Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Censorship is an obvious fact of life in China - as is the reality that you could get put in jail for writing a blog. Now though they have added virtual police to the real life snoopers who try to stamp out free thought.
I have a massive 2 (two) blog posts in the Top 100. Okay, they are at numbers 93 and 96, but I'm sure you're all still mightily impressed. And one of those was Local elections analysis which was just a one liner giving a link to my old friend Anders' blog. And the other one is about an election result and a defection - just more geeky stats stuff. But it's still a great achievement, I'm sure you'll all agree...
Monday, 27 August 2007
There have been a lot of things said about John Prescott, but I've got no reason to believe he was anything other than a good MP when it came to his constituency. He's made a big contribution to British politics through his role in the Blair government and the Blair-Brown relationship - whether you think it was a good one or not, it was certainly significant.
Cynics might point out that it's yet another push to get everyone onto identity, ooops, sorry, Oyster cards, whether they want one or not. They might wonder how many of those eligible will actually take up the offer or if it's just a very cheap way of getting publicity for Ken ahead of the elections next May. They might ask the question as to why, if Ken feels strongly about this, it applies only to buses and not the tube.
But let's just celebrate the Mayor's generosity instead.
The Council recently sent us some information about patient transport at North Middlesex Hospital - they have changed the way that they assess whether transport should be provided for patients or not.
Their basic aim is to reduce costs by not providing patient transport for people who are walking, under 65 and live with six miles of the hospital. Six miles would be quite a long way to walk to a hospital appointment... but anyway, so long as those who really need the transport get it, that seems reasonable enough to me.
However, looking at their points system for assessing entitlement, there are some interesting sums to do. You need at least 4 points to qualify for patient transport. These are just some of the points you get:
Having learning difficulties or dementia - 2 points
Only being able to walk less than 50 metres - 2 points
Being deaf and blind - total of 3 points
Being on constant oxygen - 3 points
So, if you are a patient requiring constant oxygen, you don't make the minimum points to be entitled to transport. Of course, I am guessing that in such a case it is quite likely that you might also get points for, say, lack of mobility, which would take you over four.
There are other criteria too and there may be a number of combinations that stop anybody in serious need being left out. But a deaf and blind patient isn't automatically entitled to transport, nor would a person with learning difficulties who can only walk 200m, for example.I'm not having a go at the North Mid, I guess this is fairly standard practice and I'm sure patient transport is a very expensive business. As usual, it all comes back to government funding. And in the meantime I'm sure the North Mid staff will be able to get transport for those patients who need it.
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
My friends Kirsty & Tim got married in a temple at Stowe Landscape Gardens, which was a lovely venue - then the reception was at the theatre in Tring, the day went very well despite the rain.
The night before, I went up to friends Gill & Stu and we ended up in Reflex, the 80s club, in Northampton. All very entertaining, a very strange mix of people in the club...
Work is very busy (even getting me into the office on a Sunday again) and council is keeping busy enough despite there being almost no meetings in August. But the big news at the moment is what's going on at Spurs.
If Martin Jol is forced out, it's not going to be a popular move with most fans. And the uncertainty is making it more likely Berbatov could quit White Hart Lane. Either of them leaving the club now would be a big loss and potentially derail us for the rest of the season.
We'll have to wait and see what happens. Same too for Tim Henman who is expected to announce plans to retire after our next Davis Cup match.
Friday, 17 August 2007
The CPS felt there wasn't enough evidence to take any action. I think even the repeated lateness shouldn't be allowed to go unpunished, whether the other misdemeanors could be proven or not.
If I'd managed to get onto a trial in my two weeks of waiting at Wood Green Crown Court, I would have been more than happy to switch my ipod off!
Thursday, 16 August 2007
Have been looking at the betting odds for the date of polling day, and in the last couple of days the odds for an election this year have got shorter. Still 3-1 (last time I checked) though.
October 25th is the date being bandied about - and with Brown's Labour party conference speech brought forward to Monday 24th September, he has a perfect opportunity to announce the dissolution of Parliament (announce Monday, go to the queen on Tuesday).
Why would he do that? Well, the opinion polls look good and he would win an early mandate for his programme of government. A programme which, as it happens, he has already laid out in his pre-Queen's Speech speech.
