20 October 2014

Week 44 2014

Tendring Topics……..on line

The Ukippers!

            I was not surprised (though I was disappointed) that Douglas Carswell now a Ukipper, retained his seat in parliament with a comfortable majority at Clacton’s recent by-election.  Douglas Carswell had undoubtedly been a popular MP and in the few weeks before the election we had been deluged with literature telling us what a wonderful chap he was.  There was door-step canvassing, cold-calling on the phone and a couple of well-attended public meetings addressed by Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, as well as by the successful candidate.

            Despite all this it seems that some Clactonians were a bit confused even up to and beyond polling day.  One resident is reported as having said ‘Yes, I voted for Ukip this time – our Conservative MP has done nothing for years!’

            Did you see BBC’s Panorama feature on Nigel Farage and Ukip last week?  One thing that did surprise me was to learn how many people had held senior positions within Ukip and had apparently been close friends of its leader, until there had been a falling-out and they had parted with some acrimony.  I wonder if the apparent close friendship between him and Douglas Carswell is similarly fated.  I was also astonished to learn how many thousands of pounds Farage had claimed from the EU in expenses – and how rarely he had bothered to attend the EU parliament. 

 I wasn’t particularly surprised at a revelation of his lack of common courtesy. I had noted the rudeness of all Ukippers in  the European Parliament in standing up and deliberately turning their backs on the  playing of the European Anthem but I hadn’t realized how very rude, boorish and (he’d probably laugh at the word) ungentlemanly Nigel Farage himself can be on occasion. It was really embarrassing to watch him on tv, deliberately and without provocation insulting the European President, an older man than Farage and more distinguished than he will ever be.   

I had hoped that our MP, Douglas Carswell, former Conservative now Ukipper, might prove to be quite different in that respect.  I certainly hadn’t associated him with lack of courtesy – though he didn’t apparently have any qualms about displacing the recently democratically elected UKIP parliamentary candidate for the Clacton Constituency, when he decided to defect from the Conservatives and contest the seat as a Ukipper.  The elected candidate, Mr Lord, a UKIP county councillor and a local farmer, didn’t take kindly to the usurpation.  He resigned in anger from the Party and from the county council.     

Sir Bob Russell, Colchester’s Lib.Dem. MP was mildly surprised when the Chief Whip, Michael Gove, phoned him on Saturday 11th October to say that Mr Carswell had invited him to be one of his sponsors when he made his debut in the House of Commons as a Ukipper.  Sir Bob told a Gazette reporter, ‘He held me in high regard as an Essex MP although I have expressed critical words about him and Ukip’.  However, when Sir Bob arrived at the House of Commons on Monday 13th October he learned that there had been a change of plan. Former colleagues Sir Peter Tapsell and Zac Goldsmith were to accompany Mr Carswell into the chamber.  Sir Bob withdrew, though not before commenting that it showed, ‘astonishing pomposity’. 

An unfortunate muddle caused by mistaken underlings?  Perhaps, or is our born-again-as-a-ukipper MP a quick learner who realized what his new loyalty demanded of him?   

What of the future?

          A friend of mine is convinced that the current popularity of Ukip and of Nigel Farage is fleeting; that by the time of the general election next May electors will have realized where their true loyalties lie.  Ukip’s glory, and that of Nigel Farage will fade away and it’ll be a straight fight between Conservative and Labour.   I very much hope that that is so, because I believe that Ukip and its leader are dangerous.

            Meanwhile Nigel Farage is convinced that the tidal wave of public opinion in support of Ukip is unstoppable. He is already making plans for action when Ukip holds the balance between what we think of as ‘the main parties’.  In the meantime he’s delighted that there is a proposal that he will be asked to take part in at least one (he’d prefer two!) of the pre-election political leaders’ debates. It may well be that that could prove to be his downfall because although Farage performs brilliantly before a friendly audience I’m not at all sure that he’s capable of answering convincingly, hostile or even neutral questioning on either the details, or the broad sweep, of Ukip’s policies and the direction in which they would take the UK.   

            I find it extraordinary that the debates will be between the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties with the leader of Ukip taking part in at least one of them. Why hasn’t Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party been invited?  The Greens are offering a real alternative to the tired old policies of the Tories and Labour.  Ukip doesn’t offer an alternative – their programme simply fulfils the secret wishes of the extreme right-wing of the Conservatives as Labour defectors are likely to find out if ever Ukip gains real power.

            The Green Party stands for a more equal Britain, with a National Health Service in public hands for the benefit of the many – not a source of profit for the few; for free education and affordable homes for all. They oppose welfare cuts and believe that public services should be in public hands.  Come to think of it, that’s what we returning servicemen and women thought we were getting when we elected Clem Attlee’s government in 1945.   In those days, of course, we didn’t realize the importance of replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy, another Green priority.

            And the Greens are growing. Like Ukip, they have just one member in the House of Commons but in the European parliament they are a force to be reckoned with. Did you know that 1.2 million people in the UK voted Green in May this year – 150,000 more than voted for the Liberal Democrats.  In our own Clacton by-election the Green Party Candidate – with minimal expenditure on his campaign, pushed the Liberal Democrat candidate into ignominy in fifth place! Yet Nick Clegg is offered a place in those pre-election debates and Natalie Bennett isn’t.   I voted Conservative in that by-election because I thought that the Conservative candidate stood the best chance of denying victory to Ukip.  And I think he might have had the local Conservatives campaigned with the same energy and enthusiasm as the Ukippers.

            Should I still be around for next year’s election I shall vote Green.  The Green candidate is unlikely to be elected in Clacton-on-Sea but every vote cast for him will add to the total number of Green votes nationally.  If you’re disillusioned with the traditional political parties and are seeking an alternative – don’t vote Ukip.  You’ll regret it if they ever do rule Britain.  Vote Green!

Dear Blog readers…..

          I took early retirement from the local government service in 1980, a few days before my 59th birthday. I then embarked on a new career as a freelance writer.  Among many other things I contributed ‘Tendring Topics’ to a local newspaper every week for 23 years.  It was a weekly comment mostly on local and regional affairs though occasionally I wrote about the wider scene.

            In 2003 a new editor wrote to me saying that Tendring Topics was no longer required.  I was summarily dismissed.  I was very hurt at the time, as I had acquired a large and appreciative readership.  However, like so many apparent disasters in my life, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Very shortly after that my wife, whose health had been deteriorating, fell and broke her hip.  She never regained her ability to walk and during the next two years she became more and more disabled.  During those two years I didn’t write a word, read a newspaper or listen to the news on tv or radio.  I was her full-time sole carer and really had neither time nor inclination to do anything else.

