What a tangled web we weave when we practise to deceive!

From a correspondent:

This past week has uncovered so many national and local breaches, contraventions and violations in acceptable behaviour and conduct – that it is difficult to know where to start!

Firstly, most would agree that Dominic Cummings failed to adhere to lockdown rules that the majority of the nation has rigorously followed to Stay At Home – Save Lives and Protect the NHS. His excuses, lack of apologies and general demeanour in the rose garden of Number 10 showed an egotistical attitude by displaying a ‘do as I say – not as I do’ mantra, which  was further abetted by a floundering defence by the dishevelled PM at the lectern!

This lack of convincing leadership at a time when our country so desperately needs confidence is so disappointing – but, fortunately, it is balanced by the amazing stories of the bravery of our NHS staff battling Covid-19 and by ordinary people, in their communities, striving to improve a bad situation for their neighbours, friends and relatives.

Secondly, the farcical fiasco of East Devon’s Extraordinary Meeting on Thursday evening, where a Conservative councillor was heard swearing, during a YouTube video link, that was  deemed so offensive and unpleasant that ‘the plug was pulled’ on the broadcast, before all the votes were cast to elect a new Leader! This hiatus left a few councillors unable to vote before the online stream crashed – but after official ratification on Friday – thankfully Councillor Paul Arnott was democratically elected Leader with a large majority. Furthermore, to those who purport to be Independent, when it is clear to all that they are ‘batting for the other side’ – you have been rumbled!

Finally, to the deception by Property Developers, who outwardly promote an ethos of quality developmental design, profess to listen to communities (purporting to build bridges by taking on board local views) to achieve ‘the best quality community development south of Bristol and beyond’ (their promotional quote) – Practice what you Preach!

In February, the Developers for Winslade Park presented an exhibition, within a Public Consultation, on the vast, commercial and residential proposals for the local community of Clyst St Mary. Much of it was innovative, attractive and worthy of support. However, last week, the plans submitted to East Devon District Council (EDDC) for the Winslade Park proposals significantly differed from the Public Consultation.

The proposals  now include additional, large numbers of residential units on a valued local community sports field (not shown within the public exhibition proposals) in addition to residential units on an adjoining, agricultural green field, when both of these green areas are protected by the Local and Neighbourhood Plans and are outside the Built-Up Area Boundaries for this village.  14 supportable, traditional houses, on the brownfield area, have now been replaced by an unsightly three-storey block of 59 apartments (also not shown at the public exhibition) overlooking the Grade II Listed historic Manor House and existing residents’ back gardens.

Yesterday, published  documents submitted to EDDC, now show that in December 2019, numerous residential apartments were proposed on high risk flood zones but, when EDDC Planners advised caution,  these proposals were substituted by a three-storey large commercial unit. The justification for continuing with development in flood zones being that business units are a less vulnerable classification than residential! The Developers have also neglected to mention their ambition to include another large residential area on green fields (previously used for horticulture/agriculture by St Bridget’s Nurseries) with around 64 proposed dwellings also showing a new roadway connection from Winslade Park to the A3052. This formed part of their original development proposals in December 2019 but having now satiated the entire area with their current, vast development proposals  – the option to include even more development on protected green fields, at this point in time, was obviously, thought ‘a step too far’ for this East Devon rural village to tolerate!

By over-developing the commercial floorspace to provide up to 3,000 jobs, (the Developers’ estimated numbers at the exhibition); by ignoring Strategy 26B of the Local Plan to provide homes on the brownfield areas resulting in them being diverted to green open spaces; by neglecting to consider the effects on sustainability for congested highways, local educational facilities and limited services and by proposing development in high risk flood zones in a fragile area  – the consensus of local opinion is now –  Enough is Enough – for  the small East Devon village of Clyst St Mary!

It has, indeed, been a week of falsification!

Constituents bombard MPs with tens of thousands of emails over Dominic Cummings

Now for something different, or is it different – entitlement again?

Back to the Dominic Cummings saga.

The furore over Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown rules has prompted tens of thousands of people to flood their MPs’ inboxes in what some described as the biggest outpouring since Brexit, a Guardian analysis has found.

Jessica Murray www.theguardian.com 

As Boris Johnson tried to draw a line under the crisis involving his chief adviser, constituents across the country sent missives to their MPs, with many sharing stories of their own lockdown hardships.

A Guardian analysis covering 117 MPs found they have received a total of 31,738 emails since a joint Guardian and Daily Mirror investigation a week ago divulged that Cummings had travelled to County Durham and taken a trip to a beauty spot with his family after suffering coronavirus symptoms.

If that level of correspondence was reflected across all 650 MPs, it would suggest the revelations may have sparked as many as 180,000 items of correspondence. The numbers were either provided in response to the Guardian’s request for figures, or in statements MPs had released to constituents.

Johnson has repeatedly suggested it was time to “move on” from the Cummings row, despite about half of Tory backbenchers – more than 100 MPs – calling for his most senior aide to resign or be sacked, or criticising Cummings. Many said they were motivated by their constituents’ anger.

On Friday evening Theresa May added her voice to the Tories criticising Cummings. In a statement to constituents of her Maidenhead seat, the former prime minister said she could “well understand the [public’s] anger” towards Johnson’s senior adviser.

“I do not feel that Mr Cummings followed the spirit of the guidance,” she said.

