Wednesday, December 30

Vote Conservative - win a million

Anyone else feel a sinking feeling when they saw Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's latest wheeze..?

He's just announced a £1m prize in a competition to design a website to "harness the collective wisdom of the British people" when it comes to policy-making.

He said on the Today Programme: "What we are trying to find is: is there a way that we can use the internet - it's a means to an end not an end in itself - to try and avoid some of these howlers so a future Conservative government can not just have good policy ideas but execute policy in a much more considered and thought-through way."

Six months from an election, you'd think a party trying to present itself as a government in-waiting would be screaming policy from the rooftops.

Rewind to six months before the 1997 Labour landslide and this was exactly what New Labour were dishing out in spades, as John Major's cabinet stared into the abyss.

What are the Townies (Turnip Taliban-esque Freudian slip...) saying? Vote us in and we'll give a million to the person who can come up with the whizziest idea to harness the internet to show us what to do.

Words fail.

Will it be enough to just let Labour lose

Charles Clarke, pugnacious MP for Norwich South and former Home Secretary, has upped the ante on the Labour leadership, with a little over six months at the most before the country goes to the polls.

In a despatch which has found its way into the hands of Tory uber-blogger Iain Dale, he explores some fairly predictable themes, like Labour can't win with Brown at the helm, class war won't deliver the goods etc.

He also makes this telling point: "... the Conservatives have failed to establish themselves strongly. Their threat comes only from Labour’s weakness. Their only strength is the petty point-scoring of partisan oppositionist politics, based on vigorous and misleading attacks and clever phrase-making.

"They are deeply divided on policy issues of the greatest significance; their demeanour is increasingly introverted, provincial and backward-looking, notably so in the international arena; they offer no policy or political vision for themselves and they inspire no confidence in their own team of political leaders."

Despite its love of new Labour-esque spin, central office has offered little in the way of firm policies or a vision for how many aspects of life post the 2010 election might look.

Will it be enough to sit back and let Labour lose the election - or do the Tories need to work harder at winning it..?

Tuesday, December 29

Royals and their privacy plea

It's understandable that the Royal Family have had a gut full of pictures taken with great big telescopic lenses, but confiscating cameras from the merry band of pensioners and well-wishers who turn out in all weathers to greet them when they attend church services over Christmas is going a bit far.

Police have apparently admitted they weren't acting on the Monarch's orders when they did this last weekend at Sandringham.

The media have been quick to report the fall-out of the privacy plea but less eager to look into the reasons behind it. Smacks of hypocrisy to us.

Thursday, December 24

Local govt review - new legal challenge

Five councils have launched a legal challenge to plans to replace them with a single Norfolk unitary council.

There's an address you can send your representations to, if you're so minded, at the end of this press release.

If being ignored now gets your goat, imagine what the future could hold with a single authority based in Norwich running the show.

Grim reality of life in the Norfolk countryside

To the farm shop, to collect the turkey we have ordered.

Conversation with farm shop man underlined the grim reality of life and death in the Norfolk countryside.

"Hello farm shop man - I've come to collect one of your finest turkeys which I ordered a couple of weeks back."

"You're a bit early sir - any chance you could come back in a couple of hours' time, after two ideally..."

"A bit early farm shop man - it's Christmas Eve I'll have you know."

"I know sir, but I'm afraid the last few dozen are still running around out the back because we've been too busy to, er, prepare them."

Tuesday, December 22

Free parking present from hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn is offering free parking to visitors and patients on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

It's up to a tenner a day or £3.50 for a few hours at other times - despite the fact you frequently can't find a space and end up parking on one of the verges.

Bet that really made your Christmas. It's almost worth getting ill for the money you'd save.

Monday, December 21

Shoplifters of the world unite and take over

So warbled Morrissey in his days with The Smiths. Now a vicar's singing from the same hymm sheet, saying hard-up parishioners should ignore the Eighth Commandment.

Shoplifting's preferable to turning to drugs, prostituion or mugging old ladies, according toYorkshire priest Tim Jones.

“My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,” he told his congregation, according to a report in today's Times.

“I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.

“I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices."

Fr Jones said even God might turn a blind eye. "My advice does not contradict the Bible’s Eighth Commandment because God’s love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich," he went on.

