Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Its not racist to discuss immigration sensitively and thoughtfully.

Its funny how politicians facing a difficult problem or wishing to execute a policy u-turn or implement an unpopular proposal (such as road pricing...) call for a 'public debate' but if the issue is one of which they approve or which they feel may be damaging to their interests, they offer a myriad of reasons why it shouldn't be debated...Worse, is the fear of the media to lead debate because they may be fearful of the political consequences or a drop in advertising revenue.

I saw the advert above in today's Daily Telegraph but the advertiser - - allege that others newspapers including The Sun, Express and Mail refused to publish it. Apparently, the advert is "inflammatory" and "potentially racist."
I find it depressing that people who wish to discuss and debate immigration and migration can't do so without being labeled xenophobic or racist. So much for democracy.

Former Freemantle resident brigtens up FHM magazine!

Er... ice and lemon?

One of my less likely encounters was meeting Kimberley Howl in The Pensioners Arms a few years ago. Amusingly I remember telling her that she ought to become a model and she went on to become runner up in The Sun's page three idol competition in 2003! Anyway she moved away from Malmsbury Road in Southampton after she graduated and stopped modeling.

The good news is she told me today she is back and in this month's FHM magazine! Hope they are good payers!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Old friend writes a new paper!

Nirj with friend

One of the most charming people I have met in contemporary politics is Nirj Deva who is currently a Conservative MEP for the South East region.
I first met Nirj when he was the MP for Brentford and Isleworth. I was never sure if it was his affinity with that area or his Sri Lankian origins that made him the natural choice to for John Major to appoint him as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Scottish Office !!!
After the good people of Brentworth rejected his talents in the great rout of 1997 in favour of the stupefyingly dull Blairite Ann Keen, Nirj sought political asylum from the EU!
Outside politics, he has been very active in recent years in supporting victims of the Tsumani, doing some great work as well as raising the awareness of the dehabilitating affect of autism.
We have had some fun moments on the campaign trail over the years- I will never forget the amazed impression from the waiter and other diners at the long-gone Chutneys in London Road where Nirj tucked into the restaurant's hottest curry that he cheerfully topped up with fresh chillies after asking for it to be made extra hot!
I see the Bow Group now publish Nirj's thought provoking paper 'Who governs Britain' on-line at their website which provides much food for thought for fans and critics of the EU alike. Nirj's article may not break any new ground (best see Booker and North's
'Great Deception' for that) but it is representative of a powerful strain within the Conservative Party that believe the EU is not the organisation that Britain joined nor the British people voted to stay in in 1975 and that as currently organised, the EU is too unaccountable.
Be good to see you soon Nirj!

Friday, February 23, 2007

High-handed electoral commission over-reacts!

Alan Brown- the donor who (for some of the time) wasn't on the electoral roll

The Daily Telegraph's Brendan Carlin (former Southampton Echo reporter by the way trivia buffs!) filed a remarkable story today on how the Electoral Commission is planning on forcing UKIP to forfeit over £360k of donations, mainly because one donor was not on the electoral roll at the time he gave some of the money. The fact that he was on the roll when he gave previous and subsequent donations apparently cuts no ice with the powers that be.

I am no fan of UKIP (far from it!) but this seems to me to be both high-handed and a huge over-reaction. Personally I think that the whole loans for peerages scandal that Labour has got embroiled in and events like UKIPs latest difficulty as a result of an over-zealous Electoral Commission are very damaging for democracy. As bad, it make it more likely that we are going to have the unfair and immoral policy of state funding of political parties foisted upon us!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bandwaggon rolls?

Mr Huhne in his chilled out days (foreground, looking at camera), using a bench to smash his way into the Indian Institute (now the history faculty) in support of students wanting a central student union for Oxford in 1973…

I am not entirely surprised that Chris Huhne has joined the rush to prescribe heroin to long-term addicts to prevent them from committing crimes to feed their habits, as Ken Jones, the head of Britain's police chiefs has suggested. After all it was Mr Huhne who once wrote that "hash" was useful when "work, or love, or lifestyle become too intolerable", a view that apparently he does not agree with now...

Personally I would rather follow the science rather than the political hacks view; in fact although the widespread prescription of heroin in Britain was phased out in the 1960s, GPs in England and Wales have the legal power to prescribe heroin. It is just that they do so extremely rarely. Mr Jones notes the UK has 327,466 hardcore "problem drug users" who are regularly using either heroin, crack or cocaine. A report by Glasgow University last year found that fewer than 4 per cent of heroin addicts beat their habit with methadone.

Personally, I would make the following observations;
  • Mr Jones is right to draw the link between urban crime and drugs.
  • Further the low and falling street value of drugs is an effective measure of how the police are failing to control the supply on Britain's streets. Personally I despair at how laissez-faire Hampshire Police appear in prioritising possession and use of controlled (?)drugs.
  • The lack of customs controls and particularly the lack of success in stemming the tide of drugs from Afghanistan, given our current imperial excursion there is a national disgrace.
  • The Conservative proposals to dramatically increase support for drugs users at the last election with the opening of more rehabilitation centres was a good if not particularly popular policy and one that Cameron should maintain despite the current brouhaha over his past alleged use of drugs.
The issue of illicit drugs use is certainly one that all the political parties should focus on more- even a modest reduction in consumption would provide very tangible benefits to society.

Its getting nasty out there!

Peter Oborne, the one-time political editor of the Spectator wrote a fascinating little book a couple of years ago called 'The Rise of Political Lying' detailing how politicians are often 'economical with the actuality' to use the late Alan Clark's words.

Well I shy away from calling them liars but a couple weeks into the local election campaign and Labour are making the most extraordinary claims in Southampton; some of them are truly unbelievable!

