Posts Tagged ‘Eric Pickles’
Wigan fans are on their way to Wembley, so our numbers were somewhat reduced this morning as we gathered to clean out the hens. We wish them well but reckon their chances are akin to our landing on the planet Zog. But you never know, it has been known for hard-grafting sons of toil to overcome prima donnas.
Once we had exhausted our recollections of long-gone FA Cup Finals, we found ourselves fascinated by the outrage of Eric, whose son lives near Bodham in north Norfolk. We have long since formed a mental picture of the place based on Eric’s descriptions following his many returns from visits. We have in our minds-eye pottered along winding country lanes under grand skies that have inspired poets and painters for centuries. We have seen so often the gentle Norfolk landcape dotted with houses, halls and cottages built from clay dug from north Norfolk soil. We have lingered at Baconsthorpe Castle, a magical place down a lane, up a track round a corner and in a time warp.
Although we haven’t actually been, we share Eric’s reaction to an appalling decision. North Norfolk is about to be vandalised and butchered. The timeless skyscape is to be torn apart by a gigantic wind turbine standing 285 ft tall and with a blade-span the width of a jumbo jet. The tip of the turbine will be 579 ft abve sea level. It will degrade vews for miles in all directions.
The contribution of unreliable, inefficient wind turbines to our energy creation is to say the least, questionnable. And millions are being driven into fuel poverty by forcing them to pay for subsidies that make windfarmers filthy rich. When you add in the despoiling of areas of natural beauty the picture is complete. Our energy policy is disastrously incoherent, and few imagine that turbines will play any real part in whatever emerges. But our concern here is with the proof positive that when Eric Pickles introduced his new National Planning Policy Framework he was lying through his teeth. Likewise Nick Clegg, who echoed the mantra that this marked “the beginning of a power shift away from central government to the people, families and communities of Britain”.
Given the two spokesmen we didn’t of course believe a word of it. But even we cynics are astonished at the speed with which the promise has proved to be false. When the proposal first appeared in Norfolk there was public outrage, incredulity even. Thousands of objections were lodged, no other planning proposal has ever generated such a response. English Heritage weighed in by arguing that the damage to the setting was not justified. Local councillors were beseiged by residents contemplating living within visual distance of the giant turbine, and that meant anyone within a six mile radius.
To the great relief of everyone the North Norfolk District Council decided to refuse planning permission. The verdict was unanimous as councillor after councillor reminded political friends and opponents alike that local planning policy rules that turbines ‘sited so prominently that they are visible for miles’ should not be allowed and particularly not ‘near the Cromer ridge’ - on which the Bodham turbine would be built.
The sense of relief did not last long. The developers appealed and an inspector ruled that the opinion of local people and their elected representatives was wrong. He granted permssion and remarked that the new act does not allow for a referendum. Indeed it does not.
The new planning laws are slanted in the direction of developers, and inspectors are under instruction to nod through ‘sustainable development’. In effect local authorities have lost their powers and the people that elect them are disenfranchised.
We are used to the lies of politicians, but this one is right up there with the most blatent!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The planning act demonstrates the utter lie of the coalition’s claim to be committed to localism!” Michael McMahon in the Spectator 20/4/2013
We may be dreaming of a white Christmas but if today is any indication we are more likely to have a wet one. Free-range hens tend to lay in any place that takes their fancy, and mud seems to be particularly alluring to creatures that want to deposit quickly before resuming their great worm hunt. The result is that some of my fellow codgers are now pressing for the purchase of an egg-washing machine. How we ever saw this as a pleasant pastime is hard to follow on mornings such as this.
But it was interesting to see pictures of the Queen attending her first Cabinet meeting. I confess to fearing for her wellbeing when I saw a shot of Big Eric Pickles greeting her but she survived and even emerged with a set of table-mats. We also saw live pictures of Her Maj arriving at Number 10. We didn’t hear what was said but it probably went along the lines of “Have you come far your Majesty?” with the response “What do you do?”.
