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Armed Forces Day 2012 in South Shields

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The Badlanders ride into town

I don’t know why, but every time we hold a special commemoration for Armed Forces Day in South Shields we end up with heavy skies and rain, and so it was on this damp Sunday morning as the Badlanders MCC rode into town along the Coast Road to the Bents Park. A cavalcade of hundreds of big noisy brash and expensive motorbikes preceded the parade of local armed services personnel and youth groups led a pipe band marching from Gypsies Green Stadium watched by a very encouraging crowd which grew massively as they approached the entrance to the Bents Park. The parade took the salute from the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear  Nigel Sherlock O.B.E. alongside the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside Cllrs. Eilleen Leask and Olive Puncheon at a dais erected next to the clean and modern looking caravan park of Sea Road. Considering the inclement weather (no we have had our fair share of rain this summer too) it was encouraging to see so many youngsters and families coming along to pay homage to the courage, bravery, and steadfastness of our armed services in the service of our country.

In past years the parade and salute has taken place at the Town Hall on the same day as the rest of the country, at times the parade was so short that it almost went unnoticed, so the decision to combine it with the excellent and well organised fun day provided by these motorbike enthusiasts appears to be the right one. Many of the Badlanders are former members of the armed services and will often be seen visiting South Shields for the annual Service of Remembrance each November at Westoe, they spend months and months planning and organising this huge event which grows and grows each year – they are to be heartily congratulated for the sterling work that they do raising thousands of pounds for service charities each year.

As the parade entered the Bents Park the groups lined up in front of the main stage for an inspection by the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear and the Mayor of South Tyneside, this was followed by a special religious service conducted by vicar of St. Michael and All the Angels, Westoe, the Revd. Paul Kennedy, himself a former decorated serviceman. His exhortation included the ode from the moving poem by Lawrence Binyon “For the Fallen”:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The National Anthem was played by the Durham Army Cadet band.The rest of the day was spent in showing off the magnificent machines, sports and games for the children, demonstrations, and live music from local rock bands. If you would like to see pictures form the “fun” part of the day, you will need to tune in to South Shields Daily Picturesover the next few weeks. No amount of thunder or lightening was going to stop them!

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Written by curly

June 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

2012 predictions

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Welcome back my friends.

First a bit of music to cheer you all up, and may I extend a big welcome to you all as we begin a New Year in South Tyneside’s first and oldest political blog, I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that it brings some sort of cheer to you. I cannot promise that output from this desk will be any more frequent this year than it was last, a new lifestyle here leaves me a bit less time to write and my passion for photography at South Shields Daily Pictures also competes for my online time. However, with a long drum roll let’s get started with things for 2012.

National and international predictions

Financial and political pressure within the EU continue to build as a realistic solution to the Eurozone crisis fails to materialise, as referendums in Greece and Ireland  initially reject further austerity measures relating to the latest bail out plans. Calls to remove these countries from the Eurozone are thwarted as both nations are forced to hold a second vote which confirms their compliance with the Commission’s wishes. Massive unrest on the streets of Athens leads, for the first time, to a pan European peacekeeping force being deployed in Greece to keep its citizens under control.

David Cameron decides that Britain will not contribute any personnel to the new force, and further reduces Britain’s contribution to the IMF, stating that our financial problems require us to keep more of our finances at home. Nick Clegg threatens to pull the Lib-Dems out of the coalition in protest at the Conservatives outright hostility to the new EU plans designed to bring stability to the markets, however because of Labour’s weak position under Ed Miliband a combination of Tory and rebellious Labour MPs win the day in a Confidence debate in the House of Commons, thus tying the Lib-Dems into the coalition. Rebel Labour MPs claim this was the best way to ensure the total demise of Lib- Dem MPs at the next general election whilst buying more time for Labour to reorganise.

In America President Obama wins a second term, although very narrowly, after providing logistical and intelligence support to Israel when they successfully bombed a number of Iranian nuclear facilities the week before President Ahmedinijad was expected to announce the testing of his country’s first nuclear weapon.