            On 12th July 2006 my wife’s life came to an end.  She was 82, I was 85. Three months earlier we had celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary and had received a congratulatory card from the Queen.  Her death left a gaping, and aching, hole in my life that I attempted to fill with activity.  My grandsons helped.  Christopher, the elder, arranged for me to have a Flickr site on which I have posted hundreds of photographs (www.flickr.com/photos/ernestbythesea)  Nick, my younger grandson, is a computer expert and now runs his own successful international Digital Travel Publicity Consultancy (www.se1media.com)   He organised at first my blogspot (www.ernesthall.blogspot.com ) and later my website (www.ernesthall.net) on both of which I have published week by week Tendring Topics …on line  for the past seven years.

            I am now 93 and am feeling my age.  I fear that my writing has become stale and repetitive and I often find myself consulting Google for information that, even a few months ago, had been stored in my head.  I don’t propose to stop writing the blog altogether but I won’t be publishing it regularly every week.  Nor will I feel that I have to write quite such a long blog as has been my custom.  I will continue to support the causes that I think are important: nuclear disarmament; a United Europe; narrowing that yawning gap between the rich and the poor; proportional representation in parliament; a comprehensive reorganisation of the taxation system so that all of us – rich and poor alike – pay  an equal percentage of our gross income  as income tax or, as I prefer to think of it, our annual subscription to British citizenship - and I shall continue to promote my Christian/Quaker Faith!   I thank all blog readers for your interest in my ideas.

13 October 2014

Week 42 2014

Tendring Topics…….on line

Some thoughts on the ‘world wide Jihad’

          A regular blog-reader and correspondent also always watches the Andy Marr programme on BBC tv on Sunday mornings, in which matters of general importance to us all are discussed.  A recent programme inspired him to give serious thought to what is an increasingly important and urgent world problem.  Below, unedited, is the greater part of an email that he sent me.  There’s certainly ‘naught for your comfort’ in it: 

There was a lot of debate also about ISIS and about a major piece of investigation in the Sunday Times about the huge sums of money that wealthy and influential people in Qatar and Saudi Arabia are giving to ISIS.   It really is terrifyingly clear that no one knows what to do about “the problem” which is not really an ”ISIS problem” but is a global problem of Islamic militancy which is definitely a movement, not a single state or a single organisation or a single person.  No amount of decapitating the leaders, blowing up their hardware from the air or rhetoric at the UN is going to make any difference.  Almost any military action only serves to help them recruit more followers, and make it more likely that people already living in western countries will conduct mindless acts of suicidal terrorism.  Their total contempt for the western way of life – and by association all westerners – makes them very dangerous. It means that nothing is out of bounds, no rules of warfare will be respected, all civilians are legitimate targets and as they don’t seek personal gain (not in this world at any rate), then any attack could be suicidal and would be contemplated, even if the chance of “success” were very low.

Somehow, I think we need to go back to first principles and ask how two cultures have become so far apart in their fundamental thinking about the way society should be organised.  I think that many of the views Muslims have today, would have been much closer to the views of our Victorian ancestors.  There is a big issue about the role of women in society. Perhaps we should be more concerned than we are about the overt sexualisation of women in just about every walk of western life, in your face on TV, in music, in advertising.  The reaction to all of this in the Muslim world seems to be to go in the opposite direction – “protecting their girls” – from what, I suspect, even moderate Muslims regard as evil.

Did you read about the girl who has been turned down by Camden High School for Girls for wanting to wear a full face veil in class?  The school (it is a 6th form college) has no uniform policy, but felt that this was “inappropriate clothing”. Naturally, she felt her human rights had been abused (having been taught all about the virtues of freedom of expression and tolerance in a Western Society) and commented that many girls were wearing “inappropriate clothing” at that school such as “very short shorts” and no one minded that. It is – to me at least – ridiculous for any girl to wear a veil at school, but is it any more ridiculous than girls wearing erotic clothing – as I have seen at local schools in London for myself?  In our local school here, which is very mixed race, all the Muslim girls come wearing the hijab over their heads, and modest clothing – generally trousers. Indian girls also dress modestly while the others, particularly White and Afro Caribbean girls wear the shortest skirts they can get away with to complement their designer handbags, and during the holidays are generally seen wearing beach-ware in the local park.  Funnily enough the boys – of all races and religions – mainly take a delight in showing their contempt for authority, by wearing their Uniform in as dishevelled a manner as they can get away with.

Well, I said there was naught for your comfort.   I have to say that if I were a teacher I wouldn’t want to teach anyone whose face I couldn’t see – and I probably wouldn’t even notice the short shorts. (well, perhaps I would if I were half a century younger!)  Come to that, if I were to be attended by a checkout lady at a supermarket or a receptionist at any office, whose face was veiled, it would be the last time I would go there.  That’s not Islamophobia.   I have no objection whatsoever to the headscarf, but I do like to see the expression on the face of whoever is addressing me or to whom I am talking. 

My correspondent’s comments about opposing values and outlooks explain how it is that the jihadists gain recruits from ‘western countries’ but doesn’t suggest any easy – or even difficult - remedies.

It did occur to me how very important it is that the jihadists should never get their hands on any of the nuclear weapons that we know Pakistan possesses.  Those ‘ultimate deterrents’ on our Trident submarines aren’t going to deter those who regard their own death while killing infidels as providing them with a first-class ticket to a Muslim Paradise!

Sunny Clacton-on-Sea makes the headlines!

It is an unfortunate fact that if ever Clacton-on-Sea features in the headlines of the popular press and is referred to in a television news programme, it won’t be about our town’s holiday attractions – our usually dry and sunny weather, our safe and sandy beaches, our colourful public gardens and our lively pier.  It’ll be about something that the Council, and all who wish our town well, would prefer remained unpublicised.  

From 1973 to 1980 I was Tendring District Council’s first Public Relations Office (Spin Doctor) and on several occasions since then I have been thankful that I have now been retired from that post for over thirty years; never more so than a week or so ago when the illustration,and comment below appeared on the front page of the local daily Gazette.

It seems that ‘Banksy’, undoubtedly the world’s best known graffiti artist had visited Clacton, no doubt listened to Clactonian chatter in shops and pubs, and had left a souvenir of his visit on the wall of a public building.   It is a powerful satire depicting five indignant pigeons bearing anti-immigrant and racist posters (the sort associated with the BNP and English Defence League) directed at a solitary African swallow.

