Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nth Lincs voters ask Tories: 'where's my 40 quid...?'

Four years ago, the Tories in North Lincolnshire made a solemn promise to local people: Elect us and we'll cut your council tax bills by £40.

They won the election, but guess what...?

The local Tories have reneged on the deal they made every year since - despite generous above-inflation grants from the Labour Government year-on-year!

Instead of the LOWER bills and REBATES they faithfully promised, the Tories
have demanded HIGHER and HIGHER council tax bills year after year.

What a con.

In a few weeks time, the good people of North Lincolnshire have a chance to elect a new council...

And people are asking the same question they've been asking the Tories ever since 2003...

Where's my £40?

They should be asking'where's my £160': As Scunthorpe MP Elliott Morley points out, if the Tories had kept their promise and cut bills by £40 four years ago, council tax payers should now be paying £160 less from that base year.

But as this year's council tax bills drop on doormats across Lincolnshire, residents would settle for a £40 cash rebate.

I wouldn't advise any of them to hold their breath...!

Monday, February 26, 2007

7.4 million Top Gear viewers silent on train stunt: 43 make the headlines...

A controversial train crash stunt broadcast last night as part of the Top Gear show was filmed last year here in Lincolnshire.

The BBC considered pulling the item following Friday's derailment of a high-speed Virgin train in Cumbria in which an elderly woman passenger died.

The film was a spoof health and safety item presented by Jeremy Clarkson who wore two safety helmets and warned drivers to always wear hi-vis jackets!

The stunt shows an unmanned 170-tonne locomotive slamming into a people carrier carelessly wasted by Clarkson.

The film was shot somewhere in Lincolnshire and its showing had already been postponed a few weeks ago after a fatal accident at a level crossing.

After taking the decision to go ahead last night, they briefed journalists and broadcast a warning at the top of the show - all no doubt good for the viewing figures.

The crash was naturally spectacular - and shown in actual speed, again in slow motion, and a third time in ultra-slow motion.

Critics say it was the wrong time to broadcast the stunt in view of the Cumbria fatality in which the hero driver and others are still in hospital.

Apparently, 43 viewers complained to the BBC.

Seven-point-four million others didn't.

My only complaint was not related to the Cumbria train crash, but the waste of a perfectly good people carrier.

Our already-battered and well-past-its-sell-by-date but t/rusty Mondeo would have done the job perfectly...

Two councils, two separate paths...

A footpath straddling a local authority border has been built in two halves by separate councils...on opposite sides of the road.

But council officer Alan Aistrup, explained to Yorkshire TV’s Calendar new that pedestrian safety has not been compromised.

So that’s OK then.

He was interviewed after it was discovered that North Lincolnshire Council and Lincolnshire County Council constructed their halves of a footpath at Brigg on opposite sides of a busy road.

Good job they weren’t building a tunnel or we’d end up with two!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tory hypocrisy on rail safety...

Since the botched rail privatisation was entirely the responsibility of the last Conservative Government, remarks on safety issues by a Tory frontbencher after this weekend's rail tragedy smack of breathtaking hypocrisy.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne brazenly told Sky News:
There is a mismatch between the management of the rail network, the track itself and the rail companies like Virgin.

One of the things the Conservative Party is looking at, and we are not directly relating this to this accident at all, I am making a broader observation.

We are looking at whether in the future there should be a much closer link between the people who own the track and the people who run the trains.
Does the man who wants to run our economy really think people are daft enough to have forgotten - or forgiven - the Tories for fragmenting our railways and deliberately separating the safety of the track from the train companies - against all expert advice?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More people in Lincs let train take strain...

The number of passengers on trains in Lincolnshire has jumped by seven per cent in the past year according to figures released by Central Trains.

Imagine the jump in numbers if the direct Lincoln-London service were restored...

Cameron Con on road charging…the killer quote

Using the slogan ‘Conservatives say NO to Road Tolls’, Cameron’s Scottish troops have launched their election campaign north of the border.

The campaign quotes Labour, LibDem and ScotNats leaders variously suggesting that road charging should be at least considered as an option to tackle gridlock on the roads.

Oddly, Cameron’s Tories don’t include the following quote from another party leader in their campaign:
We should also look at road charging. There isn't an endless pot of money - so I think new roads may need be to paid for by tolls or some form of road pricing.
So which party leader said these exact words to promote road charging?

Step forward, Er, David Cameron who was talking to his local paper the Oxford Mail just last month about road congestion.

But surely no-one in Scotland subscribes to the Oxford Mail. So no-one will know that the Tories say one thing to voters in Oxford and the opposite to voters in Scotland.

Tory hypocrisy or what…?

