New Mosque for Stoke-on-Trent South ““ What’s the Issue?

Yesterday’s Sentinel contained a story about the proposed new Mosque at the top of Chaplin Road in Normacot and surprise surprise it has attracted well over a 100 comments.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the story at all, but the comments left on the website shows that this kind of issue always brings out the extremes in our society.

The mosque in question will be built to replace the existing mosque on the opposite side of the road, yet you would think that this building was just being planted on the Normacot landscape with no prior history.

This mosque, the land on which it will sit, plus additional land/buildings which will be turned into car parking, has been brought and paid for by members of the Normacot community. There is no council/government windfall that is funding this project, just the hard work and endeavours of the Asian community who want a place of worship that is fir for purpose.

The new building will replace an old derelict pottery that was, until it was demolished, an eyesore and blot on the landscape.

This new mosque will be an attractive property that will be landscaped, have arched windows and a domed roof with a minaret. In my opinion it will be a vast improvement on what was there previously.

Reading the comments left on the Sentinel website made me question the mentality of some people.

Here are just a few examples:

” I hope the councillors reject this preposterous idea of building a second mosque in the City!”
”Welcome to Great Britain….NOT”
”well it as not taken long for this to happen as it? when will you lot learn that the labour party is run buy asains so this will get the rubber stamp. should have voted BNP ?? how stupid you are! just wake up
”what a joke, another mosque at a cost of £1.5 million, where do they get the money from? this labour party is a load of bull who will grant permission for mosques but nothing else. we need more work places built or houses for BRITISH people, its not us being racist, its LABOUR”
”William Blake’s imortal song ” Jerusalem ” will have to be written to accommodate these mosques soon i fear :
‘Till we have built ISLAMABAD In England’s green and pleasant land’
”The people of Stoke only have themselves to blame for this. You got what you voted for and boy did you. Everyone of you had the chance to vote BNP in may and you didnt. If you had then you would of had BNP councellors on the council to reject it and most likely of had the plans scrapped. I have no simpathy for you cos you had the chance to have your say in may and you were silent. NO POINT SHOUTING NOW”

And this in a City that has just voted every last politician of a far right persuasion out of the council chamber.

The fact is that the Normacot community want a bigger building than the one that is there at the moment so they want to replace it ““ why is that such an issue.

Just three letters of objection were sent to the council raising the following concerns:

1. The existing mosque already creates nuisance which would be exacerbated by the proposed development.
2. The scheme would create traffic danger.
3. The building would be an eyesore.
4. There is no need for another mosque as there are others around the city

A letter of support was sent by the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South Rob Flello stating that he supports the development of all faith and religious organisations in the area and considers that allowing them to develop new places of worship helps these groups thrive. He considers that the proposal will be a welcome addition to the wider community.

One concern I do have relates to parking. Friday’s can be a bit of a nightmare for motorists in the area and often cars are double parked or parked illegally around the site of the existing mosque.

The main highway issue is parking. The mosque is intended to serve the local community and as there are mosques in other parts of the city, a large proportion of worshipers are expected to bewithin walking distance. There is also a bus service passing the site.

Notwithstanding this, parking remains an issue and it is evident that there is significant demand for on-street parking at the busiest times at the existing mosque. A total of 39 parking spaces is proposed in the current application, the majority of which would be on the northern part of the site. The outline scheme would have provided 53 spaces in an underground car park. Although on a parking space / floorspace ratio, the current provision would be more or less the same as before (because of the smaller size of building now proposed), the overall number of visitors is likely to be the same. If there are not enough spaces to satisfy the demand, congestion could occur as visitors try to enter the car park when full. It is therefore suggested that the applicants use a permit system so that those in most need of a parking space could be allocated one. This could be arranged through a travel plan which is included at condition 4..

In addition to the off-site arrangements it was considered appropriate in relation to the outline application for funding to be provided for the introduction of parking controls in the area should they prove to be necessary. This would be returned after three years if parking problems had not occurred. This was controlled through a S106 agreement. The same arrangement is considered appropriate in this instance. The outline permission was also conditional to traffic calming measures being provided within the vicinity of the mosque and again these should be provided.

The submitted travel plan is generally good including targets and measures to reduce single occupancy car trips to the site. The final details of this will need to be agreed by condition but subject to this, and the provisions referred to above, the development is considered to be acceptable in highway terms and is in accordance with policiesT1A and T18A.

The other issue is the myth about the call to prayer and how it will be heard all over the south of the city. Again the council planning office has built in restrictions to protect residents of any noise pollution.

The applicants have indicated that they would like to operate a call to prayer which would be announced through an internal PA system 5 minutes before the actual prayer meeting takes place. The previous permission was subject to a condition which limited the volume and times that prayer calls could take place and it is suggested that a similar condition be used, should the current application be approved.

Planning officers conclude their report with the recommendation that the proposal be approved.

