John's Jottings for September 2005

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

One-Dimensional Thinking

A very useful trait in real-world politics is the ability to think beyond just the one issue and what usually results in just one outcome. It is therefore unfortunate that one so often encounters examples of elected members who seem unable to manage this.

A prime example of this one-dimensional thinking has been evident in the Medway Council Labour group's outlook in respect to Rochester Airport. Their thinking has remained, throughout these past six years while the airport has been an issue, that the site could be only either a small airport (as it is now) or a so-called science and technology park. They demonstrated again and again that they could not grasp the concept of having both, and the LibDems also failed to realise that we could have our cake and eat it, via the proposed Innovation Centre and related initiatives in the vicinity of the airport.

A not entirely unrelated incident occurred in the council chamber a few weeks ago, at which I stated that I was looking at the possibility of providing additional employment land near the BAE Systems site, partly to offer replacement employment for those whose BAE jobs were lost in the waves of redundancies, also anticipating possible further waves in future.

Now, I knew full well which site I had in mind for this—the college site at Horsted. However, the Labour councillor Bill Esterson then stood up and proceeded to announce that I had changed my stance on Rochester Airport and was now seeking to turn it into this new employment site!

At this point I felt it necessary to avoid Cllr Esterson continuing down a path that would ultimately lead to his embarrassment, and did something I rarely do: I stood to raise a Point of Personal Explanation (as it is called). This halts the proceedings so that I was able to explain as much as I could divulge at that time: that it was not the airport site that I had in mind.

Unfortunately Cllr Esterson was completely unable to think more than one-dimensionally, so continued as if nothing had happened—and, most significantly, he had learned nothing. This, and other experiences involving this particular Labour councillor (and several of his colleagues), leads to the inevitable conclusion that they are innately unable to cope with anything beyond straight-line thinking.

Unfortunately for them, the real world doesn't work like that, and they are consequently ill-fitted to make decisions that impact people's lives and communities.

We all need to be much sharper than that, especially in an environment in which outside agencies are dictating more and more, and are getting away with an ever-worsening condition in this country as there is little real opposition to them. They are remote and seemingly almost untouchable; but it is in their clever use of spin that they can take the credit for anything good that happens, and yet make sure that the blame gets directed at others for their (many) failures.

As a good example to which we can all relate, most (though not all!) of the big, controversial issues that beset Medway Council stem from policies and stipulations inflicted from without, usually by the Blair national government. There are so many instances of this that are now well known, you'd think that everyone would have learned by now—but no, they haven't. Therefore the method is used ever more widely, and the spin doctors have refined their art with experience, and all the time they get away with it almost scot-free. Thus they are encouraged to continue and extend these practices.

Although the recent general election results showed clearly that some people are waking up to what is going on in this country, there is still so much inertia and excuses for not heeding the warnings that we still have the same underlying governmental culture today that we had immediately prior to May 2005.

So, when the next unpleasant issue hits any part of Medway and your first instinct is to blame the local council, be prepared to accept that in many (probably most) cases it will have resulted from something imposed by others. Although by all means have a pop at the council—they should be made aware of your views anyway—do also be ready to take the battle where it belongs: usually to Parliament via our local MPs.

As any good doctor knows, you can't cure a disease by concentrating exclusively on the symptoms: you have to deal with the underlying cause—two-dimensional thinking. We can all learn from the Good Doctor...

Next time: Once Upon A Time...