Monday, 26 October 2009

More Questions Re: Climate Camp Policing

Today's Guardian suggests that Kent Police attempted to put pressure on Medway Council to facilitate increased surveillance of climate camp protesters, despite Medway Council's concern that this would "alienate the community".

An FOI request has shown that Sergeant Keith Waymont wrote to us at the Council to complain that council officers were not being sufficiently co-operative with police plans for surveillance. The Guardian reports that he wrote:

"When I put this [Medway Council's alleged non co-operation with surveilance] to my bosses, they were less than impressed, given the importance of this operation as the new power station build is likely to create a considerable number of jobs for Medway."

In my role as a Member of Kent Police Authority I have today written to our Chief Executive to ask that Sergeant Waymont identify the 'bosses' with whom he says that he raised the issue, so that the matter can be investigated.

On the face of it, the letter is utterly unacceptable. By pressurising Medway Council to set aside our concerns about planned police surveillance because "the new power station build is likely to create a considerable number of jobs for Medway", it implies that the climate camp policing was intended to face down the protestors and help E.On build a new power station.

To the best of my knowledge, this is not true. In some aspects of the operation the police went out of their way to try to demonstrate neutrality, e.g. by not using E.On faciliities to command the operation. However, the unveiling of this letter - thanks to FOI - can only add to concerns regarding the policing of the protest.

I consider that our duty as the Kent Police Authority is not solely to support Kent Police, but to hold them to account on behalf of the public. If we are to do this properly, it implies that on occasion we may have to make measured criticism of the Force.

We have, with the Force, arranged two independent reports into the climate camp policing. I and the Chair and Chief Executive of the Police Authority met with the Climate Camp legal team to seek to understand and take account of their concerns. Rather than just allow the police to deal with climate camp complaints individually, we as an Authority are seeking to determine the overall lessons to be learned from these complaints.

This work has been painstaking and has taken longer than we initially hoped. Our conclusions will feed into HM Inspectorate of Constabulary's national review of the policing of protest. I hope that we will also before too long be able to publish them for the benefit of the Kent public and those who sought to protest peacefully in our county.

In the meantime I would like to put on record my condemnation of the letter as quoted in the Guardian today and congratulate the paper on its investigative reporting.


Monday, 19 October 2009

Love Lane Saved From Development

I spoke at a very well attended site meeting last weekend about several new private houses that the Diocese wanted to shoehorn into the Bishop's Kitchen Garden at the back of Bishopscourt in Rochester.

Love Lane residents will be delighted that the Development Control Committee has now turned down the Church's application.

Love Lane is an extraordinarily narrow historic street, charming and rightly romantically named, but not designed with the motor car in mind, let alone construction traffic.


It sounds dull and technocratic but a really worthwhile reform which a Conservative government would bring in is to abolish the rule against pre-determination.

The rule prevents any councillor who is on, or might later join, the Development Control (i.e. Planning) Committee from saying anything in advance about any issue that may come before the Committee.

This is not only an affront to both democracy and to free speech. I also saw last weekend how it leads to a massive waste of time and money.

The Church has now applied and failed twice to secure planning permission. The developer told residents that both times it had applied on the basis that a council officer once told them that access would have to be through Love Lane rather than through Bishopscourt.

If only, they had been able to speak to the Councillors who would take the decision, then those Councillors could have represented local residents and explained that access through Love Lane would be unacceptable, saving a lot of time, money and bother all round.

Photos very kindly provided by Jack Picknell. Reproduced here with permission. Please visit Jack's website at


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Honesty, Not Fantasy

My apologies for not being able to update you from this year's Conservative Party Conference before now, but such is the interest in this year's event in Manchester and the accompanying high attendance figures that it has been difficult to find either the time or the facilities to get online before now.

For me the highlight of the Conference so far has been George Osborne's speech on Tuesday where he exposed the gaping chasm that now exists between our party and Labour on the burning issue of fiscal responsibility. I use the term fiscal responsibility and Labour in the same sentence advisedly because they have been strangers to one another since Gordon Brown abandoned Conservative spending plans in 1999 and went mad with the nation's credit card.

Calmly and assuredly, George Osborne set out a number of proposals to begin to deal with the worst debt crisis this country has seen since the last time Labour were in office. As a matter of fact, the current debt crisis we have been led into by Labour is actually worse than the one Margaret Thatcher inherited in 1979, with borrowing estimated to reach £175 billion this year alone. That is a truly shocking figure and one that will be paid for not just by taxpayers today and tomorrow, but by their children, and even their children's children. This cannot continue.

There is an old saying that every Labour government has always run out of money, and I am sad to say that this has once again proven to be the case. Labour always runs out of our money.

The size of the mountain we must climb in order to get our economy back on a sound footing is huge, but it is a task that we the Conservatives will undertake compassionately and fairly. The main theme running through George's speech was that we are all in this together, and he is right. We are united, not just as a party but as a country. Labour got us into this mess, and now only the Conservatives can get us out. We have done it before, and we'll do it again.

The battle now between the Conservatives and Labour is no longer just about Gordon Brown's false dividing line of 'investment versus cuts', nor indeed is it about fiscal responsibility versus profligate spending. To sum it up bluntly, the battle now is between honesty and fantasy. Honesty from the Conservatives about the measures that need to be taken to ensure we bring our country back from the brink, or Labour fantasy where the people of Great Britain continue to be lied to and treated like fools.

The choice is clear, we simply cannot afford another five years of Labour.

I will set out what this means for the people of Rochester and Strood when I return home, but in the meantime let me assure you of this - neither I nor my party will rest in our fight to bring about a fairer, more equitable society for all. Together we can make Britain Great again!