Friday, 6 December 2013

“AMANDLA NGAWETHU” Sleep Well Madiba

"We seek to create a united Democratic and non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity. Using the power you derive from the discovery of the truth about racism in South Africa, you will help us to remake our part of the world into a corner of the globe on which all -- of which all of humanity can be proud."

It will seem strange to some that I should precede a tribute to our beloved Madiba with a quote from Oliver Tambos (ANC president 1967-1991) But as a founding member of the ANC Youth League alongside Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in 1943, Tambos (pronounced Tambo) was in the 1980’s the voice of the ANC in the West, the spokesperson of Mandela, whose own voice was silenced by his white oppressors within a wicked South African regime willing to use its system of Apartheid to butcher and murder so many of the nation’s young for daring to even believe that all men are born equal.

But it was Tambos’ words as prĂ©cised above that made me the political activist I am today, His words of unity, equality, peace and humanity following on from those of Martin Luther King in the 1960’s and preceding Madiba’s own actions and words of the future are all major parts of my political education.

I joined the ANC in the mid 1980’s whilst working as Local Government Officer with Northamptonshire County Council, and became a fundraiser for the cause, peddling mugs, t shirts, badges and flags on behalf of the movement. A strange political awakening and activity for a boy born in the Barratt Maternity home in Northampton but one which was itself born out of admiration for a movement willing to fight for world change and for a man who was still incarcerated and as such denied the oxygen of publicity by his enemies.

In 1990 when Mandela was finally released from his Victor Versta prison cell (he was only at Robben
Island from 1964-1982) and began his long walk to freedom on behalf of a whole people, I wept like a small child, tears of joy, hope and anger tears not just at the sense of collective achievement bought about by a world community who had boycotted and protested South Africa into submission but because of the injustice of this true giant of world politics having been incarcerated for so long and for the world having been denied the opportunity to find hope and comfort in his words and in his voice for 27 years .

Having been informed of his freedom by the then South African President FW De Clerk, on the 10th February 1990 Madiba, despite his 27 years incarceration, is reported to have told the then president that “at the risk of appearing ungrateful I would prefer to have a week's notice in order that my family and my organization could be prepared." His request though was denied and his release then arranged for the very next day.

His words on the day of his release were as always, from the heart and as carefully crafted, thoughtful and true as all those that followed from him for the rest of his life when he told the massive crowds who came to witness his freedom  and the millions watching worldwide that

“It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa”

And then he purposely repeated the words he had spoken at his trial those 27 years previous when he told the Cape Town crowd:

I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

On his first day of freedom, he called for peace, asked those present to act with calm dignity and put feelings of indifference aside, he began the remarkable journey and long walk to freedom that South Arica and its people were destined to make, it was his forgiveness of his enemies, his desire for one nation, and his total commitment to equality and fairness for all black and white that inspired so many across the world in the 23 years thereafter. In that his first act of freedom we were to witness first hand his calmness, his humility and courage.

Mandela didn’t just battle against and conquer racism, he crushed it as a very concept, he taught the world how futile ethnic indifference to be and on a personal note he personally helped alongside others to make me the person I am proud to be and helped me teach my children the importance of collective human endevour.

Madiba, the whole world is poorer for your passing, we grieve alongside your own “One Nation" in their loss, but we thank you as One World from the bottom of our hearts for precious gifts you gave to us, the lessons you taught us and the legacy you leave behind.

“Amandla Ngawethu” RIP Madiba, Sleep Well my Comrade

Monday, 18 November 2013


Call me old fashioned but to me when a developer wants to develop your land then they must first bear the cost of purchase AND then the costs of developing the same.
However it seems that Northampton Borough Council in pursuit of the ever elusive Grovesnor Centre Extension scheme has rewritten all the usual rules of commerce!
A contract we know was signed between the Council and the owners of the existing Grovesnor Centre, Legal and General in 2004, I was on the council at the time and was party to the detail of that contract.
Of the four political groups Lib Dem, Tory, Labour and Independent my own group the Independents were the only group not willing to support the deal, we felt that the land in question was being sold by NBC to Legal and General far too cheaply, and we thought the conditions resting on the shoulders of the Council Tax Payer to uphold its end of the contract to be far too high, that was our prerogative and our duty as elected members, the rest of council disagreed and the contract was signed.
Commercial sensitivity to this day excludes me revealing either the price paid to NBC  from L&G or the extent of the land purchased or even the fine detail of the contract. But the Councils actions and Legal and Generals inaction since speak with much far more authority than any whistleblower could ever achieve.
First of all The Council had to buy Stagecoach out of its lease on the Greyfriars bus station, this was done to the tune of £5m of Council Tax payers money being handed over to the Bus Company, an irony in itself considering that when Stagecoach first arrived at Greyfriars they were squatters having sold their own bus station facility on the Bedford Road for Housing and thus becoming homeless overnight!
But the £5m was pledged with £2m paid up front. Next to made public was the contractual obligation on the Council to vacate the Old Bus Station and thus build an inadequate replacement on the Old Fish Market site, another tenant (the Northampton Arts Collective) were paid off and another £8m committed to building what will be little more than a glorified oversized glass bus shelter in the middle of a predicted traffic hell. Meanwhile we heard that the Mayorhold Car Park was to have a £2m refit, supposedly as part of the deal (but we can't tell you why!) and in the last few days the Council have now announced they will spend another £4m demolishing the Old Bus station to allow for any  future development.
Those with good mental arithmetic skills will now be up to speed on the total figure of £19m of council tax payers money that has already been spent or committed on oiling the cogs of the Grovesnor Centre Extension contract.
And in all that time just what have Legal and General Done? and what have they spent? We have all seen the pretty pictures of proposed schemes press released to the local papers, we have even heard of their extended plans to build houses, hotels and Offices on the still to be disclosed site, and we shook our heads in dismay when they suggested they may have to "scale back" their plans on the size of the extension, but where are the planning applications? where is the financial commitment? Multi Million pound deals like this are not done without careful consideration of timed and phased clauses being imposed on both parties, each party is well aware of what should have been done by whom by when. So why does it seem to many of us that the spend and action is all one way.
I am fortunate in one sense because I have read the contract, I didn't like it, I was out voted by the Lib Dem, Tory and Labour Leaders who respectively went off to their group members and fellow Cllrs at the time and told them how wonderful the Emperors new clothes would be. I invited my two fellow Independents to view the document for themselves and lo and behold they both agreed with me that the Emperor was indeed naked and had even sold off all the Councils Silver and mortgaged our futures in order to afford the tailors bill!
This week The Lib Dem opposition on the Council questioned the spend of the £4m on demolishing the Bus Station, this late arrival at the table of doubt is far too little, far too late, they as a political group in power together with officers of the council negotiated the very same deal and then signed it. The Tory's now in the hot seat at the Guildhall will not want any of the fine details disclosed, they simply want to bathe in any glory they can furnish from ANY future build. and the Labour Party who were equally complicit in agreeing the deal it seems are just incapable of any opposition whatsoever!
So this week in my blog I throw down a challenge to the whole Council, in the absence of any submitted Planning Application or seen progress on behalf of Legal and General and in light of the heavy public expenditure on the development scheme to date from the public purse, then call the whole deal into Public Scrutiny using the Councils powers to give the public of our town the right to judge their actions. If part of the hearing has to be in private with proper explanation and authority then so be it, but it is high time that we all knew the truth, high time the people paying the bills can pass comment on the value they are getting for their money and high time we all were witness to the price Legal and general have paid the Council for the privilege of using this land in the future once the tax payer has dealt with all of the development obstacles.
A measured response would show at least a willingness for them to defend their actions, continued silence will only condemn them all further.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


