Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Seek-Locate-Destroy

Judge Judy has a phrase. If it doesn't make sense it probably didn't happen.

And that is the line I've stuck to over the Andrew Mitchell case despite the easy politics of Tory bashing.

It never made sense and as time has gone by, Mitchell's refusal to back down over use of the word "pleb" when the easiest way out for him would have been to bite his tongue and apologise struck a chord. His claims always sounded the most plausible version. Why? Because sometimes when people deny wrong-doing it is because they are actually not guilty and admitting to something they haven't done is something they will not do no matter how politically expedient.

Been there done it. I also apologise for things I have done!!!

Just because you would like something to be true doesn't mean it is yet all too often we've seen that prevent supposedly sane people from using their brains. Now it's one thing putting a gullible fool incapable of spotting a lie when he sees it on the South East Lib Dems European party list, but he isn't going to get elected so no harm done there. It is quite another when leaders of the opposition and others do the same. After all, we hope that they aren't gullible as a pre-requisite of office lest they take us into an illegal war

So, the question needs to be asked why were the lies about Andrew Mitchell not properly investigated?

We have to remember that 'Plebgate' occurred in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester shootings. The Police Federation's behaviour in using the deaths of brave police officers to prevent critical analysis of events and for their own self-interest was disreputable and if anyone should resign it's their leaders for using abusive and bullying behaviour on the back of a national tragedy to advance their own agendas.

Anyone who dared suggest that the police were on occasions laissez-faire with the actualité were smeared. 'How dare anyone question the word of a police officer?' was their stance.

Yet Hillsborough; fabricated video evidence during the miners' strike; Jean Charles de Menezes; lies over the G20 death and corrupt dealings with News International, showed that if you have nothing to hide you still have something to fear. The police have the power to deny you your liberty and, in some cases, life.

They may be comic book words but with great power comes great responsibility. That is why in a free society being critical of the police in the true sense of criticism rather than an unhealthy and negative obsession with "the pigs" is good.

Of course, the national cases get the headlines but just how widespread is police fabrication of evidence?

Here's an unreported case from Reading Crown court in September:

It involved a 130mph police chase on the M4. I only found out from someone who was in court that day (no, not the accused!) It wasn't reported because the local press have no resources to cover every case and on the face of it it was an open and shut case with little public interest.

However, during the trial three officers swore to events on oath and corroborated each others evidence. They made their statements believing that video of the incident was unavailable.

Unfortunately, a computer expert had recovered the disc and it was clear that they had colluded and fabricated their story. Disciplinary procedures are now inevitable.

The end does not justify the means. The problem is that every time this happens, ordinary officers are tarnished with the same brush. We owe a debt of gratitude to the police but to make them all out as untouchable is dangerous in a democracy.

An apology from the Police Federation may therefore be a useful first step in restoring faith in the police.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Footie Footie Footie. Ball Ball Ball.


Some of you may know that I also have an alternative platform for ranting and spleen venting. I've been a writer for The Gooner for the last 22 seasons.

 
This is a treatment for an article which may or may not appear in its pages aimed at an Arsenal supporting readership. However, it seemed that many of the themes were applicable to a non-partisan audience so I've tweaked it to be a little more circumspect.

[Update: Published on the Online Gooner website] 

Spurs Release Commemorative Video
The League Cup match against Reading threw up a whole host of questions about Arsenal's away ticket policies and those of our opponents.

 
FA and competition guidelines stipulate that 15% of tickets should be made available to away fans. In this respect Reading came in above this figure. The South Stand seats 4,350. This is 18% of capacity. So far so good.

 
Except, if tweets to the football correspondent of the Reading Post are anything to go by, Reading fans were unhappy at the number of Gooners amongst them.

 
Now I suspect if the match had finished 4-0 there would have been precious few complaints, but the following day Reading fans expressed concern and some outrage that Arsenal fans had tickets for the home areas of the ground. Some even going as far to say it could have ended in Chelsea like trouble.

 
To be fair to Reading, their home games this season have to all intents and purposes been sold out. However, if you look back to a previous League Cup round against Peterborough the attendance was 7,262. Arsenal away tickets sold out in just over an hour to away scheme members and those with enough away 'points'. I know I tried to get one. Not a hope in hell. Yet, home tickets were on sale right up until the day before the match to home fans. I could easily have gone if I had wanted to.

 
In fact, this is a text exchange I had with a Reading supporter pre-match:

 "Going to the match tonight?"
"No. Tickets in the Arsenal end sold out."
"Don't want to mix with our fans?"

 
So, on the one hand Arsenal fans are being attacked by Reading fans for buying tickets and on the other for not buying tickets!

 
At heart, there were two problems.

1)    A mismatch between away ticket availability and demand
2)    The Arsenal away points scheme.

Availability is a difficult one to address. Clearly Arsenal had the whole of the South Stand, but could probably have sold double their allocation.

 
The second problem is more of Arsenal's making – the unintended consequences of the away points scheme.

 
On the face of it, rewarding frequent attendees at away matches with priority to buy away tickets and attend cup finals seems fair. instead what happens is a self-perpetuating situation were people buy away ticket with "their" points to keep their away credits topped up, then sell their tickets to people desperate to go, who will never be able to buy away tickets in their own right because they never have enough away points. The perfect vicious circle.

 
The only way to solve this would be to ensure that every away ticket is used by the person purchasing it. This however would require an enormous amount of co-operation with the away club, who quite reasonably, once they have flogged the ticket are less inclined to worry about it.

 
Which then leaves the ordinary fan in a dilemma. Should you buy tickets for the home end or forgo the match?

 
My first Arsenal game was in the Milton Stand at Fratton Park. My friend Neil insisted on shouting “Quinn, you donkey” throughout, which thankfully Pompey fans mistook for questioning the abilities of Mickey rather than Niall. I’ve been in the home end at Leicester, Derby and also Southampton for Ian Wright’s debut hat-trick.

 
Taking your non-supporting mate or family member to a game is one of the joys of footie... although I don’t think my nephew thanks me for Arsenal v Pompey at Highbury.

 
Under current circumstances, it is a fact of life. A sale is a sale and 99% of people are there to watch football.

