White Noise

White Noise

Ah, Election Time in Wisbech.

That wonderful period where the Opposition call people lots of names and say mean things about them and then complain about name-calling and mean things being said, while the local newspaper editor laments at the “bile” he perceives and ignores the “bile” from his mates.  Nothing changes.

I try to ignore the White Noise, primarily because I don’t much care what propaganda their cabal puts out to their thirty-five Twitter followers, or whatever.  But every once in a while something interesting is said that makes my (virtual) ears prick up.

There’s this, for instance:


This is such a strange comment, since it appears to be suggesting that some or all Members of the Fenland District Council Overview & Scrutiny have “no expertise” to bring to that Committee.

Weird on several counts.  But first you need to understand what an Overview & Scrutiny Committee does.  The Committee’s job is to look at existing Policy to make sure it is working well, to suggest improvements and the like (the Scrutiny part.)  Also to look at forthcoming Policy to suggest potential issues, problems and improvements (the Overview part.)  At Fenland there is only one O&S Committee, which covers all the Council business.  Therefore the Committee needs to have a good spread of different knowledge and experience in order to properly do it’s job.  There is no requirement for “expertise” – this is provided by Officers.  Expertise is useful in some instances, but the point of O&S is to get all different people to look at items in order to get a diverse set of viewpoints and opinions.

So which of the Members of Overview & Scrutiny is it that Virginia Bucknor is suggesting don’t have “expertise” to be on a Committee covering all the business the Council does?  The only Member of the Committee whose background she is really qualified to speak on is her own – so is she saying she doesn’t have the expertise to be on it?  If so, why not just resign from it?  I think she’d be doing herself a disservice, since she surely has some useful experience to offer?

For my part, I have experience in all sorts of elements of what the Council does through my professional career in various areas.  I’ve also Chaired O&S Committees at the highest level of local government on multiple occasions.  But even if I had not – like every Councillor that is elected I’d still have something to add.  That’s why Overview & Scrutiny has diverse Members on the Committee. To make sure that experience and knowledge from all walks of life are included, to make the most of wisdom and intelligence of all sorts of different people coming at issues from all sorts of different angles.

What this shows, in my view, is a standard technocratic approach.   Some folks think that only their experience and input is of value and that anything anybody else says must fall before the power of their experience.  Even if they are as immensely clever as they think they are, this still displays a profound arrogance.  It is just as well that Overview & Scrutiny has a mix of people on its Committee because there are a mix of people in the world and a wide spread of opinions and viewpoints is worth more than a narrow band of so-called “expertise.”

I asked for the Chairman of FDC’s O&S Committee’s comments, after showing the tweet to her.  This is what Cllr Jan French said:

This individual needs to remember that O/S this year carried out more reviews than any FDC committee ever. I also supported a call in for her. I also put extra Indies on the committee after she made the point that they “could not call anything in without Tory support.”

It appears from this comment that Virginia Bucknor, who is so keen to claim support for the democratic will of the people, has demanded a greater representation for her “Independent Group” than was merited by election results.  Curious.

Finally In The Open

Finally In The Open

Good to see John Elworthy on Facebook leaping to the defence of the Independents and UKIP.  People shouldn’t feel forced to hide their political views and pretend to be neutral and unbiased, even if they are the Editor of a newspaper.

There’s no reason why he shouldn’t hold political views and there’s no reason why his newspaper shouldn’t campaign for a particular group of political people and against another group.  It’s just nice if it’s in the open and transparent so that people aren’t fooled into thinking there’s proper news there, rather than personal comment.  That way, people can choose to read his paper or just bin it, and they can choose whether to advertise in it or in its less political rival – the Fenland Citizen.

Refreshing to finally see it so openly displayed.  Several people have messaged me to say how “gobsmacked” they were by it.  I wasn’t gobsmacked.  I’ve been pointing it out for years.  Every day, more people see it, or admit it.

The truth is out there.

Making It Stop

Making It Stop

I was going to think a little about Virginia’s Bucknor’s latest brainwave of an Anti-Litter Campaign as announced at FDC Full Council a few days ago and immediately picked up by the local press in the usual fashion.  Now I know that sometimes I would just poke holes in the idea and point out what I perceived were the motives behind it, but I thought i’d do something different today.  As regular readers will know I do occasionally like to muse on the way policy is made and consider options.  Given that many people are concerned about the prevalence of litter in our town I thought this would be a more positive way to approach the idea, such as it is.

I have talked previously about the importance of knowing the actual problem you are trying to solve before proposing a remedy for it.  But if you don’t want to spend a lot of time deciding if the thing you want to stop is (1) People dropping litter, (2)  Not enough people picking up litter, (3) There being too much litter, (4) Things being too disposable, (5)  People not having enough respect for their community – all slightly different actually – then you can look at the problem in the round.  In the case of an Anti-Litter Campaign you are usually trying to discourage people from dropping litter.  Simple, right?

