Tuesday, 31 May 2011

House of Lords Reform

The Parliament Acts have castrated the powers of the House of Lords. The Upper House can no longer delay finance bills and has limited powers to delay other bills. It is a revising chamber and whilst a bill may start its parliamentary journey in the House of Lords nevertheless the House of Commons has the final word.

The Commons is wholly elected, the Lords a mixture of the rump of hereditary peers, life peers plus a few bishops reflecting that the Church of England is a state church. 

The House of Lords was until  recently the highest court of appeal in legal cases.  However cases were heard by a committee comprised of judges known as Lords of Appeal.  No other peers could wander in and take part in a hearing.  An anomaly was the Lord Chancellor who could hear cases with Lords of Appeal, sat on the Woolsack as the 'speaker' of the Upper House and was a member of the government with a place in the cabinet.   The Lord Chancellor thus straddled the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. 

The key to the success of the House of Lords is its ability to understand the ramifications of proposed legislation from a position of expertise in the field covered by legislation in a way politicians in the Commons are unable to do.  As the Commons is filled more and more by professional politicians with little experience of the 'real' world it is imperative that proposed legislation is scrutinised by those with experience - not to stop the legislation, rather to propose changes which will make the legislation workable.  For such a role it was imperative to have life peers rather than rely on hereditary peers.  For this reason the move to reduce the number of hereditary peers and eventually dispense with them was essential.

My fear is that by having a wholly elected upper house the essential elements of expertise and experience will be lost, to be replaced by political place-men lacking the skills required for a revising chamber.

Some people promote the idea of a wholly elected upper house on the basis that that is what exists in other countries.  However, context is all important.  In the USA the Executive does not have seats in the House of Representatives, nor the Senate.  The President (and the staff he appoints) is the Executive.  In the UK members of the Executive sit in the Commons and the Lords.

Merely to tinker with the machinery of government in a limited way is not the way to travel, which should have been learned from  the devolution arrangements in the UK.

An elected upper chamber will soon become a threat to the supremacy of the House of Commons and threaten a political paralysis.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Raspberry Jam

We make our raspberry jam from home grown raspberries.  All organic.  2009 was a good year and we have finished this week the last jar we made that year - and we gave a lot away.

2010 was not a good year. The jam is fine, but the crop was very poor.   What will 2011 bring?  We don't have as many canes, but the ones we have should crop well. 

Red Lion, Rusthall

A few years ago residents living close to the Red Lion had much to complain about, so much so that objections were raised to the proposed premises licence. Residents turned out in force at the  meeting of the Licensing-Sub-Committee held on 25th August 2005.  Goodness me, was it that long ago?

The brewery, Shepherd-Neame, caved in and accepted the conditions proposed by the Environmental Health Department of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Below are the minutes of the meeting of the Sub-Committee.

For the most part the conditions have been adhered to, although this evening people were leaving the pub (and making a lot of noise) after midnight.

25th August 2005


LSC17/05 Consideration was given to an application for a premises’ license at Red Lion, 82
Lower Green Road, Rusthall, which had been referred to the Licensing Sub-

It was noted that Environmental Health had withdrawn their representation as the applicant had accepted the following conditions:

1. Music cease at 11pm;

2. No more than 2 music events per calendar month;

3. Acoustic baffles must be fitted to the windows when music is being played;

4. The door on Lower Green Road must be kept shut at all times whilst music is

being played;

5. A door person must man the door at all times during music events; and

6. All conditions must be enforced by the second appointed day (24 November


The Licensing Sub-Committee proceeded to hear the case following the adopted
procedure rules and all parties present at the hearing were invited to address the
Sub-Committee. After hearing the evidence from all the parties, the Licensing Sub-
Committee retired to take their decision with the Legal Advisor and Committee Clerk.

Members then deliberated the application which was determined having regard to the
four licensing objectives.
Upon reaching a decision the Members of the Sub-Committee returned to the
Committee Room to announce their decision in public. The Legal Advisor announced
the legal advice given to the Sub-Committee during the deliberations.

That the application for a premises’ licence in respect of Red Lion, 82

Lower Green Road, Rusthall be determined as shown at Appendix 1 attached.

Appendix 1






82 Lower Green Road


Tunbridge Wells




Shepherd Neame Ltd




Four representations were made regarding this application, as


(1) To prevent public nuisance

(2) To prevent crime and disorder and public nuisance

(3) To prevent a public nuisance as concerns over level of

amplification for films after 11pm (10.30pm Sundays) and impact

of this on nearby residents. Concerns about noise after 11pm

(10.30pm Sundays) generated from live music and the impact on

residential amenities. Concerns about the proposal that live

music on New Year’s Eve should continue to close of business
on New Year’s Day etc and the disturbance caused by the

recorded music to the neighbouring residential properties.

Concerns in particular about evenings that lead onto working

week days such as Bank Holiday Mondays and Valentine’s Day

etc and the disturbance caused by the recorded music to the

neighbouring residential properties. Concerns over extension of

hours, particularly during the week and on Sunday nights, as this

will undoubtedly cause a disturbance to residential amenities,

with noise of music and activities occurring within the premises

and the noise of people leaving the premises. This noise may

include slamming of car doors, engine noise, and people’s

voices, all of which will be particularly prominent late into the


(4) Noise late at night carries further than in the daytime and it is not

unreasonable for people to try and get some sleep after 11pm in

the evening. The public house also has a powerful recorded

music system. The base notes thumping away are a constant

irritation which soundproofing alone do much to diminish.
(5) As a residential area we are concerned about extended trading

area for the following reasons-: loud music, late night noise and


(6) This is a village pub and a very late opening time could very well

mean people leaving drunk and noisy and could damage

property, cars etc.

(7) Noise and rowdiness is unbelievable when it is turn out time

when there are
people shouting and name calling.


The Licensing Sub-Committee considered the licensing objectives

and have decided to limit the supply of alcohol on Sundays to 23.00

and to limit the opening hours on Sundays to 23.30 hours.

In all other respects they were prepared to grant the licence in

accordance with the amendments to vary the licence proposed by

the applicant and as agreed with the Environmental Health Officer.




The Licensing-Sub Committee took into account the representations

from the interested parties to the relation to the licensing objectives.

Friday, 27 May 2011

April Fool

I was delighted to be informed  this week that one political party in Tunbridge Wells fell for my April Fool joke this year. 

