We learn this week from a YouGov poll that nearly two thirds of people believe water company bosses should face prison over serious incidents of pollution, illustrating the growing rift between the public’s sense of morality and those who run the country. An angry public wants those in a position of responsibility to be held accountable. Those in charge not unsurprisingly present all kinds of reasons why they shouldn’t be, and moreover why they should be paid millions in bonuses for what is their cynical ineptitude or worse.
However, the poll didn’t mention a suitable penalty for those MPs who voted smugly for the sewage in our rivers, or the series of environment secretaries – culminating of course in Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) – who put forward the legislation on which the MPs voted.
On the subject of organisations not accepting responsibility, this week saw Redrow, who call themselves “the country’s leading premium housebuilder”, cut down a 100 metre-long hedge in Sawston, in the middle of the nesting season. It is not surprising that local people express outrage. Nor is it surprising that Redrow took shelter from their incompetence or brutal indifference behind bureaucratic obfuscation.
Pecksniff called them and was transferred six times. In the end a woman explained that the hedge was cut down for “overall enhancement”, though she was quite incapable of explaining what such destruction would enhance. Your diarist was assured that no animals or other wildlife were harmed, and that destroying the hedgerow was of no detriment to the natural environment.
In fact, so keen were Sawston Parish Council to have a new 200-house development in their village apparently, and according to the Redrow spokesperson, they were happy to see the hedge gone. (Expressions of outrage from Sawston should be directed at Redrow, though do please copy in Pecksniff.)
The conversation was ludicrous of course. But public accountability in business is a concept lost in the mists of time. The phone conversation was at times brutal, the woman was upset. Her employers had placed her in an impossible position. Regrettable, but while nobody is prepared to be held accountable for their decision and their callous indifference, then kicking in doors is sometimes the only way.
Pecksniff was hoping to have seen the back of Matt Hancock (West Suffolk), but should have known better. We learn this week, courtesy of Bylines Times, that the chair of a healthcare company awarded a £5.5 million contract for Covid testing units by the former health secretary is the ex business partner of his mother and step father.
It is known that the disgraced Owen Paterson, former MP, was employed by Randox, and through his lobbying of Matt Hancock, the company was awarded a £500 million covid contract without competition. Now, Randox are the sponsors of the Grand National, and readers may have noticed the grovelling tweet from Mr Hancock on how well it had all gone, (notwithstanding the deaths of several horses).
But one wag points out that, in the circumstances, it might be more fitting to declare that the official sponsor of the Grand National is the NHS.
That all-pervading stench of corruption is like dog shit on your shoe. It came as no surprise to learn that the Metropolitan Police have declared they will not investigate Matt Hancock’s blatant breaking of his own law during Covid lockdown: the infamous clinch in the office with his mistress. The concept of equality before the law is just another principle of democratic governance to be jettisoned in obeisance to the executive. The evidence is plain but will not be pursued. The Met is another institution in the pocket of the government.
Is it possible for a nation to die of shame?
Anthony Browne is the MP for South Cambs and a former aide to Boris Johnson. By all accounts he is not a very pleasant fellow and has been accused of “disgusting racism” over his implications that refugees inevitably carry disease. Anyway, his seat is under serious threat, being a target of the LibDems. With boundary changes coming up, he is keen to decant to the new constituency of Mid Cambs.
So, he is mocked for being “frit” by Pippa Heylings, the LibDem prospective parliamentary candidate for South Cambs. One can’t begrudge her for taking the opportunity, though it is hardly unusual for a political hopeful to jump seats in search for something safer. In fact, Ms Heylings did just that herself, moving from being PPC at South East Cambs.
Giles Watling (Clacton) is the latest Tory MP facing possible de-selection by his local party. It is not clear whether the members think he supported the government too much, or not enough, or was too busy with other matters to give thought to his constituency.
The local elections are almost upon us, and a new poll from Electoral Calculus taken at ward level offers a timely reminder why optimism can be a treacherous friend in politics. The findings suggest a drubbing for the Tories, though nothing like other polls have suggested.
The poll suggests a Tory share down 2% and Labour’s up 7%, with little change elsewhere. That means Labour takes 408 council seats, with everybody else a net loser. This wouldn’t quite fit in with the idea of a Labour tsunami across the country, which idea it must be said has partly been prompted by the Electoral Calculus parliamentary constituency findings. But of course, voting patterns may be different between local and general elections.
The only changes the poll sees in this region are the Tories losing Kings Lynn to the Liberal Democrats and Rochford moving from no overall control, presumably to the Tories.
Last week Pecksniff reproached both Liberal Democrats and Greens for their misleading local election literature, though of course the Liberal Democrats have lots of previous on this. But now we have a leaflet which appears to take us into new territory. The Liberal democrats are actually sending election material to areas where there is no election, telling punters (as always) that the Liberal Democrats can win here!
Not if there isn’t an election, they can’t. And anyway, the ‘here’ indicated by the bar chart appears to be the constituency next door.
