Monday, July 31, 2006

'Cross-dressing' politics

Premature? Moi?
I see that in a speech in California last night, Prime Minister Blair hailed the era of 'cross-dressing' politics. Maybe Mark Oaten's decision to announce he is not to stand in Winchester at the next general election last week was a little premature!

Southampton City Council's useless IT Department

Don't make him angry, you wouldn't like him when he's angry...

I read an interesting post on Cllr Jeremy Moulton's blog today (see link on right),
"It seems that while I was away the Council tried to forward on my emails to my private email address so I could keep an eye on my work whilst away (sad I know).Unfortunately due to a technical error I didnt get the emails forwarded on and the Council appear to have lost them from their computers. So I am afraid I have lost a lot of correspondence. If you emailed me between 12th and 27th July and you need me to reply, please can you re-email me?"
Well it seems a bit more serious than that actually. The balence of probability is that some functionary in the IT department actually forwarded the emails, many of them confidential in nature, to a member of the public's email address in error and then deleated the originals. No wonder Moulton is furious...

Immigration- the cappuccino question

My picture shows a booklet detailing sailings to Southampton
in 1959 from Gdynia, Poland
I was having a cup of coffee this-morning with a Polish friend when he suddenly asked me, "Do you know how many Polish people there are in Southampton?" Well amazingly, I remember watching a news item on the BBc's Politics Show in June where the reporter mentioned that the Council estimated there were 20,000 in the city. My friend went on to say that the Polish community themselves think that the figure could be closer to 50,000. Thats rougly one in ten and an amazing, one in four of the population respectively. -The discrepancy being down to the number of people who only stay a few months, those that share rooms and don't put themselves on the electoral role and those that simply work in the black economy and don't want to be traced. I asked him if he thought that was as high a figure as it was likely to get- "Oh no", he replied, "I think you will continue to see huge increases over the summer, no end in sight yet".
With the average income in Poland £4,000 per year and over 20% unemployment, who can blame them? However, there are some implications for our public services in the city- do we have the right number of say schools and colleges and do they offer the right sort of courses (eg teaching English), can the NHS cope with the additional demands being put upon it and so on.
Another worry I have is that economically the Polish have integrated into the city remarkably smoothly- you don't see many Polish unemployed. But if the Labour market tightens up and interests rates risebegin to see resentment from theindigenouss British population and heightened tension? Amazingly these issues , will we do not seem to be discussed in the media locally at all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cherie gets the Freedom of the City!

I see from the BBC that Cherie Blair is to be granted the Freedom of the City of London!
They go on to tell us that, "the honour dates from 1237 and bestows such privileges as the right to drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest."
Hope no one tells Euan or he will want the Freedom too!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Summer reading!

These are the last 12 political books I have read and very interesting they all were too, not a duff one among them! Seldon's book on Blair was, in my view, outstanding while some of the revelations in the Oborne book were simply unbelievable!

1. Kill the Messenger...Again by Bernard Ingham (2003; Publisher: Methuen)
2. The Time of my Life by Denis Healey (2006; Publisher; Methuen)
3. Downing Street Diary by Bernard Donoughue (2006; Publisher: Jonathan Cape)
4. The Spin Doctor's Diary by Lance Price (2005; Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton)
5. The Dream of Rome Author by Boris Johnson (2006; Publisher: HarperCollins)
6. Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze by Iain Dale & Guido Fawkes (2006; Publisher: Politico's Media)
7. Smell the Coffee - A Wake up Call for the Conservative Party by Michael A Ashcroft (2005; Publisher: MAA Publishing)
8. Blair by Anthony Seldon (2005; Publisher: Free Press)
9. Heroes & Contemporaries by Jonathan Aitken (2006; Publisher: Continuum)
10. The Rise of Political Lying by Peter Oborne (2005;Publisher: Free Press)
11. The Great Deception - Secret History of the European Union by Richard A E North & Christopher Booker (2005; Publisher: Continuum)
12. David Blunkett by Stephen Pollard (2004; Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

12 years on- The end is in sight!

Happier days...
copyright BBC
I didn't realise but Tony Blair passed the milestone (millstone?) of having been leader of the Labour Party for twelve years yesterday!
Still the end is in sight- why not visit
to cheer yourself up?!!!