On October 3 2013 359 passengers aboard a migrant vessel carrying some 500 people - mostly from Eritrea and Somalia sunk off of the coast of Lampedusa as unscrupulous traffickers overloaded the vessel with desperate people fleeing conflict and seeking a new life abroad

Last week the sea took a further 38 lives as another boat carrying 250 refugees from Syria and Palestine sank off of the island swelling a barbaric international sea grave which has now claimed 25,000 lives in just the last 20 years

As civil unrest and war around the world intensifies the numbers lost at sea off of the Mediterranean coast continue to rise and accelerate and in just the last two years over 4000 people have drowned in the local waters.

I personally feel sick to the pit of my stomach that so many innocent lives can be lost, so many families murdered in the full sight of Europe’s leading political leaders and yet so few of those so called leaders have felt impelled to act. Italy and Malta’s Prime Ministers Enrico Letta and Joseph Muscat have both called for immediate action to be taken when the European Council meets in 10 days time and Pope Francis spoke of the world’s indifference when he visited Lampedusa by telling a world audience that

“We have become used to the suffering of others. It doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t interest us. It’s not our business,”

According to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 32,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy and Malta so far this year, about two thirds of whom have filed asylum requests. Italy, deep in recession and pressed by EU budget rules to rein in public spending, has seen its reception facilities on Lampedusa and other parts of Sicily strained to breaking point and has called repeatedly for more help to confront a crisis it says is a European emergency.

The Green Party in recent years has consistently called for an educated debate on world migration and sees the movement of peoples around the globe as “a fact of life” and points out that many EU countries are seeing their populations shrink and could see their economy’s benefit benefit from controlled migration. But it is my own personal belief that we must strive to go further, a modern day European “Ellis Island” solution is needed (although not on an Island!) to match skills and numbers to need amongst EU countries, to bring order to the chaotic movement of peoples. We need to close “Detention Centres” and look to jointly fund “Migrant support facilities”.

It saddens me that in the UK most people still purposely close their eyes to plight of the refugee, and therefore it is my belief that only action at a European Level can have any effect,

Currently in Britain it is difficult to be heard when advocating common sense approaches to migration policy, austerity has hardened our hearts and public opinion leads political opportunity in a cyclical downward spiral, deep deep down into a pit of indifference and at times even to a hatred for our fellow man.

When I joined the The Green Party part of my decision was because I had no wish to be associated with the other political movements in Britain in simply calling for tighter border controls and two faced immigration policies which increasingly reward the world’s rich migrants whilst punishing the poor. We as a nation have played more than a part in creating unrest in the world and its high time we acted responsibly with our European neighbours to find a lasting solution to the plight of those fleeing conflict. Everyone talks of controlling borders rather than finding better ways of managing migration. It’s time for a rethink. I want to see the EU take immediate action in the Mediterranean and see more arrests of those involved in illegal trafficking and bring them to justice in front of the world’s press. But the situation needs, wants and demands action beyond the immediate, we must work with our EU colleagues to find ways of managing migration for the benefit of both mankind and the struggling economies of Europe, European populations are getting smaller and growing older. The negative population growth in Europe causes shortages on the labour market and consequently, it may problematise development, economic growth and well-being.

My heart tells me that those fleeing conflict would want to return to their homeland as soon as they are able, but my head reminds me that the historical movement and settlement of people across the ages shows a reluctance for families to place at any risk their newly found security and wealth. Therefore we have to manage the migration, criminalise those who seek to gain from the misery and desperation of others and above all be human and humane about how we interact with people whose only crime is to want a better life for their loved ones.

Monday, 30 September 2013


The rows upon rows of empty seats on show at all three big three party political conferences this year was less a sign of revolutionary zeal as in “Les Miserable”, and more a sign of “The miserable old sods” as in “no longer relevant”

Of course TV conference watching itself is hardly ever viewing figure gold, but even those of you who switched on during the adverts or caught brief glimpses on the news must have been as shocked as I was at the lack of interest being shown by those in the audience and also the lack of members actually in attendance.

What for me was even more galling were the Leaders Speeches, each played out against carefully choreographed backdrops worthy of the best the West End can muster, a blur of young, carefully ethnically mixed smiling faces, happy clapping at every opportunity, but just where had all these people been when I viewed the conference earlier I thought? it was if they had simply been shipped in for the occasion.

But that’s the state we are in, our politics are boring, they have become an irrelevance to most peoples everyday lives and even if we did listen to what they were saying we still wouldn’t believe what they were saying, their currency value it seems is at an all time low.