Now ‘Banksy’ originals are extremely valuable possessions.  It might have been expected that the Council would have been delighted to have found it and would have explored ways of making the most of it.  I would have suggested finding some way of protecting it from vandals and then advertising it as one of Clacton’s tourist attractions:   Come to Clacton-on-Sea for sand, sea and sun – and an original ‘Banksy’ art work!   And under that satirical cartoon have the Council’s own comments.  How about: but that’s for bird-brains. Clacton-on-Sea welcomes holiday visitors from all over the world!

But the Council didn’t do anything like that.  Someone reported that a picture with ‘racist’ words had been painted on Council property and with what, under practically any other circumstances would have been commendable alacrity, the order was given that it should be erased – and erased it was.  I defy any spin-doctor to put a ‘positive spin’ on that particular news story!  Perhaps the Council should be pleased that the by-election, with its Ukip victory, drove the story out of the news bulletins – though the uncharitable thought did enter my head that the bird-brains had won – and now had their own representative at Westminster.

An Uncertain Future

            I had thought it likely that Douglas Carswell would win the Clacton-on-Sea by-election – if only because the Ukip election campaign made those of the other candidates look like the products of well-meaning but bungling amateurs.  I had at least twelve printed communications from Ukip, each full of confidence and enthusiasm, plus a door-step canvasser and an eager phone call.  From the others I received one or two lack-lustre leaflets, and that was all.  I dislike Ukips attitudes and policies so much that I cannot bring myself to say that they deserved to win – but all the others certainly deserved to lose.

            A few weeks ago I considered in this blog the then remote possibility of a Ukip/Conservative coalition government after the General Election – with Ukip gradually controlling the coalition.    What then was a fanciful idea now seems a distinct possibility.  I am reminded, once again, of the progress of the Nazi Party in Germany in the thirties. The NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) began by being a smallish party of ‘fruitcakes’ but with a charismatic leader, then they were a growing force that could be controlled and manipulated – and who finally, almost overnight so it must have seemed, took over and ruled with a rod of iron.    Don’t let it happen here.


06 October 2014

Week 41 2014

Tendring Topics….on Line

Coping with Islamic State

            So now we are officially ‘at war’ with IS (Islamic State) with our aircraft already striking IS targets but with the promise that there will be no ‘boots on the ground’.  This may slow down Islamic State’s progress but I don’t think it will stop it; much less reverse it.  Its principal effect will probably be to recruit more enthusiastic young people from the UK and no doubt, from other ‘western’ countries, into the IS ranks.  Now, so it seems, British teenage girls are making for Turkey as the first step towards becoming brides of their IS heroes in Syria!  It’s strange (well perhaps it isn’t) that we never hear of young people travelling to Syria to help those ‘moderate forces’ opposing President Assad that the UK and the USA are so eager to support.

            I heard on the tv a few days ago an ‘authority’ on Middle Eastern matters declare that the IS uprising is a result of Britain’s failure a year ago to take decisive action against President Assad.  This, so he said, had enabled President Assad’s army to defeat the ‘moderate opposition’ and leave the extreme jihadists in control. What rubbish!  Does he really imagine that if Assad had been overthrown, those moderates would have prevailed over IS?   On the contrary, without Assad, his army and the substantial number of Syrians who remain loyal to him, IS would probably now be ruling the whole of Syria

            The Iraqi army has proved woefully unable to halt the IS advance.  The Kurds have been more successful but they are not a national army and the Turks are unwilling to let them have the heavy weapons they need, because of their fear that they might be used to create an independent Kurdistan – part of which would be part of what is now Turkey!  The only effective national army in the Middle East, experienced and hardened in battle with Islamic State, is that of President Assad.  It is time we made our peace with him and accepted him as an ally.

            No doubt the pre-civil war Assad regime had its faults (what Middle Eastern regime hasn’t?) but it was an oasis of freedom and tolerance compared with some of those whom we now claim to be our friends.  Saudi Arabia in particular is the source of the poisonous doctrines that IS puts into practice.  The overwhelming majority of those known to be responsible for the 9/11 outrage were from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia regularly abuses human rights in much the same way as IS, but only on its own people.  Half its population (the women) are regarded as the property of members of the other half!   I have little doubt that IS’ initial funding came from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  Now, of course, IS doesn’t need outside funding.  They have enriched themselves from their conquests in Syria and Iraq.

 A regular blog reader points out in an email that IS, unlike Hitler and his Nazis, is part of a militant movement that is sweeping the globe.  The Archbishop of Canterbury accurately described it as a ‘many headed Hydra’. Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has the same motivation and the same objectives as the Islamic jihadists who abducted, and still hold, those Christian teenage girls in Nigeria; those who constantly threaten the government of Pakistan, who are fighting for control of Libya, and who are likely to take over Afghanistan as soon as the last GI leaves.

I am reluctant to criticise Obama and Cameron for authorising air strikes on IS targets.  I am sure that they have done so reluctantly and that they are both well aware of the risk of their countries being dragged into a third ‘Gulf War’.  I really have no idea of what their course of action should be.  My blog-reading email correspondent clearly feels the same.  ‘I don’t think we can stand idly by and let these people take ever more and more land, forcing completely peaceful populations out of their towns and villages and murdering anyone who opposes them.  I feel that the priority should have been the defence of the innocent and humanitarian relief – and that does need boots on the ground.  Surely we have the hardware to put a ring of steel around these villages and keep the enemy at bay without getting deeply involved.  It can’t be right for all the Kurds to have to move into refugee camps in Turkey’.

No, of course it isn’t.  My knowledge of military tactics is (to say the least) extremely limited – but I am sure that it wouldn’t be possible to defend all those vulnerable towns and villages as my correspondent suggest. I don’t think we should underestimate the fanaticism and determination of these jihadists. National boundaries mean nothing to them.  If they successfully drove all the Kurds out of Iraq and into Turkey they’d drive on into Turkey!

I am just a little disappointed at the reaction to Islamic State of the majority of peaceful and moderate Muslims in the UK and Western Europe. Imams have condemned the actions of IS as unislamic but -  where are the angry street demonstrations and demands for a fatwa that were provoked by Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ and the cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper?  As well as increasing Islamophobia in the ‘western world’ and providing encouragement to members of such Neofascist organisations as BNP, English Defence League and some Ukippers, it is surely the ultimate blasphemy to suggest that the torture and slaughter of any of his human children is in accordance with the will of God.

I had been persuaded that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and that jihad doesn’t really mean a ‘Holy War’ but the inner struggle within us all against the forces of evil.  The members of Islamic State and other similar organisations worldwide are doing their best to persuade me (and thousands of others) otherwise.