In Russia Vladimir Putin is elected to lead the nation again, but there are strong doubts about the integrity of the elections, massive unrest in Russian cities is dealt with firmly and harshly, and following warmer than normal friendly talks with neighbouring states regarding trade agreements and energy supplies, observers begin fearing for the independence of the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) as nationalist parties there see a massive rise in popularity after the EU’s enforced austerity measures spark riots.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announces a new treaty with Iran, promising to help them rebuild the facilities destroyed by the Israelis. Increased  defence spending in the secretive far eastern state has resulted in a larger American military presence in Australia’s Northern Territory and the permanent patrol of a full battle ready US fleet in international waters close to the Korean peninsular.

China continues to be the world’s leading economy but still shows little appetite for increasing it’s spending on imports, preferring instead to produce good quality copies of foreign article for home consumption, Obama’s pleas for relaxations in China’s trade policies fall on deaf ears.

Local predictions.

The case in San Mateo County Court in California involving three South Tyneside councillors and an officer rumbles on seemingly interminably with no prospect of either a firm result and conclusion, or a commencement of proceedings in a British court. The costs of the matter are used as a political weapon during the local government elections in May.

Fifteen South Shields boys and girls attend the X Factor auditions in Newcastle but not a single one makes any progress, meanwhile late in the year Little Mix release an album to mixed reviews which does well in the charts but does not reach No. 1, fans had a liking for the new material but complained that five covers in the album were probably too many. As the year closes Little Mix prepare for their second UK headlining tour. Meanwhile Joe McElderry had released an album firmly in the dance genre after expressing disappointment over the sales of his Christmas Classics collection of cover songs, he also decided to accept the offer of a part in a West End musical and will be appearing in panto at the end of the year at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.

South Tyneside’s jobless figures continue to rise although not at the massive rate that some had feared, local employment prospects are boosted by the announcement from Nissan of their decision to build a further two new models at their massive plant in Washington.

In the local elections in May Labour takes an absolute stranglehold on local politics as virtually all opposition in South Tyneside is wiped off the map. Cllr Geraldine White loses her seat to Labour in Fellgate and Hedworth, Lawrence Nolan fails to hold Harton for the Progressives after the retirement of Jimmy Capstick, the Liberal Democrats disappear as Joe Abbot loses to Labour in Hebburn North, Labour regain Horsely Hill in a close contest as Independent Alliance councillor Gordon Finch loses his seat, in Monkton John Hodgson somehow manages to fend off Labour’s challenge with only a handful of votes to spare, Labour make it three in a row in West Park as Enid Hetherington ends the Progressive Association’s long tenure there, Labour pick up Westoe at the expense of Allen Branley, and further legal challenges ensue after Ahmed Khan narrowly loses the decision against Labour’s John Anglin in the Beacon and Bents ward of South Shields.

Labour’s only other failure on a remarkable night was in Cleadon Village and East Boldon, where Conservative Councillor Jeff Milburn retained his seat with a much  reduced majority.

Following further shop closures in King Street, South Shields, South Tyneside Council announced an updated plan for a shoppers car parking scheme which gave two hours of free town centre parking, charges would only be applied after two hours and could be refunded if shoppers were spending more than £5 with local “partner” businesses. In a further sign of Labour’s pragmatic approach to working with the coalition government council Leader Iain Malcolm announced his intention of shaving an additional £45m from South Tyneside’s spending as he intended to announce a first ever reduction in council taxes to help local people rebuild their economy by putting money back into their own pockets to spend.

On the sporting scene, South Shields Mariners are in disarray after the sale of Filtrona Park , a late season slide in form saw them narrowly avoid relegation and their future is now in serious doubt as new houses are about to be built on their former ground. Until they find a new home their existence in the Northern League cannot be guaranteed.

In the Premier League Mike Ashley showed no inclination to spend on Newcastle United during the January window, as once again he discussed the possibility of selling the club at the end of the season. The Magpies strong start to the campaign was cancelled out when striker Demba Ba suffered a serious injury, this coupled with the sales of Tiote and Krul meant that Pardew’s men had a late season loss of form which saw them end the campaign in 15th. place.

Rivals  Sunderland were boosted by the surprise arrival of a top name striker and a full back which pleased the red and white half of South Shields. Meanwhile Ryan Noble’s emergence as a Premier League threat helped Martin O’Neill cement his status as a “legend” as the team went on a strong run towards the end of the season finishing above the Magpies in 9th. place. Owner Ellis Short announced that further funds would be made available to the Irishman for the summer transfer window, once again Sunderland are considering the possibility of extending the capacity at The Stadium of Light.

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South Shields remembers her fallen.