 
The answer is simple. Show some respect. If you wear colours expect to be shown the door and don't complain about it.

 
But on the other hand, segregation of fans is historically a recent phenomenon. Chill out. We’re all not Chelsea fans!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Time Warp

Watching TOTP 1977 was a strange reminder that it was only 6 months until the release of 'Killing An Arab'.

If you want to blame anyone for the way I turned out, it's all the fault of The Stranglers and The Goodies!

I believe this was the Barron Knights... pure genius :-D

Is this your real wife?
She's very fat you see
Look at her corsets
'Cos they're filled to capacity

Mama, you could kill a man
If you sat upon his head
He would very soon be dead

Mama, you're so overweight
And when you walk
You leave it all behind

I see you stuffing cream cakes and jam
In your mush, in your mush
Oh, where did that meringue go?
Marzipan and icing
Stuff it down like lightning

On a scale (like a whale)
On a scale (like a whale)

Monday, 20 August 2012

WasWasEre’s Reading Festival Guide.

This post has proved more popular than I expected so I have moved it to its own page.

My Reading Festival guide is now off blog away from my dubious rants which most of you won't be interested in ;-)

http://waswasere.blogspot.co.uk/p/festival-guide.html


I'll add a record of any updates I make to the guide in this post.

Added:
  • Details of Reading Post pull-out [210812 12:10]
  • Added Earley station travel hint [210812 13:54]
  • Added banned items list [220812 0939]
  • Added Friday stage times [230812 1858]
  • Added Saturday stage times [240812 11:00]

Monday, 23 July 2012

Open Mouth. Insert Feet.

Originally I was disappointed when John Hartley found himself in the 5 items or fewer lane in Waitrose and unceremoniously dumped from the Cabinet but in retrospect Jan Gavin is the gift that just keeps on giving and far more entertaining to scurrilous persons like myself.

The lead councillor for U-turns just can't help putting her foot in it and she has managed to do it once again in spectacular fashion over the University and Hospital Area study.

Jan's unhealthy obsession with fellow councillor Daisy Benson is well documented and now the town's most grammatically challenged lead councillor (and that takes some beating with John Ennis in post) has put on her most school-marmy tone in admonishing her fellow councillor by calling her a "naughty girl".

Denigrating female politicians is a modus-operandii for someone who attacked Daisy for being a bit "blonde" but what was @cllrdaisybenson's error this time? Why repeating what officers had told her that the painting of parking bays would result in a reduction of spaces in a given street. How do I know they said this? Because I was in the meeting when they did!

In fact, Zelda has a habit of attacking people on Twitter. Anyone who dares criticise her omnipotence gets the hairdryer treatment... and the local residents don't like it much. Labour are discovering that she is a liability and exposed their complete dearth of talent.

As well as being dyslexic, Jan is also dyscalculic. One tweet from her suggested that 50% of residents were in favour of a residents parking zone and that Daisy would have been aware of it if "only" she spoke to residents. Well, the actual facts are that 89% of residents didn't respond which means that only 5% were in favour of a residents parking zone... 61% under the number that I was told that Highways would accept before even considering one. Residents should be thankful. Labour have acted before on less than 5% backing.

I guess Cllr Benson was unlucky in speaking to the other 95% of residents. How unlucky can you get. Perhaps in truth it's Jan who needs to get out more ;-)

But it looks like Cabinet will be entertaining this year. Tony Page would literally roll his eyes in meetings when ever Zelda came out with another of her focus group ideas. He's not a big fan.

I'm looking forward to more this year from the gaffe prone lead councillor, not content with blabbing out Labour's hidden agenda. She really can't help sticking both feet in her mouth at the same time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Green with Envy

For decades Labour's approach to community politics has been to use public money to further their political strangle hold on minority communities. Instead of each according to need it is to each according to how many votes can be delivered to the ballot box.

Tony Page said as much when awarding RCRE money last year when he urged a charity to illegally ask its members to vote Labour and directly linked it to the handing out of council cash. It is on public record. It is never about value for money or what is best for Reading. It has always been about what has been best for Reading Labour Party.

Their latest wheeze is to interfere in the Green Road mosque to put their placemen back in control of local Asian politics. It's probably too complex to broach in a single blog post, but the evidence is overwhelming... if only the Asian community wasn't too scared to speak out publically about it.

The whole range of issues related to the Green Road mosque and the internal conflict between the Alexandra Road and South Street mosques is impossible to simplify, but if you think Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen was an awkward moment for both, then that is nothing on internal Asian community politics in Reading. We're talking Ian Paisley giving The Pope a peck on the cheek territory. It's time to recognise that they are irreconcilable and that for the council to conclude a commercial deal is in the best interests of community relations and council tax payer.

But to condense a complex matter into a more succinct scenario, the question that people should be asking is why does a municipal authority demand to have a politically appointed trustee on a mosque board? Why indeed! The answer to that is at the very heart of the matter.

Quite simply, the continued interference of the Reading Labour Party using council cash in local Asian politics is a disgrace and many of the local Asian community are appalled by this but are too scared to make a stand against certain elders who are in Labour's pocket.

The bottom line is that a borough council should not be directly involved in religion or its organisations and Labour has compromised the impartiality of officers by abusing council finance for political gain.

The Green Road mosque has planning permission. It doesn't need a complex trust arrangement. My concerns about traffic and parking were taken on board and from a planning point of view I was happy that the location was sutainable and that a green travel plan was going to work. There is no reason why a fully commercial transaction could not be done and the mosque built. If that involves just the Alexandra Road mosque moving, then so be it. There is a clear wider community gain from that happening.

There should be no political interference in a religious organisation by the council. either a deal is good for residents or it isn't. The Green Road mosque forago stinks and Labour's behaviour is harming community relations both from the internal divisions it is creating within the Asian community and anger at a perception of preferential treatment from without.

Get politics out of religion. And get council back handers out of Reading politics.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Keeping Council

Much as I enjoyed being a councillor, the view from the other side of the public gallery is much more amusing.

The panicky U-turn by Labour over their proudly announced Park and Ride schemes seems to have also knocked on the head the University and Hospital Area Study which, in any case, I've always suspected was an excuse by the Highways department to roll out parking meters into residential areas.

