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Wednesday, 28 April 2010



My face I don't mind it for I am behind it, 'tis the face in the front..... Martin you promised me a pic of the Rector - please may I have just one little pic?

Candidates present: Peter Baker, UKIP; Alan Duncan, Conservative; Lee Higgins, Independent; Grahame Hudson, Liberal and John Morgan, Labour. The BNP candidate, Addison, did not attend.

The increasingly cuddly rector of All Saints’, Lee Francis Daqhani, in his thick Orange brogue, opened the meeting by assuring us all it wasn’t wrong to hold an election public meeting in a Church. Apparently others have had the same reservations as I’d expressed in my blog.

The rector’s burgeoning stature is a brilliant advertisement for Sarah’s Castle Café. A parishioner, who has newly taken over administering the Church accounts, told me a fortnight ago that he regularly receives receipts for the Rector’s expenses for pastries and hot drinks consumed at the Castle Café. On the notice board, at the entrance to the Church, we are invited to ‘look round.’

Looking very round the Rector took centre stage as he sat to chair the meeting. The candidates were precariously perched on small tables with yet more tables and chairs balanced perilously upon them. Still it was nice to think that I’d found a small corner of England where Health and Safety regulations were totally ignored But sadly they couldn’t stand up to address us without sending their chairs careering toward the altar rail or even adjust their chairs without falling backwards themselves. Heaven knows what electoral mayhem might have ensued had one madman rushed the stage.

Citing Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the triple chins of Lee Francis wobbled in outrage as he denounced detractors of Church sponsored hustings while he sat hazardously in front of the altar rail at All Saints’ Church.

Well the Rector, for all his reputed ambitions to a bishopric, is no Desmond Tutu. I had the pleasure of having the Rector’s finger pointed intemperately and belligerently into my face after he chaired Alan Duncan’s expenses meeting in the Vicky Hall. His chins danced in indignation even more violently then, after I’d questioned his ability as a Chairman. Local artists seeking a model for Herod need look no further than our own dear Rector whose political bias is seldom concealed, although he took great pains to assure me that he had never voted Conservative at Dinky Dunc’s expenses jamboree. But I think the Rector, single-handedly, makes the case for disestablishment of the Church of England in Oakham.

Starting in alphabetical order the candidates gave their initial address. We really couldn’t miss the BNP candidate, as Peter, whom I adore, made the case against immigrants (can’t agree with Peter on this one) and castigated Jack Straw for giving away our legal heritage (agree wholeheartedly but the rot started with the Conservatives and merely continued under Labour). Peter told us he was part of RAF Control Command in his younger days (there is a huge service vote in this area). Peter’s amusing musings on his life in academia: as a lecturer in management, and the frustrations of dealing with small-minded academics, turned our gaze on Grahame Hudson (a lecturer at de Montford University). Peter appealed for a protest vote: ‘It is our country not theirs’ (by which he meant politicians not immigrants this time).

Next up was Dinkie Dunk the matchbox Hunk. Expertly coiffed and sleekly bronzed, the adroit, media savvy, intelligent Conservative candidate and sitting tenant of at least two homes and a wonderful Westminster expense account, oozed oily charm from every pore. Duncan gave a convincing performance of being suitably humble. He spoke of how privileged he was to live in the area and represent the people of Rutland and Melton. He cited ‘Boom and Bust’ and Labour mismanagement as the root of all our financial ills. The final solution to Labour Governments running out of money is always a financially responsible Conservative Government, he told us.

Well all I can say is that most British workers never saw the boom. Profits may have burgeoned, but ordinary workers’ pay decreased to national minimum wages during the boom years. Ignoring the fact that there has been a worldwide depression, Alan Duncan confidently urged us to do our ‘duty’ and return a Conservative Government to ensure we do not find ourselves in the same financial mess again.

