Thursday, November 30, 2006

Worst social services in the country: Five years of Tory failure...

The same Tories who trebled home-care charges a month ago have been slammed in a damning official report which shows they deliver some of the worst social services in the country.

Despite repeated lame excuses and the same tired old promises trotted out by the Tories year-after-year, the official report out today shows social services for older people and their carers in Lincolnshire have now slipped even further behind.

Last December, Lincolnshire social services was officially named a one-star authority showing signs of improvement. The Tories blamed a change of leadership, said the report was out of date, claimed improvements were in hand and promised that this year's report would be much better.

A year on, today's report brands our social services worse than ever: one-star, but now with with uncertain prospects of improvement. Lincolnshire is now in the bottom dozen of all authorities across the country.

No council is the country gets less than one star. Every authority in the East Midlands - except Lincolnshire - gets at least two-stars.

The Portfolio Holder responsible at County Hall - Councillor Christine Talbot - had the brass neck to go on BBC Radio Lincolnshire today with the same script as last year. She blamed a change of leadership, claimed the report was out of date, said improvements were in hand and promised a better report next year.

No wonder the headline on the front page of tonight's Lincolnshire Echo is "Haven't we heard all this before?"

Assistant Chief Constable ‘Crusher’ Davies destroys 1,000th illegal vehicle in a year…

Lincolnshire Police have wasted no time using tough new laws which allow them to seize uninsured vehicles.

In just 12 months since the new laws came into force as part of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, Lincolnshire Police have taken 1,500 vehicles off local roads which were either not insured or being driven by someone who was not properly licenced.

And this week, the 1,000th vehicle to be crushed under the new legislation was personally destroyed by Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Peter Davies.

He worked the machinery to operate the crusher at a scrapyard in Sleaford - and is pictured standing on top of his handiwork!

When a vehicle is seized, the driver or registered keeper is given a fortnight to obtain a valid certificate of insurance or produce a driving licence before they can reclaim the vehicle. They also have to pay the police towing costs and all storage charges…

Then they are prosecuted for having no licence or insurance.

Inspector Les Parker of the Roads Policing Unit said,
"The UK has one of the worst records in Western Europe for uninsured driving with an estimated one in every twenty cars on the road being driven without proper insurance cover.

“This results in every honest motorist in the UK paying £15 - £30 of their insurance premium to compensate the innocent victims of these cheats... and the problem is growing at a dramatic rate".

"Police Officers have always dealt with motorists who are driving without the required documents but have often been powerless to prevent them from continuing to do so as soon as our backs were turned. Now, not only will offenders be prosecuted for the offences but we have the power to remove their vehicles from the road.

"The police treat this offence as a very serious matter and if you are caught then do not expect to be treated sympathetically.

“You will be prosecuted, we will seize your vehicle and, if you want to get it back, you will have to pay all recovery and storage charges and you will have to have obtained insurance. Therefore using a vehicle without insurance simply isn't worth the risk."
I reckon it's a fair cop.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Chancellor's baby has cystic fibrosis...

Chancellor Gordon Brown has tonight revealed that his four-month-old son James Fraser has cystic fibrosis.

The Sun are claiming a world exclusive saying it's another family tragedy for Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah, following the loss of their first daughter Jennifer five years ago.

The Sun carries a beautiful informal family picture on their website and comments:

The awful tragedy means that the next general election could be fought by two leaders with physically handicapped children.
Tory leader David Cameron's four-year-old son Ivan has cerebral palsy.

Cystic Fibrosis is the UK's most common life-threatening, inherited disease and affects more than 7,500 babies, children and young adults.

Average life expectancy is currently just 31.

The Press Association are tonight quoting a spokesman for the Chancellor and his wife, who went through personal tragedy in 2000 when their first daughter Jennifer died within days of her birth. A trust was set up in her memory.

The spokesman said tonight:
"While Gordon and Sarah's younger son, Fraser, has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, he is fit, healthy and making all the progress that you would expect any little boy to make.

"They were told in late July that Fraser may have cystic fibrosis. Tests since then have confirmed this.

"Thousands of other parents are in the same position. They are confident that the advice and treatments available, including proper exercise and, later, sporting activity will keep him fit and healthy.

"The NHS is doing a great job, and Gordon and Sarah are very optimistic that the advances being made in medicine will help him and many others, and they hope to be able to play their part in doing what they can to help others."
UPDATE: BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson tells how Gordon Brown was visibly moved a couple of years ago when he hosted a fundraising event for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust at 11 Downing Street.

Robinson says he stopped filming to give the Chancellor privacy after he was visibly moved at meeting a beautiful charismatic young woman ill with cystic fibrosis who was waiting for a lung transplant "because time is running out".

Robinson says there is real hope that a gene therapy cure will be developed. He points pout that not long ago cystic fibrosis was a disease only children had. Now half its sufferers are adults, he says.

Wind turbines: fashion item or functional...?

You don’t have to be green to go for wind-power, as a retired South Lincs couple discovered.

Derek and Pat Tomlin faced a bill of £30,000 to get connected to mains electricity when they built their retirement bungalow at Gosberton Bank. So they spent £22,000 instead on a wind turbine which supplies a minimum 60 per cent of their power needs and is backed up with a couple of generators.

Their story in the Spalding Guardian reads like an advertising puff £1,500 for B&Q’s.

(The couple suggest people should go for B&Q's Winsave WS1000 model which retails for £1,500 and produces 3kw of power...)

But in the interests of balance, the Guardian points out in the last couple of paragraphs that not everyone thinks domestic wind turbines are the best way of saving energy – even some dedicated environmentalists are not convinced.

The Spalding Guardian quotes Friends of the Earth as saying domestic wind turbines are noisy and unsightly and rarely produce much electricity. They favour less fashionable ways of saving energy and suggest people would be better off installing cavity wall insulation.

Hmmmm. If I were trying to boil a kettle, I’d put my money on the wind turbine rather than cavity wall insulation…

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fair Deal on Buses thanks to Government after local council failure year on year...

Generous national concessions on the buses were announced by the Government yesterday after year-on-year failure by our mean-spirited district councillors to do the decent thing.

I’ve campaigned for at least five years to end South Kesteven District Council’s Scrooge scheme on concessionary fares...

I've taken older people to Grantham to watch Deepings councillors vote against a more generous scheme after promising they would vote for it...

I've handed out Mickey Mouse bus passes to our local councillors and campaigned at the county council for a Lincolnshire-wide deal...

I even managed to get a Government Minister to Deeping St James to tell SKDC they were wrong...

A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed HERE that if I could slip just one line into the Queen's Speech, it would be:
“My Government will legislate to make sure all local councils offer a fair deal for pensioners on concessionary travel.”
Well, I’d better be careful what I wish for. The following day, the Queen uttered these fine words:
“Legislation will provide for free off-peak local bus travel for pensioners and disabled people.”
Spot on, Your Majesty.

Yesterday, just a few days after the Queen’s Speech, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander unveiled the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill.

SKDC were forced by the Government to deliver free off-peak travel on buses for pensioners and disabled people from April this year thanks to a £350 million investment – but only within local authority boundaries.

The other councils in Lincolnshire - and many across the country - went further and allowed free journeys to local shops and hospitals in neighbouring counties.

But the scrooges at SKDC stubbornly refused to budge.

That meant today Bourne and Deepings pensioners are forced to pay full fare when they get to the county border – while those from the six other districts travelling much further distances on the same bus get their entire journey to Queensgate totally free.

The new scheme launched by the Prime Minister yesterday goes much further (if you see what I mean) than even I dared hope for.

It’s a countrywide a free-travel scheme for the over 60s and disabled people backed up with an extra £250 million in Government funds from 2008.

So pensioners and disabled people will get free off-peak or weekend tickets on buses to visit parts of England they have always wanted to go to.

Great news for Deepings and Bourne pensioners and disabled people.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thatcher and Coal: 'My Arse' says Ricky Tomlinson…

Actor and comedian Ricky Tomlinson couldn’t help revealing his deep hatred of Lady Thatcher in his TV documentary on the demise of coal just shown on C5.

Tomlinson, best known for his TV portrayal as the lazy-arsed slob Jim Royale in the The Royale Family - went to prison for two years for his part in a building strike in the seventies. The former hard-line activist never forgot that it was the close-knit mining community who fed and cared for his family when he was banged up.