There are a limited number of ways of stopping a behaviour that you would like to curtail.  You can; Educate, Persuade or Enforce.  The middle one, persuade, breaks down into three more: Persuade by entreatment, Persuade by Incentives, Persuade by Threat.  So our five methods are; Educate, Entreat, Incentivise, Threat and Enforcement.  Although you can usually try all five, most things you are trying to stop have some that you immediately know will work less well than others.

Let’s consider what those things mean:

This is where you try and explain to the people doing the thing you want to stop why it is that they would benefit from doing so.  So if the thing were “driving without a seatbelt” you might show them photographs of people who died after an accident without a seatbelt on and point out that, but for the twist of fate, that was them.  For education to work they have to be able to see why choosing what you think is a more altruistic action would be better for them, either directly, or indirectly (for instance, by protecting the people they love, or making their environment better.)  For this to work, the person must not already know or fully understand all the things involved.  If they already know the facts you reveal to them but have chosen to take the action anyway then education will not usually work.  It isn’t telling them anything new, so there cannot be a “eureka” moment which changes their mindset.

Entreatment is simply an attempt to charm somebody into agreeing to change their behaviour.  You aren’t suggesting that they will benefit in any way from the change – perhaps because there is no way to do so or perhaps because they have already rejected your attempts to educate – instead you talk to them directly on a person-to-person basis.  Or perhaps you are doing the same thing with a reverse tactic and trying to shame them into changing their behaviour, usually through the way others perceive them.  For entreatment to work, the person has to be open to your charm or your shame or whatever other interpersonal method you are using to try and persuade them.  If they don’t care what you think, or what others think, or if they value their old behaviour more than the one you are suggesting despite your entreatment, it wont work.

Changing somebody’s behaviour by incentive is simply offering them some reward if they make a different choice.  “I’ll give you a pound every time you put your seatbelt on.”  Any economist will tell you that human beings are immensely susceptible to incentives – more than you might ever imagine.  In fact, we often respond to incentives we’d laugh at if presented directly.  But for an incentive to work well it has to have more value than what we perceive as the value of our original behaviour.  So offering £10.00 for every day somebody does not smoke might be effective for a person to whom £70.00 a week was a lot of money but would be much less effective to a billionaire.  You also have to have some way to check the reward has been earned.  For instance, offering £1.00 each time a seatbelt is put on would be ineffective if there was no way to check they had really done it.  They could just claim £500.00 for five hundred journeys and perhaps have not truly done so even once.

A threat can be anything from: “A bunch of big fellas will come around and beat you up” to “if you do this you will be arrested and locked up for ten years.”  So it can be a legal, or illegal threat.  Either way, the purpose is to create a fear of the consequences of the action you wish to stop.  When the person makes a (subconscious) cost/benefit analysis you want them to be thinking: “Nah, it’s not worth it.”  As the severity of the threat grows, so the number of people who are prepared to change their behaviour does also.  If stealing a loaf of bread has the punishment of a brief telling off, versus stealing a loaf of bread carrying the death penalty – you will get quite different numbers of prospective culprits willing to do so.  How hungry the individual person is, or how many children’s mouths they have to feed, or whether or not this threat is ever enforced, or how good they are at not getting caught, or how great the bread tastes – all these things play a smaller or larger part in the subconscious cost/benefit analysis.  (Note: I am not suggesting there are not millions of people who would never steal – of course there are – this analysis is looking at how to stop some form of behaviour that some number of people are doing.)

Enforcement changes behaviour in two ways; firstly by physically preventing the culprit’s behaviour happening, as it might by putting an electric fence around an apple field to stop scrumpers or posting security guards outside a trouble hotspot. Secondly, by leaving a memory of a punishment that the person does not wish to repeat and therefore works in a similar way to a threat, like D.N.A. testing dog poo compared to a Dog Database and then arriving at the owner’s door to deliver a big fine (or posting the dog poo into their letterbox.) When you physically prevent, fine, arrest, reprimand, or otherwise catch and punish a culprit in some way, that is enforcement.  It only works if the person is caught and if they perceive the punishment to be in some way worse than the value of continuing the behaviour you are trying to prevent.


Education only works if they don’t already know the facts and consequences.
Entreatment only works if they care what you or others think.
Incentivisation only works if the incentive is greater than the perceived value of the behaviour to the culprit.
Threat only works if the perceived threat is greater than the perceived benefit of continuing the behaviour and if they believe the threat is real.
Enforcement only works if you can stop them, or catch them (if the personal cost of the punishment is greater than the perceived value of continuing the behaviour.)

There is a final consideration which must be made.  Whether it “matters” or not depends on individual perceptions, but the issue is the cost of any action you choose to take.  All five methods have a cost involved in time, resources, money etc.  If the cost of preventing the behaviour is greater than the cost of allowing it to continue, then that must surely challenge the method of interaction chosen.  So let’s say you print 50,000 flyers saying: “Please do not throw stones at the windows” in order to prevent your windows getting broken about three times a year.  Putting aside whether that method would actually work and just presuming it did – If the cost of the 50,000 flyers is greater than the cost of repairing the window three times, was it worth doing?  Maybe you think it was because that behaviour change has knock-on effects.  Or maybe you think it wasn’t because you don’t have much money and every penny counts.  But it’s got to be in your considerations either way if you want to be fully informed.  Only an idiot or somebody with more money than sense (or somebody spending somebody else’s money) makes suggestions without at least considering the cost.

