Monday, 26 November 2012

Is Lord Ashdown right and is it time to leave Afghanistan?

I missed the interview with Lib Dem (and ex Royal Marine) Lord Paddy Ashdown about his opinion on the present conflict in Afghanistan.

His opinions are listened to by many- understandably due to his previous roles in the Balkans and his past as both a leading politician and ex-servicemen. But his opinions have not been appreciated by senior Military leaders.

In ‘The Times’ today, General Richard Shirreff is critical of Lord Ashdown and believes we should stand firm in Afghanistan as we are winning. As he states, Lord Ashdown is wrong to say we have lost the war, and now we must finish the job.
General Shirreff is a very senior General currently holding a senior post in NATO. He should be listened to. I agree with him, we are making a difference and we can bring some form of peace and stability to the region.

Ex-servicemen may have a better understanding on what is happening in a conflict, but you do have to be there to really understand what is happening. So why should I be listened to rather than Paddy Ashdown? The longer you are out of the forces the less you know what is currently going on, sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous and lead you to the wrong opinion. I left the forces many years after Lord Ashdown left and then went back in 2009 to serve in Afghanistan, so I feel I have a better understanding of what is going on and what soldiers think. I still have friends serving and my younger brother is an apache pilot who has also served in Afghanistan.

General Shirreff, highlights the success we have had in Nad-e-Ali, there has almost been no violence there this year and it was only in 2010 we suffered significant casualties in that area and we only really started operating in the area in 2009.

I am often asked by BBC Radio Suffolk and the local paper for my views on the conflict in Afghanistan. My opinion has not changed – we need to stay and finish the job. Often I sound like a lone voice, it is understandable that families of our servicemen and the British public in general wish to see our brave soldiers home, they do now want to see or hear of anymore more bodies being repatriated. But we rarely hear from serving soldiers- they have an opinion but tend to stay quiet

So I welcome the interview that Richard Shirreff has given and I agree with him. But I am concerned that Mr Hammond the Defence minister, or William Hague or even the Prime Minister have not commented on Lord Ashdown’s views. So what do the Tory Ministers think? Do they have a plan? More serious maybe should be the question- are the views of the Generals the same as the Ministers?

My concern is that when we get near the General Election, the Government will announce a withdrawal of British troops and this will be welcomed by the British public (and become a vote winner) but it will leave Afghanistan in a state of turmoil and violence will return to all parts of this poor country. Once our departure is announced, the Taliban will increase their attacks, we may even see a rise in British casualties.
If we do leave without the job complete, what will those 300 soldiers who have lost their lives died for then?

General Shirreff is right and Paddy Ashdown wrong – but the biggest worry for me is what do Cameron, Hague and Hammond think?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

My week ahead 26 November - 1 December 2012

Monday 26 November, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting

Tuesday 27 November, 5pm – Sidegate Primary School Full Governing Body meeting

Wednesday 28 November, 6pm – Culture and Leisure Working Group

Thursday 29 November, 6pm – Area Committee Chairs meeting

Saturday 1 December, 10am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

A busy week ahead, with a meeting most nights – it is hard work running the administration but you hope the public see signs of the good work we are doing – starting building council houses again, improving the town centre- the Christmas market, new Christmas lights, defending council services. Compare that with the Tory run Suffolk County Council – street lights off (with no consultation), selling off the County Care Homes, not only supporting but aiding the setting up of Free Schools all over the county.

A sign of how much the County have run down their services (just to set 0% Council tax rise- and keep their seats) was seen at the last North East Area Committee where the young residents who spoke to the committee and the residents indicated they had not heard of the Suffolk Connections service or the careers info bar they run in Fore Street, good news for residents is that the PCC elections have shown people that the Tories can be beaten all over Suffolk.

Yesterday we selected our Labour candidate for Rushmere Ward, Ipswich – she lives in the ward, is a strong community campaigner and will take the fight to the Tories. The current Tory Councillor is Judy Terry, a cabinet member and has been heavily involved in the library fiasco. So there will few tears from Ipswich or Suffolk residents if she lost her seat.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Rusty submarines?

