Sunday, September 21, 2014

Going Underground

We remain a United Kingdom but I'm not entirely convinced it feels that way anymore.

What I find somewhat bizarre is people of visibly non-Scottish antecedence, promoting independence, which rather begs the question of what Scotland or being Scottish actually is in a modern world? After all, I'm part Scots, English, Belgian and Norwegian and I'm sure that genetically, most of my readers also share an interesting mix, as well as in the case of a great many English people having a 10% Italian marker gene, inherited from the Roman legions. It all seems rather irrelevant in a global economy; to me at least. I enjoyed Braveheart like anyone else but that's where my imagination stopped.

St Regis Abu Dhabi
I thought I would share the picture opposite. It's the private tunnel leading from my hotel in Abu Dhabi, across and under the big main road.

This rather reminded me of the stories of Nero's Golden Palace in Rome. Here you have a subway decorated in the finest marble and polished like a mirror, with no expense spared. At a time when here we worry over the minimum wage and austerity, it's a reminder of what wealth and conspicuous consumption can look like elsewhere, where money is no object and street litter simply doesn't exist.

I had a call last week from the BBC. Apparently they have a political reporter moving down to Thanet to live in advance of next May's General Election and of course it's South Thanet which is the focus of their interest.

The 'Beeb' had been trawling this weblog and I pointed then at several local characters whom I 'm sure would also be happy to offer an opinion on the local political scene.

What is without doubt however, is that the lives, familiies and personal histories of all the political candidates; not just Nigel Farage, are going to be under intense scrutiny between now and next May. If there's even a hint of any skeleton in the cupboard or even a minor indiscretion at secondary school, the BBC or quite possibly The Sun and the Daily Mail are going to be looking for it with chequebooks poised. Quite why anyone would be prepared to put themselves through what is yet to come, for a poorly remunerated role on a Westminster back-bench, defies understanding.

Manston airport is firmly back on the agenda again with last week's visit from Cabinet Minister, Grant Shapps.  With Scotland and the powerful SNP influence of Mrs Gloag, now firmly behind us, I really do think there's a chance for the airport but if and only if the Council rallies behind a CPO and a suitable partner to achieve it. That said, I fear that Labour, with an eye to picking-up any and every possible vote in Ramsgate for Will Scobie, next May, may prevaricate as long as possible and Manston may yet become a political victim of Nigel Farage's ambition in the town.

I would like to be proved wrong.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Whistle-stop Tour

Independence Square in Kiev
Back from my recent travels, after an epic five hour journey, by train, from Heathrow to Westgate, yesterday afternoon. Thanks to South-Eastern trains, racing for a timetabled train that did not exist and then discovering engineering works between Gillingham and Faversham, with a replacement bus service, which stank of cannabis, with several of my fellow travellers, straight out of a Monty Python movie.

A Mother's Vigil
Anyway, having landed at Heathrow at 2:20 PM, I finally arrived home at 7:50 PM, a little faster than the equally dramatic and fun-filled eleven hour journey, last month, between Wolverhampton and home after I delivered an aircraft to RAF Cosford.

I thought I might share a few of my photos from the last week, so here they are.

Two of these may be of passing interest. The first, in monochrome, is, I'm told, of a mother, who sits on the same spot every day, where here son was shot dead by the President's snipers in Kiev's Independence Square last winter. Very sad.

Air Strike?
The second, was taken passing Irbil in Kurdistan. I knew, from the news that there was a fight to recover the strategic dam, inside Iraq, this last month, from ISIL and so when I saw where we were on the moving map, I took a look over towards the Iraq border and was surprised to see three artillery or air-strikes taking place, one after the other.. Here's one in the photo.

The last photo is of the opulent foyer of the five star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi, where the evening temperature was 41 degrees Celsius when I landed.

You don't check in to a hotel like this in the conventional sense. Instead, relax in a magnificent ante-room, while the staff check you in and attend to any baggage or special guest requests you might make and if you wish to have your own 'Butler' assigned then it's an option; rather like the BBC's programme on the famous Taj hotel in Mumbai.

It was rather nice, momentarily imagining life was really like this, for three pampered days, before I sped off to Istanbul and then to Kiev to do another job and from there, into the almost predictable  hands of South-eastern trains for the long journey home.

St Regis Hotel Abu Dhabi

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Taking the Leap

Super-hero in Town
Watching a movie being made in Station Road or even finding a superhero, waiting at the bus-stop, is an everyday occurrence in Westgate-on-Sea these days. Then there's our own local version of Top Gear running around the streets after midnight, frequently repeated several times a week.

I wonder if we could persuade the super-heroes to stay-up into the early hours to deal with boy-racers? I'm having very little visible luck with police to date; even with the assistance of our Member of Parliament.

Anti-social behaviour in Westgate, is, I'm sure somewhere lower down on the police list of priorities, particularly when you consider the mayhem that can occur elsewhere on the island but it would be nice to see a little action, as they now have most, if not all of the number-plates and I really couldn't make it easier for them.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may have spotted that I'm playing with Google Glass. I've just been into Westgate to have corrective lenses ordered and so should you see me wandering around looking like one of The Borg from Star Trek, you'll know why' it's taking a little getting used to, having a head-up display in front of my right eye all the time, feeding me information from the Internet.

Back to the real world and we are, of course, a small island of dog-lovers and here in Thanet, it's 'Staffies' you are more likely to see on our streets than any other breed.

Having stumbled across this video on YouTube, I wonder how many of our local pets and their owners might be up to the remarkable challenge, shown below? The dog doesn't appear too worried but then nobody has explained to him in any great detail, what the risks are.

