Sunday, 24 November 2013

Standards Committee meeting held on 21 November, where do we go from here

I have finally managed to get through listening to all of the recording of this meeting and now have some idea of what it was about.

Partly for this reason and partly because comments on the previous post about this issue are around the 200 mark, which is where blogger comments stop working properly I am writing this new post, so if you wish to comment more about it please do so here and not on the previous post, that is, if you want your comments to be read.

The main contentious issue seems to be what the independent members of the standards committee had to say about the perception of the council – let me make this clear, not the way the independent members thought the council was but the way the independent members said the council appeared to be to a lot of members of the public – which was pretty bad.  

Here is the link to the independent members report http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/documents/s33886/Independent%20Members%20Report%20on%20Standards.html?CT=2 this is the document that all the fuss in being made about.

The key statement being: “It is suggested by the independent members of the Standards Committee that the Council is held in low regard by the public.  An, admittedly unscientific, assessment of comments made (in the press, local bloggers, twitter, personal conversations, by local interest groups etc) suggest that there is a local suspicion of secrecy, corruption and distance between the Council as it is perceived in the offices in Cecil Square, the reality of people’s lives and the needs of the district.”

What happened was that the council appointed four unpaid members of the public who are not councillors to the council standards committee and produced this pretty damming report about the way the council is perceived and the councillors who form the rest of this committee voted not to accept the report, which caused the independent members to resign. Note here; the sending back of a report for the group’s consideration really left the independent members no other realistic option but resignation.

Listening to the histrionic outpourings of some of the councillors at the committee was for me, more damming than the report, frankly if you live in Thanet you can hardly avoid becoming aware of the public’s opinion of the council.

Also listening to the councillors speaking what came over was that while the councillors agreed, for the most part, that public perception of the council was very poor, the councillors, for the most part, were not going to accept the independent members telling them this.

Confusing isn’t it, either the public perception of the council is good, in which place there is no problem, or it is bad in which case something needs doing about it, or it is an unknown in which case the council need to find out what the position is by asking members of the public a series of simple questions. Eg.

Do you think TDC performs well?

Do you think TDC communicates with the public well?

Do you think TDC is a corrupt council?

And the one that is the subject of an internet poll on ECR’s blog http://eastcliffrichard.blogspot.co.uk/ at the moment:

“Is Thanet council fit for purpose” the results at the time of writing are; yes 10 and no 128.

Much of the self pitying remarks made by some the councillors at the meeting blamed social media for this state of affairs, blogs twitter, facebook local papers and so on, something along the lines; of alas it isn’t twenty years ago.

Apart from the recording of this meeting, various press releases responding to the meeting have been issued.

This link takes you to council’s official press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/standards-committee-meeting-thursday-21.html

This link takes you to the Labour (majority group in hung council) group’s press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/tdc-standards-committee-21st-november.html

This link takes you to the Conservative (main minority group in hung council) group’s press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/statement-from-tdc-conservative-group_3447.html


I will continue with this post as an when I get time  

67 comments:

  1. An admittance that there is a problem with public perception would be a start however until today anyone listening to TDC Councillors would have thought there wasn't one. Today the Conservatives have endorsed the report and acknowledged what is a fact.
    The main issue for people is the financial crises the Council seem to be lurching from day after day. These are too numerous to mention however what is different in this day and age is Social Media enabling less hiding from the bad news and a more public debate and sharing of information.
    Why do we have so many major financial issues (probably a whole new blog) however what I get fed back from Councillors is the quality of advice they are given by officers. Then there is the issue of why that poor? quality advice is accepted at face value and I am told it is the lack of expertise in Councillor ranks.
    If this is the only reason then I am still waiting for an explanation why Officer advice was ignored in 2009 over Pleasurama.

    I have asked why scrutiny cannot have the means of adding expert witnesses when they call in a decision to ensure at least there is a second opinion but have yet to receive an answer.

