Friday, January 21, 2011

Tales of the riverbank

“If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by,” according to the Japanese proverb.

And so it is with Andy Coulson, the ex- News of the World editor who claims he was ignorant of the phone-tapping activities which yielded him some of his exclusives.

Mr Coulson resigned from the job when the scandal broke but got taken on at an exorbitant salary by David Cameron who claimed he was giving the newspaperman “a second chance”.

Now Mr Coulson’s past has come back to haunt him and I maintain what I have said before: either he was a lousy editor for not knowing how his stories were obtained or he has not been telling the truth about what he did know.

Neither incompetence nor a cavalier approach to the truth is something you would wish to see in the Government’s head of communications so it’s not surprising he’s finally gone.

You could say it was “incredibly stupid” of Cameron to employ him as it was “incredibly stupid” of Mr Coulson to think he could evade all responsibility for his newspaper’s illegal activities.

A few years ago Mr Coulson engineered my resignation as Tory candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis by insisting I sign an apology which said I had been “incredibly stupid” to mention the name Enoch Powell in an article about immigration.

I had said Powell was right to warn that uncontrolled immigration would change the country dramatically. I would not sign Mr Coulson’s statement of apology and chose to resign as a candidate instead.

Having been sitting on the riverbank ever since, I cannot help but feel a frisson of schadenfreude when I see the body of one of my enemies go floating by.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What happens when you speak for England

Why has Dudley South MP Christopher Kelly found himself ridiculed at the hands of his own party?

The answer is that the Conservatives decided to bully him because he put his country before his party.

The newly-elected 32-year-old had the courage to stand up to intimidation from “Flashman” Prime Minister David Cameron and defy the Government whips over their decision to hand more of our dwindling sovereignty to the European Union.

Mr Kelly, who is well known as a Eurosceptic, was one of 37 Conservative MPs who tried to strengthen new laws to make it clear that ultimate power rests with Westminster not Brussels.

Yet having defied his party, Mr Kelly found himself branded a cry-baby and accused of being more frightened of his father than he is of his party leader.

Mr Kelly’s father is Chris Kelly, the owner of Keltruck, the highly-successful truck business which is headquartered in West Bromwich and famous for the huge flag of St George which flies proudly next to the M5.

There was so much nonsense in the weekend’s attack on Mr Kelly it’s difficult to know where to start.

But, of course, any young man starting out on a Parliamentary career is liable to be shocked when his leader warns him: “You’re making a bloody terrible mistake. It will do your career and reputation no good at all. And you can bloody well forget about being a minister.”

Nobody wants the boss to behave like the public-school bully Flashman when they’ve only been in their new job a few months.

It would have been a shocking and very upsetting encounter – yet Mr Kelly went ahead and voted with his conscience anyway.

This is, never forget, what Mr Cameron promised us we’d get from our MPs under his regime. He declared months ago that Tories would put their country before their party.

That’s what Mr Kelly did. And his reward? Ignominy.

Someone in the Conservative Party Whips’ office deliberately went to the papers with a twisted tale of how Mr Kelly’s encounter with Mr Cameron had left him in tears.
To add salt into the wound, they invented the story that Mr Kelly was too scared of his father – a long-standing supporter of the Conservatives – to toe the party line.

Mr Kelly says: “For the record I did not cry or even come close to crying. There is footage of me in the Chamber completely dry-eyed sat close to my colleague Bill Cash MP as he concluded the debate at the very time it is alleged that I was 'in tears'.

“The whole story is utterly bizarre. I always vote according to my conscience and what I believe is best for the residents of Dudley South – nothing else. I will always put my country first.”

We could do with more MPs like that and we could do with a Prime Minister who respects political differences rather than bullying and intimidating his own supporters while bending over backwards to accommodate his opponents in the Liberal Democrats.

It may be the animosity towards Mr Kelly is personal as much as political. He seems to be the subject of a malign campaign against him which, among other things, seeks to attack him through his relationship with his father.

It’s only natural that the MP shares some of his father’s views. But he is his own man and, as I understand it, he rarely if ever consults his father before making a political decision.

Mr Kelly is far more likely to consult his constituents and his conscience. And this is what he did over the EU legislation.