So he has the next year's legislative programme announced already, he goes for an October general election and has the mandate (and up to five years) to do what he wants.
As the Conservative party conference is the week after Labour's, it also stuffs their conference plans up - and/or means they lose the best part of a week out of a four week general election campaign while their activists (assuming there are any) are in Blackpool.
From Labour's point of view, there doesn't seem to be much against an October election. Polls up, Tories still not organised with any policies, fresh mandate and chance to banish the Blair legacy before people realise Brown won't be doing anything differently.
The only people on the Labour side who won't be happy are their MPs with marginal seats who will be out on their ears just two and a half years after the last election.
Of course, leaving the possibility of an autumn election alive could just be a clever way of destabilising opposition parties and trying to stop accusations of 'no mandate' for the time being at least. And Gordon Brown wouldn't want to have less than four months as PM on his biography. But I don't think he'll be too worried about that now.
Perhaps May 2008 is still more likely. But I won't be surprised if we get October.
Oh, and could an early general election be the last chance to stop ID cards?
But last night they managed it, winning 2-0 with Becks as captain and scoring a goal (yep, a freekick).
Talking of football and captains, I'm not suggesting this is the answer to all our problems, but Michael Dawson should be Spurs captain in Ledley's absence, not Keane.
And I haven't felt like blogging about football since the season started (allegedly, Spurs' hasn't started yet), but can everyone please leave Jermaine Jenas alone? Even when he plays really well, the best he gets is mild grumbling about why he can't be perfect every time. And when he makes a fair few mistakes, as he did on Tuesday night, everyone ignores completely the excellent passes he does in the same game and acts as if he is officially the Worst Player Ever.
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Tim was widely respected across all parties and an excellent speaker. He spoke at the last adoption meeting for Lynne Featherstone.
He will be a great loss to the House of Lords and intelligent debate in general, my thoughts are with his family.
You can read about his life and work in this obituary.
Monday, 13 August 2007
It used to be an Ottakers until Waterstones took them over and was the only shop on Wood Green High Road dedicated to books.
The closure seems to have been a bit of a surprise. It was a decent bookshop, with a café area inside too which attracted a lot of mums and prams.
I know from my Lib Dem colleague Cllr Catherine Harris that there is an online petition protesting against the closure, but I don't know yet if the reasons behind the shop going are just financial.
Whatever the reasons, the Council needs to look at policies to get - and retain - quality businesses in the High Road. It's a substantial shopping area that helps reduce the need to travel to shop and it will only continue to do so if it offers a diverse range of shops and businesses.
Saturday, 11 August 2007
I'm grateful now to my mates who couldn't be persuaded to come up to Sunderland with me for the season opener, meaning I just watched it in the pub here instead. Actually, with a fairly eclectic mix of people - a Kiwi Man Utd fan, a Canadian West Ham fan and an Indian Arsenal fan. But all that is rather more interesting than the game was, sadly.
Spurs played badly, although probably not quite as badly as Sunderland. But it was them who managed to sneak three points, a decent strike with pretty much the last kick of the game.
Highlights? They'll probably struggle to get 30 seconds out of those 90 minutes for Match of the Day tonight.
Plus points for Spurs? That's difficult too, best to be said really is that Younes Kaboul made a good debut.
There it is then, all the excitement of the start of the season battered into submission by a dull and frustrating first game. And all the promise for a great weekend in the sun squashed by that poor performance. Heigh-ho.
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
The Government’s decision to review the cases of 91 Iraqi translators who have worked for the British may be welcome but their plight needs to be treated with far greater urgency. You can back our campaign at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/interpreters
The sad fact is that all these people’s lives will be at great risk when the British concentrate all their resources at Basra air base and then, eventually, leave the country altogether.
There is no doubt in my mind that Britain has a moral responsibility towards them and it would be a betrayal of that duty of care if they were not better looked after and where appropriate given asylum in this country.
What I want to see is an immediate inquiry into their situation and that of all the hundreds of other workers who may also have put their own lives and those of their families in danger by working for the British.
Numerous interpreters have been kidnapped, tortured and killed by Iraqi militiamen who accuse them of collaboration with their country’s enemies and there is no doubt that once the troops have been withdrawn there is every chance they will be further victimised.