Lets design out Crime from our Housing Estates

Millbrook and Redbridge
prime examples of inappropriate developments when it comes to 'designing out' crime
Parts of Southampton’s residential estates are not, to use the Home Secretary’s now infamous phrase, ‘fit for purpose’, when it comes to reducing crime and the fear of crime. In May, I stood in the local elections in a Southampton suburb made up largely of 1960s Council estates which was an interesting experience. Built in a pre-car era catering for mainly the traditional nuclear family, the estates are not aging well and are ill-suited to take account of the lifestyle changes that have taken place over the last fifty years.
The big opportunity is where we infill or build new developments on green or brownfield land, to design out crime and to make our communities stronger and safer.
The point is councils, planners, builders and government all have a role to play in using best practise. Sadly, in Southampton reducing crime is barely mentioned in the council’s planning guidelines or the more general ‘local plans’. Council Officers looked at me as if I was crazy when I opposed the closure of a local pub and its replacement with high density housing last May. I was worried about the impact the new development would have on the surrounding community. Design ideas include ensuring that planning rules encourage the construction of homes with private open space, in the knowledge that front gardens can increase security both from burglary and theft of items from doorsteps; reducing the opportunities for vehicle crime by ensuring that householders can park on their driveway, or in adjacent garages, to reduce the opportunities for vehicle crime; and ensuring that households feel part of their community by raising the level of observation of streets and pathways possible from residences. Of course, the causes of crime are many and varied. However, there is growing evidence that the design of housing estates can radically affect the local crime rate.We seriously need to look at the ideas promoted by police chiefs including Hampshire’s Paul Kernaghan. The creation of defensible space and territory; organizing housing areas so that anti-social behaviour is less likely to be ignored; creating space that generalises a sense of ownership, such as front gardens, rather than space which promotes anonymity; and promoting natural surveillance from residents' houses are all common sense solutions. Where these guidelines have been followed, crime has fallen sharply. However, an estate which has incorporated the Government's planning principles - which include restricting parking spaces, opting for narrow streets and wide pavements, and locating garages and parking lots behind buildings - will suffer from an average of six times as much criminal activity according to independent research. Our elected politicians should remember that few things affect people’s quality of life more than crime and the fear of crime and it is the poorest in society who suffer most. It is Labour and the Lib-Dems who have left our housing estates behind in Southampton.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Re-inventing the wheel...

Customs Officers pictured from the Port of Southampton in November 1946
copyright Associated British Ports plc
Liam Bryne MP, Labour's newish Immigration Minister is reported as saying Britain needs to toughen our borders, and counting people in and out is a basic discipline that we need to introduce (Telegraph report 20 July et al). Why then did his Labour government end such checks in 1997-98 in ports such as Southampton?
The loosening of border controls cut off a valuable source of intelligence for police and the security services in the investigation of terrorism, people-trafficking and drugs-smuggling to give three examples. The words re-inventing the wheel seem apt here...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Michael Foot unplugged!

Private Eye cover, couple of issues back...

I have been listening to Iain Dale's two part interview with the former Labour leader Michael Foot at and it really is rather good- a fascinating insight into the man.
What with that and making the front cover of 'Private Eye' a couple of issues ago, perhaps he is set for a political comeback! Apparently he is 93 on Sunday.

End of the Romsey Red Head?

Sandra pictured with the Ex..

image reproduced from Guido's posting on Ms Gidley...

The picture of Caroline Nokes on the posting on Col Mates below made me wonder what is going on in Romsey politics these days- not a lot by the look of things as Ms Sandra Gidley the self-styled Romsey Red Head has discontinued her blog!

Lest it ever be forgotton this is what Guido Fawkes posted about her on his blog in Feb 2005;

In a seat where only 1186 votes will swing it things are bound to be tense, but when the leading candidates are a savvy young photogenic, glamourousTory and a hotheaded LibDem redhead it always has glorious potential for a cat-fight. So little surprise when Guido's lie-ometer started swinging violently reading incumbent MP Sandra Gidley's blog. The Romsey Redhead claims in a posting that Tory Caroline Nokes' 4000 Valentine's cards to constituents were a "wacky idea" (translation - "why didn't I think of that?") and led to people joining the LibDems to help deliver leaflets "as some people didn't seem to be very amused by the stunt."
Sorry, but Guido does not believe her, "Oh look a Valentines card from the pretty Tory candidate. I'm so unamused by that I'll go and help the liberals deliver leaflets even though its blowing gales out there..."

Don't let the buggers get you down!

Michael Mates MP (centre) flanked by George Young MP and
Caroline Nokes, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Romsey.