That will not deter the dissenters of course and those who wish to turn the issue of worship into a political debate.

Rumours are circulating around the south of the city that the BNP have seized this issue and are set for a robust leaflet campaign. Internet forums are hinting that the English Defence League may use this issue to make a return visit to our city.

Finally, if like this contributor:

This protracted debate indicates what is increasingly wrong with this site. The irksome debate of how many dancing pinheads are involved in far right local politics is an unhealthy obsession with the author of the article. Surely it would be to the benefit of everyone that we concentrate on finding solutions to those seemingly intractable problems that drive the disillusionment with main stream politics such as unemployment, poverty, low wages and poor levels of attainment?

you are left wondering why I am sensitive about issues like this and the danger of the far right in the City of Stoke-on-Trent, just read this taken from today’s Stoke England First Website and then ask yourselves where the real danger comes from?

No sooner is the pisspoor excuse for an election over, than that bastard Pervez is at it again.

The plans for a terrorist training camp in Normacot; oops, sorry, that should read plans for a new mosque in Normacot; are back on the table, and that tubby immigrant is driving forward his plans to colonise Stoke-on-Trent with his muzzie brethren by building mosques in every part of the city, making sure that that the vast majority of taxi services are muslim based- an unfair monopoly- that public swimming pools are closed so his mate Mo can rip off even more people with his sky high charges, and now with the re-appearance of that far left bum bandit Meredith, they will flood the city with even more immigrants, like the overspill from Birmingham currently turning the north of the city into a black enclave!

Take a look at the voluntary bodies handed £millions every year by the city council. Look at VAST, and who runs it, look at the Dudson centre and who runs it, listen to their bullshit about what an important service they perform for the city, then do like me and several colleagues did, and take a good close look at their finances.

Perfoming an important service for the city?

Bollocks, the majority of the money that goes through the doors of places like this is taken up in salaries and pension payments!

“ËœUnemployment, poverty, low wages and poor levels of attainment’ make for attitude like this do they? Somehow I think that it is a whole lot more to do with hatred.

I pose the following to the reader:

Does the danger to our city and the people who live here come from the building of a new mosque for the Muslim population of the south of the city?

Or from far right extremists who display a lack of tolerance, respect and attitudes like this?

Stoke BNP Member Claims His Party Is Finished

I recently asked a senior figure in Stoke BNP if he thought his party was finished for good in our city. He looked me straight in the eye and replied: “I think we are Tone yes”.

He went on to explain that his party had self destructed and imploded in the past two years and he laid the blame firmly and squarely at the doorstep of BNP Leader Nick Griffin.

The story did not get better for the far right party as this activist said that the recent election campaign received no party funding what so ever.

I was told that the BNP would never come back from this low point and that all the fight had gone out of the membership. The party insider revealed that they had really struggled to attract any candidate of quality.

It had cost some candidates in the region of £750 to fund and fight the campaign.

”We just could not compete with the Labour Party and they just smashed us!

“They were really organised this time especially in the centre of the city ““ colour leaflets and telephone campaigning, they knocked the doors en masse and they got their voters out on polling day.

“I don’t know where the BNP go from here, there is no enthusiasm, and we haven’t met since election night.

“Activists aren’t to blame that’s for sure, we have seen a drop in members, some activist have gone off to join other nationalist parties. It’s all down to Nick Griffin.”

This dejected BNP member told of his anger at the way Griffin his running the party.

It appears that if you question the BNP leadership you get an black mark against your name and before you know it you are out of the party.

Griffin is holding on the all the available funds and party activists are left high and dry and are having to fund party expenses themselves.

Many BNP members believe that Griffin his hanging onto the purse strings to fund his, and Andrew Brons’s next European Election campaign.

The Stoke BNP member believes that if Griffin is successful in getting re-elected to the European Parliament then, and only then will he relinquish the chairmanship of the party.

”It’s all down to money with Griffin Tone, He has his entourage to pay for and we believe he employs his wife and his daughter out of his European expenses.

“He is doing all right and we are struggling to fight a campaign against the might of the Labour Party machine.

“I just want to serve as I always have, but everything you do is futile without any party funding to help get leaflets delivered.

“I just wonder where all the money has gone, but it’s no good questioning anything either, only the chosen few know the true picture.

“In four years time we will have a general election to fight alongside the local elections. With people getting fed up and moving on you wonder if we will be able to fight either election.

“The morale is at rock bottom in the party. People are asking if there is any point meeting and if there is anything that we as a group can do anyway.

“This city has four years of Labour to contend with and I’m not sure if the BNP has enough to scrutinise from outside the chamber”.

BNP Leader Nick Griffin claimed nearly £300,000 for his first year as a MEP. This has led to accusations about him jumping aboard the gravy train that he and his party were so outspoken about.

He is yet to answer just how much of his income he has donated to the British National Party.

