Oooohhh – a Devon MP gets a ministerial post and it isn’t Swire!

Tory Mel Stride, who held onto his central Devon MP at the general election by a comfortable margin, has been appointed financial secretary to the Treasury.

Stride, 55, who enjoyed 54 per cent of the vote and has a 16,000 majority over Labour in the rural seat he has won three times, was confirmed in the role on Monday after Mrs May’s meeting with the Conservative 1922 committee.

It is a junior ministerial post and the fourth most significant in the Treasury after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the Paymaster General. …”

Did you vote for Farage to get a knighthood – quite possibly if you voted Tory!

1208 people in East Devon voted for UKIP – 2 in every 100 voters in the constituency. Now it appears that they will get a better deal than any other individual or party as rumour is that the DUP is demanding that Nigel Farage gets a Brexit role AND a knighthood as part of the price the Tories must pay for their co-operation:–reports.html

And Theresa has form when it comes to letting croney knighthoods through (such as that awarded to Hugo Swire by David Cameron):

PLEASE let it be fake news! Alas, it appears not:

“Rural tourism worth more than farming”

“TOURISM generates more revenue and provides more employment for the rural sector than farming, delegates at a recent seminar were told.

John Hoy, head of rural at consultants Bidwells, was speaking at the firm’s latest event, which was themed around the wealth of diversification opportunities available to the rural sector.

Whether it is glamping, holiday lets, sporting events, filming, wedding venues, concerts or even hosting festivals, the tourism sector offers an array of profitable opportunities, he said.

And tourism is set to play an even more important role in the rural sector in a post-Brexit environment especially if it is incorporated into any replacement scheme for CAP.

Mr Hoy said: “The value of tourism for the rural sector is very poorly understood.

“If we look for example at the numbers around tourism and agriculture there are 365m trips to rural destinations each year, generating £18.6bn for the rural economy and providing 340,000 full-time jobs.

“So tourism actually generates more revenue and provides more employment for the rural sector than farming, which might surprise many who work in this industry.

“It is therefore really important that the linkages between farming, the environment and our unique landscape is recognised in how the CAP is reformed going forward.”

Mr Hoy was the chief executive of Blenheim Palace for 14 years, before he joined Bidwells in January.

During the presentation, he talked through the potential key areas that must be addressed in order to ensure that the tourism industry continues to thrive post-Brexit.

These include reinstating tourism planning guidance, developing a skilled workforce, reducing red tape and improving public transport.
The rural industry must look at innovative new ways to generate income in a post-Brexit environment – and the returns could be very rewarding, said Mr Hoy.

Britain’s events industry alone is worth over £41bn to the economy through direct visitor spend, he told the audience.

Mr Hoy also gave guidance on some of the do’s and don’ts when hosting events and highlighted the additional incomes which they can provide.

“There are huge opportunities in all of these areas and the rural sector needs to look creatively in the post-Brexit market that we are in,” he said.
“It needs to be more entrepreneurial, find other things to do and discover just what opportunities are out there.”

Hernandez engages mouth before brain on response to terrorism

The Guardian has taken up the article below first published on the Express and Echo website:

The original article:

“The crime czar has come under fire for entertaining the idea that armed citizens could repel a terrorist attack.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alison Hernandez was asked by a caller to a Radio Cornwall phone-in whether private citizens with gun licences should use weapons to defend their community.

The Conservative did not support the idea but rather than outline standard police advice she told the woman to write in and promised to talk to the chief constable about it.

Devon and Cornwall police moved to quell any talk that the force might consider sanctioning some form of community force ready to take up arms in places like Devon.

The second most senior office told the public to stand down and said “highly trained police firearms officers and Special Forces will be deployed”

The police staff association also stated that such a move was not the way forward though it was unsure of the legal implications if such an extreme situation arose.

A spokesman for Ms Hernandez suggested she had been “dead batting” a controversial question and in no way backed the creation of a vigilante force.

William Morris, an independent candidate who stood for election as PCC last year, said there was “no way” we should even be “discussing or promoting the idea that an individual can take the law in their own hands”.

“I can understand how passions are aroused because terrorism is a terrible crime against humanity but if we start thinking that way then terrible mistakes can happen – it is not the right approach.

“Terrorism is beyond wrong – it is utterly abhorrent.

“The advice from the Met police will be echoed by the chief constable – to leave the area, if not to hide and then to report.

“I would hope she would (repeat this) and I am sure she will is she is asked again. Every right thinking person with a sense of community responsibility would say the same and I am sure on reflection she would.”

The issue of the public fighting back came to the forefront during the most recent terror attack in London when a football fan single-handedly took on the three knife-wielding killers.

