Saturday, June 30, 2007

Labour now further ahead of Tories than before last General Election...

Those confidently predicting the demise of Labour under Gordon Brown won't wish to know that Labour's national lead over the Tories is now bigger than it was before the last General Election - according to an ICM poll published in today's Guardian.

One poll doesn't make an election, and a lot can happen between now and the only poll that counts. I note that despite the Lab-Con gap widening, the Tories are also up one point in the Guardian's poll...and the LibDems under Ming Campbell are well down.

Not yet clear how damaging the defection to Labour by Quentin Davies will be to David Cameron. But Dave must be spitting nails on the news that former CBI boss Digby Jones has joined Gordon Brown's Government as Trade and Investment Minister - and will take the Labour whip.

Rumours are still rife around Westminster this weekend of further defections: those often mentioned - Michael Rifkind, Chris Patten and John Bercow - have now issued strong denials. But the gossip is so unsettling the Conservative leadership that a special watch has reportedly been ordered on those Tories thought most tempted to jump ship!

Interesting days ahead...

CLARIFICATION: Hope I didn't mislead anyone who may have thought Digby Jones was becoming a member of the Labour Party. However, I heard him say on Radio Four that he does intend taking the Labour whip.

Today's Torygraph says it's a major coup for gordon Brown to recruit the former Director General of the CBI into his inclusive new government.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Historic day and another one for the album...

Posted by Picasa
Thanks to a colleague for sending this snap of me congratulating Gordon Brown moments after he succeeded Tony Blair as Leader of the Labour Party.

Gordon clearly demonstrated in his acceptance speech that he is the best person by miles to take our country forward - and how the choice at the next General Election will be substance for the many with Gordon or Cameron's spin, PR and flip-floppery.

The next ten years start right here...

(with apologies for layout, as posting away from home on an unfamiliar computer!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One for the album...

Love the picture of Quentin Davies, the newest of New Labour MPs which has appeared on Conservative Home, the unofficial blogsite of the Tory grassroots.

Conservative Home also carries a comment from Martin Hill, Tory Leader of Lincolnshire County Council spitting nails about the rather splendid news that he is now represented in Parliament by a Labour MP.

There's also extensive reaction from other shell-shocked Tories on CH, including the full statement from Simon Chapman, chairman of Stamford and Grantham Conservative Association.

Torygraph admits 'massive boost' for Gordon Brown

Even the Daily Torygraph admits that the defection of Quentin Davies to the Labour Party is a massive boost to Gordon Brown on the eve of him becoming Prime Minister.

The Torygraph also prints Quentin's full - and lengthy - resignation attack on David Cameron in all its detail.

Well worth reading.

UPDATE: Gordon Brown has welcomed Quentin to Labour saying he's highly respected by all sides in Parliament.

Gordon Brown said:

Quentin Davies is a senior parliamentarian and he commands respect on all sides for his expertise and his dedication to public service, and I welcome him to the New Labour party.

On Sunday, I said I was determined to reach out to those who share our values and who would like to be part of building a more just society.

I said we had to reach out to people who want to change from the old politics, who yearn for a public life founded on principles, who are inspired by what we as a nation can achieve together - and asked them to join us. I am delighted that Quentin Davies has done so today.
What a tremendous start to a new era for our country.

UPDATE 2: FT says it's a 'massive blow' to Cameron.

Stunned Tories call off the party...

Bourne Tories can't believe that local MP Quentin Davies has joined Labour - on the eve of Gordon Brown taking over as Prime Minister.

The Bourne Local says they have called off a party they were planning to mark his 20 years as a Conservative MP for the area.

According to The Local, Don Fisher, a Conservative Party stalwart who sits on Bourne Town Council and recently stood down from South Kesteven District Council, said: "I am astounded. I can't believe it. Everybody is stunned."

BREAKING NEWS: Lincs Tory MP defects to Labour...


In his resignation letter, Quentin Davies, MP for Grantham and Stamford Quentin Davies told Tory Leader David Cameron:

Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything.

It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.

Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.

Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the party. I do not intend to leave public life.

Mr Davies said he had "found increasingly I am naturally in agreement" with the Labour Party and praised Mr Brown as "a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share".

Welcome to the Labour Party Quentin.

Queen's medal for Lincs bobby who invented national system...

A Lincolnshire Police Constable who invented a database now used by more than 40 police forces has been awarded the Queen's Police Medal.

PC Tony Pike devised and created a database to monitor and enforce road traffic legislation amongst haulage operators in Lincolnshire.

PIKE, as his system became known, is the only national database used by the British Police service that can carry intelligence relating to foreign registered vehicles.

It is used by over 40 police forces as well as agencies such as Revenue and Customs, and the Immigration Service and has assisted major crime investigations, such as the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers enquiry.

Tony joined the Lincolnshire Police as a Cadet over 30 years ago before joining the regular force in 1978. He spends much of his own time continuing to develop and update PIKE which is currently being piloted in the Netherlands.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Less than a week to Smokefree England...

Just six days and counting to Smokefree England when virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces become smokefree by law.

As the official website for Smokefree England says, the new measures will ensure a healthier environment, so everyone can socialise, relax, travel, shop and work free from secondhand smoke.

It will also make a visit to the pub much more pleasant!

I remember having a conversation in my local with my Dad before he died in 1997. After fighting through clouds of stinking smoke to get to the bar, I rather boldly suggested that in a few years time, pubs would become 'smoke free'.

My father never smoked a cigarette in his life, but thought smoke-free pubs would never happen.

Making public spaces smoke-free is, in my opinion, a giant leap forward!