Friday, February 23, 2007

News of tonight's train crash travels fast...

Just over two hours ago, the 1715 Virgin Pendolino tilting train was making its way as normal from Euston to Glasgow. Sometime after 8.00pm it came off the rails and slid down an embankment in the Lake District with reports of many injured.

Already, thanks to mobile phones, there's this photo and eyewitness accounts of the crash on the web.

Isn't it astonishing how fast the world is moving...

Tories vote early and often to oust their MP...

Tory stalwart MP Sir Patrick Cormack who was effectively dumped a couple of weeks ago by his local Conservative executive, has won a reprieve.

He's just been on BBC Radio 4's PM programme to explain that an investigation into the vote showed that only members who at the meeting were entitled to vote, but there were more votes counted than people attending the meeting.

Sir Patrick, who would become "Father of the House" as the longest serving backbencher if re-elected at the next General Election, says there were 27 people at the Executive meeting which dumped him, but there were a total of 29 votes.

He lost by one vote. He also complains that some of his own supporters were not notified of the meeting which ousted him.

The vote has now been declared "null and void" by red-faced Tory officials and will have to be re-run.

Sir Patrick describes the situation as "distinctly odd".

Sounds more like a classic Tory stitch-up.

His local members who decided their 69-year-old MP was past his sell-by date, clearly misjudged his tenacity.

Swift rebuke for rude man of politics...

Lincs MP and former Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg earned a swift rebuke from Mr Speaker for calling the Prime Minister evil.

Speaker Michael Martin ordered the not-so-Right-Honourable Mr Hogg to withdraw the offensive term, which clearly fell well outside conventions of parliamentary language.

Yes, it's the same Mr Hogg who won his political spurs by making a total dog’s breakfast of the BSE crisis. He was of course Agriculture Minister in John Major's Government.

No wonder that political commentator Simon Hoggart describes Mr Hogg, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, as:

one of the rudest men in British politics, if not the entire world.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fanfare of rubbish to announce wheelie-bin rollout...

Long-promised wheelie-bins are finally on their way. Apparently. As I left for work this morning, three trucks were parked in our street with a posse of hi-vis jackets directing distribution of twin black and silver bins to each of my neighbours.

When I arrived home this evening, there'd been a double-delivery of two identical special information packs stuffed through my front door,

So that's one special information pack for each of the twin-bins.

Twin-packs. But no twin-bins. I've searched every corner of my driveway, garden and all round my house, but I can't find my new bins, not even one.

I can only assume they ran out when they reached 24 and that they'll be here tomorrow by separate delivery.

When the bins do arrive, I'll have plenty of rubbish to put in them.

For including the outer envelope, each of the special information packs contains ten - yes, ten - separate printed items as follows:

1. an eight-page colour-coded brochure titled Using your Black Bin.

2. a second eight-page colour-coded brochure titled Using your Silver Bin.

3. a third eight-page leaflet titled Slim your Bin, A practical guide to reducing your rubbish (same colours, but not to be confused with the second leaflet Using Your Silver Bin (see above).

4. An A4 sticker for me to attach to my silver bin listing items to place inside it.

5. An A4 sticker for me to attach to my black bin, with a more detailed also list of items that are also to be placed in the silver bin, not the black bin.

6. A gimmicky wheel thingy which tells me where recycling sites are in Ancaster, Allington and Asda's Grantham and a host of other places that seem rather a long way from the Deepings. (Maybe now I'm getting cynical...but there's more)

7. An A5 card with details of a competition if I reply before August using the prepaid presumably by me Freepost Plus address.

8. A sticky-backed A5 calendar titled Your collection dates that doesn't do what it says on the "tin": It doesn't actually tell me when my bins will be emptied!

9. A covering letter from Councillor Ray Auger, Executive Member for Waste Services at South Kesteven District Council in Grantham telling me how wonderful the new scheme is.

I well remember Ray telling me some years ago that a recycling collection system covering SKDC could never work!

Believe it or not, in his covering letter, Ray issues the following warning:

We will write to you shortly to let you know when your first collections are. Please do not use your bins until you have received that letter.
It appears Ray forgot to actually read the Guide to reducing your rubbish before actually ordering hundreds of thousands from the printers...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Grocer's daughter returns to House of Commons

Margaret Thatcher returns to the House of Commons tonight. And this time, it's for good!

The grocer's daughter from Grantham - otherwise known as 'The Iron Lady' has been turned to bronze in the form of a larger than life (over seven foot tall) statue.

It will permanently face the famous statue of Winston Churchill in the Members' Lobby.

Until the unveiling tonight by Speaker Mick Martin, Lady Thatcher has apparently been hidden away in a wooden box in the Palace of Westminster – that’s the statue, not the real thing!

