Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's Victoria Atkins got against the Eels?

Eels cropped up at the Mablethorpe general election hustings in a question about the Environment Agency.  Now the EA is an institution that some of my fellow citizens view with mistrust and cynicism and criticism is popular amongst a certain section of local opinion.  I live below sea level twice a day and owe a lot to the engineers of the EA who design, build and maintain the sea defences so I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

The Tory candidate, Victoria Atkins, may be of the opinion that having a go at the EA will win votes.  Donna Nook was mentioned by another candidate.  That's where the EA has done a realignment job, moving the sea defence inland, making it much more robust and increasing the area of salt-marsh.  The project not only improves our security against storm surges as sea level rises, it also complies with the EU Habitats Directive, which, simply put, insists that if work is done in one place that causes a loss of habitat, then an equivalent new habitat has to be created nearby.  The hard defences for Hull and the Humber Bank industries are squeezing the salt-marsh there, so the extra at Donna Nook redresses the balance.  It may be inconvenient for the anti-EU folk, but this cannot be seen as Brussels dictating the lives of the plucky Brit.  This was largely a UK Government initiative and it is Britain that has, if anything, imposed the Habitats Directive on the rest of Europe.  Anyway, I give the EA a score of 9/10 for the scheme, with its difficulties caused by those who have opposed it, adding delay and cost.

It's strange how folk distrust the EA.  On the 6th December 2013 there was a tidal surge that caused some flooding in Boston, but at Saltfleet the brand new wall held fast with the water almost two feet short of the top.  A year earlier there was no end of opposition from the locals claiming the EA had got it wrong and the planned wall wasn't wanted.  Fortunately, that local opinion was not heeded, the wall was built, property and perhaps lives were protected.

Which brings us onto the eels.  Here's a snippet from the Sustainable Eel Group:

"Eel numbers have declined for many reasons in the last decade, including because they have struggled to bypass man-made barriers to reach important upstream habitats. Efforts are now underway to correct this, and rivers in Lincolnshire will be central to European efforts to help eel populations. Other initiatives on the Lymn include the construction of eel passes by the Environment Agency to help eels on their crucial migration up and down the river, and other conservation projects led by the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust."

But tragically, it appears that Victoria Atkins is not so keen on the Environment Agency spending the hard-earned money of hard-working families on eels. Which, frankly, is sad.  And it's why she's a Tory and not a Green.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TEQs or What are Your Views on the Environment?

At the election hustings organised by Radio Lincolnshire yesterday in Horncastle Market square, the parliamentary candidates were asked about the environment.  Romy Rayner, for the Green Party, took the question in her stride of course, and the Liberal said "No Fracking", but it was the Conservative candidate, Victoria Atkins, barrister, daughter of  former Tory minister Sir Robert Atkins, who gave the note-worthy reply.

Lincolnshire, she told us, had some beautiful scenery and she didn't want it spoiled by wind turbines.

And that was about it, that was our possibly future MP's policy on something as big as The Environment.

And to-day is Earth Day.

So let's just think about a few of the things Victoria Atkins didn't mention.  It's not all doom and gloom; there's the pair of peregrine falcons that have taken up residence on the spire of St. James's Church in Louth and have laid two eggs. Well, that might spell doom and gloom for some of the local pigeons but we should take a holistic view of the ecosystem and not get too sentimental about nature being red in tooth and claw.  2015 marks the 500th anniversary the completion of the spire.  Sadly, it has seen the best of its days and will not survive a further 500 years.  Louth stands only a few metres above present sea level and the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are no longer stable.  There's still doubt over just how quickly the ice can melt but as sure as peregrine eggs is eggs, the Greater North Sea will rise over the Lincolnshire Marsh to leave the higher ground of Louth as a seaside town on the banks of the Lud Estuary.  The church is on the lower ground.

Louth's survival, even as a seaside town, is actually in doubt as that presupposes that human civilisation will survive long enough to see the sea rise up that far.  A metre or two is on the cards for this century, the lifetime of Victoria's son, Monty.  That's enough to wipe out half of Bangladesh and much of the the most fertile and densely populated parts of Vietnam, south-east China, Thailand, Pakistan, Egypt and many other places.  A lot of people will be on the move. If they are still alive.

