It’s All About Respect…

THERE IS A COMMON THEME running through articles and comments on this blog, and it has to do with ‘respect.’

Perhaps I am guilty for promoting the topic by refusing to allow the ‘Page that will not go away’ to be archived and disappear from its prime position; but two events this week have once again highlighted the Respect issue.

The first was a fairly innocuous piece entitled ‘Former Canvey Soldier Wins Her Case’ – taken directly from an impartial report by the BBC; and the second concerned my own angle on the old Concord pool affair.

Many more facts are yet to emerge in the case of our own Donna Rayment, about whose case against the Army the BBC report refers. But, fortunately, The Canvey Beat was first to publish locally, showing the BBC version of the facts alongside the Echo’s opening paragraph from its RSS feed. Many readers, therefore, read the BBC version before examining the Echo link or reading the printed article.

I do not buy the local Echo, for reasons which readers will know. But I do follow its reporting of Canvey on its Website.

Whomever wrote the piece about Donna did not provide a by-line. And that is probably because the piece was designed to curry favour with the ‘just for the money’ and ‘wretched single mums’ brigade. Indeed, its opening sentence even leads ‘A SINGLE mum…’ in preference to referring to Donna as a once-serving NCO in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

It was an amateurish attempt to copy the Daily Mail’s angle, aimed at their sedentary armed-forces supporters whom wish they can somehow achieve, for themselves, a particle of the Fallen’s Glory from the comfort of their well-worn, civilian, armchairs. Not only did they denigrate Donna’s attempts at righting the undeniable wrong done to her, some even went so far as to attack her regiment.

‘Sorry chaps,’ says Jim, ‘she’s unlikely to ever to be in the front line. She’s in the HAC. The HAC is TA and may become operational but their role will not put them under fire. They’re more like an exclusive club for City slickers.’

Tell the HAC’s Fallen that!

And as to her not putting herself in harms way: she was the Commanding Officer’s driver! But Jim appears to believe that COs simply conduct operations from their own armchairs – like him.

Like virtually all other contributors to the Mail’s offering, the nearest the reprehensible Jim has ever come to combat is probably changing the uniform on his beloved Action Man doll.

Donna was a lance sergeant, for goodness sake. Do these (predominantly sexist) male contributors think that the Army promotes individuals to such a rank because they have a pretty face?..

Gratefully, the Echo’s piece did not generate anywhere near the wannabe-soldier-but-was-afraid-to-apply feedback that the Daily Mail’s article did. But the Echo can take no responsibility for the respect paid to Donna by its silent readers. Indeed, the Echo has form when it comes to generating public outcries against the righteous. Their coverage of the Julie Abel affair was written from their position of support for Dave Blackwell, then leader of the Canvey Island Town Council. And the paper even reported that Bob Spink, our local MP, would be appearing at the disciplinary hearing on the former’s behalf (as if this was evident proof that Julie would lose her case).

But were residents informed of the Borough Council’s decision in that ‘newspaper’s’ pages? No. They were not.

Well, what a surprise

Respect was the theme of that second piece this week, regarding the Borough Council’s decision to fill-in the old Concord pool. In this case, there was no respect shown to islanders. And I am not referring to Tory Borough Councillors here (whom, with the exception of Ray Howard and Tony Belford, do not live on the island).

Ray has already made clear that he disagreed with the CPBC decision to lump-in a decision on the Concord pool with other motions he agreed with, and then be whipped into a voting position. Tory councillors should be admonished for taking their eye off the ball; but it is the Canvey Island Independent Party that must bear the majority’s criticism. It is they who are responsible for the lack of any intelligent, political argument in Castle Point – and their entrenched opposition to anything that is Tory proposed has fatally wounded democracy in this borough.

Readers will know, I hope, that I personally have no political affiliation; but that I am a strong supporter of the organised Party system, which, I believe, enables problems to be quickly resolved. I certainly have no time for a disorganised rabble with no detailed manifesto for this island or its inhabitants.