School sees the answer is blowing in the wind...

An £11,000 Government grant has helped Langtoft Primary School become the first in Lincolnshire to install its own wind turbine.

The Local
reports that the turbine could cut the school's energy bills by up to £3,000 a year, as well as helping to teach young people about global warming and renewable energy sources.

Half the cost of the turbine was funded by a grant from the Department of Trade and Industry.

90-year-old woman injured as stolen car crashes in Spalding...

Police at Market Deeping spotted a stolen car just hours after it was taken from outside a newsagents some 30 miles away.

The blue Audi A4 was stolen from Sleaford and picked up six hours later by an Automatic Number Plate Recognition vehicle operating at Market Deeping.

The driver refused to stop for Lincolnshire Police and drove off towards Spalding where it crashed with a transit van and two elderly female pedestrians.

A 90-year-old woman was treated at hospital for cuts and bruises and released and a 70 year old suffered cuts and a broken leg.

A 46-year-woman and a 26-year-old man - both frrom Sleaford - have been charged with a series of offences and made an initial appearance at Grantham Magistrates on Friday.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Investing to give children the best start in life...

This morning's Stamford Mercury has good news on a new children's centre which is to open thanks to a £600,000 Government grant.

It's part of Labour's commitment to create 3,500 new children's centres across the country by 2010, to provide a universal local service which brings together childcare and services for families.

Heard the one about the Bernard Manning Tories...?

From today's Times.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chair of Governors which ordered expelled boy back to school is a top Tory...!

Those quick to blame the Government and the left for allowing a Lincolnshire boy back into school after he was expelled for threatening a teacher may be interested to learn that Chairman of the Governors who actually made the decision is a leading Tory!

Nick Carter is Executive member for Finance on Lincolnshire County Council. He also chairs the Governors of Gleed Secondary Modern School for Boys, Spalding. This was the body that over-turned their Head Teacher's ruling to permanently expel the 14-year old.

Nick Carter has not yet spoken publicly about the storm and I have no knowledge whether he supported over-turning the Head's expulsion.

Meanwhile, the row has escalated to today's Sun newspaper.

Interesting that my posts on this story yesterday HERE and HERE attracted comments blaming the Labour Government and 'the left...' for letting the boy back into school.

The truth is that the teaching unions are supporting the Head Teacher. The Governing Body - whose chairman is a Tory - returned the expelled boy to school.

Either way, I'm not yet in possession of all the facts, so reluctant to make a judgement on Nick Carter, his Governors or the Head Teacher.

A woman scorned...

One to make your eyes water.

This young woman's talents are clearly wasted.

Wonder if she's thought about a career in the Army: maybe she could be really helpful in the war on terrorism...

Works starts on new South Lincs hospital...

Builders started work yesterday on a new South Holland Community Hospital as part of Government plans to modernise health services for local people.

The new hospital will provide 32 in-patient beds as well as outpatient clinics, a walk-in minor injuries centre, a day-unit for older adults with mental illness, a base for the Child and Adolescent Mental Gealth Team and a new ambulance station for the area.

Work at the site off the Spalding to Pinchbeck Road is expected to take 22 months.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lincs teachers may strike after expelled boy allowed back in school...

Lincolnshire teachers are threatening to strike over the teenager who has been allowed continue lessons after apparently setting up a website where classmates could threaten a teacher.

As I posted earlier today, the Head Teacher at Gleed Boys School permanently excluded the 14-year-old boy, but the school's governors over-turned the decision.

Now, the Spalding Guardian are posting on the story. It seems the boy was excluded at Easter after Head Geoff Cowley discovered that he put a page headed 'Kill Her' on a website which invited other pupils to make comments about the female teacher.

The pupil returned to school after the Governors overturned the Head's ruling. The teacher is said to be back on sick leave with stress after briefly returning to work.

The Guardian reports that teaching unions are balloting their members over whether they will teach or supervise the boy or take industrial action.

School governors overule Lincs Head who expelled teenager...

Governors at a Lincolnshire school have overturned a head-teacher's decision to permanently exclude a teenage pupil for making death threats against a teacher.

Head Teacher at the Gleed Boys' School in Spalding took a tough line against the 14-year-old boy for apparently posting death threats on a website.

But the school's governors over-ruled the Head Teacher and ordered him to allow the boy back into lessons.

He's returned to school, but I understand some Gleed teachers are so outraged at the Governors failure to back their Head Teacher that they are refusing to teach the boy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cameron appeases the right-wing hardliners: UPDATED.

Part of David Cameron's 'Save Dave' relaunch yesterday was to meet a delegation from the Cornerstone Group of right-wing Tory MPs to assure them he's really on their side.

Cornerstone's president is Lincolnshire MP Edward Leigh and it's chairman is John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings.

As Cameron attempted to tell the public that he wanted the Tories to be on the centre ground of British politics, he was privately pandering to the right-wingers who are chuffed with his performance to date.

After all, Dave flip-flop caved in to his own right-wing's obsession with Europe by agreeing to leave the mainstream EPP grouping. The price the Tories are paying is isolation in Europe.

And he did a spectacular u-turn on his 'no more grammars' policy, by agreeing there could be some new grammar schools, but only in certain areas.

And then inserting a line in his speech yesterday promising a 'grammar stream' in every school following pressure from Edward Leigh and Cornerstone.

Whatever next...?

Well, it's worth noting that Cornerstone recently called for the NHS to be replaced by a system of compulsory private healthcare.

