Posted in articles, interview, Isle of Thanet Gazette, non-fiction, Plain Jane

Plain Jane 100415: Plain Jane meets the Tories and Manston Airport Independent Party

Plain Jane 100415I interview the Tory hopefuls by adopting police tactics. Sir Roger Gale has been in politics for half a century and the MP for Thanet North for 32 years. He is unlikely to be fazed by anything I can throw at him, and I don’t want newbie Craig Mackinlay – candidate for Thanet South – cribbing the answers. So I separate to interrogate and roll up early to Gale Towers – a charming farmhouse-style affair with open fireplaces and assorted dogs – where I am made tea by the smiley, hospitable Suzy. Roger Gale is a BOGOF candidate (Buy one get one free) – vote for him and his energetic wife is thrown in. He encourages Suzy to join us for the interview. She interjects to correct him on the exact number of votes that held a marginal seat in 1982 and, amusingly, flicks through a magazine during a particularly long anecdote. But she works alongside Roger on the day-to-day. “Suzy and I spend huge amounts of time just dealing with constituency stuff that you never hear about or read about,” Roger tells me. “It’s all private and that’s how it should be. It’s like being a doctor.” It also sounds like a lot of hard work. “Did she secretly wish he’d retired instead of standing again? “Absolutely not,” Suzy retorts. “If anything, I was the one shovelling him along. . .” I follow on with the obvious. But is it time, as other candidates have suggested, after all these decades, for a change in North Thanet? Sir Rog is characteristically unruffled. “It is the obvious chant for anyone who isn’t a member of parliament to say we need a change. . . ” And when I quote his words at a recent hustings, he is unapologetic. “I’m not going to say I’m suddenly going to be someone different, someone new and exciting. Of course they are going to get ‘more of the same’ because I’ve done the job – and am going to do the job – in the way that I believe that it needs to be done.” So what does need to happen to Thanet in the next five years? “Obviously Manston is a key issue. People say ‘he’s only interested in Manston because of the election’. No, I’ve been promoting Manston for more than 20 years.” As a Manston supporter myself, I know this to be true and we fall into a long discussion about the various options, upon which Roger is more realistic than I am. I just want to have a plane to jump on. “Passengers!” I cry. Roger attempts to manage my expectations. “In order to get the bedrock right, you’ve got to have the cornerstones. The cornerstone would be freight. Once you’ve got the business up and running on a sound financial footing then yes, RiverOak wants passengers, I want passengers. “What about night flights?” I ask wearily, as I feel I must. “We don’t need night flights.” Manston is “the most important thing bar none” but Roger is also enthusiastic about other projects. He speaks warmly about the regeneration that is going on in Margate, believes now in the new Dreamland project although would like to see more of it undercover: “Boys need boys’ toys to play with so you want the dodgems undercover so that when they’ve done their conferencing, they can thrash into each other”, and has ideas for a new hotel, a lifeboat centre and an ambitious overhaul of the Winter Gardens complete with “indoor beach”. Craig has pitched up by now, with party supporter Chris Brannigan, and as we prepare to swap seats, I finish on the possible threat from Ukip. Nationally, Roger says, he fears them splitting the Tory vote and letting “the Milliband government in through the back door”, but locally feels Nigel Farage may be in for “an unpleasant shock”. One thing is clear: “I don’t want to be re-elected with the support of anyone who thinks Ukip because I see 1930s Europe,” he says. “I hear the march of boots and I don’t like it.” He and Suzy disappear, and with those words still hanging in the air, I turn a beady eye on Craig, who was