It all rather explains why Superman chose to take the bus instead!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It's Farage for Thanet

No surprises this evening, as UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, wins his party's nomination to stand as the Parliamentary candidate for South Thanet in next May's General Election.

I'm reminded of the classic BBC series, of the 1980's, House of Cards but with a much shallower but far more populist character in the leading role, originally played by Ian Richardson.

Is this good for Thanet, north or south? Well I'm a little prejudiced and would of course says 'No'. Principally, because it turns the local political scene into more of a three -ring dysfunctional circus than it is already.

We already have a clown, in the shape of former militant socialist and  Green Party candidate, Ian Driver and Labour's local hopeful, Will Scobie, fresh from university, may be the candidate who benefits most from the arrival of UKIP's largest political cannon on Ramsgate's seafront.

Thanet has a host of problems, economic and health-related and I suspect that the people who most need a conventional, hard-working candidate, are the one's most like to be let down by the cult of celebrity politics and the media bandwagon which will very soon be camped in Ramsgate, between now and May of 2015.

Nigel may be the winner tonight but it's Thanet that may ultimately prove to be the loser of this political beauty contest as our dirty-linen is washed in public, to satisfy the curiosity of newspaper readers across the planet.

As for the other candidates, my advice to you is lock-up your bin bags, because every indiscretion, every secret and anything that you may have done of note since primary school, is now up for grabs.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

This Afternoon in Westgate 1940

If you were out for a walk in 1940, you might have seen Herbert Bischoff's Me109 of 1/JG 52 (note wild boar motif) make a forced landing on the edge of Minster Road, after his engine failed during a dogfight above the town on the afternoon of 24th August

This photo, snapped by a local air raid warden, caused lots of trouble and he was bought before the court on Margate charged with "Photographing the wreckage of a German aeroplane without a permit." Apparently the police and the military, keen on denying intelligence to the enemy were very disturbed by the number of people running around taking souvenir "snaps" but the culprit was "let-off" with a warning.

Pursued by RAF Flight-lieutenant George Gribble. Pilot Bischoff (see his account) hit a concrete anti-glider post before running across the stubble and bending his propeller. For him the war was over but his unit, JG52, went on to score more victories against allied aircraft than any other in the Luftwaffe, mostly on the Russian Front, so Bischoff was probably quite glad to end the war in one piece.

Herbert Bischoff. survived the war as a POW and became a prominent doctor, corresponding with local historian Dick Hambidge and the full story is here.

If you know the area, you can just about work out the position of the aircraft if it were still there today.

The Wild Ones

Daily Mirror from the Earlier Riot in May 64
It's hard to imagine that fifty years ago, this weekend, the 'Mods and Rockers' were fighting it out on the beach at Margate.

As a small boy, I can remember seeing the running-battles with the police, an army of black leather jackets, like ants across Marine Sands, from the clifftop at Westgate. There were also a few brief skirmishes that spilled into Westgate. The town was a very different place then and I think everyone wore a dress and a tie; perhaps even both. Those were the days when we never locked our house and people commonly exchanged a cheery 'good morning' when they passed each other in Station Road. The big houses in the town were normally owned by single families and so the population was a fraction of the 6,000 or so it is today.

In those days, much like a 'Just William' novel, small boys like me, wandered around freely and nobody worried where I might be. I  recall seeing one 'Rocker' hiding behind a bush along the seafront, when he saw I spotted him he pulled a switch-blade and threatened me and so I made myself scarce very quickly. This same individual was involved in skirmish at the junction of Station Road and Roxburgh Road and threatened my father. To this day I can remember, very proudly, that this was not a wise move and I never saw him again.

Changing the subject but remaining with bored young-men seeking violence and adventure, I see even the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for the revocation of Jihadi passports today and I suspect, that the BBC aside, a great many people are sympathetic to his proposition.

Daniel Hannan writes a thought-provoking piece in The Sunday Telegraph today.

I can't imagine anything worse or more dangerous than bringing 'John the Jihadi' back to this country for a criminal show trial, even if he and his crazed associates could be caught. Last night, Sky News used the expression an 'English Jihadi' but this opens a can of worms over what it actually means to be English today; the test of 'values' that Government is wedded to but that is derided by some cultural groups who have no wish to share our common values, even if they could be properly defined.

Not Quite as Blade Runner Imagined it
The problem that faces our society and most immediately our Government is loosely in two parts. The first is structural/technological unemployment, which is sweeping through the western economies and threatens the work prospects of all those who can be cost-effectively eliminated from the workforce (and expensive pension rights) by increasingly sophisticated and clever machines. The example I give in my lectures, is that while processors, following Moore's Law of 1965, may have improved a 1,000 times, algorithms and the business processes they support, have improved 43,000 times faster than that. The rise in self-employment and zero-hours contracts illustrates this very clearly, both here and the USA but politicians won't discuss it and continue to make welfare, pension and employment promises, as if they were in the late 20th century and not the early 21st.

The second problem is also born of statistics of a kind and that's swiftly changing population demographics. Yassir Arafat understood the political power of high birth rates. The Palestinian population increased seven-fold in one generation from 450,000 in 1967 to 3.3 million in 2002 and in open-prison which is Gaza, we can see the consequences writ large.

"The wombs of Palestinian women", Arafat said, were the “secret weapon” in his cause. The Israeli government is very much aware of Palestinian demographics.

In Europe, we can see, this part-reflected in a rapidly growing primary school population which is being driven by immigration pressures. We have an ageing, 'indigenous' population which is shrinking across Europe; with France's falling among its fastest. The Muslim population in Britain has grown by more than 500,000 to 2.4 million in just four years, according to official research collated for The Times this means quite unavoidably that England's religio-cultural future is a broadly Islamic one within two generations.