Right-wing Tory MP for Northampton, Brian Binley, who met with Cameron yesterday said:

I don’t have to tell you that I am considered on the right of the party and I’m delighted that our views, our political concerns are being considered very seriously in the policy review group.
UPDATE: Links added to to Independent story Right wingers step up pressure on Cameron and Daily Mail story Tory right reopens battle on Grammars.

Building Bridges with Islam in The Deepings...

How does Islam fit in British society and what should our reaction be to our Muslim neighbours and colleagues...? The First Deepings Lecture takes place this Thursday with the Archdeacon of Southwark The Ven. Michael Ipgrave speaking on 'Building Bridges with Islam'.

Michael Ipgrave is a national figure on interfaith issues and is visiting our community at the invitation Deepings Churches Together to help us to work through some of the issues, from a Christian perspective sympathetic to British Muslims.

I've agreed to chair the event at Deeping St James CP School, Hereward Way, Deeping St James at 7.30pm.

Free admission (just like museums!)...Everyone's welcome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

'In their panic, the discombobulated Cameroons are ricocheting around the political landscape...'

When I was reporting on Cameron's Grammar Wars for the umpteenth time last week, it was suggested I was flogging a dead horse...well, yesterday David Davis revived the corpse - and today's attack on Cameron's weak leadership in the Daily Mail proves the issue is far from glue yet.

Here's just an extract from Melanie Phillips' column in the Tory's favourite paper:

No longer do the Tories perform relatively sedate U-turns; they are currently careering round one hairpin bend after another.

At breakfast time yesterday, we were startled to learn that the Tories would - bafflingly - reintroduce entrance charges for museums. By teatime, that policy had been abruptly and brutally ditched.

We also heard yesterday that David Cameron did not claim to be the 'heir to Blair'. This was yet more news to us. After all, Mr Cameron himself had reportedly said it.

Fewer than three weeks ago his deputy, George Osborne, declared that Mr Cameron championed Blairite reforms in education and health.

So why such screeching reversals? Simply, the Tories are now in panic-stricken disarray.

The past month has been a disaster for them...

...Then came 'grammargate'. At first, Mr Cameron unwisely dismissed the furore over David Willetts's speech denouncing academically selective schools...

...The debacle has produced a dwindling opinion poll lead for Mr Cameron. Gordon Brown is seen as more dependable - and he hasn't even yet joined battle with Mr Cameron across the Despatch Box. '

In their panic, the discombobulated Cameroons are ricocheting around the political landscape.

With the grammar school row still raging...David Davis and William Hague have been dispatched on a desperate 'Save Dave' mission to the Tory grassroots, with the message that Mr Cameron is not the 'heir to Blair' but instead the standard bearer of - ermm, well, there's the problem.

For what precisely does he stand for? State or market? Top down or bottom up? Meritocracy or egalitarianism? Left or right?

At present, it seems to be 'all of the above'. Hence his audacious attempt today to steal Gordon Brown's clothes by claiming that the Tories are the true progressives because they are best-placed to tackle poverty and protect the environment.

Yet Mr Cameron's short-lived policy of re-introducing museum charges was obviously going to hit the very poor that he is ostensibly championing...

...What a leader stands for is almost secondary to the issue of trust.
When voters mutter to each other about a party leader "Say what you like about what he believes, at least you know where you stand with him", the electoral battle is all but won.

Try saying that, first about Mr Cameron and then about Mr Brown.

Damaging stuff any day of the week. But the fact that it's the Daily Mail is devastating for Cameron...

His honeymoon is clearly over. Gordon Brown's hasn't even started yet.

Lincoln Museum safe from Tory charges after another Cameron u-turn...

Lincoln's amazing new museum has been declared safe from Tory charges - after David Cameron was forced into his latest humiliating u-turn.

His culture spokesman fellow Etonian Hugo Swire sparked an immediate backlash with plans to bring back charges for entry into museums and galleries.

Culture Minister Tessa Jowell said it would be a disastrous return to Thatcherism which would exclude the less well-off: Tory blogger Iain Dale said it was a daft idea that would leave Cameron open to charges of elitism.

Most blistering attack is in today's Sun under the headline TORY RELIC. Here it is in full:

With Tory poll ratings nose-diving and David Cameron reeling from the grammar schools debacle, another old Etonian on his front bench has a brilliant idea:

Scrap free admission to museums.

Yes, you read it correctly. Axe the most universally popular initiative of Labour’s entire period in office.

A policy which has doubled visitor numbers. Which has opened up a world of culture to people who could not afford the tenner-a-head it cost under John Major’s Government.

Tory culture spokesman Hugo Swire has never been short of a tenner. And that’s the problem. He and many of his colleagues simply don’t understand ordinary families.

Cameron’s fighting fires on every front. He needs to impose iron discipline on his team to stop these idiotic gaffes.
Today’s Independent screams: Why museums must stay free

But the Tories were already backtracking faster than you could say Grammar School Wars.

(Thanks to Lincs Tory blogger Geoffrey Brooking for pointing out to me that the Conservative idea to bring back charges had been retracted by the Leader's office.)

So, what a great day for David Cameron to launch his 'Save Dave' campaign aimed at drawing a line under Grammar School Wars and showing us who's really in charge.

Er, not you Dave.

Flip-flop, flip-flop.

Draconian to grab proceeds of crime..? Er, Tough.

Good to see new powers brought in by our Government being used to seize proceeds of crime in Lincoln. When a jailed fraudster's barrister complained it would be 'draconian' to make her client forfeit almost £20,000, the Judge told her: that's the idea!

Yeah, and what about the interest...?

Pub on fire...

A blaze in the early hours this morning has caused severe damage to The King's Head pub at Morton near Bourne.

