20 May 2017

Some shocking PAT testing...

I was more than a little disturbed last night, to learn of some dodgy PAT (portable appliance) testing that is currently underway in a major chain of bookmakers across the UK.

I stumbled across this by chance, during a telephone interview after I had been approached (out of the blue) about a PAT testing job. Naturally I declined that job, despite the extra income being potentially very useful right now.

The problem is that I was told that the PAT testing is generally confined to a visual inspection only, because the equipment in the bookmakers cannot be switched off. Put simply, if the equipment looks OK it passes and the appliance doesn't go anywhere near any test equipment.

To my mind, that rather defeats the object of PAT testing. We need to know that the equipment is safe and that can only be ascertained by plugging it in to some test equipment. If you are not going to do that, why bother...?

Even if I accepted that a visual inspection was sufficient (which I don't), there is another problem. If the visual inspection is being done properly, the plug and fuse should be checked carefully. To do that, the equipment needs to be switched off and the plug removed from the socket in the wall. If the equipment is not being switched off, the plug clearly isn't being checked. There could be various hazards inside, due to incorrect wiring or loose connections. It could be incorrectly fused too.

Needless to say, I was not impressed.

However, from what I have discovered at the site where I have been PAT testing myself, it seems that this kind of "stick a pass label on it and hope for the best" approach is a lot more common than you would imagine. Last year, I found some plugs which had clearly not been properly checked before, as if they had been they would have failed instantly.

There seem to be a lot of cowboy firms around at the moment, undercutting each other on PAT testing and not doing the job properly. I am not sure what we can do about that, but if you are looking for PAT testing services it is something to be aware of and look out for.

The cheapest quote is almost certainly not going to do the job properly.

18 May 2017

Why vacancies on Hedge End Town Council should always be contested...

Although the news was not unexpected, this particular tweet from the Lib Dem leader of Eastleigh Borough Council last night was more than a little disappointing.

The reason I say that is Cllr Allingham was rejected by the electorate when all of the Hedge End Town Council seats were last re-contested, in 2015.

It was Hedge End St Johns, the ward where I live, so I remember it well. The long-serving Margaret Allingham finished fourth in that election, with the three candidates (two Conservatives and a Lib Dem) finishing ahead of her being elected as Town Councillors.

As you can imagine, seeing Cllr Allingham pop up now, as the Chair of Hedge End Town Council, just doesn't seem right in the context of that result.

Mind you, she was the Vice Chairman of Hedge End Town Council prior to that election and the defeat torpedoed the Lib Dem's plans to make her Chairman in 2015-16.  One could argue that it is fair that she gets a chance now, but the more important consideration is that if the electorate rejected the Vice Chair of the Town Council in 2015 what is she doing taking on the top job a couple of years later...?

The answer of course, is that one of the Lib Dem Town Councillors in the Hedge End Freegrounds ward resigned at the end of 2015 and Cllr Allingham was re-elected in the subsequent by-election.

As you may recall, the Hedge End Freegrounds ward was not contested in 2015, with the three Lib Dem candidates elected by default as nobody else stood against them. It was therefore a pretty safe seat for the Lib Dems. When one of the new faces stood down, Cllr Allingham duly won the by election by 262 votes to 115, with a turnout of only 23.4%. Although fair, it is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Since then there have been two other resignations on the Town Council, neither of which was contested with the seats filled by co-option. With Labour and the Conservatives apparently having given up contesting these vacancies, the Lib Dems are now able to do what they like without even requiring the formality of a by-election...

So as you can see, there continues to be a problem in Hedge End, which the citizens need to address.

We need to contest every vacancy, but that requires people to come forward and stand against the Lib Dems, who are more than happy to take the seats by default if we don't do that.

Now it so happens that I have just become the Nominating Officer for the Beer, Baccy and Scratchings party (it's a long story). Although I am expecting that party name to change again soon, to something a little more sensible, it means that you don't have to stand as an Independent if you hate the main parties and want to contest any of the local seats. Just talk to me or Ray Hall and you can stand with us instead, thus gaining the advantage of standing for a fully registered political party.

Do please drop me a line if you would like to get involved.

And you can join the conversation here;

10 May 2017

Flag Offence...