Lee Higgins, political virgin and Independent candidate, told us that the three main parties appeared to be singing from the same hymn sheet which, given the venue, was apt. He was disillusioned with all three main parties, so had elected to stand in the hope that we would elect him to represent us. He runs his own business. Citing the debacle of MP’s expense scandals he said public confidence in the old political system was at its lowest ebb. (Can’t disagree with you there Lee old chum). He hopes that the voters of Rutland and Melton will restore confidence in public office by voting for an Independent candidate.

Huzzar Hudson always underlines his service in the Royal Navy – as an ‘orfficer.’ Often wonder if our bespectacled Grahame fancies himself as a second James Bond. What is it with some ex-servicemen? When asked to explain the meaning of ‘oxymoron,’ I commonly use the example of ‘Military Intelligence’ rather than ‘bitter-sweet.’ Post Navy – as an officer of course – Grahame served ‘Queen and country’ as a civil servant and said that he ‘wondered if our political masters knew what they were doing.’ Grahame lectures at de Montfort University. Bizarrely he said that what had set his blood boiling was the issue over Iraq. Yet in a 2005 hustings meeting our own dear Grahame said that on balance he would still have gone to war in Iraq. This, now denied sound bite, moved a whole family of Liberal voters to the Independent candidate in 2005. His support of the armed services is so emphasised that sometimes Grahame gives the impression of being a single-issue candidate.

John Morgan has been a member of the Labour Party for 27 years, ever since he was a 15-year-old Young Socialist. He became a Labour Party supporter because he is a ‘Socialist and believes in a fairer Society.’ Quite how he fits into the New Labour ethos was not made clear. But through the evening he proved himself able to disagree on some manifesto issues, so a degree of independence could be discerned. If voters insist on voting for one of the three main parties Morgan is, in my view, the only one with any chance of beating Duncan. He knows he will have to get out the Melton Labour vote.

The first question was on what candidates would propose for Public Sector cuts in Oakham. A question more properly put to County Councillors and, of course, the moribund parish councillors of Oakham. Dinky Dunk cleverly cited the proposed closure of the minor injuries unit at our local hospital. ‘Rutland Council is lean’ said Alan, hardly daring to look at the incredible hulk, chairing the meeting, on his left hand side. Huzzar Huddie, either because he doesn’t interest himself in local politics, didn’t hear or didn’t understand the question, went on about Trident, I D cards and the Child Trust Fund. Unlike 2005, this year Hudson wasn’t consulting a crib sheet under the table before answering questions from the floor. He’d obviously crammed a lot better for this exam.

Morgan put his finger on the pulse immediately by highlighting the money lost to Icelandic Banks by our Council. ‘Cuts,’ in public expenditure, especially during a recession, ‘cause job losses,’ he said. Although he alluded to the suffering caused under Thatcher’s monetarist regime through the last depression, he held back from explicitly blaming Thatcher. Her popularity still makes it dangerous to attack the iron lady. He undertook to campaign against the closure of the small injuries unit in Oakham – which was only brought into being in 2004/5. Peter Baker said the biggest issue was Europe. He also thought the impetus to pyramid building was ‘endemic’ within the Civil Service and needed pruning.

From the floor, Richard Baggot asked a question on climate change. Without any sign of real passion Grahame Hudson said he was passionate to do something about this issue. But it sounded like sound bites gleaned from Liberal H Q, with a reference to de Montfort University and the University of East Anglia thrown in. Morgan sounded as if he knew what he was talking about. He regretted that the USA hadn’t sign up to Kyoto and added that China and the USA had put paid to reducing CO 2 emissions. John Morgan said Europe was more aware of the arguments and Europe should seize the lead. Peter Baker was, as usual, a little ahead, or perhaps outside, of his time and place and doubted some of the science behind the issues. The issue of ‘climate change,’ said Peter, ‘is a myth which has developed into a religion.’ To be fair to Peter Baker there is a growing disenchantment with some of the science. A member of the audience, known to the Rector and the Liberal candidate, was asked to add his own scientific expertise and present a ‘climatologists’ view. Poor Peter!

