Wednesday, 23 January 2013

WISBECH HAS BEEN STRUCK BY TWO TRAGEDIES in less than a week. An elderly woman, Una Crown, was brutally stabbed at her home in Magazine Lane, and then set on fire, presumably in at attempt to conceal the crime. As I write, the police are working to solve what appears, on the surface at least, a vile crime without motive.
Then, while residents were reeling from the Magazine Lane murder, Saturday morning saw a massive police presence outside the Hare and Hounds on North Brink, a popular drinking spot known to most locals as 'The Dog'. We knew that a woman had died and there were early suggestions that her death might be drink or drug related. By Monday, it was revealed that the dead woman was Virginja Jurkiene, 49, of Oakroyd Crescent, Wisbech. Dainotas Doblys, 48, has been arrested and charged with murder, and two counts of rape. Virginja had a history of alcoholism, and an abusive father and husband. A colleague at the Rosmini Centre described how she had been at the centre just the previous week, and staff had tried to help her with various issues.
As the dreadful story played out over the social media, there were some frankly shameful comments along the lines of, "well, thank goodness it wasn't a local woman," and "this was a lovely little town before the immigrants got here."
There were calls for an anti-immigrant march, along the lines of one recently held in Boston, and another planned in Spalding. The barbed and witless comments continued to fly on Facebook. There was then a telling and courageous intervention from someone whose views and approach I have not always shared. Samantha Hoy weighed in on Twitter with

 "I am a Eurosceptic but please do not blame immigrants for governments allowing them to be here, they just want a better life."

As much compassion and common sense as one will ever read on Twitter, I believe. She continued to fight her corner against the bigots on a Facebook thread. Later in the evening, Steve Tierney - someone else with whom I rarely see eye-to-eye - took up the cudgel on behalf of reason and decency. Both of them should be commended for fighting their (unpopular, but totally correct and decent) corner.

As I have said before on this blog, it is utterly pointless to blame local politicians for the 'immigration problem'. The terms of the current EU treaty allow anyone from member states completely free access to otter countries in the union. In January 2014, it will all get worse, as residents of two of the most disfunctional and economically bankrupt countries in Europe - Bulgaria and Romania - will have unhindered access to Britain. Someone posted earlier - and I have not checked this out - that the average monthly income in Romania is well below a month's Jobseeker's Allowance in the UK.

MIGRANT LABOUR is nothing new. Neither is the exploitation of vulnerable groups of people. As a volunteer at the Rosmini Centre, I see the dark side. The migrant as victim, not villain. Sadly, the villains are more than likely not to be swarthy cartoon gangsters from Albania, but urbane and well-educated British citizens. In no particular order, then, my list of culprits.
(1) The chain of exploitation from rich farmers to unscrupulous gangmasters. The result is often that migrants are working for well below minimum wage. They may have to surrender their passports just to get work.
(2) Shadowy UK property owners and landlords who turn a blind eye to their rooms and houses being sub-let. They are putting up a vigorous resistance to a move to have ALL UK landlords checked and registered.
(3) The mindless Europhiles of all political parties who cannot comprehend the stresses and strains that unfettered immigration from the EU imposes on fragile local economies.
(4) The local planning and licensing authorities who relentlessly and recklessly grant drink licenses to corner shop after corner shop, in the full knowledge that street drinking of cheap liquor  by unemployed and hapless Eastern Europeans is a constant thorn in the side of those who are working hard to make our town centres friendly and safe places to visit and shop.
(5) The moronic collection of ex-skinheads and football supporters who make up the far-right 'political parties'. Do they really think that their sloganising and violence will have the slightest effect on anything, anywhere? And I have to include their diametric opposites, that feckless collective of failed beards and muddled idealism which typifies the far-left.

