Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cameron attempts to dump more baggage...

Tory spin-doctors have briefed the Sunday papers that David Cameron will use his first Conference speech as Conservative Leader on Sunday to urge the party to "stick to the political centre ground".

That's more than a tad ironic - as it was Cameron who wrote the most right-wing ever Tory manifesto at the last General Election.

And his attempt to place the Tories in the middle of the road will clash with big-hitters like John Redwood who is expected to call for big tax cuts in a new pamphlet for the "No Turning Back" Group.

The other irony is that John Redwood heads Cameron's policy commission on economic competitiveness!

Dave-all-style-no-substance-Cameron waits to see which way the wind blows

Following the Daily Telegraph poll this morning showing that the the Tories are sliding as people don't know what David-all-style-no-substance-Cameron stands for - it's worth reflecting on Home Secretary John Reid's Conference words on leadership:

This is a time for standing up for what we believe. All of us, irrespective of Party affiliation.

I want to see the widest, deepest, national alliance.

That's why I am genuinely saddened by the response of the opposition. I understand that David Cameron has not been in post long. The public may understand that he doesn't want to rush to judgement on every decision.

But he has to be capable of making some decisions.

That is what leadership is all about.

There are some issues so serious, so rooted in the very fibre of our national values, that we need to make the hard choices now.

David Cameron may find that those who wait too long to see which way the wind is blowing, get blown away by the gale.

And so the Tories end up talking tough, voting soft and hoping no one will notice.
But the public has noticed what they have opposed:- Tougher sentences for
murder, sexual offences, violent offences, dangerous driving, immigration,

They voted against or abstained on all of them. Why? It's all too difficult.
Too controversial.

Actually it's because they are too lacking in leadership.

Dennis Skinner: a true servant of the Labour Party

On arriving at Manchester last week, I was saddened to hear news that Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner was in hospital and likely to be there for at least a week.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see Dennis in the Conference hall on Wednesday for President Bill Clinton's speech.

Like most in the Labour Party, I have huge respect for Dennis Skinner. He has much to teach some of his Parliamentary colleagues about loyalty.

Meeting Dennis on Wednesday reminded me of the words of Tony Blair the day before.

The Prime Minister listed a number of Ministers who had served his Government well, but who he had asked to step aside. He made the point that they had not then discovered their principles.

We all knew exactly what he meant.

A few months ago, I was working on the Blaenau Gwent by-election, and Denis was again in hospital. But a couple of days after his release, he made the long journey from London up to the Welsh Valleys determined to do his bit in the campaign. For Labour.

Shoppers in Ebbw Vale market loved the former miner turned politician who always tells it like it is.

Looking at the photo taken by a colleague, I notice we both have the same colour hair!
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Daily Telegraph on David-all-style-no-substance-Cameron

The Conservatives start their Conference in Bournemouth reeling from news in today's Daily Telegraph that their seven point lead in the polls last month has been totally eroded - because voters don't know what their new Leader David Cameron actually stands for.

Well, that's not surprising. Mr Cameron is the Leader who was special advisor to then Chancellor Norman Lamont during "Black Wednesday" when the Tories hiked interest rates by five per cent in a single day.

And Cameron also wrote the Tories General Election manifesto last year which was rejected by the British public as the most right wing ever Tory platform.

Like his four predessessors who have attempted to take on Tony Blair, the former public relations man has had a honeymoon period which he has used to promote endless stunts to try to convince us he's changed. And even more difficult that the Tories have changed.

But voters are not daft. In his Conference speech this week Tony Blair had some good advice on David Chameleon Cameron:

David Cameron's Tories? My advice: get after them.

His foreign policy. Pander to anti-Americanism by stepping back from America . Pander to the Eurosceptics through isolation in Europe. Sacrificing British influence for Party expediency is not a policy worthy of a Prime Minister.

His immigration policy. Says he'll sort out illegal immigration, but opposes Identity Cards, the one thing essential to do it.

His energy policy. Nuclear power "only as a last resort". It's not a multiple choice quiz question, Mr Cameron. We need to decide now otherwise in 10 years time we will be importing expensive fossil fuels and Britain's economy will suffer.

He wants tax cuts and more spending, with the same money.

He wants a Bill of Rights for Britain drafted by a Committee of Lawyers. Have you ever tried drafting anything with a Committee of Lawyers?

And his policy for the old lady terrorised by the young thug is that she should put her arm round him and give him a nice, big hug.

Built to last? They haven't even laid the foundation stone. If we can't take this lot apart in the next few years we shouldn't be in the business of politics at all.

Garth School Saved - but no way to run a council

Congratulations to the Garth School Action Group on winning their campaign to save the Spalding Special School from closure.

But from start to finish, over the summer and into the autumn, this sorry episode has been appallingly handled by Lincolnshire County Council.

We had:

* The farce of an official confirming the school was under threat of closure, then Ececutive Member for Childrens Services Trisha Bradwell denying the school was under threat and wrongly blaming the Spalding Guardian for "whipping up a headline to frighten the parents".

* The chaos of Trisha Bradwell agreeing to meet the parents to tell them what was going on but then refusing to meet them at the last minute.

* Now we have more unneccesary grief caused by the way Trisha Bradwell chose to announce what should have been good news.

On Monday of this week, without any apparent consultation, she arrogantly put out a press release announcing that Garth would federate with another school in Spalding.

According to the Garth Action Group's site Trisha had not even had the courtesy to inform the Garth School Governors.

They were apparently blissfully unaware until they were contacted by the media.

It's no way to run a council and no way to restore public confidence following the damage of the Speechley-Croft era.

President Clinton eats Fox for Breakfast

While in Manchester last week, I caught a few seconds of an amazing newsclip of President Bill Clinton appearing to eat a Fox TV news reporter for breakfast.

I didn't have time to check it out at the time. But now back home, I have found this link to the interview on Fox TV which I think is an astonishing piece of television.

Fox is known for its right-wing agenda and for its savaging of Democrat politicians and anyone else with mainstream views.

But Bill Clinton is smart and had clearly done his research better than the jackass interviewer trying to make a name for himself.

I just love Clinton's body-language throughout which helps put him in control of the situation.