‘Ring of Steel’

My email correspondent’s  use of the phrase Rings of Steel to protect non-Islamic communities in Iraq and Syria from the fury of the Islamic State, reminded me that Ring of Steel was the headline on the front page of the weekly Clacton Gazette on Thursday 25th September.  A sub-heading announced that Special Branch, undercover police and sniffer dogs are to be drafted into Clacton in a huge security operation for the town’s high-profile by-election on 9th October – a fortnight away as that particular Gazette was published.  If I publish this blog on the internet on Monday 6th October as I intend, it will be just three days away. 

A news article within the Gazette points out that this by-election will have the highest profile in English political history and its announcement has come just as the country is put on a heightened state of alert against possible terrorist threats.  Police say that there is no known terrorist threat in Clacton but electoral organisers are taking no chances.  Ian Davidson, Tendring Council’s Chief Executive and Returning Officer for the Clacton By-election, told a Gazette reporter that, ‘This election is massive in terms of attention and national politics – the spotlight is on Clacton politically.  We have been in touch with Special Branch and the Police because there are potential security issues and we are taking every precaution to make sure it is a safe and secure count.  We have never had Special Branch at an election before. There is no information of a specific security threat, but we are taking every precaution because of the national and international profile of the by-election’.

Tendring’s district police commander, Chief Inspector Russ Cole said that local police officers would be visiting polling stations throughout the day and there would be a police presence at the count.  ‘We are very much driven by intelligence, and the intelligence we are looking at says there are no major public disorder or counter-terrorist issues but we want to make sure we have enough policing assets’.

I don’t know whether or not my experience has been shared by others but it saddens me that have to say that Ukip and Douglas Carswell have dominated the election campaign.  I have lost count of the number of items of  election literature I have received telling me what a wonderful chap Carswell is, how fortunate we are to have had him as our MP and how important it is that he should be re-elected (but this time as a Ukipper) at the by-election.   These have included leaflets, posters to stick in my window and two apparently personal letters one that addresses me as ‘Dear Ernest’ and the other as ‘Dear Neighbour’.  Douglas Carswell and I have never even met and are certainly not on ‘first name terms’. I have no idea where ‘Dear Douglas’ lives but I’m quite sure it isn’t in my neighbourhood.  I have also had a Ukip doorstep canvasser call on me and among the junk phone calls I had yesterday (1st October) was a lady urging me to put a cross against Carswell’s name on the 9th.

Of the other contestants, I have received election leaflets from the Labour, Conservative and Lib’Dem candidates plus a phone call on behalf of the Labour candidate.  And that’s it.  Ukip, it seems, has unlimited funds and lots of eager volunteer supporters.  The others haven’t.

 Ukip’s policies embody everything that I most dislike in politics.  I don’t like their attitude towards Europe, towards global climate change, towards ‘green’ issues generally and towards taxation.  The situation in the UK today, with a great many people (including myself) having lost faith in any of the traditional political parties, is uncomfortably like that in Germany in the late 1920s early ‘30s.  They sought a politician who distrusted politics and offered an alternative path.  They found such a politician in Adolf Hitler.  We’re in danger of finding one in Nigel Farage.

I have a postal vote and have already used it.  For the first time in my life I voted for the Conservative candidate - not because I want him as an MP, but because he offers the best chance of keeping Ukip defector Douglas Carswell, out!





29 September 2014

Week 40 2014

 Tendring Topics…….on line

‘Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we’ll keep the red flag……

          …….tucked away safely out of sight’.   That seems to be the message of Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, at the Labour Party Conference.  Mr Balls appears to be determined to demonstrate that he’ll behave ‘responsibly’ with public money if Labour wins next year’s General Election.  He proposes to do this by emulating the policies of George Osborne with just one or two differences.  He is just as obsessed with reducing ‘the deficit’ as Mr Osborne and just as determined ‘to reduce government expenditure to do so’. 

 No, the government expenditure he has in mind is not the £100 billion pounds ring-fenced for those totally useless and vastly expensive Trident submarines pointlessly patrolling the high seas.  He is going to freeze increases in children’s allowances and, to prove that he really is the friend of working people, he’s going to remove the entitlement to winter fuel allowance of the wealthiest pensioners, reinstate the tiny tax increase on the incomes of the very highest earners, and impose a ‘mansion tax’ on the owners of stately homes valued in excess of £2 million!  Oh yes – he’s also going to pursue those who avoid paying their due amount of income tax; but (while they’re out of office) they all say that don’t they?

 Both Labour, and the Greens (with whom I agree about most things), seem determined to tax the wealthy simply because that’s what they are.  The Green Party promises that in the unlikely event of their forming a government they’ll impose a special ‘wealth tax’ to relieve the wealthy of some of their fortune.  Everybody also seems to imagine that by raising the tax threshold of liability for income tax and taking increasing numbers of low-paid workers ‘out of the tax system altogether’, they are doing the poor a service. Raising that tax threshold helps all income taxpayers.  The only folk it doesn’t help are those whose income is so little that they are already outside the income tax system. Freeing more people from income tax liability reinforces the myth that there’s a large tax-free underclass supported by hard-working tax payers!  In fact every one of us pays taxes in VAT or customs duties virtually every time we buy goods or services, especially when we buy tobacco, alcohol, or petrol, and every time we buy lottery tickets. That’s one of the reasons why I have never bought a lottery ticket or scratch card!    People not liable to pay income tax, may pay a larger proportion of their income through these indirect taxes, than do some income tax payers.

 I believe that income tax should be regarded by every adult as his or her annual membership fee for the very considerable privilege of being a citizen of the United Kingdom. It should be paid by the very wealthiest and the very poorest.  What’s more, paying that subscription should impose exactly the same burden on each one of us.  This could be achieved by making it an equal percentage of every adult’s gross income (before any of it can be salted away in ‘charitable trusts’ or overseas investments).   I reckon that a tax (membership fee) of 20 percent of every adult’s gross income would probably meet virtually all the government’s financial needs.   The actual percentage could be calculated each year.

Obviously 20 percent of a billionaire’s income would be a considerable sum while 20 percent of the minimum wage or the job-seekers’ allowance would be very little.   That minimum wage or allowance would need to be raised, to enable even the poorest of us to pay the ‘membership subscription’ without being reduced to starvation or homelessness.  Then everyone, rich and poor alike, would have a stake in our country’s future and get rid of the myth that hard-working tax payers support an ‘idle poor’. ‘The rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate’ would be making an equal sacrifice.

