Monday, February 12, 2007

Capstick and Dix, slapstick tricks

The election season for the Harton ward has well and truly started now, with Councillor Jim Capstick in Friday 2nd February's Gazette pleading for independent candidates not to stand against the 'anti-Labour' candidates (read Progressives). He asserted that it's the "public wish" that anti-Labour voters are unified. I've got no particular beef against the Progressives and I think Coun Capstick is a worthy councillor, but I don't remember being asked about this anti-Labour unification. And isn't asking potential candidates not to stand for election in support of their principles just to allow the Progressives defeat Labour a wee bit cynical?

That's politics I suppose.

Labour's local publicity attack has also now got into gear, with former councillor Rob Dix's pamphlet hitting my mat today. The leaflet is a slick multi-colour glossy piece which spends plenty of space berating the Progressives for not communicating with local residents. He also manages some time for that old local election chestnut, the "strong voice".

The leaflet doesn't appear to be printed on recycled paper, which is further evidence that our borough's councillors still need to learn the meaning of 'sustainability'.

Under the witty title "Delivering for South Shields", postman Mr Dix allows the Labour council to claim credit for "The multistorey car park site will be demolished in February and should be completed in less than three months." Perhaps it was shortage of leaflet space that caused Mr Dix to fail to add how long said eyesore has been permitted to crumble?

In his leaflet, Mr Dix humbly informed us that at the last local elections "I came within 18 votes of regaining my Council seat" and also asked mischievously "when was the last time the Progressives...delivered an environmental improvement for your community?" I was somehow under the impression that this was a Labour dominated council, so surely the question should be pointed to his chums in the cabinet? No doubt the Progressives will respond to Rob Dix's claims.

With the likelihood that Progressive and Labour will be publicly pieing each other in the months to come, what have other prospective candidates got to lose by trying to slip through them with good old fashioned ideology and principles?

And, of course, a strong local voice.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Jesus - bigger than the BNP

After the BNP's hope to make South Shields the jewel in their crown I decided to look around for a bit of background on them. I stumbled across this old spat between the fundamentalist Christian Voice and the fascist BNP. Despite their handbags at dawn, there are many similarities between the two groups - they court publicity, shout louder than their membership size suggests and criticise any sign of progressive attitudes in modern Britain.

Both groups are paranoid about Muslims, whipping up hate towards the Muslim community. They suggest that Britain is becoming an Islamic state, despite the lack of street corner stonings. Although given the 'tough on crime' image they like to portray, I suspect the BNP may support such a punishment. The groups' accusations that governments show deference to Islam conveniently forgets that British armed forces have killed more Muslims over the last ten years than at any time since the Crusades, and ignores Tony Blair's support for a country which spent much of 2006 using Lebanese civilians for bombing practice.

The BNP and CV trod the same ground over 'Jerry Springer The Opera', both arguing that it should be banned, whilst apparently unaware of the irony that organisations that benefit from our country's respect for free speech would wish to deny that very same right for others.

However, the brief courtship between the two couldn't last, and perhaps a souring should have been expected. Christianity, especially the fundamentalist kind practised by CV, is not compatible with BNP mantra.

Fundamentalist Christians believe that Adam and Eve were the mother and father of humanity. That means that, according to Acts 17:26, that we are all of "one blood". That's blasphemy to the BNP's race-hate core values. Instead, the BNP markets a twisted interpretation of evolution disturbingly reminiscent of Nazi race theory in which, according to BNP press officer Phil Edwards (a pseudonym), "white people are more highly evolved than blacks".

To most Christians the race issue is a no-brainer - BNP ideology is not compatible with the ethic that all Christians are brothers and sisters under God, irrespective of race. This is reflected in the number of Christian organisations opposed to fascists like the BNP, which in turn reflects the massive ethnic diversity of the Christian church.

Over the subject of race, there's no middle ground or 'third way' for the BNP and CV.

In an odd synergy of irrationality, the epic 'Nazi evolution' vs 'supernatural creation' battle between the BNP and CV somehow managed to achieve the impossible, and allow both to conquer the intellectual low ground at the same time.

But despite their ideological mud fight over creation, they still hold similar enough views over homosexuality, Muslims and free speech to confirm that both groups deserve little more than ridicule.

Tommy sure plays a mean hardball with tunnel

Councillor Tom Hanson's forlorn hope that “green groups” would go away and leave his pet project alone (TUNNEL 'HEALTH RISK’), seems to be little more than an attempt to deflect opinion away from the very real worry that local health will be negatively affected by the new Tyne tunnel. That he failed to comment on the research referred to by the Alliance suggests local health issues are secondary where the tunnel is concerned.

The conclusion of the University of Southern California research is clear – high traffic volumes shortens the lives of those who live near busy roads.

Coun Hanson’s "traffic will be free-flowing once the second Tyne Tunnel is built" argument is based upon the presumption that the main cause of the current pollution problem at the tunnel is engine idling. This is a distraction from the real cause of the problem - traffic volumes. The new road tunnel will increase the amount of local traffic, as acknowledged by the PTA's own Environmental Impact Assessment.

The engine idling argument presents the fiction that the PTA is on a mission to reduce the local impact of pollution from cars. If engine idling emissions was the PTA's main concern then mitigation would be simple - oblige drivers to turn off their engines whilst the vehicle is at rest. It's not a novel idea - other European countries employ the same technique. Since the PTA hasn’t already considered this method it's reasonable to assume that concern for the health of local residents isn't the PTA's prime motivation.

Presumably, shortening children’s lives is a fair price to pay to shave vital minutes off the daily commute.

If Coun Hanson genuinely cares about local health, then instead of acting deaf to local peoples' concerns and dumb over the impact of traffic on health, he should do something about getting people out of cars and onto public transport, instead of feeding the roads machine with our children's lives.