Of course it wasn’t always like this, in the golden age of British politics in the 1950’s and 1960’s the two Harold’s (Macmillian and Wilson) played to vast audiences. The Tory party in its heyday for instance had nearly 3 million members, Labour in the 60’s skirted around the 1 million mark, and even the Liberals in one guise or other at one point convinced hundreds of thousands of people to join their cause.

But today? Well the figures are shocking, out of a population of 68 million people the three main party’s can only muster between them less than 300,000 party members, and none of the three have anything to cheer about. The Tories, it is believed have seen their membership haemorrhage since the rise in UKIP’s stock and now even insiders suggest that the total figure may have slipped down for the first time in a century to below the 100,000 mark, and whats even more worrying for those in the blue corner is that this figure is less than half of what it was when David Cameron took over as leader (253,600).

Labour’s figures are believed to be steady at around 150,000 but they are not celebrating as with changes ahead to Union affiliation and a desertion of Left minded members they are now in a race to the bottom with the Tory’s as to who can first catch the Liberal Democrats whose dwindling membership is now as low as the 40,000 mark.

So to put it all into perspective that makes the total number of party members joined up to the three main political party’s in the UK in 2013 at around the 290,000 mark, or less than one third of the number who are paid up members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Over 1,000,000 (1m).

Its not all doom and gloom for politico’s, some party’s memberships are actually on the rise. UKIP it seems may even have overtaken the Lib Dems at 40,000+ and my own party the Green Party is approaching the 20,000 mark after years in the single figure thousands bracket.

But even so those of us who make up the political classes all combined still only represent about 0.9% of the population!

And yet the same lack of interest is not to be found elsewhere in Europe to such a worryingly high extent. In Austria 17% of the population are in a political party in Greece 16%. On average in Europe 5% of the population are members of party’s, and only two countries Poland and Latvia show less interest in politics than UK citizens.

The UK public it seems have already decided that the idea of the political party is just not attractive to them any more, but what do we replace them with? After all as Pericles reminded us “Just because you do not not take an interest in Politics, doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you!”

For example that dwindling membership above is providing 95% of our 650 MP’s and 23,000 Councillors in the UK ,(others include SNP, PLaid Cymru, Sinn Fein etc) and as the numbers dwindle the age range gets higher and the task of finding candidates of any quality, let alone those really fit for office becomes ever harder.

So if you ever thought that our elected betters were simply a bunch of irrelevant nobody’s chosen from a dwindling list of the undeserving and the inadequate, you would probably be about right!

But is it really a healthy state to be? I don’t believe it is and I hope that a new politics can somehow rise out of the ashes of our failed political system, but one thing is certain, the party for the big three is most definitely over!

Monday, 23 September 2013


Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire’s newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner has hardly set the a blazing trail when it comes to any noticeable crime reduction and his very public promise to reduce violent crime by 40% whilst in office seems laughable given the recent spate of violent attacks in the County.
But he certainly gets his fair share of press inches. Hardly surprising really when you find out that since his election he has appointed 11 staff alone to work in the press room of his self named West Wing office! More than even work for either our beloved Herald and Post? or the Chronicle and Echo? and possibly both combined!
He has assistant commissioners and directors coming out the wood work overspending any comparable previous Police Authority budget four fold, We now have four assistant commissioners to help him in his task, 9 senior managers and policy advisors to work under them, 7 news producers , 2 digital media producers, a plethora of admin support and we haven’t even mentioned the soon to be appointed Faith Director and new victims Tsar. 
All posts we never knew we needed, carrying out tasks we never knew needed doing, and all at a cost of well in excess of £1m
Well at least his press team have plenty to write about, remember his pledge to bring back the old style Dr Who Police Boxes? Why? Haven’t we all got mobile phones now? Or his comments on drug use and children on Radio 4 recently when he said:
“It’s about educating our kids about proper drug use, from my point of view we can give out leaflets until we are blue in the face with kids. So we’ve got to teach kids. if they are going to use drugs, how to use them responsibly”
Most of us would simply rather teach them not to use them at all !
I sometimes wonder just when this very special Northampton clown and his bizarre statements will be judged to have gone too far?
Well last week he was at it again when addressing a group of chief fire officers he told them in his own words that “I haven’t come here to blow smoke up your skirts “ (whatever that means) before outlining to them his plans to take over the blue light universe.
He told the puzzled audience that his vision is that in 20 years time we would combine all of our blue light services who would be all singing all dancing “Emergency response workers” he envisages hundreds of thousands of young people signing up to be trained as multi skilled fire/ambulance/police operatives all at a time when in his own words “laws have changed and we’ve made a seriously important shift in our thinking about how we deploy, recruit and retain staff and work out a way to pay for the kind of protection our communities need.”
In other words more volunteers, more zero hr contracts and smaller budgets. In Simmond’s mind I guess they are all volunteers signed up to the “Big Society” taking it in turns to scrape up the remains of the dead from our motorways as part of them achieving their “roadside assistance” badge.
He begins by saying “Am I talking about a police car turning up to a fire with a ladder on the roof and buckets of water in the boot? No?” and then later on in his speech suggests just that when he informed his ever stunned audience that his vision of a response to a car crash in 20 years time would be that “we could perhaps consider sending just one vehicle to the incident, equipped with the relevant cutting equipment and the people trained to use them, equipped with the relevant medical equipment and someone with relevant medical expertise, and someone with the skills to maintain the scene of a potential crime.”
So one vehicle with firefighting equipment ladders? Cutters? Water to put out the engine fire? And with medical equipment with stretchers? And oxygen? And cones and lights and police and crime investigation equipment and a multi skilled team? WOW thats some vehicle and what happens when the medical experts want to take the injured to hospital do they then unload all the multi equipment and leave the rest of the team there at the roadside? Perhaps to get a taxi back to base later. Would we when injured in our vehicle be asked to both relax, stay calm and blow into this bag all at the same time?
Adam Simmonds ever bizarre statements and and lack of any meaningful action are not just embarrassing, they are also an insult to the professionalism of our Police, Fire and Ambulance officers who all at present do a very difficult and dangerous job despite being beaten up at every opportunity sometimes by a ungrateful community and continouously a government which simply sees them as a large budget head to be constantly cut back and abused.
For me enough is enough We HAVE to find a way to get this man out of post, and we need to put more pressure on two so far silent MP’s to bring him under some form of control. We also need to stop his over zealous ambitions and spending at a time when so many others in the public sector are seeing their budgets slashed.
Let’s also be clear here about the backdrop to all this unnecessary spend and activity. Last year it is assumed that 5 children died unnecessarily in Northamptonshire because our children’s service were inadequate, the single case reviews once published will no doubt have the whole country shouting out in outrage and calling for changes.
And yet in the last few years we have made experienced Social Workers redundant, replaced them with trainees, we have stretched case loads beyond the limit, and agencies including Social Services and the Police have stopped talking to each other because they are all too busy coping with their own cost centre savings.
THOSE CHILDREN IN MY MIND WERE THE VICTIMS OF AUSTERITY AND CUT BACKS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING and yet in the very shadow of their lost lives we have this egotistic maniac spending millions of pounds of public money on an ever growing army of unnecessary people all fulfilling unnecessary duties.
For a start, what should the 11 press staff he employs really do about promoting his words above? The best they could probably do is ignore them and hope no one had noticed.
It is nothing less than an insult to our local democratic society that we have to witness such extremes of heartbreaking failures due to lack of local government funding and yet at the same time witness such incompetent decision making being seen to be rewarded with ever rising administrative budgets.
This is not a political point I am making, I would say the same of anyone with the same agenda as this individual irrespective of their politics. But I would also urge the Tory party to rid us of this man before we are given the opportunity as electors to do so ourselves in 2016.
Every day he is in office their local credibility as a party will drop ever further downwards.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