Apparently, this all happened last week in the US, before he came to Manchester to address Labour's Conference.

UPDATE: Sorry, I put wrong link on earlier - now updated with correct link...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Normal Service resumes tomorrow...

Just arrived home from Labour's Conference in Manchester. Totally cream-crackered. Hoped to find time to blog from the G-Mex, but never quite managed to find time.

More on the Conference after catching up on a few zzzzeds...

I'd hoped to make it home in time to get to Garth Special School in Spalding where Councillor Trisha Bradwell was finally due to meet parents following the controversial threat to close it down and transfer children to Willoughby School in Bourne.

The trains ran on time, but unfortunately the Vauxhall garage in Peterborough let me down.

I dropped the car in at Marhsall's on Boongate over a week ago for a service and to sort out a rattly exhaust and took the train to Manchester.

When I rang them today to arrange to pick it up, they told me my car is waiting for a part.

What part, I ask.

A catalytic converter, I'm told.

But aren't Marshalls the major Vauxhall dealer in the East of England...? Don't you carry a standard replacement part for a bog standard current model in your range...I ask.

Maybe, I'm told. But maybe we'd run out of them on the day we looked at your car, I'm told.

Don't worry, I'm told. It's on order.

When will it be here?

Hopefully a couple of days.

Courtesy car in the meantime?

Not a chance.

Thanks Marshalls.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Guardian prints the truth about what Trisha said on Garth fiasco

I was pleased to see that this week's THE Spalding Guardian ran the story about Councillor Patricia Bradwell blaming them for "whipping up a story to frighten the parents" of Garth School pupils whose school might be closing.

After the meeting a fortnight ago when she made her attack, I reported on her comments. But the Guardian wanted to verify them first - and eventually they managed to do just that.

I suspect that like me they could hardly believe the astonishing unjustified attack on a community paper who was simply doing its job and acting responsibly.

True to form, Councillor Mrs Bradwell refused to explain her comments to the Spalding Guardian.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Reuters on Osama bin Laden death reports

Reuters news agency are running the full report from a French paper today that says usually reliable Saudi sources are convinced that the world's most wanted man Osama bin Laden died from typhoid in Pakistan last month. Nothing yet on Press Association.

Osama bin Laden dead - French reports

A French paper is reporting that Osama bin Laden is dead

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

War on terror: strong words from Bishop of Lincoln

In his address to a national memorial service today, the Bishop of Lincoln spoke of
a random choice of people bonded by the loathsome lottery which is international terrorism
The Right Rev Dr John Saxbee said the war on terror would be won through the battle for hearts and minds.

The service at Southwark Cathedral in London, was to remember the 13 British victims of the Sharm-el-Sheik, Kusadasi and Doha bombings.

Bishop Saxbee was asked to give the sermon to reflect the number of Lincolnshire people who died in the terror attacks.

Tory Trish attacks another newspaper - this time on Jamie's school dinners

Following her astonishing attack on the Spalding Guardian HERE and HERE who she unfairly accused of 'whipping up a headline to frighten parents', Trisha Bradwell has turned her guns on the county's evening paper.

A couple of nights ago the Lincolnshire Echo accused Trisha of flip-flopping. They reported that after seeing a special private preview of Jamie Oliver's Return to School Dinners documentary in London, the Executive Member for Childrens Services returned to Lincolnshire and praised the programme.

Eleven days later, just before the programme was broadcast, she accused Jamie of not telling the truth and painting a false picture of Lincolnshire HERE and HERE

But today, Trisha hits back, denying she ever made a u-turn HERE...and praising Jamie after all.

Flip-flop or not, a generation after Margaret Thatcher led the wholesale destruction of school kitchens across Lincolnshire, it's encouraging that there's a new and wider concensus on the need to improve the nutrition of our children.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Getting the picture about Ming

The LibDems made efforts yesterday to dump the aloof wooden image of Ming Campbell and portray him as a dynamic Leader. But a friend at the the Brighton Conference tells me that as he spoke, a series of giant "Ming the Man" photographs were flashed up on the screens behind him.

Unfortunately, almost every photo was a black and white shot.

Reminiscent, perhaps, of the all-grey images that did for John Major.

Helmer defends seal culling: the missing paragraph

Thanks to my contact for providing the full text of the letter Roger Helmer wrote to a teenage girl to defend seal culling, I can fully answer some of the questions raised HERE and HERE by a number of right-wing bloggers.

When the Lincolnshire Echo ran the letter, they missed off Mr Helmer's final paragraph which reads:
Your sympathy for dumb animals does you credit, but my advice would be that you save your concerns for people rather than animals.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think Mr Helmer might have chosen his words more carefully, particularly when writing to a teenage girl who wants to train as a vet!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Jamie Oliver reveals why our schools can't cook hot dinners...

Just watched Jamie Oliver's "Return to School Dinners" and now see why Tory Trish is in a flip. Trish would have hated hearing Jamie blame Maggie Thatcher for getting rid of most school kitchens in Lincolnshire schools. But he was spot on the dinner money.

One of Thatcher's first acts was to remove the obligation on local education authorities to provide school meals.

For Lincolnshire Tories, it was manna from heaven. While many inner city schools carried on providing hot dinners, kitchens in Lincolnshire schools were closed down wholesale and hot dinners scrapped.

Here in the Deepings for example, the new Linchfield Primary School was just being completed - it was built with a fully fitted kitchen which was then state of the art.

But as a result of Thatcher's Education Act of 1980, not a single meal was ever cooked at the Linchfield kitchen.

Today, nine out of ten primary schools across Lincolnshire have no facility to provide a hot school meal.

Everyone recalls that Maggie was "Margaret Thatcher: School Milk Snatcher" when she ended free school milk as Education Secretary in the early 1970s.

But few realise that particularly across the Tory shire counties, she had an even more devastating impact.

11 days after praising Jamie's school dinners documentary, Tory Trisha flips

Emerging from a private screening of Jamie Oliver's Return to School Dinners TV programme - which is due for broadcast tonight - Lincolnshire County Council Executive Member Trisha Bradwell said she "enjoyed the programme" and described it as "very watchable".