Colin Letchford emailed me his report on the two seafront pools on Tuesday, and I immediately decided to publish once I had confirmed what it contained. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet-up with him until Friday morning – and only made arrangements with him to meet-up late Thursday night. I was unaware that he had also emailed the Echo.

I knew the story was ‘hot,’ and was also worried that this Blog could not do it justice. So, when I saw Matthew Stanton’s piece in the Yellow Advertiser, I sent him Colin’s report to use as follow-up.

Embarrassingly (for those who wish to provide documents to the Yellow Advertiser) Matthew emailed me back, saying that he could not open .docx files. Could I supply them as .jpgs?

Eventually I did; but it was not until late that evening (and I was a bit peeved by having to grab various screen shots in Windows 7 and then stitch them together in Photoshop to enable a fellow journalist to do his job). Moreover, I had converted and sent Colin’s .docx files as old MS Word .docs – and provided them as an email grab. As a freelance, I work constantly in Word, and could not understand the problem.

Anyway, Matthew probably didn’t get the .jpg version until the next morning – by which time he was probably thinking: ‘Who is this fool of a blogger who has sent me this when the Echo has already published it?’

Mmm… A ‘news journalist’ who does not take the local paper…

Anyway, it was late the following evening when I arranged to meet-up with Colin and verify his facts. And, as I was putting down the phone, it occurred to me that I was proposing to do nothing more than blog the story. I was not taking an active part in trying to get the problem resolved.

‘Not a good example to set your readers,’ I thought. So, despite the late hour and an early meet set for 9.00am the next morning, I decided to test my own theories on the party-political system.

Normally I would have called the local MP; but, given facts revealed on this blog, I decided not to bother. I thought about contacting Pam Challis; but Collin had told me that he had already emailed her; so I thought about contacting Julian; but that would probably back-fire on me by creating a local election issue that would see the problem remain unsolved.

Could I instigate a speedy resolution to the matter by calling on the one Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) whom I have constantly criticised in these pages for being too feeble to speak?

Well, I was not prepared to have her hang-up on me at that late hour – and decided an email would better suffice (supplemented with a ‘you have mail’ text).

I simply asked if she could meet-up with Colin and me the next morning, and sent her a copy of his report. But I received no reply. She was probably, like all sensible people at that hour, firmly asleep.

I met Colin at 9:00am as promised, and we were some ten minutes into our discussion near the old pool when Rebecca Harris arrived.

She did not bring a photographer; and she was completely unaccompanied. Just Colin, Rebecca, and myself.

I took up observer status as the Conservative Party’s PPC immediately placed the surprised Colin at ease, and then accompanied us both around the two pools while allowing him to fully present his case. She was attentive and, from time to time, gently probed Colin’s extensive island knowledge to fully grasp the situation.

Rebecca is highly intelligent, with a firm grasp of all island matters. She even knew where the Concord Cafe was (which I thought I did; only to be proved wrong – and completely unassisted by locals I stopped to ask, whom had no idea of where it was either).

Fortunately for me, Colin had said he would be wearing a distinctive red coat!

I am not going to turn this into a ‘he said, she said’ piece; because it would not do justice to the intelligent and exhaustive discussion I was witness to. But I will say that Rebecca identified an extremely original way in which the problem, which basically rests in a technical ‘what is Council Revenue and what is Capital Expenditure’ issue, might be resolved.

This was not a PPC fighting a rearguard action over her party’s Council Members; and it was not someone trying to proclaim she could immediately solve the problem. As a mere PPC she has no power or authority; but she is in a position to mediate on islanders’ behalves with her fellow Tories and, like me, she is passionate about Democracy.

I had not expected Rebecca to turn-up. I had, most certainly, not expected her to turn-up on her own (providing a non-Tory journalist with the opportunity of taking any of her candid remarks out of context or ‘quoting’ things she did not actually say). And it bothered her not one jot that Colin might have arranged to be accompanied by a troop of angry islanders to ensure his message was taken-up by this blog.