Liberal Democrat Leader allies with the Aspic Brigade

The debate on the the regeneration of Tunbridge Wells town centre has commenced with the publication of a report setting out the response to a consultation undertaken by the Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Company. Some believe the questionnaire used for the consultation was flawed.  The key point though is that it is not the final word, doubtless there will be more consultation once specific plans are drawn up and then there is the planning approval process.

Reading the comments of the Leader of the Council it is clear that he believes  there is a  need for regeneration.  What we do not know is how radical a change he supports.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat group has nailed his colours to the mast.  He opposes  any redevelopment which involves demolishing the civic complex. He supports improvements to the existing civic buildings.  This is the stance taken by the Aspic Brigade.  It will lead to the economic decline of the town.   However it was to be expected.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Rusthall Village Association: the future

A leaflet circulated in the village asks if the Association should change its name?  Why should it?  It is a known name and the fact a parish council has been formed is no reason of itself to change the name.

The Association is distinct from the parish council.

The Association is a private body, consisting of its members.  The parish council is a statutory body answerable to the electorate. It would be a big mistake to think that the Association should cease to have a campaigning function simply because the parish council will be campaigning also on behalf of the village.

There has been much talk of the parish council consulting on issues.  It is in this regard that there is an important role for the Association: to act as a conduit for consultation and to facilitate a forum for residents to discuss issues.  The government is encouraging localism, participation and civic engagement.  The formation of a parish council is a step along these paths, not an end in itself.  The council will have to be responsive to the views of residents (and I do not doubt will be).  Community engagement requires collaborative working between statutory and voluntary organisations and also ensuring people have confidence that their voices will be listened to.

The worst things that could happen would be for the Association to become the cheerleader for the parish council or to withdraw from a campaigning role.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A visit to Brighton

I had to visit Moulsecoomb, a suburb of Brighton , today to attend a conference of food co-operatives.  The journey by car took fifty minutes door to door.  The train service takes two hours from Tunbridge Wells station to Moulsecoomb station. 

The sooner the railway line between Uckfield and Lewes is re-opened the better. the regional hubs of West Kent and Brighton need much better public transport connections if we are to take traffic off the roads.

Civic Complex debate moves on to next stage.

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Complex consultation report commissioned by the Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Company has been published. 

Follow the link below for the full report.


I look forward to the comments of the Aspic Brigade.

Delighted to read the positive statement by the leader of the Council published on the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council website:

“I welcome the report from M&N Communications on the Civic Complex.

“When I became Leader I was clear that I wanted to do two things: to understand the reasons for establishing the Regeneration Company and how it works and to listen to the views of local people on their aims and ambitions for Royal Tunbridge Wells and the wider borough.

“Having spent some considerable time looking at the issue, I am clear that the town does need to move forward and that the Regeneration Company offers significant potential to help with this. At the same time, we need to be clear about what residents want from the town and the report from M&N contains a huge amount of information from over 6,000 questionnaires and conversations with many hundreds of people as well as interest groups."

As he states the town does need to move forward, it does need to regenerate.  Maintaining the status quo is not an option.  Whilst it is important due weight is given to the consultation, it is just that: consultation.  Doubtless there will be compromises, but sight must not be lost of the objective: to ensure the economic well-being of the town.  Let us hope Councillor Atwood can take the Cabinet and the full Council with him to realise the objective.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Romance of Steam

We like our heritage railways; Spa Valley, Bluebell,  Lavender, Kent & East Sussex, North Yorkshire Moors, the list is long.  We like even more steam engines, the smell, hissing steam and the roar from the chimney when moving at speed.

Many of my generation wanted to be engine drivers when we grew up. The phase soon passed.

Most railwaymen were pleased to see the demise of steam. A steam locomotive is a dirty beast. Ash has to emptied from the smokebox and ashpan, clinker removed from the firebox, coal loaded into the tender, water taken on board and parts of the motion, through which power is transmitted from the pistons to the wheels, oiled.  The steam locomotive is a greedy animal, tons of coal have to be shovelled into the firebox and water injected to the boiler. The cab for the driver and fireman only offers partial protection from the weather. 

Just think, a diesel or electric locomotive only has to be switched on and the driver has a warm cab in which he is fully protected from the elements.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Councillor Jukes takes up the reigns.

Last month the local newspaper quoted the Leader of Tunbridge Wells Council thus:

He (Councillor Atwood) said after scrutinising the detail of the Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Company...he was happy with its terms.

What has surprised me is that there has been no reaction to this comment. Councillor David Jukes resigned from the board of the company in a blaze of publicity. His resignation was another nail in the coffin for the then Leader, Roy Bullock.

Now Councillor Jukes is freed from the shackles of office of Mayor he will be taking up his position as Deputy Leader of the Council and his place in the Cabinet.

May we assume that Councillor Jukes is at one with the Leader and is happy with its terms?  Have the concerns which led him to resign been addressed? 

It has been my argument that the Council made a mess of informing the public about what was happening within the regeneration company, but so far no-one has produced a shred of evidence to support the contention that secret plans existed which were to be railroaded through with minimum  consultation.  Roy Bullock denied the plans existed and, whatever one thought of his leadership style, he was truthful.

Future meetings of Rusthall Parish Council

Future meetings will be held on the second Monday of each month at the United Reformed Church commencing at 7.30PM, so the next meeting is on 13th June.

By boat and tram to Blackpool

We had relatives who lived at Knott End-on-Sea, on the opposite side of the Wyre Estuary from Fleetwood.  The highlight of our visits was the trip to Blackpool.

We would use the ferry to cross the water to Fleetwood.  Lovely on a sunny calm day, rather a different proposition when it was raining and a howling gale blowing in off Morecambe Bay. Strong nerves and stomach required.  The Bourne Arms Hotel, a few yards from the Knott End jetty provided a welcoming haven for many a traveller before and after the crossing. 

I came across a website with many photographs of the ferry.  Click here for the link.

Fleetwood had a large trawler fleet and it was indeed a treat to have fish and chips,  the fish having been collected the same day from Fleetwood dock.

The tram was a short walk from the Fleetwood jetty.  What a bumpy journey.  In those days the standard of track maintenance was poor and the double-deck trams would lurch alarmingly between Cleveleys and Bispham.

Blackpool was as tatty and run-down then as it is now.  The railways still conveyed most of the holidaymakers to the resort. Blackpool Central, close to the Tower, was a huge station.  The other terminus in Blackpool, Blackpool North had lost its services to Fleetwood and was a much quieter and smaller station.  The Beeching Report did for Blackpool Central and it was bulldozed, trains being diverted  either to Blackpool North or Blackpool South which had been the first station out of Blackpool Central.