His emotional tribute to miners was used as a backdrop to fascinating previously unseen film of mining and miners through the Twentieth Century.

The British Empire was driven by coal in two world wars of course. I agree with Tomlinson that our nation owes those who mined the coal an enormous debt of gratitude.

But for me, Tomlinson’s film serves as a reminder of the desperately high price miners and their families paid – and how little regard there was through the 20th Century for the safety or welfare of working miners.

In the 1930s, on average four British workers died in our pits every day. In the worst disaster at Senghenydd Colliery in South Wales in 1913, 439 workers were killed in one day – just a decade after an another disaster claimed a further 90 lives in the same pit.

Tomlinson saved his venom for Lady Thatcher for the very last frame of the 60-minute special from the heart.

We were treated to the infamous clip of Tory cabinet minister Michael Heseltine telling the Commons that coal mines must shut because they couldn’t produce coal economically. Thatcher claimed there was no demand for deep-mined coal.

Cut to Tower Colliery in South Wales, a living testimony to the big Tory lie on coal.

When the Tories closed the pit at the top of the Rhondda, miners pooled their redundancy pay-offs, took out bank loans and bought the pit.

And today Tower is economic. It runs successfully - and safely – providing a living for more than 400 miners. It's the only working pit in South Wales.

Tomlinson stares angrily into the camera lens and says:
“Where Mrs Thatcher is going very soon, she won’t need to worry about coal, because it will be roasting hot…and when it happens, I’ll be having a pint with the miners.”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mail-on-Sunday says sorry: here's the historic clip...

In case you missed it - or like me wouldn't normally have the Mail-on-Sunday in the house, here's their apology printed on page 22 of today's edition.

As part of the settlement I agreed to in the High Court of Justice on Wednesday, the apology will also appear on their website for the next fortnight.

I particularly asked for the Mail's apology to appear on their website as the allegations kept popping up on various political weblogs.

After nine months, I hope its finally over.

Myself and my family can now hopefully put the whole horrible experience behind us and move on...

Sad to provide last story for UK Press Gazette...

The demise of UK Press Gazette this week after more than four decades as the trade magazine for journalists marks the end of an era.

UKPG carried the advert that led to me working on the Bermuda Sun newspaper for five glorious years in the seventies – where I met my wife Gill of 29 years.

I find it bizarre that the final edition published this week before its collapse, should also carry the story of my successful libel action against the Mail-on-Sunday.

Very sad.

Hat-tips to Iain Dale and also to freelance writer Rob McGibbon who reports on loss of a nice little earner.

Iain Dale breaks his silence on my libel victory...

Iain Dale has responded, following Tom Watson's demand that he apologises to me which I posted on HERE.

In a comment on my blog today, Iain points out quite rightly that he didn’t repeat the allegations against me which became the subject of my libel case.

Iain’s not daft and could clearly see that the story about me was potentially libellous, as I eventually proved in High Court this week.

But the day the lies were published, Iain was quick as a rat-up-a-drainpipe to get posting and provide a link to the Mail-on-Sunday story.

Under the headline “Exposing the Real Face of New Labour” – and adding the infamous 1997 Tory “Demon Eyes” poster for extra effect – Iain praised Richard Gibbs, the source of the Mail-on-Sunday story, saying he ran an “excellent” blog.

Iain also said this:

Needless to say the Labour spin machine has swung into action and tried to trash Richard Gibbs by accusing him of joining the Conservative Party.
So who says the person who made the unfounded allegations against me was a member of the Conservative Party?

At the time, Richard Gibbs was co-author of a prominent weblog called The Cameron Leadership or TCL, a site then run by four members of the Conservative Party.

Iain Dale has a link to The Cameron Leadership on his own site so it wouldn't have been difficult to confirm that the Labour Party were telling the truth.

The opening page of The Cameron Leadership at the time confirmed that Richard Gibbs was one of four co-authors of the site who were all members of the Conservative Party.

It said:

“Richard Gibbs joined the Conservative’s (sic) in 2005…”
So is it really "spin" for the Labour Party to say Richard Gibbs was a member of the Conservative Party when he made the allegations?

Incidentally, Richard Gibbs’ own “excellent” site was taken down shortly after I issued libel proceedings against him and the Mail-on-Sunday.

Mr Gibbs no longer contributes to The Cameron Leadership (TCL) either.

The TCL site now says

Richard Gibbs posted on TCL for a while in early 2006. He has…retired from blogging for now.
So those are the facts.

I’m not going to fall out with Iain Dale over whether he owes me an apology or me or not. I’ve won everything I wanted in my libel case. I've been vindicated in the High Court and it’s time to move on.

Iain was gracious enough to say to me:

Well done for having the balls to take it to court and win. Not many would have seen it through to the bitter end.
Ever thinking of improving blogging, Iain adds the following:

Now, what are you going to spend your loot on? A badly needed new design for your blog perhaps?!!!
Er, probably not Iain. But thanks for the thought!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

MP Tom says top Tory blogger owes me apology...

Tom Watson MP (left) says top Tory blogger and would-be MP Iain Dale (right) owes me an apology for repeating the untruthful allegations against me published by the Mail-on-Sunday last February.

Iain was one of the first in the world of blog to repeat the libellous lies and promote the Mail-on-Sunday's dodgy story. Iain gave credibility to the false claims by saying that the person who made them ran an "excellent" weblog.

Iain did not comment when the "excellent" weblog was closed down shortly after I issued legal proceedings against its author and against the Mail-on-Sunday.

I emailed Iain after the High Court hearing this week when the Mail-on-Sunday apologised to me and paid me damages after admitting there wasn't a shred of truth in their story. I hoped he might do the decent thing.

Haven't heard back yet.

Meantime, the official apology by the Mail-on-Sunday has just appeared on the Mail website where it will stay for 14 days under the terms of the settlement of my libel claim.

Iain's done a lot to promote higher standards and decency in political blogging, so I'm sure I'll be hearing from him in due course...

Thank You...magnifying glass at the ready

I’ve spent most of the 72-hours since winning my libel action against the Mail-on-Sunday replying to hundreds of messages of support.

So may I say thank you here to all well-wishes wherever you are, and whatever your politics. The past nine months have not been easy, but at times like this you find out who your real friends are.

Some of the warmest well-wishes have come from Conservatives who I oppose on Lincolnshire County Council – but I promise not to blight their political careers by naming them!

I’d also like to thank the local media here in Lincolnshire for helping me clear my name by publicising the outcome of the High Court case.

It’s one thing to win a libel before a High Court judge, but many people will remember the damaging allegations printed about me in the Mail on Sunday last February.

In the High Court of Justice on Wednesday, The Mail on Sunday finally admitted there was not a grain of truth to their story. They apologised, paid my legal fees and substantial damages.

So a special thanks to the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, The Bourne Local (sorry no link) and the Lincolnshire Echo – our county evening newspaper owned by Associated Newspapers who also own the Mail-on-Sunday.

There’s a big difference between the local media who are broadly responsible and the national tabloids who have little regard for the facts and obsessed with a political agenda.

Meanwhile, I'll be getting my magnifying glass out to find the apology the Mail on Sunday have to print tomorrow as part of the High court settlement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fair Deal Phil wins libel action against Mail-on-Sunday

Deepings councillor Phil Dilks has won a full apology and substantial damages from the Mail-on-Sunday newspaper in a libel action settled in the High Court of Justice in London today (Wednesday).

Cllr Dilks, a Labour Party press officer, was wrongly accused of kicking a teenage girl in an article published by the Mail-on-Sunday last February.

The totally untrue accusation was made by Richard Gibbs, who had worked for a short period as a Labour Party trainee organiser before defecting to the Conservative Party.

Cllr Dilks sued the Mail-on-Sunday and Richard Gibbs for libel.

In the High Court today, lawyers for the Mail-on-Sunday and Richard Gibbs admitted there was no truth in their story.

In an agreed statement, senior Judge Mr Justice Eady was told:
"The Mail-on-Sunday accepts that neither Mr Dilks nor any of his colleagues kicked anyone or knows of any such incident occuring."
Both Mr Gibbs and the Mail-on-Sunday apologized to Cllr Dilks and agreed to pay him substantial damages and all legal costs.