Sitting outside Westminster's Red Lion public house yesterday, who should I see pulling up outside the MPs private car park in a London cab accomplied by two most attractive ladies, albeit of a certain age? Step forward Michael Mates, MP for East Hants.
The Red Lion's patrons were doubtless surprised to see him reappear moments later at the wheel of a red Renault Clio despite having appeared to enjoyed a boisterous lunch.
In one fluid movement the car flew up Derby Street, narrowly missing the kerb before turning left and speeding off into the London traffic.
The two defense correspondent hacks from The Mirror sitting next to me looked far from amused as they exchanged a few choice expletives...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


'We are so happy together...'
My thanks to Beau Bo D'Or for the pic, appropriately enough from the 'nicked' section of his website...

Well congratulations to Gordon and Sarah Brown on the birth of their son on Monday. It seems that if you want to get on in politics these days, having a young family can be an enormous help as Messrs. Blair, Cameron and Kennedy (hic, shurly shome mishake- Ed) can all testify!

I have to say that one-time Mirror Editor Piers Morgan account of Blair's Downing Street baby in his book, "The Insider" was highly amusing.

His account of how he rang Alistair Campbell and uttered just one word 'stork?' when he had been tipped off about the pregnancy had me laughing out loud when I read it.

Campbell went on to confirm the good news. Morgan says that someone in Downing Street then leaked his exclusive to The Sun, in order that Labour could extract the maximum publicity. According to Morgan, Campbell and Blair then both denied anyone in the Downing Street organization involvement. All would be well except Fiona Millar, Campbell's girlfriend and a former aide of Cherie Blair, inadvertently went on to confirm to Morgan confirmed that they had indeed passed the story onto The Sun! Apparently Morgan was incandescent!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oops, he's done it again!

I feel a letter to The Echo coming on....

Dear Letters Editor,
I don't know if he has been in the job too long but Alan Whitehead MP is looking increasingly accident prone. Fresh from the so-called 'Burgergate' affair where he received free world cup tickets from corporate sponsor McDonalds and his hypercritical decision to vote again selection in state schools in Northern Ireland while keeping it in England, Mr Whitehead has now welcomed the much criticised 'Home Sellers' pack scheme (Echo report).
Despite more than 125 MPs, including former Labour ministers Frank Field and Kate Hoey signing a cross-party commons motion urging Gordon Brown to step in and stop the project, Mr Whitehead has given the project his personal thumbs up.
Loopholes mean the packs will say nothing about a house's possible subsidence or electrical safety for example, forcing many buyers to continue paying for their own surveys.
First time buyers in Southampton will be particularly seriously affected - they're the ones most likely to nervous about this huge financial commitment. The Packs will be just an additional burden on top of soaring council tax bills, inheritance tax and stamp duty that potential buyers have had to face from Labour.
Mr Whitehead is increasingly out of touch with public opinion in his constituency.
Yours sincerely,
Matthew Dean
Southampton Test Conservatives.

Syd Barrett, a creative genius, Rest in Peace.

Syd Barrett, pictured with Pink Floyd and top, his 1988 compilation 'Opel'.

I was sorry to hear today of the death of Syd Barrett, one time guitarist with the rock band Pink Floyd. I first got into listening to his work in about 1988 on my cassette driven Sony Walkman. I remember thinking that the Pink Floyd albums The Piper at the Gates of Dawn(1967) and A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) were great albums while bassist Roger Walter’s tribute to him ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ rates as one of my all time favorite songs. His 1988 compilation Opel was another well used cassette i got into.
Barrett struggle with drugs and mental illness meant he dropped out of the band after a number of increasingly erratic performances both on and off stage. One anocdote I remember being told was that of Barrett putting an entire tube of Brylcreem (purportedly mixed with crushed heroin substitute Mandrax, giving it a chocolate like consistancy) on his head, which subsequently melted down his face under the heat of the stage lighting, making him look like "a guttered candle" and getting in his eyes causing huge discomfort. However drummer Nick Mason disputed this, stating in the Barrett biography, Madcap, "Syd would never waste good mandies."
Following a disastrous abridged tour of the US, David Gilmour (a school friend of Barrett's) was asked to join the band as a second guitarist in order to cover as Barrett's erratic behavior prevented him from performing. For a handful of shows Gilmour played and sang while Barrett wandered around on stage, occasionally deigning to join in playing.
In January 1968, on the way to a show at Southampton University, the band elected not to pick Barrett up. They attempted to retain him in the group as a songwriter, much as The Beach Boys had with Brian Wilson, but this proved to be untenable.
Despite his replacement David Gilmour’s protestations to the contary, drugs ruined a creative genius. . The last compilation of his solo work was entitled ‘Wouldn't You Miss Me?’ His many fans will.