Tories to scrap free entry to Museums..?

Visitors to historic Lincoln can now enjoy a fabulous new, free to enter, Museum, which embraces the region's premier art gallery, the Usher.

When the Museum was under construction, I raised the issue of planned charges at Lincolnshire County Council.

I was disappointed with the response but delighted that before The Collection was opened, the Labour Government scrapped entry charges to museums and galleries.

Today, free entry features heavily in promotion of The Collection at Lincoln – which attracted 40,000 visitors in its first three months!

Nationally, free admission has seen visitors to large museums and galleries rise to a record 42 million a year. Before free entry, each visit could cost up to £25 for a family of four.

But now Cameron's Tories want to scrap free admission to museums and galleries which would again make them the elite preserve of a privileged few.

The Tory plan to turn the clock back was revealed in the Mail on Sunday.

The idea was immediately condemned by Tory blogger Iain Dale:

If you were compiling a list of Top Ten Ways of Losing Votes, reintroducing fees to museums and galleries would surely have to be right up there…
Later today, the Conservative Leader will launch his 'Save Dave' campaign.

No matter how many spin doctors Cameron employs at £300,000 a year, when his frontbenchers talk of bringing back museum charges, everyone can see the reality:

The Tories are unchanged, unreformed, and in complete disarray.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Davis reignites Grammar Wars...

As David Cameron prepares to launch his 'Save Dave' campaign tomorrow, his rival for the leadership of the Conservative Party has re-ignited the row over Grammar Schools.

Speaking on BBC1's Sunday AM, David Davis insisted that grammar schools promote social mobility.

The very reason Cameron called for 'no more grammar schools' was because they impede social mobility.

Mr Davis, who called for more grammar schools during the 2005 Tory leadership contest against David Cameron said today:

My primary interest is the simple issue of social mobility - making sure youngsters get the best chances.

There is more than one way to do that. Grammar schools is one, and where they're there we will continue with them.
Cameron had previously said 'no more selection through the 11-plus. The Tory Leader said it was wrong to divide children into 'sheep and goats' at the age of 11, but was then forced into a damaging u-turn after a threatened revolt within his own party.

His 'Save Dave' relaunch tomorrow merely demonstrates the disarray the Tory Leadership is in. And Mr Davis is clearly intent on exposing the splits.

Tories-in-turmoil: ‘Save Dave’ campaign launched after Cameron’s weak leadership is exposed…

Anyone daft enough to believe that the past month of Tory Grammar Wars has not seriously exposed David Cameron’s weak leadership should read today’s Sunday Torygraph…

Political Editor Patrick Hennessy reveals that after Cameron’s 'worst month since taking charge,' Conservative Central Office will launch a ‘Save Dave’ campaign tomorrow in a fresh attempt to finally draw a line under the self-inflicted row within the Tory Party over Grammar Schools.

Patrick H says Cameron’s immediate task is to:
‘restore morale in the wake of the education fiasco - which lasted several weeks and ended with Tony Blair mocking him last Wednesday at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons while Tory MPs looked silently on…’
(ie, rather than support their Leader).

The Telegraph article also reveals that former Tory Leader William Hague and would-be Tory Leader David Davis are rubbishing claims that Mr Cameron is attempting to position himself as the "heir to Blair"…

Who’s been claiming that Cameron is Blair’s heir…?

No-one important. Only wee Georgie Osborne, the shadow chancellor. Oh yes, and Cameron himself!

Poor Georgie. Last month, only hours after publicly throwing his inconsiderable weight behind the ‘no more Grammar school’ line, Cameron was making his u-turn, collapsing the 'policy' and once again making Georgie looked rather silly.

Now wee Georgie's getting trashed again by Hague and Davis who appear to have more authority than Cameron.

Still, I trust Dave's launch will be as successful tomorrow his attempt to pretend that he’s a strong leader and that there’d be no new grammar schools if he were ever trusted to run the country.

Flip-flop, flip-flop…

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another let-down for Bourne as council pulls out of deal...

The Lincolnshire town that gave us the road-to-nowhere and the school-that-never-was now has the petrol-station-that-isn't...!

At the eleventh hour, and just weeks after planning permission was granted, South Kesteven District Council has pulled out of negotiations with a developer for a filling station on the A15 South Road roundabout at Elsea Park, Bourne.

No news about what's happening on SKDC's website, but Bourne-based newspaper The Local reports that it's the third time negotiations with SKDC over the site have fallen through.

Elsea Park is where Lincolnshire County Council and SKDC became a laughing stock last year - after a developer refused to hand over the Bourne Relief Road for four months after it was finished!

Allison Homes, builders of the controversial housing estate at Elsea Park, didn't want to build a primary school on the estate as agreed under a Section 106 Agreement.

The finished road remained unused - and the road to nowhere featured on TV news.

In the end, after months of stalemate, Lincolnshire County Council said a new school was not needed in Bourne.

The road was finally opened - much to the relief of the people of Bourne (and The Deepings of course).

The story didn't end there. A few months later, the county council changed its mind again and did another u-turn, deciding that a new school will be needed after all...!

(See my posts Road to nowhere:the sequel 6th April 2006 and Q5 The school that never was 17th May 2006).

Getting a new filling station for Bourne is proving to be just as farcical.

SKDC dumped Henry Davidson from the project last October after losing patience over exchange of contracts.

Then a new developer - Directfirm - came on the scene. But their planning application failed.

In the New Year, SKDC was back in talks with Henry Davidson. And just last month the developers were granted planning permission and started preparatory work on the site.