Together these present our society with a fertile incubator for radicalism and frustrated self-expression from a growing number of young men without prospects and a real sense of identity outside the highly polarised and self-imposed cultural bubble in which they live. It's a legacy of the Blair years and delivers moments, as we have seen recently, with the black flag of IS, flying openly in parts of London. All the Control Orders in the world are not going to be able to turn the tide of statistics or halt progress. What happens next is up to Government and Government has nothing that looks even vaguely like a solution for the future.

Daniel Hannan writes lucidly today "At the same time, let's stop teaching the children of immigrants to despise the British state. Let's stop deriding and traducing our values. Let's stop presenting our history as a hateful chronicle of racism and exploitation. Let's be proud of our achievements – not least the defence of liberty in two world wars in which, respectively, 400,000 and nearly a million Muslims served in British uniforms."

Back to my own bubble and for a Bank Holiday Sunday, it feel like late September. I'm off to Abu Dhabi, via Istanbul and then Kiev, lecturing very soon and I was somewhat encouraged to see Angela Merkel in Ukraine yesterday.

I was in Kiev at the end of last year; just before the problems all 'kicked-off' and I'm rather hoping I'll be in and out again before the next large Russian aid convoy comes into view. Borispol has one of the most spartan and least attractive, post communist  airports in the world, so this time around, I'll bring my own Mars Bar, a drink and something to sit on, while I wait for my flight home to Heathrow. There's a real money-making opportunity for a Starbucks concession there or even another trolley with a coffee urn!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Strategic Need for Manston Airport

Rochester Airport
Yesterday, I received a copy of Riveroak Investment's submission to the Davies Commission on the ''Utilisation of the UK's existing airport capacity.'

In the document, Riveroak develops its argument, that 'Manston airport can be re-opened as a successful Sky Port and Integrated Aviation Services Hub' and if you happen to be one of the many thousands of people in Thanet, who still believe in the airport's future, despite the efforts of Mrs Gloag to create the perfect conditions for a giant housing estate, the argument is attractive, if not compelling.

There will of course be many readers of this weblog, who will take a quite contrary view and I rather hope, given the experience of the last twelve months, I won't have the police knocking-on-my-door all over again, because someone feels offended by anything they may read here.

Ultimately, this is a decision for the Council but I do fear that any notion of swift progress has been somewhat kicked into the long grass by the council officers and the grass around our closed airport grows longer with every day that passes.

Meanwhile, Rochester airport is getting a new hard runway in exchange for sacrificing part of the existing RW34 grass area for housing. While it's not anywhere near the size of Manston, the economic value of a small and busy airport to the local community has been recognised and last month, a specialist flying school was launched for ab-initio, Chinese pilots. These will be coming all the way from China to learn to fly here, where the standards of training and tuition are recognised as among the highest in the world. Perhaps this also reflects a lost opportunity for Manston, along with the air sea rescue hub we were promised last year?

That's it for now. I have to traipse into Margate to get yet another waste food bin from the Gateway. Someone has taken to stealing mine, waste food included, over the last two collections and quite why, I can't fathom. Perhaps there's a roaring black market in Thanet Council brown bins, somewhere in eastern-Europe or perhaps the foxes have become rather more clever of late? If you find mine, can I have it back please? It's labelled.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On the Bench

Just George
A photo portrait of one of Westgate's most visible and popular characters, 'George'.

If you live in the town, then you are bound to encounter George and like many others, I make a point saying hello when I see him reading his morning copy of The Sun on the bench in Station Road while he waits for the cafe to open. He is always cheerful and chatty and I'm reminded of Peter Sellers in the movie, 'Being There.' If you ever watched it then perhaps you'll recognise the character.

Changing the subject now to a more serious note, yesterday, I received the decision notice (TDCSC/113/14) from Thanet District Council in regard to the complaint made against me - and two other councillors - a year ago.

This process had been delayed because the complainant., Margate landlady, Ms Louise Oldfield had also made a criminal complaint of harrasment; one which demanded a lengthy police investigation and which I'm sure you have read about by now, if not here, then in the national press or even on the BBC.

Kent Police, after spending large amounts of tax-payers' money interviewing bloggers and tweeters far and wide, finally dropped an investigation; initially forced-upon them by the office of our much criticised  police and crime commissioner, Ann Barnes and I'm pleased to say, that Thanet District Council have also followed their example and thrown-out  Ms Oldfield's complaint.

So what has all this achieved? Unfortunately, under Freedom of Information rules, the Council is unable to share the on-going costs of satisfying Ms Oldfield's many different inquiries, this one included and I'm afraid that Kent Police, are equally reluctant to reveal how much it cost the taxpayer to have two officers of inspector rank, investigating such serious allegations over a period in excess of six months.

Arlington under Construction
The end result, is that I and two other councillor colleagues have decided to withdraw from local politics next May, as a consequence of this unpleasant experience and I'm sure that Louise Oldfield's friends and supporters will be delighted to hear this.

And what did we do? In fact absolutely nothing and certainly nothing that might be regarded as either criminal of malicious. At worst, we tacitly disagreed with Ms Oldfield's position on the proposed Tesco development on Margate seafront and nothing more.

As Simon Davies of Privacy International described it:

"The move signals a bizarre twist in British policing from extending criminal evidence from content to context. This has the potential to create a serious chilling effect on free expression.........The most disquieting aspect of the police action is that the unnamed councillor faces criminal charges for doing no more than “liking” a Facebook post of the former mayor of Margate, pointing out that an objector’s artist’s impression of the proposed Tesco development is in the wrong place and of the wrong size. The development’s opponent claims this was “offensive” to her and complained she was the subject of criminal harassment by the three prominent local councillors."