Basing taxation on a percentage of total income may seem revolutionary but there’s nothing really original about it.  The Church at one time demanded ‘a tithe’ (one tenth, or 10 percent) of everyone’s gross income. That was quite reasonable in an age when the Church provided many of the services (education, relief of the poor and so on) that are now considered the responsibility of the State. In the public services negotiated pay increases are always a percentage of the existing salary.  Thus, the Chief Executive and the junior clerk get the same percentage salary increase though, in pounds and pence, the former gets many times more than the latter!  

Percentage taxation isn’t going to happen overnight or even in my lifetime; probably not in my sons’ or my grandchildren’s lifetimes either.  There’s one obvious measure that could be introduced here and now to reduce that deficit without causing hardship to anyone. It would also, at a stroke, reduce the anomaly of the wealthy receiving benefits that they don’t need, without the need to submit claimants to always-hated ‘means testing’. 

This would be to make all state ‘benefits’ taxable.  Our state retirement pension is added to any other income we may have and is subject to income tax.  Why on earth should other benefits be tax-free?  Other benefits that could be made taxable include winter fuel allowance, free tv licences, social security payments, attendance allowance  (I receive that because of my poor and deteriorating mobility), children’s allowances and so on.

Even with our present income tax system it would be much fairer to both poor and wealthy than at present.  Those whose total income, even with the benefit, came to less than the threshold of the lower tax rate would continue to pay no income tax.  They would be unaffected by benefit becoming taxable.  Those of us who are better off would pay according to our income but no one would have to pay more than the appropriate rate on their taxable income.  Income tax never resulted, nor ever can result, in either starvation or homelessness – no-one has to pay more than he or she can afford to pay. Of course, it would be much fairer if the threshold for the highest rate of income tax were to be lowered or if, as I have suggested, everyone paid income tax as a percentage of their gross income.

But that, at present, no political party is prepared to endorse.

‘The tongue is an unruly member’

Says St James in his New Testament Epistle.  I certainly agree with that. It has been my over-active tongue that has got me into trouble in the past.  There was the time when I was Tendring Council’s public relations officer and I told the Chairman of the Council that……………..  No I won’t reveal the extent of my idiocy, and it was a long time ago!  Their tongues have brought embarrassment to people much more important than me.   Only last week they did so to both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. I think that the Prime Minister really should have known better.  

On the occasion of a meeting of business men and women in New York, he was overheard remarking to a former mayor of that city that H.M. the Queen had ‘purred’ when he had phoned her with the result of the Scottish referendum, and that she had shown great relief at the fact that Scotland would not separate from the remainder of the UK.  One of the reasons why the British monarchy has survived among a sea of republics is that the Sovereign, as head of state, never expresses a political opinion.  She is the confidante of Prime Ministers and can advise them in the light of her much greater experience of the national scene – but the content of any conversation with her Prime Minister, of whatever political persuasion, is never revealed by her and should never be revealed by the Prime Minister.

It is true that the Prime Minister’s gaffe was part of a private conversation and never intended to become known by the general public. However, its content should never have been revealed to anyone, certainly not to a foreign politician.

Ed Miliband’s tongue’s failure was one of omission rather than commission. He gave a stirring ‘leader’s speech’ to the faithful gathered together at the Labour Party’s annual conference – the last such conference there’ll be before next year’s general election.  It was a speech all the more effective for the fact that he made it without notes. 

Now I’ve done quite a lot of public speaking (on much less important issues and to far smaller audiences) in my time and I have always tried to speak without notes.  There’s no doubt at all that it is the very best way to connect to, and hold, one’s audience.  Sadly, on my way home I’d often think ‘that went down well but – oh dear, I forgot to make this, that or the other point that was of particular importance’

I reckon that Ed Miliband must have been having very similar thoughts – possibly even before the applause had died away.   If there’s one thing that the public feel the Conservatives do better than their Labour opponents it’s managing the economy, in particular reducing that deficit – the gap between government expenditure and government income.  If there’s one issue that accounts for UKIP’s meteoric rise in public popularity it’s their strong opposition to overseas immigrants ‘pouring into this country, taking our jobs and bankrupting our public services’.   I think it likely that the Labour Party has policies on both these issues – but sadly Ed Miliband, perhaps carried away by his own rhetoric – had temporarily forgotten all about them.  They didn’t get a mention!

Ed Miliband’s error was surely much less culpable than that of David Cameron – but I think it likely that it will do him and his party more long-term harm.



22 September 2014

Week 39 2014

Tendring Topics…….on line

The Scottish Referendum

          When I switched on the tv to hear the news last Friday (19th September) I was just a little disappointed, but not really surprised, to learn that the No votes had outnumbered the Yes ones in the Scottish referendum that had taken place the previous day.  Faced with a decision in these precarious days we all tend to think better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.   The not-quite-decided voter in the voting booth is likely to think; Times are hard but my family and I are managing to survive under the present regime. Who knows whether we would under a different one?’   He or she would be likely to go on to reflect that the old regime was now offering many of the same benefits as those that the new regime was promising.  It is hardly surprising that several thousand of them, who possibly had thought seriously of voting Yes, changed their minds and voted No!

            There will be bitter disappointment today among those who had fought so hard, so long, and so hopefully for Scottish independence.  As I pointed out last week, the result of losing that referendum is unlikely to be as awful as they probably fear. Some of those who fought hard for rejection of Scottish Independence are already finding that victory has brought its problems.  How is the UK Government to fulfil those promises of greater autonomy for the Scots – and answer a demand for similar autonomy for the English?

            I don’t know.  Why is it, I wonder, that nationalism seems to come in an uglier form in England than in Scotland?  Our fervent nationalists seem to be full of hate for ‘the others’.  I don’t believe that the Scots were, or are, like that.  This morning on tv a black couple, who had lived in Scotland for many years, spoke of their love for Scotland and their sadness – but not bitterness – at the NO campaign's triumph.   I can’t imagine any black couple in England having any feelings for the BNP and the English Defence League  other than dislike and fear.

            I believe that the best course of action for the present Government would be to practise some of the ‘localism’ that they continually preach. They should restore to local authorities, whose election is every bit as democratic as that of the  House of Commons, some of the powers and authority (to run schools and colleges, to build homes for letting at reasonable rents and to let them to those in need, and to be adequately funded to provide local services) that they enjoyed in the 1930s, but of which they have been systematically robbed by governments of both main parties since the end o World War II.