So there we have it.  My potted logic for Making It Stop – whatever “it” is.

With that in mind, how does a “Campaign” to prevent littering by using some colourful new signs and a new logo fit in?  Particularly one which claims it will “save thousands?”

Education:  Signs may be considered to educate, for sure.  But do the people who are littering not know they are littering?  Do they not realise they shouldn’t do it?  Do they not realise that it makes the environment look bad, encourages vermin, has health consequences?  If they don’t have a clue, then a new sign and logo  might work.  If they know and just don’t care, it won’t.

Entreatment:  Signs with a colourful new logo and some press releases and the like might be considered entreatment.  They might appeal to the culprit’s sense of civic responsibility, or they might shame them into changing their behaviour.  Do you think that prolific litter bugs are likely to have a strong sense of civic responsibility?  Are they likely to be plagued with guilt when they see that sign after just dropping a chip carton on the floor?  If you do think so, the campaign will probably work.  If you don’t, it probably won’t.

Incentivisation:  No incentive is offered as part of the campaign.  It doesn’t say: “Pick up a bag of litter and bring it to the One Stop Shop to get a £2.00 voucher for Tesco” or anything like that.  So this doesn’t apply.

Threat:  The signs carry no additional threat beyond the ones which already exist.  They don’t say: “£10,000 Litter Fine in this Hot Zone” or something.  So this doesn’t apply.

Enforcement:  The Campaign carries no additional enforcement that I’m aware of so far that doesn’t already exist.  So this doesn’t apply.

Even if some degree of threat and additional enforcement were later added to the campaign there would be a cost involved.

So the final test – what is the cost compared to the result?  A bit of free publicity in the paper doesn’t have much cost.  A few signs don’t have an enormous cost, although if the Council is delivering them then they’ll probably cost more than you would expect them to.  How many people would change their behaviour based on these new signs?

There have been plenty of signs in the past, and there’s no shortage of people trying to entreat and shame folks into putting their litter in the bin instead of dumping it on the floor or in a bush.  So my strong suspicion is that the campaign – even if it were rolled out with new signs everywhere – would have a very limited success rate.  But it might still have a marginally positive success rate by reminding people who are just careless (for instance) and with that in mind it could, possibly, have a greater benefit than cost.  I doubt it.  But it could.  The idea that it will save “thousands” though?  Seems desperately unlikely.

I can’t see it doing any harm so I certainly won’t be opposing it, as long as the costs of delivering it are kept in check.  And even if I suspect that the timing – a few weeks before an election – is a mighty convenient way to get your picture in the paper again.   I reckon just encouraging more people to join the excellent Street Pride folk would be a more effective solution, but what do I know?

I can’t shake the feeling that “pick up some litter” would be a better campaign than “stop littering.”  Because I reckon the number of litterbugs is tiny compared to the decent folks who wouldn’t drop their rubbish.  If every person picked up just one thing each time they went out and put it in a bin – we’d have zero litter and it wouldn’t cost the Council a penny.  In fact, it might save the Council thousands.  Have a think about it.  Run it through my five methods above – and see if you don’t agree.

Rambling Post

Rambling Post

Hectic times right now as it’s election season all over.  We’re also beginning to see – both locally and nationally – the campaigns begin to take shape from different areas.  Labour and the Greens desperately trying to pretend the NHS is about to be sold off as they always do.  UKIP still pretending they are Left-Wing to left-wingers and Right-Wing to right-wingers.  Nobody really listening to the Lib Dems anymore.

Locally the Wisbech Conservatives have organised well.  We have a good team out every Saturday in the market place, literature going out in most parts of Wisbech, candidates selected for every seat in every ward who are all champing at the bit to get out there.  In my opinion we have some of the best teams we have ever had and I’m looking forward to following their efforts as the election season commences.  They are certainly going to put the fear of God into lazy opposition Councillors who think they can just swan into re-election without doing anything.

I’ve had a really busy week with Overview & Scrutiny on Monday, Wisbech Conservatives Branch meeting on Wednesday, FDC Full Council today followed by a North-East Cambs Conservatives A.G.M. this evening.  Tomorrow I’m meeting residents in the morning to try and help resolve a thorny issue and then in the afternoon I’m working with Waterlees Conservatives to get the message out that doom and gloom is no sort of solution and photo opportunities don’t represent success.

On Saturday I’m out with the wider Conservative team in the morning and then on to my Councillor Surgery in the afternoon.  For any Medworth residents who would like to come visit me, report problems, make suggestions or just have a natter I will be at The Angel Pub on Alexandra Road from Midday until 2PM in the lower bar area (suitable for families.)  There will be coffee and cake.

