Saturday, February 27, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
“St Peter is separated from its village by the four lanes of the A14, the roar of which can be heard from the churchyard. How has this happened? Simply, Creeting St Peter consists mainly of council houses and farm cottages, working people’s houses. People like this do not get asked if they want a motorway at the bottom of the garden.”
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Sunday, February 14, 2021
They are, unsurprisingly, now attempting to intimidate academic institutions to express only those opinions which meet with their view of British history - for which one should almost certainly read “English history”, given that most teaching of British history tends to revolve around the English conquering by force or via politics the other three parts of the United Kingdom.
And, given that history tended to be written by the winners, there is a tendency to highlight British successes rather than challenge the perceived wisdom. So, for example, your perspective on World War II might differ if you were living in Bedfordshire or Bengal, where more than two million died as a result of what is widely regarded as a man-made famine under British control. You might look upon the Anglo-Zulu War as a great triumph against the odds - although highly disciplined troops, heavily armed, tend to have a significant advantage over tribesman armed with spears - yet not want to emphasise the invention of concentration camps when fighting the Boers twenty or so years later. After all, we’ve established that gathering populations in a confined space and allowing them to die through starvation and disease is a bad thing, right?
And history changes too. Take, for example, the English Civil War, where Conrad Russell was, apart from being an adornment to the Liberal Democrat benches in the Lords, a leader in re-evaluating how it came to pass, looking at source material in new ways. History moves on, as we collect more data, as researchers share their findings in ways not easily matched before the advent of the internet.
The Empire offers a number of significant challenges. Was it a summarily good thing, or are you merely measuring the outcomes in relation to the incredibly low bar that is the Belgian Congo? If the British Empire was such a boon to economic development, why was India’s share of the world economy estimated at 23% before invasion, and just 4% at independence? It might be fairer to say that, if you were a white colony, the Empire wasn’t so bad. If, on the other hand, you were one of Rhodes’s natives to be treated as a child and denied the franchise, it might reasonably be said that the Empire was a brutal oppressor.
Yes, building railways and other infrastructure was a useful inheritance when countries gained their independence, but as none of it was built with their interests at heart - it was built to enable military control and to extract the wealth - that smacks of post-event justification.
So, as a liberal and as someone of Indian descent, I oppose what is, effectively, the imposition of a repressive world view on the rights of academics, and anyone else for that matter, to express a variety of perspectives on events that have taken place, in order to create an idealised perspective on a divided country.
No people are perfect, no nation’s impact on the world around it is uniformly benevolent, and history is meant to inform and educate - we are supposed to learn from our history and the mistakes we make. But then, this Government doesn’t like to be reminded of its failures, and it refuses to learn from its mistakes.
Our job as liberals is to hold the Government of the day to account, to suggest means to improve the state of the nation and its people. That means allowing debate on events past and present, and encouraging diversity of thought, and so we need to shine a light on this Government’s desire to suppress views it doesn’t much like.
Because, if they get away with that, they’ll happily suppress political dissent and opposition by inches, as we see in their restrictions on political campaigning, their attempts to neuter the Electoral Commission and their move to change constituency boundaries based on registered voters rather than population.
History is written by the winners. Perhaps it would be nicer if more of us were able to be winners...
Friday, February 12, 2021
Tuesday, February 09, 2021
Monday, February 08, 2021
Overnight, the snow kept falling, which did lead one to worry a bit about how easy it might be to drive out in either direction. Early reports that the road to Stowupland was blocked by snowdrifts were, fortunately, replaced by word that one of our local farmers had been out with tractor and JCB. And yes, the road conditions weren’t ideal, but people were getting away with caution.
I had a couple of stray newsletters to deliver, so I took the opportunity offered by a slight lull in the snow to sneak up the farm track towards Roydon Hall Farm, only to be confronted by a courier in a white van, looking to see if the route was passable. Given that he was evidently from somewhere in Eastern Europe, where snow is commonplace, his judgement was that it wasn’t so bad as to be impassable, and he made it easily enough.
As it turned out, he had something for us too, so I’m glad that he did.
This is the second time in recent years that the village has been affected by snow, but luckily, as many of us are working from home this time, the impact has been somewhat less of a nuisance than it might otherwise have been.
But the forecast is a mite ominous, with snow forecast on and off until Thursday, and sub-zero temperatures pretty much continuous until the weekend. There’s plenty of snow on the fields, and the risk of further problems caused as it drifts onto the roads, particularly at Clamp Farm where the properties act as a barrier to further drifting.
It may be necessary to hike across the fields at some point if this keeps up...
Sunday, February 07, 2021
Saturday, February 06, 2021
Friday, February 05, 2021
It's not common for the deliberations of a Parish Council to go viral - in truth they're generally not that interesting. However, the unfortunate events during a Zoom meeting of Handforth Parish Council's Planning and Environment Committee have led to the video being watched more than a million times. Given that the population of Handforth was just over 6,000 in 2011, that's rather impressive.
Unfortunately for the Parish councillors concerned, their struggles with technology and, in some cases, basic courtesy, have made it look like a bit of a shambles (I paraphrase in order to protect the innocent). In the midst of the mayhem, the acting Clerk, Jackie Weaver, attempts to create some structure, whilst councillors walk away from their cameras, attempt to speak whilst muted, and talk over each other.
From an outsider's perspective, it does look as though the Parish Council requires the mediation skills of a senior United Nations diplomat, although once Jackie (who is the Chief Officer of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils) had started excluding those behaving badly, the meeting did seem to be rather more cordial.
But, regardless of the circumstances that surrounded the meeting, it is a reminder to those of us in a similar position that, when you're in a virtual meeting, especially one where there are opposing factions, you need to be on top of your game or, at the very least, paying attention to the picture of you that everyone else is seeing.