Police said the advice was "irresponsible".

It says something about how far we've gone in turning our backs on the needy when a vicar tells his flock thou shalt steal if thou need to.

Sunday, December 20

Why I'm leaving the Lib Dems

Intersting and thoughtful blogpost from earthly ideas (Jason Borthwick) on why he's leaving the Lib Dems.

"I enjoyed being involved with a party in which you could consider both sides of the political divide, have excellent debates and it really felt that individual members had a say and were listened to," he writes.

"Sadly things have changed in the party. In an attempt to compete with Labour and the Tories, the LibDems have lost what was special about the party. The senior party activists are modelling themselves on the political animals that stalk the corridors of Labour and Tory central offices, more and more resembling the characters from ‘The thick of it’, the BBC political satire."

Aren't all parties like that these days..?

Full post here.

Slow weekend for news, your Royal Highnesses

Daily Mail reveals some members of the Royal Family are taller than others, while their highnesses' heights have varied over the generations, from the vertically-challenged 5ft Queen Victoria, to towering 6ft 3ins Prince William.

Fascinating stuff, yah..?

Saturday, December 19

No flowers for Norfolk NHS

There's a distinct ring of here we go again about a story in today's EDP about hospitals in Norfolk banning people visiting patients from bringing them flowers.

Oh no, you can't be bringing them in - whatever next. They might cause an infection.

Well in actual fact, a survey has shown people don't catch things from flowers (unlike hospitals...) and bringing people flowers can actually cheer them up, lift their spirits and aid recovery.

The arrogance of a Minister

DEFRA Minister Hilary Benn scales new heights of arrogance, even for Labour, over his refusal to obey an ombudsman's ruling over compensating and apologising to North Norfolk farmer Alister Borthwick. As well as a £5,500 payment, Mr Benn (sic) was also ordered to send a hand-written apology for the catalogue of cock-ups with Mr Borthwick's farm payments.

A remedy "should be forthcoming where injustice has been suffered as a consequence of maladministration by a public body," the Commons ombudsman ruled.

Mr Benn is refusing to comply. Mr Borthwick had to make a member of staff redundant in the face of losses he incurred through DEFRA delays.

Perhaps it's time Mr Benn - where the buck presumably stops - got his P45 as well.

Why do people drive like mongs in the snow

Why do people drive like mongs in the snow..? Top honours shared between the tank commanders, who just clear a tiny slit in their windscreens and leave the rest covered so they can't see what's going on around them, and the mystery motorists, who leave their rear lights and indicators covered in snow so you don't realise they're braking or turning off until you nearly rear-end them.

Wednesday, December 16

Monday, December 14

So here it is, Merry Chlamydia

Last week they were measuring kids and finding out they were slightly less obese than they used to be.

But this NHS Norfolk press release takes the biscuit.....

NHS Norfolk is sending its own 'seasons greetings' to thousands of young people in the county this Christmas...

As Christmas cards pour through everyone's letter boxes, a select band will be receiving a different sort of card altogether - an invitation to take a Chlamydia test!

The message from NHS Norfolk is avoid giving someone something unpleasant this Christmas - take care of your sexual health, take a free test and have a Chlamydia-free New Year!

"OK, it's not the usual sort of Christmas card you'd normally expect but we think offering a free Chlamydia test is a gift this year!" said NHS Norfolk's Sexual Health Commissioning Manager, Julie Hughes.

90,000 young people aged between 15 and 24 are receiving invitations through the post in stages, letting them know they are entitled to a free test and urging them to take up the offer.

"It's crucial that young people who are sexually active do all they can to avoid passing on the Chlamydia infection or having it without realising," said Julie.

"The test is simple to take - it just requires a 'pee in a pot' which you send off for analysis. If you're positive, you can obtain a simple course of drugs from your pharmacist or GP."

Chlamydia is a disease that rarely shows symptoms but can cause infertility in women.

The mail-out campaign, inviting every eligible person in the screening programme (aged 15-24), follows the rollout of a website called and an advertising van equipped with Bluetooth technology to send phone messages to anyone within 100 metres.

It will be continuing into the New Year.