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Remembrance Sunday in South Tyneside

As Her Majesty the Queen led the nation’s tributes by paying respect to our fallen heroes at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, here in South Tyneside a number of remembrance events took place around the borough coinciding with the televised event in London. Services were held in South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn, Cleadon Village, Whitburn Village and East Boldon where parades and wreath laying ceremonies took place. As a “Shieldsman” I was remarking with friends yesterday evening how much the popularity and feeling for our armed services has increased steadily over recent years, and this shows itself in the numbers who now attend the ceremony at Westoe Cenotaph. The recent long running conflicts in Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent Libya, have reinforced in our minds the professionalism, dedication, and ultimate sacrifice given by our armed services and we welcome this opportunity to show our respect and homage to those who never made it home.

It was a dull misty and damp morning in South Shields as the parade assembled behind the Town Hall in Westoe Road, the moisture shrouded the clock tower of the proud old building and muffled the sound of the tolling bell of St. Bede’s church, as the clock chimed at 10:30 the parade commenced led by the Harton and Westoe Brass Band to make its way up the hill of Westoe Road to the Cenotaph. The salute was taken by Deputy Mayor Cllr. Eileen Leask and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, hundreds of participants representing the armed services, veterans organisations, the Royal British Legion, and youth organisations filed past watched by an expectant crowd. Once at Westoe they were met by the Revd. Paul Kennedy, Vicar of St. Michael and All the Angels, and Father Michael Wemyss of St. Bede’s parish church who jointly conducted the ceremony. Huge crowds had gathered unperturbed by the damp chill weather to participate in a respectful two minutes silence at 11:00 am preceding a short service and the wreath laying ceremony.

Leading the tributes on behalf of the Borough of South Tyneside were Deputy Mayor Eileen Leask, Council Leader Iain Malcolm, and Chief Executive Martin Swales. Wreaths representing all sections of our community were laid and it was heart warming to see one gentleman still marching to this event and taking part on behalf of his buddies at the ripe young age of 91. As you look through these dull and greyish pictures, spare a thought for the younger generation, there were many of them there this morning, brownies, scouts, Air Training Corps, Army Cadets, T. S. Collingwood, Royal Marine Cadets, Boys Brigade and schools. They have a hunger for knowledge about our past, and many of them are now coming into contact with families who may recently have lost a loved in in conflict, or seen a relative return home bearing injuries. Remembrance Sunday is no longer just about the Great War of 1914 -18 and the Second World War, it has transcended those two dreadful conflagrations and strengthened its meaning to new generations of participants, which I hope you may discover through some of the pictures showing above.

In a week which has seen a departure from the normal political unity at this time of year, we learn that some 2000 British army personnel will remain in Afghanistan for up to 20 years training commanders of the Afghan National Army to British standards, whilst at the same time our government intends to carry on paring back the numbers of personnel who we depend upon to defend our interests. The spat between Conservatives and Labour sadly sounds a sour note when our attention ought to be firmly focussed on the welfare of armed service personnel when they are returned to civilian life, or are returned to the UK seriously injured, it is often heard that as a nation we do not treat our veterans as well as we might.

Also sadly noted, once again, was the almost total lack of opposition councillors within the civic party at Westoe, although one was seen popping into the corner shop before the parade arrived. Has Remembrance Sunday suddenly become party political or what? I know that at least one Conservative councillor was on duty today, but really……… where were the South Shields non Labour councillors as the rest of the community did its duty?

On a lighter note, you will see some leather clad lads and lasses in the pictures, your first thoughts may be that they are troublesome, or the celebrity chefs “Hairy Bikers” , in fact they are members of the Badlander’s Motorcycle Club who regularly meet in South Shields. Many of them are also members of the Royal British Legion Riders Section and they have, jointly with local Hells Angels, raised thousands of pounds in recent years for charities such as “Help the Heroes”.  Don’t be afraid to approach them at next year’s event or at their Armed Forces charity fund raiser at the Bents Park, they are a cheerful friendly bunch and a great laugh!

You cannot judge a book by its cover!

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Written by curly

November 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Fire Fox

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You know it makes sense.

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Written by curly

October 11, 2011 at 5:08 am

“Lusty” reminder of policy problems

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HMS IllustriousHMS Illustrious in quick visit.

