The latest advice from Babergh District Council is that the Pinewood Parish precept has risen by 5% Looking at the Pinewood Parish web site you would be hard pressed to know how much will be raised and what the money will be spent on. The minutes for the Parish meeting on 24th January record that the pubic were excluded from the discussions on financial matters. The minutes do show the Parish spending will rise to £173,781. But, the public were denied details of the Parish’s priorities for spending… So, we are all being treated like mushrooms: kept in the dark and unlikely to see the light until we are harvested. Previously I have commented on the extravagance of the car park bollards. Without the daylight of public scrutiny, more extravagances are on the horizon. We need more transparency and accountability. We need to know what they are spending our money on. Without the disinfectant of public knowledge and scrutiny we are just maintaining a money-pit.
Ipswich seems to be forever championed by professional doomsters. For some time, Ipswich’s ills have been blamed on central Government and the lack of appropriate help in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, Brexit, adverse economic winds (both local and international) and so on. The subtext seems to be that if only there was a change of government, then towns like Ipswich would be on the receiving end of a cornucopia of monies sufficient to right all ills. But recently another meme has come into view and this is to blame all ills on historical factors that worked against Ipswich’s interests. A writer on the East Anglia Daily Times on February 6th lamented the founding of Suffolk County Council in 1974 and Ipswich’s consequential loss of County Borough Status and the subsequent winds that followed. The writer affirmed that rarely ever has Ipswich had portfolio holders at Suffolk County Council with control over budgetary departments. Conveniently the writer overlooks the period between 1993 and 2005 when Labour controlled the County and leadership was provided by Chris Mole and Bryony Rudkin (both Ipswich based politicians) Also overlooked is the year 2003/4 which saw an 18% increase in Ipswich’s Band D Council Tax. The question arises whether 1974 is too recent a time to receive the blame for present circumstances. There could be a sound argument that the backwash from the downfall of Thomas Wolsey lead to long term detrimental effects on the town, relieved only from time to time by economic happenstance, for example, by the coming of the railway. Amongst other things Ipswich lost it ambition to host a third major university in the country rivalling Oxford and Cambridge. The resources were reallocated and for nearly 500 years Ipswich did not have a university it could call their own. Wolsey’s downfall was caused by the Spanish Aragonese who had the money and the Medici Pope who needed powerful and moneyed allies. The Holy Roman Emperor was Catherine of Aragon’s nephew and there was no way the Pope was going against such a powerful force and grant Henry VIII the divorce he needed. So, watch out for the next steps in this saga. Ipswich will look to blame the combination of various European powers colluding against our best interests. Once this seam is mined the limits are almost endless. The Norman French wiped away our nobility in 1066. The Vikings martyred King Edmund in 869 and in AD60 Boudicca was forced to march down the A12 to assert her rights against Roman (Italian) hegemony over East Anglia.
I had always thought that it was Deng XiaoPing who said that it was too soon to tell whether the French Revolution had been successful. I’ve since been updated insofar as it was Chou EnLai talking to Richard Nixon in 1972 and the comment referred to the 1968 student demonstrations Nevertheless, it does illustrate that revolutions tend to have long tails. In modern times we can look at the 1917 Russian revolution and the Irish Civil War of 1922 as illustrative. Tim Stanley writing in the Daily Telegraph on 31st October under the banner headline that “the Brexit revolution has come to an end” argued that as with France in 1799, the elites are back in control, but Britain has still been changed for the better. “…why did the Tories elect Liz Truss even though it was obvious six weeks ago, now confirmed, that Rishi would be a far better PM? My theory is that we all subconsciously knew that Sunak spelled the end of the Brexit revolution. Not its reversal but, like Napoleon’s coup of 1799, the defeat of its radical spirit. Brexit conforms to the four stages of the French Revolution: crisis, contradiction, purification and reaction. In 1789, Louis XVI called an Estates General in his quest to raise cash; in 2016, David Cameron called a referendum to eliminate Euroscepticism. Both backfired. The Estates General demanded a constitutional monarchy and the Brits voted to leave the EU, so Louis fled to Varennes and Dave to his garden shed. Theresa