Sunday, December 13

More strain for those who travel by train

Are we there yet Dad..? A crowded Norfolk platform

Norfolk's electrified rail link between King's Lynn and King's Cross is one of the county's few success stories when it comes to public transport.

So not surprisingly, city types have been scratching their heads for a way to cock things up.

Now property developers have found just the wheeze. Sell off the overspill car park at Lynn station, which opened three years ago, for housing.

This will deprive hundreds of commuters of somewhere to park. It will also turn yet another potentially useful piece of land into an abandoned eyesore, as the slump in house building means no-one's likely to build on it.

Who owns the piece of land concerned..? British Rail (Residuary) Ltd.

And who owns them..? Why, the Labour government which wants to encourage more people to use trains, invest in better rail links and get train operators to invest in improving services and facilities. That's who.

Knowing me, now I'm off - aha

Alan Patridge, aka "comedian" Steve Coogan, is abandoning Norwich, the EDP reports.

Perhaps they'll give David Cameron's Notting Hill set their own series now.

Normal for Norfolk - a little song

Saturday, December 12

David Cameron's revenge on turnip land

Cor blast me - better brace yourselves. This is really funny. Well, David Cameron and the Daily Mail thought so.

"David Cameron has exacted sweet revenge on ‘Turnip Taliban’ Tories who tried to sack Norfolk candidate Liz Truss over her affair with MP Mark Field," the paper says.

"He joked at a private dinner: ‘A Norfolk farmer asked a nice chap to a party and said, “There’ll be heavy drinking, violence and rough sex – all right, boy?” ‘The chap nervously agreed. When he asked, “How many will be there?” the farmer grinned.

“Just you and me.”’

I bet that had them jumping about like a box of frogs.

Friday, December 11

Slightly less Norfolk kids are fat, shock

Officials weighing and measuring kids have found out slightly less of them are fat, according to figures released by Norfolk obesity watchdogs.

Does anybody care..? Doesn't the NHS in Norfolk have better things to waste its money on..?

Wednesday, December 9

Sad day for democracy on the way

Today's EDP makes depressing reading for anyone who cares about local democracy in Norfolk.

Monday, December 7

Million public sector jobs 'should go'

According to "cross party think tank" Reform, one in six public sector jobs may have to be cut today's Telegraph reports.

That's one in six teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses.

And Reform's deputy director, until recently, was...? Answers on a postcard.

Saturday, December 5

Recycling wobble follows Climategate

Norfolk's having a bit of a wobble where recycling's concerned, these folk reckon.

Friday, December 4

Climate change not our fault , says survey

Climate change - th'ass gotta all be our fault, ennit..? Maybe not, according to a survey into how many of us think that's actually true. A poll for revealed less than half of us think humanity is responsible for global warming.

"The finding that just 47% of the sample agreed that global warming was a fact caused by the actions of humanity is significant and quite worrying for political leaders of all parties," it says.

"For if fewer than one in two believe how can key policies win pubic support."

You might think this is yet another good old poke in the eye for the Greens. It comes hot on the heels of the so-called Climategate row over whether leading climate change scientists at the UEA rigged data to bolster the case for man-made global warming.

Tonight it's going, with the UN stepping in to investigate. Across the pond, there's a similar scandal breaking out in America.

But it goes a bit deeper than who you think is to blame for the polar ice caps melting. Government at all levels now routinely uses climate change as an excuse to tax us, whether it's fuel duty or local councils trying to make us recycle more.

Yet if the poll's right, less than half of us believe the basic argument that underpins it all.

Perhaps this says as much about politics, as it does about global warming. In a 21st Century Democracy, we're all paying more tax for something less than half of us believe in, because someone, somewhere thinks they know better.

Amanda Holden sells knickers for charity

Amanda Holden's thrown a pair of her knickers (green and white-striped, your worships...) in the hat for a charity auction.

So the Lynn News reports today, with no further details as to the provenance of said pants - ie worn/unworn, washed or not etc.

Er, what sort of person's going to buy said item, and what are they going to do with them when they've parted with their cash..?

Frame 'em, stick 'em on the wall perhaps..? Great talking point at dinner parties.

Perhaps worse still is the disclosure further diown the story that Henry Bellingham, RT Hon Member for North West Norfolk, is also planning to donate.