SECOND PLACE AGAIN FOR NBC - (But this time there were two runners not one!)

Northampton Borough Councils "Silver Medal" in this years East Midlands In Bloom contest sounds rather an accomplishment until you discover they actually came second to Mansfield, a town half the size of Northampton and then the achievement loses more shine when you discover that these two were the only two cities that entered!
But it was however, arguably an improvement on last years floral efforts when our cash strapped Council once again finished second (another Silver Medal) but then having the shame of only coming second in a one horse race, Northampton being the one and only sole entrant as a Small City!
Buts that Britain In Bloom for you, its the municipal equivalent of the ducks at the fun fair where every ones a winner, and if you cant hook your duck well no problem have a prize anyway!
So keen are the East Midlands in Bloom organisers to take your entrance fee and pin a medal on your chest as a "winner" at this annual flower fest that they will it seems make up a category for whatever suits you or even break all the rules to ensure you don't go home empty handed without your press release worthy medal. 
This year there were no less twenty three categories to choose from Small Village - Village - Large Village, Small Town - Town - Large Town, Small City - City - Large City, Coastal resort, the list is endless and covers every hamlet and multi sized conurbation imaginable, my favourite being the Urban Community category which I guess you enter if you don't like the look of any of the competition elsewhere?
But shock horror, I take no pleasure in exposing to the world that our council are in fact plant inducing, muck spreading, dirty rotten cheats and scoundrels, cads of the flower showing world. Not since Joe Grundy injected his giant marrow with steroids to win the Ambridge Marrowfest have we witnessed such skulduggery!
You see the population of Northampton is officially as per the 2011 census 212,100, and yet the "City" category to which we entered has a limited entry range of 100,001 to 200,000 with the Large city category which would include cities like Derby, Nottingham and Leicester and having a range of 200,001 or more the contest for us!
But cheats never prosper and I for one am delighted to see that we were beat by a smaller city which it seems were also being slightly cheated by EMIB but this time at the other end of the size spectrum. Mansfield (population 2011 - 99,600) had to punch well above their seed weight to beat off our local council . Loughborough then as a result won the Small City category albeit thanks to Mansfield's enforced promotion and the large city category in which Northampton should have been entered was won by Nottingham, as the only entrant!
But does any of the above really matter? after all its just a few flowers in baskets isn't it? Well yes, but it does matter because  it is a misrepresentation and fraud not just against the other entrants but against the Council Tax paying public of Northampton. It's no good NBC waving around its shiny silver medal to the world and showing off its flower baskets in Abington Street whist at the same time uncut grass levels on some of our estates is often higher than the cover in the amazon rain forest, not much use to our park based footballers who have to dribble around the dog dirt on the local pitches let alone try and find a white line to determine where their pitch ends, no comfort to those walking the streets who are forced out off the pavement and onto the road by hedges larger than some leylandii just so the Guildhall steps look a pretty picture.
This whole competition has it seems become a farce, an orgy of self congratulation and deception at a time of municipal floral shame due to years of cut backs and privatised services. 
But never mind at least the Cllrs from across the region get the opportunity to go to go to Skegness for the day to pick up their medals and awards and the category winners can all then pop off to the national "Britain in Bloom" finals! Last year for NBC and their category winning Silver medal that meant an opportunity for weekend on the Island of Guernsey!
If only they could have won this year! it would have made my day, the finals weekend is in Cleethorpes.

THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS (Same again please)

