Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tories force 79 per cent hike in police council tax...

The Tories on Lincolnshire Police Authority yesterday (Wednesday) forced through an eye-watering hike of 79 yes, SEVENTY-NINE, per cent in council tax bills for policing.

It means council tax payers in Tory Lincolnshire will be forced to pay MORE for policing than anywhere else in the country.

That's despite millions in extra Government funding for policing coming to Lincolnshire over the past ten years.

I'm sick to the back teeth of hearing Tory spin claiming the Labour Government refuses to fund policing in Lincolnshire.

One Tory councillor proposing the 79 per cent increase yesterday told the Authority that the Labour Government didn't care about crime in Lincolnshire.

It's a Tory lie.

The truth is that crime has fallen substantially across Lincolnshire in recent years, partly due to the extra investment, and tough new measures - which ironically Tory MPs voted AGAINST.

On funding, consider these facts:

1. This year, Lincolnshire Police will receive Government grants of WELL OVER £70 million.

2. That's substantially more than the £63 million which was the TOTAL spent on policing Lincolnshire in 1996-97, including all Government grants AND all council tax receipts.

And 1997 of course, was the final year of the Tories in Government

Lincolnshire Police Authority was told yesterday there was a 'budget deficit' next year of almost £6 million.

But the 78.9 per cent increase in the council precept that was forced through by the Tories will raise AN EXTRA £24.3 million - that's FOUR TIMES the so-called 'budget deficit'.

Exactly what the EXTRA millions will be spent on, has yet to be decided in a business plan.

As a member of the Authority, I supported calls for a smaller increase which I believe to be justified.

It's worth noting that in the first round of voting, two of the six Conservative county councillors on the Police Authority - vice-chairman of the Authority Barry Young and Stamford councillor Brian Sumner - also voted for a smaller increase.

Barry Young gave an excellent speech saying why the 79 per cent option was not the right way forward.

But during a break in proceedings, the six Tories were herded into a secret political group meeting.

When they emerged and returned to the main meeting, hey presto: all six - including Barry Young and Brian Sumner - magically put their hands up for an INCREASE of 79 per cent.

Their vote means the 'average' Band D council taxpayer in Lincolnshire will get a bill for £235.35 for policing next year - that's an increase of £2 a week.

I, and others, spoke against the massive increase which I believe is a step too far for hard pressed council taxpayers and makes it more likely that the Government will step in and 'cap' the Police Authority.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It WAS an earthquake: Did the earth move for you...?

Earthquake in The Deepings...? A few minutes ago there was a giant rumble, a strange feeling in the air and suddenly the walls seemed to shake for a second. Felt like a lorry had hit the house. Checked around. No damage. No lorry. Neighbours out on the street in their pyjamas asking what happened...

A frightening, albeit brief, experience. I've never experienced an earthquake, but it seems that a very minor one is the most rational explanation...

Just checked outside and birds singing in the trees at 1.15 am...Very strange. No, I haven't had a drink...!

UPDATE 02.15 Lincs Echo says epicentre was 15 miles north of Lincoln and tremors felt from Manchester to Norfolk.

UPDATE 02.00: BBC now reporting that people from across large parts of England have reported an earth tremor. The BBC has received calls from people in Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Manchester, Berkshire, London and Gloucestershire about a "quake".

The tremor could be felt in central Birmingham at about 0100 GMT but it is unclear if it has caused any damage.

UPDATE: This from Associated Press in New York (of all places): 6 minutes ago

NEW YORK (AP) — An earthquake struck in England early Wednesday and was reportedly felt across large parts of the country, geological officials and the BBC reported.

The 4.7-magnitude quake struck at about 1 a.m. and was centered about 125 miles north of London, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hillary shows signs of desperation while Nadar wades in...

Hillary Clinton first said what an honour it was to be on a platform with Barack Obama - but later attacked him full-on, accusing him of using disgraceful smears out of the Republican campaign handbook.

Desperate to do well in next week's crunch states of Texas and Ohio, Hillary cried 'Shame on You Barack Obama', in what appeared to be a moment of desperation at failing to win any of the past 11 state nominations.

There were even reports over the weekend that she may be preparing to quit as the Obama steamroller appears unstoppable. But Hillary is a Clinton and she ain't no quitter.

However, whether she's right or not on the issue (health care insurance), I suspect her no-hold barred attack will backfire and only serve to boost Barack Obama's chances of winning the Democratic nomination.

