Archive for July, 2013

Why John Howarth is not a fit and proper person to be an MEP


Labour in the South East of England is carrying out a ballot to determine the position of the selected candidates on the ballot paper. One of the people seeking to be elected to the top of the list is John Howarth. I know John Howarth and I believe he is not a fit and proper person to represent the South East of the UK in the European Parliament and he is not fit to represent the Labour Party on their list. His selection would be a gift to the Tories in the South East of England. I say this not because of any feelings as a result of our working in Reading Labour together for 15 years but because I think he is a man lacking judgement.
Between 1995 and 1999 I was the Councillor in Reading responsible for Transport. It is a subject upon which everyone has an opinion and they are all expert. It is something you need to understand and work with as a basis from which you start the job. Your job in such a position is to work with your other councillors to implement the party policy on transport to try to make things better for the residents of the town. So you have a set of policies which were set before the people at the election and you work with the paid staff, the officers of the council to implement them. These officers are not just slaves, there to do your bidding. They will advise you on the best way to implement the policies, they will advise you on the policies that will be difficult or impossible to implement, and they, often, give you suggestions on ways you can do things to overcome these difficulties. As I said, though, they are not just slaves and will come up with ideas and suggestions themselves. Most of the officers working in transport are engineers or have been working with engineers for long enough to think like them. Engineers like wizzy gadgets. Transport engineers are no different. In their case it is often a traffic model. You input known information about traffic in an area and you can then ask it what would happen if you changed x or y. What if you shut this road, made public transport only or one way?
I gave that explanation because in the year before I stopped doing the job. Reading Council got a new traffic model. The officers played around with it and came to me saying that traffic in the town would move much better if the motorway around the town centre, the IDR, was made one-way. I asked them questions about it, I told them I was sceptical about it but agreed that they should be able to carry on looking into it and when they had something worth taking further to bring it to me. I stood down from the council and was not in a position to hear any more about it.
My successor was not in the job for long before he was followed by John Howarth. Then in the first couple of years of the new decade Mr Howarth went public saying that the IDR was to be made one-way. Having got the support of his fellow Labour councillors he went out to public consultation with the proposal. There was public outrage. Not for the first time people were mad about the traffic activities of the council under John Howarth. He was due to be a candidate at the next election but stood down, not just as the councillor responsible for Transport, but also as a councillor. Labour lost his seat to the Conservatives for the first time in twenty years and now has no councillor in the ward. Two of the wards bordering the IDR were lost for the first time in twenty years in one case and fifteen for the other. His successor had to carry out a review of the scheme which ended up junking the scheme after expenditure of over £1million. John Howarth was responsible, he introduced the toxic proposal and headed for the hills as soon as it got too difficult.
The Labour Party paid for his lack of judgement losing three seats, losing control of the council that year and wasting £1 million.
John Howarth is not a fit and proper person to be a Member of the European Parliament.

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