However, after their one-way IDR, Rose Kiln Lane and Shinfield Road fiascoes Labour seems to have adopted a turkeys not voting for Christmas mentality so I suspect it will now be quietly shelved. As the strength of feeling around the Park and Rides showed, messing around with parking is a dangerous game in local politics.

That's so well understood that when I was asked about getting a new residents' parking scheme in Katesgrove, I was told by Highways that they wouldn't even consider going out to consultation unless I could prove more than 66% support from residents. Based on figures from when I was a councillor, the council has had nowhere near even a 50% response rate from residents in the university area let alone support, so the smart money after their climb down on the Park and Rides is they will scrap any changes.

Unless they really are so desperate for the cash to pay for their increased spending that they will introduce parking meters against residents wishes anyway.

But the most entertaining part of the meeting for the masses in the public gallery was not the U-tum. It was watching Jan Gavin land her group in it again. If only she had kept her mouth shut. Liking the sound of your own voice is dangerous if you have nothing to say.

An innocuous Lib Dem amendment to Labour's Programme asking them to make a commitment to not close any Libraries and Children's Centres looked to be being quietly buried with the usual tribal "foolish Lib Dems" put downs... until the Cabinet member with too much time on her hands decided to blurt out Labour's real plans.

It was like winding up a clockwork toy and letting it go. An angry "We are looking to rationalise", "Of course we can't guarantee not closing services", "We're looking at other ways to deliver" and "I'm not wedded to bricks and mortar" was as clear an indication as there could be without actually naming them that there is an asset stripping exercise going on which curiously didn't make it into Labour's Programme.

Labour's problem is that they have reinstated schemes that steal from the poor to give to the rich and lost the savings that were required to protect those services. Of course they can't guarantee them. They have cynically determined that making unnecessary cuts to these services can be blamed on the national government.

But a single failure to engage brain before mouth has undone any hope they had of keeping it quiet.

Once the foolish cabinet member with too much time on her hands had placed both her feet in her mouth, we saw furious back-peddling from Jo Lovelock shrieking slightly hysterically about Lib Dem 'scaremongering'. Well Jo, you could have squashed that on the spot by saying categorically that Labour would not close any Libraries or Children's Centres. You didn't. Simples.

I suspect that means Janet Gavin is going to have so spend the next Cabinet meeting sitting in the naughty chair now that Jon Hartley no longer occupies it.


[Update] It would appear from her own tweets that Cllr Gavin has fled the country to escape the wrath of her own party!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Vote Early Vote Often

So what was getting the politically active all wound up this weekend? Yes, that a dog won Britain's Got Talent.

Ashleigh and Pudsey's win has animated the Internet with cries of woe from politicos from the amateur to the professional. "It's the end of democracy" is the cry as across the country smug political tweeters contrasted the dismal local election poll turn out with the public vote for a throw away ITV programme, as if they were individually the only ones who were capable of identifying the correlation.

What would the politicoistas want Britain to have concerned themselves with?
  • A few hundred protesters trying a Top Gear style camping holiday in the City of London.
  • Getting over excited about their Internet messages being kept.
  • The deleterious impact of religion on society and sniggering at God being dog spelled backwards (a specious point as everyone knows the Supreme Being is called Tac).
  • The demise of the real ale pub (up yours lager drinkers)
  • Stopping 800 people wandering around Westminster with a dead stoat wrapped around them.
  • Calling for <insert name of politician here> to resign, accompanied with harrumphing and mock outrage (although if everyone resigned when Ed Miliband demanded it rather than waiting for evidence, the country would be being run right now by Ashleigh and Pudsey as there'd be no-one left).
Some of these I actually do think are serious issues and I have spent my time campaigning on but here's the real lesson to politicians at any level - THE PUBLIC DOESN'T GIVE A RAT'S ARSE!

Whilst wannabe politicians continue to ride their own personal hobby horses then don't expect to engage with the electorate. THEY DON'T CARE. Do it in your spare time as a hobby and get out there and talk to people, not your ego reinforcing chums, about what really matters to them... like jobs, their children's education, whether their bins are collected on time.

What this weekend has shown is that the British public LIKES voting. It is up to anyone serious about serving the public to give them a reason to.

If you don't. it is not the fault of the public if they prefer to vote for a dog. IT'S YOURS!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Chucking Stones in Glass Houses

The Conservatives seem to be getting their knickers in a bit of a twist as the once sure footed Richard Willis [Are you sure? Ed] loses his grip on events.

In case anyone missed it, Rob Wilson made sure that Richard Willis's plea to Peppard residents to check the addresses of their candidates was not going to be ignored by retweeting it.


Anyone following official Reading East Conservative Association advice will, thanks to him, discover that the Tory former Labour supporting candidate, er, doesn't live in Peppard - she lives in Thames ward. Yep, instructing residents to check addresses was spectacularly dumb.

Now you might think that was as dumb as it could get but it seems that the rarefied air north of the river is seriously affecting our Reading East MP's judgement. Fresh from giving his boss a full vote of confidence (duh!) Rob Wilson then tweeted about the Tories' Thames ward candidate.


"local conservative"? Really? Ed Hopper so loves Thames ward that he has relocated to Park ward. You can't get more local than that! Well, apart from the Tory candidate who lives in Sonning.

Now there is nothing wrong with a candidate not living in the ward they represent, as whatever the politics involved it is impossible to say that Tony Page and Daisy Benson have not been effective ward councillors. The problem arises if you predicate your ward campaign on having a local candidate and they ain't. Local Tories must have a screw loose!

[However, no party compares to the "Common Sense" party who has put up a Arborfield resident as their candidate in Church ward. Now that really is disrespecting the electorate].

But this is just indicative of the local Tories own little omni-shambles.

The cancelling of the ward surgery Readibus was a particular giggle. The one remaining Tory in the now Independent Republic of Peppard presumably would have been severely embarrassed if it had gone ahead given his record of turning up for previous surgeries. Far better for it to be cancelled than have no Tory councillor present, eh?