But in this race, nothing is certain. And we'll have to wait and see. Even if Hillary loses both Texas and Ohio, some pundits say she'll attempt to carry on in the last-ditch hope of picking up enough of the so called 'super' delegates who go to the Convention with no firm mandate.

Meanwhile, even worse news for the Democrats: once highly respected consumer champion Ralph Nader announced he will run for the White House again.

Eight years ago Nadar split the anti-Republican vote and effectively gave the world President George W. Bush.

Some people never learn...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chameleon Cameron dumps Green and flips back to true Blue...

Remember the Tory election slogan Vote Blue, Go Green adopted by David Cameron...? Well, today's Sunday Times exposes the sham of Cameron's spin and his biggest flip-flop to date.

First there was the former PR manager Cameron dressed as a polar explorer and posing with huskies in front of a shrinking Norwegian glacier...?

Forget (for a moment) that he’d travelled thousands of miles in a private jet – along with the television crews - to get to his photo-stunt to show how much he cared about climate change...

The Arctic stunt was hailed by the Tories as the launch pad of their new approach to climate change.

Cameron kept up the front for months and less than a year ago he was on the BBC Radio Four Today programme advocating VAT on domestic flights.

By last autumn he was distancing himself from that idea, and was instead advocating other green tax rises - though without exactly saying what they would be.

He told Andrew Marr in September:

We made a very tough choice on being green which is saying that air travel is an important contributor to climate change and the tax burden on that has to go up.

And the following month, he was back on Marr saying: taxes as a share of taxes do need to go up. That's not necessarily popular, but I think it's right.

But today's Sunday Times reveals that Cameron is now backing away from those pledges too.

Under the headline TORIES DITCH GREEN TAXES, the ST says David Cameron is to abandon plans for 'green' taxes, fearing a backlash from voters unwilling to pay for climate change.

Cameron's 'vote blue go green' have always appeared rather less than convincing...

First, his cycle-to-work stunt spectacularly backfired when the Daily Mirror revealed that he his chauffeur-driven gas guzzler followed behind carrying his shoes and briefcase!

The Independent said his image as a green leader had 'gone up in smoke'.

And the BBC talked of hypocrisy.

Then there was Cameron's flip-flop on supermarket car parking tax.

Let's not forget the windmill erected outside the Cameron house in a blaze of publicity – only to be taken down a few days later.

And when he thought no-one would notice, he took a private plane from his constituency in Oxfordshire to meet a rich businessman in Herefordshire – despite a perfectly good train which would have taken just a couple of hours.

Now, despite all Cameron hype, it's Tories ditch green taxes.

The truth of Chameleon Cameron's attempt at being all colours to all people is that he only comes in one colour.

So forget: Vote Blue, Go Green. If you Vote Blue, you get True Blue.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Growing problem of obesity in Lincolnshire...

Almost a third of ten and eleven year olds in Lincolnshire are obese or overweight, according to the latest survey in our schools.

Yesterday, I heard a presentation at Lincolnshire County Council on what we're doing to promote healthy eating in schools.

There's clearly more to be done.

Cameron's astonishing 'Auschwitz gimmick' gaffe...

David Cameron's lack of judgement is back in the headlines after an astonshing gaffe in which he described educational trips to Auschwitz as 'a gimmick'.

Earlier this month, the Government announced a £4.65 million payment over three years to the Holocaust Educational Trust to send two young people from every sixth form and college in the country to Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust direct from a survivor.

Today, the Leader of the Conservative Party attempted to score political points by describing the announcement as 'a Labour gimmick'.

Apart from the stupidity and ignorance displayed by such a remark, I find it breathtaking that someone who aspires to be Prime Minister could be so oblivious to the deep offence and damage he would cause to even think of using the words 'Auschwitz' and 'gimmick' in the same sentence.

I've never seen Auschwitz first hand, but everyone I know who has ever visited the Nazi's biggest extermination factory has found it to be a life-changing experience.

I remember my younger brother coming home on leave as a squaddie serving in Germany in the 1980s being deeply moved by what he had seen as a visitor to the Auschwitz death camp.

Cameron should meet some of the sixth formers who have been to Auschwitz: I wonder how many would describe their trip as a gimmick.

And if that doesn't work, maybe he should meet my brother.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tories lose control of key council after budget failure...

After frustrations of failing to persuade Lincolnshire Tories to get their priorities right, it's good to see what happened in another council where an alternative budget succeeded in ousting an administration...