Is this, I wonder what readers expect from Thanet's politics; that the police should become involved, over a disagreement on whether a Tesco store should be built on Margate's seafront and then should come knocking on the doors of councillors homes to interview three of them under caution, because someone holding an opposite opinion, is offended by what the Thanet Council Standards Committee describes as "No more than freedom of speech?"

I leave the final judgement to my readers, after all, both the police and the Council have now arrived at similar conclusions and perhaps the public sees things differently? Now, at last we have seen an end of it and if the local, rather than national press make any mention of it, I will be very surprised.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Return of the Native

I've been taking a blogging break for a month but now plan to make a return for some regular comment.

Locally, here in Westgate, it's been one of the best summers in years but somewhat blighted by a boy-racer problem which involves the police and now even our MP, Sir Roger Gale.

At the last count, we have three 'hot-hatchbacks' with aftermarket exhausts which are using the Royal Esplanade and Westgate Bay Avenue as a rally circuit, anywhere between 10pm and 02:00 in the morning; making residents lives miserable. I have recorded speeds of up to 80 mph and the police now have two registrations of three.

Reportedly, one of the offenders has already had one car taken away and crushed by the police but it has not dampened his enthusiasm.

While recognising that the authorities are aware of this problem at the most senior level and are being pressed by our Member of Parliament to take action, I want to go on the record here and warn them that unless the matter is dealt with through a vigorous policing response, somebody may be killed or seriously injured. Most recently, we had a serious accident on Westgate Bay Avenue and I do not wish to see a repeat, late at night.

The big political news of the week is of course that UKIP's Nigel Farage, wishes to add his name for his party's shortlist for Thanet South for next May's General Election. I don't think anyone worries that he won't receive the nomination and if and when he does, the nation's political spotlight will turn towards Thanet. It would not surprise me to see the Prime Minister making an appearance here with senior members of his Cabinet as May approaches.

Not only will Mr Farage feature in the tabloids but so, I'm sure, will the other candidates, as every small detail of their lives to date is unpicked, given the  public interest and critically important nature of the seat in a General Election, in defining UKIP's place in the dysfunctional swamp which now represents modern British politics.

While the other candidates may publicly relish the opportunity of competing with the Teflon-coated Mr Farage, I would caution; 'Be careful what you wish for' as your lives may never be the same again.

Left of Centre
On the flip side of the coin, Thanet's own problems and challenges; a last refuge for ageing Leninists and political fantasists alike, will become lurid material for the tabloids . If it wasn't lost on me, that the long queue in Barclays Bank in Margate,one day last week, could have been a branch anywhere in a town on the fringes of eastern-Europe, then it won't escape the sharper attention of the Daily Mail.

I don't believe that locally, we have an appetite to become the focus of the nation's fierce immigration debate; particularly when you measure the controversy in Council, County, NHS and police statistics rather than simple prejudice. However, if Nigel Farage has his way, then Ramsgate and Cliftonville will become very much national news, with BBC political correspondents roaming the high-streets looking for migrant concert pianists and brain surgeons, fresh from Calais and Daily Mail reporters looking for the embarrassing health and crime figures which include, following the last police report to Council, syphilis and child-sexual exploitation to name but two.

More to come soon I'm certain.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Final Mass at St Peter's RC Westgate

For the benefit of everyone who attended a packed and final church service at St Peter's in Westgate this morning, here is the link to all my photos.

I have to apologise they are not better but in the heavy rain, I left my best camera behind and when I was then asked if I could record the event, I had to make the best of what I had in difficult lighting conditions.

You can download all of these images directly from Flickr.

The National Inquirer

Simon Moores - Cessna 208
Sorry, I've been run-off my feet again with work of late, which is nice but it means that my weblog is badly neglected.

Lately, I've had some great fun, dropping parachutists our of a perfectly good aircraft at 10,000 feet over Headcorn, which, I've found, is highly therapeutic. For those on their first tandem skydive, it goes very quiet in the back, when that green light goes on and the door opens; it's along way down.

Back here on earth it's the last mass at St Peter's Roman Catholic church in Westgate on Sea today, after which it will close; leaving the community a little poorer for its loss.

Like the recent closure of Manston airport perhaps. it's a sign of the times and reminds me I'm getting older as both have played an important part in my life.

I have the church to thank for introducing me to public-speaking at a tender age, when I used to be an altar server and read the lesson on a Sunday morning; after having done my paper-round of course. I've much earlier memories before the existing church was built, when it used to be in a large house that was behind it.

Local parishioners will now have to travel to Birchington for regular services, which is hard for some of the elderly and like so much else in Thanet I've seen disappear during my own lifetime, I regret its passing as I'm sure many others will do too.

The Council papers on the floor next to my desk reflect the fact that this coming Thursday, we are to debate to loss of Manston airport. We can of course debate Mrs Gloag's predatory attack on our largest potential economic asset until the cows come home but the fact remains that we can do very little about it. It will be interesting to draw comparisons with the last debate on the subject, where the airport was roundly damned by Labour and the likes of Cllr Ian Driver but I suspect the tune may change somewhat on Thursday as history is cynically re-written by those usual suspect, who have played the greatest political part in its loss.