But according to The Local, SKDC has pulled out of the deal so it can 'explore alternative development schemes to derive best value from the South Road site in its entirety.'

Which begs the question: why didn't they do exactly that in the first place?

No comment in The Local from any of the Tory councillors for Bourne. But newly-elected independent councillor for Bourne Trevor Holmes tells The Local:

The fact that (SKDC) have allowed negotiations to go on for so long and allowed the prospective buyers to work on the land only to abandon it at the very last minute will cause a lot of distress.

They have spent a lot of council tax payers' money so far, all to no useful outcome, and the second lot of plans has gone through.
Good to see at least one district councillor is on the case. I hope Trevor will persue the issue and hold SKDC to account.

Friday, June 15, 2007

First secondary school in Lincs for a generation...

The first new secondary school in Lincolnshire for more than a generation is about to be built- thanks to the Labour Government!

Labour achievements: 2.5 million more jobs...

Ten years of Labour Government has seen dramatic falls in dole queues - and two and a half million extra jobs created across the country.

Here in the East Midlands, figures released yesterday show that claimant count unemployment fell by over 38,000 to 60,828 in the ten years from May 1997 to May 2007.

It's a proud record of helping people back to work year on year and testament to Labour’s commitment to a strong and stable economy - and help for families through successful employment programmes like the New Deal.

If Tony Blair had promised full employment and 2.5 million new jobs in 1997, he never would have been elected.

For the record, Cameron's Conservatives still oppose the New Deal and would cut Labour’s investment in helping people back to work.

So what's Labour achieved in the NHS in ten years...?

I've had a complaint about my blog: not enough about Labour's achievements apparently.

Ever responsive, here's a few of Labour's achievements in the NHS which was crumbling in 1997 after 18 years of being starved of cash by the Tories.

• Waiting times slashed: Virtually no-one now waits over six months for an operation. Most are treated much quicker - the average wait across the country is now down to seven and and a half weeks. In 1997 some patients were waiting more than 18 months.

• By end of next year, there will be a maximum wait of 18 weeks between GP referral and hospital treatment. Some hospitals are on course to achieve this target by the end of this year.

• Over 99% of people with suspected cancer are seen by a specialist within a fortnight of urgent referral by their GP - up from 63% in 1997.

• Deaths from cancer and coronary heart disease are falling ahead of target: An extra 150,000 lives have been saved from heart disease since 1996, and an extra 50,000 extra lives have been saved from cancer.

• 19 out of 20 patients are treated within 4 hours of arriving in Accident & Emergency, still not good enough but a massive improvement on 1997.

• The NHS is treating more patients, more quickly and saving more lives than ever before.

• The Healthcare Commission’s latest survey shows that 9 out 10 patients rate their care as excellent, very good or good.

• Labour has already doubled investment in the NHS and it will have trebled by 2008 to over £90bn.

• The NHS will receive an extra £8bn this year alone - the biggest cash increase ever.

• Labour’s investment means there are around 280,000 more staff in the NHS since 1997, including 80,000 more nurses and 35,000 more doctors.

• 116 new hospitals - the largest ever hospital building programme. More than 2,800 GP premises have also been improved or refurbished and around 90 NHS walk-in-centres have been opened.

In 1997, when the Tories were kicked out, more than half of NHS hospitals, clinics and other premises were older than the NHS itself. Today, more than half of NHS premises have been built since Labour came to office in 1997.

Yes, there's always be criticisms and failures in such a massive organisation, and we must address them.

But if Tony Blair had promised half of the above in 1997, he never would have been elected Prime Minister!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More farce in Tory Grammar School wars...

Lincs MP John Hayes has joined the chorus of Tories backing more Grammar Schools - with words that would probably have earned him the sack from David Cameron's front bench just a couple of weeks ago.

In an article in the Spalding Guardian, headlined MP passionate in support of grammar school system MP for South Holland and the Deepings, John Hayes says he supports what he calls his party's new policy on the creation of grammar schools.

Mr Hayes' former colleague on the Tory front benches Graham Brady lost his job for much less passionate support for building new grammar schools after Tory 'Leader' Cameron condemned the 11-plus as wrongly splitting children into 'sheep and goats'.

But Mr Brady made his remarks before Cameron's complete cave-in and collapse, as the rebellion at every level of his party threatened his leadership.

Mr Hayes, a Shadow Education Minister is now able to say that he backs his party's latest position, which supports creating new grammar schools in areas like Lincolnshire which still has selection at secondary level - and which Mr Cameron condemned as not the right way forward just days before his u-turn.

Mr Hayes told his local paper:

I am passionate in my support for the local grammar schools and the system they are a part of.

I am proud of them and I am delighted the party will continue to support them as pledged.

They are doing an excellent job and if Lincolnshire should need to build additional schools in the future due to a growing population, that would be granted.
So now Cameron is stuck with a policy that was precisely the opposite of the one he set out to achieve.

When Cameron opened up the grammar school debate last month (when he was trying to shut it down!), he claimed it was all about leadership...

Now everyone can see exactly what he means!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Quentin Davies attacks Cameron's PR agenda and weak leadership...

Lincolnshire Tory MP Quentin Davies has made a scathing attack on Cameron’s lack of leadership, saying it's time he acted consistently and in the national interest rather than on a PR agenda to chase tomorrow's headlines.

Explaining why he voted against a Tory motion calling for another inquiry into the Iraq war while our troops are still in theatre, Quentin Davies, MP for Stamford and Grantham writes on Conservative Home:

If we want to be taken seriously as an alternative government we should not do things in Opposition, or urge on the Government a line of action which no responsible government would dream of.

