Remembering Gallipoli is a local issue too

tim4draytonward

Today is Anzac day and a few years’ ago I was making a film about the Gallipoli landings in 1915, so it is very moving to watch the various ceremonies in the cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsular and at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

lear copy GallipoliGallipoliHere is a picture of the town of Gallipoli as it is today and my copy of the drawing made by Edward Lear in 1848 of the same view. The town was a major stop-off point for British ships on the way to the Crimean war.

While the 1915 campaign is often thought to be an Australian and New Zealand tragedy, which it undoubtedly is, there was a huge contingent of Lancashire troops.

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There was also a Northampton Saints rugby player who lost his life in the Gallipoli campaign, His name was Blair Inskip Swannell and he was killed on the first day of the campaign. He…

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Islamic extremism and mis-use of the word “fundamentalism”

This blog seems all the more relevant as time goes on!

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I despair of broadcasters who use the term “fundamentalism” as a catch all for the types of Islamic extremism that we would all broadly condemn. The problem with words that are vague and also loaded is that they take on a life of their own and pop up all over the place. Today, there is a fairly heated debate about the presence of extremism in some schools in the Midlands. There is a debate about who should take responsibility for this- the home secretary, Theresa May or the Education Secretary, Michael Gove. The shadow Home Secretary points out that the argument involves a betrayal of the principles of Cabinet government and that what is said privately and what circulates in letters between ministers should stay private so that the Government can present a united front on important issues that have been debated. The principle is that when a Minister rejects…

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Why we need to restore the Tier 1 visa

I have been an educational consultant for some years now, and before that was a tutor and teacher. I have spent a long time dealing with foreign children of all ages who have come to the UK for their education. Some have done so on a shoestring, and some have cash to burn, but all have been hit by the testy machinery of immigration visas, and often this has hindered their GCSE, A level and exam progress. In at least three cases known to me personally, a student has done extra years simply because of bureaucratic foul-ups by the system. Sometimes, agents in the host country are to blame because they do not understand the system. But whatever the excuse, we should be ashamed to make young people suffer in this way, particularly when we are also taking their money.

Humza Yousaf

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I first noticed the Scottish MSP Humza Yousaf because he criticised the removal of Tier 1 in 2012 by the present Government. This is the visa that would allow a student, on completing a degree in the UK, to put his or her studies to use in a job. It generally allowed the student two years’ employment. It was a chance to test their skills in the market for which, quite frankly, they have been prepared. More than that, it was  an opportunity for the Government to get some serious tax from people who no doubt will command high-salaried placements in the city. The alternative is to apply for a job and be sponsored under Tier 2. This is a complex and expensive procedure that few businesses are willing to undertake. What it means in practice, therefore, is that jobs are given to UK/EU citizens on graduation rather than to those from outside the EU. In other words, we have educated these people and get little benefit when that education is over. That makes no sense and it flies against the lessons of history. Education is a form of diplomacy and we should take it seriously.

Mr Yousaf said that the removal of the Tier 1 visa, along with many other aspects of aggressive immigration policy was damaging Scotland’s economy. But the reason behind the target was a commitment given by David Cameron to reduce UK immigration to below 100,000 by 2015, and certainly to bring down the annual net immigration figure of 260,000.

Now, Humza’s point was that immigrants had not settled across the UK evenly and far too few had made it up to Scotland. So, if public opinion in England was negative about immigration, in Scotland there was a different picture, and Humza in particular, himself the son of immigrants, with a mother from Kenya and a father from Pakistan, has mounted a campaign to welcome immigrants there. Scotland needs an immigration policy tailored to its own needs, but while we remain a UNITED KINGDOM, surely we should be working together with Edinburgh to tackle immigration and channel more people north!

The problem is not about net immigration. It is about the overall spread of immigration. And playing a numbers’ game is not the solution as indeed the present Government has discovered. The numbers are down, but in the South, people still complain- and that fuels the rise of racism and of UKIP. Ironic, then that Scotland is asking for immigrants. Isn’t the solution staring at us in the face?

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Reform immigration control

A tight regulation for immigration which is conservative/coalition policy is fairly straightforward in principle. But it is a mess in practice because the Government inherited an unfit system from Labour. It is about proper control of our borders, which, of course, I welcome. What I do not welcome is the pressure on the two well-documented groups who actually should receive our support – these are students and refugees. We cannot tackle the problem of illegal immigration by appeal to bureaucracy because illegal migrants rarely have proper paperwork. That is why we need less bureaucrats and more people working on the street to catch gangs of dodgy undocumented migrants, or people catching a lift across the channel under lorries and slipping away at the first stop on the M1.