She's the first living former PM to be honoured with a statue in the Commons and is expected to attend tonight's ceremony.

The bronze depicts Baroness Thatcher in mid-debate with notes in one hand, leaning forward to make a point with the forefinger of the other.

So what happened to the handbag?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cameron joins my campaign to end private schools scandal…?

Lincolnshire Tories who spend £2 million a year in taxpayers money to give a few children a private education will no doubt be appalled to know that David Cameron has joined my campaign to end the scandal.

Cameron just told a listener to BBC R4’s You and Yours:

I don’t want to see taxpayers money going to help people out of state schools…
His words come as the ink is barely dry on a new contract between Lincolnshire County Council and Stamford Endowed Schools to squeeze another decade out of the disgraceful scam which is only available to a few children who live in or very close to Stamford.

To add insult to injury, it is unfairly paid for by top-slicing the budget of every local authority secondary school in Lincolnshire.

Stamford's Tory MP Quentin Davies clearly doesn’t agree with Cameron. Quentin went completely OTT when he told the Stamford Mercury that ending the scheme would
threaten disaster for future generations of Stamford’s bright children.
Conservatives including current county council chairman Colin Helstrip, as well as Brian Sumner and even Tory Chief Whip Martin Trollope-Bellew have also publicly campaigned for the scholarship scheme to continue.

Nothing to do, I’m sure, with the fact that only children who live in their council wards are allowed to apply for a place on the scheme.

Here in the Deepings for example, we are charged through our council tax for a scheme to which we have no access: no Deepings child can apply, no matter how talented.

As I’ve said before, I don’t much care what Cameron smoked when he was a public school-boy at Eton. But I look forward to him visiting Lincolnshire to join my campaign to end the Tory school funds scandal.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Far right defeated in local elections...

I'm not one to celebrate when the woolly LibDems win a council seat, but I'll make an exception in the case of a by-election in Burnley last night.

The LibDems - who run the Council in coalition with the Tories - held off a strong challenge from the far-right BNP, pushing Labour into third place.

But Labour also gained a seat in a neighbouring Burnley ward last night: a by-election was called in Danesholme ward because a LibDem councillor currently serving eighteen months in prison for election fraud has been barred from holding public office.

It's worrying, however, to see a former BNP organiser standing under the banner of English First Party polling 141 votes, despite being sentenced to six months and banned from holding public office for five years in 2002.

The English First Party's 141 votes were four times more than Conservatives rather meagre 35.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Eye spies Kilroy-Silk on the Euro Gravy Train…

Before the last European elections, Robert Kilroy-Silk promised to destroy the Brussels Gravy Train. But the latest Private Eye suggests that since he's become East Midlands MEP, he's climbed aboard instead.

The article was clearly written before Kilroy Silk's bizarre attack on Marks & Spencer's. He accuses the store of using 'distorting' mirrors in women's changing rooms to make people look slimmer when trying on clothes.

Eye's words of wisdom on Kilroy-Silk are not yet online, but here’s an extract:

Robert Kilroy-Silk spent the first two-and-a-half-years of his European mandate cultivating an air of mystery about what exactly he was doing.

He sat on no committees, authored no reports, and last made a speech in plenary in October 2005.

The latest news on his website dates from 2004.

And all of this for an annual salary of £60,000 and expenses of up to £100,000.

Now, however, as the next European elections edge just that little bit closer, Kilroy-Silk has become a member of the Parliament’s education and culture committee.

The committee, which deals among other things with broadcasting regulation, will no doubt benefit greatly from the orange one’s chat show expertise!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mrs and Mrs Valentine tie the knot...

Most of the papers found a romantic story to celebrate Valentine's Day, but few could match the Peterborough Evening Telegraph's front page tale of two women who
chose today for their civil partnership - and to change their names to Valentine.

The ET notes that they will join some 16,000 same-sex couples who have tied the knot since civil partnerships were introduced in December 2005.

The pair, both in their early 40s, have seven daughters between them from previous marriages. They met while working in the recycling department at Hotpoint's factory in Woodston, Peterborough, trained as a team for the 2004 London Marathon and ran together for charity.

Civil partnerships have brought happiness to thousands so far. They have also marked a sea-change in attitudes by the Great British public and much-wider acceptance of diversity which has to be welcomed.

Equality legislation was a major legacy of the Labour Government's of the 1960s and 1970s. It's good to know that New Labour has built on the solid achievements laid down by good old Mr Wilson.

Let's stop all this travel nonsense by our MPs...

There’s been no shortage of hot air spouted about the MPs travel claims published today under Labour’s Freedom of Information Act.