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I was asked a few times yesterday about the “aircraft carrier” that was spotted anchored off the mouth of the Tyne as South Shields entertained thousands of visitors on a weekend dedicated to supporting Armed Forces Day. Following a small parade and presentation at South Shields Town Hall on Saturday morning there was a big presence of bikers and petrol heads at the Bents Park on Sunday as many people took advantage of rather hot and steamy weather to enjoy the seaside. The displays were quite impressive and it was pleasing to see an event organised by those who are probably more accustomed to bad press rather than being the subject of praise, however the Badlanders Motor Cycle Club and the Tyne Wear Chapter of the Hells Angels provided a variety of entertainment and bags of interest for those interested in monster machines, hot rods, heavy metal rock, vintage militaria, and generally good clean honest fun. They had live bands entertaining the crowds, lots of charity stalls, retailers, big bikes for sale, food and drink, and a car and bike show too, and the whole event was aimed at raising money for various charities with links to our servicemen and women such as Help for Heroes, Save Our Soldiers, and The Royal British Legion.

HMS Illustrious seemed to have timed her visit purposefully, but it may well have been an opportune accident of timing as she undergoes sea trials around the UK coast following a £40m refit at Rosyth. “Lusty” Illustrious is classed as a “strike carrier” but in reality she is the last remaining through deck cruiser after the decommissioning of Ark Royal and Invincible, her decks are now fitted for carrying helicopters and she will serve as the UK’s on call carrier when HMS Ocean undergoes a refit. She has been in Rosyth dockyard for the past 16 months for an overhaul which has seen her communications kit enhanced, mess areas – the crew’s living spaces – revamped, a new anti-torpedo system fitted, and has had 540,000 litres of paint (enough to fill one fifth of an Olympic-sized swimming pool) applied, including a fuel-efficient coating to her outer hull which will make her scythe through the oceans more efficiently, among other work carried out by Babcock and the ship’s company.

Above all, however, the ship emerges from refit capable of carrying up to 20 helicopters and 600 troops as an assault ship (a function she performed for real during operations in Afghanistan in 2001-02).

“This has been a challenging project, delivered to a very high standard by the joint team – on time and on budget.”

said Capt Graeme Little, of the Capital Ships team at the Defence Equipment and Support organisation.

“We approach Illustrious’ return to the navy with confidence in the significant improvements which have been made.”

After an initial week-long run-out of Rosyth earlier this month, a more thorough work-out for Lusty is now underway over the next five weeks.

She’s due in Portsmouth in late July, when she’ll be formally handed back to the Fleet.

I share the grave worries and concerns voiced by our top brass in the Ministry of Defence over our very stretched roles at present, and with two new carriers promised sometime never in the future we are left in quite a vulnerable position with one “strike (helicopter) carrier” on call at a time when the Argentinians are rattling their sabres over the Falklands again, if they had a mind to subjugate the Falkland Islanders I fear there would be little that we could do this time to relieve their plight. Worse still I cannot see our “friends” in America helping us, despite our clamour to help them out in Afghanistan!

At a time of economic restraint British military adventures need to be very carefully considered and priorities ought to be given to the defence of the realm and defence of British strategic interests, before we even think about assisting in the so called Arab Spring! These “revolutions” in the middle east have not produced exciting results either for the protagonists or the outside observers who were perhaps hoping to see the emergence of liberal democracies, even in Egypt the military seems to have worked quietly but successfully behind the scenes to get the result that they wanted. Our involvement in Libya was premature and hasty and many of us had doubts over the altruism of the original motives, it is becoming increasingly expensive for the tax payer and stretches the Royal Navy and the RAF to their absolute limits, to add insult to the current impasse we have the Prime Minister telling his Defence Chiefs of Staff that their job is to do the fighting and it is his job to do the talking! Please don’t misunderstand me, along with thousands of other South Tynesiders, I fully and unambiguously support the dedication and professionalism of our armed services when the politicians have made a decision to deploy them abroad, and I also recognise that the MOD is a big beast capable of wasting many millions of our hard earned pounds just as well as any other department, but the Prime Minister must at least look as though he is listening to what his military staff are telling him. The message they are trumpeting is that we are involved in too many campaigns at a time when the politicians are asking them to slim down the operations and the budgets, you cannot get quarts out of pint pots!