Several Conservative MPs in marginal seats said they had received more than 1,000 emails about Cummings, in some cases dwarfing their majority. While the average number of emails each MP got was 271, the Tory MPs analysed by the Guardian received 590 each on average.

Many MPs said the emails were from people writing to them for the first time and not the common copy-and-paste messages on a campaigning issue, and for some it has been the most significant volume since the Brexit crisis in parliament.

Sir Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet, who was among the first to say Cummings’ job was no longer tenable, said: “I’ve had between 700 and 800 emails, and half of those are constituents, half of those are from other people. About 85% are critical [of him], and 15% think I’m the devil incarnate.

“Not one has been computer-generated, they are all individual observations. This is not about Brexit, or a Labour party campaign, none of this is orchestrated.”

Richard Fuller, Tory MP for North East Bedfordshire, wrote to constituents: “I have been struck by just how many emails I have received from constituents about the actions taken by Mr Cummings and the strength of sentiment.

“Most emails contained strong criticisms. The words used by constituents to express their feeling – ‘disgust’, ‘incensed’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘shameful’, ‘anger’ – convey clearly how deeply hurtful this revelation has been for them.

“Many constituents included personal stories of sacrifice and loss; a number sharing the searing pain of bereavement in this extraordinary period of isolation and confinement. I have read fully each of the emails sent to me.”

He added: “The explanation of this human dilemma has not been communicated in such a manner as to heal the hurt that has been felt. An apology is not always needed as a concession that you did something wrong but sometimes to show that you understand the pain to others that may have been caused.”

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North since 2005, said: “Other than Brexit, this is the biggest postbag I’ve had for many years. And it’s still coming in.”

Polling suggests most people were unconvinced by Cummings’ explanation of his movements, delivered in a hastily arranged press conference in the Downing Street rose garden on Monday.

A YouGov poll taken afterwards showed 71% of respondents thought he had broken the rules; the row also appears to have dented the Conservatives’ poll lead over Keir Starmer’s Labour party.

Among the Conservatives receiving more than 1,000 emails about Cummings were Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, who has a majority of 981; Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, whose majority is 628; and Andrew Bowie, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and and Kincardine, with a majority of 843.

Not all of the correspondence was negative, although many MPs said their mailbox was overwhelmingly weighted towards criticism of the adviser.

Stewart Wood, a Labour peer and Oxford University fellow teaching politics, said the crisis had touched a nerve akin to the MPs’ expenses revelations. “The real worry for government is when something that they do politicises people who normally wouldn’t ever write to their MP about something like this, who never really engage in politics,” he said.

“I worked for Gordon Brown for 10 years and the equivalent issue was the expenses crisis. In terms of the nerve it has touched and the kind of people who are responding, it feels a lot like [that].”

He added: “I think what’s happened is our daily lives are dominated by what’s coming out of No 10. So we’re hanging on the words of the prime minister and his top team in a way that you normally would never ever get, and that does bring politics into your life much more vividly. So people then inspect the credentials of the people doing that in a much greater way.

“The thing that makes this so poisonous for Boris Johnson and the top team is that we’re in this incredibly unusual crisis moment where everything the government does relies on our trust, because everything they do is essentially asking us to change our behaviour. And that requires faith in the integrity and the authority of the government.”

One Tory MP said they had received 400 emails, mostly against Cummings. In the Tory stronghold of the south-west, Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, was hit with 800 messages and Cherilyn Mackrory, of Truro and Falmouth, said she had received nearly 1,000.

Elliot Colburn, 27, the Conservative MP representing the marginal Carshalton and Wallington seat, wrote to Johnson to say he had received more emails on this issue than any other. He said “many hundreds of messages from concerned constituents” had called on Cummings to resign.

At the other end of the UK, the leader of the Scottish National party in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said he had received more than 1,000 emails. “At the peak I was getting one email a minute. It’s easily more than 1,000,” he said.

Labour’s Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said she had had 117 emails, with “so many powerful stories of sacrifice”. One of her constituents wrote to say how her mother had died alone of Covid-19 in a London hospital on 8 April and “every instinct” in her body had told to go to be with her for her final moments, but she had abided by the government’s rules.

The Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Neil Coyle, said he had received 227 emails, only one in support of Cummings. He said: “They are all unique and many are very sad as they explain their anger based on what they’ve been through – including missing relatives at the end of life.”

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for the Rhondda, said he had received 20 messages a day and has had a constituent tell him he now has no intention of abiding by the lockdown rules since Cummings’ drive to Durham and later to Barnard Castle.

Paul Arnott’s Leader speech on facebook – a new inclusive, forward looking, council

For those unaware (like old and new Owl!) that EDDC was streaming the extra extraordinary meeting live on facebook, because the YouTube link was still off, the link is given below.

It is reasonably short at around 20 minutes but compelling watching not only for Cllr Tom Wright’s apology for swearing and it its impact on the democratic process but, more importantly, for Paul Arnott’s Leader’s speech (starting at around 7.20 mins in).

He does not mince his words.

In saying that this new council will work with all of its 60 members, treated as equals, he adds this caveat:

“We wish to work with everyone for the benefit of East Devon, but if your interest is working with friends and allies outside the council then I’m afraid that your time is up.”

He also criticised Chairman Cllr Hughes for cancelling the Annual Meeting thereby necessitating five meetings to do what would have been done in just the one he cancelled.