The Great Helmsman

I like reading spy novels. Whether it is The Three Musketeers, through to
John Le Carré and currently Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series. Through all the novels you can see the need for informational intelligence. Even Peaky Blinders has strong elements of inside knowledge, whether it is fixing races or choosing which side of a contest you will be on. Reading spy novels also let’s you explore the how, what and why of any situation
So, I greeted the news with interest that John Ward, Leader of Babergh District Council has resigned from the Conservative Group, has formed an Independent Conservative Group with three others and is now heading up a rainbow coalition with other minority party councillors.
What is going on?
We are told it arises from the dismissal from the Cabinet of an independent councillor which lead four other councillors to resign from the Cabinet. Plans to form a minority administration with other Conservative councillors fell by the wayside and so one thing lead to another.
There was a meeting of the (Conservative Councillor) group on Sunday 24th John Ward’s proposals were unacceptable. I guess that at some point the toys went out of the pram, a huff was called and John went off in it.
On the Monday John resigned from the Conservatives and formed his so-called Rainbow Cabinet.
How the Rainbow Cabinet members will be successful in the next district election in 2023, I cannot tell. But South Suffolk Conservatives (the councillors’ sponsoring organisation) must decide how this affects their plans.
Constitutionally, the defecting members must either resign from the party or be expelled. In either case they face the prospect of having official candidates stand against them and also having to pay off their 2019 election expenses.
For the time being John Ward remains the Great Leader, resting upon the support of the Independent Conservatives, The Independents, The Lib-Dems and the Greens.
I can see it all ending in tears. The Shotley Independents and the Greens are against car park subsidies, particularly in the two towns of Sudbury and Hadleigh. I guess that the headline Council Tax will come down or will be less than the Government cap and any shortfall will be met by increased parking charges and increases in any other charges that can be levied.
Watch out for higher planning fees, brown bin fees and so on.
John Ward is holding onto his powers not because he has a great vision that he must implement. He’s holding on because he doesn’t want to be a back bencher and this way he upholds his amour propre.
Such a position does not bode well for Babergh nor for Councillor Ward
Photo © Greg Fitchett (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Trollery in Suffolk

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.

A Pie Too Far

I have a native Suffolk friend who is not unadventurous but is famous for the phrase “I’ve never tasted it but I don’t think I’ll like it” when confronted with new (usually foreign) food. This is not unwarranted xenophobia as Suffolk has a long history of invasion from Caesar’s visit to Boudica’s Iceni through to the Anglo Saxons, Danes, Vikings and Normans from Northern France. Such a response can also be seen in many people’s resistance to change, even though for the most part the only constant is change.
But some changes can be seen as a step too far.
Thus I was bemused and then possibly horrified to learn that a vegetarian pie has claimed the Supreme Champion crown at this year’s British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray.
There were 23 different classes of hot and cold savoury and dessert pies and pasties for the 151 judges to consider at the competition. The contest played out over three days and took place at St Mary’s Church in the home of the pork pie, Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.
And there is the essence of a Melton Mowbray pie. Pork!
The winning entry was made with vegetarian jackfruit ‘steak’, gluten-free craft ale and black pepper.
The judges praised the pies ‘crunchy’ pastry and ‘moist filling’
Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association and host of the British Pie Awards, said: “This was a superb pie, it looked good, had a nice even golden bake.
“The pastry was crunchy complemented by the moist filling which had ‘bite’ and the balance of flavours in the pie was just right.
With this pie, gluten-free pies are now equal to any other pie.
“Being vegetarian and gluten free, Pieminister’s Mooless Pie is an ‘everybody’s pie’, be they vegetarian or meat eater, gluten tolerant or intolerant. Serve this at a meal and almost everyone’s a winner.”
The judges, many of whom are experts and old hands, were asked to mark the pies on criteria including eating qualities, the filling, and how a maker could improve their entry.
The Mooless pie is shown above and more details can be found at https://pieminister.co.uk/pies/mooless-moo/
Why you should want a meatless meat pie I do not know but I congratulate the marketing whizz who dreamed up the idea once he found a good recipe. As for the pie tasting burghers of Melton Mowbray they can only deserve what they get.