Just a few weeks’ ago, there was a report of two Albanian men arrested because they had been sitting on the rear axle waving at passing motorists from a Polish lorry. They were detained at junction 16 near Watford Gap services. A spokesman for Northamptonshire Police said: “We received a call at around 8.50am from a motorist who spotted a man waving at traffic while hanging on to the underside of a lorry”. The lorry driver was not aware of the stowaways. This may be a National issue, but when it happens near Northampton, it also becomes a local issue. I have no idea whether the two men were refugees or illegal migrants. I have suspicions, of course, but the fact remains they were also endangering other motorists and the police interception saved lives.

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This is a dramatic story, but many local taxi-drivers will say they regularly pick up undocumented foreigners from Junction 16. It is the first stop on the M1. If the taxi-drivers know this, why does the immigration authority not? I suspect it is understaffed. Too much attention is paid to bureaucracy and not enough to front-line staff. This means that it is those with paper-work who receive the most scrutiny. Regrettably, that means students and refugees.

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Why students and refugees are important

The reason we need to reign back our attacks on students and refugees is very simple. Refugees command our support because the way we deal with the most needy in society is the way we should be judged. As for Foreign students, they not only bring in extra money, but they are often the very people who, in years to come, will be running their own governments and businesses. These are the people with whom we hope to do business in the future and I hardly think they will welcome our attention if their principle memories of their time here as students are of being fleeced by scurrilous colleges and thrown out of the country willy-nilly because their paperwork needs renewing half-way through their course. (I do not understand the need, for example, to set up a new visa for children committed to a British education when they pass from GCSE to A levels and remain in the same school. This means delays and anxiety on top of the need to wait for GCSE results. Often, it means starting the 6th form late.) We need to support these students, not savage them.

Both students and refugees have a history of investing in and enriching our society. This cannot happen if we treat them like dirt. It harms us in the long run and it shames us. These two groups are becoming a scapegoat because we cannot be bothered to track down illegal migrants and we cannot prevent or indeed monitor gangs coming here from across mainland Europe.

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We should not be demonizing groups of people- East Europeans and those outside Europe for instance; we need now to pool resources and work together to target those people in our society who are doing us damage. We cannot tackle the Eastern European gangs who target, for example, Pakistani houses in Banbury, unless we work together with the Rumanian and Bulgarian communities who know so much more about this than we do. And, of course, as I have repeatedly stressed, we cannot deal with Islamic terrorism without the help of Orthodox Islam.

Rather than alienating swathes of our population with continued talk of “widespread abuse”, we need urgently to make friends and reach out to our neighbours.

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The Post Study working group

In March, a number of Scottish businesses and educational professionals called for change. A Post study work group was set up in August 2014 and made recommendations in March about how best to reinstate the Tier 1 visa, urging London and Edinburgh to work together. The following findings were published:

  • 90 per cent of all respondents are in favour of bringing back the post study work visa for international students (100 per cent of education providers and 85 per cent of businesses).
  • Business support for the reintroduction of the post study work visa rose to 94 per cent among those who had hired an international graduate under previous post study work schemes.
  • The majority of respondents across business and education providers, believe international students should be free to remain and work in Scotland for at least two years after graduation.
  • 70 per cent of respondents said that when a post study work visa comes to an end, individuals should have the ability to move onto a longer term visa.

Scotland also proposes that any time spent in a post study Tier 1 type visa should also count towards a residence visa – of indefinite leave to remain- should a former student wish to apply. The smith commission suggested the Westminster and Scottish Governments should “…work together to explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland and contribute to economic activity for a defined period of time.”

It is not just Scotland but the whole of the UK that needs to “attract and retain” world-class talent. We need the Tier 1 visa too.

Why Sticks and stones matter

This evening I am blogging about a National story. But it has relevance to Daventry and, indeed, to any political campaign.

Let me put this in context: A few weeks’ ago, I felt a red line had been crossed when an elected MEP, David Coburn, compared a Scottish Parliamentary Minister to a convicted terrorist. I had written to the leader of the relevant party (my own) asking for a clear letter of apology to be sent to Humza Yousaf and when no such letter was forthcoming, and equally when the said MEP failed to resign, I did what I thought was the honourable thing and resigned myself both as a Parliamentary candidate and as a member of the said party. In this way, I found myself as an independent candidate standing for the District Council in Drayton.

I am proud that I stood up for what is right. We need to respect one another and we need to stand up to bullies, whoever and wherever they are. Sometimes falling on your sword is the only way to make a point, pun intended. And the point MUST be made that Racism and homophobia are simply unacceptable in today’s society.