And then there's the war breaking out about who did what and when. The remaining rump of Peppard Tories have now claimed credit for the "Budgen's Tidy Up" scandal. Except it's quite clear from reading the history of it on the various web sites that the people who actually did the work last May were the now independent councillors!

Of course, the current Tory fiasco is firmly the responsibility of Rob Wilson who is the prime mover behind the series of unfortunate events.

Interfering in the local election campaign might just be a welcome distraction for Rob to take his mind of events at Westminster. He's been trying to climb the greasy pole since first being elected but seems to have hitched his fortunes to a dead donkey.


The next question will be after one high profile casualty will he drop the dead donkey or try to stick it out.

This week Rob Wilson launched another jobs fair. What are the chances that he'll be a visitor next time?

Cycle-gate

Keen followers of Reading politics would have been listening to the election debate on The Andrew Peach Show so the majority of those who aren't keen followers of Reading politics may have missed this...

"As a cyclist myself. I cycled here this morning..." Rob White, The Andrew Peach Show 23/04/2012

Or maybe not!

Perhaps it was a completely different Rob White to the one who left his bike at the bottom of Peppard Hill and got a lift back from the studio to it in Jo Lovelock's car.

Ah, the price of the Lab/Green pact. Rob needs to learn the biggest lesson in politics is not to get caught!

Sounds suspiciously like reports from Park residents who mentioned a rather odd occurance in 2010 where Green deliverers got out of a car picked up some cycle helmets and then went round the corner to start delivering leaflets.

Don't mention the car!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Bringing Expense to Account

Here's an interesting thing... whilst out delivering Lib Dem election leaflets in an unnamed ward today we came across a dedicated set of deliverers shipped in from Oxford who told us that they'd been paid to deliver local election leaflets for one of the parties.

Now I couldn't possibly comment on who it might have been... but here's the thing, we know and we asked for the name of the company they were working for. I'll be informing the Returning Officer and I will be expecting this expense to be itemised and declared on this year's election returns.

To be above the minimum wage the cost of delivery must be above £45 per 1,000 and that's without adding a profit margin. A ward is about 3,000-5,000 households so a single whole ward leaflet delivery would cost at least 20% of the allowable election expenditure.

I would suggest that all candidates of whatever party check with their supporters across town and ask politely as we did anyone delivering an election leaflet to see if this is a widespread practice and get an idea of how much is actually going on. A genuine supporter would be more than happy to tell you that they are doing if in their own time for nowt.

Volunteers delivering is free and doesn't need to be declared. Paid delivery does.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

When in a Hole... Stop Digging!

Oh dear... the growing list of Labour councillors and candidates who have repeated what appears on the face of it to be a breach of Section 106 of the Representation of the People's Act 1983 seems to be growing rather than diminishing. I make it that the following have reprinted their agent's letter defaming the Church Tory candidate:
  • Tony Jones - now deleted
  • Jan Gavin
  • Rachel Eden
[ If anyone would like screen prints or to report more, drop me a line :) ]

And of course... there is always their Peppard candidate who doubles as their agent, who actually wrote the letter and who would be the person to face the full might of the law (actually if I'm honest, I don't think he did... it has all the hallmarks of Pete Ruhemann who I know from a leaked email wrote the libel about my candidate in 2010).

That is if the Tories aren't too busy slitting each other's throats to inform the police.

What could someone guilty of conviction of an illegal practice face?

(5) Subject to the provisions of section 174, a candidate or other person reported by an election court personally guilty of an illegal practice shall for five years from the date of the report be incapable of being registered as an elector or voting at any parliamentary election or at any election to a public office held— .
(b)if the offence was committed in reference to an election under the local government Act, for or within the local government area for which the election was held or for or within any constituency or local government area wholly or partly within the area of the first-mentioned local government area as constituted for the purposes of the election.

Then there is the fine and a criminal record for those found guilty.

What is especially amusing is that no-one has accused anyone of being racist, yet we've seen twitter alive with Labour's chums leaping to the defence of an imaginary accusation... e.g:
@muckspReading @CllrSarahHacker is no racist, she's the amazing godmum to my beautiful mixed race children and also my dear friend #rdg
No-one ever said she was... or indeed any member of the local Labour party. What they have been accused of as a local party and not individually is employing dog whistle tactics. You don't need to be a user of incontinence pads to create an advert to market them.

As I've said before, it all faux horreur. They've been caught. They don't like it.

One of... Who Exactly?

Tonty Jines is one of the two Labour candidates claiming on Labour's dog whistling leaflet to be "one of us".

But ignoring that particularly dubious aspect of Labour's local election campaign, it made me wonder just how much the self-proclaimed man of the people can justify that claim. As the South East Regional Manager for Unison, just how much does he feel the pain of the working class?

I have no idea what his actual salary is or his domestic arrangements and nor do I claim to know but these are publically available figures for similar job roles at Unison.

The advertised salary for a Unison regional manager, £49,151[1]
Annual Subsistance Allowance, £2,429[2]
Company Car Benefit, £3,360[3]

I don't know if being Regional Head of Local Government for the South East of England carries additional salary or whether it counts as being part of the job. However, the methodolgy used for arriving at a ball-park figure is not unfair or unreasonable. It gives a notional salary of £55k which is more than twice the national average earning figure.

Perhaps the "one of us" he uses refers to the poor oppressed paying the 40% tax rate. It would explain a lot.



[1] http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=7618 Regional Manager Wales
[2] http://www.unison.org.uk/jobs/jobsnews_view.asp?did=7420 Figure quoted is for a junior role because there is no amount given in Regional Manager job specs.
[3] http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/cars.htmAssuming £14,000 list price

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Not One of Us?

Yet more evidence that the Labour Church leaflets were a "special" edition. Spot the missing phrase....


Or are Labour suggesting that Tony Page is also not worthy of being classed as "one of us"?


Tony Jones appears to be frit. For some reason he has deleted the letter sent by Labour to Alison Swaddle that he proudly posted on the 8th April. Of course, nothing truly disappears from the internet. For those of you who missed it, here it is:

A strong voice in Redlands and Reading.pdf (146.55 kb)

This file is reproduced purely in the interest of reporting the news.

