Friday, 15 July 2011


At the risk of sounding like the little boy who told the emperor that he was stark b*ll*ck naked, I am now going risk cries of "shame on you" by pouring scorn on one area of Northampton Borough Councils activities which is universally praised and feted by all three political parties at the Guildhall.

Of course I refer to Northampton in Bloom, isn't it fine, isn't it grand, the best display in all the land!

They clearly see something that I don't!

I am not in anyway against the competition, in fact if you do your homework you will find that the Borough Council entered the competition every year when I was Chair of Environment Services in the early 1990's and like the present day we won our fair share of awards, but then again you always do, and if you don't they will make one up for you just to keep you coming back to enter next year, how about "Gold Certificate in the Large Town category for Town's beginning and ending in the Letter N award! or the Platinum plate for the East Midlands Market Towns population 200,000-210,000 category?

My gripes against the current  awards are many and varied, but for starters lets look at what happened in the early 1990's and match that against what happens now. Then the Councils own gardening staff worked all year round at our own plant Nursery in Cliftonville to provide plants for the bespoke planting of raised beds and roundabouts and also planted displays in our  parks, cared for by our own grounds maintenance staff in order to provide a display for judging  that was unique to any other entrant. Nowadays the Council but in a selection of off the shelf tubs, hanging baskets, and roadside boxes full of almost painted on petunias and begonias all with a ridiculously short growth cycle to add a pretence of colour to a backdrop which for the other 10 months of years looks drab and grey.

It's another example of thier B&Q society I guess, all right I know we all do it..... go down to B&Q and but all the pre planted tubs for the Garden on the day of the BBQ, but shouldn't we expect a bit more originality from the Council

I travel a lot around the UK and Northampton's current display is all too familiar, its as if they want to match the chain stores and traders in turning every high street in Britain into one soulless lookalike landscape, and  I guess the judges must also get fed up of seeing these same old green plastic boxes hanging off of very similar traffic barriers and the familiar upstanding tubs craftily placed to trip up every blind resident in every town and city in Britain.

Even worse though is the way that the Council treat the community entrants in this charade. Our proud guerrilla gardeners in Spring Boroughs took to making the most of the land after the Council had failed miserably for years to maintain it themselves, even though they were paying a contractor out of our council tax to do it. And then when they showed the Council whats possible if you try the Council respond by popping the Mayor and Portfolio holder down for a Photo Call in order to pull the wool over the judges eyes in pretending that this community spirited enterprise was all their idea in the first place! And then when the judges are all gone they start charging the volunteers to tip garden waste which they themselves should have been clearing up in the first place!

So in honour of our Borough Councils gallantless efforts and also with grateful thanks to a few of my FACEBOOK friends who have posted pictures of their street scenes in July 2011 I am proud to present this years inaugural entrants for the


This prestigious prize will be awarded to the Borough Council by yours truly along with a framed photo of the winning entrant.


To enter your street just send me photo of your neglected greenscape, in order to remind our elected councillors that whilst they continue to congratulate themselves on the displays of Pansies outside the Guildhall, and pat each other on the back for passing off the communities work as their own, that the rest of us are having to put up with the same old cr*p out on the estates, which now threatens to get worse under our new friends Enterprise PLC They should all be so Blooming proud of themselves.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Curiosity got the better of me last night as I joined Malcolm Mildren in attending the first Borough Council meeting of the new term to check up on how the new administration and new members were fairing.

Overall it was rather a turgid affair, Cllrs were shown a propaganda piece telling them all how wonderful the Housing Department are (true in some areas, but woefully untrue in others such as sheltered housing) and the skateboarders, no doubt urged on by ex Cllr Paul Varnsverry turned up en masse to call for action from the new Council to match the promises made to them before the election.

I expect (as we always said) slight differences of opinion on this one. It is true that £250,000 has been set aside in the capital programme towards such a facility, but the last Lib Dem and the current Conservatives expect this to pay for consultants and design costs and kick start some further match funding towards the overall project, whilst it seems the skateboarders think that the land will be given free and that the £250,000 will cover all of the initial build cost? I told them before the last election when they last wheeled into the chamber that they should take a leaf from the council oppositions ABC mantra of   ACCEPT NOTHING, BELIEVE NO ONE AND  CHECK EVERYTHING

There were a number of lack lustre oral contributions mainly from the old guard (worrying as they should be showing the new Cllrs the way!) The Tory new boys and girls mostly sat on their hands, the Lib Dem's haven't got any new blood, (not a lot of old blood either) but special mention must go to Labour's Gareth Eales and Elizabeth Gowen, who both put in confident and challenging contributions in what was their first meeting, if the Labour Party has a future then I believe it will be well served by letting young Cllrs like Gareth and Elizabeth off the leash as often as possible.

However the high and low point of the evenings political muse must go to Cllr John Yates, the only person in the chamber to have served in the last and the new administration, Questioned by Labours Winston Strachan on a pet subject of mine from the past, RATS, Winston informed Yatesy that an increase in the rat population had become apparent in the town centre and asked him if the Council, who sacked its rat catcher in 2009 and closed the Pest Control department soon after, would reinstate both.