I was verbally savaged after I resigned, and then my family was attacked. The savaging I accept- the attack on my family I denounce. It is plucked from the same cupboard as the racism and the homophobia, a cupboard full of the “dark arts” of Politics. It has no place in our world and those who use, or even dip into these dark arts do not deserve public office.

I believe passionately that bullies should be ridiculed. I was a teacher and remain an educational consultant: I know the harm that bullies can do, but I also know how readily they collapse when we laugh at them. I think of the “Ridikulous spell” against the Boggarts in Harry Potter- I think it is not surprising that it features in the best Harry Potter book, “the Prisoner of Azkaban”. That’s how to deal with bullies!


Both racism and homophobia are mostly about bullying, calling people by foul names, of demeaning a person by reference to race, creed, gender. Of course, in extreme cases this can also lead to actual violence. But name-calling is quite bad enough, and it is worth reflecting on the old adage about “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” They may not, but the person who uses racist or homophobic “names” is exposed there and then as a pathetic individual, quite unworthy of election. Anyone who defends that person is smeared by association. Names may not hurt me, but they should certainly hurt the name-caller!

Of course, when you stand up to a bully, as one brave boy I know did a few weeks’ ago in one of our major Public Schools, there is every chance the bully himself will start crying and claim he has been the victim. Though soon after that, he was into blackmail: “By their fruits shall ye know them”!

neil hay

Today, there is a news story about a Labour man called Ian Smart who referred to the SNP as “fascist scum” and Neil Hay who is himself an SNP candidate has called UK supporters “quislings” or traitors. He has done this rather more shamefully under a pseudonym, and he has rightly been exposed and asked to account for what he has written. It seems he was also fairly outspoken about elderly people, questioning their ability to vote. We can’t have that!

His blog has now been deleted but that is never enough. Nicola Sturgeon said this, “I do condemn the language used and I condemn the comments made – as I always do when anybody steps out of line on Twitter, on Facebook or any medium.”

cure d'ars

There is the famous story of S. Jean Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, canonized in 1925, who was faced by a penitent, a lady who claimed to have been gossiping. He asked her to bring him a chicken and, because lunch was calling, to pluck it as she walked from her home to church. When she arrived with the freshly plucked bird, he told her to go back and collect all the feathers. “But that’s impossible,” she said, “Many of them will have blown away”. And so it is, said the priest, with gossip and name-calling. It spreads. The damage that is done when we write a stupid blog cannot be undone simply by taking down the blog. And an apology needs to be made good by a proper demonstration of repentance. (I knew a wonderful man in Greece called Roger de Ponton d’Amecourt who was writing a comprehensive biography of the Priest. I do not know whether he has finished it and we have sadly fallen out of contact.)

I resigned from UKIP because I felt the need to sever the link from a party that condoned racism and homophobia. My penance is not finished. I must now try to repair some of the damage done by my association with that party. The least I can do is to continue writing to Mr Farage and demanding Mr Coburn’s resignation as well as a letter of apology to Mr Yousaf. So far, Mr Farage has failed to respond directly, though I gather he has made national funds available to target my campaign in Drayton.

But it is surely time that politics in the UK changed, and politicians of all parties grew up. Three things need to be said. First of all, some of the greatest politicians have changed party allegiance. That is nothing shameful or new. Churchill, for example, did so. Secondly, there used to be a code of honour because we are all, after all, in the same business: we want to change the way that things are done, and we feel propelled to do this in the public eye. We do not set out to be savaged personally, or to be lynched, and nor should we expect our families to be attacked. Instead, we stand up, we speak out and we, alone, should be held to account. And thirdly and finally, regarding the name calling that has taken place today- there was a referendum only a few months’ ago and Scotland voted very clearly to remain in the Union. That may not be the result the SNP wanted to hear, but it is a democratic decision and until there is a further vote, it should be accepted. The people who voted for the Union are not “quislings”- they were exercising a democratic right. And the SNP is one of the most socially aware parties in our United Kingdom – to call the SNP “fascist scum” is to belittle the people who died fighting genuine fascism in the Second world war; Fascist scum would not welcome immigrants. Fascist scum would not put out one of the most generous education packages for University students in the country.

We need to be less tribal in our politics and there is no need at all for British Politics to be so grubby.

sojourn in Albania

I am not sure I have posted this, but rather remarkably there is an article in the Albanian Encyclopedia of Art about me and about what we are doing on the Edward lear Project. I think we are now approaching the 10th year of working on this and last year we were filming in Corfu, where Lear was very happy. I am not so sure he was ever truly content, but he made others so. Just check out the story where he reduces the young Bey of Durres to giggles without either understanding a common word. Maybe that is one way to get through life, isn’t it?

Last year at Easter it rained and the procession with the brass band disbanded at the last minute in a scene that was unutterably mediterranean…

albanian encyclopedia

Civic pride and what we can learn from Istanbul!

In 2006, the Turkish government, run by the AK PARTİ (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) under the leadership of Erdogan began a process to import tulips back into Istanbul.

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Today, there is such an abundance of tulips, that splashes of colour scythe through the city like a parade of multicoloured  dervishes, spreading the scent of Spring. I have been to Istanbul most years since 2004 and I have seen for myself how this transformation has taken place.

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The tulip is just one example of a horticultural revolution that says Istanbul is proud of herself. That pride is evident of course in the colours of the flowers but it is also evident on the faces of the people in the street, the ordinary people who go about their lives feeling better because they can see- and smell- that the Council really cares!

It is actually a fairly simple plan, but I will come to that shortly.

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The tulip was introduced to Turkey from Iran where it grew wild. It is a traditional image on the tiles that decorate some of the greatest mosques around the city and today it has been adopted as a symbol on the Istanbul logo.

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The cultivation of the Tulip became a mania in the Ottoman period, so much so that one particular epoch is called “the Tulip period” and at that time, rare bulbs sold for remarkable sums of money. Trade was international and soon, that mania had passed to Holland, the setting, for example, of “the black tulip” , a novel by Alexandre Dumas. My mother always said she had a black tulip bulb in the safe: I have no idea but it sounded very exotic.

I grew up in a small Market town in Lincolnshire where my mother was involved in the local tulip bulb industry. Spalding was so industrious and the ground so similar to that of Holland that, when I was a small child, the town held its own Tulip Parade to rival that of the Dutch mega-parades in Zundert and Keukenhof. Sadly, the flower parade in Spalding ground to a halt last year. But I loved the imagination that went into making these amazing floats; I loved the fact that they were decorated overnight, and, really, only lasted a couple of days (it’s actually very Buddhist!); and I also loved the complete sensory effect of the flower parade- the noise, the colour, the smell, the excitement, the overpowering beauty and the pride it gave to our small town.

triger float to make andreas deja happy

The mother of all tigers from the Keudert Flower parade!

Check out this archive flim:

I well-remember this parade!

steam again soon mickey Flower-parade dougal

THE DAVENTRY PARK PROJECT:

tim4draytonward.com

Here in Daventry, I have been campaigning for a restored Professional Park scheme. I am, of course, inspired by the wonderful images from my childhood in Spalding. But I am also inspired, perhaps more so by the practical approach taken in Istanbul by the city Council. I have been talking to members of the Council over the last year with a view to designing some children’s books to celebrate particularly the history of the Fatih district, but I have also been impressed by the overall scheme the council has followed to refresh the city. I intend to talk to Councillors about their scheme and also about how they sourced materials, especially the outside gym equipment which is so striking a part of the overall vision, and I think it would work here in Daventry too!

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I think there are three specific things that the AK party have done:

  1.  the training and courses set up in horticulture by the City in association with local universities and colleges, providing garden design and employees for the future.
  2.  the celebration of festivals and history that also involves research into plants of the past. It is because of this that the tulip has been so revived, but there are also “Monument trees”, that are replanted and tended, restoring the vistas of the past and improving the way the city looks today. It is partly this vision which ironically both inspired the protests in Gazi square to “save the trees” and also inspired the developments that threatened to redevelop the area. The compromise seems to involve some transplanting/replanting and rethinking. For all the negative image this protest created, it shows very clearly that our environment is something people care deeply about.
  3.  The city has established open-field gyms, taking exercise out into the parks and democratising sport in a very real way, giving access to children, the disabled and the elderly. I will be going to Istanbul soon to try to find out how the technology was developed for outdoor sports equipment taht would withstand a climate that is no less changeable and erratic than our own.

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If my vision of what we could do in DAVENTRY is shaped by my childhood in Spalding, my practical proposals follow what has already happened in Istanbul. What we can see there is that this sort of revitalisation works. It is a positive force in society and we can do something similar here in Daventry.

some recent images & texts

Some recent cartoons of David Coburn along with some letters- demanding that Mr Farage acts decisively. We now know that Mr Farage has done precisely that, to support Coburn and effectively endorse what he says.

On the Today Programme (Radio 4) Mr Farage was asked 3 times about the Humza Yousaf exchange and three times ducked the question, referring rather oddly to labour councillors serving prison sentences. For a man who takes pride in giving direct answers, this evansion is fairly new territory for the ebullient Mr Farage.

breakfast with Coburn  toad   yousaf-coburn-let daventry letters farge letter page 1 farage letter page 2