It would be utterly mistaken to hold such an inquiry now. If you want to win a war or a military campaign you have to keep your forces' attention focussed one hundred per cent on the tasks they have in hand.

So what the (Conservative) Party did yesterday sadly just wasn't a sufficiently serious response to a very serious situation.

Of course I understand the temptations of Opposition - you crave for headlines; it's difficult to pass up the chance of creating a split in the Labour Party. But these temptations should be resisted.

We should act, and be seen to be acting, calmly, reflectively and consistently, not on a PR agenda, but on a clear articulated analysis of the national interest.
Well said, Quentin.

Cameron exposed as weak, out of touch and as relevant as Demosthenes...

Eton-educated David Cameron showed how in touch he is with modern Britain by claiming Labour's Deputy Leadership contest made John Prescott look like a cross between Ernie Bevin and Demosthenes...

Most MPs at Prime Ministers Questions had the same response as me: Er, Demos who?

Ernest Bevin of course was a moderate trade union leader who became Labour statesman - best known for his contribution to the wartime coalition government when he formed the Bevin Boys to mine the coal which powered Britain's war effort.

I'm afraid I didn't go to Eton: and unfortunately the Robert Pattinson Secondary Modern School failed to familiarise me with Demosthenes...

I'm clearly not alone...Even the Tory benches looked totally gobsmacked when Cameron alluded to Demosthenes. But for anyone who needs to swot up on who he was, you can find him HERE.

The PM brought Cameron back to earth by letting him know that Labour will have a new leader in Gordon Brown who is strong - unlike the Tories whose 'Leader' bears the imprint of the last person who sat on him...

Tony Blair mocked the fifth Tory Leader he has taken on with the words:

I might remind you of what you said when you ran for leader: 'Consistency in politics is vital' - and you then proclaimed your support for grammar schools and selection!

Rather than you worry about our deputy leadership campaign, I think you should worry about your own leadership.
The BBC’s Political Editor, Nick Robinson, noted after PMQs that Cameron’s biggest problem was that he’d been exposed as being weak.

By the way, as if you didn't know, that's Demosthenes in his glory on the right, not to be confused with Ernie Bevin on the left...

Case against Judge fails to stand up in court...

The bizarre case of a judge accused of exposing himself to a woman on a commuter train has been thrown out by a court today - but not before the headline writers had a field day...

Last night's London Standard er, splashed, with this gem after the case descended into farce: Judge flashes briefs in court.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Three cheers for Blair's speech on the feral beast that is our media...

Tomorrow's papers will no doubt rip into Tony Blair for describing our national media as 'a feral beast tearing people and reputations to bits'.

But I believe it's a thoughtful speech well-worthy of serious consideration and debate.

The full text is at

The Prime Minister argues that modern journalism no longer reports the facts but instead relentlessly mixes up comment with news. He singled out the Independent for particular criticism, saying it had become a 'viewspaper' rather than a 'newspaper' worthy of its name.

He concludes that the relationship between public life and our media needs urgent repair to prevent it sapping the nation's confidence and self-belief.

As a former journalist who was trained over 30 years ago (call me poacher turned gamekeeper if you will...) I'm often appalled at generally falling standards of today's national media - and not just the so-called red-tops.

So I'm chuffed that the Prime Minister today said what surely needed saying.

It's certainly not the kind of speech any incoming Prime Minister could sensibly risk delivering.

But given his 13-years in the firing line, he knows what he's taking about.

I hope the media tries at least to give his words a fair hearing...and think about changing their ways!

Met Office tells Apprentice contender Katie 'You're Fired'...

Katie Hopkins, the horrible contender on TV Show The Apprentice has been told 'You're Fired' - but not by Sir Alan Sugar.

Katie - who has a passing resemblance to Princess Anne - confidently bragged she was a £90,000 a year 'global brand consultant' which made her the highest earner of all the contenders in the show.

I've watched a few episodes in the current series, which is supposed to be about Sir Alan Sugar selecting someone to work for him (the last winner only lasted a few months in his organisation apparently).

Like most other viewers, I've have grown to dislike Katie.

I also wondered what on earth a 'global brand consultant' actually did for a living. But today, the BBC have revealed that her employer - which turns out to be the Met Office - have terminated her employment as she has failed her probationary period!

They also denied that Katie was paid anything like £90k.

After dramatically bowing out of the show last week, mum Katie apparently flogged her story - complete with sordid details of her sex life - to a Sunday newspaper.

She also boasted in front of the cameras that she had lied and cheated to get someone else's husband because I wanted him . Last week photos of Katie cavorting naked in a cornfield with a colleague from the Met Office were splashed across the tabloids.

Somehow, I guess Katie's over-inflated ego is not too worried about losing her day-job. She clearly never wanted to work for Sir Alan Sugar - and probably sees herself as a global media star.

Sir Alan is well rid of her.

My money's on Kristina to win in the final against Simon tomorrow night. But I understand Sir Alan ends up giving both Kristina and Simon a job.

My wife meets Madeleine's parents...

My wife Gill briefly met the parents of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann last week - on the same day they were grilled by German media questioning whether they had anything to do with the disappearance.

Gill was at a conference in Berlin, and didn't realise she was in the same hotel as Kate and Gerry McCann from Leicestershire. When she saw them, she went over to offer best wishes.

Gill says Madeleine's mum looked even more gaunt, exhausted and vacant than she appears on television, which is of course hardly surprising after going through every parent's worst nightmare.

But last Wednesday must have been one of the worst days since little Madeleine went missing more than a month ago from the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz.