Maybe, just maybe, one day it could happen here!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lincs Tories get their priorities wrong - despite windfall from Labour Government...

With a whopping increase in Government grant of more than NINE per cent, the Tories on Lincolnshire County Council had no excuses when setting their priorities for the coming year.

But sadly, they have rejected a sensible, value-for-money plan to increase budgets to benefit vulnerable elderly people, children with special needs, youth services and the environment.

Remember, last year the Tories who run Lincolnshire County Council TREBLED home care charges for some of our most frail elderly and disabled people from £40 to an eye-watering £120 a week - provoking a 24-hour protest outside County Offices.

But despite the Labour Government handing over one of the most generous settlements ever, Lincolnshire Tories have stubbornly refused to reduce their crippling charges by a penny-piece.

At the budget-setting meeting on Friday, I supported the fully-costed alternative budget tabled by Labour Group Leader Rob Parker.

It would have made an extra £5 million available to spend on vital 'people' services in the coming financial year by:

* stepping up efficiency savings,
* trimming finance charges, and
* not increasing ‘balances’ as planned by the Conservatives.

The cash injection of millions of pounds in extra funding by our Labour Government would also have allowed the Tories to scrap planned new charges to make hundreds of young people pay to get to school.

Lincolnshire has one of the lowest staying-on-at-school rates in the country, yet two years ago, the Tories imposed a £180 charge for over-16s just to get to school.

Now they are consulting on a plan to:

* INCREASE charges for over-16s,
* CUT all free travel for children in faith schools,
* CUT assistance for children who move home during their exam year but want to finish their education without moving school,
* CUT all free travel for children who live within three miles of their school who now benefit from using empty seats on school buses.

These daft draconian cuts don’t address the real problems. Instead they penalise parents and children unfairly and in my view they risk adding to serious road safety and environment concerns.

The Director of Resources, Pete Moore, confirmed that Labour’s alternative budget is realistic.

Once again, we have shown Lincolnshire Tories how to put people first and get some joined-up thinking and real value for money. But sadly, as usual, they have refused to listen.

I hope the people of Lincolnshire will let the Council know what they think of Tory cuts - despite the windfall of millions from the Labour Government.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Be careful out there...!

Slipped on the ice when I walked out of the back door first thing this morning and nearly landed on my backside. Not a great start the day....

Not surprised that the Lincs Echo says it was minus nine degrees on the A46 near Lincoln...

More importantly, the cold snap is forecast to continue into at least be careful.

Tory blogsite says Vote Labour...

Had one of those double-take moments when I saw the campaign ad that's just appeared on the front page of Iain Dale's blog...

The excellent ad is surprisingly not for Iain's mate, the Tory candidate Boris Johnson...

Even more surprising - and amusing - it's a reminder to vote in May's London Mayoral elections for, wait for it....'s for Labour's Ken Livingstone.

Nice one Ken!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rare praise for a farmer...

Not often I find something good to say about farmers, specially when it comes to footpaths across their land, but may I say hats off to Lincolnshire farmer Bill Pickering...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Why Boris Johnson is not fit to be in charge of law and order...

Boris Johnson said this week that if elected Mayor of London, he will take over running the Metropolitan Police Authority.

But a secret tape between Boris Johnson and convicted fraudster Darius Guppy demonstrates why it would make a mockery of law and order to put him in charge of policing London.

Guppy was one of Boris’s chums at Eton. Years after they left school, Guppy was trying to track down News of the World journalist Stuart Collier who had been digging into his dodgy background.

In the secret tape, Guppy asks Johnson, then a Daily Telegraph journalist to supply Collier’s address. Guppy make it clear he wants the information from Boris so he can have Collier beaten up.

Instead of running a mile, Boris asks Guppy how badly the journalist would be beaten up,

Johnson tells his school chum that he will provide the contact details as requested providing his involvement is kept secret.

Guppy was later convicted and jailed for a £1.8 million insurance fraud.

The only time Boris has spoken publicly about the episode was when was confronted by Ian Hislop during an episode of Have I got News for You.

Boris Johnson laughs off the episode.

But now he has made it clear he wants to be in charge of law and order, isn’t it time he was asked some serious questions…?

More Tory hypocrisy on MPs expenses...

Tory MP John Hayes has been accused of hypocrisy in the wake of the Derek Conway expenses scandal - by his own local paper!