I penned this on my 50th Birthday. So keen was I not to get swept away in an air self congratulation and reminiscence I gave strict instructions to Carole my wife not to organise any "this is your life" style surprise party's and booked a work meeting in Bassetlaw to escape the occasion.
Yes this probably validates my membership of the "miserable old sod club" but I just don't do birthdays. I feel that I have been having so much fun on the other 364 days of my 50 years on the planet that any act of looking back on my life will somehow bring my good run to a halt and thus start a downward spiral.
But how can anyone really escape their birthday in these Social Media driven times? even before breakfast my Facebook account was lit up like a Christmas tree full of genuine best wishes and offers a drink or ten. But I stayed strong and carried on with the days tasks regardless.
Hopefully the current life beginning at 50 doctrine is the new version of the old life beginning at 40 mantra, and as such my years ahead will bring me ever rising opportunity and success, but then again the first 50 haven't been all that bad. After a tough upbringing I was employed even before leaving school, was self employed at the age of 18 began a career in Local Government as a Human Resources officer at 21, been elected 3 times onto Northampton Borough Council, once to Northamptonshire County Council and of course spent 8 years in the Houses of Commons as Member of Parliament for Northampton South. In addition I have blessed with serving 11 years as a director of my beloved Northampton Town FC, 3 years as General Manager, 3 as Chief Executive of our wonderful Football in the Community Charity, and even managed a 4 years stint as a Special Constable with Northamptonshire Police.
I perhaps should also mention my 20 years plus as a member of the Northampton Labour Party (remember them) and my subsequent expulsion, but having been airbrushed from their local history since our well publicised fall out I do not want to upset them by shouting out too loud that I mean them no harm.
So what of life post 50? Well I certainly seem to be kept occupied; I now work part time in our family Construction firm which is based in Sheffield, part time for the Local Government Association as a National Lead Peer advising Councils and I sit on a two local steering Boards one for Youth Work (Community Courtyard) and one looking to set up a new Community Radio station in Northampton, and of course politically I have found many new and very loyal friends within the Local and the National Green Party where I have been recently asked to take on a future role as a national spokesperson on International and Foreign affairs. So plenty in the future to keep me busy! I am blogging, tweeting and ticckling (video tweets) and now to mark the occasion of my half century I am now writing a small weekly column for our Local Herald and Post. 
 If I have achieved anything in these last 50 years on this planet,  it is I hope,  to have developed a healthy respect for openness and transparency and a desire to tell the truth, to tell is as it is, (from my mother) coupled with a pen-chance for mischief and mayhem (from my father)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


If my blog could sue me for neglect, I would be guilty as charged, if we were an item I would be seriously in the dog house, 2 months since my last post and have I an excuse? Well yes but it will only get me into deeper trouble I am afraid, because I have been seduced by "she/he" who should never be mentioned. You know Tw*tter, that loose and loud floozy who dumbs down any expression or sentiment into a simple 140 character soundbite. Great for journos, and career politicians but awful for those of us who still hanker for a bit of good old fashioned debate and half intelligent opinion.

And to make matters worse I have also been flirting at the same time with "ticckle" a 30 second maximum video debate site where again you have to "compress" or "reduce" your thoughts into bite size video clips.

Why would I do such a thing? what price my literary integrity? Well for reasons which will become clearer later on I was asked to become "platform friendly" and told that whilst accepting that blogs will always be the reserve of the deeply intentioned thought and/or perhaps rant, tw*tter and ticckle give voice and access to the masses whose normal intake of information is now all in bite size chunks!

So in order not to leave my blog out of the loop and also to help others now in and maybe in the future (yet to be born grandchildren?) catch up on my last 2 months cerebral concerns I post below my tw**ts and and also an address to access my ticckles!

God I feel so dirty!

nb (This is a one off update for my own need for completeness, but what for the future blog? tw**t? or ticckle? all, some or none? views, apart from the obvious "don't bother" appreciated.

ticckle contributions can be found here

Friday, 7 June 2013


The act of doing, stops you doing all the other things you want to be doing instead of the things you need to be doing, so I end up carrying around all these blog ideas in my head and have no time to put them to paper. So excuse me if I unload them all here in shorthand:


So Local Borough Council Leader Cllr David Mackintosh has been freeloading it in India courtesy of the Council Tax payer accompanying Local Gov Minister Eric Pickles on a Trade delegation where apparently he also carried the torch for SEMLEP or NEP?

He's behind you! stand up straight David and try not to look swivel eyed
Well I will resist the temptation of rubbishing all such trips as if well planned and focused then they can reap rewards. I remember visiting China with the SESAME network whilst in Parliament to secure a £1m+ telecommunications trade deal for Northamptonshire in the late 1990's albeit I still paid my own air fares and expenses.

But the timing of the trip during what are ever more challenging economic circumstances does warrant some questioning after all who was it who made the following insightful pronouncement back in 2003

"At a time when pensioners are scrimping and saving to pay their council tax it is outrageous that councillors are going on foreign freebies. They should show some solidarity with taxpayers and pay towards these trips."

So did the Mack pay his way? or was it an Indian Pickle take away? answers on a poppadom please....


Foreign Secretary William Hague was quick to deflect any blame for the recent murderous atrocity which took place on the streets of Woolwich away from Britain's Foreign Policy and of course there will always be some truth to the suggestion that evil men are evil men whatever their self acclaimed cause.

But Britain's continued military involvement in Iraq, and in Aghanistan and our complete denial of Israeli crimes in Palestine do support the Al Quida recruiters and make it far easier for those who want to preach hate to do so.

Hague in my mind has always been a fool, ever since his schoolboy address to Tory Party Conference during Thatcher's early years, but even I was shocked by this mans recent ridiculous decision with David Camerons blessing to support the arming of Jihadists and Al Quida elements within the Syrian rebel forces.

The photograph of  Michael Adebelajo standing in a London Street holding a machete with blood stained hands was sickening to look at, equally though photographs published on the internet of a jihadi rebel in Syria chopping up and indeed eating a Syrian army soldier it seemed were not gruesome enough to dissuade Hague from pushing ahead with his policy to send arms to such warped individuals 
And why we are so intent in shepherding in to Syria a regime ruled by Islamic extremists and Al Quida factions it is beyond me? and it seems has also bought condemnation from even from many of his own Tory MP's! 
The UK government has attempted in recent days to differentiate between “extremist” rebels in Syria linked to the Al-Qaeda group Jabhat al Nusra and the so-called “moderate” Free Syrian Army militants. The kind of “moderate” freedom fighters who as pointed out above like to cut out the hearts of their slain enemy and devour them live on camera whilst proclaiming verbally to do so in Allahs name!  
Hagues baffoon like actions and Britain's continued meddling in the affairs of the Middle East with little thought to the fallout will continue to make things substantially worse both at home and abroad

Regular readers of my blog will have laughed along with me at the ever more Labour Friendly optimistic comments from a regular reader who hides under the pseudonym "Castle Ward Mafia"
One of my favourite comments from him/her from recent posts was the quote:
"From the people I know in the party locally things are going well"
This of course was just before Cllr Ifty Choudary crossed the floor to the Tory's and Cllr Beverley Mennell left to join UKIP

Even I am surprised at how long Labours woes have continued to pile up since I left the Party 6 years ago and so I thought I would make it clear for all, that the latest troubles have nothing to do with me!