She even went on BBC Radio Lincolnshire and described the documentary as "a fair portrayal".

But that was 11 days ago. Today, Trisha has flip-flopped.

Hours before the programme is broadcast - tonight on C4 - she claimed it gives a false impression of school meals in Lincolnshire and accused Jamie of not telling the truth.

Today, she told the Lincolnshire Echo: "We take issue with Jamie Oliver's assertion in the programme that there is 'no' hot school meals provision in Lincolnshire."

Trisha seems to be making a habit of flip-flopping lately.

Look at her record on the Garth School HERE AND HERE

Teenager killed in crash was local lad.

The teenage moped rider who died last night on Broadgate Lane had just popped to the shop to get some food for his father who had just been released from hospital, according to the peterborough evening telegraph

Brendan Jepson was killed and police arrested a 63-year-old local man at the scene.

Brendan's dad Melvin who lives in Broadgate Lane, said his son rode his moped the few yards to Sam's store on Rycroft Avenue to buy a packet of cereal.

Brendan is the youngest of three brothers. One of his brothers was in Sam's when he heard the accident and ran to stay with Brendan until the ambulance arrived.

Police were today appealing for witnesses to the collision to come forward.

Driver arrested after DSJ roads tragedy

The Free Press called me this morning about an accident in the village yesterday and I started telling them about the "hole in the wall" incident which I posted with a photo HERE.

Tragically, a young man lost his life in another accident, round the corner on Broadgate Lane, a few hours after the first.

This is an extract from information Lincolnshire Police have released about the fatal accident:

Incident 480 of 17th September 2006 -Fatal Road Collision:

This incident took place at about 2015hrs on Sunday 17th September 2006 on Broadgate Lane,Deeping St James.

A silver moped was in collision with a blue VW Passat. The
moped rider was a 17-year-old youth from the Bourne area, he was taken to
Peterborough and District hospital but was certified as deceased soon after

The driver of the car left the scene but returned later, he is a
63-year-old local man. He was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. He was
later released on police bail and will return to the police station at a
later date when police enquiries and forensic test have been carried out.

The investigating officer is Constable Candy Louth she is appealing for
witnesses to the collision or anyone who saw either vehicle on the road in
the minutes prior to the incident to contact her on the collision witness
hotline 01522 558855.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bumpy landing in DSJ for this hot air balloon...

This hot air balloon caused a stir when it flew low over the Deepings this evening.

As it passed over my garden at rooftop level and headed for Priory Church, it appeared on course to collide with the steeple or at least the church yard trees.

I don't know enough about these things to say whether it was more by luck than judgement that it thankfully managed to clear the hazards of Deeping St James.

As it headed out into open country, it certainly would not have cleared the traffic as it crossed Custom Road had the cars not come to a standstill to watch the spectacle.

The basket eventually bumped across the field to the north of Custom Road before coming to a halt.

With the balloon incident and the narrow escape for the monument earlier (see previous post) Deeping St James has had quite enough excitement for one day!

Deepings Hole in the Wall Gang strike historic monument

The ancient Deeping St James monument narrowly missed serious damage early today when an out of control car smashed into the bollards protecting it.

The 15th Century monument in the centre of our village served as an overnight lock-up for prisoners for much of the 19th and early 20th Century. It was restored by the parish council seven years ago when the not unattractive protective bollards were installed.

The tyremarks left on the road at 5am today show that the car came from Eastgate... hit one of the bollards...careered across the mouth of the junction with Broadgate Lane...mounted the pavement on Church Street...and eventually came to rest embedded in the wall at the home of local artist and recently retired parish councillor Derek Abel. Fortunately, no-one was hurt.

Photo shows local builder Stuart McCabe with Mrs Abel and Derek making the damage safe this evening, before repair work can be undertaken.

Black Wednesday, David Cameron and why I became a joiner...

Thanks to Impossible Promises for reminding me why I joined the Labour Party. Yesterday was the anniversary of Black Wednesday, the day current Tory Leader David Cameron made perhaps his earliest appearance on national television.

September 16th 1992 was the defining moment in eighteen years of economic failure.

As hapless Chancellor Norman Lamont emerged into the media spotlight of Downing Street to raise interest rates for the third time on the same day, he was flanked by his Special Advisor in the Treasury: one David Cameron (before he became a PR consultant).

I wonder what special advice Mr Cameron gave his boss on what was to become known as Black Wednesday. Was Cameron responsible for Lamont's infamous soundbite of the day...remember the one:
“It’s been a difficult day…”
Well, what else can you say when you’ve mucked it up so badly that you have to hike interest rates by a record five per cent in just a few hours.

Like millions of ordinary hard working folk, I’ll never forget that awful day.

I was self-employed, re-mortgaged up to the hilt, raising a family and struggling to keep my head above water with interest rates already in double figures. After the Black Wednesday bombshell, work dried up as the nation tightened and retightened its belt. At the same time, my mortgage payments went through the roof to a crippling 18-per-cent for months.

Negative equity, unmanageable debt and a feeling of total helplessness followed. It took many years to recover.

I’d long known that the Tories were not fit to goven but it took Black Wednesday and its aftermath to shake me off my backside to do something to kick them out.

The one thing I could do was to join the Labour Party, and better still go and work for the Party.

These days, almost ten years into the Blair Government, it makes me laugh when I see so-called serious news programmes devoting whole packages to doom and gloom scenarios suggesting that Britain is about to slump into economic meltdown because interest rates have gone up by a quarter of one per cent.

But people do have extremely short memories – and many of those who have a vote for the first time at the next General Election were not even born on Black Wednesday when the Tories put up interest rates by five per cent in one day.

Some of us will never forget that it was the incompetent Tories who gave us boom and bust, two economic recessions, rocketing inflation, interest rates out of control, four million on the dole, whole communities thrown on the scrapheap...

And Black Wednesday.

Today, people take our economic stability for granted, along with low inflation and interest rates, a national minimum wage and more people in work than ever before.

But none of these things which the Tories failed to deliver in 18 years happened by accident.

They happened because of decisions taken by a Labour Government working in the long term interests of Britain.

