Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Time to check the cheques

Outside the hothouse of Westminster Village, does anyone really care about the so-called 'Dodgy Donors?'

Has David Abrahams benefited from his donations? No
Is this on a par with Cash for Questions? Of course not!

What's making my blood boil is the complete hypocrisy of the Conservative Party.

Seeing the Tories crow about the payments to Harriet Harman and Hilary Benn is a bit rich when their biggest donor Lord Michael Ashcroft still won't declare whether he's paying tax over here and uses a front company to fund the Conservative's marginal seat strategy.

In the last few months, Bearwood Corporate Services, a group associated with Ashcroft, donated £125,000 to the Tories and provided a further £424,959 of services in kind. At least we definitely know David Abrahams was paying tax here!

Sir Hayden Phillips, charged by the Government to find an answer, has floated a £20m limit on General Election spending, matched state funding for every £10 received in individual donations, and 40p from the public purse for every vote received in the previous General Election. And who opposed the proposals - the honourable Tories.

Reform is long overdue and if we're start to win back the trust of the people, financial transparency is the only way forward.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Huhne's Sorry Now

Austin Mitchell once famously welcomed a colleague to a particaularly bitter Labour party conference in the 80s by saying: "Come on in, the blood's lovely!"

Thankfully those days are long behind us. But for the Lib Dems, those unhappy days are here again. No-one does regicide quite like the Lib Dems.

What does it say about a party that's now looking for its third leader in two years?

It's fair to say that a Lib Dem leadership contest between two men who both went to the same public school, are both Oxbridge graduates, who trained as financial journalists, served in the European Parliament and became MPs in 2005 was hardly expected to set the world alight.

And it hasn't.....until now.

Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg went onto the Poltics Show today for a live debate morderated by Jon Sopel.

So far, so dull.

They were agreeing on most matters and I was just about to change channels when Jon Sopel asked Chris Huhne if he thought Clegg would make a great leader. He agreed but said not yet.

Sopel then produced a negative briefing document with the words "Calamity Clegg" at the top, which he said had been sent from the Huhne camp to the Politics Show team.

What followed was handbags at dawn, a TV moment to match Paxman's famous interrogation of Michael Howard 10 years ago when he asked the same question 12 times.

If you missed the Poltics Show, you can click here and watch it.

What you'll see is a party tearing itself apart. Iraq was the one issue that galvanised their support at local and national level.

Now that's being resolved, their vote is getting squeezed with their fair weather supporters drifting back to us and the Tories.

If two men with astonishingly similar backgrounds and political beliefs hate each others guts - and show it so publicly - what hope does the winner have of uniting the party and being an effective opposition?

As Don King said: "It's got two chances - Slim and none.

"And Slim just left town."

Saturday, 17 November 2007

There IS such a thing as a free lunch

Really must congratulate West Hull Labour Party for putting on the Thank You event for John and Tony at the KC.

Sally Waters from Alan Johnson's office worked tirelessly in planning a fantastic do and raised thousands of pounds for next year's council elections.

Tony's speech was very moving and the anecdotes were hilarious. Especially the one about.....actually, I'd better not!

But what struck me was how well TB looks now. He's lost quite a few pounds and it seems the premature aging seems has reversed - and this from a man who's charged with the simple task of trying peace to the Middle East!

I don't think people realise the stress politicians - local and national - have to deal with. They never switch off, they're always on call and they can be sacked every four years irrespective of whether they're doing a good job or not!

So as each year goes by, I become less judgemental of politicians from different parties.

I have friends from all shades of the polticial spectrum. We all want to make things better - our differences lie in the priorities and the approach.

But when it comes to our children , you'd think we'd all share common ground.

Which is why the Lib Dems decision to axe Free Healthy School Meals in Hull continues to anger and frustrate me.

How can anyone NOT see the social and educational benefits of making sure each primary school child has a full stomach for the day ahead? If we're really serious about tackling the ticking timebomb of obesity, we need to instill healthy eating habits now.

The Lib Dems say that those who are entitled for Free School Meals will claim them. But a recent study found that 250,000 children eligible for FSM, don't eat them. Stigma plays a big part in this.

The interim evaluation of Eat Well Do Well by Professor Derek Colquhoun confirmed children became more focused, performed better and the classrooms were calmer.

Where Hull led, others are following. Scotland is now piloting a similar in several areas scheme and Wales may consider implementing it.

But in our city, take up of School Meals has in less than two months dropped from 62%to 45%

All that good work thrown away because the health and achievement of our children is, according to this Lib Dem council, not a priority.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

May you be with the force

It can be so easy to demonise the young. I remember when I was growing up, I'd walk the streets with my friends at night (Sutton, Ings Road and Gillshill Road was our circuit - carefully avoiding Pelican SS.)

It was part of a rites of passage and the cool thing to do when you were 13. Mind you, there wasn't much else to do when you had no money!

Now I'm in my thirties, I sometimes have to force myself to remember why I did it when I see kids doing the same thing today. They're not looking for trouble, it's just what they do and the vast majority stay out of trouble.

In fact a new survey for the Youth Justice Board found that 6 out of 10 young people actually want to see MORE police on the street. They fear crime just as much as we do.

The Neighourhood Policing Teams which are currently being rolled out across Hull are going to go some way to addressing this concern. By assigning local officers and PCSOs for each ward, the police will have a greater opportunity to build links with the community, provide continuity and be a visible presence on the streets.

It's already paying off in London. We've had socalled 'Safer Neighbourhood' policing teams for the last three years, thanks to a deal done between Ken Livingstone and Met Police Commissioner Ian Blair. On average we've seen annual 6% cuts in overall crime.

It's worked because people now have the name and number of their local officer and can join neighbourhood policing panels to set policing priorities and scrutinise performance.

The only way we're going to continue to keep cutting crime in East Hull is for the community to work closely with the police and other local agencies.

On the same day that it's been revealed that Humberside Police apparently 'screened out' 1 in 3 calls or 30,000 suspected crimes, neighbourhood policing is going to be the best way to win back public trust in the force.

If you to find out more about your neighbourhood policing team and get involved then click here.

Monday, 5 November 2007

A Man Flu for All Seasons

The leaves are cascading from the trees, there's a marked chill in the air and the nights are drawing in - yes, it's Man Flu season again!

I'd spent Saturday afetrnoon delivering 'The Rose' around my surrounding streets whilst listening to Frederic Raphael's Radio 4 play Fame and Fortune. In the evening, Roz and I popped over to a street party to meet new friends and neighbours. Life was good!

But come Sunday morning, I was a cacophony of sneezes, coughs and aching bones. The following day as I made my way to work on the bus, it seemed everyone on board had caught it too.

But a new survey out today from the British Medical Association shows it's also causing a major financial headache for the NHS.

Instead of taking a painkiller or buying over-the-counter medication, one in three adults insist on a GP consultation at a cost to the NHS of £21 a time.

Now I know it's just a 'nasty cold.' I've just taken Dr Hillary's on-line flu test at GMTV's website.

Click here and try it. And do the NHS a favour!