I in fact now get fed up of people saying "since you left" or  proclaim "you should come back"

The reason I left 6 years ago was that the party was corrupt right to it's regional Core, a local party full of fixers and an unhealthy majority of wannabees who will do and say anything to get either themselves elected into office and power or bitch and complain to the regional Office about other Party members who they see as their rivals.

Meanwhile Ed Milliband statement yesterday on Benefit caps and any Labour Government sticking to current Government spending rules effectively pronounced a new three party coalition at Westminster, why wait for an election? why not now all merge into one big capitalist friendly party of national government in the interests of the uber rich?

Political Compass: based on 2010 manifesto's
I said recently how happy I am now in the Green Party, its still true, I have comrades again, I go to meetings where we discuss how we can all work collectively to achieve the ambitions we jointly hold. We laugh, we debate issues in a respectful and educational manner, and we are a party where even those at the very top have not forgotten the importance of those in local party groups.

I don't know where the Local Labour Party is going next, (probably not very far until Sally Keeble leaves the scene) but I just want to make it clear that frankly my dears I don't give a damn.

Last week the Green Party's Leader Natalie Bennett phoned me at home and we had a helpful discussion over local party matters, the elections, what support the national party can give us in here in Northampton and we discussed other matters of a personal nature more of which I will announce to you as soon as I am able. But for now for me and my new found green friends:

"Things can only get better"


Northampton Borough Council's fall from grace, its place in Local Governance as a friend to Northampton has been on the wain for some time, and democracy within the organisation has been eroded year on year since the turn of the century.

But even I was surprised this week to see how low its value in local democracy has fallen.

I attended Spring Boroughs Residents Association last Tuesday to say goodbye, I am no longer their elected County Cllr and wanted to leave the stage clear for my successor, no moans, no regrets, the electorate (or at least 19% of them) had spoken. At Borough and County level the area now has Labour Cllrs to speak up for them. Or at least they would do if the Cllrs continued to have a role to play!

Joe Joyce the excellent Residents Association Chair updated us on the story of the two  "Vanishing
Recycling Nodes" on the estate which seemed to disappear overnight leaving local residents with nowhere to drop off their recycled materials.

Over 80% of local residents do not have cars and the recycling nodes were very popular, so popular that when I was the Borough Cllr I had to lobby the Council to secure a twice weekly collection as the nodes were constantly overflowing.




So who took them away? and why? Well Joe got no answers from his three Labour Borough Cllrs on the estate, they knew even less, Cllr Winston Strachan it seemed at least asked the question but got no answer! only a vague promise that someone from Enterprise rather than the Council would phone him and they didn't
NBC recycling your vote for you

But Joe persevered, and come up trumps, by mistake it was leaked to him in an email that the decision to remove and not replace them had been taken by the "Spring Boroughs Multi Agency Group"

Now excuse me for being a tad Anglo Saxon with my language, but who the f*ck are the 'Spring Borough's Multi Agency Group" when they are at home?

It seems that this group of self selected unelected officers from a number of Authorities including the Borough Council, the County Council and the Police are now taking all decisions on local services themselves, without troubling the elected, nor consulting with the electorate.

So why bother with elections at all now? Democracy is dead, OFFICIAL rubber stamped by the Local Multi Agency Group, no doubt coming to a street near you too soon if not already in situ.

You may wish to write to your local Councillor, but then again why bother? they have no power? they take no decisions? They are not even told what is going on on their patch, and when they ask questions they are ignored!

Likewise in Ethel Street we have a children's play area which has now been locked for over 6 months, where the Councillors it seems have no say or input as to why it was closed and when it will reopen?
Perhaps I should contact my local Multi Agency Group for some answers? If only I knew who they were

Meanwhile all Cllrs Borough and County can now officially stand down from duty 80% of your electorate couldn't be bothered to vote, less than 10% voted for you and the Council you were elected to doesn't need you any more, other than as window dressing and as a scapegoat and defensive wall between the public and those who are really making the decisions!

Friday, 17 May 2013


There is it seems no shortage of  "Adam Simmonds" Police Commisioner, stories in the local Chronicle and Echo, so keen are they to quote the man and so keen is he equally to be quoted that it feels at time as we are all up there at Wooton Hall in what he calls "The West Wing" with him as he pronounces daily about the need for policing to be done the Simmonds way.

Do you remember when he wanted to bring back the old fashioned Police telephone boxes (no one has told him about mobile phones yet it seems) or when tried to defend the indefensible over accusations of cronyism after appointing his Tory  Press Agent and Best Friend on very Highly paid deputy police commissioner posts. Then he wanted to take over the fire service, then said he was misquoted when the Tory grandees intervened, and then he said he really wanted more coordination of ALL the blue light services. 40% reduction targets in violent crime are announced, faith and community directors promised to bring a
theological outlook on anti social behaviour and crime, and he has only been in post 5 minutes!

All of these announcements make me dizzy and they also have led me to publicly question his sanity (please see and fast forward to 04:17:45)

But last night he went one step further! On Radio 4's excellent "The Report" programme Commissioner Simmonds, who compares himself to "President George Washington" was asked to explain his policy to "eradicate drugs" something the whole of the US Army with military support from around the globe has not achieved despite far too many military and civilian lives being lost in Afghanistan and Columbia attempting to do so.

So he told Radio 4's reporter Simon Cox that perhaps eradication was too provocative a word and then he turned the whole policy right on its head by saying the completeand total opposite. No longer would drugs be eradicated, instead they would be tolerated.

I quote him word for word here, and all is available on the BBC iPlayer  to check my sense of fair play, when he said

"it's about educating our kids about proper drug use, from my point of view we can give out leaflets until we are blue in the face with kids. So we've got to teach kids. if they are going to use drugs, how to use them responsibly"
Holy moses, one minute we are set to wipe narcotics off the planet now we are talking about teaching kids to use drugs responsibly, without as much as breath between both statements!

