News

Fall-Out

 The communist state of North Korea seems like a location that is too remote from Britain for us to care about.  In many respects, this might be true but this week’s nuclear weapon test is an event than can have a much wider fall-out in every sense.  The East-West Cold War ended some 20 years ago and with it some of our focus on the dangers of nuclear proliferation.  Today we have other simultaneous worldwide concerns such as terrorism, recession, global warming and a possible ‘flu pandemic.  The coincidence of these issues could cause you to visualise that somewhere there is a global control room staffed by the people of a fictional organisation from the movies, such as SPECTRE or THRUSH.  

New Council Year

 On Friday 22nd May, we have the Crawley Borough Council AGM (Annual General Meeting).  This is the most ceremonial of our Full Council meetings with only the budget meeting coming close with its opportunity for strategic debate.  While I am not generally a fan of certain rituals, I believe that we have an AGM with the appropriate level of formality and gravitas.

A Slice of Democracy

While we prepare for our own local elections in June, India, the world’s largest democracy enters the final phase of its General Election. Hundreds of millions of people are eligible to vote in this massive contest. The main contestants are the Congress Party-led alliance and parties led by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) but there are many smaller parties as well. It is quite inspiring that so much effort is being put in to the principle of giving people their democratic voice.

Living in Harmony

 Over the weekend I attended a seminar arranged by members of the Crawley Tamil community.  A number of well-informed speakers addressed the meeting and presented some compelling evidence about the long-term persecution of Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population by their own government.  The Sinhalese people form the largest ethnic group on the island make up a large majority of the population. 

Voting

 Our votes for the County and European elections have now been cast.  The counts are proceeding on Friday for the County elections and on Sunday for the European elections.  Two very different voting systems have been used.  We have our traditional first-past-the-post for the County Councils and a very pure form of proportional representation for the European Parliament.  The system for the European Parliament allows a wide spectrum of political opinion to be represented and recognises that, as currently organised, no single political party can be in overall control.  Our current MP expenses scandal should assist the minor parties although who knows how minor they will be after the votes are counted. 

The Right Infrastructure

 We have recently seen news that the three remaining bidders for Gatwick Airport all include a second runway as part of their business plans.  This is an understandable aspiration to support certain business models emphasising passenger growth.  That said, there are other models that prioritise operational excellence, the passenger experience and in doing so might produce a greater return for each airline seat sold.  These are other routes to the essential profitability and viability of the airport operation.

Affordable Housing

During the recession, it is becoming more difficult to deliver affordable housing while the demand is still there or even rising. Housing of this type falls into the categories of rented, shared ownership and discounted purchase price. The Council has raised its delivery target from 100 to 150 units each year believing that a stretch target can assist with focus

Playing the Person

Our country faces many serious challenges including the leading of economic recovery and the real threats to our national security.  It was therefore stunning to find that some of the most feverish activity coming out of Number 10 was directed against senior Conservative politicians.  Here we have some policy advisors, paid for by the taxpayer, apparently engaged in party political activity of the worst kind.  The national interest and the party political interest are deliberately made one and the same.  There is the implicit, arrogant and self-serving argument that it is somehow in the national interest for the Labour Party to remain in power. 

Finishing, Winning and Qualifying

 Last weekend I participated in a chess tournament in St. Albans as I now occasionally do at various locations.  I have been entering these tournaments for 26 years and I have never won an event which is fine as the outcomes come from an appropriate mix of skill, merit and luck.  It is nevertheless tantalising to be finishing second or third on a number of occasions and not quite making it to the top.  I could try the excuse of not being ruthless enough or of being too nice but some people might argue that this would fail the test of plausible deniability.  Nevertheless I do value perseverance and the idea that taking part is more important than winning.  

Political Expenses

Expenses paid to politicians have understandably made the headlines again.  There is rightly a public expectation that expenses should just be a reasonable reimbursement of costs incurred by their elected representatives.  Somehow it appears through media examples that this principle is being exceeded all too often.  The issue transcends party politics with cases being highlighted across the political spectrum.