May now tried to ride two visions of the new order – protectionist and paternalist vs free trade and liberal – and with Parliament fractured, and counter-revolutionaries conspiring, she was unable to get us out of the EU. This necessitated the election of Boris Johnson, the British Georges Danton, a literate rake, a champion of the people. His instincts were small state but, being a populist, was inclined to give the mob what it wanted – hence he marched us out of Europe but also rebranded Tory politics as faux-European. Conservatism became Gaullist: culturally conservative and littered with grands projets. I liked it, but Boris will be Boris and his regime collapsed in scandal. With the PM forced to retire (Danton took refuge in Acris, Big Dog at the Casa del Campo), we entered our Jacobin phase of ideological intensification. Yes, Liz Truss was our Maximilien Robespierre, and though her utopian vision was far more modest than critics made out, the very idea that we might guillotine the board of the Bank of England triggered a Thermidorian Reaction. The French decapitated Robespierre and installed a collective leadership till Napoleon took power. In Britain, some faceless men pulled off a coup to install Sunak in four days flat, which was impressive for a country where it can take six months to replace a boiler. Looking back on the 1790s, many Frenchmen asked what the point of their revolution had been. They killed a king and finished with an emperor. Yet feudalism was also eliminated, and the French now saw themselves as a nation, with a Left and a Right, both espousing liberties – the rights of the people – they each claimed to be more willing to protect. Here, Britain is out of the EU for good. The greatest testament to the permanence of Brexit is that even the Labour Party accepts it, and is patriotic and critical of free movement (have you noticed how often its MPs are on GB News?). At some point, a Labour government, or a Tory one, may well put us back in the Single Market, for if we are not willing to reform tax and trade on the lines Citizen Truss wanted, then we’ll wind up a stagnating economy trapped behind a tariff wall. And how else do we resolve Northern Ireland? But even if that came to pass, we have still dodged the bullet of European political integration, re-establishing Britain as an Atlantic-facing nation, global and yet parochial. Sunak, elected in just 2015, is a child of that revolution, even if he doesn’t entirely understand what the founding fathers wanted. I recall seeing him interviewed at the 2019 Tory conference where he was asked to name the best bit of Brexit. The correct answer is “freedom”. He gushed, “Free trade zones!” I preferred it when Boris reputedly said “F business”. I translated it from the unpardonable French to mean: “Something matters more than making money, and we will not be dictated to by the markets” – which is precisely what has now happened. Rishi will never blaspheme against business. His job is to sell austerity, hiking taxes on the middle class and cutting services for the poor, sugaring the pill by appointing Suella Braverman to the Home Office and Kemi Badenoch to equalities; culture war bribes to the Red Wall sans-culottes. I’ll be honest: I miss the hope-filled Sturm und Drang of early Brexit, of the sense of forces unleashed and institutions scaled. One could almost hear the glass shattering in Whitehall. But I have no right to impose an ideological vision on the country, especially when the chief issues now are feeding our people and keeping the lights on (I’m not Greta Thunberg), and I take comfort in what our revolution has achieved. It has given us greater sovereignty, an empowered parliament, municipal conservatism, controlled legal migration, levelling-up, a renaissance of journalism, books and independent TV. I believe our era will be regarded as a golden age of debate, when, after decades of consensus, real ideas were passionately interrogated and regular citizens elevated to the king and queen of politics. Like the French in 1799, we are a different society now: Labour stands for the King, the Tories kneel before the voters of Grimsby. Brexit has made Britain a better place.” But we still voted for Truss and ended up with Sunak. The Conservative Party activists are pondering their futures as members and candidates in next May’s local elections are asking how many Hail Mary’s do they need to win their seats. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/10/31/brexit-revolution-has-come-end/
A version of the following letter appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times on Saturday (29th October). Ellesmere is Leader of Ipswich Borough Council (and is a vociferous Labour party member). He appears more or less every Monday in the EADT. I read his column to ensure that my low blood pressure is raised to an appropriate level. Last week I had had enough hence my response. Please enjoy or ignore as appropriate.
