John's Jottings for October 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.

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time: Story One

Once upon a time there was a dog. It was a nice dog, with a studded collar and a tag with its name and address. The only problem was that its owner let it run free, and it had taken a liking to doing its business in a particular garden in a nearby road.

Now, the householder where the dog liked to mess was not happy with this situation, and would rant at the dog, who merely ran away and returned when the man wasn't around.

Now, was this a good way to tackle the matter at hand? It merely lashed out at the symptom: the dog wasn't able to understand the situation or to change it. Only its owner could do that by changing the underlying conditions. In this case, this would mean ensuring the dog did not roam unattended, but this is just an illustration.

The real message from this story is (as I pointed out last month) that one has to tackle the real cause of a problem, and of course that means knowing what that cause is. If that isn't tackled, the situation at the end of the period remains exactly the same as it was at the start. In this case, the dog's behaviour was unchanged, and who could blame it?

Stay with me...

Once upon a time: (True) Story Two

Once upon a time there was a council. Now this council was one of several that had been deliberately left severely short of funds, and had also been instructed to build so many houses, at a high density, and nearly half of these were to be on green land. The council (in common with others in a similar situation) had been threatened with punitive action that would result in even worse conditions impacting their area if they did not comply with these demands.

Consequently, this council looked around for plots of their own green land that weren't in active use and were not protected by current initiatives such as official country park or nature reserve status.

They found a couple of such sites.

One of these was what had effectively become scrubland, allowed to fall into a bad way over a number of years. Although in recent times the local councillors there had tried to do something about protecting this site, and indeed were successful for a while, eventually they were voted out of office and the pressures being applied to the council from outside became too high for such an informal protection to hold.

Therefore this site was proposed for disposal as surplus to the council's requirements—a proper enough action to take, and prudent asset management by the council, but (rather suddenly) very unpopular with folk living near to this plot of scrubland.

Those residents ranted and raved at the council, but despite having the underlying facts pointed out to them, did not lobby the outside dictators, so changed nothing in substance. Just as with the dog, the real cause of their anger remained untouched and unchanged, and the effect was, predictably enough, a continuation of what had been going on. Achievement: zero out of ten.

Dear reader: I can disclose that I was the one who advised the campaigners aiming to protect the land behind Compass Close in Rochester. All the correspondence is on file here. I suggested a few approaches they could take, things I might have done in the same circumstances, hints and tips based on my own background of both working within central government (who are the real culprits here!) and in-depth involvement in similar campaigning locally.

Yet they chose to ignore my advice, following instead the party politically-motivated directions of their current (Labour) ward councillors, so—predictably enough—the land is now being sold and they have almost certainly lost it for good. I could have told them from the outset that this would happen, and indeed did warn them that if they didn't tackle the real cause of the problem, they'd achieve nothing.

In reality, they became mere pawns in a purely political game (and I am seeing evidence that a few of the campaigners are now realising this) and lost their cause. Admittedly, known Labour party activists were driving the campaign that targeted just the council, so the protesters were being rather led by the nose; but surely some among their number should have spotted what was really going on.

Contrast that with the situation in my ward, and in the way we run our campaigns with intelligent targeting and lobbying, and you will see why all our green spaces are well protected and why we tend to win our campaigns.

We deal (very firmly!) with the name on the dog tag, not the dog!

Next time: Now is the Time for All Good Men...