September 23 2008

Facts are sacred

Last week's article on my joust with Western Telegraph blogger Mr Andrew Lye brought a swift response from the newspaper's publisher Peter John.
Mr John took exception to my claim that Mr Lye's blog had been suspended from 27 March to 19 April this year because the WT considered it "too political".(see Pot and Kettle).
According to Mr John, Mr Lye's blog was taken off because of a potentially defamatory article he had written.
I must admit, I got the idea that the suspension came about because it was considered "too political" from e-mail correspondence with Mr Lye and it was remiss of me to present what was merely Mr Lye's opinion as if it was a fact.
That said, I think the WT would be well advised to practice what it preaches.
Last week I also wrote about the malicious campaign against Cllr Malcolm Calver, particularly the way a report on a governors' complaints panel found its way on to that newspaper's pages.
Cllr Calver complained about the inaccuracies in this report and the WT responded by claiming that, as these things had been said at a meeting of Manorbier Community Council, it was protected by "qualified privilege".
As "qualified privilege" only applies to accurate contemporaneous reporting of council meetings and the WT's reporter wasn't even present, I doubt if this defence would stand up in court.
Anyway, it was eventually agreed that Cllr Calver could submit a letter putting his side of the story but only if the WT approved of its contents.
Indeed, I seem to remember that at at one point the editor suggested that she should write the letter for Cllr Calver to sign.
If my memory is wrong about this, I will no doubt be hearing again from Mr John.

What's in a name

In his e-mail, Mr John spelt my surname ending in a 'd' rather than a 't'.
We take this rather seriously in my family because we regard the 'ts' as the literate branch of the tribe.
The end part of the name comes from hart - the old word for farm worker - while the front piece is a variation on stud which in turn referred to the horses on the farm.
So my ancestors were farmworkers who looked after the horses.
Interestingly, one of the most common misspellings is Stothert which I assume comes from the Cumbrian practice of pronouncing dd as th, as in Welsh.
Presumably when illiterate people travelled away to work and were asked their names these were written down phonetically - hence Stothert.
Not that it seems to have done them much harm because Peter Stothert became editor of The Times and, in partnership with a Mr Pitt, Mr Stothert built up a company that is still one of the leading manufacturers of cement mixers.
And then there is Eddie Stobart, from the dyslexic branch of the family, who has done rather well with lorries.
But, so far as I know, none of them have ever been capped by Wales.
It seems, the WT has a problem with surnames because I notice on its website that the recent victor at the St Dogmaels by-election is referred to variously as Ian Gallop and Mr Gallup, while according to the county council he is Ian Gollop.
Mr Gallop/Gallup/Gollop is quoted as saying: "It was a gruelling campaign, standing on my own as an Independent. I had no party back up and that was the way I wanted it."
Can we assume that he will continue to shun "party back up" by remaining an independent independent?

Numbers game


The Lib Dem's failure to hold St Dogmaels, which reduces them to two seats, means they lose their automatic right to a seat on the National Park and three scrutiny committees because their proportion has fallen to 0.4 (2/60 x 12) which rounds down to zero (see Off balance).
If Mr Gollop joins the IPG - taking them to 39 members they will be entitled to 39/60 x 12 = 7.8 seats which rounds up to 8 as did their previous 7.6 (38/60 x 12).
Indeed, even if the IPG managed to recruit a further three members; taking them to 42, it wouldn't make any difference because 42/60 x 12 = 8.4 which would round down to 8.
The upshot is that on 12 member bodies such as the National Park and scrutiny committees the allocation will be IPG 7.8 (8) Tories, Labour and Plaid exactly one each which all adds up to 11.
That leaves one unallocated seat - the destination of which will be decided by the council/IPG/Cllr John Davies.
I read on one local authority website that seats allocated by the council do not count towards a party's allocation under the political balance rules so, it would appear that John Davies could nominate one of his own lot to fill the vacant seat.
I also read that central government frowns on such gerrymandering, but, for myself, I would rather have my rights protected by the law than the expression on some minister's face.