It has been a spectacular fall from grace both in this city and nationally for the BNP.

At the height of their popularity in 2008 they had 55 councillors nationwide and 9 in here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Now in 2011 they have just 12 councillors across the country and here in this city they have been wiped out of the chamber.

The far right party defended 12 council seats across the country but held on to just 2.

With things as bad as the senior Stoke BNP member paints it, you really do wonder if this is the end for the BNP.

Nationalist parties seem to have been rejected unilaterally by the electorate locally and across the country.

In 2010 the England First Party fielded candidates against the BNP in Stoke. In 2011 they had an agreement not to stand against each other. Out of 16 far right candidates fighting the City Council elections, none were successful.

Of 74,321 votes cast in the Stoke-on-Trent local elections, just 3,690 went to “Ëœnationalist’ candidates.

Politics is often like music and fashion trends, something is fashionable and popular only to fade away and then without warning it is back again. The same could be said about the politics of the far right.

Opponents of the far right, organisations like Searchlight, Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate and NorSCARF will not drop their guard.

They know better than most that just because the BNP, England First Party, EDL and the English Democrats have been forced into being dormant, it does not mean that they have gone away altogether.

The problem for far right parties and in particular the BNP, is when their own supporters believe that they are finished it is very difficult for their party leaders to convince them otherwise.

England First Party Stoke Encourage Violence Against Labour

In an astonishing rant of an article on the England First Party Stoke website, nationalists are being advised to use violence against Labour Party supporters and activists.

The article opens with a picture of Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez which contains the caption “ËœAdolph Pervez, preparing to wreck what’s left of this city’.

The article then goes on to attack Pervez over the recent council cuts.

It claims:

“Burslem library is almost certain to be one of the first victims of voting in a foreigner to run this city council, a man with no connection, no affection, for this city, or its natives”.

The EFP author thought to be recent election candidate for Goldenhill & Sandyford Craig Pond then hits out at voter apathy and the choice they made on 5th May:

“This refusal of the people of Stoke-on-Trent to invest just a little of their time in voting, is going to bring a barrelful of grief to to(sic) those of us that did bother, but I suppose if you can’t be bothered to vote, you won’t be bothered by the adverse affects of your decision.

Stoke-on-Trent cannot survive another 4 years of the criminal rule of these Labour cheats, people who have wasted £millions, have manipulated contracts to line their own pockets, who have by-passed the regulations to hand contracts out to specific(sic) individuals and companies, who have at every turn done what’s best for themselves, not for the people of this city, but the people have just sat by and let this happen, so they have no-one to blame but themselves for the upcoming carnage”.

The EFP author then goes into an astonishing attack upon the Labour Party, it supporters and activists. The article also goes on to claim that labour broke the electoral rules:

“I think the time has come for those of us prepared to put in an effort to save this city, to re-evaluate the way we do things. Labour lie, cheat, and steal, but it is us nationalists that are labelled the bad guys, it is Labour that break the electoral rules, but it is us that are castigated”.

With no explanation or apparent proof written, published or attached, the article then claims that opponents of the EFP have acted violently and with aggression and intimidation.

The article then encourages nationalists to show violence aggression and intimidation on a bigger scale:

”There’s no point going into a fight with your dukes up, if your opponent has a baseball bat, so sometimes it is necessary to adopt your opponents tactics in order to defeat that opponent. I think it is long past time that the far left scum of this city got more than a taste of its own medicine, that there is no point us nationalists sticking to the rules when our opponents cheat at every possibility, and that we should meet their aggression(sic) and violence and intimidation with exactly the same, only bigger, better, harder.

This is the way to win back this city, don’t sit and take the unacceptable behaviour of a handful of socialist fascists, people that are prepared to force their opinions onto an apathetic public, to lie and deceive in order to get the Labour party elected, time for the gloves to come off, let’s see have brave this scum really is when confronted with its own tactics”.

This article is the latest in a long line of hate filled and intolerant articles to appear of the EFP website.

Pits n Pots contacted the EFP press department to ask if the article was in accordance with party policy and to ask whether the national party wanted the opportunity to distance itself from the articles claims or content.

We got the following response:

I can’t see anything wrong in what Mr Pond has written, I may have written it differently myself – but thats me, and Mr Pond was there on the night and I was not.

I should also point out that thanks to a member of Stoke EFP persuading(sic) the local Stoke City “firm” and Stoke EDL to stay away that night, we prevented an “off” with the far-left/UAFF from taking place outside the election hall. Perhaps next time we should let them come along?!

However, if you and/or any other Stoke liberals are concerned about Mr Ponds writings inciting violence, I suggest you call the Police and not me.

Best Regards,

Mark Cotterill, Chairman, EFP.

500 words from Spencer Cartlidge

THE ENGLAND FIRST PARTY – Many people have asked me already, are you a racist?

