6 days to the elections
We witnessed one of those strange moments on Sunday, when – as the circus just outside town was breaking down its tents and preparing to depart – another main ring event was being staged in Boston town centre.
It took the form of a metal cage made of pedestrian crowd control barriers containing several men – one of whom was holding what looked for a moment like a lion tamer’s whip, but which turned out to be a microphone on a cable.
The occasion – if so it can be described – was the arrival in town of the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, in which the forthcoming election in Boston, which the BBC reckons will be “unlike any before” was debated by four of the main party candidates ... with the rest chipping in on video.
With the election so close, we tuned in with interest – only to be broadly disappointed.
Each of the four main candidates, Conservative Matt Warman, Paul Kenny for Labour, UKIP’s Robin Hunter-Clarke and Lib-Dem candidate David Watts responded robustly, but not impressively to the questions – and the programme seemed to lack any depth, fire, or character.
Individually, the candidates seem scarcely to have warmed up, despite several so-called Hustings in recent times.
Matt Warman for the Tories came across as keen to please but focussing too strongly on the “Tories must win nationally” rather than “why this particular Tory should be elected in Boston.”
Paul Kenny got his points across, and has sharpened his delivery, which used to tend to ramble, although he is still entangling local and national issues in a mildly confusing way.
Robin Hunter-Clarke has improved his act since his earlier television appearances, but the range of subjects he is covering remains too narrow – on Sunday he came across as a one note immigration samba.
We had not seen or heard the Liberal-Democrat David Watts before – something we would be happy to do again.
As we said earlier the remaining candidates were given a minute or two to make their pitch, which given the tokenistic nature of the BBC’s concession means that they might as well not have bothered.
Only Lyn Luxton tried to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, by telling her followers:
Surely, she was dreaming.
Our Best in Show award for the BBC’s less than impressive production goes to Paul Kenny – who had far and away the best haircut.
A major criticism of the BBC’s coverage – and minor ones abound – is the way that the pre-filmed report segued seamlessly from mention of the huge rise in immigration between 2001 and into footage of the protest meeting in the Market Place with no indication that this was well over two years old.
An uninformed viewer would have concluded that protests were still a way of life in Boston – whilst in fact things have calmed down considerably.
The poor visual presentation was compounded by staging the event inside the pedestrian cage and around the Five Lamps.
According to reports ahead of the broadcast, the show was being staged outside the Assembly Rooms, beneath the balcony.
The venue’s general manager was quoted as saying: “I have been working hard to ensure that there remains a balance at (the) Assembly Rooms, being both a popular night time venue, and a utilised community asset. Events like this ensure that we bring a total variance of different people through our doors,” whilst the Assembly Rooms owner Matt Clark declared: “This is an exciting event to be involved with, not only for the Assembly Rooms, but Boston as well.”
It was certainly exciting day for the night club, which got good television coverage and a name check or two as well – despite being completely uninvolved.
And certainly, no one came “through the doors,” as suggested.
UKIP was in for a disappointment from the BBC’s Panorama programme the following day.
In a cliché ridden snapshot of Skegness – bingo, fish and chips, camel racing and the like – we heard Nate Silver “America's rock star statistician” predict that Skegness ... at one moment “the jewel of the English seaside” and the next “the most deprived seaside town in England” ... had to be retained by the Tories if they are to win an overall majority.
And according to one of Nate’s little helpers, UKIP has a one in fifty chance of success.
Not once was the name of Boston ever mentioned in the programme – but surprisingly, given the content and approach, candy floss never appeared.
For those of us in the less glamorous role of common or garden voters, the decision now is – who do I vote for?
One thing that can be said for the BBC Sunday Politics show is that it offered no help whatever in this respect – but our instincts say that we are looking at a Conservative/UKIP contest, with Labour coming third.
The polls have been too close to call for a long while – but it’s being suggested that support for UKIP is running out of steam and that the party might not be the shoo-in that was first imagined in some areas.
But what about locally?
Last week we took a detailed look at the promises on offer from the ruling Conservative group and the UKIP candidates.
Just in the nick of time, a copy of Labour’s manifesto dropped through the door of Number 1 Eye Street.
Some of it includes echoes of the last local election in 2011 – such as the promise to introduce dog wardens and bring back the Party in the Park – whilst other parts seek to turn back the clock.
We’re talking about the idea of reintroducing Sunday bus services – many of which disappeared because of cuts in subsidies by Lincolnshire County Council, against a background of poor uptake by passengers.
Raising wages and lowering rents also feature on Labour’s agenda – as does the reintroduction of flood warning sirens, which were done away with some years ago ... notionally on the grounds that there were higher tech means of alerting people to flooding, but also because county hall didn’t want to spend the money.
Labour is also proposing sandbag collection points around the town – which we are certain will prove so popular that there will be none left before the first rains even begin.
All this – plus slashing car parking charges, which provide one of the few forms of income for Boston Borough Council – suggest what could be a very expensive package for local taxpayers.
We would hope to see thorough and detailed costing before Labour started on this shopping list ... and want to know where the money will be coming from.
It’s now almost make-your-mind-up-time, and the box where you place your mark on 7th May will help determine who runs our country and our council for the next several years.