"Let me tell the Councillor that I know all about rats" Said Yatesy "I keep chickens and they are attracted to them" and then he made the most extraordinary comment which should have been the headline in today's Chronicle and Echo when he suggested "People should do as I do and go down B&Q and buy some strong rat poison"

So there we have it, caring conservatism, the Big Society, in the absence of a town rat catcher and a rise in the rat population as a result, Northampton's hard working council tax payers should become more involved in civic matters by spending our dwindling disposable income down at our local B&Q on rat poison to chuck around the Market Square to help NBC to banish the vermin!!

A shocking response to be given to both a disturbing and very important question by the opposition, unfortunately for us all, nobody came back at him and having easily drawn out the worst side of the new administration the combined opposition let him off the ropes.

We can be wait to see if this incredulous suggestion from Northampton Conservative Group does reach the pages of the Chron in days to come.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.
A quote of course from Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray, and also my facebook profile on Friday night when under a red wine haze I was trying to make sense of the shifting events unfolding around Hackgate and also trying to contain my anger at how we had all allowed matters to go so far in the first place and also wondering exactly where and with whom the buck stops?

I remember talking to Tom Watson MP in 2004 when I was sure my phone was being constantly hacked during the period when I was holding all the cards over that leaked "minute" between Blair and Bush, which ultimately led to a good friends imprisonment and probably started my troubles with the Labour Party which would in the end lead to my expulsion.

Tom and others like Chris Bryant were searching and campaigning for the truth, over both hacking and police corruption but the party leaders, the police, the media and as a result the public were showing little interest. In fact Tom and Chris were both allowed as a result to become victims of the press they were challenging with little support being given to them from on high. it seemed as if Inquistive MP's were fair game for the press and an unforgiving public scarred by the MP's expenses revelations

And that is where I have slight fall out with Joe Public over this whole affair, you see, as long as it was only politicians and celebrities that were being hacked, and on who the police also sold dirt on, then it seemed as if society could turn its back on any crime having being committed, they were indeed fair game, and they deserved all they got surely?

Well no they didn't, some of you may remember the time Joe Ashton was arrested in a massage parlour in Northampton. It ended his parliamentary career in my view, but the News of the World at the time never mentioned that he was a very happily married man, married to a wonderful wife who unfortunately because of her disabilities meant they couldn't share a sex life, they never mentioned that in the NoTW, you see Joe only visited massage parlours (with his wifes knowledge) because he would never dream of having an affair, or getting involved with another women due to his devotion to his wife. And they also did not mention that after Joe had given his real name to the police (John Ashton) and his London address, that the News of the World alledgedgly bought the information as to his true identity from a corrupt copper at the Met who had noticed a VIP flag on his car licence plate when the Northamptonshire Police made enquiries.

But in the end it was the same level of criminal behaviour albeit with far more serious consequences by both the media and the police in selling info on victims and or the phone hacking of those suffering great distress in the Southam Case, the Milly Dowler case, or 7/7 victims or the families of fallen soldiers that has finally brought all of these cases out into the open.

But not in my view before almost ireversable damage has been done to both public trust in our democratic and national institutions.

Think for a minute if you will at the damage caused to our society by the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister of the country at the time John Prescott, asked the police if he had been a victim of hacking, only to be told that" no he hadn't", even when the police and the CPS were holding information at that time that he had been.

So it seems that it is ok for the police and CPS to lie to our elected leaders?

Remember if you will, that parliamentry Select Committees were lied to on more than one occasion, by leading key figures in the media and in the police over the overall extent of any hacking that had taken place, over the extent of paying the police for information and also on who and how many people were involved.

So they can also lie to Parliament

Remember Andy Coulson standing in front of the cameras telling the world that he knew nothing about the hacking, when it now seems through leaked emails that he both did know, and that he is aledged to have also authorised payments to corrupt police officers.

It is also now in the face of so much freash and emerging evidence, inconcievable that Andy Coulson knew as little as he wants us to believe he knew, and it is equally inconcievable that the PM was also as much in the dark as he suggests at the point at which he appointed Coulson as Chief of media at number 10, after all it now emerges that enough people had warned Cameron of the potential consequences of his appointment at the time.

This story is of course far from being over, no doubt this week further revelations will surface and with the NoTW out of the way, expect other papers to fall under the spotlight. After all an Independent review into the press in 2006 shows that the Daily Mail employed almost twice as many private investigators as the NoTW, and we should not be naive enough to think the buck simply stops with Glen Mulcaire.

Editors of other papers would do well not to repeat the excuses given by owners and senior staff at the NoW including Richard Murdoch, Andy Coulson and Rebecca Brooke that they were either "unaware" of what was going down or that emails had "gone missing" or even that they were "on holiday at the time"

I spent a good deal of my life climbing a political mountain to get to the very top of our national parliament only for me to find out when I got there that the air was fresher and far more cleaner and the view much more aspiring from the bottom of the mountain than it was at the top.

Since leaving parliament in 2005 I have also watched as our Bankers have robbed of us of our economic future, our politicians have been competing with each other in fiddling their expenses and damaging the reputation of our whole democracy through their own greed, and our police showing themselves to be above the law set for them to administer and unwilling along with the CPS to tackle crime if they felt a cover up was more in the favour of the ruling classes, and also a media bring more shame on itself far beyond the very low, low point it had already reached previously.

But I have also witnessed a public which unfortunately in the main has stayed indifferent. And I am afraid that until enough of us are willing to take a real stand and make far more noise about what they are all doing to us, then than those who currently control our lives and make our laws will continue to trample all over us.
And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.



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