Monday, 11 May 2015

Stand Down Thanet Stand Up To UKIP

Thanet’s  self-appointed UKIP opposition, the Stand Uppers, have made the astonishing  claim that it was they who “inflicted a magnificent defeat on Farage”. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I thought it was 2,812 Tory voters who “inflicted a magnificent defeat on Farage” not the Stand Uppers. Indeed I would argue that the Stand Uppers were partly responsible for inflicting “a magnificent defeat on Labour”. Their vociferous, persistently negative, anti-Farage focused campaigning is said, by many, to have alienated lots of electors and actually served to increase right of centre voting in Thanet, rather than reducing it.  Add to this Will Scobie’s “I’m from here” election slogan with its anti-immigrant, anti-from anywhere but Thanet, undertones;  Labour’s lacklustre national electioneering; its farcical tablets of stone;  and the grotesque  record of  Labour controlled Thanet  Council, then it’s clear to see why Labour’s share of the South Thanet Parliamentary vote plummeted  from 31% in 2010 election to 24%  this time around. And it’s not hard to understand  why UKIP secured a massive majority at Thanet Council.  To be brutally frank the Stand Uppers achieved nothing other than  “magnificent self-defeat”.

With a record like this, I would have packed up my trestle table and quietly gone home. But no! Not the Stand Uppers! Believing their own baseless propaganda to the truth the erstwhile Farage slayers now want to Stand Up To UKIP Thanet Councillors and presumably “inflict a magnificent defeat” on a council administration democratically elected, less than a week ago, by over 40% of those who voted.  Honestly this childish nonsense makes me feel like puking. Watching UKIP councillors “like a hawk and when they put a foot out place – step on it” is utter bollox!  This is the job of the Council’s Monitoring Officer; the  District Auditor, the Scrutiny Committee, the Standards Board; the democratically elected Labour and Conservative opposition groups; the Department of Communities and Local Government and

If you aim to challenge a UKIP council you do it by developing roots in the community and campaigning on issues like poverty, low pay; benefits sanctions; the shortage of social housing; poor education and health provision; which affect tens-of-thousands of people in Thanet.  You should also be campaigning about the threat to Thanet’s environment posed by Labour’s Local Plan; the  Parkway station;  the Airport CPO;  the threat to equality and human rights posed, not just by UKIP, but by Labour and the Tories as well and of course the desperate need for regeneration; job creation; and  proportional representation the absence of which  got us into this mess in the first place.

Playing the role of Thanet Council’s  self-appointed moral guardian just because  it’s a UKIP council is hardly likely to achieve anything, especially bearing mind that a UKIP council will be determined to prove  that it is  better managed; better behaved;  more open and transparent than its Labour-controlled predecessor. A task which to be honest will not be too difficult to achieve.

Most people know, but the Labour Party and its hangers-on on the left have forgotten, there is no shortcut to gaining electoral support, other than long and patient campaigning and practical support in the community. So Stand Down Stand Up say I.



Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Ramsgate: Labour Electoral Shenanigans?

On 1 May, Labour Councillor, Peter Campbell, posted on the Facebook page “We Love Ramsgate” about the controversial O’Regan proposals to locate a concrete block manufacturing facility at the port. He said  “I can inform all those who love Ramsgate that the potential O'Regan application has failed to meet TDC's stringent requirements and therefore any future application will be denied. This information has been confirmed by TDC leader Iris Johnson. Cllr Peter Campbell”   When I asked him for clarification he posted the following “My proof is a mail I have received from Iris Johnson who tells me of the outcome of TDC's diligence, which convinced TDC and the CE not to progress with this Application”.

These seemingly innocuous postings by Councillor Campbell’s on the We Love Ramsgate Facebook page have caused me some concern. For those of you who don’t know, the pronouncements of politicians and council officers during a local government election period are tightly regulated by what are called “purdah rules”. These rules aim to ensure that that the Council’s governing  political party, in this case  the Labour Party,  do not abuse their privileged access to council decision making  processes, publicity, or officer time etc. to gain an unfair   political advantage over their opponents . In other words Purdah rules try to control the advantages of incumbency allowing for a fairer election.

Councillors were issued with a briefing note about the Purdah rules on 10 April. Amongst other things the note said that councillors are prohibited from using council resources for political purposes, or “attempting to use their position to confer on any person as advantage or disadvantage”. The rules go on to say  that although normal council business (service delivery and decision making) will continue during the election period  these process should not be manipulated by anyone for party political or candidate purposes. To avoid this happening the rules say that items of business that are politically controversial, such as the O’Regan proposals, should be dealt with after the election.