Had an amusing discussion on Twitter last night, when I quoted a tweet about taking the EU flag down from public buildings in the UK and said that I found it as offensive as the Nazi swastika...

As you can imagine, that had a few Europhiles and Remain campaigners completely up in arms, I've noticed that they can be very sensitive indeed, to any comparison between the EU and evil empires such as the USSR and the Third Reich, but my tweet also attracted quite a few likes. More than I normally get. Please draw your own conclusions from that...

Somebody even told me that I am not allowed to be offended by the EU flag, overlooking the fact that so many people seem to be offended by the English national flag, the flag of St Georges these days. They can't have it both ways. If people are allowed to be offended by my national flag, I don't see why I am not allowed to be offended by a different one...

The reason I said that the EU flag is offensive is that I don't regard the EU flag as my national flag. Until the EU referendum in 2016, nobody had ever asked me if I wanted to be part of a European superstate or not. The EU was forced upon us, with the politicians of the time refusing to grant a referendum. Without that consent, the EU flag does not have a rightful place on our public buildings.

It is actually every bit as bad as having the Nazi swastika hanging from offices in Whitehall (which thankfully never happened) and the Union Flag flying from buildings in Bombay (as it once did). The EU flag is still a symbol of power & control over the UK, if not the same kind of physical 'occupation' that the Nazi's tried.

In my opinion, the Union flag should be flown widely in the UK and on our Embassies and Consulates overseas, it is our national symbol, but it doesn't really belong anywhere else. Not on a regular basis.

I think the same principle applies to the EU flag.

And the Stars & Stripes

Not to mention the Russian flag and the Chinese flag.

In fact, there is no reason for any nations flag to be flown widely in any other nation...

You can join the discussion here, if you want to....

4 May 2017

How to spoil your ballot paper, in one easy lesson...

Having been to a few election counts myself and been a counting agent on one of them, it is clear that the act of spoiling your ballot paper is not as futile as many people think.

Candidates and agents are shown these papers towards the end of the proceedings, so they get to see what is written on them, and some are accepted as perfectly valid votes. If your intention is clear, your spoilt ballot may still count. It doesn't necessarily have to be an X on the ballot paper either. I have seen O's and wiggly lines accepted, if they are in the right place and the intention is clear.

Best of all, every spoilt ballot paper delays the proceedings, which is the last thing everybody wants at 4am in the morning...

So with the Hampshire County Council elections happening today, and none of the candidates really representing me, that's what I decided to do on this occasion. Spoil my ballot.

What I did was write a few (3-5) words of explanation under the names of the candidates I didn't like, being very careful not to stray into the space reserved for the X. For the candidate that I thought was the lesser of the evils, I drew a cock where the X should go.

So that creates the potential for an argument over that ballot paper tonight, over whether my intention was to vote for UKIP or not.

And if my vote isn't counted, it doesn't actually matter too much.

None of the candidates really represent me anyway.

And they will have had some feedback as to why...

3 May 2017

A Belated Appreciation of Clockwise

I found the 1986 film "Clockwise" on a VHS tape recently, so decided to watch it again.

The first time I saw it was in the cinema in Southport and I thought it was quite good. It subsequently appeared on TV but after several other viewings it wore a bit thin. There then followed a period of perhaps 20 years, where I've not seen this movie at all.

The prospect of watching it again after that length of time didn't really inspire me, but as my DVD player was faulty and this was the only pre-recorded VHS tape that appealed to Heidi, I popped it in to the VHS player and pressed the play button.

I was then pleasantly surprised at how good the script was.

The film started off reasonably normally, with an eccentric but otherwise very successful Headmaster (John Cleese) monitoring the many dubious activities (pupils and staff) in the grounds of his Secondary School. The film then progress through a series of unfortunate but entirely avoidable incidents, leaving a trail of chaos that eventually catches up with the Headmaster in his moment of glory. I thought it was brilliant. This movie really has improved with the passage of time...

Perhaps I look at this film differently now that I am 20 years older, or is it that modern film/TV comedy only knows how to be rude and offensive, so cannot replicate this Fawlty-esque kind of humour...?

I honestly don't remember hearing a single swear word in Clockwise. That was so refreshing.

Show me another modern comedy that delivers as many laughs without swearing.

I will bet you a cheese sandwich that you can't do so...