For me, Black Wednesday is why the Tories - whether led by John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard, David Cameron, or anyone else - can never again be trusted to run our country’s finances.

More on Black Wednesday at the BBC

After Prescott Punch, the Cherie Cuff that never was...

Middle England wakes up this morning to The Mail on Sunday banner headline Police Probe Cherie 'Attack' on Teenager.

The story alleges that the Prime Minister's wife was involved in an incident in Scotland last week when a teenager was playfully "cuffed" while posing with her for a photo.

But in a BBC follow-up, a police spokesman said no incident took place.

Of the two accounts, I believe the BBC's.

And mindful of the laws on defamation, I won't be providing a link to the Mail on Sunday.

Ming gaffes it as media look for Charlie's Comeback...

Ming Campbell did his best to look statesmanlike as he arrived at his first LibDem Conference as Leader of his Party.

But he gaffed it with a daft soundbite that under him the LibDems are moving from a Party of Opposition towards being a Party of Government.

It was laughably reminiscent of the "Go Home and Prepare for Government" variety that did no favours for one of his predessessors.

The agenda for the LibDem week looks likely to be dominated by a damaging row over how much they would raise tax.

But the media will want to focus on two questions:

1. Has Charlie Kennedy recovered from his drink problem?
2. Who will make the best Leader's speech - present Leader Ming, or deposed Leader Kennedy who wants his old job back.

Shock, Horror: Cabinet Minister supports Government

As this autumn's Conference Season gets underway this weekend, the BBC has taken a look at the attitude of blogging by the three main Parties HERE.

I don't supposeDavid Miliband could have expected any credit as the first blogging Cabinet Minister.

Instead there's this snearing paragraph:
Environment secretary David Miliband's blog has come in for criticism over its relentlessly on-message style.
In other words, a Cabinet Minister who supports the Government of which he is a part.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Top of the Blogs

Congrats to Kerron Cross, Bob Piper, Labour Home, Harry's Place, Antonia Bance and Jo Salmon, Tom Watson, Dave's Part, Mars Hill and Jon Worth in taking top ten spots - in that order - on Iain Dale's list of Top 100 Labour Blogs.
Just in from a Friday night pint or three...It's late, can't be arsed doing links, you know where you are. But promise to update my blogroll pronto...

Can't see anything remotely Lincolnshire in the Top 100.

This new blogger chuffed to make Iain Dale's list

Chuffed to be included in Iain Dale's top 100 which he has just published this morning.

I only dipped my toe in the world of blog relatively recently, so was delighted to be number 73 in Iain's first ever list of the top 100 Labour bloggers.

Iain is a would-be Conservative MP who was one of the first to recognise the potential of this new form of communicating with people. He works hard to promote blogging on the mainstream media and I thank him for including me in his listings.

As Iain says, his list, prepared for his book on blogging, is subjective, though based on ten criteria he has set.

Good to see I've scraped in above Government Minister David Miliband. But then, he has bigger fish to fry!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ann Widdecombe explains the goat...and announces her retirement

I was relieved to see Ann Widdecombe finally explaining that photo of herself and the goat (Ann's the one on the right) which I posted on HERE last month and which has appeared on a number of weblogs since.

I was on a slow train to London and picked up a copy of the free Metro paper to pass the time. There was Widdy as subject of the Metro 60 second interview.

Straight-talking Ann answered questions on how to stop British-born Muslims becoming terrorists, how she would have reacted to the recent airport security scare if she were still Home Secretary...and that goat.

There’s a picture of you adopting goats on your website. What’s that about?
A goat sanctuary has opened in my constituency. They’ve got about 60 goats who have been abandoned. I thought it was a jolly good initiative and adopted a couple of goats; I send the odd cheque to support them.

Jolly Good Ann.

The next question was does she plan to retire.

Ann replied that if the current Parliament is a normal length, it's "quite likely" that she'll go at the end of it and concentrate on her writing.

She added:
There comes a time when doing shows such as more enjoyable than Question Time.

Parliament without larger than life Ann Widdecombe and Clare Short just won't be the same...

Scunthorpe to be wiped out...says Al Gore

Former American Vice-President Al Gore has warned that the North Lincs town of Scunthorpe could be wiped off the map.

No, it’s not George Dubya Bush looking for his next mission...

Al Gore who was Clinton’s number two – and who failed to beat Bush to the White House – says that global warming means Scunthorpe is at serious risk of future flooding and at best becoming a coastal resort.

The double splash – no pun intended – in last night’s Scunny Evening Telegraph – HERE and HERE featured a huge photo of Al Gore pointing out to readers the dangers of global warming to their town.

I don’t recall seeing any publicity suggesting that the former VP was coming to Lincolnshire.

In fact he hasn’t been anywhere near out county. But let's not have facts ruining a good may not realise that Big Al's not actually in town even if you read the Telegraph’s small print carefully.

The peg for the story was a chat that the town’s Labour MP – former Environment Minister Elliot Morley - had with Mr Gore. In fairness, a series of chats.

Some of course may think that the world could manage fine without Scunthorpe. Some may think it would be an improvement!

But then I saw on the news-stands the headline on today’s environmentally-minded Independent newspaper – apparently it’s not just Scunthorpe in trouble, it’s the whole world.

Better get started on the ark...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lincs Tory MEP defends shadowy cash club

While one Conservative East Midlands MEP was patching up his differences - HERE, HERE and HERE - with his Party this week, the other one has been defending a shadowy Lincolnshire organisation which funds Conservative election campaigns.

MEP Chris Heaton-Harris who lives in Lincoln, was quoted in the Lincolnshire Echo defending the Midlands Industrial Council. I didn't see the story on the Echo websie, so I'm grateful to my contact for sending me a copy.

The Echo article reveals that the Labour Party is stepping up the pressure to lift the secrecy surrounding the Midlands Industrial Council - hence the interview with the secretary of the organisation in today's Daily Telegraph which I posted on earlier today.

The unincorporated association is registered as a private club to a private address in Bassingham, near Lincoln and its membership remains a closely guarded secret.

Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears has written to every Conservative MP whose constituency had received funding from the Midlands Industrial Council to "demand that they reveal the true identity of their secret backers".