Defame, I Want to Live Forever

It would seem that Labour have stuck themselves with a liability this election after a letter between the Labour agent for Church Ward and Alison Swaddle was published on a candidate's blog.

It contains the usual outrage and bluster you expect from Labour. In it they appear to deliberately ignore the fact that you cannot libel a political party. We have a House of Lords decision in 1993 to thank for that. You would have thought that was a topic covered on Labour's agent training sessions.

Or maybe they know about the ruling but deliberately ignore that inconvenient fact for the purposes of perpetuating their bullying tactics.

Likewise, genuinely held opinions and comments during an election are perfectly permissible and guidance from the Electoral Commission reinforces that. If someone thinks the local Labour party has put out a dog whistle leaflet, then they are entitled to hold that opinion. If Labour supporters are of the opinion it's a smear, they are entitled to that opinion. It is not libelous to hold either of those opinions. On the other hand, accusing an individual of racism would be a different matter. As far as I can see, no-one has. Labour's threat to sue the Tories for libel est donc un canard mort.

But Labour couldn't help themselves and not only crossed the line in their reply but took a long running jump to clear it. You see, whilst libel is a civil matter, deliberately defaming a candidate by making a false statement is a criminal act, can result in a criminal record for the agent and those making the false statements, fines and see the results of an election being voided.

This is the point where they went too far:

"In Church, your candidate Azam Janjua is a political turncoat who previously represented the ward as a Labour councillor until he was disowned by the Labour Group following allegations of misconduct."

The sequence of events is wrong. In their letter it's Member-Disowned-Defected when actually it was Member-Defected-Disowned. It's an important distinction because it provides a reason for them to wish to attack him personally with unproven allegations.

Even so, maybe it is true to say that Cllr Janjua was "disowned" by the Labour group, because you would expect a party to disown a defecting member. Where they seem on the face of it to have broken the law is by linking it directly to allegations of misconduct, allegations which only surfaced after his defection. By linking it with unproven allegations they are implying guilt with the sole aim of defaming him to the electorate.

Except Labour have never presented any evidence to back up their whispering campaign. They have only ever spoken about it in the council chamber where reporting is covered by qualified privilege. Vikki Lloyd has not to my knowledge made any public statement or reported anything to the police, neither has the Labour Party.

So we are left with:

1) Something did happen and Labour covered up a criminal act in their offices by someone who was then a member.
2) They required something to smear Cllr Janjua with after his defection and cobbled together a bogus story which explains why they never went to the police.

In the absence of any report to the police and the failure to provide even a shred of evidence to back up their accusation, we are left with only the one conclusion that this is a clear attempt to defame an election candidate which is contrary to section 106 of the Representation of the People's Act 1983.

106 False statements as to candidates.
(1)A person who, or any director of any body or association corporate which— .
(a)before or during an election, .
(b)for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election, .

makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, the statement to be true.

Reasonable grounds would not be demonstrated by "Such-and-such told me" because that would make Mr. Such-and-such guilty of defamation and himself the subject of criminal proceedings by spreading the defamation in the first place. To uphold the assertion they have made by seeking to link disowning with misconduct would require actual evidence to be produced. They have said on many occasions that they have it.

So let's see it.

The act of publishing their agent's letter now leaves the Labour agent and members repeating it open to criminal action. The question is then raised as to whether their candidates were aware of this apparent lie. One of them by publishing it seems to think it is true.

For years the Reading Labour Party have been guilty of lying to the electorate on their leaflets. They published a knowingly false statement about my candidate in 2010 and relied on knowing that I didn't have the money to pursue them. On that occasion it was a civil matter constituting libel. However, this time they have ventured into criminal territory. Not a smart move.

In 2010 my candidate, along with the Tories and Greens signed a clean campaign pledge. Only one party refused to sign it... no prizes for guessing. After the election Naz Sarkar personally apologised for the nasty nature of his campaign. He wasn't steeped in the traditions of the Reading and District Labour Party so I think it is fair to say that he was a decent person duped by the local nasties and was genuinely embarrassed by what was being said in his name.

As I understand the law, the Conservatives need to inform the returning officer and report the committing of an offence under Section 106 of the Representation of the People's Act 1983 to the police for investigation.

I hope they do. It's time these bullies were stopped.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Calling Your Name

Of course, one of Labour's defences over mounting evidence of their use of "dog whistle" tactics is that they are using common phraseology that they apply to all their candidates.

So compare and contrast, if that truly was the case, in what should be very similar leaflets, their candidate calling cards...

Church Ward

Battle Ward

One of them is about a candidate who lives on the other side of town from the ward they seek to represent, who has no track record in that ward and who is standing against an Asian candidate who does live in the ward and is far more entitled to use that phrase in its neutral form. It is why using "one of us" was so incongruous and stood out like a sore thumb.

The other Labour calling card is for an Asian candidate who actually lives in the ward and therefore its use would be perfectly natural and corroboration that people are whipping up a storm in a tea-cup. Except it is notable by its complete absence.

In fact Labour have also used it on the leaflets of another white candidate where they are targeting a council estate. Expect a panic use of the phrase on a rushed out leaflet to support their Battle candidate in a belated attempt to diffuse the situation and sweep it off the election agenda.

Now no-one is accusing Labour themselves of being either racist or homophobic. I'm also sure that we'll get the "but we have Asian and gay candidates" line parroted by their supporters. But this isn't about credentials, it is about a willingness to pander to prejudice. That has been demonstrated by their actions last year and their actions this year certainly on the balance of probabilities if not also beyond reasonable doubt.

For Labour, the end really does justify the means.

But it's too late. You've been caught. It is despicable.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

A New All Time Low

I'm amused by Labour denying their "One of us" leaflet is overt racism. I won't repeat it here because it has been well covered elsewhere. But their faux horreur is quite laughable.

Labour doth protest too much. The old walks like a duck, quacks like a duck axiom comes into play.

Labour's problem is that they have form when it comes to dog whistling. You see, last year their supporters spread slurs designed to damage Lib Dem candidates which were homophobic and prejudiced in the extreme and, although as you will see not confined to, they concentrated on spreading it the Asian community where they thought it would have the greatest effect.