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  2. Michael
    You would think that the mere suggestion (by four independent people put in place specifically for the purpose of overseeing standards) that the Council was held in low regard by the public would cause them to spend some time investigating whether this were so. Not rejecting out of hand, amid torrents of tears and tantrums. They maybe need to get out and ask people what they think; not necessarily in the wards where they are well known, so maybe Cllrs from the north coast could pop over to Ramsgate, and vice versa. Clive would need to don a disguise - his flamboyant hair is instantly recognisable!.
    Cllr Bayford's statements go some way to offering hope that some sections of the Council are willing to examine this issue and, despite the opprobrium heaped upon him by those who wish to blame everything on him, Cllr Driver's efforts to highlight the problems are a starting point for the debate.
    I hope (maybe in vain) that this will be a turning point. I don't think that the Independents intended to suggest that Cllrs don't work hard (as opposed to Cllr Moores, who is regularly fairly scathing about one of his fellow Westgate councillors), so the crocodile tears from some are an attempt to divert attention from the main thrust of the report; that for whatever reason, the Council as an entity was seen as out of touch and maybe, as it stands, not fit for purpose.
    Given the usual turnout at local elections, many would argue that we get what we deserve - witness the recent Labour gain in Sandwich, trumpeted as a major victory when in reality the total turnout was less than the crowd at a Ramsgate United football match. Local politicians need to be very careful about claiming any degree of democratic authority; they excite the locals so little that very few of them bother to turn out to vote for them.

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  3. One thing a few people have suggested in recent days is that we have far too many councillors for a relatively small district like Thanet. Any thoughts anyone? Do the councillors themselves believe that they could do their job just as effienctly (or perhaps more so) if there were fewer?

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    1. I misspelt "efficiently", but you know what I mean!

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    2. Yes Peter there are too many - 56 too many. Scrap TDC and put an East Kent unitary council in its place.

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  4. Peter
    Your Westgate mate says that this is so as to avoid the need for by-elections. Since he also seems to think that only he does any ward work in Westgate he would presumably be happy reducing Westgate from three to one Councillor. If you follow his logic to its conclusion, each constituency would need three MPs, in case one died.
    In answer to your question; yes - less councillors, both at local and county level

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  5. We may have too many but doesn't reducing them lower their experience. We need some practical ways to regain confidence in the Publics eyes

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  6. Maybe they all need to remember Caesar's slave - the one that hovered by his shoulder reminding him that "you are only human".

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. You have to wonder what planet the councillors are living on. Ramsgate seafront has been a building site for the last umpteen years because they sold it to a developer which is registered on some foreign island to obscure the identities of the directors and to avoid tax. They allowed the ferry company not to pay its fees for using the harbour and failed to reclaim any of the money owed when the ships were sold to pay creditors. They are having to raid the reserves to pay for a failed road scheme and they haven't yet told us how much money they are short of to meet their commitment of opening Dreamland next Summer. Yet, they have a hissy fit when anyone suggests that the public might not think much of them. They really have to be living in La La land if they think that the independent councillors have overstated the level of public distrust. Personally, I think the public are a lot more unhappy than has been suggested and it's time for Pickles to send in his hit-men.
    P.S. It isn't about how many councillors there are. There may well be too many but that is a separate issue. The issue here is competence and the public perception is that the vast majority of councillors are next to useless. I see Mr. Moores trying to score political points (above) but which way did he vote on any of the cock-ups I've listed? If you're one of those councillors who just votes with his or her party, you must accept that you are part of the problem, not the solution.

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  9. I think that even Councillors would agree that there are far too many and that perhaps more than two per ward, is too much. Invariably though what happens is that the 80/20 rule applies as much to Councillors as the rest of society

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  10. Not really trying to score political points as such but a councillor's record must be judged beyond simply turning-up to vote in the chamber. Being visible and active in his or her community is rightly expected of all.

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  11. Final point before bed. The fact that a director lives on a foreign island for tax purposes or even that Amazon and Google run their tax affairs from the Irish Republic or Luxembourg, lie outside the remit local Council, which can only act inside the law, both in regard to the extent of any due diligence process and the advice and information provided by professional council officers.

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  12. Then the due diligence should have been exemplary especially as they were aware and knew they had to get it right. Did they, no they didn't they did no due diligence in 2009 Sue said they relied on the bank and SFP's Solicitors.
    Their words to me were SFP Ventures UK ltd are a company registered at Companies House. Yeah Right it was set up in Jan 2006 yet Shaun Keegan has been "the only game in town" since 2002 and Due Diligence doesn't know where he lives nor have they details of his identity bar a business card he gave members in 2002

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  13. Thank you Simon. Looking forward to other cllrs comments on this (William? Ian?), but if the majority of cllrs believe there's too many of you then how do we change this?