The most serious one comes from the Labour MP for Southampton Test Alan Whitehead. On his website he claims that the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems plan to close Oaklands pool in Southampton. In fact at the recent city council budget setting debate, the Conservatives proposed to keep funding at the current level for the pool, the Lib-Dems proposed to cut the subsidy and therefore the pools opening hours and Labour proposed budget cuts that in the words of the independent council officer, would result in the total closure of the facility in 3-5 months!

Secondly in his letter to the Daily Echo of Sat 17th Feb, David Furness, the Labour Candidate for Sholing, said that "only Labour was offering pensioners in Southampton a free Hampshire wide bus pass that was costed and budgeted". In fact only the Conservative budget included such a scheme; there was no word of it in the Labour budget and certainly no money for the scheme!

Finally my Labour opponent in Shirley has put out a leaflet attacking one of my fellow councillors in my ward, alleging that he does not effect road repairs where he lives. This is most unfair as Terry Matthews is retired and is virtually a full-time and most diligent councillor. He has been most effective in ensuring that Shirley has had its fair share of monies to repair Southampton's crumbling roads and pavements. The reason why the Council won't fix the pot holes the Labour candidate is pointing to on his leaflet is because the previous year the Lib-Dem and Labour councillors voted together to cut the roads and highways budget and shockingly as a result of Labour's cuts, the hole is not bad enough to get fixed!

No wonder people are becoming disillusioned with politicians!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Selected to fight the Shirley Ward on Southampton City Council!

Shirley Union Infirmary pictured from the South in Tremona Road in Shirley Road c.1904.
Picture copyright Peter Higginbotham. Thanks to for a fascinating delve into Shirley Warren history.

Many times over the last few years I have criticised Labour and the Lib-Dems stewardship of Southampton City council, not least on this blog. Well, now I genuinely have the power to make a difference and offer some constructive alternatives as I have been selected by the Conservative Party to contest the ward of Shirley on Southampton City Council.
The ward is represented by three councillors who are elected one per year with a four year term of office. There is what the Electoral Registration Officer describes as a 'rest-year' every fourth year!
Although the seat was held by Labour as late as 1999 when Bill Kearns won the seat, it is a good prospect for the Tories, who currently hold all three seats in the Ward. Last year Edwina Cooke was elected with a substantial majority. The results can be viewed here.
The sitting Conservative Councillor who is standing down due to work commitments is Richard Forbes. Richard has been a very diligent, effective ward councillor, always patient and helpful, so I will have a lot to live up to.
I have produced my first leaflet that I started to deliver today and will be outlining some of my policies as well as musing on the campaign trail on this blog in the fun up to May's elections!

Brandy and Babycham Waiter!

John Prescott pictured with Alistair Darling at the launch party of the Queen Mary II in Southampton. Tracey Temple has an interesting account of his visit to the docks and the night before which they spent in the DeVere Grand Habour Hotel.

I see that the BBC's Nick Robinson mentions on his blog that Tories often shout 'Mine's a G & T' from the Opposition Benches whenever John Prescott stands up; a reference to Prescott's stewarding days as a Merchant Seaman.
Actually his chief tormentor Nicolas Soames uses the bar call 'Brandy and Babycham Waiter' whenever the deputy PM is in attendance!
Incidentially Robinson's post was a plug for a Radio Four documentary entitled 'Prescott at Your Service' which was remarkably entertaining.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Was John Stonehouse, former Southamptonian, Labour MP and Minister, a spy?

er...nice curtains.

I have been following the work of Richard Stott, former editor of the Daily Mirror (shock horror!) in uncovering a scandal from yesteryear concerning John Stonehouse. The former Minister for Aviation, is best remembered for doing a Reggie Perrin but it appears that there may have been something more sinister in Stonehouse's life rather than just a trial of womanising, debt and decit.

In October 2006, a Czech file surfaced in which Stonehouse was named as a spy by a defecting Czech agent Josef Frolik. For the journalist Stott this must have seemed old news as he reported this a couple of days before Stonehouse was found in 1974. 'Savaged' ,as he put it, by Harold Wilson for alleging such inaccurate and irresponsible rubbish at the time in the House of Commons, it seems that Stott has been vindicated.

Longtime readers will recall how Stonehouse had faked his own death in the US before turning up in Australia on Christmas Eve. He had used faked identities, stolen from dead, former West Midlands constituents of the MP.

Frolik said that Stonehouse had been run from the Czech embassy in London and in a wave of anticipation the CIA shipped him off to Salisbury to debrief him. All seemed to go quite well 'till Frolik revealed he once tried to defect at Paddington nick where the desk Sergent nodded Sympathetically before asking the Czech embassy to come and pick him up...

Stonehouse naturally denied all this and so when the story was revealed, Wilson could be told that the rumours had been investigated and rejected as spurious...

This was all fine until Stonehouse turned up after his dissapearence sending MI5 into a blind panic. Desperatly they asked the Americans to reinterview Frolik but they were far from obliging, their prize grass having been spurned by the British once already. Stott got to him first and interviewed him but it seems the media were far from keen to publish his revelations, no doubt fearing the consequences of libel.

Within six months of telling Wilson that Stonehouse was clean, the spooks changed their tune and that he was a cold war informant. Stott argues that this effectively covered the security services backs- after all Wilson would not want to publicly change his mind and they had put themselves in the clear. Little wonder Wilson was known to be obsessed with the activities of the British security services!

Then Stonehouse revealed that on a ministerial trip to Prague he met his 'handler' where Stott speculates that the two of them then had an encounter with some Czech ladies of a sexual nature. For a British minister, then involved in negotiating the purchase of aircraft such as the F-111 and the development of the Comet and Concord programmes (yet then to fly), it could of been political dynamite.

Who says that the alumni from Taunton's school tend to be boring ?!!!