Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Soup Bowl, RIP

For many years the Soup Bowl in Tunbridge Wells has provided evening meals for individuals who have many personal problems: homelessness, poverty, alcoholism, destroyed family relationships, etc. The main supporter of the Soup Bowl is the Roman Catholic Church, although it is supposedly an ecumenical project.

Earlier this year the Soup Bowl was given an order to quit by the landlord, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, on the grounds that users congregated outside the premises to smoke and there was from time to time disturbance.  On that basis many pubs in the area should be closed by the Licensing Authority which, as you may have guessed, is the Council.

When the original decision was made there was something of an outcry and a meeting was held which included the Leader of the Council, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester and the MP for Tunbridge Wells.  Closure was deferred until the end of June to give time for an alternative to be found.

However an alternative location has not been found:  the latest suggestion  is that churches take it in turn to provide the service which frankly is barmy.

It beggars belief that between them the local churches have not come up with a solution.

See also:



Positions set out before EU summit

The euro crisis continues.  Nothing is likely to be decided at the EU summit later this week and expectation is low of any major policy changes by Germany.  The problem is that major changes in structure - fiscal and political union, the ECB changing course from  being the supplicant to German demands will require treaty change.  It will take months to effect change, even if the nations can agree.

The EU has come up with proposals which look to be a non-starter.

Meanwhile the problems in Greece, Italy and Spain continue. It looks as though the cavalry will arrive too late.




and: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-economists-offer-third-way-for-saving-euro-a-841009.html.

also:  http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jeremywarner/100018189/a-hopelessly-misconceived-blue-print-for-europe/





Sunday, 24 June 2012

Problems in the Med.

The tinderbox at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea is close to igniting.  In Egypt the Arab Spring revolution is likely to entrench the power of the military.  Israel  is locked in battle with the Palestinians and looking warily at adjoining nations. Syria is in a state of civil war and has shot down a Turkish military aircraft, the latest 'event' in a period of mistrust between the two countries. Lebanon and Syria have been at loggerheads for years.

Of course, these are not localised problems.  Turkey is a member of NATO and is calling for support from the organisation.  Syria is a client state of Russia.  Russia attempted to send a shipment of attack helicopters to the Syrian government.  The ship, flying under a flag of convenience turned back when the British insurance policy was revoked  (presumably under pressure from the British government). What will happen should the ship sail again with a Russian naval escort?




Friday, 22 June 2012

Hopes dashed.



Mrs Merkel has domestic issues to contend with:  opposition within the German parliament and constitutional issues to be considered in the courts.

Only about 10bn is 'new' money and it will take years to see the benefit.  Now, didn't I read somewhere that the EC wants to see a 7%. in the budget.


John Dutton opines

John Dutton has a letter in today's local newspaper which repeats comments in previous letters.

His (Bob Atwood) excellent leadership, coupled with James Scholes' good stewardship......

He goes on to state:

The main factors in Bob's defeat were dissatisfaction with his party's national leadership and actions, together with overblown anti-EU publicity, coinciding with a new UKIP local candidate in his ward, where there was already a well-known UKIP councillor. In an ideal world, local and national politics would be kept at arm's length, but in today's world this is an unattainable goal, given the ever pervasive ignorance and boredom of most electors concerning their local councils activities.

Fair enough, but back in April John Dutton had this to say in the local press:

...may I urge that we use the May local elections to signal our disapproval and lack of confidence in the current government, by not voting for their local candidates.

The local electorate followed his advice.  Not much good extolling the leadership of the Council and then proposing people should not vote for them.

See:  http://kentcommunityactivist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/john-dutton-changes-tack.html

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Update on Lewes-Uckfield re-opening proposal

Bit of a curate's egg.  See:


Euro black comedy ploughs on, and on, and....

More items of glum news:






Another spanner in the works.




Spain, Italy, France and IMF ganging up on Merkel.





Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Conservatives and UKIP

The general election in 2010 saw the Conservatives snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Instead of an overall majority the Tories were forced into  humiliating negotiations with the Liberal Democrats out of which came the Coalition government: a bastard government as it had no electoral legitimacy.

At the time I suggested the Conservatives should form a minority government, possibly, but not necessarily, with an understanding with the Liberal Democrats on economic policy.

One reason why the Conservatives failed to win the election outright, or win sufficient seats to form a government with only a small minority in the House of Commons, was the performance of UKIP.  In a number of constituencies the combined Conservative/UKIP vote was greater than that of the party which won the seat.