How do I know? One of their supporters asked me whether what he had been told was true. I thought it was an isolated incident until I spoke to one of the Lib Dem candidates. This is his blog entry describing what happened to him:

1.  Someone knocked on the door of a person I know and whilst talking, they were asked if they realised that the Lib Dem Candidate was gay.  The person refuses to tell me which party knocked on their door.
 2.  Whilst delivering in Whitley, a resident informed me that she had something through the door and ‘knew all about me’ and showed me a limp wrist.  Rather meekly and embarrassed, I just turned away.
 3.  On two separate occasions, I have caught a taxi home and been told that the Lib Dem Candidate was gay.  On both occasions I found myself being unable to pass comment.
 4.  There were also comments made about me on the Get Reading website which gave web links to one of my Drag websites.  The interesting fact is that the URL used was one that pointed from my personal facebook page which also has privacy settings.  Needless to say, I removed all political
contacts from my friends to prevent further leakage.

In my case, I responded to their supporter by refusing to discuss it but I told him that making slurs like that against candidates was illegal and asked who was spreading these things... "Oh, all the taxi drivers are telling people."

So we are asked by Labour to believe that it is a complete co-incidence that two independent sources cited the taxi drivers as spreading homophobic comments about candidates. It was clearly a widespread tactic and only one party was set to benefit. Labour's links to the taxi association are well documented.

I remember last year saying that it was the most disgusting thing I'd come across in politics. Maybe I was too hasty. Reading Labour always seem to have the capacity to exceed expectations and plumb the depths.


I also have a question that needs to be answered by one of their candidates. However, I will wait until after the election before demanding an answer because I expect them to win their ward and it would so much more fun if we had a resignation before the annual meeting of the council.

The very best that Labour can hope to get away with is it being common knowledge that they turn a willing blind eye to the conduct of their supporters. Already I know of one case of untrue comments being made on the doorstep about a Lib Dem candidate. Dog whistling is their mode of operation. I just didn't think they'd be arrogant or stupid enough to actually put it on a leaflet.

I hope the Labour agent on the Church leaflet wasn't poor old Dun-Quay. I don't think he'll last long in prison.

[Yes, I've edited this. Don't blog when incensed!]

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

City of the Future

I could say I told you so, but I won't. It would be disrespectful to those who put in a lot of time and effort into the bid and certainly I think Reading CIC did a great job. I have no issues about their running of the bid and a lot of positive things will have come out of it.

What was dangerous in a lot of the talking up of the advantages of city status was that it would enhance the position of the town in getting international recognition. And the danger of advocating that angle is presumably the message given out by failing is that Reading isn't worthy of investment so move to Chelmsford. You can't have it both ways.

In any case, to argue that global corporations make decisions based on ceremonial words written on a piece of paper rather than cold hard facts is either naive or misdirection to cover up the underlying flaw in the application. Reading simply isn't big enough.

Reading is only 118th by population in the list of English authorities. It's a town, with the characteristics of a town... but I'm proud to live in this town. There's nothing wrong with a town.

On the otherhand, I'd be fully behind any bid that tried to resolve the ludicrous boundaries that were part of the political carve up of Berkshire County Council. A campaign for a Greater Reading and city status for it would have my full backing. Reading with Lower Earley, Woodley, Calcot and outer Tilehurst would be unstoppable in any future competition.

Let's see if those declaring their "disappointment" at losing will now rally behind the creation of Greater Reading. It will certainly show whether they are serious about city status or whether their words in the Council chamber were simply political preening.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Park Life

We'll it's unoffical. News has leaked out that Labour are not planning to contest Park ward as a target and have effectively handed it to the Greens. This is no surprise to my loyal reader or the more regular visitors who come here hoping for comments they can report me for making because I have suggested it here before. However, this time I have second source confirmation rather than relying on whispers and analysis.

It is a big leap for them. Park was the power base for Martin Salter and giving it up is symbolic, but it is also a hard nosed piece of political business.

Some may speculate that this is part of some pre-election deal, but I think it is simpler than that.

The Greens have proved themselves so irrelevant to Labour by completely failing to understand how the council actually functions that the simple calculation is that moving their election resources to other wards is a better use of their activists. In short, although Labour view the Greens as completely untrustworthy (as expressed by certain people at their General Committee meeting after last year's local elections and echoed in private since), they have also made the calculation that they are also irrelevant to Labour running the council.

At the last election this was Labour's prority list (in order):
Targets
Park
Redlands
Church
Katesgrove
Minster

Holding
Southcote
Whitley
Norcot
Battle
Abbey

Token
Kentwood
Tilehurst

Nothing
Caversham
Thames
Peppard

Whilst there will no doubt be some Labour activity in Park, the big change is that Caversham has leapfrogged it in terms of their target wards and I'm expecting significant spend there by them this election.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Dirty Underwear

The murky world of local politics is something that most people are fortunate in avoiding but tremendous fun for those who like to keep their ear to the ground and a long running saga seems to have developed a life of its own despite attempts by their national party to suppress things.

It's seems it no longer good enough to want to serve the community. A williness to shaft members of one's own party to consolidate a power base is an absolute prerequisite nowadays so news that internal shenanigans continue after an HQ investigation comes as no surprise.

We all know about the investigation because it was revealed in the local press. However, the rules of not washing their dirty linen in public meant that a whitewash was expected and the offical report didn't disappoint.

Except, in the light of at least one resignation from a local party position, something is clearly not all what it seems. After all, the public report had the two warring factions kissing and making up and promising to work together for a shared vision. So why need for a resignation?

That seems to have a lot to do with a second unpublished internal report which was highly critical of certain people. Those people didn't like the second report and took umbrage. Cue flounce out. I hear that the evidence of one senior local politico was deemed to be "unreliable" and discounted.

As we get closer to the local elections, attempts to draw a line under things seem to have failed. News of further ongoing problems look set to have a significant influence on the results.

For example, I've heard that some individuals have been accused of leaking information to members of another party. What's funny is that some of the names bandied about as the miscreant are so wide of the mark that it makes satirising it pointless. Both factions have accused each other of blabbing and both the accusations were untrue!