My answer to that is I say its OK to have the Scottish national party and no one seems to ask them, I don’t think its wrong to represent English people young and old in there own country even though the labour party seem to think it is, the trouble with them is they don’t like the competition because they have had it so sewn up for years, yes cause there is a massive issue with immigration no party dare seem address it, apart from the BNP of who we have had dialogue with about it, and we wont deny meeting the English defence league to see there issues about sharia law being introduced in England and what it brings to our country, without a referendum I hasten to add, these people I have met, EDL,BNP, are according to the labour party are knuckle dragging scumbag idiots, I assure you they from from it, they know their stuff that’s why they are highly growing in numbers, I’m not just saying that, I was very surprised, I feel they are so bemused how extreme Muslims are allowed to burn the poppy on armistice day along with burning the union flag, and they get a 50 pound fine, they seem to feel the powers that be are so afraid of Islam ???

But we have massive issues of more importance such as re-generation or should I say lack of it, we have just to seemed to replacing our history by retail, no sight of any manufacturing structure, well nothing to shout about, I look around stoke our once great city and in massive parts of it is just shear urban decay and no-one stands up and takes any responsibility, we are now one of the worst, poorest cities to live in England.

Derelict housing, empty shops, lack of affordable housing lack of help for small business and no-one over the years and years of our glorious run Stoke-on-Trent Labour council as ever seemed to have the answers, no youth clubs anymore to keep our youngsters out of crime, a transport system that never seems to improve, our pensioners worrying about heating bills, in a perfect world we would love to open the books to the Stoke-on-Trent-public about what really happens to all the money that comes and goes out of what alot of people consider one of the dodgiest town hall in England, will it ever happen, it’ll open alot of eyes if it ever did.

England First Party Candidate – Dresden & Florence Ward

PS. This is the time for the PROTEST VOTE, we don’t claim to be professional politicians, never have, but stroll on, could we really do any worse ?

Beware! – There is Even More to the Right of The BNP in Stoke-on-Trent.

Just when you thought it was safe to assume that the City of Stoke-on-Trent had recovered from the blip of being Nick Griffin’s BNP “ËœJewel In The Crown.

Ladies and gentlemen of all creeds, colours and religions – let me introduce you to the England First Party [EFP], headed up locally by two men considered way to extreme even for the BNP.

Mark Leat was a former BNP Councillor and Craig Pond a former BNP group organiser and they are expected to appear, amongst a few others, on the ballot papers in the local council elections in May. Pond is expected to stand in Goldenhill & Sandyford and Leat in one of the wards in the south of the city.

BNP sources have confirmed that they were kicked out of the BNP for being too extreme in their views and in Ponds case for some of the intolerant bile he spews forth on his tiny PCF blog and on certain other “ËœNationalist’ forums.

To give you some background, the England First Party was formed in 2003 by Mark Cotterill, who had been the founder and chairman of American Friends of the BNP. He had been responsible for pumping funds into the BNP until he decided that their politics no longer matched is own.

The EFP have some very worrying policies, up until last June, one of their main manifesto pledges was “the abolition of all non-European faiths and religions”. This is something that they later retracted but it gives somewhat of a flavour of the kind of people they hope to engage with.

They have a white supremacist ideology which marks a clear difference to the “Ëœmodern BNP’ and they are not afraid or have no desire to use electable language. They say that they want to reclaim the country from what they describe as “Ëœimmigrant invaders’. They also advocate “Ëœrepatriation of all immigrants to their lands of ancestral origin’, but nowhere do they say the matter will be voluntary.

“”¦ their clothes, their food, their culture, their psychology, their biology, their physiology and their history challenges ours at every point of the compass”.

This leaves no uncertainty about the kind of people who support them.

Last year they fielded just 7 candidates across the country in the local council elections, three of them were here in Stoke-on-Trent, the lack of interest was not surprising when you consider the party has as little as 100 members as of the last Electoral Commission figures.

They fielded no candidates in last year’s general elections; instead they encouraged their members and supporters to support any National Front candidates.

They also advocate the nationalisation of most national and public services. They want to ban the association between the Unions and the Labour Party and they want to set up workers co-operatives to protect the interests of workers.

Having said that one of their chosen candidates has not worked for years and chooses to spend his time writing extremist views in hate fuelled rants on the EFP Stoke website among others.

The fact that this candidate is seeking election and as such deems himself fit enough to undertake ward work alongside civic duties should be investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Warren Lloyd, who is seeking election to the council as an independent for Meir, has major health issues which may result in him having to undergo a heart transplant. He still manages to work and to contribute to society. The difference is down to personal pride.

If you feel the need to cast your vote outside of the mainstream candidates please look at who you are voting for.

There are a number of independent candidates that are standing that seek to represent their communities and will do so with a willing heart. They have no issue with anyone who lives in their wards regardless of skin colour or religion.

