Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Tory sleaze and hypocrisy as Iain Dale defends the not so 'honourable' gentleman...

Another day, another shock revelation in the unfolding scandal of disgraced Tory MP Derek Conway...Thursday's Daily Mail claims it has uncovered secret documents which show that a close friend of one of Mr Conway's sons was also on the MP's payroll - as well as both his sons and his wife.

A couple of days ago when the story first broke, Tory blogger Iain Dale declined to comment on the plight of his friend Derek Conway.

Fair enough. But today, on news that the 'honourable gentleman' is to step down at the next General Election (before he can be deselected), Iain Dale has lambasted 'the baying mob' who attacked Derek Conway.

Iain says:

'Whatever Derek did or did not do he did not deserve some of the comments that have been thrown his way...'


Let's be clear what Mr Conway did: he wrongly dipped into the public purse to pay his son more than £40,000 in taxpayer's cash.

The new allegations which have emerged regarding thousands of pounds in taxpayers cash handed to his other son, payments to his wife and now cash for a close friend of one of his sons, all warrant further investigation.

(By the way, I totally condemn the Mail's disgraceful fixation on the alleged sexual orientation of any of those involved. It's totally irrelevant to the core issue of misuse of public funds).

For Iain Dale to portray Derek Conway as a victim of a baying mob demonstrates that he is allowing his judgement to be seriously clouded by his friendship.

There's more than a touch of hypocrisy in Iain Dale's whinge about 'the baying mob'.

Only a few days ago, Iain was quite happy to personally lead 'the baying mob' attacking Peter Hain for late reporting of private donations to fund an internal Labour Party election.

MD man missing...

Market Deeping man reported missing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Giuliani and Edwards to drop out...

CNN reporting:

1. John Edwards about to announce withdrawal from Democrat race. Will he back Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama...?

2. Rudy Giuliani about to drop out of Republican race and back John McCain.

Conway crisis gets deeper and deeper...

More sensational revelations about the public costs of Tory MP Derek Conway and his family from today's Daily Mail, including this helpful illustration...

Tory Leader David Cameron made it clear on Monday that Derek Conway would not be losing the Conservative whip just because he had been caught 'diverting' more than £40,000 of public cash.

Yesterday morning, Tory MP Roger Gale toured the TV and radio studios, stupidly claiming that Derek Conway was the victim of a witch-hunt.

But by lunchtime yesterday, David Cameron was forced to don his familiar flip-flops and do what he said he wouldn't do the night before...

Two things made Cameron's position untenable:

First, the media reaction against the not-so-honourable gentleman - including the Daily Mail describing Mr Conway's behaviour as theft.

Second, the BBC R4 Today programme by multi-millionaire Tory donor Stuart Wheeler that Derek Conway be sacked.

So Cameron was moved by money and media headlines...

Prime Minister's Questions should be even more interesting than usual - today at noon...

Hillary wins hollow victory in Florida: will Giuliani now back McCain...?

Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for Florida - but it's a hollow victory.

None of the main Democrats campaigned in Florida following a national decision to punish the state for having the temerity to hold their primary ahead of next week's Super Tuesday when over 20 states make their choice.

Four states were allowed to break the rules - but not Florida!

Although a bit of a sideshow, the win gave Hillary a chance to make a victory speech on national TV ahead of Super Tuesday.

She campaigned for Florida to get its delegates reinstated to the national convention. If there is no decisive winner coming out of Super Tuesday, a late decision to admit Florida to the party could be crucial for Hillary.

But the big story in Florida is in the Republican camp. With half the precincts reporting, John McCain is on 36 per cent, Mitt Romney on 32, but former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is trailing a poor third on only 15 per cent.

It appears that Giuliani has spectacularly lost his huge gamble to put all his eggs - and money - into the Florida basket, and stay out of previous contests. It meant he had to win Florida to have any chance of a shot at the nomination.

Will Giuliani go to California in the next 24 hours, withdraw from the contest, but back John McCain, and still be in with a chance of becoming Vice-Presidential candidate on a McCain ticket?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tory MP who handed his son £40k taxpayers cash faces new enquiry over payments to another son

The shamed Tory MP exposed yesterday for handing his student son more than £40,000 from public funds faces fresh charges that he also paid £32,000 in taxpayers cash to another son.

Conservative Leader David Cameron last night refused to withdraw the whip from Derek Conway MP, after his wrists were slapped by an official House of Commons enquiry for 'diverting' public funds to his son Freddie.

No surprise there, as only last week Mr Cameron said it was OK for parents to lie to get your children into the school of your choice.

But, if David Cameron thought the Derek Conway affair couldn't get any worse, it just did...

The Daily Mail splashes on allegations that Mr Conway faces a second sleaze enquiry over claims that £32,000 in parliamentary allowances was also paid to his other son Henry.

As I posted HERE yesterday, Mr Conway was rewarded with a ten-day holiday from the Commons after an official enquiry found he made payments to his son Freddie which were 'a serious diversion of public funds.'

If payments to his second son are proved to be a further 'diversion', I wonder if he'll have to extend his holiday by another ten days...?

Don't you just love the quaint House of Commons language to describe what an MP's misbehaviour...? Have you ever heard getting caught with a hand in the cash til as 'diverting public funds'.

I can think of a much simpler word for it.

Derek Conway is a senior Tory MP, first elected to Parliament 25 years ago. He was heavily touted as the next Mr Speaker - until yesterday's shameful revelations.

Can someone please explain why an MP who gets caught red-handed siphoning thousands of pounds of OUR money from the public purse is given ten days off work.

I can certainly think of more appropriate 'punishments'.

Mr Conway's treatment by the Standards and Privileges Committee appears to contrast starkly with Peter Hain's dilemma. Only last week, you will recall, Mr Hain lost his job and now faces a police enquiry for late reporting of private donations for an internal Labour Party election.

