Thursday, December 24, 2009

Support Your Local Sheriff

This video is dedicated to all local government officers trying to satisfy councillors' and residents' demands with inadequate resources!
In this film, James Garner plays a new sheriff who is provided with a brand new jail - the only things is, the bars haven't arrived yet. So he has to manage by using a little bit of red paint and his strong powers of suggestion....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Essex and IBM

I don't normally link to Conservativehome. But there's an important article on there tonight about Lord Hanningfield's plans for Essex County Council. The writer clearly thinks it's a great idea:

IBM have won the huge £5.4 billion, eight year, contract from Essex County Council for a mass privatisation of their services. This follows a report in March that IBM were competing for the contract with TI Systems. It promises to leave Essex residents very well placed to withstand the inevitable coming squeeze on Town Hall budgets.

But the comments from readers on there are generally very 'anti'. It seems that a lot of Conservatives don't think this kind of mass privatisation will work out best. Here's some typical responses:

Is IBM going to be used like a quango, hiding real responsibility away from voter accountability even further? What happens when Essex come to renegotiate and they no longer have the organisation to do anything other than agree to IBM's renewal terms (a problem often encountered by those outsourcing in industry - usually after the manager who negotiated the outsourcing has left)
Another bunch of politicians proving they haven't got the guts or the foresight to make the hard decisions themselves. Instead they hand it over to another fat obese global monster.
The only piece of good news here is that Essex are saving some money short-term. The bad news, and there is plenty of it, is that like most other IT outsourcing ventures, the service quality but not scope will fall significantly, jobs will be lost (with the taxpayer no doubt footing the bill - what are the redundancy and early retirement packages like in Essex?), medium term prices will go up (everything will become an extra cost) so long term it will become even more expensive than keeping it in-house, data security (and it is Essex people's data remember) will go out of the window and IBM no doubt using their usual methods will have got another government body's scrotum firmly in their hands.

This is the text book Thatcher/ Major mistake that opened the door to the extreme waste of resources in Government on IT over the last 20 years.

Short term gain - long term misery. Will they never learn! The thing is once you have outsourced there is virtually no chance of going back in house - the knowledge drain is far too great.

PS And I'm no leftie! Just someone who has worked in the IT game long enough to know a bit about it.
Britain tomorrow? - god help us!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Essex Village Life In the Grim Old Days- Water By The Bucket, Misappropriated Funds, And Poverty.

I'm grateful to Jonathan Calder for pointing us in direction of a website created by an outfit called Millbanksystems. It is basically an online register of what anyone has said in parliament in the last 200 years.

This may seem dull, but if you search for certain words- for example the name of your village or town- you can obtain some pretty illuminating information about what things were like in the good old days bad old days.

For example, I searched and found each of the 21 times the Essex village of "Canewdon" has been mentioned in parliament between 1803 and 2005. Why would an MP want to mention Canewdon? Not for very positive reasons. It's easy to build up a picture of just how grim life used to be. For example from 1924:

20 February 1924 vol 169 c1765W 1765W


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the villagers of Canewdon, Essex, have to pay per bucket for water; and if he will make representations to the Rochford Rural District Council to secure adequate facilities being provided?


My attention has been drawn to this matter, but I will have inquiries made.

there was something irregular going on in 1897:

HC Deb 03 August 1897 vol 52 cc239-40 239

MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

I beg to ask the hon. Member for Thirsk, as Charity Commissioner, whether it has been reported to the Charity Commissioners that the Trustees of the Canewdon, Essex, Charities, have for many years annually voted out of the charity funds a sum of money to the vicar of the parish for a treat to the children of the day schools, and that only part of that sum has been expended for that purpose, the rest being spent on hymn books and prayer books for the Church Sunday schools; whether such an appropriation of the charity funds is legal; and what action have the Charity Commissioners taken in the matter?


My hon. Friend has asked me to say that the Charity Commissioners understand that the Trustees of this charity have intrusted the vicar every year with the expenditure of a sum of £5 part of the funds in their hands applicable for the benefit of the poor of the parish. It is alleged that this sum or part of it has been expended in the manner stated. The action of the Trustees in this respect is irregular. A new scheme for the regulation of this charity is in draft and will shortly be established. That scheme contains a clause expressly prohibiting the practice in question.

and agricultural workers faced poverty:



.... the point I desire to raise is of considerable interest to agricultural labourers in my constituency, and it affords a typical instance of the diversion of a fund. towards objects in which this class have no interest. ... the claim is that as there is a certain fund left for the benefit of agricultural labourers, they have a right that a certain portion of the money should be devoted to reducing the expenses connected with allotment, and they applied through me to the Charity Commissioners with that object; but the Commissioners said they could do nothing in the matter, and met me with a non possumus.