And here's the rub.  The now inevitable rise of sea level will be preceded by a rise in global average temperatures not seen since long before humankind walked the planet.  Our business-as-usual policies of Victoria's Tory Party and similar governments around the world lead inexorably to climate change in which the global agricultural system will collapse.  Billions will die before ever the sea washes over their graveyards.

Victoria wants economic growth and the nice views of Lincolnshire not interrupted by wind turbines.  I want for Victoria's Monty and my own granddaughter to have lives that will not be nasty, brutish and short.

So what shall we do?  On May the 7th vote Green, if in Louth & Horncastle vote Romy Rayner, but beyond that, the urgent task is to stop burning fossil carbon. We all can play our pert there. Divest from the fossil carbon complex and press the government to adopt a carbon capping mechanism to force change.

Which brings me to the real point of this blog, to announce the publication of the latest paper on Tradable Energy Quotas.  This is the mechanism, the instrument, that actually has the potential to change everything.  And Victoria Atkins probably knows nothing about it.  Get a step ahead:

Reconciling scientific reality with realpolitik: moving beyond carbon pricing to TEQs – an integrated, economywide emissions cap

Shaun Chamberlin Fleming Policy Centre
Larch Maxey Plymouth University, Network of Wellbeing
Victoria Hurth Plymouth University

Abstract This article considers why price-based frameworks may be inherently unsuitable for delivering unprecedented global emissions reductions while retaining the necessary public and political support, and argues that it is time to instead draw on quantitybased mechanisms such as TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas).
TEQs is a climate policy framework combining a hard cap on emissions with the use of market mechanisms to distribute quotas beneath that cap.
The significant international research into TEQs is summarised, including a 2008 UK government feasibility study, which concluded that the scheme was “ahead of its time”. TEQs would cover all sectors within a national economy, including households, and findings suggest it could act as a catalyst for the socio-technical transitions required to maximise wellbeing under a tightening cap, while generating national common purpose towards innovative energy demand reductions.
Finally, there are reflections on the role that the carbon management community can play in further developing TEQs and reducing the rift between what climate science calls for and what politics is delivering. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 4 A result.

Followers of the story so far in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 may be interested in this e-mail I received today:
Dear Mr Vernon,
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the placement of election posters within the Highway.
I have spoken to the representatives of the Party concerned at length and they have from our initial discussions relocated or removed Signs erected within the Highway to other locations. There are a couple which have been brought to our attention which are on the boundary which we will not be pursuing as the evidence of the boundary is not distinct and identifiable – the agreement of the adjacent landowner I understand has been given in these cases. To precisely identify the boundary would take a lot of officer time and reference to archive documents and then require a legal view before we could then take action (or not).
I apologise for not responding to your message sooner but can assure you that this matter was actioned promptly.
Best regards
Andy Ratcliffe
Area Highway Manager

I suppose we might wait for Victoria Atkins, barrister and probably MP from May 7th, to apologise for breaking the law and for not being honest with the local paper the Louth Leader, but I do not recommend holding one's breath until she does.  In this safe Tory seat of Louth and Horncastle matters such as law-breaking and dishonesty will be quietly disregarded when returning a new Conservative MP to replace the retiring Sir Peter Tapsell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 3

I forwarded my information, as set out in Part 1 and Part 2, about Louth & Horncastle's Tory candidate Victoria Atkins's election posters that she had sited at various locations on trunk roads in this Lincolnshire constiuency, to various arms of the press: The Guardian, Huffington Press, The Mirror, The Grimsby Telegraph, The Louth Target and the Louth Leader.

First to rush to print was the Leader.  But, oh dear, they didn't bother with the information I had supplied but just did a little white-wash job with a quote from someone uninformed at the Lincoln County Council Press Office and, would you believe it, Victoria Atkins herself.  Here's what they wrote:

This newspaper received a number of complaints after election signs for parliamentary candidate Victoria Atkins were placed on land at the side of a number of roads throughout the Louth and Horncastle constituency.

But a spokesman for Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed that they have received no complaints of any kind regarding this matter to date and no action will be taken.
Conservative parliamentary candidate, Victoria Atkins said: “I have been made aware of two incidents, both of which people have been vandalising the posters and discarding them onto the road.
“There was also another incident where an enthusiastic supporter had put an election poster up onto a grass verge by the roadside, but as soon as we were made aware of this, it was taken straight down. This was simply an honest mistake.”
At least there can be no doubt that Victoria Atkins knows about the issue now. And let me remind you of the issue. All candidates or their election agents were sent a document from the East Lindsey Electoral Services reminding candidates of their legal obligations and included a document produced by Lincolnshire County Council reminding candidates that

and reminding them of the law and the risk of prosecution and a fine.