There are also groups like the City Independents and Community Voice that are also outside of the mainstream party structure. No one should have the desire to see the City turn to the extremes of far right politics as an alternative to the main three.

Still not decided? Let me show you some of the views of a confirmed English First Candidate:

At this festive time of the year, I would just like to thank Stoke-on-Trent city council for housing murdering terrorist Muslim scum in this city.
The Potteries Shopping Centre might need modernising, but not by exploding some bloody immigrant with a Semtex waistcoat, and the native people of these parts certainly deserve better than being blown to smithereens whilst out Christmas shopping for their loved ones.
Still, if the Muslims of this city would provide a little more effort in ridding their communities of these extremist morons, instead of sitting back and letting this terrorism blossom, they might get an easier ride from those of us who would like to see them go back to their own continent, where they could beat their wives, shag their own children instead of young white girls, and blow the crap out of each other, rather than us and ours.
The council and the politicians need to understand something though, if ever these cowards manage to blow something up in this city, they’d better run for cover, because the backlash against such behaviour won’t just fall on the Muslims, but also on those that have stuffed our communities full of them.
We simply cannot allow this situation to continue.
Kick this hypocritical, two faced lying scum out of our country, and if the establishment that is there to protect these islands and their native peoples refuse to do so, then matters should be taken into our own hands.
If it comes down to the survival of the indigenous people and their culture, or the backward and neanderthal behaviour of these bloody Muslims, I know where my loyalties lie.
Enough is enough.
It was fantastic to watch so many patriots march against the enforced presence of Islam in what used to be a green and pleasant land, and despite \Tommy Robinsons multiculturalistic claims, there is no place in England for this backward and barbaric religion, or those that wish to practise it.

But just what are these protests achieving?

They are highlighting the fact that numerous governments have ridden roughshod over the democratic rights of the British electorate by forcing these counter culturalists into our communities, but if the EDL don’t have the people within the political system to help enforce the changes needed to stop this Westminster displacement, then nothing will change.

What they absolutely must do if they want to see their country re tuned to them, is to vote for the nationalists that stand in their area, and if none are, then they need to bring them in, or stand themselves, because all the shouting and flag waving in the world won’t see the current crop of Westminster liars and cheats change the system to suit the EDL.

According to Pink News, the majority of people are in favour of same sex marriages. Rubbish and lies. Most people are not in favour of this.
Marriage is a Christian ceremony meant to unite a man and a woman in matrimony before God, and according to the bible, homosexuality is a sin, so how the hell do they figure to let them marry?!

Read this depressingly bad article on how the sexual deviants are being promoted as a new lifestyle choice for our youngsters.
No walk of life, no area of our culture has been left untouched by the poisonous hand of political correctness, even to the point of trying to infect our children with the idea that homosexuality is something to be aimed for.

Our country has no hope of survival if this wicked and reckless behaviour is not stopped.

In other state sponsored rants [by us the taxpayer] all Muslims have been called paedophiles, our council officers have been accused of being corrupt and described as thieves and our current elected councillors have been insulted out of hand.

I ask, is this the calibre of person that we want to elect to represent us?

To promote our City?

To help attract inward investment?

The BNP are in decline lot only locally, but nationally
too. Councillors like Michael Coleman, whether you agree with his politics or not, are respected for being hard working councillors.

It appears that there is a more sinister and extreme element, whose politics are way past the “Ëœfar right’ who are seeking to prosper from the downfall of the BNP.

All we can hope for is that everyone in our City sees right through the charade, deception, lies, intolerance of these charlatans and that we keep our City free from the embarrassment of being tarnished by the nation of having a racist element.

I am not advocating that we all follow a mainstream party, what I am absolutely saying is that there are alternatives, be them in other political groups, or acting as true independents, that are much more worthy of our vote.

The upcoming elections are the most important in modern times, which will see fewer councillors representing us.

Let’s make the most of them.

Let’s get the right people into the chamber, people who will look after our best interests and the interests of the City as a whole.

Wol’s World Cup Dream!

As a football commentator/reporter in a past life, I have always been able to remain impartial during club matches.

Unfortunately during England matches my national pride at patriotism boils over and I am ashamed to admit it is not a pretty sight.

It’s got me in some bother over the years, like during Euro 96 when after one match [against Holland], I got mortal drunk only to wake up with the vague memory that I had done something really silly.

It transpires that me and my brother-in-law, whilst in something of a state, decided it would be a really good idea to visit a tattoo parlour and get the Cross of St. George tattooed at the top of our arms.

And so as the realisation of my stupidity began to dawn on me the following morning, I got out of bed [very gingerly], trying to pretend that there was no blood on the sheets.

Anita, my lovely, normally placid wife, went cataclysmically ballistic! She made me promise to have the monstrosity removed with an angle grinder if necessary. She refused to speak to me for a very long time, but at least I got to watch the rest of the tournament in relative peace and quiet!