a founding Ukip member. “Nice to see you,” he says. “I am the uncharismatic Craig Mackinlay.” He is referring to a previous Gazette piece in which I summed up the various contenders for South Thanet. “The word I used was ‘unappealing’, I tell him. He laughs loudly and warily and I quiz him on his political past. “It was a very different Ukip in those days,” he counters. “Tell me,” I say. Adding, when he protests that he doesn’t want to “spend the whole interview talking about Ukip”, that otherwise people will see him and Farage as one and the same. This galvanises Mr Mackinlay into a full and detailed explanation, which, in fairness to himself, he should probably repeat more often. Ukip was founded in 1991 in a pub in Covent Garden and Craig was one of six members, his motivation being soaring interest rates – he is a chartered accountant by trade – the effects of the exchange rate mechanism and the cost of the EU. “It had an academic base to it.” Immigration “wasn’t even on the agenda.” He became leader in the late 90s but by 2005 was “getting towards the end of my tether”. Ukip was starting to attract “some odd characters” and two of the MEPs were arrested for fraud. Meanwhile, the Conservatives were talking about the EU again. “It was time to come home. I never changed. I stayed in exactly the same spot in my view.” So what is the Mackinlay take on immigration? He welcomes the new rules on benefits but has no objection to anyone coming here to work. His wife is Hungarian and her doctor brother is with the NHS. I thus unpin him from the floor and we take respite in the flapjacks Suzy has left us (excellent) before moving on. If elected, what will Craig do for Thanet? His years as both a councillor and a magistrate, as well as on the Kent Police Authority (he was up against Ann Barnes as for the position of Police Commissioner), he says, “gives you an insight into the real world, the gritty end. . . “Forget the politics, I know what this world is all about.” That’s as maybe, but I suggest that it must be daunting to follow Laura Sandys, of whom everyone speaks so highly. He does too. “She has been a wonder worker that crosses the political divide and I see myself exactly the same.” Even though he is more right-wing? “I think that people who do the right thing should be supported. The Conservatives are the right party to create a great economy and without a great economy you can’t pay for all the things that we want. I see a good economy as the main driver of everybody’s lifestyle. So is that right wing or left wing?” We have a spirited exchange over what constitutes poverty and get back to Thanet. Craig is pro-Manston too – he once tried to set up a “Malaga Airlines” flying out of it – and thinks Ramsgate Marina and Harbour “one of the biggest assets we’re not using properly,” predicting it could create 500 jobs. He likes the new businesses in Military Road and sees high speed rail as having the “potential to transform”. He is driven, he says, by the idea of “making Britain better”. The Ukip MEPs have cost £84 million in their 16 years, he tells me. “And what have they done? Beyond living a fantastic lifestyle?” After meetings in Brussels, the stories go, “Ukip are first up to a bar for the champagne, thank you very much, but have they done any of these things that they now say they want to achieve? Not one. They haven’t achieved anything. . . ” “I’ve got a history of public service,” says Craig Mackinlay. “I’m the real candidate with real experiences, who is a real person. . .” Verdict: Something old, something new, something blue… Also standing: Name: Ruth Bailey Party: Manston Airport Independent Party Age 57 No of years in politics: Four months or so!! What’s the most important thing you would do for Thanet? Revitalise Thanet through the re-opening of Manston airport. Impose a compulsory purchase order on the current owner, securely underwritten by a company that will offer high end jobs, training and apprenticeships and put Thanet on the map. The big dream:

