THE Campaign to Protect Rural England has released fascinating satellite images showing light pollution.

The one for this neck of the woods shows Swindon sticking out like a sore thumb next to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. On the Downs there is hardly any light pollution, and countless stars are readily visible to the naked eye.

The CPRE is calling on councils to reduce light pollution with strategies such as using street lighting only when it is needed.

I have a great deal of time for the CPRE. Without this excellent organisation, vast swathes of the countryside would long ago have disappeared under open cast mines, hideous shopping centres, monstrous warehouses and millions of acres of cheap and nasty housing estates.

I don’t quite understand the point it’s making here, though. We have street lighting because long ago it was realised that street lighting was a great way of preventing road users from inadvertently killing one another.

To a lesser extent, we also have street lighting because it prevents bad people from skulking about under cover of darkness and doing the rest of us harm.

If all that means we have to venture a few miles out of town to see some constellations, then so be it.

Referendums are just a political tool 

I SEE there’s to be no referendum over everybody in the borough getting – and having to pay for – a parish council whether they want one or not.
For most of us, that little nugget of news is about as shocking as, say, the fact of rain falling in a roughly downward direction or a chronically unemptied Portaloo not smelling like Eau de Cologne.
Even so, there may be a few people who still wonder why this fundamental change to our local democracy won’t be the subject of a public vote.
The answer is simple: there won’t be a referendum because the outcome of a referendum might have an effect on the overall scheme of things.
In other words, we might not give the desired answer.
If being given our say had absolutely no bearing on the issue of how certain local services were to be provided and paid for, you can bet a referendum would be organised regardless of cost. There’d also be lots of public announcements about how important it was to give people a chance to decide on vital matters affecting us all.
However, if we were given a referendum over this issue, one with a legally binding result, there’d be a very real chance that the popular vote would be for chucking out the parish council scheme.
Some voters – quite a lot of voters in fact – might see it as a borough plan to wash its hands of certain services while landing us with bigger household bills.
As a general rule, referendums are only offered when the outcome won’t really make a blind bit of difference to the status quo. As another general rule, the bigger the issue in question, the less of a blind bit of difference will be involved.
For example, let’s imagine a very high profile national issue which was the subject of huge debate. I can’t think of one at the moment, but that’s beside the point.
Imagine you were one of the very important people tasked with deciding whether there should be a referendum on this subject.
Your immediate priority would be to ask yourself whether the outcome of the poll would make a difference to the lives of certain people.
Specifically, would the wealthy and powerful remain wealthy and powerful while ordinary people continued to be ripped off and treated like fools? If the outcome might change things, then there would be no place for a referendum.
If, on the other hand, the wealthy and powerful would remain wealthy and powerful either way, and the rest would continue to get the mucky end of the stick, then a referendum would be in order.
A referendum would also be a great opportunity to deflect blame for all the ills of society by setting huge sections of that society against one another, not to mention spreading resentment, xenophobia and fear and co-opting unspeakable tragedies into the service of one side or another.

  • SWINDON people were among those in an aid convoy stopped from boarding a ferry to France.
    They had planned to give vital supplies such as clothing to the refugees camped in Calais.
    According to Kent police, the order came from their French counterparts.
    According to the French police, the decision was taken because of concerns over terrorism and football hooliganism.
    This matter raises a number of questions. One, of course, is that of why the French police get to say whether or not British aid volunteers, who are breaking no law, board a boat tied to a British dock in British waters. 
    More pertinently, though, we should be asking whether there is so much as a shred of evidence to support the claims of the French police. 
    How many Kalashnikovs and kilos of C4 have been found in the vehicles of previous British convoys, hidden among the donated clothes, shoes, spectacles, food, baby formula and toys?
    For that matter, how many murderous football hooligans have slipped over to the Continent after assuming the guise of aid workers?
    Whatever one thinks of the refugee issue as a whole, there is no need for outright cruelty.