And since when has anyone, anywhere  talked about teaching KIDS to USE drugs!

Now don't get me wrong, I have too have some broad minded and  radical views on refocusing attention onto the treatment of Adults addicted to drugs, which include the medical maintenance of addicts rather than their continued incarceration and criminalisation. I would rather we spent money on treatment orders than on a criminal system with a revolving door straight back into further addiction and criminality, but I have never ever spoken about teaching KIDS how to use drugs! Nor would any sane individual do so

Simon Cox therefore did give him the opportunity to explain his comments further or to perhaps rephrase his comments but he just dug himself into his drug induced hole even further by saying: (again word for word)

"if you are going to have a society which cannot uninvent heroin, the way we cannot uninvent the car, we have to get to a place where our kids understand the effects of those drugs"

So no mistake there then, two short sentences, the use of the word kids 4 times to ensure we all got the message, a u turn from eradicating drugs to us teaching kids how to use them responsibly and then a clarification that we are talking here not about dabbling in a puff of pot or two but about class A drugs such as heroin!

Has any elected individual ever gone this far? Is this new groundbreaking Tory policy? Is Michael Grove about to change the curriculum to include classes on responsible needle use? Does the Prime Minister share the Northamptonshire model as one to be desired across the nation?

And my last point, if I can be told every last uninteresting fact about our new Police and Crime Commissioner in our local newspaper and be drip fed his press releases from the self proclaimed West Wing  on a regular basis, then why isn't a story such as the one above also headline news? Not just in the locals but also in the nationals.

Radio 4  lit the blur touch paper on this last night and something tells me fireworks are about to start popping, and to help my local newspaper along how in getting in before the big boys, how about the following headline to kick off proceedings.



Thursday, 16 May 2013


The Mack, as in Local Tory Council leader Cllr David Mackintosh has been looking a bit too pasty of late, he needs some sun on his cheeks and he should remember the old adage of too much work too little play making mack a sad lad  etc etc,

But undeterred by his inability to remove himself from his plush Guildhall Office and the pressures of office it seems that the local Chronicle and Echo has come up with a cunning plan and a whole new props department to ensure that their readers on line and in print can still get their fair quota of Tory friendly Mack based photoshoots.


At a time when without our printed nightly paper, local politicians are struggling to get their mugshots printed anywhere some have had to go to some extraordinary lengths to encourage the paper to send out a snapper. I personally haven't had my picture in the paper since the great Johnston Press Share price crash of 2009 and people still think I am a relatively young man!

                                         BLACK TIE ONLY, WHITE LILLY'S, FRAMED IRON LADY,  DON"T SMILE!

But no such photo shortage problem for the Mack, in true Mr Benn (do you remember the children's series) style he, and it seems his whole office are suitable dressed and redressed for every occasion, tie on (business like)  tie off (man of the people) suitable desk based prop everyones a winner.


So tied up in Council business is the Mack that whole Holiday seasons just come and go and if the decor didn't change in the office no one would know any different!

If I could work my will, said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
A quick step over to the fireplace and no one will guess its the same office

But then it seemed as if the cat might finally be out of the bag and Daves fear of open spaces, meeting the public and sunshine called for even more props to fool an ever gullible public
Believe it or not there are many more mackpics out there, never before in the history of Council Leaders have so many photos of one leader been taken in one office with so many different props.

Which is all such a shame as the Mack looked far happier in long gone days when he wasn't such a prisoner of the Guildhall and had the local paper lusting over him for ever more snapshots of pine veneer and vertical blinds and his cheeky grin


The day lays bright, with cloud laden sky, I sit and think, as time passes by. Where art though now, dark desk of destiny, no ties to tie me down and tell me why to laugh or grin or muse and cry

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Defeated candidates should always think carefully before examining election results too closely through fear of only finding what they want to find, giving them the excuse to blame somebody else for their failure. Winning candidates on the other hand are best not looking at the reasons for their success at all, they should simply bask in the glory of their win, as the seeds of any future defeat often lay sown very deep in their current flowering pots.

But last weeks County Council Elections just felt all wrong, from start to finish, I am not just talking about Castle Ward which has its own unique set of circumstances to cope with, but I mean wrong in the sense of participation and outcome. Often the wrong candidate got elected for the wrong reasons, rises in some candidates votes simply skewed the figures overall and made prediction a difficult art form.

My main concern, which I hope would be shared across the political divide is that the results were less predicted and more proclaimed. UKIP of course did incredibly well, no lets rephrase that they did remarkably well winning seats all across the Country just as the press told us they would! and therein lies the problem. UKIP's staggering success was not just predicted it was announced as a  fait accomplis (They will love that European reference!) by the national and local press as long ago as November and December 2012.

Having encouraged the swing voter to support UKIP in the Rotherham By Election (Labour Hold) and the Eastleigh By Election (Lib Dem Hold) the press secured them a second place in each, allowing them to proclaim thereafter UKIP as the new force in British Politics. This was the same UKIP of course who secured just 3% of the vote in the 2010 General Election losing their deposits up and down the country including in Northamptonshire as voters failed to understand what they were there for. But the right wing press with its own anti European agenda needed UKIP as a stick to beat David Cameron with.

So the Torygraph and the Daily Mail had soon "Galvanised" Nigel Farage back into action, a tall order in itself for a man with little charm, terrible halitosis and the worst taste in trousers this side of Texas. But Galvanise was indeed the word as in Shelley's creative novel Frankenstein a new monster was created by  the process of galvanism, the ability to bring inanimate objects to life through the power of electrical currents. This time via the 240 volt printing press rather than any lightning above Castle Frankenstein.  Publication after publication, commentator after editor all queued up to inform us that "UKIP are set to win record number of council seats" This before they had even considered how many candidates they would stand. UKIP of course happily played their part by declaring in February that "We will stand the most candidates ever" By March the TV had followed the printed presses lead and Project UKIP took another big leap forward.