The ministers lined up in the hall, all with shoes gleaming and ties straightened. Jeremy Hunt seemed almost overcome and bowed so low that he almost headbutted the Monarch as he returned to his usual height. Had he done so even he would surely have perished this time. The commentator told us that the Queen was fascinated by it all, to us her expression suggested rather extreme disinterest. But who knows. We could only reflect that a tour of the Foreign Office with William Hague did seem a modest reward for sixty years on the throne.
However the more significant news seemed to us to be the revelation that the Chippng Norton set is alive and well. On Saturday night the first of its usual series of Christmas parties took place at Merriscourt Farm, the home of Tom Astor, great-grandson of the American heiress Nancy Astor. And, yes, our dear leader was there with his special friend Rebekah. According to eyewitnesses they were deep in conversation for long periods.
Downing Street spin-doctors have confirmed that the old friends met. They at least have learned from the past. But has our dear leader? Many will find the continuing dalliance very strange indeed. Ms Brooks is facing very serious charges and the Prime Minister is widely suspected of being in cahoots with the Murdoch camp during the BSkyB bid.
Now he has re-triggered the speculation. Did he really know nothing of what was going on at the News of the World? Is he still selling his soul to win the approval of the Sun? Is it really appropriate for a Prime Minister to be so closely embroiled with people accused of serious criminal behaviour? We plebs are less than impressed.
If our dear leader continues to behave thus, he may be the next one to receive a gift of table mats!
We cleaned out the hens early this morning, then headed off or the Southport Flower Show. We had intended to go yesterday but unwisely heeded the weather forecast which predicted unending rain. It proved to be a lovely day. Today was forecast to be lovely and guess what, the heavens opened. Eating toasted sandwiches in the rain was a new experience.
Attendance was noticeably down on previous years, and the number of exhibits likewise. Monsoons or recession, who knows? But the absence of crowds did mean that the exhibitors had time on their hands, time to chat. Being an avid collector of cacti I was able to pick up some useful tips plus a few new species. But we did pick up something else, great concern at the latest government announcement about building on green belt areas!
This was specifically ruled out in the Conservative 2010 general election manifesto. But who cares about promises, senior sources have confirmed that the Prime Minister and Chancellor want to examine ways and means of building hundreds of thousands of new homes, and green belt areas represent the easiest and most profitable options for developers who are loathe to undertake clearance of disused ‘brown sites’. This despite the fact that such delapidated areas would provide enough space to build every house required over the next five years.
It is not only the rural communties that are alarmed. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has let it be known that he is opposed to such “vandalism”. Tory MP Chris Skidmore says that we have “a duty of trust to protect green belt land for future generations”, fellow MP Nick de Bois says that any shrinking of the green belt would be “flawed and would fly in the face of the Government’s Localism Bill , which supposedly hands power to local people to define their own neighbourhood plans”. Tracey Crouch, another Tory MP, says that it would be “quite wrong for the coalition to take away the green belt from the next generation”.
The astonishing aspect of this sudden move is that only months ago the new National Policy Framework carefully drew together proposals aimed at appeasing environmental groups, and included instructions to local planners to protect green belt land.
Now it is said that our dear leader is determined to “think the unthinkable”. Apparently he has the support of lapdog Clegg and, perhaps inevitably, Gorgeous George Osborne who has to find an alternative to tackling his rich tax-avoider friends.
Thankfully they can expect another rebellion by Tory MPs, many of whom feel a genuine commitment to preserving our heritage. And they are right. The truth is that no one has the right to destroy our remaining areas of natural beauty. They belong to generations to come. No half-witted politician should be free to do so however close they may be to the wealthy developers. Houses should be built on areas that cry out for regeneration.
To compound our mood of irritation we listened to Test Match Special on the way home. It was raining at Lords and the commentators went on and on about Kevin Pieterson. They were speculating as to the content of his text messages to pals in the South African team. One possibility is that they contained advice about bowling to England players, particularly Andrew Strauss.
