Based On A True Story

Based On A True Story

I enjoyed this article from the Wisbech Standard.  http://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/zebra_crossing_takes_step_closer_for_lethal_location_1_3724760   Get it from a library near you soon, possibly erroneously filed in the Epic Fantasy section, or maybe “based on a true story.”   :)

I particularly liked:

But it was the zebra crossing scheme, pushed by Councillors Paul Clapp and Robert MacLaren, which won the council’s backing.”

It’s funny because never once during all this “pushing” at the Town Council Meeting did they even mention the bid until I raised the issue.  Instead they seemed to be “pushing” the 20MPH Zone bid which people had previously been told (by Cllrs Bucknor & Bucknor) was never going to be an LHI bid.  I must be getting confused as I get older, I guess.  Perhaps “pushing” has a wider meaning now?  Maybe whispering with your colleagues from the Independent “Group” while looking panicky counts as “pushing?”  Who knows?

I stood up and said: “How can you possibly be backing this 20MPH Zone bid when you’ve taken the Kirkgate issue to County Council, and been published (twice) in the newspaper for doing so?  Didn’t all that mean anything at all?  I am going to support the Kirkgate bid and so should you, since you collected signatures for it for goodness sake!”  They had the decency to look a little chagrined.

Then later, Cllr Paul Clapp (UKIP) who has recently joined Twitter (user name mintyfresh, or something) tweeted:

 

@woodlandsandrew ok thanks for that good to c u too we forced the blue people to put a crossing in walsoken they passed it tonight

So it appears that Cllr Paul Clapp has played a Vulcan Mind Trick on me and made me his unwitting pawn.  By not putting a bid in, not mentioning a bid and not raising the bid in his words to Town Council he has “pushed me” into doing his bidding.  I had no idea he had this level of subtle manipulative power.  He’s missed his vocation as a stage hypnotist.  I just wish next time they wanted to “force” something they’d actually file the paperwork for it, rather than leaving me to do it.  That’d certainly save me some time.

He also tweeted:

the walsoken crossing was voted unanimously by wisbech tc as the scheme that they would like to succeed well done Rob and Will.

I’m guessing the “Rob” he refers to is Rob McLaren.  The only “Will” I think he could mean is Will Lewis, the local gentleman who originally asked for the crossing and who worked with Cllr. McLaren and Cllr. Clapp on the petition and appeared in the photo with them in the newspaper.  I’m sure Will Lewis is very appreciative of their efforts.  But notice the newspaper didn’t seek a comment from him?  The lead member of the public who called for the whole project.  Do you think that’s odd?  Why wouldn’t they want a comment from a member of the public who led on the issue now that the project has been green lit?  Curious, huh?

In some ways this is a good thing.  Let them take over the bidding process now, since they claim it was their bid.  It’ll be nice to see them do some work.  But I hope they get it done soon, because any amendments must be in very shortly and if they mess it up, it won’t go any further.

Twenty Is Running On Empty

Twenty Is Running On Empty

I thought I’d give a quick rundown on events regarding the Independent “Group” / UKIP’s  “Twenty Is Plenty” Campaign that finally got debated at Wisbech Town Council last night.  For those who have no idea what all this about, you’ll probably struggle to follow this post.  Sorry, but it’s gotten kinda complicated.  The issue had been postponed twice, both times as a result of requests from the Independent “Group.”  But, as it turned out, it had to be discussed tonight because the deadline of the Minor Highways Fund is fast approaching.

I expect those who have been following this sorry tale will now be asking: “Minor Highways?  But what has that got to do with it?  Didn’t those Independents say quite a few times that it wasn’t going to be a Minor Highways bid?”  And well you might ask.  Because as I pointed out six months ago, and three months ago, and before they did their petition, and after they did their petition – the Minor Highways Fund was the only game in town.  It had to come from there and talk of “other funds” was just a dream within a dream.