Thanks to LibDem MP Norman Baker who requested the data, we know now that the MP who claims the most for air travel is, er…a LibDem.

That’s about as surprising as the fact that he is also the MP who represents the constituency furthest away from Westminster!

It's wonderful what you can find on the internet, and I've established that there are alternatives to flying to make the 1,500 mile Westminster-Shetland journey...

So, leaving Westminster after the week’s business in Parliament, Alistair Carmichael MP (that's him in the picture) could take a mid-morning Friday train from London. A couple of changes (that's trains not clothes) and 24 hours later, he'd be due to arrive in Thurso.

There is even a faster early morning service that would get Mr Carmichael to Thurso before ten o'clock the same evening.

Once he gets to Thurso, he's over half way home...He only then need to make the bus connection to the ferry, followed by a simple 200 miles overnight sea journey (providing it’s not cancelled by bad weather of course...)

I didn’t get as far as checking to see whether Mr Carmichael would have time for a swift cup of tea before starting his return journey to Westminster in time for the new week in Parliament (providing the ferry even runs on a Sunday!).

Of course, he could always drive. If he didn't stop for a break, he could probably do it in 24 hours each way, maybe, possibly.

I’m sure you get the picture…

Imagine the outrage if Mr Carmichael failed to make himself available to his constituents – or didn’t bother turning up at Westminster.

Yes, I’m sure with a tooth-comb we can all find what appear to be abuses of the system by a few of our MPs.

But I’m with Michael White, Political Editor of The Guardian on this one. He points out that they’ll probably be good reasons for most of the apparent anomalies.

He also says many of our MPs don’t claim a bean for travel.

My own view is that democracy costs money. Of course they should be accountable for spending our money. But if we want our elected representatives to do a decent job, for goodness sake let's them the tools to do it and stop moaning.

Fearless Kilroy-Silk exposes the huge M&S distortion-scandal-conspiracy-mystery...

What's Robert Kilroy-Silk done for the people of the East Midlands since he was elected to the European Parliament…?

Apart from apparently regularly collecting his handsome salary and even bigger expenses cheque, Kilroy-Silk is not known as one of the hardest-working MEPs.

But no doubt conscious of the criticism, fearless Kilroy-Silk has finally raised his game...he's actually asked a written question in the European Parliament.

So what's the big European issue that has sparked him into action...?

Kilroy-Silk thinks he has blown the lid on a huge distortion-scandal-conspiracy-mystery...

Er, here's his question…

Why are there no EU regulations to stop Marks & Spencer’s using mirrors in their changing rooms which make women look slimmer?
He asked if it was 'conceivable that within the millions of EU regulations covering virtually every aspect of life in the EU' there was not one that made it illegal for M&S to have mirrors that 'deliberately distort women's shapes'.

In her official reply, Meglena Kuneva, EU Commissioner for consumer protection advises Kilroy-Silk to take up the issue with the 'national authorities' in the UK.

Meanwhile, a mystified M&S spokesman says:
We use perfectly normal, standard mirrors. We are at a loss as to what he might be referring to.

Kilroy-Silk launched his attack after his wife tried on M&S clothes and was convinced the mirror was not reflecting her true image.

Does Kilroy-Silk justify the money we give him to be our MEP, or has he lost his marbles again…?

Two teenagers fall from school-bus

Police are investigating how two 13-year-old boys came to fall through a window of a school bus yesterday.

Emergency services were called to Priory Road in Spalding after the two boys fell through a rear side window of the single decker bus which was taking them home from Gleed Boy's School.

Fortunately, the bus was travelling slowly at the time and the youths landed on the footpath side of the road rather than in the path of oncoming traffic.

They were both treated for minor injuries at Boston Pilgrim Hospital, and allowed home later last night.

Sounds like they had a lucky escape...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lethal teenage weapon...

The South Lincs teenager whose dangerous driving killed his 16-year-old passenger drove the wrong way round a roundabout to overtake a friend - just minutes before the fatal crash, the Lincs Free Press reveals today.

Adam Edgoose passed his driving test just seven months before crashing his Ford Escort at Kirton, claiming the life of his back seat passenger Nathan Fletcher of Gosberton Clough.

After going round Sutterton roundabout the wrong way, Edgoose drove into Kirton where he attempted to overtake another vehicle on a bend. But his car clipped a verge and the car rolled into a ditch leaving him with a broken back and Nathan dead.

As the Judge said, sentencing Edgoose to three-and-a-half years prison, nothing can compensate for his actions which killed Nathan.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Tory logo...?

After the Sunday revelations about Cameron and Cannabis - and the Tory Leader's adamant refusal today to admit or deny that he was punished for smoking dope when he was an Eton school-boy, I had to chuckle at this suggested new logo for the Conservatives which appeared HERE at moneymad.org/

Let's hope Mr Blair gets the message...