She said: "Since the bankrollers of MIC refuse to come clean, it is time the Tories did."

BBC in Lincolnshire moves up-market

Got an interesting tattoo? Well, BBC Look North wants to see it. Presenter Peter Levy has just fronted a feature highlighting Hull as the tattoo capital of the North.

Now why doesn't that surprise me?

Peter ended his piece with an appeal for viewers across Humberside and Lincolnshire to send in photos of their most interesting tattoo.

Good to see that the BBC moving up-market.

How a Lincolnshire village keeps the Tories afloat

More intrigue on the mystery millions that come from a Lincolnshire village to support the Conservative Party.

Today's Daily Telegraph - no less - carries an expose on the Midlands Industrial Council, a secretive cash cow for David Cameron's Tories run from a house in the rural village of Bassingham near Lincoln.

And it confirms that one of its most prominent members was put forward for a peerage by the Conservative Party - but his nomination was blocked - along with a group of Labour names - by the Lords Appointment Commission.

The newspaper has an interview with the secretary of the organisation which the Telegraph concludes "may leave the MIC open to the charge that it is largely a clearing houise for donations to the Tory Party, and possibly open to challenge under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

Time to come clean Mr Cameron.

New Tory logo a great wheeze

Tory blogger Iain Dale is a great prankster. His latest wheeze this morning suggesting that this ink-smudge is the new Conservative logo has kicked off an apparently serious debate on his weblog. Clearly many of those commenting think it's for real...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Helmer rude to schoolgirl? Here's full text: judge for yourself

Comments on my post Helmer tells schoolgirl: culled seals are not "innocent" suggest I may have been unfair in calling Lincolnshire MEP Roger Helmer rude.

Tonight's Lincolnshire Echo carries an interview with the schoolgirl.

The schoolgirl claims Mr Helmer was offensive in his letter, patronising and belittling of her efforts to protect Canadian seals.

Mr Helmer claimed that clubbing seals to death is "humane". Of course, he is entitled to those views and to express them forcefully.

But I do think he was rude - and patronising - telling a schoolgirl that she should concentrate her efforts on caring for people rather than "dumb animals".

To add insult to injury, it turns out she wants to train as a vet!

The Echo carries the full textof the schoolgirl's letter as well as Helmer's reply.

Having read her polite letter and his full response, I still think the MEP was rude to a young constituent. At very least he could have picked his words a little more carefully.

Judge for yourself. I'd welcome your comments.

Helmer tells schoolgirl: culled seals are not "innocent"

Roger Helmer has told a Lincolnshire schoolgirl that clubbing seals over the head is "humane".

He also challenges her assertion that baby seals are "innocent" and told her that she should save her concerns for people not animals.

Yes, it's the same Roger Helmer, East Midlands Member of the European Parliament, who is today being welcomed back into the Conservative fold following "intense pressure" by David Cameron.

The Lincolnshire schoolgirl wrote to Mr Helmer to canvas his support to stop the culling of "innocent baby seals".

But in what she describes as a "rude" reply, Mr Helmer wrote back:

"I am not prepared to join the seal campaign, because while I agree that the culling of seals by beating them over the head is not very pleasing and aesthetic, I think it is probably fairly quick and humane...

"I challenge the use of your term "innocent baby seals", because

(A) Seals are not morally competent, and therefore cannot be innocent or guilty;

(B) I think it is mawkish, sentimental and unhelpful to adopt a "Bambi" attitude to animals, or to seek to anthropomorphise them - I wonder if you would have the same sentimental view of rats or tarantulas? - if not, why not?

(C) In one sense the seals are guilty (without any moral responsibility), for damaging fish stocks and the livelihoods of local fishermen.

"Your sympathy for dumb animals does you credit, but my advice would be that you save your concerns for people rather than animals."

The father of the schoolgirl believes that Mr Helmer's reply deserves a wider audience.

Happy to oblige...

Helmer's return shows Tories ain't changed under Cameron

Ths significance of David Cameron welcoming Roger Helmer back into the Tory fold today cannot be over-stated.

Helmer is on the far right of the Tory Party, committed to taking Britain out of the European Union and supported by people like Lord Tebbit.

His suspension from the Tory group over a year ago re-opened deep splits in the Tory Party over Europe.

When he became Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron only made one definite pledge - to take his party out of the EPP alliance at the European Union "immediately". Later he said he would do it within weeks - and then he did an embarassing u-turn - which Helmer described as a "betrayal".

Now, rather than show leadership by sticking to his guns, David Cameron has given in to the hard right, welcomed Helmer back and demonstrated that the Tories ain't changed one iota, despite his well-oiled PR machine.

The hard-right are still in the driving seat.

Roger Helmer

East Midlands MEP is about to have the Conservative whip restored after a massive campaign, according to the blogsite Conservative Home

more later...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Prime Minister's warning to TUC

The Prime Minister is on his feet right now addressing the TUC - and in his opening remarks he gave delegates a stark reminder of the dangers of going back to Labour's wilderness years.

Bob Crow marched his RMT delegation out of the Conference in protest that the Prime Minister was still in Number 10 fifteen months after winning his historic third General Election. So they didn't hear the Prime Minister say:

" may recall, some of you, the first time I made
a keynote speech at the Labour Conference in 1990, when I was Employment
Spokesman. I listed the policy agenda for a Labour Government.

I re-read it the other day. We've done most of it - the big headline items like the
minimum wage but also things like restoring union rights at GCHQ, things
small in themselves, but massively symbolic of a changed Government.

And now we have had three terms of Labour Government for the first time ever in
100 years of trying. And every year I've come to the TUC as Prime
Minister.But remember the 18 years before, when you never had sight nor
sound of a Prime Minister.

For 18 years, you were addressed by the Leader of
the Opposition. The problem with that title is that its true to what it says
on the tin: the leader opposes.The leader doesn't do anything, because he has no
power to do anything.

As we can see today, however difficult it is, however fraught our relations
from time to time, make no mistake: I want the TUC to carry on being
addressed by a Labour Prime Minister, never to go back to being addressed by the Leader of the Opposition.

The key to ensuring this doesn't lie in today's headlines, but in the
answers to tomorrow's challenges."