The Mail-on-Sunday will also publish an apology this weekend on their website and in their newspaper.

Outside the High Court, Cllr Dilks said:

“I was not prepared to let the Mail-on-Sunday get away with publishing lies which were damaging to my reputation as a parent, as an elected public servant and as a professional communications officer.

"It has taken nine stressful months to set the record straight, but today I have been totally vindicated and have won everything I set out to achieve in my libel action.

"It is a huge relief that those responsible for this outrageous accusation finally admitted in the High Court today that there was not a grain of truth in their story.

"It was only after the Mail-on-Sunday was served with a libel writ that they bothered to check the facts and discovered that Richard Gibbs' claim that I had kicked a young girl was absolutely baseless.

"When I trained as a journalist in Lincoln 35 years ago, every word had to be checked and double-checked before it was published. In this case, the Mail on Sunday failed to follow the same high standards.

"I wish to thank my family and the Labour Party for backing me, my legal team, and many friends and colleagues - some across the political divide - who supported me throughout this action to set the record straight.

“No employee of any organization should be subjected to the anxiety and stress caused when damaging lies are printed in a national Sunday newspaper."


As well as working as the Labour Party's Head of Regional Media, Cllr Dilks represents Deeping St James on Lincolnshire County Council where he is opposition spokesman for education.

He also serves as a member of Lincolnshire Police Authority and Deeping St James Parish Council.

Phil is married and has two grown up daughters - both trained primary school teachers. A former journalist, he was previously National Press Officer for the NSPCC.

Photo shows Cllr Dilks (centre) with his legal team Gerald Shamash of Steel & Shamash Solicitors and Roy Kennedy, Director of Legal Compliance, The Labour Party.

In the High Court of Justice: Dilks v Mail on Sunday newspaper...

My libel action against the Mail-on-Sunday newspaper finally reaches the High Court of Justice today.

So I’m off to see M’Lud at the Queen's Bench Division on The Strand in London.

I'm sure you'll wish me luck.

Will keep you posted as soon as I am able...

Deepings MP leads Cameron's team on Further Education Bill...

South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes will be kept on his toes in his new job as Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, with a new Government Bill just published.

The Further Education and Training Bill will give new powers and opportunities to FE colleges to award foundation degrees, improve intervention for underperforming colleges and give Learning and Skills Councils the power to remove college principals and senior staff.

As the Bill was published yesterday, the thoughts of Mr Hayes on its proposed new measures appeared on the Conservative Home weblog.

Mr Hayes says:
"We should refocus investment to deliver high-order skills. Demographic change means that over 70% of the 2020 workforce has already completed compulsory education. It is vitally important that we up-skill and re-skill those already in work to maximise their potential and meet the needs of a dynamic economy."
Good soundbite (maybe), but does "refocus" suggest that Cameron’s Tories don't support basic literacy and numeracy skills which are currently provided free?

Writing in the Guardian, Education Secretary Alan Johnson says:

“I left school at 15 without any qualifications...the only training I received was courtesy of the Union of Post Office Workers.

“My experience makes me passionate about skills and about further education's vital role in reducing social inequalities, recognising and releasing potential, and ensuring individuals and the wider economy stand ready to face the challenges of globalisation.

“In the years before 1997, further education miraculously survived decades of underinvestment and government disinterest. It was never taken seriously as an alternative way of achieving qualifications.

"As if that were not enough to deter employers and students, those who did seek out its benefits had to face the stigma attached to college qualifications...

“Thankfully, things have changed. After investment in excess of £55bn and the introduction of new qualifications, along with a more cohesive system, the FE sector has successfully prepared itself for the challenges ahead."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Who'll 'love-the-louts' who attacked teenage Deepings girl...? Not me!

Lincolnshire Police are appealing for witnesses to a late-night street robbery in Market Deeping.

A 17-year-old female had her handbag snatched as she walked along Lady Margaret's Avenue at 11.20pm on Thursday night. Two males approached her. One grabbed at her handbag, and after a brief struggle managed to snatch it.

He was wearing a white hooded top with dark stripes down the sleeves. He is thought to be in his mid teens, slim and about 5'5" tall.

The second male appeared to be taller and was also slim with dark clothing.

Both ran off down Beaufort Avenue.

The stolen handbag was found the following day on Black Prince Avenue, less bank cards and money.

Detective Sergeant Helen Evans said:

I am appealing for witnesses who may have seen similar described persons acting suspiciously in the Deepings area earlier in the evening.

The handbag was returned to the female by a very kind member of the public and I am also appealing for this person to get in contact with me as you may be able to tell me more about where you found the bag.
Anyone with information should contact DS Evans directly on 01522 558798 entering her collar number 0215 when prompted.

Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, quoting incident number 435 of 16th November.


Conservative Leader Dave 'Sunshine' Cameron thinks we should all 'hug-a-hoodie'. And last week, he urged us all to 'love-a-lout'.

The man who wants to lead our country wants society to show a lot more love to young criminals.

Wrong Sunshine.

As a father of two daughters, I'm sure I'm not on my own in wanting these thugs caught quickly and taken off the streets.

In my view, giving criminals a hug and showing a bit more love, as Cameron suggests, is entirely the wrong approach to crime.
We should never forget who are the victims and who are the criminals.

Nuclear waste to be dumped in Lincolnshire...?

Will Lincolnshire become a dumping ground for nuclear waste? The geology of the county is eminently suitable, according to a leading geo-scientist.

The Government is already asking local authorities to volunteer to take nuclear waste as they consider building the next generation of nuclear power.

Professor Bruce Yardley, a geo-scientist at the University of Leeds told the BBC’s Politics Show over the weekend that Lincolnshire has been identified as a prime location for nuclear waste storage.

It’s early days and Conservative Leader of Lincolnshire County Council - Martin Hill - gave a fair response when asked for his reaction by BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

There’s obviously plusses and minuses in anything, even nuclear waste…but if it was considered something we could look at, we would still have to and would wish to consult with the local people of Lincolnshire, especially those who would be in the affected area and take their views strongly into account.
Perhaps more predictably, Friends of the Earth in Lincolnshire rejected the idea out of hand. They are totally opposed to the dumping of nuclear waste underground.

FoE local spokesperson Carry Lister told BBC Radio Lincolnshire:
Nuclear waste can remain highly radioactive and dangerous for 10s of thousands of years. We cannot guarantee that a dump of this sort can safely protect that waste for that amount of time, so we cannot guarantee the safety of communities in the future.
Professor Yardley admits there isn’t a single perfect site but believes Lincolnshire people need to understand it’s safer here than elsewhere.

This one has all the makings of a real hot potato...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top Tory blogger defends Labour's Lord Levy over humilation of arrest...

Earlier this week I posted on the case of the former Tory MP David Prior who was arrested by police investigating fraud.

I made the point that we could not jump to any conclusions. Now Iain Dale, the Tory would-be MP who has done more to bring political blogging to public attention than anyone else, has gone even further.

Iain says these very public arrest of people who may in the end never face charges, causes public humiliation which should not be part of our legal process.

He's absolutely right.

Iain fought a Norfolk seat for the Tories at the last election where David Prior was MP from 1997-2001.

The arrest of David Prior has provoked Iain to defend both him and Labour peer Lord Levy who was publicly arrested in the current so called cash-for-honours police investigation.

Iain asks:
Whatever happened to the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’? It seems if you a public figure you have to put up with this sort of thing nowadays.
Iain has done as much as any other media outlet to hype up expectations of criminal charges in the cash-for-honours probe - in which police have interviewed senior Labour, Tory and LibDem officials and politicians.

However, it’s an excellent post: well worth a gleg.

Huge cost of finding out what we already knew...

Our local council has just spent £600,000 of our money on a ballot to confirm what they already knew about council homes. This from a council that claims it can’t afford a decent concessionary fare for elderly and disabled people – and which even abolished its free rat-catching service to save a few bob.

Now we know what South Kesteven District Council meant a couple of years ago in its “consultation” exercise to change its policies. The voice of the Deepings was loud and clear – particularly on the farcical concessionary fares scheme.

But they refused to listen.

Before they bulldozed ahead with their plans to sell-off (giveaway) our council homes at a knock-down price, the Government required a proper ballot of their own tenants.

