Last night one of my former council ward residents was a panellist on Question Time. But Clarke Carlisle’s appearance soon became of far more interest to me than his previous residence in Abbots Langley.
The former Watford, now Burnley defender had been asked to appear in his position as the new Chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Of course Carlisle is hardly your average footballer, or a stranger to the small screen. Last year he appeared on Channel 4′s Countdown, winning two games, before losing the third by just three points, and in 2002 was crowned “Britain’s Brainiest Footballer” in an ITV show. Alan Hansen or Robbie Savage he’s certainly not. Read more
I don’t for a minute believe that Sarah Palin would ever seek to physically harm a political opponent. But the shooting tonight of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has brought the rhetoric and negativity of modern political campaigning into sharp focus.
We all know that Palin loves her guns. She also likes to employ what she thinks is a clever turn of phrase about her opponents. Almost always she makes herself look nasty, or just plain stupid. She’s certainly no orator. In the words of Lloyd Bentsen, she’s no Jack Kennedy. How she must have loved being able to combine her hoplophilia with her role as Tea Party cheerleader.
Last March, Ms Palin tweeted
Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page.
Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.
Again some aggressive and provocative language. The page promoting the event has been removed from the Kelly campaign site. However Kelly’s policies on guns are still on the site. He says, “The Second Amendment of the Constitution is not just about hunting. It is about the right of a free people to defend themselves which is why I am a strong supporter of the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms”.
This is a variation on the cookie recipe that is particularly nice at this time of year. Makes around 24 cookies.
Most of us learned the hard way that cramming for an exam usually doesn’t work. Except, it seems, teachers. Today’s item of Royal Wedding related non-news is that teachers believe that the date of the nuptials will have a serious effect on the 2011 SATs tests and public examinations.
The choice of date for the wedding means that for most schools there will be only three working days between 22nd April and 2nd May, as Easter is the weekend before and May Day falls on the Monday after. I say ‘most schools’, as it appears that Roman Catholic schools have chosen to take their school holidays to cover the week after Easter, when the Royal Wedding takes place.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “It’s a critical point in the school calendar, just before exam time when building up momentum is critical. It takes a while to get people to focus on learning and discipline when they have been on holiday, and it just doesn’t work if you go back for a day or two and then go home again. Parents and teachers tend not to like that.”
Now the primary SATs begin on 9th May, with GCSEs and A level exams starting around the same time. There will be four school days before the tests begin, surely enough just to get children back in the ways of application and concentration. Are teachers really saying that the grip that 11 year olds have on literacy and numeracy after seven years at school is so fragile that it will be lost after a slightly longer than usual school holiday? Are RC schools being cavalier with their children by pushing back their holiday? Of course not. Goodness knows we hear enough that teachers shouldn’t be teaching to the test, so why the worry about missing an extra day the week before?
I’m usually supportive of teachers. Those at the local primary school where I am a governor do a wonderful job and are really making a difference. But when their leaders make these comments it makes the profession seem decidedly unprofessional.
I was astounded today by the comments of Labour MP and former Government minister Tom Harris, who stated on his Twitter account “Any minister who puts civil liberties ahead of security should be in student politics, not government”. The comment is a reaction to the current disquiet amongst most Liberal Democrats and some Conservatives about the use of control orders.
Tom often takes a more authoritarian line on issues. But is this just ‘tupical Tom’ or is it a sign that Labour remains a deeply illiberal party, despite the warm words of Ed Miliband in his first speech as leader? Remember Pink Ed tried to distance himself from the Blair/Brown era, saying:
“My generation recognises too that government can itself become a vested interest when it comes to civil liberties. I believe too in a society where individual freedom and liberty matter and should never be given away lightly.The first job of government is the protection of its citizens. As Prime Minister I would never forget that. And that means working with all the legitimate means at our disposal to disrupt and destroy terrorist networks.
“But we must always remember that British liberties were hard fought and hard won over hundreds of years. We should always take the greatest care in protecting them. And too often we seemed casual about them. Like the idea of locking someone away for 90 days – nearly three months in prison – without charging them with a crime. Or the broad use of anti-terrorism measures for purposes for which they were not intended.”