I wonder if the RMT will be marched back in at the end of the speech when Tony Blair has agreed to an open question session from the floor.

Oh dear, what can the matter be...

No, not two ladies stuck in the lavatory, only one. And she was just getting comfortable on the throne at Tesco's when what must have seemed like the whole world came crashing down on her.

I couldn't help seeing a funny side in the predicament of shopper Deanne Speed, as told in last night's Lincolnshire Echo HERE

Apparently, Deanne has won thousands of pounds in damages after the ceiling in a supermarket toilet fell on her head.

She had made for the customer toilets after she was caught short in a Lincoln store while buying a cake for her mother's 86th birthday.

In her own words, as reported in the Echo:

"I asked my mother to take the trolley to the till while I went to the loo and as I was sitting down, with my trousers and knickers round my knees, the whole roof came in on me.

"It just fell and fell and fell. It was a suspended ceiling and tiles, clouds of dust and metal bars from the frame came down..."

Eventually, with a gashed leg and covered from head to toe in brickdust and debris, she managed to stagger out of the toilet into the supermarket causing her elderly mother to almost faint when she saw her...

Deane continues:

"I'm claustrophobic anyway and I always leave the toilet door open a bit, even in public loos."

The Echo's final quote from the hapless victim is a classic:

"I still shop at Tesco but only when I'm desperate."

I think we know what she means...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tory tells me: Get Your Tanks off my Lawn....

Half-an-hour after Councillor Patricia Bradwell told Lincolnshire County Council: "There is no intention to close Garth School" - in response to my question - another Tory rose to his feet...

Howard Johnson said he had wanted to ask about the future of Garth School. He appeared miffed that I had already done that.

He pointed out that he lives only a few yards from the school gates - and that I live some ten miles away, suggesting that he was better qualified than me to ask questions about Garth School!

So instead, the late Councillor Johnson decided to try to score a political point by asking me a question instead - wasting time alloted for questions to Executive members of Lincolnshire County Council.

Not for the first time the Chairman of the Council appeared to make no effort to stop a member of his own Tory group riding roughshod over the rules.

Councillor Johnson ploughed on: "What does Councillor Dilks think of the prospects of the next Prime Minister of this country being Gordon Brown...?"

Yaa Boo, Yaa Boo...

Now, I'm always happy to take the Tories on. But surprise, surprise, the Chairman of the Council - Stamford councillor Colin Helstrip - did not invite me to reply: despite allowing his colleague to ask the question!

Just getting called to ask a question at full council is a rare event since the Tories abolished the right of backbenchers to table written questions and expect a written reply.

I'm astonished that Councillor Johnson blew a rare opportunity to raise a local issue of real concern to the people of Spalding he is elected to represent.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Garth School: Tories wrongly shift blame to local paper

Tory councillor Trisha Bradwell - who claimed parents at a school threatened with closure had let her down HERE and HERE - has now made an astonishing attack on a local paper.

Trisha, Exec Member for Children’s Services at Lincolnshire County Council, has accused the Spalding Guardian of “whipping up a story to frighten the parents” of Garth Special School.

Sometimes, the media gets it wrong and when that happens, we should expect them to put things right.

But in this case, I’m totally satisfied that Councillor Mrs Bradwell has made a disgraceful and unjustified attack on a community newspaper which has acted entirely honourably throughout this sorry episode.

It is Councillor Mrs Bradwell who is letting the parents down, not the other way round. She should have the decency to apologise without delay and withdraw her comments which were officially recorded and made at a public meeting of the Council. Her behaviour does nothing to rebuild confidence in Lincolnshire County Council following the Speechley/Croft affair.

When the parents went to the Spalding Guardian, their reporter Kate Barney quite properly spoke to a senior officer at the Council who confirmed that “informal talks” had begun to transfer the pupils at Garth School to The Willoughby in Bourne.

It was totally reasonable of Kate and the Guardian to conclude that closure was one of the options being considered.

Councillor Mrs Bradwell made her latest attack when I formally raised the issue with her at yesterday’s full Council meeting.

This was my question to her:

“Over the summer, parents at the Garth Special School in Spalding have launched a ‘Save our School’ campaign following confirmation that Lincolnshire County Council is looking at transferring pupils to a school in Bourne over 10 miles away.

“Last month, the Spalding Guardian reported on its front page that Councillor Mrs Bradwell had agreed to attend a meeting with parents, but backed out saying that the parents had let her down.

“In the same article, the Guardian quoted Councillor Mrs Bradwell as saying “We’re holding a full open meeting with Governors and parents in September.

“We are now in the second week of September and the parents have not been informed of the date of this meeting. Has a date been fixed and when are you going to inform the parents?”

Councillor Mrs Bradwell replied:

“Thank you Councillor Dilks for highlighting this issue.

“We have been working with the Governors of Garth School for many months to help find a new head teacher.

“I did agree to meet with five parents because they felt they had not had all the information.

“But at the eleventh hour, they decided the press was going to be there, and I decided in those circumstances I was not prepared to meet them.

“We have never said we are going to close the school.

“This is the local paper whipping up a story to frighten the parents.”

Councillor Mrs Bradwell added that the school summer holidays had contributed to difficulties but that an open meeting had now been arranged for September 28th.

She concluded by saying:

“There is no intention to close Garth School…we need to recruit a new specialist Head Teacher.”

Today, following the Council meeting, I spoke with two of the organisers of Garth Action Group. It was the first they had heard that a date has been "arranged".

What a complete cock-up.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Always get Three Quotes...

Danny Finkelstein. Khalid Mahmood MP. Kirk from Corrie.

"The Labour Party seems to be pushing out the most successful leader in its history. Who is Tom Watson anyway? Who are these eight parliamentary aides who seem to be setting strategy for the future of the Labour Party...?"
Danny Finkelstein, Tory SpinDoctor, Newsnight, tonight.

"We need an end to this public nonsense that has been going on. We saw what happened to the Tories and we don't want it (for the Labour Party)."
Khalid Mahmood, one of the eight aides Finkelstein was talking about, hours after resigning. Newsnight, tonight.