Further, it would seem that some members were "encouraged" to make up accusations of discrimination which is likely to blow up in their faces.

Matters have taken a turn for the worse after that accusation of discrimination was apparently reported to the police. Not a good idea. Once the police are involved, the Crown Prosecution Service takes a dim view of wasting police time.

Will we see an escalation this side to the election? Will we get collateral damage to senior national party names. Oh, I hope so!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Green Budgie

I think we're about to see the most dishonest budget proposal put to the electorate for many a year.

No. Not Labour's one. It's the Green bid to increase council tax!

That's some going when it comes to that accolade. Labour's 12 year budget record saw the council budget rocket by three times the rate of inflation and there were plenty of reasons to disagree with what they did but at least they knew what they were doing.

Filled with fire and brimstone (or more likely Dosa from Cafe Madras) Rob White declared war on Labour at the Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to understand the first thing about setting council budgets and has resorted to filling in the figures of a generic Green Party press release.

For starters, year on year reduction of costs is normal. You renegotiate contracts, do things in a better way, so the Green budget is for waste and inefficiency. And you know you are seeing the wool pulled over your eyes when you see the use of the dodgy insurance sales pitch "for only 87p a week". Why not be transparent and just say an extra £45 a year? It's budgeting à la wonga.com.

And their argument that an increase is okay because the poor get council tax rebates beggars belief. You know why the poor get council tax relief? It's because council tax is too bloody high. Oh. who pays for this relief? The council tax payer. Using the Green economic logic we should put up council tax by 1000% because then only the really really rich will pay it and the rest of us will all get council tax relief! Yay!

But that's not why I chuckle at their amateur half hour economics...

Their claim that 3.5% is "a lot less than inflation" is a giggle. It is if, like the Greens, you think a lot equals 0.1%. But they are being also far more dishonest than that.

The Bank of England has forecast that by the time the Green's 3.5% council tax rise would be implemented in April, it will be an above inflation increase.

In their published figures, the Green's "below" inflation increase is predicted to be twice the rate of inflation that it will be this time next year.

So if we believe their own press release that they "understand these are difficult economic times" and the Green's would set another "below" inflation rise then next year they wouldn't get their 3.5% increase, it would be 1.8%.

Under those circumstances the total extra revenue raised would be £1.97m not the £5.64m they claim.

But if the government doesn't give council's a zero percent grant in 2013/14 and a non-Green council puts council tax up by inflation only then if you recalculate the council would actually LOSE £190,000!


That means that the Greens would have no choice, despite what they say, they would be forced to set a two year above inflation increase.

Rob was pretty clear at cabinet. They don't like the Labour budget. Not just disliked, they have strongly denounced it.

So will we see them waggle their arms and legs in the air over the budget? We heard last May of how much the Green's were going to hold the council to account and have seen precious little evidence of it so far. Are they going to stick to their guns and hold out for their council tax increase?

After all they say Labour's budget is "unacceptable". That language can only mean one thing if they are not to let down their electorate. Voting any other way would be a betrayal of their principles which they have been at pains to tell to the press about this week.

Or are we going to see them walk mmeekly into the Labour group room and roll over.

I know what I'm betting on!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Tangled Webs Part 217.

The latest Katesgrove Banner is out!

Now here's a funny thing. The Tesco Express story has no reference to his writing in, successfully obtained or any of the other things Matt Rodda has claimed in the past to have done and defended in the press with such vigour.

I look forward to the Planning Inspectorate's investigation of his accusing them in the Reading Post letters page of maladministration .

And the 'To Let' sign Rose Williams is standing next to, er isn't there! That was pointed out to me by a neighbour.

Kerbside Parking - Taxing the motorist? So Labour scrapped it after the election, did they? Cobblers, the plans were "scrapped" before the election when Labour councillors refused to consult with residents over which streets should be exempted. Oh, and Labour intend to introduce the fines in Tilehurst. They'll introduce them in Katesgrove. And parking meters across the town. I bet they won't put that on their leaflets.

As for Lib Dems taxing the motorist, Labout have increased the revenue they expect from bus lane fines to an eye-watering £1.4m, up an extra £1/2m whilst also refusing to change the misleading signs. No conflict of interest there.

And the reinstating of extra visitor permits? I did that before the election. I have the email from Richard Willis, the former Lead Councillor for Transport, to prove it.

Can't fault their Kennet Arms campaign... jump on a pre-existing residents' campaign and pretend it's theirs. Classic Labour. The residents don't like it though.

Labour taking credit for the Crown Street lay-by for the Tesco Express in London Street? That was approved at TMAP on 13th January 2011... when if I remember rightly, Labour weren't in power.

He's probably got the local papers to send their photographers to Southampton Street to claim credit for the long standing Lib Dem campaign to demolish the derelict buildings and create a community garden there. I welcome the return of the never drunk bottle of Labour bubbly to the Chronicle picture pages.

The local Labour Party are beyond satire. Long may it continue!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Cold Tuna Call

Now that was a wierd call. number withheld but obviously from a call centre.
"Hello, I'm from the Industrial Workers Organisation. I have information that a member of your household has worked in industry before."
"No. I'm a web developer."
"What's that?"
"Someone who develops web sites."
"Is there anyone else in your house who may have worked in industry."
"Only my cat"
"What industry was that?"
"Tuna eating."
"How many tins of tuna does she get through a day?"
"About two"
"And how old is your cat?"
"Fourteen"
"And what is her name?"
"Matilda"
"Well, could you wish Matilda a very good day and thank her."
"I will. Goodbye"

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Anatomy of an Inexactitude

...or Matt Rodda's - A Series of Unfortunate Events

December 2010 Planning Application

Application for an extension to 77-81 Whitley Street to create a unit that will be more than twice the size of existing shops.

[I'll skip out my year of discussing this with my neighbours, local businesses, council officers and senior directors and managers in Tesco]

22nd November 2011 Appeal Public Hearing at the Town Hall.

No Labour councillors or 'supporters' present. It was just me, some local businesses and a local resident. There was no written evidence provided by Matt Rodda or anyone else from Labour.
The hearing was suspended, pending evidence for a technical matter.