The Conservatives entered a coalition with the fanatically europhile Liberal Democrats and since then the Tories have been restrained from taking an anti-EU membership (on current terms) stance.  Exactly the opposite of what UKIP would have hoped for.  However one cannot blame UKIP.

UKIP has many ex-Tories as members. Indeed it is believed that some people hold dual UKIP/Tory membership.

My experience indicates that there are many members of the Conservative Party who are euro-sceptics, ranging from those who wish to return to the free trade association days, to those who wish to see outright withdrawal.  What such members (and supporters) cannot stand is the obeisance paid by the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats on EU issues.

In my home town UKIP won a local election seat from the Conservatives.  The UKIP candidate made great play of the fact that he had been a Conservative councillor and that many UKIP members and supporters were ex-Tories.

Recently I was discussing politics with two Conservative councillors from a different part of Kent.  Both hold
strong anti-EU view and they were complimentary about UKIP.

As pressure mounts for a referendum on EU membership and Conservatives become more disenchanted with the Coalition Cameron must take a grip on the situation if the Tory party is not to suffer a major defeat at the next general election.

UPDATE: (21.06.2012)

I note a Conservative MP  in the House of Commons called yesterday for the Conservatives to ditch the Lib Dems and rule as a minority government.

See also:


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

May be, just may be.....

...the first step to lance the debt boil.


Then again..............













I live opposite a public house and under the flightpath of aircraft landing at Gatwick Airport.

The current pub landlord is doing an excellent job (which is more than can be said for the majority of  predecessors) in ensuring that disturbance to neighbours is kept to a minimum.

Aircraft noise is not too bad.

The problem is that people who cause disturbance would be rather put out if they had to suffer the noise themselves.  For many this is the problem with Nimbyism: double standards.

Of course one can understand the attitude of people who do not want a new railway at the bottom of the garden or a new runway at an airport: yet these very people do not think twice about travelling by train or aircraft and even less about the disturbance that is caused.

I invite my readers to consider what your attitude would be to a proposal which would damage your enjoyment?  It is easy to criticise when you are not affected by a scheme, but if you were how would you react?

How does one balance personal interest with the needs of the wider community?  The answer is that one cannot.  Clearly measures can be taken to reduce the impact of a new railway or runway, but no more.

The opposition to the HS2 railway proposal is being directed at the environmental damage the railway will cause and also at the business case for the scheme. Strong though these arguments are, nevertheless there is an underlying nimbyism.

One issue bringing out the nimby brigade is the issue of airport expansion in the South-East of England.  The current government was elected on a manifesto opposing an additional runway at Heathrow.  There is pressure for a 'U-turn' on that commitment.  A second runway at Gatwick or at Stansted has been ruled out in the past. The Mayor of London's proposal for an artificial island to be built in the Thames Estuary, 'Boris Island' is widely opposed, as are suggestions to increase capacity by developing Manston in Kent

It has been suggested that, with HS2, Birmingham airport could meet demands for increased runway capacity.



Monday, 18 June 2012

Eurozone crisis rumbles on (2)

As I have argued before, Greece is a sideshow.  Spain and Italy are the basket cases.





Sticking one on the creep Barroso.

Eurozone crisis rumbles on

Typical eurozone day: Greece struggling to form a coalition government, Mrs Merkle continues to mutter 'nein', Spanish and Italian bond yields at danger point.












Also EC denies Greek terms may be relaxed.





Sunday, 17 June 2012

Greek vote does not solve the euro problem

The result of the Greek general election may have bought Greece, Germany, and the EU time, but it does nothing to resolve the structural deficiencies of the eurozone.  It looks as though a coalition will have to be formed, but which parties will form it?  The neo-Nazi party gained almost 8% of the vote.  I fear civil unrest will grow unless there is significant relaxation of the austerity terms imposed on the nation.

What may be more significant is the result of the second round of voting for the French parliament.  The result gives Hollande's party a working majority. Much will depend on how France, Italy and Spain work together to counter Germany.








Euro jottings

Greek election result awaited with fear/ hope by the financial markets.  Will the result be a clear-cut victory for one party or will the impasse remain?  Little point in speculation, we shall have the result soon.




Greek election: Exit poll indicates result too close to call.

Friday, 15 June 2012

The road to ruin

The past few years have seen the ruination of the lives of many of the citizens of European states and the dislocation of rulers from the ruled.  This is why the recent decisions of the electorates in France and Greece (and the second Greek election on Sunday) are so important.  Will German hegemony continue in the face of mounting opposition in Spain, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands and France?  The battle lines, lines in the sand, call it what you wish, have been drawn.  Who will blink first and with what consequences?

