  • A thriving Manston airport and fully operating port/marina in Ramsgate.
  • Flourishing tourism, protection of our green spaces, affordable new homes and regenerated High Streets, with derelict properties compulsory purchased or legally enforced to improve.
  • One hour’s free parking in our town, reasonable business rates and more community centres.

Next week: Mike Pearce on the Election Flipside…

***

You can read the original article at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane-meets-Tories-Manston-Airport/story-26308450-detail/story.html

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Posted in books, events, fiction, interview, romance, TV Show, writing

The Wannabe a Writer TV Show

Here at last….

Am all very thrilled – and not a little nervously twitchy 🙂 – to announce the launch of the first half of the pilot episode of Wannabe a Writer? The TV Show, a joint project between me and my mate Stephen Arkell of Retina Productions , in which we bring an exciting new concept in Writer-centred TV to your screens…

WATCH it HERE, Read all about it HERE and then do comment – I would love to know what you think…

jxx

Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, review, writing

The Ab Fab ChipLitFest :-)

Well what a lov-er-ley time I had at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival – a treat indeed. You would never believe the festival is only in its second year from its big-name line up and terrific organisation but it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be there for both of them. This time I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of being “in conversation with”  the super-best-selling Peter James on Saturday, who talked about his forthcoming Dead Man’s Time  (I got to read a review copy – bloody brilliant!)  fascinated us all with his police tales and amused greatly with his unique revenge tactics on Martin Amis (ha ha!). Peter is a dream to interview!

Jane and Peter Chip Lit 2013 small

(Thanks Liz Fenwick for the photo of us at the Crown and Cushion!)

As is the gorgeous and delightful Fern Britton. I met her for about a minute before we started our event around her latest entertaining novel The Holiday Home but she was as warm and relaxed as if we were old friends. What a totally lovely, natural and generous lady. The audience adored her and so did I. She had some hilarious stories too… (Was Chipping Norton ready for the word c*ck?  Certainly seemed to be…. :-)) We all laughed lots.

Fern and Jane

Thanks Jan Harvey for taking this one

So put next year’s dates in your diary now. Chipping Norton Lit Fest 2014 runs from 24th – 27th April and I’m excited already….

Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, writing

Guildford Day Six

Yes a bit of a delay there but Saturday I was doing a workshop in HMP Send, Sunday I had taken to my bed with Strepsils and Lemsip (the entire population of Guildford seems to have a cold – thanks folks) and then I was waiting for photos with which to illustrate my illuminating and entirely subjective (never mind the rest of the festival – let’s just look at what I did) account of Guilford 2012.
Judy Finnigan and Jane
Judy & Jane – Photo courtesy of James Davies

Monday brought Judy Finnigan at lunchtime – she was great and Richard came too – talking about her intriguing and atmospheric debut novel Eloise. We did forty minutes of chat and then took questions. Mindful of those unable to journey to Guildford, I had invited contributions via Twitter. @missdaisyfrost obliged with a deeply meaningful, profound and erudite enquiry. “How hairy is Richard’s back?” I can confirm to all of you worried about such matters that the answer, straight from Judy’s mouth, is not at all. That’s a relief.

Next up was Kay Burley – she had a cold too. But had had the good sense to come via the chemist. We discovered that a combination of Actifed tablets and white wine will deal with most symptoms or at least render one past caring. I’m not sure what we talked about now –  I expect her new novel, the entertaining Betrayal, got a mention – but we enjoyed it anyway. I won’t include a photo cos streaming eyes and red noses are not a good look.
The evening saw Jenny Eclair who nearly went into meltdown at all the sore throats about the place – she is on tour with her new show Eclairious and needs her vocal chords! Jenny was her usual hilarious self.  She has the wonderful gift of being able to get away with pretty much anything – only she could render the good ladies of Guildford helpless with laughter over a gag about pubic hair – and her new novel Life, Death and Vanilla Slices is well worth a read. My own review here (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).
David and Jane – Photo courtesy of George Parkes

And now I’ll break the rules and talk about someone else other than me and tell you that following us were Kathy Lette and Sandy Toksvig discussing Kathy’s new book The Boy Who Fell to Earth (sweet, sharp, funny, sad, endlessly touching). They were both hysterically funny too. Tho’ as David Nobbs pointed out, the whole evening seemed revolve around menopause and female bodily functions. (Luckily, as he also added, he is not at all squeamish)

He is tho, very, very entertaining. He didn’t really need me at all this morning but I felt  privileged to be sitting there and croaked out the odd question. We talked about his latest tome The Fall and Rise of Gordon Coppinger – a work of bloody genius if I might say so –  his most famous creation, Reggie Perrin, and his long career writing comedy. God Bless Mr Nobbs.
Tomorrow is my last day at the festival and I am hosting a panel of erotic writers (or should that be writers of eroticism??), including Hazel Cushion, MD of Xcite Books – the UK’s largest publisher of steamy tomes. Still time to get a ticket. 9pm (after the watershed) in the cafe bar at the Electric Theatre.
More of that in due course…
Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, writing