The Tories in Croydon turned a local council by-election last week into a referendum on the Prime Minister.

In a ward called Bensham Manor (no less), the Tories campaigned with the catchy slogan: Send a message to Mr Blair!

The result announced Thursday night was a sizable 10% swing...to er, Labour. The sensible voters of Bensham Manor gave the Tories a well-deserved thrashing.

A message then for Mr Cameron..?

Teenager gets three years for death by dangerous driving...

A 19-year-old lad from South Lincolnshire has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for causing the death of his 16-year-old passenger.

He was found guilty of death by dangerous driving after a judge heard he
attempted to overtake a vehicle on a left-hand bend at Sutterton and lost control of his Ford Escort.

The car ended up in a ditch. The 19-year-old driver suffered a broken back. A 14-year-old girl also in the car suffered whiplash-type injuries and another passenger, a 17-year-old lad suffered head and spinal injuries.

But Nathan Fletcher who was trapped in the back of the car, behind the driver, later died in Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.

Both the driver and the dead boy were from Gosberton.

Nathan’s family agreed to allow his organs to be donated which benefited four other people - a 26 year old woman, a 33 year old man, an 11 year old girl and a 50 year old man.

Early morning death on local roads...

The driver of an artic which left the A151 road at Grimsthorpe, Bourne at 3am Sunday morning died at the scene.

He is believed to be a 47-year-old man from the West Midlands.

The A151 was closed for eight hours while wreckage was cleared.

He became the 8th person to die on Lincolnshire's roads in the past six weeks.

Lincs Police are appealing for anyone who saw the lorry before it left the road or saw the collision to call the witness hotline on 01522 558855.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Never mind the four inches, let's talk about the eight feet...

The pathetic reaction in our country to a sprinkling of snow earlier this week contrasts with reports of eight feet of snow dumped on upstate New York at the same time.

If that's not enough, up to four more feet of snow are predicted in some parts of the US over this weekend, along with 25 miles per hour winds.

The village of Parish - about 25 miles north-east of Syracuse, New York - reached a milestone with 100 inches of snow over the past seven days, according to the US Weather Service.

That's 25 times the four inches maximum which fell in a few parts of the UK earlier this week. Here, it melted almost instantly, but caused chaos and panic, including the over-reaction of shutting down of thousands of schools for two days.

In New York state, parked 4x4s are evident only by their antennas or roof racks visible above the snow's surface, front doors are totally buried, footprints in the snow lead to second-story windows; and six foot-thick slabs of snow slide off roofs, forming colossal arches as they stretch intact to the ground...

As you can see by the photo, that's a proper snow-fall.

Boots rises to demand for Viagra...

News that Boots are to sell Viagra on the High Street from next week reminds me of the bloke who asked his chemist for help…

After explaining his problem to the chemist, he was recommended Viagra. The chemist assured him that a few minutes after taking a tablet, he’d be up for any challenge.
“Sounds just what I need,” says the customer, asking: “Can I get it over the counter?”

“You’ll need two tablets for that,” says the chemist…

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Senior Tory urges Cameron to come clean on cannabis...

Tory Leader David Cameron smoked cannabis when he was an Eton schoolboy according to tomorrow's Mail on Sunday.

The Mail on Sunday reports that the school called in police after suspicions that a number of pupils had been involved with the drug.

Cameron, then 15, was confined to the school for two weeks after admitting smoking cannabis, but was not suspended, according to reports.

Mr Cameron faced repeated questioning over his previous experience of drugs during the campaign for the Conservative leadership in 2005, when he refused to say whether he had ever used illicit substances.

Former Conservative chairman Lord Tebbit has been on BBC News 24 saying that although the revelations in tomorrow's Mail on Sunday would not do Mr Cameron much good with Tory activists, they should not disqualify him from high office.

However, he urged Cameron to come clean now about the allegations, in order to put the story behind him.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I find myself in agreement with Lord Tebbit.

As someone once said, in our youth, we all do youthful things.

His best policy now would be a full and frank statement to 'clear the air'.

The claims about Mr Cameron's previous cannabis use appear in a new book, Cameron: The Rise Of The New Conservative, being serialised in the Mail on Sunday.

According to authors Francis Elliott and James Hanning, seven boys were expelled from Eton in 1982 after staff discovered that pupils were smoking and dealing in cannabis.

Mr Cameron was hauled in to see headmaster Eric Anderson after another pupil named him, and was made to confess to smoking the drug.

Because he had only smoked cannabis and not traded in it, he was not expelled like the others.

