Like many other Thanet residents I watched tonight’s programme on Channel 4 regarding Mary Portas and her efforts to regenerate Margate High Street. The first comment by a random passer by summed up the job in hand. The crew asked a young lady her view about the town and the reply was “Margate’s Shit”.
Interestingly, the film followed her train journey to Margate and her arrival for the first time showed a typical rainy summer’s day and the obligatory shot of Arlington House which Mary took umbrage with describing it as a run down 60’s concrete tower block without mentioning the landlord who has for decades reneged on their agreement in the lease to keep maintenance up.
There followed a shot of Mary at the top end of the High Street mentioning something about drug dealers at the top of the multi storey car park. I can only assume she went up there to obtain some after realising the task she was undertaking although this wasn’t confirmed in the film. However she then proceeded to tell us that there are 28 empty shops out of 108. I am amazed as it seems like there are far more than that figure boarded up.
The next segment showed Mary outside of the old Woolworths before a Town Team meeting. She alluded that Woolworth’s closing down started the decline of the High Street but that shows lack of research. As any local knows it was the creation of Westwood Cross that drove the final nail in the High Street, funnily enough in the whole show Westwood wasn’t mentioned once!
In another clever bit of editing, the film show one of Margate’s finest shouting at Mary across the street in a neanderthal fashion before cutting to a nice cosy coffee between Mary and Iris Johnson. Iris did make me chuckle when she said that she wished to get away from the country bumpkin image of Margate right after the idiot shouting on the street.
Then we meet Billy who owns the Kiss Me Quick shop incidentally not located on the High Street but in the prime location on the seafront in the old town who apparently acts as the go between Mary and the Town team who were refusing the camera crew access to the meeting at Woolworths. As a reward for smoothing things over the rest of the show is dedicated to Billy, his shop, his hardships and the regeneration of his shop.
It was amusing to see Mary with a copy of the Thanet Watch, I didn’t get the impression she liked that publication very much, can’t think why. And lo and behold, Thanet’s very own dodgy estate agent Mr Painter appears swallowing Mary’s suggestion for an ‘inland pier’ A cursory 30 seconds was given over to the only result that is still here the poportunity pop-up shop that although is currently undergoing refurbishment but is still trading.
Then the show goes to London with the aforementioned Billy to promote Margate in the east end of all places, where most of the people questioned hadn’t even heard of the town, let alone had a desire to visit! At least our Billy got a trip to the palace and got the chance to pontificate about his childhood which although slightly interesting really didn’t have a place in this show.
Of course a show about Margate wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Tracey Emin who professed that ‘for a dirty weekend come to Margate’ look around the Turner (30 mins at most), visit the shops (if there are any left) and then proceed to copulate for the rest of the time! Maybe Tracey should sell up in London and open up a shop in Margate if she cares about the town as much as she proclaims.
Mary then managed to speak to Southeastern rail who kindly gave her 500 free return tickets from London to Margate and offered limited amounts of £10 return tickets as well to aid in the Inland Pier concept.
So we proceed to the big day of the inland pier. Mary was shown on a train she claims was packed with people heading to Margate but when she alighted at the other end I could count no more than 15 people that were with the group. I would love to know who had the clever idea of having the inland pier day right bang in the middle of the winter and to top it all and this is comical, Mary attempted to get Chas and Dave down to perform their famous Margate song. She called up Chas who was adamant that Dave wouldn’t do the gig and demanded expenses to come himself!
I do remain somewhat confused though. The show seemed to focus more on Billy and his shop than anything else and as things stand, less than a grand has been spent out of the hundred grand so what lies for the future?
Sadly it seems my prediction in my last blog has been proved correct, UKIP have decimated the mainstream parties in Thanet today gaining 7 out of the 8 seats available including the ex NF member Martin Heale winning in Ramsgate and the ex-tory Roger the dodger Latchford winning in Birchington. More depressingly the only seat won by anyone else went to Labour’s Will ‘Scooby’ Scobie who if his track record is anything to go by will be as ineffectual at county hall as he has been for Margate both in his capacity as mayor and local councillor.
This also reflects the national trend. Obviously and traditionally, half term elections tend to attract the protest voters out and it is even more the case when the conservatives have been up to their usual tricks of feathering their own pockets in power and screwing the less advantaged, the Lib Dems were ruined the minute they got into bed with the tories and abandoned their manifesto promises and the increasingly ineffectual Labour who seem to have lost their direction under Ed Millpede’s tenure.
So, will the emergence of UKIP as a major political force continue? As anyone will recall it was only a few years ago that the far right BNP attracted the protest votes yet this time around have lost their only remaining county council seat. I believe that today’s results should send a very clear message to David Cameron and unless he has a major rethink on policy along with Clegg and Millband then the far right could re-emerge as a political force and that, sadly can only lead us down a very dark and disturbing road.
With the upcoming KCC elections looming large it is becoming worrying that the majority of the publicity has been focused on UKIP. Firstly we have the ex-NF member Martyn Heale standing as the UKIP candidate for Ramsgate. I’m not quite sure how this can create positive publicity however knowing the xenophobic nature of the average Thanet resident I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he does rather well.