Money which used to be spent upon doles, coals, bread, &c., for the poor is now spent in payment of salaries, the purchase of books, and for other purposes in which the labourers have not the faintest interest. Under a scheme sanctioned by the Court of Chancery, the residue of the fund is to be spent upon the agricultural labourers; but I suppose I shall be reminded that, owing to the decline in the value of land in Essex, there is no residue, and also that the money is spent under an Act sanctioned by Parliament in 1852, and with which the Commissioners have nothing to do. But I venture to think we sit here to rescind and abrogate such obsolete schemes as have been passed almost entirely in the interests of the rich, and certainly to the prejudice of my poorer constituents.

Here's the same MP for SE Essex, Major Rasch again in 1893:


I beg to ask the Charity Commissioner whether he is aware that J. Whitwell, labourer, 75 years old, had notice to quit a cottage the property of the Canewdon Charities, and was subsequently fined for refusing to give up possession; and if the property of those Charities could be dispensed, as intended by the donors, for the relief of the deserving poor, and not devoted to other and totally different purposes?

Incidentally Major Rasch was certainly no left-winger - in fact Major Sir Frederick Carne Rasch was Tory. I hope to write about him again closer to Christmas.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Quote Of the Day

Catherine Bennett in the Guardian:

For much of its history the length of the average union, before it was ended by the death of a partner, was the same as it is now, before being terminated by divorce: 11 years.

Oh, No.

I was shocked to see in the Guardian that Robert Holdstock, the author of Mythago Wood and quite a few other fantasy novels, has died at the age of 61, from an E Coli infection.....

This blogger puts Mythago Wood in his top ten list of fantasy books


.....A marvellously atmospheric work, it captures somehow the feel of the English countryside and its woodlands and fields, which can be ordinary and familiar, damp and muddy, yet at the same time feel ancient, mysterious and secretive. .

For me, it's a book I read maybe 20 years ago, but the images still linger in the mind. I hope his work is remembered 200 years from now....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quote Of the Day

On homeopathy:

9.38am: Robert Wilson says it's an old business and popular in France.

Phil Willis: "So is prostitution."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanks, Everyone

Down in Rochford District we form the opposition but there's only five of us, sometimes it can be a little lonely, particularly when you're the only Lib Dem on a committee!

However one of the advantages of being in the Lib Dems, as opposed to being,say, independents , is that we can get advice and help from other experienced Liberal Democrats elsewhere (and although we are in a party we don’t have anyone whipping us into line either, unlike the ‘other lot’).

As an example, our group wanted some advice on what policies work best on certain parking issues. So we sent out an email today to other Lib Dems in Essex. We got our first (really useful) reply from Colchester after just 9 minutes, another, detailed , response from Chelmsford after 24 minutes, one from Basildon after 38 minutes and then one from Colchester Lib Dem MP Bob Russell after 54 minutes …. and the replies are still coming in.

We’re really glad for all this support ( and particularly impressed by Bob Russell)

Thanks, everyone…

Monday, November 02, 2009

"If A Man Were Walking Down Broadway Wearing This Product, Would People Notice?"

My favourite You-Tube treasure-trove at the moment is a collection of recordings of the American TV programme "What's My Line " from the 1950s. Some feature people who are simply celebrities, others feature 'ordinary' people in unusual occupations.

This edition of "What;s My Line" was made 50 years ago last week and is reviewed here. (yes, nowadays 50-year-old TV gets in-depth reviews on the net!)

The guest here is a conventional looking chap who makes apparel for some very special people....

After watching this what I wanted to know was how he started off doing this in 1934?

So I found him in Wikipedia
Russell Colley began in 1934 making a pressurused suit for a pilot on his wife's sewing machine. He got due recognition for his work when the Mercury astronauts flew in his suits.

In the programme someone calls Colley 'a manly man' - however he had an artistic streak; according to Wikipedia he originally wanted to design women's clothing and also painted water colours and made jewellery....

Colley had a 'good innings', dying in 1996, aged about 96.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Save Planning Alerts!