They were touring Europe's capital cities trying to sustain media interest in Madeleine's story.

At an extraordinary press conference in Berlin,German Radio reporter Sabina Mueller asked them:

How do you feel about the fact that more and more people seem to be pointing the finger at you, saying the way you behave is not the way people would normally behave when their child is abducted and they seem to imply that you might have something to do with it?
The couple were naturally shocked by the question. Gerry's voice shook with emotion as he replied:
I have never heard before that anyone considers us suspects in this and the Portuguese police certainly don't. Without going into too much detail, we were with a large group of people, and you know there is absolutely no way Kate and I are involved in this abduction.
Looking horrified, Madeleine's mum said she thought that only a very small minority of people that are criticising us.

When Madeleine first went missing, there were questions raised about why they left their children in their holiday apartment while they went for a meal.

I certainly remember doing exactly the same when our children were small.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Unless Murray Walker is very much mistaken, Lewis Hamilton could be rookie world champion…

After his sensational Formula One win in Montreal yesterday, everything was looking incredibly promising for rookie British driver Lewis Hamilton.

The perfection and maturity he showed in winning at one of the most difficult tracks in the world filled the sports pages of today's newspapers...

But now legendary racing commentator Murray Walker – famous for his over-hyped commentaries and nonsense quotes uttered in the white heat of racing - has come out of retirement to talk-up prospects for the 22-year-old. Oh no....!

Much-loved Murray, whose catch-phrase was 'Unless I'm very much mistaken' (and he usually was!) told the BBC

It’s my considered opinion that Lewis Hamilton will go on to be one of the greatest drivers of all time…There aren't enough superlatives for what Lewis Hamilton is doing race after race…it is unprecedented in the history of Formula One.

I've been watching Formula One since it began and I have never seen anything like this in my life, it is quite incredible.

It's more than feasible that he could win the championship this year, which would be incredible.
It’s easy to see why Hamilton has set Formula One alight. He has been on the podium in every one of his first six world championship races and already leads the championship by eight points.

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Northants next month will be one of the most anticipated for decades...

Day 24 and the Tory Grammar mutiny gets deeper as Lincs MP wades in ...

Day 24 in the Tory Grammar School debacle and the self-inflicted war inside Cameron's Conservatives goes on at every level.

A leading Lincolnshire Tory MP has waded into the row that his Leader David Cameron desperately tried to shut down weeks ago. And for good measure, Cameron's rival in his leadership contest has 'stuck the knife in'.

Today's Mirror reports that the Tory mutiny has deepened as David Cameron was knifed by David Davis:

Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, set himself at odds with Eton-educated Cameron by insisting grammar schools helped boost the chances of children from less welloff backgrounds.

Davis, a former grammar schoolboy, pointedly reminded viewers during the interview on the BBC's Sunday AM show that he had backed selective schooling during the 2005 Tory leadership contest - which he lost to Cameron.

Davis's intervention will be a bitter blow to Cameron, who is desperately hoping the education row will die down.
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reports that Cameron's hopes of drawing a line under the split have been dealt fresh blow as a leading Conservative MP has joined Chris Woodhead, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, to back selective education.

Lincolnshire MP Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and Mr Woodhead argued that it was "irrational" to oppose calls for the creation of schools to cater for the most academically able.

Edward Leigh's determined intervention comes weeks after David Cameron attempted to shut down debate on grammar schools and the humiliating u-turn he was forced into in the face of a massive Tory rebellion against his attempts to end selection.

Cameron caused the crisis when he attacked the 11-plus for 'dividing children into sheep and goats'. He promised to end selection, but then climbed down, leaving his policy tatters and Cameron facing questions over his leadership ability.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Prescott moved to high dependency unit - pneumonia confirmed.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has pneumonia and has been moved to a high dependency unit after he was admitted to hospital for tests after feeling unwell on the weekend.

In a statement, Mr Prescott's spokesman said tonight:

The Deputy Prime Minister's Office has tonight confirmed that the Deputy Prime Minister is suffering from pneumonia.

He has been moved to a high-dependency unit, not because of a deterioration in his condition but so that his condition can be monitored more closely.

C4 apologises to its own Executive over coverage of Princess Diana documentary, but not to Princes...

Channel Four's top news story tonight an extended report on the controversial documentary about the death of Princess Diana, to be defiantly broadcast by, er...Channel Four.

As part of their 'news story', Channel Four News informed us, rather bizarely, that: "No-one from Channel Four was available for interview..."

C4 News wanted to ask their own executives why they had ignored fresh pleas from Princess Diana's sons not to show paparazzi pix of the Paris car crash in which their mother died ten years ago.

But C4's news coverage became even more bizarre later in their programme when C4 issued an apology to a C4 Executive involved in the Diana film, who C4 reported as saying he wouldn't have objected to images of the accident that killed his own father being broadcast.

Apparently, he said exactly the opposite. Hence the apology.

This is not C4's finest hour.

I wonder if the maligned C4 Executive will be suing C4 for their slip...?

In any event, you can bet that the angry intervention by Prince's William and Harry will boost Channel Four's rating by several millions.

UPDATE: I find myself in agreement with Tory blogger Iain Dale on this one who says:

Channel 4 is appealing to the basest and most prurient human instincts with this programme. I think they are almost running out of ways to be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Vote for Sex says Tory candidate...

And they're expecting a large turnout...

Yet another teenager dies on Lincs roads...

Lincs Police have confirmed that the woman who died in Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham last Wednesday following a road accident in High Street, Moulton was Kym Crane, 18, who lived in the Spalding area.