Please, please don't let it be a pair of Bellingham Boxers.

Illegal Parker Bowles shock horror

Doesn't it speak volumes about modern news values when the Duchess of Cornwall parking on a single yellow line merits a screed in the Daily Mail..?

This heinous act was actually committed by the personal protection officer driving her around on a shopping trip to Holt for fairly obvious security reasons, ie minimise distance between vehicle and shop to avoid potential compromise with any nutters, terrorists, paparazzi etc.

Here we go again, yawn

So the local government review for Norfolk rises from the ashes after m'learned friends burn yet more taxpayers' money.

With the failure of a high court challenge mounted by Suffolk councils, the way is clear for the process to continue and communities secretary John Denham has said he wants the final recommendations for Norfolk on his desk by Tuesday.

Two options are on the table - a unitary "super council" covering all of Norfolk and the so-called doughnut, with a unitary authority for Norwich and another for the rest of the county.

A decision isn't likely until New Year - by which time we'll be six months away from an election.

The government appears committed to trying to push these changes through. But a recent poll carried out by King's Lynn and West Norfolk council - which would be among those abolished - shows a large majority against the proposed changes.

And Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, has now called for the whole thing to be scrapped - remember, the county council was originally in favour of a single unitary council.

Millions have already been poured into this, when you look at all the legal challenges, campaigns and consultations.

Meanwhile councils are cutting everything from old folks' day centres to theatres because of an expected spending squeeze.

Wouldn't it be sensible to wait until after the election and let a government with a mandate to govern - not to mention adding a third option of maintaining the status quo.

From where we're sitting, out in turnip land, this seems a classic example of how things go pear-shaped when out of touch central government decides it knows better than local communities and those they've elected.

Thursday, December 3

An interesting schol of thought

From Benedict Brogan's blog in the Telegraph (we kid you not...):

"Gordon Brown remains committed to the class war against the Tories, in particular those who attended public schol."

Wednesday, December 2

Have the Turnip Taliban sunk the tories..?

Not yet, perhaps. But a poll in the Independent makes for interesting reading.

It reckons falling Tory support means we're heading for a hung parliament at the next election, with metropolitan moderniser Cameron losing three per cent of voters in a month.

"It puts the Conservatives on 37 per cent (down three points on last month), Labour on 27 per cent (no change), the Liberal Democrats on 20 per cent (up two points) and other parties on 16 per cent (up one point)," the Indie says.

"Because of the way the first-past-the-post voting system works, the figures would leave the Tories six seats away from an overall majority if repeated at the election."

Optimism about the economy could close the gap still further. If the comres survey's echoed by results at the polls, there will be many who'll trace the downfall of the Cameroons back to South West Norfolk.

That was where the class war wobble truly started.

Shut down Marham for a quieter Norfolk

While the Tories think they've licked the Turnip Taliban, their namesakes in Afghanistan are far from throwing in the towel.

Squadrons from RAF Marham are providing vital air support to ground troops after training in the skies above Norfolk.

If I was on the ground pinned down by the enemy, or running the risk of coming home in bits after being blown up by a roadside bomb, the last thing I'd do would be moan about the racket when a Tornado flew overhead.

Yet in slightly less war-torn King's Lynn, there's even less appreciation of the role the aircraft and those who daily risk their necks in them are playing.

Questions have been raised over Marham's longer-term future, with defence cuts in the wind.

"This huge airfield contributes to the local economy and employs many non-military people to service the needs of the camp, but the downsides to this largesse cannot be ignored," writes a columnist in the Lynn News.

"There is no getting away from the fact that despite calling themselves a Ministry of Defence, most of the kit held there is designed to attack and kill with deadly force and to that end, any financial benefit to the region is tainted with the knowledge that non-combatants are regularly injured and killed in the bloody crossfire during air raids."

Bet reading that really made your day if your son or daughter's out there at the moment - or worse still if they're among those wounded or even killed in the conflict.

Those with more grasp of Norfolk's economy than the average squirrel might also take issue with this bit:

"I, for one, believe that shutting Marham would not represent long-term hardship for the area and that it is more than likely that our leisure economy will improve as holidaymakers return in droves once the racket subsides and peace returns."