And, finally, I have to say that I shall miss Alex Salmond from the political scene. He was one of the few politicians (perhaps indeed the only politician) to whom I could listen on the radio or tv without feeling a compelling urge to reach for the ‘off switch’!ouse of Commons,   H

        Eight Hopefuls

          The Scottish referendum may have made some of us forget that we in the Clacton-on-Sea area of North-East Essex have our own by-election on 9th October, less than three weeks away.  There are no less than eight candidates from which we are invited to choose our parliamentary representative – for seven months only.   A general election is to be held in May 2015 in which we will choose our MP for the next five years.  By deciding to defect from the Conservative Party to Ukip, and to resign his membership of the House of Commons, now – rather than postpone that decision until the General Election - our former MP has given us all  the hassle of a parliamentary by-election at an estimated cost of £100,000.  Value for money?

            We now know that on 9th October there will be no less than eight candidates hoping that we will vote for them, though there is little doubt that for four – possibly five – of them it will be a pretty forlorn hope.   In fact I think that the most they can hope for is that they won’t lose their deposits!   They are, in alphabetical order:

Douglas Carswell, Ukip    Andrew Graham Liberal-Democrat
Alan Howlin ‘Laud’ Hope, Monster Raving Loony Party,
Charlotte Rose, Independent, Bruce Sizer, Independent
Chris Southall, Green Party, Giles Watling, Conservative
Tim Young, Labour

            I think it very probable that Alan Howlin ‘Laud’ Hope, Charlotte Rose, Bruce Sizer, and Chris Southall will be heavily defeated and will probably lose their deposits.  I am sorry that the representative of the Green Party is almost certainly doomed to disappointment because that is the one national political party having a policy that I can endorse.  I fear though that in this constituency and in a first-past-the-post election their candidate hasn’t a hope of being elected at present.   I know little about the Independent candidates except that, according to the Clacton Gazette, Charlotte Rose describes herself as a high class courtesan, and is endeavouring to give us all ‘sexual freedom’ and protect and improve the status of ‘sex workers’.  I would hardly have thought that an area like ours, sometimes unkindly described  as ‘Costa Geriatrica’ was very promising ground for such a campaign!

            This by-election surely highlights the deficiencies of the ‘deposit’ system.  Until 2005, candidates for Parliamentary elections had to pay a deposit of £150 which was refunded to those who secured five percent or more of the total votes cast.  This was raised to £500 in 2005 with the intention of deterring frivolous, time-and-money wasting candidates.   It is clear that this only deters frivolous candidates of limited means.  Those who can lose £500 and just shrug their shoulders at the loss (and there are quite a few of those nowadays) aren’t in the least deterred.

            It would surely be more effective to abolish the deposit altogether and require that all candidates should be sponsored by say fifty registered electors of the constituency in which the election is to be held.  This would prevent truly frivolous candidatures while not deterring serious but not necessarily wealthy groups (supporters of the Green Party for instance) from competing.

            I think it likely that in our forthcoming election in the Clacton area, both independent candidates, the monster raving loony candidate, and probably the Green candidate will lose their deposits, and the Lib. Dem. candidate will be heavily defeated but will possibly not lose his.   Serious contenders will be the Labour Candidate Tim Young, our defecting MP Douglas Carswell now standing as a Ukip candidate, and the newly selected Conservative candidate, Giles Watling.

            Both Giles Watling and Tim Young are local men (one of Tim’s uncles was a colleague of mine in Clacton’s Housing Department way back in the early ‘70s). I think though that in a constituency that includes Frinton-on-Sea and where Douglas Carswell, as a Conservative Candidate, was elected with a majority of over 12,000, the real contest will be between Douglas Carswell and Giles Watling.  The candidate for whom I'd like to vote, Chris Southall the Green Party Candidate, really hasn’t a chance. I’m sorry to say that, in this by-election  a vote for him would be a vote wasted.

            I shall therefore vote for Giles Watling, not because I want him in the House of Commons but because he offers the best chance of keeping Douglas Carswell from becoming Ukip’s first British M.P.


15 September 2014

Week 38 2014

Tendring Topics ……….on line

Don’t tear our happy family apart!’

            That is the message that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties, took with them on their separate journeys to Scotland last week in a desperate attempt to boost the number of NO votes in the referendum to be held in that country on 18th September (only three days away as this blog is published!). This will decide whether or not Scotland becomes an independent nation or remains part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as it is at this moment.

            They have left it a little late. Over 150 years ago Benjamin Disraeli, destined to become a distinguished Prime Minister and to be regarded as the founder of the modern Conservative Party, declared in his political novel, ‘Sybil, or the Two Nations’  that Great Britain had already been torn apart ‘horizontally’ into a nation of the rich and a nation of the poor.  He wrote vivid descriptions of the squalor and abject poverty in which  working people lived in the early part of Queen Victoria’s reign.  Since then circumstances have improved for all of us. However, the yawning gap between rich and poor caused by that ‘horizontal tear’, dividing Britain into two nations grows wider year by year. This is a direct result of the actions and failure to take action of the political predecessors of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.  It widened during the decade of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ rule, and is widening again today as the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats rewards the wealthy and penalises the poor!

            No government ever agrees to a referendum unless it feels confident that a majority will vote the way that that government prefers. Two years ago, David Cameron felt quite sure that a referendum on Scottish Independence to be held in September 2014 would yield a comfortable NO majority vote. He was happy to agree to its being held. He insisted on a simple IN or OUT vote because he thought, probably quite correctly, that there might well be a large number of voters who would hesitate to vote for full independence but would like greater autonomy for Scotland.   I have little doubt that he now wishes that he had offered Scottish voters that ‘middle way’.   If the Scots had been offered the choice of greater autonomy within a looser British federation, it would certainly have split the nationalist vote and might well have made it possible for the present system to continue unchanged.  Now – faced with the real possibility of a majority YES vote, he is having to offer ‘greater autonomy within the UK as a bribe to try to win over a few thousand still-undecided or YES voters. Thus, even if the Scots Nationalists fail to get a majority YES vote they will have achieved considerably greater autonomy – as well as having retained the possibility of full independence at a later date; not perhaps a win/win situation but far from being a total defeat either.
             The possibility that an independent Scottish Government might try, in at least one part of Britain, to narrow the gap caused by that horizontal tear that makes one nation into two, the poor and the wealthy, is one of the reasons why if I were a Scot, I’d be voting YES in that fateful referendum in a few days time.  Other reasons are the hope that independence might result in country free of nuclear weapons and without Trident nuclear submarines, and a country that wished to remain in a more closely integrated European Union but was questioning whether it benefited from membership of NATO and from a very one-sided ‘special relationship’ with the USA.

            Within the United Kingdom these are all issues that are not available for negotiation and (except for EU membership) on which we will never be given a chance to vote.  Oh yes – and it would be nice to live in a country virtually free of the neo-Fascism of Ukip!

And the effect of a YES majority on the rest of us?