I'm encouraged to see news of a Parliamentary inquiry but I'm also reminded of Sir Humphrey Appleby in 'Yes Minister' and I've added the video clip to remind you. In regard to a compulsory purchase by the Council, this would demand having all the Labour members, who played a small part in exposing the airport to the predatory Mrs Gloag, on-board and behind a vote and that would demand a Damascene conversion worthy of St Paul himself.  If I appear cynical then it's because after almost eight years in swamp which is local politics, I've every reason to be cautious about miracle-working.

Anyway, I'm taking my camera along to the Catholic church in Westgate shortly and so hope to record this memorable day with some photos to remember it all by. I'm not expecting any miracles along the way.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tomorrow not Yesterday

The economy is growing. There's no doubt about this and my own brief blogging absence of late is simply a consequence of the mounting pressure of work in both my aviation and technology interests.

The new economy, as I've written before, looks rather different from the one that existed before the great recession of 2008. I've been lecturing on its impact elsewhere but for many, too many people and politicians alike, the changes that are taking place has them waist-deep in the muddy waters of denial and most of them don't know it yet. Think of the disruptive introduction of the Spinning Jenny or the Luddite demonstrations of 1812 and you will also find people in positions of responsibility, wedded to the vision of the post-war welfare state and a firm belief that tomorrow's economy and its workforce, looks like yesterday's; which it clearly doesn't.

Locally, our own political administration is also trapped in the past; the extent of its vision reduced to re-writing the same old plans and ambitions for the Thanet economy, wrapped in a glossier cover. Unless we strike oil under Dreamland in the near future, then the next decade is going to be tough for seasonal economies, like Thanet, as they are forced to adjust to new demands on the workforce. As I have declared I have no plans to stand again next May, tomorrow's challenges will be very much for other people to solve.

As anticipated, if not predicted, I see that John Worrow, formerly, Grey Party, Conservative and TIG, has now joined Thanet's Labour group and my next prediction is that he will be lobbying hard for re-election in a safe socialist ward, well outside Birchington; quite possibly where residents will be suitably diverse for his tastes and not be referred to as 'Pig Monsters.'

To accept Cllr Worrow as a true 'comrade' Labour must really be in a desperate condition.  I do wonder  if he will lose his well remunerated role of Chair of Finance, now his vote as an independent, alongside that of the politically capricious, Cllr Jack Cohen, is no longer pivotal in keeping Labour in control of the Council. And what happens now to Cllr Cohen?  Does he keep that Chair of Planning or is he forming a tiny party on his own with Kim Gibson? It's all a mystery but begs the question why anyone would want to be involved in local politics given some of the characters who determine the direction of our island? And that's without any mention of Cllr Ian Driver, former 'Police Commissioner in Waiting' whose limitless ambition and personal bandwagon now continues to rumble towards Westminster; leaving a demoralised and discredited Council tossed around in his destructive wake.

And what future for Manston, you may ask? To be truthful, I don't know. I'm pleased a petition has triggered a Council debate and I'm delighted that our two Members of Parliament are still working hard behind the scenes to try and find a solution that will give us back our airport. But the canny Mrs Gloag is playing a long game and with every month that passes with the airport out of use, her hand becomes stronger.

A chink in her armour, may be TG Aviation's High Court injunction for the flying school's loss of access to the runway. It's a start and I'm encouraged by so many people who have a commitment not to give-up the struggle. I only wish we had a few more local political figures who were equally supportive rather than sitting on the fence.

Remaining with aviation, I've a football banner to fly tomorrow, sadly not in Brazil but closer to home, where I have to find an open-top bus celebrating a team's success. With luck it should not be too hard to spot.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

People Really Count

Red Arrows Fans
The weather we should have had over the Bank Holiday, arrived a week late and Thanet basked in the sunshine this weekend. I was particularly pleased to see the re-opening of the Ramsgate Tunnels and every credit to David Green, who was so firmly behind the project, back to the time when I was in Cabinet and he requested exploratory work down to test the feasibility of the project; well done indeed.

Friday's protest at Manston airport was particularly significant, not only for the number of people attending but for the media coverage too. I arrived from a flight over Kent Police at Maidstone, asking Ann Barnes to resign on the heels of the Channel 4 documentary. If you haven't yet seen it, I recommend 'Meet the Commissioner' for its entertainment value and quite unintended parallels, with the character, David Brent and the popular sitcom, 'The Office.'

I said a few words to the crowd at Manston, as did my Conservative colleague, Bob Bayford. What was noticeable was the absence of councillors from the Labour group lending even lukewarm support and no sign at all of South Thanet's Parliamentary candidate, Will Scobie. Ian Driver was as ever, larger than life and both audible and visible with a megaphone which you see I managed to borrow. He appears to have either changed his position on the airport, than that view reflected in the the council meeting in the earlier post below or he is simply opposed to housing and planes as well?

Simon Moores Addressing #SaveManston
I'm hoping that Channel 4 news will do a more in-depth analysis of what lies behind the Manston bid. It's not a subject easily explored without a small army of lawyers in support and even The Observer told me they were reluctant, post-Leveson, to dig any deeper into the very complex relationships between the different businesses, than they have already.

I understand, that Mrs Gloag has declared she will make no further decision on the airport's ultimate fate, for another two months. Meanwhile, the local council exists in a state of limbo. Personally, I would like to see the leader, Iris Johnston, call for an extraordinary general meeting of the Council to debate the matter and conceivably, a compulsory purchase as a potential solution, before matters reach a point of no return. Indecision and inaction will be viewed very poorly by many thousands of Thanet;s voters, who hold strong opinions on the future of Manston, one way or another and this is really the time to show decisive leadership and not business as usual from Cecil Square.

