LAST week we told you about Matthew Courtliff, the Swindon councillor who switched from Labour to the Conservatives and back again in the space of 24 hours or so.

Why do local politicians bother having party political affiliations in the first place? If you’re representing a group of people, your views should be their views.

Cuts, for example, are either good or bad for the group of people you represent, and so are measures such as parishing.

If they are good, they are not good because the party hierarchy says so, and if they are bad they are not bad because the party hierarchy says so.

Perhaps there should be a council election in Coun Courtliff’s ward to clear the air.

  • RICK Astley is to play at Westonbirt Arboretum next June 17, and tickets are available at I must say, I was a bit disappointed to discover that Rick’s appearance is clearly advertised as being an appearance by Rick Astley - that 1980s survivor, internet phenomenon and all-round good sport.

    Surely the organisers should have tricked people into clicking an ad for another performer instead, only for Rick to pop up.

    Question of crime figures and reality

    SENIOR police officers say we shouldn’t worry about rocketing crime figures.

    I believe them.

    The same goes for the senior officers’ political masters.

    After all, what reason could they possibly have to give us misleading information?

    As you may have heard, there have been more than 20,000 crimes in Swindon alone over the last year. Meanwhile, sexual assaults and other violent crime have more than tripled in the last five years.

    One of the official lines is that the rise is due to more people having the confidence to report crimes.

    Seems completely legit to me.

    I know that had I been the victim of a horrible violent crime in the past, I wouldn’t have bothered reporting it at all.

    “Why go through the hassle?” I would have asked myself. “What are the police going to be able to do about it. All they’ve got is their extensive roster of police stations, their beat officers, their frequent mobile patrols, their local teams of dedicated officers who have more than enough time to do their jobs properly, and their backroom staff who handle all the paperwork and general admin so front line officers don’t have to.”

    Is it any wonder so much crime clearly went unreported in those bad old days?

    Now, thank heavens, things are very different.

    When we’re the victim of crime or have some information about crime, we know we can report it with confidence.

    We know we can call on a police service which has been subjected in recent years to probably the most extensive programme of cuts in its history.

    We know we can call on a police service with fewer local police stations and fewer local police points.

    We know front line officers are so desperate that last year the Police Federation placed adverts on buses and in newspapers suggesting officers couldn’t do their jobsproperly. The federation said 153 officers had gone since 2010, that the Wiltshire force had the fewest officers per head of population in the UK, and that traditional policing might end up being abandoned altogether.

    With reassuring data like that so readily available, it’s no wonder so many more of us are confident enough to report crimes when previously we wouldn’t have bothered.

    Something else we should bear in mind is that, as the authorities have pointed out, we have fewer crimes than certain other parts of the country. Inner cities, for example, where hundreds of thousands of people have been abandoned to lives of squalor, multi-generational family dysfunction, drugs and despair are generally less safe than Swindon.

    Indeed, there are plenty of places less safe than Swindon, including warzones, North Korean concentration camps and the African veldt when the lions are a bit peckish.

    None of this makes us any less likely to become crime victims in Swindon, but we should remember that things could be worse before we start complaining.

    Of course, not everybody is reassured by the new figures or the explanations given by the folks in charge. Some members of the public even believe the police service is being effectively gutted, that criminals are increasingly free to do as they please with little or no fear of being caught and that the excuses offered by senior officers are patronising nonsense.

    Those people should be ashamed of themselves.

    We have never been safer, and anybody who fears crime, or who sees criminals strutting casually down the street without a care in the world, is probably suffering hallucinations brought on by media sensationalism.

    Jail child porn perverts

    THE latest cheery child porn enthusiast to walk free from a Swindon court is a bloke called Fernando Freitas.

    He was found with various images and films, including two images and five films in Category A which, according to the Home Office, includes representations of rape and sadism.

    That wasn’t the limit of his hobby, however. Investigators also found 266 extreme images of adults engaged in sexual activity with animals.

    Freitas could have gone away for a long time, but he strolled free with a suspended sentence and some other strictures which will be little more than a minor inconvenience.

    The court heard he was sorry for what he had done.

    I’m sure his sorrow and the sorrow of everyone like him – which for some reason often only kicks in after they’re caught – will be of immense comfort to the abused children in the films and images.

    An awful lot of people wring their hands and wonder how to end this scourge.

    Call me naïve, but I think 10 years for a first offence, 20 for a second and “We’re throwing away the key because you’re broken” for a third might go some way towards doing the trick.