The Tory Government promised to repair the Military Covenant at the last General Election - no mention of forced redundancies, low morale and rusty submarines!

The Labour Government did not do enough for our Armed Forces but they were far better than this shower and since in opposition we have started 'Labour Friends of the Forces' that plus the positive steps to recruit former servicemen as Parliamentary candidates will ensure we are the party that will put the Armed Forces first.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My week ahead 19 - 24 November 2012

Monday 19 November, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Thursday 22 November, 4pm – Sidegate Primary School, Finance meeting
6pm – Scrutiny meeting – looking at budget for 13/14

Saturday 24 November 10am – Labour campaigning in North East Ipswich

The main event this week was the Police and Crime Commissioner election, we knew we had the best candidate in Jane Basham and we knew we had fought the best campaign but we also knew that Suffolk was supposedly the 6th safest Tory seat in the country. But as we now know, Jane came top after the counting of the first preference votes.
So with Tim Passmore only winning after the counting of the second preference votes and the very low turnout (repeated all over the country) he seems to have little mandate to run the police in Suffolk.

More disappointing he still seems determined not to give up his council seat on Mid Suffolk District Council – and we now wait to see if he will appoint a deputy with at least one Ipswich Tory hoping to secure the (well paid) post.

In Ipswich we had a great result, securing over 50% of the vote and hardly any change was seen in the figures after the counting of the second preference votes. We now need to keep working for Ipswich residents to ensure we maintain our Labour vote and also appeal to those who feel let down by Mr Gummer and this Tory/Lib Dem Government.
The number of spoilt papers was much higher than a normal election – but spoilt may give you the wrong impression – on a General Election a spoilt paper often consists of a number of swear words or the elector showing a desire to vote for a party not standing (or in the case of the BNP, you also have the swearing) but on this election the spoilt papers often consisted of very rational thoughts and some were almost mini essays. One voter even attached a pink postit with an apology on for spoiling her paper.

Both the Tories and Lib Dems need to ask themselves why this election was so poorly supported. Failure of Lib Deems to stand, Lib Dem insistence that the election was not held last May, the Tory Government refusal to give a free posting to all candidates.
I just wonder how low the turnout would have been if Suffolk Labour had not campaigned so hard and taken our message to the every corner of the county.

We have already seen the knee jerk responses to the PCC Elections and the Corby result – The Tories are now talking about the EU and stating that the new Commissioners do have a mandate (they seem to have separate rules when it comes to Unions and strike ballots) and the Lib Dem MP’s are now looking to save their own skins/seats and stating they are against a number of Government policies- even though they voted for most of them.

So far we have had silence from the local Tories and Mr Gummer – I think if Ben wants to hold Ipswich he needs to do more than invite residents to Westminster – but even this plan seems to have been hit by inflation – last month Stoke Park residents were charged £15 to visit Parliament but my letter from Ben yesterday offered me a seat for £20 – high inflation or the extra 4 miles we have to travel? The count on Friday and the Corby result should indicate to Mr Gummer that Ipswich residents are not happy with his party. Local Tories have also been silent – no blog posts and little chat on twitter- no mention of the Bixley Polling station they ‘saved’ maybe because only 17 people used it – wonder how much per vote that cost Ipswich residents? Then again they can just blame their own Government for the whole badly organised election and stupid concept of PCC.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Vote Jane Basham for Suffolk PCC

Message from Jane Basham

The election on Thursday 15th November brings a big change to how Suffolk’s police service is run. I am asking for your support because I have the skills to make the new job of Police and Crime Commissioner work for all of our communities.

I have worked for organisations large and small, including Tesco, Harrods and Mothercare, and in the public sector too. I was Chief Executive of a charity working with vulnerable victims of crime. I have also worked within our prisons and with ex-offenders. Alone amongst the candidates I have worked at top management level for Suffolk Police.