There are a few simple facts and put together they are collectively known as “the truth.”  Those who actually care about The Truth have been pointing this out, patiently, for some time.  Others have attempted to mislead, obfuscate and befuddle.  But the thing about The Truth is that is does always come out in the end.  And come out it has.

So, the Independent Group declared that the 20′s Plenty Campaign would be a Minor Highways Bid just like it obviously always was going to be despite denials.  At which point, since Wisbech Town Council can only put in one bid, it was in direct conflict with the bid for a pedestrian crossing in Walsoken.  This is the same pedestrian crossing that was previously the subject of a petition by Cllr Rob McLaren IND and Cllr Paul Clapp UKIP, that was presented to the Highways Committee at County Council (who also suggested it should go through Minor Highways) and was the subject of photo opportunities for all and sundry Independents and Allies in their local pet publication.

I should point out that even at this stage the Walsoken bid had not been put in.  Despite promises and petitions and grandiose statements – nobody had bothered to fill in the paperwork and submit the bid.  So Cllr Garry Tibbs and I did so and invited Cllr. McLaren to join us in proposing it.  No doubt we will be accused of doing this for “political gain.”  We did not.  We did it because so many of the public don’t have a clue about which party is which, or which council is which and it’s disgusting to continually raise their hopes for action and change only to fail to deliver anything.  I would have honestly liked to be proved wrong and find the proposal ready for submission at the meeting, but I prepared one myself just in case.  Luckily so, it would seem.

So what a conundrum for the Independent Group!  It seemed they were ready to make a stand on their “Twenty Is Plenty” bid and UKIP were there supporting them in the public area when suddenly they find themselves having to choose between two different proposals which their “group” had put forwards.  First Cllr Michael Bucknor suggested we put both bids through – thereby passing the decision to the hands of Councillors who may not even live in the area and avoiding taking a position.  But when the Clerk pointed out that only one bid can be assessed that was scuppered  So then they wanted to vote on “one bid at a time”, naturally with the “20s Plenty” one first.   The logic here was obvious – try and salvage their tattered plans by framing the Conservatives as “the people who voted against 20′s plenty” and avoid the situation they had created.  But more importantly to avoid having to vote against the Kirkgate bid and reveal that they had deliberately pushed another bid rather than support the one some of them had garnered much publicity for.  I pointed out that this was duplicitous.  The choice here was quite simply one bid or the other and that was what we should vote on – one bid or the other.  But they pushed for single votes.  No big deal to me, since I’ve been opposed to their scheme since the outset and publicly so – but a little unfair to those Members who felt 20′s Plenty had some merit but that it was wrong to put it before the well-supported Walsoken bid.

The end result was that 20′s Plenty was voted out and the Walksoken Crossing Bid was put through as the Town’s Minor Highways proposal for 2014.  It was eventually proposed by Cllr Garry Tibbs and seconded (to his credit) by Cllr Rob McLaren.  I did point out that the Bucknors and their fellow travellers could put the bid in themselves for 2o’s Plenty simply by forming a “community group” and raising some cash.  They still have a few weeks – it’s entirely possible to do it.  And it should be easy if they are telling the truth about their “consultations” – they informed Town Council they had extensively canvassed Waterlees and Cllr Patrick said he had extensively canvassed Kirkgate and that in both cases they had “overwhelming support” for the proposal.  They also said that people who didn’t think there was “overwhelming” support were “living in a bubble.”

Anyway, I doubt that if this appears in the local newspapers there’ll be much in the way of actual facts included.  The previous error-strewn article, apparently published with no fact-checking exactly as received from the opposition.  But The Truth is The Truth and it does eventually come out, no matter how powerful or deceptive some sources are to try and avoid that happening.  A very brief check of the history of this will quickly reveal where the consistent truth has come from and from whence the smoke and mirrors.