Dear Sir, David Ellesmere on Monday (No Tories can be trusted to act in our best interests) paints his usual one-sided picture attacking the Government of the Day. Yes, I voted for Liz Truss – why, because she offered a vision of the future which I found attractive rather than the bleak outlook offered by Rishi. My regret is that the supply side economic vision was not sold properly on the establishment. I suspect that the Treasury did not like the ideas and neglected to get the Bank of England on side – thus when purse strings should have been loosened, they were tightened by the means of raising interest rates to dampen demand. And yet, inflation is not being caused by excess financial demands. Rising costs are being caused by increased fuel costs, lack of supplies in the Italian pasta belt and the shortage of sunflower oil (from Ukraine) and so on. Putting up interest rates will shrink the economy, reduce business opportunities and penalise the working middle classes and the poor. The first will suffer because their aspirations will be blunted and the poor because their opportunities to get on the working ladder will be further reduced. The Bank of England were late recognising that there were inflationary pressures following on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Russians squeezing their oil supplies to Europe. But what are the choices for the electorate after Rishi Sunak? Labour is united behind a doctrine of no policies except to criticise everything as being too early, too late, too little, too much. They would have shut down the economy sooner and prolonged it further than Boris Johnson. Mr Ellesmere should concentrate upon making Ipswich more attractive and stop complaining that not enough Government money is forthcoming. He cannot publicly criticise the government and then expect to be treated generously. Some Labour Mayors understand this only too well. They keep political purity and recognise the need to work with the centre. Like Mr Ellesmere I regret the current economic realities. We are well placed compared to our European neighbours and our borrowing levels are not excessive. Although Mr Ellesmere claimed that the Bank of England had spent £65billion over a few days in supporting the Gilts market – the real figure as of last week was around £20billion over three weeks. But then any extravagance in speech is worth it if it makes a point. Let’s focus on Ipswich. The new owners of the football club are bringing millions in development funds to the town. Let’s make sure that Ipswich Borough Council supports those developments and stops seeing itself as a permanent victim of whatever economic winds are blowing. Yours faithfully, Brian Riley
Earlier this month the Conservative Home website showed Liz Truss leading Rishi Sunak by 32% polling 60% membership support versus 28% for Sunak. So, one must ask why hasn’t Sunak thrown in the towel and conceded that the gap (which has shown no sign of closing) is too big to allow him to achieve a majority of party voters. (Spoiler alert: I voted for Truss). The answer must be that Sunak has been saying the Hindu equivalent of Hail Marys hoping for a slip up by Truss. It seemed as though his prayers had been answered, when Truss was reported saying that as a country, we need to work better as our productivity has for a long time lagged behind that of our rivals. The usual suspects have derided these comments as attacks on the working man, but we do need to achieve greater productivity and stop resisting more effective ways of being more productive. The railwaymen’s strike is a good case in point where they wish to keep all ticket offices open, when it is no longer necessary to keep each office manned. Fortunately, the Truss supporters have rallied to her side. The Left wish to dictate our choices, often by removing them or by seeking to occupy a spurious higher ground. Earlier this year Liz Truss was criticised for lunching a U.S. Trade Representative at a private Mayfair club. The lunch for ten people cost £1,400, which all in all doesn’t seem too bad. If Labour was not afraid of Liz Truss, they would not try to denigrate her. Sunak should concede the battle and let the party get on with winning the next election. Meanwhile I voted for Liz some time ago.
According to the Daily Mail and highlighted by the Taxpayers’ Alliance there are 61.7 million people registered at GP practices in England despite there only being 56.5 million people in the country -meaning there are 5.2 million ghost patients. (Which is around a 10% overcounting). The ghost patients are costing the country over £800,000 a year. A sum which would support more than a few nurses. As it is, at the moment the overcounting lets the British Medical Association (the doctors’ trade union) claim that they are overworked simply by looking at the average number of patients per doctor. The NHS must have its own inspectorate and checking a sample of patients’ names against the electoral register would throw up an instant list of names to be investigated. It’s not rocket science – but quite often simple solutions are.