           I don’t live in Scotland and, as far as I know, I don’t have a single Scottish ancestor.  I am about as southern-English as it is possible to be.  On several happy camping holidays though, my family and I have travelled the length and breadth of Scotland from the border to John o’ Groats and from the Isle of Skye to the east coast.  We liked the Scottish people and the mountains and the lochs – though we never learned to love the Scottish midges and few would deny that we generally get better weather at home on the north-east Essex coast!  We don't call a drizzle a 'Scotch Mist' for no reason!

            If the referendum on the 18th yields a YES majority I’ll congratulate our Scottish neighbours and wish them well.  If I were half a century younger I’d be considering emigrating there! I can’t though ignore the fact that we English would miss them badly.  There would be no group of Scottish MPs to challenge the more outrageous of the coalition government’s policies. It is very likely that we would have to endure a Conservative/Ukip coalition government – perhaps a succession of them! We would probably leave the EU without bothering to go to the expense and trouble of a referendum. Outrageous Ukip demands would be likely to result in many responsible Conservatives repudiating the coalition, and the Ukip leader deciding that ‘because of the mess we have inherited from the previous Con/Lib.Dem. coalition government it will be necessary to have temporary single-party government under firm leadership, to ensure the speedy implementation of necessary emergency measures. The country’s political leader will adopt the traditional English title of Lord-Protector and will continue in office until those measures have been introduced and enforced’.

            No, I don’t really suppose that England’s future would be quite as dire as that in the event of a YES majority. During what is proving to be an unconscionably long lifetime I have discovered that, particularly where political issues are concerned, outcomes are very rarely as good as optimists had hoped – but are even less frequently as bad as pessimists had feared.   I do remember though how, in Germany in the late 1920s and early '30s, many people first dismissed Hitler as a funny little man with a Charlie Chaplin moustache and some really daft ideas – a bit of a fruit-cake in fact.  Later, major German industrialists and traditional military leaders thought they could control him and use him for their purposes – but he and his brown-shirted followers controlled and used them – and the Third Reich was born.  I hope that I didn’t spend seven years of my late teens and early twenties playing a tiny role in the destruction of that Third Reich, only to live to see comparable developments in 21st century Britain!

 Our own by-election

            The possibility that Ukip could develop into an Anglicised NAZI Party and its leader into an Anglo-Saxon Adolf Hitler will certainly be in my mind when I place my cross on the ballot paper on 9th October. United Kingdom Independence Party sounds innocent enough, and Nigel Farage seems a pleasant enough fellow – enjoying a fag and a drink, and not a bit like everyone’s idea of a scheming politician.  Quite so, but then who would have expected the mildly cranky National Socialist German Workers’ Party to become a movement of extreme right-wing nationalist thugs prepared to use any means – mass murder, torture, genocide – to achieve their ends.  Hitler too; we think of him as being an unscrupulous raving rabble-rouser, but he had an unquestionably magnetic personality and could be good company when he chose to be.  Certainly he too was no-one’s idea of a scheming politician.

             The national press is forecasting a landslide victory for Douglas Carswell and his Ukippers.  I can’t think why. Our former MP has deserted the political party that has loyally supported him and has forced a totally unnecessary by-election only seven months before a scheduled general election. That by-election will cost us taxpayers something like £100,000.  He presumably hopes to bask in the glory of being Ukip’s very first Member of Parliament.  That should guarantee him  a top job if and when Nigel Farage forms his first government!

            Douglas Carswell and his Ukippers are certainly working hard for his election and don’t appear to be short of funds.  I, and presumably all Clactonians, have been deluged by leaflets – I’ve had at least five of them (two a couple of weeks before his defection!) telling us what a wonderful fellow he is and how lucky we have been to have had him as our MP.  I have also had a leaflet from the Labour Party.  The Conservatives have been handicapped by not having a new candidate waiting to be selected, but they’ve chosen one now and I wish local man Giles Watling, actor and Frinton town and district councillor, success in this expensive, absurd and totally unnecessary by-election.

            I had a doorstep Ukip canvasser calling at my home before the Conservative candidate had been selected.  He was armed with a list of voters, a clip-board and a ballpoint pen. He seemed to have expected me to be an enthusiastic Ukipper and  may have been a little taken aback when I told him I was hoping that Douglas Carswell would be roundly defeated in this by-election, and that all Ukip contestants in all future elections would have the same fate.  I intended to vote for the candidate most likely to defeat him, and that - for this by-election and for the very first time in my long life – I intended to vote for the Conservative Candidate, whoever he or she might be!

08 September 2014

Week 37a 2014

Tendring Topics…….on line

More Refugees

          2014 is becoming the Year of the Refugees.  We have seen harrowing pictures on the tv of thousands of Syrian refugees seeking shelter and asylum in make-shift camps in Turkey, Lebanon and other nearby countries, from the cruel war in their own homeland from which there seems to be no end in sight.  We have seen similar refugees from Gaza trying to escape relentless shelling and bombing from Israel.  They didn’t even have the option of fleeing to a safer country because the Israeli blockade prevented them from escaping from the strip of land that has been described as ‘the world’s biggest concentration camp’.  More recently we have seen thousands more refugees from northern Iraq, many of them members of Christian communities who have lived peaceably with their Muslim neighbours for centuries, fleeing from the bloodthirsty murderers and torturers of the so-called Islamic State. 

            A brief mention on a BBC news bulletin this (2nd Sept) evening persuaded me to seek more information about at flood of refugees of which I had previously heard virtually nothing.  Did you know (I certainly didn’t before I consulted Google) that over a million refugees from eastern Ukraine had fled into Russia to escape from the relentless bombardment of their towns and villages by the forces of the Kiev government? No wonder the Russians sent a convoy of humanitarian aid vehicles to the south!  I also discovered that there have been over 2,000 fatal casualties from the civil war in the Ukraine  - most of them among the ‘rebel’ population and many, as in Gaza, civilians including women and little children. Isn’t bombing and shelling his own people one of the war crimes of which we constantly accuse President Assad of Syria?   But, as I have remarked before in this blog, It’s not what is done – it’s who it is does it, that matters as far as ‘the west’ is concerned.  The Kiev government has the support of the UK, the USA and NATO, and the refugees in this case are rebels said to be backed by Russia. They clearly ‘don’t deserve our sympathy and aren’t going to get any help from us!’

             The UK, the USA and NATO’s response to this civil war has been to blame it all onto Russia, to impose ever stronger economic sanctions on Russia and to carry out troop manoeuvres in Poland and naval exercises in the Baltic Sea. These highly provocative activities have produced a response from Russia.  They too are strengthening their armed forces and carrying out military exercises.