I remember I went to see Gentle John after the tournament and asked him if he could do anything with it? “I’m good youth, but not that f****** good” he said. I managed to get the offending tattoo covered eventually as it was impossible to get it removed.

Italia 90 was very emotional for me too. That was the year that my eldest was born. In fact, I watched the England v Belgium game alone at home on the 26th June. Anita was holed up in the hospital with high blood pressure and was due to be induced the following morning. I sat and watched the game my head in a spin, my mind on an emotional roller-coaster. I prayed for a win and thanks to a David Platt wonder goal 1 minute from the end of extra-time, we succeeded. And I prayed for the safe arrival of my first born, Tom came into the world safely, but needing to spend a small amount of time in the special baby care unit. See God [or whoever you worship] is good – sometimes.

He was home fit and well within a few days and in time to watch England beat Cameroon 3-2, again after extra-time and to see our sorry exit to Germany in the semi’s on penalties. He tells me that he has no recollection of the games – shame on him, I say!

See, that is my problem, I experience the very extreme of emotions, the euphoria of even the simplest goals and the the devastation of defeat and drama’s like Gazza’s tears.

At Euro 2000, me and my mate Casper [so named because he had hair like Billy Casper from the film Kes] decided to get tickets to see our beloved national side in Belgium and Denmark. We were not successful in the ballot, but we did get offered tickets to see Holland v Denmark in Rotterdam.

We decided to take the opportunity and so off we went. I will never forget being in the bars around Amsterdam and Rotterdam and standing side by side with the Dutch supporters who accepted us with open arms and empty beer glasses. Our trip to the stadium was surreal. There we sat on a tram making its way to the Stadium with thousands of Dutch fans bouncing up and down, the tram bounced with them. A guy leaned across to us and in broken English he said: “You English?” we admitted that we were and asked him how he knew: “ah, it was easy, there are only two people on the whole of this tram that are not wearing an orange shirt. I guessed you must be English, you stick out like a sore thumb at a wedding!” [a bit mixed up, but we knew what he meant!]

We went to watch the England v Germany game in a bar in the centre of Rotterdam it was full of Dutch and Danish fans who were getting along famously. We sat at a table where to serious looking chaps were already sitting. It turned out that we had found the only two Germans in Rotterdam who had travelled with the same idea as us because they too had failed to get tickets. We watched the game together, England won courtesy of an Alan Shearer header. The Two German guys were inconsolable, I couldn’t help but say: “At least YOU know how it feels now!”. They took it in good heart, we shared a few beers and a meal before bidding them goodbye and good luck.

The thing is, there was not one bit of trouble anywhere. Rotterdam has a certain reputation in football circles and yet we saw the different fans enjoy their football and the company of other nations fans.

My Amsterdam tale is quite another blog on it’s own, suffice to say that I acquired the taste of space cakes!

I am one of those people who get choked up over sport. When England play cricket, when we have someone in Wimbledon [usually just the 1st round these days!] When we have a boxer going for the world title, when Europe take on the USA in the Ryder Cup. No matter what the event it just gets to me, sad I know.

I am really looking forward to this world cup. I don’t think we will win, but if the desire of the nation is anything to go by, we will beat all comers.

I will fly my flag with pride, I will enjoy seeing the bunting flapping around on the breeze. I will wear my replica 1966 England world Cup shirt with pride and i will kiss the three lions as I always do.

You see, the far right have stolen my flag and my patriotism and my national pride, for something altogether more dark and sinister. They have claimed it and want to use it to divide communities and to do down those who were not fortunate enough to be born here.

I want my flag and the ideal of patriotism back. We English are warm, fair, tolerant and friendly. We need to see that displayed on the streets as well as the sports grounds.

I hope that all race, colours, creeds, sexes and religion unite and support our team as we do sporting battle on the African continent.

The games will all end with a handshake, let’s not forget that.

I had a dream the other night that I was lifting the Jules Rimmet Trophy for England, …alas it was only while someone was dusting underneath it.

My Sentinel Cup knees gave up a long time ago I’m afraid.

So lets all support our team with pride, passion and with a few drinks. It only comes around every four years, so above all lets enjoy it, win, lose or draw.

Gooaarrnn ENGLAND!

Stoke-onTrent EDL Demonstration More Arrests

Detectives from Staffordshire Police have arrested eight more people in connection with crime committed at the English Defence League (EDL) demonstration earlier this year.

The arrests have been made as part of ongoing work by officers from the force’s Major Investigation Department to identify those suspected of being responsible for violence and damage during the EDL demonstration on Saturday 23 January.

DI Tim Martin is managing a dedicated team responsible for investigating crimes committed on the weekend of the EDL demonstration.

In a statement DI Martin said, ‘Officers are continuing to review hundreds of hours worth of CCTV and video footage, collate statements and gather any other evidence from the demonstration which will help to identify offenders and put them before the courts.’