Double standards


Cllr Jamie Adams, deputy leader of PCC and cabinet member with responsibility for highways and transportation, has written to the Mercury in defence of the traffic lights at Merlins Bridge.
Cllr Adams was responding to a letter in the previous week's edition in which it was claimed that the lights had increased the average rush hour journey time between Llangwm and Haverfordwest from 12 to 45 minutes.
He wrote: "It is evident that that to travel the distance from Llangwm to Haverfordwest in 12 minutes infers no delays whatsoever. The distance is approximately seven miles, some of it on minor (Class C) roads, and requires the negotiation of a number of junctions. So, even if there was no congestion at all at Merlins Bridge, a target time of 12 minutes would be going well."
It is difficult to fault this analysis.
However, I hadn't realised that Cllr Adams shared my interest in the speed of movement of bodies through the space-time continuum.
Older readers will recall that I am something of a specialist in this subject, particularly with regard to Cllr Adams' predecessor as cabinet member for highways Cllr Brian Hall.
This has led to several in-depth studies of Cllr Hall's movements and the expense claims arising therefrom.
One particularly interesting case involved his wanderings on 1 February 2001 when he made his way back to Wales after an overnight stay in London.
Thanks to the receipts provided to support his expense claim Cllr Hall's movements can be followed closely.
Having paid his hotel bill at 10.15 am he crossed the Severn Bridge at 12.56 before pulling in to the First motorway service station where a till receipt shows he paid for a "large fizz and daily special" at 1.08 pm.
According to the claim form, he then travelled back to his home town of Pembroke Dock via Haverfordwest.
But that wasn't the end of his perenigrations that day because the next entry shows him leaving Pembroke Dock at 2.00 pm to travel to a meeting in Swansea for which he claimed 126 miles at 50p.
Now, you might think that "going well" hardly begins to describe the feat of getting from the service station near Severn Bridge to Pembroke Dock in 52 minutes - including the time required to scoff a daily special.
I reported these facts to the police who decided not to investigate after receiving a statement from the council's director of finance Mark Lewis.
Anxious to know what Mr Lewis had said that contradicted the known laws of physics, I put down a notice of motion calling for the release of his statement.
Predictably, I was shouted down by the bully boys of the independent political group which used its block vote to torpedo my NoM (Shouted down).
There was a recorded vote and, of course, Cllr Jamie Adams eagerly toed the party line.
So, it would seem, his attachment to objective mathematical truth in matters concerning moving bodies is of recent vintage.
Courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act, I did eventually obtain a copy of Mr Lewis' statement in which he said that Cllr Hall's expense claim was "correct in every detail".(The Time Lord).
PS At that rate, Cllr Hall could do Llangwm to Haverfordwest in just over four minutes.


Creative thinking


After warning my five-year-old grandson of the dangers of eating berries from the hedgerows, he asked: "Grandad. Why did God make poisonous things?"
Although he wasn't to know it, my grandson was echoing the thoughts of Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago.
While on a expedition in South America, Darwin observed a parasitic wasp seeking out a host for its eggs.
This experience turned Darwin against Creationism, or "Intelligent design" as it is now known, and as he later wrote to the American biologist Asa Gray:. "I cannot persuade myself that a benevolent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars."

New man?


My claim that I bought Grumpette an ironing board and a new bow saw blade for Christmas has misfired because some readers apparently didn't realise that this attempt to portray myself as a latter-day Andy Capp was a joke.
Indeed, in order to placate the legions of wimmin baying for my blood, I am now forced to confess that I have been known to enter the hallowed portals of Jefferies the jewellers to buy her a pair of earrings.
This is not the sort of thing that men brought up in the industrial north of England like to admit.
Almost as bad as to be seen hanging out the washing.
Which is why, on the rare occasions that I have been pressed into that duty, I always wait until it gets dark.


"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."

back to home page