But the Leader article says nothing of this.  No mention whatsoever of the blatant disregard of the criminal law.  If Victoria Atkins had just been ignorant of the law (no excuse) when the posters were originally placed, then she is all too aware now.  But all that has happened is the removal of a poster put by the roadside by 'an enthusiastic supporter'.  The other posters are still there (apart from at least two that the wind ripped from their cable ties on Saturday) standing, illegally, on the verge of trunk roads within the highway's boundaries, testament to the contempt in which the local Conservative Association holds the law.

When I started writing Part 1 of this series, I was happy to give Victoria Atkins the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the posters were put up by a group of enthusiastic supporters who were ignorant of the law.  But we now know that she is endorsing their placement.  There was the possibility that she hadn't bothered reading the candidates instructions and, despite being a barrister, was ignorant of the law in this area.  But today she has been alerted to the problem and still denies to the press any hint that she may be guilty of breaking criminal law.

I am of course, still willing to give the Louth Leader the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the article represents merely a piece of poor journalism, and not a deliberate attempt to paint the Conservatives in a good light rather than expose criminal actions.  I have, of course, set the record straight with the reporter.  She replied:
"I am more than happy to go back to the press office in the morning with your blog posts and explain that you have spoken to the police as well and who specifically you have spoken to and when. I will again ask for confirmation if this matter is intended to be looked into any further by Lincolnshire County Council."

More, perhaps, in Part 4.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 2

A couple of days ago I posed the question as to whether the Tory Parliamentary candidate for Louth and Horncastle could have broken the law.  I like to give folk the benefit of the doubt so assumed that some over-zealous Tory party activist had taken it upon himself to put up some election posters around the roads of Lincolnshire, not realising that there were some rather important laws involved and that he was liable to be prosecuted for a criminal offence.  Victoria herself, being a barrister and upstanding member of the community would have known better and never endorsed such action had she known.

Oh, how naive I am.

One of the Tory activists, who describes himself on facebook as Deputy Chairman Political at Conservative Party, posted a number of photos of the election posters being erected on the verges of Lincolnshire trunk roads.

Now remember that The Highways Act 1980 Section 132 reads:

132 Unauthorised marks on highways. 

(1)A person who, without either the consent of the highway authority for the highway in question or an authorisation given by or under an enactment or a reasonable excuse, paints or otherwise inscribes or affixes any picture, letter, sign or other mark upon the surface of a highway or upon any tree, structure or works on or in a highway is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding £100 or, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, to a fine not exceeding £200. 

(2)The highway authority for a highway may, without prejudice to their powers apart from this subsection and whether or not proceedings in respect of the matter have been taken in pursuance of subsection (1) above, remove any picture, letter, sign or other mark which has, without either the consent of the authority or an authorisation given by or under an enactment, been painted or otherwise inscribed or affixed upon the surface of the highway or upon any tree, structure or works on or in the highway.

And also remember that the advice issued by Lincolnshire County Council to all Parliamentary candidates or their agent read thus:


Here's one of the pictures, which I reproduce here as the public interest is involved:

I think it is reasonable to conclude that Victoria does know about the posters and as a Parliamentary candidate, never mind being a barrister, it is reasonable to suggest that she should be aware of the laws relating to the placement of election posters on trunk roads, especially as they have been so clearly indicated in the guidance sent to candidates or their agents.

Ok, so what?

Well, putting aside for one moment the technicality of breaking the criminal law, there is a rather good reason for being cautious about putting things on roadsides.  At about lunchtime on Saturday I had a phone call from someone on the A153 saying she had seen one of the posters blown away and land on the carriageway.  Fortunately it was flat on the ground when a motorcyclist hit it and rode over it without accident.  It takes little imagination to realise that a tragic outcome was all too possible, but thankfully Victoria is not facing a manslaughter charge.

The police have been informed and they have, in turn, passed the matter to the Highways Agency.  Here's their message to me:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

I have this morning informed Highways and the local planning dept who would be the prosecuting agent in these circumstances. The safety of all road users within Lincolnshire is of our primary concern. It is usual in the run up to a general election to have a police liaison officer who is able to offer advice and guidance to political candidates in such matters as this, and today I have informed Supt Taylor who is responsible for neighbourhood policing for this area.