Planning Alerts has been a really useful website, I'm really disappointed to have received the following email tonight:

As some of you may already have spotted in the news, Planning Alerts has
been effected by legal action by the Royal Mail:

We are left with the choice of paying the Royal Mail up to £4,000 a
year for access to the postcode database and eitjavascript:void(0)her running a much less
accurate and useful service or shutting PlanningAlerts down altogether.
If are concerned about this, please consider doing the following:

-- Write to your MP --

Tom Watson MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on
the Royal Mail to allow non-profit organisations to use the postcode
database for free. Please write to your MP asking them to sign this
Early Day Motion (number EDM 2000) and protest at the actions of The
Royal Mail.

You can write to your MP here:

-- Sign the petition --

Nearly 1,200 people have so far signed a petition on the Prime
Minister's website, please add your name:

-- Blog / write to your local paper--

Please consider writing a blog post in support of PlanningAlerts or
writing to your local paper.


The team

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Town Council By-Election Result

I've just come back from the count for the Whitehouse Ward Town Council by-election in Rayleigh. The result was:

Conservatives : 488 - 69 percent
Lib Dems (Corey Vost) 166 - 23 percent
BNP 57 - 8 percent

There was a 22 percent turnout.

So, a clear win for the Conservatives - and we offered our congratulations to Mr Ward (now Councillor Ward!).

Not a good result for the BNP.

But rather encouragingly, a better result for us than in the last District Council election here last year, which was:

Conservatives 641 - 56 percent
English Democrats 312 - 27 percent
Lib Dems 184 - 16 percent

(the last Town Council election was contested on the same day as the District election by 3 Conservatives and 1 Labour, the Tories winning with 809, 770, 744 and Labour getting 264)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I'm Glad We Don't Need This In Essex

I see the Weather Channel gives mosquito forecasts in the US....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Airstrip One And The 1966 World Cup

Another thread at explores a timeline in which George Orwell's 1984 actually happens - or at least , Big Brother and Ingsoc rule England , but as a North Korean type hermit state. Everyone is brainwashed into believing that the rest of the world comprises Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia.

The creator of this thread suggests that the point of departure for this timeline would be Mosley sticking with the Labour Party in the 1930s; the allies still win WW2, but things go downhill from there onwards :

30th July 1966 - "And here comes Hurst. Some people are on the pitch. They think it's all over!"

England clinched the FIFA World Cup after a valiant 2-1 victory over Uruguay at Parc des Princes in Paris. Duncan Edwards made the pass to Hurst that sealed the game for the English.

As the last minute goal went into the back of the net, sealing an unexpected victory for England, thousands of French supporters charged the stewards and ran on to the pitch, swamping the England team.

Later that evening the England players and staff, sought political asylum at the American embassy in Paris, while in London the BBC broadcast news reports of a Uruguay victory, and presented "evidence" of collusion with terrorist groups within the England team.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Freddie Mercury As Lib Dem Prime Minister ?

It's here at

In response to the overbearing social conservatism of Thatcher, Queen becomes far more political. Freddie never enters the underground scene (bathhouses, frequent unprotected sex, etc.), so he never gets HIV. In 1982, the album "Hot Space" is shelved in place of a very political album about the Falklands War.

Freddie Mercury is seen as a "spokesman of a generation". He publicly endorses the Liberals in the '83 election, leading to a resurgence in Lib popularity, despite an overwhelming Conservative victory. In 1984, the song "I Want to Break Free" is released, but rather than being a love/breakup song as in OTL, it is a left-wing anthem about oppressive conservatism controlling people's lives. At Live Aid, widely considered Queen's best performance, Mercury announces that Queen will be taking a hiatus after the band's next album is released so that he can run for parliament from the Hammersmith constituency (he resided in West Kensington at the time, within the Hammersmith constituency). In the 1987 election, Mercury wins. He is seated and quickly rises in the (admittedly small) ranks of the Liberal party. He helps to negotiate the merger with the SDP, with the rallying cry "A United Left for a United Britain". Mercury becomes vital for the Lib Dems, reaching out to young people (under 40) to run and vote in the next elections.

In 1992, a seemingly Labour lead was trounced by late-deciding young voters, who responded to criticism of Labour in The Sun and to left-wing attacks on Major's economy, especially the recession. The election resulted in a Hung Parliament ...

Just how well did we really do in Hammersmith in 1987?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What I Did On My Vacation From Blogging

In case anyone has been wondering, I haven't disappeared from the face of the earth, I merely stopped blogging because I was immersed in the County Council Elections in Rayleigh North.