I was pleased to be able to vote for a Council Tax Freeze again today.  Which means that both the Councils I am involved with – Wisbech Town Council and Fenland District Council have delivered a freeze for the second year on the trot.  I was the only person on the Scrutiny Committee to vote against a rise and at that time I was mocked by a number of individuals for that.  It appears that my position, lonely though it was at the time, has won out, since FDC voted unanimously for a freeze today.  I promised when I stood for election that I would fight for a freeze and I have kept my promise.  I argued for it, I voted for it, and it was been delivered.  It is thanks, once again, to good financial management and hard work by Officers and staff on this Conservative-run Council that it has been possible to protect and improve services for people, while keeping the cost of doing so down.

One interesting thing at Full Council today.  Virginia Bucknor has become “Leader of the Biggest Opposition Group.”  Previously, the leader of the Biggest Opposition Group (three of them) was Cllr Gavin Booth, a Liberal Democrat who led the Liberal Democrat Alliance; himself, Cllr David Patrick (was Lib Dem then Independent) and Mark Archer (Independent.)  But Dave “Taxi” Patrick went off to join UKIP and Mark Archer went off to find himself on the other side of the world, leaving poor Gavin Booth all alone.  Which means that the new Biggest Opposition Group (two of them, married) is now the Bucknors’ Really Really Really Truly Independents.  I wonder what it’s like being the leader of the Biggest Group which comprises of you and your husband?  Group meetings must be a blast.  I notice that the local press never really mentioned the way the people of Manea were left in the lurch with no representation for a year, nor the interesting idea of claiming a Special Responsibility Allowance for being the “leader” of a tiny little two-person group.  Nice work if you can get it.  :)

Having resigned from the Executive Officers Committee of North-East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association a couple of weeks ago on a point of principle, at the A.G.M. tonight I was nominated to stand for election in a more senior role.  I was previously an “additional officer” but tonight I was nominated to stand as Deputy Chair Political.  I accepted the nomination.  I am proud that I was elected by N.E.C.C.A. members to take on that role.  With many of the old Officers standing down there was a lot of competition for the empty posts – the most competition for those positions that I have ever seen.  With only a limited number of positions available there was going to be some disappointment and that meant some really good people didn’t manage to get elected this time.  But it was great to see such interest and competition and I am looking forward to working with the brand new team going forwards.  We have a lot of work to do helping the Association to grow and prosper in order that we can continue to carry the Conservative message far and wide in Fenland, to work hard for our communities across the area, and to help sound hard-working Conservatives get elected in as many places as possible.

As an aside, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw UKIP making claims that they “support the Wisbech Rail Link” in their newspaper advert last week.  As far as I am aware, none of the local UKIP County Councillors have ever done so.  I don’t know what Lagoda thought, since he left UKIP under the cloud of being a benefits cheat before we could find out.  But the others have long been vocal critics.  Even at the most recent full Council meeting one of our Wisbech ‘Kippers reportedly referred to the rail link as: “a train set for boys who have never grown up.”  I wonder, is there anything that UKIP wont suddenly do a U-Turn on and make dodgy claims about as they grubbily clutch for votes?  Anything at all?

It is the local Conservatives who have worked hard to repair our dilapidated buildings.  Local Conservatives who have overseen a period of expansion and growth in the Town.  Local Conservatives who have worked hard with the Wisbech Society and others to secure grant funding to improve our Town Centre.  Local Conservatives who have led on Festivals and events for our town.  Local Conservatives who have helped deliver thousands of pounds of arts funding for the area.  I know that not all readers of my blog are Conservatives.  However, I hope you will appreciate that the Tories of Fenland want only the best for the people who live here.  Difficult choices must be made and nothing is easy anymore, for sure.  But you can count on your local Conservatives to fight for all the things the area needs, while making sure that you don’t get stung with gigantic council tax rises.  it is not by accident that the only Council to increase it’s Council Taxes this year is the one which is not controlled by the Conservatives, but by a hotch-potch kind of unofficial Rainbow Alliance under the sclerotic, paralysed Committee System.  I hate to say I Told You So.  But I did.

Stop Hitting Yourself

Stop Hitting Yourself

I don’t know if this is a common thing or not, but it certainly goes back a few generations in my family – the game that adults play with kids where you (very gently) pretend they are punching themselves in the face while you say: “Stop hitting yourself!” and they squeal with laughter*.  Well, I think I saw the same game played with an adult today!  I shall endeavor to explain.

For the last few Saturdays the local Conservatives have been visiting Wisbech Marketplace handing out leaflets, talking to local people and generally being “out and about” when the market is at its busiest.  The first time we went we saw UKIP, briefly, promoting their End Of The World Is Nigh Message to a handful of angry-looking people.  Another time we saw an Anti-UKIP group handing out leaflets to “Stop the fascist racist UKIP” or whatever, which was nothing to do with us, but which he heartily applauded.

Other than that it’s just been us each week.

This week, guess what, the Bucknors (Independent Councillors for Waterlees) were there.  Well, as you might imagine, we were gobsmacked.  We rarely see them at anything they don’t absolutely have to go to and it’s become something of a running joke that any time they turn up it’s usually just before the cameras arrive and then they tend to disappear just after the cameras leave.   (It’s not a joke they approve of, but then they don’t seem to approve of many things.)  To cap it all they seemed to be in a “team” with the local Green Party lady and Cllr Alan Lay (UKIP).  What a strange collection of politicians!  Well, we thought, if the Bucknors are going to be out campaigning on the Marketplace then this election is going to be a whole lot more interesting.

