Friday, 31 August 2007

Ten Years Ago Today

I still remember it well. People turning up with flowers from all-night garages. Then when they sold out, visitors uprooted plants from their homes and brought them instead.

I'd heard there'd been a car accident on Saturday night. As a producer at GMTV, I offered to come in to help out on the story. We all thought she'd survived, a bit shaken up but nothing more than that.

I was sitting at my computer when I saw the short item drop on the Press Association wires. Diana had died. Two things hit me, the utter sadness of her death and then, the fact that this was the biggest story I would ever work on in my life. Period.

The usual short Sunday Programme was scrapped for a full show fronted by Fiona Phillips. Her husband Martin Frizzel and I were dispatched to Kensington Palace - the first reporters there when the flowers started to arrive.

A week later, I returned to Kensington Palace. The gardens had become a sea of flowers and candles. As I walked amongst the hundreds keeping vigil that night before the funeral, the smell stood out - petals diffused with candle wax. It was quite overpowering, almost overwhelming. Like her death.

Some people say the public's grief was misplaced, that we were caught up in a national hysteria but I don't agree.

We've all lost friends or families way before their time so we could all empathise with William and Harry. For that week, we were all one family.

I just wish sometimes that that common sense of belonging, solidarity and empathy could be replicated more often and in less tragic circumstances.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

A for effort

Great news for Hull with the GCSEs. OK, there's a lot of work to do, but I think the way teachers, parents and pupils have risen to the challenge has been fantastic.

My mate Chris is an assistant head at Kingswood. When it was closed down as Perronet Thompson, the percentage of kids getting five good GCSEs was just 6%

Last year, Kingswood got 62%. But under the gold standard of calculating GCSEs (ensure English and Maths are two of those five A-C passes)it plumetted back down to 7% But the teachers have made a real effort to weave the importance of literacy into every single lesson.

For example, in PE, a one word reply from a student is not acceptable. They have to deliver a full sentence. You might not think that would achieve much, but it makes them work and think harder.

It's having an effect too - this year they've gone from 7% to almost 17.5% That's a big jump in a year, especially when almost half the kids are entitled to free school meals. In fact, when these factors are taken into account with the contextual value added measure, it's actually in the top 10% of the best schools in the country.

So let's not run our kids down saying the exams are easier and they're taking less challenging subjects.

Hull fights with one hand behind its back - unlike other similar cities we don't have the suburbs to raise our average. Which makes the success of Kingswood all the more remarkable and the achievement of its pupils something we should be very proud of.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Dear owe me £290!

Just as we thought, Minns strategy to vastly inflate the amount of flood damaged home (remember when it reached 17,000 homes? It actually settled around under 7,000) is finally blowing up in his face and hammering hard-working Hull families.

Sharon Holland's home in West Hull wasn't even flooded but now she's received a letter from her insurers to say her monthly permium is going to be doubled from
from £26.53 to £50.76. That's an extra £290 a year.

All this in spite of the assurance from the Association of British Insurers
that unaffected households that did not make a claim wouldn't see any change in the cost of their annual premium.

Minns announced that council tax-paying residents whose homes were flooded in June would receive a cheque to the value of 25 per cent of their annual council tax bill.

It's tempting to say this rebate should also be extended to those like Sharon whose homes weren't flooded but are paying the price thanks to the Fib Dems incompetence. But I have a better idea.

Sharon - keep paying your £26.53 and tell your insurers to invoice Minns for the rest. I'll make it easy - Flat 2, 66 Spring Bank, Kingston upon Hull, HU3 1AB.

And make the him pay the post!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Here is the news..

You'll have spotted through a gap in posts that I’ve been really busy this month.

In media and public relations, August is widely known as ‘silly season’. I mustn’t have got the memo!

What basically happens is newspaper readership figures drop off in August as people are on holiday, this leads to less advertising revenue for newspapers as advertisers typically see less value in booking space during this time because fewer people see their ads.

When you combine this with the fact Parliament takes its summer recess, that there are fewer business deals and announcements from the City and the most popular sports are in the off season – it means there’s much less news about and fewer people to read it.

Newspapers are therefore more inclined to print attention-grabbing headlines or completely frivolous articles to boost sales. Sometimes it’s pretty funny like “Victor Meldrew found in Space” from a couple of years ago or this year’s “Shark off Cornwall Coast.”

But some stories matter and thankfully get the coverage they deserve. Look North highlighted the plight of the residents of Yorkshire Close this week who had been waiting a scandalous two months for their flood damaged goods to be removed from the front of their homes.

They were told by the council it would take at least another ten days before they could collect it. It's funny how making the lead on Look North focuses the minds of this incompetent Lib Dem council. The next day, the street was completely cleaned!

If Carl Minns had spent less time quoting vastly-inflated figures of flood damage (£380m, err....£200m.....ok £40m) and more time doing the basics like clearing rubbish from people's streets, we might be getting somewhere.

But it's all spin with Minns and the Fib Dems. Did you know the PR agency who spinned for the council during the floods has another big client? Walt Disney! The perfect match - we've got a Mickey Mouse council leader and a Goofy adminstration.

Roll on May!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

It ain't Rover til it's Rover

Kicking myself this morning. I had the chance to get the coach from Crown to Salford last night. Sadly, I had a lot of work on and couldn't make it.
What a game - the old Cookie is back and worked brilliantly with Webster to deliver a win that could help guarantee Super League for another season. (Beating the Bulls at home next Sunday could seal it.)
Ok, there were a few defensive errors and some of the tackling was a bit off, but Rovers were back playing with a real passion, especially in the second half. Hodgson must have been pig sick being bundled over the line twice by Lovegrove and Goddard. Great to see 3,000 people making the effort to cross the Pennines on a Friday night.
Tried to call Sumpo who'd gone on the Crown coach but there was no answer! Bet there's a few sore heads and angry wives this morning!