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  14. Peter.. the number of Cllrs is not determined directly by the Council and would take considerable time to change. That said, I would expect over time the number to drop and be subject to rationalisation
    as a consequence of pressure on local government budgets.

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  15. I can only speak from experience of a small town council, but with just fifteen councillors in Broadstairs it would be difficult to go lower. What needs to be remembered is that in addition to main council meetings, there are committees, planning for example meet every three weeks, working parties and council representatives on other town bodies. Only takes a couple off sick and things get a bit tight for numbers.

    That said, town councillors only get a few hundred pounds a year in allowances so the total for fifteen is about a third of the national average wage. Quite good value I would suggest.

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    Replies
    1. Tell you what, Anon 2:46, why don't you stand. Even £400 odd would be more than you bring in at present and you could answer all your own fool questions. This time though, don't forget to put in your papers to the electoral officer and pay your deposit. It is no good saying you are a candidate if you don't do anything about it.

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  16. I would say the issue here is much more about some immediate action to show the council and councillors are trying to improve matters than distant possibilities of reducing councillor numbers, which may or may not improve matters.

    I assume there was an official recording of the meeting, now languishing on a DVD somewhere, a good start would be to put it on YouTube so that I can replace the illicit recording and embed the official one.

    It would also be a good idea for them to publish the recordings of other recent meetings and to do it with future ones.

    Just the councils actions of producing recordings of only full council meetings, of a pretty much unwatchable quality in way that one can’t embed them in social media sites, sends out a message that they don’t want people to know what is going on at the council and they want clash with social media rather than engage with it.

    Added to this is the fact that everyone knows that they could be publishing recordings of meetings on a free site rather than wasting public money hosting them on a paid server.

    Frankly I think that more councillors should also consider engaging with the electorate on blogs and other social media, I know that this blog with no comment moderation is one of the most difficult and challenging places for public figures to comment, but there are other blogs with comment moderation and producing there own blog isn’t rocket science.

    I am always happy to help individual councillors with this and they can get this help either by emailing me, email address on the side bar, or coming into the shop – although not on Thursdays when it is closed – armed with their google password if they have one and I will show them how to do it.

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    1. Apparently this meeting was not filmed, as it wasn't a full council meeting (unless they film these meetings just for their own archives which I don't think they do).

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    2. The council don't even take minutes or notes in some important meetings. Looks like the local MP has had enough of Thanet politics, here comes the Ukip leader!

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  17. Personally as a Ramsgatonian I would like to see the same effort going into the regeneration of Ramsgate as the public perception is that Ramsgate is sadly missing out.
    Many pictures were taken of all three main beaches in the summer and sadly Ramsgate looked forlorn compared to the others. Is that the Turner effect who knows?

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  18. Not in Broadstairs it wasn't, Barry, but then the attractions have always varied. Broadstairs was always the quieter family resort whilst our neighbours attracted the day trippers with their 'kiss me quick' hats and arcades. Margate seems to have moved towards a sort of arty appeal, undoubtedly down to the Turner, whilst Ramsgate needs to exploit its splendid sea front and marina more.

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  19. William so you agree People need to spend some money "exploiting its splendid sea front and marina" Totally agree but RAMSGATE whoever that is cannot do this without TDC support. Isn't the expression "put your money where your mouth is"

    FORS, The Ramsgate Society, Westcliff Motorhouse, and many other groups cannot do this without monetary support. The perception here is Margate gets and we do not. And we are talking perception

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  20. We do not seem to get too much money thrown the way of Broadstairs either, Barry, though I would agree that we do not have the run down sites that exist in Ramsgate. I think the only sizeable investment in Margate in recent years has been the Turner and that was mainly outside money. The impression one gets is that TDC simply does not have the financial resources to do the things that need doing and is dependent on inward investment in consequence. Hence they look at Tesco to restore Arlington Arcade and car park and Wetherspoons are a possible for the Royal Pavilion. Maybe the various bodies should combine with the RTC to see if they can help to attract such investors.

    Like your expression, but regret to say it is not my money.

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  21. For those that haven't VOTE SHED 0871 626 88 63

    calls cost 10p and you can call 10 x to help them win £50000 from the peoples Millions

    Friends of Ellington Park in Ramsgate is tomorrow

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  22. We could halve the District councillors to c.9 for each town and do away with the District. No double hatters of course. So an extra set of KCCers. The 3 Mayors would in essence be the District and with the other Mayors/Chair make EKC. Less cost and more accountability. Perhaps higher councillor wages to attract better quality. The civil service depts would be apportioned to each town as necessary and 750 is far too many. About 100 back office seems about right for 3 small towns - perhaps including KCC- and Canterbury etc nearby. We don't know though without FOI do we? Perhaps secession is not such a dirty word after all if KCC is so unresponsive for the £2Bn we pay it and corruption it allows.

