July 1 2008

No time for headings, I'm afraid

Readers have e-mailed to complain that I failed to keep my promise to publish letters sent to the Western Telegraph regarding the Ken Rowlands' saga .
I must say in my defence that, while this was rather remiss of me, I am not entirely to blame.
Firstly, one of the letters was actually sent to the Mercury, not the Telegraph, and was published last week.
But the most interesting of the letters was that written by one of Cllr Rowlands' colleagues on Johnston Community Council, which was sent to the Telegraph on June 9.
I received a copy on 7 June.
Much of what I have written about this subject was informed by this letter.
Unfortunately, the writer contacted me early last week and asked me not to publish because she had now come to an understanding with Cllr Rowlands that "would be for the benefit of the people of Johnston".
Willing to wound , and yet afraid to strike, as the poet Alexander Pope put it.
That has left me in something of a quandary.
Should I co-operate in this glossing over of the facts, or should I, in the public interest, 'publish and be damned'?
I am inclined is to follow the latter course because I find it difficult to conceive of any benefit that might accrue to the people of Johnston that might outweigh the damage to democracy caused by Cllr Rowlands' piece of political opportunism.
That said, I have decided to give the matter some thought before reaching a final decision.
As it used to say on the back of the match box: "I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure."

Last week's Western Telegraph editorial broke new ground with a piece on the state of the world economy.
The thrust of the piece was: "Don't panic - things are not nearly as bad as you might think".
By happy coincidence, this week, the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements (BIS) brought out a report on the same subject in which the message might be summarised as "You ain't seen nothing yet".
In BIS's opinion: "The difficulties in the sub-prime market were a trigger for, rather than the cause of, the disruptive events that have followed" and "the magnitude of the problems yet to be faced could be much greater than many now perceive."
And it warned that the growing debt burden in the developed world could lead to a deep slowdown, even drawing comparisons with the great depression.
Well, when you have conflicting authorities, you pays your money and you takes your choice, though I should point out that it is more than a year ago that Old Grumpy warned that the world economy was floating on an unsustainable sea of debt.
And, if that doesn't convince you, my opinion at the time was copied straight from Warren Buffet who famously said the when the economic tide receded we would all be able to see who had been skinny dipping.
On present evidence there is a severe shortage of bathing suits.
But, as the WT emphasises, we are not in recession with the UK economy predicted to grow by 1.2%-1.8% this year which is better than the forecasts for the US and Europe.
A word of warning here because if output only grows at 1.2%, and productivity increases at its trend rate of 2%, it requires fewer people to make the required amount of goods i.e unemployment.
We are all familiar with the claims of those seeking to emphasise the economic benefits of their proposed new factory - so many direct jobs and so many indirect jobs through what is known as the multiplier effect.
Well, it also works the other way around.

My apologies for the surfeit of Western Telegraph items this week but I must comment on a letter from Mr Richard F Shepherd.
Yes him again (Not impressed).
Writing in praise of the county council's ruling Independent Political Group Mr Shepherd opines: :"The advantage surely to such a county council group is that they have no political axe to grind. They just get on with the job, judging each issue on its merits, without the hindrance of preconceived policy - and so it should be."
I have written a letter to the WT which I am hoping to see published so I won't cover the same ground here.
However, it is interesting to observe how "judging each issue on its merits" works in practice.
Over the past couple of years Cllrs Tony Brinsden (Lib Dem) and Kate Becton (Lab) have put down notices of motion to allow applicants and objectors to speak at planning committee meetings.
The ruling clique were against this - they are against anything suggested by the opposition - and a string of spurious arguments were put forward as to why this would be dangerous.
The most spurious of all was that it would give an advantage to those who were accomplished public speakers.
As someone pointed out during one of the debates, on that basis, written objections should also be ruled out.
Whatever the merits of the arguments, the IPG block vote fell in behind the proposition that "This notice of motion be not adopted".
One serious weakness in the IPG's case was that it appoints seven (now eight) members to sit on the National Park Committee which does allow members of the public to address the planning committee.
Surely, as a matter of logic, if it was such a bad idea, they had a duty to at least make an attempt to have this stopped.
But power, not logic, is the IPG's forte and the block vote ( including the seven NP members) was wheeled out to defeat the proposal.
However, despite this show of party unity, some of the brighter members of the IPG came to understand that their position was untenable and eventually the Leader, who has a paranoid fear of having his authority undermined by losing a vote, was persuaded to propose that public speaking be allowed for a trial period.
Needless to say, all those who had previously voted against this dangerous idea put their hands up in favour.
So much for "judging each issue on its merits".

Some of you may have noticed that Grumpette had a letter published in Saturday's Daily Telegraph.
This has caused some friction at the dinner table at Grumpy Mansions because I have written dozens of letters to the DT without ever making it into print.
I suspect the editor is a secret admirer of Harriet Harperson, who this week brought forward legislation to allow positive discrimination for women, ethnic minorities, gays etc. Anyone, in fact, except white heterosexual males.
Well, what other explanation can there be?
Attempting to salvage something of my damaged pride, I happened to mention that I was hoping to have a letter published in next week's Western Telegraph.
Quick as a flash, she countered that the DT has a circulation of 900,000 compared to the WT's 25,000.
"Talk to me when they've published the other 35", she said.

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