There was never a hint that Mr Hain had 'diverted' public funds as Mr Conway has done.

Today's Mail story doesn't say how Mr Conway funded Henry and Freddie through Harrow public school.

But isn't it time some searching questions were asked about how he's been spending our money for 25 years?

Ted Kennedy backs Obama, not Osama...

Huge blow to Hillary Clinton's campaign: Teddy Kennedy, once a close friend of the Clinton's, says it's time for Barack Obama.

The backing of the Kennedy clan still carried huge weight across America - and to many, Barack Obama evokes JFK with his stirring speeches of hope, change and a can-do, inclusive USA.

Comparing the man who is trying to become the first black President with his brother JFK, Teddy Kennedy told Washington students 'It is time again for a new generation of leadership'.

He said Obama could rekindle JFK's dream of a United States of America that shared a common purpose...

At least this time, Teddy didn't cock it up by confusing Obama with Osama bin Laden - as he did a couple of years ago.

The u-tube is absolutely genuine. It is not a joke....

Monday, January 28, 2008

A tale of two MPs: one loses his job and faces a police investigation, the other gets a holiday...

A few days ago, a senior Labour MP apologised for late reporting of thousands of pounds in private donations which he received to fund his bid to win an internal Labour Party election. There was no suggestion of fraud or that the money was used illegally or of misuse of public funds.

Peter Hain blamed an administrative error for reporting the donations later than he should have done.

The Electoral Commission decided to call in the police and Peter Hain responded by immediately resigning as a cabinet minister…

Today, a senior Conservative MP apologised for misusing thousands of pounds of taxpayers money.

The House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee said Derek Conway was wrong to put his son on the public payroll when he had little or no contact with his father’s office either at Parliament or in his Old Bexley and Sidcup constituency.

The Committee was astonished that young Freddie Conway seemed to have been all but invisible during the period of his employment.

That’s because he was hundreds of miles away studying for his degree at Newcastle University.

The Tory MP generously used public funds to pay his lad way over the going rate, as well as pension payments and lavish bonuses.

Mr Conway, whose previous fame seems to be as John Major's vote fixer in the Commons, is likely to face a ten-day suspension from Parliament.

So, one MP declares private donations late, loses his job and faces a criminal investigation.

The other gets caught misusing public money and gets sent on a 10-day holiday from work.

Is this justice, or am I missing something…?

There's one more very stark difference in these two cases:

Tory Leader David Cameron was first in the queue to put pressure on Peter Hain to resign.

I have yet to hear Mr Cameron announce that Derek Conway will be barred from standing as a Conservative candidate at the next general election...

UPDATE: Spot the difference: Leading Tory blogger Iain Dale was all over the Peter Hain story last week. He has yet to utter the words Derek Conway...! Same old Tories.

Fishermens' tale of seal: it's Serge, not Sammy...

A pair of anglers who competed with a seal for fish on the Nene yesterday are convinced it wasn't 'Sammy'.

I revealed HERE last week that a seal spotted basking on the Nene was not 'Sammy' who made a name for himself (or herself) with entertaining antics last summer.

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph are taking their seal stories rather seriously...and report this gem from one of the hapless anglers:

'He had no markings on him, but I am convinced it was not Sammy. It would be too much of a coincidence for the same seal to make its way up the river...'

They've named the new seal 'Serge'.

I notice that one of the fishermen is called Mr Waterman.

Very fishy...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Clinton concedes defeat in South Carolina: huge win for Obama...

With more than two-thirds of the precincts now declared, Barack Obama heading for a huge victory over Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary.

It puts Obama back on level-pegging with Clinton, with each of them winning two states.

But winning by such a huge margin badly hurts Hillary Clinton. It will Barack Obama with the momentum going on to Super Tuesday in nine days time when 22 states make their nomination. And it will be Hillary Clinton who is on the back foot again...

Looks like this race will go down to the wire.

UPDATE: With 95% of precincts now reported, Barack Obama has increased his lead to 28 points over Hillary Clinton...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cameron's Tories select another Labour reject...!

Remember Tony Lit, the disastrous Tory candidate who flopped in last summer's Ealing Southall by-election...?

This photo of him posing with Tony Blair may jog your was snapped at a fundraiser for the Labour Party just days before David Cameron personally hand-picked him as the Conservative candidate.

Well, Cameron's Tories have done it again...They've selected another Labour reject for a high-profile seat.

The Mail-on-Sunday reveals that black businesswoman and lawyer Helen Grant, who was selected as Ann Widdecombe's successor in Maidstone earlier this week, is a former paid-up member of the Labour Party.

Having failed to get selected by Labour for a local council seat, she's now turned to Cameron's Tories and been selected in a parliamentary seat with a 14,000 Conservative majority.

At her selection earlier this week, Helen Grant was hailed as one of "Cameron's A-listers" and a statement on the Maidstone Conservatives website claims she is the embodiment of Conservative values

She's already launched her own website, but I can't find any mention on it of her Labour credentials.

Funny that.

Will history be made in South Carolina tonight...? UPDATED

Could history be made tonight in South Carolina...? Or will we have to wait ten days until Super-Dooper Tuesday before we know who's likely to be the next President of the United States.

The smart money is on Vietnam veteran John McCain to win the Republican nomination but I can't see him, or anyone else, stopping the Democrats after eight years of George Dubya Bush.

So it's odds-on that within a year, we'll see either the first black President or the first female President in the White House.

My heart's still with Barack Obama, but my money's on former first Lady
Hillary Clinton.

Tonight, the pressure is on Barack Obama to win the first Democratic primary in a state with a large black population - almost a third.

Race itself appears to have become an issue in the race as reported by Associated Press tonight.

It will be interesting to see how the black vote in SC splits, with many recalling that Hillary's husband Bill was generally supported by black voters. There has been some analysis showing that Clinton has so far fared better in states with secret ballots for the nomination rather than in open caucus events, suggesting that race may still be an issue.