Talk Is Cheap

Talk Is Cheap

I received a tweet from local newspaper editor John Elworthy yesterday taking me to task for a couple of lines in my blog post about the Rock Festival.  This was the part he was angry about:

We all rolled up at the crack of dawn – or some unearthly time on a Sunday that felt like the crack of dawn – ready to set up the Rock Festival.  And when I say “we all” I obviously am not referring to any lazy, inept or just plain bone idle “never shows” whose idea of being a Councillor is getting their face in the paper quite often.

And this is what he said about it:

It just strikes me as spiteful and unnecessary that’s all to resort to such language. Your choice of course.

There are several things I find a little odd about this conversation.  The first is that it is unclear who he is aggrieved on behalf of?  My blog post doesn’t name anybody as lazy, inept or plain bone idle but simply suggests that there are some Councillors who might fit that bill somewhere.  I doubt many people would disagree with that.  Clearly, from my description, he thinks he recognises someone, which I thought was interesting, but when I asked him who he recognises he declined to say.  So I remain unclear quite who the victim of this apparent “unnecessary spite” is.

The second thing is that for a newspaper which, time and again, seems to publish whatever certain members of the local opposition say without seeming to do even a cursory investigation of the actual facts, it’s a bit cheeky to start pointing fingers.  Further, that on many occasions that same newspaper has published things about others which I and others would call “unnecessarily spiteful.”  Quite often with me as the target, though I’ve long since given up expecting any integrity or professionalism in that respect.

Frankly, I don’t think it is either unnecessary or “spiteful” to point out that there are folks out there who don’t have the faintest interest in doing the job they were elected to do.  Folk who accuse others of “being political” when they are in fact the most “political” people I’ve ever met.  Folks whose every move, every judgement call, every decision seems based on one thing and one thing only – getting publicity to help their re-election.  Spiteful?  Too strong?  I don’t think it’s anywhere near strong enough.  This is everything that is wrong with politics.  Spin spin spin, in cooperation with a pliant and biased media, delivering nothing more than hot air and bad photographs.

Wisbech Rock Festival 2014

Wisbech Rock Festival 2014

We all rolled up at the crack of dawn – or some unearthly time on a Sunday that felt like the crack of dawn – ready to set up the Rock Festival.  And when I say “we all” I obviously am not referring to any lazy, inept or just plain bone idle “never shows” whose idea of being a Councillor is getting their face in the paper quite often.  No, I am referring to the people who turn out, time after time, without fail, in any weather.  Sam Hoy, Garry Tibbs, David Oliver and his whole Family, Michelle Tanfield, Reg Mee, Stephen Brunton, Jonathan & Susannah Farmer, Hannah Campagna, Aigers Balsevics and his Eastern European Volunteer Team.

But disaster struck.  The rain was pounding down, the skies were black, we were all drenched and everybody was hoping that maybe, just maybe, all those dire weather forecasts were wrong and it might brighten up.  We set up the stage, the barriers, the PA guys were hard at work wiring the sound system.

Come Eleven-Thirty the rain had been joined by a powerful wind.  Most of the stalls hadn’t shown up and the fairground guys – who provide the power for us all – were concerned they were going to get stranded in the mud.  It wasn’t looking good and then the death knell sounded when the safety team advised that it was now too dangerous to proceed.  Although the P.A. was fairly waterproof, the band’s equipment would not be.  The wind was blowing the rain straight onto the stage leading to risks of electrocution and slippery surfaces.  Drenched and tired already, we had to face the fact that we could not proceed and would have to cancel.

A brief discussion led by Sam Hoy resulted in our deciding to try and move to an inside venue.  It was incredibly short notice and there were thousands of pounds worth of kit to be moved.  But cancelling meant losing the investment in the entire event and letting the music lovers of Wisbech down.  A number of major venues were complete wash-outs, no pun intended, their bureaucracy or risk aversion meaning we couldn’t move there.  (Their loss, I feel.)  We got a generous offer from The Woodmans, in Gorefield, who deserve praise for saying: “Bring it all here, we’ll make it happen.”  And we would have done, but it was a little far out to be sure the public would all get there.  Luckily, the Queen Mary Centre stepped up and offered their venue even at this incredible short notice.