Unlike the British, the Danish government did not turn its back on its responsibilities and when it withdraw its contingent from Iraq it flew all sixty of its translators out of the country at the same time.
There is rightly fury and indignation from soldiers who have served alongside these people in Iraq. One tells of an interpreter whose wife and family had a gun held to their heads by the militia and ordered to leave the country within three days. Yet he was immediately turned down for refugee status.
That approach is utterly unacceptable and morally unsustainable.
Their difficulties highlight yet again the lack of foresight exercised by the British and American governments before embarking on the illegal invasion of Iraq. It has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of people it was supposed to enhance. It has left millions in greater fear and danger than even under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.
Though we will continue to condemn the war, we also recognise as Liberal Democrats that those who have risked their lives in their work for the British government deserve a fair hearing and they deserve it now. You can help bring that about by backing our campaign at: http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/interpreters
Not been much time to think about anything interesting to blog about. The best I can come up with is the photo below, which I took today. Quite often I walk to Liverpool Street area at lunchtime and today was in Broadgate Circle where they had... some horses riding around. Along with the croquet lawn at Broadgate Exchange, it seems there are any number of activities I would not normally see taking place around my lunch venues. How very lucky.
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
Saturday, 4 August 2007
But it strikes me that this is not a very ambitious target. Unless there is a good reason (i.e. it's simply not possible to provide the information that quickly), 20 days seems long enough to deal with a request. Seems unlikely that 27% of those the council received were impossible to reply to within 20 days.
On a happier note, at another meeting I went to this week, the Muswell Hill Area Assembly group of councillors decided on the allocation of funding for 'Making the Difference' bids. So residents and community groups will be hearing if they have been successful shortly.
There was a great range of bids again and we will have some good improvements made to our local area as a result.
There is a proposal to introduce two Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMAs) across Haringey. These areas would then be used to set maximum private sector rents that housing benefit can cover - replacing the current system where a rent officer makes an individual assessment of each property.
So far, so sensible, you might think. The problem is that the BRMAs are very Broad indeed. My ward would fall in the Outer North London BRMA, covering Haringey (except Highgate and Finsbury Park), all of Enfield and most of Barnet.
Now, it's difficult to predict how it will pan out exactly - but it seems highly likely that the maximum benefit payable within this BRMA will be lower than many standard market rents across Fortis Green, Muswell Hill and Crouch End, to name just three areas.
What will be the consequence of that? Well, the Cabinet Member's report did mention that the changes "may impact on the supply of rented accommodation in these parts of the borough as landlords decide it is uneconomic to rent to housing benefit claimants".
I challenged the Cabinet Member about this as it creates two serious concerns.
First, and most important, I am worried about residents in my ward - who may have lived in their flats or houses for years - who could have their housing benefit slashed to levels below their rent. Meaning either serious financial hardship or being forced to move out of the area to a place with cheaper rents (likely to mean moving children out of schools in some cases too).
Second, and also important, is the point mentioned in the council report. Well, not so much that landlords will not offer accommodation for rent, but that the housing benefit available will not cover it - so people on benefit may not be able to move into areas like Muswell Hill.
Both of these could lead, in effect, to excluding those on benefit from living in the more 'expensive' areas of Haringey. I believe this would be both morally wrong and undesirable for the community as a whole. I am going to ask our MP Lynne Featherstone to take this up - although I expect she's already on the case!
We won 2-0 with goals from Berbatov and Keane. Like most friendlies, it wasn't the most exciting match, but it was certainly better than some. Good to see the new signings - Bent and Kaboul got to play, Bale and Boateng were looking on in their snazzy suits.
We sat in the opposite stand to our season ticket seats and down by the corner flag. That meant we were next to the Torino fans, who put in a much better performance than their team. A sizeable contingent and very loud, but good natured stuff (well, I don't speak Italian, so it might not have been - but it sounded pleasant enough).
Spurs looked very comfortable and Kaboul and Dawson worked well together. But I'm also going to throw in my first call of the season for Michael Dawson to be given the captaincy. Got to be Daws to lead the team.
Can't wait for the start of the season proper next weekend. Will add a couple of photos from this afternoon's match when I'm next on a computer (currently on a train to Derby for the rest of the weekend).