However, not too long after the Bucknors and their team arrived – a photographer from the Wisbech Standard appeared, as if by magic!  Quelle surprise, as they say in the French.  Some lovely photos were taken and then not an immensely long time after the press left … guess what happened?  You’ll never guess.  Go on try.  Yep, the Bucknors moved on too.  Who’d a thunk it?  Something of a sigh of relief.  The sort of sigh that comes from realising that all is right with the world once more.

A couple of funny things did happen during the morning.  The first was that the Wisbech Standard photographer noticed there were rather a lot of Conservatives in the Market and asked if he could take our picture also.  Imagine how you’d feel if you’d planned a special photo shoot to make it look like you were really hard on the campaign trail, only to have your opposition also get the photo shoot.  It was quite funny.  Of course, this is the Wisbech Standard, so I doubt our picture will be used.  Or maybe it’ll be used under some misleading headline?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The other funny thing was what happened to poor Cllr Alan Lay (UKIP).  I rarely feel sorry for Alan, but today I did.  He was out in a team with the Bucknors and the lady from the Green Party.  Which is odd enough in itself, if you think about it.  They were all handing out the same leaflet.  Imagine our surprised when we were handed a copy of the leaflet and saw that it was the dramatic: “Save our NHS” and that it was an attack on both the Conservative Party … and UKIP!  Alan Lay was handing out leaflets that damned his own party.  Did he know?  Did they say: “Look, Alan, this leaflet isn’t very nice about UKIP I hope you don’t mind?”  Or did they just hand them to him and be like: “Give these out, no need to read what they say.”  No idea.  I hope it was the latter though, because that would be a somewhat audacious con.  Very much the adult equivalent of the “Stop Hitting Yourself!” game.   Don’t you think?


*Thank you Garry Tibbs for the metaphor suggestion

Insurance Void?

Insurance Void?


Let me get this straight. UKIP Councillor Dave Patrick, a professional Taxi Driver, decided that the best thing to do was drive to the local Hospital on a broken foot? A foot that he describes as “extremely painful” and that he could “barely hobble” on.  That didn’t seem at all dangerous or careless?

What if he had to make an emergency maneuver?

What if his inability to control the car had caused a serious accident?

Was his insurance valid while driving with a broken ankle?

Hardly a surprise really. Invalid insurance wouldn’t be a lot different to “no tax.” http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/…/no_tax_councillor_and…

I don’t expect Dave Patrick meant any harm, and perhaps his mind was clouded by pain.  In this instance no harm came of it and all is well.  But I still don’t think it’s anything to crow about.

I nevertheless wish him a speedy recovery and hope he feels better soon.


Dave Patrick feels that he has a case against me for defamation, both for the comments I have made and those of others. I think he will find, when he checks, that asking a series of questions is not defamatory. But in the interest of balance, I’m going to print a screen shot of his message to me, as I promised him I would.


The point remains that driving on an injured ankle runs the risk of invalidating your insurance. It doesn’t take much Googling to find this out. Dave says his insurance company have told him that he has done nothing wrong. Cool – maybe so, if he has really asked them. But did he ask them *before* he drove? No mention of him doing so anywhere. So how did he know until after the fact? Also, any driver must surely know that if your foot is in agony and you can only “hobble”, which he has said was his circumstances, then it must SURELY be dangerous to drive unless you have to make an emergency maneuver. Dave feels I’m being rotten to him – I think if I’d wanted to be rotten I could have done a lot more than a vague few questions on Facebook. And I don’t think I’ve said anything untrue, have I? So how is it defamatory? Answer = I don’t believe it is.

It surprises me that Taxi Dave feels he can say anything he likes about other people: For instance when he was telling everybody my businesses have failed (when they are doing fine, thanks) – but that when somebody points out actual facts about things he says and does he starts making threats to silence them.   I don’t believe I’ve done anything other than tell the truth and discuss issues he made public by giving an interview to the newspaper about them.   In the same way that he failed to silence me with the bogus Standards Board report a year ago, he wont silence me now.  I was happy to let this sorry story quietly blur away, but he seems intent on keeping it in focus.   That’s his call, I guess.

Wheels Come Off The UKIP Bus?

Wheels Come Off The UKIP Bus?

Ouch.  Labour will have winced when they saw this week’s ICM poll which has the Conservatives up six points and now a clear four ahead of Labour territory.  That’s very close to being “majority” numbers.  But within usual polling “margin of error” it’s not as exciting as all that.  Could easily be a blip which corrects next week.

Much more interesting is the long-term fall in UKIP polling.  Many have said that as the General Election looms the Purple People Eater would lose it’s mojo as voters begin focusing on who will run the country and who are just a sorry mess of a party apparently dominated by bigots, racists and conspiracy theorists.