Suddenly we were all rushing around, breaking down the equipment we’d already set up, loading things into cars and lorries and anything with wheels and an engine.  How on Earth we managed to shift everything from the Town Park to the QMC in an hour I will never know.  Unbelievable awesome volunteers, I think, were the solution – alongside the most professional, helpful and reasonable sound system guys it has ever been my pleasure to meet and work with.

Social Media came to life – with Facebook lighting up with news of the move.  All the forums and discussion boards were helpful, particularly “Wisbech Oh Dear” and the Wisbech Discussion Forum.   John Elworthy got the move publicised on the Wisbech Standard’s website which was excellent.  Twitter crackled and buzzed with the news.

And at about 2PM the opening power chords of Kamikaze Hotshots boomed from the mighty speakers through a busy and excited hall at the Queen Mary Centre.  It was time to rock.

*All pictures supplied by Cllr Garry Tibbs

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I don’t think I have ever experienced quite such a positive vibe at a Wisbech event as was evident throughout the day.  The bands were really varied, from the slick rock n’ rollers of Gifford to the country folk rock of Rattleshack.  From the smooth delivery of The Merlins to the “in your face” rebel rock of Death Radio.  On the internet, the buzz was excellent with attendees saying how much they were enjoying the day.  The only sour note was a tiny handful of moaners – most of whom were not in attendance – the same people who can always be counted on to moan about everything everywhere.  Their grumpy grumbling was broadly drowned out, which I think is a good thing.  There are some folks who are just not happy until others are unhappy.

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The free face-painting was much enjoyed by the young and older alike.  I even had my own face painted with a bolt of lightning over my eye and some letters and words that tickled me at the time.

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The Mayor, Michael Hill, and his lovely wife Jane, both stayed for the entire day.  They were such good sports and later in the event both could be seen wearing the Wisbech Rock Festival T-Shirts with their chains over the top.  When the compère pointed this out they got a massive cheer from the audience.  Some other towns may have Mayors who wouldn’t be seen having fun at an event like this – but Wisbech has always been pretty good at finding Mayors who aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun with the people who live here.

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That delightful pink dome with the rabbit painted on it is none other than the town beadle.  What a dude! :)

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Cllr Sam Hoy with a tiger face.  You’d not realise she had been working her butt off for the entire day, but she had!

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Suzannah Farmer, Cllr David Oliver and Jess Oliver.  Love these guys.  Champions one and all.

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Cllr Stephen Brunton, our St. John’s Ambulance First Aider, who gives up his free time to keep people safe and well and can always be counted on to help at town events.  On this day he helped a young lady who was taken suddenly ill, several other minor abrasions – and a Staffy dog which ran in from the thunder after having apparently bolted in the storm.  (Dog was successfully returned to his owner after being calmed down and given a bowl of water.)

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Drew Cameron, Compère extraordinaire.

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Hannah Campagna with Drew Cameron.  Hannah, a newcomer to the Festivals Committee, handled the P.A. and sound people as well as so much more.  Her knowledge, experience and commitment to the town are second-to-none.

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It is a shame I do not have a picture of Aigers Balsevics – proprietor of The Angel, the King’s Head and the Three Tuns.  Because he deserves to be recognised for doing so much to make the day a success.  Unfortunately, since he never stops moving and working long enough, nobody has a lens fast enough to catch him.  But trust me when I tell you that this man and his never-ending team of Eastern European volunteers are quite simply awesome.  We could not have made this happen without them.