Alas, his noble deed has been swamped in the filth of day-to-day political reality. It wasn’t enough for the Government to stamp on the poor man, it has gone out of its way to humiliate him even to the extent of publishing lies about him.

Politicians of honour and integrity are thin on the ground these days. Mr Kelly has discovered the hard way that putting your country before your party is the ultimate crime among the sleazy greasy-pole-climbers and slippery placemen who run our governing party.

Monday, January 17, 2011

U-turn? They don't want to

Why are our High Streets turning into ghost towns populated with charity shops? Why are more and more people shopping on line? Why are HMV closing 60 shops?

One reason is that local authorities have spent the past ten years waging war against motorists to the point where it’s too expensive to shop in town centres.

The last Government wanted us all to travel by bus or metro. It ordered councils to do their best to stop us using our cars to get to the shops or the office.

Parking charges soared. Some councils just wanted the money.

Others deliberately made parking expensive because they thought it was the “green” environmentally-friendly thing to do – as if forcing the local greengrocer out of business was somehow going to save the planet.

Apart from encouraging the success of out-of-town shopping centres like Merry Hill – where parking is free and motorists are positively encouraged – the councils didn’t achieve much.

More than 100 local authorities lost money on car parking charges in the year 2008-9 even though motorists forked out a total of £1,338 million. Wolverhampton’s traffic wardens made a profit of only £18,000.

High parking charges deter shoppers. Stores don’t make any money so they close, turning High Streets into wildernesses of charity shops.

Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, has now announced an end to the “war on motorists” and given councils the freedom to develop their own parking policies.
In theory, this means parking charges could be cut. The Black Country councils have already said they will look again at the whole question.

Wolverhampton Council obviously knows charges deter shoppers otherwise it wouldn’t be offering an hour’s free parking in Market Street and School Street throughout January and February to attract more people to the struggling markets.

Could the whole city centre get free parking and enjoy a boom in business? Don’t bet on it.

Councils will claim they can’t afford to reduce revenues at a time when the Government is axing their grants.

In the long run, it would pay them to revive their dying town centres by encouraging visitors.

Lost revenue from axing parking charges is a small price to pay if it leads to busy shops and buoyant business rates income.

But that’s a bit far-sighted for most local authorities, alas.

For years, motorists have been a favourite target for Governments wanting to raise money.

One small example this week was the case of Michael Thompson, who had to pay a £175 fine, £250 costs and a £15 victims’ surcharge for warning fellow motorists of a police speed trap.

The poor man simply flashed his lights at oncoming traffic, advising drivers to slow down. This, supposedly, amounts to “wilfully obstructing a policewoman in the execution of her duty”.

Surely he could argue he was trying to prevent the crime of exceeding the speed limit.

What this case proves, though, is that it will take more than an announcement from Mr Pickles to bring a cease-fire in the war on motorists.

For instance, less than a year ago, Birmingham Council adopted a new 34,000-word policy document announcing a clampdown on parking and promising “lower standards”.

The council is pledged to cut long-term parking spaces in the city centre and Sutton Coldfield; limit parking spaces for new developments; impose ever-higher prices for long-stay parking; use SMART cars fitted with CCTV to police parking offenders; introduce more bus lanes; and expand pay-and-display beyond the city centre.

The report says: “Whilst the Council cannot directly control car ownership, polices for charging for, and the supply of, both on and off-street parking can influence parking demand, parking space turnover and, ultimately, car use and ownership.

“Parking policies seek to restrain unnecessary car travel, especially for local trips within the city, and reduce the need to travel or at least encourage the use of more sustainable travel choices.”

Had all this nonsense been announced a decade ago by some newly-elected right-on, politically-correct New Labour local authority, you might not have been surprised.
Yet this is official policy of a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats.

In some cities it’s even worse. Next year, Nottingham will be the first place in the country – so far – to impose workplace parking charges.

The tax will be £1 per space per day “to begin with” and you can be sure it the price won’t go down.

The excuse is that the money will pay for more trams.

Try telling that to the businesses in the city which will have to fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds but still can’t get their lorries in and out of Nottingham.