Finally, I see, from this morning's BBC Andrew Marr Show, that Nigel Farage is still hinting at being the UKIP Parliamentary candidate for South Thanet in twelve months time. Now that would really place a spotlight on our community and certainly one that I for one would not wish for at all, regardless of politics.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Building Collapse in Ethelbert Square

A small army of police, fire-engines and ambulances on their way this evening to Ethelbert Square in Westgate.

Reportedly, part of a building has collapsed in one of the large multi-tenanted properties, next to the Westgate-on Sea club.

The area is cordoned-off and at this time, I'm unable to ascertain the extent of the damage and how many people may have been injured if at all.
Should you happen to find out more please Twitter @simonmoores.

Keep On Saving

The fate of Manston airport is a very sensitive matter this week, with its new owner, Ann Gloag, scheduled to meet our Council Leader and possibly our Members of Parliament, tomorrow, Friday, in Margate.

I have been speaking with several national newspapers interested in what they see as a bigger story, where a small and deprived community becomes a helpless victim of big-business profiteering at its worst. However, I do believe its better to leave the investigative journalism to the greater resources of Fleet Street and not Garlinge and it's certainly not, in my opinion, a wise idea to float highly inflammatory allegations, twenty-four hours in advance of a delicate negotiation with the airport's new owner. The timing could not have been worse unless the objective was to throw sensible diplomacy out of the window and simply to create a tense atmosphere of acrimony and allegation with a suggestion of 'fraud' thrown-in for rhetorical good measure.

The #SaveManston debate is hugely important to a great many people on the island, who see future opportunities for an already impoverished and struggling local economy, pulled-out from under our feet by plans to build a 1,000 house or even a 'Garden City.' If we were sitting at a poker table then we would be holding a very poor hand indeed but the Council, as the player of last resort, has a CPO up its sleeve but needs the right circumstances and support to play it.

I know people feel very strongly indeed about what has happened so very swiftly in the last month, as I do too. But we need to find a 'Keep Calm' solution with Mrs Gloag and not a confrontation; so please, no 'Burn the Witch' posters waving outside the Council offices tomorrow and let's do all we can to express how we feel about saving our airport from housing blight but not in the same excitable way that that a small group welcomed Nigel Farage.

I was at last night's Police and Community engagement meeting in Birchington last night and was disappointed to see that aside from Council Leader Iris Johnston and UKIP, KCC leader Roger Latchford, I was the only councillor present. Local crime and anti-social behaviour issues were discussed, such as the prolific beach-hut vandalism along our coastline but I did want to share with you the police warning of an increase in burglary in Westbrook, Westgate and Birchington.

Please be sure to attend to your own home security, take extra precautions and don't fall victim to burglars. At the same time, there are lots of telephone and internet scams in circulation and I've come across a couple myself. If you get an unsolicited call from an Indian call-centre, you should be particularly cautious, as they frequently appear to have discovered a virus on your PC and want to help. Don't believe it for a minute!

In fact and this may surprise you, on average over 100,000 new computer viruses are now appearing each day and the anti-virus industry has finally conceded it's lost the battle. I don't actually use anti-virus software on my PC anymore; I'm just very careful about the websites I visit and I never open email attachments from people I don't know or follow web-links in emails either. If you are equally cautions then your chances of being compromised remain relatively low.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Save Manston March

This afternoon's march on the Thanet District Council offices at Cecil Square, was really quite well attended and vocal too. When I left, the demonstrators were chanting for Council Leader, Iris Johnston, to come outside and talk with them; does anyone know if she did?

Here are some of my photos from this afternoon and I was really pleased to see such strong support for the suggestion of a compulsory purchase of the airport. Time is of the essence if the Council is to act on this, rather than sit on its hands, I would expect to see an special meeting of the Council called very soon to debate the matter properly. I'm sure many thousands of people in Thanet, who support the airport, would expect the same of their councillors.

Not by Night

I have received the video of the Manston Night Flights debate from the Thanet District Council meeting of 24th May, 2012. As promised, I have placed this online, so everyone, who may be interested, can see how we finally arrived at last week's closure of the airport, given the level of night-flight restriction placed upon it by Clive Hart's Labour administration at the time. You might note my cartoon from then.

If you watch it carefully and ignore the robust and often personal nature of the debate, you will have a much clearer idea of the individual  political positions on the airport's future and the level of support expressed by several prominent councillors, that may indeed be at odds with what they have claimed their stance was of late.

How naive I was in believing that Manston could not be closed-down because of a Ministry of Defence commitment to its runway, as obviously, the information I was given, was quite wrong.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In This Week's Letters

As you may have seen on BBC South-east Today, The police having concluded that two fellow councillors and I had no case to answer in regard to the complaint covered in their evening news report, one inquiry ends but another now begins as you can can see from the attached letter.

While I understand from Twitter exchanges today, that one person in particular would rather not have me share this information, I do believe that the story is now very much in the public domain and as I have not made any of the (36) comments attributed to me in the letter, I very much look forward to seeing how the Council's new standards process, will deal with this matter.

At the same time, my two fellow councillors, who are the subject of similar complaints, will I'm sure, be equally interested in how a matter dropped by the police through lack of evidence to the contrary, will be pursued by the standards committee of our local council.

Tonight, I see that there is an up-coming documentary on our Police and Crime Commissioner, exploring her work, here in Kent and judging from the preview I saw yesterday, and my own experience of her involvement in my own case, the programme is bound to prove enlightening.

People ask why I have announced that I have no plans to stand again as a Councillor next year and perhaps the letter shown above, coming on the heels of a police inquiry of five months, serves as an explanation. Anyone, even minor local politicians, should have an absolute right to hold an opinion on a controversial development, without fear of giving offense, a police inquiry at one's front door, vexatious complaints or even social media harassment from those who may disagree with their position. Here in Thanet, the often toxic and adversarial nature of community politics, can make even holding the most reasonable of positions open to vigorous challenge from a small number of vocal individuals and interests.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Playing with Fire

Tesco's Bizarre
‘So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot.’  George Orwell.