The answers to half of the current financial conundrums for our Defence Chiefs must surely be a very swift and total withdrawal from Afghanistan, regardless of the pace of the US draw down, and a lightning fast removal from Libya, in both cases we ought to make it quite clear that it is now up to the people of those countries to decide their own destinies and fates without external intervention. We have done our bit, it’s surely time for them to do theirs (if they really want that change).

A more insular policy may well be required for a while at least until the bristling of the top brass has subsided, however as the prickly Argentinians become more embroiled in robust rhetoric we at least can rely on the good Doctor Liam Fox to fight fire with fire:

“Those in politics on the other side of the world can huff and puff but it will not change our resolve politically to retain the independence and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands nor to come to their defence and to maintain deterrence as best we can.

“We have Typhoons already stationed there. We have a very clear message that we have both the naval power if necessary, and certainly an intent to ensure that the Falkland Islands are kept free and their people enjoy the liberation we fought so hard for 30 years ago.”

Those words need to be read very very carefully, he mentions political resolve but not military resolution, and he talks up deterrence “as best we can”, he talks of intent to keep the Falklands “liberated” from the Argentinians. All this with a few Typhoons and a navy that would fill the South Marine Park lake? Come on Dr. Fox, the only naval power that we might have left would be a nuclear submarine prepared to play very high stakes in an international game of poker!

Either that or the big  hearted Badlanders and Hells Angels from Tyne Wear and Durham might be enlisted to join a cargo carrier headed south to relive their glory days of 29 years ago!

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The trouble with coalitions is……

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……..they can  hardly ever tread a straight path.

In some other European countries such as Belgium and Italy, where the electoral system is forever throwing together pacts and coalitions between parties, they are used to seeing compromises, here in the UK we are more likely to call them “U-turns”. Whether its on deficit reduction, higher education, NHS reform, defence, or justice the ConLib coalition is constantly in flux with policy being driven more by the need to keep the coalition together than what might be seen as the necessities of good government.

In many respects this was to have been expected when David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats drew up their agreement last year after we failed to make a clear decisive choice at the general election, but by far the biggest flaw at the outset was the agreement manipulated by David Cameron to engineer a five year fixed Parliament. With this new restriction in place Cameron probably felt that he had a chance of carrying through most, but not all, of his party’s programme, with a few adjustments along the way. However, it is inevitable that tensions will arise within government and within the two parties making up the administration, and as one policy after another appears to the press and Opposition as being ill judged or poorly formulated detractors can (almost justifiably) point to yet another U-turn or abandonment of important party principle. During previous periods when we have had either a minority government or a government getting by with a small majority the most important opposition has come from within the ranks of the governing party keeping the executive on its toes, this is not quite so easy to achieve when two parties are involved. The other important position to note was that a major defeat for such a government in The House of Commons might lead to a new general election as the Prime Minister attempts to secure a good working majority.

David Cameron, unfortunately decided to tie his own hands behind his back with the fixed term Parliament and it would take an enormous effort from MPs to force him back to the polls, it has also tied Nick Clegg into a very tight arrangement which so far has resulted in his party becoming the whipping boys for the coalition,  some say Cameron has played a blinder! I don’t, and I see this coalition arrangement leading to weakened policy as some on the right wing of the Tories become more vociferous, and more on the left wing of the Liberal Democrats become more rebellious, “fudge” will become the flavour of the month! I would have been far happier with a much more fluid and loose voting arrangement between the parties, without Lib-Dem ministers, that would enable a Cameron government to start out along its path, with the possibility of a sooner rather than later general election to try and cement his position.

The risk of a government falling can actually strengthen its hand with its own backbenchers and fortify its survival measures. There is nothing quite like the threat of losing one’s seat to exercise the minds of those recalcitrant MPs in marginal seats (of all parties), as they huff and puff to try and blow the government off course!

The five year fixed Parliament is a classic illustration of fixing something which was not broken at the outset.

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Written by curly

June 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

David Miliband on food

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David Miliband, Colemans, South Shields

Welcome back to the MiliTV Channel, just one of a series of initiatives which I am considering to supplement my salary for being the MP for South Shields. I consider these part-time jobs as an essential duty as I do my bit to pay back part of the £1 trillion  debt that my colleagues in the last Labour government built up for you, (and yes I know, some of you are finding it difficult to get one job never mind two or three). Don’t know if you realised but it’s building up at the rate of over £7000 per second now because David Cameron and George Osborne cannot get to grips with controlling this wonderful legacy that we left for your children and grandchildren. Every employed person in the UK now owes over £34000 to pay for our wonderful thirteen years in office, and the LibCon coalition government now has to spend nearly £43 billion a year on interest charges alone, that’s more than it costs to run the Ministry of Defence!