"I'm bright enough to know I'm stupid."
Kirk, Coronation Street, Monday.

And the winner is...

Original Tory "A" lister Archer make his comeback

With his usual impeccable timing, jailbird "Lord" Jeffrey Archer appears to be attempting to make a comeback into public life.

Former Tory chairman Archer is speaking out on Radio Four's PM programme tonight in a campaign to change the laws to allow female succession to the Throne.

I expect Archer - captain of the original Tory "A" list - Archer, Aitken, Ashcroft et al - has lots of friends in the Royal family.

After all, he spent a long holiday at Her Majesty's pleasure here in Lincolnshire - when he was incarcerated at North Sea Camp prison.

Bet the Tories are rubbing their hands in glee to hear that Jeffrey's back on the media.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tony Benn earns his wings for spin

While heavyweight bloggers Bob Piper (in the left corner) and Jonathan Sheppard (in the right corner) slug it out after my post: Tony Benn, spin and some facts, perhaps I can lighten the mood a little with this offering…

Hopefully, it illustrates what I mean about Tony Benn being a past-master at the much-maligned art of spin.

A couple of years ago, I was listening to Tony Benn airing his views on radio about war and pacifism when the interviewer chipped in:

“…But Mr Benn, didn’t you train as a Royal Air Force pilot at the end of the Second World War?”

Quick as a flash, Tony replied:

“Yes, but I didn’t kill anyone.”

Pure class.

Widdy and the goat exposed again...

The photo I posted over a week ago of Widdy and the Goat gets another airing today on the Recess Monkey blog under the heading "MP caught in new sex shocker".

Of the two exposures, my bet is that Widdy would prefer mine.

Praps I'm going soft in my old age, but I'm sure it's a goat she's photographed with.

Shock Spike Strikes again...

Shock news (no pun intended) of the tragic death of much-loved croc-hunter Steve Irwin caused overload on Aussie webnews sites that sent many, er down-under.

Computer World reports that the problem was caused too many internet users logging on at the same time to check whether the sad news on Australian TV might be a hoax.

The story that he'd been pierced through the heart by a stingray was so unlikely - described by experts as a million to one shot (ed: stop it) - that millions turned to webnews for confirmation.

As a result, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and other sites quickly reached overload and were reduced to low broadband width (whatever that means).

Predictably perhaps, Computer World says it was a spike...

Er, didn't we know that already?

Hat-tip, appropriately to Wongablog

Monday, September 04, 2006

What happens when you tell porkies

Pleased to see that the world of blog is picking up on the truth of the Derby Defectors who never were.

Latest blogger to publicise the real story is Ridiculous Politics who thinks the LibDems deserve this accolade for their porkies.

I tend to agree.

Lincs Echo meets Bruno

It started as a bit of a Skegness silly season story (as I posted on Saturday and Sunday). But interest in Britain's best beach donkey seems to be growing from strength to strength.

Tonight, the Lincolnshire Echo catches up with Bruno on Skegness Beach after he named Britain's champion beach donkey. The Echo runs a full interview.

I should point out that the interview is not actually with Bruno, the real star who beat 980 of his fellow beach donkeys around the country to be named best in Britain, but with his spin-doctor Chris Epton.

Chris, whose grandfather started the family donkey business before the Second World War, reveals that Bruno has been giving children rides on Skegness Beach for, well, donkeys years (as brynley would say in my comments section).

Chris says Bruno is a lovely donkey who "you can have some real fun with".

"This reward is a real feather in our cap so we are very chuffed," Chris told the Echo. "People absolutely love donkeys...they have their own magic."

So let's hear it for Bruno...and for Skeggy of course!


Prime Minister Tony Blair has just been on Yorkshire Television's flagship news programme "Calendar" directly answering viewers questions for half an hour. But the opening question was from the programme's presenter anxious to get the scoop on Mr Blair's departure timetable:

Presenter: "Can we start Prime Minister by talking about your timetable for departure...can i just check that you'll be here with YTV until 6.30..."

The Prime Minister grinned broadly, and duly confirmed to the cheeky presenter that he was happy to answer questions for the next half hour.

So that's sorted then...!

Secret Tory donations probe - mystery million came from Lincolnshire village

Mystery donations to the Conservative Party of almost £1 million have been made by an organisation registered at a terraced house in a Lincolnshire village, according to yesterday's Observer.

The Observer reported:

David Cameron is under pressure to end the secrecy surrounding his financial backers after it emerged this weekend that he received a donation from a mysterious group of businessmen but never declared it to the House of Commons authorities.

Days after Cameron became Tory leader, his constituency association in Witney received a £5,500 cheque from a group called the Midlands Industrial Council (MIC).

In the past three years the MIC has made 50 donations to MPs and Conservative Central Office totalling more than £950,000, yet the Tories have not revealed who is behind the organisation.

Little information is available about the MIC, which is registered to a terraced house in a Lincolnshire village.

This year a former Labour MP, Peter Bradley, accused secretive 'front' organisations like the MIC of buying seats in the Commons by directing funds to marginal seats.

Labour party chairman Hazel Blears said: 'It is time David Cameron brought this shadowy organisation into the light.

'The more we learn about Tory funding, the more questions arise that Cameron must answer...Will he name its members, publish its accounts and show how much each individual has given to the Conservatives? Cameron must end the culture of secrecy that continues to surround Tory funding.'

Full Observer story HERE

Hat-tip to the Ridiculous Politics blog.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tony Benn, spin and some facts

Tony Benn was on radio again today, promoting himself as man of the people and anti-spin.

But the truth is, Tony Benn is a past-master of spin.

On 5Live this morning he was given a free rant and did his usual hatchet job on New Labour and Tony Blair.

Tony Benn had his chance a generation ago, and look what happened.

Despite the historic facts, he still wants us to believe that the alternative to a New Labour Government is a return to Old Labour.

It isn't now and it never will be.

Tony Benn conveniently forgets that it was on his watch that the Labour Party was almost destroyed, much of it self-inflicted, leading to 18 years in the wilderness.

And of course, Mr Benn forgets it was Labour Party members who overwhelmingly elected Tony Blair as Party Leader in 1994.