Vanity of Vanities; All is Vanity

The Church of the Militant Elvis Party first appeared on the national political scene in 2001 when the party stood in Brentwood (Essex) where it ran in the General Election against Eric Pickles and Martin Bell. As a very minor party it unsurprisingly garnered 68 votes.
The party contests all General Elections and some by-elections. Their beliefs include Elvis still being alive and living in an old people’s home on the Lincolnshire coast somewhere between Skegness and Mablethorpe.
Its aims are to combat the influence of various right-wing churches on mainstream parties in the U.K.
Furthermore, the Party believes that the established church’s involvement with the global market is yet another contradiction of Jesus’s teachings. They are also interested in stopping the degradation of the planet by capitalism and the attacks on old people’s welfare in the UK.
So far so good. I came across them this month when I was looking at the by-election results for Erdington (Birmingham) when the party came last with 8 votes. Usually, they score between 50 and 200 votes each time and to end the latest campaigning season with only 8 votes seriously suggests that they are having trouble getting their message across or that they have become the Billy No-Mates of political parties.
All in all, the ratio of cost to votes indicates that standing in elections can be a vanity project beyond understanding.
Since power comes from the people and respecting the King, I’m pleased to plug their web site: https://grumpyoldelvis.co.uk/

The Hospitable Magpie

For the last month or so I have been traveling to and from Diss enjoying the perpetual Lenten affliction known as the A140. The road suffers from a gross lack of updates and still bears the marks of having been ignored by the stagecoaches – so far I haven’t seen any milestones indicating that this might have been a post road.
Normally I stop and have a quick sandwich in Diss and then rush back south as quickly as possible bearing in mind that much of the road has a 50 m.p.h. speed limit.
Yesterday I had a companion and we decided to try the Magpie Pub on the A140 in Stonham Aspel.
The pub boasts a Lithuanian menu and I chose the pickled herring and my companion opted for the dumplings. It may have been my imagination but I sensed a Baltic influence in the herring. The dumplings were the hit of the day being much lighter than Polish pierogi and very tasty.
The bill with coffees and a small glass of Guinness was extremely reasonable and the pub is now on our goto list.

The Bildeston Melon

Scratch a Green and discover what sort of melon they are. Are they red on the inside (closet Socialist) or yellow (closet Liberal).
I’ve always had my doubts about Robert Lindsay, leader of the Greens on Babergh and a County Councillor in Suffolk.
I was not too surprised when Lindsay announced that he would have reduced Council Taxes by increasing car parking charges specifically in Hadleigh and Sudbury.
So far, as expected.
On Monday (21st Feb) the Greens at the Babergh District Council Meeting went further. Cllr Lindsay expanded on the Green ambition that if all parking was taxed appropriately the monies raised and saved could go to subsiding bus services and providing grants and other support to those businesses adversely affected by the parking regime.
So it’s in with more bureaucracy in the guise of serving the people with the additionality of opportunities for waste and corruption in money dispersal matters
So, now we see their true colours. They are not interested in global warming as such but are keen on redistributive taxes. The car parks are to be a money maker.
And what if that’s not enough? Will they advocate (like some councils) taxing parking spaces at work? Will they regard garages at home as facilitating car ownership and therefore taxable?
At District level Robert represents Bildeston and its surrounding area. Bildeston is a large village with just over 1,000 inhabitants. It also has free, maintained parking in its village square. Is this square to be monetised? Is it to be exempt? Do the villagers know Cllr Lindsay’s ambitions?
We should be told, but I don’t think we shall.

Photo © Evelyn Simak (cc-by-sa/2.0)

La Reine Margot r.i.p.