ALL GOOD MUSIC-HALL ACTS SHOULD FINISH WITH A SONG. And there is mine, but 'Give Me Sunshine' it is not. It is by Woody Guthrie, and refers to a plane crash in 1948, when a plane bearing migrant Mexican workers crashed in Los Gatos Canyon. The dead workers were never named in the press - they were just called 'deportees'. Virginja Jurkiene was not a deportee, neither was she a victim of the state. Two facts link her to the dead of Los Gatos. Firstly she was referred to as 'just another migrant'. Secondly, she was attracted to a foreign land by the idea that she could find a pot of gold at the end of a mythical rainbow.


Friday, 11 January 2013


All public figures, whether they are reviled or held in reverence, seem to think the world's collective breath is held until they go public with a New Year Message. So, why should I be different? Here goes. "Ignore the alarm. Pull the duvet up over your head. Pray for January to pass." T.S. Elliot wrote, "April is the cruellest month." But he didn't live in Wisbech, or if he did, he kept very quiet about it.


Well, we have an election on January 17th. The FDC seat for Hill Ward is vacant, following the death of much-respected local man, Bruce Wegg. Crossing swords are:

SAMANTHA HOY (Con) Sam is an engaging character who works hard for the town. Some might wonder why she wants to be a 'triple-hatter', that is, someone who holds office at Town, District and County level, but that is her business. Her great strength is that she will admit when she is wrong, and the words,"fair point" come easily to her, unlike certain other local demigods for whom such an admission comes as easy as pulling out their own teeth with a mole wrench.

DEAN REEVES (Lab) Dean is an ebullient and tough fellow, who says he is 'a civil servant'. If that conjures up someone who sits in an office and pushes paper, then think again. Dean works at 'the sharp end'. I will not elaborate, but he does a job which puts him face to face with some of society's most intractable problem areas. Dean is a committed family man who would be a much needed 'fresh face' in local politics.

JOHN WHITE (Ind) I know very little about John, except that he is Wisbech 'through and through'. I met him briefly when we were setting up the 'WIN' project (of which more later) and he struck me as very 'old school', as straight as a die, and someone who scorns the local party bitching, and just wants the very best for the town he loves.

OH, YES….I am not ignoring the fact that Bruce Wegg's death also left a vacancy on Wisbech Town Council. You will forgive me if I do not waste column inches on that particular witches' brew. I don't know the full details of why Erbie Murat was suspended as Town Clerk, but a local paper suggests that it was as a result of "personality clashes" between himself and someone who purports to be something called "The Beadle". I worked for forty years in large organisations. I had "personality clashes" every now and again, but we were professionals. The job came first, and we got on with it, and good management meant that anyone who forget that simple mantra didn't last too long. So, if you want to be a member of Wisbech Town Council, then best of luck to you. But don't expect local people to take you seriously.

WE LIVE IN HARD TIMES. Hard times usually require hard measures in response. 2013 sees the establishment of a Food Bank, to help the destitute and hungry in the town. Concerned local people are setting up a Credit Union to try to combat the disgusting rise of Payday Loan firms, which prey on the vulnerable, but are much admired by certain local politicians. Now we have another volunteer organisation, which tries to help those from a business and professional background who have learnt the hard way, that we are NOT 'all in this together'. This press release has been provided by my colleague, Mike Stannard.

Business and Professional Job Club.

When you lose a professional or a business position, you begin the fall. How far are you prepared to go? Have you thought about this, or are you just tumbling out of control, hoping for the best?
Recession is a hard time to find work. There are lots of very attractive people out there and the ones in work always seem to get there first.
Everyone who has been let go has a tale to tell, and, more important, everyone has dreams to fulfil.
Being unemployed places enormous stress on families.
Mortgage, car, holiday, food, tax: bills, come in whether you are in work or not.

We want to hear from you!

We can offer other people in the same boat. And we can listen carefully.
As you try and reboot, we can offer the support of a Wisbech organisation which is well respected and which can network brilliantly and give you that vital recommendation (if you are worth it).
As a business or professional person, you might like to get back into your previous sort of employment, or you might like to branch out a bit. You may still have dreams.
You won't fulfil those dreams by yourself: you need other people to network with. And meeting other people in the same situation can be very helpful.
Business and professional people only.

Wednesdays, Rosmini Centre, Queen's Road, Wisbech, 10-12 noon