We are all in this together

One bright sunny morning I was standing on the station at Chesterfield waiting to catch a train to Nottingham. The train was a Sheffield-London express. The train was approaching the station rather faster than usual I thought.  Indeed it was, it shot through the station at full speed and we saw the rear carriage disappear round the curve beyond the station.

Consternation.  The next train to London, or Nottingham for that matter,  was not for a couple of hours. The following train from Sheffield did not stop at Chesterfield. Its next stop was Derby and thence to  Birmingham. This particular morning it was brought to a stop by the signals at Chesterfield and we boarded the train.

At Derby we transferred to a train for Trent and Nottingham.  Passengers for London changed at Trent.  On the journey from Derby to Trent I had sat across from me the MP for Chesterfield, Eric Varley who was a member of Harold Wilson's  Cabinet, Roy Mason, MP for  Barnsley, also a member of the Cabinet and the Labour MP for Derby South.

The three of them were trying to work out if Labour had retained control of Derbyshire County Council. In those days elections were every three years but matters were complicated by the existence of aldermen who  were elected by councillors for six years.  Half the aldermen came up for re-election every three years.  The party in control of the council would pack the aldermanic bench with its cronies.

I did wonder if it was Eric Varley's presence on the platform at Chesterfield that led to the Derby train being stopped and had he not been we would have had to kick our heels for a couple of hours.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The day I signed for an engine.

One morning I arrived at Chesterfield railway station to catch a train to Birmingham.  I was surprised to see the platform heaving with people. My heart sank when it was announced that the Master Cutler train to London had broken down, as I realised my train would be stuck behind it.

However my spirits were raised when I noticed a light engine positioned beyond the platform and was informed that The Cutler was slowly making its way to Chesterfield.  The train's engine would be put in the bay platform and the engine I could see would be attached.

In short time this duly happened and The Cutler was on its way.  My train was but minutes away and by the time it left Chesterfield was only twenty minutes late.

Some of my fellow passengers worked at Derby locomotive works and were looking at the failed locomotive stood in the bay. One pointed out to me that the problem was a broken oil sump and opined that the driver probably could have got the train to Leicester.

It was at this juncture as I was bent down looking at the engine that I felt a tap on the shoulder. Behind me was a man in a very clean pastel blue boiler suit carrying a folding clip-board.   What's up with it then? he enquired.  I regaled him with the information I had received: broken sump, could have gone on to Leicester.  Right then, sign here squire he said as he opened his clipboard and pointed to where he wanted me to sign. 

I duly obliged.  My train came in just as I signed the piece of paper and off we went.  Now, the man in blue obviously took me for a railway employee. In winter I wore a black coat and had been mistaken for a funeral director, a British rail employee and horror of horrors, an accountant.

A few days later I am standing on the platform at Chesterfield and am approached by the platform foreman, Don.  Were you here the day the Cutler failed? said he.  Strange question thought I, so gave a non-committal answer.  It transpired that after my train had left the man in the pastel blue boiler suit had decided the failed engine could be moved under its own power  along the goods lines where it had promptly locked up.  It had taken the best part of the rest of  the day to shift it.  Our man in blue had been cursing those b****rs from the works who think they know it all.

Getting the Mail through

At one time the railways carried most of the Post Office's mail which needed carting between towns and cities. Passenger trains were used for this and whilst mail bags would be carried in the guard's compartment, it was often the case that a  mail van the size of a passenger carriage was added to the front or rear of a passenger train. At major stations such as Birmingham and Derby huge quantities of mail were loaded and unloaded.

One evening my train was pulling out of Burton upon Trent when there was a blinding flash. A small fire broke out in the electrical wiring between the engine and the first carriage and we ground to a halt.  The driver put out the fire and we continued to Derby. 

At Derby it was announced that the fire had been caused by a failure of the electric carriage heating.  After much deliberation it was decided that the problem had been caused by the heating equipment on  a carriage in the middle of the train.  The simple solution would have been to divide the train leaving the defective carriage and the carriages behind it at Derby.  The problem was that the last vehicle was a van packed with mail and the mail had to get through.

More deliberation.  It was decided to use a shunting engine to detach the defective carriage and then join the train up again.  Once the train had been reassembled we were 90 minutes late. Off we went and within twenty yards another blinding flash and  again we ground to a halt.

By this stage some passengers were very irate as they realised they would miss connections for Doncaster and all points north and there were no other trains that night. 

It was decided to commandeer one of the then new high speed trains standing in the station and run it to Sheffield from whence a special train would be put on to take passengers onward to Doncaster.  Arrangements would be in place at Doncaster to ensure passengers were not stranded.

We left Derby two hours late.  In those days all trains were run by British Rail.  Now, with several  train operating companies it would be impossible to make the arrangements that were made that night in Derby.  Such is progress.

The Troop Train

For part of the year the railway ran a train on Fridays only from Portsmouth which wended its way via Oxford and Royal Leamington Spa to Coventry and thence to Birmingham and Leeds. The train was a boon to me as it stopped at Chesterfield.  No worries about connections. 

The train was packed always as far as Birmingham with soldiers and sailors on leave.  Vast quantities of alcohol were consumed..... and the smell, it was a travelling brewery.

The major disadvantage was the inability of the train to keep to the timetable.  Announcements at Coventry relating to the late running of the train were as rare as a virgin in a brothel. One knew the train was late when a Birmingham to Oxford train set off down the single line to Leamington Spa without waiting for the ex-Portsmouth train to arrive.

One evening I was astounded when an announcement was made. My train was running 61 minutes late. Cue for a visit to the Rocket public house, but on my way I called at the station manager's office to congratulate him on the precision of the information - not an hour late but 61 minutes late, followed by the mild suggestion that it was to be hoped the railway would get its finger out to ensure precision in keeping this particular train to its timetable.

STOP Notice

Some years ago I used to travel a lot between Coventry and Chesterfield by rail.  This involved a change at Birmingham New Street.  The connection at New Street was tight and on many occasions the train from Coventry would arrive in Birmingham as my connection was departing.  Sometimes I struck lucky and the train I was intending to board at New Street was running late.

I had no grounds for complaint if I missed my connection as it was not timetabled and circumstances would not permit me to catch an earlier train from Coventry.

It was my fate to kick my heels at New Street for an hour until the next Derby bound train arrived. Unfortunately this train was non stop between Derby and Sheffield, so I had to change at Derby and await the arrival of a train from London which went forward to Chesterfield and Sheffield. In Derby I found an interesting watering hole, the Vic, of which more will be revealed in a later post.