The message from the tenants was already clear enough: No thanks.

But the dinosaurs who run SKDC - our elected district councillors - had their heads in the sand and thought a glossy expensive campaign could change tenants' minds.

The campaign did change minds - the "No" vote was even more convincing than predicted.

Both our local papers mention the staggering cost to council taxpayers of refusing to listen, though almost in passing.

The Bourne Local splashes on the “Tenants say no to home sell-off” and report:
The final figure has yet to be calculated, but the council estimates that the total cost of the housing sell-off consultation is in the region of £600,000.
The overwhelming ballot result only makes page 2 of the Stamford Mercury – the tragic death of a Stamford schoolgirl makes their splash.

Cost of the farce makes the last line of the Mercury story:
The ballot was organised by Electoral Reform Services at a cost of £600,000 to council tax payers.
I hope they are held to account at the local elections next May.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Gun and knife incidents down again in Lincs…

Firearms and knife incidents in Lincolnshire have dropped for the fifth year running.

Figures just released by Lincolnshire Police and reported on the BBC show that the county’s three armed response units were called out to 240 incidents in 2005 - a reduction of almost half on the 2001 figure of 450.

The teams deal with incidents involving guns, knives and other violent offences.
Armed response officer Carl Warrener, told the BBC he liked to think Lincolnshire was a safe place to live:
"There has certainly been a lot of media coverage about incidents involving knives and replica guns, not only in Lincolnshire but the country as a whole and hopefully the message is getting across.

"Dissuading people from using these types of weapons may account for the reduction.

"Thankfully in Lincolnshire, I like to think that it is a safe county and incidents involving firearms are very few and far between."
Let's hope we keep it that way by cutting crime even further next year.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Biggest investment in Lincs rail for 50 years...

Fifty-five million pounds is to be spent on modernising rail services to Lincoln.

Track and signals at Lincoln have seen little or no investment for at least a generation and the shabby Victorian Central station belongs to the age of steam.

Signals are still set up for one-way steam trains which Beeching axed more than 40 years ago - not for today's trains which don't need a turn-table to reverse direction.

It's a dire welcome to a modern University city for visitors and hardly gives the impression of a city that's going places.

So I'm sure everyone will welcome the biggest investment in Lincolnshire rail services for half a century.

The work will be done in two phases - the first next year and the second the year after.

No doubt the work will cause road traffic problems for a while. But once it is finished, rail bosses say the modernised system will inceased train capacity as well as improving High Street traffic flows.

Not before time.

Good news and bad news on Tory school closures...

Good news: the independent schools adjudicator has today thrown out Tory plans to close Lacey Gardens infants school in Louth and merge it with the nearby juniors.

Bad news: the adjudicator has also given the go-ahead for Ermine Infants to close in Lincoln and merge with the nearby Juniors - despite massive objections from almost everyone except the county council Tories.

The plans were even condemned by two Tory city councillors for the Ermine.

The excellent and widely-respected Head Teacher Lorraine Smith quit Ermine Infants last year, after protesting that saying that the Tories were putting politics before education.

Today is another very sad day for the Ermine.

UPDATE: See report in Lincs Echo

Ex-Tory MP arrested in fraud probe...

I see a former Conservative Party vice-chairman and MP has been arrested by police investigating allegations of fraud.

This from the Daily Mail, no less:

David Prior, the son of former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prior and chairman of Cawston Park Hospital in Cawston, Norfolk, was arrested along with three other men, by police investigating allegations of fraud at a psychiatric hospital.

The four men, who are all associated with the hospital, are being held at police stations across Norfolk on suspicion of financial irregularities at Cawston Park.

Mr Prior, who is chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, was MP for North Norfolk from 1997 to 2001.

The police spokesman said: "Norfolk Constabulary is investigating allegations of financial irregularities at Cawston Park Hospital - part of Chancellor Care Limited.

"These matters were referred to the police following an investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Services and the Constabulary is now investigating this allegation with them.

"Early this morning warrants were executed and a number of people associated with Cawston Park were arrested.

"Following this morning's operation, officers have seized a number of items from the company's main office at Cawston Park and from the homes of those people arrested.

"These items are currently in the process of being copied."

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Hobley of Norfolk Police stressed the investigation concerned alleged financial irregularities at the hospital and not individual patient care.

It would of course be entirely wrong for anyone to jump to any conclusions about this unfortunate development.

And we must wait the conclusion of the proper police investigation before we will know whether any charges are likely to follow.

In all the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to comment further.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leaked: Cameron's Draft Queen’s Speech...

The Conservatives are in disarray over Tony Blair's tenth Queen's Speech yesterday. Some Tories say there's too many bills, others complain that there's not enough.

Most political commentators agree Tony Blair was at his best in the Queen's Speech debate while Conservative Leader David Cameron was badly mauled over his poor performance. He failed for example, to come up with any answers which would provide security in our changing world.

David Cameron's draft Queens Speech has been leaked to me and I thought I'd share some of his planned Bills with you:

ASBO Abolition Act - This legislation will replace tough action on anti-social behaviour with love, hugs and understanding.

Return of Isolation in Europe Bill - This Bill will seek to withdraw Britain from various treaties of the EU and will see Britain work with our crackpot sister parties on the margins

Increase Greenhouse Gases Bill - This Bill will see an end to Labour’s approach to tackling climate change and the introduction of a policy that will see binding year on year targets whatever the weather challenges or pressures on the economy

Restoration of Waiting Lists Bill - With a promise to end targets within the NHS, this Bill will end the right of patients to expect prompt NHS treatment.

No More New Schools Bill - With the introduction of the Cameron Government’s £21billion cuts initiative, school building will be halted for the duration of the government.

Lincs MP condemns home care charge hike

Good to hear at least one Lincolnshire MP speaking up for vulnerable elderly people.

This from BBC Radio Lincolnshire:

Newsreader: The MP for Lincoln, Gillian Merron, is urging Lincolnshire County Council to think again over controversial increases in homecare costs.

Gillian Merron: My priorities would be about serving people and it would be about serving the most vulnerable in our society. And of course you have to have a balance and of course you have to balance the books. There’s no doubt about that. But let’s also remember that the County Council has had an above-inflation increase in funding from the Labour Government since we came in in ’97.

Tractors cause A1 chaos...

Chaos on the southbound A1 between Grantham and Stamford at teatime today as a broken down tractor caused major delays and miles of tailbacks.

Can anyone tell me why on earth we allow tractors to trundle along the main east-coast route from London to the north…?

Ex-Mayor not exempt from tripling of home care charges…

A former Lincolnshire Mayor has accused the County Council of hitting easy targets by tripling homecare charges.

Extract from BBC Radio Lincolnshire:

Presenter: David Kay who used to be the Mayor of Louth now has advanced Parkinson’s and pays £41 a week for homecare. He’s been told by the Council his bill is set to rise to £120 a week as part of a controversial Fairer Charging policy. Derbyshire County Council charges nothing for homecare but Mr Kay says he’s not surprised Lincolnshire has taken a different route:

David Kay: Lincolnshire has always been rather behind the times on this sort of thing. The same came with bus passes and so on. It was way behind Derbyshire and South Yorkshire and other areas. Always been rather backward looking in this point of view when it comes to allowances for people.

I couldn't have put it better myself!

440 pupils raring to go...

There’s never an easy way of talking about a massive sewage problem.

But Robert Dring, head teacher at William Lovell School in Stickney near Boston did his best went he went on BBC Radio Lincolnshire to explain why he sent his 440 pupils home earlier this week:

Well, it was about 10 o’clock this morning when education met effluent and education had to give way to effluent. What happened was, we flushed the toilet in our sports hall and rather than going where it should have gone, it came back to hit us…
Robert went on to describe what happened when they lifted the manhole covers and what Anglian Water had to do. I’ll spare you the graphic detail, but you get the picture.

After praising Anglian Water for quickly sorting the problem so the school could reopen the following day, Robert concluded with this classic:

We are raring to go in the morning...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Queen's Speech would bring fair deal on fares for our pensioners...

If I could slip just one line into today's Queen’s Speech it would be:

My Government will legislate to make sure all local councils offer a fair deal for pensioners on concessionary travel.

