SENTINEL: Public transport, elections, traffic, Butterfly Hospice, hospital fears, Mercer-nary


Our Sentinel columnist offers his weekly take on events in Boston and beyond...

*Can someone be in two places at once? Sentinel only asks because UKIP’s Roger Helmer has been announced as the man to fight for the Newark parliamentary by-election. This is the self-same standing MEP who is set to defend his European Parliament seat at the May 22 election. Should Roger really be on both ballots? He says if he is elected in Newark having already been chosen to be an MEP (he is top of UKIP’s list) he’ll stand down and pass on the mantle of MEP to the next down the list after just two weeks. It’s a shame that some politicians seem to be treating the European elections and parliament as a stepping stone to something bigger and better and yet they expect us to take the vote seriously. And it does appear that his campaign may be taking away resources from UKIP’s European election efforts. This week’s visit of the party ‘battle bus’ to Boston was put back a week due to ‘commitments in Newark with the by-election’. Mind you, if they really want to meet shoppers surely they’d be better bringing the bus in when the fair has gone?

*Speaking of buses. The thorny old issue of public transport reared its head this week. This was the admission from East Midlands Trains that they won’t look at extra services for Boston to Lincoln because they don’t think there is a demand. Maybe there’s no demand because everyone is so used to such a half-hearted public transport network that they feel the car is their only option? Unless you get the train at 6.13am and arrive at 7.22am you’ll struggle to get to Lincoln for a 9-5 working day. But, to be fair, the first direct bus Sentinel could find to Lincoln arrives at 9.20am. You might be thinking ‘so what, I’d rather go somewhere more exciting’. And maybe you’d be right. But it does seem baffling that our county’s university and administrative centre aren’t exactly easy to get to without a car - just another barrier that doesn’t help people’s employment chances.

*It’s not just us mere mortals that worry about getting from A to B it seems. The boys in blue are equally cheesed off with how long it sometimes takes to get across Boston. At least it seems they must be since, upon unveiling the force’s spruced up facility at Pilgrim Hospital, Sgt Fran Harrod said: “For officers who cover the villages to the north, such as Sibsey and Wrangle, returning to Boston Police Station for meal breaks, or to use the computer system, can be time consuming, especially when the traffic is heavy in Boston.” We feel your pain officer.

*It’s hard to imagine what those around the table of the original public meeting, way back in 2000 (remember when that year sounded futuristic?) must be thinking now that the deal has been agreed to accept in-patients at the Butterfly Hospice. Sentinel has enjoyed flicking back through the stories we have covered down the years this week. Seeing all that hard effort people did to raise cash for the cause makes it all the sweeter to see this week’s news. Sentinel reckons a fair few in the town have earned themselves a pat or two on the back.

*The earlier musing of the Helmer election bid got Sentinel thinking. Isn’t Patrick Mercer a bit of a lucky boy? This is the disgraced former Newark MP whose resignation has sparked the by-election. The surrounding circus has somewhat taken the attention away from the shameful way he has acted. Not only did he accept money from an undercover reporter to lobby on behalf of Fiji but the standards committee report also found he used racist language and was deliberately obstructive. In fact, don’t take Sentinel’s word for it, the verdict in full was: “In allowing payment to influence his actions in parliamentary proceedings, in failing to declare his interests on appropriate occasions, in failing to recognise that his actions were not in accordance with his expressed views on acceptable behaviour, in repeatedly denigrating fellow Members both individually and collectively, and in using racially offensive language, Mr Mercer inflicted significant reputational damage on the House and its Members.” That’s parliamentary language, I’m sure you or I could think of a couple of much shorter Anglo-Saxon words to describe him. Surely it’s time to strip him of his OBE? Losing his position as an MP is nowhere near enough, especially if reports in the national press that he claimed more than £34,000 in expenses since he was caught in the lobbying sting are true.

*Boston Labour councillors this week raised fears that we might lose our A&E at the Pilgrim Hospital as a result of a review to save about £105 million. Could the unthinkable happen? It may seem like a worst case scenario but the cuts, as previously reported in The Standard, are pretty eye-watering. In fact the cash that has to be saved in five years is about, according to the recent figures revealed, the running cost of our entire hospital. Something drastic is coming. Sentinel hopes all politicians can cast aside party allegiances and roll their sleeves up for a battle if the worst is put forward for the Pilgrim. Yes is isn’t perfect (what is?) but some great people do some great things there. We’d all be worse off with a reduced hospital and, frankly, the figures show more and more people do use it so surely it’d be barmy to be thinking of anything other than expansion? Sentinel hopes to eat these words and be found to have been wrongly ‘thinking the worst’ in the coming months. But you still can’t help feeling the storm clouds are gathering...

*Overheard conversations can be great fun can’t they? Sentinel heard a smart besuited chap walking past our office the other day proclaim loudly to whoever had the pleasure of chatting to him on his phone: “I shan’t be long, I’m in Lincoln now.” Hmm, good luck with that...