The time between trains at Derby was thirty minutes and on occasion the problem arose that my train from Birmingham was running late and I would miss my connection at Derby.  This called for action.

I would visit the Station Manager's office at New Street and explain the problem. See what we can do, I was informed. Usually it worked a treat and the station announcer would intone: The next train at platform 8 is the 18.50 for Burton, Derby, Sheffield, Rotherham, Wakefield and Leeds, calling additionally at Chesterfield.

One evening I secured an additional stop and when the train arrived at Derby the London-Sheffield train I would normally connect with was standing at the adjoining platform.  The station announcer intoned: The train at platform I is for Chesterfield and Sheffield. the train at Platform 2 is for Sheffield, Rotherham, Wakefield and Leeds.  No mention of the additional stop.

What to do?  Leg it over to platform 1 or stay put?  I chose not to move and shortly afterwards the train for Chesterfield and Sheffield pulled out.  The station announcer kept intoning that the train I was on would have Sheffield as its first stop.

Decisive action was called for.  As the platform staff starting blowing whistles for the train to leave I opened the door and steadfastly refused to close it.  Pandemonium broke out. Two platform staff were beside themselves and in no time the guard was hurrying up the platform and the British Transport Police were called.   Minutes passed.  The train driver came down the platform and in colourful language asked what was amiss. This bloke reckons you are stopping at Chesterfield the mob chorused.

Well I am, I have a special stop notice.  I have never seen railway staff melt away so fast.

The joys of the open road

Until the mid 1950s most people in England went on holiday by train. The summer timetable was packed with additional trains on Friday evenings and Saturdays during the height of the holiday season.  Trains were provided to cater for day-trippers as well as those spending a week (or possibly two) at their holiday destination. 

Football supporters would travel by special trains to 'away' matches.

The end of post war austerity in the 1950s, an increase in car ownership and the advent of package holidays to foreign lands had their effect on the numbers travelling by rail.  The swansong of mass rail travel to holiday destinations was 1963.

Our family acquired a car in the mid 1950s, a Ford Consul to be replaced after a few years by a Ford Zephyr Zodiac. Prior to obtaining a car my father had a Norton motorbike to which was attached a sidecar. For reasons not known to me this was replaced by a Velocette which I remember as being a souped up bicycle as distinct from a scooter.

Holidays by car included visits to Scotland. I recall staying at Strome Ferry, Inverness and Grantown-on-Spey, seeing the Forth Bridge (the railway one) and visiting Edinburgh and Aberdeen.  The journey to Scotland was always by way of the A1 to Scotch Corner and thence the A68.  We stopped overnight at Stirling.

Some years we would travel to the South West to either Paignton or St Mawgan for a caravan holiday.  I remember both well.  The site at St Mawgan was run by an RAF man based at St Mawgan and his wife.  On one occasion we had a tour of the aerodrome and were permitted to board an aircraft and look at the flight deck.

My abiding memory is the journey to the South West from Sheffield. It was always a 4.00AM start.  Down the A61 to Derby and then on the A38 if we were heading for Cornwall.  In those days most of the journey was on single carriage roads, very few dual carriageways, no by-passes and no motorways. Anything over 50 mph would put a strain on the car.  The important considerations were to get through Burton-on-Trent, notorious for the large number of level crossings of railway lines serving the breweries, before 6.00AM  and to cut across the Birmingham conurbation by 8.00AM.

Journeys to Devon were usually via the Fosse Way and the notorious Exeter bottleneck.

The great enemy was tiredness, particularly on the return journey when close to home on familiar roads. Every year road accidents resulting in deaths were reported in the Sheffield newspapers: people returning from the South West and having an accident within a few miles of their home.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

More Railway Ramblings

Further to my previous post, I recall one journey home that was quite an adventure for us.  For some reason trains were not running via the Woodhead route.  How to get home? One way was to go to Manchester Central and catch  a train on the old Midland Railway route to Sheffield Midland via the Hope Valley and thence to Chesterfield Midland or from Manchester Central to Derby and thence to Chesterfield Midland.

Now, Manchester Central has been converted into the G-Mex centre and the line to Derby via Matlock has been closed. It is possible to travel from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield via the Hope Valley route.

For some reason, lost in the sands of time, my father decided we would head for Manchester Exchange and catch a train to Huddersfield, thence to Penistone and back to our original route.  However, enquiries at Huddersfield persuaded us to stay on the train from Manchester and go on to Leeds City.  At Leeds we crossed to Leeds Wellingborough and thence back to Chesterfield via Rotherham Masborough and Sheffield Midland.

Manchester Exchange has been demolished.  Its main claim to fame is that it was linked to Manchester Victoria by platform 11, the longest in the country, which ran from the eastern end of Manchester Exchange to the western end of Manchester Victoria.

Railway ramblings

My father gained Ph.D. from Sheffield University for a thesis on turnpikes and canals in North Derbyshire and the adjoining area of the West Riding of Yorkshire.  His research took him to many locations to pore over archives.

It is easy to forget that in those days there was no internet, nor e-mails and subscriber trunk dialing of telephone numbers was in its infancy.  Hence the need for visits to Manchester, York, Leeds and London.

Manchester was visited frequently and I was taken on the visits and left to fend for myself on arrival. Travel was by rail and we would catch a train at Chesterfield Central.  The train originated at Leicester Central and would take us to Manchester London Road (now named Piccadilly).

At Sheffield Victoria the steam locomotive (usually an A3) came off to be replaced by an electric locomotive.  The first stop after Sheffield was Penistone, a windswept place where the line from Wath joined.  The main reason the line had been electrified after the Second World War was to  improve the haulage of coal trains between the Yorkshire coalfield and Fiddlers Ferry power station.  At Penistone a line branches off on a massive viaduct for Huddersfield.  This was the route taken by The South Yorkshireman express as it travelled between Bradford Exchange and London Marylebone.

Our train continued via the Woodhead Tunnel into Lancashire and then on to Manchester. Manchester London Road had four platforms designated 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' for trains from the route we had travelled.  The remainder of the platforms were numbered and were used by trains heading south for Crewe and London Euston. Although the railways had been nationalised for a decade the platform arrangements harked back to the days of the London and North Eastern Railway and the London Midland and Scottish railway, indeed back to the pre-grouping of 1923 when Great Central and London and North Western trains used the station. On the LMS side of the station trains came from and departed to London, Birmingham and Bristol.

However, change was in the air, and our later visits coincided with the redevelopment  of London Road and the electrification of the route to London Euston.