Our verdict was a simple one. Get rid of him. Better still ask our dear leader to appoint hm as a special adviser. Two obnoxious characters could be just what is needed to tip Tory MPs over the edge when the new approach on the green belt reaches the voting stage!
It’s one of those dsmal days when the sky seems to be almost draped over us. Whenever I travel by air I always reflect that all that seperates us fron a perfect life of blue skies is a load of muck. And so it is today, but we codgers set about our work with gusto for we have something to look forward to. Tonight the England team takes on the Italians in the Quarter Final of Euro 2012. And they are going to win. And then comes Germany. The team’s morale is transformed and anything is possible. It has taken the powers-that-be a long time to realise that an English manager for an England team is eminently sensible.
Which is more than can be said for the appalling nuisances that currently assail you on every visit to the town centre. Charity muggers by profession, they are widely known as Chuggers, not a term of affection. What they attempt is intimidation. One favourite ploy is to block the intended victim’s path and to pour forth emotional tales of the charity that they supposedy represent.
Over the past week or so, they have been wearing Marie Curie jackets. Each person accosted was told £5 donated would pay directly for 15 minutes of a cancer nurse’s time. You will be helping to save a life, usually follows. In fact it is a downright lie. The Chuggers in question are employed by a company called Tag Campaigns. It has charged Marie Curie £367,000 to run the campaign, money paid out of donations to the charity by supporters who believed that they were directly funding patient help.
Worse still the point of persuading the public to text a £5 donation has nothing to do with the fiver. It is a trick aimed at obtaining mobile numbers which are then passed to the call centre which rachetts up the pressure on punters to take out a direct debit. The largest of the ever growing number of fundraising firms is The Gift Group Ltd, whose founders own the parent company of Tag Campaigns. The company’s founders and only shareholders are Chris Kazamias and Darren Instrall. Over the past three years they have paid themselves £1.2 million in dividends alone.
The Chuggers themselves are paid £8 per hour and are required to obtain 10 texts per day in their first week, increasing to 25 in the fourth. Bonuses arise once the call centre lands a long-term financial commitment. Virtually no training is given on the campaign subject, in the case of Marie Curie a video was it.
In theory such things come under Eric Pickles, the Local Government and Communities Secretary. On hearing of investigations being conducted by amongst others, the Telegraph, he said;”These are extremely serious allegations. People donate to charity in good faith. Allegations that the public have been misled risk shattering people’s confidence and trust in charitable giving”. Bang on big Eric.
What has been happening reflects badly on Marie Curie. The cause they espouse is a very worthwhile one, they do not need to facilitate what amounts to deception. And they were wrong to put their reputation in the hands of third rate salesmen who lack any knowledge of what the charity stands for.
And they are not the only charity using companies such as Tag Campaigns. From this moment on we should all simply refuse to exchange the time of day with people using Charities to line their own pockets.
Simply put we should tell them to Chugger off!
We are all weary of the endess revelations about tax denied the exchequer by tax avoiders. But it is important since it is the low tax income that creates the need for ever more draconian cuts.
Today we learn that the Inland Revenue has more than 20,000 tax tribunal cases on its waiting list, involving billions of pounds in potential revenue. The department has announced that at present reduced staffing levels it would take 38 years to clear the backlog.
Brilliant! Clearly reports that George Osborne could run a chipshop are exaggerations!
If only chickens had better sanitary habits, they would make perfect house pets for those who suffer from the attentions of mice and whose cats, in the new age of quality cat-food, are usually too content to bother with a little hunting in the pantry. As you might expect we get plenty of attention on the allotments from Mickey’s descendants, but their numbers are kept under tight control by the hens. Chickens usually appear less active than Eric Pickles but the sight of a mouse triggers an unexpected lightning-fast reaction. One lunge, one peck and another carcass awaits us when we do the daily clean-out.