Pensioners and disabled people in the Deepings, Stamford, and Bourne get a raw deal from the Scrooges at South Kesteven District Council. I've come to the conclusion that things will only improve when new laws force them to change.

It is wrong that our pensioners and disabled people are penalised for using buses to get to local shops and hospitals in Peterborough, when those who live further away using the same buses actually pay less.

I’ve tried without success to get Lincolnshire County Council to act as an honest broker to develop a county-wide partnership of all local authorities working together for a fairer deal.

Sadly, SKDC are stubbornly not interested and despite years of trying, we still have the meanest scheme in the whole county.

It’s particularly galling when you see how other counties manage to deliver a far better service for their pensioners.

Cheshire County Council, for example, has just revealed that their county-wide scheme giving off-peak free bus travel for older people and people with disabilities has shown a tremendous 26 per cent increase in bus use since it began in April.

The County acted as broker for the whole of Cheshire in a scheme first brought in thanks to Gordon Brown’s Budget in 2005.

The Cheshire Districts Scheme offers the enhanced benefit of free off-peak travel and half price free travel on any local bus service beginning or ending in Cheshire, Halton or Warrington.

Labour’s Transport spokesman for Cheshire, Councillor Peter Byrne says:

There are a lot of older people throughout Cheshire who are benefiting from the free travel.

Where visiting their children or grandchildren had previously entailed a significant cost, now they don’t have to count the pennies before deciding on an outing.

I am also aware that people are simply taking advantage of the new free buses to get about more and enjoy life better.

The free travel is paid for by a special grant to the councils from the Government which has decided to use your taxes in this popular and rewarding way.

I believe Gordon Brown deserves congratulations.

Since SKDC and Lincolnshire County Council are clearly unable to get their act together, maybe the Queen’s Speech will bring fresh hope of a fair deal everywhere, but specially for pensioners and disabled people in Deepings, Bourne and Stamford!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Get your very own 'hug-a-hoodie' for Christmas...

Want to follow David Cameron’s ‘hug-a-hoodie’ advice but not sure where to start…? Well, I’ve found just what you’re looking for at our local Deeping St James Exchange gift shop.

Among the coffee mugs decorated with pictures of Priory Church, and tee-shirts celebrating our village, there’s something called an urban hoodie for sale with a Christmas discount.

It looks as if it needs a good hug.

Conservative Leader David Cameron said in the summer that we should all hug-a-hoodie. Last week he went even further and urged us all to love-a-lout.

In a bizarre speech, the man who wants to be in charge of running our country went totally soft on crime: Cameron said society needs to show a lot more love to young criminals in order to steer them away from crime and misbehaviour.

Personally, I think he’s lost the plot. Crime has fallen here in Lincolnshire and across the country, but we still have too much crime on our streets, particularly anti-social behaviour.

Cameron’s idea that we could cut violent crime if only we took time to cuddle criminals is dangerous nonsense and demonstrates his scary lack of leadership and judgement.

I don’t think anyone who advocates hugging hoodies or loving louts can be trusted to run our country.

But you don’t have to take my word. Former Sunday Express editor and Conservative Press Secretary Amanda Platell wrote in the Daily Mail:

…what is becoming increasingly clear is how utterly out of touch Cameron is with the harsh realities of life for millions of families in modern Britain…

…You’d have thought Cameron could have some sympathy for the ordinary, decent people who they have victimised.

But no. In true Sunshine style, he sees the criminals as the real victims.

Sunshine Dave - a marketing confection lacking all conviction.
I wasn’t at all surprised to read in The Telegraph that Cameron’s Love-a-Lout speech was written by his fellow old Etonian, Danny Kruger.

I reckon the pair spent too much time day-dreaming at Eton and not enough in the real world.

But I’m sure they’d appreciate an urban hoodie from the dsj-exchange gift shop which they could hug to their heart’s content.

It’s green, which is of course one of colours Mr Cameron is trying to be.

So far, he’s proved to be very green in one place: behind his ears.

Tenants say no to council housing sell-off...

South Kesteven District Council’s plan to sell off its 6,500 homes for a fraction of their value has been rejected by a massive 3-1 vote by its tenants.

The Conservatives who control SKDC now have serious questions to answer about the wisdom and cost of their glossy campaign to offload their housing stock on a newly formed housing association.

Labour and the LibDems were defeated 27-6 when they tried to stop the ballot as a waste of public money by an out of touch council.

But the result of the ballot announced today proves them right.

Three out of four tenants who voted rejected the plan. Turn out was over 75% which indicates an absolute majority of the 6,500 tenants said no thanks.

I’m not an expert in housing matters, and could see arguments on both sides. But I stayed out of the long running debate.

Congratulations to Rob Shorrock and colleagues at SKDC who have clearly won the overwhelming backing of tenants for their campaign to keep the management of local council housing accountable to elected district councillors.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Local help for victims as Farepak fatcats take the cash…

Residents of Deeping St James and Frognall facing hardship after the £40 million collapse of hamper firm Farepak may be eligible for help from a local charity.

I don’t know if any of the 100,000 victims of the scandal live locally, but I or any of the other trustees of Deeping St James United Charities would be happy to be approached.

United Charities assists any member of our community who falls on hard times. Contact details are on their website which has just been launched, or drop me an email in confidence at

The scale of the Farepak scandal is becoming clearer by the day. As the company headed for disaster, fatcat directors trousered massive bonuses. At the same time, they continued to collect weekly payments from their 100,000 subscribers saving up for a Christmas hamper.

At the weekend, the Daily Mail contrasted the Christmas the Farepak fatcats will enjoy with the misery they have caused their customers.

Just as grotesque is the revelation that money that should have provided Christmas hampers for their customers was actually being spent to buy other failed businesses.

Labour MP Anne Snelgrove has named and shamed Farepack directors, singling out Sir Clive Thompson, chairman of Farepak’s parent company special as 'a modern day Scrooge'.

She called Thompson
'the man who bemoaned a 30p rise in the minimum wage when he was earning over £2 million a year'.

'This is the man who wound up the pension scheme while at Rentokil for all but the executives and then walked off with a £690,000 a year pension.'
Some MPs have called for the former CBI president to be stripped of his knighthood.

Anne also rounded on Farepak chief executive William Rollason
'who, I understand, is soon due to appear in an Australian court possibly on a not unrelated issue for another company'
and Farepak executive director Nick Gilodi-Johnson, whose father Bob Johnson founded the business. Gilodi-Johnson is set to inherit £75 million.

Anne added:
'No doubt Sir Clive and those directors will be eating a very big turkey this Christmas, and enjoying it.'
Anne’s an old friend – I knew her years before she deservedly became an MP and I know she will keep up her campaign until she gets justice for Farepak’s victims.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Time to melt down Butcher Haig and honour the real heroes…

The nightmare carnage of the First World War has often been characterised as “lions led by donkeys”. And I can’t let another Armistice Day pass by without commenting on the man seen by many as the biggest donkey of them all.

Field Marshal Douglas Haig was known by his own side as the “Butcher of the Somme”. And for good reason.

At Loos in 1915, Haig threw two entire divisions of inexperienced volunteers straight into battle as they arrived on the Western Front – with no rest, food, water and crucially little combat training. They were mown down row after row by German machine guns.

Despite his disaster at Loos, Haig was then allowed to preside over the darkest hour in the history of the British Army. On the 1st of July 1916, more than 57,000 of our soldiers were killed or seriously injured. One day. 57,000 British lives, each one a sitting target for German machine guns which Haig had proclaimed were “much overrated”.

That was just Day One. Haig kept the battle of the Somme going for another three months: 400,000 casualties for an advance of barely half a mile.

Incredibly, his command was still not removed from him. And in 1917, for his next disaster, he chose Paschendaele which saw the slaughter of another 230,000 British soldiers.

Haig was also known as the “Chateau General”. As British troops drowned in rat-invested trenches, their Commander in Chief once boasted he never got his boots wet. Instead, he dined in total luxury at a safe distance from the German guns, reportedly even having whole lambs diverted from the front and sent back for his family so they did not suffer food shortages.

AJP Taylor described the callous Haig as preferring
“an unsuccessful offensive under his own command to a successful one under someone else’s.”
Yet after he died a natural death long after the butchery he oversaw, our nation erected a bronze statue of Earl Haig on horseback which today still enjoys pride of place on Whitehall.