I have a reputation as an achiever and independent thinker, working at a strategic level, managing large scale budgets, making far reaching and difficult decisions based on strong analysis of information. All are vital skills and capabilities essential to the role of Commissioner in today’s tough times.

As well as indispensible business skills, I have unique first hand experience of our Police service. I also have direct insight into the lives, impacts and journeys of victims and witnesses through our criminal justice system. I understand too the priceless contribution of the voluntary and community sector to the quality of our lives.

I am hugely supportive of the Police. They do an incredible job, sometimes under the most difficult of circumstances. I know this because I have worked with them and been out on patrol. Watching them deal with intense provocation with skill and humour cannot fail to command respect.

We all know the Police are affected by cuts to public services. Hard choices are being made; services reduced, merged, or, in some cases, abolished. Weighing those decisions, gauging their impact and tough questioning is a crucial part of the Commissioners job and so is ensuring the public have a full chance to ‘have their say’.

The Commissioner needs to lead a full and open debate on ranking priorities, how tight resources are best used and how we can jointly fight to win the best deal for Suffolk. Without a willingness to question, challenge and evaluate police effectiveness, the role will be a waste of money – an expensive rubber-stamp.

My vision is based on many months spent listening to local people in towns and villages right across the county and many years working within criminal justice. You have told me you want a safer county and a Police service that is open, accountable, forward looking and takes onboard the views of those it serves – you, the people of Suffolk.

· I will defend visible local policing in rural and urban areas. I support maintaining and, if possible, increasing front line operational policing roles including the Special Constabulary and PCSO’s.

· I will also defend less visible policing – especially those units that protect our young people and children from internet crime and sexual abuse.

· I want to put victims first – including swift and effective responses to anti-social behaviour. I also believe recent cuts to compensation for those whose lives are permanently damaged by violent crime are disgraceful.

· Restorative justice works but it needs developing to succeed more widely.

· In too many instances privatisation has failed - from the debacle of G4s at the Olympics to non-stop rises in fuel costs. That’s why I’m squarely opposed to handing police functions to private firms to run. Suffolk Constabulary is already taking back previously ‘outsourced’ work where expectations or promised savings have not been delivered. Improved efficiency and effectiveness is achievable, without outsourcing.

· I will work with any and all organisations, communities and individuals who are committed to cut crime, reduce reoffending and promote rehabilitation. Public services under pressure need to cooperate more than ever. The closure of acute hospital beds for those with severe mental illness for example can simply shift a health problem onto the police, courts and prisons.

Restoring a clear link between the public and their Police can bring real benefits. People have told me they want their Police service to be more accountable to them. Commissioners bring with them increased flexibility to manage policing activities in response to the needs and priorities of local communities.

The Commissioner job is an enormous challenge that will put whoever is elected on a steep learning curve. It’s a new and radical departure without a blueprint to follow. I am no stranger to the hard work or the learning needed to meet that challenge. I believe my background will serve me well. My solemn undertaking to the people of Suffolk is to give my total commitment to the role.

I look forward to working with you all to help make Suffolk a safer place to live, work and visit for everyone.

Anybody wanting to contact me can do so on or 01473 255131


Twitter @jane_basham

Facebook JaneBasham92

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Vikings come home to Ipswich

On Monday the 5th of November, soldiers from 1st Battalion the Royal Anglians, also known as the Vikings paraded through the streets of Ipswich.

a-vision Ipswich did a video of the parade and I am interviewed (near the start)

You can watch the video here

We will remember

Kohima Epitaph

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

The people of Ipswich came out in their thousands today to remember those from this town who have sacrificed their lives so that we can live in peace. I probably felt more emotional today than at any previous Remembrance Day. Not sure exactly why? Maybe when Mrs McClure laid a wreath to remember all those from the town who have died in conflict since 1945 or when the Apache helicopter flew over, reminding me of a daily occurrence in Sangin, Afghanistan.

Sangin - warmer than Christchurch Park

Not sure but it was pleasing to see the thousands of Ipswich people there to remember those who had fallen and in particular the large number of young people who attended.