Within a few years the train we caught from Chesterfield went no further than Sheffield.  In the early 1960s it was decided to run down the services on the former Great Central line. Passengers for Manchester had to endure an hour's wait at Sheffield for their onward train. At first staff at Sheffield would 'hold' a Manchester bound train for passengers from the Leicester train, but it was decreed that the train from Leicester had to arrive at the place vacated by the Manchester bound train.

It was not long before the Great Central line through Chesterfield was closed, closely followed by the closure of the Woodhead route, despite it being by far the fastest route between Sheffield and Manchester.

It is still possible to travel by train from Sheffield to Penistone, but the journey commences at Sheffield Midland and is routed via Barnsley.  From Penistone trains continue to run to Huddersfield.

Rusthall Parish Council: Congratulations

Congratulations to Jenny Blackburn on being elected the first chairman of Rusthall Parish Council. Well-deserved and recognition of her work in promoting the idea that Rusthall should have a parish council, her experience as a Tunbridge Wells councillor and her active role in local organisations.

I am delighted Chris Elwood has been elected as vice-chairman.  He ran a good election campaign.  As I suggested in a previous blog either he or  Kelly Watson  (who topped the poll) deserved the position.

Barry Edwards failed in his bid to be either chairman of vice-chairman.  Not been his month: lost his seat on the Borough Council as well.

My Facebook Page - a reader's guide

Anyone taking a cursory glance at my Facebook page will realise immediately that it is eclectic, by which I mean items are posted from a wide variety of sources, on a broad range of subjects and a wide range of opinions.  The page does not promote any 'party' line. I have a 'go' at them all!

My Facebook friends include people from the far left to the far right politically, of different faiths or none.  I never turn down a request to be a friend.

I have an open posting policy, anyone can post about anything.  The only restrictions I place on posting are that I will not tolerate persistent foul and abusive language, nor content which by implication, inference or explicitly could be classed as racist.

I have been posting voluminous amounts for a long time on the crisis within the eurozone as I believe the consequences of the failure of the currency will have a dramatic negative effect on the British economy.

From time to time I post 'quirky' items to provide relief from the tedium and despondency of much that is happening in the world.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Brenchley Commitment

A major 'grot spot' in Tunbridge Wells is the former ABC cinema which has lain derelict for eleven years.  There has been a succession of false dawns: promises that work was to commence to clear the site and re-develop it.

At  a meeting at Brenchley the Leader of the Council  expressed his frustration at the delays in re-developing the site and raised the possibility of the Council seeking to compulsorily purchase the site.

Sounds positive. Councillor Atwood is quoted as saying:

If it is clear that any new owner is not going to develop it immediately, we will again have to consider compulsory purchase.

Fair enough, but why not be bold and say: we will go for compulsory purchase?

Start the clock and let's see how long it is before the builders move in.  I'll keep you posted.

Allegations of racism continue in The Courier

I have commented before on the attack by the local newspaper on Adrian Ratcliffe alleging he is racist. Ok, he pushed the 'Like' button on Facebook on a joke in poor taste, but no more so than the 'jokes' of some 'ironic comedians'.  He has opinions on fundamentalist Islam which are not to  everyone's taste and he has highlighted a number of disturbing  events. The Courier is part of the Daily Mail group and the Daily Mail has been publishing incendiary stories which back up Mr Ratcliffe's claims.

The Courier has returned to the fray today with a piece of tosh remarkable even by the Courier's abysmal standards.  The story is headed: 'Residents left reeling by web comments'. Link to story here. Really.  I cannot say I have noticed this as a major talking point on my visits to Sherwood, nor at the recent local elections.

It is planned to hold a festival of cultural diversity backed by the local housing association.  Good idea. However the nonsense is the statement that it is hoped the initiative will help soothe tensions arising in the community following the exposure of Ratcliffe last month.

What evidence is there that tensions have risen?  More pertinently if tensions have risen whose fault is it?   Point the finger at the Courier.  Why did they publish such sensationalist material?

Rusthall Election: High Turnout

A correspondent in the local newspaper gushes thus:

As a politics graduate of old, I would like to express delight at the hugely increased ward turnout to nearly 50% from 34% (2008) in support of all the candidates for the new Rusthall Parish Council.


Whilst the turnout for the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council election for Rusthall is recorded as 49.62%,  the percentage for the parish council election is recorded as 47.83%.

The percentages for the wards in the borough  elections are as follow: 

                                                                                            2008          2011

Benenden and Cranbrook                                                  38.65                47.18
Brenchley and Horsmonden                                              42.35                50.36
Culverden                                                                          31.50                42.38
Goudhurst and Lamberhurst                                             37.90                51.03
Hawkhurst and Sandhurst                                                 37.19                46.79
Park                                                                                   34.38                46.33
Pembury                                                                            40.06                48.54
Rusthall                                                                             34.27                49.62
Sherwood                                                                          28.93                35.38
Southborough East and High Brooms                              31.91                37.92
Speldhurst and Bidborough                                              40.37                53.69
St John's                                                                            35.81                44.02

Increased turnout in every ward. The reason being advanced for the increase is that people turned out to vote in the AV referendum.  Whilst there was undoubtedly a parish election factor in the increased turnout in Rusthall, voting in other wards suggests that other factors also were in play.

In wards where it is possible to make comparisons, the percentage vote in the parish election was higher than the borough ward election - except in Rusthall.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A New Secondary School for Edenbridge.

The publication in the Courier recently of information on the role being played by the Harris Federation and the School Action Group Edenbridge (SAGE) is welcomed. It has brought into the open what is happening and is a breath of fresh air after the distortions, incompetence and dithering we have witnessed.

I played a small part, in the background, to the story appearing in the press and I am delighted that the secrecy and conjecture has ended.

Big Day Today

Rosemary goes to the hospital today for tests to determine if her broken hip has mended fully.  Fingers crossed.

Tonight is the first meeting of Rusthall Parish Council. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cancer Cure? Is it this simple?

For what it is worth, may I draw your attention to the link below:


Blue Labour

Below is a link to the Guardian.


I have a feeling that this is a seminal document for the Labour Party and the beginning of a shift in the political tectonic plates. 

I doubt if it will be attractive to all Liberal Democrats as it is certainly 'conservative' as distinct from 'progressive'. I consider the word 'progressive' as in progressive policies' fatuous.