A couple of weeks ago, the Honourable Member for South Holland and the Deepings tabled parliamentary questions demanding the salary details of top earners working on London's Olympic bid.

But when Mr Hayes was asked by his local paper to say how much he paid his own staff - at taxpayers expense - he told them it was none of their business.

Mr Hayes told the Lincolnshire Free Press that he would never reveal precise salaries because he would not expect bosses at other companies to reveal employees' pay.

He also claimed there were data protection issues to protect such information.

But he defended his right to know how much staff are paid at the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Mr Hayes told the Free Press that said his parliamentary question about salaries at the Olympic authority was “a separate issue” to his questions over how much public money he pays his six staff – including his wife who Susan.

A few days ago, I declared my support for John Hayes to employ his wife (despite his dirty tricks to mislead local voters over my own expenses).

This time he's on his own...!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

UPDATED: Obama wins 3 more states as Clinton's deputy campaign manager quits

Looks like Barack Obama is having another good night at the office. CNN say he's winning the primary in the crucial state of Virginia by something like 60-40 over Hillary Clinton.

If he also wins Washington DC and Maryland tonight, it could be very difficult for Hillary to come back: But before tonight's polls were even closed, she was in El Paso, Texas for a big rally ahead of the biggest night of primaries still to come on March 4th when Ohio and Texas choose their nominee. For good measure, Hillary is reported to have done satellite TV interviews today with ten separate TV channels in Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin where the primary takes place next Tuesday.

Barack Obama will hope to also do well next Tuesday in Hawaii - the State where Barack grew up.

Worrying news from Virginia tonight for Hillary: At the start of the campaign for the Democrat nomination, she had the support of many black Americans. But husband Bill's attacks on Barack Obama seem to have backfired. In Virginia, CNN says the black contender picked up 90-per-cent of the black vote, easily his biggest proportion in any state so far.

Even worse for Hillary, he appears to have outvoted her among women - said to be Hillary's backbone of support.

UPDATE: Barack is now ahead not only in states won, but more importantly in terms of number of delegates. He has 1,170 delegates, she has 1, could hardly be closer, but for now, Barack has the magic momentum...

UPDATE 2: Clinton's deputy campaign manager quit tonight says CNN who precict Maryland and Washington DC comfortably for Obama. In DC, he's winning by a massive 3-1 margin...

This time can be different

Just play it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ken says 'on yer bike'

Massive investment in cycling in the capital announced by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Obama wins Maine for five in a row, as Clinton's campaign manager steps down...

CNN predict Barack Obama will win the Democratic caucus in Maine - giving him a clean sweep of all five contests over the weekend and putting him almost neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

Hillary is a narrowly ahead in numbers of delegates secured with 1,148 over Barack's 1,121. But he has won more states, and he clearly has the all-important momentum going into crucial contests tomorrow (Tuesday).

Hillary is reported to have lent her campaign $5 million last week and after her showing on the weekend she has 'replaced' her campaign manager.

The Democrat circus now heads for Maryland, the District of Columbia and crucially Virginia where battles take place tomorrow...

Meanwhile, John Edwards who dropped out of the race after Super Tuesday last week, is reported to be having meetings with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but he's keeping tight-lipped over which, if any, of the front-runners he will support.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Who voted for Amanda Platell...?

Last week I found myself in agreement with former Tory spindoctor Amanda Platell in her condemnation of Derek Conway, the MP who paid his son £40,000 of OUR MONEY for doing little if anything.

But today, it's back to business as normal:

Amanda was reviewing the papers on Andrew Marr's political show on BBC TV this morning. She was commenting on the controversy surrounding the Archbishop of Canterbury when she made a point of letting us know she's a devout Christian:

If I weren't here, I'd be in church.

Fair enough, perhaps. But then she added:

I know what a lot of my own constituents think...

Er, excuse me. What constituents might they be then? She's certainly not an elected MP. And as far as I'm aware, she's neither a county councillor, district councillor, or parish councillor.

Pompous or what...?

Bishop of Lincoln says don't bash the Archbish...

The Bishop of Lincoln is the latest senior clergyman to publicly disagree with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s calls for aspects of Islamic Law to be incorporated into the British legal system.

The ill-judged comments by the Archbishop (pictured, right) have plunged the Church of England into deep crisis and over the weekend he has faced growing demands to quit his post.