Lee Higgins, proving himself capable of rising to the occasion, said if the issue of climate change is not true then no real harm could accrue to us taking steps to reduce carbon emissions. But if climate change is true then we have to take those steps to safeguard our future. Not taking action now could be dangerous.

Getting a second bite at the cherry, Alan Duncan said: ‘If it’s a choice between Peter and Lee I’m with Lee on this one.’ He added ‘Grahame you cannot pretend windmills are going to solve the problem.’

A number of questions were raised on wholly religious issues. The problem of Christianity being marginalized in an increasingly secular society and faith schools.

Mr Kindell or Kindle asked what the candidates would do for the elderly generation. I was impressed that the candidates did not dodge this question. Alan Duncan tackled it head on: ‘You are retiring too early.’ Peter Baker said current pensions were paid out of current income, an unsustainable financial burden on the younger generation.. ‘There are not enough young people to fund current pensions.’ Hudson felt that public sector pensions cost an awful lot of money. Morgan, picking up on an argument that pensioners are living to a far greater age, said that people living longer is not a problem, it is a direct result of Labour initiatives brought in under the 1948 Labour Government. No one mentioned Labour’s initiative and efforts in legalising euthanasia in order to solve the problem of longevity. Lee Higgins said that it is anomalous that workers aged 65 can be summarily sacked without rights to redundancy or compensation. Higgins went on to show his mastery of the subject by citing the debacle of Equitable Life and other pension fund scandals, the loss of pension fund savings and the inability of workers to bring their entire pension fund with them when they change employers.

The Reverend Susie Parsons, wife of a naval officer, asked: If Christians are commanded to pray for peace in Jerusalem, how would the candidates start the peace process in Jerusalem? Alan Duncan said he was an advocate of a Palestinian State. Almost everyone on the platform agreed that Palestinians had been treated badly by Israel and the world. ‘Appointing Tony Blair as a peace negotiator in the Middle East was a bit like appointing Herod to be a peace negotiator,’ was an unusually adroit sound bite from the Liberal. I clapped!

After the final question on faith schools the candidates had another last bite at the cherry. Peter Baker summed it up best when he said that; ‘The truth about our current political situation is so awful, there is no need to lie.’

The meeting ended with Lee Francis Daqhani asking us to join him in ‘The Grace.’ For the secular, this was not a grace normally said before a meal, although by the look of him our cuddlesome Rector might say that grace at least a dozen times a day. So the meeting finished on a prayer.

Let’s hope that the people of Rutland and Melton have a prayer of getting a decent representative on 6th of May 2010.

2,041 words




The election hustings were held in Melton on Monday 26th April. Curiously only the main three parties were invited to address the public meeting from the platform in Melton.

The Independent candidate, Lee Higgins and the UKIP candidate, Peter Baker, assured me that they had both attended the meeting at Melton Theatre and had not been asked to join Conservative, Labour and Liberal candidates on the platform. Peter Baker came along to the Oakham meeting, held in All Saints’ Church at 7.30 pm, with a dignified leaflet protesting the exclusion of the three minority candidates.

A lady from the Church said that both Lee Higgins and Peter Baker would be welcome on the platform and she had invited them along. However neither knew of this before they turned up to the Oakham meeting.

The fact that both Peter Baker and Lee Higgins attended Melton, and would have been happy to appear and speak as candidates, but were limited to questions from the floor, raises the rather thorny issue of election expenses.

It is my understanding – and I could be wrong, if there are any experts out there please do add a comment – that if candidates do not allow fellow Prospective Parliamentary candidates onto the platform with them, then the candidates who do participate become liable for the cost of the meeting.

I am told there have been other smaller meetings from which the minority parties have also been excluded. If the Labour, Conservative and Liberal candidates do not factor the expenses of these meetings into their limited election expenses allowance it may be that this is indeed a three horse race in Rutland and Melton: a race between the Independent, Lee Higgins, the UKIP candidate Peter Baker and the BNP candidate who is always notable by his absence.