Milwall supporter Roy Larner battled the terror attackers armed with nothing more than his fists and has been hailed a hero, with a petition launched for him to be awarded the George Cross.

In fighting back, the 47-year-old gave dozens of others who were in the Borough Market restaurant the chance to escape.

It is not the first time the Tory politician has got into hot water in Cornwall.

The police and crime chief, who admitted smoking dope as a teenager, last year confessed her love for hard-core gangsta rappers across the Tamar.

She revealed during an internet discussion on the Cornish Truro Hour that she was a one-time “fly girl” and a fan of California outfit NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes).

The group’s debut album in 1988, Straight Outta Compton, began with the track “F**k tha Police”, a protest against police brutality and racial profiling

A woman who called the Cornish chat show on Monday asked Ms Hernandez what her view on allowing licensed firearm users to enter the fray.

However, she later reportedly refused to discuss the idea further, not wanting to embarrass the commissioner.

Janice Adam, from the Police Federation, said reacting to and dealing with any such incidents should be left to highly specialised firearms officers.

A spokesman for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) said Ms Hernandez was not intending in any way to promote the idea.

“The answer came in response to a call to a radio show,” the spokesman added.

“The official advice from the police is to run, hide and communicate and Alison advocates this. There is no intention whatsoever to promote the use of guns by private individuals as weapons in any way.”

The force issued a statement following the radio show.

Deputy chief constable Paul Netherton said: “Quite obviously a marauding terrorist is the most challenging of circumstances, the police response requires significant professionalism and training as well as firearms capability.

“During these incidents, highly trained police firearms officers and Special Forces will be deployed to protect our communities.

“We would only use the normal military in response to a national security threat level and they would be deployed to free up police resources from their security duties.

“Under no circumstances would we want members of the public to arm themselves with firearms, not least because officers responding would not know who the offenders were, and quite obviously they would not have the time to ask.

“Our message to the public is a simple one: to run, to hide and to tell.

“Having said that, I accept that British policing will require anuplift in resources in response to the unprecedented threats we are currently facing.

“This includes additional operationally firearms capability as well as an investment in our local policing which does so much to identify and prevent people from committing terrorist acts.

“In light of the recent terrorist attacks and the threats that the UK are facing, we have already reviewed our resources and are working with other agencies to ensure that we have the capability to meet these threats.

Seaton’s new DCC East Devon Alliance councillor starts fight for Seaton and Honiton hospital beds


“On Monday 19 June (2.15), Devon County Council Health Scrutiny Committee will consider the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s responses to 14 questions asked of the CCG by the Committee. If the Committee is not satisfied, it has the legal power to refer the CCG’s decisions to the Secretary of State for Health.


Seaton and Honiton are the two hospitals which serve my constituents in the Seaton & Colyton Division. Both are slated to lose all their in-patient beds. I have sent the attached 6-page letter to the Chair of the Committee, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, showing why the the CCG’s replies are inadequate, their decisions still demonstrably flawed, and the Committee should use its power to refer them.

I shall be speaking at the Committee, along with other representatives of the Seaton, Honiton and Axminster communities which are worst affected by these decisions. My main points are:

Plans to halve the numbers of community beds do not take into account that the numbers of older people in Devon will more than double in the next two decades.

East Devon needs more beds than other areas because it has the oldest population in Devon and this will continue to grow.

Community beds are crucial to older patients without transport and when they are distant many relatives will have huge difficulty visiting their loved ones.

Savings from the closures will be small. Both financial logic and CCG planning suggest that the real agenda is to close a number of hospitals.
The CCG’s consultation was flawed because it gave no option to keep Honiton’s beds, and the CCG ignored the stronger support for Seaton from people who responded.

The CCG’s reasons for choosing Sidmouth over Seaton are based on misleading use of evidence about population and age distributions.

The concentration of beds in Tiverton, Sidmouth and Exmouth will leave the eastern margins of East Devon entirely without. The CCG’s claim that this is ‘a more even geographic spread’ is entirely false.

The CCG ignored the fact that Seaton also serves the Axminster area, and has reneged on the commitment it gave when it recently closed Axminster Hospital’s beds, that beds would continue to be available in Seaton.
Communities in the Seaton, Axminster and Honiton are angry about the decision and expect the Health Scrutiny Committee to refer it to the Secretary of State.

We are holding a public meeting in Seaton on Wednesday 14th (7 pm, Marshlands Centre, Harbour Road) to plan the community presence at the Health Scrutiny Committee. I will issue a further press release on Thursday.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

Postal voting scandal in Plymouth gets even worse

Owl wonders if our EDDC error of insecure postal voting forms will receive attention from the Electoral Commission – which seems to have its hands rather full after this crucial election:

Thousands of votes were not included in the result for a newly-elected Labour MP, Plymouth City Council has said.