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend John Saxbee questions the Archbishop’s fundamental premise and agrees he may have been naïve in his thinking: but he says we should be thankful we have him.

I’ve not seen the Bishop of Lincoln’s comments published elsewhere, so I post them in full below.

Many church leaders have attempted to blame the tabloids for sensational or inaccurate reporting of the Archbishop's views on Islam. Certainly, no-one could accuse The Sun of balanced reporting of the issue...

They showed their outrage and lack of reverence for the Archbishop's views with a screaming headline What a Burkha. And they’ve followed up with an online game inviting readers to Bash the Bishop.

But any serious attempt to scapegoat the media for the deep mess the Archbishop finds himself in was blown out of the water today by his predecessor.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Lord George Carey delivers the most damaging blow yet to Dr Williams’ chances of survival.

Lord Carey bluntly says of his successor:

His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation. He has overstated the case for accommodating Islamic legal codes.

His conclusion that Britain will eventually have to concede some place in law for aspects of sharia is a view I cannot share.

There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights.
I’m grateful to Vicar of Deeping St James, the Rev. Mark Warrick for placing the words of the Bishop of Lincoln on the Deepings Exchange.

Bishop John writes:
Dear Friends,

The last few days have been difficult for Christians in this country and for the Church of England in particular. Some members of our Churches have been angered by the Archbishop's views, some welcome them as a thoughtful contribution to debate, whilst I imagine the majority are bewildered both by his lecture and the storm of controversy it has engendered.

What is to be done?

First of all, we need to celebrate the fact that we have an Archbishop who is still prepared to treat people in this country as adults. The issues he was discussing in his lecture are complex and vitally important. They could be presented in a simplistic way, and often are. But the tabloids must not intimidate us into trivialising matters which deserve more studied attention.

Of course, there are those who are themselves intimidated by the Archbishop's intellect and their default position is to lampoon him rather than actually engage with his argument and respond appropriately and intelligently.

Was he naïve not to realise that this would be the case? Perhaps, but let us be proud and grateful that the leader of our Church at this time is a good, Godly and gifted man who can see further and delve deeper than most leaders in our society seem able to do.

As for my own position, I want to question his fundamental premise that because our legal system currently accommodates the consciences of Christians and Jews it must automatically accommodate aspects of Sharia Law and, by implication, a myriad of other faith-based codes as well.

The Judeao-Christian tradition has legitimated and helped to fashion the fundamentals of our legal system, and accommodating itself to a range of Jewish and Christian conscientiously held principles is not likely to destabilise it. But I remain to be convinced that this would be so if elements of Sharia Law were to be accommodated into the framework of the British legal system.

However, I have to admit that this is the first time I have really felt the need to think hard about this issue and I am grateful to the Archbishop for that. The way he has done it may have stirred up a hornet's nest but the outcry suggests that it was not a nest which could be left undisturbed for much longer.

Meanwhile, we continue to reach out to people of all faiths and none as we wrestle with issues of inclusiveness and social cohesion. For me, multi- culturalism has little to commend it, and I favour a more cosmopolitan approach to cultural diversity. This can enable different cultural characteristics and lifestyles to mutually enrich one another, whilst people of different backgrounds remains committed to the fundamental legal and constitutional frameworks which bind us together in a free and fair democracy.

This approach sits well with a theology of interdependence which should characterise relationships between human beings all made in the image of God. It is a complicated vision to pursue at a time when so many seek for single and straightforward solutions which can be captured in a screaming headline. Thank God we have an Archbishop who calls us to reason together rather than rant at each other - and to love God with all our mind as well as with all our heart, soul and strength.

John Lincoln
Meanwhile, the Lincolnshire Echo reports that a Lincolnshire artist has portrayed Lincoln Cathedral as a mosque in protest at the Archbishop’s comments

For anyone interested in what the Archbishop actually said to kick off such a firestorm, here's the BBC interview with Dr Williams, which he gave in advance of his controversial speech.

For those unsure about what the Archbishop was talking about, The Daily Telegraph explains Sharia Law.

And here’s a thoughtful reflection on the controversy in today’s Observer.

Is the Tory who pours millions into marginal seats even resident in the UK...?

Questions over the multi-millionaire who said to be more significant to the Tory Party than David Cameron...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why I support Tory MP employing his wife...despite his dirty tricks

In the wake of the Derek Conway scandal, South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes (Conservative) has revealed that he employs his wife Susan on the public payroll at his Spalding office.

