I say! There seems to be more than a whiff of desperation creeping into the pro-China Gateway campaign! Perhaps they've only just woken up to the news that not everyone on our dinky little island is prepared to roll over and have their tummies tickled every time someone makes another empty promise of jobs.
Some of you will no doubt remember '10,000 New Jobs!' being trumpeted on the front page of the Gazunder way back when the airport was sold off. I'd be surprised if, almost a decade later, the number of actual jobs created has even reached three figures.
It speaks volumes that the pro-Gateway lobby are now coming up with those time-honoured tactics of last resort - casting doubt on the veracity of those who would protest. A letter in this week's Gazunder accuses protesters of 'factless verbal diarrhoea', closely followed a few pages later by Our Glorious Council Leader banging on about 'the fiction that is being put out concerning the China Gateway Project'.
Well Sandy, just what are the facts? In particular, I'd like to know more about the facts pertaining to your trip to China last November. Did you know the developers, CGP, were fronting up all your expenses? If you did, how can we believe a word you say about China Gateway if you're in their pockets? If you didn't, doesn't that demonstrate a stupendous level of ignorance? And if you can be that ignorant, how can we trust you to know what you're talking about now?
In case, dear reader, you didn't catch it, I'm reproducing below the recent article in Private Eye, which sets out the contents of the 'Tesco bag' documents in more detail than has so far appeared on any Thanet blog. It's worth reading to remind ourselves of just what we are dealing with here.
And let us not forget that the Eye is a national publication, not a blog. They have an unsurpassed reputation for breaking stories ahead of the wider press. This article has not, as far as I am aware, attracted any libel suits for 'defamation', 'fiction', or 'verbal diarrhoea'. Nor has it even provoked a stiff letter of denial from Our Sandy, or any other member of Thanet Council come to that.
HAO DO YOU DO?
Inspector Knacker is looking into a bag of documents which may shed light on why Tory dominated Thanet Council is so keen to plonk a 3.5m square foot Chinese business park on a greenfield site above the area’s aquifer.
Kent Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit was handed the bag after it was sent anonymously to a local blogger. The contents related to a council ‘fact finding’ trip to China last November and had evidently come from the offices of Commercial Group Properties (CGP), the AIM-listed outfit proposing the controversial China Gateway development in conjunction with the Chinese government’s outward investment arm Chinamex.
At the time the council assured locals the trip was organised and funded by Beijing, not CGP. PC Plod may reach a different conclusion. For example, a copy of a CGP email confirming room reservations in Hong Kong shows them booked on a CGP employee’s credit card. Another document, evidently minutes of a CGP board meeting, states: ‘By travelling with members of the council and paying their expenses the Company could be accused of trying to obtain planning consent in respect of its various projects by unfair means.’ Hmm, good point. But this is answered in the very next sentence: ‘KW (CGP boss Ken Wills) confirmed that every consideration and action was being taken so that this impression was not given’, with the handwritten addendum ‘,and reimbursement by Chinamex should be forthcoming’.
There’s more. A scrawled note of thanks to Chinamex chief Chairman Hao transforms miraculously into a formal letter on council headed paper from leader Sandy Ezekiel, closely followed by a quote from Ezekiel’s shagpile emporium for carpeting CGP’s offices ‘at a discount of 20%’. Another handwritten note, ostensibly to council Chief Executive Richard Samuel, reads: ‘Upon reviewing your hotel bills for the trip to China I would like to thank you and your three colleagues for keeping the expenditure down to a minimum by, for instance, not using the in-room minibar.’ It continues: ‘If you or your colleagues have any bills for out of pocket expenses please could you forward them to me for dealing with immediately.’
Surely pure coincidence, then, that CGP, which is proposing a similar scheme in Wigan, and which wants Thanet Council to erect signs on its borders saying ‘Welcome to Thanet – Home of Chinese Globalisation’, has dropped its plans to drain foul water into cesspits since these documents came to light, and declared itself in favour of the Environment Agency’s recommendation that it spend £600,000 on mains sewers to prevent contamination of Thanet’s drinking water. Even stranger, Thanet’s planning committee mislaid its customary rubber stamp last week and narrowly voted to defer the decision to a full meeting of the council.