How much do you think it costs to rent Melton Theatre for the evening?

Election expenses are limited to around £7,000. If the candidates considerable printing and campaign costs do not include addressing ‘private’ meetings, such as the meeting in Melton Theatre, then all three major party representatives could be barred from taking office for exceeding their campaign expenses. This is one for the Electoral Commissioner to resolve, provided two of the three minor candidates lodge a complaint in good time.

The danger is that the British National Party has the most exposure to media attention and will come fourth in this election. So if Labour Conservative and Liberal candidates are found to have disqualified themselves by exceeding their expenses allowance then we face a nightmare of being represented by a BNP Member of Parliament. Nick Griffin will not be slow in advising his candidates to question election expenses if they can win seats by default.

Peter Baker’s leaflet read:

Due to the TV debates, well all know about the 3 failed parties.

It is a shame the hosts of this evening haven’t made it more interesting by asking ALL the candidates to answer your questions. That at least would have been democratic.

Peter Baker your UK Indpendence Party Candidate is here. Ask him to answer your questions.

Peter immediately withdrew these leaflets when invited onto the platform in Oakham.

However Peter does make a good point and it is still relevant to Melton and any other venue from which he has been excluded.

Surely it is time we turned to candidates who are not trying to climb the greasy pole to a political hierarchy, willing to do the bidding of the party whips? If we want MPs to represent their constituents it is surely time to vote outside the Party Political monopoly? There does appear to be an enormous saving on printing and mailing costs beyond the realms of ordinary business. Martin Brookes said he’d had a personally addressed communication from a Party candidate. How this was possible without using the electoral roll, which candidates are expressly forbidden to use for mailing shots, is a bit of a mystery.

We are told by the press, and by the three main parties, that a vote for any other candidate is a wasted vote. We’ve been brain washed into thinking that a coalition Parliament would be disastrous for the country. Coalition governments in Germany seem to do a better job financially than our tyrannic three party system has so far delivered to us.

What, may I ask, is wrong with having to appeal to our representatives’ consciences? What is wrong with having to win arguments in Parliament by debate, rather than by the shenanigans of the whips? The current three party system is a lazy, indolent and corrupt system. Whips know they can manipulate, bully and blackmail MPs into doing what they are told to do by the party machinery – and stuff the constituents. When it comes to voting, the Whips all whip their votes in under a stringent disciplinary control, which precludes MPs representing their constituents and makes them mere lobby fodder for an elite group of men who would wield all the strings of power. This is not a democracy – it is an oligarchy of self-interested individuals, wielding far too much power for the preferment of their pals, chums and conspirators in crime.

Well in Melton and Rutland this may not be true. It may just be that all three main political party candidates have just ruled themselves out of the race by accruing expenses over and above those allowed in any General Election.

Isn’t it time we stopped being brain washed into kissing toads, who never turn into princes, or voting for the same old losers, who all seem to have the same old agenda. In 97 we had cash for questions; in 2009 we’ve had MPs expenses, bankers for bonuses, Lord Ashcroft’s disingenuous non-dom status and MPs, subjected to fraud charges, using the 1689 Bill of Rights in order to escape prosecution. Berlusconi eat your heart out. Since when were political representatives above the law?

Your vote for a minority candidate might just count for a great deal more than you realise. Don’t let BNP win this constituency by default, vote for an Independent candidate.

1,033 words.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

General Election Hustings meeting 27 April 2010 - 7 pm Oakham

A meeting will be held in the Parish church tonight at 7.00 under, I am told, the Chairmanship of the cuddly Rector. 26/4/10

The Rector is always keen to ensure the public are well mannered. Whilst the Rector tries to give no opportunity to hecklers, Alan Duncan himself has repeatedly said he 'enjoys' hecklers.

Bit of a problem heckling in All Saints Church if you're at all religious, but I suppose even those who do believe can forget they are in a church for one evening. Well let's try to forget. Always good to test some heavy mettle.