Blue Labour thinking has major supporters within the Labour Party, none more so than Jon Cruddas and Professor Jonathan Rutherford.  The ideas within the document will strike a chord with Labour moderates of the pre -New Labour era

See also: http://www.soundings.org.uk/

and: http://blue-labour.blogspot.com/

House of Lords Reform

Constitutional law was a compulsory subject when I studied for my law degree. When I suggested to my law lecturer that the House of Lords should be an elected body he commented that it would never happen.  His arguments were:

1.  The Lords is a revising chamber.
2.  It can only delay bills, it cannot stop them.  The Parliament Acts ensure the supremacy of the Commons over the Lords.
3.  The Commons would not countenance a rival elected body.

The proposal that a new upper chamber be elected by some form of proportional representation will give it legitimacy and inevitably will lead to conflict between the Commons and the new upper house.

I don't think the consequences of having a second democratically elected chamber have been worked out.  Comparisons with other countries are meaningless.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Kent County Council: Rail Action Plan

There is much to commend in the Rail Action Plan, but I feel it has not considered a number of issues.

1. The line between Tonbridge and Orpington is being used almost to its full capacity at peak times.  What will happen when demand exceeds capacity?

2. There is no mention of the problems of connections to major regional hubs outside Kent (except for London).  Services to Brighton are poor as are services to Croydon.

3. Poor north/south services within Kent.

The first issue above is the elephant in the room.  Whilst the high speed route from Ashford has taken some of the pressure off the Tonbridge-Orpington route, traffic growth from points west of Ashford will soon take up the slack.  It has been suggested (not in the Plan) that the line between Tunbridge Wells West Station and the Uckfield-Croydon line be re-opened to provide a Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge or Victoria service.  The problem is that the London-Brighton route is almost at full capacity, so this would involve merely transferring the problem rather than resolving it.

Issue 2 could be resolved by re-opening the Uckfield-Lewes line as far as links with Brighton are concerned.

Issue 3: The hourly service between Maidstone West and Paddock Wood acts as a disincentive to travel.  A line has to have a half-hourly service to be attractive. A service should be put on to connect with the proposed Ashford-Gatwick service. This latter service would double the current timetable on the Redhill-Tonbridge route and make it more attractive for passengers wishing to travel to Croydon via Redhill.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Proposed Tesco supermarket in Southborough

When I was nowt but a lad (many, many years ago) most households did not possess a fridge or a freezer or a car.  Food shopping patterns were determined by how long food could be kept cool in the larder and how much could be carried home using the bus and then possibly a long walk. Shopping was on a little and often basis.

Now it is possible for those with refrigeration at home and the use of a car to shop much less often. Indeed, supermarkets deliver to your door and for some it is cheaper to have the goods delivered than to travel and shop.

As the supermarket companies expand their operations I wonder where the additional customers come from.  Apart from enticing each others customers, the majority of new customers must be people who desert existing small independent shops. Many bemoan the loss of small shops but still use supermarkets.

For some, without cars and faced with the expense of public transport, One Stop shops provide a convenience outlet.  Many people do not know that Tesco owns One Stop.  The following extract from Wikipedia may be of interest:

One Stop, which includes some of the smallest stores, is the only Tesco store format in the UK that does not include the word Tesco in its name. They were part of the T&S Stores business but, unlike many that converted to Tesco Express, these kept their old name. Some have Tesco Personal Finance branded cash machines. The business has attracted some controversy, as grocery prices in these shops, often situated in less well-off areas can be higher than nearby Tesco branded stores, highlighted in The Times 22 March 2010: "Britain’s biggest supermarket uses its chain of 520 One Stop convenience stores—which many customers do not realise it owns—to charge up to 14 per cent more for goods than it does in Tesco-branded stores." Tesco responded to the article stating "It is a separate business within the Tesco Group, with its own supply chain and distribution network. One Stop stores offer a different range to Express stores and its operating costs are different. One Stop’s price strategy is to match its nearest competitor Cost Cutter and is frequently cheaper."

In Rusthall we have two One Stop shops, buses every 12 minutes to Sainsbury's and the store is a 5 minute car ride.  So does the proposed Southborough Tesco pose a threat to shops in Rusthall?

The Southborough Tesco will be attractive only to car users.  The problem is that they will use the 'rat-run' between Rusthall and Southborough  which for part of the way is single file with passing points. Roads in Southborough are congested as it is.  A new supermarket  is not so much an issue for  Rusthall's shops but for Sainsbury's who could lose customers to Tesco's.

Obviously small shops in Southborough will suffer, as did some shops in Rusthall when Sainsbury's opened.

The strange case of the Courier and local English Democrats

A few weeks ago I posted blogs on the hatchet job by the Courier on two members of the English Democrats in Tunbridge Wells.  Sadly, no right of reply was granted.

The Courier is part of Northcliffe Media.  The latter is a division of the Daily Mail and General Trust.  Thus the Courier and the Daily mail are part of the same stable.  In one corner of the stable the Courier is 'spreading the dirt' on two English Democrats across four pages, including the front page.

 All minor and petty stuff when compared to what the Daily Mail published recently:


The sensationalist 'expose' in the Courier is in stark contrast to the very real issues and concerns raised in the Daily Mail report (and by the Evening Standard) about what is happening in Tower Hamlets.

The Courier carried a comment by one of the individuals it 'exposed' who stood as a candidate at the recent local election.  The heading was 'First Timers'.  Incorrect, as the candidate stood last year in a  by-election in the same ward.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Who will be Chairman of Rusthall Parish Council?

It will be interesting to see who becomes the first chairman of Rusthall Parish Council.  Jenny Blackburn who led the campaign for Rusthall to have a parish council must be the firm favourite to take the position.  She is also a former Labour councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  A possible contender is Barry Edwards who was a Conservative councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council until he was dumped this May by the Rusthall electorate in favour of the UKIP candidate.

I hope the parish councillors elect either Chris Elwood or Kelly Watson as vice-chairman. Both are young and Kelly came top of the poll by 3 votes from Chris.

First meeting of Rusthall Parish Council

The first meeting of the parish council is on Wednesday 18 May at 7.00PM at the United Reformed Church, Rusthall. Details and agenda are on the noticeboard outside the URC.

UKIP - a year out!

I note the newly elected UKIP councillor for Rusthall is quoted in the press as saying that UKIP will be ready for the county council election in 2012. Should be interesting; the election is in 2013!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Red Lion, Rusthall closes its doors.....again!

I declare an interest, I live opposite the Red Lion.

When I moved to Rusthall, Barry was the landlord of the Red Lion.  A stickler for adhering  strictly to licensing hours, his main claim to fame was the husbanding of bar stools. After each drinking session the stools would be gathered in and placed in an alcove accessible only from behind the bar.  Selected customers were offered a stool.  If your face didn't fit, no stool.