The reason why Rebecca has so little press coverage is because she does not seek it. She just likes to get on quietly with matters and give them her full attention.

In the Labworth over coffee, afterwards, I could not get her to say one bad or controversial thing about her opponents. It seems she is determined to ‘just let the public decide.’

I walked Rebecca back to her car, and she stopped to look at three plaques, peering up from the earth and uncut grass on the seawall side of the road from the council car park.

The plaques were aged and weather-beaten, proclaiming the names of lifeguards that are no longer with us.

Mounted upon stubs of wooden board, just above foot level, Rebecca read: ‘This tree is dedicated…’

She stood there a little while, letting the full impact settle in. And then she read out loud, almost to herself: ‘This tree is dedicated…’

[For non-Canvey readers: there are no trees there. Just an expanse of grass.]

When she turned around there was a tear in her eye.

‘That is so sad,’ she said.

Her words resonated with me as I walked back along the seawall to my own car. They seemed to fit my view perfectly of the island’s political situation – and I was reminded of those numerous Town Council trees and plaques.

It is all about Respect…

… (22/02/2010) – If You Are Listening Ray: Rebecca Has An Idea…

… (Yellow Advertiser, 18/03/2010) – Plans for memorial to mark lost coastguards

Rebecca Harris Calls For Armed Forces Parcels

IN AN ATTEMPT TO GAIN SOME PUBLICITY for their prospective parliamentary candidate, the local Conservative party issued this press release on 3rd September:-

Rebecca Harris, Conservative Party candidate for Castle Point, has joined fellow party members to launch a campaign to fill shoe boxes with gifts for our troops in Afghanistan.

Rebecca said: ‘I’ve spoken to lots of people who want to make an effort to show that they support and care about our forces in Helmand and elsewhere.’

Local Conservative, Adeline Lanegan, agreed: ‘We have already gathered a large amount of paperback books, toiletries and other items which we are aware the troops want. Putting some time aside to do this is the least we could do given the difficult conditions our forces have been going through.’

Parcels organiser Mark Howard added ‘The key thing is that we will be using an MOD approved charity to transport the boxes. It is vital that we don’t cause extra trouble for the forces out there, or interfere with the regular delivery of family letters or cards.’

If you have any items you could donate to our troops, please contact Adeline Lanegan on 01268 792992.

For further information on the items we could send, please look at the relevant page on our web-site:

Rebecca Harris launches project with local ConservativesThe release has been smouldering on my desk for four days now, while I decided how to treat it. At first I was inclined to ignore it; because it did not contain any real news; but, on second thoughts, it provides a valuable insight into how inept the local Conservative party is at promoting its prospective parliamentary candidate. Moreover, it shows just how out-of-touch it has become with events in the real world.

The quaint idea of going to work for eight-hours and then returning for a period of relaxation with a good book and an uninterrupted night’s rest is not one that any squaddie would recognise. Neither would splashing on the aftershave and rolling the deodorant under one’s armpits in the morning be conducive to a soldier’s health. (It can be smelled half-a-mile away, by the enemy, in arid conditions).

A good assortment of new, paper-back books, it might be argued, would be welcomed by field hospital units; but we are talking ‘field’ here. Injured soldiers do not remain long in field hospitals — they are medically evacuated from harm’s way and only find time to read when they are recovering (which is often in the UK).

No front-line soldier is going to make room for a paper-back in his kit, when that precious space can be used for spare ammunition or morphine.

The last thing our boys want is for civilians to start rummaging around their attics and bathrooms to send them their cast-offs and hand-me-downs.

They are worth far more than that.

If you want to help, then direct your cash towards the Royal British Legion, and use your political voice to ensure our troops obtain all the equipment they need.

Bandwagon Bob is king of ill-considered political grand-standing. We do not need it from our prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate as well…