            A few weeks ago I wrote in this blog about the way in which, as a result of a series of military alliances, the great powers of Europe had ‘sleep walked’ into World War I.  I think that Vladimir Putin, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Barak Obama, have sufficient sense not to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors in 1914, but some of the more bullish US Senators and Congressmen may be eager for a confrontation: ‘Sure we should teach them Rooskies a lesson  – and our boys could he do it and be home again before Christmas’. I have little doubt that within the Russian parliament there are similar irresponsible idiots.  World-wide the number of those who remember the devastation of World War II is getting smaller and smaller. 

            Certainly the Kiev Ukrainian government has been doing all it can to lure their west European friends into the conflict.  Remember how its spokesman announced that the ‘black boxes’ on that ill-fated air liner had revealed that the ill-fated Malaysian air-liner had been shot down by pro-Russian rebels. (We haven’t yet received any official word about those black boxes or about the report of the team of international experts who inspected the crash site).  The latest claim is that two Russian armoured divisions have crossed the frontier and are fighting with the rebels.  Really? I reckon that if the Russian government really had sent two armoured divisions to support the rebels, the Russian flag would by now be flying over Kiev Town Hall!

            The bloody advance of Kiev government forces has been halted (possibly with Russian help).  Now, before a counter- offensive by the pro-Russian rebels begins, is surely the time for peace talks to begin.   It should be noted that the pro-Russian rebels have never sought to take over the whole of Ukraine.  All they ask is to be allowed to keep their own language and customs and to make their own international friendships, perhaps within a loosely Federal UkraineIs that really too much to ask?

            It is, of course, a very ill wind that blows nobody any good. The blood-thirsty fanatics of IS (Islamic State) and their counterparts and supporters world wide, are delighted to see their infidel opponents – the enemies of jihadist Islam in the Russian Federation and those within NATO - at each-other’s throats.  They’d like to see a real ‘shooting war’ break out between the warring infidels, hoping that when half the world had been reduced to a radio-active wilderness, the jihadists would be able to move in and enforce their evil perversion of Islam on whoever was left alive.   

Later News

            I wrote the above four or five days ago.  I am writing this on Saturday 6th September.  Yesterday afternoon we learned that a cease-fire has been agreed between the forces of the Kiev government and the pro-Russian rebels.  The ceasefire involves a cessation of hostilities, an exchange of prisoners and negotiations on a permanent peace based, almost exactly, on the suggestions made in the paragraph above that I have now italicised and emboldened.

            I am unreservedly thankful and very much hope that the cease-fire will hold* and that the negotiations will be successful.  The response from our government and NATO has been, to say the least, ungracious.  The increased sanctions against Russia will be put into effect and there’s to be a ‘rapid response force, stationed in Poland, ready to counter any ‘act of aggression’ on Russia’s part!   Do they really want a third world war?  I am beginning to wonder.

            What they should be doing is making sure that those Baltic countries ‘the west’ is so eager to protect – don’t deliberately provoke Russian action.  Estonia, where Barak Obama made a bellicose speech, has an ethnic Russian minority of 25 percent of the population.  That means that one quarter of the population use the Russian language and have a Russian culture.  Do we, before we make unreserved promises of protection, make sure that these Russian speakers are not treated as second class citizens?  Is Russian an official language?  There’s certainly nothing unprecedented about a country having more than one official language – Belgium, Switzerland, Wales and Canada for instance are just a few examples.

            We should also ask ourselves how we British would react if the Republic of Ireland or possibly an independent Scotland, entered into a hostile military alliance against us and had a ‘rapid response’ unit stationed within its borders as a defence against British aggression.  We do know how the USA would react.  In order to prevent a successful repetition of the ‘Bay of Pigs’ failed attempt at invasion from the USA, the Cuban Government invited the USSR to position missiles and their launchers on its territory.  The USA was so concerned about this that they were prepared to risk  a nuclear war to prevent it.  Fortunately Nikita Khruschev, the Soviet President, was not prepared to risk such a conflict and withdrew the missiles.  This was hailed as a great American victory – but it’s worth noting that there was no further attempt to invade Cuba from the USA!

            Blessed are the peace-makers………………for it is upon them (not on those who constantly prepare for war) that the survival of the human race depends

Monday - 8th September (7.55 a.m.)

            Yesterday there were reports of the cease-fire being broken - probably by both sides.  As I pointed out earlier in this blog, neither side has a monopoly of irresponsible idiots.  I switched on the TV for BBC's 7.00 am news bulletin with some trepidation.  Ukraine wasn't mentioned.  No doubt it will have been later on, but a major breach of the truce would surely have been given headline status.

                I'm still hoping, and praying, for peace.

Meanwhile – back in sunny Clacton-on-Sea…………………
          ………………..the political parties are getting ready for the unexpected by-election caused by Douglas Carswell's defection to UKIP, which we now know is to be held on 9th October.   UKIP has the advantage of knowing for certain who is to be their candidate and beginning their cempaign early.   There’s no honour among thieves and, so it seems, precious little among Ukippers.  Douglas Carswell has deserted the political party that helped him win his seat in two general elections at just about the worst possible moment, publishing and distributing two self-advertising leaflets before announcing his defection. Local Ukippers have cast aside the local candidate they had democratically elected only a few weeks earlier, in favour of this defector from the Conservatives.  Mr Ling has not taken his sacking quietly.  He has resigned from UKIP, intends to resign his UKIP seat on Essex County Council and to take no further interest in politics.  Who can blame him?

            I have just received another circular and what appears to be a personal letter from Mr Carswell (but I bet dozens of people have received them!) in which he addresses me as ‘Dear Ernest’ – and I had no idea we were on first-name terms!

            I do think that the local Conservative Party has hit on a very good idea in having an unofficial ‘primary election’, even though it means that their election campaign will begin later than those of UKIP or the Lib.Dems.  .Local residents of any or no political persuasion are invited to a public meeting to help select the Party’s candidate from a short list of hopefuls who will briefly address the meeting and answer questions.  There’s also a questionnaire especially for those who won’t be attending this meeting.

            I won’t be going to the meeting and I won’t be filling in the questionnaire. To do either would give a false impression.  If I vote for the Conservative Candidate in the forthcoming by-election (which seems quite likely) it won’t be because I want him or her to be my representative in parliament.  It’ll be simply because I want to keep Douglas Carswell – or any other Ukipper - out!   The election of someone of another party (any other party) as an MP is likely to be the only way of ensuring that. So I shall vote for whoever has the best chance of defeating Douglas Carswell and that at the moment seems to be the Conservative, whoever he or she may be..