Have your Volvo destroyed in Broadstairs by hooded thugs wielding baseball bats and as the local paper reports, you  may not deserve a 999 visit from the police but if someone alleges you have 'Liked' a Facebook page, you might find yourself in really big trouble. With all the considerable investigative resources of Kent Police and the Police Commissioner, leveled against you.

It’s not every day that the police come knocking at your door, asking to speak with you in connection with an allegation of a serious criminal offence and it’s not every day, that you receive a police caution in your own home, an event which is bound to cause some small concern to your family present.

Imagined Tesco
If you follow this weblog or read the Daily Mail, The Independent or The Observer, then you may recall this is exactly what happened to me and two other Thanet councillors, earlier in the year. The police,were  acting on a complaint from the summer of 2013, by Miss Louise Oldfield, the proprietor of The Reading Rooms boutique hotel in Margate, that I was involved in a ‘Criminal Conspiracy to Harass’ the lady. Subsequently, I even read on one news site that I had been arrested!

You may also recall, that the complaint against me, surrounded comments made by anonymous characters on my Thanet Life weblog,  I was informed a popular former mayor of Margate on his Facebook page, had challenged her artist’s impression of a Tesco development on Margate seafront, which was then subsequently ‘Liked’ by another councillor, who was also interviewed under police caution.

The Real Plan
Compared in the newspapers with North Korea, this bizarre story of politics and policing here in Thanet, was also presented, as a cautionary lecture on the perils of social media at the Local Government Association conference in London. It was discussed with a local government minister, a director of Facebook and was even taken-up by the influential Simon Davies, at the London School of Economics and described as 'A dangerous prosecution trend' on his weblog.

In every discussion, Kent police, given the questionable level of evidence offered to support their inquiry, were viewed as acting disproportionately; unwilling but diligent agents in the pursuit of a frivolous and possibly malicious complaint, reportedly pressed-upon them by the office of the publicity-hungry Kent Police Commissioner, Ann Barnes.

Simon Davies LSE
Last week and after four months of pressing for information against a stalled bureaucracy and helped by my Member of Parliament, Sir Roger Gale, the police finally dropped the criminal conspiracy and harassment complaint against me, for lack of evidence. This, without so much as an apology for the time and costs involved in pursuing it.

You may recall from the earlier stories on Thanet Life that two senior police officers had been working on this investigation since the autumn of last year and at great cost to the taxpayer. How much, I can’t tell you, as the police won’t reveal this under the Freedom of Information Act, (FOI) as an individual's complaint is involved. Neither will Thanet council reveal the cost of Ms Oldfield’s own FOI and subject access data requests, seeking any and all relevant communications between councillors.

So, it appears, that after many months of inquiry, Kent Police have concluded, that anonymous comments on my weblog are, as I told them on the day of interview, a matter for civil law and not criminal law. That ‘Liking’ a comment on Facebook, is not a criminal offence and, I assume, that challenging the position and style of an artists’ impression of a giant Tesco, development, placed adjacent to Dreamland, is truly what the former mayor of Margate said it is, at best an exaggeration and at worst a misrepresentation of the facts.

Furthermore and on the absence of any evidence, three councillors of long-standing and good reputation clearly did not, between them, seek to conspire against Ms Oldfield, in a directed and malicious effort to damage her reputation or business as initially suggested by the police. One might argue as a consequence, that she didn't need our help and did rather well on her own.

Ann Barnes - Kent Police Commissioner
But other important questions need answering too. The police inspector told all of us involved in the complaint, that when the police were approached last summer; no action was taken because the original allegation had no merit. But then, the office of Ann Barnes, our crusading police commissioner became involved.

In a reply to a letter to Sir Roger Gale on my behalf,  - see below - she denies any personal involvement in placing pressure on the Chief constable. A copy of an email, received under my own Freedom of Information request, shows that on 15th October, Ann Barnes’ office was clearly involved in encouraging the police to reconsider Ms Oldfield’s complaint.

“Dear Roger

I know you have recently been in contact with a member of my staff, and wanted to take the chance to update you on the matter relating to your constituent, Cllr Simon Moores.

I am sure you are aware that Police and Crime Commissioners are constrained in law from interfering with Chief Constables’ operational independence.  I want to be absolutely clear that in relation to this case, I did not ask or insist that the case be re-opened, or request that the Police interview the councillors involved.  For anyone to suggest otherwise is simply untrue.”

I have attempted to request the correspondence from the police side with the police commissioner’s office, (PCO) but this has been denied.

Also, correspondence between Ms Oldfield, other parties and the Police Commissioner, which would allow me to understand how this complaint developed, is also denied but it's clear that something happened in October 2013, as you may  see the attachments in the email from Ann Barnes office in the image.

The Police Commissioner's Office email Sent to Kent Police on Oct 1st
I now have several questions that remain unanswered and defy my efforts to use Freedom of Information legislation.

The first, is how a complaint surrounding the blog of someone writing on local issues under the name of John Hamilton, developed into a more serious allegation of a criminal conspiracy to harass by three prominent local councillors with evidence up to the best standards of a Soviet political show trial?

Why did Ms Oldfield, apparently intent on shutting-down any negative remarks or comment on social media, resort to making a criminal complaint, when in my own case, a simple email, call or polite request would have been sufficient for me to review comments and take action on my own weblog under the civil law and Libel and Defamation Act of 2013? What was her motivation, other than as the council solicitor commented, that ‘A criminal complaint costs nothing and immediately ties you-up, while a civil complaint is expensive and takes time.’