Anyway, back to the TV show, this is Colmans in Ocean Road, South Shields’ most celebrated chippy, couldn’t make my mind up whether or not I should treat Bill Bryson to haddock and chips the other night and not sure if he likes mushy peas. I really ought to cut out these luxuries as I help to pay back the debt with extra jobs, but looking on the bright side, they do serve them up in great boxes which recycle really well.

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Rolling coalition thoughts

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Some of the “give and take” in this marriage.

For instance fixed term Parliaments, we now have the next election scheduled in for May 2015. What happens if there are recriminations within the coalition before then? How can the House of Commons assert itself if the government is seen to be acting against the will and wishes of the people? If there were a large split would the government be forced to carry on in a minority if it lost a confidence motion?

Sorry, I don’t like this. I’ve never been that keen on our governments tinkering with our constitution and I see little wrong in allowing our Prime Ministers the power to ask the Sovereign to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election at a time of their choosing, perhaps Gordon Brown regrets stretching his government out as long as possible now. The great advantage in having this ability is that Prime Ministers can put themselves to the ultimate test at times of political difficulty and national crisis, or use their judgement to determine the public mood on an important issue which has Parliament at an impasse.

I dread to think what will happen now if a future government loses the confidence of the House of Commons.

Electing the second chamber – well I guess this has been coming for some time now and it is another area fraught with difficulties. I can see some benefit if we have fixed term Parliaments and the second chamber is elected at the mid term point of the primary chamber, but please NOT both together, it would be rather pointless having a reviewing chamber of exactly the same political colour as the executive. The whole point of the second chamber is to provide additional scrutiny and give the important checks and balances that restrain the powers of government. The current and the old House of Lords had their faults and their benefits, it was  right to remove the hereditary Peers and if we are to have the equivalent of a Supreme Court it is right to remove the Judges too, there is great merit in preserving the separation of powers. However my worry now is in the quality and expertise of the members of the second house to be effective reviewers of legislation, we already have a chamber rapidly filling with the political appointees of Prime Ministers and insufficient numbers of people from other walks of life. One of the small benefits of previous constitutions of the Lords was that on any given subject one could find a smattering of acknowledged experts on the subject of debate, either because of their outside interests or because of the way in which some life peerages were appointed, this pool of talent is gradually being dissipated and I worry that it may be further weakened by an influx of politically motivated elected representatives. As a further modification of the second chamber it is probably right to propose that it’s name be changed to the House of Peers rather than the House of Lords.

A Bill to have a referendum on the Alternative Voting method – it is right to put this matter to the people, although it is not a system of proportional representation as such, it does at least offer two strong points for the future, it will give MPs greater legitimacy by ensuring that they achieve more than 50% of the votes cast in their constituencies and it further strengthens the link between a small geographic area (the constituency) and its representative. The downside is that many MPs may be regarded as “second choice” and will probably initially result in greater numbers of Liberal Democrats, this may not be a lasting effect, of course, as political parties and policies evolve, we must remember that the whole notion of proportional representation is supported by smaller parties who seem to think they have some sort of entitlement to seats and feel hard done to by our current first past the post system, yet history proves that  third parties can come through the middle to supplant those in second place – the Labour Party was a great example. A great benefit of the first past the post system is that it is direct, easy to understand, easy to administer, and generally produces quick results, it works far better when constituencies are of equal size and thus relies on bodies such as the Boundaries Commission to keep a balanced formula. It does not work so well when three parties all decide to sit in the middle of the road and fight over “the centre ground” – real choice is what we need most to make it work.

The commission to review party funding is important too and will be very interesting to see what it recommends. I have often wondered over the years what the average man in the street really thinks about large individual donations going to political parties, or large union or corporate donations for that matter. I do know of some who object to their union operating a political levy when the members have no choice over which party the levy goes to, and on the other hand  there will be many who object to a company such as Unilever donating to the Conservative Party, but does it stop them buying particular brands of washing powder? I’d love to get to a situation closer to that in the USA where Barack Obama and Ron Paul stood out for their ability to harness the internet and raise bucket loads of cash from millions of small donors, I’d love too to see a large rise in party memberships, which would be a great help in financing politics, but it will need our politicians and their parties at local level to get back to engaging more effectively with their local communities. What I DO NOT want to see is the public purse being used to finance political parties.