In this poll UKIP drop to 9% – their lowest rating in over a year.  When you factor in the first-past-the-post system and the natural squeeze by the serious parties it all suggests a pretty grim outcome for Farage’s “pint of beer and a fag” collective.  People’s Army begins to look a bit like “Crazy People’s Damp Squib.”

UKIP will respond by ramping up their usual arrogance, shout factor and obligatory fury.  More and more people will be called “bien pensant” and “liblabcon.”  Wider and wider swathes will be castigated as “the establishment.”  Until it’s just Farage, Carswell and some blokes in black leather uniforms proclaiming: “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer” to an audience of six angry white men and a cat.

With a bit of luck.

Evolving Into A New Paradigm. Or Something.

Evolving Into A New Paradigm.  Or Something.

Andrew Charalambous, aka the sinister Dr. Earth*, has been announced as the UKIP candidate for NE Cambs.  We all knew this months ago, of course.  But they’ve waited until now to announce it, presumably to allow time for the construction of a suitable underground lair.


The text quoted below is lifted wholesale from the Cambs Times, so hat tip to those worthy fellows.  It’s a reciprocal arrangement – I lift stuff from them, they lift stuff from me.  it’s fun.  Anyhow.

The multi millionaire buy-to-let property magnate (he is said to own 1,000 homes in and around London) has been a UKIP member for five years.

So first of all – good for him being a multi-millionaire.  We on my side of politics don’t begrudge anybody doing well for themselves through hard work and the like.  But I do hope we aren’t going to hear any of this “99%” nonsense that some ‘Kippers echo from the Left in a campaign where he can clearly out-spend us at every corner by using cash from his property empire.  I also trust he wont be playing their usual migrant-bashing game, given the fact they are reportedly a large part of the reason why he is a multi-millionaire.

On his website he reveals his “commitment to tackling homelessness” and says in his property business he “never charges tenants deposits or admin fees.” Neither, he says, does he ask tenants for references “believing that it should be easier for people to not only buy properties but rent them if they choose.”

It’s interesting that he doesn’t charge deposits or admin fees and that he doesn’t ask for references.  I expect that’s refreshing for hopeful tenants, but somewhat infuriating for the neighbours of at least some of those tenants.  I presume he does charge rent and that he still manages to make a profit, hence the multi-millions, so let’s not pretend he’s in the housing business for philanthropic reasons alone.

He said the Daily Telegraph once poked fun at him for picking up homeless people from the streets of central London and putting them in his properties.

Well that sounds nice, as long as they wanted to go.  Otherwise, it’s sort of kidnap, isn’t it?  :)

He says he is passionate about saving the countryside and green spaces and one of his early forays in the Fens was during the recent campaign to “save Estover from development from the local Tory council”.

That’s certainly convenient.  No bandwagon there.  Nope.  Particularly since the threat was not from a “local Tory Council”, but from the County Council which is run under the Committee System that UKIP helped impose and which has a majority rainbow coalition calling the shots, inasmuch as anybody calls the shots in a Committee System.

Mr Charalambous, now in his 40s, said he had been a Conservative since the age of 14 but joined UKIP for three main reasons.  He said the Conservatives closed the casualty department of a hospital which he had “campaigned tirelessly to keep open”.  He also felt that despite what he claims were Tory promises, immigration was not going down but up.  And thirdly he became angry when “the Conservatives failed to support my campaign to make our St George’s Day a national holiday”

Thinking about his three reasons for joining UKIP.  He wanted to create a new national holiday and failed.  He campaigned to keep a casualty department open and failed.  Immigration – which conveniently supplies him with many of his customers which make him all his money, just kept rising.  I can see his point though.  If I wanted to create some new national holidays and the government said “no” I’d consider throwing my toys out of the pram too.  And sulking.   Definitely sulking.  Sometimes campaigns fail, Doctor Earth.  It happens.

He also says he knows what it means to struggle in life having started his business from nothing.

To be fair, all businesses “start from nothing”.  The meaning of the verb To Start naturally assumes that you are at the beginning of the thing to which the verb applies.  If the business was already running and you just took it over then you wouldn’t be “starting” it.  Some other verb would apply.  Claim.  Buy.  Inherit.  Steal.   Something like that.  That doesn’t mean that you “know what it means to struggle in life” though.  Some people “start a business from nothing” because they’ve got a load of cash, a comfortable life and the safety net for taking risks.  Others genuinely start with barely two pennies to rub together.  I don’t know which applies to Doctor Earth, so I’ll withhold judgement until I know what “from nothing” really means in this context.  Nevertheless, a successful business is still something to admire.  Can’t take that away from him.

The UKIP candidate says: “This Conservative government has gone too far in cutting public services without regard for the consequences for the needy, the disabled and the chronically ill. Under the Tories the poor have got poorer.”  He added: “The British people are sick and tired of career politicians living in ‘ivory towers, who prefer to spend over sixty billion of your hard earned cash on the HS2 railway rather than invest the money on stopping pain and saving lives through the NHS.”