To cut a long story short, I finished a cheerful second out of six candidates, closing the gap on the Conservative incumbent to about 6 percent:

Stephen Charles Castle The Conservative Party Candidate 2095
Chris Black Liberal Democrats 1739
John Hayter English Democrats 718
Tony Smith Say No To European Union 416
Lisa Byrne British National Party 278
David Dennis Bodimeade The Labour Party Candidate 226

I represent one-quarter of Rayleigh North on the District Council, and was ahead by a landslide there. So if I want to win in four year time, I know what I need to do.

The Conservatives didn't have any fun in the campaign, and were too frit to even put their candidate's home address on any of his campaign material (he lives more than 20 minutes away, on Canvey Island. And they had to, ahem, twist the truth quite a bit in their last leaflet.

Meanwhile the Lib Dems advance across Essex, making 4 gains and becoming the second party in the County with 12 seats.

Monday, June 15, 2009


It's not the voting that creates a democracy, it's the counting....

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Reshuffle Rumours

Some things don't change.....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Daffodils and Strings

Daffodil Glade KL Pictures, Images and Photos

The String Quartet play 'How To Save A Life"

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grief For An Essex Girl

The saddest news story in this part of Essex since - well, I can't recall a sadder one - has been a road accident in Thorpe Bay last weekend. A car ploughed into 14 teenage pedestrians on the pavement....

And now one of the injured, Eleanor McGrath , 14 , has died of her injuries. Our local paper ,the Echo has over 500 comments on it's website here and here.

Perhaps this is the most eloquent :

"What a tragedy, there are no words to describe my feelings of sadness and emptiness on hearing the news of Eleanor's passing away. I didn't know her personally but my daughter described her as one of the nicest people you could meet.

To all the girls and boys from Thorpe Hall School, the Southend High schools, and any others involved, I just want to say again what a absolute credit you are to humankind. My own daughter was involved and witnessed the full trauma of events, and along with several others did all she could to help. You should all be so proud of yourselves - we all know you did the very best you possibly could, and just knowing they were being cared for by such loving, unselfish people must have helped the injured, even if it was on a subconscious level in some cases.

I think it's high time the true meanings of the phrases "Essex Boy" and "Essex Girl" were revised."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Love And SF and Stuff

Please watch this...

There are two kinds of people in the world.... Those who will say this is wonderful, and those who will shrug and say it's a waste of time...

Well, I think it's wonderful. What's more it's SF, isn't it?

By the way, the film is called World Builder and the creator is Bruce Branit. Brian Paulette and Erin McGrane play the couple.... musical score by Randy J Skach

Three Ladies

One is First Lady - the others are hundred-year-old war veterans.

Hat-tip: BagNewsNotes

Saturday, March 07, 2009

That's Low

Do you know the minimum age for marrying in New Hampshire?

True Stories Behind Amazing Pictures

Worth a look here.

Hat-tip: instapundit

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Arlen Spector Playing the Political Game

What is politics? It's about developing political ideas, fighting in elections, representing your electorate. But sometimes it's about wheeler-dealing and negotiating to get something you want. That sometimes gets a bad name .... but here's a positive example ....

WASHINGTON — For years, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has been the National Institutes of Health’s most ardent champion on Capitol Hill. Having survived two bouts with cancer, open-heart surgery and even a faulty diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, he has long insisted that research that results in medical cures is the best service that government can provide.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania arrived Friday at the Capitol to cast a crucial vote on the economic stimulus bill.

But even lobbyists are stunned by the coup Mr. Specter pulled off this week. In return for providing one of only three Republican votes in the Senate for the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, he was able to secure a 34 percent increase in the health agency’s budget — to $39 billion from $29 billion.

After money intended for highways, schools and states, it is the largest of chunk of financing in the budget and is almost three times the $3.5 billion first approved by the House. Nearly $2 billion is intended for building and equipment projects at the N.I.H. campus in Bethesda, Md., as well as at universities across the country. But most of the money will go to pay for as many as 15,000 additional grants submitted by scientists at universities across the country.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Centre Of The Scientific Universe

Just for today, unglamorous Rochford District is very close to being the scientific centre of the known universe.

Following last week's surprising revelation that Britain's first airfield was probably in the tiny village of South Fambridge, we can celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, knowing that the last resting place of HMS Beagle was near the equally tiny village of Paglesham

All we need now is to find some remains of Cavorite in Rawreth....

Here's To You , Mr Robinson

Like maybe 99.5 % of Europeans, I'm not a baseball fan, and I had barely heard of Jackie Robinson until last week. I'm now aware that he was the guy who broke through the colour barrier in baseball in the late 1940s.