£6bn of cuts in this financial year – simply not enough, period! (£50bn of reductions would take our public spending back down to the levels of 2007-08 adjusted for inflation, I’m pretty sure we could manage at that level).

Raising tax thresholds above £1000 – I’m fully in favour of and wish the Conservatives had been bold enough to put this in their own manifesto, after all a low tax economy is supposed to be one of the pillars of Conservative economic thought. This move will help many low paid families and could easily be financed if George Osborne can convince the less than convincing Vince Cable to cut departmental budgets even further.

Nuclear deterrent – The Lib Dems have apparently agreed that we need to maintain our nuclear deterrent, but does this mean that we need to maintain Trident, or will the coalition go for a slightly cheaper air based system or just reduce the number of missiles or ageing submarines?

Freedom Bill – one of the most important legislative tasks of the new Parliament will be a Great Repeal Act to sweep away many of the authoritarian edicts of the Blair/Brown years introduced mainly after 9/11 and designed to keep us all under surveillance and control look after our safety. The National ID Card scheme will be scrapped for starters and it is to be hoped that many other Liberal reforms will appeal to the Conservative right. Let us hope that the dismantling of the database state and intrusive surveillance is a huge priority for the new Home Secretary. The state should be afraid of its people, the people should not be afraid of the state.

These are interesting times folks and the biggest interest to me right now is what happens at the end of this Parliament, if this coalition is a success will it fight on, or will the parties find too many idealogical grounds and go their own separate ways again? If it is a success or indeed if it proves to be vastly unpopular, which party, Conservative or Liberal Democrats, will reap the rewards or brick bats?

You would like to think that we are heading back to a golden age of Disraeli and Gladstone reform all in the “national interest”, but at some stage political interest will have to emerge, and I suspect that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are hoping to build a new two party system that might just put the Labour Party back in the position of third place, much of that will depend upon who wins the leadership battle, the Blairite David Miliband from South Shields, his brother Ed, or perhaps a figure from the left. Much also will depend upon the most important task of all, reducing the debt, balancing the budget, and moving the economy firmly into growth to produce wealth and jobs with the promise of an eventual lower tax base.

Update 13:49

This new government of David Cameron is full of surprises, Theresa May as Home Secretary, and Vince Cable NOT going to the Treasury as Chief Secretary, that post has been given to David Laws (Cable becomes Business Secretary instead), another surprise is Ken Clarke as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the return of Iain Duncan Smith is no surprise after his achievements in the social welfare field. Think I’ll keep my predictions to myself for the rest of the day.

For those wanting to read the first analytical, but personal, full scale deconstruction of the Conservative campaign during the general election Tim Montgomerie has it here, he also had it in the Guardian and aired his thoughts on radio this morning, a sure sign that Conservative bloggers will not be able to be relied upon to be as sycophantic as their Labour rivals were.

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Sulphur cloud threatens election

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Election Poster

Fall out from Clegg eruption

The Leaders Debate continues to cloud most political stories this weekend and will shape the news agenda probably until the second episode, it remains to be seen whether the Clegg effect will clear, or continue to ground the campaigns of Brown and Cameron. More time has been spent spinning the fall out since last Thursday than on the solid issues which both Labour and the Conservatives would like to put in front of us. The talk has evolved into love bombing, or simply bombing Nick Clegg, with an undercurrent of possible deals and “common ground” as preparations are more than likely being made to open “back channels” in the event of the election producing a hung Parliament where neither of the two major parties win enough seats to form a majority.

Oddly, in South Shields, there have been very few signs of the ash from Clegg’s eruption falling to ground, whilst Mr. Miliband, Mr. Kaikavoosi, Ms. Allen, and Ms. Ford have all been reported to have been active in the constituency, Mr. Psallidas would seem to be about as visible as the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano. Prime places of interest have been King Street and Harton Nook, and at least three of the candidates have been spotted in South Shields hand delivering their own leaflets.