Poster heaven!

I was asked by a Conservative activist to send him copies of the posters I produced for last May's local government elections in Southampton and thought they may raise a smile for some of the people who read my blog- so here they are!
The first will be easily recognisableto those that follow such things - it is one of last year's general election posters produced by the Conservative Campaign HQ (you mean Central Office- Ed!) modified with my name.
The second also started life as a general election poster but modified with the latest New Labour sleaze! Actually the idea was very similar to one that my friend, Whitbread marketing guru Mark Watson came up with about 6 years ago- move over Tim Bell and Lord Saachi!
The third poster was an extention of the campaign I had been running to keep the weekly refuse collection in Southampton rather than moving to have the bins emptied fortnightly. This was a proposal that Labour worked up in office that was then enthusiatically taken up by the Lib-Dems when they took control and subsequently dumped by Labour! My Lib-Dem opponent Paul Russell thought the poster the reason he lost but I think I put it down to his lack of canvassing!
Another unpopular decision was to end the communal cleaning of council-owned towerblocks, a policy this time endorsed by both Labour and the Lib-Dems- a real quality of life issue if you happen to be a resident in such a block.
Finally, the last poster poked fun at Cherie Blair for her absurd hair styling bills- which much to disgust of Labour activists, she billed them for!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Prescott's latest conquest

"He's sorted out housing and development, transport, regional government, the dome- what more do you want?"

Well Guido Fawkes blog
has revealed Prescott's other lover to be no less that Rosie Winterton MP for Doncaster Central and currently Minister of state at the Department of Health (June 2003- present).
She certainly knows Two-Jags well as she was a Constituency Personal Assistant to John Prescott, MP (1980-1986) and then after a short sabbatical, his Head of Office (1994-1997) prior to becoming an MP herself.
Interestingly this is a story that has been doing the rounds for some time and not just in the Westminster village either - Park Hotel regulars in Southampton have known about it for weeks (since the 30th April to be exact!- Ed). Nice to know we are always first with the gossip!
I heard Trevor Kavanagh, former political editor of The Sun, tell Radio 5 Live: "Learning that John Prescott's had an affair is a bit like learning that Simon Hughes is gay. I mean, everyone knew he has affairs. He's had a string of affairs throughout his life and this has come as no surprise."
On 30 April 2006, a "former senior Labour aide" Tricia McDaid was reported in the Sunday Times as accusing Prescott of being, "a serial groper" with a long record within the Labour Party of aggressive sexual behaviour, "He just jumped on you when he felt like it."
The Mail on Sunday also alleged that Mr Prescott had an affair 20 years ago with Sarah Bisset-Scott and a string of other lovers. Prescott subsequently expressed his intention to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about investigations of his former liaisons but I don't know if he did.
On May 7, a story in The Sunday Times quoted Linda McDougall, wife of the formidable Austin Mitchell MP, as saying that in 1978 Prescott had put his hand up her skirt as he came through the door to a lecture meeting. Mr Prescott had not met Ms McDougall before.
Prescott will have to watch out for Geraldine Smith, the MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said that many female colleagues in the Parliamentary party would be alarmed at the "worst sort of abuse of power" by Mr Prescott if the allegations against him are true. She added, "We have tried to combat that within the Labour Party for years. It is as old as Adam, the male employer taking advantage of a young female employee, and I don't think it looks good."
It certainly isn't looking too good for Mr Prescott this morning...
For the original story click on
and then The Guardian's political editor was surprised but then he always is !

Liberal Drinks


I came across a website dedicated to 'Liberal Drinks' today (yes really), the way Ming and the rest of the Muppets are going (Bromley result excepted), I am not surprised they could all do with a few libations...

Monday, July 03, 2006

RFA Sir Galahad in Southampton water for the last time

The three pictures above are of the second Sir Galahad and one of its landing craft pictured after the attack in the Falklands. Those below are of the ship constructed in 1987. All pictures are believed to be Crown Copyright reserved.