Some good dog whistle lefty anti-austerity rhetoric there, from the guy who owns one thousand houses.  I presume none of the properties Doctor Earth owns are towers made of ivory – that would just be too ironic.  I’d like to see his home though.  Just to compare it to the average home that he rents to his no-deposit, no-reference tenants.  I’d also like to be sure we understand that he is saying that there will be no further cuts to public services under a UKIP administration?  And then I’d like to know how he plans to pay the bills and the interest on the debt.  Or are we still just in the usual UKIP Policy Free Zone?  As for “sixty billion of my hard-earned money” – I have never earned that much I’m afraid.  I doubt many of us have.  Not even those of us who own one thousand houses.

In one of many articles on his website he also believes “the world’s raw materials, food, energy, scientific know how and educational facilities belong to everyone. We therefore need to share resources rather than waste energy competing for them. It is time for a new sense of globality.”

A new sense of globality.  That almost became the title of this blog post.  Until I found something better.

Your food, energy and scientific know how “belong to everybody.”  We need to share them.   This is awesome stuff – let’s have some meat on these policy bones.  Are we talking “free pies for everybody” here?  McDonalds and KFC to be nationalised?  Is this forced confiscation of private property in order to redistribute?  Or predistribute?  Or post-distribute?   I notice in his list of things that need to be “shared” he didn’t include property.  Convenient, that, for a guy who owns one thousand houses.

He also feels “humanity is at an evolutionary crossroads. As we emerge into the aftermath of this historic global recession humanity recognises the need for a different kind of politics, a different kind of economics, a different kind of thinking.

Look – I know I play the “Doctor Earth sounds a bit like a supervillain” joke a bit too often.  But come ON!  Humanity is at an evolutionary crossroads?  This stuff is pure Lex Luthor.  Tell me it isn’t!  “As we emerge into the aftermath of my doomsday machine historic global recession humanity recognises its true emperor and master the need for a different kind of politics.”  He wants a “new type of economics.”  He should call for a “new type of physics” or a “new type of mathematics” while he is at it.

“According to current estimates there are 7.5 billion people living on our planet today. On current UN projections there will be 11.5 billion global citizens by 2050.  “Clearly, if we are to survive as a species we need to evolve into a new global paradigm which will include not only planetary sustainability but the prospect of more underground residential development and space colonisation.”

Oh yes.  We definitely need to evolve into a new global paradigm.  We should start right now.  We need to get some good paradigming going. That’s my blog title, right there.

And, um, “underground residential development.”  Wait.. did he really just say “underground residential development?”  This is becoming increasingly difficult to parody.  I can’t very well keep making jokes about secret underground lairs if you just admit that’s exactly what you want to do, now can I?  You are not playing fair, Doctor Earth.

And Space Colonisation.  Let’s not forget that.  Not that I have anything against space colonisation.  I hope I live to see it.  But we’re still working to re-open our rail link, Andrew.  One step at a time, huh?  First stop Bramley Line.  All change at Alpha Centauri.

His website also offers other insights into the new UKIP candidate for part of the Fens.  He believes “there is no greater privilege in life than being a free thinker. Having a mind liberated from ideology, vested interest and peer pressure”.

Well he’s right about that.  Owning one thousand houses will go a long way towards letting you spend your days dreaming about underground residential development and space colonisation.  Meanwhile, everybody else just wants to be able to pay the household bills.  I’m not sure about being “free from vested interest.”  I’d imagine, on issues of housing, somebody who owns one thousand houses might have at least a little vested interest.  Call me crazy.

He also says he is devoted to protecting indigenous tribes and spent time with the Dayak tribe in Kalimantan of Indonesian Borneo.

This is nice.  But he also claimed to have a degree which reportedly turned out to be fake, and a professorship at an unaccredited academic institution.  He said he was a qualified barrister-at-law and a Fellow of the Royal Society of arts.  Claims he later decided to remove.  He said he held a: “PhD in the parallels between Plato’s Utopia and Spartan Society.”  Which is lovely, if it’s true, but has limited use in resolving the challenges of Mid Level Drains or Market Town regeneration.  He’s certainly a fascinating and very imaginative chap, and there’s something to be said for that if you want to be a poet, or a storyteller.  But, last I saw, there were not very many members of the Dayak tribe residing in Chatteris or Manea.  Nor will there ever likely be if UKIP were elected and their rhetoric about immigration fully enforced.

Mr Charalambous says at the same time he is “fascinated by the possibilities inherent in human potential, believing that the unfolding of quantum physics, nanotechnology, robotics, environmental innovation and information technology can lead humanity to a new golden global order**”.

Quantum physics.  Nonatechnology.  Robotics.  “Environmental innovation.”  All of which, under the wise and guiding hand of Doctor Earth presumably, will lead to a “new golden global order.”  All he needs is a stainless steel facemask and a green cloak and he can dump the nickname “Doctor Earth” and “evolve into a new paradigm” himself.



*The use of the term “The Sinister” before Doctor Earth is my addition, for the purposes of colourful dialogue.