David Miliband sees South Shields as a safe bet and has therefore been travelling around England in the past week trying to escape the Clegg cloud, he’s been to Tynemouth, Ingleby Barwick in the Stockton South constituency, Sunderland, Washington DC, Islington, Kilburn, Holborn, Bolton, Blackpool, Bury, and Southall, to name check just a few, but he will have to be back in South Shields shortly to personally thank his favourite fish and chip restaurant for decorating their place with his posters (and to buy a meal) there is also the question of a big public debate with the other candidates in St. Hilda’s Church in the Market Place on April 24th, kick off is at 7.30 pm and entry is free. Perhaps the other candidates might like to ask Mr. Miliband how many miles he has travelled since Parliament was dissolved and how many man hours he has spent campaigning in South Shields? If you get a chance to see Mr. Psallidas at the debate, try and touch him, just to see if he is course, grainy, abrasive, and likely to Clegg clog up more systems after finishing off your independent strategic nuclear defences!

I think I ought to go along, such meetings provide useful fodder for the Saturday night chugging sessions with a bunch of grumpy old men no longer fit enough to hold up the bar, so we noisily debate in a corner!

Nominations for the General Election close tomorrow, so we’ll know then whether or not further candidates will be seeking our votes in South Shields or Jarrow.

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Written by curly

April 19, 2010 at 10:27 am

So, we cannot buy as many anti-terror measures in Pakistan as we would like.

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It’s just another symptom of a bankrupt government.

What is it with all of the political hand wringing today?

Government ministers and opposition spokesmen and women all seem to be crying crocodile tears over the fact that we cannot get good value for our pounds in Pakistan. Well we can squarely lay the blame for the demise of our national currency at the door of Gordon Brown who has ruined our economy after thirteen years of unfettered spending and borrowing, and we can sneer at the apparent disjointed messages given by Brown and Baroness Kinnock respectively. Glenda bemoans the fact that Foreign Office budgets are under tight restraint, while Gordon says that:

the “crucible of terrorism” on the Afghan-Pakistan border remained the “number one security threat to the West”

Which is all rather odd considering that the Americans regard the UK as posing the worst Al Qaeda led threat in the western world. Perhaps we’d be better off spending what little money we have left on supporting our own Muslim communities in battling the radicalising of their religion, thus preventing large numbers of Britons heading off to Yemen or Somalia (for that is where the top intelligence people believe the most dangerous training camps have emerged recently).

With al-Qaeda’s leadership under intense pressure from Nato and Pakistani security forces, there are reports that scores of British activists are now travelling to Yemen and Somalia to attend al-Qaeda training camps and receive instructions for carrying out terror attacks against Western targets.

“The level of al-Qaeda activity in Britain is becoming a major source of concern,” said a senior State Department official. “The organisation’s ability to use Britain as a base to plot terror attacks constitutes a serious threat to the security of Britain and other Western countries.”

Unfortunately, we saddled ourselves with Tony Blair in 1997 who decided, for reasons still being investigated by Chilcott, to take us into a couple of wars riding along as George Bush’s partner. Blair, without realising, made Britain a target for Islamic fundamentalists by his actions and even threatens the security of the vast majority of decent average moderate British Muslims as they are psychologically profiled and generally demonised by other sections of society. After another of his Acts of Parliament strengthened the “no win no fee conditional arrangements” we find we cannot even freely talk about terror and it’s consequences in this country, freedom of speech has been seriously curtailed under Labour, and in another consequence of T.W.A.T. (The War Against Terror) we find our police forces spending their time fighting against photographers instead of misguided Islamic radicals.

All these damaging consequences arising from the so called War Against Terror are symptoms of a government bankrupt financially, strategically, and morally, they no longer command authority, are totally muddle headed, and have long passed their sell by date.

Problem is our next government is unlikely to change much in the way that we formulate our foreign policies and hang on to the shirt tails of the USA, President Obama has had a year in The White House, a year that he promised would bring “change”, there has been precious little of it, he promised he would end the war in Afghanistan, yet he has decided to do that by sending even more American troops there, and he promised to bring the troops home from Iraq within 16 months, time is fast running out on that one too. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay, yet it is still operating as his deadline looms.

Perhaps, just perhaps, with a more independent foreign policy and with a Prime Minister able to stand up to an American President, we may be able to divert more of our resources internally and not have to worry so much about the threats from abroad. Perhaps, just perhaps, with British involvement in Afghanistan brought to an end, our security at home may be much improved.

We must live in hope.

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Written by curly

January 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm