Wednesday, 12 November 2008

How NOT to win an election



In the great state of Alaska (Governor S.Palin) another woman was attempting to get to DC to make a real difference.

Diane Benson, who stood against the pitbull with lipstick for the Governorship in 2006, attempted to become the Democratic congessional candidate for Alaska with the aim to clean up government.

You’d think as a Democrat she’d tie herself to the Obama bandwagon.

But no.

Diane had her own ideas of winning people over and illustrating her ‘experience.’

You may be surprised to discover that she didn’t win over Democrats to become their official candidate. In fact, she was defeated by a substantial margin - a clear 20 percentage points.

I wonder if you can you guess why?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sophie's poor choice

Stand-in presenters always feel they have something to prove. They start with the presumption that people will assume they are second best, a last minute replacement, a poor substitute.

So standing-in for Andrew Marr was always going to be hard; especially for newsreader Sophie Raworth. But going up against Peter Mandelson in your first big interview was not so much jumping in at the deep end as diving into middle of the Atlantic in a Force Ten gale.

However, Sophie succumbed to the belief that if you do a hard interview and produce a 'defining TV moment' you can make a name for yourself quite easily. Today's 'Andrew Marr' was all about Sophie repositioning herself to be taken seriously and what better way then to get one over Mandelson?

She'd obviously decided to make a big thing about the recent articles questioning his stay on a Russian billionaire's yacht.

Peter could quite easily ask what evidence she had to say that influenced any of his decisions (answer: nothing) otherwise it was just repeating a smear.

So to pull it round, Sophie chose to have a dig about Peter's title, incorrectly suggesting he was the 'Baron of Hartlepool of Foy.'

Peter's response is both cutting and brutally hilarious.

The lesson to all interviewers - do your OWN research.

Click here
and scroll to 55 minutes in for the full exchange.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Dear David..



I woke up this morning to discover Gordon Brown has emailed me. He's beginning to make a habit of this.

And I for one, am pretty damn pleased he is.

In the past, the party would solely use emails as the web equivalent of the direct marketing mail.

As such, a member's response would be exactly the same as opening a DM letter - brief scan, see they want money, bin it.

I'm glad to see that's changing.

Yesterday's moves were quite remarkable - well, one certainly was. Watching yesterday's TV and today's papers would normally reinforce those concerns. I see the Daily Mail's headline is 'Arise Lord Sleaze.'

That's why Gordon's email works. It's a personal and intimate communication that has no other agenda other than to explain his decision. Take a look:

Dear David

You will have seen from the news that I have carried out changes in the Government today. I wanted to contact you directly to let you know the thinking behind these changes.

We are living through the first truly global financial crisis that started in America, but where we must in Britain now do everything we can to ensure the stability of our economic system.

Serious people are needed for these serious times. Margaret Beckett has come back into Government and I have also promoted some of our Party’s best new talent to help deal with the new challenges we face.

I want to reconstruct the way we govern to meet these challenges. Therefore I have created a new National Economic Council and put it on a day-to-day footing. It will meet for the first time on Monday.

I have brought back Peter Mandelson from Brussels to lead our Business Department. Peter has been a European Commissioner of great distinction. He has unrivalled experience in international business issues and has built a reputation over these last few years as someone who can get things done.

I believe the changes I have announced today are in the national interest. Our undivided attention must be on the security of millions of families and households who have been facing higher bills and now face the uncertainty caused by the financial failures in America and elsewhere.

Thank you for all that you do.

Gordon Brown


That's quite alright, Gordon. And thanks for all you do too!

The email wasn't edited, censored or misquoted. It simply provided a context and reasoning for the reshuffle. As such, I think it will go quite some way to allaying certain members' doubts.

But moving forward, I'd like to see Labour going much further, taking a leaf out of the Democrats book and telling supporters first.

Obama asked his supporters to register their details to find out who his VP choic was. They then received a text before the journalists - they felt included, special and that they mattered more. (Also, a very clever way of capturing data - I think Obama will be sending a few more texts before the campaign's over!)

So imagine how powerful it would have been for members and supporters to find out about the Cabinet reshuffle BEFORE the media.

When we engage with supporters, they respond well. 2.9 million registered for Obama's texts and Go Fourth - the Campaign for a Labour Fourth Term - had a remarkable reaction at conference which has now been transferred to the social networks.

A party member set up a Go Fourth Facebook group. Within two weeks it's gone from a handful of supporters to 1,400 - that's 100 new friends every day. It now has more Facebook supporters than Compass, Progress and even Conservative Future.

They may not all become active supporters but they will be effective advocates. Studies have shown that those who read blogs and actively use Facebook are seven times more likely to be an influencer or opinion former.

So next time you have a big announcement Gordon, why not send an email with this intro:

Dear David

I've carried out changes to the Government today.

But I wanted you to be the FIRST to know.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Dick Cheney was right!

If only Cheney had listened to errr..himself.



Hat-tip MoveOn.org

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Sofa, so good



Sad to hear Fiona Phillips is finally leaving GMTV.

I worked with Fi at GMTV for six years I can testify that those morning starts and overnights are an absolute killer. Lord knows how she's managed 14 years

I remember getting calls from hacks after she and Martin sneaked off to get married in Las Vegas in 1997. I thought it was a wind up but when I rang Frizz, discovered it was true after all. I seem to recall he was a bit worried that people might think they were being a bit LA LA but they never did.

I have fond memories of GM (I met my lovely wife there) and have an awful lot of respect for Fi. She's a very canny and shrewd interviewer and broke the news that Diana had died to millions of viewers.

My twopenneth? I think Frizz and the director of programmes Peter McHugh - who gave me my first break in TV - should get a new presenter in. It's still a great show and even more than the Today programme helps shape the news agenda for the day.

Fi and Eammon were a fantastic double act - and very good journalists - but I think the show's lost a bit of sparkle since they split up. Chemistry is very important - you can't fake it.

She'll be a hard act to follow.

So enjoy the lie ins, Fi - and welcome to the rest of your life.

Friday, 29 August 2008

In this week's Heat magazine...



Yep, I have now seen everything.

I think you can guess what WTF stands for!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Karen's worth her weight in gold



Really pleased to hear Hull's judo legend Karen Briggs is is on the mend after being treated for breast cancer.

Karen runs a judo school on Fountain Road and remarkably hopes to be back on the mat in the next couple of weeks.

I always remember the 1992 Barcelona Olympics judo semi-final, when Karen dislocated her shoulder representing GB.

She could have given up but that wasn't a four time world champion does. So she just wrenched her shoulder back into her socket and carried on in excruciating pain.

Even thinking about it makes me wince, but by god, what a fighter and inspiration to young people.

All the best Karen.

Monday, 25 August 2008

I've been ad



Probably the cleverest ad in years because it doesn't appear to be an ad until the BIG reveal.

Ings Got Talent

Just heard that the kids from East Hull Urban Arts are going into the studio to record their first song.

It's a cover of a modern country ballad Concrete Angel, a song made famous by Martine McBride. It's particularly moving as the song's about child abuse, told from the perspective of a daughter regularly beaten by her drunken mother.

In this age of manufactured pop and transient reality z listers, it's heartening to hear children with genuine talent getting a chance to reach a wider audience.

I defy anyone not to get moist-eyed listening to this clip I recorded last year - though I'm told they're a hundred times better now.

Can't wait to hear them.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Back on tracks

Of late I've become quite nostalgic for British Rail. Anyone who regularly has to stand crammed with your face stuffed into someone else's armpit on a morning commuter train will probably share that nostalgia.

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time commuting between Hull and London. Boarding the 0700 Inter City 125 to King's Cross was always the beginning of an exciting short break down south - a trip to Wembley perhaps, a function at the Commons and maybe - if we were luck - a possible visit to McDonalds (this was 1980!)

Looking back, it appears to have been a distant golden age - the aisles seemed wider, the seats larger and more importantly, available.

So imagine my shock one Saturday earlier this year when I was told by our Hull Trains stewardess (yes, we have stewardesses on Hull Trains) that we were changing trains at Doncaster and what we were going to continue our journey on.

As they were waiting for the arrival of new trains, the train operator leased some Inter City carriages and an old diesel engine to cover for weekend services.

It was like a scene from Life from Mars. We were quite literally being transported back in time to the eighties.

And you know what - the seats were bigger and the aisles were wider. Sadly the toasted
ham and cheese sandwich cooked under the grill wasn't on offer. But it didn't stop me fondly remembering it all the way back to London.

As we left Doncaster, we were greeted by a flash of lights as eager trainspotters captured the journey for posterity. I think the new trains have arrived so this particular 125 has once more gracefully slipped back into retirement.

But I've just managed to track down some of footage from Youtube. Enjoy!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Miliband rage or minimum wage?

Most of the papers are in full silly season mode today - I particularly thought the Evening Standard's line-by-line "translation" of David Miliband's press conference with the Italian Minister was unintentionally hysterical. (No wonder David looked irritable having to answer the same question again and again!)

But buried amongst the papers and on the 10th anniversary of the minimum wage today, we've announced we're outlawing the scandalous practice of restaurants using tips to top up the salaries of their staff. Well done to Derek Simpson and Unite for campaigning hard on this.

This is just the kind of decent act of social justice we need to be selling back to the public. The minimum wage benefited more than 1.5 million people on the worst pay. Sadly it doesn't get anywhere the amount of coverage it deserves today - hopefully broadcast will pick it up later.

Whilst I don't agree with Steve Richards conclusion in his piece in the Independent today, he makes a pretty valid point about the problem about getting our message across in the current climate.

"The noise around the leadership in itself is becoming the pivotal issue. Until it subsides, the Government will not be heard and is in danger of falling even further behind in the polls."

I think a lot of members would love to start seeing us getting back out on the front foot, taking the Tories to task and promoting our successes and future plans - a detailed road map through these difficult times. I'm really pleased to see Gordon's planning to do this in September by unveiling a new economic plan.

The challenge we face is fighting to make sure we get heard. But shout we must.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Don't talk down the economy, stupid



You'd think that by looking at the media that we're going to hell in a handcart with the economy.

Which makes this piece by noted economics editor Liam Halligan in the Sunday Telegraph - one of the in-house papers of the Conservative Party - very revealing.

"The highly respected DCLG house measure - which surveys mortgage completions from 50 lenders each month - showed an average price of £207,577 at the beginning of 2007, rising to £219,054 at the end of last year.

"The latest DCLG number is £218,521 - lower, but not disastrously so."

That's a staggering drop of the average house price in the seven months of the credit crunch of £533!

By reading some papers and listening to the likes of Osborne, you'd be forgiven for thinking it must be at least ten times as much as that.

The perception is - and even I believed it - the economy is spiraling into recession and there's little we can do.

Liam's argument is that the prospect of a recession is not guaranteed at all. Which makes all the talk of it by the Tories, the right-wing media and the City all the more reckless.

There's no doubt times are tight and we're all feeling the pinch. But the recession is not a foregone conclusion.

But if people continue to talk down the economy it'll become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Here Come the Girls!

Move over Colleen. Hull's Wags are ready for the Premiership!




Love the way the Hull Dail Mail reporter - a true Hull lass - describes the Wag's boutique Coco Noir as 'Ker-Ker Noo-wah!' Brilliant.


Less than three weeks to go to the start of our first Premiership season and just sorted a ticket for the Arsenal match.

Get in!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Let's go fouth

I sometimes wonder whether I'm too optimistic for my own good.

I spent today taking calls at work from friends down about the result, thinking the game's up. "We're just fucked" seemed to be a common refrain.

Perhaps it's a mindset from years watching the Tigers, but I was brought up to believe that it's never over whilst you've still got time on the clock. Difficult - yes. Hard - undoubtedly. But impossible, no.

I think people know Gordon's been given a tough hand - rocketing food prices, uncertainty in the housing market and speculators driving up oil. Some even think he's getting persecuted for not having the best presentational skills.

But colleagues who campaigned up in Glasgow East and in the phone banks said time and time again, the voters were saying they didn't really know what we stand for anymore.

People know we're tough on security but 42 days detention without trial, ID cards and keeping innocent people on a DNA database are hardly the kind of policies to send people flocking to the poll booths.
 
I think it's time to start telling them what we're FOR. 

  • Helping parents give their kids the best start in life
  • Providing the education and training opportunities to help people get decent jobs 
  • Supporting those who need help to get back in work
  • A heath service driven by the quality of care
  • Making sure pensioners enjoy the retirement they deserve

We need to get back to clear, deliverable and progressive policies and give the public compelling new reasons to back us again.

The 1997 pledge cards worked for three reasons. Firstly, people could see what our priorities were, secondly they were achievable and distinct targets and thirdly, they were easy to remember.
  1. Cut class sizes to 30 or under for those 7 and under
  2. Fast track punishment for persistent offenders
  3. Cut NHS waiting lists by 100,000
  4. Get 250,000 under 25s off benefit and into work 
  5. Ensure low inflation

11 years later, we need to ask our members what those priorities should be for the next election - now.  Your ordinary member, who doesn't go to wards or GCs, rightly feels ignored, demotivated and unloved of late. No one likes to their team go on a losing streak.

Maybe that's because we still live by the old politics, where policy is decided at the highest level and left to the grassroots to sell on the doorstep.

So let's have a proper open debate - not a token consultation - about where we really need to go.  But let's also sell back the many successes of three successive Labour Governments.

Let's see Progress, Compass and The Fabians work together to play the increasingly crucial part in making that convincing argument for the fourth term.

And most importantly, let's forget all this talk about dumping Gordon. He's by far the best person to get us through these tough economic times (though if I hear him saying he's "getting on with the job" one more time, I WILL scream!) 

So no, we're not 'fucked.' 

We're bruised. We're bloodied. 

But we're not going down without a fight.

 





Monday, 21 July 2008

Purnell would benefit from a cut






Interesting debate going on at Labourhome on the welfare green paper. Apparently James Purnell is responding to comments on the site so if you've got a question, get in touch.


My comment was:


"I think there's an awful lot to commend the paper though I think a lot members would have preferred the annoucement to have been made in the House first!

"If these reforms, as promised, help to lift a further 200,000 children out of poverty and get us back on track to halving child poverty by 2010 and erradicating it by 2020, then we'll all welcome it with open arms.

"But surely the big issue - as Barnados highlight - is that half the 1.9 million children in povery already have a parent in employment.

"By all means let's help people back to work, but let's not push them into meaningless McJobs for the sake of getting them off the register and make sure we hit the 80%.

"That's the concern I have with private firms being incentivised to find work for the long-term unempoyed. How will we ensure that they're finding them the right job - or is any job, the 'right' job?

"These reforms will work best if we also pay people a living wage, grant equal employment rights to temporary and agency workers, universal childcare and conduct a closer scrutiny of employers.

"Whilst they'll be a lot of people with valid concerns about how this works in practice and no-one ever wins friends on reforming welfare, at least we're defining the terms of debate and setting the agenda again.

"For that alone, you should be applauded James."

I also thought - after seeing his performance on Marr yesterday - that he could do with a bit of a trim.

One benefit cut we could all back!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Don't shoot the messenger, Gordon




I've been quite busy in the last few weeks and a bit slack on updating the blog. 
With Roz out of hospital, I've finally been getting round to those husband-y tasks that need to be done.

That means assembling filing cabinets, putting boxes away - since my run in Hull and Roz's illness, we've still had a good few boxes of belongings that needed unpacking.

In some ways, we feel we've been given permission to live again after existing in limbo for the best past of the year.

But last week has spurred me to get back on the Mac again.


Caroline Flint's progressive policy on getting first time buyers on the ladder, the workfare reforms and the Youth Action Plan really deserved their fair share of shout.
 
But instead the whole week has been dominated about the perceived U turn on A&E visits for those charged with knife crime. There's a lot of good things to be said about restorative justice but in the current climate, this was always going to be a step too far.

I believe ministers didn't fully sign up to this, but it seems the Home Office press office might have over-spun the proposal,  according to PR Week. 

The lack of clarity on message was typified by Gordon's visit to the Middle East. When you want to highlight the fact that British troops will be leaving Iraq soon rather than later and a two state solution is within sight, being accidently pictured behind a helicopter-mounted heavy machine gun doesn't really reinforce the image of a consensus-building country.

Could it be that the people surrounding Gordon don't feel they have the confidence to highlight all these potential pitfalls?

It's a necessity for any decent comms person to be that critical friend, to risk the wrath to protect the client's reputation. For many years I did just that with John. Whilst on occasion  he didn't like the initial analysis (and that was a bit of an understatement as no-one likes to be told they might be wrong) he respected the opinion of someone outside the bubble.

The Prime Minister has unwittingly of late let himself be 'defined' by the media - the election that never was, the 10p tax rate and Northern Rock; though all have rational arguments for delay, all fed the Tory and media line that he was "dithering."

What No10 needs to do is to stop being LED by the news agenda and start SETTING it. Campbell revealed in his diaries that Blair didn't devour the news papers and very rarely engaged with broadcast.

So my advice would be: "Gordon, turn off the TV, cancel the papers, bring back the grid and start following your heart-felt principles." 

And don't shoot the messenger - work with them.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

A Word from the past



I suddenly felt, in equal measures, very nostalgic and quite old today.

I happened to be watching Terry Christian interviewed on the Daily Politics. He'd been invited to make a film on social mobility - or the perceived lack of it. Whilst generally saying Labour hadn't done enough, he then said he'd been asked to ''join Cool Britannia by John Prescott's son."

My mind flashed back to a night in 1995- we were at Teddington Lock studios, where Hughie Green used to film Opportunity Knocks), but now was home to the infamous ''The Word.'' I remember being somewhat taken aback to be holding the door open for Louise Wener (the very intelligent and attractive singer of a Britpop band called Sleeper who has now become a novelist.)

Back then any young party member was doing their best to spread the word about the new Labour party. When it came to celebrity supporters, we were still known for Red Wedge, which had fizzled out a good few years earlier.

And to be fair, the likes of Jimmy Sommerville and Billy Bragg had lost their street cred amongst people my age. That's why it was important to look for support from the new generation.

There had been successes. I'd been helping out with a voter registration campaign called Rock The Vote and certain other people had managed to enlist the support of Eddie Izzard, Steve Coogan and various bands.

I do remember the scene wasn't even called Cool Britannia back then (that name didn't come about until Tony got into No 10 and his first Anglo-French summit.) But the point was in 1995, we needed all the cool we could get.

So I did speak to Terry who, fair dues, said he didn't want to publicly support us. I don't seem to remember him saying that Tony was a Tory, but it was 13 years ago.

And then when it hit me - 13 years. I was 24 years old, playing a very, very small part in trying to bring about a Labour victory. I'm not too sure whether Terry's support would have led to a bigger landslide than the one we got but I'm glad to see that 13 years later that he's still the same loud-mouthed, opinionated Manc I last remember having a pint with.

If you want to hear his views on social mobility - and he makes some interesting points - then click here.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Can we have seconds?

I'm really looking forward to Warwick 2 if today's Guardian report is anything to go by.

Unite want workers to have better access to workplace leave, USDAW want to extend lifelong leaerning opportunities at work and the GMB want to introduce 'green' shop stewards to encourage greener offices and factories.

But I'm really delighted to see that Unison is backing free school meals for ALL primary children.

Regular readers will probably know I bore for Britain on this subject.

The previous Labour administration in Hull pioneered this with its
'Eat Well, Do Well scheme' with impressive results - average school meal uptake went up from 35% to more than 73% and teachers reported calmer classes.

It's also key to getting kids into healthy eating habits that could last a life time.

At a time of rising bills, food prices and childcare costs, anything that helps towards easing the financial pressure on hard-working families and diffusing the growing obesity timebomb is going to be both morally right and popular with the voters.

How refreshing too, to get back to policies that will help improve the quality of life of the individual, not restrict it.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Don't leave it until the last minute, Fergie!



Man U clinched the title on the last day last season.

Next season, it look's like Fergie will have to wrap it up at least one match earlier!

Who know's - maybe it'll be winner takes all.

After all, we're only 10,000 to 1!

Friday, 13 June 2008

"How much?"

According to today's Hull Daily Mail, it looks like the good people of Haltemprice and Howden have woken up to the fact the by-election will now cost them upto 80,000 pounds for Davis to run against no significant opposition.

Seems they're now not quite seeing it as a 'noble endeavour.'

Here's a selection:

"What a waste of money for him just to get re-elected. I know he is doing it out of principle, but I think he should be more considerate of how much it is going to cost."

“What Mr Davis is doing is a total waste of taxpayers' money. I'm shocked by his resignation because it doesn't make sense. All he is doing is massaging his ego.”

"David Davies has an inflated idea of his importance. With this ego trip he is on he has shown that he lacks political judgment. His by-election is an additional cost on local councils in this area which is not necessary. Mr Davies likes to draw attention to himself on the big issues. This charade will do him or his party any good at all. I hope an Independent with some credibility stands supporting the 42 day issue and wins. Mr Davies would be no loss to Haltemprice."

Thursday, 12 June 2008

I hope Dan's the Man



So is it a courageous decision or a reckless political gamble? A noble cause or a cynical stunt?

Ex-SAS reserve David Davis has used the benefit of surprise to lob a grenade right into the very heart of the 42 days detention debate. (Though it's interesting that he also came out against CCTV and a DNA database - no wonder Cameron said it was a 'brave and courageous decision' i.e. you're on your own mate!)

But the news that the Lib Dems have decided to stand aside from contesting the by-election shows exposes the fact that Davis is not taking any risk at all.

It's a stitch-up and by narrowly defining the terms of engagement to 42 days, other candidates are going to find it hard to break out of that debate.

So it's going to be difficult wicket for us to play on. My friend Danny Marten - a really talented local young man - was selected as the Labour candidate for Haltemprice and Howden last year. He's chair of East Yorkshire Young Labour and a thoroughly likeable and committed activist.

I really hope Danny gets the chance to stand in the by-election. Quite frankly, I think the leadership would be mad to parachute someone else in. Even the most optimistic supporter would concede that we're not going to win it so let's have a decent guy.

But we MUST put up a candidate. Denis McShane has just floated the idea that we should stand aside. If we do, we would be complicit in turning this stunt into a greater farce and show that we're too scared or embarrassed to stand. That'll allow parties like the BNP to have the oxygen of publicity. Would we really want that?

I don't know what Danny's stance is on 42 days but if he is not in favour of it, this shouldn't preclude him from standing, In fact having a sceptical 42 days candidate would show that we're a broad church, willing to encompass the wider Labour movement and, of course, it would help shoot the Davis fox.

The challenge would be then to expose this by-election for what it really is - a cool and calculated decision, guided more by risk assessment than passionate principle.

It's a vainglorious folly - nothing more, nothing less.

Add deliberation and debate and give a good stir



I'm really glad to hear that our local MP Nick Raynsford chose to abstain in yesterday's vote on 42 Days.

No-one could ever describe Nick of being a card-carrying member of the awkward squad. But in the end he said he was failed to be convinced there was an immediate case for this authoritarian and possibly unworkable piece of legislation.

I know many party members who feel really uncomfortable about the general direction we're going in, especially after the 10p debacle and the dog-whistle tactics we used in Crewe.

The general feeling seems to be an uncertainty, post Blair, of what we actually stand for and what our message is.

So I hope the party leadership gets a chance to read Compass Chair's Neal Lawson's think piece in this week's New Statesman making a pretty convincing case for social liberalism. I think democratising our public services and making them more locally accountable is a really exciting concept. Providing Voice and Choice!

Compass are also holding a one-day conference in London on Saturday entitled Born Free and Equal with a raft of speakers from the cabinet to NGOs, think tanks and unions. There are still a few places left for what should be a thought provoking day.

Jeese Jackson once said ''Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of democracy."

I think in the current climate what we need now are a few more people prepared to stir it up!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Montague - you're fired!


I can't believe what I've just heard on the Today show!

I, like millions of others, have been looking forward to tonight's Apprentice final. It's been a pretty good series this year and now we're down to the final four - personally I hope Lee gets it.

So Sir Alan was duly lined up for a live two-way with Sarah Montague.

A lively chat ensued but right at the end she asked him: "Since it's recorded can you tell us that you've picked XXXX?"

Well done!

I've spent the last 10 weeks gleefully watching Sir Alan ruthlessly dispatch hopeless wannabes one-by-one ("When it comes to sale, I think I'm probably the best in Europe" - classic), all leading up to tonight's eagerly anticipated final and Montague has just blown if for hundreds of thousands of Today listeners.

Even if XXXX hasn't won, my enjoyment has been ruined because I'm going to have it in the back of the mind throughout the whole show.

I don't want to spoil it for you but if you really want to know, then you can listen to the interview on the Today website.

What are you going to do for an encore, Sarah? Hang around Hamleys at Christmas and sidle up to wide-eyed children to tell them Santa doesn't exist?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Will Ireland say Yes to Mr No?


I've been spending a lot of time in Ireland of late. Roz is still in hospital over there. Cross fingers, she'll be out this week.

I must admit I've found the current referendum campaign on the Lisbon Treaty absolutely fascinating. To a man, no-one I've spoken to really understands it. But it's not as if you can escape it - posters and boards festoon the roadsides in every town and village.

What I find really remarkable is that ALL the major parties - that would normally represent more than 80% of the electorate - are all campaigning for a Yes vote but facing defeat.

Unless there's a high turnout on Thursday, there's a very real possibility that the No lobby, led by "Irish" businessman Declan Ganley could win.

From nowhere, "Mr No" and his Libertas group have managed to boost the anti Lisbon Treaty campaign by more than 17 percentage points putting them within three points of the Yes camp with a further 30% still undecided.

While Ganley, who has a very strong English accent after spending his first 13 years in the UK, might not be as convincingly Irish as Biffo Brian Cowen, his campaign has been faultless. Cowen had admitted he hasn't read the whole treaty and Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreavy claimed ''only a lunatic would."

But Ganley has made a virtue of the fact he has. Even handing out copies to sports fans at Croke Park. In fact he's become known as "The Man Who's Read the Lisbon Treaty."

He hammers away that the Treaty would affect Ireland on abortion, tax, neutrality and their entitlement to a European Commissioner. All are strenuously denied by Pro-Treaty parties but time and again I hear Irish my friends - all pro-European - say they're going to vote No for one or more of his claims.

The stunts have been amusing too - he's booked three one way tickets to Brussels on Friday morning for the three main party leaders so they can renegotiate the Treaty as soon as possible!

It's clear the Yes camp has struggled to give people a real reason to vote for the Lisbon Treaty. Five simple benefits would have sufficed. Just saying Ireland's done well out of being at the heart of Europe has only re-enforced the waverers' view that it's all the more reason not to lose their Commissioner in Brussels.

This lack of a narriative was typified when I heard a Yes campaigner on a radio talk show claim "not understanding how the internal combustion engine works doesn't stop you from driving your car, does it?"

Whether or not you agree or disagree with Ganley, you've got to applaud his campaign. He's taken on the Irish establishment and is close to beating it, by praying on the fears and doubts of the Irish public. I hate the tactics but admire his clinical effectiveness.

On the strength of what I've seen in Ireland, if the UK does hold a referendum, I now have absolutely no doubt that the Lisbon Treaty would be soundly defeated.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Turn the cameras off


Another quiet news day, another stunt and the fourth estate willingly oblige by giving them a national platform.

Today's protest on Harriet Harman's roof shows yet again that the media is complicit in breaking the law by giving groups like Fathers 4 Justice the oxygen of publicity. (I know I'm doing exactly the same, but bare with me on this one.)

If you remember, this was the group that temporarily split-up in 2006 after claims some of its members were considering kidnapping Tony's Blair's son.

As a journalist for more than 16 years, I passionately believe in a free media and the right for people to protest.

But there's something wrong when groups like Fathers 4 Justice can walk onto Sky News and conduct live interviews by breaking and entering into people's homes.

The lead protester on Harriet's roof is Jonathan Stanesby who last climbed onto the roof of family court Judge David Tyzack's home, dressed as Santa Claus. I'm sure he's passionate about his case and those of other fathers in similar positions. But he's breaking the law by scaring innocent people and the media's encouraging him. They might as well have been holding the ladder.

We don't do live interviews with hostage takers so why the hell should we do it with Fathers 4 Justice?

I speak from experience. When Greenpeace, in their infinite wisdom, stormed the house of one of the Kyoto Treaty signatories (smart move guys!) Pauline was terrified. Post 9-11, she feared for her life. The protesters even forced her to give evidence in court so they could maximise the publicity.

As a former BBC Home News Editor myself, I feel very uncomortable about how the media is unwittingly becoming an acomplice in these stunt protests. Will this stunt really lead to a proper and mature discussion about a father's rights? Somehow I doubt it.

It's up to editors of rolling news channels, radio stations and newspapers to seriously consider the moral implications of their actions.

For broadcasters, there should be the briefest of mentions and certainly no live two ways.

By all means report the news. But let's not help them make it.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

From West Belfast to Westlife


I'm sad to hear that the legendary Northern Ireland correspondent Denis Murray has decided to retire from the BBC after 26 years.

For many, his authority and insight were invaluable in explaining the Troubles and the Peace Process to a wider audience.

But I hold the dubious honour of testing his reporting skills to the very limit - by getting him to cover the departure of Bryan Mcfadden from Westlife.

When I worked on the BBC Network Newsdesk as a Home Duty Editor, I was looking for a correspondent to go to Dublin to cover the boy band's press conference. Our Dublin correspondent was on leave.

The only person free was Denis. I thought long and hard but had no choice. Expecting a blast of righteous indignation, I asked whether he would...err...be prepared to....err..to go to a Westlife press conference?

He jumped at the chance - in fact he was very excited! I knew the TV and radio bulletins would cover the story but one of the editors was furious I'd sent Denis - of course, she ran his piece.

Denis later told me it was the greatest bit of fun he'd had in years and still tells people how Kerry Katona cried on his shoulder as she watched her husband leave one of the biggest boy bands in the world.

He said at the time on Radio 4's PM programme: "Kerry was crying so I gave her me hanky. And it was clean!"

So good luck in your retirement, Denis. From now on, you're flying without wings!

And I hope you claimed that hanky back on expenses!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Back the Gaffer


I'm afraid I've been a lousy blogger of late. Unfortunately, Roz has been quite ill and I've taken some time off to look after her.

That's why I spent Saturday watching Hull City's greatest moment from a pub in Kerry and not in block 122 at Wembley (glad to see JP went - apparently he got mobbed everywhere he went by City fans!) I still can't comprehend the upcoming fixtures list - goodbye Glanford Park, hello Old Trafford!

What struck me was we got promoted thanks to the inspired leadership of a certain Mr Brown. Compare Phil Brown's treatment - sacked by Derby after just seven months in charge - with Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson took over Man U in 1986 and after three seasons, had no silverware. Fans and journalists wanted his head. But the board stood by him, hoping that he would pull it around. Which he did, by making the right decisions in difficult times and getting on with the job.

In fact it wasn't until 1992-93 that he won the league. But since then, he has become the most successful manager of an English team of all time with 10 Premierships, five FA cups and two Champions Leagues titles!

What would have happened if Phil Brown had been given the chance to stay with Derby? Perhaps it's telling that the Tigers under his leadership have gone up as the Rams have gone straight down after a terrible season.

The point is it's all too tempting to sack the manager when the results aren't going your way.

If you're prepared to take more of a long-term view, you get results through consistency and stability.

But any successful manager has to learn from the mistakes of the past and use that experience to change tactics and strengthen the squad.

We're one nil down after 45 minutes - now is not the time to sack the Gaffer.

He needs the chance to make the right changes so we can kill 'em in the second half.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

I can't help falling in love with you....



28 years ago, Hull came to a halt. A city, divided by a river, came together for a grand day out in Wembley.
The Challenge Cup Final saw Hull FC and Hull KR face off for glory.

On May 3rd 1980, almost 100,000 - half the city - boarded the special trains and coaches to make the pilgrimage. By the side of the A63 by the Humber Bridge (signed off to win a by-election!) an improvised sign read ''last one out turn the lights off."

28 years later, Hull once again has its Wembley moment. The Twin Towers are no more but the thrill is just as strong. I never thought I'd see that day. But at the age of 37, after relegation seasons, false dawns and lock outs from Boothferry, City fans finally get THEIR big day out.

You don't like to think about the Murdoch money -60 million pounds in extra TV revenue, gate receipts and sponsorship - but a place in the greatest league in the world is its own reward.

The trips to Exeter, the bore draws, the battles with the taxman; by god we've earned this moment.

So let's relish every damn second of that walk down Wembley Way.

Because years ago we once sang a song that typified the Hull spirit. A bloody-minded, almost absurd aspiration, based on nothing more than a romantic dream.

"Flying high up in the sky, we'll keep the Hull flag flying high. From Boothferry to Wembley, we'll keep the Hull flag flying high."

THE TIGERS!

THE TIGERS!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Really Open Government



Say what you like about Caroline Flint but at least she's brought a greater transparency to politics!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

From Boothferry to Wembley.....


In a world where agents hold clubs for ransom and players demand £100,000 a week, it's heartening to see two Hull lads in the their 30s grab the goals to take us one step closer to the Premiership.

Barmby and Windass have both experienced the highs and lows of life in the Premiership. But I'm sure nothing will compare to taking their hometown up into arguably the best league in the world; driven not by money but sheer pride.

Roll on Wednesday at the KC. Sorry Elton, but this year the Hull flag's flying high!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Top of the class


John Harris has written a brilliant article in
today's Guardian asking whether meritocracy died and social mobility seized up.

In spite of calls from Government and educationalists to make our top universities more pluralistic and diverse, Oxford admitted almost twice as many Old Etonians in 2006 as in 2001.

Elliott Major, research director at the Sutton Trust, claims buying a private education actually gets you so much more than an education - it buys you membership to an establishment that encourages children to build elite social networks from a very early age.

This early networking then repays the intial investment countless times over throughout a pupil's life by supercharging your career prospects. The fact that 70% of High Court judges were privately educated is testament to this.

If we really believe in promoting aspiration and opportunity, we need to do more to show young people that they can go as far as their talent can get them, not as far as society will let them.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

City Till I Die!



I'm bracing myself to go through the mill for six hours today - Hull City chasing the Premiership dream followed by the Hull derby at the Millennium Stadium.

I'd have been happy at the beginning of the season to finish it knocking on the door of the play-offs. But the prospect of automatic promotion seems absolutely surreal.

I spent between 1989 and 1992 following the Tigers across the country with Jivin' Jeff's Self-Driving Army - a band of like minded dreamers who felt one day we'd hit the big time.

I remember going to St James Park for the last match - after already being relegated to Division 3 - and chanting at the Toon Army: "We're going down, we're going down, you're not, you're not!" We were wearing home made t shirts with a cartoon tiger dressed as ship's captain saluting as he disappeared under the waves with the slogan "Down with the Tigers!"

Yep, we had our fair share of lows - relegation down to League Three in 95-96, The David Lloyd years, getting locked out of Boothferry, bucket collections for the players and the Pepis Tiger Skin strip - consistently held up as the worst kit of all time (look at that picture!)

But Warren's Joyce's Great Escape season in 98-99, where we defied the drop to the conference typified the Tiger's fighting spirit and the move to the best community stadium in the country - owned by the people FOR the people - allowed us to start again.

So to contemplate seeing City playing week in, week out at the Emirates and Stamford Bridge is still hard to grasp.

Some might say it's unlikely we'll do it today - Stoke only need a point against Leicester and we need to beat Ipswich.

I think it'll come down to how much our opponents want to win - will Leicester's determination to avoid relegation be stronger than the Tractor Boy's desire to make the play-offs.

But the one thing I've learnt following City is they'll give it their all. And, if not today, there's still our chance of our day at Wembley.

They say that it's only by tasting the bitterness of defeat that you really appreciate how sweet success can really be.

Watching City of the years, I've had more than my fair share of bitter lemon. Hopefully we'll get to enjoy the land of milk and honey.

Johnson & Johnson



"He's very good at Greek and Latin and I can tell you something – if you can do Greek and Latin you can do anything, certainly run a city like London." Stanley Johnson on son Boris

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Beyond our Ken



Maybe it was the tear in the ear or the slight trembling in the voice. But as he stood there at the podium, Ken showed us that he was a class act all along.

It would have been so easy for him to blame it on Brown and stick the knife in as he left the stage. But he didn't. Instead, he took it like a man, shouldered all the blame and wished his successor all the best.

They say you only really miss something when it's gone. Well it's been just over an hour, and I think we've lost the greatest leader London has seen and ever will. A man who gave four decades of his life to the city he loves, who made London a bulwark against the worst excesses of Thatcherism, provided true leadership after 7/7 and played a pivotal role in securing the Olympics and Crossrail.

He could be his own worst enemy, ran against the official Labour candidate and his judgement over a few advisors could probably be called into question.

But he was a conviction politician - a true maverick who weathered the most prejudiced and sustained media onslaught with good grace and great dignity.

How ironic that yet again he's forced from the job he loves by another rabid right-wing Tory blond and sadder still to see the BNP claim an assembly seat. Ken made this city a fairer and more tolerant place. Let's hope that lives on as his legacy.

Still, if you want a smile, see Jon Craig make an arse of himself on Sky News after getting told off by City Hall officials for doing lives during the Mayoral speeches.

Bit of advice Jon, ask permission first.

video

Friday, 2 May 2008

Don't mourn - ORGANIZE!

I'm really sorry to see that the people of Ings have missed out on a fantastic councillor in Tracy Noon.

But she's every reason to hold her head up high today because:

a) she was only selected less than a month ago and faced an uphill struggle to unseat the incumbent

b) she had the highest turnout of all East Hull wards at 31% - the city average was 25.5% and some wards were as low as 17%

c) with 942, she had the fourth highest number of Labour votes in the city

Hull now has to wait two years for the next local election but local ward parties should start selecting candidates NOW.
Every prospective candidate should spend the next two years winning the confidence of the electorate, becoming their champion and holding the Lib Dems to account, ward-by-ward and street-by-street.

Our candidates can make a massive difference by campaigning for further investment and funding in our wards. For example, there's more than £200 million available for new playgrounds through the Children's Plan - we don't need the Lib Dems to help us access it - we can get it ourselves.

And it's not about sticking out thousands of leaflets a few weeks before the poll. Voters are wise to that. They want an on-going relationship, not a one-night stand. If candidates or councillors aren't prepared to do the work, they should stand aside and let those who are committed to carry the torch.

That's why for me, people like Tracy are the future - committed people who are making a real difference to the lives of others.
Tonight - like every other Friday night - she'll be teaching more than 80 kids drama and music at East Hull Urban Arts; a project she can be very, very proud of.

So take heart Tracy - you did a great job. But remember the last words of the trade unionist Joe Hill before he was executed.

"Don't mourn. Organize!"

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Boris Johnson - Class Warrior!



Been really tied up of late - professionally and personally.

But I really must point out a great think piece by Martin O'Neill in this week's New Statesman on why people seem to tolerate Boris Johnson.

Martin think's it all comes down to class and I think he's pretty damn close to nailing it on the head.

As Leonard Woolf once said: "There is nothing to which men cling more tenaciously than the privileges of class."

UPDATE

Very clever and funny viral. I think it says more than any piece of campaign literature we could put out.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Banksy's About!


Looks like Banksy made the most of London's attention being divereted to the marathon this weekend.

You don't expect a major piece of contemporary art outside your office. It's half way down Newman Street, off Oxford Street if you want to see it.

I'm surprised he got away wiith it as it's right next to the entrance of the Royal Mail sorting office where the security is usually quite tight.

In theory he should be caught on the CCTV. Perhaps the Royal Mail can sell the footage to the Tate Modern and it can be displayed as an installation in its own right!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

What a race



It's hard to believe that it's one year since the London Marathon was last here in Greenwich.

Back then, Roz and I were limbering up for the 26 miles, blissfully unaware that it was going to go down as the hottest race in history. I drank so much as I trundled around the course that I felt like a water bottle.

But when you hit the wall - and for me it was after 18 miles - you think of all that sponsorship money you've raised and the people you'll let down if you give up.

This is when the spectators really come into their own. I never realised how much support they give you. Having complete strangers passionately yelling out names of people they've never met (that's why runners put names on their shirts), spurring them on to keep going, is something that will always stick with me.

So you keep going. And when you pull round into the Mall after running past Buckingham Palace, you know it's all been worth it.

The other wonderful feature is the fact you have 35,000 runners and 35,000 different stories. You've probably heard about Buster Martin the 101 year-old van cleaner (pictured above), Blind Dave Heeley running on seven continents in seven days and the six Maasai warriors running to raise money for clean water in their village.

But then there are the hundreds of sons and daughters running in memory of their mums for breast cancer charities, the pensioners raising money for hospital scanners and those overcoming disability, medical conditions and even dementia to raise awareness and funds.

And helping make it all happen are the 6,000 plus volunteers giving their time to help the world's biggest fund raising event.

That's why I think we should ignore the nay-sayers who do down the 2012 Olympics. As well as helping to regenerate some of the poorest parts of London and create 39,000 homes (the majority affordable) it will also help to build an enormous amount of social capital - reinvigorating and rebuilding community spirit, not just in London, but across the UK.

That's why whilst I'm a big fan of the London Marathon, it's still only the second best to the greatest race of all.

The Human Race.

Friday, 4 April 2008

High Noon

I'm really pleased to see that my good friend Tracy Noon has been chosen to stand for Labour in Hull's Ings ward in May.

I was honoured to have Tracy and her mum and dad help me in my campaign. She has made a massive difference to the lives of children on the Ings Estate by setting up East Hull Urban Arts - an after-school club where she teaches drama and music to 180 kids. Take a look below.



Our city and party desperately need more people like Tracy; passionate activists who are prepared to slog their guts out to improve the outcomes of those less fortunate than themselves.

This is a woman who campaigned so hard during one local election that her feet actually bled from the amount of canvassing she did. Now THAT'S committed.

So I'll definitely be back up to knock on doors for her in the next few weeks.

Good luck Tracy - you'll make an excellent councillor.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Well done Harriet

I'm sure the Tories are spinning that Hague had his kid gloves on and didn't want to be seen bullying a woman, but don't you believe it.

She won fair and square by doing her homework. The baseball cap joke was timed to perfection.

So relish every moment of this win, Harriet.

I just wish I'd stuck a tenner on you.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Mind your PMQs, Harriet


I imagine Harriet Harman is probably not having the best of Sundays today.

The confirmation that she'll stand in at the dispatch box for the PM on Wednesday will probably fill her with equal parts of pride, excitement and terror.

It's a bit like parachuting for the first time; you receive a lot of expert advice, you prepare to the nth degree but as you wait in the chamber for the first question, you'll give anything to pull out.

I used to be part of the prep team that briefed John for PMQs (unpaid I might add!) when he had to stand in for Tony. It would start the week before, preparing lines of attack against William Hague and second guessing what questions the chosen members would ask.

It's fair to say that while it never helped him at the ballot box, Hague is the best Commons debater of our generation; a formidable opponent whose rapier wit can bring any minister to his or her knees.

So we would spend a lot our time crafting 'bombs'; lines that would the highlight the Tories' incompetence or hypocrisy, stop Hague in his tracks and hopefully bring the House down.

Our greatest triumph was in March 2006. It was widely believed that John would get duffed up by William. But we had an arsenal of barbed traps ready for him to walk into. So when Hague brought up 'the punch,' JP could reply "I thought we had finished with Punch and Judy politics. I know I will be called Mr Punch. What do you think that leaves you as?"

As he left the chamber, MPs from all sides were patting him on the back and as we walked to the terrace for a quick drink, a voice called out from one of the bars. "Well done John. Great performance." Cameron had been watching and loved every minute of it.

So my advice to Harriet is firstly be yourself; John could never and would never try to emulate Tony. So find your own style. It's a macho environment and very tempting to go toe-to-toe like a couple of pugilists. Be different. Be yourself.

Secondly, craft your bombs. Humour is a great weapon and Hague (if it is he, it could be Theresa May) will have a long list of barbs ready to go against you. So get David Bradshaw in - the ex-Mirror hack wrote some belters for Tony and John.

Finally, don't believe the hype - zone out from the Westminster chatter. There'll be a lot of look-ahead pieces predicting you'll get hammered. You won't. So resist reading the papers for the next few days - you'll get all you need from the No10 PMQ team.

And remember my parachute analogy because as soon as you've done PMQs, you'll want to do it again, again and again!

So relax, make the most of the weekend and get Jack to do the Sunday roast!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The exits are here, here and here


I find the T5 debacle a fascinating case study in crisis mismanagement.

Whilst the unofficial blame game reportedly continues apace between British Airways and BAA ('it was alright when he handed over the keys, guv') the decision to keep Chief Executive Willie Walsh off the airwaves was a bad move.

Hearing Jim Naughtie proclaim on Today on Friday morning: ''BA won't come on so we're going to speak to Ryanair" would chill the marrow of any PRO who's tried to get a CEO to be open and transparent with the public.

BA eventually got it right by allowing Walsh to deliver his Mea Culpa moment but it was all a bit too late in the day.

The problem is the news cycle is never ending. In a 24 hour news landscape, if you don't provide updates, or at least try, it looks at best like hubris and at worst, ignorance.

Mix in the fact that disgruntled employees were blogging on aviation forums that this was a crisis waiting to happen and angry passengers willing to be lost suitcase studies for rolling news, and you had a information vacuum which was quickly filled with speculation and bad will.

If I was Walsh, I'd sort this out from the bottom up by donning overalls and spending a week with the workers on the baggage carousels.

BA might not have been able to handle the bags and the fallout from T5, but by empathising with passengers and staff, they might be able to start to claim back their reputation.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Radio Guffaw



I really felt for newsreader Charlotte Green this morning. I occasionally bumped into her when I was on the overnight BBC newsdesk at Television Centre and I always felt she was a true professional.

But her corpsing during the 8am bulletin on the Today programme is the funniest thing I've heard in years.

Charlotte had been put off after reading the previous news item about the first recording of a human voice, singing Au Clair de la Lune.

Apparently while the clip was playing, someone whispered into her headphones that it sounded like a "bee buzzing in a bottle."

The way she tried to regain her composure and carry on is truly historic.

I'm sure her first response was to be mortified but she shouldn't be.
Charlotte, you've put a smile on millions of weary faces this morning. Thank you.

If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

You've got to laugh!


Courtesy Tim Sanders, The Independent

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Thank You

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who supported me during this selection.

All I ever wanted was to get to the final hustings to put my case to the members on how I wanted to build on the successes that Labour have achieved.

I give my full backing to the winning candidate and hope that he will build a mass membership party, support our candidates in the forthcoming local election, win back the council for Labour and retain the seat at the next general election.

This has been an unbelievable journey and I'm honoured to have had the chance to stand for my home town.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Sloan Ranger and the Fib Dem


I don't like to intrude on personal grief, but as resignation statements go it's up there with Geoffrey Howe's cricket bat sabotage of Thatcher.

Former Lib Dem Cabinet member Andy Sloan has chosen to defect to the Tories in Hull's Guildhall.

He said: "I had once believed that the Liberal Democrat Party possessed a set of values and beliefs that were an alternative to the socialist Labour Party." POW!

"I see now that this view was misplaced and that the Liberal Democrats exist for a singular purpose - namely, to maintain bits of orange on a political map, no matter what the consequence." SPLAT!

"The Liberal Democrat party stands for nothing except to further its own electoral existence." BLAMMO!

This brutal but justified attack has been on the cards for quite a few weeks. Before voting against the Lib Dems proposed revenue budget for the coming year, Sloan said that council leader Carl Minns had deliberately used last summer's floods to "make political sunshine," describing his criticism of the Government at the time of the floods as "tantamount to criminal."

I've been saying this for some time but unfortunately the Lib Dems don't seem to be listening - they're still trying to kick the Government when they're trying to help.

Today Minns claimed the city has been excluded from a round of Government cash handouts because our roads suffered the "wrong type of damage" in the summer floods.

He told the press: "It appears that Hull's roads suffered the wrong kind of flood damage.

"After working with the Government-appointed advisers WS Atkins to assess the damage to the city's infrastructure, a claim for £1.3m was submitted to cover road surface damage caused by the flooding.

"The response was that the money was only available for structural not surface damage. This being the case, Hull was excluded from applying for the additional funding."

Unfortunately, that's not true at all. The Hull Daily Mail hasn't quoted the Department for Transport's response but if you click here you'll see the story from both sides.

The Department for Transport spokesman says: "It is wrong to say Hull City Council has had a claim rejected and has been excluded from applying for additional funding.

"The department has been quite clear that all reasonable claims for funding for flood road repair money will be considered and we would welcome further discussions with the council.

"The council did submit an initial estimate of damage in September after being asked to do so by DfT. Subsequently, Hull decided not to submit a formal claim. The Government's appointed technical advisers stand ready to offer further help to Hull should they wish to work up a claim.

"In total, Hull City Council has so far received £7.7m in Government funding to help communities get back on their feet following the floods."

So they only submitted a rough estimate because they were asked to by the Department for Transport, they didn't submit a formal claim and they haven't been excluded - in fact the DfT says it's still willing to help them claim money!

But Lib Dem party political hackery has spurned a Government's offer of help and graciously countered with a kick in the teeth designed to cover up their own incompetence.

These two stories just go to show what Hull sorely lacks is strong leadership and firm direction in the Guildhall.

A party that's prepared to work with all sides to get things down for the good of this city. A party that's prepared to really address the needs of local people.

The challenge for Labour is to prove to Hull people that we are that change.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Thank you Khevyn


After four months of listening to members, seeking nominations, putting my case and the odd bicycle puncture, the end is almost in site.

This Saturday at the Freedom Centre I was honoured that the General Management Committee of the Hull East Labour Party voted me onto the shortlist.

I also have to say I'm really proud to be carrying the standard of USDAW into the hustings after being nominated by both their branches.

All I ever wanted was to be able to put my case to party members in three weeks time. So to everyone who's supported me so far, thank you so much.

But it is tinged with some disappointment. During this selection, I've made a good friend in Khevyn Limbajee (pictured above.) Khevyn, who grew up in Hull and has been a keen activist down in London, was a great candidate.

In fact, during this contest he was also fighting a council by-election in Leyton! I really don't know where he found the energy but he never once complained.

Throughout this selection, he conducted himself with dignity, grace and great humour. He made a big impression on all those he met, including me.

I'm certain that he'll make another CLP very proud by becoming their candidate. And I for one, will be there out on the streets campaigning for him.

So remember Khevyn. Never quit.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

It's the rights time

201 years ago the House of Commons saw a mighty victory for social justice, fairness and equality. After a long and determined campaign, the slave trade was abolished.

On Friday, the campaign to abolish poverty pay and grant equality for all workers comes to the same house with the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill.

Whilst it might not be as emotive a subject, this Private Members bill would give our 1.4 million agency workers the same rights and pro-rata pay as full-time workers.

That means the same rights to holidays, decent working hours and sick pay.

It's a win-win for workers - agency workers will see their pay and conditions go on a par with those who work full time and permanent workers will be in a stronger position by abolishing the race to the gutter through a two tier workforce.

The CBI claims Britain will be less competitive and 250,000 are at stake. Big business said the same about the minimum wage but it in fact corrected underpayment by employers and created jobs. While costs rose, employers had no incentive to cut jobs.

As ex-CBI Director General Adair Turner found when he reviewed the minimum wage he in 2003 as Chair of the Low Pay Commission: "The national minimum wage has brought benefits to over one million low-paid workers. It has done so without any significant adverse impact on business or employment."

I'm sure the Government will find a way to address this issue - there's already talk of an inquiry into the treatment of temporary and agency workers, which is a positive step forward. But I hope that this Friday MPs send a strong message by backing the bill and helping it progress to its second reading to keep this issue in the spotlight.

It took Wilberforce 20 years to see his dream come true.

Let's hope that the 1.4 million workers with poor holiday entitlement, sick pay and sub-standard wages won't have to wait that long.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Thank you

The point of this blog was to write down a few thoughts and ideas about home, Labour and the issues people care about. In East Hull, we’re selecting the person whose job it is to combine the three.

I made a decision right at the start not to give a running commentary on the selection process - so I won't.

But I just wanted to say how honoured I was to secure the nomination of Southcoates West on Tuesday.

This selection process has been such an unbelievable journey. I really don't know where or when it's going to end but I'm very proud to have been given the chance to meet, talk and most importantly, listen to members over the last few months.

All I ever wanted was to put my case to them face-to-face and I'm delighted that I'm getting the opportunity to do it.

So thank you.

UPDATE - I'm also very proud to have won the nomination for Ings ward - where I went to school.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Quote of the day

"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you.

"The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit."

Bill Clinton

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Tinternet



One thing that's struck me going round to talk to people is how many of our older members have their own emails and basic web skills.

I've always felt the retired are an untapped resource for the community. While some might rightly want to enjoy their retirement following their own pursuits, others would still jump at the chance to volunteer and get involved but they can't get out as much.

As more services are moving online, it's vital all our elderly don't get left behind and become digitally excluded. Digital exclusion is one of the core indicators of social exclusion.

That's why Silver Surfers' Day is such a great idea

Held in Adult Learners Week, the day (this year it's Friday May 23rd) sees lots of taster events held across the country to encourage older people to get online and learn more about the interent and how it can empower them.

Schools, community centres and even work places with internet access are encouraged to open up their buildings so students and employees can mentor budding Silver Surfers in how to send an email and browse the internet. Some companies even run Bring Your Parent to Work Days.

With the growth of broadband and the internet playing an ever greater role in our lives, I believe internet providers should be taking the lead in getting more pensioners online and engaged.

These days, an internet highway pass could be just as important in an OAP's life as their bus pass. Both allow the freedom to travel, explore and keep mind and soul active.

We're rightly proud of the success of Kingston Communications - it gave us unlimited cheap local calls, the first interactive broadband TV system and a fantastic Community stadium.

How great would it be for KCom to offer an internet highway pass allowing free broadband access to those over 65. Hull could once again be a trailblazer as we were with universal healthy free school meals - Scotland is piloting them and Wales look set to follow.

And we could raise an army of Silver Surfers prepared to contribute to the community.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Minns: 'Let them eat crisps!'



So the council tax rise in Hull is only going to cost each household the price of a packet of crisps a week.

But these aren't ordinary crisps.

These are Walker's Sensations sweet chilli crisps!

Not so sure that's the right analogy in countering our image as a 'fat city' but I hear they're very popular in the Avenues!

The Lib Dems Budget, they claim, will only cost each household 50p a week for council services - a 3.8% percent rise.

Sadly, this is being subsidised by hard working families. Healthy school meals - universally free under Labour but scrapped by Minns - are going up 10p a meal. That's a 9% rise - a whopping three times the rate of inflation to rake in £100,000 a year.

So a family with three kids at primary will now have to find £702 a year for healthy school dinners that they had free under Labour!

It's effectively a tax on families, a tax on healthy meals and a disinsentive in the fight against obesity.

So guess what some families will be tempted to give their kids?

I bet it won't be the Sweet Chilli variety.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Humberside lives again!

I'm sure very few Telegraph journalists have ventured north of Watford.

But you'd think that at least they'd know where Hull was!

The Telegraph's website has just created a new on-line interactive political map of the UK. It's all very whizz bang and they must have spent thousands on it.

Unfortunately, all three Hull consituencies have been moved to North Lincolnshire - Hull East is sandwiched between Grimsby and Doncaster North, Hull West and Hessle now has Brigg and Goole and Cleethorpes as neighbours and even Hull North is south of the Humber.

I'm sure Terry Geraghty will be delighted!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Computer says no




It absolutely beggars belief that nearly £1m has been taken out of people's accounts for council tax and council rent by mistake.

Over the last month, double payments were being taken by Hull City Council, hitting 9,500 people. This forced some to borrow money from loved ones to feed their families at Xmas and penalised some with £25 bank changes for going overdrawn

Not only was this not picked up for two weeks but it's now going to take up to five days for the council to pay the money back.

The council promised hardship loans for those needing emergency money. But we're already hearing stories of people being turned away because they couldn't prove the money had been taken. Surely the council should be able to check their OWN computer records to see if extra payments had been taken?

But no - they admit they don't know exactly how many people have been affected!
All the while that money has been sitting in the council's bank account earning interest.

Councillor Sean Chaytor is absolutely right this morning to be calling for a full investigation into this mess. The council should be working round the clock to pay everything back - including that interest and where relevant, the bank charges.

The Lib Dems are already spinning that it was a computer error, a software problem. But the buck stops with the cabinet member for finance - a certain C Minns.

This just adds to a picture of Lib Dem council incompetence.

They're already facing legal action from a company that claims they went back on a deal to bring a Big Wheel over to Hull for Christmas and cabinet member for regeneration Andy Sloan resigned days before this story broke to spend more time with his PHD!

Even the Hull Daily Mail is quoting Lib Dems sources saying there's a distinct lack of leadership.

But I hear that's all small fry compared to a story of such gross incompetence that's about to break.

The challenge now for Labour is to listen to the people and formulate a positive agenda for change that this city so desperately needs. It's a challenge that the Labour group, ably led by Steve Brady, is rising too.

So that come May we can log off the Lib Dems once and for all.