Barry left for Hastings after thirteen years as mine host.  Since his departure there has been a succession of landlords none of whom has made a financial success of the pub.

The brewery has admitted that the Red Lion is a 'marginal pub' by which it means it is not a good income generator. Successive landlords have had meagre pickings.  One problem is that it is impossible to contain sound within the pub, so any amplified or loud live music is broadcast to the neighbourhood, as are the questions on quiz nights and the  runners and riders on race nights.

Matters got so bad that a group of residents living close to the pub objected en bloc to the proposed licensing hours when the new licensing laws were introduced and attended in strength when the pub's licensing application was considered by the local council.

The current landlord has thrown in the towel and the pub has a sign on the door: closed until further notice.

The time has come for the brewery to consider closing the pub as it is unlikely any new landlord will improve on the efforts of those who have gone before.  I was informed at an early age that fast women and slow horses were two sure-fire ways of losing money.  I would add to the list being the landlord of the Red Lion.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Rusthall Parish Council

Does anyone know when and where the first meeting of the parish council will be held? 

Miliband is a loser.

The Labour Party's arcane electoral system saddled them with a leader who was not the choice of Labour MPs, nor of the of the individual members.  He was elected by the trade union constituency.

Last Thursday was a bad day for Labour.  Divided over the Alternative Vote, Ed became the cheerleader for the 'Yes' campaign. His name will for ever be associated with the disastrous Yes campaign.  Quite why Labour jumped on the AV bandwagon is a mystery.  Perhaps he hoped AV would result in a permanent 'progressive' (whatever that means) majority in the House of Commons.  What he forget, and Labour must remember, is that the majority of citizens in the United Kingdom are conservative in their attitudes.  This has been recognised by Jon Cruddas who has the ear of Ed Miliband.  Labour became disconnected from its core vote which is conservative as distinct from progressive. Labour had thirteen years to change the electoral system but failed to do so. The Miliband stance on AV was pure opportunism and it failed.

Labour's decimation in the Scottish Parliament elections has resulted in what most commentators believed could not happen under the electoral system in Scotland - an overall majority for the Scottish National Party. Already the SNP is talking about greater powers being devolved to the Scottish Parliament and there will be a referendum on independence within the next three years.  It would be wrong to assume that the SNP will lose the referendum.

Labour's showing at the local election was poor. Seats lost in 2003 were not regained.

The Tories must be pinching themselves at Labour's poor showing and the rout of the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps Ed Miliband was hoping that that the Liberal Democrats would leave the Coalition and join with the Labour Party and eventually force an early general election.  Such a strategy will fail for two reasons.

First, the Liberal Democrats are are an uneasy coalition of 'Orange Book' ideas which can be traced back to the Liberal Party and ideas of democratic socialism which can be traced back to the Social Democratic Party.  The SDP was formed by disillusioned Labour MPs when the Labour Party was in the grips of Militant. Whilst it is likely the majority of Liberal Democrats would feel at home in the current Labour Party, a significant number would not. For the Liberal Democrats to throw their lot in with Labour runs the risk of splitting the party even more so than the current Coalition arrangements.

Secondly, there is the issue of support. The recent local elections resulted in Labour hammering the Liberal Democrats in northern local authorities - areas in which the Liberal Democrats have destroyed the Conservative Party and are the only real opposition to Labour.  Therefore it was likely they would take a hammering over Coalition policies.

Over  large swathes of  the South the Liberal Democrats have destroyed the Labour Party and therefore the only real choice the electorate had was between the two Coalition parties.

Where the Conservatives did not do well was in those areas where the main opponents were Labour and Conservative.

The Liberal Democrats cannot risk withdrawing from the Coalition and forcing an early general election. Labour will take Liberal Democrat seats in the north and Conservatives likewise in the south.

For Ed Miliband the risk of an early general election is that he will lose heavily in Scotland and be unable to gain seats in the rest of the UK to compensate.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Trust and transparency......when it suits.

The Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council represents Rusthall ward.  At the local elections he spent a major part of the day standing outside the polling station in Rusthall with the Conservative candidate who was standing for re-election. The victor was Victor Webb of UKIP.

Next day the local newspaper, the Courier, carried a story concerning a report by a consultant commissioned by the Council which set out options for re-locating the town hall.  The report was published after a Freedom of Information request. 

The Leader of the Council has pleaded for trust in the Council and promised the perceived secretiveness of the previous Leader's administration would end. According to the newspaper: Council leader Bob Atwood and senior officers refused interviews with the Courier.

So, not only did the Council have to have the document dragged out of it by an FoI request, it refused to answer any questions or give any update on its contents.

Trust and transparency........what a joke.

Southborough Town Council

The Council is a third tier authority on a par with a parish council.  It is contested fiercely by the political parties.  Thursday's election has resulted in 9 Labour, 7 Conservative and 2 Liberal Democrat councillors. One ward returned 5 Labour councillors.  The electorate voted in 5 Conservative and 2 Liberal Democrats in another ward.  In the ward gained by Labour from the Conservatives at the Borough Council elections the electorate returned 4 Labour and 2 Conservatives.  There were no candidates from other parties and no Independents.

Always a very 'political' council it will be interesting to follow the deliberations of the wannabee serious politicians fighting over minor issues.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Rejoice! Defeat for the cult of personality

Nick Clegg said before the general election that AV was a 'miserable little compromise'. Not the basis for a successful campaign.

In my opinion the major flaw in the YES campaign was to use people like Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry and Tony Robinson to promote its position.  I take the view that what a 'personality' thinks on an issue does not give any added weight to an argument.   The idea that we should support something because a personality supports it is insulting.  I would consider  carefully the opinion of an expert.  So a professor of government I would take heed of on voting systems, but not a professor of zoology.

English Democrats not damaged by press reports

Earlier this year I devoted two posts to comment on the publication of near hysterical comment about the chairman of Tunbridge Wells English Democrats and the party's candidate at yesterday's local elections. The paper spread its vitriol across four pages including the front page and has refused to print a response from the party's chairman.

The local paper is part of the Daily Mail stable. It has been noted that the national paper has been publishing stories which bear out some of points made by the party which were roundly condemned in the local press.

At yesterday's election the party increased its vote from 75 to 121 and whilst its percentage of the vote dropped from 8.4. to 7.08  more people voted for the party post the hatchet job in the press than did so before.

A new school for Edenbridge. Told you so!

A month ago I surmised that the mystery benefactor behind the proposal for a new secondary school in Edenbridge was Lord Harris.  This was hotly denied by the leading light of a group of residents agitating for a new school.