One of the joys of the East Anglian Daily Times is that it not only features regular letter contributors but it also allows for ideas to be developed, One such correspondent is John Dell from Shotley who recently has been arguing that the Brexit vote did not reflect the will of the people, as the Remainers and the Abstainers outnumbered the Brexiteers. As readers if this blog will know, I greatly believe in voting. If you don’t vote then your views do not count and you are only a whisker away from not mattering. Acknowledging John’s position on this issue I caused the following letter to the editor was published by the EADT on 30th June. Dear Sir Let trumpets sound. Let the bells ring throughout Suffolk. Let there be bunting and dancing in the streets all along the Shotley/Pinewood corridor. John Dell (EADT letters 24th June) and I seem to have found something we can agree on in respect of the statistics regarding voting for the UK/EU referendum. If you add the abstaining votes to the Remainers then 29 million people did not vote for Brexit. But fairness demands that you also add the abstainers to those who voted against remaining in the EU. The overall result is the same but by reclassifying the abstainers as being both against Brexit and against Remaining then you have an accurate and verifiable result based on 128% of the electorate. Thus surpassing anything seen, so far, in Russia, China or North Korea. Abstainers effectively assign their votes to those who do vote. But the Dell-Riley principle of counting abstainers twice revolutionises vote reporting and allows everyone to move forward Such is the joy of the Dell Riley principle; it lets the voting outcome to truly be the will of the people and lets political activists harmonise political wistfulness with political reality and so happiness can be achieved all around. And that is my contribution to Suffolk happiness this week The full correspondence is below.
Just when you think that lessons have been learned, you realise that very few people pay attention to history, whether it is recent history or not. Readers of this blog may recall that on May 3rd 2016 I posted a commentary on the then continuing saga of East House, which Suffolk County Council had handed back to Babergh who didn’t know what to do with it except to evict the tenants and leave it empty. The unfortunate history of East House is that whilst Babergh made up its mind, the market moved on and any rehabilitation/upgrading with a view to selling was rendered uneconomic. This week’s news is that Babergh District Council are to increase the debt threshold for Babergh Growth Ltd., from £3,7 million to £7m to facilitate cash flow. The company is responsible for the redevelopment of Babergh’s former offices in Corks Lane We can assume that the cash will be flowing all one way for some time to come as the cash holdings of the company were only £61,433 at 31st March 2021. The development is expected to realise 57 homes. Due to increased costs and impacts from Brexit, the war in Ukraine and inflation, the costs of the scheme have gone up by £680,000 over four years– which begs the question why is there an increase in borrowing powers of £3.3 million. And now comes the prize-winning comment from the Great Leader of the Rainbow Coalitioned Council (John Ward) “Ultimately the development is still expected to break even or even show a modest profit” Why are we undertaking a marginal project? You can almost hear echoes of “With a fair wind and a few sunny days, this time next year we could all be millionaires” It’s time to go back to basics. The economic outlook is not good and the project needs to be reworked to bring the projections back to a reality which will give comfort to the residents that their leaders know what they are doing.
For some time, I have harboured the suspicion that the letters page of the East Anglian Daily Times has been infiltrated by Russian trolls or worse. Let us look at the correspondence of John Dell (actually a real person – but who may not be the actual correspondent). His letters usually have two themes. First is that Brexit was a huge mistake and every disadvantage experienced by Britain should be exposed. The second view is that the Prime Minister is unfit for the job. On March 7th he quoted the Russian ambassador saying that “they (the Russians) have crushed Britain to the ground, they (the British) are on their knees and will not rise again for a very long time” Dell, found it difficult to disagree! Where has Dell been? Have his eyes and ears been open to current events? The Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th, some ten days prior to the letter. As for the ambassador’s comments, I’m sure his words are a comfort to the occupants of the Russian tanks destroyed in Ukraine by British weaponry. On March 28th Dell conflated the Ukraine’s wish to join the EU with the British vote to leave, reinforcing his view regarding the regrettablity of the latter. I don’t mind partisanship. But I object to people taking me for a fool. Thus, my conclusion that these extreme positions are being articulated by one or more trolls.