Luke Pollard won Plymouth Sutton and Devonport with 23,808 votes. However, the actual figure including the missed votes cast in his favour was 27,283.

Mr Pollard said the votes from the Efford and Lipson ward were counted in his constituency, but they were not included in the result.

He would still have won comfortably over Conservative Oliver Colvile.

Mr Colvile’s official result on Thursday was 17,806 votes. However, with Efford and Lipson added in he won 20,476 votes.

The Electoral Commission has said it will investigate. [BBC]”

What is puzzling about this is how a mistake on this scale could happen. A core element of election counts is to check how many ballot papers you have at the count in total and whether that matches the number issued to voters at polling stations and returned through postal votes. Then you count the votes for the candidates and it is a basic check to ensure that the total of those matches that number of ballots cast.

From the council’s response so far, it sounds like a spreadsheet error may be the answer – but even so, it would require a sequence of spreadsheet errors for not only the vote total to be wrong but also for the ballot paper total to also be wrong and so still match. Or perhaps for no such cross-check to have been made. Either way, that’s not a ‘computer’ error by the looks of it; rather a failure to plan a robust way of handling the data which has safeguards against errors.

The Conservative/DUP swamp just got swampier

“Politicians across Britain and Ireland have called for the Democratic Unionist Party to reveal the source of a £435,000 (€500,000) donation it received in the run-up to the UK Brexit referendum last year.

The DUP, which backed the proposal for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, spent heavily during the campaign, including £282,000 (€325,000) on a newspaper advertisement and £32,750 (€37,500) with a data-analysis company linked to Donald Trump. It spent only about £10,000 in Northern Ireland.

The DUP has said that the £435,000 came the Constitutional Research Council, a group whose only publicly declared member is its chairman, Richard Cook, a former Conservative general-election candidate who lives near Glasgow and has business links with Saudi Arabian intelligence services. The council does not publish accounts and has refused to name its funders. Northern Irish election law allows political donations to be kept secret.

Politicians and campaigners from across the spectrum told The Irish Times that the DUP should reveal who funds the council.

The call comes as the DUP is set to support Theresa May’s minority Conservative government.

The Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said: “Democracy depends on openness. That’s why we have transparency legislation on campaign donations.”
The Scottish National Party said failure by the DUP to reveal the names of the donors would “cast a dark shadow over Theresa May’s government” and its negotiations with the EU. …

The controversial £425,000 donation is widely considered to be the largest sum ever given to a Northern Irish political party. During the 2016 Stormont elections the DUP spent less than £90,000.

The £282,000 advertisement was a four-page wrap-around for the Metro newspaper, which is not available in Northern Ireland. The £32,750 spent on data analysis went to AggregateIQ, to target voters on social media. The company has been linked to Cambridge Analytica, a firm funded by the billionaire Robert Mercer, who heavily backed Brexit and Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign.

Reports in the UK suggest the Democratic Unionists want Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, and the millionaire Brexit funder Arron Banks involved in the Brexit talks. Mr Banks has denied that he was involved in DUP’s Brexit donation but has said that the DUP asked him for money to support his Leave.EU campaign.

In February this year, during a televised debate ahead of snap Stormont elections, the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said the donation came from “an organisation in England that wants to see the Union kept” but refused to give any more information.

Later that month the DUP said the money came from the Constitutional Research Council. Richard Cook’s business associates include Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a former director general of the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. In 2013 Mr Cook set up a management company focused on the Middle East. His codirector was a Danish man named Peter Haestrup, who was named by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with a notorious 1995 arms drop. Mr Haestrup was never charged with any wrongdoing.

The UK Electoral Commission records donations to Northern Irish parties, but these are not made public because of security concerns dating back to the Troubles. This ban, called the Prescribed Period, was due to last only until October 2010, but that date has been repeatedly extended.

The leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, called for the secretary of state to end the prescribed period “without further delay” and for the DUP to reveal details of the party’s Brexit funders.

“The situation in NI, where parties can receive huge donations yet not disclose them to the public, ought to have ended many years ago. However, now that the DUP are wielding influence over the UK government, continued secrecy around their finances is completely untenable,” Ms Long said.

The former UK Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “Given the apparently key role the DUP are going to play in deciding the future of Britain, we must have clarity about where this money came from and what steps the party took to check its source.”

The DUP did not spend all of the £435,000 Brexit donation. At the end of the campaign £9,000 (€10,300) was transferred into normal party funds.

The DUP declined to comment on this story.”