That can be a challenge, especially in areas where broadband speeds are less than optimal, and where you have councillors who are unfamiliar, or uncomfortable, with technology. And sometimes, people behave as though there is nobody watching, which can produce some rather bizarre moments, as Handforth councillors demonstrate vividly.
The role of the Chair is criticial. Not only do you have to steer the meeting in order to complete the business, but you need to watch the screen to ensure that people can contribute. And, for most of us, that's a relatively new challenge, one that most of us aren't trained for, and it's a real test of your skills as a Chair.
I'm very fortunate in that, having served on far more committees than is really healthy over the years, I have a reasonable sense of what does and does not work. My colleagues have re-elected me twice, so I'm hoping that that represents an endorsement. But I wouldn't call it easy, especially if it's what one might describe as an "open mic session", where it's necessary or useful to open the discussion beyond just the councillors.
For those with less committee experience, there is training available through your County Association of Local Councils, and I would strongly recommend it, although whether or not the training material is designed to cope with virtual meetings is a question I can't personally answer. The basic skills don't change, however.
The basic courtesies don't change either. Allowing people to finish before you speak, keeping your interventions brief and to the point, judicious use of humour and encouragement and staying muted unless you want to intervene, help the Chair and the Clerk in their roles.
I hope that Handforth Parish Council finds a resolution to the problems it clearly has, but when Parish Councils go sour, it can be a hard road back...
Thursday, February 04, 2021
Wednesday, February 03, 2021
One of the Government's more interesting ideas is the creation of a number of freeports around the country. According to the consultation document issued last year;
Because freeports still offer that same story of trade and prosperity across the modern world. From the UAE to the USA, China to California, global freeports support jobs, trade and investment. They serve as humming hubs of high-quality manufacturing, titans of trans-shipment and warehouses for wealth-creating goods and services. The UK will recreate the best aspects of international freeports in the brand-new, best-in-class, bespoke model set out in the following pages.
I admit that, when this was first signalled, I didn't pay it an awful lot of attention - after all, why would Creeting St Peter be in the frame? And, besides, it wasn't anywhere near as radical an idea as was being touted - we'd had freeports, and they weren't that fantastic for, if they had been, we'd hardly have gotten rid of them.
Firstly, it does make the project potentially much more viable, as the site can now offer something that local competition can't, which in turn accelerates the likely timetable for development - we had been led to believe until now that it might take 10-15 years for the site to be fully developed.
The park will need to be secure though, as stated in Paragraph 3.11 of the Government's response to their consultation;
Although a few respondents (24%) advocated using technology instead of physical fences, the government considers a physical perimeter to be a robust solution. However, we welcome the inclusion of additional technology as part of the security process and would encourage bidders to set out what they can achieve. Additionally, the government remains open to exploring alternative security measures in the future if they can be demonstrated to be effective and not burdensome for businesses.
The development may also be far more disruptive to local residents, as it will have a far higher proportion of logistics space, with resultant higher volumes of heavy goods traffic and the likelihood of noise and light pollution around the clock.
To make matters worse, the hybrid planning application for the Gateway 14 development landed just over a week ago, and the formal consultation process closes on 17 February. Can anyone really say if the plans as currently published are suitable for a freeport when the Government hasn't even determined exactly how they will work yet?
I have a bad feeling about this...
Tuesday, February 02, 2021
Like, I suspect, many of my readers, there's always seemed to be something odd about the Far East concept of wearing face masks when out in public during the winter months. We tend to take for granted the idea that we can see people, when they're smiling, or nervous, or disinterested, without a barrier. Perhaps that what makes some people uncomfortable around Muslim women who are masked, although I fear that it's simply an excuse for intolerance.
But I had spotted a report from Australia in late summer that suggested that there was a link between face mask wearing and far lower incidences of colds and influenza in the population. Of course, that might have been a coincidence, but data from the United States suggests that it has contributed to an enormous drop in the incidences of hospitalisation due to respiratory problems this year. And yes, the fact that most of us are staying at home is probably an even bigger factor, but it is food for thought.
I don't envisage governments requiring us to wear face masks after this pandemic is mastered, although if Covid-19 and its mutations become endemic, there might be more thoughts on that point, but I do wonder if the more cautious among us might not consider doing so going forward, at least during the winter months. If vaccination strategy requires an ongoing programme, as influenza does, then perhaps more of us will.
With that partially in mind, and because I needed "something pretty" as a treat, I purchased these from the London Transport Museum shop. The moquettes are, from top to bottom, the New Victoria, the District and the Routemaster, and I have to admit from an initial "test wear", they're pretty comfortable.
I admit to having bought some socks to go with them, and whilst my friends and colleagues won't get to see their true majesty for a while yet, it'll be something to look forward to as and when I see them again.
So, if I am going to want to wear a face mask going forward, at least I'm going to do it with style...
Monday, February 01, 2021
It appears fashionable, all of a sudden, for people to want my photograph and a brief biography. That is, two organisations have asked in quick succession, this time my own Parish Clerk for our village website. And, whilst I could have simply recycled the first one, these are my friends and neighbours, so I thought that I ought to put a little more detail in this time...
His particular fields of interest are governance and finance.He can normally be seen wandering around the village as part of his 10,000 plus steps a day habit, and is thus fairly approachable once you've attracted his attention (if alone, he's listening to music via headphones). A former Londoner, he has had a steep learning curve to reach his current level of knowledge of how villages do, and might, work, although a bus service would be very nice (he doesn't drive).
If that doesn't persuade residents to vote me out of office in 2023, then nothing will...