It would be marvellous to discover that, thanks to Mr Pickles, our councils realised the car played a vital role in encouraging prosperity. Without visiting motorists, our town centres will become impoverished wastelands.

Cynics, though, may wonder about the timing of his announcement. It came on the day that rises in VAT and fuel duty sent petrol prices soaring.

Maybe Mr Pickles was just trying to divert attention away from the fact that motorists are still the Government’s favourite tax target.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Global politically correct freezing

Here's a quick New Year quiz. What are the politically correct terms for the following:
1.Black Coffee
2.The black economy
3.Ladies and gentlemen
4.Happy Christmas
5.Christmas tree
6.You’ll just feel a little prick
7.Three Little Pigs
8.School pupil
9.Baa baa black sheep
13.Yankee and Zulu
15.Hairdresser Sarah Desrosiers was found not guilty of racial discrimination by an industrial tribunal but still had to pay Bushra Noah £4,000 compensation for hurt feelings. Why?
16.Why was Deva Jynarasiri forced out of his job as a Postmaster at a Post Office in Nottingham and thrown out of the Liberal Democrats. Why?
17.In 2002, Steve Thoburn announced that his newborn son Jay weighed 3,790 grammes. Why?
18.Gangland boss Colin Gunn is serving life for a double murder. But he recently won a human rights case. What was his claim?
19.The Government paid undisclosed damages in compensation to a group of prisoners for invading their human rights by forcing them to stop taking drugs while they were in jail. How many prisoners were involved?
20.Who said: Earlier on today apparently a woman rang the BBC and said that she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t”?
21.Why is Ewen McCallum, the chief meteorologist at the Met Office, white faced?
22.Last year we endured the coldest winter for 31 years. In the autumn of 2009, what did the Met Office predict?
23.What was the name given to the e-mail scandal involving Professor Phil Jones, director of the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, which suggested he was falsifying statistics on global warming?
24.They are the world’s largest source of CO2 emissions. They also emit methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than CO2, and more than two-thirds of the ammonia which causes acid rain. What are they?
25.When did the River Thames last freeze over?
26.Britain’s sunniest month, with 383.9 hours of sunshine, was recorded in Eastbourne, Sussex, one July. Which year?
27.The lowest daily temperature in Britain had been recorded on three occasions, in 1895, 1982 and 1995, twice in Braemar, Aberdeenshire and once in Altnaharra, Highland. How cold was it?
28.Experts claim 2010 was:
The hottest year on record
The coldest year for a decade
The wettest year for 30 years
29.In September 2007 the frozen North West Passage across the Arctic Circle was opened up for the first time in recorded history because of global warming. When did this recorded history begin?
30.In 1999, Indian scientist Syed Hasnain gave a phone interview to a reporter from the New Scientist. Nine years later, what he said became central to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming. Two years later, everyone admitted it was all bollocks. What was the claim?

And the answers are:What are the politically correct terms for the following:

1. Coffee without milk
2. The hidden economy
3. Men and women
4. Happy Holiday
5. Festive tree
6. You’ll just feel a little scratch
7. Three Vertically-Challenged Swine
8. Learner
9. Baa baa happy sheep
10. Chalk board
11. Ejection technicians
12. TGE (thought generating exercise)
13. Yellow and zebra
14. Fire-fighter
15. She turned down Ms Noah for a job as a hairdresser because she refused to work without wearing her headscarf.
16. Because he put up a notice telling customers they should speak English in his shop.
17. In 2001 he was convicted of selling vegetables using imperial measurements only. He was initially convicted and given a six-month conditional discharge.
18. He said it was disrespectful to be called by his surname, Gunn, only and demanded that prison officers called him Mister Gunn.1
19. 98
20. Michael Fish
21. He promised a “barbecue summer” in 2009
22. A milder than average winter.
23. Climategate
24. Cattle.
25. 1814
26. 1911
27. -27.2(C) -16.96 (F)
28. The hottest year on record
29. 1979 when satellite monitoring started. The Northwest Passage was open in 1903 and used by the sailor Roald Amundson and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Arctic patrol made regular trips in the early 1940s.
30. That climate change would melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035.