Today's Courier  carries on its front page an article and what do we read?  Only that the Harris Federation set up by Lord Harris is indeed looking for premises and helping to fund the achool.  I am totally vindicated.

It is clear from the report that the process of gauging demand has not commenced, so it is likely that should an applicataion be made to the Department for Education the earliest start date for the school will be September 2013.

It is a pity the School Action Group Edenbridge (SAGE) did not go public earlier. The reason given: it wasn't right to say anything until we thought there was a chance of success' is a bit lame given that one of the major criterion for success is proof of demand which can be achieved only by going public.

Not a mention in the report of the 'leading light' who seems to have been pushed into the shade.

New Rusthall Parish Council membership

My forecast as to the probable membership of the new Rusthall Parish Council was not far out.  8 out of the 9 I expected to win were elected.  Obviously, my local intelligence reports are sound.

Only 4 of the 9 candidates I voted for won seats, including one I did not expect to win.

Rusthall Parish Council Result

Parish Rusthall
Surname Name Number of votes recorded Notes
Appleton (Independent) David John680
Blackburn (Independent) Jennifer Ann917Elected
Clark Jonathan Daniel759Elected
Codd Clare709Elected
Edwards Barry John764Elected
Elwood (Independent) Christopher928Elected
Geer Jane770Elected
Lawrence Malcolm Leslie716Elected
Lawrence (Independent) Mary Ann691
Lewis Leonard195
Richards Andrew Ian471
Rusbridge John Frederick686
Simmons (Representing
The Voice of the Community)
Maria Jane720Elected
Watson Kelly Marie933Elected
Percentage turnout = 47.83%

New Blood on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

The one major surprise is the UKIP victory in the ward in which I live, Rusthall.  As I mentioned in previous blogs, the Conservative election address was somewhat self-congratulatory.  UKIP concentrated its effort in the ward: three election leaflets, the candidate pressing the flesh on the High Street and extensive canvassing by the candidate.  The new councillor is the first UKIP councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  A gain from the Tories. The Lib Dem was only 20 votes behind the Conservative and I cannot help but feel that with more effort the Lib Dems could have won the seat.  Next year the Leader of the Council is the retiring Conservative councillor. 

Labour gained a seat in Southborough from the Conservatives and re-gain a presence on the Council.

The Lib Dems must be disappointed at losing St John's to the Conservatives.

In Frittenden and Sissinghurst the Independent beat the Conservative candidate. The Independent was a sitting Conservative (indeed the Chairman of the Conservative Group on the Council).  I wonder how long it will be before he is re-admitted to the Conservative Party and the Conservative Group?

The Conservatives held Pembury having lost a seat to the Lib Dems at a by-election earlier this year. UKIP contested the by-election but did not put up a candidate for the current round of elections.

The upshot is that the Conservatives lost 3 seats, 1 to UKIP, 1 to Labour and 1 to an Independent  and gained 1 from the Lib Dems.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Rusthall Parish Council election

The column below lists whom I expect to be elected to the Parish Council.  The 'X's mark whom I have voted for.

  • Jonathan Clark                          X
  • Maria Simmons                        X
  • Chris Elwood                            X
  • Jenny Blackburn
  • Kelly Watson
  • Malcolm Lawrence
  • Clare Codd
  • Barry Edwards
  • John Rusbridge.                        X
That leaves:
  • Andy Richards                          X
  • David Appleton                         X
  • Mary Lawrence                         X
  • Jane Geer                                 X
  • Leonard Lewis                          X

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Election Day tomorrow

I am looking forward to voting tomorrow. My intention is to cast a vote for 'No to AV'  in the referendum ballot.

The election for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council will be interesting. The Conservatives are reeling still from the change of Leader and the aftermath of a perceived failure to consult on the future of the civic complex. Will votes go to the Liberal Democrats? Given the unpopularity of the Liberal Democrats nationally one might think they will do badly tomorrow.  However, they won a by-election recently and in so doing gained a seat from the Conservatives.

Labour is contesting more seats than the Liberal Democrats and will be hoping to pick up votes from people not enamoured by either of the Coalition parties.  Will Labour gain any seats?  Possibilities in Southborough one feels.

UKIP is fighting hard but I doubt if they will gain any seats, but disaffected Tories may vote UKIP and open the door for the Liberal Democrats. The Green Party is fighting one seat and I do not expect them to win.

The Independent candidate in Benenden & Cranbrook could spring a surprise and gain a seat from the Tories.  In neighbouring Frittenden & Sissinghurst the retiring Conservative councillor has been de-selected and is contesting the seat as an Independent against the Conservatives. Rumour has it that it will be a close run contest and the Independent might just shade it.  Too close to call in my opinion.

The English Democrats are standing again in one ward. Unlikely to win, but will be interesting to see if they increase their percentage of the vote.

In my village we are holding the first ever parish council election.  14 candidates for 9 seats.  Impossible to discern who will succeed.

My  message is: go and vote!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Edenbridge School Saga: Update

There is to be an article in The Courier about the proposed new school.  One of the leading lights has expressed herself on the matter on Facebook thus:

Audrey Batchelor IT WILL TELL ALL


Obviously 'speculation' not a word Audrey wishes to use. 

Full house! Received Lib Dem election address.

Today,  I received the Liberal Democrats' election address for the Borough Council election.  When I was an election agent we always delivered our main election address during the final weekend of the election campaign - send it out too early and its impact is lost.  Deliver it in the week of the election and people think you are thin on the ground, as they do if it is delivered three weeks before election day. So, spot on for timing.

The personal information about the Lib Dem candidate is by far the best of the three candidates' election addresses.  Also a good photograph taken against the background of Toad Rock, a local beauty spot. Excellent touch.

Unfortunately the policies of the Liberal Democrats do not all stack up: there are promises which either for legal reasons or because powers are vested elsewhere than in the Town Hall that will frustrate their  ability to deliver.  More to the point where the Lib Dems state that We will it misses the point that should the Conservatives lose every seat they contest they will maintain a majority on the council.

Vague promises on encouraging businesses to locate, grow and prosper (how and at what cost) and improved community facilities (again, how and at what cost) and a promise to submit any redevelopment plans for our town centre to a full and effective public consultation.

When you do not expect, or cannot because of the arithmetic of seats held, to gain power you can make  all sorts of promises in the confident knowledge you will not have to implement them.

Not a mention of that nice Mr Clegg anywhere in the document.

My money is on the Lib Dem to win in Rusthall.  The Conservatives will lose votes to the UKIP candidate.