We will remember.

My week ahead 12 - 18 November 2012

Monday 12 November, 4pm - Culture portfolio meeting
6pm - Labour campaigning

Thursday 15 November – Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioners Election

Saturday 17 November, 10am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

This Week we had our latest North east area Committee and I believe it was productive meeting aided by the contributions of some of our younger residents.

Today was Remembrance Sunday, and it seemed to be the largest crowd in attendance for a long time in Christchurch Park, seemed strange to have Apache helicopters fly over at 11am. The last time I had an apache helicopter fly over my head it was a lot lower, faster and it was firing from its chain gun!

Thursday we see a country wide election as have a chance to vote for the first Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, like many in this country I think the post is not needed and is a waste of money. But the Tory Government were keen to push the role through and though the Lib Dems are not putting candidates up for some reason it was their party who was keen on a November election rat5her than waiting till next May. All this means that it is expected that Thursday will see a very low turnout. But it is important to vote the only real choice is either Jane Basham a Labour supporter but not a politician or the Tory, Mr Passmore, a farmer and a Tory politician who even if elected will stay as on as a Tory councillor in Mid Suffolk.

Jane is concerned about police staffing levels,police morale and also how victims of crime are treated. Mr Passmore seems keener on low council tax and speeding up the process for farmers to renew their shotgun licence!

So this Thursday – go out and vote and make sure that vote is for Jane Basham.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The young get involved - in a positive way.

North East Area Committee – Thursday 8th November, 2012

Last night saw our last Area Committee meeting of 2012, a good turnout of local resident were present. The evening started with our regular presentation on a local issue at 7pm. tonight in my humble opinion was the most relevant presentation so far- Year 12 pupils from Copleston High school gave a short presentation to residents and councillors on what they think of living in our part of Ipswich.

They were both eloquent and passionate – and they were not just moaning or asking for freebies. They came up with good proposals that had been well thought out. Such idea’s included a info bar/empty shop – manned by 6th Formers from all over Ipswich, giving advice on a variety of topics. To help some of our struggling pubs they would like to hold youth nights – no alcohol and a chance for young bands and comedians to perform in a safe environment.

After their presentation the young residents stayed behind to work other residents on our action plan at the end of the meeting.

The main topic of the meeting became the possible funding of improvements to Cherry tree Recreation Ground. Local resident I still attempting to raise extra funds towards the scheme, at a previous Area Meeting it had been agreed that we would put £25,000 towards the project. After a lively debate it seemed the Tory members wanted to spend the money now to purchase the play equipment and then store it till the remaining funds are raised whereas the Labour members thought it best to retain the money till the next meeting so we could then see how much outside money had been collected. The final decision was to look at the matter again in January. Good news was that Cllr Sandy Martin thought the scheme had a good chance of obtaining outside funding from Grant giving bodies such as the local Land Fill Trust.

The local SNT Inspector informed local residents that the local police priorities for the North east would be to deal with any Anti-Social behaviour on the Rushmere estate and the Bull Celestion estate and to monitor and check on speeding throughout the North east of the town with extra consideration to those streets that have become ‘rat runs’.

Though the meeting finished quite late most of the resident’s stayed behind to join the Copleston pupils and councillors to work on the North East Action plan. All the notes were taken away and will be now collated so that we can set out the North East Action plan at our next meeting. Once that is done it will help us focus our expenditure over 2013/14.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

My week ahead 5 - 11 November 2012

Monday 5 November, 12.30pm – Homecoming parade for the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglians, Ipswich Cornhill

Tuesday 6 November, 9am – Conference on the Military Covenant, Ministry of Defence, Main Building – London

Thursday 8 November, 7pm – North East area Committee, St John Church – Cauldwell Hall Road

Saturday 10 November, 10am – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich

Sunday 11 November, 11am – Remembrance Parade, Christchurch Park

This week the highlight has been attending the European Cyclo Cross Championships that were held in Chantry Park, Ipswich. There will be a few whinges about cost to the Borough and damage to the park. But for the amount of money it has bought into the town the cost was negligible. Every hotel room in town booked up was just one positive from the competition being held here. I for one would like us to try and get the World Cyclo Cross Championships in Ipswich.