In the split second before they join Mickey in the sky, the mice must be astounded at the transformation of an ambling clucker into Jekyll. Much like our reaction this morning when we learned that Jon Cruddas, appointed yesterday as Ed Miliband’s new policy chief, used his first public comment to demand a referendum on EU membership. Up until now the Labour Party has firmly supported Britain’s continued membership of the EU, a stance that has caused great frustration to many who share the view of a majority of Conservative MPs that membership is a one-way deal, with the UK giving much and gaining nothing other than a good deal of interference and bureaucracy.
Mr Cruddas said; “This is about democracy. At certain stages the political classes should invite the people into the discussion that effects their everyday lives; none more important than Europe”. How other leading lights in the opposition will respond is going to be interesting. David Cameron is coming under increasing pressure from his backbenchers to call a referendum at a time when the whole federalist European dream is going up in smoke. Only the Lib Dems are preventing this, they seem to believe that being ruled from Brussels is the only way to a future Utopia. And up to now they have rested content in the belief that the massed ranks of Labour MPs would join them in blocking anything as outrageous as allowing the people to voice an opinion.
Before yesterday few of us had even heard of Jon Cruddas. But he has struck a chord with many, not least because he talked of “stopping this thing festering” and stressed that irrespective of where people stand on Europe, it is the right of every citizen to participate on an issue that “affects material everyday life and our culture”. Perhaps the new policy bigwig is also a shrewd politician for this looks the one issue on which the Conservative Party can save itself in the public eye.
Certain it is that it is hard to think of any other. Yesterday Rebekah Brooks came out fighting after being charged with perverting the course of justice. Her husband, Charlie Brooks, spoke of a witch hunt. Without doubt Knacker seems to have veered from doing absolutely nothing to proceeding with what are very serious charges indeed. It guarantees that the whole Brooks saga will be rearing its head in court this winter. In fact given that there may be many other charges in the pipeline, there can be little doubt that the albatross will follow our dear leader for most of the rest of this parliament. At the very least he is increasingly seen as guilty of crass misjudgement in maintaining an intimate friendship with people keen to influence the government to wave through a bid of enormous commercial and cultural significance.
But the interested spectator would be ill-advised to focus on the Rebekah Brooks aspect of the affair too closely for the real danger to David Cameron lies in the Jeremy Hunt story. Here we have clear evidence that someone in Hunt’s department was passing sensitive information to News Corp at a time when the culture secretary was supposedly acting in a quasi-judicial role following the mysterious dismissal of Vince Cable. Up until now Hunt has refused to resign and Cameron has joined hands with him. The question is did Hunt and Cameron know what was happening.
Suddenly this becomes a huge threat. Lord Leveson has decided to call both Smith and Michel, the two aides for Hunt and James Murdoch respectively, and to question them in advance of seeing Hunt. The two may attempt to argue that neither of their masters knew of the information- passing, but will anyone really believe that they were a couple of Walter Mittys overseeing, off their own bats, a multimillion takeover bid? At best it sounds fantastical.
Of course Hunt is culpable anyay given that a minister is responsible for the actions of his minions. But if he was party to it we have Watergate revisited. And that takes us to the biggest question of all, did Cameron know?
The next few weeks will be very revealing. The Labour Party will have to come clean over a referendum, and our dear leader may have to come clean on his protegee Hunt.
Watch this space!
THEY CANNOT BE SERIOUS!
Government plans that could reduce, or even eliminate, state benefits paid to thousands of blind people have sparked a revolt by Lib Dem MPs in the latest sign of tension inside the coalition over some spending cuts.
Although Nick Clegg is supporting the plan rebels are demanding a U-turn after it emerged that many blind or partially sighted people who receive Disability Living Allowance will lose out . Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, attacked both Clegg and Cameron yesterday. He said; “It is manifestly unfair that blind people should be subjected to this additional strain and worry”.
It seems that under new assessment rules blindness will not qualify as a serious disability. To quote a certain tennis star, they cannot be serious!