What makes tonight's contest more interesting is that South Carolina is the home state of the very able John Edwards who is currently running third in the race for the Democrat nomination. Edwards needs a strong showing tonight to stay in the race. If he drops out before Super Tuesday, whether he backs Obama or Clinton could be crucial in deciding the eventual winner.

The final polls before voting in SC put Barack Obama eight points ahead of Hillary Clinton, with each of them anxious to talk up their rival's chances and underplay their own expectations.

Voting closes at 7pm local time in SC and CNN are reporting a record turnout in places, which could favour Obama.

I can see it's going to be another long night for anoraks like me...but nothing compared to the long night faced by the frontrunners and their campaign teams.

As the polls close in South Carolina, the race hots up in the 21 Super Tuesday states. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be flying out of South Carolina later tonight to start campaigning elsewhere - even before tonight's results are known.

UPDATE: With voting now closed, exit polls analysed but no actual votes yet counted, CNN are predicting Obama will win South Carolina comfortably.

Boris faces conflict charges as Ken opens poll lead...

Despite this week's disgraceful Dispatches hatchet-job and the never-ending daily bile spat out by the London Standard, Ken Livingstone has opened up a poll lead over Boris Johnson in the campaign to be Mayor of London.

And Saturday's Guardian turns the spotlight on Boris Johnson who faces a conflict of interest charge and interesting revelations about who's paying for his campaign HQ...

The latest YouGov/ITV London poll was taken after the Dispatches programme this week and puts Labour's Ken on 44 per cent, Tory Boris Johnson on 40 per cent and LibDem Brian Paddick on eight per cent.

Good to see Londoners standing up to the barrage of outrageous attacks on their Mayor. Londoners know Ken and trust him to do what's best for London.

It's already the dirtiest campaign ever mounted against Ken Livingstone - and I expect the daily venom against him which oozes from the London Standard to intensify as the campaign hots up.

But Londoners have come to expect outrageous personal and political attacks on Ken's integrity and they see straight through them.

I hope Londoners will go on rejecting the lies and unsubstantiated allegations. If Ken is judged on the real issues such as what he has delivered on transport, crime, affordable housing, the environment and community relations, he'll win hands down on May the First.

* Meanwhile, Boris was on the campaign trail today - but not in London.

The Tory chancer's visit to his constituency in Oxfordshire serves to highlight how close Boris is to London issues.

So close in fact, that he didn't bother to turn up once for the crucial House of Commons on the £16 billion Crossrail line which has been given the go-ahead by the Labour Government.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Larger than Life Cloughie to stand eight-feet tall...

Designs have been unveiled for an eight-foot-high bronze of soccer legend Brian Clough who I'll always remember for his life-long support for ordinary working people...

After the great man died from cancer in 2004, the main A52 which connects Nottingham with Derby was officially and appropriately renamed and re-signed "Brian Clough Way".

Loud-mouth Cloughie brought unprecendented footballing glory to the East Midlands, turning both Nottingham Forest and Derby County from unfashionable second division clubs into international world beaters.

He was arguably the best football manager ever. And he knew it, famously once saying: 'I wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the business, but I'm in the top one...!"

Cloughie was certainly the best manager England never had: He claimed that the Football Association wouldn't give him the job because they were frightened he would take charge. He added that the FA were very perceptive - that's exactly what he would do!

There's already a statue of Cloughie in football kit in the Middlesbrough park near his childhood home. But it's about time he was properly honoured here in his adopted East Midlands, where he'll always be a hero to so many people.

I'm not a huge footie fan, but I'm delighted that the new statue is to be erected in Nottingham City Centre and that he'll stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Cloughie never forgot his roots. He became my hero during the first ever national provincial journalists strike in the 1970s. Nottingham journalists produced an alternative newspaper to raise funds to support the strikers' families - and Cloughie provided the first splash - the fantastic exclusive that he'd signed Trevor Francis to Forest as the first million pound player in the country.

After the national dispute was finally settled, 28 journalists on the Nottingham Evening Post were disgracefully sacked by a feudal management.

I went back to work at the Lincoln Chronicle and for month after month helped organise weekly trips to Nottingham to support our sacked colleagues and picket the offices of Post owners T. Bailey Foremans.

For more than a year, Cloughie supported the campaign to 'Reinstate the Twenty-eight' and refused to speak to the main evening paper which covered the Reds.

A true legend. Rest in peace Cloughie.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I solve mystery of 'Sammy' the slug-like seal...

I've solved the mystery of the slug-like seal spotted on the river at Peterborough earlier this week: it's definitely not Sammy, as the Evening Telegraph speculated a couple of nights ago.

And the seal spotted on the River Nene in the city last year wasn't Sammy either.

I have it on good authority - the BBC website - that Sammy the Seal was sadly shot some years ago, apparently after getting the blame for raiding salmon farms. The death penalty was said to be the last resort after broke his ASBO (anti-salmon-behaviour-order)and ignored the warnings.

Poor Sammy the Scoffer of Salmon (allegedly) couldn't have been an English-speaking seal or he would have read the signs saying he wasn't supposed to eat the salmon he caught, but throw it back like good sports...

Anyway, compare the photo on the right here, that ET reader Steve Farrell snapped a few days ago in Peterborough with the BBC photo (above) of Scottish Sammy munching on his last supper before meeting his maker: I'm sure you'll conclude, as I have, that there's no real likeness.

However, I did enjoy the comments on my original post from GW about Billy the Cardiff seal who was said to have been caught red-handed in the 1930s trying to board a tram...!

He became so famous, the good people of Wales built a statue to Billy.

Keep 'em coming...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Boris Johnson gets a roasting over 'piccaninnies' disgrace...