One has the impression sometimes that the Liberal Democrats do these things just because they like to be smart arses. But one would respectfully point out that, in order to be a smart-arse, one should really begin winning a few more elections.
We have more on the convolutions which Tories are going through in a desperate attempt to persuade voters that local Tories – in this case candidates for Broadland Council – are in no way connected to those in Westminster.
The easiest way to find out would be to ask them whether they support Westminster decisions. Do tell, Messrs Tony Adams and Stuart Dunn standing in Taverham North, did you support your MPs when they voted in favour of pumping sewage into our rivers? Or did you demonstrate against it, as did many of your neighbours?
Where were you exactly on Brexit? Voted enthusiastically for it, did you, and applauded your MP Jerome Mayhew in all his specious flapdoodle? But yet somehow, the collapse of the economy is nothing to do with you?
And starving the NHS of resources: you backed that, did you? Clearly you weren’t so concerned about that or anything else that you considered resigning from the party. Because here you are, representing it… only not being prepared to represent any of the Tories’ monstrous decisions which have driven the country into penury and the voters into savage anger.
Well, my dear sirs, tough. You wanted it. Own it. We must assume Messrs Adams and Dunn both support sewage in rivers and the collapse of both the NHS and the economy because they uttered not a squeak against it. The advice from Pecksniff to voters is to vote on whatever grounds you bloody like. But not for these gentlemen.
Whilst most Tories are keen not to draw too much attention to themselves, it seems that is not the case for Councillor Peter Thompson of Bury Town Council, where he is, or possibly was, the mayor. There lies the puzzle.
It seems there was some kind of unpleasantness at a nightclub, Bury St Edmunds being the strutting mecca of such establishments. Accusations were thrown, and not only accusations. The police were called. As a result, Cllr Thompson has been suspended from all three Conservative Associations of which he is a member: West Suffolk, Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk County. He is a Tory councillor at all three levels.
With elections for two of those councils only just round the corner, this has caused confusion. Although his party has suspended him, Cllr Thompson claims he is still standing as a Conservative, even though he is now listed as an independent candidate.
He is also said to be suspended from the mayoralty, though there seems to be some doubt about that. Now either he is still mayor or he isn’t. This reluctance to confirm one way or another is yet another ploy to make sure the voters know as little as possible about what is going on. Pecksniff has been told of certain cctv footage which will explain the whole incident, which one hopes will be available in time for next week’s diary. For the moment however, neither Cllr Thompson, Bury Town Council, nor any of the three local Tory branches are saying anything more.
You may feel, dear reader, that this isn’t good enough. There are elections due, and voters have every right to know enough about candidates to decide where to put their cross. Those in Bury might care to call the council and ask them for more information. And do, please, make clear your frustrations.
Last week Pecksniff reported on a new party contesting seats in Thetford, the Thomas Paine Independents. They are ambitious. They have 13 candidates in the Breckland Council contest and eight contesting the town council.
Before placing their cross, however, voters might like to ponder on the party’s social media discussions. “Ironically more will die in that civil war than of Covid,” says one, writing of the civil unrest they expect. “They brought this on themselves”, whatever ‘this’ is. “Now they must accept their fate!”
They may be more deluded than dangerous, but it is not clear that the presence of either in public service at the moment is going to help us much.
There is also the small matter of a picture of one of the candidates gesturing while wearing an ill-fitting posing pouch, and another of what appears to be a stash of drugs. Sadly (or perhaps not), the editor will not permit their publication. (She is known not to be much fun.)
Ipswich Tories are upbraided for incompetence this week by none other than that doyen of politics hacks, Paul Geater of the Ipswich Star. He points out that the election leaflet delivered through his door assumes his MP is Tom Hunt, but actually it is Dan Poulter.
Those readers who are paying attention will notice that your diarist is running through the parties, slagging them off one by one to demonstrate a fashionable world-weariness with them all. But where are the Greens? Everybody knows what a sanctimonious pain in the rectum they can be. Well, true. But down at the Muckrakers they speak highly of them, and that sentiment seems to be echoed beyond the purlieus of licensed premises.
East Anglia Bylines is strictly non-party, but that doesn’t mean that as well as knocking them when they get things wrong, we can’t praise them where it’s due. (My dear, we can be such a tease…) And a feature of this local election campaign is how impressive the Greens’ ground game has been. A number of unsolicited reports have mentioned that, if there has only been canvassing and literature from one party, that party has inevitably been the Greens. A colleague remarks that, while the Greens website is full of helpful information, the Liberal Democrats’ site has apparently not been updated since 2019.
None of this of course means they are any less self-righteous and self-indulgent. But no party wins without good local organisation, and the Greens appear to have it.
And finally, for the past 50 years, Germany’s most popular TV crime series has been ‘Tatort’ (‘Crime Scene’). In last week’s episode, a young man under police interrogation tells the police inspector that he wants to escape to Britain. The policeman eyes him suspiciously, and asks: “Why would anyone want to flee to Britain after Brexit?”
Thanks this week go to Jess Knopp, Liz Crosbie, Elizabeth McWilliams and Keith Burge.
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