The announcement by Johnston Press in the Chronicle and Echo in early February was indeed echoed throughout their publications nationwide and by their rivals who all pronounced how mighty fine the King Farages new clothes were and how we the public would be pretty stupid if we didn't also jump on board the bandwagon. Voting UKIP was safe they said, almost suggesting you could be racist without being shouted at and anti gay and just a good old fashioned Brit sticking up for their country. And even when a little boy in the crowd shouted "He is as naked as the day he was born" he found that 70 % of the people couldn't even be bothered to listen to him and that thereafter the Press refused to print his comments to the 30% who might just be interested. They instead were treated to more photographs of Nigel Farage drinking more beer in more middle England pubs on his "Common Sense" tour

And so eventually an apathetic and politically uneducated British Public did what it it proving itself extremely good at it followed the trend rather than look to set it, it tugged its collective forelock in reverence to its masters and either sat on its hands at home not voting or went out voted the way it was told to vote.

Or as Ray Davies is attributed to have said:

Money and corruption are ruining the land.Crooked politicians betray the working man, Pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, And we're tired of hearing promises that we know they'll never keep.

More than one voter informed me on the doorstep during the election campaign that, 

"Tony I will either be voting Green Party or UKIP"

What in Gods name does that actually mean? I haven't a political thought in my head and I am just as likely to vote for Ghandi as I am Hitler? 

But the reactionary poison that flows from UKIP has found a resonance with the increasingly embittered, divided population. They reflect, as all such movements have done historically, a contradictory set of social forces. On the one hand they are a party that appeal to a middle class, driven into a frenzy as a result of the economic crisis. Their anger is focused on the work-shy, the immigrant and on the European unions super state: all of whom are holding back the hardworking, pure of blood Brit who needs the help of no one to make its way in the world. 

This is then exaggerated by  white flight communities who fear (actually fear) migrants will threaten their rural idyll. I thought it was just amazingly crass to see that self confessed right wing Tory Cllr Michael Clarke polled 1553 in Hackleton and Grange Park only just seeing off a challenge from a UKIP candidate even further to the right who polled 1504. 1504 who are more right wing than the Tory candidate who won! Heaven help us.

But of course with just a 20% turnout in Castle Ward I save my real despair and my disquiet for the 80% non voters, a heady of mixture of lazy, non committal, apathetic, politically ignorant and impotent shower all committed to doing there bit by er...... not doing their bit.

Harsh? not really, if they read this piece and are upset with my comments then good for them they can always come out and vote against me at future elections and my rant will have in some way served a purpose. in the defence of a few there will be in that number those who couldn't through illness get to vote, or were perhaps working away, equally there will be some who felt that none of the candidates could muster their support, and they are all excused from my wrath, but the rest? Well they are a special sort of ignoramus half wit who think that life owes them a living and a helping hand without the need for them ever having to put anything back in.

I write this on the Tuesday after last Thursdays election and already the phone calls are coming in from people in Castle Ward asking me to continue to help them with their Housing needs and to secure "better" places for their children in "better" schools. 

They have absolutely no idea that I was not re-elected last Thursday, and probably have little idea that an election even took place! I remember last year talking to a guy in a pub who asked me about my MP's expenses! I politely told him I had had lost the election years ago in 2005 to Brian Binley and then he went on to say "Yes but your still the Labour MP aren't you"  Apparently it seems (according to my new found drinking buddy) at every election each constituency votes for a Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MP and the one who gets the most votes goes to Parliament whilst the other two hang around the town on full salary representing our respective voters! and there was me thinking Sally Keeble had simply been on Holiday since 2010!

So apathy and the inability of people to think for themselves played a massive part in last weeks weeks defeat, but was it just that that and the UKIP factor which cost me my seat? No not really. The fact is that months ago I predicted that Labours vote would rise at the election in line with their national share with the Tory's and Lib Dems in Government. I predicted to friends that they would double their low vote of 440 in May 2009 and told a select few that I expected them to poll around 880 votes this time round. They actually got 806, I told my new colleagues in the Green Party that it was an uphill struggle for us to win and that we would need to keep as many of the 760 (Independent) and 201 (Green Party)  votes that we each polled in 2009 to give us any chance of winning, we couldn't do that, and our end result of 437 (albeit on a reduced turnout) was simply not enough. Yes of course UKIP taking 273 votes without putting out a single leaflet didn't help, equally having another Independent on the Ballot Paper was not useful but none of these factors would have denied the Labour Party a deserved victory. I lost a lot of hard won support in the Semilong and St James areas when they once more moved the ward boundary and Winston Strachan it seems is strong in the area he has represented for some time, so my congratulations as they did last Thursday go out to him.

So did I make a mistake joining the Greens? Not at all, you see for all of those who can't be arsed to vote and for all of those who change their vote it seems as frequently as they change their underwear, there are those of us who are really very comfortable in our political skins, we know what we are about and we are loyal to our political convictions. I ironically have the exact same set of political values and ideals which I held 30 odd years ago when I first joined the then Labour Party, the Labour Party have coursed moved to the right, not me. And I also believe that the 437 brave soles who voted for the Green Party last Thursday in Castle Ward also include a high number of politically motivated voters who don't just look the other way, or turn up and vote how they have been told to vote, but are people of deeply held political conviction and belief and as such I was proud to have given them a choice at the ballot box.

I thank each and every one of them and urge them to email me in order that we build our data base of those wanting an alternative future

The Green Party can do better, we can work harder, in fact we will have to if we want to see success at the ballot box, but we more than doubled our vote from the same election four years ago, and we held the honour in Castle Ward of helping to ensure that the right wing medias new toy UKIP secured their only fourth place in the County having come first second or third everywhere else. 

Of course I wish I had won, as I believe I was doing my bit in holding the Tories to account at a time when the only other opposition seems to come from outside of the Council.

But perhaps I can have just as much fun with having the prefix "Cllr" before my name. The press asked me if I would be taking a rest after 22 years in active local and national politics? A rest I asked? I am not 50 until September, I have only just started to get going! I just need to decide now with the support and consent of my new Green colleagues which Labour candidate I want to upset the most now by standing as an opposing Green candidate at the 2015 General Election.

Any thoughts gladly received




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