If you're sensitive about strong language, probably best not reading this account of an event this week which saw Boris Johnson, the Tory candidate for London Mayor, get a public roasting for describing African people as 'piccaninnies' with 'water-melon smiles...'

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sammy the Seal may be back...but who's Steve the Snapper?

Don't you just love these stories...?

This one started a year ago when Sammy the Seal became a local media after his (or is it her?) antics on the River Nene. But then Sammy slipped away.

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph tonight runs this photo taken a couple of days ago and concludes:"It's hard to tell but it could be Sammy..."

Look, this is serious. Yes, I know it's a bit fuzzy but please look closely. Is it or isn't it...?

For my money, it certainly looks like a seal, possibly doing a rather good impression of a large slug (as readers have commented...) And yes, it could be the return of Sammy...(although how can we be sure the original performing seal was in fact called Sammy...?!)

Anyway, the photo in tonight's paper was apparently snapped by reader Steve Farrell...

I'm not so bothered whether Steve has captured Sammy...

What I'm wondering is whether Steve the seal-snapper (or slug-snapper!) is the same Steve Farrell I used to commute with from Peterborough to London every day some 20-odd years ago...?

It's a small world.

Blogging Tory parliamentary candidate ordered to pay £6,500 in libel case...

A blogging Tory parliamentary candidate has been ordered by the High Court to pay £6,500 - and make a grovelling public apology to the Labour MP she faces at the next general election.

Esther McVey lifted a dodgy story from the Mail on Sunday which wrongly accused Wirral West MP Stephen Hesford of planning to take part in a cricket "junket" to Australia and New Zealand.

Tory Party Leader David Cameron is probably this morning wishing he hadn't described Esther McVey as "a great ambassador for the Conservatives"

The case should serve as a warning to the blogging community that the same libel laws apply to blogs just as they do to other media.

Flood sirens sound in north Lincs...

Flood sirens were sounded in Lincolnshire today - in Louth and Horncastle. But - fingers crossed - most of the county seems to have escaped lightly despite days of almost torrential rain and river levels appear stable.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Channel 4 wields the hatchet on Ken Livingstone...

I missed tonight's much-trailed Dispatches programme on London Mayor Ken Livingstone, which apparently took six months in the making.

Fellow-blogger Luke Akehurst who did see it confirms my suspicions that Channel Four presented a disgraceful hour-long hatchet job, long on one-sided comment, but woefully short on fact.

Ken's achievements in helping make London one of the world's most vibrant cities over the past eight years are there for all to see.

But can anyone tell me when Londoners - or any of us - will be shown the TV documentary resulting from a similar six months research into Tory challenger Boris Johnson...?


Didn't think so.

Ross Kemp wins praise after serving with the real hardmen on the Afghan frontline...

TV tough-guy Ross Kemp has won praise of troops from our region who have been involved in some of the bloodiest action since the Second World War.

Nine Vikings (1st Batallion, The Royal Anglian Regiment) were killed during their arduous six-month tour of Hellmand Province in Afghanistan which saw them fire a million rounds of ammunition.

If you missed tonight's TV documentary which saw Ross telling his story of his time on the front-line, you can see a clip HERE thanks to the Peterborough Evening Telegraph.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nevada bets on Hillary...UPDATED

Hillary Clinton is claiming a big win in a record turnout in Nevada. Following her surprise comeback to take New Hampshire, the gambling state has put her back on track as the front-runner to take the Democrat nomination and become the first female President.

But as we've already seen in the caucus in Iowa and the primary in New Hampshire, anything could happen in this race.

Barack Obama is still in the fight: a CNN national poll published yesterday showed him making big gains among black voters who previously backed Hillary Clinton.

Barack is expected to do well in South Carolina, next stop on the Democrat campaign trail where voting takes place in a week's time. But it may not be settled Super Tuesday next month when Democrats in 20 states pick their favoured candidate for October's election.

Meanwhile, the Republican race is taking place both Nevada and South Carolina tonight. CNN are calling Nevada for the man with the most money Mitt Romney, who hopes to become the first Mormon in the Oval Office. But the smart money seems to be on Vietnam veteran John McCain. In SC, McCain appears to be ahead and is apparently calling for an extension to voting hours following reports of machinery malfunctions...

When will Americans learn that a blunt pencil is infinitely more reliable than their duff electronic gadgetry...?

UPDATE: With 97% of the Democrat caucuses in Nevada now reported, CNN says Hillary is on 51%and Barack Obama on 45%.

Flood warning in The Deepings...

Flood warning on the River Welland between Spalding and, do they mean us in The Deepings?

Certainly the river is unusually high following the incessant rains. Fortunately, we have the Maxey Cut 'by-pass' designed to take excess flows, so hopefully we'll escape flooding...

Hope I haven't spoken too soon!

Hazel Blears selected for new seat...

BBC latest

The day I ate pie, chips and gravy with Vera Duckworth...

I was out last night so missed Vera Duckworth's passing. But I'm pleased that after 33 years, the Queen of Corrie went peacefully, slumped in her armchair, while Jack had popped to the Rovers for a swift half.

Liz Dawn - who gave us the much-loved Vera - is said to be suffering from chronic lung disease and asked to be written out of Corrie when her illness became too much to cope with the rehearsal demands in Manchester.

As Bill Tarmey who played her partner Jack said, Liz Dawn is a wonderful woman. She's also a life-long Labour supporter and I've had the absolute pleasure of meeting her a couple of times.

In 2002, I was working in the local elections in Burnley, Lancashire where we were fighting a threat from the odious and divisive BNP.

On the final weekend of campaigning, Liz generously offered to come to Burnley to meet Saturday shoppers to encourage them to use their vote to stop the BNP.

We arranged a meet just off the motorway and I accompanied her into Burnley, briefing her on the way. We were dropped just round the corner and only a short walk from the town centre, where a crowd had gathered to meet the TV star.