Atwood under attack in local press

Following his not unexpected electoral defeat at the hands of UKIP, Bob Atwood, the former Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, was not magnanimous in defeat.  Whilst attacking the campaign of UKIP was fair enough, after all politics is a rough trade, the implication of the comments was to blame the electorate for supporting a party he described as xenophobic, jingoistic and possessing basest instincts.  Rather foolish, particularly if you plan to seek the same electorates' vote in the future.


The response hit the letters column of today's edition of local newspaper.

Some of the comments.

(he) should graciously recognise that the electorate have spoken

Bob must stop feeling sorry for himself

He should learn to accept defeat with a little grace

He should not demonise people who did not turn out to vote for him. 

Some, of the letter writers are UKIP members or supporters and one has to allow for bias.  But others are not, and collectively the letters express opinions held by some Rusthall people from across the political spectrum.

I believe Bob Atwood was unlucky to lose his seat as he was a good ward member.

Rather than mounting his attack, Bob Atwood would do well to consider why people were not drawn to vote for him. He has indicated a possible interest in standing as county councillor in 2013.  But where?  My understanding is that there is a potential vacancy in Cranbrook.  However which of the other county councillors in Tunbridge Wells is retiring or is likely to have difficulty being reselected?   Doesn't take much to work out.

Reflections on Tunbridge Wells East Tory win

My prediction that the Conservatives would hold, by a small margin, the Kent County Council seat of Tunbridge Wells East proved correct.

The poll at the 2009 election was 37%, yesterday it was 27%


Conservative  49%,  Liberal Democrat  32%,  UKIP 12%,  Labour  7%
2372                         1532                              585              324

Conservative  32%,  Liberal Democrat  28%,  UKIP 28%,  Labour  9%,  Green  3%
1171                        1022                               1000             321               109

UKIP put a huge effort into winning the seat.  Nigel Farage, MEP made an appearance.  UKIP more than doubled its vote and should gain great satisfaction from this.

The Liberal Democrat vote held up well.  Labour was never going to do well in the seat.

The Conservatives doubtless are breathing a huge sigh of relief at holding the seat.  It was never going to be easy when set in the context of the national political scene, to which should be added that the previous Conservative councillor was very popular and had the support of people who normally would not vote Conservative.

Overall, the outcome is that the seat is now a three-way marginal, whereas it was previously a comfortable Conservative hold.

The next election is in 2013.  An Independent councillor for one of the three Tunbridge Wells Borough Council wards which make up the KCC division has been quoted in the local press as considering standing for the county council in 2013.  He won the borough council ward  seat from the Conservatives, having previously been a Conservative councillor.

Tories see off UKIP threat.

The Conservatives held on to Tunbridge Wells East, but with a much reduced majority and percentage of the vote. An excellent performance in the circumstances.  Poor turnout probably helped the Conservatives who will be delighted that the UKIP juggernaut has been checked.

Election results for Tunbridge Wells East (Wards: Pembury, Sherwood, St James')

Kent County Council By-Election - Thursday, 14th June, 2012

By-Election for Tunbridge Wells East (Kent County Council Division)
Tunbridge Wells East (Wards: Pembury, Sherwood, St James') - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
 James TansleyConservative117132%Elected
 Councillor David NeveLiberal Democrats102228%Not elected
 Christopher Pierce David HoareUK Independence Party100028%Not elected
 Ian Patrick CarvellLabour3219%Not elected
 Hazel Frances DaweGreen Party1093%Not elected
Voting Summary
Total votes3623
Num. ballot papers issued3623
Share of the votes (%)
James Tansley 32%Elected
Councillor David Neve 28%Not elected
Christopher Pierce David Hoare 28%Not elected
Ian Patrick Carvell 9%Not elected
Hazel Frances Dawe 3%Not elected

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Setting the record straight

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's website has a page entitled Setting the Record Straight.

The page leads off with this:

Setting the Record Straight

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Communications Team works closely with newspapers and other media by issuing news releases, responding to media enquiries, arranging briefings and interviews and organising news conferences and other events. We also provide up-to-date information on this site, which we hope is useful for the public and the media.
In spite of our best efforts, media reports are not always completely accurate. People have a right to reliable information, just as we have a duty to provide it.
The information we provide is subject to a Code of Conduct under the Local Government Act 2000. This means we are bound by the highest standards of propriety and accuracy in providing information.