What members of both Labour and Conservative parties fail to realise is that civil liberties are at the very heart of our freedom. We give the state the power to lock people away, but we ensure that the checks and balances of the judicial system work so that the state can only exercise the limited amount of power that it has been givin by us, the citizens. More so, terrorists work not to kill the tiny numbers that their actions sadly achieve, but to spread fear and panic, to change our way of life and to limit our freedoms. The more we allow our freedoms to be limited, the more the terrorists win, without having to plant a single bomb.
The removal of civil liberties as a reaction to terrorism also demonstrates a lack of understanding of risk. How many people are killed or seriously injured each year in the UK by terrorists? A tiny number compared to those killed or disabled by motor vehicles and alcohol. So why not ban those – maybe because our lives become a little less enjoyable and a lot less free when Nanny State steps in.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. His choice of words is important. For anyone who thinks that heavy-handed security measures would be a temporary measure are misguided at best. Terrorism, whatever the source, is something we have to live with forever. It will never go away and it cannot be totally beaten. Whatever choice we make, we will not obtain safety, temporary or otherwise. We will only lose our essential liberties, without which we are neither human, nor British.
I’m furious! It’s taken me several days to calm down enough to write a blog post that would not see me thrown out of the party, or at the very least lose a number of friends. But here I am, back on the issue of ‘graduate contributions’, the new, wonderful euphemism for student fees.
My background is that I believe that a first degree should be funded out of general taxation. That way those who benefit from increased earnings due to their degree pay more, and businesses and society in general pay a little too for the benefit of having a skilled and educated society. Along with a large number of others in the party, I fought for FPC to adopt that position and then for it to form a part of the manifesto for the 2010 general election. What I did not fight for was for all our MPs and most of our candidates to sign the NUS pledge to oppose an increase in student fees. But sign it they did, and I was pretty pleased that they did so.
Today the government will announce its reaction to the Browne Report on the reform of student finance. The following open letter has been sent to Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who is responsible for the implementation of the Browne Report. It has also been copied to every other Liberal Democrat MP. I am a signatory to the letter, together with hundreds of other Lib Dem grassroots activists.
Dear Dr Cable,
On the 12th of October, Lord Browne published the findings of his report into higher education funding, which contained some good points and some very bad points.
One of the bad points was to remove the cap on tuition fees meaning that some courses could end up leaving a student in debt by over £36,000. This is an utter disgrace and cannot be allowed to happen. Vince Cable himself has said the level of personal debt is too high. Why should we force students to take on this kind of personal debt before they even buy a house?
The Liberal Democrats have, since 2001, pledged to scrap tuition fees. And while we are aware that this is not a Liberal Democrat Government, it does not warrant an abstention. We urge you to honour your pledge to fight any increase in fees.
Our party has always been one of fairness, but judging by Mr Clegg’s and Mr Cable’s responses to the suggestions it appears that we are moving away from that.
Please support us and help to retain the party’s identity within the coalition.
This is yet another alternative to the Fairtrade Banana Bread recipe I published earlier this year for those who are not fond of dried fruit. If you can time it so you can eat some slices warm from the oven, it is well worth it!
- 100g soft butter or margarine
- 150g soft dark brown sugar
- 300g self raising flour
- 100g ground almonds or chopped hazelnuts
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 150g dark chocolate chips
- 400g Fairtrade bananas – the softer the better (weigh peeled)
In exactly two weeks time I will be laying a wreath of poppies at the war memorial in my home village of Abbots Langley. It’s a task I’ve performed willingly and with pride half a dozen times over the past 15 years, as a representative of the council. Almost eight years ago, I marched with over a million others to protest against the possibility of war in Iraq. I did that with great pride too.
In my mind there is no reason why I cannot honour the dead, whilst working for peace. But the wearing of a poppy has now become a political issue, with criticism for wearing the poppy too early, not enough or in the wrong way. If I wanted to make a point, I might call it poppy fascism – that would be bound to bring the ire of the Daily Mail etc upon me. Because if there is one thing which brings the re mist of the right wing down like nothing else it is anything that suggests that someone is not 110% behind the men and women of our armed forces.
I used to be a football referee, in fact I was the youngest woman ever to qualify at the time (14 years and 3 days, when the limit was 14 years). One of my peers was FIFA World Cup official Phil Sharp, although I stayed largely on the local parks. I might not have kept up to date with all the FIFA rulings and interpretations over the past few years, but I can still manage a pretty good run through all seventeen laws of the game, so I take a keen interest in all the refereeing controversies that arise in the professional game.