What happened on this miserably wet Sunday was out of our hands.  We were already soaked and would have been happy to press on for whatever crowd braved the weather in wellies and macs but once the safety people said “no” that was that.  Except that from the ashes of potential disaster rose an off-the-cuff, last minute, scrabbled and rushed and thrown together replacement.  It wasn’t ideal, but we made the best of what we had and my goodness if it didn’t all work out rather well.  The day was a triumph and it was an absolutely thrill and a pleasure to have played some small part in it.  My hat goes off to all those wonderful volunteers who just would not give up, and to the organisers who rolled with the punches and came up swinging.  To the bands who played so well and entertained us so thoroughly.  And to the fine people of Wisbech who turned up, danced, sang and made merry until night fell.  More power to you!

Just Do Away With Parties

Just Do Away With Parties

One of the most enduring fallacies I hear people say: “We should just do away with political parties and get the best people into local Councils.”

Let me tell you what would happen if we did that.

On the first meeting of the new Council the Independent Councillors would all be listening to the agenda and sooner or later a “big item” would come up.  What I mean by “big item” is something on the agenda with significant impact and that people feel strongly about in various ways.

There would be a fiery debate.  People would say what they felt.  Others would back up arguments they agreed with or refute arguments they did not.  At the end there would be a vote on the item.

After the meeting, the Councillors would perhaps be grabbing a quick pint in the pub and you’d see them fall loosely into two camps, the ones who agreed with the Big Item and the ones who opposed it.  And they’d all be talking about the meeting.  There’d be a lot of mutual reinforcement of views: “You were dead right when you said that…”, “I can’t believe whatsisname made that silly point…”, “I liked it when you pointed this out…”

Over the next couple of meetings there’d be more of these “big items” and people would begin to notice that there were other Independent Councillors who they agreed with a lot of the time, and some who they seldom agreed with.  People would move back and forth, but gradually you’d see factions beginning to form.

At some point, something would come up that was a Really Big item.  An item that people were really passionate about and that they strongly believed was important enough that they needed to push for it.  An item that there was public and press interest in.  Somebody might realise that it was so important they should probably try and get their chickens in a row in advance of the vote.  So they’d approach the people they often agreed with and say: “What do you think about the Really Big Item?”  They’d get all their like-minded colleagues together and they’d all be saying: “Yes, we have to stop this, because it would be disastrous.”

Meanwhile, the other half might get wind of this and they might say: “If they are organising, we have to organise.  Otherwise they’ll stop this vital Really Big Item – and it’s important that they do not stop it.  Stopping it would be disastrous!”

The night of the Big Meeting comes.  The public are there.  The press are there.  And from the outset of the debate it is patently clear that there are two factions in this debate.  Those in favour of the RBI and those against it.  The journalist calls one lot the “Pro-Itemists Group” and the other lot “the Definite Opposers Groups” and just like that, the PIGs and the DOGs are born.

People who think Political Parties are a problem simply do not understand what political parties are.  They are a group of vaguely like-minded people working together.  That’s all.  I suggest that maybe a group of Independent Councillors who work together because they are like-minded are a political party too.  Just one who, for political reasons, choose not to give themselves a name.  Yet.

Private Eye

Private Eye

They say you haven’t “made it” in politics until you are mentioned in Private Eye. Thanks to Frank Webster for forwarding me a cutting of this week’s Private Eye where I get a mention! Not sure this is quite the way I’d want to “make it” but still … quite interesting! :)

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Suggested Corrections

Suggested Corrections

I suppose that every once in a while, even the best newspaper can accidentally let a poorly-researched article slip through*.  Hopefully these suggested corrections will be helpful as I know that the Wisbech Standard prides itself on it’s quality and accuracy.  There’s not a lot wrong.  Just a few bits and pieces.  I’ve highlighted things I would consider incorrect, false, biased, debatable, subject to personal viewpoint, silly, misleading, circumstantial, “spin” or just plain wrong in red.  Glad to be of service!

HAT TIP: Samantha Hoy, for several bits of this information.


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*Might I politely suggest that to avoid such minor errors in future, you avoid simply publishing whatever you are sent as fact without making any attempt to check facts or solicit alternative points of view.  Just an idea.