As most people in Ramsgate know, the O’Regan proposals are very controversial. A public meeting held in January was attended by at least 300 people. A petition is circulating which has attracted over 1,500 signatures and there has been lots of comment in the newspapers and social media about this matter. By announcing that the Council has conducted a due diligence process and decided to reject the O’Regan proposals Councillor Campbell, appears to me, to have broken Purdah rules. First any decision about a controversial issues such as this should have been announced by a senior council officer who would be seen as being politically neutral. Instead the announcement was made be a well-known Ramsgate Labour Councillor which must surely confer a political advantage to Labour’s election candidates. Second Councillor Campbell says he learned of this decision from an e-mail from the Labour Leader of the Council. Iris Johnston. If this is true why didn’t Iris Johnston notify all councillors about the decision? I have double checked my e-mails and have received nothing from her. This suggests to me the possibility that Iris Johnston may have used “inside information” acquired in her role as council leader to tip off her Labour colleagues who could then spread the good news and gain electoral credit. I hasten to add that this is speculation on my part which could only be stood up by an investigation. Finally, if the Council has carried out some form of due diligence on a controversial matter close to an election then surely it has broken its own purdah rules which advise that sensitive decisions are left until after the election. Conversely, if the due diligence was conducted a while ago, why wasn’t the result communicated to all councillors at the time? Either way, if Councillor Campbell’s statement is true then someone somewhere has a lot of explaining to do.

But this is not the first time during this election we have
Ramsgate Green Party Candidates Support an Open  and Honest Council.
witnessed Ramsgate Labour Party engaging in what appear to be less than honest vote influencing shenanigans . Just last week I posted an article on my blog about the Ramsgate  Labour election leaflet which claimed that a £3million payment, to be made by builders Cardy,  for the purchase of the seafront Pleasurama site  will be ploughed back into Ramsgate. The publication of the alleged sale price figure is likely to have been a serious breach of confidentiality by the Ramsgate Labour Party. An investigation is now under way and the Ramsgate Labour Party has been ordered to stop distributing the controversial leaflet. I only hope and trust we do not  now see a  “last minute” leaflet proclaiming, in breach of the Purdah rules, that  it was the Council’s Labour  Leadership which gave O’Regan the bums rush from the port of Ramsgate. Either way one thing is for certain the Labour Party in Ramsgate  have a lot of questions to answer about what some people might believe to be their abuse of   power during an election period. This  situation has the whiff of an uncleansed public convenience about it.
If you want honesty, openness and transparency in public life Vote Green. We have zero tolerance of political corruption, secrecy and party political electoral manipulation. We ain to clean up Thanet Council's dysfunctional and toxic culture.

Here is an e-mail I have sent to the Council Monitoring Officer about the alleged Purdah rules breaches

Dear Mr Boyle

On 1st May Councillor Campbell made the following statments on the We Love Ramsgate facebook page

"I can inform all those who love Ramsgate that the potential O'Regan application has failed to meet TDC's stringent requirements and therefore any future application will be denied. This information has been confirmed by TDC leader Iris Johnson.
Cllr Peter Campbell" and "Ian, I have in previous posts referred to a potential application, this is the case. The details of that application were announced by the O'Regan Group at a local public meeting I called, at Chatham House School, in order to let the residents know of this potential horrendous industrial process. My proof is a mail I have received from Iris Johnson who tells me of the outcome of TDC's diligence, which convinced TDC and the CE not to progress with this Application."This statement appears to me be contrary to the written advice about  purdah which you provided to councillors a while ago. In particular  it would appear that Councillor Campbell is seeking to secure an advantage for himself or other labour candidates by making an announcement about an extremely controversial matter just days before the election.
If what councillor Campbell says is true then why  has the leader of the council failed to notify all councillors, irrespective of  party, of this important development  relating to a very controversial issue. By not alerting all councillors then the leader/ councillor Campbell  has used her/ his  position to confer advantage to Labour Councillors and candidates.
Further if Councillor Campbell's statements are  true why has the Chief Executive failed to inform councillors of the  due diligence process she has allegedly carried out in relation into the O'Regan proposal. Also  the guidance you issued on Purdah stated that the council should avoid taking decisions on controversial issues such as the O'Regan proposal which has prompted a major public outcry and much media/ social media  speculation . Could you confirm whether or not Councillor Campbell's statement that a due diligence has indeed be carried out by Council officers; when this process was carried out; and why councillors have not been advised  about the process and its outcome. Finally, I am reliably informed that the Labour Party are planning to produce a last minute election leaflet about the O'Regan proposal. If this is true the it would be a clear breach of Purdah rules as information obtained from the Council Leader or Chief Executive which has not been provided to other non-labour  councillors will be used to secure an advantage for Labour councillors / candidates. 

In my opinion what is happening here is a clear and improper abuse power for  Labour's electoral advantage. I attach copies of JPEG files which cover the conversations related to this issue on the We Love Thanet  facebook page.

Yours sincerely Ian Driver