He went on to say, ‘We arrested 17 people on the day itself and have arrested a further eight. This should serve as a warning to those responsible for committing crime in Stoke-on-Trent that they will be caught. Officers from Staffordshire Police are also working closely with their counterparts at forces across the country to trace suspected offenders who live outside Stoke-on-Trent.’

Details of the 8 arrests are:

    * 16 year old male from Harriseahead, Stoke-on-Trent, arrested on suspicion of two counts of public order offences. Charged and due to appear at North Staffordshire Youth Court, Fenton, on March 26.
    * 19 year old male of no fixed address. Arrested and charged with theft of a police shield. Appeared at North Staffordshire Magistrates Court, Fenton, on March 11 and pleaded guilty. He was given a 12-mnth community order, 40 hrs unpaid work and ordered to pay £85 costs.
    * 21 year old woman from Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, arrested on suspicion of theft of a police shield. Released with no further action.
    * 21 year old woman from Hartshill, Stoke-on-Trent, arrested on suspicion of theft of police shield. Released no further action.
    * 32 year old male from Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, arrested on suspicion of damage and violent disorder. Bailed, pending further inquiries, until April 14.
    * 28 year old male from Bolton, Lancashire, arrested on suspicion of affray. Conditionally bailed, pending further inquiries, to April 14.
    * 22 year old male from Rochdale, Lancashire, arrested on suspicion of violent disorder. Conditionally bailed, pending further enquiries, until April 14.
    * 24 year old male from Bolton, Lancashire, arrested on suspicion of public order, affray and theft of a police helmet. Bailed, pending further inquiries, until March 31.

Anyone with information about crimes committed at the demonstration is urged to contact Staffordshire Police on 0300 123 44 55.

Should we fear Islam?- A Historical Perspective

Today I drove past the Mosque in Regent Rd, Hanley. The green dome was glinting in the winter sunshine. It was here a few weeks ago that a former City Councillor Jenny Holdcroft held a demonstration holding up a placard denouncing Islam as being Un English. Another mosque in the City was daubed with paint on the day of the EDL demonstration. The allegation of Ms Holdcroft that Islam is alien is a view shared by many people in the UK.

More than half the people of Britain are strongly opposed to a mosque being built in their neighbourhood. Only a quarter of Britons feel positive towards Muslims, while more than a third report feeling “cool” towards them according to results from the latest social surveys.

Should we fear Islam?

. These are the ominous results from the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. So is Britain anti-Muslim? Is there a place for Islam in British public life?

Last Monday saw the screening of a documentary on “Generation Jihad” which featured two young Muslim men from Yorkshire who had been convicted of terrorist offences. The programmed examined how men whose grandparents arrived from Pakistan decades ago with not a murderous or subversive thought in their heads, have signed up to fantasies of global jihad. I probably witnessed the first signs of the “islamifacation” in the late 70s on visiting a friend in Bradford when there was a demonstration against the Pakistani President Zia.

The programme continued with other milestones such as the “Satanic Verses” affair a decade later, massacres of Muslims in Bosnia and conflict in the Middle East which add the influence of the Internet and a poisonous combination ensues.

According to the Police there are around 2,000 principally young men who are part of Generation Jihad in the UK. And yet contrary to the public view polls show that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are integrated, loyal, non-violent and are appalled by religious fanaticism. But the activities of a small group of British-born Muslim radicals exemplified by the young men in the documentary bring the entire Muslim community into disrepute.
For my own part I have generally been sympathetic to Islam over the years. I have supported the Palestinian cause by donating to Medical Action for Palestine. I believe that the Arab Diaspora has replaced the Jewish Diaspora. I’m interested in the history of the Middle East and I appreciate the role that Islam has had in the preservation of the knowledge and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. I visited a few Muslim countries and I have a grasp of some of the differences of various interpretations of the religion.

And I try to approach the issue from a historical perspective and there are historical parallels and differences from the treatment of Catholics in the distant past.

There is a view as personified by Jenny Holdcroft and the EDL that Islam is foreign and supported by foreign groups and forces abroad. This can be compared with the perceptions in the 16th and 17th century that Catholics received instruction from Rome and acted as a “fifth column supporting Catholic foreign invasions.

A small group of Muslim extremists such as generation jihad give the entire community a bad name and are treated with suspicion and fear by the majority population. Compare the attitude to Islam after the 7/7 bombers in 2005 with the attitude to Catholics after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605

A belief that Islam will take over and a caliphate will be established with sharia law and compare with the Popish Plot scares. This continued into 19th century with the riots following the re-establishment of the Catholic Church in the 1850s and found a voice in the formation of the Orange order in parts of the UK.

In the Linda Colley book “Britons” the rise of a British identity in the 18th century is described as being a response to anti Catholicism. The work “outlandish” was specifically coined to describe Catholic practices.