The reason I know more about him now is that I stumbled upon this account of his fight before he was famous. A fight to sit where he liked on an army bus. A gripping story...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Atkinson- The Ace Of Recycling

When he travels overseas, he is always sure to carry over a suitcase with a thousand or so British power cables (server manufacturers include both U.S. and U.K. cables with their products, so every data center regularly throws away the foreign leads). He sells them in London for a pound each, financing his round-trip airfare and hotel with his e-waste arbitrage.

But how does he get all these cables?

The story is here and the guy's own website is here.

Hat-tip : Andrew Sullivan

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Could Churchill Have Come Back To the Liberal Party?

It's alternate history - and this guy is asking.....

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Part Two ... Non-racial Politics

....I stumbled on this old article from the Times of India from 2005.

The author is genuinely shocked that British Asians don't feel obliged to vote on racial lines:

Punters agree on the state of Asian political impotence. Many believe Asian political disinterest is starkly revealed by the shocking fact that Asians will not automatically support Asian candidates in at least four key constituencies.

Instead, the Asian vote in Gujarati Muslim-dominant Blackburn, Sikh-dominant Wolverhampton South and Edinburgh West and Muslim-Hindu-dominant Leicester South is expected to go to white candidates.

Explains Jagtar Singh: "I know we have Sandy Parmar, a Sikh woman married to a Hindu, standing in Wolverhampton South. But she is not a practising Sikh. The Sikh community would be loathe to lose its sympathetic MP, the Labour incumbent Rob Marris. He has done a lot on Sikh issues. Sikhs don't care if their Wolverhampton South MP is Sikh or not. They do care that he is interested in Sikh issues."

Long may we avoid electing politicians because of their racial background...

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Part One... Tom Petty

... This live version of Tom Petty's "Yer So bad". Petty is at his sardonic best here.....

If you prefer it , the original video - the one with an inflatable doll - is here.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Would You Credit It? 39.9 % !!!!

I found this advert on Facebook tonight:

If you've got poor or no credit history, you can still apply for the Vanquis Visa card and get an instant response. Typical APR 39.9%.

What Would Jesus Do On the Basketball Court?

The Covenant School of Dallas, Texas operates under the mission statement

"The Covenant School exists to glorify God by equipping students with the tools necessary to pursue a lifetime of learning so that they may discern, reason, and defend truth in service to our Lord, Jesus Christ. . ."

It's got itself some bad publicity - not for it's science teaching -

"Various supplementary articles will be provided throughout the year to provide information about current findings in science and to support a Biblical worldview of origin topics."

- but for it's girls basketball team.

As the Likelihood of Success blog reports it:

A Texas high school girls basketball team has apologized for winning big. The Covenant School, a private Christian high school in Dallas, defeated Dallas Academy last week in a blowout: 100-0. . . .

During the lopsided Jan. 13 game, spectators said the Covenant School ran up the score, playing aggressive offense, even with their 59-0 lead at halftime. The girls kept on the pressure until they scored the 100th point.

The Dallas Academy, a small private school with 20 girls, is for students with learning disabilities.

But the coach didn't agree with the apology , and has now quit.

I'm a definite believer in competitive sport at school. But it's interesting to see a case where competitiveness is pushed too far....

There's a whole load of stuff about this on the ESPN website here. With some heated audio debate here.

You Learn Something New Every Day.....

"maître-pêtre" - literally 'master-spider' - is the word for webmaster in Jerriais

A complete "vocabulaithe du compiuteu" is here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Photograph of the Year,.... here.

The final image size is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels .....

A stupendous view of the inauguration....

Hat-tip : Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vile Crime , Pathetic Sentence

Everything about this crime is vile.

The victim was a young woman with learning difficulties. The ordeal lasted 2 hours and involved 10 men. They horrifically burned half her body with caustic soda, to try and destroy DNA evidence, which has left her scarred for life- and her body is so damaged it still cannot control it's own temperature. The defendants were smirking in the dock, they feel no remorse.

And they will hardly feel any punishment either it seems. They got sentences of 6 years, which means they could be out of jail in 2 1/2 years.

I don't know anyone involved in this case, but I wanted to shout in fury at the radio when I heard the sentences. What IS the maximum sentence for rape anyway? And why wasn't it imposed here?

And , come to that, why can't I find a mention of this on the Guardian website today?

The Guardian report is here
Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

I write this blog in a private capacity , but just in case I mention any elections here is a Legal Statement for the purposes of complying with electoral law: This website is published and promoted by Ron Oatham, 8 Brixham Close , Rayleigh Essex on behalf of Liberal Democrat Candidates all at 8 Brixham Close.