I'll resist the temptation to make cheap points about Mr Hayes - despite his disgraceful attack on me last year when he personally delivered misleading leaflets down my street portraying me as a high claimer of expenses as an elected county councillor, when the reverse is the truth.

I've no idea how many hours Mrs Hayes works for her husband, what she does or how much taxpayers cash she is paid for doing whatever it is she does. Like many MPs of all political persuasions, Mr Hayes doesn't want to say and under present rules, he and his staff are entitled to keep that information secret.

But putting his dirty tricks aside for a moment, I defend his right to properly employ his wife and hope that the fall-out from the Derek Conway scandal will not result in a ban on the practice.

The blatant greed of Mr Hayes' less than honourable colleague in paying his son Freddie £40,000 for doing very little work may change all that. For if the Conway scandal has a silver cloud, it's highlighting the long overdue need for modernisation in what and how Mr Hayes and other MPs claim public funds.

For the sake of democracy itself and restoring trust in those we elect to represent us, it is vital that the expenses and staff salaries are made more transparent and accountable.

But as I've already pointed out, if we follow the American example and ban MPs partners from working for them, I believe we'd be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

If MPs are to provide a service to constituents, it has to be paid for. It's right of course that we should know whether our MP employs a relative, but just because he does, we shouldn't assume the worst.

Despite recent media storm - which has damaged the credibility of all politicians in the public eye - the fact is that many partners of MPs put in long hours of work well beyond the call of duty.

The issue is whether the taxpayer is getting value for money.

Or in the case of Derek Conway, whether we're all being fleeced for loadsa money to pay his family to do nowt.

In the case of Mr Hayes' dirty tricks, I'm sure he wouldn't dream of using my taxes - or yours - to deliver personal attacks on my integrity...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama wins Georgia and Illinois: Clinton wins Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee...

First CNN predictions from Super Tuesday calls Georgia and Illinois for Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton wins Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.

No surprise that Hillary wins President Clinton's home state of Arkansas.

No surprise either that Obama wins either his home state of Illinois or Georgia where he led from start to finish: CNN originally forecast Obama winning 2:1 over Hillary which would have been even bigger than his win in South Carolina.

But with the first actual results in, CNN have closed their Georgia prediction to an Obama win in the order of 55%-45%.

All of which seems to show once again how wildly out American pollsters can be, even on their exit polls.

So it's a long night ahead with almost half of all American voters eligible to vote today, and and polls now closed in half the states choosing tonight. There's still three more hours of voting on the west coast including California, where Hillary is still favourite.

Turnout appears to be reaching a record high coast-to-coast reflecting the closeness of the Clinton-Obama clash.

But even when all the Super Tuesday votes are counted in all the states, many pundits expect the Democrat race to be so close that there may not even be a clear winner when we wake up tomorrow.

In the Republican camp, tonight is expected to give Vietnam veteran John McCain the nomination, though early predictions give Romney some states.

If McCain does clinch the nomination at 71 he would be the oldest ever President to enter the White House - if he were to win the general election in the fall.

So it looks likely that the next President will either be the first woman President, the first black President or the oldest ever President...

McCain still favoured to win Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey, with Mitt Romney taking Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee taking West Virginia.

Clinton projected to win Massachusetts by at least ten points. This is a big loss for Obama who spent eve of poll rallying his vote in Mass. Clinton also projected to win her own state of New York, as well as next door New Jersey, and the key state of Arizona.

Obama protected to win Alabama and Delaware.

So with ten of tonight's 24 states now called, Clinton is projected to win six and Obama four.

With voting still going on in California, it's likely to be our breakfast time before clear results are in with delays expected due to higher than expected turnout.

Bedtime! A new day dawns, does it not?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More bile from Bojo's best mate...

Evening Standard hack Andrew Gilligan launches yet attempt tonight to damage Ken Livingstone and promote his mate Boris Johnson to be Mayor of London.

Gilligan's latest bile targets a range of individuals and organisations who support Ken: from Doreen Lawrence OBE, the mother of murdered schoolboy Stephen Lawrence to Greenpeace and the New Nation newspaper.

Gilligan claims none of them declare their 'interests' in backing Ken for Mayor.

True to form given Gilligan's agenda, tonight's front page fails to mention his own interests in promoting Conservative candidate Boris Johnson.