I’d recommend anyone in doubt about Haig’s ability to read “The Donkeys” by the late Tory MP and military historian Alan Clark. Almost 20 years ago, Alan Clark supported a campaign to have Haig torn down from Whitehall.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to replace Haig with a memorial to the ordinary Tommies who were the real heroes of the First World War.

It has even been suggested that the Haig bronze should be melted down to cast medals for the 300 British soldiers under his command who he had shot at dawn for desertion (who were this week granted official pardons).

What a pity Alan Clark died before his battle to remove Haig was won.

Watch BBC probe into Midlands Industrial Council here...

The Politics Show investigation into the secretive Midlands Industrial Council can now be seen HERE on the BBC website.

Click on the “watch west midlands” box to the right of the photo of Tory MP Julie Kirkbride whose links to MIC are revealed for the first time.

The programme appears to confirm my earlier posts that MIC is a front organisation to allow rich businessmen to secretly donate to the Tory Party.

I’ll be adding the new information revealed by the BBC to my dossier on MIC which I published last month.

Have a look and let me know what you think…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poppycock claims that white poppies are more Christian than red...

Good to see the new Deepings Garden of Remembrance adorned with poppies this weekend.
It’s appropriate that the communities of Market Deeping and Deeping St James should work together to mark Remembrance Sunday – and have an open display where it can be appreciated by as many people as possible – not tucked away in a corner of a churchyard as happened for too many years.

This year’s poppy appeal seems to have provoked more controversy and news stories than usual. We’ve had everything from daft claims that it’s more Christian to wear a white poppy than a red one, to complaints of “poppy fascism” from a TV presenter who refuses to wear a poppy of any colour on air.

This morning, I read of a Welsh priest who angered his flock by refusing to read out names of those in his community who gave their lives in the First World War.

The white versus red poppy debate has been around since the 1930s. To me, those who condemn the white poppy brigade miss the whole point of Remembrance Day.

It is an act of Thanksgiving to those who fought for our freedom. Freedom to choose. I wouldn’t know where to buy a white poppy if I wanted one. But I don’t believe that a white one is more Christian than a red one and frankly I don’t care.

Call me politically correct, but personally, I’m proud to wear a red poppy to mark the sacrifice others have made in service to our nation – both much-loved family members and millions unknown to me. It’s a sacrifice I’ve fortunately never been called on to make.

Red poppies seem most appropriate to me as the symbol of the change from war to peace as marked by the millions of red poppies that covered the Flanders Fields after peace was finally declared in 1918 after four years of trench carnage. The Royal British Legion first adopted the poppy after an American sold real red poppies in 1921 to raise money for injured soldiers of the First World War.

Red is my choice. But I’ll defend the right of anyone to wear a poppy coloured red, white, or sky-blue with polka dots.

Or no poppy at all.

Jon Snow revealed on his weblog that he wears a poppy and marks Remembrance Day in private, but resents what he calls “poppy fascism” so refuses to wear one on air.

Closer to home, BBC Radio Lincolnshire have published CCTV pictures of the thief who nicked the collection box from the reception of their studios in Lincoln and station manager Charlie Partridge went on Look North to declare his outrage.

Football is even doing its bit for the poppy appeal this year. Southampton FC played their game against Sunderland today in special Saints shirts embroidered with poppies to be auctioned off – unwashed to prove their authenticity – to raise money for the poppy appeal.

Personally, I’m disappointed there hasn’t been much – if any – media coverage this weekend to remember the 300+ British soldiers shot at dawn in the First World War who were granted an official pardon this week by the Government – in time to be mentioned at this year’s Acts of Remembrance.

But that's their choice...

BBC to reveal Tory MP's ties with secretive Midlands Industrial Council

Looks like I’ll have a shedload of new information for my dossier on the secretive Midlands Industrial Council following a BBC investigation to be aired this weekend.

The BBC Politics Show has discovered that a Midlands Tory MP is an “ex-officio” member of the controversial organisation, said to be run from a house in a village near Lincoln.

Ahead of tomorrow’s programme, the BBC website reports that Julie Kirkbride MP has admitted to previously undisclosed links with the controversial Midlands Industrial Council.

There is no published record of Ms Kirkbride's connections to the organisation, even though she has now confirmed she is the "link person" between the MIC and the Conservative party in parliament.

She has apparently confirmed that other MPs have attended meetings - she had been a guest speaker at previous events - but she said that she has neither given nor received any money from the MIC, which is why her involvement is not listed.

MIC's secretary, David Wall told BBC West Midlands:
"If you're asking me would we make public announcements when we have a new member then no we wouldn't,"
The conversation with the Politics Show in the West Midlands took place at the HQ of Coleshill Campaigning Services, a call centre operation based at Coleshill Manor in Warwickshire.

The Coleshill operation targets voters in key marginal constituencies on behalf of the Tories and has received £1.1m from the MIC in the last two years.

The Manor is owned by MIC member Robert Edmiston. But even though this web of business links leads back to the Conservatives at every turn, Mr Wall denies that the MIC has an overt influence in candidate selection for the party.

During the programme Mr Wall confesses there is a Euro-sceptic element to the group and they are not keen on what they call "Brussels bureaucracy." Five of its members also supported the "Vote No" campaign against the European Constitution.

They are also not keen on some of the health and safety laws introduced in recent years. They also want lower taxation and they want the minimum wage set at a level "which the market can afford".

Eight members of the MIC were also signatories to a letter to the Daily Telegraph, from a group called the TaxPayers Alliance, which describes itself as "an independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes".

Friday, November 10, 2006

The day interest rates went up by five per cent...

Hysterical headlines in today’s media demonstrate how quickly we have become used to record low interest rates.

“Mortgage misery as interest rates hit 5 pc” screams today’s Daily Telegraph on news that interest rates have risen by one quarter of one per cent.

Like millions, I remember the day a few years ago when a Tory Chancellor - advised by one David Cameron - raised interest rates by five per cent in one day, leading to crippling 17 per cent mortgage rates.

That was real mortgage misery.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Squaddie hurt in unusual rocket attack...

A squaddie just home from facing rockets in Iraq was understandably a little bored with a mundane fireworks party. So he decided to entertain his mates - and himself - by launching a powerful firework from a rather unusual place.

I wouldn't dream of attempting steal the thunder of Jeremy Armstrong who wrote up the story for today's Daily Mirror. So here it is in full, under the headline "Bumfire Night: Man uses bottom for rocket launch"

WE all know you should never play with fireworks.

But strictly speaking there is nothing in the fireworks code that advises you against launching them from your bottom.

So when Andrew Tilley's bonfire party started to flag he knew just the trick to make it go with a bang.

The prankster, 22, delighted 40 pals by pulling down his trousers, placing a powerful Black Cat Thunderbolt rocket between his buttocks and letting it off.

The dumb stunt, copied from Jackass: The Movie, was filmed on a mobile.
He can be seen bent double with his trousers round his ankles before there is a flash.

The firework flies up into the air and explodes - but squaddie Andrew, just back from a tour of Iraq, falls to the floor writhing in agony and bleeding heavily.

Daniel Kassim, 16, who was at the party in Sunderland, said: "The lad was saying, 'This is boring, what can we do?' He then decided to put a rocket up his backside."

Last night he was comfortable in hospital with internal burns, including a "scorched colon". The Firework Association said: "This sort of thing is beyond belief."
The Mirror's website links to U-tube clips of similar firework stunts with the obligatory warning "DO NOT try this yourself..."

My wife heard this story on BBC Radio Two on her way to work this morning. She says for some reason the presenter couldn't manage to read the news item as he was in fits of laughter.


Democrats win Senate - it's official

BBC reporting that Republican George Allen has finally admitted defeat in the Virginia race for the US Senate.

It is now official: The Democrats control both legislative houses in the US.

Interesting times...

A donkey called Bruno, cocaine and speeding...

I wondered what my friend Bruno the Skegness beach donkey had been up to when I read the shock headline "Bruno caught doing 90mph on county A1" in today's Lincolnshire Echo.

But I needn't have worried. The driver of the Mercedes 4x4 car snapped by a speed camera on the A1 at Grantham was not a donkey at all. Apparently.

