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.