28th November 2011 Letter

Myself and the one local resident who attended the hearing were written to saying that we were entitled to send further written submissions up to the 9th December.

9th December 2011 Hearing closed to evidence.

16th December 2011 "Labour speak to residents"

Labour when canvassing in Christchurch Road finally started raising the matter with local residents (yeah, I spoke to them) This was a week after the period for evidence had closed and a month after the end of the hearing.

20ish December Labour's Kategrove Banner

Article: Tesco Plan for Whitley Street
Matt says: "I want to hear residents' views."

5th January 2012 Planning Inspectorate Decision Notice

Appeal dismissed.

6th January 2012 Letter to residents from Katesgrove Labour

Matt Rodda writes: "I encouraged residents to write to the inspector and wrote in myself. I also successfully pushed for residents to have extra time to write in"

11th January getReading - No go for Reading's 14th Tesco
From the Reading Post:

Fellow Katesgrove councillor Matt Rodda said: “I hoped I helped as I successfully pushed for more time for residents to feed in comments. I also wrote in myself raising concerns with the inspector.”

12th January 2012 Reading Chronicle

Picture of Labour supporting "residents" celebrating the decison with a bottle of bubbly in The Chronicle.

25th January 2012 Freedom of Information request from the Planning Inspectorate

I have retrieved the appeal file and confirm that there is no correspondence either from or on behalf of, or addressed to Matt Rodda contained on the file. Furthermore, no further correspondence was received after the hearing on 22 November 2011, other than correspondence from the Appellant and Council regarding the technical appendices from the Appellant’s statement; no correspondence was received from any members of the public.
So what are we to make of the statements made by Labour to local residents and journalists as truths stating that:
  • They had written to the Planning Inspectorate with their concerns
  • They had succeeded in getting an extension to the hearing
Neither seems to be supported by the facts.

Someone in the Labour party needs to tell Pinnochio that the first rule of politics is not to get caught.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Maid Redundant

An interesting slip by Jo Lovelock at last night's Personnel Committee. She said that one of the justifications for the removal of the Chief Executive position was because there was going to be a significantly smaller number of council staff.

A significantly smaller council? The council has around 2,500 employees outside education. Given that Labour have been responsible over the years for significant reductions in the number of council employees with the connivance of the unions, this has to be bad news. I wonder exactly when they are planning to tell staff about their impending hatchet job?

The difficulty facing the council is not, as Labour are trying to hide behind, the cuts to grants from central government but a dismal failure to tackle council spending increasing by greater than 16% per annum. Expect a significant increase in debt to finance their inability to stop spending.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

By Jiminy Cricket!

I've obviously got this ward councillor thing all wrong.

You see, after working for over a year on the planning application for 77-81 Whitley Street, meeting with residents, talking to businesses, working out through my own research that the application was actually for a Tesco Express, going through planning policy documents, speaking in person to the Communities and Government Director of Tesco, managing expectations of local businesses, attending and speaking at the public hearing, exchanging emails with Tesco's Head of Property Communication, delivering updates to residents and businesses, discovering "inexactitudes" in the applicants submission and working with council officers in the planning and highways departments to put the strongest case possible to the Planning Inspectorate... I was obviously a bit of an idiot.

I should have learnt from Labour's Little Book of Laissez-Faire Campaigning that all I needed to do was let someone else do all the work and then claim credit for it.

After all, how otherwise can you rationally account for the complete non-attendance at a public planning hearing and yet claim total credit for its findings?

But I perhaps do Labour a disservice. Their approach was even better than letting someone else do all the work.

It involved sitting on the fence until splinters in the bum became an occupational hazard. Yes. they could see both sides of the argument but once the result of the appeal was announced... they were "pleased".

I bet they had a "Great news as Tesco invest in Katesgrove" press release ready as well!

However, my faith in my constituents and local businesses in undiminished. This is a genuine exchange today from a conversation with a local shopkeeper after showing them the report in The Reading Chronicle with a picture of Labour Ausländers celebrating a Lib Dem win as their own:

Me:What do you think about this article?
Shop:[Points at picture] Who are they?
Me:Labour.
Shop:Never seen them.

[Reads article] **** off!

I’m going to tell everyone who buys this that this is rubbish. They did nothing. I’ve never seen them before. How can they lie like that?
Me:That’s politics!
But obviously I conceed that this could is an isolated case, apart maybe from...
  • Labour claiming sole credit for the Lok 'n' Store objections when the councillor didn't bother turning up at the hearing. Even more hilarious as if they'd mentioned the work of David Sutton and Richard Stainthorp they'd have had a lot of credibility as it was clearly, as far as residents were concerned, a cross-party piece of work. In contrast, I personally thanked Pete Ruhemann of his work!
  • Claiming credit for cleaning up the alley way behind Elgar Road when residents knew it was myself and Gareth who got it cleared and ridiculed Labour's leaflet.
  • Claiming credit for removal of double yellow lines in Collis Street when is was again over a year's worth of work by Gareth and myself.
  • Failing to mention that Lib Dems helped clean up Whitley Street Estate when the Neighbourhood Action Group had a litter pick [NAGs are meant to be apolitical - it is part of their constitution].
  • Claiming credit for the allocation of parking permits to Boults Walk and Compass House residents when it had been agreed before the election after work by the Lib Dem councillors.
  • Claiming credit for the doubling of residents permits which in fact I had pressured for and obtained the agreement of Richard Willis to restore the allocation before last May's election.
  • Attacking Lib Dems for a cut LABOUR had made to student waste collections.
Oh, there are more I could mention.

There is a term for these sort of tactics. It's called "The Big Lie". Orwell put it quite well:

The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”

And again:

“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed....”

Perhaps I should not mention the instance when a Labour councillor collected a petition against a licencing application, didn't turn up at the licencing hearing, didn't answer calls to a developer concerned about it... and never quite got around to mentioning to residents that he was a trustee of one of the organisations that was resident in the building making the application!

There is however a big problem for Labour. I have discovered the heartening fact that people remember what you do for them, not the lies published in political leaflets.

Labour are a parasitic organism leeching off those responsible for the actual work done.

The reverse socialist dream. Kind of apt!