Archive for July, 2010

‘Smash EDO’ Verdict Turns Justice on its Head

I must admit to being completely astonished to read the other week of the ‘not guilty’ verdict in the trial of the ‘Smash EDO’ activists who broke into and caused £200,000 worth of criminal damage to the EDO MBM HQ in Moulsecoomb. These so-called ‘decomissioners’ were adjudged to have acted with “lawful excuse” to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian situation I believe that this judgement opens up a real pandora’s box in terms of the law and how it is policed in this country.

The idea that you can now legally and justifiably cause criminal damage to a company/organisation who are acting completely within the law (and incidentally employing significant numbers of local people) just because you don’t agree with what they do, is extremely worrying and sets a dangerous precedent. Where does this leave the Police? Do they now have to make an operational judgement as to whether a criminal act is morally justifiable before deciding whether or not to make arrests?

And I was equally flabbergasted to read that Caroline Lucas, the new Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, had stood up in the court to defend the actions of these people. She is quoted as saying that they had “exhausted all democratic avenues … to prevent further suffering in Gaza.” I would have thought that having a member of parliament to fight their cause in Westminster would have been a very good democratic avenue which clearly can’t already have been exhausted after only 2 months of her taking office.

This isn’t the first time that the Green Party have shown a complete disregard for the law and respect for the institutions that they represent (remember MPs and councillors have a duty to uphold the law and to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them). Other examples include:

1) Cllr. Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett stated in a public meeting of the Full Council:

Firstly on the subject of lawfulness, when the Parliament that makes the laws of this country is representative of the people that live in this country then I will observe by the laws of that Parliament. In the meantime I will observe by morals and justice. That’s my personal take on the law while it remains to be such an undiverse and unrepresentative body, I don’t see that those laws can be expected to cover the majority of us.

At the time, she was defending the right of van dwellers to park their vans and live on the public highway – an unlawful activity.

2) Cllr. Ben Duncan (who is ironically the Council’s only representative on the Sussex Police Authority) has regularly publicised ‘Smash EDO’ demonstrations in the City, including advertisements which invite people to ‘come fight and party’.

3) Cllr. Duncan has also described benefit fraud as a ‘petty crime’ and enforcing it is ‘just another way that the poor in society are victimised’.

I could go on….

I am all for the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech but this must be done within the law – the minute people break those laws, in my view they forfeit that right to protest. Effectively giving the green light for people to cause criminal damage whenever they believe it is ‘morally justified’ is setting a very dangerous precedent.

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Who to blame for the public spending cuts

The local Labour Party are accusing me of denying them a debate on the £3.5 million of in-year cuts which we are having to make as a result of Eric Pickles’ budget announcement back in June.

This claim flies in the face of what is actually happening! There will be a full debate on the in-year budget cuts at the Council meeting tomorrow (Thursday). Any comments and suggestions from the opposition groups will be taken on board in time for the Cabinet meeting on 22nd July where the final decision will be taken. At this stage we don’t envisage any of the specific budget proposals falling outside of the framework which was agreed at the budget Council meeting in February. Therefore, these decisions are quite rightly being taken by the Cabinet.

I must say that I find it a bit rich for Labour councillors to be talking about schools not being built and roads not mended when they know full well that it was their Government which has left the country bankrupt and the new Government is having to pick up the pieces. The outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Liam Byrne – was quite right when he said that there was ‘no money left’. And this is not just because of the international financial crisis and subsequent bank bailout as Labour politicians like to claim – as the respected independent think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, confirm, there was a massive structural deficit before any of this happened. Here is their exact quote from “The Public Finances: 1997-2010”:

“During Labour’s first four years in office, the public finances strengthened further, as the new Government stuck to the tight public spending plans laid out by the Conservatives. The following seven years, however, were characterised by fiscal drift. By the eve of the financial crisis, this had left the UK with one of the largest structural budget deficits in the developed world.”

Labour claim to be the champions of the poor and the vulnerable but it is their reckless approach to taxing and spending which is now directly threatening some of the vital public services and benefits which many of them rely upon.

Brighton & Hove’s Armed Forces Day Celebrations this Weekend!

Although Armed Forces Day was officially last weekend, we are holding our event this Saturday (3rd July) to coincide with the Sussex vs. Bangladesh cricket match at the County Ground in Hove. The day will include parades, live music, activities, displays, military vehicle exhibitions and of course, cricket! It promises to be a fantastic occasion and I, for one, shall be coming along to show my support. All money raised will be going to the excellent Help for Heroes charity which provides support to servicemen and women wounded in action. The itinerary for the day is as follows:

9am
Gates Open – Cadets and members of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will have buckets for donations 
10.15am
Toss of the coin with army representative 
10.25am
Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment The Tigers – Parachute Display Team will dive into the ground with the match day ball 
10.45am
The match between Sussex and Bangladesh begins
12.45am
Lunch break begins.  
2.30pm
Veterans will enter the field of play on military vehicles followed by the cadets’ parade lap of the ground, salutes and the cadets’ inspection by the Lord Lieutenant  

I think it is incredibly important that our armed forces receive as much public support as possible for the incredibly difficult work that they undertake and events such as this can only help to foster that support and understanding.