It was another Bruno who claims to be a former boxing champion and I've found this BBC photo of him pretending to give another donkey called Iron Mike Tyson a lesson.
Apparently Frank Bruno, like the famous donkey, is also a bit of a celebrity - know what i mean 'arry - and was on his way to give an after-dinner speech at a charity dinner near Lincoln, in aid of Cancer Research UK.
He already had six penalty points on his licence.

According to the Echo, yesterday's fine and further points on his licence came days after the father-of-four issued a public apology for relapsing into cocaine use.

I'd like to make it clear that Bruno the current UK champion beach donkey who is based at Skegness, has a clean licence and has never used cocaine.

In case of fire, first find your donkey…

A fire brigade leaflet giving practical tips of what to do if trapped in a blaze made perfect sense in English. But when translated into Urdu, the Mirror says it advised occupants to grab the nearest...donkey.

The English text, designed to cut deaths from household fires, read:
"Never jump straight out of a window. Lower yourself on to cushions etc."
But in the Urdu version it said:
"Never jump out of a window straight. Put yourself on a donkey etc and come down."
Teacher Ilfan Malik explained:
"The Urdu word for cushion is gadda. But the word for donkey is gadha. It appears whoever translated the leaflet has mixed the two words up or the spelling has been printed wrongly."
Mohammed Iqbal added: "Everyone has had a good laugh."

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue produced the brochure for ethnic communities across

Time to honour soldiers shot at dawn...

More than 300 British soldiers executed in the First World War have been officially pardoned with yesterday’s Royal Assent of the Armed Forces Act 2006 – just in time for them to be included in Acts of Remembrance this weekend.

The Government pardons remove the dishonour of execution and recognise that the firing squad was not a fate the deserved by such soldiers as 20 year old Privates George Collins and Charles Kirman, both of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

(see my August archive for details of their cases).

Many of them were brave men who volunteered, served with distinction, but were shot for cowardice after suffering shell-shock after months in the hell-hole trenches.

Pardons for the 300+ men shot at dawn by their own side - even 90 years late - finally removes the awful stigma their families had to live with for decades.

At Remembrance Day services this weekend, as we honour those who gave their lives in countless conflicts of the past Century - as well as those serving us today - I hope that the executed soldiers of the First World War will be given special mention for the first time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

21-year-old dies driving 192mph super-racer on A16

How tragic to read of a 21-year-old killed while driving a Lamborghini sports car on our local roads.

When I saw the horrific wreck on the front page of this week’s Lincolnshire Free Press, I thought the car looked more suited to a racetrack than the A16 at Spalding where the tragedy happened.

Charlotte Chinn was driving her husband’s car on Saturday evening when it collided with a Ford Fiesta. The 17 year old Fiesta driver had to be cut out of the wreckage by fire-fighters. He has since been released from Boston hospital.

I looked up the Lamborghini sales brochure on the internet. The car Charlotte was driving appears to be a Gallardo model, a extreme lightweight compact two-seater supersports, powered by a massive V10, five-litre engine. One of its selling points is that is
as suitable for driving on race tracks as it is on long distance journeys and city roads
The £130,000 supercar produces a staggering 500 brake horse power – ten times more powerful than a standard Fiesta!

The brochure also claims a top speed of a breath-taking 192 miles per hour.

For all I know, Charlotte may have been an qualified advanced driver or race-qualified in some way and there is of course no suggestion that either she or the Fiesta driver were breaking the speed limit.

In fact, I have no knowledge of the fatal crash other than what I have read in the Free Press, so perhaps I’ve already said enough, particularly at this time when her friends and family will still be trying to come to terms with such a terrible loss.

I believe Charlotte was the 58th victim to die this year on Lincolnshire's roads.

The 59th lost his life last night in Lincoln.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Is Tory policy crazy as Tory MP Quentin says...?

The Labour Party is calling on all Conservative MPs who failed to support their leadership's call for an immediate Iraq enquiry to say whether they agree with Quentin Davis MP who branded their party's policy as 'crazy'.

Labour have published a full list of the senior Tory MPs who joined Stamford and Grantham MP Mr Davies in failing to support the Tory leadership's decision to follow the Nationalists in their motion.

Mr Davies went on to say that he was 'amazed' and 'sorry' about Cameron's stance on these serious matters and that soldiers in Iraq would have been amazed as well.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Evangelist Pastor in gay-sex scandal confesses to a “problem…”

Just when the Republicans were hoping the latest sex-scandal would go away, CNN are reporting tonight that evangelical Pastor Ted Haggard has admitted he's "a deceiver and a liar," and has confessed to a "lifelong sexual problem" in a letter read to his so called “megachurch” congregation.

"There is part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life," says the letter read out - after the church had been cleared of children.

Haggard is a fire and brimstone preacher who campaigns against gays from the pulpit, but was accused this week of paying a male prostitute for drugs and sex over the past three years.

Yesterday, he was sacked by his church in Colorado Springs who said their initial investigations clearly showed he was guilty of “sexually immoral conduct”.

With just 36-hours to Tuesday's crucial elections across America, the scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time for George W. and the Republicans who have been cosying up ever closer to the Christian Conservatives.

They hoped they were getting over the negative publicity which hit them following the high-profile resignation of Republican Congressman Mark Foley after his raunchy emails expressing an undue interest in a 16-year-old male page were exposed to the nation.

We will have to wait until Tuesday to see if the American people give them what they deserve.

The truth about the nuisance email chain letter...

Kate Belson at the office of the premium rate telephone regulator has shed some light on the mysterious scam that turned out to be a nuisance chain letter which the county council, the Lincolnshire Echo - and me - were sucked into.

ICSTIS is clearly fed up to the back teeth with this chain email which is diverting her from dealing with legitimate complainants.

Here's what Kate has to say:

Parcel Delivery Services operated in 2005. Consumers did receive cards inviting them to rearrange delivery of a digital camera and around 250 complaints were received by ICSTIS.

On 29th December 2005, all numbers relating to Parcel Delivery Services were ordered to be terminated by ICSTIS and the network involved cut off all lines. If any of you take the trouble to call 0906 6611911 you will discover that it is a DEAD LINE.

ICSTIS issued a statement to all telephone networks alerting them to the case and reiterating their obligations under the ICSTIS Code of Practice to ensure that their service providers comply with our regulation.

Since the PDS case only one other ‘delivery’ company has been in operation but ICSTIS ordered the numbers involved to be cut off and they were terminated. The second company was called De Sotto. We received 7 complaints, acted immediately and ensured no consumer harm could be caused.

Neither PDS nor De Sotto is in operation.

Neither of these companies profited from their efforts because ICSTIS introduced a ’30 day payment procedure’ in order to cut down on ‘scam and scram’. This means no money can pass through the value chain until 30 days has passed.

Please refer to the ICSTIS website if you require consumer literature:

or if you would like to receive ICSTIS alerts:

I have informed the Lincolnshire Echo of their misunderstanding.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lincs Tory MP attacks 'absolutely crazy' Tory leadership

Stamford and Grantham MP Quentin Davies says Tory Leader David Cameron was "absolutely crazy" to vote for an immediate inquiry into the Iraq war earlier this week.

The Lincolnshire MP is the first senior Conservative to openly attack his Party’s opportunist behaviour in the House of Commons.

Cameron instructed his MPs to support an unsuccessful motion by Scottish and Welsh nationalists calling for an inquiry to be held while British troops are still in action.

Quentin, former Tory defence spokesman, abstained from Tuesday's vote.

Thanks to Ridiculous Politics for picking on BBC Radio 4's Week in Westminster report

Quentin told the BBC he could not understand why anyone, especially his party, would vote for it. He said:
"I was quite incredulous when I heard we were going to vote for that [SNP/Plaid] resolution.

I didn't vote for it but most of the party did. [That] left me really quite amazed and I'm very sorry about that as a matter of fact.”
He said it would be unprecedented to hold an inquiry during a military campaign.

To have an open inquiry would be
"signalling to the enemy all your plans and all your weaknesses...That can't make any sense at all, and I think that soldiers serving out there in these very difficult conditions would have been just as amazed as I was."
He said the party should be careful to base its actions on "analysis of national interest" and not to give the "slightest sliver of suspicion" that it was playing "party politics with these serious issues".