The meeting is usually stuffed full of the main three parties members and very little real testing of our candidates will be allowed.

Questions have to be submitted before hand - too late now. What the procedure was for doing so I'm not sure, but no doubt if you are known to favoured candidates you might be asked to put a question which will show them and their policies in the best possible light.

Candidates from Conservative, Labour and Liberal Parties will, I've read in the local paper, be attending. Whether the BNP, UKIP and the Independent have also been invited I'm not sure.

This is the nearest Oakham residents will get to holding our candidates to account.

It is a ritual steeped in tradition that everyone behaves and no one says anything which might not be in the best possible taste. How one discerns the goats from the sheep on that basis I'm not sure.

I've always found tradition to be a bit of a strait-jacket. What do you think?

Monday, 26 April 2010


I have just been informed this morning that my nomination for Oakham parish council is invalid. A copy of the email from Mr Pook - and my reply to him - is given below.

--- On Mon, 26/4/10, Geoffrey Pook wrote:

From: Geoffrey Pook

Date: Monday, 26 April, 2010, 9:56

Hello Ms Pender.

I have just left a message on your answering service for you to ring me, but it is important that you receive the information set out below as a matter of urgency.

I regret to have to advise that your nomination paper for the above by-election has had to be ruled as invalid. The proposer and seconder are electors in a different ward and the requirement is that they be registered in the relevant electoral area.

I appreciate that the elector numbers for the proposer and seconder were supplied by us upon request when Mr Brookes visited the offices, I believe on 15 April. Obviously my colleague did not make the connection at that moment and with resources committed fully to the demands of the Parliamentary election, the nomination papers were not examined again until after the close of nominations on 22 April.

There is no discretion available to the Returning Officer to affect this unfortunate situation. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that a nomination is valid within the rules.

I am sorry to have to give you this disappointing information.


Geoff Pook

Deputy Returning Officer


My reply:

Dear Mr Pook

Thank you for your email. Martin Brookes left my nomination papers with Ms Stokes some time ago and was told the papers were in order. Indeed I was handed the electoral roll and a schedule of events, via Martin Brookes. Just to make sure I called at the Council offices last week to find out if my nomination paper was in order and spoke to Edward on customer services who rang the electoral offices.

So you have had ample time to inform me that the nomination was invalid. To tell me that my nomination was invalid in an answerphone message to my mobile at 10.41 this morning is, I would suggest, either grossly negligent, or deliberately playing foul with the electoral duties your department has been entrusted with. Valid nominations have to be in by noon and I am not in a position to get new nominations in the time available. I am fairly certain you would have been aware of this.

I repeat you have had more than ample time to tell me that my nomination was invalid, However I did suspect that this ploy might be tried and told Martin Brookes of my suspicions.

It does all begin to look rather smelly. Although the upside of this failure, on your electoral department's part, does add to the evidence that a full audit of Council activities is long overdue. You had a duty to tell me that the nomination was invalid when it was lodged with your offices.

That no one did so, for several days and left it to the last minute to inform me, appears on the face of it, to be a hijacking of the electoral process in order to ensure that I am ineligible to stand. I will have to consider my position and what options are open to me.

I suppose that if one shakes a tree with cankered fruit one should expect some of the falling rotten apples to aim for ones head.

On another matter perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know whether the current Mayor has invalidated her own position by her continued absence from Council meetings over the last few months. I cannot believe that her continued apologies and non-attendance can be accepted ad infinitum - with or without apologies being sent to each meeting.

Fortunately I will be able to stand for her seat when that election falls due, so we live to fight another day.

Forgive me for blogging this letter to you. Your actions, or lack of them, do deserve to be disseminated to a wider public. Your negligence, or deliberate shenanigans, are deserving of some publicity and the lack of transparency in local politics is something that has to be changed.