But just a few steps from the car, Liz had to stop to catch her breath and painfully asked 'is it much further...?'

Then, as she turned the corner, her fans spotted the star and surrounded her. In an instant, the pained expression had gone. The famous Vera smile was turned on, and the media cameras clicked away.

Pictures done, she spent time signing autographs and speaking with everyone who wanted to meet her. Then a young, rather star-struck reporter from the Burnley Express asked to interview Liz.

Liz was clearly flagging, so I suggested we found a seat in a nearby cafe and had a chat over a cuppa.

As we approached the crowded little cafe, Liz instantly perked up. Inside we managed to find a table and she was soon ordering pie, chips and gravy all round to go with the teas...

Election day in Burnley was eventful, but thankfully, the BNP were held to three seats on the local council. It was not good, but could have been much worse.

The following day, as I was driving home down the A1, my mobile phone rang and I was gobsmacked to hear Liz in the other end...

"Hiya Chuck. Liz here. Are you all right? Did we beat that nasty BNP...?"

Six years later, I met Liz again, at a glittering reception on the Corrie set at Labour Party Conference in Manchester where this snap was taken.

But as the champagne cocktails and the canapes flowed, it was clear to me that Liz, like Vera (and me!!!) would have preferred a plate of pie, chips and gravy...

Vera's gone, but I hope Liz enjoys many years of happy retirement...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Radical answers needed on Lincs roads...?

Lincolnshire roads have seen one of the biggest increases in traffic over the past decade - with central London the only place in the country to see a fall in vehicle numbers since 1997, according to tonight's Lincolnshire Echo.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone took a lot of flak when he brought in the controversial Congestion Zone - and it now costs £8 a day to drive into the centre of the capital.

But it's clearly effective in cutting traffic when all else has failed - and of course improving air quality in the capital. Ken has used the revenue generated by the Congestion Charge to massively invest in buses and the tube.

The result is that today, London is the only major city in the world to shift travellers out of their cars and onto public transport.

Local campaigners say Lincolnshire is heading for 'traffic hell' if action is not taken soon.

Central London and rural Lincolnshire could hardly be different, of course.

But radical solutions sometimes achieve results, as Ken clearly demonstrates.

I don't pretend to have all the answers - but I've long been convinced that sooner or later, we'll have to have some sort of Park-and-Ride service in the Deepings area to meet the extra traffic on the A15 Peterborough-Bourne corridor caused the huge increase in development in recent years.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Photo that shows the miracle at Heathrow...

I just heard an eyewitness to today's crash landing at Heathrow say on BBC radio that the British Airways pilot deserves a medal as big as a frying pan for managing to land inside the perimeter fence after a total power loss...and this photo from the BBC website shows how perilously close to disaster the aircraft came.

Despite the aircraft's wheels literally falling off, a wing ripped from the fuselage and the Rolls Royce engines gouging into the tarmac, some passengers have described a bit of a bumpy landing, not realising until later that they had belly-flopped!

Tomorrow's papers will use the over-used 'miracle escape' in their headlines. For once, they will be spot on.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Woolfie knocked out...

Bad luck to defending world darts champion Martin 'Woolfie' Adams of Deeping St James who has just been knocked out in the semi-finals.

One of our bombs is missing...

I kid you not. The Royal Air Force has dropped a bit of a clanger...or to be more accurate, a bomb.

The training bomb, described as a having a charge like a giant firework, apparently fell by mistake from a Harrier jump-jet which was on a sortie from RAF Wittering to RAF Holbeach bombing range on Tuesday.

So it could be anywhere over south Lincolnshire or north Cambs. Our boys in blue ask us all to keep our eyes peeled, as they'd really like their bomb back.

It was thought to have been found yesterday in . But experts who rushed to examine a fin sticking out of the ground at Long Sutton discovered it was not the one they were looking for.

That's OK then.

So any old bomb won't do. The one you are looking for is like the one in my picutre. Police warn members of the public not to approach the bomb, but to call the police immediately.

I kid you not.

Olympic drugs cheat on track for prison...but not yet

Good to see an American judge make an example of Olympic drugs cheat Marion Jones by sending her to prison for lying about using steroids and her involvement in fraud.

But I was surprised to see the disgraced former golden girl free to give a press conference outside the New York court after being sentenced.

It appears that the six-month jail sentence was pre-agreed with her lawyers in a plea bargain deal. And instead of sending her down immediately, the Judge ordered her to start her time inside sometime in the next two months.

Only in America...?

Big weekend for our Woolfie...

Deeping St James own defending world darts champ Martin 'Wolfie' Adams came close to losing his title in the quarter-finals.

But, as reported in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph our Woolfie eventually won his match 5-4 to claim a place in the semi-finals for the fourth successive year.

You can see Woolfie's match on Saturday at the Lakeside on BBC TV (coverage starts at 2.30pm) with the final on Sunday.

Go Woolfie...!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hillary: winning in New Hampshire to become the 'comeback candidate...'

2.45am: It's so tight. CNN report that with 46% of the results in, Hillary Clinton has 40 per cent of the vote, with Barack Obama on 36.

Still a long way to go til this one's settled...

Sticking with CNN as they are updating by the minute.

2.55am: Getting tighter...52% of the precincts in: Clinton 39%, Obama 37%.

3.25am: Now 62% of precincts have reported: Clinton 39%, Obama 36%.

3.30am: 64% in: Clinton holding 39%, Obama still on 36%.

3.48am: 73% in: No change in margins.

With almost three-quarters of the vote declared, it's unlikely to change the result significantly I'm off to bed.

What an amazing result for Hillary after the roller-coaster of the past few days saw her written off by many pundits and certainly fighting for her political life.

The race with Barack Obama for the White House goes on...But after New Hampshire, Hillary has proved she's the comeback candidate.

Wonder if it was that trick of John Major's with the soap-box that did the trick?