We have just said good bye to Margot who was just shy of sixteen years old and who suffered a stroke which hastened her demise, since a dog’s life not worth living is not worth living.
Margot had been with us since 2005 and was a beautiful puppy and became a beautiful dog. She was shown at Cruft’s as a puppy and film from that time shows what a wonderful dog she was.
However her personality rendered her not suitable for the show ring. My main conclusion was that she was a winter baby and so was not used to the usual rough and tumble of spring litters which enjoy the garden and open air. I also think that she was spooked in the show ring by a dog behind her and so developed a dislike of anything behind her.
I considered arranging therapy for her and the advice I received was that animals like ourselves must learn to conquer their fears – so every day I took her with me to collect our morning newspapers. The route was direct but she got used to road traffic coming from behind her. She also got used to other dogs and people in dark clothes (I never understood that one).
When it was raining, I would carry her from the newsagents and on one occasion it was noted by my fellow District Councillors that instead of having a German Shepherd to reflect my Council persona I had a small blond dog whom I indulged beyond expectation.
Over the years she became less intolerant and enjoyed trips out in the car.
She was not a timid dog and I characterised her as being able to identify possible intruders at 100 yards.
She faithfully defended our households and I shall miss her loyalty and regard for us.
If there is a dog heaven, then she has a place scrutinising all new arrivals to check that they are worthy of admittance.

To Candlemas & Beyond

Melanie McDonagh is a writer on ecclesiastical matters and this week she was advocating the extension of the Christmas season beyond the usual twelfth night (January 6th) to Candlemas (February 2nd).
Her reasons are simplistic but valid.
It’s been a rough old year, what with the pandemic and everything that has gone with it from the furlough, to working from home to being on benefits and possibly not on benefits.
Her suggestions this year include foregoing a dry January and forgetting the so called Veganuary.
Now is not the time for abstinence.
This year, we need cheering up. People have died, businesses have gone under, we can’t meet our friends. This is no time for abstinence. It’s a time for embracing a cheering drink – in moderation. There are moments you need just a little inebriating uplift, and proper food. That time is now.
Abstinence in January is rubbish any year. When the outside is depressing, you want to make inside as cheerful as possible…and that doesn’t mean a diet. It’s still Christmas. We need all the comfort we can get.
But why stop on the February 2nd?
February brings us Valentine’s Day on the 14th followed by Shrove Tuesday on the 16th. Even Lent can be manageable as it is suspended on Sunday’s and on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th). Easter (April 4th) gently leads us forward to Pentecost (May 23rd). After which is full throttle until November, when we remember the Holy Souls and get ourselves in trim for the next set of Christmas festivities.
So, let’s ditch dry January and put Veganism in its place.
Melanie McDonough’s article may be found on: http://digitaleditions.telegraph.co.uk/data/462/reader/reader.html?social#!preferred/0/package/462/pub/462/page/68/article/117613

Poodle Councillor of the Year

It’s not too late to nominate the Poodle Councillor of the year.
Alastair McCraw, Babergh & Mid-Suffolk’s chair of Scrutiny gets my nomination.
His comment (EADT 21st Aug) that it was not the job of his committee to delve into the accounts of the Council’s property company indicates that he and his committee felt able to discuss the results of the Council’s endeavours without seeing the formal accounts of the company.
Had he reviewed the formal accounts, he would have seen that the auditors have revalued the property portfolio downwards as at 31st March with a note that the revaluation included material value uncertainty as a result of the pandemic meaning that less certainty and a higher degree of caution should be applied to the valuation than would normally be the case.
In other words, the situation may be worse than the figures suggest.
Moreover, he would have also concluded that the revenues may have been overstated as they include rentals billed but not paid. Indeed, rentals not yet paid are treated as debtors (current assets).
So, there is possibly a double whammy of overstated profits and unrealistic current asset values.
The Joint Scrutiny Committee could have teased out all these issues and taken an informed view.
There may be a case of muddling through to see what happens, but that requires the people who perform oversight and scrutiny to fully immerse themselves in their responsibilities.
Alastair McCraw self-confesses that he doesn’t do this.
He is the Council Executive’s ideal choice as Chairperson.
As such he is well qualified to be Poodle Councillor of the Year

Alternative Reality

A correspondent in the East Anglian Daily Times recently suggested that the outgoing head of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, might have made a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnston.
A reasonable statement you might think, except that Carney has never submitted himself to a General Election, and I doubt that the electorate would take to an economist as the head of their Government.
A better comparison might be if Johnson had lost and Corbyn had come into power. Would it have been like the times when Corbyn was causing Haringey to be one of the least efficient of London boroughs without any ambitions to make life better for the majority of its residents?
So, whilst the correspondent may dream of an alternative reality, I’ll stick with my current situation where my life may not be perfect but it is far better than it would have been had Boris had lost his election.

A version of this blog posting was first published in the EADT