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  23. I was shocked to hear the meeting wasn't filmed. I had my camera with me but decided not to use it as I didn't want to disrupt the flow of rhetoric! All wasted apparently.
    Christine
    Thanet Watch

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    Replies
    1. You should've just went ahead and filmed it Christine!

      I can't help wondering if this latest debacle has been the final straw for Laura Sandys. It can't be easy tirelessly campaigning for an area that has a district council featured on the news almost every week.

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    2. Doubt it, Peter, because much of Thanet South, like Sandwich, Ash, Wingham and the Stour villages lies outside Thanet and is pretty well run. I reckon if she says it is for family reasons then it is. Cannot be a lot of fun spending the week in Westminster and then coming home at the weekends to a load of constituency work.

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    3. That's true, but her actual title is "Thanet South" MP not "Sandwich, Ash & Wingham" MP. So merely by association it must be frustrating.

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    4. True, Peter, although the latest debacle has been very much a Labour affair with the Conservatives coming out of it pretty well. I really do not think MPs, whose constituency boundaries frequently straddle more than one local authority, are that bothered by the antics of the lesser fry. In any case, Conservatives have not been in office in Thanet for a while now and TDC hardly seems to get to Sir Roger.

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    5. Anon if you can do better then throw your hat into the ring but you will need to give your name and anon wont be allowed on the ballot sheet

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    6. 5:52, Sir Roger Gale is far from useless, and judging by the amount of elections he's won I'm not the only person to think so! A very great man.

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    7. Anon 5:52pm,

      You are the person that would stab his best friend in the back just so you could write something vile on his tombstone.

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    8. How about you james, you seem to think you represent someone, and seem to think you can do better, yet your hat appears to be missing from the ring, wonder why that might be...

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    9. How about you Spamilton, you seem to think you can do so much better than anyone else? Oops I forgot, you don't live here and you'd have to come out from hiding behind an alias!

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    10. Peter, you have accused me in the past of being obsessive with dim Tim and lacking proof that some anonymous comment is attributable to him, but here you go with your 'don't even live here' dig at JH without a shred of proof to back that statement up. Why are the rules different for you than me. Please spare me the evidence of the Geoff Barnes investigative wizardry, there is none, just pure speculation.

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    11. I have proof, independent of Geoff's site... anyway, do YOU think John Hamilton should stand for election rather than mouthing off at others all the time? after all, I thought you were generally in favour of people doing that.

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    12. ... and, I hope Tim stands for election next time too.

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    13. Peter, in a democracy anyone who wishes to, other than those debarred from holding public office, should be able to stand if they so wish and yes I do believe that a good cross section of candidates benefits the democratic process. If you are asking me, however, do I think John Hamilton would make a good candidate, how would I know? Unlike you I do not profess to know anything about him and I have never met him as far as I am aware.

      As for Tim standing, well I doubt he would get his act together to even get his papers in, as in 2010, and I doubt his shrink would let him anyway.

      Incidentally, not really mouthing off at you, but, in the same way you find Tim obsession irritating, I likewise find all this Arizona and don't live here stuff has been repeated to the point of boredom. Now if someone would actually come up with their alleged proof or stick up a photo of a gun toting cowboy rounding up cattle in the West, I might enjoy that. After all, I was always a big fan of the spaghetti westerns.

      On the plus side, agree with 110% or more on Russell Brand, absolute tit trying to perpetuate his youth like some Peter Pan (or dare we say it - Cliff the quiff).

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    14. I spent a month living in Arizona. It's a wonderful place, with its healthy dry desert climate, open spaces and plenty of good cheap food. The Arizona Desert is a young desert and fascinating to explore. In the light of this I find it difficult to accept that anyone living in Arizona would be bothered with the parochial self inflicted problems of Thanet.

      If the self styled 'hammy hunters' would care to finance me I am willing to travel to Arizona and search its 113,998 square miles for John Hamilton.