Late surge by Hillary: its too close to call...

Polls now closed in New Hampshire and counting underway. The ABC network - and others - say a late surge by Hillary Clinton makes the Democrat nomination too close to call.

Associated Press have just reported it's neck-and-neck. Edwards is definitely third.

Obama may still win, but it looks likely the Clinton camp have fought back after a damaging few days and will be able to go on revived, saying they've performed much better than expected in NH after losing so badly in Iowa.

Good news too perhaps for Hillary's campaign manager, whose job was said to be on the line tonight. Looks like he lives to fight another state, or two.

Now the pressure will be on Barack Obama as he is now seen as a serious contender. Will be interesting to see how he performs under intense scrutiny from his opponents and the media, like he has not experienced until now.

As predicted, John McCain has won the Republican fight in New Hampshire.

Michigan should have been next stop on the campaign trail but most candidates have withdrawn after a local scandal and the result there next Tuesday will have little or no significance. Next to watch are the states of Nevada and South Carolina in 11 days - a week Saturday.

Oh, that Birmingham...!

How well do you expect members of the European Parliament to know the patch they are elected to represent...?

Brummie Tom Watson MP has a story that suggests that the Tory MEPs elected to represent the West Midlands can't tell the difference between Britain's second city and a town in Alabama...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

NH exit polls say Obama wins, but not by a landslide...

Veteran American pollster Frank Luntz has called the New Hampshire primary for Barack Obama - but not by a double-digit margin over Hillary Clinton.

With the benefit of exit polls, Luntz was interviewed on BBC Newsnight. He says there's been another record turnout for both parties - similar to what happened in Iowa.

"Something's happening to the psyche of Americans that is getting people engaged..." he told Jeremy Paxman.

So, it looks as though Hillary will survive New Hampshire after all - Luntz says don't write Hillary off yet - he predicts the state of Nevada could be the big decider, which raises the spectre of Las Vegas calling the shots!

Whatever margin Barack Obama wins by tonight in New Hampshire, the electricity generated by Obama is already lighting up South Carolina where he has opened massive 20 points lead ahead of Hillary 19 days before the state decides.

One New York paper is even contemplating the unthinkable - the prospect of Barack Obama beating Hillary Clinton in her own backyard...

3.45am UPDATE: Looks like Hillary managed an astonishing comeback and is now heading to actually WIN the New Hampshire primary. With over two thirds of the precincts now reported, Hillary is ahead of Barack Obama by three points - 39 to 36 with John Edwards in third.

Go Woofie...(update: he's through to third round...)

Deepings' darts champion Martin 'Wolfie' Adams defends his World Professional title tonight (Tuesday) at the Lakeside Country Club.

Martin, who lives round the corner on Broadgate Lane, Deeping St James, easily won his first round match on Sunday night. Ironically, his opening match in this year's championships was against Phil Nixon, the player he met in the final last year. Then Nixon came back from a near whitewash to within a whisker of denying Wolfie the title.

But on Sunday, according to the Stamford Mercury, Wolfie won convincingly in straight sets. Tonight Woofie meets Martin Phillips in the second round. I expect it will be on BBC2 following Newsnight...

I have to admit that televised darts is not my nine pints of beer, but I wish Woofie all the best in definding his title.

Interesting that darts has lifted its image somewhat and attracts coverage in the "quality" dailies, such as this in-depth interview on the sports pages of The Independent.

Go Woolfie.

UPDATE: Woolfie went through 4-0.

Cameron flip-flops again to jump on Obama bandwagon...

Tory Leader David Cameron previously backed Vietnam veteran John McCain, then former New York Mayor Rudi Guiliani to be next President of the United States. But now he's switched horses again - and hopped on the Obama bandwagon.

Sensing that something special is happening in the race for the White House, Dave doesn't want to be left behind. So he's reached for his favourite pair of flip-flops. On the eve of what's expected to be a big victory for Barack Obama in New Hampshire, the Tory leader has switched parties as well as candidates.

UPDATE: Here's what Cameron said on Radio FiveLive about Obama, from Wednesday's Guardian:

"I'm enjoying watching Barack Obama. I think he's a brilliant speaker, I think his optimism and sense of hope for the future is inspiring a lot of people. It's great to see. Too often [politics] gets down to hope and fear and I think it's wonderful when hope wins. I'm enjoying watching him, I must say. I think he's compelling," Cameron told Radio 5 Live's Breakfast programme.

"What people like is the sense that Obama generates, that we don't have to be like this, we can do better... I think we need that same sense of possibility here.

"I’m enjoying watching Barack Obama. I think he’s a brilliant speaker, I think his optimism & sense of hope for the future is inspiring a lot of people. It’s great to see. Too often politics gets down to hope and fear and I think it’s wonderful when hope wins. I’m enjoying watching him, I must say. I think he’s compelling. What people like is the sense that Obama generates, that we don’t have to be like this, we can do better…I think we need that same sense of possibility here"

Hillary talks about ironing, but is it curtains?

The question of whether America is ready to elect its first black President thankfully seems to be yes, but what about a woman in charge...?

Two young men shouted Iron my Shirt at an eve of poll Hillary Clinton rally in New Hampshire suggesting there might be a few dinosaurs left who believe a woman's place is in the house, but not the White House.

Turns out that it was more a stunt to promote a local radio station than a real political point.

Some grassy knoll cynics are even speculating that the whole Iron My Shirt stunt may have been posed by the Clinton camp themselves to turn down the heat she's feeling from Obama.

Iron My Shirt certainly didn't do Hillary any harm in the media war. It allowed her to make a point on national TV that she was hoping to break through the ultimate glass ceiling.

Later, she was able to joke that if anyone in her audience wanted to know how to iron a shirt, she was happy to talk about it!

Would it be too cruel (or premature) to suggest that it's not shirts that Hillary should be talking about ironing, but curtains...!