**  Here are some other people who also want to create a new golden global order.   Not so funny now, is it?



Of all the things I have been involved in since I became a local Councillor, the long situation involving the Town Clerk was the most unpleasant.

It was unpleasant for a number of reasons.

First of all because I frankly didn’t get into local politics to be involved in staff H.R., nor to chair Disciplinary Committees, nor to have to consider the future of people’s careers.  It was pretty darn horrible, actually.  But Town Councils must fill their committees and take these decisions with a limited number of voluntary individuals and somebody has to do the various things which need doing.

It was horrible because none of us – with the possible exception of Cllr Mrs. Bucknor – had extensive experience in how to deal with a situation like this.  We just had to do the best we could, taking advice we hoped was good advice from experts, and to try and remain fair and impartial.

Meanwhile, stories were appearing in the local newspapers which made us look terrible – but we could not respond because all the legal advice we were getting was to say nothing that might in any way lead to accusations that could be seen as skewing the ongoing investigations and, later on, the case.  All we could do was watch as council officers put out very bland press statements which did nothing to counter some of what was being said.

When the case finally made it to the Disciplinary Committee, which I Chaired, the three Councillors who heard the case all did our best to listen impartially and fairly.   We had no grudge against the Town Clerk and just wanted to try and handle the matter in an honest and straightforward way.  If we had found insufficient evidence we would indeed have thrown the whole thing out.  Indeed, we threw out two of the five issues as we felt there was not sufficient evidence.  But by the end of the Disciplinary Committee it is fair to say that we thought the case fairly cut-and-dried because the Clerk openly admitted to all three of the remaining accusations.

When it came to decide what to advise the Council to do, we did not take this decision lightly and considered a range of options, but we felt that gravity of charges sufficient to advise summary dismissal.   We put this to the meeting of Town Council that evening and it was agreed, unanimously by all Councillors.  The Clerk was summarily dismissed.

The ex-Town Clerk then appealed and the Appeals Committee, Chaired by David Wheeler, found no grounds to agree an appeal.  This was again put to Town Council and again unanimously agreed by all Councillors.

The ex-Clerk then appealed to a Tribunal for unfair dismissal and we had the long wait for that to reach court.  When it finally did, the Councillors involved had to give up most of a full week to attend and give evidence.  Again, we were all unpaid volunteers, but we just had to do this because it needed doing.  When it was my turn in front of the tribunal I was questioned, vigorously, for a full day.  It was, without doubt, one of the most mentally draining experiences of my life.  Anybody who doubts this should spend eight hours being cross-examined by an experienced barrister in front of an audience, an ex-Clerk and three tribunal officials (one of whom is a judge) while they try and pull apart your evidence, from a document that is several hundred pages long and from events that happened a year or more ago.

I was very glad when it was over.  We all were, I think.

The judgment took a while coming and finally arrived today.   It’s pretty damning for the ex-Clerk in my view.  Various found unwarranted, incorrect or withdrawn are the claims of racism, whistleblowing, protected disclosures, constructive dismissal and the like.

His claim that I shouldn’t have Chaired the Disciplinary Committee?  The tribunal disagreed.

His contention that his Disciplinary Committee did not handle the matter fairly?  They say: “The conclusions that the panel reached about the facts of the charges against the claimant were sustainable on the evidence they had.”

His claim that the recommendation of the Committee was not proportionate?  They say: “The Respondent identified two types of gross misconduct under their disciplinary procedure that were relevant – gross negligence or incompetence and bringing the Respondent into disrepute.  The claimant advanced little or no mitigation and was not contrite.  The dismissal was not in any way caused by the protected disclosures that the Claimant has made out.  The reason or principle reason for it was the Claimant’s misconduct.”

It is the final paragraph of the report which spells it out the most clearly and this is it:

“We turn finally  to determine the issue of wrongful dismissal.  The Claimant claims that he should not have been summarily dismissed and is entitled to at least his notice pay.  We conclude that the summary dismissal was perfectly in order.  On the basis of the evidence that we have heard and read, we have reached the conclusion that the Claimant’s misconduct was sufficiently serious to be viewed as a repudiatory breach of his contract, justifying summary dismissal.  As we have already concluded, he was in a position of trust, and he should have known what was right and what was not in so far as storage of and access to data was concerned.  We have regard to the amount and the content of the material, and the risk to the Council both in terms of cost and reputation, which is an ongoing risk.  Is it not appropriate to make any award for notice pay in the circumstances.”

In my view this was a solid decision and a just and fair result.  The decisions of the Committee I chaired, of the Appeals Committee Cllr Wheeler Chaired and of the Town Council as a whole are vindicated.  The decision to dismiss the ex-Clerk was fully supported, as was the gravity and seriousness of the charges against him.  Almost every claim made by the Clerk was thrown out, as were most of his claims for costs and damages.  The small amount he has been awarded are covered by the Town Council’s insurance and will cost the taxpayer nothing at all.

This draws a long and difficult period to a close.  I hope to never have to deal with anything quite like it again.  I wish Mr Murat all the best in whatever he decides to do next and hope that if I encounter him again, it will be under less difficult circumstances.