The other almost astonishing incident took place in Birchington. Our old tory chum Roger ‘the dodger’ Latchford has pinned UKIP colours to himself and is running for UKIP there, (wouldn’t be the only local Conservative to defect from the party lately would he?) Mr Latchford was accosted by certain well known people, I’m sure we all know now who they are from other blogs so won’t go into too much more detail here.
My personal concern is that with the local Labour and Conservative groups too busy blaming each other for the wrongs of Thanet, UKIP are gaining support and anyone who saw Nigel Farage’s appearance on the BBC’s question time last night will know this is worrying in the extreme. Let’s hope the local residents see sense on polling day and opt for the greens or independent candidates if wishing to make a protest vote, I wait with baited breath.
Well, it seems TDC still are reluctant to allow any of their meetings to be filmed! On Tuesday the Overview and Scrutiny committee met to discuss the ongoing Pleasurama debacle. Now despite the chairman Cllr Driver openly inviting the masses of Thanet to attend with filming equipment and record proceedings once again filming was banned from the meeting.
Going back to the last meeting of the full council when as already stated in an earlier entry both a local journalist and councillor were removed from the meet for attempting to record the debate. TDC always state that their own equipment records the meetings to be viewed online at a later date, presumably so they can edit out the childlike behaviour of our esteemed councillors.
However, upon a bit of research it appears that the video recorders installed at council chambers is permanently ‘broken’ which does appear somewhat convenient! Even more astounding is the ignorance of certain members of the council who don’t seem to know about this problem.
So where does that leave us (the public) in regard to being informed of outcomes of debates and how is it ever going to be inspiring people looking to get into politics? As national government doesn’t seem to have a problem and even encourages meetings to be filmed why does TDC constantly refuse people to record their meetings?
Thanet Council Scrutiny Chair “Public Welcome to Film my Meetings”
Following the regrettable incident on Thursday 18th April when a journalist was thrown of a meeting of Thanet District Council for trying to film the disgraceful behaviour of councillors, and following my own exclusion from the same meeting for taking photographs of the unacceptable events, I have been giving careful consideration as to how I will manage the meeting of Thanet Council’s Overview and Scrutiny and Panel on 23rd April.
I have decided that in line with Council rules to allow all accredited journalists to film proceeding of the OSP.
I interpret the term accredited journalist to include Citizen Journalists i.e. members of the public who wish to make and transmit video, sound or textual recordings of the meeting.
I will therefore allow anyone who advises me that they are citizen journalist to record the proceedings of Thanet Council’s OSP without obstruction.
This decision is in compliance with a letter sent to all Council Leaders and Chief Executives by Bob Neil, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Communities and Local Government in February 2011 which states that in order to promote stronger local accountability the public should be “able to film and record in meetings without obstruction”.
Mr Neil’s letter also suggests that Thanet Council’s recent decision to throw myself and Christine Tongue out the Council meeting last week was wrong. He says that
“recent stories about people being ejected from council meetings for blogging, tweeting or filming … is at odds with the fundamentals of democracy and I want to encourage all councils to take a welcoming approach to those who want to bring local news stories to a wider audience”.
I am very surprised that the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council have never brought Mr Neil’s important letter to the attention of the Council. This is a very serious mistake on their part.
I am also extremely surprised that the forthcoming review of the Council’s Probity and Reputation following the gaoling of ex-Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel for misconduct in public office and the on-going problems with councillor behaviour at meetings, does not include any reference at all to the recording of public meetings. I wonder what the powers that be at Thanet Council have to hide?”
My decision to adopt a liberal and open approach to the recording of the OSP will I hope, be a step in the right direction, and I expect the Council to be supportive of my decision.
Good to see at least one councillor following Eric Pickles guidelines
Well, yet another council meeting passes with plenty of incident. Firstly, a member of the public is ejected for attempting to film the meeting, (something that should be allowed in my opinion as it is supposed top be a public meeting). Shortly afterwards Cllr Ian driver is also asked to leave for attempting to take photographs of the proceedings. Good entertainment I must say but if that is what people want then the zoo would be a better option.
TDC is proving itself to be a total farce. After the Ezekiel debacle, TDC are supposed to be encouraging more open transparency but they turn into hypocrites as soon as members of the public and council are ejected for trying to record events. Usually, I would let this pass but last night’s meeting was packed to the rafters with both Anti Bedroom Tax protestors and FORS (Friends of Ramsgate Seafront) who were there for answers on the ongoing Pleasurama scandal.
The most astonishing thing however is that the public were told that they couldn’t even tweet what was occuring while a certain councillor from Westgate can sit there all night tweeting regular updates with impunity! I think it is time for TDC to set clear guidelines on reporting and updating from council meetings, personally, I think that all meetings should be filmed, even so far as to livestream.
However, from the meetings I have attended it would not be a surprise at all if TDC banned any sort of updates or filming, you only need to go to one meet to see how pathetic the council is. Whether it be childish playground bullying or personal attacks on each other, the people we elected to represent our local interests don’t really care about us at all, it’s more like a big game to them, scoring cheap points off each other and generally disturbing proceedings as much as possible.
In conclusion I can only be amazed that they actually manage to get anything done at all!