Unless you are party politically driven, it’s best to spend some time looking at the promises that are being made.
We’ve just looked at the Labour list which is interesting, but also impracticable in many respects and certainly expensive.
We mentioned the Tories last week – and their five “priorities” don’t amount to much.
Delivery of a long term plan that will see a distributor road being built is not something for the coming four years – but more an uphill grind over the next forty.
Working in partnership to deliver the Boston Barrier is something that has been going on for years and barring any economic mishaps will now go ahead – come hell or high water, if you will forgive the pun.
And a “Cabinet Question Time” sounds good on paper – but then so did the trumpeting that council meetings could be filmed 18 months ago. Since then – apart from a brief bit of filming for its novelty value – nothing more has happened.
This council leadership has been one of the least transparent and most secretive as far as things that matter are concerned – and whilst a “Question Time” concept sounds seductive, we have to remember that the meetings start at 10am and a recent one was over by 10-30am.
Who would seriously believe that someone would rate a meeting such as this so important that they will take at least half a day off work to attend a half-an-hour meeting.
Smoke and mirrors.
And whilst UKIP has a raft of broad local policies, individual promises need close inspection to ensure that they are deliverable.
A quick flip through the pledges on offer include many things that are simply beyond the pay grade of local councils – responsibilities of County Hall and national government or the NHS.
With election promises – as with anything else – always read the small print thoroughly before signing up.
We urge everyone who has an interest in Boston to turn out and vote – but to weigh up the promises of those who want you to hand them power and not to be taken for granted.
As Al Capone, the legendary gangster has been famously quoted as saying: "Vote early – and vote often."
Having raised the issue a few times in recent weeks, it was with a sense of schadenfreude that we noticed the laborious explanation issued by Boston Borough Council to try to clarify the effects of ward boundary changes on voters in the Fishtoft area.
Some people have received their postal ballot papers but – in the words of Worst Street – “may not realise that for electoral purposes the Fishtoft Parish Council area is split into two wards ...”
The reason for this is most likely because, the borough council has not bothered to try to make this information clear and accessible.
With a number of new wards popping up across the borough, and changes as to who votes where, we hope that the council seizes the chance to tell people where to go – in the nicest possible way, or course – before it is too late.
A sympathiser with what some see as over-generous publicity for Boston’s mayor in the run up to the elections draws our attention to an interesting way of measuring the passage of time in the Boston Bulletin.
This exciting and vibrant publication tells us: “Centenarians are not known to be like London buses – arriving in twos – but recently in Boston no fewer than four came along at once.”
The item then went on to captivate us with no fewer than four pictures of the mayor exchanging wrinkly handshakes with the simultaneous centenarians.
There also appeared to be five, not four, when you delved deeper into the story.
According to the bulletin, the first of these “all at once” oldies was visited in January, followed by the next in February, the third in March and the fourth at Easter.
But we were also told that at the beginning of December last year, a 101 year-old also received a mayoral visit – although the excitement would appear to have been so great that she died not long after..
Not for the first time, we are reminded of the motto quoted by one of our first editors.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Staying with the Boston Bulletin, after last week’s blog we received the following email from Boston Borough Council’s Labour group leader Paul Gleeson, which said:
“I noted your aside on my concerns about the Boston Bulletin.
“Section 28 of the Government's guidance on council publications states ‘... local authorities should not publish or incur expenditure in commissioning in hard copy or on any website, newsletters, newssheets or similar communications which seek to emulate commercial newspapers in style or content.
“Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly, apart from parish councils which should not issue them more frequently than monthly.
“Such communications should not include material other than information for the public about the business, services and amenities of the council or other local service providers..."
“Whilst my view of the guidance is straightforward and means that the bulletin should only be published quarterly, this view is not accepted by the council's monitoring officer.
“As the restriction is only contained in a guidance. my only option is to continue to pursue the matter with the monitoring officer, which I am still doing – as I am of the opinion her replies to me still have not adequately addressed the issue of frequency of publication.
“At present I am awaiting a further reply from the monitoring officer”
We now know a little more since last week's blog about plans to develop Haven Wharf alongside the river in the centre of the town.
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The application was made on 7th April on behalf of Hanseatic Developments Ltd, which at the time had not been incorporated at Companies House ... and wasn’t until 23rd April.
As a result we now know that the company lists just one company director – 48 year-old Simon George Brown – who has expressed the wish to “adopt entirely bespoke articles.”
The company’s registered address is 5 Resolution Close, on Endeavour Park in Boston, which is also home to 33 other companies – 24 of them active, plus nine which have been dissolved.
We believe that this is known as an accommodation address.
According to this week’s “exclusive” report in the Boston Standard – which appeared just a week after our own piece in Boston Eye, the scheme is set to cost £10 million.
Mr Brown’s background appears to be in transport and haulage.
We await further developments on the site with interest.
That’s it for this week.
Please make sure that you stick your ‘X’ in a box – the worst you can do is to vote for monkeys and find that you are stuck with a bunch of clowns – but you can then at least say that you looked at what they said and took a decision.
Next week, we hope to publish the headline results on Friday followed by a more detailed analysis of what it might mean locally.
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com