As Obama wins first real votes in NH, is Hillary preparing to quit?

The first 17 votes from the tiny outpost of Dixville Notch have already been counted - and there's no comfort for Hillary who didn't pick up a single vote.

While most communities of New Hampshire vote this evening, the settlement of Dixville Notch on the border with Canada traditionally stay up until after midnight the night before everyone else votes, so they can be the first community in their state to declare.

So very American!

Obama picked up seven of the ten Democrat votes from Dixville Notch.

More worrying for Hillary than the votes from one remote community is news that Barack Obama was ahead in every one of eight latest polls in New Hampshire released in the past 24 hours.

Some pundits are already reporting on rumours that Hillary is preparing to quit the race for the White House.

Hillary doesn't need to win tonight in New Hampshire. She is still front-runner in some of the bigger states and if she can survive New Hampshire by coming a credible second to Obama, she'll still be in with a shout of winning the nomination.

Don't forget, Hillary is married to the Comeback Kid!

UPDATE: I've deleted reference to caucusing in New Hampshire which I made in error. Unlike Iowa which has a caucus, New Hampshire in fact has a primary where individuals from each party vote for their favoured candidate rather than caucus. Some states caucus. Some vote. Very complicated. Very American (and I'm not even sure most Americans pretend to understand the system). Best not ask!

ET's webcast slip confuses SKDC with SHDC...

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph don't seem to know their South Kesteven from their South Holland when it comes to local councils.

A news item in Monday's edition suggests that Peterborough City Council may take a leaf out of South Kesteven's book by webcasting council meetings to make them more accessible to council taxpayersPeterborough Evening Telegraph.

In fact it is South Holland who deserve the credit for currently webcasting their meetings, not South Kesteven who are not doing webcasts as far as I know.

The ET then compounded their error by referring to South Kesteven's Chief Executive as Terry Huggins.

Last time I looked, Chief Exec. of Grantham based SK was still Duncan Kerr. Terry Huggins is Chief Exec. of Spalding-based neighbours South Holland District Council...

Meantime, full county council meetings at Lincolnshire have been available by webcast for some time.

You can see the last Lincs CC meeting in its full glory (complete with contributions from yours truly!)HERE.

Just thought you ought to know!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Irish bookies pay out on Obama to win final nomination...

Irish bookie Paddy Power says it's already game over for Hillary...

They are not even waiting to see the result in New Hampshire tomorrow night.

With 49 of the 50 states still to choose, Paddy Power are saying if you backed Obama to be the Democratic's Presidential candidate, collect your winnings now...!

Hillary resorts to John Major tactic to combat Obama's 13-point poll lead...

Latest USA Today/Gallup predicts a massive 13 point lead for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's New Hampshire Democratic primary.
Hillary is down four points since last month and Barack up nine.

Despite this, many pundits still predict Hillary will win on Tuesday. But most agree anything other than victory over Obama will leave her struggling to survive in the race for the White House.

She certainly came out fighting in a candidate's debate today, attacking Obama as a flip-flopper. It took a brave intervention by the third candidate John Edwards to question why Hillary didn't attack Obama when she was ahead...

Certainly, Hillary is seen as desperate, earlier being booed by members of her own party for personal attacks on Obama. It all seemed to backfire on Hillary, only adding to Obama's gravitas as the new front-runner.

The Clinton campaign is now being portrayed for the first time as wooden: TV pix tonight showed Hillary struggling on the stump with faulty microphones, dodgy megaphones, and a noisy bus engine drowning out her message.

By contrast, Obama appeared totally in control: storming ahead with much bigger turnouts than for Hillary and more electric performances from the Senator from Illinois.

Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, Hillary has changed tack by taking a leaf out of John Major's book and getting out a soap-box...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Barack Obama Iowa Caucus Victory Speech

Is Obama the new JFK...?

Barack Obama has created such incredible momentum in the US presidential race in Iowa that if he wins big in New Hampshire, the second state to choose it's candidate, he'll no doubt be hailed as the new John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Are we really witnessing a historic moment not seen since Kennedy in the 1960s...? Is it premature to say Obama has launched a new movement that will change American politics...?

Maybe. Just maybe...

Plenty of early sensations in previous races for the White House burned out and disappeared back into obscurity. And this race has only just begun: the intense tests in the big states when the campaign will inevitably get nastier are still a long way off.

But I've just u-tubed Obama's victory speech in Iowa and watched it in full. Then again. It is certainly electric - and definitely JFK, maybe with a bit of Martin Luther King for good measure... (sorry, for some reason I had to upload the utube in a separate post, but do have a look...)

JFK or not, The Obama moment that took Iowa by storm already seems to be spreading to the next battleground of New Hampshire.

The influential Daily Kos blog reveals a massive surge for Senator Barack Obama in New Hampshire since Thursday.

Just a few days ago, former first lady Hillary Clinton was at least six points ahead in New Hampshire and most likely Democrat runner for the White House in November.

But in an astonishing turnround, two polls taken in the hours since Iowa give Obama a double-digit lead over Clinton in New Hampshire.

And Fox News says the Hillary Clinton operation has already run aground in New Hampshire.

A CNN poll published tonight by the Boston Herald says it's a dead heat.

Obama is on fire.

His Iowa victory speech may indeed be a moment in history...

Certainly, if he beats Hillary in New Hampshire by double-digits, she surely couldn't become the comeback kid that husband Bill proved to be in 1992...or could she?

Only time will tell.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Slap on the wrist for brutal riverside killers...?

The callous brutality of two separate local riverside killings has left me totally stunned...and compelled to comment on what appears to be the extraordinary light sentences handed down to two sick teenage killers who burned and tortured a helpless man.

First, there was the shocking bloody murder of Anita Anderson(pictured, right). She was smashed over the head with a saucepan by her husband of 32 years, who then drove her to the banks of the River Welland right here in Deeping St James.