The day was rounded off by Helen Wyman winning the Women’s race, the first time GB has won the Gold.

The downside to the week has yet again been a post from an Ipswich tory blogger, Kevin Algar at ‘Riverside View’. Not only does he have to continue to call myself and other Labour Councillors stupid names he also fills his post full of lies. I was tempted to write a post showing that his latest post – about ‘stupid things that Alasdair Ross has said’ was just full of lies but then I looked at my diary for this week – Homecoming of the Anglians, a Military conference that would look at how we treat veterans and then Remembrance Sunday.

Undentable - Mark Hale

All those three events are more important to me than wasting time answering his stupid comments. On Sunday Ipswich will have an opportunity to remember our Armed Forces and in particular those who lost their lives in conflict. I will be at the cenotaph and I will also remember friends and comrades of mine who have dies in Afghanistan and Iraq – and if I showed Paul Harding or Mark Hale the comments by Algar they would just laugh and ask why I was bothering to even give him the time of day. They would probably print his comments off and put them all over the Sergeants Mess and the Operations Room so that our fellow Rifleman could have a laugh (at me). The point is no one would take his comments seriously – just a pity that his fellow Ipswich Conservatives can’t see the damage it does to their credibility as a serious political group in the town.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Ipswich will remember

Ipswich will remember – this is the time of year that we all wear our poppy and remember those who have served our country.

For those of us who have served in our Armed Forces it is a time when we remember close friends who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I will be at the Cenotaph in Christchurch Park next Sunday and then afterwards I will follow the family tradition of having a pint in the ‘Woolpack’

I will then lift a glass to those who I served with both in the Green Jackets and the Rifles who lost their lives in Active service.

To those like Paul Harding who I served with in the same group of six NCO’s in Winchester in 1988. He was an inspiration then and continues to be an influence on the way I try and lead my life.

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

Kohima Epitaph

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Tories don't like to tweet!

Last night a Full Council, one of the Tory Front bench asked a question about the use of electronic devices at Full Council. Cllr Pope was the 21st Century Luddite – and his follow up question was the real crux of the matter – he wants councillors to be banned from tweeting at Full Council. In the end this caused even more tweets as Labour and Lib Dem Councillors joined the Ipswich Press in tweeting every question at the meeting. They were also joined in this tweet fest by two prominent Tory bloggers.

The Tory Group does not seem at home with the use of social media in getting information over to residents. Now there is one Tory councillor who does use twitter and blogs and that is Cllr Cenci, but she was missing from Full Council last night.
So why did Cllr Pope want to get twitter banned? Cllr Cenci seems to think that the dispute is in some strange way being used to highlight splits in the Tory Group over the use of twitter and blogs. She seems to forget it was a Tory question.

I feel the question may have come around after Labour tweets at the last council meeting. The tweets informed Ipswich residents that the Tory spokesman for Transport did not know the cost of a bus fare in Ipswich.

But I am sure there are many more reasons why the Tories would like to see the end of the use of twitter and other social media in Ipswich Council meetings. Cllr Cenci and her infamous blog may be one reason they would like to see a total news blackout but there are other reasons I can think of.

They do not want Labour Councillor’s to tweet when:

Tory councillors have failed to turn up for important budget working groups (and not even sending apologies)

Tory councillors can’t even fill all their allocated spaces at Scrutiny

Answers to questions about the Wind Turbines to be built to the South West of Ipswich, inform residents that the Tories signed the lease.

Or is it that they can’t find anyone who knows how to use twitter or even blogs. The Ipswich Tory website has not been updated for over 7 weeks and their last tweet was 5 weeks ago (though the Tory blogger at ‘A Riverside View’ would deny this). Even the Tory MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer seems to be struggling with his website, according to his own site he has done no casework since February!