Echoes of anti Catholicism still continue as the Act of Succession bars any future monarch from marrying a Catholic. As the comedian Mark Steel has suggested that it’s there to stop the Queen running off with Gerry Adams.

The question is whether we can learn the lessons of the past and whether they are relevant can we learn any lessons from the integration of Catholics into UK life (with the exception of Ulster) and whether they can be applied to Muslims in the 21st century.

I will end with a brilliant observation I saw on the site Spitton by a Muslim writer Shabba Goy which has a bearing on the incidents seen in Hanley last week on Islam4UK.

” They all need each other. The EDL is a fantastic gift to SWP-UAF as they can put aside their total inability to deal with the rise of the BNP and pretend it is the 1970’s again and they are the ANL fighting the NF. The EDL is exactly what Islam4 UK is designed to provoke and of course the sight of Trots and Islamists shouting violently on the streets is what the EDL wanted.

It’s all rather silly isn’t it? Except of course that when you take politics on to the street, especially highly-charged racial/religious politics, with football yobs on one side and nutballs yelling about “Ëœkuffar’ on the other ““ there is always the chance that it really does spill over into violence ““ and high-profile violence captured by the tv cameras as well.

That of course runs the risk of increasing tension in areas with significant Muslim populations. Which is, I suspect what the EDL’s masterminds, the SWP and Anjam Choudhary would all like.

All extremist organisations know that their best chance of growing comes in situations of polarisation and tension ““ for the far right it is their “Ëœrace war’ fantasy, for Choudhary and co it is the impending clash between “Muslim v Kafir’ and for the SWP it is the ever-so exciting state of “Ëœresistance’ or rebellion”

No community is beyond scrutiny. There is a debate to be had about the role of Islam in modern Britain. British Muslims find themselves at or near the bottom of various socio-economic indices: poverty, unemployment, literacy and life expectancy.

But the American Muslim experience offers hope. Muslims in America are among the nation’s brightest and best-adjusted minorities: in a Gallup poll, 41 per cent of American Muslims said they were “thriving”. This figure drops to 7 per cent in the UK
President Obama has appointed the pollster Dalia Mogahed, a veiled Muslim woman, as one of his advisers on inter-faith relations. Is America’s “melting pot” a better model for the integration of Muslims than Britain’s multicultural experiment?


In Conversation – Talking To The ‘Chief’ – John Van de Laarschott

Here is the latest offering in our ‘In Conversation’ pieces. Today we managed to catch half an hour out of a very busy day in the life of Stoke-on-Trent’s new Chief Executive John Van de Laarschott.

As you will be aware if you read this site, I have been very impressed with John. He brings a fresh approach to the role of Chief Exec.

He is incredibly open and honest in this interview and gives us his views on a wide range of subjects.

I am in no doubt that our local Authority will see some significant changes over the coming years.

This change will be driven by a man who wants a more customer orientated approach to delivering key services to our City.

John is also committed to bringing new investment into Stoke-on-Trent and in doing so, improving the lives and prospects of everyone who lives here.

Listen to the Audio Interview which is in two parts

The BNP And The EDL

The BNP are denying any involvement with the EDL, yet at least 2 BNP councillors from Stoke-on-Trent City Council were present at the EDL rally in Hanley on 23 January

On his personal blog, Councillor Mike Barnes writes,

The BNP apparently are denying any involvement or attendance of the English Defence League Rally in Stoke-on-Trent on January 23 2010.

Well take a close look at this picture I took and posted on my twitter as it happened.

This pictures was taken moments after the EDL had tried to go around the police line and come up Cheapside in Hanley to attack the UAF Peace Vigil. It was taken by me from within the Peace Vigil and the building behind is Gala Bingo. The main body of the EDL attack has been pushed back to the bottom of Cheapside.

On the right side of the picture are three men not in police uniform.

The guy in the cap on the right is BNP Cllr Philip Sandland from the Bentilee and Townsend Ward of Stoke-on-Trent.

The person in the middle, who is taking photos of the UAF, is BNP Cllr Michael Coleman from the Weston and Meir North Ward of Stoke-on-Trent, and he is currently the Leader of the BNP on Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The third chap is unknown to me.

I also understand that this is also proven by the extensive CCTV footage taken by the City Council on the date.

Cllr Coleman spotted me trying to take photos and the three of them ran down Cheapside away from me immediately after this photo was taken. (Got a bit shy!)

Tony Walley spoke to Councillor Mike Coleman on the telephone to get his side of the story.

During the interview Councillor Coleman admits to taking 1000s of photos of the UAF because they [the BNP] want to know who goes to these rallies, because they associate the BNP with Nazis & fascists.

He also criticises the Police for allowing the EDL to meet in pubs around the city before the rally but commends them on the way they dealt with the rally on the day.

Listen to the full interview with Councillor Coleman below.