This report from The Sun tells how she regained conciousness, and was then stabbed and bashed with a hammer before being weighed down with a tractor tyre - probably still alive - to die in a pool of blood.

Anita's husband had callously offered £20,000 to a hitman to get rid of his wife, so he could run off with a younger woman.

Just before Christmas, husband and hitman went to jail for over 20 years each after being convicted of a heartless and cruel murder.

Judge Michael Stokes said Anderson showed his wife no mercy and he would get none from the court. He ordered him to serve at least 22 years behind bars before parole could be even considered. If he died in prison, so be it, said the good Judge.

That sounded to me like some kind of justice and at least a little comfort for those left to pick up the pieces.

But now we have a sentencing row over a pair of teenage killers who savagely burned a helpless man in Spalding, urinated on him and callously filmed themselves chucking him in the River Welland to drown.

The same Judge Stokes yesterday sentenced the killers of Toby Atkin. Judge Stokes is reported to have been appalled that one of the brutal killers, just 16 at the time, had 24 previous convictions for offences such as burglary, battery, and possessing an offensive weapon. But his longest sentence had been four-months detention and a training order for handling stolen goods.

The younger killer, 14 at the time, had 13 previous convictions for such offences as harassment, battery, arson, burglary and theft. He's never received a custodial sentence.

Judge Stokes was apparently astonished that both had repeatedly been given a weak slap on the wrist.

Even more astonishing - in my view - was the sentence that Mr Justice Stokes then handed down: five years detention for one killer and and just 42 months for the other.

Both are likely to serve only half their sentence before release on licence.

The killing was last May, so if they've been on remand since, it appears that one of them could be home early next year, possibly less than two years after his terrible crime.

That doesn't seem to right to me.

It's always dangerous relying on media reports of cases before commenting on sentences. I wasn't in court and don't pretend to know the full facts of the case.

But from what I've read, at the end of the day Judge Stokes' words about a weak slap on the wrist seem to have a hollow ring.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Guess who came 3rd in Iowa in 1992...?

OK, maybe I was over-hasty writing off Hillary Clinton's chances if she hit the buffers in Iowa. True, she has suffered a massive setback coming third among Democrat presidential contenders in Iowa...

But while the good Democrats of the tiny state have given a huge boost to the chances of Senator Barack Obama becoming the first Black President, historically, they haven't always backed the eventual winner.

In 1992, according to the Des Moines Register, Iowa Democrats caucused 3-1 in favour of Tom Harkin.

Er, Tom who, I hear you ask.

In third place that year - with a derisory three-per-cent support - was an ambitious young man who went on not only to defeat Harkin later, but to reach the White House less than a year later, and make Hillary Clinton America's First Lady.

Hillary may have been mauled in Iowa after starting the race runaway favourite, but now she knows she's in a real marathon contest with Barack Obama.

So while Senator Obama is the first Black politician ever to win the first state to caucus in the arcane process, Hillary will survive Iowa.

Watch her come out fighting in New Hampshire next Tuesday...

Tory MP who should stick to colouring...

Police are investigating a Tory MP after receiving a video of him allegedly driving a quad bike on a public road with a young girl perched on a pallet behind him - just days after a seven-year-old girl tragically died in a quad bike accident.

Thanks to today's Daily Telegraph, you can see the movie which appears to show Nicholas 'Bunter' Soames MP (grandson of Winston Churchill) chasing a New Year's Day huntHERE.

As well as the girl on the pallet, there's another two children and four adults in tow in a trailer on the back of the quad.

The Mirror had an exclusive splash on the story yesterday - and helpfully provided a link to a special 'biog' on Mr Soames - which reveals that when Michael Howard was Tory Leader he gave Mr Soames a birthday present of a colouring book!

Wonder what David Cameron would like to give him...?

In a separate case, police are considering whether to prosecute the father of a Elizabeth Cooke, the seven-year-old who died from multiple injuries after colliding with a Range Rover while riding a quad bike on Boxing Day.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

If Hillary is third in Iowa, can her campaign survive...?

In the early hours of Friday morning, we may have a better idea of who will be the next President of the most powerful nation in the world...

For months, the 'smart' money has been on Senator Hillary Clinton of New York returning to the White House in a Democratic landslide to become the real First Lady.

Just a few weeks ago, Hillary seemed unstoppable in her quest to become first female President of the United States.

My heart was with the younger Barack Obama to become the first Black President, though my head said it had to be Hillary.

But now the final poll before voters in the small state of Iowa make their choice of candidates, Hillary's campaign seems to have nose-dived, with Barack Obama now tipped as firm favourite.

Former Presidential running-mate John Edwards has also made a late surge in Iowa and the poll puts Hillary in third place in the Iowa caucus.

Hillary is way ahead in the polls for the next caucus-stop in New Hampshire in a few days, but if she's pushed into third place tonight, as this poll predicts, her campaign may not recover.

Republican supporters in Iowa also choose their favoured candidate tonight, but the Grand Old Party of George Dubya Bush appears to be in free-fall.

Little-known Mike Huckabee - former Arkansas governor - is the surprise Republican front-runner among a bunch of no-hopers. If he wins in Iowa, he'll come under intense pressure and may face his own nose-dive back into insignificance.

The most telling figures in the Republican caucus may well be the turn-out. Large numbers of die-hards refusing to engage with the arcane process will indicate how hacked off right-wingers are with the current state of the GOP and George Dubya's leadership.

I don't pretend to understand why a few thousand voters in Iowa seem to have the ability to make history...personally I think we Brits should have as much say as the good people of Iowa in who occupies the most powerful office in the world!

UPDATE: BBC calls the Republican race for Huckabee, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in second place.

UPDATE 2: Democrat race called for Obama but no news yet on whether Hillary managed to hold second place.