Gilligan fails to mention that when he was under fire at the BBC for dodgy reporting, it was The Spectator, that staged a 'Save Andrew Gilligan'
dinner at top restaurant Luigi's stuffed with prominent Tories.

And who was The Spectator's editor at the time?

Step forward Boris Johnson.

Andrew Gilligan also fails to mention that after he was forced to resign from the BBC, he was even given a job by The Spectator: where his editor was Boris.

Now he's on The Standard, it's not surprising that Andrew Gilligan is so keen to return the favours and campaign for his old mucker.

Any self-respecting journalist would wish to declare such a clear interest in promoting a particular candidate...but not Gilligan who seems incapable of understanding why Londoners back Ken Livingstone.

It's hardly surprising that decent people feel they have an 'interest' in stopping a Tory who wrote about African people as

No wonder Doreen Lawrence OBE gave her opinion that Boris Johnson is 'not an appropriate person to run a multi-cultural city like London' and that if elected Mayor he would destroy London's unity.

Like decent people everywhere, Mrs Lawrence was shocked by the 'piccaninnies' revelation. And of course, it was not the first time the Lawrences had cause to feel offended by Boris Johnson...I'm sure they've not forgotten Boris's attack on some of the Macpherson Inquiry recommendations as 'born of political correctness'.

And remember, the Macpherson Inquiry was set up by Labour after the 1997 General Election: for years the Tory Government denied the Lawrences an inquiry into the racist murder of their son.

It's no surprise either that environmental organisations like Greenpeace fear a Boris nightmare.

You only have to look at Ken's vision for a Low Carbon London...

Or his light bulb amnesty, which offered a free energy-saver for every Londoner.

Or his bold plan to increase the congestion charge for Chelsea tractors and the biggest gas-guzzling sports cars - a sensible move described as 'bonkers' by Boris Johnson.

Last week, Greenpeace understandably welcomed Ken Livingstone's Climate Change Action Plan for London.

John Sauven, director of Greenpeace said no other leader was on the same page as Ken Livingstone in showing how the largest city in Europe can combat climate change.

Other environmental pressure groups spoke warmly of Ken's climate change plan.

The Green Party'sPrincipal Speaker welcomed it. And Friends of the Earth's Director Tony Juniper went on record saying: 'Hats off to Ken Livingstone for continuing to show political leadership on tackling climate change...'

Like Greenpeace, their 'interest' is surely returning a Mayor who regularly demonstrates that he is prepared to take the tough action needed to protect London -unlike Boris Johnson, who even opposed the Kyoto Treaty.

But you're not likely to read that in the London Standard...

Lincs RAF reservists fly home from Basra...

Huge salute to a team of RAF reservists from Lincolnshire who have flown into RAF Waddington after serving in Basra, Iraq.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Private firm paid Conway for research, so why did he pay his family taxpayers cash...?

Shamed Tory MP Derek Conway took money from a private company for a researcher - yet paid his son more than £40,000 out of the public purse, according to The Observer.

Catching up on the weekend papers, I spotted this nugget on Conway-gate:

Further questions are likely to be asked about why Conway used public money to employ his sons, Freddie and Henry, and one of their friends as research assistants after it emerged a private company was paying for him to have a researcher. An entry made by Conway in the parliamentary register of members' interests states that 'financial support for a research assistant fees (were) met by Regent Square Estate Limited'.

The entry was made on 26 September 2005. Conway declined to return calls asking him to reveal how much money he received from the property company, the nature of the researcher's work or how long they were employed by him.

But records at Companies House show a company called Regent Square Estates Limited gave £20,000 to the Conservative Party in the year to 30 June 2006.
The Observer goes on to say that much of the money was actually used to fund David Davis's challenge to David Cameron for the leadership of the Conservative Party which orchestrated by Conway.

Unfortunately, these questions - and many more - were not addressed in Mr Conway's withering 'I've done nothing wrong' plea in the Mail on Sunday.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Conway says: 'I'm not a crook', as secretary reveals she was sacked to make way for his wife...

Quoting Richard 'Watergate' Nixon was probably not the best move by shamed MP Derek Conway. He also insists in the Mail on Sunday that he has done nothing wrong. And for good measure he says MPs should get paid eighty to a hundred grand. That's a massive pay rise of £40,000 a year!

Meanwhile, the News of the World speaks to the secretary who claims Conway sacked her so he could give his wife the job. She says the MP flew into a rage when she questioned him, saying I will crush you. Crush you.