The third Royal Fleet Auxiliary shipto be named RFA Sir Galahad arrived at Marchwood Military Port for the final time on Friday 23rd of June after completing her last amphibious exercise off the west coast of Scotland. She will go out of service on the 1st of August and the plan is to have one final sailing to Portsmouth where she will be de-commissioned, an event that will be of less significance than the retirement of the last Sir Galahad, which was sunk as a war grave almost 24 years ago earlier to the day, on 24 June 1982.
On May 24, 1982 in San Carlos Water she was attacked by in a very heavy raid by A-4B Skyhawks of the Argentine Air Force and was hit by one 1000-pound bomb which did not detonate and strafed in a following wave of attack aircraft. On June 8 in Bluff Cove together with Sir Tristram, she was hit again by three bombs which created an intense flash fire across her decks. Very badly damaged, she was involved in unloading soldiers at the time of the attack from the 1st Welsh Guards. Terribly 48 of them, the crew and other passengers were killed in the explosions and subsequent fire. Dozens more were injured, some permantly disfigured by massive burns. Later the hulk was towed out to sea and sunk by HMS Onyx (which was the only diesel powered submarine to be used in the Falklands campaign) ; the site is now an official war grave.
The suffering of some of the survivors, most famous of whom is Simon Weston (later awarded an OBE), who suffered 46% burns, must have been terrible. I met Simon at an event in Porchester a couple of years ago- like many of his collegues, he is inspiration in how he has come to terms with his injuries.
At the same time, two men were killed on the RFA Sir Tristram when it was strafed, and another six on a small landing craft of HMS Fearless, which was blown up by rocket fire in the bay, making the air attack at Bluff Cove one of the most bloody events of that short war. Not enough is done to remember the veterans of that conflict, nor enough help given to veterans or their families.

The Commanding Officer of the current ship, Captain R W Dorey RFA happens to be a resident in Southampton.

RFA website

Matt Dean World Class Poker Player!

Matt Dean mk2- better teeth but ginger beard...

I had a bizarre 'phone call this morning from an reporter writing an article for an on-line gaming company...
"Hello is that Matt Dean, the poker player?"
"No its Matt Dean the publicans"
"But you play poker in your spare time- you are what I might call an amateur player?"
"Well yes, I guess so but I'm not much good..."
"Not much good- you are one of the best players on the South Coast"
"No I'm not!"
"I think I've got the wrong Matt Dean..."
"Sorry to have troubled you- bye"
Turns out that they thought I was an American player!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

So farewell then...

'locked out again...'
Well Tom Flynn is off to live and work in London today. A member of the Young Fabian Executive and a committed member of the local Labour Party in Southampton, he worked for the School of Nursing & Midwifery at Southampton University and as a director of Hill-Hamilton Media & Communications when I first met him. Like another political sparing partner, Jon Walters, he has also been involved in the local Unison branch quite a bit but I don't hold that against either of them! Tom will be quite a loss to Labour locally; as well as sorting out their website, he has been a fairly serious campaigner for them and he had a very credible set of election results in the Conservative stronghold of Freemantle last May;

Ward Results: Freemantle

Flynn Thomas Antony -Labour Party976
Moulton Jeremy Richard -Conservative Party 1310 Elected
Pickering Darren Carl -Green Party 446
Russell Ann Marie -Liberal Democrats 483
This is particularly impressive when one considers that he was up against Jeremy Moulton- a very hard-working and popular local Councillor. Although Labour is awash with its old style heavy metal dinosaurs and class warriors in Southampton, people like Tom who are normal (well as normal as anyone who is involved in politics can be!), up for a laugh and enjoy a drink, not to mention under 35 are quite a rarity so I will be sorry to see him go.
I have no doubt he will make his mark on the London political scene where the pace is a little brisker than Southampton.
Good luck Tom !

Classic Kearns

For those that missed the letter in The Times on the 20th June 2006, from Bill Kearns, ex-diplomat and one-time Labour Councillor for Shirley, I reproduce it below. i have known Bill for maybe 7 years now; although we are at absolute ends of the political spectrum, I really enjoy my company; He is a very humorous, articulate and generous man.

Sir, If we must endure the largely meaningless award of honours, can we at least ensure that those rewarded reside in the United Kingdom for taxation purposes?
BILL KEARNS, Southampton.



This classic was printed in The Mail under the headline 'Prescott mistress prepares to go public' on the 29th April 2006.

Sir, Now we can understand why Prescott is almost always sleeping on the front bench. He is recovering.
BILL KEARNS , Southampton.

And on a feedback form on a seminar run by Whitehall College entitled 'organizing : Building Bridges';

By bill kearns on Saturday, November 22, 2003 - 05:39 pm:
Hi, I am bill kearns and the advantages of this course are too many to mention so i wont mention them


A great man!

Bill's Blog;