And he glosses over the fact that nine times as many Labour Party members voted to change Clause 4 than to retain it.

But the most damning fact he never mentions is that in the 1997 First Labour landslide, one of the few - if any - seats to have a swing against Labour was... er, Chesterfield, whose MP was one Tony Benn.

Nuff said.

Two Brunos. One weekend. Amazing.

I know it's silly season, but when I saw this post on the General Theory of Rubbish blog, I couldn't help thinking: what an amazing coincidence.

Have to say I found contemporary Skegness Bruno far more down to earth than the high brow historic figure.

My Bruno's also better looking!

Watch out Accy Stanley, here come Deeping Rangers

Deeping Rangers are on the giant-killing FA Cup glory trail...

OK, maybe that's over-egging it, but Deeping have achieved two wins in a row in the FA Cup for the first time ever.

Having already beaten Lincoln Moorlands away in an August best of nine goals thriller, our local heroes yesterday took on last season's FA Vase winners Nantwich Town.

They came home with a 2-1 win, with goals from Rangers captain Lee Ellison and debutant Matson (so it says on the Rangers website)

All of which means that Deeping Rangers have now earned a place in the Ist qualifying round proper. (so they've qualified to get into the qualifying rounds!)

Anyway, here's wishing Deeping Rangers best of luck for another FA Cup Victory at Rugby (Ed: Rugby? isn't that the other shaped balls?) on Saturday, 16th September.

As you can probably tell, I'm not a huge football fan. But I was honoured to be invited as a guest of Deeping Rangers at their Outgang Road ground for the opening match of last season.

Apparently, it was a game of two halves, with much end-to-end play!

Remember, when Deeping Rangers reach Wembley (if the new stadium is ever finished), you read it here first!

As the scouse lad on the milk advert says: "Accrington Stanley! Who are they?"

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Tackling waste in the NHS

£3.1 million: the sum the NHS in Lincolnshire is trying to cut from its annual budget after plunging into the red.

£4.1 million: the annual cost to the NHS in Lincolnshire of patients failing to show up for appointments.

Weeks ago, I requested some very basic information on the performance of the health service in Lincolnshire.

I'm sorry to report that I was passed from pillar to post by health officials and in the end, totally unimpressed, I gave up.

But the Lincolnshire Echo's front page on tough new measures to stop some of the waste tonight has inspired me to have another go.

Watch this space...

Skeggy's Bruno is a national KO

Remember this contender for best silly season story?

It was about the search for Britain's top beach donkey.

Today: the sequel. The BBC report that the hunt is over.

I can reveal that the finest beach donkey in the country is Bruno, who works the beach at Skegness.

I hope the BBC don't mind me sharing their picture of Bruno with you. Isn't he simply a knock-out?

The judge, donkey expert Maggie Taylor who came all the way from Sidmouth, described Bruno as "a most magnificent donkey".

Another reason we should have pride in our great county of Lincolnshire...

Derby Defectors: LibDems admit no checks on members

The Derby Evening Telegraph has revisted the "Derby Defectors" story.

This time they have presented Labour's evidence that demonstrates original LibDem claims of a mass defection were not true.

27 of the 41 names on the list of so-called defectors could not be traced or ratified as genuine in a verification process launched by the Labour Party.

The need for verification was sparked by a suspiciously high number of membership applications in the run-up to branch meetings to select Labour candidates for next year's Derby city council elections.

Tonight's Evening Telegraph carries a telling quote from the local LibDem agent. He rubbishes the idea of a political party verifying its members.

That's good news for the handful of genuine defectors who were rejected as candidates by local members of the Labour Party.

With no verification of members to worry about, it looks like getting selected by the LibDems will be a whole lot easier for the defectors than it was with Labour!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Derby defections that never were

posted an update on Derby Defections a couple of minutes ago which nails the lie of the LibDem stunt. For some reason my new post is listed on bloggers4labour as over an hour ago...this is usual - sometimes new posts are listed as having been posted many many hours previously...clock/time settings are compatible, but wondered if anyone else noticed this frustration, more to the point can anyone suggest how to fix it?

thank you.

Derby Defections: nailing the lie

A week ago tonight, our TV news was full of reports of a mass defection from the Labour Party to the LibDems in Margaret Beckett's Derby South constituency.

The story flavoured the weekend political programmes and was raised time and again by the hacks as evidence that rank and file members were abandoning the Labour Party in droves due to the Government's policy over the war in Lebanon.

At the time, I suggested that the story was not all it was cracked up to be by Derby LibDems who read out a list of names at a press conference last Friday afternoon.

From an early stage, it was clear to insiders that this was a media stunt that had nothing to do with Lebanon and everything to do with the selection of Labour Party candidates for Derby City council seats next May.

But the media weren't about to let the facts spoil a good story and lapped up pictures of Ming Campbell welcoming his new flock and running with the Lebanon angle.

It's taken a few days for the Labour Party to thoroughly comb the list of so-called defectors, but we now have a much clearer idea of the truth of the LibDem stunt.

Of the 41 names, six are genuine defectors: eight if you include the two former members who had allowed their membership to "lapse".

Two of the small band of actual defectors failed to be shortlisted as Labour Party candidates by members in Arboretum and Normanton in the days before the "mass defection" (needless to say not mentioned as part of the story).

But here's the dynamite which blows the story out of the water:

An astonishing 27 people on the list of so-called defectors were not Labour Party members, but had applied to join in the run-up to the selections for city council seats.

The Labour Party has a "freeze date" for membership well before selections, to stop potential candidates signing up bogus members immediately before the selection meetings to unfairly sway the vote.

But in the run-up to the January 1st "freeze date" in Derby, the Labour Party noticed an unusually large number of membership applications.

The Party suspected possible foul play and triggered immediate tougher than usual verification measures in the affected areas.

Every membership application had to be personally ratified to ensure that the applicant was a real person, living in the address stated, wished to be a member of the Party and had paid the membership fee themselves.

Since then, the Labour Party has been unable to verify 27 names - the very same 27 names which the LibDems now claim to have signed up.

This comes as no surprise.

It vindicates the action taken by the Labour Party.

The bottom line is there was no mass defection.

This story was a lie.