Guildford Day Two

The end of the second day of Guildford Book Festival and tonight was Peter James and Ann Cleeves. Fab interviewees both – and both with great news to share. Ann has been inducted into the Crime Writers Association Hall of Fame (I’m not entirely sure what this involves but I am deeply impressed) and Peter has knocked Fifty Shades off the top of the Bestsellers List. Respect!  Peter is,  of course, extremely shy and retiring (ho de ho) but I managed to coax a few anecdotes out of him. I’d never met Ann before but thought she was really lovely – how could she not be having created DI Vera Stanhope (a new series being filmed right now folks! If you love Brenda Blethyn – I do – don’t miss it). And that’s all I can muster right now cos it’s been a long day and tomorrow I’m off to HMP Send (not permanently).

But lots more to come at Guildford – On Monday I interview Judy Finnigan, Kay Burley and Jenny Eclair. Tuesday brings David Nobbs  – hilarious creator of Reggie Perrin. Do roll up if you possibly can.
xx till then

PS yes I did learn where I’ve been going wrong on the Victoria Sponge front with lovely Rachel Allen and Jim N was most entertaining…

PPS Photo courtesy of Morgen (thanks Love!!! :-))

Posted in events, fiction, interview, novels, writing

And off to Guildford….

It’s begun – I am here in my Guildford for my annual stint in the interviewing chair and. as always, thrilled at the prospect. Last night was the launch do at the fab Radisson Hotel where I did an “in conversation with Kay Burley“, the country’s longest-serving news anchor – she’s been with Sky News since the start – who’s great fun.  (Her books are too – I’m going to be discussing those with her on Monday!). The audience loved her. I love seeing her too and getting the gossip! 🙂 I do hope she publishes a scandalous diary when she’s in her dotage…
Today I am off to the Electric Theatre to talk to Rachel Allen about her new book CAKE (I am hoping to finally learn how to turn out a sponge that is not either flat or lopsided) and this evening I get to introduce James Naughtie who will be talking about The New Elizabethans. I am addicted to Radio Four so this is an honour indeed. I’ll let you know how sexy he is later…
Guildford Book Festival is wonderful (potential sponsors please note!). It boasts terrific venues, big names, truly great writers. And deserves wider fame. If you are anywhere within striking distance, get yourselves along. And come and say hello if you do! Mad dash now but further bulletins in due course….
Posted in books, fiction, interview, novels, writing

If it’s good enough for Harry….

Of course he was pictured in the Sun with his kit off and I’ve only made Writers’ Forum (and am still wearing a laptop)  but it I’m just thinking that  if I get a fraction of the hits that the 3rd In Line got when he appeared Online in the altogether, it could mean “going viral” (in the eager-readers-all-around-the-world-pressing-that-forward-button, rather than the antibiotic sense) and can only be good for my “career” . (The rather grand term I occasionally use when not sure how best to describe the motley collection of writing jobs I undertake in a vain attempt to earn a crust.)
The funny thing is that while I  remember answering a lot of questions for Anita Loughrey who so kindly set up this interview,  I have no recollection of sending her the photo. I can only imagine wine had been taken! 🙂
But now it’s “out there” I can tell you the painting is by Brian Homewood  and when I get near a scanner I’ll post the tale of how it all came about (as told to Woman’s Weekly). In the meantime, clever Morgen – blog mistress extraordinaire – is going to post this for me from the student kitchen at the NAWG Festival while I get my frock on before dinner (I am the after-dinner speaker – God help ’em – so  had better not wear tracksuit bottoms) and Barry (I trust!) gets the bloody wine open…