The book also claims that Mr Cameron indulged in "infrequent and moderate consumption of cannabis" while a student at Oxford University.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Time to wake up and back war on terror...this is for real

Cynics quick to rubbish reports of a plot to behead a British Muslim soldier may be interested to hear that five of the men arrested in Birmingham earlier this week appeared in court today charged with terrorism offences.

One of them has been specifically charged with:
engaging in conduct to give effect to his intention to kidnap and kill a member of the British Armed Forces between 1 November 2006 and 31 January 2007.
The five each face two charges brought under the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Terrorism Act 2000 including supplying equipment and funding for a terrorist act between 30 March last year and 31 January.

Meanwhile, I've checked the tape of Ken Clarke's comments on Question Time last night.

He alleged that stories about the plot to behead a British Muslim soldier were 'politically motivated' by the Home Office to support their case to be allowed to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days.

Definitely irresponsible remarks, particularly from a former Home Secretary who I previously had some regard for and someone who should know better than to attempt to score cheap political points from such a serious event.

The media - particularly the BBC - also have some explaining to do. Over the past 24 hours, they have been giving apparently unlimited airtime to crazy claims from one of the arrested men who has been released without charge that the UK is now a police state.

In an intelligence-led investigation, having a few innocents locked up for a day or two and then released is a small price to pay for the freedom of the many.

Tory campaigner quits nasty party to join Labour...

One of David Cameron's top campaigners working to win over women to the Tories has defected to Labour - after realising that the Conservatives are still the nasty party.

Sue Percy, North West coordinator for the Conservative Party's Women to Win campaign, has gone one better than the young female Chester councillor who quit the Tories earlier in the week to go independent.

Sue is seen in my picture being welcomed to the Labour Party by Wirral's Labour Leader Councillor Steve Foukes.

She told the Liverpool Post she hoped David Cameron was going to change the Conservative Party when he became Leader.

But Sue, who had been selected as a Conservative candidate in The Wirral in May's local elections, says:

"Over time, it gradually dawned on me that the attitudes of local members hadn't changed at all...They didn’t seem interested in local people or what mattered to them, but were more concerned with their own in-fighting.

"When I met with senior members of the Conservative Party nationally, they didn't seem to be taking any notice of what local campaigners such as myself were telling them, from our experiences on the doorstep.

"But I wanted a party that dealt with the needs of many, not the interests of a few.

"I spent some time thinking things through and realised that the Labour members I met were much warmer and more in touch with the needs of local people than the Conservatives were.

"I’m only sorry it took me this long to understand my own feelings and finally join the right party.

"The sense of relief and homecoming I have now I am a member of the Labour Party and can really serve the needs of local people tells me this was definitely the right decision and I am now where I really belong.”
In other words, behind Cameron's spin and flip-floppery, the Tory grassroots hasn't changed. They're still the nasty party.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Does anyone have a transcript of Ken Clarke's Question Time comments...?

Did former Home Secretary Ken Clarke really suggest on BBC TV Question Time a few minutes ago that the reports of a plot to behead a British Muslim soldier were Labour spin...?

Were the events of 9/11, 7/7 and 21/7 also fantasies...?

I may just have misheard, but Ken's comments sounded highly irresponsible to me, particularly coming from a former Home Secretary.

Does anyone have a transcript...?

Funeral for Fiona...

I understand the funeral for former Labour MP Fiona Jones will be tomorrow (Friday) morning at Lincoln Crematorium at 10.30.

Her tragic death HERE and HERE was the subject of a column in The Times by Alice Miles earlier in the week. For those interested, it's HERE

She concludes:

That image of a teenage son heaving a mother in an alcoholic stupor back into bed for her to die, alone, is a dismal reminder that behind the machinery of politics, beyond the criticism and the cynicism we fling, lie real people struggling in a failing system. And it’s not all their fault.

Sprinkling of snow and UK shuts down...

Are we the only country in the world where a sprinkling of snow causes such chaos...? Hundreds of schools closed, airports shut down, police warnings not to drive unless it's absolutely essential.

Has anyone noticed that the worst snowfall anywhere in the UK is just ten centimetres - that's only four inches in real money and barely enough to justify getting the wellies out.

Anyway, the four inches is only in the Brecon Beacons which is hardly a centre of population.

Most parts of the country have barely had a sprinkling of snow. Here in south Lincolnshire there hasn't even been enough to build a decent snowman!

A couple of weeks ago a windy day caused mass shutdowns of our transport system.

Surely, Britain can do better...?

Conservatives are sexist bullies...says Tory councillor

A young female councillor has quit the Conservatives claiming she was subjected to bullying and sexism from colleagues in her own party.