Political Show Trial 1930's
Once again, the judgment of Ann Barnes is called into question and this time on a more serious and politically-charged matter than the 'Tweets' of a juvenile youth commissioner. What was the true involvement of our PCO, who clearly denies any involvement in her letter to Sir Roger Gale but apparently open to contradiction by the account of an investigating police officer and a copy of an email from her office. This suggests to me that all is not what it appears. Did she not look at the flimsy evidence first and consider the implications of placing pressure to re-visit the complaint on the Chief Constable, who then, I'm told tasked two inspectors with investigating the matter?

Given the level of evidence and having cautioned them as potential suspects, why did the police keep three local councillors waiting for over four months, when a simple interview to assist them with the inquiries, would have been more than sufficient, from the legal advice I have received? The bar for a criminal complaint of this nature is set very high indeed in the courts, I'm told, so why pursue it, other than the fact that there was a political dimension?

Let me be clear. A criminal complaint to the police against a politician of any status is a very serious matter. Using it in pursuit of a personal grievance or political agenda against individuals is deeply worrying. If you happen to be a professional person or an individual enjoying a hitherto good reputation in your community, it can be potentially catastrophic and we have seen this of late with the recent trial of Nigel Evans MP and the ‘Plebgate’ farce.

In regard to Louise Oldfield one informed correspondent writes:

“I am very surprised at her approach to the police. She has sought to involve herself in the Margate High Street shops arena and also to object to Tesco.   I understand she adopted a similar role elsewhere before arriving in Margate.

She has busied herself becoming involved in every aspect of life with no real mandate from local residents.  I was shocked to hear that you were interviewed in this way. I expect that someone without such a high profile would not have secured police co-operation on such an allegation.”

This is perhaps an example of well-intentioned ‘Localism’ gone crazy. This is supposed to give greater powers to groups to determine the future of their communities. Instead, what I’m starting to see are small groups of activists using the legislation in pursuit of their own unelected ambition or agenda. This month, for example, the Margate neighbourhood plan came in front of Council’s Cabinet for a vote. This placed us in an impossible position on the Conservative side to comment on it, because Louise Oldfield leads it and we were still under caution at the time, remaining under the long shadow of a conspiracy complaint. As a result, the free and democratic process was successfully frustrated by the existence of a criminal complaint.

I should add here that this matter is not yet concluded, because Louise Oldfield also submitted a parallel standards complaint against all three councillors for the same complaint. This was held pending the result of the police criminal inquiry and now will have to go through process, even though the police have dropped the investigation and all at more cost to the Thanet taxpayer.

I still have no redress against any frivolous or malicious allegation of criminal behaviour in public life. As a consequence of this unpleasant ordeal and my growing loss of confidence in our justice system, I have no plans now to stand for re-election next year.

A second prominent councillor, friend and colleague will also be standing down. I’m sure that many readers from Thanet’s wayward political scene will be delighted by this news. I did not join local government to become a political punch-bag and the focus of frivolous or malicious police complaints but instead, to use my talents to help my community, here in Westgate; perhaps even to make it a better place to live and work.

Yesterday, we lost Manston airport and in return, we gained the implicit threat of a thousand new houses, which will be difficult to resist under present planning policies. Listening to Clive Hart's rather graceless speech in Council last night, where he told us that we 'Should never wrestle with a pig', the warning I will leave you with today, is that Thanet’s political scene has become a bitter, divided and deluded playground for fringe personal interests,and policies that have no real place in local government and still further frustrate attempts by some of us attempting to restore the waning  public confidence in local government.

The Tories and Tesco. See today's analysis in The Independent Newspaper

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Counting Down the Hours

Unless a final rescue package can be agreed, Manston airport will close tomorrow with the loss of hundreds of jobs, a number of local businesses and the resulting catastrophe to the lives of many connected with the airport for their livelihoods.

A number of aircraft will be showing support today with a WW II P-51 Mustang included at 2:30pm. I will be dragging a small 'Save Manston' banner past, as a small gesture of both solidarity and sympathy for everyone involved in a farce with very real consequences for many people I know.

To paraphrase the famous novellist, Ernest Hemingway asked about his bankruptcy: "How did you lose Manston airport?" "Gradually and then suddenly."

As a matter of public record for the future, it appears that the Council have found the video of the last debate where Manston's future was discussed in 2012. Mrs Gloag's involvement aside, If people need to understand how we arrived at such an unhappy place, then they need to watch it and once I have it, I will attempt to load it on to YouTube.

Some readers may recall the controversial character of Gordon Gecko, from the movie, Wall Street, who represented everything that was wrong at the the time with unrestrained capitalism in the 1980's. Here are a number of famous quotes about making money for all the wrong reasons and of course the most famous of them all, "Greed is good"

I understand that negotiations with Mrs Gloag's agents are continuing right up to the wire but as the hours tick by to the shutters falling on nearly a hundred years of history and the silent shadows of all the many young men whose lives ended suddenly on the airfield during WWII, let's all of us consider for a moment what we are losing for the future and Thanet's economy. All this, in the very same week that Heathrow and Gatwick are bidding against each other in anticipation of the aviation industry boom to come.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Clive Quits!

The shock news this morning on the BBC is that Thanet Council's Labour administration Leader, Clive Hart has resigned. One assumes that his deputy, Cllr Alan Poole will take over the political direction of the Council,  until matters are properly resolved at this week's annual meeting of the Council on Thursday