) will be fuming.

But tonight’s opening ceremony will be a great advert for Britain. I saw it in rehearsal earlier in the week and it’s stunning. For all the cynicism and allegations of left-wing bias, it’s a great show, an amazing blend of rural idyll, with cricket as well as sheep on show, and some amazing images depicting the Industrial Revolution.

And, of course, there’s the customary modern dance sequence that aims to show off Cool Britannia. A complex show involving thousands shows that it’s not only the Chinese that can do great opening sequences.

It’s easy to be critical of Locog political correctness and decisions that seem taken straight from a Twenty Twelve script. But let’s face it, the “deliverance” body (ODA), the architects, construction companies and suppliers that make it possible have done a fantastic job.

What a shame that all those Kent firms that won Olympic contracts have not been allowed to promote the fact. Hugh Robertson, Olympic minister and Kent MP, estimates that the Games have been worth more than £30m to our county’s businesses. They should be allowed to talk about it without fear of the brand police.

It’s been a great feat of organisation and leadership, especially by Sebastian Coe. What a Boys Own Hero. What a case study for business inspiration.

Despite the G4S debacle and the odd glitch over the wrong North Korean flag - didn’t the Twenty Twelve scriptwriters think of that one? - it looks as though it’s going to be alright on the night.

The security at the Olympic Park was just like Heathrow, but with plenty of military people and volunteer Games Makers around, it was reasonably quick. Let’s hope there are no incidents over the next few weeks.

The park complex is a fine transformation of derelict land - a great example of regeneration.

But let’s hear it for the volunteers. They were all smiles and eagerness to help. 70,000 are giving up their time, a lot of expense and annual leave to do it. I spoke to some of them at the rehearsal and they were so keen. They also knew the answers to questions from the public. Along with the remarkable Torchbearers (the relay was a great show too that enthused a nation), they are the real heroes of these Games.

I hope I can live up to their example when I’m a Games Maker at the Paralympic Games.

Let the show begin - and savour the next few weeks of sporting achievement that most of us will never see on our doorstep again. And, if it helps tourism and encourages inward investment, as David Cameron desperately hopes, it’s all good for GB Plc and its dynamic Kent subsidiary.

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Categories: Olympics

Dockyard could take lesson from the 'boyos’ in how to transform

by The Codgers' Club Friday, March 2 2012

by Alan Watkins

The other day was my eldest son’s birthday. His son, Max, was born just over a month before, while his daughter celebrated her third birthday yesterday.

If that wasn’t enough for the family’s birthday card-buyers, Gramps celebrated his 65th birthday with a trip to Wales.

It is a long time since I have been down the Valleys. They don’t change very much.

Most of the slag heaps have gone. You can actually see how green was the valley that Richard Llewellyn immortalised.

The docks have been transformed in a way that leaves me speechless – and must frustrate the Medway councillors who expected similar glory at Chatham Maritime.

It was where my grandfather occasionally visited as a merchant seaman and 40 years on I went in search of scrapheaps to photograph.

Half a century later, there is a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Docks, copper-clad and more glittery than the University of Kent building. The Welsh, Irish, Scots, Manxmen, Channel Islanders all have their own parliaments, but the English are still ruled by a mixture of Welsh, Irish, Scots…you already had the picture, probably. 

Chatham Maritime as the government’s mindbenders chose to rename the naval dockyard has a handful of shops, the obligatory iconic building (which actually does look like the artist’s impression we dubbed the Two Towers), half a dozen good restaurants, a housing estate, a new school with old problems, a working dock that could be swept away for more dormitory dwellings if its owner gets its way, and a splendid historic dockyard.

Oh yes, and Gun Wharf. Nearly 30 years after the dockyard closed, there are still large tracts of waste land waiting for someone, anyone, to build on it.

The dream is becoming a nightmare, and the quality jobs explosion that we expected? – it seems unlikely ever to come.

When you visit Chatham Maritime you are rarely stopped from entering any of its eateries.

At Cardiff Bay (the twee name dreamed up for the transformed Tiger Bay) there must be 150 restaurants and cafes vying for custom. They don’t take bookings on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays – the queues of hungry customers waiting for an empty table prove that marketing ploy is unnecessary.

Back here, the other day I was asked where I could recommend for a small group to go for a quiet drink and a bar snack. I’m still trying to find an answer in Medway.

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Categories: Chatham

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