Of prisons, MPs, political odds, Clarkson, beetroot and crisps

COUNTY councillor Steve Tierney has been telling his Wisbech constituents – and anyone else who cares to read his online blog – of the 66-1 odds being given by Ladbrokes on MP Steve Barclay becoming the next Tory leader. “This must be looked at in perspective”, chirps Cllr Tierney.

By your diarist,

Samuel Brakespeare

COUNTY councillor Steve Tierney has been telling his Wisbech constituents and anyone else who cares to read his on- line blog, of the 66-1 odds being given by Ladbrokes on MP Steve Barclay becoming the next Tory leader.

“This must be looked at in perspective”, chirps Cllr Tierney “Steve is a brand new MP, has never been a cabinet member, and has a low profile compared to the party members who’ve been around a long time. Yet his 66/1 position is actually very high!”

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Clearly our local MP has something which has got Ladbrokes interested enough to give him odds. At 66/1 I would humbly suggest it is a value bet. If you enjoy a flutter put some money on.

Coming just a week after Cllr Tierney spent the day in Parliament ( Mr Barclay secured tickets for Cllr Tierney and his mum to see Prime Minister’s Questions) one can only ponder how long and lasting the affection will be.

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Not everyone was happy, incidentally, that Cllr Tierney got the tickets. One High Tory grandee from the villages’ chunted this week the invitation should have gone elsewhere.

Barclay watchers, or in this instance listeners, may have heard him get a name check on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Tuesday after presenter Jeremy Sallis reported back on a day spent at Westminster with Cambridge MP Julian Huppert.

Sallis said he had asked to spend the day with Steve Barclay but was told he couldn’t fit him in until 2011.

THE sun shone, the crowds came and Tydd St Giles basked in glorious sunshine as Jane Melloy once more turned over her delightful gardens for a summer fete in aid of the local church.

She again kindly invited your diarist to attend, cementing still further the special relationship with a village with a keenly felt historical link with the name Brakespeare.

There’s something mystical about the Tydd air for although I’m assured I helped judge the children’s bakery competition and presented prizes to the winners of an art competition the memory of those moments is but a haze.

I sought photographic evidence, naturally, but the best I could come up with what I assure you is my hand - or someone with identical features- hovering over the cakes awaiting to be judged.

“We had a very successful weekend raising just over �2,200,” Jane wrote to tell me on Tuesday evening before casting doubt still further on my whereabouts on the day by adding “that once again the elusive Brakespeare was not seen but we gather he was somewhere in the village.

“Perhaps Brakespeare found the locally brewed beer Tydd Steam, too much for him and was sleeping it off somewhere?

Well, really!

HEARTENING news from the food industry where Fenland based Gs Beetroot is enjoying a boom, thanks to hype given to the health benefits associated with the root vegetable.

New figures show sales in 2010 are running at 15 per cent ahead of 2009, creating a market worth �42 million a year.

Beetroot is supposedly a rich source of folic acid (helpful for normal tissue growth) and a source of carbohydrates, protein and has high levels of minerals and vitamins and plenty of antioxidants.

The news is good, too, for the likes of Victor Aveling, the March farmer who specialises in asparagus and has a bit of a celebrity status following his appearance in a recent documentary on migrant workers. Asparagus sales are also up around 15 per cent in a market experts say is now worth around 18 million a year.

Of course all of this healthy stuff pales into insignificance when you consider the other plentiful Cambridgeshire veg, the potato, and especially the sale of potato crisps.

Analysts reckon our consumption in the UK of around 10,000,000,000 packets a year rates as an epidemic. We eat more than half of all crisps sold in the European Union.

BUSY times at the Cambridgeshire auction house of Cheffins where among the 1600 lots last Saturday was a steam engine formerly owned by steeplejack Fred Dibnah and which, on the day, sold for �240,000 to a Cheshire businessman.

The origins of this thrice yearly sale go back to 1975 and The Cambridge Vintage Sale is the biggest of its kind in Europe and the UK.

The company takes celebrity items in its stride, selling for instance a 1958 Marshall MP6 for a record �70,000 last year and even attracting the attention of the Financial Times who run a helpful website for cash rich enthusiasts called howtospendit.com

The late Fred Dibnah’s engine was in a class of its own and was last used six years ago to pull his coffin.

In 2004, Mr Dibnah tried to drive it to Buckingham Palace to pick up his MBE but Her Majesty was not amused and requested he park it some streets away!

ON a website for devotees of a particular brand of motorcycles a correspondent asks how he can become a member of the UK Fenland chapter of the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club.

“I’ve already got a Briggs and Stratton ride on mower and a brand new denim jacket with the arms cut off,” he says

“I’m fat, middle aged and pathetic. What more can a guy do. LET ME IN so I can mow the streets of in East Anglia in a convoy of like minded victims of mid life crisis.”

As of last night no one had posted a response.

A HELPFUL explanation is offered by Fenland District Council in relation to the incidents involving violence to staff.

The explanation is recorded in minutes of the staff committee and during a debate on the annual health and safety report when councillors inquired as to the difference between intimidating and threatening behaviour.

“Officers advised that intimidating behaviour is action that could escalate to threatening and threatening behaviour is a direct threat,” says the minutes of the meeting held earlier this month.

“The point was made that if a member of the public does not get the service they want do they not have the right to raise their voice?

“Officers agreed that a person does have the right to raise their grievances but the council has a duty of care to its staff and to ensure that they are not exposed to behaviour that could put that member of staff at risk and they should be spoken to in a reasonable way to avoid a situation that could escalate.”

Hope that explanation helps.

THOSE of us who fervently claim him to be of Cambridgeshire descent may not like the fact the BBC is reporting that Suffolk’s anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson is being remembered on a special day of prayers.

Although conceding that Clarkson was born in Wisbech, they point to the fact he later lived in Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk) and in Playford (Suffolk) where he lived on a 340 acre farm.

In 2010, the General Synod of the Church of England passed a recommendation that Clarkson’s name be added to the list of those already commemorated on 30 July in a day of prayer known as a ‘lesser festival’.

A midday service will be held at St Mary’s church in Playford today and flowers will be laid at the obelisk in the churchyard which commemorates Clarkson’s work.

“Thomas Clarkson certainly deserves his elevation,” said Canon Pauline Stentiford of Playford, who’ll be leading the prayers.

“He was one of the instigators of the anti-slavery movement and a man who worked hard behind the scenes for the cause.

“He lived in the shadow of William Wilberforce and has been largely overlooked.”

And, on this occasion at least, overlooked in Wisbech, too.

PRISONERS at Whitemoor are among those to be allowed once again to take part in arts events such as comedy workshops and fancy dress parties, trilled Justice Minister Crispin Blunt.

Mr Blunt said he was lifting the ban imposed two years ago by the former Labour government.

He criticised the way former justice Secretary Jack Straw imposed the ban following press reports that a terrorist had enrolled in a stand-up comedy workshop at Whitemoor Prison and that lifers at Holloway had taken part in a fancy dress party.

“As a measure it was typical of the last administration’s flakiness under pressure,” he said.

“At the slightest whiff of criticism from the popular press, policy tended to get changed and the consequence of an absurd over-reaction to offenders being exposed to comedy in prison was this deleterious, damaging and daft instruction.”

Mr Blunt made his comments whilst his boss, David Cameron, was in America patching up relationships with the America administration.

On his return Mr Cameron over ruled him and the idea was promptly dropped.

Fearful perhaps of the slightest whiff of criticism from the popular press?

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