The driver of the car in which she was a passenger died at the scene. He has been named as Christopher West (50), of Lime Street, Sutton Bridge.

Local Party support for Deputy Leadership candidates...

The number of local Labour Parties supporting each of the six Deputy Leadership candidates at close of nominations yesterday is as follows:

Hilary Benn 77, Hazel Blears 36, Jon Cruddas 68, Peter Hain 23, Harriet Harman 60, Alan Johnson 45.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Plan for more Grammar Schools unworkable - Times analysis

The Great Tory debacle over Grammar Schools - which David Cameron desperately tried to shut down over a week ago - lives on for at least another day.

An analysis of Cameron's chaotic policy to build new Grammar Schools in tomorrow's Times is headlined Why their argument does not work.

I'm sure you get the picture...

Saturday's Guardian says Cameron returns from his holiday this weekend to face charges from senior Conservatives that he is making his Party appear elitist and choatic...

Tania Brannigan writes:
Even Mr Cameron's staunchest supporters are baffled by the way an apparently uncontroversial speech on a long-standing Tory policy could spark a 17-day row, infighting and a frontbench resignation.
The Guardian has also printed a helpful guide to where the current 198 Tory MPs were educated. The vast majority - 112 - attended private school (independent or public) with 46 going to Grammar Schools, 27 to Comprehensives.

Two Tory MPs attended secondary moderns.

Didn't they do well for failures...or not!

Bercow has his Grammar School cake and eats it...

Tory blogger Iain Dale highlights the hypocrisy of Conservative MP John Bercow in the Tory Grammar Wars.

He contrasts two statements by John Bercow:

1. On GMTV on Sunday declaring it would be 'electoral suicide' for the Tories to go on about grammar schools and that David Cameron's policy of 'no more grammars' was absolutely right.

2. In his local paper in Buckinghamshire this week, welcoming confirmation that new Grammar Schools would be built under a Tory Government.

Yeah but, nah but, yeah but...

As Iain fairly says: You couldn't make this up.

Tory praise for Blair's foreign policy principles...

Leading Tory blogger Tim Mongomerie of Conservative Home - said to be the unofficial home of Conservative grassroots - writes in praise of Tony Blair's foreign policy principles which he says must not be lost when he leaves office.

Grammar Wars: Is Vicky Pollard to blame...?

Midst the chaos of Dave 'call me cave-in' Cameron's collapse on Grammar Schools, Labour blogger Mike Ion poses the question:
Is Vicky Pollard responsible for Tory policy on Grammar Schools?

He concludes: no but yeah but yeah but yeah no but yeah no but yeah!

So more decisive than the current Tory Leader then!

Ironically, Mike posted his question - and answer - BEFORE Cameron's latest, and most astonishing u-turn...

Dogs bark, cats miaow, Tories make us laugh...

Fair Deal Phil's Nomination for Belly-Laugh of the Week goes to the unnamed 'senior aide to Mr Cameron' who told today's Independent

'This is not a U-turn. There is no row. The policy has not changed.'

Topsy-turvey world of Tory policy-making...

The longer the Tory Grammar School wars goes on, the more bizarre it gets...

Think on this conundrum...

At the start of the week, Graham Brady lost his job after being hauled over the coals by Tory whips for publicly expressing his apparently outrageous views on Grammar Schools.

At the end of the same week, hey presto, the very words he lost his job over have become er, Conservative Party policy.

Cave-in Cameron: chaos or what...?

Tory press agrees Cameron is in total disarray over Grammar Wars...

This morning's papers give Cameron his hottest roasting since he became Tory Leader over his dramatic cave-in on Grammar School policy.

Under the headline Tories in 'U-turn' over grammar schools Daily Telegraph Chief Political Correspondent Toby Helm writes:

David Cameron's education policy is in disarray as his party backtracked on firm recent commitments not to build any more grammar schools.
The Daily Mail's also talk of Cameron's disarray, proclaiming Cameron stages great grammar school U-turn.

While the Daily Express says senior Tory Graham Brady - who lost his job in the chaos - has accused Cameron of being blinded by ideology.

The Independent also talks of dissarray and says David Cameron will give his backing to the creation of new grammar schools in areas that already have selection at 11 years old, after a revolt by senior Tory MPs worsened yesterday.

The Guardian says Tory education policy is mired in confusion after Cameron reassured rebels that some new grammar schools could be built after all.

The Times wins the Fair Deal prize for best headline with this painful-sounding offering: Cameron faces U-turn taunts after another MP mangles his grammar.

Times Political Editor Philip Webster writes:
The Conservative Party’s stance on grammar schools was mired in fresh confusion last night when some of its leading politicians admitted that more might be built.

After two weeks of insisting that the party was not interested in building more grammars, and would not promote them, the Conservative high command accepted that more might be allowed...
One of the leading Tory blog sites is also appalled by Cameron's mishandling of Grammar Wars - which has of course been totally self-inflicted:

Conservative Home, said to be 'unofficial home of Tory grassroots' yesterday said it was officially burying Grammar Wars - which is what Cameron had hoped for.

But then he made his astonishing u-turn, so Conservative Home quickly unburied the subject to complain of Tory retreat and shambles.

However, Tory blogging guru Iain Dale's latest word on the affair is from Wednesday's rather irritating (for Tory bloggers who hoped that Cameron had shut down the debate) revelation that George Osborne would prevent any new Grammar Schools from opening.

That of course was Wednesday's Tory policy. 24 hours later, Cameron caved in and a new policy was announced. Today's official Tory policy is that they would build new Grammar Schools ...but only a few more.

Do keep up Iain...