Kind Regards

Insp Michelle Mcilroy

Friday, April 10, 2015

BBC Excludes Green, Promotes UKIP (Again).

New ~ Monday morning:
Yo. I've just had a phone call to say that Charlie Partridge, Managing Editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire, has changed his mind and invited Victoria Percival to the hustings in Boston after previously excluding the Green Party. He says that some of the many messages received were well reasoned. Thanks to all who helped win this little battle. And thanks to Charlie for listening to the voice of reason and having the good grace to change his mind.

Older ~ the day before yesterday: On May the 1st in Boston, Lincolnshire, there will be election hustings, organised by the BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

Here is an e-mail I have received from Charlie Partridge, Managing Editor of the station when I asked him to confirm reports that the Green Party is to be excluded.

Hi Biff,
Thanks for your email. It is indeed the case that our Boston Debate on Friday 1st May is going to be between the 4 main parties: Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, and UKIP.
Our decision is based on previous electoral performance and evidence of support locally. Although the Greens will not be invited to take part in the debate itself, we will be contacting you in order to arrange an interview with you in the 3 hour election programme that the debate is part of.
I should point out that the Boston Debate is one of seven that BBC Radio Lincolnshire is promoting, and that the Greens will be included elsewhere.
I hope this makes our position clear.

Charlie Partridge
Editor, BBC Radio Lincolnshire

The event is jointly organised by the local newspaper, The Standard in which they announce the event, quoting the BBC thus:
Charlie Partridge, managing editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire, commented: “I’m delighted we are able to link up with the Boston Standard and Skegness Standard to present this special debate.
“This is the most important election in a generation and the Boston and Skegness seat is not only being watched closely here in Lincolnshire but also nationally.
“It is crucial that we make it clearer for voters to understand and evaluate the differing policies of the parties and where the candidates stand on local issues.
“We hope this debate - just a week before the election - will help achieve this.”

And the reason why "the Boston and Skegness seat is not only being watched closely here in Lincolnshire but also nationally"?  It is, of course, because the media have made much of the issue of immigration and in Boston's case of people of east European origin.
I wrote about the matter a couple of weeks ago here.  
The Green Party's candidate, Victoria Percival, is the one candidate who has a positive message of welcome and support for our friends from eastern Europe, who is not calling for tighter immigration controls, who is not scapegoating the immigrant and who sees failure in service provision in her constituency as a failure of the current government and not something to be blamed on foreigners.
BBC manager Charlie Partidge says "It is crucial that we make it clearer for voters to understand and evaluate the differing policies of the parties and where the candidates stand on local issues."  But he is doing the exact opposite, only including those candidates who present one face of this local issue and silencing the voice of the one candidate who is working for the common good.

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law?

What a preposterous notion!  That Victoria Atkins, daughter of Sir Robert Atkins, a barrister, and Parliamentary Candidate for Louth and Horncastle, would break the law is hard to believe.  I expect she would be mortified to learn that her name is associated with an illegal act.  However, it appears that somebody who supports her campaign has blundered, and anyone driving far in parts of Lincolnshire today can hardly fail to notice.

Large boards carrying a photo of Victoria and encouragement to the electors of the Louth and Horncastle constituency to vote for her, have been placed on the grass verges of trunk roads.

Victoria or her Election Agent will have received in the election pack from East Lindsey Acting Returning Officer, Stuart Davy, a note from Lincolnshire County Council regarding Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980, providing detailed information about the conditions that the display of posters within the highway for the purposes of elections are subject to.

Excuse the shouting capitalisation, please, but this is how Richard Wills, Director for Development set out to emphasise his message:


The document continues:

"In addition, attention is drawn to the following:-
1. Contravention of the terms of the above consent may lead to prosecution under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 and to a fine."

Of course it may well be perfectly legal to display posters on private land, the other side of the fence along the highways, and one may display election posters on non-trunk roads but only within 200 metres but not less than 25 metres from the entrance to a polling station and then only from 48 hours before the election day.

The Louth and Horncastle Conservative Association appears to have flouted the law in both their placement and the timing of election posters.

If you see any of the posters still remaining on the highway I suggest you report the matter to Stuart Davy, Acting Returning Officer on 01507 613430 or   or the police.

Part 2