The NoTW perhaps understandably asks its readers to comment on whether all MPs are freeloaders - which highlights the damage Conway has done to politics - and not just to his own party.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shock. Horror: I agree with Amanda Platell...well, almost!

I've seldom agreed with a word uttered by ex-Conservative press officer Amanda Platell...But I have to admit that her offering on the Derek Conway scandal in today's Daily Mail is spot on...well, almost.

Here it is in full:
More than a decade ago, when I was managing a national newspaper, I discovered an employee was stealing thousands by paying family members for work they had never done.

He was sent to jail for two years - quite rightly. So I simply cannot see why Derek Conway isn't facing jail after diverting tens of thousands of taxpayers' money to his family. Full marks to David Cameron for swiftly sacking him, but what an outrage that Conway is continuing as an MP, on his £240,000 package, for another two years.

If he had even a sliver of integrity, he would stand down immediately. But, of course, that might jeopardise his gold-plated pension.

Is it any wonder politicians have never been held in such contempt?
I agree with almost every word - except Amanda's 'full marks to David Cameron for swiftly sacking' Derek Conway.

Amanda conveniently doesn't mention the fact that on the day we learned that Derek Conway had paid his son £40,000 in public money for doing virtually nothing, David Cameron responded by making it clear he would NOT remove the Tory whip from Conway.

Cameron flip-flopped the following day - only after the damaging media headlines. And only after multi-millionaire Tory donor Stuart Wheeler went on the BBC Today programme demanding that Cameron take tougher action against Conway.

I've just listened to the Saturday version of Radio Four's Any Questions. Former broadcaster John Tusa made an excellent point on the Conway scandal along these lines:

If he's wrongly paid over £80,000 in public funds to members of his family for doing nothing, how come he's been ordered to pay back just £13,000?

Why indeed...?

A mention in Best of the Blogs...

New Statesman were kind enough to highlight one of my posts on the Conway scandal in their "Best of the Politics Blogs" slot.

The weekly political magazine lifted a quote from this post.

While I was pleased to be mentioned in despatches, perhaps this offering yesterday was more considered, but posted after New Statesman's deadline...!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Shamed MP halved secretary's wages - while his son says 'Fuck Off I'm Rich'...

The Tory MP branded an embezzler has now been accused of HALVING his secretary’s wages to poverty levels – at the same time as handing his sons and their friend tens of thousands of pounds in public money in overtime and bonuses.

Derek Conway’s son Henry parties the nights away in champagne nightclubs – and is reported to have recently hosted a Fuck Off I’m Rich party.

In stark contast, the MP’s secretary is said to be a hard-working single mother who lives in a council house and who has been forced to claim state benefits to support her income.

The Daily Mail today says Conway halved her wages to just £7,875 last year, claiming that ‘money is tight’.

Weeks earlier, he handed his son a massive bonus paid for by the taxpayer – despite no evidence that he actually done ANY work. And three months after halving his secretary's wages, he gave an £11,000 a year assistant's job to a close friend of his hoo-ray son Henry.

The Mail also reveals that Hoo-ray Henry has thanked his friends for their support as this week’s scandal unfolded – including Prince William’s girl-friend Kate Middleton.

Derek Conway has treated the House of Commons like a gravy train. He has given new meaning to the term top-up fees. Like millions of others, I struggled financially to get my two daughters through University. It was hard work, but today they are both qualified teachers and both paying back their student loans.

Conway has been caught with his snout welded to the trough in a way that puts Alan B'stard in the shade.

He's demonstrated his total lack of decent values. And he's shown exactly what he thinks of the ordinary hard-working folk who thought they could trust him to be their voice in Parliament - a so-called honourable member.

There's no surprise his son says: "Fuck Off, I'm Rich". Like father, like son.

Millions of people of all parties and none are rightly disgusted, shocked and angered by Conway's disgraceful behaviour - and no amount of claims that Conway is suffering a "witch-hunt" by Tory MPs like his friend Roger Gale will convince anyone.

Every penny of public money the MP has claimed since he was first elected a quarter of a century ago should now be fully scrutinised. And every penny he was not entitled to must be paid back. With interest.

He seems to have shown no compassion even for his hard-working secretary. He deserved none in return.

For example, I believe we now have a right to know how Conway funded the fees (currently £8,000 a term) to put two sons through Harrow public school.

From reports of how they've turned out, sending them to Harrow appears to have produced a pair of wasters.