In another blow to Conservative Leader David Cameron's attempt to persuade voters that the Tories are no longer the 'nasty party', Chester City Councillor Marigold Roy has launched her new website with a scathing press release.

Here's just a flavour:

I have today resigned from the Conservative Party as I no longer wish to be associated with a party that is prepared to tolerate the bullying culture that prevails in the Chester Conservative Association.

In Chester Conservatives, I was subjected to, and witnessed, sexist behaviour and bullying on an unprecedented scale, which would not be tolerated in any other organisation.

My decision has been further reinforced by the bullying and harassment, by Association Officers, of the young Vice Chairman Conservative Future after his resignation last week.

As a result of these experiences, I urge any female or young person to think very carefully indeed before volunteering for Chester Conservatives.
In other words: Same old Tories.

Lincs health services deliver on cancer treatment...

Health professionals across Lincolnshire are exceeding tough Government targets to speed up treatment for cancer.

The Government now expects 98 per cent of all patients diagnosed with cancer to have their first treatment within 31 days.

According to the Lincolnshire Echo, in November, every patient in Lincolnshire who was diagnosed was seen within that time.

Another Government target states that 95 per cent of all patients diagnosed with cancer should be treated within 62 days of being referred to a hospital by their GP.

And in November, 98.4 per cent of patients in Lincolnshire were seen within the target time.

A huge pat on the back to all the NHS professionals in Lincolnshire who have delivered this fantastic achievement.

Points to note:

1. Speeding up time between diagnosis and treatment has been a key manifesto promise by Labour at each of the past three General Elections.

2. David Cameron recently committed the Conservatives to scrapping NHS targets - if they were ever given the chance.

No wonder that a recent Nursing Times survey found NHS professionals unimpressed with Conservative plans for the NHS.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who'd be a local councillor...?

Ever thought of standing for election to our local council?

With both parish and district elections looming in May, South Kesteven District Council is offering open evenings for anyone thinking of standing.

SKDC is holding prospective councillors’ evenings on Monday 19 February, 6pm, at the council chambers in Grantham and on Tuesday 20 February, 6pm, at Stamford Arts Centre.

Sessions will cover how to get nominated, how decisions are made by the council, the role of councillors, time needed to be a councillor, and how it could affect your life, rules, codes of conduct and legal responsibilities.

I believe the evenings on offer are a good idea. I hope they result in more young people - and more women - standing for election.

In the interests of democracy, it's important that our local councils become more reflective of the communities they seek to represent.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why Blair must stay and resist jackboot justice...

In case you missed it, here's the link to an article by Tim Hames, Chief Leader Writer of The Times which was published yesterday.

It appeared under the following headline:
This would make the Gestapo proud: Why Blair must stay and resist jackboot justice.
Well worth a gleg...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fiona and the drinking culture of MPs...

A thoughtful contribution following the lonely death of Fiona Jones by the Guardian's Nick Watt on how changes to MPs working hours may reduce the drinking culture in the Palace of Westminster.

The redtops today produce straight re-writes of yesterday's News of the World 'exclusive' in which Fiona's husband Chris reveals how he found his wife dead, surrounded by 15 empty bottles of vodka.

MP killed by her job says the Mirror, while The Sun prefers: Drinking horror of Blair babe.

The Guardian's Nick points out that the Commons altered its working hours after the 2001 General Election - in which Fiona lost her seat.

Before then, major votes were held late into the night, which meant that MPs would hang around in Westminster's numerous bars as they waited to vote.

After 2001, the House starting sittings at 11.30am on every day apart from Monday, meaning that the major votes now start just after 7pm.

Nick concludes:

At a stroke this transformed the drinking culture; at 10pm the place is often deserted. A recent move backwards - Tuesday is now a late sitting day - appears not to have made much of a difference.

Hopefully in the future a depressed, vulnerable MP will be less likely to resort to the bottle.

But an even greater change will probably have to take place: ending the pretence MPs have to keep up that they are strong and in perfect condition all the time.

Carnage on Lincs roads...

As well as chaos on the railways, there's been more carnage on local roads as a devastated mum paid tribute to her teenage daughter killed in a road accident last week.

This morning, Lincolnshire Air Ambulance attended four people who were seriously hurt on the A15 between Deeping and Baston when a Toyota van and a Volvo car collided. No further details are yet known.

Last night, two people died when two cars collided in thick fog on the A17 at Fleet Hargate, Holbeach opposite the Anglia Motel.

The driver and passenger in a green Ford Fiesta both died at the scene. Lincs Police have not yet released their names, but they are believed to be local to the Holbeach area.

The female driver of a black VW Golf was taken to Queen Elizabeth's hospital, Kings Lynn with neck and back injuries which are not life threatening. She is from the Kings Lynn area and is expected to be released from hospital later today.