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    15. Surely you must have met him while you were there, John, with so much evidence around to pin point him right down to his gun club. What always fascinates me is his command of cockney rhyming slang, not something you would expect of a Clint Eastwood type who once lived close to Biggin Hill. I once lived close to Biggin Hill, only because my dad was stationed there, and I never met JH, but then maybe I did at the little school on Keston Common, who knows?

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    16. To be fair on John Hamilton he's far more amusing than Russell Brand!

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    17. Peter, try answering that lot with a one liner other than 'wow' might prove difficult.

      Some good points there, Rick, especially about the care homes.

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    18. Peter, the comment I was referring to in my last response has disappeared under Michael's spamming system. As for JH being more amusing than Brand, well isn't everyone including you. JH actually comes over as quite couth and cultured compared with that foul mouthed moron.

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    19. Who said that hamilton was born in Arizona JH?

      Hamilton has said he loves the area but he has never said he has lived here neither funnily enough has he ever denied currently living in Arizona.
      Certainly that would mean, presumably, he may be an ex-pat with links to Ramsgate certainly having said he has driven an artic round the St Laurence roundabout.
      I can think of several people who have said they have family history in Thanet who have never lived here but because of family ties have spent holidays here.

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    20. This blog is just Epps and Holyer and Checksfield now isn't it?

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    21. Err, are the lights on in there, 12:16, but hasn't William Watkins just posted a comment and earlier Barry James did. You might need a trip to Specsavers or somewhere, probably the latter.

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    22. And your point, William, if it really mattered in the greater scheme of things where Hamilton lives? I once held an HGV and even a glider licence, but I am sure it is of no interest to anyone.

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    23. William my Great Grandfather moved here in 1947 but I didnt until 2008 but I have great affection for the place as I have spent every summer here since I was born. Even when I didn't live here I bought my kids down to enjoy the beach and play areas.

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    24. Zzzzzzz so its Epps and Holyer and Checksfield and occasionally Barry and the other William. Yawn, what was the discussion about? There's always Hamilton as well. Zzzzzz.

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    25. Anon 2:07, And don't forget, there is also liitle old you. Your comments are an immense contribution to the debate on any subject.

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    26. At least they named the dimmer switch after him, John, so he has a certain fame.

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    27. Barry, My Paternal Great, Great Grandparents were born here. My Maternal Great Grandparents and family moved here in the 20s. The family bought three houses in Augusta Rd. On the outbreak of War the family was ordered to leave due to the threat of invasion and their houses were requisitioned by the Army. They moved to London just in time for the Blitz. In 1946 the family returned to Margate then Ramsgate with me in tow. Aged 18 I left Thanet for good, save for the occasional visit. I returned 6 years ago. I don't know why I'm writing all this but now that I hve done so I'll hit the send button and, hopefully, my post will annoy that madman 'anonymous Zzzzzzzzzzz'

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    28. Anon, I asked this question the other day but received no reply: If you are really Tim Garbutt then why don't you sign in with a Google ID? And if you're not him, then why not still do the same?

      You must admit (if it is you), it doesn't look good if a potential councillor / mayor / MP / PM can't even work out the blogger id process, wouldn't you agree mate?

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  24. Nice to see Ian praising Laura on his blog.

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    1. And Louise Oldfield has called Laura "an inspiration"! Says a lot when the opposition are praising a person.

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    2. and UKIP spokesperson said she was too scared to face Farage. Right

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    3. Perhaps scared of not being able to control her laughter.

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    4. Peter, I also thought it was as nice gesture by Ian, and endorsed his site accordingly, however it has now degenerated.

      Some anonymous starting off "Getting back to things that matter" as though Laura doesn't, has launched into a diatribe about TDC and Ian has got sucked into replying to it, not once but twice, thus negating the whole purpose of the post which started out as a tribute. Sad really but I guess a leopard doesn't really change his spots.

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    5. I really can't stand Russell Brand, and find it even more ridiculous that he's the (self-appointed) "spokesman for the youth" at nearly 40!

      And on that bombshell I'm off to bed with a book, 'night all!

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    6. Peter,

      Here, here. I'm with you on Russell Brand.

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  25. Following the Pleasurama debacle, I would give a wide berth to anyone who shared an office with Terence Painter.

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    Replies
    1. And I am sure they would equally give a wide berth to you. Who wants to spend time with the brain dead.

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  26. Laura is an excellent constituency MP and a thoroughly nice person. I shall miss her.

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