But Mr Davies added the credibility of the party as an alternative government would be seriously damaged if it gave the impression of "cynically" shifting with the prevailing party political wind.

Another senior Conservative who was absent from the crucial vote - but who declined to be named - described Mr Cameron's decision as "intellectually and morally indefensible".

The MP suggested a number of Tory MPs were deliberately absent. And the BBC reported that there are suggestions that the issue has caused splits within Cameron’s cabinet.

Will gay sex scandal impact on Tuesday’s US elections?

American blogs like this one are going crazy over the famous anti-gay evangelist who is facing claims that he paid a male prostitute for sex for the past three years.

With the hours counting down to Tuesday’s crucial mid-term elections, this huge national scandal could play a part in what many expect will be meltdown for the Republicans.

For national scandal it now is.

Rev. Ted Haggard’s fame as Leader of 30 million American evangelists and his links to President Bush put the story on every American front page this weekend. As one of the leading campaigners against gays in American, Haggard is given weekly contact with the White House.

It's just one example of how the Grand Old Party and the religious right have obscenely groomed each other over recent years.

Hours after a male prostitute went on radio this week to claim that Rev. Ted Haggard had been paying him for drug-fuelled sex for the past three years, my contact with the Democrats was eagerly feeding me newsfeeds as the story developed.

The male prostitute says he was sick of the hypocrisy of Haggard’s anti-gay preaching in public while having gay-sex in private. You can see Haggard’s fire and brimstone anti-gay message on You Tube

And you can hear Haggard’s initial rather curious denials of the accusations HERE

Later Haggard resigned as President of the National Association of Evangelicals and also as leader of the mega-church he helped create in Colorado.

But Haggard has now admitted he did buy drugs from his accuser – apparently out of curiosity. He never actually used them of course.

He’s also admitted receiving a massage from the male prostitute after being “referred to him” by a Denver hotel.

That’s taking research - or curiosity - to extremes!

Whatever happens in the elections, maybe the vice-like grip the evangelist lobby has on the private parts of the Republican Party will be finally loosened.

Book 'em Gary: Parking 1.

Our new sector Inspector Gary Stewart rightly ordered a crack-down on parking offences – after listening to a load of residents’ complaints about illegally parked cars.

But now he’s received a stack of complaints about the crack-down!

He told the Stamford Mercury:

"The people of Stamford asked me to enforce the issue, which we did. The question now is, are they asking me to stop?"

I hope Gary keeps up the blitz on bad parking. In my book, illegal parking is inconsiderate anti-social behaviour.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pop in to meet your Neighbourhood Police Team this Saturday…

Deepings residents are invited to drop in to meet the local neighbourhood police team this Saturday.

Community Beat Manager for The Deepings Neighbourhood Policing team, PC Jim Capp says:
The aim of the National Neighbourhood Policing Model is to boost the accessibility and visibility of local officers in the community.

We identified that one of the major concerns of local people was that the station was not always manned. So we decided to start this surgery where people can drop in to the station between 11 and 1 every Saturday.
Police Community Support Officer Catherine Wright says:
I hope that this surgery will help make myself and my colleagues PC Jim Capp, Helen Hibbit and Christopher Clarke more accessible to the public as they will know where and when we are available rather than having to rely on seeing us in passing or by going through the control centre.

We hope that people will come and talk to us about any community issue they may have, such as anti social behaviour and that they come with as much information as they can gather (i.e. times, places, descriptions of the offenders etc) so that we can look at ways of tackling the problems.

We don't promise immediate results but we want to be engaging our partner agencies in dealing with the real issues that are having a negative impact on residents quality of life and not on those things that we think are a concern.

Anyone who goes along to the surgery can talk to the PCSOs in confidence about any issues as well as gather information about crime prevention.
Neighbourhood Policing is a Government initiative which aims to boost accessibility, visibility and responsiveness to local needs.

So far the south division of Lincolnshire - which covers Stamford, Deepings and Spalding - has 16 teams comprising of an experienced police officer and a PCSO or small team of PSCOs.

Supporting these teams are officers from the part-time Special Constabulary.

Can someone please tell me, is this a genuine scam, or what?

I wasn’t the only one to be caught by the telephone scam that wasn’t.

But I'm now totally confused, as the Lincolnshire Echoreports that there is a similar variant in circulation that asks residents to call an extortionate premium rate phone line.

I removed my warning on the scam at the request of ICSTIS, the premium rate service regulator, who assured me that the scam was no longer operating and that the warning was a false one.

But the Echo carries an interview with ICSTIS that seems to contradict that view.

The Echo reports an ICSTIS spokesperson as saying: who says:
"This is a totally unacceptable practice and we are determined to stamp it out.

"We managed to track Parcel Delivery Services to a firm in Belize and we have frozen their activities, but the DeSotto Delivery example is the most recent and is being circulated now.

"Everyone needs to be vigilant of any variation on the scam, especially in the run up to Christmas when it is likely to be used more.

"Please report it if you receive one of these letters."
The Echo goes on to quote Lincolnshire Trading Standards officer Andy Bukavs said county residents and businessmen need to stay on their toes.

He confirms:

"There have been a number of cases recently and we need people to report them as soon as they receive the communication,"
And he adds:
"It is very easy to fall foul of these scams.”
I know exactly what he means…

I’ve been caught by chain letter scam within a scam…

At the request of ICSTIS, the premium rate service regulator, I’ve removed yesterday’s post “Beware of latest telephone scam” and offer sincere apologies to all for any inconvenience caused.

The warning that Lincolnshire County Council asked me to pass on turns out to be nothing more than an inaccurate nuisance chain letter

I’m afraid I have to plead guilty to being a bit of an old luddite when it comes to anything remotely concerned with IT.

But I thought I was on safe ground and providing a helpful warning to pass on what seemed to be a news of a genuine scam which could cost £15 if you were caught.

The warning originated from an email sent to a county council officer in the Leader’s office from someone called XXXXXX XXXXXXX an officer at City of Lincoln Council (I'm now checking to see if he exists!).

(see March 10th 2009 Update below).

The county council officer quite reasonably sent the email to the IT-Postmaster (at Hyder Business Services, an outside company contracted to the County Council who are paid millions a year to provide various services).

The IT-Postmaster sent it to me – and presumably every other county councillor, and who knows how many officers.

I posted it in good faith, y'honour and then left for London for the rest of the day, thinking I'd been helpful...

Within a couple of hours, Kate Belson at ICSTIS was on my post:

Please follow this link to our latest news page and see the first entry about PDS.

I would appreciate it if you could update your website accordingly as we are receiving numerous calls from consumers who are very upset by this false news.

If you are keen to educate your audience about premium rate please refer to our leaflet, are you protecting yourself against premium rate scams.
But first off the blocks to point out that I was merely propagating a nuisance chain letter was the Rev. Mark Warrick at quickly followed by Carole and Albert.

So if Mark, Carole and Albert know in an instant that this is a hoax, how come our IT-Postmaster didn't?

You can bet I’ll be asking questions…watch this space!

UPDATE: Turns out the council officer who received this chain letter and passed it on to his contact list does indeed exist. He's contacted me and at his request, I've amended the above post by removing his all happened over two years ago and I would not wish to cause him any further embarrassment. Phil - 10th March 2009.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mandela's tear for the crocodile who locked him up...

The incredible Nelson Mandela has paid tribute to the PW Botha, the symbol of all that was evil in apartheid, the man who defiantly refused to release him from prison, who sent death squads into the townships which murdered children, who destablised the whole of southern Africa and who took his own country to the brink of bankruptcy in the cause of white supremacy.

PW was known by his friends as the Great Crocodile for his iron fist in dealing with opposition to apartheid.

And under pressure even from his own side to release Mandela, he famously said: “What would you say if I release him today and we had to re-arrest him tomorrow?”

Yet on his death, some of the first tributes reported on the BBC have come from Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress - outlawed under Mr Botha but which now governs South Africa.

"The African National Congress extends its sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of former President PW Botha, who passed away. The ANC wishes his family strength and comfort at this difficult time,"
it said today.

Mandela himself said: "While to many Mr Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took to pave the way towards the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country."

Those words tell us something about PW. But don't they tell us much more about the greatness of Mandela?