The main A17 road was closed overnight and re-opened in the early hours of this morning.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the collision to contact the witness hotline on 01522 558855.

Meanwhile, the Holbeach family of a 17-year-old girl who died as a result of a road traffic collision, last week have released a tribute to her.

Jody Louise Smith from Union Street, Holbeach was passenger in a silver Peugeot 206 which left the A151 at Whaplode and collided with a tree. She later died of her injuries at Boston Pilgrim Hospital.

Her mum Dawn said today:

Jody was a much loved daughter, stepdaughter, sister, stepsister, granddaughter, godmother, aunt and niece all the family thought the world of her.

She was such a bubbly girl, a typical teenager into clothes and makeup, who just wanted to live life to the full.

We still can’t believe that it has happened - it is such a tragic waste of our beautiful daughter's life.

Chaos on East Coast Line...

Given up trying to get to a Newcastle today by train from Peterborough.

"Lines down at Huntingdon" caused total chaos, stopping all trains on the East Coast Main Line this morning.

GNER are now talking about trying to start moving trains out of Kings Cross after lunch.

But my colleague stuck in London tells me there's no trains on any Kings Cross platform, so it doesn't look promising.

He's waiting another few minutes until 12-noon and if there's no sign of a train by then, he'll give up on his trip north.

Must be difficult for the train operators when these things happen, but as usual, lack of adequate information for would-be passengers adds to the frustration.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Former Labour MP drank herself to death...

Fiona Jones was found dead on her bed last Sunday, surrounded by 15 empty vodka bottles, her husband Chris has told the News of the World.

Chris tells how Fiona started drinking heavily when she was Labour MP for Newark - and how alcohol developed into a real problem after she was devastated at losing her parliamentary seat in 2001.

I last saw Fiona a couple of years ago at a Labour Party Conference - ironically I bought her a drink. But she was certainly not drunk and I had no idea she had a drink problem.

Outwardly, she appeared very strong, and had been studying law at Lincoln University intending to sue Nottinghamshire Police, believing that the prosecution against her was malicious.

As I said earlier in the week, Fiona certainly had a raw deal. Despite being totally cleared in the High Court, the case destroyed her political career.

Chris, a former BBC Radio Lincolnshire presenter, says at lunchtime last Sunday, one of their sons was downstairs when he heard a bang. Fiona had fallen and he lifted his mum back into bed. When Chris arrived home soon afterwards, he found her cold and blue and knew she was dead.

He had been resigned to her killing herself and felt relieved that she would suffer no more.

As Chris says in a video on the News of the World website:

It's a terrible waste of a life.
My thoughts are with Chris and their two boys Penri and Huw.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Foreign workers better than us Brits say Lincs bosses...?

Migrant workers in Lincolnshire work harder than the local workforce according to a new survey published today.
Sixty-five per cent of British business leaders, including 400 Lincolnshire members, believe that migrant workers outperform locals on every measure.

The Lincolnshire Echo says the results of the survey are a wake-up call to native workers, who are being told to raise their game if they want to compete at work.

There's no wonder that the Institute of Directors supports immigration.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tragic death of former Labour MP for Newark...

Sad to hear news today of the tragic death of Fiona Jones, former MP for Newark whose life was wrecked following wrongful conviction on election expenses law - despite being vindicated within weeks by the High Court.

I'd hoped that stories I picked up from sources earlier in the week were nonsense. Sadly not.

It was confirmed today that Fiona, 49, had died at her home in Saxily near Lincoln on Sunday, of natural causes.

Fiona was victim of a series of inaccurate but damaging media briefings which eventually were proved to be rubbish.

Sound familiar…?

She was eventually cleared in the High Court by three senior judges including Lord Chief Justice Bingham, but she never recovered from the negative publicity and she lost her seat in the 2001 General Election.

I welcome comments by former Tory Leader Iain Duncan Smith when asked about the so-called “Cash for Honours” investigation on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions tonight (repeated tomorrow lunchtime).

IDS rightly said the public should be concerned at the way police briefed the media during high-profile investigations. He reminded police of the need for confidentiality in confidential matters.

His views don’t fit the current media feeding frenzy of course, so don’t expect to see IDS's comments making headlines in many of tomorrow’s papers.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hope former MP Fiona Jones is OK...

Received two disturbing calls over the past couple of days from entirely different sources asking if I'd heard that former Labour MP for Newark Fiona Jones wasn't well, or worse.

Sadly, there's no answer at the last number I had for Fiona and no-one I've contacted has any news...

I hope it's just an ugly rumour. But if anyone out there has any news on Fiona, I'd be grateful if you'd share it with me. Thanks.