Then we come across this:

Reported in Kent and Sussex Courier (Friday June 10 2011) 
 “New Council will not get £40k grant it expected”
Contrary to what has been suggested in the Courier newspaper Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has not said that the newly established Rusthall Parish Council cannot have a loan. It is obviously for the Parish Council to decide the range and scope of services it wishes to provide and then to estimate how much this will cost.
Once Rusthall Parish Council has decided upon a plan for the forthcoming year and a budget to support it then and then the Borough Council can arrange the necessary funding (the Parish Council would need approval from the Department from Communities and Local Government). This approach has been supported by the District Auditor.
The £500 was provided as an initial sum in order to open a bank account.
The establishment of a new Parish Council is the exciting outcome of a tremendous amount of work by Council officers. The residents of Rusthall are now part of a very select few who have used new legislation to create their own Parish Council. The turnout at the election provided a strong endorsement by the residents, who can now look forward to a new era of community empowerment within their parish.

I have no problem with the statements on funding.  However I do question the use of  an opinion that the establishment of a new Parish Council is the exciting outcome.....
The turnout at the election was not a strong endorsement.



At last....some hope (maybe)

Just a glimmer of hope that the impasse in the eurozone may be broken, but still a long way to go.


A redemption pact would still leave fiscal responsibility as it is today, although Berlin would insist on beefed up monitoring.  It is not fiscal union or a move long the road to political union.  However, it would buy time for negotiating a new 'architecture' for the EU and the eurozone.

The downside of the proposed redemption pact is that it will take time to put in place.  Will it be overtaken by events?  Too little, far too late.

See also this article on the shambles up to now.


Cabinet Change at the Council

Councillor Bill Hills has resigned as the transport and planning portfolio holder (Tunbridge Wells Borough Council) for unspecified personal reasons.  A sad loss as his professional career was in strategic transport planning.  His replacement, Councillor Alan McDermott, has a  professional background in foreign exchange trading and brokerage.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Worse and worse

The pressure is mounting on the eurozone and Germany in particular to find a long term solution to the structural deficiencies of the zone.






I published this on my previous post.  Frightening:



This could, indeed should, have been said two years ago.




Disaster follows hubris

The arrogance of the ruling EU and EC elites in establishing the eurozone and managing it badly has led to disaster for the citizens of many eurozone countries. The eurozone has its foundations in sand: some states were admitted which did not meet the criteria for membership and the ECB was not granted the powers of a central bank.








It was impossible to say how things may turn out, said Edward Hugh, independent economist based in Barcelona.
"This thing is like an express train accelerating towards the buffers in the station. You have got this cocktail now with the Greek elections coming this weekend and talk of capital controls over Greece, you have got Italy coming back into the line of fire and then you have got this uncertainty about Spain."



Monday, 11 June 2012

Lewes-Uckfield railway update


Keeping up the pressure for re-opening this line.

Lurching from crisis to crisis

Built on sand an edifice will crash to the ground.  The eurozone is in difficulties, probably in terminal decline, as it was not built on the secure foundation of a fiscal union, nor supported by a central bank with the necessary powers.




Well, well. Can one trust anything Rajoy says?




Meanwhile, Cyprus begging bowl dusted down.


Not forgetting the little matter of the Greek re-run general election.


New structures (or architecture, the in vogue word) afoot?



(This is not repetition of the link above.)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Here's another fine mess

An interesting report on HS2


I have never been a supporter of HS2,  mainly because the time saving between London and Birmingham is not  sufficient to justify the enormous capital cost. Whilst more significant savings in time will be available on Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle times to London and between the three provincial cities and Birmingham, again it is doubtful if the capital cost is justified.

Another interesting article:


One of the reasons for HS2 is to obviate the need for a third runway at Heathrow.

The sooner HS2 is scrapped and replaced by improvements to the existing network the better.

Speed is not the consideration for most passengers: price is. Hence the popularity and frequency of long distance buses.

Friday, 8 June 2012

High Noon in Euroland

All together now in Spain and Greece, let's hear it for Angela: do not foresake me O my darling.









As hell as like!!


Oh dear!

I have lost count of the number of times politicians on whose watch a calamity has occurred have not taken the honourable course of action and resigned but instead have declared they are best placed to sort out the mess.  Power corrupts.

The shambles that is the eurozone  has seen no resignations by the individuals responsible for its creation, nor of  those responsible for the failure over the past two years to remedy the problems that the eurozone created.  It is the citizens of European countries who are paying the price of the incompetence of the ruling elites in Europe.

The eurozone project has failed and should be given a quick burial.  Instead we have Merkel urging more Europe.  Why should we trust the architects of failure to get it right in the future?