Yours sincerely

Helen Pender

An email of congratulations has been sent from Martin Brookes to the new Councillor:

Dear Cllr Allen Walters,

Due to a cock up by Rutland County Council, you are now elected unopposed. Congratulations and welcome to Oakham Town Council.

You may be keen to sign your papers but in procedure, that was introduced when I was elected, you cannot sign your acceptance now, and if you are officially welcomed at your first meeting there will be a protest. Not because you have been elected but because I have never been welcomed.

I have a feeling there maybe a delay due to the town clerk's illness.


Martin Brookes.

Allen Walters now represents Oakham North East having been unopposed in the 'election.' He may be contacted on:

The end of the story

From: Helen Pender
Subject: RE: Oakham Town Council - North East Ward - By-election
To: "Geoffrey Pook"
Cc: "Martin XXXXXXXX
Date: Friday, 30 April, 2010, 8:40

Dear Mr Pook

Having considered the position over the debacle of Oakham North East by-election and spoken to Mrs T Stokes I am not going to take any further action.

Mrs Stokes was professional, open, transparent and refreshingly frank about the mix up. Although I was not privy to the conversations Martin Brookes had with Richard White, I now wonder if Richard White told Martin he was in Nouth East Ward and perhaps the mix up stemmed not from the County Council Offices, but from the Town Council offices.

I have the utmost confidence in Mrs Stokes' integrity and was most impressed by her. It would not, in my opinion, serve the community or democracy well to try to remove or discipline Mrs Stokes. She is an asset to RCC and to the democratic process.

I will of course blog this too, since it is only fair to let my infinitely small audience know the position.

Best wishes to both you and Mrs Stokes

Helen Pender

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Nun of the above

Have agreed to stand for Oakham Town Council - North East Ward - as an independent candidate. It is important that we have proper elections and bring democracy and public service back into local politics. I am a supporter of Martin Brookes and truly believe that the local parish Council should be about service to the community.

Lately some very silly behaviour has been tolerated at local parish council meetings and I have been pressured to stand. I have decided to accept the nomination primarily because I think democracy demands we have elections, not co-options of mates.

I would like to campaign for better public transport services locally. It is ridiculous that we do not have any buses out of, or into, Oakham on a Sunday and that trains only run after 12.45 pm. There are no buses after 5.40 pm from Peterborough on any day of the week either. This prevents local people, without their own transport, seeking work outside the County. If elected I will undertake to make strenuous representations on behalf of the less well off, who cannot afford their own transport, to be better served and have more employment opportunities.

I will campaign for more openess and disclosure of information to local people. The concept of accountability seems to have bypassed the Town Council. It is reprehensible that so much of the correspondence to local Councillors is marked 'Private and Confidential.'

I am concerned that restoration of the bandstand is likely to cost over £30,000. If a proper restoration job were being undertaken we would be using collyweston tiles, not cedarwood tiles which will probably rot within a relatively short space of time. I also notice that the wooden boards, protecting the bandstand site, have cost thousands of pounds and will be taken down at the end of work. Could we not have used secure and relatively cheaper wire security fencing, rather than paying outright for boarding which will be taken away at the end of the work and presumably recycled by the builders with no financial benefit accruing to local tax payers.

I will also campaign to remove the 'designated area' that the Town Council have voted to enforce on the whole of Oakham.

It was bad enough that local Councillors, some of whom have now resigned, felt able to boast of making Cutts Close a 'designated area' - yet felt no sense of hypocrisy when taking wine bottles to Cutts Close to listen to the Band during festival week. Laws, when they are brought into force, should apply to everyone equally. There does appear to have been a 'them' and 'us' mentality locally. It is about time locally elected representatives understood that they are there to represent and serve their electors and not selfishly exploit their personal positions.

I stood at the last General Election as an Independent candidate and many people suggested that I stand under the tag 'None of the above.' Rather tongue in cheek, since I lead a rather modest life and attend church regularly, I have decided instead to stand as 'Nun of the above.'

You can contact me on: