EU vote would have been `non'

THE only comfort Gordon Brown can take from Labour's drubbing in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election will be relief that he didn't listen to the siren voices calling for a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, aka the (failed) European Constitution.

Graham Dines

THE only comfort Gordon Brown can take from Labour's drubbing in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election will be relief that he didn't listen to the siren voices calling for a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, aka the (failed) European Constitution.

Any vote would have resulted in an overwhelming 'no' vote - not because of public antipathy to the European Union, although that seems to be gaining momentum, but electors would be queuing around the block to take the opportunity to deliver a verdict on this Government in crisis.

The Crewe & Nantwich result will have been a disappointment for the UK Independence Party, because it confirmed that UKIP voters are typically Tory sympathisers. With the Conservatives back on track as a credible party with a leader who is gaining in public estimation, Tory defectors to UKIP are returning to their natural home, which is bad news for ahead of next year's elections to the European Parliament.

WHEN the mild mannered Tory MP for Harwich Douglas Carswell falls out with the Conservatives' biggest fanzine the Daily Telegraph, then you know that something is not quite right in the Garden of Eden.

Mr Carswell took exception to the suggestion that he dressed up as a Tory chicken in the 1997 election. “If you say I did, I'll sue” he told the paper, before admitting he was part of a team of Tory party volunteers whose job it was to act as minder to the chicken, an actor hired by the party, as it pursued Tony Blair around the country.

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“Not for the first time, I seriously doubted the wisdom of John Major's administration. It was the daftest stunt possible but by dressing people in top hats in Crewe, Labour has done precisely the same thing: it's what you do when you are desperate and out of touch,” says Mr Carswell.

THE phalanx of Suffolk county councillors who sent their apologies for absence from the annual meeting last week leads me to the conclusion that local authorities should adopt the payment of allowances scheme which operates in the European Parliament.

Unless they are physically present to sign the attendance register in Brussels or Strasbourg, MEPs cannot claim the daily allowance. Quite right too - and the same should apply to councillors, unless they can provide a doctor's certificate. After all, they were elected to do a job on behalf of their constituents, who every right to expect them to turn up at meetings.

YET another example of municipal madness has come to my attention. Last week, it was Norwich city council fining a 96 year-old confused resident for putting the wrong rubbish in his recycle bin. Now, a district council in North Yorkshire has asked householders to empty their own bins so refuse collectors do not hurt themselves lifting the rubbish!

Letters have been sent out to residents in Craven, asking them to remove glass and cans from their bins to reduce the risk of staff being injured by repeated lifting. Following a review of health and safety procedures, the council states that lifting the rubbish is having a “negative effect” on refuse workers and asks residents to “take a lot of the strain out of the job for our staff.”

What a wonderful life!

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